Friday, December 23, 2016

Social Location, The Wine Edition

Bought some wine today. This is not the product I purchased, but it caught my eye. I doubt this wine was named with a sociological concept in mind. I'm guessing it was the outcome of a focus group or a spitballing session. In any case, "white girl" is an example of a social location, one's position in society. Other examples of social location include "rich," "middle-class," "homeless," "retired man."

As for the wine I bought, it's called Saturday Night Red. The good news is you don't have to wait until Saturday night to drink it. Also, the price is $9.99 ($7.99 if you roll with coupons, and I certainly do).

Listen Up, Everybody

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

What Song is Stuck in Your Head?

There's usually a song in my head. Just me, or you too? Right now it's Polly by Nirvana. Phenomenal. "Let me clip your dirty wings." Kobain was a great poet. I love this part:

Polly says her back hurts
She's just as bored as me
She caught me off my guard
Amazes me, the will of instinct

I'm also working with extra nervous energy. It's the first bigly snow storm of the season. It might even count as a blizzard. I secured provisions: ice cream, brownie mix, beer, soup, pasta, cheese, bread, deli turkey, milk. Plus whatever's already in the freezer and on the wine rack. Not our first rodeo. I shoveled once and I'll shovel again soon. Enjoy...

Monday, December 12, 2016

An Alternative Perspective from the Echo Chamber

This is a guest post. The author is Peter Kaufman
(Professor of Sociology, State University of New York at New Paltz)

Nicholas Kristof’s New York Times (December 10, 2016) essay, “Dangers of Echo Chambers on Campus,” has been getting a lot of attention and a lot of criticism since it was published. 

Kristof is concerned that college campuses are becoming one-sided “echo chambers” where only those who speak to the (liberal) choir are allowed to participate and perform. His intention in this essay is to encourage a multiplicity of voices on college campuses as a way to foster greater understanding of divergent viewpoints. 

I have been in higher education for over 25 years (7 as a graduate student and 18 as a full-time faculty member at a regional public university). I have never met a colleague on my campus or at any conferences who does not share Kristof’s goal of wanting students to think critically, analytically, and broadly. Challenging students to consider alternative, contradictory, and even objectionable viewpoints are the strategies that most of my colleagues employ as way to instill these higher-order thinking skills. 

But in his attempt to champion a diversity of viewpoints on college campuses, Kristof makes a number of troubling assumptions and draws some specious conclusions that undercut his argument. Consider the following:

“Repeated studies have found that about 10 percent of professors in the social sciences or the humanities are Republicans.”

Kristof offers this quote as being symptomatic of the problem. But he, and others who point to this statistic, never quite explain why it is the case or why it is so problematic. 

Those of us in the social sciences and humanities have dedicated our lives to studying, contemplating, questioning, discussing, teaching, and writing about the human condition. If after all of this intellectual and emotional effort most of us have concluded that the Republican platform is troubling or not to our liking, shouldn’t that tell us something? Shouldn’t we trust or at least have some confidence in the “experts” who study humanity and the conclusions they draw instead of expecting them to negate their accumulated knowledge and insights?  

“We champion tolerance, except for conservatives and evangelical Christians. We want to be inclusive of people who don’t look like us — so long as they think like us.”

It would be nice if Kristof offered even just a morsel of evidence that this sort of closed-mindedness is rampant on college campuses. Not only is this a hollow claim, but if anything, decades of social scientific research demonstrate that universities reflect the dominant mode of thought, speech, morals, and norms of America. In other words, our classrooms and campuses are most hospitable to and are most easily navigated by students who are white, Christian, male, middle to upper class, heterosexual, and able-bodied. If you doubt this, then just ask some students who don’t fit into these categories if they have ever felt ostracized, stigmatized, or uncomfortable on their college campus. 

“I fear that liberal outrage at Trump’s presidency will exacerbate the problem of liberal echo chambers, by creating a more hostile environment for conservatives and evangelicals.” 

I’m not sure what Kristoff means when he says that a more hostile environment will be coming. There are two problems here. First, it is an exaggeration to call the pre-Trump environment hostile to conservatives and evangelicals. If a student shares some of the conservative and evangelical beliefs--that the science behind climate change is a hoax, that homosexuality is a sin that could be cured through conversion therapy, that whites are more discriminated against than people of color, that we live in a post-racial and post-sexist society, and that the world was started through creationism and not through evolution—and then this student’s views are challenged in class, is that hostility or is that the uncomfortable journey of critical thinking? 

Second, and this goes back to my earlier point, the people who feel real hostility on most college campuses, despite the so-called liberal bias, are those students, faculty and staff who are not white, Christian, male, middle class, heterosexual, and able-bodied. On an everyday basis, as I’ve heard from students and colleagues, such individuals risk having their personhood challenged and questioned. That sort of direct confrontation to the core of who one is, is a much more severe type of hostility than merely having one’s beliefs challenged.

“But do we really want to caricature half of Americans, some of whom voted for President Obama twice, as racist bigots?”

I partly agree with Kristof here. I don’t want to caricature half of Americans as racist bigots. Instead, I want ALL of us to admit that we have some degree of bigotry and intolerance. We are all caricatures of the good, wholesome, and virtuous people that we think ourselves to be.  If we have any hope of achieving the type of respect and understanding that Kristof and I both desire, then we ALL need to be willing to acknowledge our biases, prejudices, and stereotypes. Our deep and long-standing refusal, or utter failure, to do this both collectively and individually is probably the greatest obstacle to reducing hatred and division in American society. 

But as for the people who voted for Trump let’s not forget this one crucial point: Despite all of the analyses of who these voters are or what motivated them to vote for him, one factor remains irrefutable: those who voted for Trump were willing to overlook his bigotry, misogyny, nastiness, and hatred. When they went to the voting booth they did not see bigotry and misogyny as disqualifying variables for the most powerful political position in the world. There is something deeply and undeniably troubling about this fact.

“But this election also underscores that we were out of touch with much of America.”

I’m not sure how Kristof came to this conclusion but he seems to have forgotten that less than 25% of the population voted for Trump. More people voted for Clinton. And over 75% of the population did not vote for Trump. So another way to read the results of the election is to say that Trump and his campaign of bigotry, misogyny, and hatred are really what is out of touch with much of America.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Stars Fell on Alabama

The beautiful music of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong is our song of the day...

Video about W.E.B. Du Bois

This is an excellent short video about W.E.B. Du Bois, and includes mention of the research he did for his 1899 book The Philadelphia Negro. There is audio of Du Bois' voice in the video. There are appearances from scholars Elijah Anderson and Tukufu Zuberi, as well as former Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter. Veronica (Ronnie) Hodges is the narrator.

Legacy of Courage: W.E.B. Du Bois and The Philadelphia Negro from Amy Hillier on Vimeo.

Largest U.S. Immigrant Groups

A comparison of the top ten largest U.S. immigrant groups in 2015 and 1960.
(See link that says Top Ten Countries of Birth, 1960-2015)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Agree or Disagree: Society Sucks

Ran into a relative who I don't see often.

Her: What do you teach?

Me: Sociology.

Her: What's sociology?

Me: Study of society.

Her: Society sucks!

I find it difficult to refute her point.

Monday, November 28, 2016


What's your favorite possession?

My neighbor (a good guy) told me I'd like Sky Blue Sky by Wilco. But all I hear is Don Henley. Does anyone else think Jeff Tweedy sounds like Don Henley on this album? Musically, I like this album a lot. But it's like Don Henley is singing over the music and it's not working for me. I'll try more, but I think Hate it Here might be the only song I really like.

I've had this blog since 2011 and this is my first entry by phone.

Took one of my kids to the doctor today. He stayed home from school. We took a walk around the block in the afternoon and I held his hand. Holding hands is one of my favorite things to do.

As I get older, I get more sentimental. I cry easily. I'm an emotional dude. Dudes aren't supposed to cry but I'm less afraid of my emotions than I used to be.

If there were snow on the ground I might be shoveling right now. Instead I'm killing time.

Either Way is the Wilco song playing now. It doesn't do much for me. I do like the phrase "I will try to understand." I try to understand. There's a nice guitar solo in this song. I take it back. This song is better as it goes along. I think this is a winter album and suddenly I think I'll like this album a lot in February.

I promise to let you know.

Before then, maybe I'll start an Instagram and show you what I'm reading and cooking.

People are a mystery but that's a subject for another day.

Tell me, what's your favorite possession? I bet you have one.

Does a person count as a possession? I don't know. You tell me.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

It's a Good Time to Stop Watching Cable News

I barely watch CNN. When I do turn it on, there are a bunch of pundits around a table. What the hell is the point? Here's a few Republicans, some Democrats, a Libertarian, and a host. No thanks. Jeff Zucker flat out saying what we knew was true--that cable news is a game about ratings and profits--is reason enough to avoid cable news.

There is nothing you can do to get me to watch Fox News. I've written about them before. Sean Hannity is all in with the Donald. No thanks. Bill O'Reilly still plays the part of a working-class Irish guy despite the fact that he's been making millions of dollars for years. Hey, let's celebrate Megyn Kelly--she's the reasonable one, right? No thanks, I have no interest in feeding her brand or contributing to her next enormous contract.

And then MSNBC, starring Mika and Joe. What the hell is their deal with Trump? Whatever their relationship with Trump is, it's just too weird for me. I don't want to hear them talk about Trump in their capacity as friends or quasi-advisers or whatever. Yes, they'll be tough on him occasionally for cover and to appear fair, but I have no reason to trust what they say. Nor do I want to watch Chris Matthews ask 1,400 word questions or continue to constantly interrupt his guests. The sad thing is, he has good guests on his show at times. Recently, I watched a Hardball segment with Molly Ball (from The Atlantic). She was smart and insightful when she actually had a chance to say something. Problem is, Matthews kept interrupting her. And the guy just gets too damn excited about the sport of politics. MSNBC loves horse race politics. There are plenty of times that Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes offer something other than horse race politics, but they still are part of a corporate cable news landscape that offers superficial analysis and too often lapses into "he said, she said" coverage. This is a channel that parted ways with Melissa Harris-Perry, apparently because she didn't do enough horse race politics on her show. It's a channel with Brian Williams on air. Am I to believe that Brian Williams can give a reliable account of events, knowing he was suspended from NBC for not telling the truth???

Why do I continue to watch these channels knowing they will not deliver news and analysis in a responsible manner? I can't bear to watch them be played by Trump during his presidency. I can do without cable news. It's a good time for me to stop watching. As a news junkie I'll be looking for ways to fill the void. I intend to pay more attention to how BBC and CBC cover news, politics, and world affairs.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

I'm Normally Cranky About Everything But I Like The Mannequin Challenge

Fads are the kind of thing that bother me, because I'm a crank. But I like the mannequin challenge. I think I like that it requires group work. It's coordination. Cooperation. It looks and feels different than the solo actor on social media doing their thing. It's nice to see people coming together to have fun. So while I'm still and probably will always be a crank, you can now add the mannequin challenge to the short list of things I like: classic rock, hip-hop, carbohydrates, coffee, mannequin challenge. Here's the Lloyd team (Buffalo's favorite food truck) doing it swell. Pro tip: if you're ever in Buffalo, hit up a Lloyd truck or go to their restaurant.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Say Not, "I Have Found the Truth"

Years ago, a student gave me The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. It's a gift I continue to treasure.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Baking. Grading. Raking.

What a great day here in the 716. That's code for the greater Buffalo area. Started the day by baking banana bread. My long search for the best recipe has landed on Janet's Rich Banana Bread, courtesy of my friends at Allrecipes. It's the real deal, if you ask me. It's the only recipe I've used that includes sour cream. I mostly follow the recipe. I leave out the walnuts and add chocolate chips instead. I also suggest a dash of cinnamon. The recipe calls for sliced bananas but I mash them, because, as always, society can't tell me what to do.

Then I put on my professor cap and graded a batch of exams. This is me procrastinating and not grading more exams. I'll return to the stack in a moment.

You can tell that autumn agrees with me. It's a gorgeous fall day. The leaves are falling at an acceptable pace. These two trees in our front yard will soon be bare. Enjoy your weekend, everybody.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Take Us to the Weekend, De La Soul

The tremendous lyric "Wipe your Lottos on the mat." Whistling from perhaps the greatest song of all time, Otis Redding's Dock of the Bay. Sampling from Steely Dan, one of my all-time favorite bands. How does it get better than that?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

I Found Bob Dylan. He Was Gone Till November.

I am in disbelief that it's November. Woke up today thinking of great November songs. There's November Rain by Guns N Roses, and there's this spectacular beauty by Wyclef Jean. I forgot Bob Dylan has a cameo in the video. "I'm knockin' on heaven's door like I'm Bob Dylan."

Friday, October 28, 2016

Fire Up the Time Machine and Send Me to 1978

Put me at this Police concert at Beat Club. This crowd is WAY too reserved. Do you see Stewart Copeland playing the drums in tube socks? They deserve a wild crowd. Put me there so I can do my part. And then transport me back to 2016 in time to finish my office hours in respectable fashion.

Congratulations, Congress!

With the presidential election coming to a close, I figured I'd check in on approval ratings for Congress. Somebody has to work with Congress. Good news for our elected representatives. Their approval rating is up to 20%, the highest it's been in 2016.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

To Sit With My Own Thoughts, For a Moment

I haven't been sleeping well lately. That's nothing new. I've been a player on Team Insomnia for twenty years. There are stretches of time when my mind runs more than usual. This hot mess of a presidential election has occupied too much of my brain for too long a time. A happier part of my brain is excited about the World Series. There's the usual stuff of work and kids taking up normal amounts of my mental and physical energy. I find it so hard to sit with quiet. I'm always looking at or listening to something. I took a few minutes before class today to relax in my office, lights off, just to sit still for a moment. But it felt like something I scheduled.

*goes to class*

*two hours later*

Classes went well. I have a one hour break before another. I'm pleased with myself because I made a R.E.M. reference in one of my classes. It wasn't planned. I spontaneously worked in lyrics from Pop Song 89: "Should we talk about the weather? Should we talk about the government?" That sure is a great song. Honestly I'm hoping someone e-mails me to ask "Hey professor did you quote R.E.M. in class?" That would be cool.

Back to life I go.

See ya.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Sociologist Googles "Hillary Clinton Post Gender Society" Out of Curiosity

I've been thinking about how there hasn't been much talk about Hillary Clinton becoming the first woman president. In contrast, there was a ton written about Barack Obama becoming the first black president and even talk about a post-racial society. Below is a quick sampling of article titles that appeared today when I googled "Obama post racial society." Click on article title if you want to see the article.

Obama: "My election did not create a post-racial society"

Obama's post-racial promise

There Is No Post-Racial America

A New, 'Post-Racial' Political Era in America

The fallacy of a ‘post-racial’ society

Half of America Thinks We Live in a Post-Racial Society — The Other Half, Not So Much

The Obama Era: A Post-racial Society?

Obama’s election was supposed to usher in a new post-racial era. Why has racist expression grown more vicious than any time since the 1960s?

Obama a marker on post-racial path

Youth and the Myth of a Post-Racial Society Under Barack Obama

There are many more results. Many a thinkpiece has been written about a so-called post-racial society. As you can tell by the article titles, many of the pieces bat away the idea of a post-racial society. Still, it's notable how many writers contemplated the idea of a post-racial society.

I also googled "Hillary Clinton post gender society" today, thinking I might not even come across the phrase post-gender in any articles. A few headlines do include the phrase. Other articles that come up in the search don't have the phrase in the article title. Some examples:

Could a Clinton presidency unleash a post-gender society? Not a chance.

Hillary's Big Moment: Are We Post-Gender? (Written in 2008)

No post-gender society

Can Hillary Clinton change gender roles in politics? (Interesting article. This sentence stands out: "Paradoxically, electing a woman president for the US will not advance women's rights around the globe.")

A  lot of young men seem to think we’re already living in a post-sexist America

In Hillary Clinton’s run, the ‘woman card’ works in surprising ways. Here’s how.

This isn't in-depth content analysis, as you can see. I'm just a staff of one over here. Just me, myself, and Google. Merely curious about whether people are seriously engaging with the idea of a post-gender society. It looks to me like people aren't going out of their way to predict a post-gender society. If people were once in a rush to declare a post-racial society (and now here we are with most observers rejecting the notion), perhaps we're in a more cautious era with people less willing to forecast a major transformation in society. Calling society post-race or post-gender or post-class may be little more than a contrarian viewpoint, at this point in time.

In Case You Missed It, Lauryn Hill Performed on the Charlie Rose Show

I drove past my exit on the way to work yesterday. I was listening to Breakfast in America, by Supertramp, and thinking it would be on my desert island list. You know that game you play when you have to select ten or so albums to bring to a desert. Why a desert, and not space, I thought to myself? I'm just as unlikely to land in space as I am a desert, but either way I'll need good tunes. Some of my favorite albums ran through my head, like Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life and Lauryn Hill's The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Suddenly I realized I missed my exit and wondered how long my mind had wandered. That's not safe driving, my friends.

This morning I checked Pitchfork to catch up on music news, and I made a good decision in clicking on their item about Lauryn Hill. Here she is, with a talented group of musicians, performing "Rebel" on the Charlie Rose show yesterday.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Astrology (A Short Story)

You will get a prime parking spot at Panera. It will be the first of many successes you enjoy.

Stay active on social media. Soon you will have a viral tweet. Make all of your tweets count and be purposeful in your tweeting. A person of great influence will reach out to you because of your viral tweet. You may be presented with the opportunity of your lifetime.

Be honest--you have not always been kind, and you have even wished ill on your haters (more than once, as you know). It is important to channel any negative feelings you have in a way that doesn't send hate into the universe. You love gossip, and you'll continue to love gossip. See this as the challenge that it is.

One day you'll be stuck in a very long line, with a Coldplay song on repeat. It will make you uncomfortable and nervous. Then something will happen. Not terrible, nor life-threatening, but you'll be forced to ask someone for help, something you don't like to do. Embrace the moment. Be vulnerable. More importantly, just be.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Picture of the Day (Young Thug)

We covered the concept of "doing gender" in my Social Psychology course yesterday. Click here for my summary of the West and Zimmerman article. During our discussion, a student mentioned Young Thug wearing a dress on his latest album cover. I don't know his music and wasn't familiar with the picture to which she referred. She kindly handed me her phone during class to show me the picture. It's a good example of challenging gender norms. I reminded the class of when Kanye West wore a kilt ("effectively a skirt," as GQ refers to it here). My point was that I think celebrities have more room to maneuver than regular people in pushing the boundaries of socially acceptable expressions of masculinity and femininity. Click here for an article about the dress that Young Thug is wearing on his album cover (also the source from where I copied and paste this picture).

Monday, September 19, 2016

Song of the Day - I Feel For You (Chaka Khan)

Having a day? I am. Not the day I imagined, that's for sure. Trying to get my mind right before my 2:30 class. This song will make me feel better. It's great. I hope it works for you too.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Value of a Slow Social Interaction

I'm too much in a hurry at work. Do e-mail fast. Quick meeting with student. Review notes for class. Fast bathroom break. Eat fast. Drink coffee fast. There a text, here a text. Clever quips exchanged with colleagues in the hallway.

A nice interaction I had this morning went a different way. In the parking lot I ran into a colleague who I don't see very often. I usually walk and talk with colleagues when we cross paths in the parking lot. In this case, she stopped to talk. We made eye contact as we caught up. We asked about each other's families. We agreed the summer heat was unbearable. We talked a bit more and both said it was nice to see each other. It really was. Life is too busy and stressful to enjoy one sustained interaction after another, but I sure value the ones I get. I feel good about those slower interactions in a way that I don't after the split second ones.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

If Time Permits, Prep Early

I've been teaching college courses for more than 15 years. Sometimes I like prepping for class, other times I let it go and procrastinate. Early in the semester I find myself abiding by good habits. I prep well ahead of time. I'm not rushing my prep, nor am I spending a ton of time on prep. There have been times where I spent a long time preparing content for a class session but the class ended up poorly. How? I think I run into trouble when I spend too much time on content and not enough time thinking about actually teaching the material. If time permits and I have a session prepped long before I actually teach it, then the material is in my head and I can think a lot about how I want to present it. I think about new discussion questions and, frankly speaking, a few new jokes pop into my head that I may or may not end up using.

Time is a precious resource, of course, and not everybody has the same amount of time to dedicate to class preparation. Advisement, research, writing, meetings, OTHER JOBS, children, housework, social lives all take up time. But if time is on your side and you can manage to complete your class prep early, I think it may work in your favor.

On a related note, I think when my class prep is sloppy I tend to go too fast in class. My pacing is off. I talk too fast, don't give students enough time to respond to questions, I don't settle into the class, etc. It's like I'm fighting the clock. But if I finish my prep comfortably ahead of class time then I find my pacing is much better. When I'm settled in the clock is my friend. It seems to move at the right speed, giving me plenty of time to cover the material in a way that doesn't feel hurried.

It's easy for me to say this in September before it's hit the fan. Like I've written before, it's dancing in September and struggling in December. My goal is to stick with the best habits I can for as long as possible this semester.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Before Trump, Palin

Each time Donald Trump says something ridiculous I'm tempted to ask "Who else could say that? Can you imagine if another politician said that?" And then Sarah Palin comes to mind. I wonder if historians will closely link them together. Remember when Palin made a remark about "real America"? It strikes me as the kind of spouting off, ad-lib way of talking that we might expect from Trump.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Immersed in Suburbia

I have been immersed in suburbia for a while now.

It wasn't always this way.

I grew up in a small city. It was a short walk to school, an even shorter walk to the park. In two blocks you could walk to a candy store, a pizzeria, and a place to buy hot dogs and ice cream. It didn't take many more blocks to get to more places.

I don't know if I imagined that I would live in a suburb in my adult life. I can't remember. The thing that strikes me most about suburbia is the vital importance of cars. I spend a lot of my waking moments in my car. This has made satellite radio important to me. At some point it changed from a luxury to necessity. It keeps me company.

If I walk long enough I can make it to a few places--a deli, a convenience store--but the walk is unpleasant and puts you in automobile traffic. Biking is an option too, but this suburb was not built for bicycles. It's all about cars.

I like walks. When I lived in Buffalo in my 20s I loved taking walks on Elmwood Avenue. I have fond memories of lunchtime walks to get a black bean burrito. It would serve as a reward. Write in the morning. Prepare for class. Then stroll for a burrito. Return home. Do more work. A cat nap was often part of the routine. That was life before kids.

Just before kids came along, my wife and I looked and looked for houses. The affordable houses for us were in the suburbs. We lived in suburb #1 in house #1 with one bathroom. Joyfully, kids #1 and #2 became our family. We moved to suburb #2 to a bigger house with 1 and 1/2 bathrooms. I do not take the 1/2 bathroom for granted. It's the only time in my life I have lived in an apartment or house with more than one bathroom.

This is the quietest place I have lived in my life, I often hear myself saying. I miss the noise of the city, sometimes. Suburb #1 was noisy too. Very noisy. But you can hear a pin drop in suburb #2. The kids play with other kids and neighbors wave and say hello. Sometimes the adults convene for beers. In suburb #1 this was not the norm. Only a few of the neighbors were friendly. Here, they are very friendly.

The days of walking for a burrito are long gone. A break now consists of a trip to the grocery store for provisions. There is a park where I like to go for a walk. There are times when only 3-4 people are there. This is in stark contrast to the days of walking in Buffalo's Delaware Park. On any given afternoon, Delaware Park is busy with walkers, bikers, rollerbladers, and basketball players. Where I walk now is maybe one person shooting hoops and a few people walking dogs. One time I saw a small group of women doing yoga.

I wonder if I'm getting used to the quiet. I kind of blend in wherever I am. I do tend to get restless. I imagine living in different places. It's not necessarily that I think the grass is greener elsewhere. It might be the case that I'm not the type to put down roots in a single place for thirty years.

There is something else about this suburb I will say. I've noticed it before but it really struck me today. Today was garbage day. Wherever else I have lived, garbage day usually meant stray garbage in the street after the garbage was removed by trucks and men. Here, it is near spotless. I have a hard time recalling spills or garbage spewed in the streets. Today, after the trucks came through, I drove to the pharmacy. On my way out of the neighborhood I saw one coffee cup. I kid you not, it stood out to me. Hey look, a piece a garbage. This is one clean place.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Men at Work are Underrated. And if You Don't Believe Me, Try This Salsa Recipe.

I was there in the 1980s when Men at Work blew up pop radio with Down Under. It's a fine song. "He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich" is a Hall of Fame lyric. All these years later, I'm pleased when Men at Work sneaks up in my iTunes. Or surprises me at the grocery store, as happened this morning when Overkill enhanced my shopping experience. I'll always dig this song. The video is weird but so what.

As we know, music taste is subjective and all of that. So maybe we disagree about Men at Work. However, we surely agree that we all need good salsa in our lives, whether or not America fulfills its promise to deliver taco trucks on every corner. Is it me or is salsa in a jar unbearable? Here's a five minute salsa fix for you. Use a can of crushed tomatoes and season to taste. Add what you want to make it mild or hot. Refrigerate. That's it. Today I used 28 ounces of chunky crushed tomatoes. I seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, sugar, and added diced mild green chiles. I suppose you could freshen it up with bell peppers or do whatever else makes you happy. Want to be a hero the next time you have company? Give them good salsa. Here it is, friends.

Stick Figure Society (Colin Kaepernick Edition)

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Mundane is Sexy

I like to occasionally share ideas for recipes on this blog, like the time I wrote about what might be called an Almost Fancy Salad. I also gave the world my approach to Make Meatballs Great Again.

This morning I made a few things in preparation for dinner. We'll be having a Greek salad with Naan. We need dressing for the salad and tzatziki for the Naan. I like trying my hand at quick homemade dressings. Almost anything tastes better than what comes in a bottle, overpriced, at the grocery store. I went with a simple recipe from courtesy of BeachGirl. I had all the ingredients available except Dijon mustard, so I used spicy brown mustard instead.

I've made tzatziki a few times before, using yogurt as the base. This time I used sour cream (opened earlier in the week) that I didn't want to go to waste. I chopped up cucumber and threw it in with the sour cream, and added garlic and lemon juice. It won't win awards, but it'll get the job done.

Why am I blogging about this? Because I'm taking a break from finishing up my syllabi for the semester. Also, the mundane is sexy.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Get a Yes (A Song about Consent)

In an NPR article, here's what Sadie Dupuis says about her song "Get a Yes":

"You can only get to that affirmative yes through a lot of dialoguing, and I think that process should be viewed as fun, sexy and not at all daunting, So I wanted to make a pop song that explores the excitement inherent in getting and giving consent. And that's why I wrote 'Get A Yes.'"

Friday, August 19, 2016

Safe Spaces at College

With a new academic year upon us, it's helpful to review Roxane Gay's essay about safe spaces published in the New York Times in November 2015. She makes an important sociological point: "Those who mock the idea of safe space are most likely the same people who are able to take safety for granted. That’s what makes discussions of safety and safe spaces so difficult. We are also talking about privilege. As with everything else in life, there is no equality when it comes to safety."

What does she mean by saying there is no equality when it comes to safety? She makes her point clear here: "While no one is guaranteed absolute safety, and everyone knows suffering, there are dangers members of certain populations will never know. There is a degree of safety members of certain populations will never know. White people will never know the dangers of being black in America, systemic, unequal opportunity, racial profiling, the constant threat of police violence. Men will never know the dangers of being a woman in America, harassment, sexual violence, legislated bodies. Heterosexuals will never know what it means to experience homophobia. Those who take safety for granted disparage safety because it is, like so many other rights, one that has always been inalienable to them."

Keep in mind she wrote this essay following the events at University of Missouri. Here's a CNN timeline of events leading up to the protests that occurred there last fall. Discussions of safe spaces became more common afterwards. Gay explains why safe spaces are important: "Safe spaces allow people to feel welcome without being unsafe because of the identities they inhabit. A safe space is a haven from the harsh realities people face in their everyday lives." Note the nuanced point she makes in saying: "There are some extreme, ill-advised and simply absurd manifestations of the idea of safe space. And there are and should be limits to the boundaries of safe space. Safe space is not a place where dissent is discouraged, where dissent is seen as harmful." She describes the intellectual space she strives to create in her classroom: "a space where debate, dissent and even protest are encouraged. I want to challenge students and be challenged. I don’t want to shape their opinions. I want to shape how they articulate and support those opinions. I do not believe in using trigger warnings because that feels like the unnecessary segregation of students from reality, which is complex and sometimes difficult." I like her essay because it clearly makes the point that critics of safe spaces are wrong to assume that students are being coddled.

Her essay popped back into my head after reading a new article in The Atlantic entitled "The Fine Line Between Safe Space and Segregation," by Emily Deruy. The article features quotes and insights from sociologist Tressie McMillan Cottom that are definitely worth checking out. McMillan Cottom is quoted as saying: "The classroom has to be the space where everybody comes and is uncomfortable. College is about being safely uncomfortable." Safely uncomfortable. That's a great phrase. Following that quote, the author Deruy makes a critical follow-up point about the difference between being uncomfortable in class and being uncomfortable on campus. College educators want students to struggle with complex ideas in the classroom. We seek to challenge our students. We encourage them to defend their viewpoints with evidence. I know that critical thinking is considered a cliché, but we do believe in developing the critical thinking of our students. We also want our students to be safe. Safe from physical and verbal harm that occurs in campus spaces. That we care about and try to ensure our students are safe does not mean we are constantly walking on eggshells in classrooms. Let's go back to Gay's essay to see what she writes about the classroom environment for her students: "They can trust that they might become uncomfortable but they won’t be persecuted or judged. They can trust that they will be challenged but they won’t be tormented."

Being uncomfortable in the classroom is obviously different than being unsafe on campus. The safety of students is a responsibility that college educators take seriously. The Atlantic article reminds us we have to recognize that our students come to college with different needs and concerns. Therefore, the idea that black and white students deserve the exact same treatment is, as McMillan Cottom says, a “false equivalence.” An institution of higher education seeks to foster a safe and welcoming environment for all students while recognizing that all students do not enter the institution as equals. It is an ongoing and challenging project to make a campus truly feel like home for students of all backgrounds.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Ratings Profits Ratings Profits Ratings Profits Ratings Profits

A profile of CNN president Jeff Zucker in Variety provides a reminder that cable news operates for ratings and profits.

A few of the lowlights from the article:

1. There is a framed Donald Trump tweet in Zucker's office.

2. Zucker said: "There's a misconception we're doing this all for ratings."

Translation: We're doing this all for ratings.

3. "I actually think he's done a really nice job," Zucker said, commenting on the hire of Corey Lewandowski. Yesterday, Lewandowski asked if Barack Obama ever released his Harvard transcripts and then said "did he get in as a U.S. citizen, or was he brought into Harvard University as a citizen who wasn't from this country?" Heckuva job, Corey.

I'm reminded of words from Leslie Moonves, CEO of CBS. Earlier this year, in talking about the presidential campaign and ad money, he said: "It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS." He also said: "The money's rolling in and this is fun."

Thanks for nothing, corporate media.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

How Do You Go This Long Without a Press Conference?

As The Hill details, it's been more than 200 days since Hillary Clinton has held a press conference. It's easy to make fun of the Trump press conferences, but at least there's a back and forth between the candidate and reporters and one gets a glimpse of what their answers and demeanor reveal. In a recent press conference, Trump told reporter Katy Tur to "be quiet." Is my estimation, Mr. Trump is a joke, and press conferences helped me arrive at that conclusion. My point is that voters deserve to evaluate candidates with as much information as possible. Trump should release his tax returns, Clinton should release transcripts of her Goldman Sachs speeches.

Voters deserve to have both candidates held to the highest scrutiny. Clinton is avoiding some degree of scrutiny by not having simple press conferences.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

NBA and WNBA Protests: A Recap

Some news that I think would have gotten a lot more coverage if not for a presidential contest that is getting most of the attention lately...

The NBA announced it will not play the 2017 all-star game in Charlotte because of the North Carolina state law known as House Bill 2. The Charlotte Observer reports on discussions between the NBA and North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory regarding potential changes to the law. The official statement from the NBA, in part, says:

"Since March, when North Carolina enacted HB2 and the issue of legal protections for the LGBT community in Charlotte became prominent, the NBA and the Charlotte Hornets have been working diligently to foster constructive dialogue and try to effect positive change. We have been guided in these discussions by the long-standing core values of our league. These include not only diversity, inclusion, fairness and respect for others but also the willingness to listen and consider opposing points of view."

The USA Today described the decision as monumental. Sports Illustrated called it the right decision, along with saying it was good business and smart marketing.

Dave Zirin praised NBA commissioner Adam Silver for the decision to move the all-star game but noted the hypocrisy of fining WNBA players for wearing shirts during a pre-game warm-up with the names Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, along with #BlackLivesMatter. The Dallas police shield and #Dallas5 were also on the shirts. 

Zirin wrote: "On paper, this looks like a breathtaking double standard, or at least a confused contradiction. But it makes sense if you understand that standing up to this North Carolina law isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s smart for a league that wants to market itself as young, LGBT friendly, and willing to stand up for those being demonized by the state’s execrable governor, Pat McCrory. The NBA is now costing the state of North Carolina tens of millions of dollars by pulling the game. But its own risk is minimal. To stand with #BlackLivesMatter and to sanction the use of the court as a political space, holds a great deal more risk. You risk alienating white fans. You risk police walkouts, which took place in Minnesota when off-duty police hired as WNBA security walked out of the arena when they saw shirts that said #BlackLivesMatter."

WNBA players spoke out about the punishment, including Tina Charles, who tweeted "I refuse to be silent."

The fines were rescinded.

In an article entitled "Why Can NBA Players Be Activists But WNBA Players Can't?", Angel Diaz notes that NBA players previously took a stance against police brutality without facing consequences from the league.

Slate writer Christina Cauterucci commended WNBA players for "setting a new standard for what sports figures can do to support political movements."

Monday, July 25, 2016

Some People Say Peyton Manning is Still A Corporate Tool

An NFL investigation found no credible evidence that Peyton Manning violated the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy.

Debate rages on as to whether Mr. Manning is a corporate tool

Another Mass Shooting

Tragically, the term "mass shooting" is a regular part of our vocabulary now. It hurts to follow the news of yet another mass shooting. News is developing about a shooting at a club in Fort Myers, Florida, claiming the lives of two victims and injuring several more. Is there any reason to believe politicians will work together to formulate a solution? I have no confidence there. Nor do I have confidence that our media will exert pressure on politicians to work together to do anything that might change the course of gun violence.

There are mass shooting trackers and databases now, such as Gun Violence Archive. Mother Jones has a database of shootings from 1982-2016. As I write this, it has not yet been updated to include the Fort Myers shooting.

As Kieran Healy wrote in July 2012, America is a violent country. Healy's follow-up post in December 2012 is definitely worth revisiting

Saturday, July 23, 2016

This Has Become Normal

I think media outlets have grown tired or bored of calling Trump out for his behavior. And even if people continue to say "Look at him!", I don't think he'll ever stop with his brand of shenanigans.

I'm reminded of this hall of shame tweet from 2012.
Yes, I know, two tweets that I selected, but I would say they actually represent his body of work on Twitter. Point is, if this is the social media game that helps you win your party's nomination, what do future candidates have to do to get attention and win?

Friday, July 22, 2016

Mr. Trump, You Forgot To Mention Global Warming

Donald Trump gave his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention last night. In reading the transcript of the speech, I do not see the phrases "global warming" or "climate change."

As this brief article in The Atlantic details, we just experienced the hottest June ever recorded.

Mr. Trump wanted us to know he is the law and order candidate. He talked of crime, violence, and terrorism. He talked about illegal immigration. He talked about trade agreements. He gave a shout out to the 2nd Amendment. He talked up the military and talked down Obamacare.

The closest he got to the environment is when he said this: "Then we are going to deal with the issue of regulation, one of the greatest job killers of them all. Excessive regulation is costing our country as much as $2 trillion a year, and we will end and it very quickly. We are going to lift the restrictions on the production of American energy. This will produce more than $20 trillion in job-creating economic activity over the next four decades. My opponent, on the other hand, wants to put the great miners and steelworkers of our country out of work and out of business."

Energy production. But nothing about the crisis of climate change. It's an omission I wanted to note.

I'll be looking for comprehensive analyses of the speech as the day progresses. One analysis I've read so far that I like is David Frum's take on the speech. I also like this Washington Post op-ed.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Post-Fact Society

We have unlimited facts at our disposal. Politifact has been on the scene for years. AP Fact Check is doing their thing. Facts are wonderful. The problem is that PEOPLE HATE FACTS. The era of Big Data is upon us with fancy data scientists heaping facts onto us. I still believe in facts. I believe the facts are our future. The Facts of Life was an underrated sitcom. I like facts, and you, my dear readers, might like facts. But facts are more optional than ever and I think this is problem number 4,080 with Trumpism--accuracy is way out the window. Post-fact society rule number 4,080: Donald J. Trump is shady.

My fear and loathing for Trumpism is not an endorsement for Hillary Clinton, by the way. I do not trust the Clintons to tell the truth on a regular basis, either. I just think rampant disregard of facts would thrive more so during a Trump presidency than a Clinton presidency. That said, Trump is not going to win.

But this is not entirely about politics.

This is also about the "Whose side are you on?" mentality, as if there are only two sides from which to choose or that you have to always and immediately pick a side. Find your side, stay on your side, watch the media outlets that electrify your side. It's enough to make me go to KFC and pick a side. Mashed potatoes, probably.

Seriously, though, people choose the set of facts or half-truths that bolster their opinion and then it's go time. I do not possess all of the facts. I have many moments of ignorance. I often get it wrong. But I do the best I can with facts that I gather carefully. Someone asks me what I think about a current event and before I utter four words they cut me off with their opinion.

Like Colbert said, truthiness. This has been the way for a while and it's getting worse.

Frustrated, I am.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

HOTT News Declares Hillary Clinton Winner of the 2016 Presidential Election

Recall that HOTT News declared Barack Obama winner of the 2012 presidential contest 98 days before the actual election. Click here to see the article written on July 31, 2012 detailing the correct call by HOTT News.

Today, HOTT News is ready to declare Hillary Clinton winner of the 2016 presidential contest. This decision has nothing to do with Clinton's popularity (or lack thereof). Indeed, HOTT News has noticed a severe lack of enthusiasm for Clinton. HOTT News makes this call based on the absurd news that Scott Baio will be speaking at the upcoming Republican National Convention. Baio, cast perfectly in the role of Chachi in Happy Days and cast unfortunately in the spin-off Joanie Loves Chachi (which was true, she did), reveals clearly in his Twitter feed that he is unfit to speak at a serious political convention. HOTT News sees no scenario in which the Trump-Pence-Baio team can beat the Clinton machine, and therefore declares Clinton the winner. As such, Hillary Clinton is the first woman to be elected president of the United States.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

"The Internet Thrives on Humiliation"

I don't want to lose track of my favorite sentence in a recent New York Times article about the Crying Jordan meme: "The internet thrives on humiliation." The follow-up sentence is good too: "Twitter is always raring for a public shaming."  It's a good analysis of a popular meme that I might share with my Intro to Sociology classes in the fall. Students liked a class session last year when we talked about Drake's Hotline Bling meme.

Friday, June 3, 2016

(Dis)Trust of Fellow Man

Walking through the supermarket parking lot today, a young man seemed to be walking toward me. I tensed up a bit, wondering why he was coming close to me. He said "Gotta love it when you can't find your car," or something like that. He pivoted away from me and walked on. I watched him until he in fact stepped into his car. Hmmm. Nothing more than a guy walking to his car.

I have documented a beating I received, long ago, at the hands of a stranger. Since then, I've been on edge in public space. Also, recall I recently witnessed an angry man shouting obscenities in a crowded store. You just wonder when someone is going to snap.

And yet, my brief parking lot interaction was only about twenty minutes after a pleasant interaction with a stranger who sold me chairs. I responded to a Craigslist ad for these chairs.

$35 for the pair. A pretty good find, I'd say.

I was only a little nervous going to meet the seller, who turned out to be friendly and easy to deal with. I wonder how one's position in society (race, gender, class, etc.) influences their anxiety level prior to a Craigslist transaction. The man I dealt with actually made a remark about Craigslist. I already forgot how he put it, but the point he was making was that there are dangerous people in the world and you never know who you might encounter. Maybe we were both relieved at the ease of our transaction.

On a lighter note, the reason I went to the grocery store was to buy a sweet potato, so I could make sweet potato pancakes for lunch. Can you have sweet potato pancakes for lunch? It's an important food question, much like the question of whether a hot dog is a sandwich (of course it is not). I don't know what the rule book says about sweet potato pancakes for lunch, I just know I need to eat something other than deli meat and salads for lunch on occasion.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Time and Music

Time is such a precious resource. Pressed for time. Stretched for time. No time. Time out. Time on my hands. It's something just to have time. What are you doing with your time? Who does your time belong to? I'm happy to have time with the academic year being over. People ask me what I'm doing this summer. I hear myself saying, often, "I usually teach summer classes. Not this summer." It gave me more time. I hear myself saying "The summer courses were good for home improvement projects." That means I didn't have to teach summer courses to pay the normal bills. I'm fortunate to be in a position to not have to rely on summer courses in order to pay the regular expenses.

Time means different things on different days. Time to write. Time to think. Remember the life of the mind? Time to actually think through something. Time to wait for inspiration. Time for an idea to come together. Time to read. Time to let your mind wander. Time to observe. Time to talk with people.

Today was time to have a pleasant morning. A calm morning. Fold the laundry. Go for a jog. Get an oil change. Go to the grocery store. Make lunch. Write this blog post. Listen to music. Listen to a song enough times that it grows on me, like Radiohead's Burn the Witch. Time to listen to music that makes me feel--this is the summer of listening to the Tragically Hip, a band that I listened to a lot in the 1990s. I'm getting reacquainted with their music. I always feel something listening to their songs. Their music takes on new meaning in light of news that lead singer Gord Downie has terminal brain cancer.

Time to think about life and death.

Time: a luxury, a necessity.

Fortunate to have more time.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

I Much Prefer the Mundane

Avant Gardener by Courtney Barnett is the soundtrack to this blog. Like she says in the song, I much prefer the mundane. The song is a story about a personal health scare. She sings "The paramedic thinks I'm clever cause I play guitar, I think she's clever cause she stops people dying." I think Barnett is brilliant. Some of her songs I especially like are Pedestrian at Best, Depreston, and Nobody Really Cares if You Don't Go to the Party. Which is so true, nobody really cares if you don't go to the party. Getting back to the mundane: I go for the ordinary and try to capture the simple moments of life. And so there are posts about broccoli, meal planning, lunch, insomnia, grading, etc. I have avoided writing about some serious personal moments in my life. I don't document terrible things that have happened to my family and friends. The mundane is understandably attractive in contrast to, say, personal health problems, serious accidents and injuries, chronic illness, and other afflictions. The mundane is beautiful. I cannot say the same for frightening and tragic occurrences.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Thinking about Garbage

I'm reading a good book by anthropologist Joshua Reno. The title is Waste Away: Working and Living with a North American Landfill. I learned of this book from a write up in The Atlantic. Here's a video of me talking about what's on my mind as I make my way through the book.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Cereal Aisle is the Worst (Plus a Great Quote from Elbert Hubbard)

I love grocery stores. They might be the place in society where I feel most comfortable. It's a toss up between grocery stores and classrooms. But the cereal aisle is a pain in the Trump. See if you can find Krave, my 8-year-old's cereal of choice.

That wasn't playing fair. It's in the blurry part of the first picture, bottom shelf.

Before my trip to the grocery store today, I took a stroll through the lovely village of East Aurora, NY. They have nice garbage bins on their main street. The bins have quotes. This one by Elbert Hubbard caught my eye:

Words to live by.

Checking in with Matt Loveland

Matt Loveland is a sociologist working at Le Moyne College. He blogs at milieuXmorass. He generously agreed to answer interview questions that I e-mailed to him. You can find him on Twitter at @mtloveland.

TS: I only have two Wilco songs on my iTunes, Handshake Drugs and Heavy Metal Drummer. Can you suggest a few more?

ML: ​Handshake Drugs is one of my favorite Wilco songs, and that whole album (A Ghost is Born) is great. A bunch of my favorites on that one. Hummingbird is​ probably my favorite, and Theologians, and The Late Greats. I like Summer Teeth (the song) a lot, and that album is good. Another favorite is Misunderstood from Being There, another fantastic album. I don't think you can separate Wilco songs from the albums. Buy the albums, Todd. Not the tracks. Come on.

TS: ​In a maximum of 10 words, describe Trump.

​ML: Ignorant, racist, crass, xenophobe born on third base.​

TS: What are you working on?

ML: ​Right at this moment, student learning assessment. Yuck. Rest of the summer, a paper about how atheists are more trusting of others than religious people are. Longer term, a paper about Catholics who have born-again religious experiences.

TS: Tell us why you think baseball is great. Tell us why you think the Beatles aren't great.

ML: ​First, it's not that I think the Beatles aren't great. I mean, maybe I don't think they are great. I don't think they suck. They just don't move me. Uninteresting songs and drugged out studio goofing. It's fine if you don't like rock and roll, I guess. It's pop. Fine. Pop is fine. Ok, baseball. Baseball is great for all of the boring reasons you'd expect. Beer. Sunshine. Friends. The 7th Inning Stretch. It's great because it's terribly hard and it's fun to watch people excel at things. It's great because you have to think about each situation and what's probably about to happen and then you see if it does. Last week I saw Syracuse Chief Brian Goodwin hit an 2-0 grand slam. That was amazing. I'm sitting there thinking 'watch close because this is an action pitch.' And then, bam. Smoked it. It's also great because if you don't want to pay attention that closely you've got beer, sunshine, and friends.

TS: A few of your favorite Twitter follows?

ML: Hmm. This one is tricky. There's a lot, Todd. What if I said I don't even think of Twitter as a bunch of separate follows but rather just one never ending conversation with a bunch of people, and bots, and whatever?

TS: Picture a student who only takes one sociology course, and it’s your Intro to Sociology course. What are a few essential things you want them to learn in your course?

ML: I don't care about teaching sociology's 'facts.' I teach that sociology is a way of being in the world. We are all the subject of social forces, and we need to understand that everybody else is too. The perspective I try to really hit home is History / Biography and the Sociological Imagination. Maybe that's trite.

TS: If there was one thing you could change about academic conferences, what would it be?

ML: Schedule them when the nearest baseball team is on a home stand.​ ​

TS: Anything sociological you look forward to reading this summer?

ML: I don't know if it's sociological necessarily, but​ I'm looking forward to reading Nick Bostrom's 'Superintelligence.' It's about the development of AI and how it might affect being human in the future. Do we even need humans in the future? It seems unlikely to me. I'm also finishing up 'The Only Rule is it Has to Work,' a baseball analytics book that has some pretty good sociology in it if you know what you are looking for.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Hoping Our Budget Doesn't Blow Up

What is this unattractive food? It's the Beef Noodle Casserole I made a few days ago. Let's talk about how we got there.

On Sunday, our 5-year-old complained that his stomach hurt. Before long, he was sick to his stomach. A small bowl of crackers was about all he could handle. I ran to the store and grabbed egg noodles in case he'd be hungry later. I figured he might eat some plain or lightly buttered noodles. His appetite didn't come back by dinner, so we saved the noodles for the next day.

So what to do with those noodles? I googled around for recipes and came across an idea from Not glamorous, and certainly doesn't pass the foodie test, but it turned out to be pretty tasty and I like meals that are budget friendly. Five bucks for the beef, two for the noodles, two for the cheese, one for the onion, one for the tomato sauce, 50 cents for the garlic. $11.50 thank you very much, with leftovers for lunch. When I use recipes from the web, I read the comments to pick up suggestions. One helpful tip was to use beef stock instead of water. I had beef stock on hand, so that worked. I added extra spices because some reviewers complained it was a bland dish. I didn't use the full package of cheese, yet it was still very gooey. I drained the beef before adding the tomato sauce and beef stock. I also added a bit of Worcestershire. If you can spell Worcestershire without looking it up, you're better than me.

This sounds like a paid advertisement for, It is not, though I will kindly take on sponsors. I have a student loan balance that I would like to pay. One reason for describing what I made is that the recipe reminds me of the recent Slate article, "If You Are What You Eat, America Is Allrecipes." It's a good read. The author observes that the popular recipes on the site reveal "most people are far more concerned with convenience and affordability than authenticity or novelty."

I love to cook. I try to make inexpensive, good-tasting meals. I prefer they include vegetables, and most of our dinners do. I have to be realistic about what our kids will eat. Budget, convenience, and the palates of children are key factors in our meal planning.

Budget takes on greater significance this year. We are trying to save for a family vacation. Last year we road tripped to Boston and Chicago, and the year before that we road tripped to New York City. But we'd like to leave on a jet plane in winter and end up somewhere with blue water and beach. The kind of vacation when you send postcards. And so we are being extra careful in what we spend. The budget smiles when a meal doesn't cost too much and leaves enough for lunch the next day. Our vacation fund is looking pretty good. But we're afraid there will be a surprise that empties the jar, like the scene in Up that makes me cry.

I write this as I await a call from an electrician with an estimate to do repair work. We have a few problems that need to be addressed. You know the feeling right before you hear what something is going to cost you? I'm just hoping the number is lower than the guesstimate I have in my head. The number in my head is one we can manage. Something a little bit higher will be hard to absorb. And anything higher than that means breaking the vacation jar.

Of course, life will go on if we don't get the postcard vacation. Expensive vacations are not something we expect or feel entitled to. We're fortunate to even have a realistic chance of taking a pricey vacation. If we stay frugal and don't encounter too many surprises the rest of the year, off we go.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

An In-Class Assignment for Doing Content Analysis

I love content analysis. Recently, I messed around with the idea of doing a content analysis of the HDTV show Love it or List It. An idea for an in-class assignment in my Research Methods course occurred to me yesterday when I was scrolling through pictures on my iPhone. I've had my iPhone for two years. It was fun to look back and reminisce through two years of pictures. I noticed that most of my pictures are of my kids. I tend to take pictures of my younger son when he sleeps in my car. I have some pictures of my older son after getting a haircut, and pictures of him reading. I have pictures of the kids eating. I also take the occasional selfie. Another category is pictures that capture home improvement projects in progress. I also take a lot of pictures of events and scenery in the city of Buffalo. There are lots of family pictures: my wife, my parents, my in-laws. I'll show a few pictures at the end.

As for the assignment, I'll ask students to pay attention to any themes they notice in looking through their pictures. I will, of course, tell them they don't have to share any information they deem to be sensitive. I'm guessing 20-year-olds take pictures that aren't all PG-13. But I imagine they could still break down their pictures into different categories. This will serve as an exercise to supplement an example of content analysis of teen magazines I share in class. Other good examples of content analysis include Philip Cohen's analysis of gender of New York Times writers and an analysis of sociology textbooks by Peter Kaufman and Richard Bente.

So here are some pictures that illustrate two main themes: kids and selfies. This is a sample of what's on my phone. What's on yours?

His first New York City pretzel!