Where did all the stolen cars go?

We recently purchased a car for the first time since 2012.  Bought a 2012 Kia Sedona (replacing a 2000 Mazda MPV).  So far, I love it– more room, more power, and yet better mpg than the MPV.  And the kids are so happy to finally have a minivan with automatic doors (judging by the elementary school carpool drop off, you’d think we were the last people on the planet without).

Anyway, given that our two cars were from 2000 and 1998 (my Corolla is still going strong) I still had nice, normal-sized key.  I must say, I’m not at all a fan of the monstrosity that turns on the Kia.  I do like to keep my key chain minimalist.  That said, I learned from the Upshot this week that the monstrous key has been amazingly effective in reduce auto thefts:

The most important factor is a technological advance: engine immobilizer systems, adopted by manufacturers in the late 1990s and early 2000s. These make it essentially impossible to start a car without the ignition key, which contains a microchip uniquely programmed by the dealer to match the car.

Criminals generally have not been able to circumvent the technology or make counterfeit keys. “It’s very difficult; not just your average perpetrator on the street is going to be able to steal those cars,” said Capt. Don Boller, who leads the New York Police Department’s auto crime division. Instead, criminals have stuck to stealing older cars…

You can see this in the pattern of thefts of America’s most stolen car, the Honda Accord. About 54,000 Accords were stolen in 2013, 84 percent of them from model years 1997 or earlier, according to data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, a trade group for auto insurers and lenders. Not coincidentally, Accords started to be sold with immobilizers in the 1998 model year. The Honda Civic, America’s second-most stolen car, shows a similar pattern before and after it got immobilizer technology for model year 2001.

Funny to think my 98 Corolla is now a much greater theft risk than the 2012 Kia.  Seems like crime and technology are somewhat of an arms race, it’s pretty cool when technology just wins– at least for the short term.

Quick hits (part II)

1) I love the size of my Iphone 4s.  I wouldn’t even want the bigger size of the 5, but I’ll need it if I ever want 4g.  Apparently, I’m in quite the minority– at least on a global level– of preferring a smaller smartphone.  I had known about this fact, but did not realize that it is because for so many Asian users, the smartphone is their only internet-connected screen.

2) College education should not be trade school, for lots of good reasons.

3) A children’s book to teach your child to be overly-worried about stranger abductions.  Just what the modern parent needs.

4) And love this Slate report on how much less freedom today’s children have than their parents.

5) This essay on evolution is so awesome.  Totally deserves it’s own post.  But:

So if someone asks, “Do you believe in evolution,” they are framing it wrong. That’s like asking, “Do you believe in blue?”

Evolution is nothing more than a fairly simple way of understanding what is unquestionably happening. You don’t believe in it — you either understand it or you don’t. But pretending evolution is a matter of faith can be a clever way to hijack the conversation, and pit it in a false duality against religion. And that’s how we end up with people decrying evolution, even as they eat their strawberries and pet their dogs, because they’ve been led to believe faith can only be held in one or the other.

But there’s no reason for people of faith to reject the mountains of data and the evidence of their own senses. Reconciling is easy: Believe, if you want to, that God set up the rules of evolution among His wonders, along with the laws of physics, and probability, and everything else we can see and measure for ourselves. But don’t deny evolution itself, or gravity, or the roundness of Earth. That’s just covering your eyes and ears. And only monkeys would do that.

6) Totally love slurpees.  The complete abscence of 7-11’s from the Triangle area just kills me (the imitators are just not as good).  Now, I understand why I love slurpees:

On a sweltering August day, what better to cool you down than a “semi-frozen drink comprising tiny frozen particles each of which contains the proper proportions of water, flavoring and carbon dioxide.” Mmmmm.

7) Yet more evidence that actual voter fraud is only slightly more common than Bigfoot.  But Republicans are only genuinely concerned with fair elections in their support for Voter ID laws.

8) I love the utter genius/craziness of the internet that there is a tumblr dedicated to depictions of anatomically incorrect lobsters.

9) I’ve never really liked the term “African-American” but I’m a little uncomfortable being the judge of that as a white person.  I liked this essay on the problems with it from a Black person upon visiting Africa.

10) Nobody ever believes high-powered politicians, CEO’s, etc., who say they are leaving to spend more time with the family.  Here is one who explains how he genuinely is:

Friends and colleagues often ask my wife how she balances her job [doctor and professor] and motherhood. Somehow, the same people don’t ask me.

11) Where’s my metric system?!

12) The return of Ted Lasso.  If you are Premier League fan, this is pure genius.

13) The case for starting teaching statistics in Kindergarten.  I’m not sure about kindergarten, but there’s definitely something to this.

14) The Persian Gulf war photo nobody would publish.  I’m pretty sure I’ll never forget it– viewer discretion advised.

15) Sean Hannity is a child.  He resents Stephen Colbert pointing this out.

16) Quora on “what is the single most revealing thing about any person?”  A number of variations on the following quote, which I think is pretty true and pretty awesome:

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”

~Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

17) I don’t know much about Alcoholics Anonymous, but I do know that it’s not actually based on any science.  Meanwhile, we’ve learned a ton about the science of addiction in recent years.  Yet, our society still overly relies on this totally a-scientific approach.

18) Are you a narcissist?  That’s the only question you need to find out.

 

 

What is funny?

My oldest son David did Improv camp this week and had a great time.  This afternoon I got to attend a performance.  David had a lot less polish than some of the kids, but he was definitely funny.  (Every time I ask about a class presentation he reports back on the laughter, which is why I signed him up for this).  Anyway, it led to a number of interesting discussions this week about what is funny?  I knew some about the incongruity theory and we talked about that.  But, right away it is fairly obvious that just because something is unexpected doesn’t make it funny and that expected things can be quite funny (I can watch “A George divided against himself…” 1000 times and still find it funny).

(I laughed hard just now at the youtube clip).

Anyway,  little googling and I came across the Benign Violation Theory of humor, which I find quite compelling.  I was a little annoyed with myself that I was unaware of it despite a huge series in Slate this spring as well as this nice summary in the New Yorker on-line:

McGraw found his preferred universal theory in a 1998 journal article by a Stanford University researcher named Thomas Veatch. Veatch proposed that humor emerges when something seems wrong or unsettling but is actually benign. (His favorite joke was the following: Why did the monkey fall from the tree? Because it was dead.) Nobody paid much attention to Veatch’s theory, until McGraw, with a graduate student named Caleb Warren, dug it up a decade later and dubbed it the Benign Violation Theory.

Benign Violation explained why the unexpected sight of a friend falling down the stairs (a violation of expectations) was funny only if the friend was not seriously injured (a benign outcome). It explained Jerry Seinfeld’s comedic formula of pointing out the outrageous things (violation) in everyday life (benign), and Sarah Silverman’s hilarious habit of rendering off-color topics (violation) harmless (benign) in her standup routines. It explained puns (benign violations of linguistic rules) and tickling (a perceived physical threat with no real danger).

And it explained something that had particularly vexed Incongruity theorists: humor’s ability to help people cope with stress. Transforming actual violations into benign violations also explained the famed hospital clown Patch Adams’s ability to cheer up terminally ill children, Chris Rock-style racial humor that manages not to be racist, and political satire.

Anyway, pretty interesting stuff.  Here’s a not-all-that-funny TED talk on the theory:

After 13 years you will have zero lust for your spouse

Or so it seems if you follow the math in this NPR story about how people need to “settle” in their choice of a mate:

With married couples, he points out, “liking declines at a rate of 3 percent a year, whereas lust declines at a rate of 8 percent per year,” so the smarter, long-term investment is finding someone you genuinely like.

Okay, definitely I agree with the conclusion, but I suspect the statistics of liking and lust are a little more complicated than this explanation.  That said, as one who as always been quite skeptical of the idea of a “soul mate” and somebody who loves the idea of applying Moneyball principles to most anything:

Our mate preferences have been shaped by natural selection’s obsession with physical attractiveness and resources as well as the messages our friends, families and favorite shows transmit about sweethearts and soul mates. And it is at the start of relationships, when we need to make smart, long-term decisions, that we are least likely to do so because we’re in the throes of lust, passion and romance.

Or, as Tashiro puts it, returning to our alcohol analogy: “It would seem wise to hand off the keys to someone with more lucidity until your better sensibilities return.”

Which is why Tashiro advocates a new approach to dating, one that is not so much about lowering standards as giving yourself better ones. Call it “Moneyballing” relationships (Tashiro does); it’s all about finding undervalued traits and assets in the dating market. And, just like with baseball, it starts with trying to ignore the superficial indices of value — attractiveness, wealth — in favor of hidden attributes with a stronger correlation to long-term relationship success.  Citing research that finds no reliable link between income level or physical attractiveness and relationship satisfaction, Tashiro steers his readers toward traits such as agreeableness…

Plus, he adds, studies also suggest that agreeable partners are in fact “better in bed” and less likely to cheat over the long haul.

Agreeableness sounds great.  I’m also wondering what these other characteristics are.  Basically, the idea, though, seems to be a more social-science way of saying “don’t be superficial.”

(Early) Quick hits (part I)

I’m on vacation in the NC mountains for the latter part of the week, so lots of quick hits.  Here’s part I a day early:

1) Wired presents the most ridiculous laws in America, in photos.   Good stuff here.

2) 10 things to do in college (besides going to class).

3) Some potentially nasty effects of climate change.

4) What that happiest cities in America have in common

5) How Dr. Strangelove debunks the ridiculous arguments of the DC Circuit decision.

6) So, about how MOOCs were going to spell the end for traditional universities.

7) FIFA’s complete backwardness on head injuries is truly appalling (though, so is most everything about FIFA).

8) Did you hear about the 12-year old whose science project on Lionfish was a scientific breakthrough?  Well… not exactly.  It’s an interesting and complicated story.

9) If conservatives really wanted to fight poverty, they should send everybody a check.  Seriously.

10) 20 words that once meant something totally different.  On a related note, I recently learned that the origins of “lousy” was to refer to a person infested with lice.

11) The overblown stigma of genital herpes.

12) Drum explains how Republicans latest tax bill in the House actually increases taxes on the poor while lowering them on the rich.  Not that anybody should find this remotely surprising.

13) The latest research suggests that close to 10% of kids with autism actually end up leaving the diagnosis behind.  And, it’s real, not just a mis-diagnosis in the first place.  There’s some correlates with these outcomes, but, sadly, no easy answers.   If you only read one quick hit, this should be it.

Quick hits (part I)

Another double quick hits weekend!  Here goes…

1) Arthur Brooks (whom I am generally not a fan of) has a nice NYT column on happiness.  Nice pithy headline: love people, not pleasure.

2) RFK Jr is a rabid anti-vaccine advocate.  That’s good for viruses; bad for humans.

3) I loved my summer break from school (and hey, still do) and I love my kids’ summer break.  But I do get why maybe it is not such a good thing.

4) Want less polarization in DC?  Give the political parties more money.  Seriously.

5) How reading on-line is different from reading on paper.  I so much prefer the “real” version and will always choose it when given the choice.

6) TNR’s Danny Vinik on Paul Ryan’s anti-poverty plan.

7) Jeffrey Toobin on redistricting in Florida.

8) Maybe there’s more to it (surely there is) than that everybody needs seven hours of sleep.

9) Oh man, I love the trolley problem in ethics.  Shame to think it might not actually be all that helpful.

10) So, the New Yorker has completely opened up their on-line archives for the next few months.  That’s free access to so many amazing articles.  Here’s a nice compilation of recommended ones.   And another from Slate.

Who wants to lower the drinking age?

So, this was a little different in my daily Gallup email.  They looked at support for lowering the drinking age to 18.  It’s held pretty stable at roughly 75% favoring the current age of 21 for the past decade.  What was most interesting was how this breaks down by various groups.  I actually found the lack of variation to be the most interesting part.  For the most part, these are not large gaps:

Favor or Oppose Lowering Drinking Age to 18, by Subgroup

Interestingly, about the biggest gap there is between any clearly opposed groups is the liberal-conservative gap.  The conservatives and weekly church attenders sure do like their 21 drinking age.  The gender gap os 6 points is fairly small.

For me, I hate the moralism that lies behind support for the current drinking age.  Not to mention, it seems crazy to me that you can buy an assault weapon, legally die for your country, buy a house, etc., but not a beer.  That said, given what we know about brain development, I think there’s a decent case to be made for postponing the judgement impairment effects of alcohol until the brain’s judgment centers have developed a little more.

Super-Mega Quick hits

Sure, I’m at the beach, but quick hits will not be denied!  (In fact, it’s extra long as a direct result)  There’s a ton, but I didn’t feel like breaking them up this week.  Sorry.  Enjoy…

1) Krugman on conservative delusions about inflation.  It really is pretty amazing how these continue.

2) Challenges universities face from a professor’s point of view.

3) Loved this essay in the Atlantic on how all the mothers in animated movies are dead.  Or at least essentially out of the picture.  A notable exception– The Incredibles, one of the best animated films in the past decade (and a favorite of all the Greene kids and parents).

4) Nice Brenday Nyhan in the Upshot.  When beliefs and facts collide, beliefs win.  Though, not for me and my enlightened and scientifically-minded readers :-).

5) Apparently, this is the year of 42 year old women.  It just so happens I’m married to one.

6) Kristof on just one more sad story of wronful imprisonment.  I’m going to be reading this guy’s book.

7) Three psychological findings I wish I’d known in high school.  Indeed.

8) I so loved classic rock when I was a teenager.  I thought I was much too cool for the rock of the times.  Of course, now that’s “classic rock” too.  538 with a look by the numbers.

9) Nice Economist piece on the myth of the omnipotent presidency and the damage that the myth does.

10) Yahoo Tech presents 15 entertaining novelty twitter accounts.  Some of these really are awesome.

11) Fascinating story on the last days of Diane Rehm’s husband and how we starved/dehydrated himself to death (he had advanced Parkinson’s).

12) Back before youtube there was jibjab.  This land is your land was a revelation.

13) Okay, turns out that whole how to/not to praise children thing really is getting complicated.  Still, I think it is clear that it is a good idea not to over-praise nor praise excessively for innate abilities.

14) Nice Salon piece on how NC”s new Republican-led voter disenfranchisement laws really are the most evil in the country.

15) I was fascinated by this Atlantic piece on how the “crossover” has taken over the new car market.  I had no idea.  Of course, my cars are from 1998 and 2000.  Really interesting on the history of cars versus minivans versus SUV’s, etc.

16) When I first read about the Kentucky State Senator and the temperature on Mars, I figured he couldn’t really be that dumb.  Turns out he’s not.  But still pretty damn stupid.  I’m sorry, Democratic state legislators just don’t come this dumb.

17) Pope Francis, radical environmentalist.

18) There was going to be a Seinfeld episodes about guns, but the cast nixed it when they were already rehearsing.

19) It is just too easy to be declared a suspicious person by the US Government.  With all sorts of bad consequences.

20) How coffee fueled the Civil War.  My sense is that stimulant drugs have fueled soldiers whenever and wherever they have been available.

21) You all know about my love for apples.  Turns out, I’ve really got to get my wife to start eating more.

Marriage and kindness

Really, really good post in the Atlantic on what makes for a happy marriage (based on lots of social science studies).  One of the best things I’ve read on what makes a good marriage.  If you are married or ever plan on being married, it’s surely got useful advice.  Or heck, even in a romantic relationship ever.  The encouraging news– be nice, it works:

Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together. Research independent from theirs has shown that kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated—feel loved. “My bounty is as boundless as the sea,” says Shakespeare’s Juliet. “My love as deep; the more I give to thee, / The more I have, for both are infinite.” That’s how kindness works too: there’s a great deal of evidence showing the more someone receives or witnesses kindness, the more they will be kind themselves, which leads to upward spirals of love and generosity in a relationship.

There are two ways to think about kindness. You can think about it as a fixed trait: either you have it or you don’t. Or you could think of kindness as a muscle. In some people, that muscle is naturally stronger than in others, but it can grow stronger in everyone with exercise. Masters tend to think about kindness as a muscle. They know that they have to exercise it to keep it in shape. They know, in other words, that a good relationship requires sustained hard work…

There are many reasons why relationships fail, but if you look at what drives the deterioration of many relationships, it’s often a breakdown of kindness. As the normal stresses of a life together pile up—with children, career, friend, in-laws, and other distractions crowding out the time for romance and intimacy—couples may put less effort into their relationship and let the petty grievances they hold against one another tear them apart. In most marriages, levels of satisfaction drop dramatically within the first few years together. But among couples who not only endure, but live happily together for years and years, the spirit of kindness and generosity guides them forward.

In one interesting study, those in failed relationships responded to (subtle )requests for connection only a third of the time whereas those in healthy, lasting relationships responded nearly 90%.  Honestly, I know I’m well above 33%, but I think I’ve got work to do to hit 87%.  But, now I’m going to make a real effort.

On the other hand, another key of relationship quality is how one responds to the good news a partner shares (interestingly, much more important than when they share bad news).  I’m pretty sure both Kim and I are quite good at this– active constructive, in the parlance.  So, even if I’m not up to the 87% reciprocating kindness/connection, at least I’ve got the response to good news down.  Of course, twenty years of a happy marriage does suggest things are going right.

Video of the day

Haven’t had a good time-lapse in a while.  This one of Banff national park in Canada is pretty awesome:

Quick hits

1) Derek Thomspon on how college is like sunscreen (a basic protection from the vicissitudes of the modern economy).  On a related note, Americans think we have the best colleges– we don’t.  Actually, our elite universities really are the best.  But on average, we’re not so special:

When President Obama has said, “We have the best universities,” he has not meant: “Our universities are, on average, the best” — even though that’s what many people hear. He means, “Of the best universities, most are ours.” The distinction is important.

2) I so want this camera.  From what I can tell, pretty much everything you could ever possibly want in a camera you can easily take with you anywhere.   Bokeh with a truly pocket-sized camera!

3) Is it just me, or do soccer players trade jerseys less than they used to.  I love this tradition.  From this great NYT story on jersey trades from the last World Cup.

4) Just to get some attention, Ann Coulter went on an anti-soccer rant.  Here’s why she’s right to fear the World Cup.

The core problem with embracing soccer is that in so doing, America would become more like the rest of the world.

Which is why Coulter should be very afraid. Because America is embracing soccer…

Worse, from Coulter’s perspective, Americans like soccer for the very reason she loathes it: It connects us to the rest of the world. Earlier this year, I wrote an essay entitled “The End of American Exceptionalism,” which argued that on subjects where the United States has long been seen as different, attitudes in America increasingly resemble those in Europe. Soccer is one of the best examples yet.

5) As two of my favorite shows ever, I loved this Slate piece on how Seinfeld actually set the groundwork for The Sopranos and subsequent great television.  Seriously!

But Seinfeld’s impact resonated beyond comedy. Its serene belief that characters did not have to be likable as long as they were interesting foreshadowed a change in TV drama that wouldn’t settle until the late ’90s, when HBO turned a show about violent gangsters into an award-winning hit. We tend to forget that the first coldly expedient hero to anchor an influential, long-running series named after him wasn’t Tony Soprano. It was Jerry Seinfeld.

6) Joseph Stiglitz argues that extreme inequality is not inveitable.  Rather, it is a policy choice.

7) With all the attention to the facebook experiment (my take: every time you log into your feed, facebook is “manipulating your emotions.”  It’s always been a non-random sample that FB will tweak as they like) here’s a nice piece on how FB decides what’s in your feed.  Always a good idea to “like” stuff you actually like and ignore or hide stuff you don’t.  I “like” Wired and “New Yorker” and certain friends and see a bunch of them.  I’ve never “liked” a photo of food and I never will.

8) The rise of DIY abortion in Texas.

9) I enjoyed telling my teenager about this “why teenagers act crazy” piece in the NYT.

10) Finland’s school kids get a lot of recess.  David Greene would be so jealous.  Is this a key to their educational success?  Maybe, maybe not.  But it is interesting and certainly shows you can have high achievement with lots of time for breaks.

11) Want somebody to like you more?  Ask them to do a favor for you.  Seriously.

12) Fascinating story of a mentally ill bonobo and how human psychiatry helped him.

13) How Lionel Messi is just amazing via an exhaustive 538 statistical analysis.  Interesting how there’s Messi and Ronaldo and then everyone else way below.  Also, Messi gets it done without actually even running all that much.

Alright, 13 is enough for one go.  Back with some more tomorrow.

Map of the day

Smoking by state via Amazing Maps

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