Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Start Date at UGA

Georgia is hot in August, and everyone agrees UGA starts far too early. So of course the University Council is contemplating an early start date for the 2016-2017 academic year (not this coming Fall, but the Fall after).

How early? August 11. Is that early? Oh yes, my friend. Oh yes. See the table below for a list of the previous academic years and their respective August starting dates.

Year Start
2015-2016 17th
2014-2015 18th
2013-2014 12th
2012-2013 13th
2011-2012 15th
2010-2011 16th
2009-2010 17th
2008-2009 18th
2007-2008 16th
2006-2007 16th
2005-2006 18th

As you the careful reader can tell, we've never started sooner than the 12th (2013-2014). But according to the proposal now working its way through the University Council, we'd begin on August 11, almost a week sooner than the last couple of years, and at least a few days earlier than the average since way back to the 2005-2006 academic year.

No. No. No.

In a perfect world, we wouldn't start until after Labor Day, but there's Fall Break (better known as a day for students to figure out how to find Jacksonville for the UGA-UF football game), and a week, a whole week, for Thanksgiving. There is discussion of cutting Thanksgiving back, and if they do so we may see the start date massaged as well. Again, this is for 2016-2017 ... not this coming Fall.

New Roof

We just spent over 9 grand on a new roof. How do you make it rain? You wash your car. How do you make it hail? You buy a new roof.

Okay, so how often does it actually hail in Athens? Not that much. Lately, about once a year, according to data from this site. We had one hail storm in 2014, one in 2012, two in 2011, and so on except for 1999 and 1998, when there were several. The average time for hail is 3:58 p.m.

May is the month with the most hail storms historically (10), followed by April (9), and June (6). In other words, our brand new roof faces the worst time for hail. Sigh.

Or, if you like lots of data, follow Athens through time...

Date Time Amount
5/12/1971 15:23 0.75 in. 
3/28/1984 14:50 1.00 in. 
5/2/1984 17:50 1.00 in. 
5/4/1987 15:00 0.75 in. 
4/28/1990 13:45 0.75 in. 
4/29/1991 15:30 1.00 in. 
3/19/1992 12:42 0.75 in. 
5/19/1993 7:50 1.50 in. 
5/6/1996 18:00 0.75 in. 
4/22/1997 13:56 1.75 in. 
4/22/1997 14:35 0.75 in. 
4/28/1997 15:35 0.75 in. 
8/17/1997 16:23 1.00 in. 
4/3/1998 17:39 1.00 in. 
4/8/1998 22:11 0.75 in. 
5/7/1998 10:00 1.75 in. 
5/7/1998 10:15 0.88 in. 
5/7/1998 18:15 1.75 in. 
5/7/1998 18:32 1.75 in. 
6/19/1998 11:50 0.75 in. 
6/24/1998 21:48 0.75 in. 
7/20/1998 15:30 0.88 in. 
5/13/1999 16:05 0.75 in. 
6/4/1999 16:22 1.75 in. 
6/4/1999 16:40 2.75 in. 
8/20/1999 18:25 1.00 in. 
8/20/1999 18:30 1.75 in. 
2/21/2005 19:30 1.00 in. 
4/13/2005 15:05 0.88 in. 
8/17/2007 14:55 0.75 in. 
7/21/2008 19:08 0.88 in. 
4/14/2009 8:48 0.75 in. 
6/24/2011 17:33 0.75 in. 
6/26/2011 18:35 1.00 in. 
3/16/2012 19:45 0.75 in. 
10/9/2014 18:35 1.00 in. 

By the way, I don't remember that 2014 hail storm, but to have hail in October, that's just weird. Indeed, it's the only time since 1950 that we've recorded hail in October -- and there's never even been hail in September.

Should 16-Year-Olds Vote?

The answer is probably no, and yet there is a proposal to give 16- and 17-year-olds the franchise. Yes, it's California. Yes, even more, it's San Francisco. And yes, it's a resolution that would affect only municipal (local) elections. So why am I going prattling on about this? No reason except for this line deep in the story about Joshua Cardenas' proposal:
Cardenas' resolution cites studies claiming that "16-year-olds possess roughly the same political knowledge as 21-year-olds and come close to the average for all adults."
Talk about damning with faint praise, that they're as politically knowledgeable as a 21-year-old.

Yes, but just how knowledgeable are young adults? We can get to that one easily enough, thanks to Pew. See the table below, for example (full report here). On a few issues, younger adults do okay (minimum wage, poverty), but in general, not so much.

So saying 16 and 17 year olds are as knowledgeable as young adults, that's hardly a great selling point. Look at the Israeli prime minister question, or chair of the Federal Reserve.

But this begs the question -- are 16 year olds as knowledgeable as those a few years older who can vote?

The answer is -- we don't know. It's damn difficult to survey them, and even they are surveyed students are rarely asked the same questions as adults. So, again, we don't know. Most of the studies of high schoolers are very specific, often about civics knowledge, sometimes other kinds of knowledge, but again we rarely if ever see direct comparisons to adults. I'm looking for one. If you know of one, lemme know.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Bad Bad Survey

So there's a thing called Georgia Schools Parent Survey. I teach public opinion, I teach how to conduct (and how not to conduct) surveys. One of the great problems is what we call a SLOP, a self-selected survey.

Can anyone fill it out? Why yes. and I did. Took only a few minutes and then I got this:

Huh? Reload? I can do it again? Why yes. Yes I can -- though I didn't. One reporter got the problem and it was his tweet that brought this survey to my attention. Full disclosure, he's one of our former students.
Any survey that relies on people just happening to choose to participate is doomed to being, well, complete bullshit. A good survey has a representative sample, meaning everyone theoretically has a chance of being included. SLOPs tend to attract those angry, or those the target of some promotional drive. In the latter, I suspect some school districts will cook the data by asking their parents to participate.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Close Vote, No Coverage

If a close vote happens and no journalists are there to report it, does it make any difference?

Background first. UGA's University Council has little real power. The exceptions? It sets the academic calendar (when's fall break?), and it has power over curriculum. Pretty much everything else the administration can choose to ignore, if it so chooses. And sometimes it does.

The Council itself is made up of faculty, administrators, staff and students. I've even blogged about the makeup before. In other words, it's not a legislative body. It's no senate. Only in academe could the executive branch also get to be part of the legislative branch. It's called the Plantation Model of university governance.

Okay, history lesson over. Why am I prattling on? The Council met Wednesday afternoon (full disclosure, I'm an unfortunate member) to approve everything on the agenda. That includes dramatic changes to my own college. Not that you'd want to cover that, other than with a crappy man-on-the-street thing. 

But something did happen that I didn't expect -- a close vote.

There was a proposal by the grad student organization to increase the number of grad students unlucky enough to serve on the council. The speaker said the proposal had the support of undergraduates, via the Student Government Association, but no one from that organization was either at the meeting or decided to speak. You can read the details yourself at the link above, but what's interesting is the vote.

62 For
55 Against

It's damned unusual to see something so close. The argument against this is the proportion of grad students to undergrads is such that having nearly equal representation on the Council doesn't make much sense. I wish we could use the same argument and purge the Council of administrators who vote as ex-officios, but that's another matter for another day.

I voted for it. I figure if I have to suffer through Council meetings, so should as many other people as possible. Hey, I've decided things for worse reasons than that.

This has to come up again, because changes in the bylaws require two successive votes. Be interesting to see how the above vote changes, if at all, by then.

And finally ... so far I've seen no stories by the local student media. Hell, did you even attend the Council meeting? And if you didn't, why the hell did I have to go?

Oh, right. I represent Grady. Sigh.

Office Size

My journalism office is 116 square feet. That makes it 5 square feet larger than the office to my left (Kent Middleton) and 3 square feet larger than the office to my right (Mark Johnson). Yeah, it's the little things that matter.

Cranking university data, I found that the average size of an "academic office" in the Journalism Building is 136 square feet. That makes me -- as everyone already knows -- below average. It's just now we have a number to tell us exactly how far below average I am.

The largest Grady academic office? Room 328 (344 square feet), belonging to Nate Kohn in the Peabody suite. His Peabody boss, Jeff Jones, has a larger office (406 square feet), but it's categorized as a "non-academic office," perhaps because he runs a unit. Or because, oh hell, who knows.

So if we rank all "academic" offices based on size, mine is tied for 30th. That pretty much sums it up for me.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wikipedia -- UGA

Sometimes when I have a few minutes I like to look up who has edited a Wikipedia page. For example, UGA administrators (where I work) have, on occasion, edited the passages about our former president.

And so, here's this UGA passage that was changed last month. The original on the left, the, um, creative language on the right. Don't worry, it was later changed.

Okay, but who did it? Someone from a certain IP number -- -- as told to us by the "history" function of the site. Who the hell is that? Check out this below: Toomsboro, Georgia. Ignore some of the noise, like Ga. Dept. of Education in Athens.

Or, here's a map:

A different search identified the location as Irwinton, Georgia, population 583. So how hard could it be to find the person? I even did a latitude and longitude search of the location, but it shows up in the middle of the woods.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

UGA Student Deaths

I wondered the other day about student deaths at UGA, criticizing a news story. So to get it right, I asked for the actual numbers. Tom Jackson, VP for Public Affairs, kindly supplied me with the data over the last several years. While recent deaths have rightly received attention -- because it's tragic when a college kid dies -- the numbers indeed demonstrate that this year is not unusual. See below.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Student Deaths at UGA

This tweet caught my eye today.
It caught my eye for a number of reasons.
  1. Instead of "less than other schools" make it "fewer than other schools." I know, persnickety.
  2. Best I can tell from the audio (listen here), UGA spokesman Tom Jackson doesn't discuss how UGA compares to "other schools." He talks about previous years at UGA. The story has it right.
  3. And finally, 14-15 deaths a year? I can't find any data to support that, though he may very well be right. He sees stuff I don't see. But, for example, this R&B story from a couple of years ago mentions five students that died that academic year. Perhaps there were more that the R&B simply missed. A reasonable assumption.
So, when you hear a PR guy say, sad as the recent deaths are, "we're doing better than the average," you really want to challenge him on that number. Ask him to justify it, to break it down by year. Don't merely be his mouthpiece.

Again, he may be right. Students die for lots of reasons -- health and accidents being the main culprits, and of course drinking plays a role. There are data for murders (none on campus in the last few years), but I'm still trying to find a good data source for student deaths. Here's a HuffPo story that says at least 57 college student deaths across the nation in Fall Semester (none listed from UGA).

Thursday, March 19, 2015

More on UGA Prez

Finishing up playing with data about UGA's presidents. I wrote the other day about how not every former president has something (a building, a stadium, an outhouse) named after him. Here's the actual list below of every UGA president since the dawn of time and what's named after him as the place is presently used (there are no hers, at least not yet). Stanford and Finley have nothing that I can find, at least nothing large like a dorm or a building on campus. See my previous post, linked above, as to why this may be the case.

The first three names are the current and two most recent presidents. Too soon for them, plus when they do get around to naming a building after Dr. Adams, that will be an interesting time. 

President Facilities
Morehead Too Soon
Adams Too Soon
Knapp Too Soon
Stanford Nothing
Davison Academic
Aderhold Academic
Rogers Road & Apts
Caldwell Academic
Sanford Stadium & Road
Snelling Dining Hall
Barrow Academic
Hill Dorm
Boggs Dorm
Mell Dorm
Tucker Academic
Lipscomb Dorm
Church Dorm
Wadel Academic
Finley Nothing
Brown Dorm
Meigs Academic
Baldwin Academic

Finally, just messing around some more, I looked at how the lives of the UGA presidents overlapped. Below is a graphic that sums it up, one I posted on Twitter on Wednesday. Click on it to get a better view, for what it's worth. Kinda interesting if you're into history and UGA.

There's probably a story in all of this somewhere. Then again, I usually think there's a story in this kind of stuff, even when there isn't. If I missed a facility above, please let me know. Happy to make corrections.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

No Finley Hall?

The University of Georgia is on its 22nd president.

Of the previous 21 presidents, most have buildings or facilities named after them. The current and two most recent presidents -- Morehead, Adams, and Knapp -- of course do not. Too soon for that sort of thing. But what's kinda interesting is there are a few presidents from the hazy past with nothing at all named after them.

Take, for example, Jonathan Rogers and Henry Stanford.

Best I can tell, there's no Rogers Hall, at least not at UGA. There is a Rogers Road on campus, but I can't tell if that's a UGA street or city street (it looks UGA-ish). And on it are the Rogers Road Apartments. So, who is Rogers?  As the source of all knowledge, Wikipedia, tells us:
Rogers' tenure at UGA was very brief due to a power struggle with some members of the Georgia Board of Regents over whether the College of Agriculture should remain a part of the University or become its own institution. UGA kept the school; however, the clash cost Rogers his job.
So Rogers served from 1949-1950. The fact that he fought the Board of Regents, in my mind, makes him deserving of a building.

So what about Stanford? No, not Sanford. He has a stadium and a road. This is Stanford. He was kinda sorta president, really interim president, from 1986-1987. As Wikipedia tells us:
Stanford served during a period of turmoil. The reputation of the University had been sullied as a result of an unfavorable ruling by a federal jury in a case brought by Jan Kemp, who had asserted that she was unlawfully fired for speaking out against alleged preferential academic treatment for athletes.  
The Kemp mess really belonged to Davison, who has a nice big building with his name on south campus, though for consistency's sake you'd think all the former presidents would have something -- a building, a stadium, and outhouse -- named after them.

Finally, and to me the most interesting -- UGA's fourth president, Robert Finley. As Wikipedia tells it:
Finley fell ill while traveling south to assume his new position at the University of Georgia. He died only three months after arriving and is buried in Jackson Street Cemetery on the school's north campus in Athens, Georgia.
There is a Finley Street in town and, ironically, it intersects with Meigs Street (another former UGA prez), but best I can tell no Finley Hall.

This excludes rooms or labs or some such that may be named after a person but are hard to identify online. Corrections welcomed.

Sunday, March 15, 2015


As you may know, robots.txt has to do with telling a search engine -- mostly Google -- what it can and cannot index for searches. In other words, web site mostly use it to tell Google to know crawl those directories and make the results available.

For fun, let's see what UGA (where I work) thinks Google should not see and, thus, make available to searchers. So here's one way I did it. The library, for example, has this:

Disallow: /phonelist
Disallow: /events/
Disallow: /staff/facultysearches/
That means don't search the folders called phonelist, events, or staff/facultysearches. Because, ya know, libraries. Don't want people searching.

The UGA "research" site (research.uga.edu) doesn't want search engines, well, researching. They have this:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /*calendar
Disallow: /*events
Disallow: /*files
Disallow: /*wp-admin
Disallow: /*wp-content
Disallow: /*wp-includes
Disallow: /calendar/action~posterboard/
Disallow: /calendar/action~agenda/
Disallow: /calendar/action~oneday/
Disallow: /calendar/action~month/
Disallow: /calendar/action~week/
Disallow: /calendar/action~stream/

Clearly the research folks do not want Google seeing their calendar. I hope it's good.

I can do this all day, but you get the point.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

My House, Googled

For fun, I did a Google search on our address: 130 Greenbrier Way. I was curious about the different bits of info that might pop up and, especially, how accurate it may be. Here's a summary in order of how Google reported back to me.
  1. A Google Map. Exactly right.
  2. Trulia has a summer pic and says the market value is $136, 706. The other info looks right and most sites pull it off the same database. Says we have six rooms. We have eight, if you count bathrooms. Maybe they're not.
  3. And realtor.com has the same pic. Maybe all these sites pull from the same source? Oddly it says the house was renovated in 2001. We're the only owners. It's never been renovated. Believe me. Says six rooms and 2.5 baths. No. We have 2 baths. Everyone has this wrong. Estimated value, $140,400.
  4. Homes.com has us at $137,100 in value with a nice graphic that compares how the value has changed compared to the county and the zip code.
  5. Something called findthehome has the number of baths right. Again with the 2001 major renovation. What the hell are they talking about? Value is low, $126,934. Way below what it's really worth. Interesting.
There's some other stuff, such as a Google map of where I've lived, a pdf of minutes from a meeting where we represented the neighborhood, and some reverse phone number lookup stuff. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Yet Another Step

The Grady College journalism department will take another step towards its new and improved curriculum later this month when the University Council takes a final vote (Council full agenda here, the link to the very brief proposal here). Understand that the combined journalism-broadcast news curriculum is not listed. All those new classes have already been approve (sorta, kinda). The Council vote is the icing on the cake (more, or less). I've written at length about the new curriculum and, to be honest, I'm tired of the topic. The actual classes won't begin until Spring 2016. If you're already a student, don't panic. You won't be affected by this.

And then there's the change in names from Department of Telecommunications to the Department of Entertainment and Media Studies. EMS. Which, for former cop reporters like me, means something else entirely. That department, minus the broadcast news folks, will focus on -- well -- entertainment. And documentaries. And other stuff. As their explanation argues, entertainment is the "growth engine for all media." Yeah. Sad. But very very true, because people really don't want to be informed. They want to amuse themselves to death. But as a focus for a department, very smart.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Headlines and Polls

Allow me a moment to pick on my local paper, at least when it comes to how it reports on polls. To set the scene, the state legislature (I know, I know, stop rolling your eyes) is discussing whether to approve a major transportation plan that could, maybe, possibly, mean tax increases. Or fee increases. Or something. Anyway, there's this tweet from my local paper:

And the headline online is exactly the same:

Poll: Most Voters Oppose
House road-funding plan

Okay, so what Hollander? What's the big deal? Look at the lede:
More Georgia voters oppose the state House’s transportation-funding plan than favor it, according to a poll released Thursday.
See the difference? The hed tells us most voters oppose it, but that's not really true. Forty-five percent aren't fans of the plan, 26 percent favor it, and 29 percent have no opinion. You cannot say most voters oppose it when it's fewer than half, and you especially don't want to say that when it's based on robo-poll that (by law) may only call landline phones. With a computer voice. And think about it. Nearly three out of 10 -- almost a third -- have no opinion at all.

So I ask the overworked and underpaid and underappreciated folks at OnlineAthens (i.e., Athens Banner-Herald) for a couple of things:
  1. Stop reporting robo-polls, and
  2. Stop reporting robo-polls, and (okay, a third)
  3. Stop reporting robo-polls.
I realize that's not gonna happen, that Morris (the paper's owner) has a contract or some relationship with the polling firm. So at least make sure the hed and the lede match.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Preference and Electoral Expectation

While cranking data for an upcoming presentation, mentioned in an earlier post, I thought I'd share a little data.  Looking at all U.S. presidential elections from 1952 to 2012, respondents were asked each election year who they were going to vote for, and who they thought would win.
  • Among those who said they would vote for the Democratic candidate, 74.5 percent predicted the Democrat would win.
  • Among those who said they would vote for the Republican candidate, 78.4 percent predicted the Republican would win.
The lesson here, obviously, is that people expect their own candidate will win the election. Another way to look at this is to collapse all those who predicted their own candidate would be victorious. See the graph below. The percent of folks who think their own candidate will win is inching up since 1996, but overall it's rarely dipped below 70 percent.