Super Mega Labor Day Quick hits

Sorry to disappoint you with your long weekend reading, but between a PS conference and a family trip to Topsail Island, blogging has dropped in priority.  You might even want to space out your reading– I’ve been too lazy to break these up and blogging will still be slow while I catch back up to speed.  So, there’s a ton.

1) Definitely number for for me: Arsonist hits my hotel.  This was actually scary as hell as I was on the 8th floor and one emergency stair was choked with smoke and another was choked with people.  Fortunately, I did not go down the over-crowded one but found a third.

2) The four-word secret to seeming polite.  I’m so going to use this.

3) Boys interrupt and girls do not from an early age.  Apparently, Sarah has not been socialized into this gender role yet.

4) Loving the NYT coverage of the US Open even though I hardly watch tennis anymore.  On the dearth of quality among US Men’s tennis.  On the death of the one-handed backhand (hey, that’s what I used to use).

5) I never really liked the multiverse theory.

6) Yes, even academics should watch what they tweet.  At least if you plan on taking a job at a new institution.

7) Tennessee has been drug testing those seeking welfare benefits.  They are finding very low rates of drug use.

8) The great Civil War hoax (that I had never heard about).

9) Why college textbooks are so expensive.  I love the prescription drug analogy– I’ve used it many times myself.  I have no doubt faculty have to take price more seriously.

10) The Upshot on the blue state disapora.

11) Classic Onion headline (and so true in my experience): “GOP holds solid hold on youth that already look like old men.”

12) Our current drug czar is a recovering alcoholic and believes in focusing on health and treatment.  Hooray!

13) Vox does their own bit on the absurdity of HS start times.  Most interesting to me, apparently my own school system that educated me, Fairfax County, VA, is looking to change it’s start time.  25 years to late for me, but good for them.   And honestly, if a huge county with a high SES population and excellent school system can make this change, maybe they can be a trendsetter.  I sure hope so.

14) I learned from Nurtureshock years ago never to tell my kids their smart.  Still, liked this Khan Academy post on the matter.

15) Ozy on the invention of toilet paper.  Thank God– sure beats the previous alternatives.

16) The infamous monkey in the selife makes a statement.

17) Emily Bazelon on the rise of medical abortions.

18) Anybody who sexualizes innocent photos a father takes of his naked two year old is just sick.  Certainly not the father taking the photos.  These shots are so cute.  What’s wrong with people?!

19) In case you missed the story of the Hollywood producer being held for a bank robbery.  Oh, yeah, he was Black.

20) The Democrats’ plan for 2020.

21) The Ohio legislature versus science.  Ugh.

22) Nicholas Kristof says everyone is a little bit racist.  He’s right.  Of course, I’ve known that since grad school, but still a nice summary of some important social science.

23) Charter schools aren’t quite what they should be.

24) On the remaining sexism in Congress and the continuing difficulty faced by female politicians (this is going onto the next Gender & Politics syllabus).

25) How John Oliver’s awesome viral clips (many seen here) don’t exactly fit in with HBO’s standard business model.

26) Vox on the institutional racism of the war on drugs and the perverse incentives it provides to police forces.

27) Surely you heard the sad story of the eight-year old who accidentally shot her shooting instructor with a submachine gun on full automatic.  UVA poet Greg Orr reflects on how he accidentally shot and killed his brother as a child and the lasting trauma.  I really enjoyed seeing this because I remember when Orr came to read poetry at my HS and spoke of this incident.  Probably about the only guest speaker I remember from high school.

Ice bucket activism

I’ve read a lot of complaints about the ice bucket challenge, but I think too many of them are hoping for a better world where people simply give money to charities without viral campaigns to inspire them to do so.  I thus, very much enjoyed this rebuttal to the skepticism from a young ALS sufferer:

Yes, people are spending money on ice to dump over their heads, but that’s an element of fundraising, like making team T-shirts for a charity or bringing cookies to a bake sale. All the cynics who want people to donate in humility and not post it on our social media feeds completely overlook the fundamental reality that humans are social animals. In the hierarchy of needs, we search for community and fulfill the urge to belong, so donating without dumping buckets of water on our heads disconnects us from a cause. It’s about being a part of something.

The hashtag activists actually create that community. Since when did fighting for something—whether a cure for a disease or gay rights—mean that you needed permission to sit with the cool kids at lunch? What’s the harm of having them there, even the ones who ended up there by accident, the people dumping buckets of iced water on their heads with zero connection to the cause? They are the people who end up at a bar where the proceeds go to charity, and they’re only drinking for fun, but who the fuck are you to kick them out of the party? They’re pumping up the crowds, having a fabulous time, and building momentum. Or are you that desperate for your Facebook feed to go back to engagement announcements and mediocre attempts at food photography?

Keep dumping buckets of iced water over your head and I’ll keep “liking” it. The Ice Bucket Challenge is one of the few things that’s given me hope since I got diagnosed with early ALS six weeks ago, at age 29.

 

If this link works [cool, wordpress handles FB video embeds], here’s my version.  The screaming has been a big hit.

Quick hits (part I)

1) NPR on the power of peer groups in preventing campus rape.

2) Cool optical illusion.

3) Police shoot dogs all the time.  Just hope the police never come to your house looking for a criminal (Balko on the epidemic of shoot first, worry about whether the dog is a potential threat later).

4) Post editorial on the wrong-headedness of the Rick Perry prosecution.  DJC sent me a link suggesting that Perry will be convicted.  I just don’t see it happening.

5) Can taxing the wealthy strengthen democracy?  Probably yes:

The historical record, however, suggests that taxing the wealthiest does have an important, but different, consequence: making the wealthy vested in the common good. In fact, taxing the wealthy was crucial for the emergence of representative government itself.

6) George Will confirms Nixon’s attempts to sabotage peace in Vietnam in order harm LBJ and HH.  Nixon may have done some good things as president, but he was an absolutely abominable human being who would do anything to achieve and protect power.   Or so it was made pretty damn clear to me watching the new HBO documentary on the Nixon tapes.

7) Interesting libertarian piece by Mike Munger on government by unicorn.  Raises good points, to which I say I’ll still take government by horribly fallible humans over the alternative.

8) People in rich counties disproportionately search google about tech stuff (and boy do they love Canon cameras).  In poor counties it’s all about diabetes.  And hell.

9) John Oliver with his typically brilliant job on police militarization.

10) Interesting essay by Lev Grossman on how he struggles as a writer until he started writing fantasy.  I’ve been meaning to read The Magicians for a while.  Will try to do so soon unless some of you tell me otherwise.

11) Dahlia Lithwick on how the police in Ferguson have run roughshod over all sorts of Bill of Rights protections.

12) Lenore Skenazy on helicopter parenting run amok and how today’s parents want to criminalize the behavior that was the parenting approach of their own parents.

13) Fascinating study of why some people, but not others, in a near-death experience (a plane crash) develop PTSD.   I’ve always been a very psychologically stable person, but I’ve never really been pushed.  I’ve always wondered how I would respond to something like this or being in a war zone.  Of course, I hope I never have to find out.

14) That toddler injured by the flash-bang grenade thrown it its crib during a no-knock warrant search?  The county does not think it needs to pay for his medical bills.  Is this America or Russia damnit?!

15) Turns out breakfast is not the most important meal of the day after all.  Maybe.  I actually never ate breakfast at all until I got married and then started eating it every day just because Kim was.  I cannot imagine not doing so now (though sounds like not a bad way to save some calories, actually).

 

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.”

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