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

Embedded image permalink

Quick hits

1) On the fashions of World Cup soccer coaches.

2) New Republic has a new Jonathan Cohn-led policy blog.  I’m looking forward to good stuff.

3) Really wanted to give this own post since I’m always fascinated by IUD policy, but it’s just not happening.  Anyway, good Slate story about an Ohio legislator who wants to ban coverage for IUD’s (while admitting he doesn’t actually know anything about medicine).

4) So, what do those extra thousands for a premium DSLR lens really get you anyway?

5) How Americans pronounce common tech words (I had no idea some people say “wiffy.”)  And it’s .gif with a soft “g” damnit!

6) Sticking with language, love this on words that are most known to only men or only women.  Two thoughts… Paladin!!  and damn, I thought I’d know more of the “women” words.

7) I’ve only remembered to try this with a paper towel once, but it didn’t quite work.  Maybe I need to shake more.

8) Nice NPR story on trying to be a better parent.

9) It’s really kind of pathetic that it has taken this long to have the technology in place to allow planes to have consistently descending glide paths in their landings.  The good news is that it finally is and that it saves a ton of jet fuel.

10) Loved this on the under-performance of top NBA draft picks.  And 538 makes the case that teams should draft college sophomores (I just don’t think freshman year is always a good enough sample size for prediction).

11) Yes, sports heavy week.  Loved this Atlantic piece on the siblings of World Cup players, especially Clint Dempsey’s big brother.

12) The relationship between political attitudes on guns and abortion.  Richard Nixon brings it all together.

13)Science, politics, and NC beaches.  Personally, I just hope Topsail Beach lasts long enough for me to take my grandkids there.

14) Jeffrey Toobin on when the Constitution itself gets it wrong and (again) the folly of Scalia’s originalism.

Are you high right now?

Probably not, I suppose, but the latest study suggests there is far more drug use going on than traditional methods of studying the issue reveal.  The breakthrough methodology?  Analyzing raw sewage for drugs:

The News: Scientists just performed a giant drug test on two American communities — although they didn’t tell anyone.

By sampling the sewage of two communities in New York state, public health officials were able to estimate how many drugs, including cocaine and methamphetamine, people are using across the state.

The results: People in the Albany communities the researchers studied use at least four times as much cocaine and six times more amphetamines as previously estimated, the researchers said…

The scientists didn’t just scrub the waste for the active components of the drugs, such as cocaine, morphine (the active component of heroin) or amphetamines. They also studied the compounds they break into after our bodies process them. After collecting the samples, the researchers tested them using a technique known as electrospray mass spectrometry, a process that basically sifts and organizes the contents by their mass so scientists can identify them…

Although the studies are not large enough to extrapolate to the entire U.S., the process suggests we could soon begin to see actual numbers of drug use across the country. The science could help correct many of the assumptions that currently plague our conceptions of who uses drugs and how often.

Fascinating stuff!  Time to grab the sewage from the US Capitol before it flows out to join the rest of DC?

Quick hits

Lots of time spent watching World Cup means less time blogging and more quick hits.  Here goes:

1) Speaking of the World Cup, I enjoyed this interactive feature on the club teams of players.   What happened with the Uruguayan player who lost consciousness and was allowed back on the field was unconscionable.  Led me to an interesting story of Tyler Twellman, an American who had his career ended by concussions.   On a light note, enjoyed this Telegraph critique/ranking of World Cup uniforms.

2) Enjoyed this piece in the Nation telling liberals to stop looking for intellectually honest conservatives.

3) Scientific ideas that people get wrong.

4) Every time I drive on the 6-lane (3 in each direction) interstate 95 between Richmond, VA and Springfield, VA, I think, this is insane.  There’s 8 lanes between Durham and Burlington, NC.  I’m quite convinced they need to add more lanes and it would be a good thing.  This Wired article says I’m wrong.  Build more lanes and more traffic just fills them up before you know it.  I don’t doubt that is generally true, but I think traffic in NoVa is already pretty maxed out and that this would really help.

5) Derek Thomspon on why audiences hate hard news.

6) My wife asked me why China, with all its people, is not good at soccer.  Fortunately, I had read this Economist article on the very topic just a few hours before.

7) Why we call soccer “soccer” here in the US (and Australia– love the Socceroos).

8) Andrew Sullivan lets loose on the crazy fever swamp of nonsense that is Fox News.

9) Bill Ayers on the “hard choices” college administrators make.

10) Six things Michael Mann (hockey stick graph) wants you to know about scientists and climate change.

11) Among the best short pieces I’ve read on teaching critical and creative thinking.  I’m going to be using a bunch of these ideas in the future and sharing with the teaching grad students I supervise.

12) Okay, don’t expect you to read beyond the abstract (couldn’t find a nice blog summary), but maybe swing voters who change their minds during an election are basically a myth.

13) It seems are legal system is ever more about sticking it to poor people.  Another sorry example (though, wear your seat belt, damn it).

14) How Led Zeppelin invented modern rock.

15) Oh my, this satirical ad about throwing a “first moon” party is just brilliant and hilarious.

16) Advice on sex to sons before heading off to college.

17) Regardless of what one things of the name Redskins, Jonathan Turley makes a compelling case that the patent office well overstepped its bounds.

18) Don’t know that I agree with everything in this education reform rant, but it’s a helluva rant:

We did this by swallowing the obscene notion that schools and colleges are businesses and children are consumers.

We did this by believing in the infallibility of free enterprise, by pretending America is a meritocracy, and by ignoring the pernicious effects of unrelenting racism…

We did this by demeaning the teaching profession.

We did this by allowing poverty and despair to shatter families.

We did this by blaming these families for the poverty and despair we inflicted on them…

We did this by failing to properly fund schools, making them dependent on shrinking property taxes and by shifting the costs of federal mandates to resource-strapped states and local communities.


Modern marriage and parenthood

Nice piece in the Atlantic about the demographics of modern marriage.  I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, I just think the “capstone” idea of marriage is dumb:

First, the cornerstone theory of marriage no longer applies. Culturally, young adults of all social classes and income levels are less likely to think of marriage as the “cornerstone” of their lives—that is, the first thing they do as adults. Instead, people now think of it as a “capstone”— sort of a trophy for having earned a B.A., obtained a job, and generally learned to live on their own for a while. The national marriage age has gradually ticked up as a result. For people who don’t have all the stones leading up to the capstone, though, the entire order of operations gets messed up.

Don’t have the right person to marry till you have accomplished these goals?  Fine.  But the idea that you should not get married until you have achieved a particular set of goals seems silly to me.  If you are mature enough and have the right person, what does it matter if you have the job you want, the degree you want, etc.?  Why not have that person you love fully invested in your effort to achieve those goals.  Okay, my little rant.  I like my cornerstone marriage.  Anyway, as for the interesting demographics:

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes … actually reverse that. First comes the baby, then, we’ll see.

For people who don’t have a college degree, having a child in wedlock has become the exception, not the rule. According to a new analysis presented at the Population Association of America, among parents aged 26 to 31 who didn’t graduate from college, 74 percent of the mothers and 70 percent of the fathers had at least one child outside of marriage. Even among mothers who had high school degrees or some college but no B.A., the majority of births occur among moms who are either single or cohabiting…

Second, marriage is increasingly something only educated people do. As my former colleague Jordan Weissmann wrote, the less a man earns these days, the less likely he is to have ever been hitched. College-educated people are increasingly only marrying other college-educated people, and they’re more likely to get married overall. One reason less-educated women are having children out of wedlock is that college-educated men are not interested in marrying them.

“The college-educated young adults can see a good future, where they’re likely to find a good partner, pool two incomes, and they’re willing to wait to have kids till they can do that,” Cherlin said. Meanwhile, the less-educated women “don’t see the possibility of finding partners with good incomes. And many are unwilling to give up the opportunity to have a kid by waiting.”

So, what’s wrong with this?  Actually, it’s bad for kids.  Whether married or cohabitating, kids benefit from a stable home. And they are not getting that from unmarried American moms:

The plurality of the moms in the study who didn’t finish high school before having a kid (36 percent) are actually not single: They’re living with a boyfriend. And that would actually be okay, if those relationships were stable. The trouble is, they’re not.

Unlike in Western Europe, where couples cohabit for years and sometimes decades, often with kids, less-educated Americans tend to rotate in and out of cohabiting relationships as the years wear on. They have children with multiple different partners, creating complex webs of child obligations, step-parents, and half-siblings.

“One might say ‘who cares?’ [about the cohabitation],” Cherlin said. “In fact, the French don’t seem to care. Scandinavian people do the same thing. But our cohabiting relationships aren’t like theirs.”

“I’m not saying everyone has to be married, but it’s best for children if their parents are in stable relationships. It doesn’t have to be marriage, it doesn’t have to be two different genders. The problem is the instability of the kids’ lives as they live through all these comings and goings.”

No great thoughts from me on this, just find it all quite interesting.

Quick hits part II

Late.  But as promised.

1) Great Linda Greenhouse column on the politicization of the Supreme Court.

The problem is not only that the court is too often divided but that it’s too often simply wrong: wrong in the battles it picks, wrong in setting an agenda that mimics a Republican Party platform, wrong in refusing to give the political system breathing room to make fundamental choices of self-governance.

2) I’ve been really intrigued by Give Directly since learning about them on Planet Money (I think).  I’ve been meaning to make a decent-sized charitable donation lately (some found money I want to put to good use) and I think these guys might be in the lead.  Nice explanation from Vox.

3) As discussed, conservatives always respond with doom and gloom as to how cutting emissions will ruin the economy.  Turns out a number of states have already made major carbon emissions cuts and seen solid economic growth at the same time.  But perhaps we should just listen to Fox news instead of evidence.

4) This new book on race by Nicholas Lehman is just odd.  Impressive takedown from political scientists extraordinaire, Andrew Gelman.

5) Thomas Mann takes political scientists to task for pretending the growing asymmetry is equally the fault of both parties.  Not guilty!  Mostly, though, a great summary of all the evidence that this is undoubtedly mostly a Republican phenomenon.

6) Tim Noah on how government privatization hurts the middle class.

7) I read the comics 2-4 days per week and when I do, Pearls Before Swine is a favorite.  Alas, I missed the days where Calvin and Hobbes’ Bill Watterson took over (and yes, that is easily the greatest comic strip ever).  I’m really curious if I would have realized this was Watterson’s distinctive style.  Now, I just know.  Great story.

8) The political friendship of Jackie Robinson and Richard Nixon.

9) We basically wouldn’t have the Common Core without Bill Gates.  To which I say, hooray for Bill Gates.  It’s not perfect, but it’s a damn sight better than the status quo ante.

10) I actually think tonight’s Game of Thrones was the most boring in the series.  Lots of action sure, but I suspect I am far from alone in just not really caring about this plotline compared to the others.

Why I love my job

Interesting piece today in NYT on why people hate their (white collar) jobs.  Here’s the key chart:


Any you know what, unlike most all the respondents, I can pretty much answer “have this” to just about all these questions.  Hooray for being a college professor.

Map of the day

From a Vox post arguing (quite correctly) that’s it is time (long past, in fact) for the US to get with the rest of the world and adopt the metric system.  I remember the abortive attempt in the 70′s when I was in elementary school.


Islands in a Metric World, 1971. Since this map was made, the US hasn’t gotten any allies on its lonely island. From “A Metric America: A Decision Whose Time Has Come” by NBS, via USMA


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