Stephen Dubner was on campus today, giving the talk at convocation and various other places. Here is how it went down for me:
June 2005: I read the book. Great book. Have economists ever gotten so much good attention?
June 23: I write a review on this blog.
Soon after: I receive an email from Stephen Dubner, saying hi, a friend showed me your blog, and by the way, I went to Appalachian. Me: (sheepishly) er, sorry about that review (what was I thinking? I really enjoyed the book). Him: (graciously) no problem. My reaction is to redeem myself a bit here.
Soon after that: Hey, I'm thinking, maybe the econ department can get Dubner back for a visit?
Spring 2006: I'm working the emails trying to get Dubner to visit the econ department on his convo visit. Dubner says "great!" [exclamation point added] but the summer reading bosses are in charge of his schedule. I'm working the bosses.
Summer 2006: Faculty begin volunteering to spend an hour with freshman to talk about Freakonomics. I volunteer. Later I find out that I get a free t-shirt!
Later that summer: I sign up for a summer reading program workshop (i.e., how to get incoming freshmen to talk about the book). I really need it but my schedule is tight. I find a time and ... I'm accepted!
A few days later: My schedule gets tighter and I ask for a different slot. I'm nervous but I get into my 2nd choice.
A week later: I find out that the 2nd choice won't work. I ask for my third choice. I never get a response.
August 2006: I'm out of town on the day I'm supposed to pick up my Freakonomics t-shirt. My spouse (about a medium) volunteers to pick up my shirt for me. Thanks! I say, and tell her that I reserved an XL.
A couple of days later: I get back from my trip and can't wait to see my shirt. It's very cool, black with an orange "FREAK" on the front and "summer reading program" on the back. And sized medium.*
Same day: I meet with about 15 freshmen and talk about being a college student for an hour, we take a break, and talk about Freakonomics for about 35 minutes. Most of them had read some of it and they had good questions, comments, observations, etc. Unfortunately, I missed the discussion group workshop so I stand in front without a thing to say. Idiot.
Today (10am): Convocation. I'm without academic regalia so I sit with the riff-raff (two sociologists, an economist and a bunch of students). The whole thing lasts only one hour. Dubner gives a funny and, actually, inspiring talk focused on the freshmen. During the academic recessional, we're supposed to stand. Many in the audience confuse the academic recessional with their own recessional. Surprisingly, many students (and faculty) politely stand until they are supposed to leave. I'm thinking that some of these academic traditions suffer from diseconomies of scale at, oh, about 2000 students (Appalachian is at about 15,000). All morning classes are cancelled, my intro students are supposed to go a write a short paper about their experience (I hope to post some here someday).
Today (12 noon): Lunch for faculty/staff who participated in the summer reading program. I miss it to go to abs class. I'm "this close" to 2 bills and would like to postpone that milestone a few more years (I think I'm seeing some abs class results already).
Today (1:30): Panel discussion in IG Greer. I decide to teach my class at 2 pm instead (I would've cancelled it but I'm missing class on Tuesday due to a conference).
Tonight (7:30): Reading and book signing at the student center. I attend with a date, a 4 year old blonde. I tell her that it will be so boring that she better pack some toys. She spends 30 minutes and packs two backpacks. We arrive on time, a festivus miracle, and the introductions begin. After 5 minutes I promise my date that if she is good for a little while longer I'll get her a surprise at the "sticker" store. She asks, very loudly, I think, WHAT IS MY SURPRISE GOING TO BE? I tell her stickers. Dubner begins his talk and he continues his theme from the morning (enjoy your life surprises and follow them where they lead, very cool). He reads from his Franco Harris book. I'm thinking, jeez, when is he going to get to the Franco part? (Just a joke.) Actually, the book sounds great. I know at least one guy who bought one tonight. We wait in line for the book signing. My two copies (I got a freebie) of Freakonomics are both loaned out so I get Dubner to sign my stomach. (Just a joke.) Seriously, I get to meet Dubner, nice to meet you and all that (The summer reading bosses couldn't fit econ into his schedule. As if they tried.)
Friday (10:30): A reading and Q&A at the public library as the climax to the "Boone reads Freakonomics" program. I'm betting Dubner will be ready to get the heck out of Boone.
Or something like that.
*Pictures of the t-shirt are below the fold.