Mid-week quick hits

The quick hits queue is piling up fast and furious this week, so I’m going to do an extra-special bonus early version.

1) How billionaires are becoming political parties unto themselves.

2) Back when I went through my phase of reading classic Sci-Fi I hit A Canticle for Leibowitz.  One of those books you appreciate on an intellectual level far more than on an emotional one.  I really enjoyed this essay about it, though.

3) How a heroic Nigerian doctor was essential in preventing an outbreak in her country.  And she died for her trouble.

4) Really terrific Post story about the front-lines of trying to stop the spread of Ebola in Liberia.

5) Don’t know that I agree with all of this, but interesting piece on Reza Aslan, and the Bill Maher Islam flap.

6) Could non-citizens decide the November election?  Unlikely.

7) Age is a mindset.  And the physical deterioration of your body.  But also a mindset.

8) The link between terrorism and mental illness.

9) Advocating for feudalism among Iowa Republicans.

10) Yes, Walmart.com really did have a “fat girls costumes” section for Halloween.

11) Note to PS professors, when doing field experiments try not to mislead voters and/or break state law.  Though it is a shame this will hurt the ability to do election field experiments which really tell us so much.

12) How Iceland’s history of feminism may lead to a ban on violent and degrading pornography.

13) I’ve started trying to re-learn the Chopin Prelude I recently linked.  It’s hard, but do-able, I think.  That said, I wanted to show Evan what was probably the most difficult piece I ever learned.  I do not think I will be re-learning Chopin’s “Military” Polonaise, Opus 40 anytime soon.

Quick hits (part II)

1) I told myself if I found time yesterday, this would get it’s own post.  It didn’t.  So make sure you read it.  Great Garret Epps post on John Roberts and race.

2) Really enjoyed this New Yorker article on the director of the Susan B. Anthony list (a pro-life PAC).

3) Not surprisingly, “ancient grains” are for suckers.  I’m sure the people who buy this are plenty scared of GMO’s.

4) Paul Farmer says that with first-world health care 90% of Ebola victims should actually survive.  We’re doing pretty well in the US so far.

5) I must admit to always being a little more fascinated by Mormon sacred undergarments than I should be.  Now the church is coming clean on the topic.

6) A nice PS study that shows how the Tea Party has moved the Republican party to the right.

7) Emily Bazelon on the complications of yes means yes on college campuses.

8) Vox summarizes a Pew study demonstrating that there are basically no swing voters in this year’s election.

9) FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub came to my class a couple weeks ago.  That was pretty cool.  Here’s a nice piece about her and her visit to NC.

10) NYT with one of the better pieces I’ve read on the UNC athletics scandal.  I went to Duke and teach at NCSU, but UNC is a flagship for our whole state and this is so unfortunate for the whole state.  And as an academic, I hate to see academic integrity so undermined.

11) When is a debate not a debate?  How about when one candidate never  agrees to it but one organization basically pretends otherwise.

12) Peter Beinart putting Voter ID into the long American tradition of trying to keep poor people from voting.

13) Two nice takes on Iowa Senatorial candidate Jodi Ernst and welfare.  The idea that private charity can make up for government is not just wishful thinking, but simply preposterous and ahistorical.

14) You can never have too much fun with Kansas‘ supply side experiment gone awry.  Seriously, it’s not like anybody who’s not a complete drunk-the-kool-aid ideologue didn’t see this coming.

15) Republicans would really just prefer college students don’t vote at all.  There’s been all sorts of news about the on-campus voting at Appalachian State, but meanwhile nobody has talked at all about the large inconvenience for NCSU losing it’s polling location.

16) While helping Evan practice piano, I haven’t been able to get this tune out of my head for a couple of days.  Took me forever to figure it out because I was thinking it was Beethoven. Than I realized it must be some Chopin.  This is one of many Chopin pieces I loved to play back in the day.

Quick hits (part I)

1) How does a law professor get arrested for standing in a Wal-Mart?  When he’s a young black man and part of a Ferguson protest.

2) Marc Thiessen– the right’s leading torture apologist– thinks it’s only  a matter of time before ISIS starts using Ebola as a weapon.  Of course, this is simply Thiessen’s fantasy.

3) This Planet Money episode on how women started getting way less into computers in the 1980’s (when me and all my male friends loved them) was really, really interesting.

4) I’m an extrovert.  Do I look that way?

5) Who knew that Philosophy departments were bastions of sexism?!

6) On reading actual books.

7) One of the better pieces on Renee Zellweger’s plastic surgery.  All sorts of things are wrong with our ideas about famous females and their appearance, but all that said, if plastic surgery chances your appearance to the point that people don’t even recognize you, well, that’s worthy of some commentary in it’s own right.

8) Want teenagers to wait longer to have sex?  (I do).  Then let Planned Parenthood teach them Sex Ed.

9) A couple of my FB friends are totally pushing this ridiculous new competitor to FB that monetizes your posts in a pyramid scheme.  Seriously!  How many people are looking to make money off FB?  There’s far more psychic value in posting photos like this and getting dozens of likes.

10) Interestingly, breast self exams have no value added beyond that which comes from simply paying attention to any changes in your breasts.

11) I’m fascinated by the business of fast food.  Good article on why Chipotle is thriving and McDonald’s is not.

12) Lawmakers who support Voter ID and not so interested in responding to their minority constituents.  Surprise, surprise.

13) I’ve only read one Percy Jackson book and was way disappointed.  Not that that’s the point of this essay on Rick Riordan books and YA fiction.

14) On Ginsburg’s dissent on Texas Voter ID and the Texas Election Law blog via Hasen.

15) I want some Breaking Bad action figures!

16) More on the Republican attack on science funding.

Quick hits (part I)

1) The New Yorker’s Maria Konnikova on Walter Mischel (the marshmallow self control guy)

2) Really interesting NYT profile of super-far-right Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach

3) That would be so awesome if the ability to effectively grow Alzheimer’s brain cells in the lab actually leads us much more quickly to a cure or effective prevention.

4) So there was a Wire reunion and you can watch it.

5) Vox says this attack ad makes the Willie Horton ad look tame.  I think they are right.  To add insult to injury, the Republicans actually put this policy in place.

6) On what grade level of reading ability are presidents’ speeches over time.

7) Did the pro-life movement actually lead to more single moms?  Maybe.

8) Interesting Ozy piece on how cancer may ultimately be an ineradicable part of life.  Actually reminded me of one of my favorite science fiction works ever, Robert Sawyer’s Calculating God, in which the nature of cancer plays a fundamental role.

9) The keyboards from early IBM PC’s (my dad had one) were simply the awesomest.

10) James Surowiecki on the capitalism and streaming entertainment services.

11) Loved this description of Curb Your Enthusiasm from a recent Larry David appearance:

“ ‘Curb’ is about what’s beneath the surface of social intercourse, the things we think about and can’t say,” David told Remnick. “I’m normal. If I said the things he does”—he, of course, being the Larry David who goes around eating his in-laws’ manger scene, inviting a sex offender to a Seder, and teaching kids how to draw swastikas—“I’d be beaten up. He’s a sociopath!” A pause. “But I’m thinking them!”

So is everyone else, and that’s the brilliance of “Curb.” The show exists to prove how thin the veneer of social custom and courtesy really is, and to reveal the inner sociopath that we are supposed, at all costs, to suppress.

12) 538 looks at which diet will help you lose the most weight.  Easy, the one that is easiest for you to stay on.

13) How to get the right kind of sleep depending upon what your test the next day will be on.  Seriously.

14) Really liked this TNR piece on how judges should respond to burdensome laws on the right to vote and the right to abortion when legislators are so clearly lying about their actual intent:

But if courts cannot, and should not, prove deliberate discrimination, they can still apply objective balancing tests, to weigh the benefits of a law against its costs. When they do, the relevant question changes: judges no longer ask whether a legislature’s motivation was to limit abortion or to protect patient safety, but whether such a law can be justified by a reasonable person who takes both values seriously. In an important sense, this inquiry is far less fraught and far more coherentno mind-reading necessary.

15) Andrew Sullivan on the latest out of the Vatican

Did Friends ruin Sitcoms?

I’ll be honest, I somehow woke up with this song in my head this morning, so I was just looking for an excuse to make a post with it:

Since Vox ran an article today about how Friends ruined TV (short version: there’s just not enough funny and really attractive people out there) that seemed like excuse enough.

Mega Quick hits (part I)

Lots and lots this week.  Two big parts coming at you.

1) Really liked this from Kristof on the way to beat poverty.  Low-hanging policy fruit that it’s just crazy we’re not investing in:

The visits [to poor families from home nurses] have been studied extensively through randomized controlled trials — the gold standard of evidence — and are stunningly effective. Children randomly assigned to nurse visits suffer 79 percent fewer cases of state-verified abuse or neglect than similar children randomly assigned to other programs. Even though the program ends at age 2, the children at age 15 have fewer than half as many arrests on average. At the 15-year follow-up, the mothers themselves have one-third fewer subsequent births and have spent 30 fewer months on welfare than the controls. A RAND Corporation study found that each dollar invested in nurse visits to low-income unmarried mothers produced $5.70 in benefits.

This also featured prominently in the terrific How Children Succeed.  Which you really, really should read.  Yes, you.

2) Fall color map of North Carolina foliage.

3) Stop taking vertical photos, says this post.  Actually, now that I pay attention to composition I always think about whether to compose horizontally or vertically and many a photo should be vertical.  That said, people really need to stop with the vertical videos.  So obvious with all the bucket challenge videos.

4) It’s not easy accusing someone of sexual assault in Florida.

5) We should be like Germany.  At least when it comes to renewable energy.

6) Nice set of tips to help kids learn.  

7) The power of random noise in biology and why identical twins are not identical.

8) How a species of porpoise is going extinct before our eyes.

9) Once many addicts kick their drug of choice, they end up addicted to sugar.  Mmmm, donuts.

10) I really liked this Kevin Drum post on how images rule our world.  If you have any doubt, just think of how the news would be different the past couple weeks without A) the Isis beheading videos; and B) the Ray Rice video.

11) The political tables have turned and now Democrats are the ones using “cultural issues” i.e., gay marriage and birth control, as a political weapon.

12) Stupid people are quite convinced of their own intelligence.  Than again, so am I.  Uh oh.

13) If you’ve heard of the Food Babe, you know she’s an ascientific idiot.

14) Medieval style longsword fighting is making a comeback. So much cooler than fencing. I love how the subjects of this video have bruises on their faces.

15) About that politics of smell piece, here’s a really nice takedown from Andrew Gelman.  Also love this short critique from Seth Masket from when he shared my earlier post on FB:

Would it be nuts to say that spouses tend to come from similar communities, racial groups, socio-economic levels, etc., and that those groups tend to have not only ideological similarities but also dietary similarities, and that diet can influence body odor?

16) Sit less; live longer.  (It’s the telomeres, JD!)

17) Thomas Frank (of Wht’s the Matter with Kansas fame) wrote a horrible column attacking political scientists.  Great takedown from Chait.  And an even better one from Ezra.

18) David Brooks says friendships are good.  Uhhh, yeah.  Seriously, though, the decline of adult friendships is a problem.  I wish I had more good ones.

Quick hits (part I)

1) An interesting critique of the recent low-carb vs. low-fat study.

2) A Wake County, NC evangelical Christian teacher compares working in her godless, secular, high school to being in a concentration camp.  My favorite part… it’s been known to turn sweet, Christian girls into lesbians!

3) Was not expecting to find great commentary on the leaked celebrity nude photos in Playboy (I’m there just for the cultural commentary!)

4) Research shows the benefits of exercise especially for kids with ADHD.  I’ve got to get my son to read this and actually move around during his free time at school instead of playing on the computer.

5) Nice profile of competitive races (including my friend and former student, Sarah Crawford) in Wake County, NC.

6) Assessing teachers with student surveys.  With the right survey questions I think this can be a useful tool.  Ideally, this will be used not primarily for assessment, but as useful data to help teachers improve.  Elizabeth Green argues that we need to focus far more effort on ways to help teachers improve their skills and it sounds like their is some real potential if intelligently using the student survey data.

7) Robert Reich says college is a “ludicrous” waste of money.  He’s wrong.  But he is right that we need to invest way more in community colleges.

8) More on the NC prosecutor responsible for the conviction of the two NC men recently exonerated from a 30+ year old murder convictions.  He still insists he was right and that the men are guilty.  Scary to think of the power this man has had over people’s lives.

9) Really enjoyed this essay from a mom who has identical twins with TSC (the disease my son, Alex, has).   On a scientific level, I found it quite interesting how differently this genetic disease manifested in her two identical twins.

10) Love this libertarian deconstruction of how the Chancellor of UC-Berkely doesn’t really get free speech at all.

11) Auto-pilot is dangerous because it lulls humans into complacency.

12) Really bothered by this story of a Pennsylvania mom who has been sent to prison for providing her daughter an abortion pill.  No way that should be the proper punishment under the circumstances described.

13) I didn’t actually make it all the way through this AO Scott essay on the death of adulthood in American culture, but I really did enjoy the parts I read (I enjoy most anything that discusses Don Draper, Tony Soprano, and Walter White under a single theme).

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