Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The American Sociological Association Annual Election

I just spent close to an hour voting in the annual ASA election. I take all voting seriously as a general rule, so I never just choose people that I know and like, unless I can't make a distinction between candidates using another criteria.

For the national-level elections, my reasoning goes a little like this:

  1. My first criterion (and I will not budge on this): I do not vote for people who do not take the time to write a personal statement. I don't care how well I know you, how much I admire your body of scholarship, teaching, or service record, or whether you're kind of cute in your picture. I figure that if you don't have the time to sit down and tell the electorate why you think you would make a good candidate (in several sentences - I'm not looking for a speech), then I should give my vote to somebody who does take the time to do so.
  2. This does not mean that I vote for everybody who writes a personal statement. The statement earns you my attention, but then I actually take the time to read what you wrote. If you write something vague (e.g., "I want to increase diversity within the ASA.") I'm less likely to take you seriously than if you write something with more substance (e.g., "I am concerned that the leadership in ASA has represented 4-yr., doctoral granting institutions, and that the voices of ASA members at liberal arts, community colleges, and non-academic institutions are getting lost. I hope to use my position to increase institutional diversity within the ASA.").
My reasoning differs for the section-level elections. For the section-level elections, only institutional affiliation, educational credentials, publications, and service are included - that means there's no personal statement (or picture). I find this much trickier. Here's a snapshot of this process, but this is less a "first/second" list than a "conglomeration of things I look at" list:

  1. Fortunately, I am more likely to be familiar with the scholarly work cited by the section candidates than national candidates, so sometimes I'm able to discern between people based on first-hand experience with their work.
  2. Educational credentials by themselves don't tend to impress me, but I am impressed when somebody has won teaching or research awards, especially for certain positions.
  3. As a last resort, when I know absolutely nothing about the candidates in question, I resort to looking at research and professional accomplishments and choosing the candidate who I think is doing interesting work. This is not my preferred method, but it's the best one I have in extreme situations.
In the end, a lot of this process ends up being subjective. The ASA is a large organization, and it's impossible to have first-hand knowledge of all nominees. How do you choose your ASA representatives?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Why I'm No Longer a Fundamentalist Christian - Part III

Reason #2 - The Music

This post is not intended to bash Christian music - Christian music, like all musical genres, is filled with the talented and the not-so-talented. There was a time when I exclusively listened to Christian music, and I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Jars of Clay, Amy Grant, and Michael W. Smith. Like it or not, music heard during certain time periods has a visceral way of connecting us to memories, as I was strongly reminded of this last weekend when I ran across this song by Audio Adrenaline while searching around the radio dial. If you're not familiar with this song, be careful before you look it up on YouTube - it's quite catchy.

What this post is about is cultural control, and the possibility that before condemning culture, perhaps we should know more about it. In eighth grade, my teachers at the Christian school began a program to control the popular culture that we students consumed. The following anecdote describes this program well.

One day, we were "treated" to a movie, a movie that described a lot of the popular music at the time as "satanic." The movie went through bands systematically, starting (as I remember) with heavy metal (Guns N' Roses, Alice in Chains (my husband disputes whether Alice in Chains is heavy metal, with good reason), Metallica, etc.), and ending with The Beatles' infamous satanic message in Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds that can only be heard if you play the song backwards! With each band, much was made of the symbolism they chose to use (skeletons and fire were the worst offenders), and sometimes the lyrics they sang were also targeted. The movie itself was problematic, but it's not the crux of this story.

The day after watching this movie, we had our usual prayer time at the beginning of Bible class. Before praying, it was customary for students to share if they had a "praise" or a "concern" that they wished somebody else in the class to pray about on their behalf. I remember quite clearly when one of the most popular students in class stated a "praise" that he had. The day before, he had gone home after school and thrown away all of his Metallica cds. At this news, many of my classmates made noises of assent. In that environment, such behavior was clearly praise-worthy.

Fast forward ten years to the beginning of graduate school (almost 10 years ago now)...now, no longer a Christian, I had just met the man that I eventually married, whose favorite band of all-time happened to be Metallica. GASP! My gut reaction upon learning this was a mixture of awe, horror, and incredulity. The man that I liked so much could not possibly like such an awful musical group, could he?

Well, it turns out that some of Metallica's lyrics are actually quite socially conscious, as can be seen in the lyrics below:

My mind was blown. I had shaken off the ideology of Christianity, but it shocked me to find I still had such a strong emotional reaction to non-Christian cultural products. To be fair, I don't find heavy metal music particularly pleasing to listen to (and still don't choose to listen to it to relax), but I was concerned that I equated Metallica with evil on an emotional level, rather than forming my own opinion of their lyrics separate from their sound. What a lasting impression a movie I had watched in 8th grade, and the actions of a fellow student, had years later. The implications of this for fundamentalist Christians trying to communicate with "others" seem stark. If I, as a "reformed" fundamentalist Christian, was still so emotionally invested in the cultural message, it seems hard to believe that somebody still steeped in the emotional appeal would be able to get beyond the emotion to have rational discussion. But this is something to think about another day.

In retrospect, I think that the movie we watched in 8th grade used words like "satanic" and "evil" to get us to blindly buy into the notion that certain cultural content was simply unacceptable. I wonder, though, whether the creators of the film were really concerned with music like Metallica's being satanic, or whether they were more concerned with getting us to avoid lyrics like the following:

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cher - The Perfect End to the Week

"If I Could Turn Back Time" is playing on my earbuds and I'm packing up to go home for the weekend. The energy of the song fits my ebullience at leaving the office, although I'm really ready to go forward right now, not back. Hello weekend!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


From the ages of 5-18, I was a devoted pianist. Although I primarily played classical music, I also was interested in popular music, and would often ask my piano teacher to find sheet music for particular songs. This sometimes resulted in misunderstandings, as in the following account.

One day I asked my teacher to find me the music for the song Cherish. I did not specify the artist, but I was thinking of this.*

Not this.

I remember being very disappointed at receiving The Association's version, but we got it worked out eventually.

*In retrospect, this video of Madonna's seems quite sweet and innocent, especially in contrast to other videos** released during that time period. Also, I love how the person who posted this video comments that it's from the 1989 "Like a Player" album. Nice!
**We didn't have MTV until I was 16, so I had to catch glimpses of videos at my neighbor's house. Since I blushed just listening to the lyrics of Simon and Garfunkel's Cecilia, it shouldn't surprise anyone that these videos made me decidedly uncomfortable.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Breathe, Practicing Idealist, Breathe

On Friday (after my students' exam had begun) -
Student: "Dear professor - I am home sick. Can I take the exam on Monday?"
Me: "Yes. Let me know when you would like to take it. You can take it any time between 11 and 4."

On Saturday - NOTHING

On Sunday - NOTHING

On Monday during class -
Student: "Can I take the exam at 4:00?"
Me: "Yes."

On Monday at 4:30 -
Me: "Dear Student, you are now past the time you said you would be here to take the exam. You MUST make it up on Wednesday between 11 and 4, or I will not allow you to make it up."

On Tuesday - NOTHING

Today, after failing to show up for class -
Student: "I'm sorry I wasn't in class. Can I take the test at 4?"
Me: "Yes, but I'm leaving at 5:00."

Today at 4:30 -
Student: "I'm here to take the test. I'll take it until you have to leave at 5:00."
Me: "No, I'll give you full time to take the exam, but we need to talk when you're finished."


Monday, September 28, 2009

All the good boys, baby they're in grad school...

My husband and I recently purchased the latest Vienna Teng album, Inland Territory.* We listened to the entire album on our way to go apple picking this past weekend, and one song in particular caught our attention.

Grandmother Song relates a message from grandmother to granddaughter about love, life, and generally making use of the advantages females have now that they did not have in the past. Two lines were particularly amusing to us:
All the good boys, baby they're in grad school
Followed several stanzas later by:
How you gonna raise a family when you're on the road
With some tattooed boy with a guitar
When we figured out what she was saying, we erupted in laughter. The song hits very close to my early experiences in graduate school, tempted by the "boy with a guitar," but knowing deep down that the good boy (the best boy) was right next to me in graduate school. I'm so glad I figured that one out.

*Teng is amazing pianist, in addition to being an excellent vocalist.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Typical Stats Situation for Me

"Ignoring the more technical definition, Rubin (1996) states the following main

conditions. The multiple imputations are said to be proper if:

1. MI estimates bQMI are asymptotically normal with mean bQ and a consistent variance–covariance estimate B.

2. The within-imputation variance estimateW is a consistent estimate of the variance–covariance estimate U with variability of a lower order than Var(bQMI)."

-Stata Help Manual

Oh yes!!! That's right! I forgot that Rubin ignored the more technical definition. Silly me!