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Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 9.23.26 AMLink: https://twitter.com/neiltyson/status/695759776752496640


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Cards Against Humanity can be difficult to play with those you don’t know since it requires you to say terrible things and with those you do know but are likely to say terrible things unironically. Now there is an alternative, Cards Against Sociology! Take a moment to read through the cards and consider the hilarious possibilities.

The downside, of course, is that the people you know who have enough awareness of social issues to appreciate this game are also probably the people you can trust to play Cards Against Humanity ironically, so this doesn’t really solve the problem of having a group of people to play a game with but not wanting to play Cards Against Humanity.

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Sociologists recognize that many things are social constructions. This means that things like gender norms are not based on actual biological differences but on accepted social beliefs – there is no biological reason, for example, that men cannot wear makeup and skirts and women must shave their legs. As is the case with gender norms, social constructions can allow arbitrary ideas to be seen as “normal” representations of the “truth.” This can be harmful, whether by limiting individual expression and opportunity in the case of gender roles or by actually increasing health risks in the case of those who will not vaccinate their children because of now-debunked research. Thanks to the amplifying power of the internet, social construction even affects the way that corporations produce and market our food.

According to a recent article in The Atlantic, Diet Pepsi will no longer contain aspartame not because of scientific research, but because of customer perceptions that it is linked to harmful health outcomes. Similar concerns have been related to the rise of low-carb foods in recent years and, more recently, gluten-free foods. Next up might be protein. I recently saw a commercial extolling the virtues of the protein in yogurt, and the aforementioned Atlantic article states that Coke is introducing a new milk with 50% more protein than regular milk.

With information more easily accessible than ever, it is important to spend a few seconds seeking out the research the posts we see online. Otherwise, we might find ourselves skipping cancer screenings because we eat bananas.

“Like” Memoirs of a SLACer on Facebook to receive updates and links via your news feed. Your life depends on it!

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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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A few days ago, L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling was revealed to have said some racist things. Although his fate as owner of an NBA team has not yet been determined, his ability to interact with those on his team and attend NBA games has been; he has been banned for life.

There are a number of interesting sociological questions related to this situation. One concerns the relationship between private statements and personal property. Another is related to types of discrimination and why statements that gain public attention can have more severe consequences than years of discriminatory practices. Although NBA players are paid very well, we can also use this situation to examine relationships between owners and players. Finally, Doug Hartmann at The Society Pages has a nice exploration of the situation’s impact on our understanding of racism in America.

Included in Hartmann’s post is a message from Max Fitzpatrick of Central New Mexico Community College (Edit: Fitzpatrick’s message is now its own post). Fitzpatrick writes:

Instead of merely being what Marx sarcastically called “critical critics”—those who attempt social redress through words alone—we should take these opportunities to bring attention to—and to change—the poor social conditions and institutional discrimination disproportionately faced by people of color. Attacking the material foundations of the problem will be more effective than simply laughing at the wrinkled old symptoms of the problem.

In some ways, the Sterling situation seems to support Fabio’s claim that, while we are not “post-racial,” we may be “post-racist.” Although racism is still prevalent, its public expression has been severely limited. As Fitzpatrick and Hartmann note, however, this may actually serve to make racism and discrimination more dangerous, since they continue to have serious negative effects even when society claims that they don’t.

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At Slate, Mark Liberman tells journalists to stop presenting paraphrases as quotations, presenting six Mitt Romney “quotations” and what he actually said. For some reason, differences like these have always been interesting to me, whether or not they are related to work by a sociologist. I am also bothered by magazines that use pull quotes that differ from the quotation in the actual text.

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In case you hadn’t heard (in which case, you may be a student), the government shut down last night at midnight. Republican demands to delay the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) because they don’t like it, despite the fact that it was passed in the house and the senate, signed by the President, and withstood challenges in the Supreme Court, reminds me of when a kid who loses a game takes his ball and goes home because if he can’t win he would rather not play at all. After thinking of this earlier today and congratulating myself for being clever, I watched last night’s episode of The Daily Show and noticed that Jon Stewart said essentially the same thing.

Slate has a nice roundup of stories about the shutdown, including an article written in the style that we would likely use if it was occurring in another country. I also like this collection of wire photos used to depict the impending shutdown (Slate is not immune to these tactics – see the photo on the aforementioned article).

Over on the blogs, John Quiggin at Crooked Timber reposts an analysis from 2011 and Dan Hirschman talks about the plight of graduate students who need to use the National Archives (as does Tenured Radical).

Finally, Jimmy Kimmel demonstrates the importance of survey wording by asking people whether they prefer the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare without informing them that they are the same thing:

This is all so exciting that I can’t wait to do it again in a few weeks when the debt limit is reached! On another note, my “Government Inaction” category has never been so apt!

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