Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Peter Kaufman

Peter Kaufman passed away yesterday. There's a nice article about Peter on the New Paltz website. I love the picture of him playing the drums.

Peter was kind to me from the day I met him. He was ahead of me in grad school at Stony Brook University in the mid 90s. You know grad school. Some people pay attention to you, others don't. Peter paid attention and was happy to lend advice and guidance. I remember when Peter was working on an article about C. Wright Mills and the sociological imagination. I was like, "Who's this dude writing about Big Macs and Air Jordans? You can do that in Sociology???" It was one of many times I was inspired by his creativity.

He loved Mills. Years later, Peter came to me with an idea he had to write about the appendix to the The Sociological Imagination. Following his lead, we dug into the appendix to write an article in Teaching Sociology. I have a memory of talking to Peter by phone while I was in my basement, trying not to wake up my first born from a nap. I remember taking notes, using the washing machine as a desk. I look at the article and see Peter's ideas and clever writing jump off the page. 

I loved working with him. We corresponded mostly by email, with him being in New Paltz and me in Buffalo. We scheduled phone calls. I cherish those phone calls. We'd talk for an hour plus about life and sociology. Mostly sociology. Damn, we were on the same wavelength. Just this year we put our heads together to write "It’s About Power, Not Privilege" for Everyday Sociology Blog, and a 100 word short story (known as a drabble) that was just published in So Fi Zine. It's called "A Manmade's Tale," which you can find here on page 14. Peter came up with the title. It was so fun working out ideas with Peter by phone, by text, by email. 

Then there was the time Peter bailed me out. I was over my head. I had been working on fictional stories and felt strongly they had sociological value. I lined up a book chapter to showcase the stories. And then I was stuck. All I had were the stories. I asked Peter to help me. Peter had a way of calming me down. For him, the task was clear. "We need to make an argument," he said. And boom, Peter structured an argument about writing fictional stories as a method of doing sociology. The way his brain worked.....oh, man, I'm so lucky to have seen him operate. 

So kind, so genuine. Peter was the real deal. A kind person, through and through, someone who truly cared about people. And he loved teaching. I implore folks to read Teaching with Compassion, the book he co-authored with Janine Schipper. It's awesome, and gives readers a good sense of how much he respected students, and how much he cared about their learning. 

I'll have more to say about Peter soon. I plan to pay tribute to the body of work he compiled as a blogger at Everyday Sociology. One exceptional post after another, dating back to July 2011. One of his first posts was "You Might be a Marxist" (yes, he channeled Jeff Foxworthy) and it's one of my all-time favorites. I love using it to help teach SOC 101 students about why Marx is indeed relevant. I could go on and on about Peter. And I will again soon. For now, let's watch him play drums in his band Questionable Authorities. Here they are with a Violent Femmes cover, "Blister in the Sun".

Thursday, November 15, 2018

A Must Watch Video on Corporate Welfare

Definitely worth your time to watch this 21 minute discussion about Amazon on Democracy Now!

#ExtractionEconomy (Very interesting listening to New York State Assembly member Ron Kim talk about this.)

Further reading: "Amazon Doesn’t Just Want to Dominate the Market—It Wants to Become the Market" by Stacy Mitchell

Further reading: "New York Should Say No to Amazon" by Ron Kim

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Always Be Annotating (Your Syllabus)

I'm working on my course syllabi for next semester. I usually don't work on spring semester courses until late December, once the fall semester ends. But, being on sabbatical right now, I can prep ahead.

When it's time to refresh a course I've already taught, the first thing I do is review a hard copy of the syllabus from the last time I taught the course. I'm always happy to see how much I've marked up the syllabus. It's not rocket science, as they say. Simple notes like "this worked well," "this ended up taking two sessions," "change this up," "they liked this reading," etc. Sometimes I write "this could have gone better (see notes)" which directs me to my hard copy of the class notes with ideas of how the session can be improved. We know how badly it feels when a class session doesn't go the way we hoped. Sometimes we don't have to scrap the session. It can be a matter of minor adjustments. So I try to leave myself notes for ways to make a session better the next time. Same goes for paper assignments and other course requirements. Leave yourself notes after students submit papers and you've graded them. Were you happy with the paper length? Did you include a rubric (if so, was it effective)? Did you give students precise instructions? And so on.

The next thing I do is check a document in my electronic course folder. The document name is "New course ideas". I can work with these ideas to replace things that didn't work well in the previous semester. 

Then, I check my email file for the course. That's the way I bookmark articles and videos. I have email files for all my courses. So when a friend or student sends something (or I send myself something) that I don't have time to read, watch, or process, I put it in the relevant course folder. That way I keep course materials fresh and interesting for myself and students.

Okay, time to get back to revising my syllabi.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Sun Deprived

I miss the sun.

A weather person on the local TV news in Buffalo made a graphic showing there were 4 days of sun in October. October is usually beautiful here in the 716 but the last many weeks have been filled with gloom and rain. The first two days of November have given us more rain. It looked for a moment as if the sun was ready to make an appearance when I was doing some drive-thru banking this morning. The mere thought of sun made me blast the song playing on my radio, windows down.

I'm still waiting for the sun to shine. Meanwhile, I'll rely on music to break the doldrums. Here's the song I tried to share with my fellow motorists. It's "Talking Straight" by Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever.

"I'm hopeless/No embrace/I wanna know/I wanna know where the silence comes from/Where space originates"....

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Tweet of the Day (Don't Stick to Sports Edition)

I like this tweet by Jeremy White, co-host host of a morning sports talk show on WGR 550 in the Buffalo market. Jeremy ventures into politics on his Twitter feed, and stiff arms criticism that people who work in the sports radio format should only talk about sports, and nothing else. Here, his peer group shows support for Nate McMurray, who is running for a seat in Congress against Chris Collins, who is under indictment for insider trading. Jeremy's group was tailgating before last night's game between the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots. As I blogged about recently at Everyday Sociology Blog, the Bills tailgates may be famous for shenanigans, but there's much more to Bills fans than partying and breaking tables!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Song of the Day - "Cool" by Soccer Mommy

Heard this song for the first time today. It came on Sirius XMU this morning while I was dropping off my kid at school. Then I heard it on the station again in the afternoon.
On a different note, I was just reading a good article about Idaho and how voters have taken a liking to Paulette Jordan, who is running for governor. Very interested to see what happens. I just wanted to bookmark the article.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Correlation is Not Causation, Taylor Swift Edition

Correlation is not causation as they say. But damn. Sure looks like Taylor Swift has youngsters making moves.

Here's a quote from a Buzzfeed article: “We are up to 65,000 registrations in a single 24-hour period since T. Swift's post,” said Kamari Guthrie, director of communications for Vote.org."

The Gaudian's on it too, with this headline: Spike in voter registrations after Taylor Swift pro-Democrat Instagram post

First the post, then the increase in registrations. We got time order and association.

Scholars, holler if you can think of reasonable alternative explanations for the sudden change in registrations.

Or have you already concluded a cause and effect relationship is in place?

Time is happy to use the word "caused" in their headlineTaylor's First Political Endorsements Caused a Swift Spike in Voter Registrations

The New York Times credited Swift by saying she "had something to do with" the voter registration spike. The author of the article, Matthew Haag, wrote that Swift "appears to have contributed to a flurry of last-minute registrations".

Slate played it cautious, asking in their headline: Did Taylor Swift’s Instagram Post Really Cause “a Massive Spike In Voter Registration”?

Journalist Kimberly Atkins does not believe the Taylor Swift hype.
 Going to follow this story and listen to Taylor Swift much more than usual in the meantime.

Since you're here, did you read my post after Taylor got tenure?

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Many Things Are Terrible, But We Have This Cover of Highway to Hell

Earlier this week, spinning around town in my Hyundai, listening to Pearl Jam radio on Sirius for a minute, I learned that Bruce Springsteen teamed up with Eddie Vedder at a concert in Australia to cover Highway to Hell. Exhilarating for this middle-aged classic rock grunge sociologist. I'm stealing Vedder's poor dance moves the next time I'm at a wedding.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Man Who Started His Day the Right Way

6:30 this morning, I was out walking the dog. In childhood I had a dog, and then 30 years passed, and now I have a dog again. I forgot what it's like to pick up dog shit. It's not something I like to do. A gloomy morning, but just as it looked as though the light was about to appear, a man hopped into his car with the radio blaring. It was Queen's "We Are the Champions." I sang some of the lyrics as the man did a three point turn and pulled out of the neighborhood.

As he disappeared I thought to myself, that's a man who started his day the right way.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

TV Usually Disappoints, But the Coachella Episode of Insecure Did Not

"57 channels and nothin' on," sang Bruce Springsteen, and it's hard to believe there used to be fewer than 200 channels. Of course, 57 channels was a lot compared earlier eras without cable TV.

I watch HGTV and Food Network and baseball and football once in a while and Dateline and a bunch of stuff to kill time. I watch The Sinner, Ozark, Sharp Objects. I don't love any of these shows but I watch them anyway.

A series I do like very much is Divorce.

I watch Insecure. Season 3, episode 5, known as the Coachella episode, is the funniest episode in show history, in my humble opinion. Many, many laugh out loud moments. I watched it last night, sipping a cold beer in an armchair, exclaiming "genius" more than once when Issa Rae made me crack up.

TV so often disappoints, but once in a while you see something that reminds you why you watch it in the first place.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Could I Have Been Wrong about Triscuits All Along?

There are two kinds of people in the world, and I have always loved Triscuits.

But I believe I'm experiencing a status change.

I might be leaving Team Triscuit.

Those who dislike Triscuits seem to have strong opinions about their distaste.

For most of my life, I have liked Triscuits in all the ways: with cheese, peanut butter, hummus, or nothing at all. A fine snack. Pairs well with beer.

But suddenly.

Have my taste buds changed, have they messed with the recipe, have I been biased because there once was a Nabisco plant in my hometown of Niagara Falls, NY? All of the above? None of the above?

Triscuit competitors, get at me. I remain on the lookout for product endorsements to pay off my student loans.

Commercial of the Day - Van Heusen Flex Collection

I have the NFL Network on this morning. It's not a channel I watch much, but I wanted to see highlights of the Browns win last night. So far the most interesting thing I've seen is a commercial for pants, featuring UFC competitors. I'm filing this example, could come in handy during discussions of masculinity in class sometime.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

I Didn't Know This (Paul Rodgers Edition)

Despite being a classic rock sociologist, I just learned of this!

Now Reading

Loving this book so far. Started reading it today, I'm 35 pages in. I already recommend it for any educator -- elementary school, higher ed, med school, you name it -- if you're in the world of education, this one's for you.

Teaching with Compassion: An Educator’s Oath to Teach from the Heart
Authors: Peter Kaufman and Janine Schipper

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Must Read: "A Sociology of My Death" by Peter Kaufman

Peter Kaufman has written an extraordinary piece at Everyday Sociology Blog, it's incredibly poignant and insightful.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Presentation of Lunch in Everyday Life

Not pictured: the wings I ate on Friday. The pasta I ate on Saturday. The pizza I ate on Sunday.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Hard Knocks Will Make You Care About Devon Cajuste

Hard Knocks is one of my favorite shows. The genius of the show is that it can make you care about a player you've never heard of and might not ever star in the NFL. How many people knew of Devon Cajuste before watching him in a recent episode? He's fighting for a tight end spot on the roster. What other show would make you suddenly root for a guy to become a backup tight end on the Cleveland Browns? Watching him and his father whistle to each other to get each other's attention was my favorite part of last week's episode. His father said they are best friends. The father has suffered serious health problems. Once your heartstrings have been tugged, it's near impossible not to get drawn in by their closeness.

There's also a story line of trying to keep a young man on the straight and narrow path. It's noticeable to coaches that rookie Antonio Callaway is upset about something, but he won't tell them what happened. Come to find out he was pulled over and a small amount marijuana was in his car. Head coach Hue Jackson announces to the team that he supports Callaway for now, but makes it clear he won't support any more bullshit (my recollection is he warned Callaway not to bullshit him anymore). Callaway then apologizes to his teammates. Callaway is made to play nearly ever snap of the following preseason game as punishment. He's exhausted but plays through it. As a viewer, I want to see this young man make good decisions and succeed in the NFL.

We also get to see defensive player Myles Garrett write poetry and talk about his appreciation for poetry. He comes off as a very likable guy.

There's also the usual ingredient of the coaching staff cursing left and right. Though formulaic, it's sometimes comical to see these older men scream at the top of their lungs at practices and in preseason games (the yelling must quickly become tiresome to the players, and one wonders about the effectiveness of so much swearing and hollering).

A player on the margins of the NFL. A young man challenged to stay on course at the beginning of his career. A talented player who enjoys writing poetry. Coaches being hot and bothered, frequently using foul language. Just a few elements to hook viewers.

There's a lot I like so far in watching this season. Right now, perhaps more than anything, I hope Devon Cajuste makes the final roster (my prediction is he'll make the practice squad rather than the 53 man roster).

Friday, August 17, 2018

Pay Workers More


From Bloomberg: "The world’s wealthiest family just got $11.6 billion richer. Walmart Inc. reported its strongest sales in more than a decade Thursday, sending the retailer’s shares soaring as much 11 percent and boosting the fortunes of Walton family members Alice, Jim, Rob, Lukas and Christy. Their collective net worth surged to $163.2 billion..."

Simple takeaway: pay workers more money. Way more money.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

I Just Did the Cinnamon Challenge

A few years ago, youngsters were doing the cinnamon challenge. It struck me as a terrible idea.

I just created, and completed, the cinnamon challenge for middle-age people.

Green tea is always touted as good for your health.

Same goes for cinnamon (when used properly).

I always try to quit soda (Coke and Cherry Coke) but we break up only to make up. My new thing is drinking green tea whenever I'm craving soda. It's a lot of green tea over here.

So I said to myself, myself I said: "What if I sprinkle cinnamon into my green tea? That seems healthy. And what if for kicks and giggles I balance the cinnamon on my shoulder while taking a selfie?" And thus the Cinnamon Challenge for Middle-Age People was born.

Sponsors, get at me. Ellen, get at me. Good Morning America, get at me. I have bills to pay.

After posting this pic, it occurs to me that haters and skeptics will doubt the authenticity of this picture. Maybe they think someone took the picture. After all, you can't see my other hand.

So I took a second one using a mirror.

You can call this procrastination from late summer academic tasks.

Or you can call it something else. Either way, holler at a scholar.

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Internet Works Its Magic

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Make Smaller Menus 2020

I have decided to run for president. I feel good about my prospects. My campaign consists of two messages: (1) pay workers more and (2) make smaller menus.

The first message is of obvious importance and something that is easily achievable.

The second message is just something I thought of a moment ago while trying to figure out a place to have lunch today with my mom. There's a lot of chain restaurants in the area we're meeting up. Aside from the mediocrity of their products, something else these places have in common are giant menus with 453 possible food combinations. You know you can't do 453 things right. Make smaller menus. Win #1: they will take up less space on the table. Win #2: Maybe, just maybe, you can offer up a better product. Win #3: Fewer choices means more efficient decision-making, perhaps.

These messages combine, if you haven't already noticed. My running mate is a mathematician who will help me refine the following formula. Paying workers more $$ = more take home pay = more money available to eat out if one chooses + smaller menus = more elbow space at the table while perusing said menus = the goal of a decent meal to deal with all the other stresses and struggles of everyday life.

I'm Todd Schoepflin and I approve of this message.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

A Review of Five Guys

You know you're going to enjoy lunch when you walk into your local Five Guys to the amazing sounds of "No Matter What" by Badfinger. I swear this song gets better with time. My two kids joined me for lunch, ages 10 and 7. We ordered three little cheeseburgers. We received pleasant customer service. My 7-year-old likes his burgers with "two bottom buns," something I didn't even know you could order at fast food places until about a month ago. The person at the counter indulged our request, and, sure enough, his burger came with two bottom buns. Little cheeseburgers come in at 610 calories. I crushed most of mine while listening to Supertramp's "The Logical Song"--a song that still speaks to me, a song that cuts through me each time Roger Hodgson begs "Please tell me who I am." I should probably have myself figured out at age 45, but I don't. I'm still searching for something intangible, and even if by luck I find myself late in life, I will always love this song. I digress.

I can't tell you the disappointment I feel at restaurants when I order a burger to be cooked medium. They usually arrive overcooked. What I like about Five Guys is you don't go through the motions of ordering your burger to be a cooked a certain temperature. They cook them how they cook them. And they cook them delicious. In an era of $15 burgers at gastropubs, I'm good with this $5.49 little dynamite from Five Guys. My 10-year-old demolished his entire burger, and my 7-year-old ate 80% of his, gifting the remaining portion to his older brother. They told our kids in preschool that sharing is caring. And let me tell you the message was received.

I ordered one Little Fry. I lied to myself that I would only eat 3-4 fries anyway, so the smallest size would suffice. The three of us quickly devoured the Little Fry order (a total of 540 calories). I guess there's something to be said for portion control. I wasn't stuffed after eating. The fries, by the way, were excellent. I rarely enjoy fries from any fast food establishment. Fries are too often limp, cold, too salty. These fries, however, are solid across the board. 

As we finished our meal, Cream's "White Room" played, reminding me that Eric Clapton is a genius. I'm listening to it now on YouTube. Jack Bruce was simply terrific on lyrics and Ginger Baker did a fine job pounding the skins (I think that's drum lingo that can be used by mid-lifers like me, but I'm not sure). 

We hit up this Five Guys location (McKinley Parkway in Hamburg, about a mile away from where the Buffalo Bills play at New Era Field) once every 6 weeks or so and have yet to be disappointed. It's a tidy establishment. It's often the case that restaurants don't bother to clean their bathrooms but it appeared as though the men's bathroom had been recently cleaned.

In all, it was a superb lunch, no complaints. We shall return, without a doubt.

Pay Workers More

A must read from Annie Lowrey: "Are Stock Buybacks Starving the Economy?"

Excerpt 1: "Companies spent roughly $7 trillion on their own shares from 2004 to 2014, and have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on buybacks in the past six months alone."

Excerpt 2: "How much might workers have benefited if companies had devoted their financial resources to them rather than to shareholders? Lowe’s, CVS, and Home Depot could have provided each of their workers a raise of $18,000 a year, the report found. Starbucks could have given each of its employees $7,000 a year, and McDonald’s could have given $4,000 to each of its nearly 2 million employees."

Excerpt 3: "In the meantime, corporate boards are poised to spend hundreds of billions more on their own shares, benefiting executives along with the mostly wealthy Americans who own stock. Just this week, Caterpillar, for instance, said it plans to spend $1 billion buying back shares in the latter half of this year, before kicking off a new $10 billion round on buybacks starting in January. It is also in the midst of laying off hundreds of workers."


Monday, July 30, 2018

Pay Workers More

Thanks for planning to stop using plastic straws now pay your workers more.

Thanks for saying you'll send your employees to college now pay your workers more.

Thanks for paving the roads (weird) now pay your workers more.

Thanks for your fun tweets and rebranding efforts now pay your workers more.

No thanks for overpaying CEOs now pay your workers more.

No thanks for golden parachutes now pay your workers more.

No thanks for stories glorifying super clever eccentric CEOs shift the focus to workers who should be paid more.

Pay workers more.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Pay Workers Higher Wages

Check the headline: "Jeff Bezos Becomes the Richest Man in Modern History, Topping $150 Billion"

Here's the article if you can stomach it: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-07-16/happy-prime-day-jeff-amazon-ceo-s-net-worth-tops-150-billion

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Success is a Social Construction

This tweet caught a virus and generated fun responses.
One of my favorite responses centered on a good drinking song from the 1990s, the most glorious of decades.
I was just sitting on a chair in front of my house listening to a good song on my phone ("Gold Rush" by Death Cab for Cutie) and my neighbor drove by, flashed me the peace sign and yelled "Happy Father's Day homie". I responded in kind and started thinking about social constructions such as "living the dream" and how people define success and happiness. Anyhow, I'm glad to have a good neighbor and I'm going to go back to listening to Death Cab for Cutie.


Friday, June 15, 2018

A Review of Almond

If you find yourself in Bridgehampton, Long Island, make sure to visit Almond.

The first night we posted up at the bar. I was with two family members and a dear friend. Hours went by. I mixed in water between drinks so my actions remained socially acceptable. I had been drinking a local IPA (made in nearby Greenport, if memory serves) until I switched to a pretty pink concoction featuring tequila. There was too much salt on the glass, so I ordered the next one without salt. Perfect. One more of those pink drinks would have put me over the edge.

The bartender was a young man who was friendly and attentive. He never got annoyed with us. We asked him where to go next and he suggested a dive bar, the very place he planned to visit when his shift ended. We never made it. We did the smart thing by crashing just after midnight.

While at the bar I spent a lot of time looking at a red wall. I love how Almond is set up. The dining room is good size, in the shape of a square, from anywhere in the dining room or anywhere at the bar you can see everyone and everything. It's comfortable. I didn't find anyone or any part of it snooty or buttoned up. It was come as you are casual or dress nice if you like, kind of like a lot of society these days. I wish I'd taken a picture of the red wall. Was it wallpaper?!?! I wasn't expecting to write about Almond so I didn't take field notes. I wish I had taken notes on my phone and some pictures. Some people say to be present and put down your device. For one night in my life I was something along the lines of present but damnit I should've been active with my phone. My memory isn't what it used to be.

My location at the bar was adjacent to the host(ess) stand. A pleasant young woman was hosting for most of the time we were there. I turned to her and made a reservation for the following night. I knew I had to get back for a sit down meal.

We kept our commitment and returned for dinner the next evening. I ordered the Korean style short ribs. They were delightful. They were served with rice and kimchi. I think my favorite part of the meal was the kimchi. I also ordered smoked carrots. For some reason I thought I should have carrots instead of fries. The carrots were fine but they weren't fries. Life is short. Order the fries.

My brother was going to order spaghetti with lobster. I encouraged him to do so. "That's the move, that's the move." But he opted for a special: ravioli stuffed with ground pork, I believe. Twenty-four hours in my adult life I removed my sociologist cap, so, as established, I didn't take notes. I tried his ravioli and they were delicious.

A highlight was when a man walked in with someone, his daughter perhaps, and both of them were wearing baseball/softball shirts with the restaurant's name on them. Where I'm from, youth sports teams are usually sponsored by little pizzerias or a small company that does electrical work, but I guess things are different in the Hamptons. It was then that I noticed some kid art affixed to a wall near the entrance/exit of the restaurant. I like a place that sponsors a team and has kid art.

For dessert we had ice cream and some awesome chocolate thing served in a small mason like jar. I think the technical name is Pots de Creme but that's not in my cultural capital wheelhouse. Again, the lesson here for ethnographers or real food writers is to take detailed notes.

When I go out to eat, I like to be comfortable. I don't like to be in a place that feels too fancy. This was my "just right" kind of place. You're allowed to get slightly rowdy at the bar, and you can show up the following night to have a quiet meal. The staff were all friendly and seemed to enjoy working there. It's the kind of place I'd like to be a regular. I'm not a regular at any place, and that kind of bums me out. Oh well. I hope to get back to Almond some day to do some drinking and eating. The end.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Notes from the Weekend

Yesterday, Saturday morning, 8:30. An early soccer practice for our 10-year-old. I didn't mind taking him to practice. It was a beautiful morning, 70 degrees. I had a chair in my trunk and brought a book in case I might do some reading. I also had in mind that my favorite donut place was about 100 steps away. Coffee in a Styrofoam cup kind of place. 

I was the second parent to arrive. The first parent was helping to warm up his son, and then my son. I chatted with him from a short distance while setting up shop at a picnic table. The rest of the team all showed up suddenly, most parents dropping off their kids, taking the opportunity to do errands or whatever for an hour plus. One parent stuck around, and she walked over to the picnic table, and we started chatting. Then one more parent showed up and stayed around, and he joined us, and eventually we were all seated on one side of the table. There are times I like socializing with people and there are times I prefer to shy away and do anything other than talk to humans. I was glad I was feeling social. There was something about this conversation on a peaceful Saturday morning that hit the spot. It was all pleasant, all positive, just a good chit-chat with parents mostly about parent stuff. I've been a baseball and soccer parent for a bunch of years now, and it might have been the most enjoyable small talk I've ever had with my youth sport parent peers. If not the most enjoyable then surely in the top 5. 

Today, Sunday morning, I was at the grocery story in the 7:00 hour, and on the way home my window was down and I turned up the volume very high when the Alvvays song "In Undertow" came on the radio. Sitting at a red light I recalled being 21 and dancing at my favorite college bar to Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Gonna Go My Way". More than 20 years later letting loose is having the window down enjoying indie rock while driving through town. 

One hour ago I took my 7-year-old for ice cream. I wanted him to have something fun to do while my wife is with our 10-year-old at a birthday party. I instructed him to hold his cone up straight, warned him to hold it with two hands. Three licks in, the one scoop of ice cream fell to the ground. He started crying, cone still in hand. A nearby teen witnessed the incident and suggested the five second rule was in effect. It was a funny remark and I said "I hope so". I left it to my son to decide after I picked up the ice cream with a napkin and placed it back on top of the cone, as if it never fell in the first place. "You want this one or a new one?" As I surveyed the ground, noticing a decent amount of bird shit, I have to say he made the right choice in asking for a new cone. I asked for a dish this time, and paid up. He made it through the ice cream this time without a hitch. 

Much more happened during the weekend, but I've already used up 18 of the 30 minutes I allotted myself to compose this weekend wrap. Going to give this a quick proofread and make sure 7-year-old is in pajamas, as bedtime is fast approaching. 

The end.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Picture of the Day ("People Working")

I took this picture yesterday morning. Inclusive language that doesn't emphasize gender.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Picture of the Day (Goodbye, Toys R Us)

Those of us immersed in suburbia are accustomed to an extensive selection of big box stores. It's an interesting development to see some of the old school ones close. This Toys R Us is located about 10 minutes from where I live. I was thinking today about how, in my suburban life, time is often measured in how long it takes to drive from point A to B.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Picture of the Day

Took this picture in a grocery store parking lot this morning, immersed in suburbia.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Race and Public Space

Been thinking a lot about the recent arrests of two black men at a Starbucks in Philadelphia. This isn't a full post on the matter. I'm just starting to build a class session in my head for the next time I teach my Social Psychology course. Race and public space. Race and racism in everyday life. Here's what I have on file for now, to be developed into a class session.

1) Robin Roberts' interview of the men (Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson) on Good Morning America.

2) Jamelle Bouie's article "White Spaces," in Slate. He quotes Elijah Anderson in the article.

3) "Being Black in Public" - also in Slate, an interview featuring Jamelle Bouie, Gene Demby, Aisha Harris, and Tressie McMillan Cottom.

4) "Beyond Starbucks: How Racism Shapes Customer Service" - Alexandra C. Feldberg and Tami Kim. In this New York Times article, the authors state: "Over the past two years, we have investigated discrimination in customer service by conducting large-scale field experiments in the hospitality industry. We have repeatedly found that front-line workers exhibit racial bias in the quality of customer service they provide."

5) "Who's Really Welcome at Starbucks?" by Vince Dixon

6) "Race, Space, and Belonging" by Neeraj Rajasekar. Includes a listing of pertinent academic articles.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Short Video of the Day (Race & Redlining: Housing Segregation In Everything)

As Gene Demby explains in the video, housing segregation didn't happen by accident. What's the impact of housing segregation and how did it create better conditions for whites? Housing segregation means unequal experiences in terms of quality of available public schools, interactions and experiences with police, likelihood of being near environmental hazards, and ability to build wealth.

Note: I saw the video on Mark Anthony Neal's NewBlackMan blog, posted here.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

People Are Surprisingly Nice On Occasion (The Claw Machine Edition)

Since the tine my kids became old enough to ask to play the claw machine, I have worked hard to tell them it's a scam and a waste of money. Sometimes you gotta be a killjoy parent. When the moon might be blue we'll give each of our kids a dollar and let them have at it. Today was one such day. Our kids ran across a restaurant and were back in thirty seconds flat after predictably not retrieving a stuffed animal that they would have forgot about thirty seconds later had they happened to grab one. I digress. The point of this is that a couple was sitting near the claw machine, and, apparently having observed our kids experience the agony of defeat, gave them two dollars to try again. This was two more dollars for the claw machine to enjoy for dessert but there was winning in the losing. You see, this was an act of kindness from strangers (albeit within the constraints of late capitalism) and though our kids were twice disappointed, my wife and I were happy to point out how nice it was for these kind folks to try to help them achieve the thrill of victory. Across the room we hollered thank you and thanked them one more time when they left the restaurant. The weekend is only half over but no matter what happens the rest of the way, it has already been a good weekend.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Closing the Racial Wealth Gap

The racial wealth gap was a topic this week in my Social Stratification course. I showed students some background data. An article from Pew Research Center points out the median wealth of white households was 13 times the median wealth of black households in 2013.

I then presented more current data from the Federal Reserve showing that in 2016, median wealth was $171,000 for white families, $17,600 for Black families, and $20,700 for Hispanic families.

Next, I showed differences in homeownership rates:

With these data in mind, I covered points from William "Sandy" Darity's article about the racial wealth gap in The Atlantic, entitled "How Barack Obama Failed Black Americans".

Darity gives examples of how black Americans have been deprived of wealth throughout history. There was the failure to deliver on the promise of land for former slaves, a.k.a. 40 acres and a mule (Henry Louis Gates Jr. talks about this at length here). I asked my students to raise their hands if they didn't know what the phrase "40 acres and a mule" refers to. A lot of hands in my mostly white classroom went up. Darity also mentions the GI bill -- this post at Demos by David Callahan talks about black veterans being excluded from the housing benefits of the bill because banks wouldn't give loans for mortgages in black neighborhoods. Also, Callahan writes, "African-Americans were excluded from the suburbs by a combination of deed covenants and informal racism."

Darity expresses his frustration that then President Obama too often veered into the politics of personal responsibility. Darity writes: "it has been damaging to have Barack Obama, a black man speaking from the authoritative platform of the presidency, reinforce the widely held belief that racial inequality in the United States is, in large measure, the direct responsibility of black folk." Obama would call out black people despite there being, Darity writes, "no evidence to demonstrate that are proportionately more blacks who behave in ways that undercut achievement, especially since it is clear that blacks do more with less." He is also frustrated that Obama didn't pursue bold, transformative policies that could actually reduce the wealth gap.

I said to my students that Darity's article could also be titled "Show Me The Policy". He writes: "The Obama administration never gave serious consideration to aggressive transformative universal policies like a public-sector employment guarantee for all Americans, a federally financed trust fund for all newborn infants with amounts dictated by a child’s parents’ wealth position, or the provision of gifted-quality education for all children."

I focused on his idea about child trust accounts that he calls Baby Bonds. I love this idea. My students were intrigued by this idea. I summarized the idea by reading a portion of a report Darity co-authored with Darrick Hamilton, Anne E. Price, Vishnu Sridharan, and Rebecca Tippett. The report is "Umbrellas Don’t Make it Rain: Why Studying and Working Hard Isn’t Enough for Black Americans". This is what I read to my students (emphasis mine):

"These accounts could provide an opportunity for asset development for all newborns regardless of the financial position into which they are born. The program is analogous to a social security plan that would provide capital finance for young adults to begin a lifetime of building assets and economic security independent of the financial positioning and decision making of the families in which they are born.  The program would be universal, but the amount of the account endowment would be graduated on the basis of the child's parental wealth. We envision endowing American newborns with an average account of $20,000 that gradationally rises to $60,000 for babies born into the lowest wealth families. The accounts would be federally managed and grow at a federally guaranteed annual interest rate of 1.5–2 percent. They could be accessed when the child becomes an adult and used for asset-enhancing endeavors, such as purchasing a home or starting a new business. With approximately 4 million infants born each year, and an average endowment of around $20,000, we estimate the cost of the program to be $80 billion. In relative proportional costs, this would have constituted only 2.2 percent of 2012 federal expenditures."

This is the kind of bold policy move that could actually help reduce the racial wealth gap!!!

In this 20 minute interview, Darity talks more about the wealth gap and the Baby Bonds idea:

By the way, as we see in the following 6 minute video, Americans say wealth should be distributed in a more equitable way!


Update 10/22/18: Sarah Kliff at Vox wrote an explainer on baby bonds, and mentions that a proposal by Cory Booker is similar to ideas from Darity and Hamilton.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Song of the Day - "Destination Unknown" by Missing Persons

Just finished watching the documentary New Wave: Dare to Be Different. So much good music, this song came toward the end. I'm always happy to hear it.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

It’s About Power, Not Privilege

Dear readers:

I hope you'll read something I wrote with my friend and fellow sociologist Peter Kaufman. It's posted at Everyday Sociology Blog, just click here.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Never-Ending Quest to Prove Masculinity

Joe Biden wants us to know (for the second time) he would have beat the hell out of Donald Trump in high school.

Donald Trump assures us he would take down Biden.

I'm reminded of Michael Kimmel's point about proving masculinity. The quest to prove one's manhood, sadly, never ends for many men. Here's Kimmel is his 1996 book Manhood in America. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Why Am I Dreaming about Ants?

I've had two dreams recently that featured ants. In one case they were all over the carpet in our living room. In the other they were on the living room ceiling. It should be noted I spend a lot of time in our living room because that's where I couch surf and watch television. In the ants on the ceiling dream I tried to spray them away with a Raid type substance.

I spent 90 seconds on Google to come across a few potential explanations. Dreams with ants suggest that something is crawling under your skin, irritating you, or could simply be that you are antsy. Interesting. Well, there are many things irritating me at all times but that's a constant in my life and personality so I don't know why there are suddenly ants marching* in my dreams lately.

I am satisfied with the antsy explanation. I have the great fortune of a sabbatical in my near future. I will be on sabbatical in the Fall 2018 semester. I am exploring many ideas related to research and writing. A few ideas are beginning to take shape. I'm feeling good about what I might accomplish during sabbatical. I'm ready. And excited. You might even say antsy.

*first Dave Matthews reference in the 7 year history of this blog. 

Friday, March 9, 2018

Short Video of the Day (Why Is Dating So Much Work?)

Came across this three minute video while preparing for my Sexuality and Gender class. It's embedded in an article in The Atlantic by Julie Beck entitled "The Rise of Dating-App Fatigue."

There's a gem of a quote in the article from Holly Wood:
“The process of dating inherently sucks,” says Holly Wood, a PhD candidate at Harvard University who’s doing her dissertation on modern dating. “I literally am trying to call my dissertation ‘Why Dating Sucks,’ because I want to explain that. But I can’t, because they won’t let me.”
Wood also offers an observation about honesty and authenticity:
"Men who want casual sex feel like they’ll be punished by women because [they think] women don’t want to date guys for casual sex. But for women who are long-term relationship-oriented, they can’t put that in their profile because they think that’s going to scare men away. People don’t feel like they can be authentic at all about what they want, because they’ll be criticized for it, or discriminated against. Which does not bode well for a process that requires radical authenticity.”
Julie Beck concludes the article this way:
"Dating hasn’t become an apocalypse, it’s just become another way modern life can make people feel overworked. When the actual apocalypse eventually comes, perhaps it will be easier to recognize love when it’s looking at us over the rat carcasses we’re roasting on a spit over a trash can fire, when many of our options have been killed off by plagues or zombie hordes, for then no time we’re given will feel like a waste. Until then, there’s always Tinder."
Other articles I'm reading for class preparation include:

If there are articles you like that you think might interest undergrads, please let me know!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Affordable Housing Crisis

A few resources I want to share as I do prep work for my Social Stratification course:

1. PBS documentary (55 minutes) that gives insights into the world of affordable housing development industry. Raises many important issues: rising rents but not rising incomes, residential segregation, policies regarding assistance for housing, and discrimination faced by people who try to use housing vouchers to help pay for their housing.

2. Q & A with Matthew Desmond. Here's an excerpt:
"I just think that without stable shelter, everything else falls apart. If you are a typical poor working family today, you are spending at least half of your income on housing costs, and sometimes you are spending 60, 70 percent of your income just on rent and utilities. Under those conditions, you are unable to buy enough food sometimes, to afford enough to be stable in the community. And you face eviction at a really high rate, which not only can result in you losing your home, but can result in you losing all sorts of other stuff, too, like your possessions, your school, your community."
3. Desmond's writing about the eviction epidemic in a New Yorker piece.

An excerpt:
"For decades, social scientists, journalists, and policymakers have focussed on jobs, public assistance, parenting, and mass incarceration as the central problems faced by the American poor, overlooking just how deeply housing is implicated in the creation of poverty. Not everyone living in a distressed neighborhood is associated with gang members, parole officers, employers, social workers, or pastors. But nearly everyone has a landlord."
"Women from black neighborhoods made up less than ten per cent of Milwaukee’s population but nearly a third of its evicted tenants. If incarceration had come to define the lives of men from impoverished black neighborhoods, eviction was shaping the lives of women. Poor black men were locked up. Poor black women were locked out."

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

How Much Will You Pay For Asparagus?

What's the most you would pay for asparagus? I don't buy it a lot, it's not one of my favorite vegetables, it's expensive, and we live in Buffalo, so presumably it takes a while to get to grocery store shelves here in winter. I'll mix it in with pasta or cook it as a side dish for chicken once every 3-4 weeks, I'd say. Today it was on my list to go with fish.

Check out the price for .80 pound of asparagus -- $6. It's labeled "fresh cut" and "washed & ready to use". I wonder how many shoppers are able to afford to pay this much for asparagus, and are they willing to pay this much for convenience? These packages weren't in the produce section. They were in the seafood section. Notice the scallops with carrot puree packaged for $10.

Our fish and asparagus dinner is in a different category. Frozen fish on sale for $2.99, dinner rolls for $3.99 (more than I wanted to spend but half the package will go in the freezer), and $1.44 for a half pound of asparagus. In the produce section they had bunches of asparagus in rubber bands, so I grabbed half a bunch to save $$ and to get only what we need for dinner (family of 4).

Monday, March 5, 2018

Immersed in Suburbia (Park Where You Want Edition)

In a coffee shop where I conduct observations for my Immersed in Suburbia project, I stared out the window waiting for the caffeine to kick in on a cold Monday morning. I saw three instances of people in SUVs parking directly in places marked NO PARKING. It occurred to me they have no expectation they would be ticketed. It struck me as an example of how suburbanite consumers operate in middle-class spaces without being policed.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Song of the Day - "Make Me Feel" by Janelle Monáe

A student in my Sexuality and Gender class who is a fan of Janelle Monáe told me about this song. I played the video in class today. An article in The Daily Beast describes it as a brilliant bisexual pop anthem. In an article at The Guardian, Monáe says:
“It’s a celebratory song. I hope that comes across. That people feel more free, no matter where they are in their lives, that they feel celebrated. Because I’m about women’s empowerment. I’m about agency. I’m about being in control of your narrative and your body. That was personal for me to even talk about: to let people know you don’t own or control me and you will not use my image to defame or denounce other women.”

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Food Boxes for People In Need

42 million Americans need food assistance. In America, often hailed as the land of opportunity, how should those in need be given assistance? If this were your homework assignment, or your career, what is the best plan you could develop? If you could consult the best minds, study the latest research, spend time with SNAP recipients, do everything you could to understand the issue and comprehend the needs of recipients, what ideas would you propose?

Someone's work has been completed, and their idea is to deliver food in a box. This VOX article by Jen Kirby gives a rundown on the idea and provides useful background on the SNAP program. The author offers many examples of why these so-called Harvest Boxes are a bad and harmful idea.

Sasha Abramsky describes the proposal as "a new kind of horrendous." She writes: "The Trump Administration’s reimagining of SNAP reduces food assistance to a humiliation ritual: recipients would take whatever they are given, in whatever condition they are given it, and would be expected to feel gratitude." The proposal indeed reveals negative beliefs about people in poverty.

Annie Lowrey's 60 questions on Twitter about the proposal serve as an effective take down. A sample:
Lowrey followed up with an article in The Atlantic entitled "President Trump's Hunger Games".

I'm reminded of Tressie McMillan Cottom's writing on how poor people are looked down upon. Her piece focuses on the purchase and display of status symbols. It's an excellent essay about how poor people get scrutinized and harshly judged for the clothes and accessories they purchase. She writes: "At the heart of these incredulous statements about the poor decisions poor people make is a belief that we would never be like them. We would know better. We would know to save our money, eschew status symbols, cut coupons, practice puritanical sacrifice to amass a million dollars." As part of her conclusion, she says: "You have no idea what you would do if you were poor until you are poor. And not intermittently poor or formerly not-poor, but born poor, expected to be poor and treated by bureaucracies, gatekeepers and well-meaning respectability authorities as inherently poor." The cruel views and hostile beliefs about poor people that she identifies in her piece can be applied to the Harvest Box proposal.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Video of the Day - God's Plan by Drake

Drake, I liked that you helped folks out with $$$, toys, scholarships, food, clothes, etc. I tend to be a cynic but I choose not to be cynical about everything. If you want to be a guest speaker in my Social Stratification class this semester, or if you want to fund a new scholarship for Sociology majors/minors that will go to low-income students, let me know. Serious. I'm at Niagara University just 90 minutes from Toronto.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Gaining Understanding about Mass Shootings in America

America is a Violent County - Kieran Healy

America’s unique gun violence problem, explained in 17 maps and charts - German Lopez

US Mass Shootings, 1982-2018: Data From Mother Jones’ Investigation - Mark Follman, Gavin Aronsen and Deanna Pan

The sociological explanation for why men in America turn to gun violence - Tristan Bridges and Tara Leigh Tober

Masculinity and Mass Shootings in the U.S. - Tristan Bridges and Tara Leigh Tober

Masculinity, mental illness and guns: A lethal equation? - Michael Kimmel

The Infamy Game: Thoughts on How Not to Cover Mass Shootings - J.J. Gould

The Virginia Shooter Wanted Fame. Let’s Not Give It to Him. - Zeynep Tufekci

We've Seen This Movie Before - Roger Ebert

Sexy Rifle Bluebirds

Part of my job as a sociologist of everyday life is to take pictures of magazine covers at grocery stores. I only have two things to say:

1. Sexy is a social construction
2. I just might subscribe to Birds & Blooms

Immersed in Suburbia - Proud To Stand For Our National Anthem Edition

Lately in my travels around town, I've seen this bumper sticker numerous times. Took this picture yesterday. There's also a sticker for the National Rifle Association.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Picture of the Day - Oprah 2020 (!!)

Took this a few minutes ago while driving through my town.

Song of the Day - Teenage Riot by Sonic Youth

It's been a long, cold winter. The sun rarely shines this winter. It's doldrums, the blues, you name it. Sleep okay, eat okay, love okay, work okay, but stuck in blah mode. Then, finally, the sun breaks through, blasts you, warms you, gets into you, and then you hear it. And you turn it up. And turn it up more. Because this song sounds special in the winter sun and deserves to be on the highest volume.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

How Many Hours Do Professors Work?

I suppose it can be an honest question, depending who asks it. My good guy neighbor across the street is in sales. If he's curious about comparing our work days, that's a good conversation. We could trade examples of our "busy times," talk about the flexibility of our schedules, discuss our degree of autonomy on the job, explain to each other how we're supervised and held accountable, etc.

If I'm talking with a family member we might get into deeper details like pay, promotions, the reward structure, retirement plan, and the like.

I like talking about work so if anyone takes an interest in my work schedule or how I go about my work, I'm happy to chat about it.

My goal is to do the job and do it well, not work X amount of hours. A college professor can be at their office all day on a Saturday. That's dedication. One such professor might take 4 hours to write a paragraph and another might spend that time grading a batch of papers.

Some of the chatter around professors and their work life comes with a built in assumption that work should be miserable. You should have to toil and grind and be exhausted. Why do we assume work should be that way?

The chatter is also based around our incessant need to quantify everything. Tell me exactly how many hours you work and provide evidence of what you produced in that time. My barber can easily do this. I know because we shoot the shit about work and he can tell me how many hours he works and how many haircuts he usually gives on a Saturday, for example. His haircuts per day would look good on a spreadsheet. Do you want to see my book pages read per day on a spreadsheet?

College professors work a 100 different ways at various speeds. All of us can quantify how much time we spend in the classroom and in our office for office hours (if we have an office and hold office hours). The rest it difficult to quantify, if we want to quantify our work, and I challenge the expectation that we should have to do so. The job for a full-time professor like me is to do high quality work in teaching, scholarship, and service. An NFL team must be good at offense, defense, and special teams. Those are the three phases of the game. College professors work hard at being good at all three phases of university life. People bring different skill sets and preferences to the tower. So one person thrives in service while another busts it with scholarly activity. Others rock it in the classroom every year their whole career. I have many colleagues who are superb teacher-scholars and make meaningful service contributions. They are all-stars.

What does it matter if Good Professor works 30 or 40 or 60 or 80 hours a week? Can they do the job and do it well? That's more important to ask, in my opinion. And if we really care about people and professions we should ask professors if they are satisfied with their lives. Do they feel good about the work they do? Do they have enough time outside work to pursue other interests? Do they sleep enough, do they feel in good health? How do they feel emotionally and spiritually? How is family and friend life? How are their finances?

Maybe there is a sneaking suspicion that professors don't work hard enough. Would the critics feel better if Professors reported spending exactly X hours in meetings and exactly X hours in class preparation and exactly X hours in e-mail and exactly X hours in grading and exactly X hours in reading and exactly X hours in writing and exactly X hours in advising and exactly X hours in teaching and exactly X hours in creating and exactly X hours in thinking? Yes, creativity and thinking are part of the job and you can't quantify it and shouldn't have to. You also can't quantify how much a professor cares about students. I am fortunate to work with people who care a lot about students and show their care and concern by teaching hard, writing recommendation letters, mentoring, doing career counseling, listening, cheering, encouraging, and working with students in countless other ways.

Most of us care a lot about our jobs and put in the work to do our jobs well. Working 80 hours a week shouldn't be the goal unless that's someone's personal goal.

Author's note: I'm a full-time associate professor who is writing from my experience as a full-time professor. I consider myself fortunate to make a good living working securely at one place. This piece does not address the precarious situation of adjunct faculty. Here are links to pieces that examine the experiences of adjunct faculty:

Adjunct Project Reveals Wide Range in Pay
‘The Great Shame of Our Profession’
The College President-to-Adjunct Pay Ratio
When a college contracts ‘adjunctivitis,’ it’s the students who lose
Background Facts on Contingent Faculty

One more note: To gain understanding of the experiences of faculty from marginalized backgrounds, read the Conditionally Accepted blog.