Private lives in public bathrooms

I found this Atlantic essay about how we approach public bathrooms absolutely fascinating.  Especially since back in the day I used to struggle a decent bit with paruresis (I’ll never forget the HS band trip to Florida where I would not use the bathroom on the bus and had to hold it in great discomfort for hours and hours– I made sure to dehydrate myself before the return trip).  Also, hits on topics I’ve always found fascinating like proper spacing at men’s urinals as well as talking in the restroom (not a big fan while activities are taking place).

Quick hits

1) I loved seeing “Sue” the T. Rex in Chicago a few years ago.  Here’s the story of how Smithsonian was blindsided on how expensive she would be and was massively outbid.

2) Here’s a school system that thinks making a fellow student “uncomfortable” (in this case by twirling a pencil) should lead to a suspension and psychiatric evaluation.

3) I was prepared to think Jezebel was over-reacting, but these ads are truly horrible.

4) The reason that acceptance rates at top colleges are down is because too many kids are applying to way too many schools.  And you get this:

Bruce Poch, a former admissions dean at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., said he saw “the opposite of a virtuous cycle at work” in admissions. “Kids see that the admit rates are brutal and dropping, and it looks more like a crapshoot,” he said. “So they send more apps, which forces the colleges to lower their admit rates, which spurs the kids next year to send even more apps.”

5) The marijuana legalization opponents predicted a major crime way if marijuana became legal.  Not at all surprisingly, they are wrong.

6) Not just unemployment, but labor force participation rate is a real problem these days.

7) All those constant Lumosity pitches are not based on a lot of actual science, but here’s some evidence that brain-training really works.  Time to start playing the N-back game?  (I’ve actually been thinking this might really benefit my son with ADHD).

8) The best evidence Obamacare is working.  Drum on how you’ll never actually hear even a modest admission of that from conservative sources.

9) I love looking at American health care in a comparative perspective.  A really good article on how the German system works and what we can learn from them.

10) Tell white people they will be a minority and they become more conservative.  Yikes.  Jamelle Bouie on how this means the whole country could end up like Mississippi (double-yikes!)

11) American’s are hopelessly resigned to the fact that we can’t make meaningful changes in campaign finance.  And I’m one of them.  Larry Lessig says we need to get past this.  He’s right, of course.  But I’m just too skeptical of real change.

12) Vox explains the oil curse.  Simple but compelling.

13) I started reading this column about the recent Ebola outbreak and thinking about the book I read last summer by David Quammen about zoonotic diseases.  Then I noticed the column was by Quammen.

14) Listened to a fascinating Fresh Air interview about a new book detailing how Michael Rockefeller (of those Rockefellers) was likely killed and eaten by cannibals.  And here’s a Slate piece on the book.  Pretty amazing and compelling stuff.

15) Been reading for a while about how caffeine can improve your athletic performance.  Here’s a nice how-to guide from Vox.  (Before our 5-mile doughnut run, I actually gave my 14-year old son some caffeine– something he otherwise never has).

16) Totally deserves it’s own post, but since I haven’t gotten around to it yet… Here’s how a recent study find tens of thousands “suspicious votes” in NC.  But history very strongly suggests that when they are examined more closely, only a very small handful will be the result of malfeasance.  Not surprisingly, Republicans are simply pretending otherwise.

17) I’ve long known Jim Demint is a moron.  He argued this week that “big government” had nothing to do with ending slavery.  Jamelle Bouie’s takedown.  Adam Gopnik’s is even better:

This is, in plain English, so ignorant that, as I say, there has been no shortage of corrections. A debate about whether big government freed the slaves is pretty much the only debate that a liberal is guaranteed to win. The Civil War was the original big-government overreach: it came from Washington, D.C.; it involved raising new taxes (in fact, it is the origin of a number of taxes); it confiscated rifles from rebels; it did special favors for minorities (in this case, the special favor of recognizing them as human beings and setting them free from lifelong bondage); and, in the end, it imposed a bureaucracy on an unwilling population (that is, it imposed the Union Army on the South). Many things can be said about the Civil War, but not that it was done with the benign neglect of the federales. The moral point was argued for decades, as it is with most issues in a democracy. But that big government freed the slaves is as sure a fact as any in history.


Quick hits

Got quite busy with a Political Science conference this week (gone Thursday through late last night), but better late than never:

1) Thought this was a really interesting analysis of why Manchester United is performing so much worse without Alex Ferguson.

2) Great essay by Mike Konzal on the conservative myth of building a safety net on charity.  Just doesn’t get the job done.

But this conservative vision of social insurance is wrong. It’s incorrect as a matter of history; it ignores the complex interaction between public and private social insurance that has always existed in the United States. It completely misses why the old system collapsed and why a new one was put in its place.

3) Is American democracy on its way to extinction.  I think not, but I do wonder sometimes.  Interesting essay.

4) Not so easy to work your way through college at today’s tuition prices.

5) How the extreme right has had hugely disproportionate influence in Arizona government.

6) Latest research suggests that Black Death was not spread by fleas on rats.

7) The NCAA cracks down on cat mugs.

8) How a long span of a particularly wet climate may have been the key go Ghengis Khan’s conquests.  On a related note, I also learned that roughly .5% of the world population is a descendant of Genghis Khan.

9) John Dickerson on how Obama learned the value of panic when confronted by the ACA website failure.

10) Nice piece on the Honeymaid “wholesome families” campaign.

11) Found this Post article on the difficulty of filling jobs in an egg-processing plant a really interesting read.

12) A student sent me an email about the government saving millions of dollars just by switching fonts in official publications.  As I expected, it was a pretty faulty analysis.  I am fascinated by fonts, though.

13) The child-less Reihan Salam argues that we should raise taxes on the child-less.


Best ad ever?!

Love, love, love this.  More here.


The clearest evidence of the Yankee infiltration of NC

Not much of a baseball fan these days, but I love this map of favorite baseball team by county for the whole country.  Must admit I was surprised that I’m actually in NY Yankee territory.  But, then again, my hometown of Cary, NC has been referred to as Containment Area for Relocated Yankees.  I guess this is the proof.  Also interesting to see that the Yankees basically fill in gaps where there is no favorite local team.  Lastly, it is sad to me, growing up a NoVA Orioles fan to see that they have been supplanted by the Washington Nationals.  I’ll always be an Orioles fan.

Now That the Baseball Season Is Here, Who’s Your Team ?

Video of the day

Off for a day of family fun.  Entertain yourself with these awesome videos.  Pretty cool to have a dad that is a Pixar animator.  Here’s one:

More here.

Two monitors?

Yesterday in the office was one of those rare days I felt like I would have actually liked to have two monitors.  One to get work done on; one to to function as a TV to watch the NCAA tournament.  I was explaining to my wife how there was extra technology money a few years ago (separate budgets!) and a whole lot of people got a 2nd monitor whether they really needed/wanted it or not.  I declined.  Anyway, nice column by Farhad Manjoo calling into question the idea that two monitors leads to an increase in productivity.  He strikes me as spot on:

The research supports this. One study commissioned by NEC and conducted by researchers at the University of Utah showed that people using a dual-display machine to do a text-editing task were 44 percent more productive than those who used a single monitor.

But for most people, the time spent juggling two windows or scrolling across large documents isn’t the biggest bottleneck in getting work done. Instead, there’s a more basic, pernicious reason you feel constantly behind — you’re getting distracted…

Ms. Mark’s research, based on observations and digital tracking of office workers, has found that our workplaces are bombarded with distractions. Studies show that office workers are interrupted every four to 11 minutes by external distractions including phone calls, email and people who stop by your desk to chat about the weekend.

All such disruptions are costly. It can take workers as much as 25 minutes to regain focus after being interrupted. And constant interruptions create a stressful workplace.

“The second screen can also be an inviting entry-way for self-distraction,” Ms. Mark said. That’s because it’s an ever-present, available canvas calling out for you to fire up a web window and find solace in the latest thrills on YouTube.

Sounds about right to me.  I get distracted enough on one monitor (hmmm, wonder if anybody commented on my blog lately?) that two monitors would probably only exacerbate this.  Now I can convince myself that I’m productive due to only one monitor.  Now, if I could just stop checking email and facebook every two minutes.  (But, maybe it would be every one minute with two monitors).

Quick hits (part 1)

Never posted a quick hits last week.  Friday night (when I usually work on them) at the ACC Tournament and busy weekend of soccer, etc., plus a busy week.  Anyway, I’ve got two weeks worth of hits now.  My goal is part 1 for Saturday morning with part 2 to follow on Sunday.  Enjoy.

1) Totally intrigued by this speed reading app.  It really does work.  Though, I have a hard time imaging myself using this for more than a few minutes at a time.  The Atlantic throws some cold water on things.

2) Really enjoyed this story about the SAT overhaul.  Seems like this will generally be a more meaningful test.  Glad this will take effect in time for my oldest son in a few years.

3) The physics of the new World Cup soccer ball.  Probably better than the last ball.

4) There really is just too much good television these days.  David Carr.

5) Federal judge rules that college faculty don’t have the right to proselytize while teaching.  Damn, there goes next week’s lecture on lobbying.

6) Really amazing first-person account from one of the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre (shared on FB by a VT professor friend who had some friends/colleagues among the victims).

7) Maybe buy local isn’t so great when it comes to meat.

8) It ain’t easy going from being a political reporter to working as a wage slave in a Sporting Goods store.  Nice essay.

9) If the moon were only 1 pixel.

10) Can a rubber hand make you less racist?  Yes.

11) I didn’t actually know about the “thigh gap” till I read this.  Interesting.  And awesome in the “photoshop fail” sense.

12) Robert Reich on America’s “great U turn.”  Good stuff.

13) More evidence that we are just stupid to expect our teenagers to start high school so early in the day.

14) Love this gallery of awkward photos of cats and dogs with furniture.


Map of the day

Amazing maps had a cool map of median income by county.  But it’s too small!

Well, wikipedia has a map with the same information that is bigger and one more year recent data.  So here you go:

File:US county household median income 2012.png

Man, that DC to Boston corridor is where it is at.  Silicon Valley is not doing too bad either.  Also, here in NC Wake County (Raleigh) and Mecklenburg (Charlotte) clearly stand out.


Video of the day

Loved this video of what languages sound like to foreigners.  Once this young woman speaks in English, you realize just what she’s up to in all ther other languages and it’s pretty awesome.

How wolves change the environment

I listened to a TED talk on the subject of the massive and positive environmental impact of re-introducing a top predator, i.e., the wolf in yellowstone.  I was excited to watch and see some amazing visuals of how the landscape was transformed.  Alas, all it was was a guy speaking.  So disappointing.  Thus, it was awesome to come across this video of how Yellowstone has been transformed by a trophic cascade.  Awesome stuff and less than five minutes.  Watch it.  Really.

Life in your 40′s

Loved this essay from Pamela Druckerman.  This is definitely my favorite bit:

There are no grown-ups. We suspect this when we are younger, but can confirm it only once we are the ones writing books and attending parent-teacher conferences. Everyone is winging it, some just do it more confidently.

Honestly, that was one of the biggest revelations to me as a grown-up.  Also, the realization, that some people never really do grow up (or at least fail to handle life with any semblance of mature confidence).

This is good, too:

• There are no soul mates. Not in the traditional sense, at least. In my 20s someone told me that each person has not one but 30 soul mates walking the earth. (“Yes,” said a colleague, when I informed him of this, “and I’m trying to sleep with all of them.”) In fact, “soul mate” isn’t a pre-existing condition. It’s an earned title. They’re made over time.

• You will miss out on some near soul mates. This goes for friendships, too. There will be unforgettable people with whom you have shared an excellent evening or a few days. Now they live in Hong Kong, and you will never see them again. That’s just how life is.

The whole thing is quite good.  Or at least strikes me so at the age of 42.


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