Archives For: Updates

New York Shitty, Ctd

Oct 1 2014 @ 2:21pm

A reader sends an ominous view from his East Village window yesterday morning:

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Another New Yorker pounces on my recent snark over the subway:

Really, your pique about New York merely makes you look like an idiot. It’s like a bad breakup that you can’t get over. Well, try.

You would also have a stronger case if you didn’t live in a city where the Metro stations look like the set of a science fiction film about the dystopian future. Every time I’m there, I half expect someone to come running into the Dupont Circle station screaming, “Soylent Green is people!”

Several more dissenters have the floor:

I can’t believe I am writing once again to rail against your railing against NYC, but here I am. Yes, the subway is different from the London Underground. I found the tube-medium-zonedUnderground dizzyingly different when I first encountered it. But yes, it is cheap, and all the millions of people who ride it to school or work really appreciate it! One price takes you to wherever you want to go, no matter how far you have to go, unlike the Underground, which had me standing in front of the map longer than I wished, wondering which zone I will be in if I went here or there. But I just assumed it is just one of many different ways in which seeing the world teaches us to adapt and adjust. If I whined every time a city didn’t live up to my dream image of it, I would never leave my house!

You hate NYC, so you left. Good for you! But can you please remember that it is still home to many, many people and we don’t appreciate someone bashing it again and again, even after he has left, and even if we may actually agree with some of your opinions about it? Please give it a rest!

Read On

Ebola Makes It To America

Oct 1 2014 @ 9:41am

Ebola Quiz

As we noted yesterday, a man who flew from Liberia to Dallas has been diagnosed with Ebola. Kent Sepkowitz examines the precautions we’d taken:

The Dallas case is breaking some of our ironclad assumptions. The CDC has a well-considered algorithm that places those returning from the three endemic West Africa countries—Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia—into a measure of extra vigilance if and only if the person has had exposure to a known case of Ebola. Per the press conference, the Dallas case had no such exposure. He was not a health-care worker treating patients, nor was he from a family battling active disease. Of course, more facts may emerge that contradict today’s story—but today’s facts, if they hold up, mean that yesterday’s assumptions are no longer correct. Liberia may indeed be enough of a hotbed of Ebola that anyone arriving from the area will need to be considered for extra vigilance.

Ezra recommends calming down and taking the quiz seen above:

On average, Guinea spends $32 on health care per-person, per-year. Liberia spends $65. Nigeria spends $94. The United States spends $8,895.

That money buys trained health workers, disease investigators, isolation wards, fever screening, protective gear, and much more. That money buys advanced hospitals all across the country, and labs that can quickly test for the disease, and the ability to do contact tracing and follow-up visits on a tremendous scale. That money also buys public-health officials with long experience combatting infectious diseases — both here and in other countries.

Susannah Locke imagines best and worst case scenarios:

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The Natural Gas Hype, Ctd

Oct 1 2014 @ 7:27am

A reader writes:

Good piece overall, but I want to point out this sentence: “Brooks Miner adds that ‘natural gas does have a dark side: It is composed primarily of methane, which has a much stronger climate-warming effect than carbon dioxide.'” That’s misleading without context. Methane is, indeed, a potent GHG. But it only has this impact if it is allowed to escape, unburned, directly to the atmosphere. If it is burned completely, it becomes CO2 and water like any other fuel. So the global warming impact of used methane is equal only to its carbon content (which is lower, per unit of energy, than petroleum). It is only leaked methane that has this “dark side” – and since we should be economically averse to wasting fuel through leakage anyway, it’s only a problem when something goes wrong.

The other thing to note is that leaked methane will only circulate for a few decades because it will naturally combust in the atmosphere and degrade to CO2. So while its immediate impact is high, it won’t have the same centuries-long effects as a commensurate amount of carbon emission.

Another goes into greater detail and more:

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App Of The Day

Sep 30 2014 @ 8:34pm

Claire Cain Miller has details:

Enter a San Francisco start-up called Shyp, which [expanded] to New York [yesterday]. For a small fee, it fetches, boxes and mails parcels for you. The other week, I had a get-well package to mail to my cousin. I opened the app, snapped a photo of the items I wanted to send and entered her address. Fifteen minutes later, someone was at my door — and that was it. No boxes, no tape, no weighing, no buying stamps, no standing in line. …

Technology has conditioned us to expect ease, efficiency and speed in almost everything we do. Once it came from sewing machines and dishwashers, later from Google and Kayak, and most recently from start-ups that provide on-demand services like Uber for cars, Instacart for groceries and Munchery for dinner. The post office, with its slow-moving lines and cumbersome packing supplies, offers exactly the opposite.

Update from a reader:

It is amazing to me that people know so little about Post Office services. You can pick up a box (or boxes); keep them at home; put the stuff you are sending in said box; go to and click on “ship a package”. Fill out the info; print the label; pay the cost with a credit card or Paypal and either drop in a Post Office or give it to your carrier. You never have to leave home and the cost is the Post Office cost not an inflated app cost. I send all my packages this way. Maybe they should call it a “Post Office app” so people will use it!

Foodies Are Fools

Sep 30 2014 @ 4:44pm

The evidence mounts:

Paying $27 for a burger might seem extortionate. But the chefs behind the most expensive burger in Washington, D.C. – a wagyu skirt steak burger at BLT Steak – can take comfort in new research suggesting that inflated prices can translate into inflated enjoyment:

A new paper, forthcoming in the Journal of Sensory Studies, has found that we enjoy food more if we spend extra money on it. A team of researchers at the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, led by David Just, carried out an experiment on 139 unwitting diners at an Italian restaurant in upstate New York. Customers were charged either $4 or $8 for an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet of pizza, salad, breadsticks, pasta, and soup; the researchers stopped them on their way out and asked them to fill out a short questionnaire on the amount they ate, the quality of the pizza, and their enjoyment of the whole experience. Diners who paid the higher price rated the whole lunch more highly, and judged the pizza more favorably on measures of taste, satisfaction and enjoyment. “The way people appreciate taste,” said Just, is tied into “expectations based on the presentation of the food or what other people have said. They interpret taste through that lens.”

Update from a reader:

I may be a foolish foodie, but the phenomenon Alice Robb describes is, I think, that of the Veblen Good, whereby the demand for (the conspicuous consumption of) a thing is driven by its price. That must surely be universal across any luxury category, so at least we foodists (my preferred term) are in good company.

For those just tuning in, Fisher does a good job summarizing why Hong Kongers have taken to the streets:

Today, the territory’s chief executive Leung Chun-ying asked Occupy Central to disband the demonstrators, casting the disorder as a threat to public safety, but the protest leaders are demanding a face-to-face meeting with Leung and threatening to occupy government buildings if the demand is not met. Christopher Beam takes the pulse of the protest movement going into this week:

The conventional wisdom after the Sunday night clashes was that the movement had lost momentum. But my conversations with protestors on Monday suggested the opposite. Many of the people I spoke with didn’t come out until after the police cracked down. Henry Wong, 19, a student at Chinese University of Hong Kong, decided to join after seeing a live broadcast of students fighting with police. “I’m here so I can sleep at night,” he told me. Michelle Chan, 18, also said she was galvanized by the use of force: “Police don’t have to be that cruel.” Tony Wong, 24, said he was skipping work to come to the protest. I asked if his boss would be upset. “I can get another job,” he said. “I can’t get another Hong Kong.”

Ishaan Tharoor looks ahead:

Read On

Is Baseball A Religion?

Sep 29 2014 @ 7:13pm

As October nears, George Will answers the question this way:

Part of the beauty of baseball, and sport generally, is that it doesn’t mean a damn thing. It’s valued for itself. Now, it can be the pursuit of excellence. dish_baseballprayer It is competition tamed and made civil by rules. It is aggression channeled in a wholesome direction. These are all virtues. They tiptoe up to the point and stop well short of giving baseball meaning. It’s a game. It’s a very pretty, demanding, and dangerous game.

I do think that baseball satisfies a longing in people, particularly urban people. There is a vestigial tribal impulse in all of us. For instance, when you get on the L and the cars begin to fill up with people wearing their Cub blue and you’re all going to the same place for the same reason, for about three hours a little community exists. It disperses after three hours, but it will come back tomorrow.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan talked about what he called the “liberal expectancy.” He said that with the coming of modernity the two drivers of history, religion and ethnicity, would lose their saliency. Sport caters to this and entertains this desire for group identification. But there’s nothing transcendent about baseball.

Update from a reader:

George Freaking Will and baseball? Seriously? Any post about Will and baseball should be accompanied by this SNL skit.

(Photo from 2012 Giants-Padres game by Joel Henner)


Take a trip to 1905:

Like the recent Time magazine cover featuring a 16-year-old who died playing the game, Americans are starting to ask, “Is football worth it?” Football has been here before, at a time when it was actually much more vicious. In 1905, 19 college football players died from injuries sustained while playing the sport; with five times as many college players participating today, the modern equivalent would be 95 on-field deaths. The San Francisco Call listed off the year’s fatalities: “Body blows, producing internal injuries, were responsible for four deaths, concussions of the brain claimed six victims, injuries to the spine resulted fatally in three cases, blood poisoning carried off two gridiron warriors, and other injuries caused four deaths.”

That year, amid calls for the abolition of football, Roosevelt hosted “an extraordinary private meeting” at the White House with the coaches of the three largest college teams:

Some say Roosevelt gave the coaches an ultimatum: Change the game or I’ll abolish it by executive order. But [historian John J.] Miller says that Roosevelt, characteristically, spoke softly, merely asking the leaders to save the sport by reducing the violence in whatever manner they could figure out among themselves. Given the fact that Roosevelt elevated the issue to the level of a presidential meeting, however, his implication was clear: It was time to fix football. “He didn’t have to say anything like a read-between-the-lines threat,” Miller says. “He wanted to nudge them in a direction.”

Miss Cellania notes, “Though he never played the game, partially due to his reliance on glasses, Roosevelt was a devoted fan.” She also provides context for the above image:

Read On

To Have And To Put On Hold

Sep 25 2014 @ 2:37pm

The proportion of unmarried Americans has reached an all-time high, according to a new Pew report. Clare Cain Miller looks at a major reason why:

Though marriage was once a steppingstone to economic stability, young adults now see Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 4.53.25 PMfinancial stability as a prerequisite for marriage. More than a quarter of those who say they want to marry someday say they haven’t yet because they are not financially prepared, according to Pew.

“If you go back a generation or two, couples would literally take the plunge together and build up their finances and nest eggs together,” said Kim Parker, director of social trends research at Pew. “Now it seems to be this attitude among young adults to build up households before they get married.” In other words, marriage has gone from being a way that people pulled their lives together to something they agree to once they have already done that independently.

Kat Stoeffel remarks, “It’s not that we forgot to get married. We’re just being nominally picky”:

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Getting Out The Female Vote

Sep 24 2014 @ 8:15am

One cringe-worthy attempt from the GOP:

Joan Walsh raises an eyebrow:

Yes, admaker Rick Wilson and Americans for Shared Prosperity believe the way to convince women to vote for Republicans is to compare the president to a bad boyfriend. Obviously they think we’re idiots who put romance before reason, even in politics.

Meanwhile, on the Dem side, Greg Sargent explains why 53 percent is their magic number:

[The battle for the female vote] is often discussed in terms of the “gender gap,” i.e., the margin any given Democratic candidate enjoys among women. That’s important, but Dems are also eying another key goal: How to drive up the share of the 2014 electorate that women represent. Democratic strategists familiar with the hardest fought and probably most critical Senate races — in Colorado, Iowa, North Carolina, and Arkansas — all tend to gravitate towards citing 53 percent as an important, if approximate, threshold. That is, they privately say that if the electorates in their states approach 53 percent women, and their candidates enjoy a reasonable advantage among them (as some polls suggest they do already), then their chances of winning improve. This is key to Dem hopes of making the electorate look more like it did in 2012 than in 2010.

Albert Hunt agrees that women voters are key:

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