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ASA ended a week ago so I suppose it is time to post my 2014 ASA Scavenger Hunt results. Last year I set a personal best by completing 20 of the 30 items, but this year I could not attain that level again, ending up with 17 of 30 items. For those competing at home, I completed items 3, 7, 8, 11, 14, 15, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, and 30. I also left San Francisco with some good ideas for next year, including people sitting in the back row of an empty presentation room and “We’re going to use X as a proxy for Y.”

Regarding item number 14, I was fairly busy at ASA this year and may  have attended a record number of sessions and meetings, so I didn’t have time to check out all of the unisex restrooms. The ones that I did see, in the Hilton on the Ballroom Level were a textbook example of how not to designate unisex restrooms, and were even worse than those in the Hilton last year in New York. Although they appeared on the conference hotel map and signs were posted on the restroom doors indicating their unisex status, the door to each restroom was at the end of a 10-15 foot-long hallway, the end of which was marked for men or women and made no mention of unisex status. Thus the Hilton Union Square receives a 1 out of 10 for its unisex restrooms. Grading it felt like grading the student who puts absolutely no effort into an assignment. Hiltons of the world, you can do better!

 

Hard times in San Francisco

As a friend noted last week, the presence of sociologists from all over the world descending upon San Francisco to hang out in the Hilton and discuss the conference theme of “Hard Times” while the homeless begged outside helped put things in perspective. Because of that, I was struck by Ana Velitchkova’s post at Mobilizing Ideas where she discusses her stay in the Tenderloin district, both a few blocks and worlds away from the conference hotel. She writes, in part:

The hotel reviews depict the place as located in an area where homeless people, drunks, and drug addicts loiter. Some reviewers even report bed bugs, which horrifies a San Francisco friend of mine most of all. While waiting for my room to be ready−I was being treated to a brand new bed [a sigh of relief!]−the manager, who is also a concierge, repairs guy, and anything else that he needs to be, regretfully informs me that “My only problem is the homeless and the drug dealers in front”. Indeed, the place isn’t that bad. The room is large and clean (I am not a fan of the smell of the cleaning products used but I can live with that for a few days, I try to convince myself). It has a bathroom en suite, free Internet, and coffee 24 hours: the traveler’s essentials.

The first morning challenges my poise though. One of the cute little conference outfits I had been so happy to pile in my suitcase makes me feel uneasy when I leave the hotel and walk the one block to Mason street, which separates the “good” part from the “bad” part of the neighborhood. The dark-blue business-casual dress matched with a white cardigan, red flats, and nylons, contrasts flashingly with the baggy jeans, tank tops, and sports jackets of the residents hanging out in the neighborhood. After eyeing me continuously, one man greets me with an exclamation, after I pass by him: “Good morning!” I barely have a chance to respond with a confused “Good morning” back, when a woman looks me over and mumbles something disapprovingly incomprehensible. I try to breathe normally and maintain a fast and steady stride as I make my way through the block. Beyond Mason street, I feel a tension release and realize my body had internalized a sense of fear of the downtrodden. Then, I start to wonder: ‘Who is really more in danger, they or I?’ (But notice the distinction this statement already implies.)

Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing, then consider the ASA’s position (WARNING! Read only the first post on that page, read nothing else! Trust me!) on the difficulty of making the conference more financially accessible even for faculty members and spend some time thinking about hard times.

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At Slate, Hanna Rosin discusses a children’s book for parents who are uncomfortable allowing their children to have the same freedoms they did while growing up. While they have been raised with Curious George, then, George does not provide the type of example they want their children to follow. As Rosin says:

Remember poor Curious George? How every time that “good little monkey” tried to have a little fun, he would get severely punished? Like, he’d walk up to a friendly stranger in the jungle and wind up smuggled across the ocean in a bag, or play around with the phone and end up in jail? This year brings the successor to Curious George, an energetic little monkey named Bitsy who is possibly the most pitiful children’s book character I’ve come across in a long time.

As a result, the book Bitsy Bear solves the problem of parents who want to read their children a story about monkeys (although the book is called “Bitsy Bear,” Bitsy is a monkey and the bear is the antagonist) without the danger inherent in exploring their world or jumping on the bed. Rosin concludes:

Jenks’ appendix is full of helpful safety tips for parents, such as: Keep DNA samples at home and teach kids about safety latches in trunks. She says to discuss “good strangers,” such as a police officer and other family members, and “bad strangers”— “people who try to lure children from public places.”  In fact children are vastly more likely to be abducted or molested by family members and people they know than they are by strangers, but this kind of information is far too complex for Jenks to process. “This book is dedicated to the sweet innocence of every child,” she writes. If you are so unfortunate as to have a complicated child with other, less savory qualities—curiosity, willfulness, mischievousness, even, God forbid, a wicked temper—I’d say it’s not the book for you.

Maybe the man with the yellow hat will buy it for George.

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Have you seen the lines at the Hilton Starbucks? If only there were another one nearby…

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I can’t believe that I didn’t put something about this on the Scavenger Hunt

The 2014 ASA Scavenger Hunt

As we near the middle of August your thoughts are probably centered on things like the job market, syllabi, and last-minute preparations for ASA presentations but it is time to clear your mind and turn your attention to what really matters, the 2014 ASA Scavenger Hunt. How successful has the ASA Scavenger Hunt been? So successful that nobody even makes ASA Bingo cards anymore!

Last year I discovered that the beginning of the semester is not the best time for dealing with prizes if people actually enter, but that has not dissuaded me from announcing that if you enter and win there is at least a small chance that you will receive something for your efforts! You’re also welcome to play alone or set up conference pools with your friends.

Click here to download the official 2014 ASA Scavenger Hunt form

As in previous years, the rules are these:

  • The 2014 ASA Scavenger Hunt is open to anybody who is attending this year’s ASA conference in San Francisco. Your status as an undergraduate, grad student, assistant professor, or “famous” sociologist will not affect your chances of winning.
  • Record the dates, times, locations, and/or session numbers for the items on the list between Friday, August 15 and midnight on Tuesday, August 19.
  • Items may be double-counted. This means that if, for example, you attend a session outside of your research area in which a “famous” sociologist gives a disappointing, long-winded talk that begins with “I’m going to keep this short” you will have covered items 1, 2, and 5 on your list.
  • The person who submits a form accounting for the most items will might or might not receive… something! This is a very exciting opportunity and your chances of winning are high!
  • The winner’s name could be posted on my blog, unless the winner doesn’t want his or her name associated with a scavenger hunt, in which case the winner is welcome to choose a suitable pseudonym.
  • I will be playing along and will keep you posted on my own progress throughout the weekend. If nobody enters I will privately declare myself the winner and treat myself to ice cream.
  • If you would like to discuss your own progress on Twitter, use the hashtag #ASAHunt.
  • Have fun!

Additionally, you may find the following links helpful:

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ASA is trying to listen

On the heels of the recent petition asking the American Sociological Association to reconsider the timing and location of its annual meetings come a few signs that the ASA does, in fact, (sometimes) listen to its members. First, the ASA responded to efforts to more easily export the annual meeting schedule by providing that option within the online system. Now, it is seeking feedback on the ASA “App” and the ASA website. After years of being terrible, the ASA’s website has recently seen some improvements, so hopefully this will be another step in that direction.

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