My new new diet

So, in addition to hanging out more with skinny people, I think I’ll be adding cayenne pepper and pureed vegetables to the mix.  Seriously:

For the research, published in the journal Physiology & Behavior, scientists at Purdue studied the effect of just half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper on a group of 25 diners…

The effect was greater among diners who didn’t regularly consume spicy meals. Among that group, adding red pepper to the soup was associated with eating an average of 60 fewer calories at the next meal compared with when they ate plain soup. For both groups who ate red pepper in food, the spice also appeared to increase the metabolism and cause the body to burn an extra 10 calories on its own.

And the veggies:

Dieters may get better results by adding puréed vegetables to some of their favorite dishes, according to a February report in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

In that study, researchers from Penn State gave 20 men and 21 women casseroles made with varying amounts of purée — a strategy popularized by the cookbook author Jessica Seinfeld, who has encouraged parents to sneak vegetables into foods like spaghetti.

But in the Penn State study, the goal wasn’t to trick people into eating vegetables. Adding the purée bulked up the dish and resulted in fewer calories per serving. (You can see two of the recipes developed by the researchers here.)

In a macaroni and cheese recipe from the researchers, for instance, the cheese sauce is made with skim milk, reduced-fat cheese and one cup each of puréed cauliflower and puréed summer squash.

The diners were fed the casseroles during different visits. They ate pretty much the same amount of food during each visit and reported no differences in flavor or enjoyment. But when they were served the casseroles made with puréed vegetables, they ate 200 to 350 fewer calories a meal.

That’s a huge reduction in calories.  And with no noticeable difference in flavor?!  I’m sold.  Of course, I don’t actually eat mac and cheese, but I’m plenty open to sneaking pureed veggies into foods I do like (now, pizza would be awesome) if they don’t seriously affect the flavor.

Check that: he won

Really thoughtful post from Radley Balko (probably my favorite libertarian):

In The Looming Tower, the Pulitzer-winning history of al-Qaeda and the road to 9/11, author Lawrence Wright lays out how Osama bin Laden’s motivation for the attacks that he planned in the 1990s, and then the September 11 attacks, was to draw the U.S. and the West into a prolonged war—an actual war in Afghanistan, and a broader global war with Islam.

Osama got both. ..

We have also fundamentally altered who we are. A partial, off-the-top-of-my-head list of how we’ve changed since September 11 . . .

  • We’ve sent terrorist suspects to “black sites” to be detained without trial and tortured.
  • We’ve turned terrorist suspects over to other regimes, knowing that they’d be tortured.
  • In those cases when our government later learned it got the wrong guy, federal officials not only refused to apologize or compensate him, they went to court to argue he should be barred from using our courts to seek justice, and that the details of his abduction, torture, and detainment should be kept secret.
  • We’ve abducted and imprisoned dozens, perhaps hundreds of men in Guantanamo who turned out to have been innocent. Again, the government felt no obligation to do right by them.
  • The government launched a multimillion dollar ad campaign implying that people who smoke marijuana are complicit in the murder of nearly 3,000 of their fellow citizens.
  • The government illegally spied and eavesdropped on thousands of American citizens.
  • Presidents from both of the two major political parties have claimed the power to detain suspected terrorists and hold them indefinitely without trial, based solely on the president’s designation of them as an “enemy combatant,” essentially making the president prosecutor, judge, and jury. (I’d also argue that the treatment of someone like Bradley Manning wouldn’t have been tolerated before September 11.)
  • The current president has also claimed the power to execute U.S. citizens, off the battlefield, without a trial, and to prevent anyone from knowing about it after the fact.
  • The Congress approved, the president signed, and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a broadly written law making it a crime to advocate for any organization the government deems sympathetic to terrorism. This includes challenging the “terrorist” designation in the first place.
  • Flying in America now means enduring a humiliating and hassling ritual that does little if anything to actually make flying any safer. Every time the government fails to catch an attempt at terrorism, it punishes the public for its failure by adding to the ritual.
  • American Muslims, a heartening story of success and assimilation, are now harassed and denigrated for merely trying to build houses of worship.
  • Without a warrant, the government can search and seize indefinitely the laptops and other personal electronic devices of anyone entering the country.
  • The Department of Homeland Security now gives terrorism-fighting grants for local police departments across the country to purchase military equipment, such as armored personnel carriers, which is then used against U.S. citizens, mostly to serve drug warrants…

But because of the actions of one guy, we allowed all the bullet points above to happen. That we managed to kill him a decade after the September 11 attacks is symbolically important, but hardly seems worth the celebrations we saw across the country last night. There was something unsettling about watching giddy crowds bounce around beach balls and climb telephone polls last night, as if they were in the lawn seats at a rock festival. Solemn and somber appreciation that an evil man is gone seemed like the more appropriate reaction.

Yes, bin Laden the man is dead. But he achieved all he set out to achieve, and a hell of a lot more. He forever changed who we are as a country, and for the worse. Mostly because we let him. That isn’t something a special ops team can fix.


Photo of the day

One of my former students and advisees, Andrew Bates, has a very cool job in the White House now (I take full credit for his political success.  Here’s the photo:

And, if you haven’t seen Obama’s remarks from this dinner on Trump and his birth certificate, do watch:

How to get better teachers

Back in a simpler time, 36 hours ago, before the news was all Bin Laden all the time, I was meaning to post on a really nice Op-Ed by Dave Eggers (of all people) and Nínive Clements Calegari about our need to invest in more teachers.  They use an interesting analogy, comparing teachers to soldiers, that I had never seen before and I think makes a compelling case:

WHEN we don’t get the results we want in our military endeavors, we don’t blame the soldiers. We don’t say, “It’s these lazy soldiers and their bloated benefits plans! That’s why we haven’t done better in Afghanistan!” No, if the results aren’t there, we blame the planners. We blame the generals, the secretary of defense, theJoint Chiefs of Staff. No one contemplates blaming the men and women fighting every day in the trenches for little pay and scant recognition.

And yet in education we do just that. When we don’t like the way our students score on international standardized tests, we blame the teachers. When we don’t like the way particular schools perform, we blame the teachers and restrict their resources.

Compare this with our approach to our military: when results on the ground are not what we hoped, we think of ways to better support soldiers. We try to give them better tools, better weapons, better protection, better training. And when recruiting is down, we offer incentives.  [emphasis mine]

That emboldened line is the key.  If we want better teachers, we damn well better pay and respect teachers in a way that brings higher quality individuals into the fold.  More:

At the moment, the average teacher’s pay is on par with that of a toll taker or bartender.Teachers make 14 percent less than professionals in other occupations that require similar levels of education. In real terms, teachers’ salaries have declined for 30 years. The average starting salary is $39,000; the average ending salary — after 25 years in the profession — is $67,000…

Can we do better? Can we generate “A Plan”? Of course.

The consulting firm McKinsey recently examined how we might attract and retain a talented teaching force. The study compared the treatment of teachers here and in the three countries that perform best on standardized tests: Finland, Singapore and South Korea.

Turns out these countries have an entirely different approach to the profession. First, the governments in these countries recruit top graduates to the profession. (We don’t.) In Finland and Singapore they pay for training. (We don’t.) In terms of purchasing power, South Korea pays teachers on average 250 percent of what we do.

And most of all, they trust their teachers. They are rightly seen as the solution, not the problem, and when improvement is needed, the school receives support and development, not punishment. Accordingly, turnover in these countries is startlingly low: In South Korea, it’s 1 percent per year. In Finland, it’s 2 percent. In Singapore, 3 percent.

McKinsey polled 900 top-tier American college students and found that 68 percent would consider teaching if salaries started at $65,000 and rose to a maximum of $150,000. Could we do this? If we’re committed to “winning the future,” we should.

Seems to me, truly investing in the teacher workforce is one of the best investments our country could possible make.  Of course, that’s really thinking long term– not something we’ve shown ourselves to be particularly good at of late (ever?).  Nonetheless, other countries show that different, and better, choices can be made with regard to teachers.  Will this solve all our problems with education?  No, but it would surely help a lot.

And, of course, this is not all that different from Gladwell’s suggestions in my obligatory link to his piece I love so much on how teachers are like NFL quarterbacks.

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