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.

Quick hits (part II)

1) The complex historical factors behind poverty in NC.

2) A journalist volunteered to go to prison (you can do that!) in Arizona.  It wasn’t pretty.

3) Love Michael Pollan’s takedown of the Paleo diet.

4) Can you really say you are sure there’s no such thing as Bigfoot?

5) Very nice essay on the dumbing down of America.

6) On the parallels between Voter ID laws and leash laws for unicorns.  Love this.

7) Love this from a former Marine on the bad combination of military weapons given to police officers without proper training in how to use military weapons.

8) Did you hear about Facebook’s plan to tag satirical posts (e.g., Onion, etc.) because too many people are fooled by them.  Sad.  Love this website that has actual reactions to Onion posts where people did not get the satire.  Good, good stuff.

9) There was an absolutely horrible Op-Ed from a cop in the Washington Post about how citizens need to meekly obey all police authority and we’d have no problems.  I wanted to write a post and didn’t.  Big Steve wrote a better one than I would have anyway.

10) Great piece from Jon Lee Anderson on ISIS and James Foley.  A big part of the problem is that Europeans pay ransoms (not that this would have helped Foley).  They shouldn’t.  And a nice Vox piece on what Obama should do about ISIS.

11) I love cave art.  I’m still waiting for my wife to figure out that I want her to surprise me with some sometime (a reproduction, obviously– though I sure wish I could see the real thing some day).  Some scientists are now suggesting that art is part of the feminization of the human species which proved crucial for the development of human cooperation and society:

A new scientific-minded guess at this riddle is both intriguing and politically appealing, not to say politically correct: it suggests that ape-men made art and culture only when ape-men finally became more like ape-women. A group of five scientists just last week proposed that the great symbolic transformation happened at around the time the human face, and the hormones that shape its growth, became—and this is the scientists’ word—feminized. Indeed, that’s the title of a paper in this month’s issue of Current Anthropology: “Craniofacial Feminization, Social Tolerance, and the Origins of Behavioral Modernity.”

The argument is tight enough. “Social tolerance” seems, from long anthropological observation, not to mention common sense, to be necessary for symbolic communication: if you can’t stay put in the circle around the fire long enough to listen, there’s no point in sharing good stories. As human groups got bigger, more social tolerance is what they had to have. Very early man, alas, of the kind who appears on the fossil record for some four hundred thousand years, shows every sign of social impatience; his big, testosterone-fuelled brows seem made merely to intimidate his fellow early man—to scare him (or her) away before the talking and symbol-sharing can even start. As testosterone ebbed and the aggressively masculine stare-downs faded, Paleolithic life had to become less a scene red in tooth and claw and more like an afternoon program on NPR, with thoughtful-voiced disputants sharing the day’s news and seeking its moral points.

12) Nut allergies are quite the growing problem these days.  Immunotherapy can be quite effective, but it’s long and hard.  Here’s an idea… change the nuts themselves to be less allergenic.  It’s the early stages, but seems to hold some promise.

13) North and South Carolina are working together to clarify their border– which will apparently be modified.  Pretty amazing to think that state borders could have been wrong all this time.

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.

 

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Al Qaeda has taken to funding its activities by kidnapping Westerners and holding them for ransom rather than just killing them.  It’s quite lucrative.  The US and British governments do not pay ransom.  That does actually seem to lead to less kidnappings, but if you are kidnapped– not pretty.  Excellent NYT story and excellent Fresh Air interview.

2) The idea that the NFL comes down so heavily on marijuana use is just absurd and stupid.  Some good questions from the recent case of Josh Gordon:

But once you look at the details of the case, the questions get bigger than whether a wide receiver smoked weed. For instance: Why does this sport need to test people using a standard along the same lines as the U.S. military’s? Why is Josh Gordon treated like a paroled criminal for his entire career after testing positive twice? Do they really test him 10 times a month? Does it make sense to treat marijuana users the same way we treat PED users? Is there anyone at the NFL who saw the positive test and thought it might be too inconclusive to publicly ban a star player for an entire year? Does it make sense for the NFL to be testing players for marijuana at all? What does the league gain from prosecuting people like this?

3) Speaking of the devil weed, USA today tries to make it look much scarier than heroin.  As you know, it’s not.  Great example of how to lie with statistics.  Good catch in Vox.

4) Fish are way smarter than we give them credit for and they certainly feel pain.  Surely some of the beliefs to the contrary help us deal with the barbaric ways in which we treat ocean creatures.

5) The economics of surfing are good for Africa.  Time for a surfin’ safari, DJC and JCD.

6) My friend Leah Friedman used to write for the N&O.  Budget cuts cost her her job, but now she’s kicking butt as an organizer.  And offering helpful tips.

7) Nice editorial from the Charlotte Observer on all the craziness the Republicans in Raleigh brought us this term.

8) South Korea gets good results from its students on international comparison tests, but absolutely crushes their souls to get there.  It’s horrible.  Nice piece in the NYT magazine (my best player on the Blasters is here because his MD/PhD parents left Korea to give their sons the decent childhood that they were denied).

9) Making choices is tough.

10) The NYT is finally calling all the post 9/11 torture conducted by the US government, “torture.”  Bout time, to say the least.

11) Love this Vox video on the movement of the US population as visualized through the changing population center of the US.

12) This Foot Locker ad is pretty awesome.  (and clearly shows evidence of benign violation).

Quick hits (part II)

1) Fist bumps and high fives spread way less germs than a handshake.  Will we all be fist-bumping each other some day?

2) The present and future of marriage in America.

3) Gender differences in cognition:

Though everyone saw improvements over time, the women did so more dramatically. The gains in smarts coincided with better living conditions, as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), fertility rate, health indicators such as mortality rate, and educational opportunities, the researchers found.

Because women’s better performance coincided with higher levels of societal development across different regions and cohorts, the results suggest that improved living conditions have benefited women more than men. But the scientists aren’t sure whether that trend will continue into the future, as women simply may be “catching up” after starting from further behind, Herlitz said.

4) Were dinosaurs wiped out by bad luck?  Love this bit:

I asked Dr Brusatte: “Could dinosaur you and dinosaur me be having this conversation, instead?” …

“As far as dinosaurs becoming intelligent is concerned the experiment has been done and we call them crows,” he told BBC News.

5) So do not like tattoos.  But I found this video that explains how their permancence to be a function of a complicated interplay with the human immune system to be quite fascinating.

6) Olberman on the NFL, gender, and Ray Rice.  Good stuff.

7) Talk about reverse causality… in many African villages people are thinking that doctors are bringing the Ebola virus with them ans spreading it rather than responding to outbreaks.  Not good.  Also not good– the fact that so many doctors and nurses seem to be getting sick this go round.  Presumably, we are dealing with a newer, more virulent strain of Ebola, but I haven’t read anything good on that yet.

8) Five sort of myths about the gender pay gap.

9) Yet more evidence on the amazing benefits of even a small amount of high-intensity exercise.  You know what also has a great benefit?  Moderate-intensity running for even a few minutes a day.   This part is something:

Remarkably, these benefits were about the same no matter how much or little people ran. Those who hit the paths for 150 minutes or more a week, or who were particularly speedy, clipping off six-minute miles or better, lived longer than those who didn’t run. But they didn’t live significantly longer those who ran the least, including people running as little as five or 10 minutes a day at a leisurely pace of 10 minutes a mile or slower.

Wow!  I run somewhere between 9-10 minute miles (doesn’t feel “leisurely” to me).  Sometimes I feel guilty about not pushing myself harder, but no more!

10) Seth Masket on why political science is science:

Political science is a science. Political scientists come in a variety of flavors, but basically we’re in the business of proposing theories about the way the political world works, testing those theories with some kind of data, subjecting our findings to a peer-review process, and hopefully publishing those findings so that others can confirm or refute what we’ve done. And our understanding of the political world has improved substantially over the past century using this approach. (See Hans Noel’s article for some great examples, and see Julia Azari on Twitter for some more schooling.) That is science.

11) The human evolutionary biology of being politically conservative.

12) Apparently, at Fort Bragg they show way too much deference to officers in matters of safety.  Interesting story of how this led to a Colonel plummeting to his death in a failed parachute jump.

13) I love stuff like this– the ages at which hockey players at different positions have their best performance (interestingly, age seems to make the least difference for goalies).

How much sleep is best?

So, we’ve been hearing for years about how 8 hours of sleep (or maybe 7-9) is best.  Now, a lot of researchers are actually arguing that about 7 is truly optimal and that it goes downhill from there.  WSJ:

Several sleep studies have found that seven hours is the optimal amount of sleep—not eight, as was long believed—when it comes to certain cognitive and health markers, although many doctors question that conclusion.

Other recent research has shown that skimping on a full night’s sleep, even by 20 minutes, impairs performance and memory the next day. And getting too much sleep—not just too little of it—is associated with health problems including diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease and with higher rates of death, studies show.

“The lowest mortality and morbidity is with seven hours,” said Shawn Youngstedt, a professor in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation at Arizona State University Phoenix. “Eight hours or more has consistently been shown to be hazardous,” says Dr. Youngstedt, who researches the effects of oversleeping…

Getting the right amount of sleep is important in being alert the next day, and several recent studies have found an association between getting seven hours of sleep and optimal cognitive performance.

study in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience last year used data from users of the cognitive-training website Lumosity. Researchers looked at the self-reported sleeping habits of about 160,000 users who took spatial-memory and matching tests and about 127,000 users who took an arithmetic test. They found that cognitive performance increased as people got more sleep, reaching a peak at seven hours before starting to decline.

After seven hours, “increasing sleep was not any more beneficial,” said Murali Doraiswamy, a professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center in Durham…

Now, here’s the part I simply don’t buy…

Experts say people should be able to figure out their optimal amount of sleep in a trial of three days to a week, ideally while on vacation. Don’t use an alarm clock. Go to sleep when you get tired. Avoid too much caffeine or alcohol. And stay off electronic devices a couple of hours before going to bed. During the trial, track your sleep with a diary or a device that records your actual sleep time. If you feel refreshed and awake during the day, you’ve probably discovered your optimal sleep time.

I don’t know about you, but left to my own devices, I never wake up after only 7 hours feeling nicely refreshed.  It is always 8+ if not 9.  And anecdotally, I don’t think I’m particularly unusual in that.  That said, I used to always aim for 8, but after Sarah was born I found I was seemingly getting by just fine with 7, so that’s been my minimum goal ever since.  Maybe my cognitive performance suffers on those days I get to sleep in, but it sure feels good (and heck, I’ve got some cognitive performance to spare :-) ).

Meanwhile, Wired writes about “sleep drunkenness”

Oversleeping feels so much like a hangover that scientists call it sleep drunkenness. But, unlike the brute force neurological damage caused by alcohol, your misguided attempt to stock up on rest makes you feel sluggish by confusing the part of your brain that controls your body’s daily cycle…

When you sleep too much, you’re throwing off that biological clock, and it starts telling the cells a different story than what they’re actually experiencing, inducing a sense of fatigue. You might be crawling out of bed at 11am, but your cells started using their energy cycle at seven. This is similar to how jet lag works

If everything’s just fine with your sleep zone but you still can’t get under the eight hour mark, you might need to go see a doctor. It could be a symptom of narcolepsy, which makes it hard for your body to regulate fatigue and makes you sleep in more.

Oh, give me a break.  Now they want people who sleep 8.5 hours a night to actually go their doctor over the issue?!  Just not buying it.

And, while I’m at it, I’m going to combine what was going to be a separate post about kids and sleep.  Basically, we need to have our children appreciate the value of sleep:

We tell children why it’s important to eat their vegetables. We tell them why they need to get outside and run around. But how often do we parents tell children why it’s important to sleep? “Time for bed!” is usually the end of it, or maybe “You’ll be tired tomorrow.” No wonder children regard sleep as vaguely punitive, an enforced period of dull isolation in a darkened room. But of course sleep is so much more, and maybe we ought to try telling children that…

There is evidence that educating children about the importance of sleep leads them to sleep more. Two studies conducted with seventh graders, for example, found that after participating in a “sleep smart” program, they went to bed earlier and slept longer on weeknights.

I was particularly intrigued by this because of what I’ve seen in my oldest son.  Years ago I told him about the research finding that chronically sleeping too little can impact the cognitive performance of children by as much as two grade levels.  I told him that not enough sleep might cause his 5th grade brain to function like that of a 3rd grader.  Damn, we he sold on it.  I never have to tell him to go to bed earlier.   In fact, on occasion I have to convince him that it is okay to stay up late on occasion for special events.  I love the degree that he has internalized the importance of good sleep.  I guess now I just have to worry about him wanting more than 7 hours when he is an adult :-).

Photo of the day

Love this photo of the Caribbean from the International Space Station.  More here:

From the Earth-orbiting International Space Station, flying some 225 nautical miles above the Caribbean Sea in the early morning hours of July 15, NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman photographed this north-looking panorama that includes parts of Cuba, the Bahamas and Florida, and even runs into several other areas in the southeastern U.S. The long stretch of lights to the left of center frame gives the shape of Miami.

Image Credit: NASA

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