Charles Tilly, RIP

As you might have seen elsewhere, Charles Tilly has died.

One informal Tilly text I liked was a response to the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. Four days later, he circulated a series of predictions among sociologist colleagues as to what would happen, or what we might learn about the plot itself. “Am I sure these dire predictions are correct?”, he asked. “Of course not. I write them out both to place myself on record and to encourage counter-predicitons from better informed colleagues.”

Over the fold for the full set:

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On Bureaucracy

I was happy to get home, open my bag, and find a flyer from the Department of Homeland Security telling me that they’d been carefully through my bag while I wasn’t looking, presumably as part of its ceaseless fight against terrorism. It was quite a good pick, in fact, as – unusually – it was a bag mostly full of clean laundry, so it won’t have been either an especially unpleasant or complicated task.

In some respects, the authorities are getting more consistent: each time I boarded a plane, I had to remove my shoes once (and once only), in place of the irregular variation from zero to two times that seemed to be in force in the earlier part of the decade.

But the Feds haven’t made their mind up as to whether Josephine and I count a family or not (and therefore whether we can go through an airport together with the same customs declaration form or not). One border official thought that of course we weren’t a family unit, as we didn’t share the same last name. Another at a subsequent border crossing thought that that was absurd, and that being married was enough to qualify. You’d have thought the bureaucracy would have managed to come up with a consistent policy on this by now. It’s not exactly an unusual situation.

Intermission Over

I was away in California (and, briefly, British Columbia) for a couple of weeks, hence the silence. (Actually I’ve been back for almost a week now, but I was quite enjoying the silence, so I let it linger.) I think I was on holiday, but I ended up visiting four university campuses while I was away (UC Berkeley, UCLA, Loyola Marymount and UBC), which isn’t especially holiday-like behavior. I only went to an academic session at one of them, though, so perhaps that makes it all right. We went to the Museum of Jurassic Technology and I saw some elephant seals on the beach, so, as you can imagine, it was a pretty good trip.

Only two people telephoned me while I was in the United States, and one of them was Barack Obama. (Well, someone from his campaign, anyway.) That was pleasing.