Spreadin’ Love 558

I need to get a chunk of non-blogging writing done, so here's some linky-goodness this morning:

Should bloggers be protected by Shield Laws for journalists? (Yes.)

Map of Joisey. I'm in Christie country. Ugh. 

Why has the rate of autism gone up? The People Talk Theory

Hot-artichoke and spinach dip. Yum. 

The evolving role of anchor women and family

Best books of 2011

A new study finds that teachers don't like creative students

My Glee

The Republican Primary and debates are excellent, excellent entertainment right now.

What do you get when have a slate of Republican candidates that nobody likes? President Obama for another for four years. Take that, all my conservative friends who were calling Obama the next Jimmy Carter. Again, more glee. 

Nate Silver speculates what will happen if Gingrich wins the primary, but is hated by the party establishment. Silver thinks that there is  a small but nontrivial chance that a new face might jump in at the last minute and the Republican nominee could be someone like Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan, Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty or Chris Christie. 


Why Conservatives Hate Climate Change

What do conservatives have against global warming theories? On first glance, it appears to be politically neutral. Nothing to do with taxes, abortion, redistricting, wars in Iraq (well, maybe it does). 

Naomi Klein, the author of "The Shock Doctrine," explains to really deal with climate change in a meaningful way, changes need to be made that go way beyond recycling or carrying cloth bags to the grocery store. She said that liberals need to acknowledge that. Real changes would mean strong government intervention in industry, and conservatives believe that this would undermine the free market. 

Too often the liberal climate movement runs away from the deep political and economic implications of climate science, which is why I wrote the piece. I think we need to admit that climate change really does demand a profound interrogation of the ideology that currently governs our economy. And that’s not bad news, since our current economic model is failing millions of people on multiple fronts.

She said that to deal with the environmental problems, government has to reject popular programs like the Keystone pipeline and put more money into infrastructure to improve public transportation. These measures are NOT going to go down well with conservatives. Liberals need acknowledge that environmental politics is ideological and start fighting the fight. 

So, are you ready to fight the fight? 

DIY Fail and Guilt

We moved three months ago, and we're still not settled. While this house isn't in the desperate straights as the first house that we bought, it still needs lots of work. The previous owners last decorated their home in the early 80s, so the shrubbery is overgrown, the walls are covered in country wallpaper, and the light fixtures are dusty and dated. 

When we moved in, Steve and I figured that we could do much of this work on our own. We like feeling self-sufficient. We also like saving money. So, even though the house is surrounded by towering oak trees, Steve spent his weekends raking leaves, rather than hiring a landscaper. I pulled out the old junk left in the basement and painted the walls with waterproof paint. I painted the living room. Steve changed out some old light fixtures.

DSC_0002Last week, I started pulling down the orange starred wallpaper off the dining room walls. After three evenings, I stripped about three feet of paper. The stuff was stuck on with super glue. And under the wallpaper, I found bumpy walls. Someone had put primer over old wallpaper glue. The walls needed to be skim coated with plaster. Sigh. Skim coating is outside of my pay grade. I called in Eddie the painter. 


So, Eddie and his guys are doing the dirty work for us. For four days, they've stripped and painted the dining room, the kitchen, the TV room, and the entrance way. This job would have taken us a year to do on our own, and it wouldn't have looked so good. I keep sneaking upstairs to take pictures of the before and after. (That purple in the dining room is primer. Today, they should paint the upper walls a light grey.)


As happy as we are with their work, we still feel a little guilty. Yes, we're saving time. Time that can be used to play with the kids and pitch article stories. And we can afford this. But we still feel spoiled. 

Down the block from us, a huge mansion is being built. Someone bought a house for $700,000 and then knocked it down to build a house the size of a small town. Every morning, twenty trucks are parked out in front to install the plumbing, granite counter tops, decorative woodwork, in-ground pool. They've been working six days a week, since we moved in at the end of August, and they are still not finished. 

Painting four rooms is not in the same league as the mansion project, but living in such close proximity to extreme wealth is frightening. We're the people who used to live in a cockroach covered apartment with a four floor walkup. That year when I owned one pair of shoes. We're struggling to remain ourselves with our DIY projects amidst all this insanity.

Because of the weird turn of the market, we were able to buy a wallpapered house on a block filled with the 1%, and we're still not at peace with it. So, I find myself googling directions on how to remove polyurethane from slate floors without hiring a contractor. 

The Genetic Blues and Autism

Wendy sent me a link to an interesting post on Echidne of the Snakes, which critiqued Simon Baron-Cohen's theory that assortive mating has led to the rise in autism.

In a nutshell, Baron-Cohen believes that women who have the autism gene find men with the gene in the workplace, and they make babies. They find each other in the halls of the university or in the lunch room at Microsoft. In the past, smart women were not marriage material. Hell, the nerdy type of guys who are making a bazillion dollars at Mircrosoft were not marriage material back then either. Now, not only are smart, nerdy people rich, but they are hanging out together and making babies. Babies who have problems. 

Echnide finds this theory full of sexist assumptions and has an underlying criticism of smart, career driven women. I'm not sure about that, but I also don't like where this latest trend in genetic research on autism. 

I'm quite sure that autism is a genetic disability. It may have environmental triggers, but nobody has really identified what those triggers might be. But beyond that, nobody knows what's going on. The scientists can't identify which genes are the autistic genes, because there are probably different genes or different combination of genes that lead to autism. Actually, autism may not be one particular thing at all. 

Baron-Cohen came up with a lame test to determine if you have a systemizing type of mind. Systemizer people carry the gene for autism, but don't have the disability themselves, he believes. 

This test is silly and horrible, not because it implies some criticism of career women. It's silly and horrible, because it makes parents feel bad about themselves. 

A couple of weeks ago, some friends came over for a visit with a bottle of red red wine in one hand and mixers for margaritas in the other hand. The most social, fun-loving couple in the world. They love to tailgate at Jets games and go deep sea fishing with their gang. They also have two boys with autism. The mom is deeply concerned that her bad gene pool harmed her kids. 

Baron-Cohen's test is a witch hunt for autism. It doesn't provide any useful information. Should people with systemizing personalities not reproduce? It piles guilt and shame on parents. So, I'm halfway with Echnide on her criticism of Baron-Cohen. 

Finding Common Grounds on Education Reform

Rick Hess and Linda Darling-Hammond bridge their political differences to write a remarkable opinion piece on education reform in the US. 

Beyond this list, the federal government is simply not well situated to make schools and teachers improve — no matter how much ambitious reformers wish it were otherwise. Under our system, dictates from Congress turn into gobbledygook as they travel from the Education Department to state education agencies and then to local school districts. Educators end up caught in a morass of prescriptions and prohibitions, bled of the initiative and energy that characterize effective schools.

The federal government can make states, localities and schools do things — but not necessarily do them well. Since decades of research make it clear that what matters for evaluating employees or turning around schools is how well you do it — rather than whether you do it a certain way — it’s not surprising that well-intentioned demands for “bold” federal action on school improvement have a history of misfiring. They stifle problem-solving, encourage bureaucratic blame avoidance and often do more harm than good.        


Gift Guide 2011 #6: Steve’s History Book Selection

by Steve

Laura tells me that you folks can’t wait for my picks for the year. Well, I hope the wait is worth it, because this year was a great one; I had a really hard time coming up with five books to recommend. So many top-notch works out there; I’ve done my best to select those which may appeal to the general, educated reader (that means YOU!).

This year is a bit unusual because three of the five are primary source materials. You’ll also notice that I went on a US history bender. This is perhaps the first year with no Classical stuff. Why, you may ask? Probably because this year our fair land made so little sense that I had to hunt the beasts lurking deep within our collective subconscious psyche. What the hell is going on down there? You kids shut up and go to bed! Unfashionably Jungian, I know, but I needed understanding.

WhathathgodwroughtHowe, Daniel Walker. What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848

The best book I’ve read this year, and that says a lot, considering the strength of this year’s set. You can thank Laura’s father for this one; he highly recommended it to me, and I pass that recommendation to you.

I never had all that much interest in early 19th century US history (funny clothes and goofy hats, runnin’ around barefoot and drunk all the time, fightin’ and praisin’; fifteen miles on the Erie Canal and so on). True that, but so much more. This was an era of social, economic, and political revolution, all accelerated by world-historical technological change. Swap telegraphs and railroads for computers and the internet, and you realize that plus ça change . . . Religious revival, political agitation, anti-immigrant feeling, an unpopular and legally questionable war, regional politics, politicized media,the debate over the federal role in internal development and the national economy. And of course, overshadowing it all is the most wrenching issue in US history: slavery. You see what’s on the horizon, and it’s not pretty.

Prof. Howe is a superb and imaginative writer as well as an outstanding historian.Yes, a historian is a product of his times, and his argument may be subconsciously rooted in the recent past, but he does not deliberately draw parallels between then and now (I only caught one off hand reference to the Iraq War). Five stars. You won’t regret this one.

WashingtonChernow, Ron. Washington: A Life

As thorough a biography of George Washington as you will ever read. The more I learn about this man, the more amazed at our splendid good fortune to have him in charge during the Revolution. I’m not sure that you could call him modest or humble,but he certainly had the awareness and understanding that events were much bigger than he, and that he had awesome responsibilities to shoulder. Lesser men would have succumbed to temptation or descended into pettiness; Washington had his flaws and Chernow doesn’t hesitate to point them out. Many at the time did succumb to one of more of the deadly sins, but many more did not, which is all the more astounding. Puts some perspective on our present lot of leading Americans.

Ulysses-s-grant-memoirs-selected-letters-personal-s-hardcover-cover-artGrant, Ulysses S. Grant. Ulysses S. Grant: Memoirs and Selected Letters

An American Caesar without the Caesar. In other words, masterly writing from the mind of a career soldier, but without any acknowledgement of his great accomplishments. Grant’s writing is clear and concise, each sentence to-the-point, each paragraph crafted logically, each chapter leading the reader to the obvious and well-known destination. The entire work is lucid and self-deprecating, describing his first-hand experiences in the Mexican and Civil Wars without the political spin. Don’t get me wrong; he is as fervent a Republican (as in the Party of Lincoln) as one could find, but what is most amazing about Grant is that he is extraordinarily magnanimous. He does not have an unkind word for anyone. Again, puts our present crop in an unflattering light.

200px-07-old-breedSledge, E. B. With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa

Narrating his experiences in another brutal war is E. B. Sledge. In 2010 HBO broadcast The Pacific, a mini-series following three young Marines across the Pacific,hopping from one nasty island to the next, fighting tenacious Japanese soldiers and slowly devolving into savagery. Horrible tales. So after viewing the series, I turned to the memoirs. E. B. Sledge is a fine writer with a keen eye for detail, a talent for describing unusual characters, and intelligent and observant enough to have thoughtful opinions on his situation. The image of the old marine scrubbing his privates in the shower with a wire brush sums up all we need to know about the Marine Corp. A heroic yet modest figure who did what was expected of him and tried to retain his sense of decency and humanity in extremely difficult circumstances.

!BvPECeQBmk~$(KGrHqYOKnUEvyFrzUOLBMDrs2!q4g~~_35de Castaneda de Najera, Pedro. Narrative of the Coronado Expedition.

I rediscovered this one last year: a first person account of Coronado’s expedition in 1540 to Northern Mexico and the American Southwest. In search of the Seven Cities of Cibola, Coronado and his men explore difficult terrain and make contact with the natives of the region, with predictable results. I first read this account years ago for a history course on early modern Latin American history. I spent days with this book in my right hand and an atlas in my left. Fascinating reading and truly a first-class historical document, written by an average Joe on an extraordinary journey.

Believe it or not, I liberated this from somebody’s desk at the firm. The poor fellow was no longer with us (or “pursuing other opportunities”, as we are told), and this book was destined for the trash heap. His neighbors shrugged their shoulders, not caring about the great importance of this work. I tried hard to convince them but my arguments fell upon deaf ears. Philistines more interested in the call of the Horn of Mammon! If they read this book they would realize that it’s all a fantasy!

I’m a popular guy at the firm.

So, I hope you enjoy this year’s readings. For bonus points, I suggest you checkout Alan Taylor’s The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies and Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World by Maya Jasanoff. More good stuff, and makes me realize that I don’t know enough about the Great White North. Canada and the U.S. have always seen each other as alternatives to each other, going back to the Revolution and further defined by the War of 1812. And honorable mention goes to a jolly fun book, Twain’s Life on the Mississippi (which I didn’t finish because I lost it on the bus. Arrgh.)

Happy Holidays!

Gift Guide 2011 #5: Baubles and Bling

As I watched The Kids Are Alright last week, I noticed that I've started dressing a lot like Julianne Moore's character. Lots of T-shirts, jeans, boots, and big bracelets. That's okay. I'm good with looking like a hot, middle-aged lesbian. 

I've been stacking bracelets lately: a Pandora bracelet, a homemade bracelet from a friend (see similar items on Etsy), an anniversary present, and a thrift store find. All with pink and green beads. I like this necklace from J. Crew with the pale pink beads. My date night earrings of choice are hoops from Stella and Dot. I like to arrange the jewelry that is in high rotation on little plates or bowls that I find at Anthropologie. IKEA has cute bowls that would be great for jewelry display. 

Thanks so much for shopping from the Amazon links on this blog. 

Spreadin’ Love 557

Grad school sucks. Thanks to Unfogged for pointing me to this depressing post. 

I downloaded the Cool Hunting iPad app. Love. Check out this video of a Spanish lighting designer. Not only is she talented, but she's an example of a beautiful woman without botox and crazy hair jobs. 

The unemployment rate drops. (four more years! four more years!)

The Naked Anthropologist hates Nicholas Kristof. 

The Grasshopper and the Ant

David Brooks writes about the economic crises here and in Europe. In Europe, Germans msut clean up the mess in Greece and Italy, even though they played by the rules: people paid taxes, government officials followed laws, and budgets were followed. 

Over the past few decades, several European nations, like Germany and the Netherlands, have played by the rules and practiced good governance. They have lived within their means, undertaken painful reforms, enhanced their competitiveness and reinforced good values. Now they are being brutally browbeaten for not wanting to bail out nations like Greece, Italy and Spain, which did not do these things, which instead borrowed huge amounts of money that they are choosing not to repay.

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