Video of the day

Mating rituals of New Guinea’s birds of paradise.  Truly amazing stuff (and be sure to click the settings onto high definition):

Photo of the day

So apparently, there’s this very interesting cultural tradition of “sworn virgins” in Albania, Daphnee Denis writes about in Slate’s Behold:

“Sworn virgins” (burrneshas in Albanian) are Albanian women who decide to ignore their female identity and live as men in the Balkans. Photographer Jill Peters traveled to Northern Albania to meet and photograph these women.  The decision to live as men is more related to gender roles in the Albanian culture rather than a statement of sexuality; these women live their lives appearing as men.

Sworn virgins have existed for centuries. According to tradition dating back to the 15th century developed out of the Kanun, a tribal code of law, tribal clans from the Balkans considered families without a male presence as pariahs. When blood feuds decimated all the men in a family, the only way to salvage their honor was for a woman to become the patriarch of the clan and start acting like a man.

Included is a series of photos of these women/men.  Pretty amazing.

Jill Peters Sworn Virgins. Skhurtan 5.

Skhurtan 5.

Jill Peters.


Will Chuck Hagel give us filibuster reform

For a while there, it seemed like there was real momentum for some serious filibuster reform.  Then it seemed like it was not going to happen.  Now that Republicans are threatening to filibuster Obama’s entirely reasonable nominees for Treasury and Defense, this give a lot of momentum back to filibuster reformers, says Weigel:

[Republican Senator Jeff] Sessions’ outrage was manna to an unexpected group of people: Democrats. For months, a group of freshman Democratic senators have been trying to nail down 51 votes to reform the filibuster. On Jan. 22, when the Senate votes on this congressional session’s rulebook, they’ll need to keep that group together. Every time a Republican threatens an Obama nominee, their job gets easier…

The obstruction threats against Lew—and to a much greater extent, against Defense Secretary-designate Chuck Hagel—are making their lives simpler. Reformist senators like Merkley are being helped from the outside by a constellation of liberal groups. The Democracy Initiative, 30-odd organs of the left, has been lobbying Democrats for Senate reform. Fix the Senate Now, a slightly older labor-environmental posse, has spent two years lobbying on nothing but this.

“We’ve been saying since the beginning that that this isn’t your father’s Republican caucus,” says Shane Larson, legislative director for Communication Workers of America, describing this week’s Fix the Senate pitch. “When they immediately oppose Chuck Hagel or Jack Lew, it helps cure people of the notion that maybe you could get to 67 votes for Levin-McCain. No. These guys have come in with a stated goal, and it’s all about stopping the government, period.” …

“It’s only really now dawning on folks what the strategy is,” Merkley said. “If we can turn back the clock to the Susan Rice nomination, a lot people said: ‘Oh, that’s just maneuvering by Republicans to get John Kerry instead and give Scott Brown a chance to come back here.’ With Jack Lew and Chuck Hagel, it becomes so much more apparent that this wasn’t a strategy aimed at one Senate seat.”

The reformers want their fellow Democrats to game that out. Who replaces Hilda Solis at Labor? Do they want a fight over that? What happens if the president gets to pick a new Supreme Court justice? Do Republicans threaten to filibuster her, too? And what about the endless backlog of lower-court judges? Sure, Democrats relied on the filibuster to block plenty of George W. Bush’s nominees. They’d still be able to do that to some future Republican president. They’d just need to stand around and talk, and their willingness to consider that rises every time a Jeff Sessions talks about putting another no-effort hold on a top nominee.

January 22 is D-day for this.  Here’s hoping the Republican keep making the reformers’ job easier.

High intensity interval parenting

Over Christmas break, I read a really entertaining and thought-provoking book, Selfish Resasons to have more kids by Bryan Caplan.  Caplan is an economist and approaches the issue from a straightforward cost/benefit data-driven perspective.  The core of the book is where he gives a tour-de-force look at the behavioral genetics studies of parenting via adoption studies and twin studies and shows that on almost every measure where’d you like to think you have an impact on your children as adults (intelligence, earnings, happiness, etc.) parents typically have only the most marginal, if any impact.  Now, I think we can all agree that the benefits of raising kids are indeed great.  The problem is the costs.  Caplan’s argument is that the typical middle-class parents are investing way too much into parenthood and dramatically– and more importantly  pointlessly– increasing their costs in the hopes of shaping their children in ways that the evidence powerfully suggests that they actually cannot do.  Now, you can quite obviously shape what your child is like at 5, 10, or 15, but presumably the point is to help determine what they are like when they are 30, 40, and 50, and whatever effect parenting has, has almost completely worn off by then.  So, stop sweating it so much.  Let you kids watch Spongebob while you play on the Ipad, instead of obsessing about their homework and carting them to yet another activity they don’t really like, but you think they need.  And, once you adopt that perspective, the conclusion is that you should have more kids, because the benefits are still high– especially when you factor in grandkids which are almost all benefit and no cost– but your costs are lower.  Furthermore, plenty of research shows that humans are notoriously short-term thinkers which means many people will place far too much emphasis on the sleepless nights of infancy and the tantrums of toddler-hood and under-emphasize the much less difficult job of raising kids as they age (not easy mind you, just less difficult).

Anyway, intriguing enough argument that it actually has me thinking about five kids.  Though not too hard.  I am almost 41.  But, I think part of the reason I have four and not the seemingly far more typical two of the highly-educated middle-class parent, is that Kim and I already implicitly have bought into this approach.  And, honestly, because I’d have to say we are probably above average in our benefits– i.e., we just really enjoy our kids, as absolutely crazy as they are.

A recent WP story about the difficulty of parents truly sharing child rearing perfectly captures the problem for so many parents:

“Look at this; my parents never did this,” he says, waving a hand in the direction of the homework. “We were told to ‘go outside.’ I never saw my parents.” In the kitchen, his partner checks the simmering lentils and calls out a reminder that dinner will be early because he has to make the evening school meeting.

“We are raising our kids differently [than our parents did]. That’s our decision. But it means we take on all the extra burdens,” Majors says. In other words, just as many are embracing equal responsibility for the family, the parenting part of the equation has grown into an oversize octopus.

Exactly.  They are making the choice to over-do it.  The person quoted here “never saw” his parents but grew into a successful professional.  Not that Caplan or I are advocating you never see your kids, but life as a parent doesn’t have to be an overgrown octopus (and you’re looking at somebody who hardly worked yesterday because I spent the morning at the pediatrician and the afternoon watching the kids while Kim attended an IEP meeting).

So, from whence the title of this post, you may be wondering?  Can’t say I’ve fully implemented it (nor will I) but influenced by the idea of High Intensity Interval Training for fitness (much less time, much higher intensity), I suspect that there’s really something to be gained from this approach in parenting.  Insofar as you want to create strong, positive memories and a strong positive bond (that, you can do, its the type of person they become where your influence is limited), it would seem there’s something to be said for short bursts of high-intensity parenting.  I’ve tried this in limited doses.  Evan and Sarah love rough-housing on the bed (and I’m a fan myself).  Sometimes I’ll just really go at it with them (also, piggyback rides) for about 10 minutes or so and spend the next twenty doing what I want (writing blog posts) guilt free, instead of just playing something lower intensity (obviously, not only in the physical sense, but in my commitment to it– I go all out when we rough house)  for 30 minutes.  I don’t expect anybody to do any research on this, but my naive hypothesis is that this approach is probably just as effective, if not more so, for strong parent-child bonds.   I feel confident that Evan and Sarah are going to have really fond memories of these fun, but very short, times.

Now, when my two 100 pound kids, David and Alex, get involved, wrestling on the bed is not the way to go.

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