Video of the day

Very cool time lapse of Zermatt, Switzerland:


Interesting piece on “10 Myths About Mass Shootings.”  I honestly don’t like the overall implication that it is hopeless to do anything to improve matters as the lesson from other, more sane, countries is that clearly, it does not have to be that way.  That said, most of the analysis seems pretty on target.  Anyway, due to a conversation with a friend today, this one I found particularly interesting:

Myth: Students need to be prepared for the worst by participating in lockdown drills.
Reality: Lockdown drills can be very traumatizing, especially for young children. Also, it is questionable whether they would recall those lessons amid the hysteria associated with an actual shooting. The faculty and staff need to be adequately trained, and the kids just advised to listen to instructions. Schools should take the same low-key approach to the unlikely event of a shooting as the airlines do to the unlikely event of a crash. Passengers aren’t drilled in evacuation procedures but can assume the crew is sufficiently trained.

So, according to my friend, his kid’s elementary school responded by have three of Cary’s finest there all day and escorting the principal and vice-principal around the school.  This served to seriously freak-out kids who had no reason to believe they should be freaked out.  My friend mentioned a neighbor kid who was now totally afraid to go inside her house without her parents.  I responded that you have to know your kid and share appropriate information, i.e., had a good conversation with my 7th grader, David, and have completely shielded my 1st grader, Evan, from the story.  My friend replied that the parents had not told the kid anything, but the insane over-reaction at her school is what led her to learn about it and get all freaked out.  Well done FW Elementary.

Certainly, Mam… um, sorry, sir

As I think I’ve mentioned before, my voice falls on the higher end of the range for men.  I guess this means I should feel proud of accomplishing a decent bit in life given this handicap of mine (the title of the post refers to the awkward moments I’ve been known to have with strangers on the telephone).  Some interesting new research:

Want to lead like a boss? Then speak like a man.

And by that I mean literally speak like a man.

Study after study has suggested that low voices, “masculine” voices, are an asset to those seeking leadership roles, in politics and beyond. And that’s so in part because we don’t simply think of vocal pitch–the physical trait determined by the size of one’s larynx and the length and mass of one’s vocal folds–in terms of physicality. We prefer low voices because, we assume, voices say something far beyond the words they convey: We perceive men with lower-pitched voices to be more attractive and physically stronger–and also more competent and more trustworthy–than their less burly-voiced peers. And we perceive women with lower-pitched voices along the same lines (though we also tend to perceive them, tellingly, as less attractive than their Betty Boop-y counterparts).

What’s more, our preference for low-voiced leaders holds true, it seems, for those in–and seeking–traditionally “feminine” leadership roles. A new study, published in the journal PLOSOne, has documented a bias toward low-pitched voices even when the owners of those voices are seeking to lead female-dominated bodies like school boards and PTAs. “Overall,” the authors note, “contrary to research showing that perceptions of voice pitch can be influenced by social context, these results suggest that the influence of voice pitch on perceptions of leadership capacity is largely consistent across different domains of leadership.”

Time to start practicing speaking in a lower register, I guess.

Photo of the day

From Time’s 10 best photos of the year:

Stephen Wilkes. Seaside Heights, N.J., November 2012. 

I’ve covered disasters in other parts of our country, but Sandy devastated my hometown, it was a storm of historical significance. How does one begin to comprehend the scale of this storm? The only way for me was to capture Sandy’s destructive fury from above. 

On the Sunday after Sandy made landfall, I rented a helicopter and flew over some of the most devastated areas—it was everything I’d heard about, yet it was difficult to believe what I was actually seeing. Once we were above the shoreline, the scale of the destruction quickly came into focus. The expanse of land it ruined, the totality of the devastation — it was like a giant mallet had swung in circles around the entire coast. I was particularly drawn to Casino Pier, and the Jet Star rollercoaster, where this photograph was taken. As I flew over the area, the ocean appeared dead calm; there were no waves, the water looked as if I was in the Caribbean, not the Atlantic. That contrast in itself was surreal to experience, and I was reminded of the iconic image in the film Planet of The Apes. Charlton Heston, riding horseback along a deserted shoreline, suddenly sees a charred structure rising out of the water, the torch of the Statue of Liberty. In a strange way this image shares a parallel universe, perhaps a warning from post-apocalyptic Earth.

The complicated public opinion on guns

Various blogs, etc., I read have all been making the same point– Americans’ support for “gun control” has undergone a considerable decline, i.e., this chart from Gallup:

Trend: Do You Feel That the Laws Covering the Sale of Firearms Should Be Made More Strict, Less Strict, or Kept as They Are?

But, when you look closer, Americans– by wide margins– favor all kinds of additional restrictions on guns.  It’s kind of the opposite of the spending cuts issue where people want to cut spending in the abstract, but not the specific.  With guns, people do not want stricter controls in the abstract, but do in the specific.

Margie Omero wrote up a real nice summary of all this in the wake of the Gabbie Giffords shooting.   Here’s a chart of support for all the specific provisions:


Most notably, that’s 2/3 support for national gun registry.  That idea makes NRA types go bonkers.  And as for simple, common-sense, loophole closing steps, we’re looking at over 85% support (i.e., even the vast majority of Republicans want to close the “gun show”/private sale loophole).

So, why is this so damned hard?  What these questions don’t measure is opinion intensity.  And I absolutely guarantee you that third who oppose a national gun registration feel about 10 times more strongly than those that want a registry.  As I always tell my students– an intense majority beats an apathetic majority almost every time.

So, why am I very cautiously optimistic?  I think that the apathetic majority is no longer so apathetic.  Still, it’s hard to overcome this level of intensity:



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