Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Posts on Demand!

Some of you will recall that a while ago I held a sort of contest. Specifically, I challenged my readers, in the spirit of public sociology, to unleash their sociological acumen upon a pair of websites dealing with sex roles. As a reward, I promised to write a post on the topic of the participant's choosing. Well, of all the people who may or may not read this blog, only Tom Bozzo chose to accept my challenge. I think it's a shame that the only guy who was willing to do a little public sociology is an economist... but there you go. Well, I am a man of my word, so I conceded to Tom that I owed him a blog post. He, eventually, got around to giving me my assignment which, in the spirit of economists everywhere, has multiple parts.

And so, dear readers, today I fulfill my obligation to Tom by writing the post he requested. Since the assignment was given to me in list form, I will respond to it in like fashion. For those who haven't read Tom's assignment, and are too lazy to click on the link above, Tom seems concerned that his discussion of a particular newly-minted Ph.D. over on Jeremy's site and elsewhere may have been somewhat offensive. Well, more accurately, he's concerned that it may have been somewhat offensive and that the target of his tirades has become aware of it and/or that it may have reduced the job market potency of said candidate. You know, thus necessitating some sort of job market Cialis. So, relax, sit back, and enjoy my attempt to meet the Challenge of Tom Bozzo! (Cue the dramatic music...)

1. Assess the probability that this was a recreational visit.

Dealing with this issue is relatively straightforward with the application of probability theory. First, get out a sheet of paper. Next, get a pencil. Then, using your paper and pencil, define event B "a search for information on Salvador Navarro of Chicago as part of normal recreation." Next, define event A "a given search for Salvador Navarro of Chicago encountering the post in question." With our terms defined, it is clear that what we have is a question regarding the probability of event A and event B occurring simultaneously. Since events A and B are independent, we can represent this as: Pr(A and B)= Pr(A)*Pr(B).

As a side note: You might argue that, since many people devote more time and energy to their recreation than their work, event A and event B are not statistically independent. I am receptive to this argument, save that Tom has fixed the manner of the search (a google search with particular terms) for us. As such, we really have a special case of A and B where B becomes "a google search for Salvador Navarro as a part of recreation," and A becomes "a google search that identifies Tom's post." You could designate these special cases as A' and B', but I choose to just use the original A and B notation. The relevant detail, however, is that within the context of this special case, ceteris paribus, A' and B' are independent.

Now, having come this far, all we need to do is determine the probabilities of A and B. First, we'll define "A." I entered the search terms referred to by Tom into Google and examined the results, finding no links to his post within the first 150 hits. Further, a number of hits that pointed to information actually on Navarro appeared quite early in the list. Later hits increasingly referred to either El Salvador, or some soccer player I've never heard of. If we assume that most people searching for "salvador navarro chicago" are actually interested in finding information on Salvador Navarro of Chicago, it is highly unlikely that they would follow the google hits back as far as I did. Nevertheless, I'll assume that there was a hit within the first 300 or so links, and we'll assume that some superhuman searcher diligently checked every hit (And we all wonder how those rational actors in Economics get their perfect information...) thus placing the probability of A=1/300 or approximately 0.0033.

Alternatively, Tom reports that the link into his site was on the fourth page of search returns. With ten returns to the page, that gives us a second possible value for A, which I will refer to as A'' (A-double prime). A''=1/40= 0.025.

Next, we must define B. This is a difficult probability to estimate, since it asks us to know what is occurring within someone else's mind. Alternatively, it is necessary for us to assess how "recreational" Navarro actually is. As a first point, let me observe that the first 150 hits via google did not appear to include any porn. I know that's rather amazing, since virtually any web search returns porn, but there you go. As such, and considering that the terms "pron," "porn," "naked," "nude," "pictures," "butt," and "Bukkake," were not among those reported by Tom, I feel fairly confident that the searcher was not looking for that kind of recreation, no matter how attractive Navarro might be. In an attempt to assess the extent to which Navarro might be useful for recreation in other ways, I searched for mention of him on the website for Entertainment Weekly. As you can see I was not remarkably successful in this. Similar poor results were to be had using People Magazine, the Weekly World News, and the National Enquirer. I take this to mean that Navarro is not very entertaining and, therefore, is not much use in terms of recreation. Please note I am not arguing that Navarro isn't personally very entertaining, he might be the funniest fucking economist since Adam Smith (Who could tell a wicked ass joke) but there just doesn't seem to be anything entertaining about him on the web, nor anything to suggest he might be entertaining. Sorry. So, given this, I'm going to conservatively set the probability that the search for Navarro was recreational in nature, Pr(B), equal to 1/100 or .01.

So, now that we know that Pr(A)=0.0033 and Pr(B)=.01 we can calculate Pr(A and B)= (.0033)*(.01)= .000033. So, we estimate that the probability of a search with the characteristics defined by Tom is .000033, or that there is a .0033% chance that the search Tom asks about would occur. If we employ Pr(A'') instead of Pr(A) we get: Pr(A'' and B)= (.025)*(.01)= 0.00025 or, in other words, a 0.025% chance of the search in question.

Now having figured all that out on your paper, ball it up and throw it away, because this math is utterly fucking half-assed anyway. I may be a hardcore quantoid, but that doesn't mean that I think the mere act of assigning numbers to something makes it more accurate or more precise. Let's just say that the likelihood was vanishingly small, okay?

2. Discuss any lack of cultural sensitivity I (and/or just-tenured Jeremy) may have shown in taking pot-shots at a poor grad student.

By "cultural sensitivity" Tom could be referring to a lot of things, but for the sake of argument, I'm going to assume he means academic culture. I really don't see how Navarro's ethnicty might factor in here since, to the best of my knowledge, Jeremy and Tom didn't remark on that and I don't think ethnicity makes anyone immune to criticism. Next, we must consider what Tom meant by "poor." It is, indeed, true that most grad students are somewhat less than wealthy, and I would assume that this characteristic holds in Chicago, but I don't think his economic health is at issue. Rather, I think Tom meant "poor" in the sense of "pitiable and/or wretched." So, what is at issue here is: Was I going against the norms of my community by criticizing a pitiable, wretched graduate student in a somewhat tangential fashion? To this I respond, "No." In a more elaborate answer, I respond: Are you fucking kidding me? You basically argued that the guy's paper title was too long which, arguably, it is. Further, this guy is from Chicago, a school at which I have it on good authority the faculty eat their own young. As such, I should think Navarro would be used to criticism by now, and from figures whose opinions carry much greater weight than our own. Besides, the fact that y'all avoided the whole "post-colon" allusion in an intestinal sense, regardless of the remarks of certain commenters suggests a degree of restraint on your part. Finally: are you seriously asking me to comment on someone else's lack of sensitivity? Jesus.

3. Discuss whether it matters for #2 that the grad student hails from an elite school and has a Nobel laureate for an adviser, and thus is pretty well assured of getting a tenure-track job unless he has some disqualifying personal habits that somehow aren't evident in the first interview.

No. Any new Ph.D. who can't withstand the sort of light-hearted joshing you guys were giving him, particularly in light of the staggering irrelevance of these blogs to anyone, isn't going to get a job anywhere except for Southwestern Kentucky State Agricultural Tech anyway. Stop worrying about it.

4. Would I be a freer man if I suppressed or otherwise channeled elsewhere my urge to drop rhetorical bombs on my academic betters?

No. See, what the NCFM is arguing is that our attempts to rigidly control our behavior according to social standards are damaging to men. Specifically, men should be free to define their own roles in society, as well as their relations to others. Given this assertion, you would not be freer if you redirected your attention away from the pitiable grad student, since this is what academia might be telling you to do. Instead, you would be bowing to the dictates of an external authority and, thus, damaging your man-ness. You would only be freer if you defined your own role, which you indeed appear to be doing by mocking this guy's title. For my own part, I'm defining my man-ness by typing this in the nude with my nuts resting on the spacebar. Have a nice day.

5. Is mentioning this again just compounding the problem?

Yes, but not half as much as having me write this response is. Salvador Navarro, once again, the gentleman you should be yelling at is Dr. Tom Bozzo of the blog Marginal Utility. No, no, don't thank me.

6. Discuss whether this may be related to compulsions to, among other things, drop a few too many neutronium bombs on unsuspecting planets in a computer game of our mutual acquaintance. Does it matter if I play as the Elerians?

Actually, I'd say this is quite comparable to dropping neutronium bombs in MOOII. See, neutronium bombs can fuck things up pretty well, but they don't permanently destroy anything. Whatever they demolish can be rebuilt, often better than it was before. Likewise, your points about this guy's title are valid; it is obnoxiously long, but if he learns from this half-assed critique, his future titles should be sleek and sexy, thus improving his chances to become a mover and shaker in the field. You'd only have problems if you were using the stellar converter, which just blows the bejeezus out of whatever it hits, leaving nothing but rubble and a smear of radio noise in the AM band. In that case it would be up to someone else to pull the fragments back together and make something out of the shattered remnant of the victim. Even then, however, the reformed mentality would be rather barren, requiring considerable re(terra)forming before it would once more be fertile.

As for the Elerians- nah, it doesn't matter, unless you have a problem wearing a solid steel bustier. Somehow, I'm betting you don't.

I mean, I usually think they chafe, but maybe you're made of sterner stuff.

Friday, February 25, 2005

This year, give the gift that keeps on giving!

I finally have a good excuse to make use of one of the most profane expressions I have ever heard. Everyone ready? Okay, good.

*ahem*

Jesus titty-fucking Christ!

According to a CNN.com article, a man in Chicago has landed in a rather unusual predicament. To elaborate, he has been compelled by the courts to pay child support to a woman who salvaged sperm after an episode of oral sex, and used them to impregnate herself. Moreover, she apparently did so without his knowledge.

Yeah, you read that right.

Apparently the man in the case, Dr. Richard Phillips, only became aware of the child when he was sued for child support, which was granted. Since then he has filed suit against the mother of "his" child, Dr. Sharon Irons, claiming damages from emotional distress resulting from this entire affair.

The way the article reads there initially seems to be some question as to whether or not this actually happened, but later on in the article we find this: Irons responded that her alleged actions weren't "truly extreme and outrageous" and that Phillips' pain wasn't bad enough to merit a lawsuit.

Okay, show of hands, who thinks that saving sperm after an episode of oral sex and then using it to impregnate yourself, without the knowledge of the donor, and then suing for child support, isn't extreme or outrageous?

Right, okay, there you go.

Apparently the court has ruled that while Phillips CAN indeed sue for emotional distress, the sperm should be considered a gift to Irons and, thus, she cannot be sued for theft or fraud. Okay, I can see that, but if that legal logic holds, then why the hell is he paying child support? Stay with me here: the idea behind child support is that a male and female jointly decide to have a child and that, following the dissolution of their relationship, they retain joint responsibility for that child. Thus, the non-caregiving parent must contribute. Makes sense to me, and I thoroughly support the practice.

In this case, however, the non-caregiver parent was not aware that a conception was even possible, nor that it had taken place. His responsibility here is extremely limited. If the sperm was a gift, then the recipient's use of that gift, and the consequences thereof, are not the responsibility of the giver. By way of comparison, if it is legal for me to give you a handgun in your state, and you may legally possess a handgun, and I give you a handgun I lawfully owned, and then you use said weapon to commit a murder, I am not legally responsible. Please note that this argument does not insulate all fathers from responsibility for their offspring. If I give you a handgun with the intent that you will use it to commit murder (much as many men "give" a woman sperm with the express intent that it be used for conception) then I am an accessory to murder, and therefore share legal responsibility for the action. Within the legal framework, as I understand it, the ruling compelling Phillips to pay child support is utterly nonsensical.

You might argue that by engaging in sexual activity at all Phillips was giving tacit consent for conception, but that has to be the most absurd argument I've ever heard. Such a claim would more or less mirror the argument that a woman who engages in foreplay with a man, and is then raped by him, should have no legal recourse. Consent to engage in some activities does not then automatically entail consent to additional, later activities.

If we accept such a retarded argument, however, we're still faced with a rather nasty problem: what kind of precedent does this set for sperm left at fertility clinics, or for laboratory tests? If a woman uses that to impregnate herself, does the man have responsibility for the offspring? Granted, the "gift" logic doesn't hold here, but I'm really forced to wonder how strongly that will effect the outcome. What about other biological materials donated for a variety of purposes? If someone is transfused with platelets I donated at the Red Cross, and then suffers a heart attack, am I somehow culpable because my platelets contributed to the event?

This may seem like an overreaction, and I doubt this will ever become a widespread problem, but I never expected it to be a narrowspread problem! This is really and truly bizarre- and I'm referring to the legal situation; the things people do interpersonally really don't surprise me much anymore. Man, I can't wait until the Masculists get ahold of this one. Hell, you know what? If I have any masculist readers, I'd love a perspective on this. E-mail me an essay on this subject and I'll post it, with the caveat that I can and will edit as needed to make it look right in the blog, and reserve the right to correct egregious grammatical issues.

Thanks to Julia Kanago over at Everyday Sociology for bringing this to my attention.

Bratislava, Slovakia- Pot Says to Kettle:

"Dude! You're black!"

Feb. 24 -- President Bush urged President Vladimir Putin to reinvigorate Russia's fragile democracy Thursday and then accepted Putin's word when the former KGB colonel insisted he was not turning his country back toward totalitarianism.

Taking a gentle approach in the first application of his inaugural pledge to challenge foreign leaders to promote freedom, Bush said he raised his concerns about Putin's crackdown on political opposition "in a constructive and friendly manner" and emphasized that overall the two agreed more than they disagreed.


Any more irony and my head is going to detonate.

"If the one you love isn't quite as smitten, she'll like you better if you kill a kitten!"

Or so says the humorous songster Stephen Lynch in his song, appropriately titled, "Kill a Kitten." I was recently reminded of this song when I stumbled across a rather interesting little web applet that comes to us courtesy of the HP Information Dynamics Lab.

No, this doesn't mean that I regularly hang out on the HP website. I used to regularly visit their website, but then I bought a printer that works, and so now have no reason to screw around with the boys and girls of Hewlett Packard. Lemme just take this chance to give a shout out to the tech support monkeys, and remind them that I'll buy a new printer before I reformat my harddrive and reinstall my programs in the hopes of making your piece of shit work.

In any case, while poking around on the IDL site, I came across an interesting little tool that allows you to track the propogation of references to a URL through the blogosphere. In other words, it's a tool for charting blog epidemics. A little more detail on the project is provided here. What makes this project most interesting, however, isn't the way that ideas move through the blogosphere, but the way that they are modified and reformed with each retelling. Like a modern day game of telephone, a news article claiming that Blogs can be infectious somehow metamorphoses into a claim that Bloggers kill kittens.

Well, I mean, we do!

I won't go so far as to claim that the IDL folks have actually demonstrated something revolutionary here, it's hardly news that information changes as it spreads, but they have come up with an interesting way to chart that spread, and perhaps have started us down the road towards a methodology that will allow us to chart information mutation. Of course, as a private corporation, they'll most likely use such information to make money, but that's okay. I've had some contact with Lada Adamic, one of the people who works on this project, and feel fairly confident that we'll get good science out of this, in addition to "good" products. Besides, anyone with enough of a sense of humor to post this about themselves on their homepage is probably worth having around.

So, head on over to the IDL website and try out their epidemic tool. It's fun, it's interesting, and it might give you ideas for your own research.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Woo-hoo! I can't check my e-mail!

My university brought up a new version of our e-mail client yesterday- a version that we have been dreading since it was announced. I am, therefore, unsurprised to report that now, approximately 3 days after activation, the system has crashed and bled out.

It's not like anyone actually uses e-mail anyway. Shit, I'll just go back to using smoke signals or something.

What the hell was wrong with the old client again?

On Civility.

Readers of the ever-popular blog Pub Sociology were recently treated to an excellent post by Brayden on the importance, and controversy, involved in the practice of civility. In short, Brayden discusses two positions in regards to civility. The first position argues that being civil in a discussion facillitates communication and makes argumentation more productive. The second position asserts that civility merely permits existing social rules to privilege the powerful and suppress the weak.

Now, I won't claim to be an expert on this issue, but seeing as how I have been accused of lacking civility before (Often fairly), I do think I have a certain perspective on it. Civility, as a practice, is a funny thing. At its most basic level, it simply means being polite, or treating others with a certain basic quantity of respect. There's nothing wrong with that, is there?

Well, there may be. At heart politeness has a very specific goal: the facillitation of interaction. We usually do not enjoy dealing with people who treat us poorly or infringe upon our integrity as human beings. Rules of civility, therefore, are interactional guidelines that lubricate the social machinery. By following these rules, we have a way to interact with people we don't know, or even people we don't like, that is relatively free of conflict. Since it is inevitable that there will be people we don't like, such rules are extremely useful. So long as most people in a society adhere to some sort of basic standards of civility, we all find it much easier to go about our business. The problem here, however, is that humans have a tendency to take things too far, and if a little civility is good, then a lot must be even better, right? Right?

Not so much. There have been periods in history when civility has been so heavily fetishized that it became a goal in and of itself, rather than a particular set of guidelines and rules for accomplishing interactions. One need only think of the Victorian Era in Europe for a particularly cutting example of this. For those who are unfamiliar with the Victorian Era, I suggest you read pretty much anything by Oscar Wilde. It's a good introduction. In any case, when taken to such outrageous extremes, civility can indeed work to suppress those who lack power. It defines any disagreement, any debate, any deviation from the ideal norm, as a crime of such severity that its commission automatically entails the rejection of the transgressor by the remainder of polite society. Under such circumstances, actual debate is extremely difficult, and radical debate becomes virtually impossible.

So does this mean that civility is automatically the enemy of the disenfranchised? No, I don't think that's the case either. When we observe a cage match between the haves and the have-nots, it's important to remember who has power: the haves. This is not to say that the have-nots are entirely powerless, they usually do have numbers after all, but their form of power is more difficult to organize and control. As such, the haves command an arsenal of options like a swordsman with a fine, elegant rapier, while the have-nots are all-too-often reduced to the "Hulk SMASH!" level of action. In other words, the actual mobilization of the crushing power of the have-nots, if it can be accomplished at all, may simply make things worse.

On the other hand, as much as I adore class warfare, many of the upper crust are not immune to reason or logic. Hell, most sociologists are pretty far above the mean income and we're as left-leaning as they come. Some are so left-leaning, in fact, that I'm pretty sure they're going to phase out of the normal space-time continuum and into some bizarre parallel dimension. A little like Sweden. In any case, the haves are not necessarily immune to reason and logic. So, if you want to convince those among them who can be convinced, what will work better: shrill accusation, or polite debate? I'm betting on the latter, more than the former.

If you need further convincing of the plain utility of civility, consider for a moment a debate in which no parties are civil. The constant interruption, snide remarks, shouting-down, and other such impolite practices would make real discussion quite impossible. Incivility may be useful from time to time, but its use is limited to situations where most others are behaving in a civil manner, much as the return from defecting in a prisoner's dilemma game is maximized when your partner cooperates. I have little respect for the position that civility is only a tool of the powerful, because without some standards of civility, social life as we know it would be impossible. The question is not a digital "Is civility good or bad," but rather a more complex, "What are the proper limits of civility?"

I think part of the reason why some people reject civility is they have the mistaken impression that being civil means being a doormat. We have all seen examples of a civil person and a non-civil person having a discussion and it may often appear that civility is trampled by its dirty cousin, rudeness. This seems to be the issue that Marie is grappling with in the comments to Brayden's post. Her student, who continually makes the same ridiculous, absurd point, is certainly being disruptive, but it is not necessary to be impolite to deal with it. One can be told, with great civility, that one is being a jackass. This is not to criticize Marie, as the classroom is a difficult environment and she has far more experience with it than I, but only to say that civility may be difficult to wield, but is often more effective than its counterparts. An instructor who lacks civility will sacrifice respect, while one who uses it to slap down an annoying gadfly will gain it. Civility is about the manner in which you approach others, not the content of that approach.

Which brings us to the final point I wish to make: that open-mindedness is not part of civility. Hell, the very term "listening politely" connotes not interest in the other person's speech, nor open-mindedness, but only a determination to avoid rudeness. Being civil is about treating others with respect. Arguably, it might be respectful to try to take what others say seriously, but this is not always the case. My ability to be polite to someone spouting neo-Nazi rhetoric (limited though it may be) does not depend on my willingness to seriously consider the merits of race warfare and the extermination of Jews. I cannot imagine a plausible set of circumstances in which I would consider either of those policies to be other than criminal and doubt I would take any such arguments seriously, or approach them with an open mind. I could, however, politely allow my neo-Nazi counterpart his say, and then equally-politely shred his positions. Being open-minded is a generally-desirable trait, but it is not demanded by polite society. All that is demanded is that you allow the other person their say.

Some of you might point out here that I do not seem to practice civility much on this blog, and there is some truth to that, but it is precisely because of this above issue that I play loose with the rules of polite discussion. The manner in which you approach an issue, and the content of your position, are two different things. If I make a good point while at the same time issuing a series of ass jokes, than I have accomplished something useful. Egos are so large in academia that I think we constantly run the risk of growing almost Victorian in our approach to civility. My approach in this blog is meant, at least in part, to serve as an anodyne to this tendency. Of course at the moment I'm being relatively civil, but that's okay. Considering the frequency with which I use profanity, or make bizarre comparisons, I think my point is clear.

This is not a debate that will be resolved here, or in the blogosphere as a whole, but it is one that is worth having. The use of civility to society is, I would argue, clear, but so is its potential for abuse. Our goal, however, should not be to mindlessly support civility or to witlessly reject it, but rather to find the limits that both facillitate interaction, and provide everyone with a chance to be heard. Sound difficult? Maybe, but think about this:

Are either of the alternatives better?

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Very punny.

And taking the prize for best unexpected pun in a computer book: this thing.

Oh yeah- those old FORTRAN jockeys sure knew how to have fun.

And as long as we're on the subject of books, I have recently become the proud owner of four new books. One of my good friends was nice enough to send me a book of interviews with the late, great Edward Said. While I don't care much for his social science, I do rather like many of his political positions. I'm looking forward to reading it.

My friend also sent along a copy of Jon Stewart's America, which I am sure requires no particular introduction.

The other two books came from my sister and, frankly, I find the combination a little disturbing. First, she sent me a copy of How to Cook Everything. While I can't say for sure, just from paging through it, I think the title is largely true to its word. Then again, maybe I'm just immature enough to be really amused by the section headed, "Boning the Chicken." If nothing else, this gift shows how well she knows me, since a new cookbook is always exciting, and one this comprehensive is goddamn spectacular.

It's the second book she sent that bothers me- particularly in light of the earlier book's suggestion that my sister knows me well. Specifically, she sent me For Women Only: A Revolutionary Guide to Reclaiming Your Sex Life. This seems somewhat... odd to me. Particularly given that I am not, in fact, a woman. Matters do not improve when we examine the text on the book's back cover. Mostly I'm referring to the book feature: "Surprising new information about the female anatomy and how it really works." To date I thought I had a fairly decent... um... grasp on the subject, and certainly haven't received any complaints. Nor, in fact, have I been receiving any compliments for some months now, but that's hardly the point. In any case, I'm a little bewildered by all of this. Not to mention the fact that my sister is sending me books that deal fairly specifically with sexually satisfying women.

I mean, yeah, we're from the south but crap- that even makes my skin crawl.

For those enterprising souls out there who are already preparing to write in and tell me about how female sexual response and anatomy have been mystified for years and that this mystification has disempowered women- just shut the hell up. I've seen the brochures and understand what you're saying (even if my own education into my sexual anatomy was rather less than thorough, leaving me skeptical of the supposed psychological consequences, but I digress...) but that doesn't have anything to do with this. I'm totally okay with books that give people insight into their sexual existence. If what makes you happy in the evening is a hand-mirror and a speculum then more power to ya. I'm just saying that it's a little weird for my sister to be sending me something like this. Are we all clear on that?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Lessons Learned

As I commented yesterday my recent misery journey was enormously educational... as always. As such, I feel it is my duty to share some of my newfound wisdom with you my faithful, semi-deranged, readers. This may appear to be a transparant effort to avoid writing a post with any serious content (Which distinguishes it from normal... how?) by indulging in amusing, if needlessly self-referential, banter. I assure you, however, that if you have such suspicions, they are entirely justified. You caught me. Aren't you smart, Mister Beefy O'Smartyman? Or, alternatively, Ms Hottie McBrilliant?

Anyway, in no particular order, let me share with you a few vital lessons:

First, we learned on this most recent misery journey that the speed at which other people drive is directly related to the inadvisability of driving that speed or faster. As such, if you find yourself on a two-lane highway with oncoming traffic, rain, high winds, at night, with some kind of blinding strobelight going off constantly, you can be confident that your fellow drivers will maintain a speed of approximately 115 miles per hour. Bonus points for weaving. For our European readers who don't have a ready grasp on the English system of measurement- count yourself lucky. The English system makes about as much sense as braille on a drive-thru ATM.

Second, my companions learned that the reason why I do not drink is not, as is often supposed, that I cannot hold my liquor. As it happens the misery journey is the only context in which I do, sometimes, consume alcohol. This is a consequence of something that happened during a previous misery journey that I won't recount here. In any case, this year my beverages of choice were whiskey and vodka. No vomiting or inability to walk was experienced- to the disappointment, I think, of my alcoholic compatriots.

Third, in a related note, I renew my assertion that no matter how you nancy up liquor it still tastes like a cross between battery acid and clorox. I know, I know, you may think that mixing coke with that Jack Daniels or putting cranberry juice in with your gin will makes things better but, let's face it, it still tastes like crap. Why not just drink the damn alcohol and stop screwing around? Alternatively, if you prefer the taste of things other than alcohol, why not drink things other than alcohol. Take a moment to think about such a revolutionary concept. It's okay, I'll wait.

Fourth, in another related note, we discovered that my normally mild-mannered officemate does sometimes have a belligerent asshole mode when he drinks. This is, however, not a criticism as we all know that I've been stuck on my "belligerent asshole" setting for going on fifteen-years now. Besides, I think I provoked him some. I tend to do that.

Fifth, if you begin walking towards your hotel in the wee hours of the morning while it is lightly sprinkling, you can be assured that before you arrive it will have begun raining harder. Keep in mind that when I say this, I don't mean "Raindrops keep fallin on my head," so much as I mean, "Lo, and the LORD said unto Noah, 'Build for me a great Ark and place inside it two of each beast that walks the Earth or flies upon the air.'" For the bible scholars in the group, if that doesn't even vaguely approximate scripture, I don't care. If any of you are wondering, yes, this is the reason why I said earlier that you should always bring a spare pair of shoes.

Sixth, you should never let my hypothetical roomie or officemate try to talk you into hitting on someone. Or, perhaps more accurately, don't let them succeed.

Seventh, you also shouldn't let me talk you into hitting on someone. What the hell do I know? According to my companions: not a goddamned thing.

Eighth, arrange your return transportation before you leave.

Ninth, Travelocity is run by a bunch of assholes. More on this in a later post.

Tenth, mixing chili with an omelet is a good thing.

Eleventh, roll-away beds at the Ramada and ditches have a lot in common. Too much, if you ask me.

I hope you find these eleven lessons as useful as I do, but I rather doubt it. Ah, well, can't win them all.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Prophetic...

Thanks to the "popular" television program, Stargate: SG1 we may well have gotten a brief, momentary glimpse at my future, or lack thereof, in academia. Specifically, the following conversation, modified slighlty in ways that should be obvious:

Random Post-Doc: I'm sorry, Doctor Uninteresting?

Drek: Hmmm? Yes?

Random Post-Doc: It's just such an honor to meet you. I think I've read everything you've ever published.

Drek: Everything?

Random Post-Doc: Everything.

Drek: What a colossal waste of time.

Random Post-Doc: Your theories are brilliant if... audacious. I referenced them in my doctoral thesis at Cambridge.

Drek: You did?

Random Post-Doc: Yes.

Drek: You must have failed.

Random Post-Doc: Well- yes.

Then again- there's no way anyone will ever refer to my work as brilliant or audacious. Now, if you replace "brilliant" with "unusual" and "audacious" with "completely half-assed," we might have something.

Needless to say this means I have returned from the Misery Journey and am back in the office. It was as miserable a journey as ever, though as usual I learned a number of lessons. I will discuss said lessons in more detail when I have time. For now, let me just report that I am home and it feels good.

In other news, during my absence Tom Bozzo was kind enough to hurl down the gauntlet and tell me what my assignment is. I accept his challenge and look forward to writing the post I owe... just as soon as I have time to do the background reading.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Where-The-Fuck-Are-We-Ah

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I have grave news for you: I'm afraid that this concludes my blogging for the week. Yes, yes, I know- I'm usually very good about producing content of some sort Monday through Friday and occasionally, when the spirit moves me, on weekends. I know that by knocking off early this week I'm dispensing with an honored tradition. I'm sorry about that, and that you won't be able to get your normal weekly dosage of vitamin Drek.

The problem is, I most likely won't be able to post even if I want to. It's time for the yearly misery journey. Unlike a standard misery journey, however, the misery usually accompanies the trip, rather than provides a motivation for it. See, for the past few years I've been involved in a project that requires that I go travelling for a few days once a year. Last year the misery journey didn't occur until the summer but, the fates not always being kind, this year the misery journey must happen now, this very week. This is particularly sad for me since I've only just started to feel like I've been getting on top of my work for the semester. So, now that I'm going to be away for most of a week, I will promptly fall behind schedule again. I am, indeed, running the Red Queen's Race this year.

So what is this trip all about? Well, it would ruin the surprise if I told you, but suffice it to say that I am normally accompanied by one or more colleagues (this year my office mate, my hypothetical roomie, and at least two others who haven't previosuly been mentioned) and weird shit more or less always happens. Normally we fly for this trip but this year, as part of a misguided effort to reduce expenses, we are driving. This should be interesting, particularly since we'll have at least two vehicles attempting to caravan in some sort of half-assed fashion. This trip almost always includes a set of vague instructions from my advisor as well, which resemble nothing in their level of detail so much as the instructions given by NPCs in quest games: You must find the book! If you haven't found the book, go and keep looking! Hurry, the Dragon is growing stronger!

So, yeah, this week should be an adventure for me. Additionally, it should be educational. Take, for example, this list of lessons we've learned (Woah alliteration!) on previous misery journeys:

(1) You don't, actually, need a showerhead to take a shower. Water jetting from a hole in the wall will do just fine.

(2) The concrete outside of an airport is a perfectly acceptable place to take a nap. Even more so after just hiking several miles with all of your luggage.

(3) If you're carrying a bag of stuff and come across a pile of sharp rocks bordering fairly rough water- it's probably a much better idea to circle around and look for another route.

(4) The beach is closed.

(5) Yes, the whole thing.

(6) Okay, not really.

(7) Bring a compass- Sociologists have no sense of direction.

(8) Tip the maid.

(9) Slavic and Mexican cuisine don't mix.

(10) Some guys really will rent out their sisters for twenty-dollars.

(11) Of course, by "sister" they probably mean, "eight year-old boy."

(12) Pack an extra pair of shoes. Don't ask why, just do it.

(13) Also: pack a towel.

(14) Jim Carey movies make as much sense in Spanish as they do in English.

(15) It's amazing how much free food you can find so long as you have no pride whatsoever.

(16) As it happens, YOU have no pride. Isn't that convenient?

(17) It actually is possible to turn two chairs into beds for two people, but don't be surprised when you wake up with your face pressed against someone else's boot.

(18) Pinch it long enough and it'll stop bleeding.

(19) It doesn't matter whether you spend your lunch break sleeping or eating since you won't be doing enough of either.

So, take care of yourselves and I'll see you next week! Who knows? Maybe Slag will post in the interim?

Anything is possible...

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Ironically, I was wearing my Speed Racer t-shirt under my sweater.

The following exchange recently took place in my office. For the purposes of this conversation, my advisor will be referred to as, "Stan."

Drek: Hey- do you know where all that chalk came from? Does the Hypothetical Roomie need it to teach?

Officemate: I think Stan left it in here just now.

Drek: Hunh. You reckon he needs it to teach?

Officemate: Probably.

Drek: I think you're right.

Pause.

Officemate: Go, go, TA GO!

Drek: What, I'm supposed to take it to him now? I don't even know where Stan teaches class.

Pause.

Drek: Fine. I'll look it up.

Mangled Merchandising.

Recently a number of people have been remarking on the ASA's move to offer a selection of sociology-themed products for sale. Shortly after this began, our own Jeremy Freese observed that one of the items for sale, a coffee mug, more or less speaks to our discipline's irrelevance to normal people. Always a winner with the public, as Jeremy points out.

This has gotten me thinking of late, however: what image would I put on a mug to somehow capture the essence of the sociological enterprise? I mean, some academic areas have obvious contenders. Take for example: Astronomy, Psychology, Freudian Psychology, Statistics, and even Post-Modernism. So, that said, what picture really captures the heart of Sociology?

I've come to the conclusion that the ideal image to represent sociology is Andrew Wyeth's excellent painting, Christina's World. Why is that, you ask? Well, I'll tell you, but first: go look at the painting.

I think this represents Sociology for two very particular reasons. First, the main character, Christina, is depicted in a field, looking towards a lonely set of farm buildings. By naming the painting "Christina's World" Wyeth was not suggesting that this is the physical extent of her universe- indeed the wagon tracks leading out of the picture imply rather strongly that it is not- instead, he was depicting her social world. The world in which Christina lives, the set of constraints and capabilities that make up her existence, are embodied within that painting. Wyeth is drawing the human world that defines her in a way that mere physicality cannot.

Beyond that, however, in a very real sense, the entire discipline of Sociology is like Christina. She sits in a field, outside the circle cleared and ordered by human activity, beyond the constructed spaces of human life. From there, she looks back at that human world with a mixed sense of reluctance, and longing. Reluctance, because it is a place in which she does not feel fully comfortable, and yet with longing, because it is a place that fascinates her, it is a reality into which a part of her wants to plunge. The artist did not picture her within the cirlce of human control, as he might easily have done, but instead pictured her outside of it, emphasizing her belonging, and her status as an outsider, all at once.

What better metaphor can there be for Sociology than such an image? We, as a discipline, try to situate ourselves beyond the borders of the social world, looking back on it with a mixture of scientific detachment and child-like fascination. Our involvement with that world and our simultaneous effort to see it as though from the outside, leaves us in the same position as Christina, caught between reluctance and longing. The tension between Christina and the scene is the tension between the individual and society- and the tension between the sociologist and their subject matter.

You may well disagree with me on some or all of this, but I think I make a good case. What image would you pick to embody Sociology? How would you replace the useless self-deprecation on ASA coffee mugs?

More importantly, if we come up with a new design for the ASA store, can we get a cut of the proceeds? Maybe then I could afford the good ramen!

You guys are awesome.

I just wanted to thank everyone for the well-wishing yesterday, and answer a few specifics:

Belle: Hmmm... that is a rough birthday. We can always compare scars at the ASAs this year.

Erin: I can just see the inscription: My dearest Erin, Words cannot express how deep my affection for you runs- about as deep as my loathing for consumerism, though. Yep, definitely that deep. Damn the man.

Jeff: Funny you should mention my hangups on gender/sexuality. I think the same way about you and eating meat. Seriously, man, just let go!

Anonymous from a Distant Land: Happy to have brightened up your day, but don't get TOO used to it. If I start getting all positive... well... things will be weird.

Tina: Woo-hoo! I get a day named after me, and all I have to do is help Tina overthrow the U.S. Government. That should be easy enough. Then again, Valentine's Day already seems to be pretty full of drek, so the name-change is probably unnecessary.

As it turns out, I ended up at a sportsbar for the evening, courtesy of a few of my very good friends. This included the hypothetical roomie, the hypothetical roomie's girlfriend, my officemate, and the non-annoying guy, who is referred to as such because he seems to think he's been annoying me lately but really hasn't been. Here's a tip, so long as we're on the subject: I'll readily concede that I am easily annoyed, but I am also less than subtle. If you're actually annoying me, I doubt you'll have any trouble telling. Y'all are the best, thank you.

Although that discussion about the one-legged woman on the bus who could lick her own ass was a bit strange.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Ah yes. It's Valentine's Day. How ever could I forget?

Perhaps through the magic of repression? That I should be so lucky. As you probably know, today is St. Valentine's Day. Saint Valentine, of course, was a Christian who was beaten severely, and then beheaded, for the crime of marrying soldiers. No, he didn't actually marry the soldiers himself, he performed the ceremonies. Seriously, you people need help.

Beyond merely honoring a guy who was really into matrimony, Saint Valentine's Day is probably the relic of an early Roman festival of eroticism (Gosh but I love the fact that I have a link like that on my blog) that was co-opted by the eternally-greedy Catholic Church. It has, in turn, been coopted in the modern world by our own greedy powers-that-be. And so the circle of life continues.

For myself, this has never been my favorite holiday. For one thing, I was born on this day. Yeah, I'm a Valentine's baby- as you can clearly tell by my sunny disposition and romantic prowess. It may seem kinda cool to be born on a holiday, and in one sense it is, but let's face it: being a male who was born on a day that prominently features pink is unlikely to bring you much joy. My childhood often involved people that would try to combine the two events- a celebration of my birth and a celebration of all things pink- in some sort of creative fashion. I have news for you: most people really aren't all that creative.

It doesn't help that, as holidays go, the food on this one sucks. I mean, seriously, Thanksgiving? Rocking food. Christmas? Cookies up the wazoo. New Year's? More chips, dip, and salsa than you can shake a stick at. And if you drink? Fuck yeah, you're all set. Valentine's Day? Well, in all likelihood, you're going to end up with a box of these goddamned things. My parents send me one every year, despite the fact that I hate them, and that they know that I hate them. That's just the sort of family I come from. Once more: a big surprise, I'm sure.

The biggest thing about Valentine's Day, however, is that it's probably one of the most exclusionary holidays we celebrate. The only way to really feel "in" this one is if you have a stable, positive relationship with someone of your sexual preference. On the other hand, if you're in a troubled relationship, a dysfunctional relationship, not dating anyone seriously, or celibate as a priest monk nun gelding, this day really just serves to remind you of the fact that your life could be better... and really should be, according to the brochures. Even if you are in a healthy relationship (elusive, nearly-mythical though they may be) this day may well just put pressure on you to somehow show your appreciation to your patner in a suitably romantic way. This has never been my strong-suit, as you might guess, but then I can't recall ever having the opportunity to spend February 14th with a significant other, so I probably don't have a basis for judgment. For those who are interested, this is not to say that I've never had a significant other at this time of year, but only that circumstances have always intervened to prevent my taking advantage of such a happy coincidence. Particularly that one year when she broke up with me on the 14th. That coulda been better.

I know I'm not the only person who feels this way either. I once knew a man from Nantucket in Washington D.C. who held an anti-Valentine's Day party. As I recall, the climax was the disemboweling of a stuffed Valentine-themed teddy bear. Then again, this man eventually started stalking one of my friends, so perhaps I shouldn't regard him as supporting evidence.

All that said, I do offer my best wishes to those who are celebrating this day with someone they love. What makes life worth living isn't the job we do, or the awards we win, or the things we own, but the people that we share all those things with. As I commented to a friend recently, "Sociology is great, but it won't keep you warm at night." I could go further and add that it's good to love what you do, but what you do can't love you back. So, if this day is stressful for many, and depressing for still more, it's worth remembering the true meaning- well, the true meaning once you get away from the Roman eroticism, the Catholic saint-stuff, and the assinine cardboard hearts. This day is about appreciating the people in our lives who we love, and who love us. They are what makes life worth living, and without them we would be nothing.*

Don't forget to tell the people you care for that you love them. This is a day to remind us all of that simple necessity.

As for me, I would spend the evening drinking heavily, except that I don't drink. I would spend the evening getting stoned, except that I don't do that either. So perhaps I'll just have to find something else addictive and pointless with which to occupy my time.

Well, I suppose I haven't spent quite enough time blogging for one day...

* This is, of course, not to say that we should gloss over the deficiencies in dysfunctional relationships. Sometimes the people we "love" are quite capable of ruining our lives. So, hey, if you're in such a relationship, don't consider my "without love you're nothing" point to be an excuse to persist in self-flagellation.

-----------------------------

Special thanks to the freaks over at Something Awful for their fine collection of twisted Valentine's Day cards. It wouldn't have been the same post without ya.

And before you go thinking that I'll just be blogging alone tonight, I should mention that I'm scheduled to have dinner with a friend. Of course, this friend is a guy, so it may create the illusion of homosexuality (not that there's anything wrong with homosexuality, it's just- ah, fuck it) but that's just the price you pay for having a birthday on this bloody holiday.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Today in the Blogosphere...

My hypothetical roomie, referring to the Wisconversants, commented: "It's as though they're screaming, Please don't give us funding! Please don't agree to sit on our committees!" Now, I know he was referring to the earlier insanity between the Sconnies and Pub Sociology that culminated in a deceptively good-humored post, but I don't think the most recent status report from over there does much to contradict him.

And.. you know... this is me saying this.

As long as we're on the subject, Mathieu Deflem has updated his blog with a new offensive in his ongoing war with Public Sociology. The post reproduces a comment he wrote for Contemporary Sociology. I'll be honest: I usually think I'm a fairly smart guy, but I'm more or less at a loss to explain what the hell he's getting at. Still, as one of a meager handful of voices in staunch opposition to public sociology, it's worth a read.

As for me... eh. Whatever. I'm blogging on a Saturday night, I obviously have no life.

Friday, February 11, 2005

And in today's episode of Things I couldn't give less of a shit about:

Prince Charles to Wed Camilla Parker Bowles

LONDON, Feb. 10 -- Prince Charles announced Thursday he plans to marry Camilla Parker Bowles, his long-time lover and the woman who was part of a tangled royal triangle of scandal and passion that contributed to the breakup of his marriage to the late, legendary Princess Diana.

The heir to the British throne said his marriage to Parker Bowles will take place on April 8 at Windsor Castle. Because both Charles and Camilla are divorced persons whose affair helped lead to the end of their marriages, the wedding will be a private civil matter, not a Church of England ceremony. It will be followed by a service of prayer and dedication that will be presided over by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.


On the other hand, I guess it WAS a slow news day, judging by these little items that weren't on the front page:

Social Security Problems Not a Crisis, Most Say

Most Americans are certain Social Security will go bankrupt but are not ready to embrace changes that would shore up the system's finances, according to two surveys by The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University.

Seven in 10 Americans agree with President Bush that Social Security eventually will go bankrupt if Congress fails to act, though most predict that the system will not do so for at least two decades. Yet while Bush has warned of a crisis in Social Security, barely one in four Americans believes that a crisis exists.



Senate Nears Revision of Class Actions

President Bush and his business supporters won a large and long-sought victory yesterday with a series of Senate votes that virtually guarantee enactment of legislation restructuring rules for class-action lawsuits.

Consumer groups -- which warned that the new rules would result in far fewer class-action cases being heard by courts -- had pinned their hopes on amendments they said would soften the impact of the Class Action Fairness Act. But the amendments failed, in votes that highlighted the potency of the lobbying coalition behind the bill as well as the more conservative balance of power in Congress.


Rwanda's Tormentors Emerge From the Forest to Haunt Congo

KIWANJA, Congo -- Julienne Kyakimwa, 34, was picking beans in her family garden when a man emerged suddenly from the jungle with a gun in his hand, a machete on his belt and a menacing look in his eye. The wild-looking man spoke in Kinyarwanda -- the language of terror to many people here -- as he roughly demanded she turn over the beans.

According to Kyakimwa's husband, Alfajiri Kaposo, the attacker and an accomplice -- most likely ethnic Hutus, originally from neighboring Rwanda -- slashed her across the face and arms and left her for dead under a pile of branches before fleeing back into the dense equatorial forest.


Experts Urge Routine HIV Tests for All

Urging a major shift in U.S. policy, some health experts are recommending that virtually all Americans be tested routinely for the AIDS virus, much as they are for cancer and other diseases.

Since the early years of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, the government has recommended screening only in big cities, where AIDS rates are high, and among members of high-risk groups, such as gay men and drug addicts.



So, hey, clearly the marriage of an inbred wanker (And I'm quoting my brother-in-law, a former British citizen who was honorably discharged from the Royal Navy, there) is the most momentous thing out there.

Fan-fucking-tastic.

Now, some of you might be thinking, "But Drek, didn't you waste your time yesterday (and everyone else's too, judging by the comments) on some silly penguin game?"

Why yes- yes I did. You want to know what the difference is? The Washington Post is a major national newspaper through which many communities get their information about the world. I'm just a jackass blogger. If there are any communities who rely on me to get information about the world...

Well, I weep for the species.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

How the times change.

Back when I was much younger I developed a certain fascination with Penguins. You know penguins- the flightless antarctic birds that look like they're wearing tuxedos?

In any case, I really liked penguins. I read books about them, I wanted to visit zoos specifically to see them, I watched nature shows about them, hell, one year for halloween I even wore a penguin costume. If there had been such a thing as Penguin trading cards, I woulda been all over them. What can I say? I've always been a dork. I might not have known the Super Bowl was happening last Sunday (On monday when I saw the paper I literally said, "Holy shit, the Super Bowl was yesterday? So that's why the grocery store was so empty?!") but I know the differences between Emperor, King, Adelaide, and the slightly demonic-looking Rock Hopper Penguins. There are, of course, many additional kinds of penguins, but my point is made.

Given all this, you'd think that I wouldn't much enjoy this bizarre little online game. You'd think that- but you'd be wrong.

My record thus far is 316.3. Can anyone beat it?

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Bipartisanship

First, we learned that Jack van Impe was throwing his support to porn as a way of supporting the American way of life.

Now, it has come to my attention that certain individuals on the political left are putting their own particular shine on this idea by advocating a Masturbate for Peace platform. I am, of course, entirely serious.

Now, granted, I'm not really sure what the hell jerking off has to do with global politics. The website itself doesn't help much, suggesting, "Just masturbate in your own way, focusing your thoughts and energy towards love and peace." I might be wrong, but I rather suspect that most people aren't thinking about world peace when they're masturbating. Just a hunch.

Still, it's nice to see the left, and the right, proposing solutions to America's problems that are actually compatible. Liberal and Conservative helping hands, coming together, for the betterment of all humanity.

Such a beautiful thing.

Special thanks to the person who brought this to my attention, though I will spare them the inevitable questions that would result from their identity being released. Suffice to say if you knew them you'd be surprised, and if you knew them well you wouldn't be surprised in the slightest.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

And for my next trick...

I have been asked to take one hour tomorrow morning and teach a workshop in the use of SAS for the benefit of our first-year cohort. To this I respond, "Sure? Why not? You can learn SAS in an hour! It's not like SAS is such a crotchety bastard of a stats package that I've been forced to put the data on a floppy disk just to make the 'infile' statement work! Hell, this'll be easy!"

Once this workshop is over I plan to move on to some similarly-difficult tasks: like comprehending Bush's foreign policy, convincing vegans that meat ISN'T murder, and jumping through my own ass backwards.

It should be thrilling. I could sell tickets.

Bring on the theocracy!

Recently, I have been receiving e-mails from people who think I am a shade anti-Christian. I can say with absolute certainty that I am not anti-Christian. I am, however, anti-Christianity. I'm also anti-Islam, anti-Buddhism, anti-Hinduism, and basically anti-Religion in general. While I certainly understand the desire to believe in an imaginary-friend who watches out for us in our day-to-day lives (Except, you know, when he doesn't since, as we all know, good things happen because of god, but bad things just happen) I personally dislike the effects religious systems have on human communities.

Now, having said that, I don't want y'all to think that I'm actively against religious people. While I personally don't like religion, there's nothing I can do to prove that there really IS no god, and so I'm more than willing to live in a pluralistic society with believers. In other words: if you let me live my life as an atheist, I'll let you live your life as a god-lovin person. Sounds fair enough, right?

Of course, one of the conditions for such a thing is that government and religion must remain separate. See, when the U.S. government starts using religious organizations to accomplish civil functions, as it does in faith-based initiatives, it is priviledging particular religious groups over others. I maintain that this is the case even if the government gives money to Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu groups, simply because there are many additional religions beyond those. What about the Raelians? What about Scientology? Aren't they faith-based organizations? And don't tell me they're cults- the difference between an established religion and a cult is tax-exempt status. Even if you DID give money to each and every wacky religion, however, you would still be behaving improperly with regards to we atheists and agnostics. If we are entitled to services by virtue of our citizenship, there is absolutely no reason why we should have to tolerate religious messages in the process of accepting such services- particularly in an ostensibly secular state. For the Fundies in the audience, it would be the equivalent of being forced to read a treatise on Darwinism every time you paid your taxes.

So, you can imagine why it disturbs me so much to learn about good old President Bush's actions when he was governor of Texas. I refer, of course, to his proclamation of "Jesus Day."

No, I am most assuredly NOT kidding. The proclamation reads as follows:

OFFICIAL MEMORANDUM
STATE OF TEXAS
OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR

Throughout the world, people of all religions recognize Jesus Christ as an example of love, compassion, sacrifice and service. Reaching out to the poor, the suffering and the marginalized, he provided moral leadership that continues to inspire countless men, women, and children today.

To honor his life and teachings, Christians of all races and denominations have joined together to designate June 10 as Jesus Day. As part of this celebration of unity, they are taking part in the 10th annual March for Jesus in cities throughout the Lone Star State. The march, which began in Austin in 1991, is now held in nearly 180 countries. Jesus Day challenges people to follow Christ's example by performing good works in their communities and neighborhoods. By nursing the sick, feeding the poor or volunteering in homeless shelters, everyone can play a role in making the world a better place.

I urge all Texans to answer the call to serve those in need. By volunteering their time, energy or resources to helping others, adults and youngsters follow Christ's message of love and service in thought and deed.

Therefore I, George W. Bush, Governor of Texas, do hereby proclaim June 10, 2000,

Jesus Day

in Texas and urge the appropriate recognition whereof.

In official recognition whereof, I hereby affix my signature this 17th day of March, 2000

George W. Bush [signature]
Governor of Texas


If you like, you can see a facsimile of the document here. Now, I'll grant that Bush is probably right that people of most religions recognize Jesus Christ as, "an example of love, compassion, sacrifice and service." Some of us also regard him as, very likely, a sterling example of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, but that isn't really the point. The problem is: why didn't Bush use this logic to declare a Buddha day? Or a Mohammed day? How about a Vishnu day, to recognize the contributions of this deity to peace and harmony? Maybe a Confucius day? Crap, why not an L. Ron Hubbard day? The scientologists sure like him and, let's face it, any guy who orchestrates a private intelligence operation against the United States Government is probably deserving of SOME sort of nod. What about us atheists? Can we get a goddamn Darwin day or something?

Or, you know, here's an idea: let's just not start taking state action to recognize religious figures. Wouldn't THAT be a helluva lot easier? I think so. I really, really do.

Besides, if all that isn't enough for you, there's one more little detail: we already have a Jesus Day in the U.S. during which the President himself often displays his affection for the teachings of Christ with huge symbols of the faith.

Merry Christmas, motherfucker.

Monday, February 07, 2005

This blog post is like a Ziggy cartoon.

In other words: short, bizarre, and cursed with a pretty stupid punchline. Unlike Ziggy cartoons, however, this blog is unlikely ever to be immortalized in an unending flood of crappy mousepads and coffee mugs that high school guidance counselors across the nation will collect with obsessive glee. Unless they're like my high school guidance counselor, anyway, in which case they will also collect breathtaking quantities of Leonard Nimoy paraphenalia.

Regardless, a few days ago Tom Bozzo wrote a post concerned with the habits of powerful men. Specifically, he wrote a post dealing with the tendency of these men to marry their personal assistants. (I think we all appreciate, as a side note, Tom's reluctance to extend his observations to faculty and grad students.) At the end of this post, Tom comments: "Perhaps I need to reconsider the explanatory power of economic theories of marriage."

Indeed! Tom, you would not be the first economist to analyze such circumstances. I believe the practice was begun by no less a luminary than Adam Smith, whose proposed mechanism for matching buyers and sellers in this market was referred to as, if I recall correctly, the invisible handjob.

I should probably also mention that, unlike Ziggy cartoons, this blog post is just a bit crude. Personally, I think that's a point in its favor.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Not to be petty, but...

We all know that Brayden was taking a trip and you'd think he could drop his poor blogging buddies an e-mail or something to let us know how the trip went. But, nope, not a word from him since he left. Not even a rude gesture. I am very disappointed.

We'll see if YOU get anything from ME when I go to that conference in a few weeks, Brayden.

Not that you would have anyway- given past history I'll be lucky if I'm not sleeping under a fucking overpass for this thing.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Tom Bozzo is one bad Mama-Jamma!

Some of you might recall that around a week ago I issued a sort of challenge: Engage with two more-or-less rational masculist websites, and see what happens. I encouraged posts in opposition to the masculits, as well as in support, and was hoping we could come together for a nice debate. Or, at least, a funny, yet incoherent, shouting match.

What can I say? If I'm going to give my support to the non-political aspects of Public Sociology (The initiative, not the blog. And as long as we're on the subject, as a reminder for the Wisconversants, this is an entirely different blog from Pub Sociology.) I had better be willing to put my money (er, blog) where my mouth is.

So, it is with great pleasure that I announce that we have had our first qualifying response to my challenge! Please give a warm round of applause to a good man, a noble man, a handsome man, and a secret-agent man: Tom Bozzo.

Then, once you're done whacking those two pieces of meat on the ends of your arms together, go read his response: A Brief Response to the "Drek Challenge"

Tom: As promised, you now have a credit for a post of your own choosing. Just let me know what you'd like me to write about and I'll get to it straight-away. Or, you know, later. It'll depend on my workload and how involved the post will be to write, but I owe you a post regardless.

As for the rest of you: C'mon, do you REALLY want the only response to a Public Sociology initiative to come from an economist? Not that I have anything against economists, it's just: that's a Public Sociology that's so public, the sociologists aren't even involved!

State of the Union: Unplugged!

The contents of this post have been removed at the request of one of the participants. If you want to know why, you can probably find out pretty easily.


-Drek

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Ok, show of hands:

Who wants me to live-blog the State of the Union in the same style as the Presidential Debates?

On the one hand, I want to watch and will need an outlet. On the other hand, I may be pretty sleepy by then given how my day has been going.

Anyone want to volunteer to join me in the instant messager channel, with the understanding that I may ignore you on a whim?

I'm a fucker that way.

Yo, Adam, check this shit out!

Found this in the Washington Post and thought of you:


When It Comes to the Heart, Treatment Varies

Women remain far less likely than men to get basic medical care that could significantly reduce their risk of heart attacks and strokes, leaving thousands unnecessarily vulnerable to the nation's leading cause of death, researchers reported today.

Despite clear evidence that women are as prone to heart attacks as men, new studies show that many doctors fail to treat them as aggressively as men, ordering far fewer tests and taking far fewer preventive measures, such as prescribing daily aspirin pills, diet and exercise regimens and drugs to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

(article continues)


Thought you'd like to know, given your interest in complex multi-faceted arguments.

As a side note: fuck me, it's early. (Which is not to be confused with, "Kiss me, I'm Irish.") Would someone explain why I'm getting up before the crack of dawn specifically so the Red Cross can punch holes in my arm?

I'm fairly sure it's because I'm stupid.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

That is so awesome.

I don't know if anyone's ever noticed this before, but over at the Ohio State Department of Sociology they've actually listed their Political Sociology course as "SOC 666."

I know it's Ohio and all, but I'm fairly sure that somebody over there has a wicked sense of humor.

The real question is: have they ever gotten angry letters from the Fundies? Anyone from Ohio State who can enlighten us?

Fuck you, February.

Today, as you may or may not know, is the first day of February. This is no great shock, given that yesterday was the last day of January, and the entropy arrow only points in one direction.

What you probably don't know is that February is evil. I know how this sounds, which is to say completely fucking crazy, but I have a sort of anecdotal confidence in it. Contrary to the assertions of the College Roomies From Hell, I am fully convinced that February, rather than April, is in fact the cruelest month.

Why am I so confident? Well, mostly because bad things always seem to happen to me before February is over. I don't mean little bad things either, I mean frustrating, emotionally-devastating things. Alternatively, sequences of events that will culminate in emotional/psychological train-wreck seem to have a preferrence for starting in February as well. No need to go into detail on this point, save to say that February is getting an early start this year.

Last year, while playing intramural soccer with our department team, I fell and injured my shoulder. Okay, okay, fine, if you must know, while PRACTICING for intramural soccer I fell and injured my shoulder. Specifically, I sustained what is referred to as an AC Separation- Type III. Sounds cool, eh? Well, long story short, it means I tore up some ligaments in my shoulder. Treatment for this sort of injury is, and I swear this is literally how it was put to me at the time, "somewhat controversial." More accurately, it's a type of injury where if it were any more severe they would definitely operate, and if it were any less severe they definitely wouldn't operate, but is just severe enough to make the choice a real crap-shoot.

So, at the time, we decided not to operate and, 12 blissful weeks later, I regained the use of my right arm. Unfortunately, I've recently started experiencing a rather persistent pain in that shoulder that seems related to twisting the shoulder backwards. Men, imagine the motion you make to get your wallet out of your back pocket- doing that makes my shoulder scream like a butcher knife is being driven into it. Since I don't like this sensation, and it seems to be getting worse, I will be visiting my local sports medicine doctor today who is named, and once more I am completely serious here, "Dr. Paul." Yeah. Doctor FUCKING Paul. I am not reassured. With any luck, he'll at least let me keep the damn arm. With a little more luck, I won't need surgery until a few months from now when it is more convenient, and with slightly more luck, I won't need surgery at all. So, given that this is February, I think I should start practicing day-to-day tasks with my left hand.

It also doesn't help that my birthday is in February. When is it, you ask? Well, let me ask you this: given my general disposition, what day in February would be the most ironic one for my birthday to fall on? Go ahead- consult a calendar if you like.

Yep. That one. Neat, huh?

So, as a fun little activity, please take this opportunity to speculate in the comments section about what misfortunes will befall me during this month. You won't get anything if you guess right, except maybe the sick, twisted joy of having predicted my doom accurately.

Enjoy.

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