Mega Quick hits (part I)

1) I know the Food Babe is low-hanging fruit, but her scientific illiteracy is so bad it’s truly laughable (in this case her advice for air travel).

2) Apparently there’s nothing to lose in applying to literally dozens of colleges.  Well, nothing but thousands of dollars in applications fees.  Oh, the rich.

3) John Judis argues that it is unlikely that Hillary Clinton will win the presidential election in 2016.  He makes a pretty good argument, but I still think you have to consider her the odds-on favorite.

4) Another great column from Kristoff on how whites don’t get it.

WE all stand on the shoulders of our ancestors. We’re in a relay race, relying on the financial and human capital of our parents and grandparents. Blacks were shackled for the early part of that relay race, and although many of the fetters have come off, whites have developed a huge lead. Do we ignore this long head start — a facet of white privilege — and pretend that the competition is now fair?

Of course not. If we whites are ahead in the relay race of life, shouldn’t we acknowledge that we got this lead in part by generations of oppression? Aren’t we big enough to make amends by trying to spread opportunity, by providing disadvantaged black kids an education as good as the one afforded privileged white kids?

Can’t we at least acknowledge that in the case of race, William Faulkner was right: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

5) Of course we are all now well familiar how our justice system is corrupted by elected judges.  It only makes sense that it is also corrupted by elected state attorneys general.  Depressing NYT editorial.

6) Some smart analysis from Thomas Mills on the elections in NC.

7) XKCD guide to dimensions.  Pretty cool.

8) So, this was interesting.  An article about how hot air hand dryers spread germs (I hate them).  The end of the article reveals the research was funded by the paper towel industry and performed under conditions not at all like the real world.

9) A couple good TNR pieces on the Jon Gruber health care mess.

10) How Republican outside spending groups are using twitter to get around the no coordination issue.  Devious.

11) Nice profile of John Oliver and his HBO show.

12) In response to a clueless NYT column, Seth Masket explains why the South is no longer Democratic (hint: it involves race).

13) Is there anything lamer than climate change deniers bringing it up every time we get a cold snap.  It’s so depressing that people this stupid serve in the US Congress.

14) Are TV and video games bad for children’s development.  Maybe, but if so it’s a really small effect.

15) Sure, LARCs are pretty awesome, but if you stop and think about it there’s really been very little development in the basic aspects of birth control.

16) I assume that Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith believe lots of crazy stuff but are smart enough to keep it too themselves.  Their kids, however, don’t know that you just don’t talk like this.  This interview is pretty hilarious.

17) I loved Choose Your Own Adventure books when I was a kid.  Creator of the series, RA Montgomery just died.  Nice obituary in the Times.

18) Kids aren’t what’s holding back career women– it’s lame husbands.

19) So, maybe you are not really guilty of that capital murder?  Get your appeal in a day late due to a bad lawyer.  Tough luck.  Excellent and depressing series from the Post and the Marshall Project.

20) Australian TV anchor wears exact same outfit for a year and nobody notices because he’s a man.

21) Heard a really intersting story on NPR during the week about attempts to revitalize Atlantic City.  In truth, it’s pretty hopeless.  It’s success was built entirely on having an East Coast monoploy on casino gambling.  No there’s basically a gambling arms race and nobody is winning.  States are doing themselves no favors in thinking that casinos are going to solve all their problems.  Read this one.

22) This light of my life is 4 today.


Will your birth control fail?

Over 10 years?  Probably.  Love this super-cool interactive graphic from NYT on 0-10 year failure rates for common birth control based on “typical” and “perfect” use.  (You really should click through to play with the interactive version):


Three things I found especially interseting.  First, those LARCs really are quite effective (and there’s basically only “perfect” use).  Secondly, it’s pretty amazing to see the difference between typical and perfect use of the less effective methods.  And third, those less effective methods sure lead to a lot of pregnancies over the long term.

If we treated mental illness like physical illness

OMG this cartoon is so awesome:

robot hugs

Eat more crickets!

As many of you know, I’m a notoriously picky eater.  That said, I actually love the idea of humans eating more insect protein.  Why?  This chart (from KnowMore)

Why you should be eating more crickets

I still do eat beef, but the information here is one of the reasons I have been trying to replace it with chicken when I eat meat.  And as we see here, insects are the most efficient way to produce animal protein.  When it comes to weird food hangups, though, I just hate to eat meat where it reminds me of the animal it came from.  In large part, this means no bones or things like chicken legs.  You’ll never get me to stick a cricket in my mouth, but powdered cricket protein in my food?  Sure.

America’s most urgent health care problem

No, it’s not Ebola, but this from Gallup is too close for comfort.

Trend: What would you say is the most urgent health problem facing this country at the present time?

On the bright side, I’d say the nearly 40% consistently recognizing our actual problems is pretty encouraging (especially compared to the clueless “government interference” crowd).

But, Ebola more of a problem than obesity and cancer?!  Of course, I suspect the single word “urgent” helps pump up the Ebola numbers.  But still.  Get over it already America.  And if you are so damn worried about Ebola, give to MSF instead of banning Rwandan kids from schools.

Quick hits (part II)

c1) I listened to a fascinating Fresh Air recently by the author of a new book about the birth control pill came to be– and it’s no simple story.  And if you don’t want to listen, here’s a nice piece about it in the New Yorker.

2) Speaking of which, one of the key figures in creating the Pill has this to say:

Sex could become purely recreational by 2050 with large numbers of babies in the Western world born through IVF, the professor who invented the contraceptive pill has claimed.

Prof Carl Djerassi, the Austrian-American chemist and author, said he believes that the Pill will become obsolete because men and women will choose to freeze their eggs and sperm when young before being sterilised.

Yeah, I just don’t think so.  I think he’s better off sticking to inventing contraceptives than predicting the future.

3) We keep hearing about how important the “ground game” is in campaigns now.  But are they doing it right?  Very good piece in Vox.  Speaking of which, really enjoyed Nate Cohn’s take:

Turnout was, of course, far less favorable for Democrats than it was in 2012. But it is preposterous to suggest that Democratic field efforts could produce an electorate that was anywhere near as young or diverse as the one that re-elected Mr. Obama two years ago. If Democratic candidates like Ms. Hagan, Ms. Nunn, Mr. Braley and Mr. Udall needed a 2012-type electorate to win, then they were doomed from the start.

4) I remember learning about infanticide among mammals way back in my “Evolutionary Biology” class at Duke.  Fascinating stuff.  A summary of the latest research on the matter.

5) Excellent Jon Cohn piece on the fact that the US is Ebola free and so many people way over freaked-out.

6) Speaking of which, a Durham teenager was barred from his private school because his dad had recently been to Nigeria.  A judge ordered the school to end the idiotic policy.

7) Then again, maybe school administrators had simply fallen prey to the virus that makes people stupid.  Seriously!

8) The ocean keeps getting louder due to human activity.  Thus, fish have to talk louder now.  Really.

9) The pointlessness of most college essay questions.

10) Too many women in a society for the number of women seems to mean more males committing suicide.

11) What soccer/football fan doesn’t love a good assist.  According to this thorough analysis, assists do not actually tell us much about the quality of a player.

12) A rundown of the many zombie parasites that actually change the behavior of their hosts.

13) The trend of stores opening on Thanksgiving to get a head start on Black Friday is just reprehensible.  Bravo to those fighting the trend (and being fined for it).

14) Senator’s son responsible for the truly horrible deaths of dogs under his care at an Arizona kennel.

15) Enjoyed Chait’s take on Republicans being so upset at China agreeing to reduce carbon emissions.

16) Tim Wu on “consumer sinkholes” and the case of the horrible customer service of United Airlines.

17) I’m reading Chomp to the boys and a main character has an Australian accent.  I love doing accents, but I’ve really been butchering this one (except when I can say G’day Mate).  Watched this last night and did much better.




Mega Quick hits (part I)

iLots and lots of good stuff this week.

1) Paul Krugman on how you (or at least the Republican Party) never gets punished for being obviously and provably wrong on economic policy.  (“Look, people who don’t look like you are getting your hard-earned money!”)

2) Hooray for Obama for forcefully advocating net neutrality.  Boo to Republicans for opposing it… because Obama favors it?  What politicians purposefully take the side of Time Warner and Comcast over small businesses and American consumers?!  Great Oatmeal illustrated piece on net neutrality.  And a really nice Wired explanation of the key points (from earlier this year):

The real issue is that the Comcasts and Verizons are becoming too big and too powerful. Because every web company has no choice but to go through these ISPs, the Comcasts and the Verizons may eventually have too much freedom to decide how much companies must pay for fast speeds.

And, of course, you can’t beat John Oliver on net neutrality.

3) Amazingly, a FIFA investigation of FIFA has concluded that FIFA has done nothing wrong.  I’m shocked.  Shocked.

4) Hanna Rosin catches up with famed fabulist Stephen Glass 15 years after his crimes.  Great stuff.

5) Chait eviscerates the absurdity of the new legal challenge to Obamacare like no other.  Dahlia Lithwick and Barry Friedman say maybe we don’t actually have to worry all that much.  I hope they are right.

6) Pope Francis demotes far-right, Communion-denying Cardinal.  I love this guy more every week.

7) Seth Masket argues that big money does not threaten party control, but rather enhances it.

8) Well now that Kansas has re-elected Sam Brownback, their state budget looks worse than ever.

9) If you are a podcast listener and not listening to Serial, get with it already.  Here’s 10 theories on what really happened.

10) Kevin Drum identifies long-term trends shaping American politics.  (It’s from two years ago, but it’s good stuff).

11) Jeffrey Toobin writes that being a lawyer is still great if you come from an elite law school.  Otherwise, not so much.

12) I love the ego depletion model of willpower.  And all the research seemed pretty damn convincing in Willpower.   But new research says not so fast.   

13) Vox on the best way to lose weight.

The one thing you need to know from science about dieting is rather straightforward. What works is cutting calories in a way that you like and can sustain. That’s it. Fewer calories means more weight loss. It’s really that simple. You can stop reading here if you want….

“It’s the wrong question,” he added. “The better question now should be ‘what is the best diet for different individuals, and how can we match them to those diets?’” To understand this, Gardner said researchers would need to look at people’s behaviors, microbiomes and genetic makeup, and how they respond to particular diets. Until science reveals this more refined picture, remember Caulfield: simplicity is the revelation.

14) Charter schools can be great for truly at-risk kids, but those based on a model of working teachers to the bone, really don’t seem scalable.  It’s good to see some of the intensive charter schools figuring out that maybe they can do this and still let their teachers have a life.

15) Why do obese women earn less money.  Shockingly, the answer is discrimination.

16) When people don’t like the solution to a problem, they will just deny the problem exists.  So says new social science research.

17) Great column from Charles Blow summarizing the history of race and party politics in America.  A very effective and succinct summary of the key development in the last 50 years of American politics.

18) 18 Common words you should replace in your writing.  Yeah, a pretty good list.

19) Enjoyed UNC grad Jason Zengerle on the athletic/academic scandal and Roy Williams:

Except that Williams didn’t actually table his suspicions (however vague he maintains those suspicions were). He acted on them and, although he didn’t bring an end to the “paper classes” scam, he at least ended his team’s participation in it. In the cesspool that is big-time college sports, that’s a commendable course of action. As an athletic department official at one college sports powerhouse put it to me, “Out of the 300 Division One basketball coaches, 290 of them would have looked the other way and perpetuated the fraud, 8 of them would have stopped participating in it, and maybe 1 or 2 would have actually blown the whistle on the whole thing.” Looking at the situation that way, what Williams did isn’t just defensible. It might actually be admirable.

The problem for UNC and Williams, of course, is that, were they to embrace such an argument, they’d be admitting just how debased big-time college sports have become. And, despite acknowledging that their university perpetuated an academic fraud for 18 years, they’re still not willing to admit to that general level of debasement



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