About Me

Currently a graduate student at the University of South Carolina, I study urban sociology and inequality. Originally from Western Pennsylvania, I am particularly interested in how changes in regional economic structures effect stratification and mobility opportunities, particularly for the working class. I also participate in the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Du[a]ling Quotes #7 - Quotes on Social Connection

"The connections we make in the course of a life - maybe that's what heaven is." 
     -Fred Rogers

"Awesome people hanging out together." 
     -The creator of this blog, which shares photos of important or interesting folks spending time with one another. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Some Interesting Links, 9/18/2011

Before we start, let's set the mood.  Follow this link and learn about the first release by friend Justin Chesarek's jazz quintet.  You can purchase the music for a small price. If you do you'll hear great music and be supporting some awesome musicians.

Got the music playing?  Ok, let's do some fun articles first:

Here is an interesting place to find high urban density. (Hint: You might find T-Pain singing about being there.)

This is a fun story with good pictures about folks building community and creating shared, if not public, space by showing movies in a residential alleyway.

Imagine you are the person who designed the airplane emergency evacuation shutes, and you wake up one morning to hear this story about an aging Supreme Court Justice testing your design.  That is an exciting day.

Photos of prehistoric feathers, including dinosaur protofeathers in amber are really cool.

With more than half of the world's population now living in cities, it seems over the last few months every news program has done at least one story on cities.  CBS Sunday Morning is one of my favorite news programs, as I watched it most weekends with my Dad.  Here is their story "American Cities on the Rebound", which includes a convo with Edward Glaeser.

Now for some more serious stuff...

While some U.S. cities may be on the rebound, struggles continue in Detroit.  So, some wonder, is it pornographic to document Detroit's decline?

There are some pretty cool looking post offices around the U.S., and we may lose some of them as a result of the postal services struggles.

While there were a lot of news stories about unemployment and joblessness over the summer, I felt that I wasn't seeing as many stories about inequality in the news as there probably should be.  I saw articles about the difficulties folks were having finding jobs, or even the high demand for food stamps, but not many news articles about stratification in the U.S.  From my perspective, that all seemed to change this past week.

Basically, what happened was that the Census released an income and poverty report.  In it we learn that the median household now earns less than it did a decade ago.  Here is a list of 5 other notable trends found in that report.  Some troublesome findings, for sure.  The decline in median household earnings may be tied to the fact that many men are earning less than they did 40 years ago.  Also, the typical white family has 20 times the wealth of the median black family, which is the largest gap in 25 years.  For those with a rust belt interest, here are some maps of changes in concentrated poverty and concentrated wealth in Cleveland, OH.

While it may be sadly obvious, sometimes it needs to be restated with links to evidence: Being poor as a child strongly predicts poverty and poor outcomes later in life.  In the land of opportunity, not every gets the same opportunities.

If you are interested in learning more about inequality in the United States, the Stanford Center has provided a starting place, delineating 20 facts about U.S. Inequality that they argue everyone should know.

To end with a little bit of hope, those who do have the opportunity to go to college and find a student job can end up with some valuable, if also unusual, experiences.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Du[a]ling Quotes #6 - Urban Politics and Class Struggle

“Instead a uniquely working-class strategy for survival relies on creating social and symbolic distances between themselves and the dispossessed as the working class deny their own marginality. The politics of working-class resentment charges that disadvantaged groups manipulate and overstate the significance of racism, discrimination, poverty, unjust treatment under the law, and unequal law enforcement. In a striking and inconsistent blend of entitlement and self-congratulatory individualism, Beltwayites manage a delicate balance of believing in the power of self-interest and more superiority, all the while insisting that the very same self-interest, individualism, and moral superiority earn them the right to use government programs when the need arises. It is almost as if they’re saying, “I don’t need anybody, just make sure you don’t touch my Social Security, Medicare, and don’t make me pay more taxes for the programs I have earned” (156). 
     -Kefalas in Working Class Heroes, 2003.

"Urban politics then appear as the powerful and often innovative but in the end disciplining arm of uneven accumulation and uneven class struggle in geographic space” (127). 
     -Harvey in The Urbanization of Capital, 1985.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Interesting Links, 9/7/2011

I am a big fan of sending mail.  There is something great about being able to send something real and tangible to a friend or family member a long ways away. Plus I run the coolest postcard blog on the internet.  So, I worry about the financial health of the Postal Service.  This article explores five things the postal service could do to improve it's bottom line.  I think #5, "increase retail" is a great idea that needs to be explored more.  First of all, public space is terribly limited in many urban areas.  For example, we have town centers that really are neither.  So, why not allow Starbucks to set up a coffee shop and offer free internet access at the post office?  Turn it into a public space that offers a diversity of services.  Maybe food trucks could stop by, which could reduce food deserts in some neighborhoods.  If there is not already a public park nearby, perhaps a small park could roll up for a couple of hours, giving post office customers a space in which to take a break. Doesn't this sound like a post office you would be more likely to visit?

So, in Pittsburgh and the world, Carnegie Mellon University is kinda a big deal.  It seems a donation by businessman and philanthropist is going to ensure that CMU becomes an even bigger deal, as the donation is among the top 15 donations to higher education worldwide.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh is really white.  Most residents realize this, some rightfully complain about it.  The thing that this demonstrates to me, though, is how stable the labor force is.  And on balance, that is probably a bad thing, as the city needs to attract skilled talent from other places, in addition to cultivating skilled talent that will stay.  Hopefully the donation mentioned above can help on both sides of that agenda.

Speaking of being white, sometimes white folks encounter great difficulties, and seem to lose perspective.  Here is a blog working to bring some "first world" problems back into perspective.

We may want to have a real conversation about limiting the number of offspring a single sperm donor can contribute toward.  150 is a lot.

Ever feel like the return trip goes faster?  I do. Whether mountain biking or on a road trip, it always seems faster to come home then to go whereever I am going.  Here is a consideration of that phenomena.  I will say, sometimes the return trip seems awfully slow. For me, this has happened late at night on the way home from a concert out of town, and sometimes on the way back from PA to SC. But that might just be because PA still feels like home in my heart, or because as I'm heading toward SC a new semester looms over the destination.  These thoughts, and a few other sources of inspiration, have me putting together a mix of songs about driving and road trips.

On the topic of leaving town, the Hollowing Out the Middle project is good work.  I have heard and seen the sentiment over and over in small towns - folks there give their best to the young people who are going to leave town.  Often, the ones who stick around are the ones who received the least attention as children and students.  The drive to move toward densely populated urban areas is certainly understandable, championed by proponents of the city like Edward Glaeser.  But, like the STAY project in Appalachia which I have blogged about before, we may need to rethink how we invest in our smaller communities.

Finally, and on this theme, here is a 90's rock song that laments someone leaving a small town, rather than the typical trope of celebrating the freedom of escaping a small town:

Friday, September 2, 2011

Interesting Links, 9/2/11

When I see things like this, I realize how desperately many of us want more art in our worlds.

I am disappointed Slippery Rock, PA is not on this list.

Suburban sprawl is still ugly.

Oh, hey! It is Labor Day weekend...
...Literally following in the footsteps of union officials in Wisconsin, union leaders in my favorite city are making a political statement with their Labor Day parade.  They are not inviting and refusing to allow politicians who are perceived to work against the labor movement to participate in the parade.  Despite this decision's potential political ramifications, I believe this other thing they are doing to underscore the unemployed has a stronger potential symbolic impact:
"Marks said that while the Labor Day event always features unemployed workers marching with their affiliated unions, this is the first year there will be a special place for the unemployed in the parade to emphasize the need for job creation."
We need to find a way to invest in people.

Speaking of work, while we say we value the individual work ethic in the U.S., I sometimes wonder if we should re-evaluate the extent to which we value some work over other kinds of work.

Sticking with the Labor Day theme, I read this intersting blog post about the young generation of workers and their use of the internet.  As Horning writes in this post, young workers:
"may self-brand as neoliberalism forces them to -- they may participate in that indirectly productive institutionalized narcissism on Facebook and elsewhere -- but they also extract the cultural surplus and engage in forms of collaborative production that promise to elude capital while remaining socially useful."
I suppose that is what I am doing with this blog - self-branding as neo-liberalism has encouraged me to.

Speaking of academics blogging, here is a good blog post considering debates about academic blogging, including issues of authority and visibility.

College continues to become more expensive, and is too expensive for too many kids.  As this columnist argues, it is "No surprise, we rank 15th among 29 nations in the number of entering students who complete college. We are (similar to health statistics) just ahead of Mexico and Turkey."

If you are considering taking on student loan debt to go to graduate school, consider if you could work in this environment for five to seven years.  The graduate school experience is often not dissimilar to what is depicted in the video. (Thanks to Rocco DeMaro for recently causing me to be aware of this video, by way of his excellent blog).

As uncomfortable as some sociologists seemed to be about having the annual meeting in Las Vegas, folks are still talking about it.

The Pirates have had an awful week on the field, but 40 years ago they did something socially important.

On the theme of Labor Day, here is one of my favorite paintings, "Work" by Ford Madox Brown: