SL 757

One of Jonah’s big interests is agriculture. Specifically, he’s interested in how to make scientific and political changes to feed more people, more efficiently and cheaply. So, I sent him this article on the why the family farm sucks. Actually, it’s the most interesting thing I read all week.

There’s absolutely no way that any of you is going to make me read this article about professional decline after age 50.

I just shared this article with the Facebook page that I run for local families with special needs kids (350 members!), but I’ll share it here, too. Housing for people with disabilities has a 10+ year waitlist. The guardians of adults with disabilities — some who are getting on in years themselves — are struggling. We need more supportive housing like this. I actually wish it was much bigger. I’m a commune girl.

What does one pack for Scotland in July? According to the weather forecasts and local bloggers, layers, stockings, proper raincoats, and rugged footwear. So, it’s shopping time!! I’ve ordered two raincoats and will decide on which one is best when they arrive. I’m planning on getting a new warm sweater in Scotland. Do I need cute hiking boots, too? Maybe when I finish answering the editor’s queries, I’ll do a little more shopping.

Ian’s dream is to work at a place like Epic Games. Actually, he wants more. He wants to start his own company.

59 thoughts on “SL 757

  1. I think corn growers are starting to realize that they’ve basically become subcontract employees of Monsanto. Back when the railroads were in that same position relative to the farmers, you got the progressive movement. I’m not sure what will happen now.


    1. Listened to a radio show (Reveal, factual, slightly left of center) that described a fairly horrifying battle between soybean farmers (who want to plant Round-up resistant soybean and spray all the rest away) and fruit and vegetable farmers in Arkansas. In the end, the bottom line was that Monsanto wins. They are the extra weight in the battle between the two kinds of farmer, and they throw their weight into later spraying, arguing that there is no drift of the Round-up, and in support of weak enforcement.

      And the individual farmers are playing a zero-sum game while Monsanto puts its thumb on the scales and takes a significant cut of the profits.


  2. ” no way that any of you is going to make me read this article about professional decline after age 50.” Well, okay, but you have made me read it, it’s a Hell of an article, and I’m grateful that you pointed me to it. And I think there is useful advice in his distinction between tasks requiring crystallized and fluid intelligence in looking at how well you can do in later years


    1. Yes, that was an excellent article. Very heartening for me, as I entered a line of work that primarily requires crystallized intelligence (and culturally, at least on the union side of things, has well-developed networks for sharing innovative knowledge—we aren’t stingy with it, because being union, we don’t have to be. Our compensation doesn’t depend on exclusive knowledge).

      I don’t know about cute hiking boots, but…these boots are the only work boot I’ll wear anymore. OMG they are so comfortable. They fit like gym shoes, there’s no breaking-in period, they’ve got some heel (which at 5′ 5″ I appreciate), and even after a physically-demanding 12 hour day, my feet feel like a million bucks. The picture makes them look clunky, but underneath a pair of blue jeans they just look like biker boots (if you don’t use the kilty). Not even kidding. I wear these hiking. Works out great. They fit so well you can actually run in them (you could run across an airport in these. I have, for catching a connecting flight to a union conference.) Plus, they’re steel toed, in case you need to kick some ass. (jus’ sayin’).


      1. I such a weakness for kick ass boots with short skirts. Even though I’m 20 years too old for that look. Sigh. (Have I recently shown up to a Board of Ed meeting with my Docs and a skirt? Once.)


      2. Even though I’m 20 years too old for that look. Sigh

        Bah. You’re never too old to look like you can still kick some ass! (you can be too old for short skirts though. crossfit will take care of that for quite some time, or MMA training—you choose!) Intimidate those fuckers on the B of E!


      3. The JCrew jacket is water resistant not waterproof like the other — better for constant showers but not downpours (yes we have lots of experience). Waterproof can feel too clammy in damp but not pouring weather.

        That’s a pretty positive boot recommendation. How are they in colder weather?


      4. Those boots are very good in cold weather. I’ve done 10 hours outdoors in subfreezing temps with snow. They’re well-insulated, so despite being steel-toes, your feet won’t get cold. That thick sole helps out a bunch.


  3. “Es gibt kein schlectes Wetter, nur ungeeignete Kleidung.”

    Steve has probably mentioned this. If not, you can use it to address any commentary about excessive shopping.


  4. Scarves. Saved my life in Ireland, and I imagine similar weather in Scotland.

    Also, don’t chicken out on reading the article on professional decline for people over 50. I prefer to see it as a challenge. 🙂


    1. “Also, don’t chicken out on reading the article on professional decline for people over 50. I prefer to see it as a challenge. 🙂”

      As somebody else online was pointing out (I forget who) all of the examples in that piece are male.

      It’s likely that women have a somewhat different trajectory.

      The life stage stuff in the article is also really interesting.


  5. Info on sources for Scottish sweaters here, with shop locations:

    Just check that it’s actually made in Britain, and that you can’t get the same thing in the States.

    Do you know anyone who knits? You might be able to buy wool over there that doesn’t make it to the states. Just buy enough for a whole project, like gloves or socks. Wool skeins can be stuffed into odd places in suitcases. It is bulky, though, so you might want to pack lightly.

    Apparently, there is some marvelous independent Scottish jewelers.

    Another great gift for people from Scotland is Scotch Whiskey.


      1. Also if you know someone who sews or quilts go to Liberty of London for fabulous fabric. I spent an hour with a salesclerk there and wound up with an amazing (albeit expensive) gift for my mother – fabric for quilt squares that lasted for quite a while. As a bonus, very light to carry back!


      2. My husband was loving the English cheeses (even just standard grocery store fare) when he was on business in England in May and early June.


  6. That article on family farming was pretty unconvincing. The author has a strong ideological agenda, the historical works she cites are very controversial, and it’s unlikely that Hutterite practices can be separated from Hutterite faith.


    1. What do you know is controversial in the historical work she sites? I don’t know the history, but the following quote rung true to me:

      “Family farming’s difficulties aren’t a modern problem born of modern agribusiness. It’s never worked very well. It’s simply precarious, and it always has been. Idealizing family farms burdens real farmers with overwhelming guilt and blame when farms go under. It’s crushing.”

      My knowledge is anecdotal, based on my family’s farms (I am one generation removed from farms, where my parents both grew up) and my reading of literature of the time of farming in the US (including Jefferson and others). Our farms are small scale with intensive cash crops + crops grown for personal consumption. Recently a growth market has been chickens, for meat, which is newly being eaten in a larger middle class.

      I know that there are many kinds of family farms — large scale ranches with use the collective resources of public lands being one example. What kind of family farm *is* sustainable and non-precarious, if the author is on the wrong track?


      1. I’ve read quite a lot about early modern agricultural history. It’s an interest of mine. I’ve read reviews of the Hopcroft book cited in the article, though admittedly not the book itself. I don’t say that Taber’s history is wrong (though she is not a professional historian), just that it’s too controversial to persuade me to any belief on current political issues. There’s not a consensus on the efficiency of various forms of European agricultural organization. Put another way, it’s easier to say what happened than why or whether it was good.


      2. For the current historical consensus, see Emma Griffin, A Short History of the British Industrial Revolution (2010), p. 65: “While a number of historians have convincingly demonstrated that the extravagant claims sometimes made for the advantages of enclosure have often been exaggerated, it is nonetheless clear that enclosure was one of many factors that helped to drive up yields, as the owners of enclosed farms tended to adopt new farming methods more readily than those who farmed in open systems.”


  7. “One of Jonah’s big interests is agriculture. Specifically, he’s interested in how to make scientific and political changes to feed more people, more efficiently and cheaply. ”

    so much better than planning on concentrating in block chain or SAT tutoring.

    it used to be one of my interests, too. A lot has changed since then, including that we have actually gotten pretty good at producing the crops to feed the world. The politics of distribution, the economics of farming, and sustainability seem to be the significant challenges now.


  8. When we were discussing reinvention, I had been looking up small scale flower farms in the Pacific Northwest (also a movement in the Northeast). I’d been lead there by our local Wholesale flower growers co-op, a form of collaborative farming. The farms survive because they’ve been able to produce a premium product that benefits from proximity to its buyers (delphinium, dahlias, poppy all transport poorly). It’s a premium product because they are able to sell to flower designers, who in turn are selling to high value events (weddings mostly, but also benefits and other events).

    These farms also survive because the owners aren’t trying to use either the land or their own labor at the most comparative advantage (i.e. they are leaving money on the table in return for their labor of love, sustainability, and lifestyle).


    1. One quick and dirty formulation is the line “Republicans think Democrats are misguided, and Democrats think Republicans are evil”


      1. “One quick and dirty formulation is the line “Republicans think Democrats are misguided, and Democrats think Republicans are evil”

        Don’t you have to be religious to believe in evil? And aren’t all highly educated Democrats atheists?


      2. There’s a schism in the faith, ]Wendy, and some of them worship in the Church of St Hillary, and some in the Church of St Bernie. But all of them think The Donald is The Antichrist.


      3. Maybe actually Democrats think that Republicans are sociopaths. That avoids the religious definitions of Evil.


      4. I took the quiz and have a perception gap. Am still surprised that 85% of Republicans supported immigration, even allowing for the caveat about proper controls.


    2. Some quotes from the twitter thread:

      “Democrats have an absurd, denunciatory idea of what Republicans believe—and vice versa. Worse, the institutions that are meant to remedy misperceptions, from universities to news outlets, may actually make them worse.”

      “Take Republicans: * Republicans believe that only half of Democrats are “proud to be American.” Actually, 8 out of 10 are. * Republicans also believe that only 3 in 10 Democrats oppose open borders. Actually, 7 in 10 do.”

      “Or take Democrats: * Democrats believe that only half of Republicans favor “properly controlled” immigration. Actually, 8 out of 10 do. * Democrats also believe that only half of Republicans believe that racism still exists. Actually, 8 out of 10 do.”

      Some quibbles are possible with the phrasing, of course.

      “Is America’s partisan divide due to ignorance? And, if so, might education or exposure to political news fix the problem? Depressingly, the data implies the opposite: The more Americans know, and the fancier their degree, the more they are likely to caricature their opponents.”

      “With the exception of the old broadcasting networks, consumption of virtually any forms of news – the NYT or the WSJ, Daily Kos or Breitbart – increases what the study calls The Perception Gap.”

      “Media only helps to narrow the perception gap when its partisan lean goes against the inclination of the consumer: So if Republicans watch CNN, or Democrats watch Fox, their perception gap slightly narrows. Just about everything else makes things worse.”

      “Do universities fare any better? Sadly not. Far from learning more about their ideological adversaries, Democrats who are highly educated are way more likely to hold caricatural views about Republicans than Democrats who only have a high school degree”

      “Why does education increase the perception gap for Democrats but not Republicans? Likely answer: Highly-educated Republicans tend to be exposed to lots of liberals. Highly-educated Democrats tend to have an ideologically homogeneous friend group.”

      You can take a quiz!


      1. Democrats believe that only half of Republicans favor “properly controlled” immigration. Actually, 8 out of 10 do. * Democrats also believe that only half of Republicans believe that racism still exists. Actually, 8 out of 10 do.

        I think that there isn’t any incongruity here, but rather that these statements are phrased so generally as to be all but meaningless, so that people can interpret them two different ways.

        For example, I can believe that 80% of Republicans favor “properly controlled immigration,” while also believing that a good part of them believe that “properly controlled” means “only let in people from Norway and people I personally know.” Similarly, I can believe that 80% of Republicans believe that racism still exists while defining the term “racism” so narrowly (as acts of animus expressed on an individual level) as to make the term all but meaningless, while they actually are enthusiastic proponents of actions which should properly be defined as racist, such as using voting laws and gerrymandering to suppress the political influence of minorities.

        And I found it interesting that Democrats actually underestimated (although perhaps not outside the margin of error) the sociopathic nature of Republicans on climate change and their personal love of the antics of Trump.


      2. The Republicans had two years of unified government and a huge mandate to do something about immigration. They choose gratuitous cruelty.


      3. To sum up Jay, I present this tweet:

        (Not that there is a problem with Jay’s comment.)


    3. How could I not know what they are thinking? They’re who I grew up with and a large portion of my relations.


      1. Even in a “liberal bubble” like NY, there are plenty of Republicans, particularly in my family. Before my niece’s graduation party this weekend, I was telling my mom that I was going to randomly say, “So, Trump raped E. Jean Carroll. What do we think about that?” and see what would happen, but love for my niece kept me from doing that.


    4. Good sum-up, Jay. The questions seem designed to induce their effect by their broadness and ambiguity, allowing room for significant interpretation that does not necessarily show that the two groups have a significant mis-perception of their substantive political beliefs.

      There might still be a story, but it is a more generic one: each group uses the ambiguity to interpret the question differently for themselves versus the group. Note, though, that in one case, you are asked to answer the questions for yourself, while in the other you are asked to answer for the group. So at least part of the result could reflect that difference. I am better at saying whether I want open borders than whether I think the group of Democrats wants open borders. They could have kept that a bit more constant by asking you to identify what a Democrat thinks democrats believe (rather than what I believe).


  9. This was also interesting and I applaud Slate for publishing it:

    “Our story starts in 2008, when a group of researchers published an article (here it is without a paywall) that found political conservatives have stronger physiological reactions to threatening images than liberals do. The article was published in Science, which is one of the most prestigious general science journals around.”

    “The piece published in Science offered some clues as to why liberals and conservatives differ in their worldviews. Perhaps it has to do with how the brain is wired, the researchers suggested—specifically, perhaps it’s because conservatives’ brains are more attuned to threats than liberals’.”

    In 2014, the authors of the Slate piece attempted to replicate the 2008 study. They repeatedly tried to replicate the results, but no luck.

    “We drafted a paper that reported the failed replication studies along with a more nuanced discussion about the ways in which physiology might matter for politics and sent it to Science. We did not expect Science to immediately publish the paper, but because our findings cast doubt on an influential study published in its pages, we thought the editorial team would at least send it out for peer review.

    “It did not. About a week later, we received a summary rejection with the explanation that the Science advisory board of academics and editorial team felt that since the publication of this article the field has moved on and that, while they concluded that we had offered a conclusive replication of the original study, it would be better suited for a less visible subfield journal.”

    “We wrote back asking them to consider at least sending our work out for review.” The authors also pointed out to Science that the original 2008 Science article continues to be hugely influential.

    They conclude, “We believe that it is bad policy for journals like Science to publish big, bold ideas and then leave it to subfield journals to publish replications showing that those ideas aren’t so accurate after all.”

    This is a really interesting case, because there is an academic cottage industry in research purporting to demonstrate that conservatives are inherently evil. What would happen if more of those studies were given the same treatment as this 2008 study? One suspects that a number of them would also fizzle.


    1. Perfectly appropriate for Slate to publish this article (which the authors have also published at a number of different venues) but also for Science not to publish a non-replication. Arguments with editors about whether a subject is appropriate for science are always useless (and only reversed if you are famous enough). These authors are getting publicity (for their still unpublished study — which was uploaded to PsyArcXiv today by complaining about heir desk reject (which is great, but, I hope they are still pursuing publication).

      It is an issue that certain papers pervade the zeitgeist and are nearly impossible to remove: the fraudulent measles vaccine-autism link, though published in a fairly low profile journal, created a multi-headed hydra that has been impossible to destroy, to significant public health consequences. I am personally continually disturbed by the pervasiveness of belief in Cuddy’s power posing study in spite of mistaken analysis (confirmed by her co-author) and non-replication.


    2. In other words, I see no evidence that the desk reject resulted from the subject of this study rather than on more neutral principles of non-replication (especially of this type of study) being inappropriate for Science.


  10. For what its worth – -the two best things to do in London are the War Cabinet Rooms, and go to see The Mousetrap (cheaper than you think, and fantastic).

    When are you there?


    1. We leave Thursday evening. Just 3 days in London with two social obligations — drinks with a high school friend and Steve has to visit the London office for work. Then 3 days in Edinburgh, 3 days in Inverness. Very excited. I made everyone pack yesterday. I still need to make some reservations and pick up some toiletries at CVS, but we’re in good shape.


      1. So excited for you. Post plenty of pics, and we want a full wardrobe report! (Though I’m hearing that Europe will be facing a heat wave?) Where are you staying (i.e., what neighborhood)?


    2. I don’t have any recommendations because it’s always the weird stuff I remember. When we were there, we stumbled on Project Morrinho (of London,), an art installation, while waiting to go on the London Eye (for which we purchased special tickets, so that we didn’t stand in line — I never think those things are worth it if I have to stand in lines).

      We also saw the Notting Hill Carnival (we went in August) and that was fabulous.

      On my list of things to make an effort to see is Corso Zundert (which appears to be a a dahlia flower float parade).

      So I think my advice to seek out the little/weird/temporary stuff and see it.


  11. Is this for real?

    In case that doesn’t go through, it’s purportedly an ad from The New Republic advertising a position for a part-time preferably in-office position as “inequality deputy editor.” It’s 29.5 hours per week and no benefits.

    If this is a joke, CLAP CLAP CLAP! Troll of the year!

    If it is for real, shame on TNR. There’s no way that the employee would be able to clock out at exactly 29.5 hours a week.


      1. The Economist says, “Are you fluent in R? Can you build statistical models and write clean copy? We’re hiring a senior data journalist (link:”

        Esoteric Jeff comments, “The entire business, on the corporate side, participates in this hypocrisy knowing full well that they’ll hire someone who doesn’t meet the ‘tenure’ requirements, but use it as leverage to give them lower wages.”

        I wouldn’t know if that is fair, but the mind boggles to think how much you’d have to pay a person who fits that job description.


      2. MH said, “I don’t get it. That seems a perfectly reasonable job description.”

        Sure–but do you think they can actually afford that?


      3. I have no idea what their budget is, but they aren’t looking for a unicorn. Those are all pretty common skills if you are in the right networks.


      4. MH said,

        “I have no idea what their budget is, but they aren’t looking for a unicorn. Those are all pretty common skills if you are in the right networks.”

        No doubt.

        Is the TNR ad for real?


      5. I mean, I can write clean copy and build statistical models. So can nearly everyone I work with. I don’t think any of us make enough to scare a payroll officer.


      6. I think Esoteric Jeff should read the experience required section more carefully. It’s five years of data journalism or academic social science or corporate data science. It’s not nearly so hard as he thinks.


  12. This is a little bit on topic for me because I think getting expert in R in one possible path for me to avoid professional decline after 50. I’m trying to decide if it is necessary and/or if I can get somebody to pay me to learn it better.


  13. This isn’t useful advice, but the thing I remember most about visiting England many years ago is visiting Stonehenge in the days when you could walk right up to it and touch the stones, which you can’t do anymore. It’s funny, because my parents had no thought that this experience would cease to be possible. In contrast, they had my grandparents take us to Chicago in a sleeping car once because they thought that experience would cease to be available, and they were completely wrong, or at least very premature.


    1. We arranged a small group tour of Stonehenge when we visited (2010). Don’t know if such a thing is still available. But it was absolutely fabulous. We were able to wander among the stones and touch them.

      I am not an expert, but our tour guide gave me the kind of background I wanted about Stonehenge (grounded in fact not fantasy with deference for what we don’t know). He also lead us on the approach to Stonehenge through sheep fields that he argued was how the tribes would have collected at Stonehenge. We arrived shortly before sunset and saw the sun set behind the stones.

      I’ve traveled on the Empire Builder (from Chicago to Seattle) and loved the trip. Someday I want to do it with a sleeper car (we were young and slept in our seats, though we had taken a break at Glacier National park). One of my kiddos friends is planning on arriving at college via the Empire Builder.


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