Order the largest

Maybe I need to create a new blog category “pizza.”  Anyway, loved this Planet Money post on the economics of ordering pizza.  Through a systematic examination, they determined what I long ago figured out anecodtally.  The bigger size is almost always a better deal.  In fact, I’ve been known to do more than a few pi r squared calculations in my head when ordering pizza.  Planet Money:

pizza

(If you click on the graph, it’s interactive)

The math of why bigger pizzas are such a good deal is simple: A pizza is a circle, and the area of a circle increases with the square of the radius.

So, for example, a 16-inch pizza is actually four times as big as an 8-inch pizza.

And when you look at thousands of pizza prices from around the U.S., you see that you almost always get a much, much better deal when you buy a bigger pizza.

As I told my friend who sent me the link, the best part is that not only do you save money, but more pizza = more pizza.

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Photo of the day

From the National Geographic Found tumblr:

A shielded dummy in a basement for atomic bomb testing in Nevada, March 1953.Photograph by Volkmar Wentzel, National Geographic

A shielded dummy in a basement for atomic bomb testing in Nevada, March 1953.PHOTOGRAPH BY VOLKMAR WENTZEL, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

I (don’t) want a new drug

Listened to a really interesting story on NPR yesterday about a new opioid drug that is super potent and just recieved FDA approval despite the FDA’s advisory panel overwhelmingly recommending against approval.  Most prescription opiates (e.g., vicodin, percocet) are actually denatured with acetaminophen (tylenol).  This is not really for more pain relief, but to keep you from taking too much as the tylenol will destroy your liver before you get too high from the opiate.  You might be interested to know, though, that acetaminophen and hydrocodone turn to solution in water at different temperatures, allowing the truly intrepid to get around this.  I don’t recommend it.  The reason Oxycontin is so abused is because it is pure oxycodone without being denatured.  (It is extended release).  On the positive side, since Oxycontin has been so abused, they have changed the delivery mechanism so that you cannot crush it and snort it for a quick high.  Okay, so there’s the background.

Into this, steps the FDA approving Zohydro, which is basically like Oxycontin, except from the synthetic opioid hydrocodone instead of oxycodone.   But here’s the kicker, the manufacturer says it may take up to three years to introduce an abuse-resistant version.  That’s nuts!  I’m not entirely clear why we even need this if we’ve already got Oxy for severe pain, but I do realize that some drugs work better for different patients, so an alternative to Oxy seems reasonable enough.  But why wouldn’t the FDA demand that this come in an abuse-resistant form.  Anyway, from NPR:

NPR’s Laura Sullivan reports.

LAURA SULLIVAN, BYLINE: When Zohydro is released next month, it will be one of the most powerful prescription painkillers on the market. It’s highest dosage will contain five to 10 times as much hydrocodone as the widely used Vicodin. The drug company’s literature says an adult could overdose on two capsules. A child could die from swallowing just one pill.

DR. MICHAEL CAROME: People are going to die from this drug.

SULLIVAN: Dr. Michael Carome is the director of Health Research for Public Citizen.

CAROME: We are in the midst of a public health crisis. There is an epidemic of opioid addiction resulting in thousands of deaths. And the last thing we need now is another high-potent, high-dose, long-acting opioid drug, Zohydro, that will simply feed the epidemic.

SULLIVAN: Overdose deaths and addiction rates from prescription painkillers similar to Zohydro have grown dramatically in recent years. Carome and 41 other healthcare advocates are asking the FDA to remove its approval of the drug. Zohydro is a crushable pill. That means it’s snortable and, some experts say, more prone to abuse than other drugs like the new versions of Oxycontin, which are no longer crushable…

DR. ANDREW KOLODNY: We have many opiate formulations on the market. There’s absolutely no need for a new opioid formulation.

SULLIVAN: FDA’s own advisory panels seem to agree. The panel voted 11-to-2 not to approve the drug. Then in November, top FDA officials overruled that panel. And that’s where things get complicated. Last fall, a series of emails were made public from a Freedom of Information Act request. They were emails between two professors who had, for a decade, organized private meetings between FDA officials and drug companies who make pain medicine. The drug companies pay the professors thousands of dollars to attend.

Corrupt or not, this just seems really hard to justify.

Keith Humphreys last Fall:

Yet 24 hours later, the FDA overruled its own expert panel and approved Zohydro, a pure hydrocodone pain medication that is 5 to 10 times more potent than Vicodin. In the process, FDA also overturned a precedent it had set only six months ago to not approve easily abused-opioids. After refusing in April to approve generic oxycontin because it lacked abuse-resistant properties, the FDA approved a drug whosefull potency can be instantly released merely by crushing it or dropping it into alcohol (Get ready for a rash of Zohydro-cocktail deaths).

What the country needs on prescription opioids is carefully designed, balanced and consistent policy. What we are getting is policy that contradicts itself month-to-month and even day-to-day.

And how can I not conclude with this:

Grade inflation

Grade inflation has been well-documented, but I really liked this piece of research that puts it in a broader context and finds some interesting correlates:

Findings/Results: Contemporary data indicate that, on average across a wide range of schools, A’s represent 43% of all letter grades, an increase of 28 percentage points since 1960 and 12 percentage points since 1988. D’s and F’s total typically less than 10% of all letter grades. Private colleges and universities give, on average, significantly more A’s and B’s combined than public institutions with equal student selectivity. Southern schools grade more harshly than those in other regions, and science and engineering-focused schools grade more stringently than those emphasizing the liberal arts. At schools with modest selectivity, grading is as generous as it was in the mid-1980s at highly selective schools. These prestigious schools have, in turn, continued to ramp up their grades. It is likely that at many selective and highly selective schools, undergraduate GPAs are now so saturated at the high end that they have little use as a motivator of students and as an evaluation tool for graduate and professional schools and employers.

Man, I know it’s gotten bad, but A is the most common grade?!  I’m definitely not guilty of that (then again, I am at a Southern, public, university).

As for me, I’m probably too easy to get a B from, but I definitely do not give away A’s very easy.

Photo of the day

From the Telegraph’s Animal Photos of the week:

Keen nature photographer Geir Jartveit took this photo of a heron catching a frog in Alesund, Norway. Refusing to be gobbled up the frog kept jumping and wriggling free from the grasp of the heron's beak for over 30 minutes until it ran out of steam and couldnt fight any longer.
Keen nature photographer Geir Jartveit took this photo of a heron catching a frog in Alesund, Norway. Refusing to be gobbled up the frog kept jumping and wriggling free from the grasp of the heron’s beak for over 30 minutes until it ran out of steam and couldnt fight any longer.Picture: GEIR JARTVEIT / CATERS NEWS

Interstates for the middle class; but no health care for the working poor

Really like the NC PolicyWatch post that exposes the rank hypocrisy and dissembling of the NC Republican party on the issue of Medicaid expansion:

It’s a popular argument against NC taking federal money to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and it goes like this:  ”Well, it’s a good thing to expand Medicaid to 500,000 working, low-income NC citizens, but we just can’t be sure that the federal government will always provide most of the money for the expansion so we had better not help our fellow citizens.”

Poking holes in this argument isn’t hard…

[plenty of good ones at the link, but I like the interstate highway example below]

To these good reasons for expansion let me add one more:  For NC legislators to take the stance that we shouldn’t take federal money for major state-federal projects in NC because “it might run out” is highly hypocritical. Why? On the same day – in fact in the same hour – as NC House members passed the bill rejecting the Medicaid expansion in North Carolina citing as one of the major reasons that the federal money might “not always be there,” they passed another bill.  This second bill – taken upimmediately after the vote blocking federal Medicaid money in NC, was on a bill paving the way for NC to obtain major federal government funding for the Interstate 540 loop south of Raleigh. [See the “Block Medicaid Expansion” bill here. See the I-540 bill here. See news coverage of the federal money and the I-540 bill here. See the NC House Calendar for the day in question here.]

The I-540 bill – of course – sailed through the NC House with no one questioning that the millions of dollars of matching federal investment for Raleigh’s latest loop freeway might not come through. Indeed, some House members stood up to talk about the importance of getting matching federal money for this southern loop when, just a few minutes before, they had been questioning whether matching federal money for health care would be available. How do I know this?  I was sitting in the NC House chamber and heard them speak.

This is easily the most common reason I’ve heard for rejecting the Medicaid expansion.  But not a soul for rejecting federal highway money.  Hmmmm.  Could it possibly be that rejecting the expansion isn’t actually about the fact that someday in the future the money won’t be there?  Could it be that Republicans hate Obama so much and the idea of universal health care so much that they are willing to screw over the working poor in their states in a fit of political pique?  Sadly, you can guess my answer.

Video of the day

Okay, so this is just super awesome.  I’m really going to have to work “supergeil” into my conversations.  Learn more here.

Oh, and since you probably don’t know German, this is an ad for a German grocery store chain.  Oh, it’s also interesting to see which English words have been adopted wholesale into German.  E.g., “super-easy”  “super-lifestyle” etc.

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