Quick hits (part II)

1) Loved this NYT story about the amazing science and technology behind the decades-long effort finally create a pizza MRE.  Now that’s a worthy cause.

2) Sebastian Mallaby on how “Trumponomics” is not working:

So is Trumponomics working? With one significant caveat, the answer is no. For one thing, Trump’s trade policy is turning out to be worse than expected. For another, the growth surge mostly reflects a temporary sugar high from last December’s tax cut. Economists are already penciling in a recession for 2020

But the greatest damage stems from Trump’s trade war with China. His opening demand — that China abandon its subsidies for strategic high-tech industries — was never going to be met by a nationalistic dictatorship committed to industrial policy. His bet that tariffs will drive companies to shift production to the United States is equally forlorn. If manufacturers pull out of China, they are more likely to go elsewhere in Asia. And even if some manufacturing does come to the United States, this gain will be outweighed by the job losses stemming from Trump’s tariffs, which raise costs for industries that use Chinese inputs. In short, Trump isn’t helping the American workers he claims to speak for. Instead, he is battering the rules-based international system that offers the best chance of constraining China.

Phases in economic history are remembered by their labels: the go-go ’60s, the stagflationary ’70s and so on. The current populist era in the United States will turn out no better than populist projects elsewhere: in Britain, where a self-harming experiment in deglobalization has dragged down the national growth rate; in Italy, where expensive promises to voters could bring on a debt crisis. So do not be surprised if the populists are temporarily popular: Popularity is what they crave most, after all. But recall that, everywhere and throughout history, the populists’ folly is unmasked in the end.

3) This is a great point, with NC’s post-Florence problems, “North Carolina’s Problem Isn’t Florence, It’s Poverty: The floodplains read like maps of inequality and race.”

4) I’m pretty sure I walk faster when I’m with DJC.  NYT, “Faster. Slower. How We Walk Depends on Who We Walk With, and Where We Live.”

People move differently when they walk in groups than when they walk alone. And their walking style is especially distinct when they walk with children, according to a fascinating new cross-cultural study of pedestrians in several nations.

The study, which also shows that men tend to walk differently with other men than with women and that some cultures may promote walking speed over sociability, underscores that how we move is not dependent solely on physiology or biomechanics.

It is also influenced to a surprising extent by where we grew up and who we hang out with…

Given this complexity, exercise scientists have long been interested in how we manage the physical demands of walking. In laboratory studies, they have determined that each of us has a particular pace at which we are most biologically efficient, meaning that we use the least energy.

In theory, this is the pace that we naturally would settle into when we walk.

But other, real-world studies and observations indicate that people rarely perambulate at their most efficient pace. Impediments such as crowds, streetlights and scheduling concerns affect walking speed, of course.

But even on uncrowded pedestrian pathways, people often choose walking speeds that are slower or faster than their physiological ideal. Men, for instance, tend to slow their natural pace when they walk with women who are romantic partners, a few past studies show, but hasten their velocity when walking with other men.

5) It’s cool that there’s a Raleigh teacher on the cover of Time’s cover story about under-paid teachers.  That said, I think it’s a real mistake to choose a teacher making $69,000/year as the face of under-paid teachers.

6) Good parenting advice (and for certain progeny of the blogger who read this) here from NYT– how to help teenagers embrace stress:

But the conventional wisdom is that stress does harm and so, accordingly, we should aim to reduce, prevent or avoid it. Not surprisingly, this negative slant on stress can shape parenting and also leave teenagers feeling stressed about being stressed.

“Especially within the last five years,” says Sarah Huss, the director of human development and parent education at Campbell Hall School in Los Angeles, “we’ve seen a rise in the number of parents who feel that it’s their job to rescue their child from situations that are stressful.”

To reframe how we think about a phenomenon that has been roundly, and wrongly, pathologized, we should appreciate that healthy stress is inevitable when we operate at the edge of our abilities. Stretching beyond familiar limits doesn’t always feel good, but growing and learning — the keys to school and much of life — can’t happen any other way. [emphases mine]

According to Jeremy P. Jamieson, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Rochester who studies how stress impacts emotions and performance, “Avoiding stress doesn’t work and is often not possible. To achieve and grow, we have to get outside our comfort zones and approach challenges.”

Stress is also known to have an inoculating effect. Research shows that people who overcome difficult life circumstances go on to enjoy higher-than-average levels of resilience. In short, achieving mastery in trying situations builds emotional strength and psychological durability.

How students themselves regard stress — whether they see it as positive or negative — has powerful downstream effects. Studies find that when faced with steep intellectual tasks, individuals with a stress-is-enhancing outlook outperform those with a stress-is-debilitating one…

Happily, studies also find that it’s not hard to convert people to the stress-is-enhancing perspective. To do this in my own work with adolescents, I liken the demands of school to a strength-training program. Everyone understands that lifting weights to the point of discomfort is the only way to build muscle; the process of developing intellectual ability, including the ability to manage the stress that comes with it, works just the same way.

In talking with teenagers, I matter-of-factly point out that their teachers should be giving them hard academic workouts, because that’s what will transform them from wobbly middle school colts into graduation-ready racehorses.

To be sure, some days will be light on challenge and others will feel overwhelming. But I try to reassure students by telling them this: If, on balance, they are feeling stretched at school and asked to step up to a new level once they’ve mastered an old one, then things are going exactly as they should.

7) Open tab for too long– Sean McElwee on the power of “Abolish Ice.”

The Voter Study Group also asks respondents whether undocumented immigrants make a contribution to society or are a drain on it. In 2011, 40 percent of white Democrats said undocumented immigrants make a contribution, 16 percent said neither and 31 percent said “mostly a drain” (the rest were unsure). By 2016, 61 percent of white Democrats said undocumented immigrants made a contribution, 10 percent said neither and 22 percent said mostly a drain.

The abolish ICE debate is a product of the way American policymaking has changed in our hyperpartisan age. Debates and dialogue hardly every occur across the aisle, but activists in each party form a collective vision, often when they are out of power, and implement it when they gain power. Though the Republican Party seems to think it can use the Abolish ICE movement against Democrats everywhere, the idea that it will provide a bludgeon in the midterm is a phantom. For one, ICE is rapidly losing popularity and political capital, with 49 percent of Americans expressing a positive view and 44 percent a negative view in recent Pew polling. That’s the lowest of any agency they examined. Even the I.R.S. has 57 percent positive views and 36 percent negative views.

Data for Progress also commissioned a national survey from YouGov Blue. We asked respondents, “Would you support or oppose defunding Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and enforcing immigration violations like other civil infractions?” We found 32 percent of respondents in support and 38 percent opposed (with another 30 saying neither or they didn’t know). Half of Democrats supported defunding ICE (18 percent opposed) and among people under 45, 33 percent supported the idea and 27 percent opposed it…

8) Love this “Be Better at Parties” guide from NYT, especially the part on making good conversation:

3 TIERS OF GOOD CONVERSATION

Tier one is safe territory: sports, the weather, pop culture, local celebrities and any immediate shared experience (that free information Ms. Fine talks about).

Tier two is potentially controversial: religion, politics, dating and love lives. “Test the waters, and back away if they’re not interested,” he warned.

Tier three includes the most intimate topics: family and finance, buckets into which Mr. Post Senning includes health and work life. “Some people love to talk about what they do and their kids, but don’t ask a probing question until the door has been opened,” he advised. Those sorts of questions can also become exclusionary, so think about everyone involved in the conversation before you start.

Knowing the tiers can save you from making the most embarrassing faux pas, e.g., “I notice you’re not drinking, are you pregnant?” Note also that while “So, what do you do?” is a pretty common and acceptable question in America, in Europe it’s as banal as watching paint dry.

They’ll think, “Why would you ever talk about that?” Mr. Post Senning said. Instead of “What do you do?,” Ms. Fine suggested “What keeps you busy?,” which applies to people whether or not they have traditional jobs, are stay-at-home-parents or are currently employed.

Ms. Fine has another basic rule: “Don’t ask a question that could put somebody in a bad spot: ‘Is your boyfriend here?’ ‘Did you get into that M.B.A. program?’” Instead try: “Catch me up on your life,” or, “What’s going on with work for you?”

BE MORE INTERESTED TO BE MORE INTERESTING

Don’t head to a party with the intent of leaving everyone in stitches, unless perhaps you’re a professional comedian. Instead, as Ms. Aarons-Mele puts it, “Channel your inner Oprah.” This is especially helpful advice for introverts.

“If you just talk a lot you might get exhausted, but if you ask questions and listen and draw people out, they’ll think you’re a great conversationalist,” she said.

“For me it comes down to being aware that I should be more interested than I should be interesting,” Mr. Karia said. He brought up a study in which two researchers from the psychology department at Harvard University found that talking about yourself triggers the same pleasure sensation in the brain as food. “People would forgo money in order to talk about themselves,” he said. You can use this to your advantage simply by listening.

Mr. Ford wrote of this in his Medium post. At one party, he found himself saying: “Wow. That sounds hard,” after a stranger told him what she did for a living. It worked brilliantly. “Maybe a hundred times since I’ve said, ‘Wow, that sounds hard’ to a stranger, always to great effect.”

9) Presumably you’ve heard about the Flynn effect of IQ rise over the 20th century.  Now there’s evidence for an anti-Flynn effect of IQ decline.  Ruh-roh.

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