Angry legos

There’s lots of lego pieces in my house.  So I enjoyed this Smithsonian piece on how there’s now a lot more angry lego faces:

Most of us remember the classic LEGO dude. Small, yellow, smiling. He had a few basic poses and a single, smiling face. But as LEGOs have gotten more and more varied, the company has given the little yellow dude more expressions. One recent study looked at those expressions, and found that more often than not the new LEGO faces are angry.

Here’s the basic setup of the study, from Research Digest:

[Christoph] Bartneck obtained images of all 3655 Minifigure types manufactured by LEGO between 1975 and 2010. The 628 different heads on these figures were then shown to 264 adult participants recruited via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk online survey website. The participants’ task was to categorise the emotions on the heads in terms of the six main human emotions, and to rate their intensity.

What they found was that there’s been a huge increase in the variety of faces, and while the majority of them are happy (324), the next most common expression is angry (192). Then, in order, you get sadness, disgust, surprise and fear. But the trend is towards angrier faces and away from happy ones.

Oh, my, why is lego getting so angry?  Actually, it’s a simple answer:

This probably has to do with the increase in themed collections that go along with action movies and video games, many of whom are fighters

Can’t exactly put a happy face on Darth Vader or the bad guys who want to kill Indiana Jones.

Lego Heads

Image: Daniel Novta

The NC legislature and responsibility as a “political expert”

A few weeks ago I was interviewed by a reporter who was writing a comprehensive piece on the goings-on in the NC legislature this year.  It was a fun and wide-ranging interview.  While I certainly have my ideological opinions about the directly of Republican policy, an interview like this does not seem to me the place for them.  Certainly, not if I want to maintain integrity as a political expert (which I do).  There’s plenty that can be said about what’s going on in the legislature without getting into policy disagreement.  Anyway, the piece just came out and here’s my modest contribution (from a 20 minute interview):

“It’s Republicans finally getting to go after their long-held wish list,” said Steven Greene, a political scientist at North Carolina State University. “They are feeling emboldened, perhaps overly so.”

Greene said the legislature’s moves create vulnerabilities for Republicans like Gov. Pat McCrory, who campaigned as a can-do moderate.

I think it is perfectly honest and fair to suggest that the legislature is taking many positions quite far to the right that certainly have the potential for an electoral backlash.  I found the next quote from a Duke History professor quite interesting:

Duke University professor William Chafe, an expert on North Carolina history at Duke University went even further. “The Legislature is basically showing contempt for the common good,” said Chafe, who has been arrested for protesting some of the new measures.

I’m not sure whether I’d fault the journalist or the professor here.  I’ve written some pretty harsh words about the legislature, but I generally save those harsh words for the blog and go for a much more detached, “political science professor” take for the media.  Then again, maybe William Chafe is just an enraged citizen who happens to be an expert on NC History.  Or maybe he’s doing what he really should and speaking truth-to-power, while I’m doing mealy-mouthed academic hedging.  I don’t think so, but it’s possible.  Anyway, just struck me to have such a dramatic and judgmental quote from a professor following right upon my temperate “neutral expert” analysis.

Photo of the day

Former student sent me a link to this gallery of over-crowded prison in California.  Wow.

On the surveillance

I haven’t wrtten anything about the newly-revealed secrets of government surveillance because I’m not entirely sure what I think yet.  Though, as Kevin Drum nicely points out– Americans are pretty much okay with secret surveillance as long as their party has the presidency.  Check out this chart:

Substance aside– wow, what a beautiful demonstration of the massive power of partisanship to shape our thinking.

I know I should be more worked up about all this and concerned about abuse of government power (and I am actually concerned about abuse of government power), but the fact that the American people are generally alright with this (even if maybe they shouldn’t be) means something to me.  Furthermore, though I am a big believer in the right to privacy in principle, I think way too many people are way too hung up on personal privacy and it annoys me.  So, even though I know this is quite different from the political issue, I’m pretty sure my views on personal privacy (obviously, I’m not very concerned about it), shape how I see it as a political issue.

Furthermore, on issues where I lack expertise I come to rely on the opinions of those I’ve come to trust who also have more expertise than me.  And so far, most of those people are concerned/upset, but not overly so; and some not at all.  Anyway, that’s the unsatisfying end to my silence on the issue.

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