Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Watch for Deer

At 1 p.m. Monday we were turning left onto Epps Bridge Road and glanced to our right in time to see a deer run across the road and get struck by a car. At 1. In the friggin afternoon. What the hell, Bambi?

Ironically, my local paper ran a story today about deer being active in the area. Me being me, I also started looking for deer crash data to flesh out the information. The best I could find, and it's not great, is this pdf from the Georgia DOT. The most recent data is from 2006, making you wonder if deer stopped running into cars or if Georgia just stopped counting. Unfortunately, the data are in pdf form, so it's hard to sort and to easily see which counties rate the highest. Me being me, I managed to kinda sorta force feed them into a spreadsheet.  Below, a bit of ranking.

Raw Deer Accidents
2006 Data (# in parentheses)

  1. Fayette (563)
  2. Gwinnett (512)
  3. Columbia (424)
  4. Fulton (366)
  5. Baldwin (364
  6. Clarke (337)
I only went to 6th to showcase Athens-Clarke, where I live, because it's my blog and I can do what I want.  Okay, how about per miles traveled? That's better, because it kinda sorta controls for large populations.

Rate of Deer Accidents
  1. Burke (92.4)
  2. Baldwin (79.9)
  3. Appling (75.4)
  4. Fayette (53.3)
  5. Columbia (46.8)
So I'd stay away from Fayette County -- high on both raw totals and rate of deer accidents per miles driven.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Rhodes Scholars

The latest batch of Rhodes Scholars were announced. None from UGA, where I teach, this time around. Out of curiosity I decided to run the numbers, based on this page, of SEC schools and how many Rhodes Scholars they've had. I suspect the latest batch are not included. Below, in alpha order, are the schools with the number of scholars in parentheses. If you wanted to rank them, it'd be (1) Vanderbilt (2) Georgia (3) Missouri (4) Alabama (5) Florida.

Alabama (15)
Arkansas (10)
Auburn (4)
Florida (12)
Georgia (23)
Kentucky (9)
LSU (14)
Mississippi (0)
Mississippi State (2)
Missouri (18)
South Carolina (8)
Tennessee (7)
Texas A&M (5)
Vanderbilt (26)

Is there any deeper meaning to this list? Perhaps not, except that the top five are probably also the best five academic schools in the conference, at least as measured by these and other awards (Goldwater, etc.) and the income SAT/ACT scores. Probably A&M underperforms and Alabama overperforms in terms of its academic quality and Rhodes ranking.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Picking A College

There are a ton of sites out there that tell you about various universities and help you plan what school to attend, your chances, and so on. I stumbled across this site today that tells the percent of out-of-state students at most major universities. Neat. It listed UGA has having 9 percent of its students from out of state. Is that right?

I checked via a way you can't, unless you have a UGA ID and know your way around a spreadsheet. I ran the numbers. It's actually, by my count, 13.7 percent. So what? So beware what web sites tell you, that's so what.

I wish the site was sortable. I see some 1 percent schools, some nearly half. There's probably a story in there somewhere.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Prof of the Year

Colleague John Knox of UGA was named Georgia's (the state, not the school) best university professor. You can see the entire list here, the press release about Knox here.

English and biology profs won in four states, math and physics profs in three.  Geography profs won in two states, as did chem and psych profs (three if you count psychological and brain sciences).  There's film and theater and Japanese, a mix here and there, and various flavors of engineering. It more or less looks like what you'd expect, given there are a lot more English and bio profs than there are, say, film profs.

Apparently Knox is the first UGA prof to win it since 2004. I haven't found a list yet over time. Will look again later.

UGA University Council

If you think UGA's University Council is supposed to act as a legislative branch or check on the executive branch (i.e., administration), then think again. The "rule-making" body of the University is presided over by the University president. Imagine Barack Obama in charge of the House or Senate. Yeah, right. To further separate the Council from, say, a faculty senate, look at how the math breaks down.


So administrative types, the ex-officios (deans, VPs, etc.) make up 15.4 percent of the voting body (a cynic might call them administrative lackeys, but that's largely unfair). Students make up 10.1 percent. The 155 faculty and staff are not separated on the site, but lumped together. I can't tell from first glance if this reflects faculty and staff council representation or includes, oddly, a bunch of administrative people. To clear this up I went to the raw data of members. First, while the Council site says there are 208 members, reflected in the table above, my count shows 214. Not sure why the discrepancy other than, perhaps, the site doesn't reflect recent additions of colleges, etc.

Okay, so back to the numbers. By my count there are 126 non-administrative faculty who are on the Council, or 58.9 percent of the body, and 21 students. So the math in the table above doesn't quite add up compared to the database of members, but I may easily be misidentifying someone (but let's face it, I'm probably not).

I mention this because (1) I'm stuck on the Council for three years (2) it just met and (3) it was ironic how many administrative types were there. Just saying. Like a VP is gonna vote against the president.

Oh, and for many "action items" voted on by the Council, the President can simply choose to ignore them. The exceptions are issues of curriculum, the academic calendar, and the guidelines for promotion and tenure.

Wanna check my math? See below.
Alpha Sort of Council Members Number
Associate Provost & University Librarian  1
Campus Dean, Georgia Regents/UGA Medical Partnership  1
Chair, Staff Council  1
College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences  15
College of Education  12
College of Engineering  3
College of Environment & Design  3
College of Family & Consumer Sciences  5
College of Pharmacy  4
College of Public Health  4
College of Veterinary Medicine  10
Dean, College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences  1
Dean, College of Education  1
Dean, College of Engineering  1
Dean, College of Environment & Design  1
Dean, College of Family and Consumer Sciences  1
Dean, College of Pharmacy  1
Dean, College of Public Health  1
Dean, College of Veterinary Medicine  1
Dean, Franklin College of Arts & Sciences  1
Dean, Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication  1
Dean, Odum School of Ecology  1
Dean, School of Law  1
Dean, School of Public & International Affairs  1
Dean, School of Social Work  1
Dean, Terry College of Business  1
Dean, Warnell School of Forestry & Natural Resources  1
Franklin College of Arts & Sciences  43
Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication  4
Interim Dean, The Graduate School  1
Odum School of Ecology  2
Office of the Senior VP for Academic Affairs & Provost  6
Office of the Senior VP for Acadmeic Affairs & Provost  1
Office of the VP for Instruction  3
Office of the VP for Public Service & Outreach  8
Office of the VP for Research  4
Office of the VP for Student Affairs  4
President  1
President, Alumni Association  1
President, Graduate Student Association  1
President, Postdoctoral Association  1
President, Student Government Association  1
Registrar  1
School of Law  4
School of Public & International Affairs  4
School of Social Work  2
Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs & Provost  1
Staff Counci Representative  1
Staff Council Representative  7
Student Representative, College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences  1
Student Representative, College of Education  1
Student Representative, College of Engineering  1
Student Representative, College of Environment & Design  1
Student Representative, College of Family & Consumer Sciences  1
Student Representative, College of Pharmacy  1
Student Representative, College of Public Health  1
Student Representative, Franklin College of Arts & Sciences  6
Student Representative, Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication  1
Student Representative, School of Law  1
Student Representative, School of Public & International Affairs  1
Student Representative, Terry College of Business  1
Student Representative, The Graduate School  2
Terry College of Business  8
The Graduate School  1
Vice President for Development & Alumni Relations  1
Vice President for Finance & Administration  1
Vice President for Instruction  1
Vice President for Public Service & Outreach  1
Vice President for Research  1
Vice President for Student Affairs  1
Vice President, Student Government Association  1
Warnell School of Forestry & Natural Resources  3
Grand Total 214

Tack-On, or Just Tacky?

In its Florida State University shooting story today, The New York Times includes in the last graf:
The university, one of the largest in Florida, has about 40,000 students enrolled in 16 colleges spread across Tallahassee, the state capital. The university has recently drawn criticism after reports that athletes on its football team, a contender for this year’s national collegiate championship, had received preferential treatment from the police in criminal matters.
So 19 grafs are about the shooting, and the 20th graf is what you see above (at least in the version now up). There are lots of names for a graf like that -- context, background, fodder, padding. Probably others I'm missing. But is it merely a tack-on graf, or is it just plain tacky?

FSU fans, of course, are hardly objective. See below:

And so on. You get the idea.

I skimmed a few other news stories to see if others tacked on info about the cozy relationship between Tallahassee/FSU cops and athletes, but I didn't see any. That's interesting and damning for the NYT, but that doesn't make it wrong. Let's take a moment to consider a possible defense for the world's leading news organization. It is the NYT that has, after all, broke stories about the too cozy relationship between cops and football players at FSU (where are you, Florida media?). A reader of the NYT might see the FSU shooting story and think, wasn't that place in the news recently? The last graf reminds the audience why FSU rings a bell. Plus we're talking cops in the football story, and cops in a shooting story.

(I know, FSU fans, it's hard to imagine the school not being in the forefront of people's minds, but it's not Harvard, it's not MIT, hell it's barely on the list of top public universities, so excuse readers of the NYT for perhaps not thinking much at all about the school. Other than football, why would you?)

Okay, so much for the NYT defense. Now, the prosecution.
  • It's telling that no other news org seems to have mentioned the football thing. That suggests a NYT bias.
  • And let's say an FSU prof won a Pulitzer or Nobel in the past week, would you have tacked that on to the story? No. This feels more like piling on, to borrow from the football lexicon. 
At least it's in the last graf, so the bitching from the FSU fans should also be placed in context. It's the 20th graf of a 20-graf story, a tragic shooting story. An argument could be made it should go higher, in terms of context for the reader, so buried so low seems a reasonable place -- if you insist on including it.

My own take? I would have left it out, but I suspect it got added to the story by some editor along the way, tacked onto the bottom.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Driving Alone

We've all seen the long commute data, but here I'm going to focus on a similar but related measurement -- people who commute the longest, and who drive alone. Using data from this site, I ranked the counties in terms of people who drive alone to work, for the longest period. Why? Because commuting is considered bad for your physical and mental health -- and doing so alone is considered even worse. That's why it's measured in the first place.

Okay, you'd think counties near L.A., in California, or perhaps the greater Atlanta metroplex, would dominate the list. You'd be wrong. Survey says:

1. Elbert County, Colorado (71 minutes)
2. Park County, Colorado (67 minutes)
3. (tie) Gates County, North Carolina; Amelia County, Virginia; and Robertson County, Kentucky (66 minutes)
6. Charles City, Virginia (65 minutes)
7. (tie) Charles County, Maryland; San Jacinto County, Texas; and Paulding County, Georgia (64 minutes).

Okay, I'm bored typing. You get the idea. The Colorado counties serve Denver, the Kentucky county is the smallest in the state and is roughly halfway between Cincinnati and Lexington, Ky. There are a lot of Virginia counties high on the list, mostly around D.C. But coming in at 14th is New York if that makes you feel any better. Twenty-nine counties list an hour or longer of a commute alone.

Okay, but is a long commute alone really a bad thing?

Let's take Elbert County, Colorado. It's only in the second quartile when it comes to "poor mental health days" ranks in the lowest (best) quartile in "poor physical health days." In other words, you can't easily draw a connection, at least not with one relatively well-off county. To really do this, we need to correlate all the county scores on mental and physical health with time commuting alone. That's a bit more challenging. See below:

Correlation of Minutes Commuting Alone With...
  • Poor Mental Health Days: r = .21
  • Lack Physical Activity: r = .34
So there is a correlation between minutes commuting alone and physical and mental health. As one increases, so does the other. But correlation is not causality. To really do this, we need to statistically control for other possible explanatory factors. For example, the number of kids in poverty is also correlated with long lonely commutes (r = .46), but there's no reason to believe they're related. Hell, I even found a small correlation between commuting alone and the percent of people in a county with sexually transmitted diseases (r = .06). I'm willing to bet they're also unrelated (then again ...)

If I really get bored, I may tackle a multivariate approach. But I'd have to be really really bored. It's not a terribly difficult job if I fold the data into SPSS, but I have a long list of other data projects waiting my attention, so feeding this blog is not a priority. My hunch is there is a small yet statistically significant relationship between long, lonely commutes and mental/physical health, but it's modest at best once you control for all the other factors, such as poverty.