Orcas and federal judges

You know, I think employers have an obligation to try and make a workplace as safe as possible, but some workplaces are inherently more dangerous than others.  Among the more dangerous workplaces is working in the water with a killer whale.  Now, you may not think this is a good idea (in fact, I’m pretty sure I’m philosophically opposed to having any cetaceans in captivity) and that Sea World needs to do all they can to limit danger to employees and make employees aware of risks, but somehow the idea of a federal judge deciding just how Sea World employees are allowed to interact with their Orcas really rubs me the wrong way:

MIAMI — The electrifying in-water duet between trainer and killer whales at SeaWorld will never be quite the same after a judge ruled recently that animal trainers must be better protected from the fearsome mammals during performances.

The animal trainers — who not so long ago kissed, rode on, hugged and were thrust into the air by the killer whales — must either remain at a greater distance from them, stand behind a physical barrier or use other devices to keep them safer during performances.

The ruling last week by Ken S. Welsch, a federal administrative law judge for the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, came more than two years after the death of Dawn Brancheau, a trainer who was dragged underwater and killed by an orca at the SeaWorld park in Orlando. Visitors who were leaving the “Dine With Shamu” event watched the terrifying scene unfold.

Now, I’m glad we have OSHA to help keep workplaces safe, but there’s not exactly a raft of orca trainer deaths.  Sure, you are more likely to die in this line of work than as a cashier at Wal-Mart, but that doesn’t mean that Sea World should not be allowed to continue the practice if they take all reasonable precautions.

Photo of the day

Well, it’s a day late, but this classic Life magazine gallery of color D-Day photos is pretty amazing:

Don’t worry; be happy

Very cool piece from Derek Thompson that summarizes recent findings on relationships between economics and happiness.  There’s 10 items, but here’s a couple of my favorites (there’s also a really nice chart looking at per capita GDP vs. happiness):

7) Working more hours makes you happier … until it makes you miserable. As workers move from part-time work to full-time work, they’re happier. But as they move from full-time work to Jesus-when-will-this-day-finally-end work, the joy of labor subsides. There seems to be an “inverse U-shaped relationship” between hours worked and self-reported well-being, although the precise figures differ across countries. Fascinatingly, one study found that, although working long regular hours correlates negatively with well-being, “working overtime has a positive effect on job satisfaction.” Go figure.

Definitely sure I’m on the correct side of the U.  Pretty interesting, though.

8) Commuters are less happy. The studies here are really interesting. Health scientists say that commuting can make you sick and die — not conducive to happiness. Daniel Kahneman’s research on female happiness found that while commuting, women experienced the “lowest ratio of positive to negative emotions during the day.” One study pegged the magic number at 22: If your commute is more than 22 minutes, there is an appreciable decline in reported well-being. Yet another study found that for every 10 minutes of additional commuting, community involvement falls by 10 percent.

I’ve been quoting this fact to people for years because it’s amazing how many people just don’t get this.  There’s no “a bigger house will make you happier” on this list, because it won’t.  Yet, millions of people trade away happiness by driving long commute times to their big houses in the suburbs and exburbs.  I’ve never had a commute longer than 15 minutes (except on a short-term basis) and I plan on keeping it that way.  Granite counter-tops and a few hundred more square feet just aren’t worth the extra time in your car every day.

9) Self-employed people are happier. When workers think they’re good at their job and that their bosses like them, they’re more satisfied. So it makes sense that when they are their own boss, they’re happier to work. A famous OECD study found that the self-employed “typically report higher levels of overall job satisfaction than the employed.” But another study suggests that only rich self-employed people are happier to be self-employed.

Now, technically I’m not self-employed, but if you are talking about the sense of “being your own boss” being a college professor is great for that.   (And here’s an earlier post I wrote on the matter).

Now, this is all just the economic stuff and doesn’t include the most important– our relationships– but it’s a pretty interesting list– check out the whole thing.

The geography of jobs

When it comes to being an educated part of the U.S., the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, as nicely explained by a recent NYT article:

Dayton sits on one side of a growing divide among American cities, in which a small number of metro areas vacuum up a large number of college graduates, and the rest struggle to keep those they have.

The winners are metro areas like Raleigh, N.C., San Francisco and Stamford, Conn., where more than 40 percent of the adult residents have college degrees. The Raleigh area has a booming technology sector and several major research universities; San Francisco has been a magnet for college graduates for decades; and metropolitan Stamford draws highly educated workers from white-collar professions in New York like finance.

The article mostly looks at what Dayton, OH is doing to counter-act this trend.  It’s not easy.  I recently listened to an interview with Enrico Moretti, author of The New Geography of Jobs and was struck by this exchange:

Moretti: That’s right. There are enormous differences in the propensity to relocate for American workers. Almost half of their college graduates move out of their state by age 30 [emphasis mine], and a lot of it has to do with they’re seeking better economic conditions in different cities.

Ryssdal: Say that again: Half of college graduates move out of their birth state by the time they’re 30.

Moretti: Almost half of college graduates move out of their birth state by the age of 30.

Ryssdal: That’s kind of amazing, actually, isn’t it?

Moretti: It is. And it’s even more amazing when you compare it with the mobility rate of high school graduates or high school dropouts.

Ryssdal: They stay, right? They probably stay in their hometown?

Moretti: They do. The lower mobility of less-educated Americans has large economic costs. If the less-educated people were more able and more willing to move to cities with better job opportunities, the gap between college graduates and high school graduates would shrink.

Hey, look, I’ve moved out of my home state and I’m typing this in Raleigh, NC.  It’s also quite notable that being in a college graduate in an area with a lot of other college graduates leads to better economic opportunity.  Check out this chart from a nice Forbes.com piece on the book:

You can see why a NC college grade would want to settle in Raleigh rather than Rocky Mount.  And, of course the more that happens, the more the advantages of Raleigh grow.  Works for me.  Except for the traffic.

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