Photo of the day

From the Telegraph’s Animal photos of the week:

A polar bear chills at Wapusk National Park, Canada

Photographer Alberto Ghizzi Panizza captured this incredible image of a polar bear chilling at Wapusk National Park, CanadaPicture: HotSpot Media

Most popular dogs

Obviously, someone over at Wonkblog is into dog statistics lately.  I gotta admit, I find the matter pretty interesting myself.  I love this infographic of how the most popular dog breeds have changed over the past 20 years.  Most notable to me is the Rottweiler bubble.  They came from out of nowhere to get super-popular in the 1980’s (and into the 90’s where this graphic starts), but thy dropped off like a lead balloon.  Also, I gotta agree with America’s judgement here at the top as I love both Labradors and German Shepherds (larger image here).

Quick hits

1) While everybody has been complaining about the silliness of the dress being black/blue or gold/white, the truth is, this really is a fascinating case of the ambiguities of human color perception.  David Pogue’s take was my favorite.  And a good one in Wired, too.

The really crazy part for me is that on Friday morning this was totally white and I could not even imagine how it could be blue.  Then Friday afternoon when I showed my kids, it was blue.  Friday night, it was white again.  As of this later Friday night writing, it’s back to blue again.  Try as I might, I cannot see it as the dingy white I did just two hours ago.  Argh!  Crazy and awesome.

2) Not generally a big fan of Maureen Dowd, but she’s exactly right to question Jeb’s decision-making in relying on all his brother’s worst advisers.  Paul Wolfowitz– seriously?!

3) Our nation’s way over-reliance on solitary confinement truly is a national shame.

4) Julie Schumacher’s Dear Committee Members is literally one of the funniest books I’ve read in years.  I read it in a day (can’t remember the last time I did that) and laughed out loud a bunch while I was reading it.

5) Really liked this take on David Carr’s death and the stigma of lung cancer.

6) I so hate the twitter guardians of decency who seem to take such pleasure in ruining lives.  Absolute worst part of the Lindsey Stone case was how the morons basically had no sense of humor or context.  Horrible and pathetic.

7) How twin studies show that whether you believe in God or not, is significantly genetic.

8) Enjoyed this story on Dianne Rehm’s advocacy in the Right to Die movement.

9) I think Scott Walker’s moronic comments that he’s ready to face down ISIS because he faced down public employee unions mostly just show that he’s not ready for primetime (of which we’ve had ample evidence of late).  Plus, there’s something about the set of his eyes that just seems wrong to me.

10) Will Saletan on how Obama should more forthrightly call out Republicans.  Not going to happen, but it’s nice to think about:

Please. If we’re going to start calling out religious and political groups for extremism, we could start at home with Republicans. Too many of them spew animus. Too many foment sectarianism. Too many sit by, or make excuses, as others appeal to tribalism. If Obama were to treat them the way they say he should treat Islam—holding the entire faith accountable for its ugliest followers—they’d squeal nonstop about slander and demagogy. They’re lucky that’s not his style.

11) Found this NYT story utterly fascinating about two French babies switched at birth and how they stayed with their non-biological families when the error was learned many years later.

12) St Louis is a great example of what goes wrong when a metropolitan area has too many local governments.

13) I’ve only watched three episodes of House of Cards and that’s all it will likely ever be.  As Alyssa Rosenberg writes, it insults our intelligence.  Also, from what I’ve seen it has basically no sense of humor (which is decidedly not the case from other great dramas of recent times).

14) If the Supreme Court actually makes the transparently political and nakedly partisan decision to strike down Obamacare subsidies, this could actually put Republicans in a real jam.

15) Our system of elected judges is truly one of the worst parts of the American system of government.  Easy pickings, of course, for John Oliver.

Your teenager is lying to you

One of the most interesting things that really stuck with me since reading Nurtureshock several years ago was the research on just how much teenagers (even the good ones) lie to their parents.  With my oldest being 15, I definitely see this all the time now.  It is certainly frustrating, but I actually deal with it better (at least on an emotional level for me) knowing that this is totally typical behavior.  That said, it’s still not entirely clear to me what I should be doing when I catch my son lying to me or how to better dissaude it in the future.  Thus, I really enjoyed this Washington Post piece on the matter:

 Does your teen lie? Maybe. Probably. More than likely. Research suggeststhat on at least one important matter last year, you were not told the truth by your teen. (In this small study, 82 percent of teens admitted to lying to their parents in the previous year.) But the bigger question, the one that troubles us in that white-hot moment of anger is: what are we going to do about it? …

Yet, teen behavior is confounding, because while almost all teens said they valued honesty, nearly as many reported lying to their parents about significant matters. And many social scientists believe that respondents under-report their own undesirable behavior…

But teens lie for another important reason. Teens lie for privacy, they lie not just because they will be punished for what they are doing but because they simply do not want us, their parents, to know. Teens lie to preserve or establish their autonomy. It is their way of saying, “My social life is my own.” “What I do with my body is my own.” “How I spend my time is my own.” I remember that delicious feeling of realizing sometime in high school that I had my own life, that I had a whole world that my parents knew nothing about and that I would lie to protect that privacy. I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t realize that my kids must sometimes feel the same.

Yet the question that remains for most parents is how to minimize or eliminate any lying and what to do when you find that your teen has not been honest…

Nancy Darling, a professor at Oberlin College who has studied teens and lying, suggests that one of the ways to raise trustworthy kids is to trust them, she explains, “…feeling trusted seems to inspire kids to behave in ways that will maintain parental trust. Good kids are trusted. The more they’re trusted, the more they try to live up to that trust, and the more trustworthy they become.”

Her research further shows that being willing to battle with your teen, having a climate in your home where teens feel that they can disagree with individual rules, though not with your authority to make those rules, is a parent’s best chance for discovering the truth…

Our teens should never doubt our disappointment in the lying. The best message to convey is that the infraction might have been overlooked or a milder punishment put into place had they not lied. The message they should hear? “Had you just missed curfew, I might have been lenient, understanding or even forgiving. But that time you are going to spend grounded at home? That’s for lying.”

Okay, on the bright side, sounds to me like I’m pretty much doing everything right from my side.  On the downside, I still catch David lying to me.  I guess I can take solace in the belief that he’d be lying to me even more?

This is the link to the scientific paper that predicted the disappearance of all snow from the planet due to climate change





Sorry, couldn’t resist.  Got the idea from a PS prof friend on FB.  Was amusing to see people not get it.

Actually, meanwhile, this:

Yep, that’s Sen. James Inhofe, Republican from Oklahoma, throwing a snowball to prove that global warming isn’t really happening.

“We keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record,” Inhofe said. “So I ask the chair,” — referring to Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) — “Do you know what this is? It’s a snowball, from just outside here. So it’s very, very cold out… very unseasonable.” He then lobbed said snowball to a page and lapsed into deep silence, a smile across his face.

Inhofe, by the way, isn’t some random nut off the street. He’s currently chair of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works committee. You want Congress to do something about global warming? For the next two years, at least, any bill would have to go through him.

Ouch, the stupid!!  And in a US Senator!  Man, if that doesn’t make you despair for our nation, I don’t know what does.

Chart of the day: small dogs

Interesting post from Wonkblog on the rise of small dogs.  The numbers are pretty amazing.  Here’s the key chart:



Wonkblog explains this all as a function of urbanization, but there’s no way that’s near enough to account for this very substantial shift:

Why are America’s pet lovers choosing to raise smaller and smaller dogs?

The clearest reason is likely tied to the national migration to urban areas. Almost 80 percent of the country now lives in cities and their surrounding areas,  where space is harder to come by. It’s of little coincidence that big dogs are much more popular in the south, where land is more plentiful.

“Smaller homes and apartments are helping drive the growing popularity of smaller dogs,” Damian Shore, an analyst at market-research firm Euromonitor, told Quartz last year.

Maybe in part, but I don’t need to do any googling to tell you that the rate of urbanization is absolutely nowhere near the change in preference for smaller dogs.  Clearly, there’s cultural factors at play.

And here’s where I risk offending my readers by sharing my bias against small dogs.  I think a lot of people just naturally think smaller dogs are better for smaller living space, but that’s simply not true.  In my experience, smaller dogs are far more likely to be hyper-active and barky.  The smaller your home, the more annoying that is.  That matters more than the fact that a Labrador takes up a couple more square feet when they’re lying down.  In fact, my current dog, Bennie (about 45 pound Golden mix), is by far my least favorite because he seems to have too much of the small dog personality (actually, he lies around the house peacefully, but he’s so annoying outside around other people and dogs).  Anyway, this is one trend I will not be joining.  Kim, in fact, would love for us to have a Great Dane some day (personally, I’m a little scared of the volume of poop coming out of dog that big).

Photo of the day

Well, it’s a snow day here and everything is shut down in central NC.  This photo from the Telegraph’s photos of the week seemed quite appropriate (alas, the snow here today is way too wet and sticky for good sledding):

Charlie Perkins gets a ride on a sledge from his father, David, as they speed down a snow-covered street in Roanoke, Va. A winter storm blasted parts of the Mid-Atlantic and the South on Tuesday, creating treacherous road conditions and leaving hundreds of thousands without power.

Charlie Perkins gets a ride on a sledge from his father, David, as they speed down a snow-covered street in Roanoke, VirginiaPicture: AP Photo/The Roanoke Times, Don Petersen


How the EPA is causing mental illness

Nice piece from Alec MacGillis on how Obama has taken so much executive action on environmental issues because Congressional Republicans are so amazingly divorced from reality on the matter.  MacGillis uses examples from a recent hearing with the EPA director where the questioning was pretty much incoherent, paranoid rantings about the climate change hoax, etc.  My favorite, though, was on coal regulation:

2. Rep. David McKinley of West Virginia told McCarthy that she was, effectively, responsible for an epidemic of mental illness. “I keep seeing the EPA putting in another regulation on top of another regulation,” he said. “What it’s led, by these overregulation in rural America, it’s led to people, their well-being, their mental health, is all being affected by it. I think we’re having some depression in areas around the county because of the threats of regulation and what it’s doing to jobs … I really believe it’s directly attributed to the regulatory body with it (sic).” [emphasis mine] No mention of the other factors that are putting pressure on the coal industry in his district, such as thenatural gas boom happening very nearby.

Just, wow.  I don’t doubt that the EPA may go too far on occasion in it’s mission to keep our air and water clean, but the cause of mental illness in West Virginians who are always just wondering what regulation is next?!  My, oh, my.  With nuts like this trying to determine our environmental policy, MacGillis is right– is it any wonder Obama is doing all he can through executive authority.

Eat more salt!

It will make your food taste better and unless you already have hypertension, it’s not going to hurt you.  Mind you, I’m not advocating to eat more processed food (generally high in sodium), but the evidence is clear that the vast majority of people worrying about their sodium intake are worrying needlessly.  Aaron Carroll has an excellent summary of the new dietary recommendations, but since I’ve already hit that topic, I’ll just focus on what he has to say about salt:

I wrote here at The Upshot not long ago about how a growing body of epidemiologic data was pointing out that low-salt diets might actually be unhealthy. But randomized controlled trials exist there, too. A 2008 study randomly assigned patients with congestive heart failure to either normal or low-sodium diets. Those on the low-sodium diet had significantly more hospital admissions. The “number needed to treat” for a normal-sodium diet above a low-sodium diet to prevent a hospital admission in this population was six — meaning that for every six people who are moved from a low-sodium diet to a normal diet, one hospital admission would be prevented. That’s a very strong finding.

Let’s not cherry-pick, though. A systematic review of randomized controlled trials of salt intake was published last year. Eight trials involving more than 7,200 participants looked at whether advising patients to cut down on salt, or reducing sodium intake, affected outcomes. None of the trials, including ones involving people with both normal and high blood pressure, showed a reduction in all-cause mortality.

Well, there you go.  Eat salt– it’s tasty and very unlikely to hasten your death or major illness.

Where the smart people live

Increasingly, it is in city centers.  Tom Edsall has a really interesting look at the changing demographics of American cities. Short version: there’s a lot of gentrification and a lot of Hispanics moving in.  What I found most interesting was these two charts of how Charlotte, NC has changed in the past couple of decades:

clt1 clt2

The fat left of those charts is really pretty amazing.  And Edsall writes that Charlotte is quite representative.  It’s certainly been happening here in Raleigh.  As for the political implications of all this:

The advantages for Democrats of these population transitions are notable. First, in big cities, a transformation of the white versus black struggle for power is increasingly a three-way contest: whites versus blacks versus Hispanics. Racial conflict is becoming more diluted.

Second, as the black and Hispanic populations disperse, these heavily Democratic constituencies will influence the election outcomes in an increasing number of congressional districts. This will lessen one of the Democrats’ liabilities: the huge concentration of favorable voters in city districts that vote Democratic by 3 to 1 or better margins, effectively wasting voters who would be more beneficial to the party if located in competitive districts.

On the plus side for Republicans, the influx into the suburbs of minorities and the poor – which raises the possibility of attendant tax increases, property value declines, social service demands and crime — could push local whites to the right, into Republican arms.

As for me, I continue to look with disdain on those in the exurbs, but really do enjoy my big house and big yard (relatively speaking) in a very diverse inner suburb.

Photo of the day

Recent National Geographic photo of the day:

Picture of the peaks of Gran Paradiso reflected in a still lake in Italy

Arcadian Oasis

Photograph by Stefano Unterthiner, National Geographic

A placid pond high in the Graian Alps mirrors the snow-crowned peaks of Italy’s Gran Paradiso National Park—the oldest protected area in a country known more for culture than for conservation.

Are conservatives humor deficient?

Enjoyed this piece in the Atlantic upon Jon Stewart’s announced retirement looking at the difference in humor between liberals and conservatives.  I’m not going to say that conservatives can’t have a great sense of humor, but when it comes to political satire, it is simply clearly dominated by liberals.  There’s actually some pretty interesting academic research on the matter :

But what is it about political satire that makes it so hard for conservatives to get it right?

Political humor, in particular, might have an inherently liberal bias. Alison Dagnes spent years looking into this question for her 2012 book A Conservative Walks Into a Bar. She spoke to dozens of working comedians who self-identified as liberals, and as many who identified as conservatives as she could find. One of the reasons she posits for a lack of conservative satire is that the genre has always been aimed at taking down the powerful, from the Revolutionary War through Vietnam and 9/11. “Conservatism supports institutions and satire aims to knock these institutions down a peg,” she wrote…

I really like the following part, as I remember meeting Young several years ago at a conference and having an interesting discussion with her about her research:

Could it be that American political satire is biased toward liberals in the same way that American political talk radio is biased toward conservatives? Dannagal Young, an assistant professor of communications at the University of Delaware, was looking into the lack of conservative comedians when she noticed studies that found liberals and conservatives seemed to have different aesthetic tastes. Conservatives seemed to prefer stories with clear-cut endings. Liberals, on the other hand, had more tolerance for a story like public radio’s Serial, which ends with some uncertainty and ambiguity…

As Young noticed, this is a kind of ambiguity that liberals tend to find more satisfying and culturally familiar than conservatives do. In fact, a study out of Ohio State University found that a surprising number of conservatives who were shown Colbert clips were oblivious to the fact that he was joking.

In contrast, conservative talk radio humor tends to rely less on irony than straightforward indignation and hyperbole…

These examples formed the kernel of Young’s theory that liberals and conservatives look for and see different kinds of humor. Connover, the producer of The Flipside, has already voiced skepticism about Young’s hypothesis. “That’s another way of saying that liberals are smarter,” Connover said. “And clearly that’s not the case. Liberals are some of the dumbest people to walk the earth.” Young insists that hypothesis is not about intelligence; it’s about a preferred structure of jokes. She maintains that there’s nothing inherently better about liking ironic jokes over exaggerated ones.

I’m not about to suggest that liberals are smarter than conservatives based on humor preferences.  And, okay, I’m really biased here because I love sharp political satire and ambiguity, but I will say I think liberal political humor requires more intelligence to really “get.”  I imagine the intelligence of liberals and conservatives is fairly well spread out, but perhaps the difference is that liberal political humor appeals to smart liberals and conservative political humor appeals (predominantly) to less intelligent conservatives.  Or something like that.  I’ll just say I’m glad I have Stewart and Colbert to entertain me rather than Rush Limbaugh.

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