Quick hits (part II)

1) Hillary Clinton’s approach on capital gains is smart policy.  But, it disproportionately affects the richest Americans.  Of course Republicans hate it.  Drum’s take and Jordan Weissmann’s.

2) Speaking of Hillary and taxes, she’s also speaking out on the “hair and makeup tax” faced by women.  Enjoyed the emphatic “amen” on this from a female reporter friend.

3) Dahlia Lithwick on a the recent 8th Circuit abortion decision:

What the 8th Circuit panel did yesterday goes far beyond admitting evidence from a discredited “expert” or two, willing to testify to conclusions that have been long debunked by serious scientific and medical organizations. This court actually usedthat faux science—without testing or weighing it or even allowing it to be evaluated at trial—to advance their argument that Roe and Casey are bad law because they just don’t like them. They would just take the assertions of “one doctor” and “one woman” as proof that abortions are bad and states should regulate them however and whenever they see fit. For all their alleged faults, Roe and Casey represented judicial attempts to calibrate the complex and competing interests of medical science, state interests, pregnant women, and the unborn fetuses they carried. They were not a series of Post-it notes from one side of the abortion debate.

4) Some research a while back suggested that most campus rapes are committed by serial rapists.  The latest research?  Maybe not so much.

5) Fascinating piece in the Economist on how the ubiquitousness of English is seemingly affecting commonly-used grammar in other languages.

6) Drum on how the new EPA power plant rules that conservatives said would destroy America are (surprise!) not going to destroy America.

7) What 10 Republicans will get to participate in the first GOP debate?  Given the low polling averages at the bottom, there will probably be an element of chance in who is included.

8) Great Pew feature on the changing demographics of America.

9) Love this Jordan Weissman on Jeb’s economic proposals:

So Bush has managed to clear the ankle-high bar of looking relatively adult in the quadrennial freak show known as the Republican primary. This is not the same, however, as demonstrating that his ideas are particularly thoughtful or moderate. [emphasis mine] While he breaks with his party’s rabid base on immigration and education, when it comes to the all-important issues regarding the size and role of government, his positions seem to be GOP boilerplate mixed with a dash of hardcore conservative fantasy, all dressed up with some rhetorical gimmicks. Bush might be the grown-up in the room. But you have to consider the room.

10) A prostitute acting in self defense may have just killed a serial killer (and surely saved future lives in the process).

11) One thing NCLB has done well?  Helping Special Education students.  (Though I still strongly question the wisdom of standardized tests for children– such as my own– who are not even on a Kindergarten academic level).

12) And on a related subject, students with disabilities are being punished at disproportionate rates as the same rules do not always make sense for them (I’ll never forget the absurdity of Alex being sent “to the principal” for what amounted to the type of tantrum a three-year old would have).

13) Say what you will about Millennials, but I do appreciate the fact that they would much rather work in a vibrant downtown than a suburban office park.  This, of course, is bad news for office parks.

14) Daniel Kahneman thinks we all need to be less confident.  I’m quite confident that he is right about this:

What’s fascinating is that Kahneman’s work explicitly swims against the current of human thought. Not even he believes that the various flaws that bedevil decision-making can be successfully corrected. The most damaging of these is overconfidence: the kind of optimism that leads governments to believe that wars are quickly winnable and capital projects will come in on budget despite statistics predicting exactly the opposite. It is the bias he says he would most like to eliminate if he had a magic wand. But it “is built so deeply into the structure of the mind that you couldn’t change it without changing many other things”.

15) So, those cool kids at 13?  Not so great at 23.

16) I must admit I’m quite partial to this theory for why social psychologists are liberal.  But given all the social-psychology I know, I think it may be just motivated reasoning (though, there’s probably some there there).

17) Just so we’re clear, you have the right to be rude to police officers.  Of course, just because you have the right to mouth off, doesn’t mean its a good idea as there’s little to stop them from escalating a situation and arresting you even if they should not have done so.

18) Back in 5th grade I was the Rubik’s Cube champ of West Springfield Elementary.  It took me several minutes on average.  I am in awe of the fact that people today can do it in under 10 seconds.

That’s me wearing my “I solved the Rubik’s Cube” t-shirt while hitting the mini-links in Ocean City, Maryland, circa 1982.

 

Photo of the day

Love this inventive gallery of Star Wars Storm Troopers doing cool things:

CSI: Death Star by Julia Vazquez on 500px

 

“Classic” science fiction that’s not so great (and reading aloud)

My oldest son is 15 and I’ve been reading to him every night since he was a toddler and I’m not planning on stopping until he goes off to college.  I still mix in some YA, but a couple of years ago I shifted over to largely adult science fiction novels that I had never before read, but always wanted to.  I must say, in the past year, I’ve been quite disappointed in so many science fiction “classics.”  We’re just about done Ringworld, which has to-die-for reviews, and I’ve found the book mostly flat and uninteresting.  Titan came highly recommended, and was so boring– can’t believe I stuck with it.  Stars My Destination– really liked the writing style, but at times just downright confusing.  And at others boring.  Childhood’s End— interesting enough, but still not all that engaging.  Have Spacesuit will travel– eminently forgettable.  There’s probably more, but that’s all I can think of right now.

So, help!  I need book suggestions to read to David.  From experience, I’ve learned a few things when it comes to books to be read aloud.  1) Not too much description.  This can be okay when you are reading to yourself, but at the slow rate of reading aloud, boy does it bog things down.  Too many classic sci-fi authors just love going on-and-on about new worlds, aliens, etc.  2) First-person narration is generally a good thing.  Or third person that really puts you right with the characters into the action.  Essentially, what really works is a minimal narrative distance.  3) I like YA because it tends to be good on the first two points, but so many YA novels (especially of the sci-fi genre) are remarkably cliched and derivative.

Michael Crichton novels are actually pretty much perfect.  They move, they’ve generally got cool science, and they don’t waste time on over-description.  Sure, the characters could be more real, but, I did say “pretty much.”  I’ve read some of my favorite Crichton to David, but I’d really like to read some things I haven’t read before.

So, please hit me with your suggestions.  Ringworld  has been a real disappointment and I’m really looking to bounce back with my next selection.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Finished reading Andy Weir’s The Martian this week.  Soooo good.  If you love science (and I know many of you do), this book is an absolute must-read.  I also love the story of how this started as a book he gave away for free, than a $.99 ebook but became so popular that Random House and a movie studio came calling the same week.

2) This article argues that universities should ban powerpoints because they make students stupid and professors boring.  Of course, I actually figured out all these problems during my first two semesters of teaching.  If you use powerpoints right— and honestly, most people that I know that use powerpoint, do use it right– than it is an effective tool

3) All that stuff about how much your birth order matters.  The latest research says… maybe not so much after all.

4) John Oliver on the absurdity of public funding of sports stadiums.  Brilliant, of course.  And, as long as we’ve got videos with strong references to Friday Night Lights, this Amy Schumer video on football and rape is kinda awesome. Hadn’t seen that video, but found out about it via this really fun Fresh Air interview with Schumer.

5) Time to cut back on NSAID (i.e., ibuprofen, etc.) use?  Maybe.  Though, some much more explicit guidelines would sure be helpful.

6) Nice Op-Ed from Erwin Chermerinksy on how Scalia’s opinions set a really bad example for young lawyers.

7) Okay, sometimes I actually let my phone make noise in public, but in some pants/shorts I don’t hear the vibrations and my wife gets pissed when she knows I’m not busy and don’t answer.

8) Not surprised to learn that living near trees is good for your health.  One of the reasons I’m in my current home is that there are way more trees in my yard and neighborhood than most other homes I looked at (though it’s damn hard to have a decent lawn as a result).

9) The robots are winning.

10) Sure, To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the few assigned high school books that I actually enjoyed reading, but all the hullabaloo over Go Set a Watchman seems a little nuts.  I’ve actually ignored most of the coverage, but I found this TNR piece on why this “new” book should have never been published pretty compelling.

11) And your long-read from the NYT Magazine.  You just got out of prison— now what.

 

Quick hits (part I)

Didn’t blog much at the beach, but still read lots of good stuff.  Many quick hits coming at you.

1) Really liked this perspective on Galileo— he was not as right as you think nor his critics as wrong.

2) Nice N&O Editorial on the latest example of NC Republicans deciding that local government is best– except when it is electing Democrats.  When Jesse Helm’s chief adviser says you’ve gone too far, you’ve probably gone too far.   And Thomas Mills on the travesty that is the NC Senate:

House Speaker Tim Moore came to power promising to show that the GOP could govern. Unfortunately, it’s not to be. The ideologues in the Senate are too busy micromanaging local governments and sticking square pegs into round, free-market holes to pay attention to what’s working and what’s not. They don’t seem to care whether policies are good for the people or the state. They only care that they fit into their narrow ideological box.

3) On the science behind “Inside Out.”  And seriously, if you haven’t yet, see this movie.

4) Nice piece from Bill Ayers on using the language of religious rights to deny rights:

As one lawmaker put it in North Carolina, “Just because someone takes a job with the government does not mean they give up their First Amendment rights.” A cake baker has apparently also decided to take his case to court, lest he be sanctioned for discriminating against gay couples in the making of wedding cakes.

I find this argument deeply troubling on many fronts. It strikes me as a species of other arguments people make which use the trappings of commonly-held values (in this case, the language about rights and freedom) to advance the opposite

5) Enjoyed this Slate piece on how Carli Lloyd and other US women soccer stars were rejected from youth teams and how that helped lead to their greatness.

6) I hate felony murder charges.  No, you should not rob somebody trying to sell you marijuana.  But when that goes wrong and the marijuana dealer falls off the truck and dies as it pulls away (and you are sitting in the back seat!) in no way are you a murderer at all.  Except, of course, under felony murder laws.  If I were on a jury for this case there would damn well be some juror nullification.  (Interesting that it happened at the park I visit every week with Sarah while Evan has his piano lessons).

7) A urologist argues in NYT that we need to bring back more prostate screenings.  This was a great example of smart commenters that you actually see in the NYT as they were all over the problems in this argument.

8) Apparently Amy Schumer’s jokes really are racist.  I, however, am not persuaded.

9) The best stuff I read on Germany and Greek debt last week.  Thomas Piketty on how the Germans are hypocrites. NYT’s Eduardo Porter makes a similar point.   And Harold Myerson.  Not like Greece doesn’t have plenty of blame to go around, of course.  For example, their crazy pension system.

10) I hate the tendency towards over air-conditioning in the summer.  I’ve been known to run my space heater in my office in the summer.  What a waste of energy.

11) I think I’m going to have to read this book on how over-parenting is ruining our kids.  I’m definitely no helicopter parent, but I fear I am not doing enough to make my kids learn tough life lessons on their own.

When parents have tended to do the stuff of life for kids—the waking up, the transporting, the reminding about deadlines and obligations, the bill-paying, the question-asking, the decision-making, the responsibility-taking, the talking to strangers, and the confronting of authorities, kids may be in for quite a shock when parents turn them loose in the world of college or work. They will experience setbacks, which will feel to them like failure. Lurking beneath the problem of whatever thing needs to be handled is the student’s inability to differentiate the self from the parent.

12) I’m glad I don’t have to rely on public schools in Texas to teach my kids history:

THIS FALL, Texas schools will teach students that Moses played a bigger role in inspiring the Constitution than slavery did in starting the Civil War. The Lone Star State’s new social studies textbooks, deliberately written to play down slavery’s role in Southern history, do not threaten only Texans — they pose a danger to schoolchildren all over the country.

On a related note, here’s some excerpts from a 1970’s Alabama history text.

13) Maybe autism is so more prevalent now because earlier clinicians actively worked to not diagnose it.

14) John Oliver on bail is, of course, excellent.

15) The most common reasons behind unfriending on FB:

In a 2014 study, Christopher Sibona, a researcher at the University of Colorado at Denver, actually pinpointed the four types of content that are most likely to prompt an unfriend:

  1. Frequent/unimportant posts
  2. Polarizing posts (politics and religion; liberals are, for what it’s worth,more likely to unfriend over political views)
  3. Inappropriate posts (sexist, racist remarks)
  4. Everyday life posts (child, spouse, eating habits, etc.)

Also, HS friends are most likely to get unfriended.

16) Iron Giant is going to be re-released on the big screen.  So going to take all the family to that.

17) I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but it never hurts to mention how near-useless the BMI is for addressing the health of individuals (there is some value as a population statistic).

18) A nearby public library that is actually inside a local HS is set to close.  Why?  People are worried about security:

The school system and Wake County partnered in the early 1980s so the Athens Drive High School library served students while also doubling as a public library.

But times have changed in terms of security at schools, said Ann Burlingame, assistant library director in Wake. High schools need to monitor who comes on their campuses, she said.

“We need to have a regard for the children and their safety,” Burlingame said…

No major security issues have been reported at the west Raleigh school. But Simmons said some parents have complained that it’s easy for library visitors to access the main part of the building.

Got that?  No actual issues in decades of use, but parents are worried.  So frustrating when the overly-fearful get to make public policy.

19) I had no idea about putative father registries.  Pretty interesting account of the laws and one disturbing case in South Carolina–yes, there are racial overtones (and the author was a friend of mine back at Duke).

 

Quick hits (part II)

Managed to get out a timely Sunday quick hits even while at the beach by working ahead.  Hooray for me.

1) I’m going to start with this Vox list of 31 “bite-sized” TV shows to binge, mostly because I want to find this link later for suggestions.  And because it contains Party Down (easily the best TV show almost nobody’s ever heard of) and Black Mirror, which I’ve really enjoyed of late.

2) Kevin Drum on new government regulations about overtime.  Of course, the business lobbyists say this will ruin American business.  As Drum points out, they say that every time and they are always wrong.

3) The Upshot on how abortion and gun control are different from gay marriage.

4) The New Yorker’s Lincoln Caplan on John Roberts.

5) Just another piece further emphasizing that you really should not tell your kids they are smart.  Of course, after reading Nurtureshock, I did pretty much stop doing that.  Alas, regardless of what I say, Evan knows he’s damn smart, regardless of how much I praise him for hard work (especially when he doesn’t have to work hard for a good outcome).  Not sure what I’m supposed to do about that.

6) Some good stuff on teenagers and risk-taking.  The key?  Keep them away from other teenagers:

We found that having friends in the same room doubled the number of risks that teenagers took but had no effect on adults. We then repeated this experiment using brain imaging: we scanned people while playing the same games either with or without peers able to see their performance on a monitor in another room. Not only did we once again find that the presence of peers increased risk taking among adolescents but not adults––we also found that when peers were watching, this lit up reward centers in the adolescents’ brains but not in the adults’ brains, and that the more these centers were activated, the more risks teenagers took.

7) Wasn’t sure I was actually going to read this, but got totally sucked into this Marshall Project report on life at Rikers Island from many different perspectives.

8) David Roberts says the Supreme Court’s EPA decision is pointless.  Also liked Drum’s succinct summary.

9) Nice NYT infographic (a little large to insert here) on the interesting splits this term among the Supreme Court’s conservatives.

10) I enjoyed Tim Lee’s suggestion on issues where conservatives and liberals agree and therefore, you’d think, would be able to get something done.  But, Drum gets right to the heart of why nothing has gotten done on these issues:

There’s a common theme to all four of these issues: there are special interests who care a lot about them, but no real benefit for working politicians to reach across the aisle and fight back. In theory, they might have similar attitudes on these four items, but why bother doing anything about it? No one is jamming their phone lines about this stuff and no one is voting for or against them based on their positions. If activists want action on this kind of googoo stuff, they have to figure out a way to make the public care. Once they do that, they’ll have at least a fighting chance of getting politicians to care too. Until then, don’t get your hopes up.

11) Hope you saw some good fireworks.  Here’s videos of the federal government blowing up mannequins to keep you safe.  Great stuff.

12) The math to a lasting relationship.

13) I keep meaning and failing to do a good post on colleges, sexual assault, and the meaning of sexual consent.  And failing.  So just read this.

Quick hits (part I)

Happy 4th of July, my fellow Americans.

1) Say what you will about MLS, but, wow, is this one hell of a goal.

2) Can the bacteria in your gut explain your mood?  Of course they can.

Given the extent to which bacteria are now understood to influence human physiology, it is hardly surprising that scientists have turned their attention to how bacteria might affect the brain. Micro-organisms in our gut secrete a profound number of chemicals, and researchers like Lyte have found that among those chemicals are the same substances used by our neurons to communicate and regulate mood, like dopamine, serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). These, in turn, appear to play a function in intestinal disorders, which coincide with high levels of major depression and anxiety. Last year, for example, a group in Norway examined feces from 55 people and found certain bacteria were more likely to be associated with depressive patients.

3) A little appreciation for the public defenders who push back against our incarceration nation.

4) Tenured LSU professor fired for using bad language.  I’m not big on bad language (as you have probably realized), but by these standards I would definitely not want to be working at LSU.

I have long thought decrying “political correctness” was a politically-correct way of saying I wish to be unimpeded in my racism and sexism, and it infuriates me when this isn’t the case. Now I’m not so sure.

5) I especially enjoy reading about the ordinary-guyness of Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana) because he spent his HS years in my hometown of Springfield, VA.

6) John Cassidy on Chris Christie.

7) Supreme Court looking to completely eliminate race in college admissions next year?  And all for a white student who probably would not have gotten in anyway.

8) How television won the internet.

9) Companies keep using drug testing despite any evidence it leads to a safer or more productive workforce.

10) Expect plenty of Republicans attacking the Supreme Court (and really, the legitimacy of the entire judiciary) in 2016.

11) I’m all for using more insect-based protein in our diets, so long as it is finely ground-up like in Wayback Burgers milkshakes.  As picky as I’m, so long as it did not affect the taste, I’d happily have this.  When one considers the huge cost to the environment that comes from our dependence on meat protein and the abundance insect protein, we really need more of this.  Count me in.

12) Scalia has really just become an anti-intellectual embarrassment.  Jon Stewart gives him the treatment.

13) Bill Ayers on the false dichotomy presented in pro-gun, self-defense arguments.

14) David Frum on how Obamacare should be modified to make it work better.  Reasonable suggestions, of course, Frum has been tossed out of the conservative movement for choosing to live in the real world and say things like:

Yet it’s simultaneously true that the Affordable Care Act meets some real national needs. It did provide insurance to millions who lacked it. It did put an end to some outrageous practices by health insurers. It does seem to be slowing the growth of per-person healthcare costs. If it vanished tomorrow, potentially as many as 23 million people would lose their coverage: the 11.2 million added to the Medicaid program since 2010, the 10 million in the state and federal exchanges, and the 5.7 million young adults under age 26 enrolled in parental healthcare plans.

15) I had never heard of “p-hacking” until I came across a mention last week.  Alas, it turns out I am very guilty of engaging in it.

16) James Surowiecki on why the future of Obamacare is now secure.

17) Who needs clean air anyway?  Certainly not NC Republicans.

18) Should we really be making it so hard just for female prisoners to attend their monthly hygiene?  And, as long as I discovered attn, we really shouldn’t make it so damn expensive for prisoners to make phone calls.

They charge up to $17 for a 15-minute phone call (although the FCC recently voted to limit rates to 25 cents per call for interstate calls). prisoners families’ only option is to pay the rate or not speak to their loved one.

Here’s why that’s totally backwards: Studies show that prisoners who are able to maintain a connection with friends and family are less likely to commit crimes while in prison and less likely to end up back in prison after release.

 

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