What’s For Dinner?

DSC_0064-8_edited-1We ate in restaurants too much over the summer. We need to reform our sinning ways and reign in the runaway budget. So, it’s time to return to return to my zombie apocalypse cooking methods. Those damn boys eat too much food.

On Monday, a friend who was here on a business trip came over. For the five of us, I prepared a pot of risotto, a pound of shrimp, beats and goat cheese, salad (lettuce, tomatoes, kohlrabi, radishes), peas, leftover rice for Ian, one store bought rotisserie chicken, sliced melon, and cookies. It all went.

Last night, the family plowed through a whole platter of baked ziti — one pound of pasta, 3 cheeses, spinach. I haven’t made a casserole type dish in ages, because it’s all just carbs and garbage, but I needed a quick meal between swimming practice and back to school night.

I’ve got some turnips and potatoes from the CSA share, so I think I’ll make a stew tonight.


Who Wants to Enter Politics?

A few weeks ago, Jonah, Steve and I were watching the news. Someone commented on how much Obama has aged, since he first took office. His hair is white. Steve said, “I don’t know why anybody wants to be president.”

I’m working on a pitch about kids and political ambition. I want to bring in some personal story here, but I don’t have one. Jonah loves talking about politics, especially international stuff, but he has no interest in public office or even in participating in the school politics. He doesn’t enjoy the limelight.

So, let me get some input from the Apt. 11d peanut gallery. Any of your kids show any interest in public office?

Journalists v. the Political Scientist

Thomas Frank and Ezra Klein are resurrecting an old fight in the blogosphere. It’s the political scientists v. the journalist debate.

Here’s the back and forth — Ezra Klein says that political science transformed political journalism. It’s written in the Vox style, which is little too preachy and simplistic for my taste. But I’m not the audience for Vox, and it’s doing very well reaching people, so whatever. Then Thomas Frank overreacted and wrote an angry column talking about all the times that the experts fucked up and ranting about the lack of attention to non-experts and dissent views. Klein responded by saying that Frank’s real problem is that political scientist research doesn’t support his views of American politics.

We return to this fight over and over, because journalists and political scientists tread on the same turf. They are both watching the same football game, but one is on the field rubbing shoulders with the quarterback, the other is on the bleachers looking at the players with binoculars, while inputting plays from a thousand games into a laptop. You get a very different perspective on events when you can smell the sweat from the players, rather than the safe distance in nose-bleeding seats.

Both both perspectives are valuable. I want both. I want the journalist who can exquisitely describe the dirt on the players knees. I want the dude on the bleachers who can give me the big picture and tell me how this quarterback compares to all the quarterbacks who play in the state over the past twenty years. The true genius is the guy who can do both, but that’s not an easy trick. People tend to specialize in details or the big picture and that’s just fine. As long as I have both perspectives at my disposal, I can zoom back and forth on my own.

UPDATE: Dan Drezner responds to Frank, too. And Jonathan Chait.

A Quick Update

I’m here. The internet was blown out by a fire a few towns away, but we’re back in business. It’s a busy day though, so let me just throw out a quick personal post and try to squeeze in a real post.

Since our daily lives are highly structured around the school year, we’ve all been tossed around by the new beginnings and transitions of the school regimen. Jonah is now a sophomore. Six inches taller than the year before. A baritone. With girls hovering around. In some ways, he’s an entirely different human being than his younger kid self. The three year old that never stopped smiling. Now he looks at us through the long shock of blond hair that swoops over his serious eyes. He helps us quiz Ian on social studies facts at the dinner table as an equal.

He’s mildly grumpy that the school gods put him in classes with unfamiliar faces, but that’s the way of the world in a large high school and he has to make that adjustment. Every day, I pick him up from the high school at 5 after his cross country practice and roll down the windows. Teenage boy stink sticks to the car seats.

Ian is in middle school. It’s the first time that he’s not been sheltered in an autism classroom. Now, he’s in the regular special ed classroom on the second floor of a very large, very loud, very disorganized school. There is little structure and support. The first couple weeks, he came home with t-shirts with large holes in the shoulders. He chews on his shirt when he’s stressed out. But for the past few days, he hasn’t come home wearing rags. He said he is starting to understand what’s he is supposed to do.  It’s all a big test. Can Ian handle all this randomness? We’re on the sidelines cheering for him. 

As the kids face these challenges, it’s very difficult to sit on the sidelines. Part of me wants to run onto the field and block the baddies and kick the ball for them. But I can’t run Jonah’s races. I can’t accompany Ian to class. The other part is very relieved to let the kids and their schools handle their own struggles. It’s nice to think about other things.

The Future of the Economic Gender Gap

The research on gender and income shows a very convincing gap between the genders. Women, overall, earn less money then men. Women hold the majority of minimum wage jobs in this country. However, if you compare single women and  single men in the same profession, there isn’t much of a difference. The real differences come about when you compare women with children versus everybody else. That variable – the three year old in the Old Navy t-shirt – is the real income killer.

Tyler Cowen’s article about gender and economics poses an interesting question. Is the gender gap narrowing? He looks at a couple of books that look at women in the workplace. The article is very interesting, and the studies are cool. I might come back to it later on. But the article doesn’t look at the key population that explains the economic gender gap – women who are not sitting around the corporate conference room. To really get a handle on the economic gender gap, we need to look at women who have had to leave the workplace or take a lesser position or were never able to finish school because they became parents.

I do think that things are easier for parents than they were 15-years ago, when I first became a parent. Of course, I’m just relying on my snapshot impressions. Not scientific at all.  I thought I would throw out my observations and see what y’all think.

When Jonah came around, there were very, very few childcare options. We couldn’t afford the very expensive place down the block that was set up for the doctors at Columbia Presbyterian. Through word of mouth, Jonah spent a couple of years with a woman who ran an unlicensed daycare out of her apartment. It wasn’t particularly safe. Ian’s childcare situation has always been more horrible, because he has special needs. I didn’t have access to after-school daycare. I can’t even write about my family’s dealings with the childcare system, because it was all such a trainwreck.

If I started my family today, we would be in a completely different situation. There are websites that help you find a babysitter, including babysitters that are experienced with children with special needs. When Ian was three, I posted an ad on the bulletin board at the local Starbucks. I accosted every working mom on the street looking for answers. I wouldn’t have to rely on the underground mom network today.

My friends who have young kids in daycare seem to be pretty happy. There are more places than there were 15 years ago. They are cheaper. Procedures are in place.

The workplaces are cooler about families. Sure, they have a long way to go, but I am starting to hear good stories about a shift in office culture. One friend told me that when she had her first kid around the time that Jonah was born, she had to pretend that her daughter didn’t exist. Now, her family pictures cover the walls of her office.

I am not sure that much has changed for low income women with children. Most of the clients at my dad’s food pantry are young women pushing strollers.

I am also not sure that much has changed for women who step out of the workforce for a while. Martha Stewart, who knows that audience very well, recently dissed Sheryl Sandberg saying that women need to be entrepreneurial, rather than dealing with corporate life.

SL 620

Bunny Mellon had a silly name, but an impressive art collection and gardens.

I’ve read this essay twice. “The Death of Adulthood in American Culture” 

Yes, Minecraft is awesome.

“Only one in 20 Americans aged 25 to 34 whose parents didn’t finish high school has a college degree. The average across 20 rich countries in the O.E.C.D. analysis is almost one in four.”

I shocked someone last week, when I told them that we eat dinner together as a family almost every night. No TV, no cells. Lots of trivial pursuit questions about geography, trains, and the presidents.

Girls and Instagram

The school year has begun and with it comes the daily drama of girls on Instagram.

I have boys and only one who is able to comprehend social hierarchy. For boys, it’s really simple. The social hierarchy is determined by which sports you play, the brand of your t-shirt, and the size of your gaming room at home. Jonah is athletic, but not for a cool sport, so he’s somewhere in the middle of the road — the perfect place. He travels with a pack of friends around town on a Friday night. He’s in a good spot right now. And there’s zero drama about friends and popularity.

My friends who have teenage girls are nearly always hysterical, because their daughters are hysterical. They tell me about horrible, subtle acts of meanness that happen on Instagram. Jonah takes a picture of his foot and puts it on Instagram. Girls are using Instagram to boost their position in the social heirarchy.

A group of girls will go to the ice-cream shop with a group, take a group selfie, and post it on Instagram. The girl who takes the picture makes sure that she notes in the comment section that she took the picture, so everybody knows that she was there. The girl who takes the picture is always the least popular of the group. They put the picture on Instagram to show how popular they are and to make others feel bad that they weren’t in the group. Then the girls who were left out, go to the mall, and post it on Instagram, so they can signal that they don’t care that they were left out and are having a super awesome time at the mall.

I’m really glad that I am not a teenager.


TMZ has broken three big news stories in the past ten months. I have to admit that I watch the show when I’m at the gym. They’re not stupid.

I watched the elevator footage of Ray Rice and his wife several times. I also watched the press conferences and interviews, and I come out of all it feeling very sorry for Janay Rice. Of course, I feel bad that she took a blow to the face. I can’t unsee that video, even though I would very much like to erase it from my brain. I also feel sorry for her, because she has to relive the whole thing over and over. There’s something exploitive about the whole thing. Like naked pictures on the iCloud, it exposes her and her mistakes (she married the dude) to the world.

She wrote this on Instagram,

“I woke up this morning feeling like I had a horrible nightmare, feeling like I’m mourning the death of my closest friend,” Janay Rice wrote. “But to have to accept the fact that it’s reality is a nightmare in itself. No one knows the pain that [the] media & unwanted options from the public has caused my family. To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day is a horrible thing. To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his ass [off] for all his life just to gain ratings is horrific.

“THIS IS OUR LIFE! What don’t you all get. If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you’ve succeeded on so many levels. Just know we will continue to grow & show the world what real love is! Ravensnation we love you!”

While I think TMZ is basically harmless and fun when covering the silliness of celebrities that put themselves in the limelight, I do feel that we’ve entered into dangerous territory. The wife of a football player needs some protection, not just from the press, but the public.

The Truth about Political Psychology

There’s an interesting little skirmish between Megan McArdle at Bloomberg and Katy Waldman at Slate about political ideology and psychology.

The subtitle of Waldman’s article is “Conservative beliefs make a lot more sense when you’re not paying attention.” Catnip for some, poison stew for others.

Waldman points to a study that found that when people don’t want to think too hard, like when they’re drunk, they tend to make more conservative statements.

In a study by Scott Eidelman, Christian Crandall, and others, volunteers were placed in situations that, by forcing them to multitask or to answer questions under time pressure, required them to fall back on intellectual shortcuts. They were then polled about issues such as free trade, private property, and social welfare. Time after time, participants were more likely to espouse conservative ideals when they turned off their deliberative mental circuits. In the most wondrous setup, the researchers measured the political leanings of a group of bar patrons against their blood alcohol levels, predicting that as the beer flowed, so too would the Republican talking points. They were correct, it turns out. Drunkenness is a tax on cognitive capacity; when we’re taxed too much, we really do veer right.

So, McArdle mocks this paper rather nicely,

They stood outside a New England bar, grabbed patrons and asked them to complete a 10-question political survey of rather elderly vintage. (Sample questions: “Production and trade should be free of government interference” and “Ultimately, private property should be abolished”). Then they asked them to blow into a Breathalyzer so that they could measure their blood-alcohol levels. The problems with this should be obvious: How did these people answer before they started drinking? We have no idea! Moreover, here is a word that doesn’t appear anywhere in their analysis: “inhibition.” Alcohol lowers social inhibition. If you’re in an area where conservatism is relatively frowned upon — like, oh, say, I dunno, New England — drinking might make you more willing to give honest answers. Or it might make you more willing to mess with the researchers by giving wrong answers. Or this study might be the next best thing to completely useless.

How did this paper get through the review process?