Where are they now?

So, if you are anywhere near my age (39, to be precise) you probably have fond memories of Fred Savage as Kevin Arnold on The Wonder Years.  So, what became of Savage other than a classic cameo on Seinfeld?  Well, it turns out he’s become a very successful television director.  I was inspired by this post when I noticed that he directed Wednesday’s nights episode of Modern Family (which you really should be watching.  And yes, by “you” I do mean my wife).  I had noticed his directorial success because he’s done a lot of episodes of the grossly unappreciated (mostly, because 99% of America has no clue about it) Starz comedy “Party Down.”  Here’s the youtube clip that convinced to finally move it to the top of my Netflix queue after frequent (and appropriate) haranguing by a friend on the matter.

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How much sleep?

I’m tired today.  I’ve been going to bed too late because I got in some bad habits while Sarah was doing well at night (at least from the perspective of a non-breastfeeding parent).  Now that she’s waking up all the time because she’s flipped herself over and won’t go back to sleep till there’s been human intervention, I really need to get to bed earlier.   Anyway, reminded me of this really interesting Times piece from last month on how much sleep we really need and the cognitive consequences of chronic sleep deprivation.  What was really cool was the effort they went to in order to make the research described into a truly well-controlled experiment:

In what was the longest sleep-restriction study of its kind, Dinges and his lead author, Hans Van Dongen, assigned dozens of subjects to three different groups for their 2003 study: some slept four hours, others six hours and others, for the lucky control group, eight hours — for two weeks in the lab.

Every two hours during the day, the researchers tested the subjects’ ability to sustain attention with what’s known as the psychomotor vigilance task, or P.V.T., considered a gold standard of sleepiness measures.

Much more reliable than simply asking about sleep patterns or using a less-controlled environment.  And the results?

Not surprisingly, those who had eight hours of sleep hardly had any attention lapses and no cognitive declines over the 14 days of the study. What was interesting was that those in the four- and six-hour groups had P.V.T. results that declined steadily with almost each passing day. Though the four-hour subjects performed far worse, the six-hour group also consistently fell off-task. By the sixth day, 25 percent of the six-hour group was falling asleep at the computer. And at the end of the study, they were lapsing fives times as much as they did the first day.

And, here’s the kicker, which contains a great factoid I’ve been throwing around:

All told, by the end of two weeks, the six-hour sleepers were as impaired as those who, in another Dinges study, had been sleep-deprived for 24 hours straight — the cognitive equivalent of being legally drunk.

So, all you 6-hour sleepers, imagine what you could accomplish if you were functioning as a sober person.

You don’t have to be smart to be a U.S. Senator (or an ophthalmologist)

The incredibly weak and broken logic here is so bad that I expect my 5th grader could see through it.  Obviously, low-hanging fruit for Chait:

When the devoted follower of crackpot cult leader Ayn Rand gets elected to the Senate, you wind up having Congressional hearings filled up with feverish reasoning like this:

With regard to the idea of whether you have a right to health care, you have realize what that implies. It’s not an abstraction. I’m a physician. That means you have a right to come to my house and conscript me. It means you believe in slavery. It means that you’re going to enslave not only me, but the janitor at my hospital, the person who cleans my office, the assistants who work in my office, the nurses.

Basically, once you imply a belief in a right to someone’s services — do you have a right to plumbing? Do you have a right to water? Do you have right to food? — you’re basically saying you believe in slavery.

I’m a physician in your community and you say you have a right to health care. You have a right to beat down my door with the police, escort me away and force me to take care of you? That’s ultimately what the right to free health care would be.

This is just completely nuts.  If you don’t get why, Chait will explain for you.  The thing that amazes me, is that someone this obviously nuts can be both a US Senator and a certified ophthalmologist.  I sure wouldn’t trust my eyes to him.

John McCain steps up

Just when it had seemed that John McCain had become irredeemable out of his pique to losing the 2008 election to Obama, he actually steps up and reminds us that he can actually have some integrity when he wants to.   The right has been pushing hard that Bush’s torture regime is the reason we got Bin Laden (it’s not).   How nice that McCain takes to the Op-Ed pages of the Post to refute this:

Former attorney general Michael Mukaseyrecently claimed that “the intelligence that led to bin Laden . . . began with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who broke like a dam under the pressure of harsh interrogation techniques that included waterboarding. He loosed a torrent of information — including eventually the nickname of a trusted courier of bin Laden.” That is false.

I asked CIA Director Leon Panetta for the facts, and he told me the following: The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. The first mention of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti — the nickname of the al-Qaeda courier who ultimately led us to bin Laden — as well as a description of him as an important member of al-Qaeda, came from a detainee held in another country, who we believe was not tortured. None of the three detainees who were waterboarded provided Abu Ahmed’s real name, his whereabouts or an accurate description of his role in al-Qaeda.

In fact, the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on Khalid Sheik Mohammed produced false and misleading information. He specifically told his interrogators that Abu Ahmed had moved to Peshawar, got married and ceased his role as an al-Qaeda facilitator — none of which was true. According to the staff of the Senate intelligence committee, the best intelligence gained from a CIA detainee — information describing Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti’s real role in al-Qaeda and his true relationship to bin Laden — was obtained through standard, noncoercive means…

Ultimately, this is more than a utilitarian debate. This is a moral debate. It is about who we are.

I don’t mourn the loss of any terrorist’s life. What I do mourn is what we lose when by official policy or official neglect we confuse or encourage those who fight this war for us to forget that best sense of ourselves. Through the violence, chaos and heartache of war, through deprivation and cruelty and loss, we are always Americans, and different, stronger and better than those who would destroy us.

It’s really disgusting watching the immoral horde of torturers trying to justify their past behavior now, but there really is just no justifying it.

More reasons to hate NCLB

So, my wife volunteered me to proctor the EOG (End of Grade) tests (the NC version of NCLB testing) at my kids’ school today.  (I’ll be doing it as this gets posted).  Anyway, I hate how freaked out the whole damn school is about the test.  When kids complete a section of the test (45 minutes followed by 3 minute break– total of 3 45 minute sections) they are literally allowed to do nothing.  Nothing!  No reading, no drawing on scratch paper, no resting their head on the desk.  Either go over your answers or state into space.  What the hell is that supposed to accomplish?!  And those three minutes, forget about using the restroom– too disruptive (after lunch today, I went 3 times in 2 hours– of course 4 refills of Diet Coke will do that, but still).  Show up late to school?  Forget about that whole day’s testing.  Oh, and even though there’s nearly a month of school left when the testing is done, forget about any more learning.  When kids take the re-test (the reason they do it so early is so there’s time to re-test those who may “fall behind”) they take the test in the lower grade classrooms while those lower grades spend the whole day in the gym watching movies and not learning a damn thing except how way over-the-top the teachers and administrators take all this testing.  Ohhhh, it makes my head hurt.  I hate that the people in charge of educating our kids have such rigid and unnecessary rules.  Would it kill them to let David read a book when he finishes his tests early.  The only question remaining is how much of a pain in the ass will I have been at the 9am proctor training.

Felt better to get that all off my chest :-).

[UPDATE: I won the proctoring lottery.  Proctoring was supposed to last 9:20-11:00, but I was assigned to a classmate of David’s who needed his test read aloud in a one-on-one setting.  He finished before 10:00 and I was done. I got a chance to ask the principal about the no reading and she said that in the past, some kids had rushed through the test so that they’d have more time to read.  My guess: the kids who are hurrying through the test because they like reading so much are not the ones in danger of failing the test.]

When the lies become regular

I’m not usually the biggest Ruth Marcus fan, but nice column yesterday on Boehner’s utter economic incoherence.  That, you are already surely aware of.  What was a really nice call, though, was pointing out how the media is complicit because they simply let him get away with his lies and incoherence day after day.  Marcus:

Even more alarming, because it has consequences beyond the debt-ceiling debate, is the incoherent, impervious-to-facts economic philosophy undergirding Boehner’s remarks.

Reporters naturally tend to ignore this boilerplate. Journalistically, that makes sense. Boehner’s economic comments were nothing particularly new. Indeed, they reflect what has become the mainstream thinking of the Republican Party. But that’s exactly the point. We become so inured to hearing this thinking that we neglect to point out how wrong it is.

Great point.  In my intro class, I talk about the “news” bias, i.e., news is that which is new and different.  The stuff you hear every single day, just isn’t news.  So, the fact that Boehner is utterly incoherent on economic policy and regularly lies about it doesn’t seem to be worth covering.  That’s a problem.  Marcus does a nice job going through some of Boehner’s more egregious statements.  Of course, the shame of it is that this is an Op-Ed column, when “news” stories simply ignore the obvious falsehoods of what Boehner is saying, or at best, give us a Boehner says X, Democrats say Y.  Once again, in politics, the liars win.  –

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