Mega Quick hits (part I)

Lots and lots this week.  Two big parts coming at you.

1) Really liked this from Kristof on the way to beat poverty.  Low-hanging policy fruit that it’s just crazy we’re not investing in:

The visits [to poor families from home nurses] have been studied extensively through randomized controlled trials — the gold standard of evidence — and are stunningly effective. Children randomly assigned to nurse visits suffer 79 percent fewer cases of state-verified abuse or neglect than similar children randomly assigned to other programs. Even though the program ends at age 2, the children at age 15 have fewer than half as many arrests on average. At the 15-year follow-up, the mothers themselves have one-third fewer subsequent births and have spent 30 fewer months on welfare than the controls. A RAND Corporation study found that each dollar invested in nurse visits to low-income unmarried mothers produced $5.70 in benefits.

This also featured prominently in the terrific How Children Succeed.  Which you really, really should read.  Yes, you.

2) Fall color map of North Carolina foliage.

3) Stop taking vertical photos, says this post.  Actually, now that I pay attention to composition I always think about whether to compose horizontally or vertically and many a photo should be vertical.  That said, people really need to stop with the vertical videos.  So obvious with all the bucket challenge videos.

4) It’s not easy accusing someone of sexual assault in Florida.

5) We should be like Germany.  At least when it comes to renewable energy.

6) Nice set of tips to help kids learn.  

7) The power of random noise in biology and why identical twins are not identical.

8) How a species of porpoise is going extinct before our eyes.

9) Once many addicts kick their drug of choice, they end up addicted to sugar.  Mmmm, donuts.

10) I really liked this Kevin Drum post on how images rule our world.  If you have any doubt, just think of how the news would be different the past couple weeks without A) the Isis beheading videos; and B) the Ray Rice video.

11) The political tables have turned and now Democrats are the ones using “cultural issues” i.e., gay marriage and birth control, as a political weapon.

12) Stupid people are quite convinced of their own intelligence.  Than again, so am I.  Uh oh.

13) If you’ve heard of the Food Babe, you know she’s an ascientific idiot.

14) Medieval style longsword fighting is making a comeback. So much cooler than fencing. I love how the subjects of this video have bruises on their faces.

15) About that politics of smell piece, here’s a really nice takedown from Andrew Gelman.  Also love this short critique from Seth Masket from when he shared my earlier post on FB:

Would it be nuts to say that spouses tend to come from similar communities, racial groups, socio-economic levels, etc., and that those groups tend to have not only ideological similarities but also dietary similarities, and that diet can influence body odor?

16) Sit less; live longer.  (It’s the telomeres, JD!)

17) Thomas Frank (of Wht’s the Matter with Kansas fame) wrote a horrible column attacking political scientists.  Great takedown from Chait.  And an even better one from Ezra.

18) David Brooks says friendships are good.  Uhhh, yeah.  Seriously, though, the decline of adult friendships is a problem.  I wish I had more good ones.

Quick hits (part II)

1) 10 ways colleges can be not so financially nice to their students.

2) Speaking of college, some excellent do’s and don’t’s for effective studying.

3) It looks as if the hacked nude celebrity photos may be all about insecure security questions.

4) Great Radley Balko on how St. Louis county profits from poverty.  And Reihan Salam on how poverty has moved to the suburbs.

5) Here is one really, really weird animal.

6) Having a child is good for men’s careers; bad for women’s.  (Yes, with all the appropriate controls!) Bummer.

7) Not to say that this is the guy who set fire to my hotel last week, but as Kim said, many a Black male has been convicted on far less evidence.

8) I never watch baseball any more.  It’s just too boring.  And, it turns out that, empirically, it really has become more boring (i.e., more time for less offense).  And to think it is all because of strike zone cameras.  An obvious solution is to officially change the strike zone to what was being called before the cameras.  Alas, that won’t speed things up.

9) Nice essay on how humans are wired for negativity.

10) Tennis rackets through the times.  I remember switching from my wooden racket to a Jimmy Connors T-2000.  Before going fully graphite, I got a wood with graphite inlays.  And, ahh, for the good old days of my Wilson Sting.

11) Despite what their supporters say, NC school vouchers are definitely not about helping poor kids.

 

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).

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