Amazing fact of the day

When I read that 90% of Americans don’t know about control-F, I assumed that this meant too many people are simply going through the relatively cumbersome menu process to find words, rather than using the handy keyboard shortcut.  But, apparently there’s millions out there who don’t know you can search for a word in a document?  Scary.  From the Atlantic:

This week, I talked with Dan Russell, a search anthropologist at Google, about the time he spends with random people studying how they search for stuff. One statistic blew my mind. 90 percent of people in their studies don’t know how to use CTRL/Command + F to find a word in a document or web page! I probably use that trick 20 times per day and yet the vast majority of people don’t use it at all.

 “90 percent of the US Internet population does not know that. This is on a sample size of thousands,” Russell said. “I do these field studies and I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve sat in somebody’s house as they’ve read through a long document trying to find the result they’re looking for. At the end I’ll say to them, ‘Let me show one little trick here,’ and very often people will say, ‘I can’t believe I’ve been wasting my life!'”
I’m sure none of my readers have been wasting their life.  Personally, I’m all about keyboard shortcuts– almost never use the menus unless I have to.

Photo of the day

From Slate’s slide show of cool bird nests:


Our politico-economic problems in one easy paragraph

Ezra sums it up perfectly today:

It has long been a frustration to the more economically minded that spending more and cutting taxes to support the economy now and spending less and raising taxes to cut the deficit later are considered incompatible in Washington. They should more properly be thought of as complementary: The spending now supports the reductions later, as the money puts people back to work — it’s very hard to cut the deficit with high unemployment — and makes the investments necessary for businesses to act aggressively when the economy comes back and they see opportunities again.

Predicting 2012

Nice post by Seth Masket a couple of days ago in which he uses the consensus forecast from a bunch of economists to plug into models which predict the election based on the economy.  The result: Obama with 50.03%.  Yikes!  Here’s Seth:

When I’m asked whether I expect President Obama to get reelected, I often look around to see if there’s an economist nearby to tell me how the economy is going to be doing next year. Well, here are some economists now, in the form of USA Today’s survey of 39 economists. Unfortunately for my purposes, they don’t forecast real disposable income, which is probably the most reliable predictor of presidential elections, but they do use gross domestic product, which is the next best thing. Their average projection of GDP growth from the fourth quarter this year to the third quarter next year is 2.53 percent. How does that stack up with economic growth and electoral performance in previous years?

Well, if we use this metric and the USA Today forecast, Obama will be facing lower economic growth than what Bush faced in ’92 and his son faced in ’04. That’s real nail-biter territory. The regression line suggests Obama getting 50.9 percent of the vote, although, as the graph shows, that line is being pulled upward a bit by Eisenhower’s unexpectedly good performance in 1956. If you take out that case, the Obama forecast is 50.03 percent of the vote. In other words, don’t expect to get a lot of sleep on election night next year.

Interestingly, after a fairly strong run, the Intrade predictions markets are coming to a fairly similar conclusion about Obama.  Check out this chart:

Right now, he’s at about 52%.  I assume that absolute minimum is right after the debt ceiling deal, from which he’s recovered a hair.  Notably, though, a clear, strong drop since this Spring (you can also see a nice, clear, Osama Bin Laden spike).

Here’s the takeaway you should have from this.  The campaigns will matter in 2012.  Yeah, the economy is very important and sets the basic parameters.  But it is almost certain to set those parameters in a range where what happens out there on the campaign trail– and more importantly, how the mass media actually report– will determine the election.  In 1984, 1988, 1996, and probably 1992 as well, so long as the economically-favored candidate ran a reasonable campaign, he was going to win.  This time around, as with the 2000 (quite arguably Gore “lost” because he failed to run a reasonable campaign) and 2004, it really matters what Obama does next year versus what I assume will be Perry or Romney (though, man, am I rooting for Bachmann, as that sure pulls up Obama’s odds).

What’s wrong with Head Start? Nothing?

So, I asked based on some things I read (don’t remember what exactly, but now that I think about it at least one was a Op-Ed column by a conservative) about the lack of long-term effectiveness for Head Start.  I knew if I was wrong, John F, would set things straight, and does:

Take a look at this:

”The Battle Over Head Start: What the Research Shows
W. Steven Barnett, PhD
Director of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER)

Head Start is effective. As a comprehensive child development program, Head Start provides education, health, nutrition, and social services to children and their families through direct services or referrals. Nearly four decades of research establish that Head Start delivers the intended services and improves the lives and development of the children and families it serves.1 Despite these successes, questions continue to be raised about the extent to which Head Start produces lasting educational benefits. Many have been persuaded that Head Start produces no lasting academic benefits for children. Some have gone so far as to label Head Start a “scam.”2 A careful review of the research yields a different conclusion—Head Start produces substantial long-term educational benefits. Moreover, Head Start can produce even greater gains for children in the future. This will require increased funding and standards, particularly to raise Head Start teacher qualifications.

Head Start “fade-out” is largely a myth….”

Well, how about that.  i went to the executive summary myself. Most notably, they only measured benefit until the end of 1st grade.  Truth is, from what I’ve read on such things there could very well be lasting– socio-emotional benefits especially– that aren’t going to be at all clear at just the end of 1st grade.  There were also some other clearly useful benefits.  Anyway, the picture is clearly more complicated that I thought.  But still, you would hope to see more clear impact that lasts through 1st grade.  I do wonder how Head Start compares to the efficacy of other pre-school interventions and what can be learned from this.

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