Archive for the ‘SLACer Awards’ Category

Five years ago today, I posted about my job market success and Memoirs of a SLACer was born. Given that the average blog lasts about two weeks I am fairly surprised by my ability to keep this up for so long. I may have originally considered blogging to be a way to waste time that I should have been spending on my dissertation, but my dissertation was completed long ago and 572 posts later the blog is still going.

Early on, a friend who encouraged me to start a blog (probably so that I would stop sharing my “wisdom” with her) asked me how many readers I would need to consider this venture worthwhile. I responded that five readers would probably be enough to keep me going. Luckily, while Memoirs of a SLACer is not among the most read sociology blogs, more than five people read it every day (sometimes as many as eight!) so I don’t think I’m wasting my time.

Although there have been lulls in my blogging productivity, I have also been relatively successful at sticking to my preferred posting schedule. If you were not aware that there is a preferred posting schedule it is probably because talking about how frequently or infrequently I will post is prohibited by the Memoirs of a SLACer founding principles. These principles, eloquently titled “blog rules” in the text file I saved them in five years ago, are printed here for the first time:

  • No Comments unless I ask a question
  • No family life unless it is related to sociology
  • No mention of how frequently or infrequently I will post
  • No talk of singing in the shower at 3 am
  • No jumps
  • Capitalize the first word of post titles with no punctuation at the end

A few comments on these principles, which I have done a fairly good job of upholding over the years: Although I think that allowing comments can help develop a community around a blog, my thoughts regarding comments were influenced by this. Later, I read this, which reinforced my views. If it weren’t for John Gruber, you might be able to comment on this post right now!

The words “I have been meaning to post more” mean that the writer you are reading will soon stop providing updates. My policy on this has always been that I will post things when I want to post things and I won’t post things when I don’t or, more likely, when I’m too busy.

Possibly the most important blog rule was inspired by this. I have always connected with writers who allow some of their personality to come across in their writing, but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing…

Although I’ve made it five years, I will not promise this blog will be around for another five. I won’t even promise that there will be a post on Thursday at 6 pm Pacific time. To do so would be to break my third rule of blogging.

At any rate, thanks for giving me a reason to keep writing!

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As you may have noticed, the entire internet is required to compile a best-of list (or two, or ten) at the end of the year. Since I am lazy, my best-of list this year consists of one blog: Conditionally Accepted. Since grad school I have read a lot of blogs but none of the blogs I regularly read have done as much to remind me of the importance of practicing what we preach as Conditionally Accepted. To borrow a sports cliche, Conditionally Accepted reminds me of a young FemaleScienceProfessor, in that it regularly highlights the problems that it is easy for those (like me) in the white, male academic majority to overlook while letting people outside of the majority know that they are not alone. And it has only been five months!

Congratulations, Conditionally Accepted, and keep up the good work!

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Just the Facts:

  • News articles on Edmunds.com feature a “Just the Facts” section that typically repeats the information in the first few sentences of the story.
  • This is stupid.
  • For this exercise in stupidity, and the commitment to keep it up for over a year, I have awarded Edmonds.com the Memoirs of a SLACer Award for Unnecessarily Dumbing Things Down.

Quite a while ago (over a year, as far as I can tell, which is forever in internet time), Edmunds.com adopted a new format for its articles about car news. The “car news” section should not be confused with their car reviews or long-term road tests, where various editors comment on a car over the course of a year, both of which are written in a different style. Articles in Edmunds news section are often little more than reworded press releases, which is problematic its own right. Not content to simply feed readers language crafted by the PR representatives of automakers, however, Edmunds also includes a section at the top of their articles labeled “Just the Facts” with a summary of the key points and a section at the bottom labeled “Edmunds says” where they editorialize about the content with a one-line statement.

The problem with this approach can be seen in a recent story about the possibility that Tesla Motors will repay its government loan this week (which, I admit, is based on a tweet, not a press release).  I have linked to the story in the previous sentence but you should only click on the link if you want to see a picture of Tesla’s Model S electric car, which is admittedly very nice looking, because the article is so short that I will include the whole thing here (and here’s a direct link to the picture of the car!):

Just the Facts:

  • In yet another milestone for the electric start-up, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk said the company may repay its U.S. Department of Energy loan as early as Wednesday.
  • Musk made the announcement in a Twitter message on Monday.
  • Musk also said another announcement about its Supercharger network would be coming next week.

 PALO ALTO, California — In yet another milestone for the electric start-up, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk said the company may repay its U.S. Department of Energy loan as early as Wednesday.

Musk made the announcement in a Twitter message on Monday.

Musk also said another announcement about its Supercharger network would be coming next week.

“Given govt loan repayment this week (prob Wed), Supercharger update will be next week,” Musk tweeted. “Work continuing independent of announcement.”

Musk’s tweets include official company announcements and what essentially are personal journal postings.

He also recently posted: “Petting zoo left a chicken behind at the park. Now we have a pet chicken.”

Tesla has been on a winning streak as of late. Last week, the automaker said it would use $452.4 million from a bond and stock offering to repay the balance of the federal loan with interest. The loan helped to cover the cost of building the Tesla Model S.

Edmunds says: Tesla is on the brink of a major moment in its history.

You may notice from the story itself is short – 157 total words. You may also notice that the “Just the Facts” section is simply the first three lines of the story. The facts then, included at the beginning of a very short story (as journalists have a tendency of doing) are apparently some sort of summary for people who have been watching cable news all day and cannot understand anything that is not preceded by a bullet point. The “facts” themselves are 55 words, or over a third of the entire article!

For its efforts in this area, I hereby award Edmonds.com the Memoirs of a SLACer Award for Unnecessarily Dumbing Things Down. Congratulations, Edmunds!

John says: When visiting Edmunds.com, stick to the reviews and long-term road tests. Get your car news from a source that doesn’t think you’re a complete idiot.

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After several classroom conversations about gender roles, one of my students sent me a link to a news story about a nine-year-old named Sam Gordon who has been tearing up the competition on the football field. Unlike the highlight reels put together for a number of high school students, the purpose of this video wasn’t to draw the attention of college coaches. The purpose was to motivate Sam to focus on doing well on each play, as Sam’s dad notes in the linked article. Why is this news? Sam is a girl.

In terms of gender roles, the video, in which Sam runs past opposing players but also gets tackled by, and tackles, them, is interesting. Sam’s dad has apparently taken the video down, but here is another version with different music:

More interesting to me than the gender roles depicted in the video, though, are the gender roles depicted in responses to it. The Yahoo article that I linked to includes several asides asking whether it is appropriate for a girl to play with boys. For example, see the following paragraph:

It may be real, but is it appropriate? This is a 9-year-old girl playing against bigger, stronger boys. She even had a trainer who put her through agility drills and plyometrics. Gordon is not even 60 pounds, and there’s a kid on her team who weighs more than 150. (His nickname: Tank.) In an era of concussions and frequent ACL tears, it’s fair to ask: What are the adults thinking?

It is well known, of course, that only girls can be injured playing contact sports.

Another highlight is this sentence: “A lot of people won’t accept a 9-year-old girl playing tackle football, and perhaps with good reason. But it seems Sam loves it.” In the video below, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith unequivocally states that girls should not be playing football because it might make boys hit them outside of the game, somehow. Another commentator talks about his daughter playing football as a sophomore in high school and lasting three games before hurting her shoulder.

Christian Fuaria says that he wants his daughters to be able to play sports as long as they are watched over by the right kind of coaches (probably men) and as long as they are young (because it is cute when they are kids). The Memoirs of a SLACer Award for Excellence in Masculinity, though, goes to the commentator who asks whether it is fair to boys to have to play with girls since they are conditioned from a young age not to hit girls, giving girls an unfair advantage. Just like all of those advantages they have in the workplace.

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Watching TV the other night I saw a commercial for Bud Light Platinum* that started with the piano notes from Kanye West’s “Runaway”. You can see the commercial here:

Given that rappers typically name drop more expensive (or, in some cases, their own) brands of alcohol, my first thought was, “why is a high-profile rapper allowing his song to be used in a commercial for a variation of Bud Light?” Then I thought about the lyrics to “Runaway” and realized that this commercial wins the award for the best match of a song and a product in advertising history. The reason is found in the first eight lines of the song:

And I always find, yeah I always find something wrong / You’ve been putting up with my shit just way too long / I’m so gifted at finding what I don’t like the most / So I think it’s time for us to have a toast

Let’s have a toast for the douchebags / Let’s have a toast for the assholes / Let’s have a toast for the scumbags / Every one of them that I know

So here we have blatant recognition that the public has been putting up with Anheuser Busch’s shit just way too long and that the drinkers of something called Bud Light Platinum are likely to be douchebags and assholes. I have no idea who is responsible for this, but that person is a genius (and likely to be fired).

*I’ve never had Bud Light Platinum and I probably never will, so I make these observations while allowing for the slim possibility that Bud Light Platinum is a great beer.

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A lot has changed since my first post three years ago. Parts of the transition from ABD with a job offer to third-year assistant professor at a small liberal arts college have gone the way I expected while others have not. I’ve decided to celebrate the past three years with an early-career retrospective of my ten favorite posts from this time period. When selecting them I was happy to see that they were distributed fairly evenly so that I didn’t end up with a Pearl Jam Twenty situation in which most of the attention is focused on the first 25% of the overall time period. The fact that it was hard to narrow the selection down to ten posts probably speaks more to my self importance than the quality of my posts, but without that self importance I probably would have never started a blog!

My ten favorite posts, in chronological order:

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I’ve had a few conversations with a student friend lately about her experiences at a Christian High School. She criticized aspects of the curriculum that included paper assignments like “Discuss why Islam is wrong. Use bible verses.” As she pointed out, using one religion’s sacred text to disparage another religion is problematic, but what I found most interesting about an assignment like that is that it requires students to: 1) know something about Islam, and 2) support an argument with evidence. Some public school students probably make their way through high school without either of these things. Subsequently, this student won the made-up award (what award isn’t made up?) for “best use of bible verses” in a paper exploring religiosity and attitudes toward medicine.

As an aside, biblegateway.com is apparently a good place to find bible verses, though it is apparently easier if you already know something about the bible – my searches for things like “procrastination” turn up nothing but a more experienced person can find things like this:

But about going further [than the words given by one Shepherd], my son, be warned. Of making many books there is no end [so do not believe everything you read], and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

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As I’ve noted before, I periodically give my students quizzes in an attempt to convince them to do the reading. Whether or not they know the answers, these quizzes occasionally provide me with a bit of humor or artwork, which is always appreciated when moving through a pile of otherwise unexciting quizzes. The other day a student provided me with what I have dubbed the “SLACer Quiz of the Year.” (Look for a writeup in your local paper, since this award is at least as important as anything given by JD Power or Ward’s.)

To give you some background, this quiz consisted of three questions and the student responding is a good student with which I’ve developed rapport over several semesters. In other words, the student is not a jerk and the quiz was intended to be humorous, not pompous. With that said, the responses (the questions don’t matter):

  1. I believe in a world where professors will no longer give students pop quizzes when they do not want them, but instead only give students grades based on their Awesomeness.
  2. If this system of awesomeness was in effect today, I would receive an A+ just by walking in the door.
  3. If you agree with my proposal, please give me a 0/3 on this quiz.

Request granted (and a much better way to get zero points than something like this).

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