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Friday, April 27, 2012

The Power of Positive Thinking Isn't Just Folklore

It's cold, hard, scientific fact. Or its the absence of it being untrue.  From The Atlantic.

Some thoughts about this from a layman's perspective:

1. The Scientific Method is cool.
2. How about an experiment in which people's optimism is measured, over time, at fixed points (pre-flop, and after the flop and turn) in a game of Texas Hold'em (after being told the % of the time they can expect to win by chance, they are asked to rate whether they believe this time their chances of winning to be higher, equal to, or less than the % they'd been instructed), across the following scenarios: they do this on the computer that plays fairly, or that will cheat either for or against them? Are they more optimistic after winning more than their fair share?  More pessimistic if less? Would it affect optimism levels if they're told they're winning more or less than their fair share, when those statements are true as well as when they're false? When told that the computer will cheat, and when directed that the computer is using a random shuffler? They rate their chances with a magician who is stacking the deck unbeknownst to them, both positively and negatively, they do this with an ordinary human shuffler, they do this having shuffled themselves. (Tangential prediction: gambling addicts would start off at median level of optimism, and would experience much greater swings from positive to negative depending on short-term results.) What about if the experimenter (or the computer) offers encouragement after losses and excitement after wins? What about if the experimenter offers the encouragement only after the result matches the guess and not the probability, or vice versa?

Has research like this been done? I imagine it has; if you happen to read this and you know of it please point me in its direction. Thanks.

Autonomy. Mastery. Purpose.

"The Surprising Science of Motivation": A TED Talk from Dan Pink.

Work Hard. Don't Rush.

Career advice from George Monbiot.

The Self-Attribution Fallacy

By George Monbiot for The Guardian. The self-attribution fallacy is part and parcel of the mobility myth.

The Mobility Myth

Why everyone overestimates American equality of opportunity. by Timothy Noah for The New Republic.

The Commodification of Education

“What we’re seeing are the spoils of what happens when education is treated not as a public good, but as a commodity, as just another way to turn a profit.” - Robert Applebaum

Alexander Zaitchik, for Salon, argues that while forgiveness of student loan debt is a step in the right direction, the more pressing issue is creating an environment in which education is valued and affordable.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Stand Up For Your Life

We knew it was bad, but it turns out sitting is even worse for us than we thought.

The Water Problem

A conversation about the 3.5 million people who die every year from water-related diseases, and how the U.S. government can help, but currently isn't. With Matt Damon (who "would kiss George Bush on the mouth" for his AIDS work) in the Atlantic.

The Death of Shaima Alawadi

As reported in The New York Times.

On the definition of terrorism, from Global City, the City College of New York International Studies Program Blog.

A Dollar and a Dream

Or $100 that could go to groceries. An argument against state lotteries, from

Harvard Tackles Teaching

Harvard kicked off its Initiative for Teaching and Learning with a daylong conference. Thanks Gustave M. and Rita E. Hauser, for the grant which financed the project.

And Then There's Facebook

Is it making us lonely? Or do we get what we put in? Stephen Marche takes a look.

Sometimes, When Technology Works, It Works Hard

Saroo found his village, and ultimately his mother, using Google Earth: 25 years after getting lost at age 5.

Romney's Tax Plan

Leaked on a hot mic, the only thing this plan does is confirm that our problems with the two-party, electoral-college system are severe.

The Conversation About Women's Bodies

Here is the Ashley Judd piece that has gone viral, with good reason.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

If You Are a Writer, Read This

A brilliant post from terribleminds, offering invaluable advice for writers in all stages of their careers.

Where I find myself right now, the following nugget strikes a resonant chord: " You know you’re a writer because it’s not just what you do, but rather, it’s who you are. So why deprioritize that thing which forms part of your very identity?"

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Shame on You, AZ.

So this got signed into law this week.

Jan Brewer and the Arizona legislature effectively ended medication abortions.


Great story about Dan Porter, who hired back laid-off employees between the launch of Draw Something and the $210M sale of OMGPOP to Zynga, so they could reap the benefits of the sale.

"I'm Christian Unless You're Gay"

This blog post from Single Dad Laughing is remarkable, and I hope to write a longer post about it eventually. For now, let me simply say that the notion that we can trace all of our troubles/conflicts back to our "desire to be better than" has been sitting with me for weeks; I just can't shake it. It strikes me as immensely profound.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Formula for Looking Young

70% Healthy Habits. 30% Genetics. That's science.

20-30 minutes of cardio, 3-4 times/week.
10-20 minutes weights, 2-3 times/week.

Then you can look 45 when you're 65. But what if you don't start until you're 35?

Race and Relationships

Stories from 5 different women. - Marie Claire

Is Sex Passe?

Erica Jong on the backlash to the sexual revolution, and its effect on relationships and politics.

The Fitness Revolution

If/when i start working out again, is P90X something i should consider?

"That's Lovely. What Did He Do?"

A piece in the Times about the Prison Outlet, in Florence, AZ, which peddles the wares of the inmates next door.

"Live in the layers,/ Not on the litter."

from "The Layers," by Stanley Kunitz


If you're like me, and clumsy with the touchpad keyboard on your phone, maybe the 8pen is worth considering.

The 25 Greatest Clutch Performances in Baseball History

Spoiler Alert: The Flip starts out the countdown at 25.

Is Angels/Rangers the New Yankees/Red Sox?

Well, no, but they should both be at the top of AL for the foreseeable future, thanks to TV money.

Derek Boogaard

A 3-part New York Times piece on Derek Boogaard, a hockey enforcer who was diagnosed with CTE after his death age 28. (CTE can only be diagnosed post-mortem.)

A Boy Learns to Brawl.

Blood on the Ice.

A Brain 'Going Bad'

A Jeremy Linfusion

An ESPN profile of Jeremy Lin.

A New York Times piece.

The New Yorker.

You Remember the Unrelenting Disabled List

Sixteen years later, Girardi's managing the world's most popular team. How's he doing?

What Would the End of Football Look Like?

An economic perspective on CTE and the concussion crisis. By Tyler Cowen and Kevin Grier, Grantland

Baseball Stat Geeks

You can get totally lost at Baseball's Greatest Hitters. I get sucked in and immediately feel like I'm 11 again.

The Rise of Erik Spolestra

Now at the helm of an NBA powerhouse, Spolestra started out in the basement. Literally. This dude is cool.

Posada Drama?

ESPN New York blog about how the worst is yet to come for the Yankees, who are likely going to owe a lot of unproductive players a lot of money in the next four years. Posada will be a drop in the bucket.

The Lesson of Jim Joyce

A great piece of writing from Joe Posnanski about Joyce's blown call, and the grace of Armando Galarraga in the wake of his perf- well, almost perfect game.

"Please, see that my brain is given to..."

"Please, see that my brain is given to the N.F.L.’s brain bank." - a handwritten note from Dave Duerson, 50, a former N.F.L. safety who committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalophathy, a degenerative brain disease which can only be diagnosed post-mortem, has been found on an increasing number of football players.

This Times piece by Bob Herbert was written a little under a year before the Saints story broke. I really don't know that I'm going to be able to watch football this year.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Weighted Ping-Pong Balls

Ah, the NBA Lottery. Bill Simmons on teams tanking and what to do about it.

[Note: this is a 2007 article, and I really don't know if the rules have been modified since. But I like the article, and Simmons' writing generally.]

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Case Against Kids

Two books with very different stances on the morality of procreation. One thing is clear: the decision to have a child must be a considered one.

When in Doubt, Seduce

A profile of Mike Nichols in New York Mag.

"I remembered one of my rules from back then, which is that there are only three kinds of scenes: fights, seductions, and negotiations. Oh, and contradictions. As Elaine used to say, 'When in doubt, seduce.'"

The Reproduction of Privilege

“The education system is an increasingly powerful mechanism for the intergenerational reproduction of privilege.”
— Anthony Carnevale

"The 'income achievement gap' – differences in standard test scores and grade point averages – between children from families in the top 10 percent of the income distribution and those from families in the bottom ten percent has been growing. Reardon has found that the income achievement gap between children from the highest and lowest income deciles is roughly 30 to 40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than among those born in 1976."

That is, if you come from a wealthy family, the more likely you are to test well, and go to and graduate from college. Which strengthens your earning potential, and your kids' likelihood of the same. Upward mobility is becoming impossible.

Takeaway: We need to make education more accessible.

6 Pakistani Women

"According to a 2011 poll of experts by the Thomson Reuters Foundation Poll, Pakistan is the third most dangerous country for women in the world. It cited the more than 1,000 women and girls murdered in "honor killings" every year and reported that 90 percent of Pakistani women suffer from domestic violence."

Here are the stories of 6 incredibly brave women from Karachi.

Where Economists Agree

According to Megan McArdle, for the Atlantic, "there have been several issues where this ideologically diverse group of economists have shown resounding unanimity. "

1. NAFTA, on the margin, is good.
2. Gas prices aren't affected by government policies.
3. The stimulus and bailouts lowered unemployment.
4. The Gold Standard is not a good idea.

and also: rent control is bad, congestion pricing is good, eliminating tax deductions and lowering rates is efficient, and the tax deductibility of healthcare creates consequential distortions.

NYPD Pickup

What (Regian) Ed Conlon learned about profiling, and art, one afternoon at the 44th precinct.

Not a Slam-Dunk

Florida v. Zimmerman isn't going to be easy. We need to prepare ourselves for the real possibility that Trayvon Martin's killer will be freed. Either way, the law needs to be revisited:

"A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony."

I'm not an attorney. But the wording of this portion of the "Stand Your Ground" law seems to give ordinary citizens a power equivalent to that of police officers, who receive specialized training to determine the severity of the threats around them, as well as to handle weapons.

It also seems that if I were a lunatic, I could go around baiting people to punch me so I'd have the opportunity to shoot them.

Eggs and Ughs

Nicholas Kristof on the morality of egg production.

My Doctor Still Has to Tell Me if I Have Cancer, Though... Right?

Oh, Kansas. You're so silly. You, and Oklahoma, and Arizona, and all you states who are trying to or have passed bills which give doctors the right to withhold information about the health of your child in utero.

That anyone could possibly think this is a good idea is totally beyond my comprehension.

Kill the Head and the Body Will Die

If The New Yorker is writing about football... in the wake of this mess, I don't know how I'll be able to bring myself to continue watching and supporting what is "in its essence, a great sport."

Side note: I love Amy Davidson, though I think conflating this story with the Paterno story is a stretch.

Cracked on Work

David Wong's "How 'The Karate Kid' Ruined the Modern World."

Spoiler Alert: wax on, wax off.

Cracked on Jobs

David Wong's "9 Types of Jobs That Will Destroy Your Soul."

And We Think Mailmen Have It Bad?

Census takers have it rough.

"Feeling Felt"

In "The Brain on Love," Diane Ackerman takes a look at how both our maternal and spousal relationships can rewire the brain.

A Slow-Books Manifesto

by Maura Kelly. "Read Books. As often as you can. Mostly Classics."

Unsurprisingly Alarming Numbers

I can't tell which is worse: These numbers on income inequality, or the fact that I'm non-nonplussed.

2012 is an election year. The first, and most important, step we can take to make sure that the trends reverse course is to elect officials who will write and pass laws to that end.

A Government Agency That's Working For Me?

This is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and Joe Nocera thinks it's an agency devoted to making a difference in people's lives.

Ester Dean and the Hit Machine

A Norwegian duo and a vocalist from Oklahoma have changed pop music as we know it.

The Sixth Sense

Where does balance fit in the world of fitness, and what can we do to prevent its decline as we age? This Times article by Jane Brody tries to answer that question.

Big Red Feud

"Two Cornellians on opposite sides of the education debate—controversial former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee '92 and teachers' union leader Randi Weingarten '80—sat down with Cornell Alumni Magazine to talk about school reform. (But not together.)"

When You Need to Go

The itunes bathroom app will tell you where to go.

This Is How You Settle Catan

Once and for all. According to Mark, that is, whose board-game-strategy blog takes an in-depth look at Settlers, and many other popular board games.

Nightswimming (Ingrid Michaelson)

Live. Looped. A Cappella.

Kahler's Personality Types

Based on the descriptions/tendencies described here, my guess is that I'm a Persister with strong Reactor leanings. I want to explore this more at a later date.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The High Cost of Low Teacher Salaries

Dave Eggers offers simple and elegant advice for dealing with the decline in U.S. Education: make teaching a more attractive profession.

Stand and Deliver

More than 25 years after Jaime Escalante's Garfield H.S. students inspired a Hollywood script, Jay Matthews challenges teachers across the country to pick up where they left off, by encouraging all interested students to take AP exams.

Advanced Leadership Initiative

Harvard University's Third Stage education, taking adults at the top of their fields, and opening up its campus/resources to them as they develop a "social purpose project."

The Rubber Room

A 2009 New Yorker article discusses "the battle over New York City's worst teachers."

Performance, Feedback, Revision

Baba Brinkman performing an excerpt from "The Rap Guide to Evolution," live at the Hammersmith Apollo.

The Right Lesson About Trayvon

Lisa Armstrong, in the Atlantic, on the conversation all of us need to be having with the children in our lives.


Jaan Whitehead challenges us to explore new avenues in creating and funding theatre.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

More on Happiness

And why we're not getting it. More from Cracked, here are "5 Scientific Reasons Your Idea of Happiness Is Wrong."

Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder

Listed as one of the primary sleep disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the sleep disorder can cause insomnia and excessive sleepiness, and may result in impaired functioning in social, occupational, and other environments.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Happy Opening Day!

"Yankee Baseball," by Terry Cashman.

Fun facts:
1) Terry Cashman (born Dennis Minogue), who adapted his classic, "Talkin' Baseball," for the Yanks, was the brother of my 7th grade English teacher, Sister Doris Minogue (who was herself a diehard Mets fan).
2) Cashman later spoofed the song on "The Simpsons."
3) Growing up I owned the "Talkin' Baseball" 45, which replaced "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt" as my go-to record.

Thanks to Dustin for posting on facebook.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Another Marc and Angel post: this time, 12 things Successful People do Differently.

As an artist, I can identify with both of what are intended to be contrasting examples of a lack of balance in life. (#12.) Hrmmmm...

How to Defend Obamacare

By Akhil Reed Amar, this Slate post examines the Constitutionality of Obamacare, and upholds it, you know, with logic and stuff.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Happiness Habits

“I’d always believed that a life of quality, enjoyment, and wisdom were my human birthright and would be automatically bestowed upon me as time passed. I never suspected that I would have to learn how to live - that there were specific disciplines and ways of seeing the world I had to master before I could awaken to a simple, happy, uncomplicated life.”
-Dan Millman

Here are 12 Things Happy People Do Differently.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Ghost Army of World War II

Here's literally all of the evidence I found that would seem to support the existence of the Ghost Army:

- The Ghost Army of World War II: for sale on Amazon.
- An article in the Telegraph.
- A very thin Wikipedia article about the unit.
- The Ghost Army: a documentary by Rick Beyer, complete with clips available on YouTube.

The story is that the unit was kept classified until the 80s, but it's so fascinating that I feel I should be able to unearth more information... any thoughts?

Seven Ballsy Pranks

"The Seven Ballsiest Pranks You Won't Believe Actually Worked."

The writing is fair, but the pranks are excellent. Of course, Cracked posted this on April Fools', so I'm a little skeptical, particularly of the Ghost Army (#1), about which I can't find much more information. What I have found, however, will be posted shortly.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Once More Unto the Breach

It is now the spring of 2012; it has been fifteen months since my first and heretofore last post. But I'm back. And the first thing I'm going to attempt to do with Permanent Beta [redux] is use it to organize the sites I have bookmarked for reference on Google Chrome. I'll also try to make that fun for you.

I'm a bookmark junkie. I hoard them. Whenever something on the internet interests me- not so much that I can justify printing an entire article, but just enough that the thought of losing it forever is too much to bear- I bookmark it. As you might imagine, the percentage of these bookmarks I revisit is small. I convince myself it's worth it because when I finally do sit down to write that play all these articles will surely come in handy. But Google Chrome's current bookmark setup (of files and folders) isn't good for reference; I'd rather use tags.

For now, the posts will be coming fast, so I can get through all of my current bookmarks. Rebuttals to anything and everything are welcome, and if you have a link you think I'd like, please send it my way! I'll also try to post things that aren't related to anything you might find on the internet (once you discount the fact that the internet is where you've found the post).

And please, tag away!