Quick hits

1) I feel like I wrote something on the stupidity of American lawns pretty recently.  But given drought conditions in much of the country, lawns are dumber than ever.  And this is a nice story on it (that also links to a great 99% episode on the matter).

2) Speaking of wasting water.  Stop drinking bottled water.  Seriously.

3) And stop trying to be so original with your baby names.  Today’s uncommon may well be tomorrow’s top 10.

3) Re-thinking addiction not as a disease after all.  Really interesting take.

The title of his manifesto lays out Lewis’s basic argument, which he insists upon throughout the book. “I’m convinced that calling addiction a disease is not only inaccurate, it’s often harmful,” he writes (repeatedly). “Harmful first of all to addicts themselves.” The alternative, he asserts, is to call addiction what it is: a really bad habit caused by a constellation of variables and a brain that is receptive to compulsively reinforcing really bad habits. Most important, that habit is possible to break, not by becoming a “patient” getting medical attention in order to “recover” but by becoming a responsible adult with a solid vision of the future who has at last decided to break a destructive habit.

4) Destroying mountains for coal removal?  All good for this Southwestern, Virginia community.  “Ruining” the view with windmill farms?  Not so much.  Oh, and wasting an absurd amount of money to build a modern “technology park” in basically the middle of nowhere?  Oh, yeah, on that.  Tech workers love locating to extremely rural areas.  Surely a great way to attract business development.

5) Bojack Horseman is my new TV obsession.  Season 1, down.  Starting season 2 tonight.  How can I not love comparing Bojack to Mad Men.

6) Donald Trump as the political equivalent of chaff.  Love it.

Donald Trump is the political equivalent of chaff, a billion shiny objects all floating through the sky at once, ephemeral, practically without substance, serving almost exclusively to distract from more important things — yet nonetheless completely impossible to ignore.

7) Speaking of Trump, nice take from Yglesias comparing him to the far right movements in Europe.

8a) So much wrong about college football (but I just keep watching it)

All of which makes Gilbert M. Gaul’s “Billion-Dollar Ball” a hard and challenging book, but one that I hope college football diehards will join me in reading. Gaul, a former reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and The Washington Post, forces us to confront what major college football has become. When we cheer for our schools and our teams, we’re also supporting a powerful and autonomous entertainment business that monetizes every aspect of the game, an operation that is not only divorced from the mission of higher education but that often undermines it.

8b) Much of which can be seen in Under Armour’s relationship with University of Maryland.

9) You’ve all read me brag about the great diversity in my kids’ schools, but sadly, Wake County is going in the wrong direction on this.

10) I hope some graphic designer was fired over this.

11) Nice essay on how we need to move past the idea that the ideal worker is one who sacrifices family life.

Mr. Groysberg and Ms. Abrahams found that “even the men who pride themselves on having achieved some degree of balance between work and the other realms of their lives measure themselves against a traditional male ideal.” They quoted one interviewee as saying, “The 10 minutes I give my kids at night is one million times greater than spending that 10 minutes at work.” Men who are counting their caregiving in terms of the last 10 minutes of a day are not playing a caregiving role on a day-to-day basis.

12) Time for the media to start treating the names of mass murderers like the names of rape victims?  There’s definitely something to be said for the idea.

13) Irony is when the guy wearing the “less government; more freedom” t-shirt has his butt saved by firefighters.

 

14) Love this metaphor in the case for teaching ignorance.

Michael Smithson, a social scientist at Australian National University who co-taught an online course on ignorance this summer, uses this analogy: The larger the island of knowledge grows, the longer the shoreline — where knowledge meets ignorance — extends. The more we know, the more we can ask. Questions don’t give way to answers so much as the two proliferate together. Answers breed questions. Curiosity isn’t merely a static disposition but rather a passion of the mind that is ceaselessly earned and nurtured.

Mapping the coast of the island of knowledge, to continue the metaphor, requires a grasp of the psychology of ambiguity. The ever-expanding shoreline, where questions are born of answers, is terrain characterized by vague and conflicting information. The resulting state of uncertainty, psychologists have shown, intensifies our emotions: not only exhilaration and surprise, but also confusion and frustration.

15) Not the least bit surprised that a documentary about the evils of sugar is chock full of pseudo-science (not to argue that sugar is all great shakes, but anytime something gets demonized like this, you should probably be skeptical).

16) The Duke freshmen who can’t read handle reading a book with lesbian sex(!!) in it need to get over themselves.  Local columnist Barry Saunders with a nice take.

17) I’ve been meaning to give this Ezra Klein piece on how conservative media helped the far right take over the Republican Party it’s own post for a long time.  I’ve failed long enough.  To quick hits it goes.  Read it.

The transgender moment

So, I’ve been getting a little annoyed for a while at how much coverage transgender issues have been getting in the liberal places I hang out in on-line.  Yes, I absolutely believe in tolerance, equity, fairness, justice– you name it– for transgender people, but this seems to be soaking up a huge amount of liberal oxygen for something that affects a really, really small part of the population.  It’s really hard to estimate, but less than 1% is probably pretty safe.  So, what do I have against people focusing on this?  Honestly, there is only so much political oxygen out there and liberals who want to be active on things have only so much bandwidth.  And there are a lot of issues which I think have a dramatic impact on a lot more people.

I’ve been teaching Gender & Politics for years and this was the first semster ever where a decent number of students seemed to be primarily focused on the rights of transgender people as the key political struggle.  Okay, well and good, I suppose.  But, really?!  There’s still soooo much to be down for women’s equality and women are, you know, half the damn population.  So, again nothing against transgender rights, but if your focus is there, that’s a lot of important issues affecting half the population that will get short shrift.

So, what do I think is going on?  For a while, the way to signify you were a really cutting-edge cultural liberal was to be gay rights.  Well, that’s won and done.  What’s left/next?  Transgender rights.  I really don’t want to denigrate a cause, but I’d love to see this energy focused on issues that affect way more people.  In the end, I’m with Mr. Spock.

Quick hits

1) Shankar Vedantam on cognitive biases, shorter showers, and low-flow toilets.

2) Josh Vorhees on how Trump getting specific with policy proposals is bad for the GOP.  I think he’s right as this will pull candidates who can win further to the right than they want to be for the general.  To wit, we’ve even got Jeb saying “anchor babies” now.

3) The Connecticut Supreme Court with a strong argument against capital punishment.

4) How gender bias in academia is a very real thing.  My personal fight against it?  Cutting and pasting descriptive phrases from previous recommendation letters irrespective of the gender of the person I am recommending.

5) I’m sure Upworthy has sanitized this version, but it’s pretty clear that treating heroin addiction as a disease to be treated instead of a felony is a win-win, policy-wise.

6) Why is Black Lives Matter going after Bernie anyway?  Jamelle Bouie explains (short version: stategery).

7) Physician Ben Carson doesn’t really seem to understand abortion and emergency contraception all that well.

8) Seth Masket went to both a Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump rally last week:

 And then, of course, there was the music. Clinton’s team played Katy Perry’s “Roar” and Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” to warm up the crowd before the candidate’s appearance. Trump’s team played ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man” and Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” I don’t know what this means, but it’s entirely possible that whoever chooses songs for Clinton is a perky, empowered woman in her 20s and whoever chooses songs for Trump is a middle-aged guy with hair issues who longs for the ’80s. Or maybe they’re just trying to reach out to those demographics.

9) Are you smarter than other NYT readers?  Damnit, I wasn’t.  But my response showed some minimal intelligence.

10) Are you gluten sensitive?  Perhaps you should find another blog to read that is not so enamored with science.  And as long as we’re talking diets, I always enjoy a good takedown of Paleo (Vox style).

11) My stepmom is convinced Carly Fiorina would be a great president.  Why?  Fiorina’s daughter is her bible study.  Also, she thinks Fiorina is a great businesswoman.  Evidence says otherwise.

12) Fortunately, I have not had to spend too many nights in hospitals.  But Good God they need to find a way to let people sleep better at night without constant interruptions.

13) This new female libido drug seems as flawed as anything that’s ever made it to market.  Serious side effects for .5 more sexual episodes per month.  Sure doesn’t pass the cost/benefit test (though, many husbands surely feel otherwise during that extra session of sex every two months).  I’ve read enough to think this is a real issue that could potentially be improved with the right medication.  This drug isn’t it.

14) Call me crazy, but I don’t think national parks should be wide-open shooting ranges.  I’m okay with preserving limited, regulated areas for that purpose.  But you shouldn’t have to fear for your life (or hear constant gunfire) just because you want to go hiking or camping.

15) And your long read for the day… great, great GQ profile on Stephen Colbert.  What an amazing human.

Quick hits (part II– after all)

Ended up with a ton of open tabs this weekend.  So, here’s a late quick hits part II.

1) Is parenthood worse for your happiness than divorce or death of a partner?  The latest research says that at least during the first year of parenthood, this is the case.  In a less busy week, I would’ve read more of this because I am a bit skeptical of such a strong hit (though chronic sleep deprivation surely matters).

2) Fertility clinics destroy embryos all the time (much like an early abortion).  Why aren’t conservatives after them?!  Maybe something like this:

The disparity between how the law treats abortion patients and IVF patients reveals an ugly truth about abortion restrictions: that they are often less about protecting life than about controlling women’s bodies. Both IVF and abortion involve the destruction of fertilized eggs that could potentially develop into people. But only abortion concerns women who have had sex that they don’t want to lead to childbirth. Abortion restrictions use unwanted pregnancy as a punishment for “irresponsible sex” and remind women of the consequences of being unchaste: If you didn’t want to endure a mandatory vaginal ultrasound , you shouldn’t have had sex in the first place .

If anti-choice lawmakers cared as much about protecting life as they did about women having sex, they could promote laws that prevent unwanted pregnancy. Yet the same conservatives who restrict abortion also oppose insurance coverage for contraception and comprehensive sexuality education. They view contraception, like abortion, as a “license” to have non-procreative sex. Women, GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee assures us, don’t need contraception — they just need to “control their libido.”

I also think it is largely simply politically untenable to attack fertility clinics (as I’ve mentioned in the case of the Catholic Church leaving the issue alone despite the clear, strong violation of Catholic teaching).

3) Less than a decade ago, Republicans seemingly favored voting rights.  What happened?

4) Hopefully you know about the mindset research of Carol Dweck.  If not, John F. recently shared this excellent summary.  Honestly, I feel like I’ve done pretty well in life for having a fixed mindset.

5) Think it is barbaric to lock human beings in solitary confinement.  Even better, many states regularly do this with juveniles– “for their own protection.”  Certainly not the protection of their sanity.

6) A solid majority of Americans under 50 think they will not get a social security benefit.  That’s nuts.  They will.  At worst, it will be somewhat reduced.  In other news, most Americans under 50 don’t really understand social security or American politics.

7) I cannot even imagine working at Amazon.  Fascinating workplace culture.

8) I doubt that Obama will finish all these books on his vacation.  But I love his love of good books and reading.

9) Should have been a few more, but one of the kids closed all my open tabs– despite repeated admonitions not to do so– and I swear some were missing from my history.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Excellent Josh Marshall on the declining marginal value of crazy in the Republican Party:

In a crowded field, for almost everyone but Bush, it’s critical to grab hold of the mantle of anger and grievance. But the Huckabees and Cruzes simply cannot compete with Trump, who is not only willing to say truly anything but also has – whatever else you can say about his nonsense – a talent for drama and garnering press attention honed over decades. With a mix of aggression, boffo self-assertion and nonsense, Trump has managed to boil modern Republicanism down to a hard precipitate form, shorn of the final vestiges of interest in actual governing.

2) Actual scholars of international conflict are way more skeptical of war than the American public.

3) The research on small class size is not quite what you think it is and certainly should not be used to eliminate teaching assistants in early grades.

4) What not to say to people who struggle with infertility.  Definitely good advice.

5) In general elections, debates really don’t matter all that much.  They are surely more important in primaries (where voters don’t have the Party ID cue to rely upon) and Thursday’s was probably especially important for shaping the Invisible Primary.

6) On why it is a good idea to make college education available to prisoners.

7) Inkjet printers are one of the biggest scams in the marketplace (the ink is priced like a precious metal).  Fortunately, we switched to a laser ages ago.  David Pogue on a new Epson that actually charges you what the printer costs but doesn’t horribly screw you over on ink prices.  The big question is whether consumers are smart enough to think beyond the initial purchase price.

8) People complain about teacher’s unions, but seems to me that police unions create way more problems.  Seems like they believe police never do wrong.

9) You’ve probably seen all the reporting on how the formula for setting workplaces too cold in the summer is based on 1960’s men.  I appear to have a metabolism similar to women and I hate the workplace in the summer.  I’ve been known to use my space heater in July.

10) This is from a while back, but new to me: how gothic architecture took over college campuses.  As a Duke alum, I found this particularly interesting.  I was always told a story that they purposely used stone in the stairways that would wear away extra fast from foot traffic to make it all appear older.

The American college campus, and its Gothic filigree, seem timeless, pristine constructions. Nothing could be farther from the truth: They are historical eruptions, made possible by philanthropic economics, continental envy and racism. That doesn’t detract from their inherent beauty: Rather, to think more clearly about colleges, we should recognize and adapt ourselves to their history and their contingency.

11) A friend recently shared a Richard Thaler graduation speech it’s good stuff.  Especially on the economics of doing what you enjoy.

12) I get so tired of the “Democrats did it, too!” you hear from NC Republicans.  I’m not alone.

13) Yes, lawns are evil.  Especially when you live in west Texas where it rains less than 20 inches a year (my previous home) or you live somewhere with a bunch of rain, but your soil is clay and all covered up by big oaks which provide great shade (now).  I could have a nice lawn if I wanted to spend hours every single week on it.  I don’t.

14) Having health insurance is great.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t actually save the country money on overall health expenditures.  That said, the non-dollar benefit of peace of mind and better health that come from actually having health insurance seem plenty worth the added cost.

15) Loved this Ezra Klein on the absolute shamelessness of Trump.

16) Picky eating among children is linked to adult anxiety and depression.  When I think about the psychology of picky eating, I’m not all surprised.  I guess I’m unusual for being a picky eater but as psychologically stable as they come.

17) Nice Op-Ed on school vouchers and the enemies of public education.

18) Maybe teenagers hanging out on social media all the time isn’t really so bad.

Where is the doom and gloom?

A new report on “Teens, Technology and Friendships” from the Pew Foundation puts an unusually positive spotlight on the online lives of teenagers as they build friendships and connections in a digital world. Teenagers aged 13 to17 are finding ways to strengthen their relationships with real-world friends as well as making new friends through social media, video gaming, messaging apps and other virtual connectors.

This is not the usual story of teenagers in the online realm. Where are the dire warnings about how the online world is depriving our teenagers of their opportunity to learn the skills needed to interact with people instead of screens while exposing them to all manner of bullying and cruelty, and tempting them to fritter away endless hours playing video games?

19) I don’t like beer.  At all.  American or otherwise.  That said, I did find this article on why American beer is so weak to be fascinating.

20) After listening to a Fresh Air interview with Sarah Hepola, I realized that I didn’t truly understand an alcohol induced blackout.  You are conscious and functioning (though, impaired), but stop laying down long-term memories.  Freaky.  That means a person can say “Sure, I want to have sex with you” and climb into bed, but then “wake up” under somebody else and have absolutely no idea how they got there.  Of course acquaintance rape is a real and genuine problem, but I cannot help but wondering how many times a blackout is mistaken for a lack of consent.  And here’s the Salon piece on Hepola’s memoir of excessive drinking.

 

The hardest part of being a mom

I loved this column by Judith Shulevitz that ran back on Mother’s Day as I think it is so spot-on and I’ve been meaning to give it a post ever-since.  The basic idea, is that regardless of the time breakdown of household responsibilities, far more often than not, it is mom who is actually in charge, and there’s lots of added stress that comes with that:

Sociologists sometimes call the management of familial duties “worry work,” and the person who does it the “designated worrier,” because you need large reserves of emotional energy to stay on top of it all.

I wish I could say that fathers and mothers worry in equal measure. But they don’t. Disregard what your two-career couple friends say about going 50-50. Sociological studies of heterosexual couples from all strata of society confirm that, by and large, mothers draft the to-do lists while fathers pick and choose among the items. And whether a woman loves or hates worry work, it can scatter her focus on what she does for pay and knock her partway or clean off a career path. This distracting grind of apprehension and organization may be one of the least movable obstacles to women’s equality in the workplace…

No matter how generous, “helping out” isn’t sharing. I feel pinpricks of rage every time my husband fishes for praise for something I’ve asked him to do. On the other hand, I’ve never gotten around to drawing up the List of Lists and insisting that we split it. I don’t see my friends doing that either. Even though women tell researchers that having to answer for the completion of domestic tasks stresses them out more than any other aspect of family life, I suspect they’re not always willing to cede control.

Hey, liberated men out there who do have the housework and child-rearing– does this sound like you?  Probably.  I’ll admit it sounds awfully familiar around here.  Though, in fairness, part of that is my preternaturally low set point for anxiety and worry.

Speaking of worry, Shulevitz continues:

No matter how generous, “helping out” isn’t sharing. I feel pinpricks of rage every time my husband fishes for praise for something I’ve asked him to do. On the other hand, I’ve never gotten around to drawing up the List of Lists and insisting that we split it. I don’t see my friends doing that either. Even though women tell researchers that having to answer for the completion of domestic tasks stresses them out more than any other aspect of family life, I suspect they’re not always willing to cede control…

ALLOW me to advance one more, perhaps controversial, theory about why women are on the hook for what you might call the human-resources side of child care: Women simply worry more about their children. This is largely a social fact. Mothers live in a world of other mothers, not to mention teachers and principals, who judge us by our children. Or maybe we just think they’re judging us. It amounts to the same thing. But there is also a biological explanation: We have evolved to worry.

Evidence from other animals as well as humans makes the case that the female of the species is programmed to do more than the male to help their offspring thrive. Neurological and endocrinological changes, the production of hormones such as oxytocin and estrogen during pregnancy and after birth, exert a profound influence over mothers’ moods and regulate the depth of their attachment to their children.

Hey, it’s not my fault– it’s evolution!

Anyway, I think this is fascinating stuff and it’s going into my next Gender & Politics syllabus.  It also reminds me of some of my own research from back when Laurel and I conducted our own survey on parenting.  Here is the section from the appendix from the book chapter where we discuss our Parental Involvement Index:

Parental Responsibility: “Below are various tasks parents do on behalf of their children. Please tell us whether these tasks are all your responsibility, mostly your responsibility, roughly equal responsibility, mostly another’s responsibility, or all another’s responsibility.” (1) “Making social arrangements for your children, such as play-dates, planning activities, making appointments, and arranging transportation for activities”; (2) “Making decisions regarding your children’s health care needs”; (3) “Helping children to learn or helping with homework”; (4) “Making decisions about child care and schooling”; (5) “Setting limits and disciplining”; (6) “Planning appropriate meals and buying food for your children”; (7) “Nurturing your child and tending to their emotional needs.” Each item coded from 1, all another’s responsibility, to 5, all own responsibility. Index is mean response to the six items. Parental-Involvement Index: Standardized nonworkday hours + standardized parental-responsibility index. Rescaled for a minimum value of 1. Range from 1 to 8.91.

And here’s the table with the results:

PI

What I also really remember was pre-testing these items on people I know– both halves of a married couple– and having the man answer that he was doing an equal share whereas the woman would say she was doing more than an equal share.  I suspect that a fair amount of that comes from the worry disparity.

I think the big picture here is that genuine equality in child-rearing requires not just the time spent, but the worry work.  And that is not going to be a simple thing to equalize.

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.

 

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