January 16, 2013

Posted by orrinj at 8:16 PM


To Live Longer, Move to a New Zip Code (Phillip Longman, January/February 2013, Washington Monthly)

Between 1994 and 1998, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development conducted a demonstration project known as "Moving to Opportunity." The project randomly assigned low-income families to one of three groups. Those in the first group received a voucher that they could use to help pay the rent on an apartment, provided that the apartment was not in a low-income neighborhood. Those in the second group received a voucher they could use in any neighborhood, while those in a control group received no voucher.

In 2011, HUD researchers published the results in the New England Journal of Medicine. The most dramatic finding was that people assigned to the different groups varied significantly in their weight by the end of the experiment. Going into the program, participants as a whole had been substantially more obese than the U.S. population as a whole. But ten to fifteen years later, those women who had moved to more affluent neighborhoods were one-fifth less likely to be obese than those in the control group, and also one-fifth less likely to have contracted diabetes.

This was true even though there was little difference among all the participants in the numbers who managed to move off welfare, improve their education, or find a better job. This suggests to researchers how powerfully our surroundings alone are to determining our habits and health.

Get rid of public housing and move the recipients to real neighborhoods.
Posted by orrinj at 8:14 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:13 PM


Speak My Language : As the players and schemes have changed, it's the way the Patriots talk that's continued their offensive dominance. (Chris Brown, January 16, 2013, Grantland)

New England's offense is a member of the NFL's third offensive family, the Erhardt-Perkins system. The offense was named after the two men, Ron Erhardt and Ray Perkins, who developed it while working for the Patriots under head coach Chuck Fairbanks in the 1970s. According to Perkins, it was assembled in the same way most such systems are developed. "I don't look at it as us inventing it," he explained. "I look at it as a bunch of coaches sitting in rooms late at night organizing and getting things together to help players be successful."

The backbone of the Erhardt-Perkins system is that plays -- pass plays in particular -- are not organized by a route tree or by calling a single receiver's route, but by what coaches refer to as "concepts." Each play has a name, and that name conjures up an image for both the quarterback and the other players on offense. And, most importantly, the concept can be called from almost any formation or set. Who does what changes, but the theory and tactics driving the play do not. "In essence, you're running the same play," said Perkins. "You're just giving them some window-dressing to make it look different."

The biggest advantage of the concept-based system is that it operates from the perspective of the most critical player on offense: the quarterback. In other systems, even if the underlying principles are the exact same, the play and its name might be very different. Rather than juggling all this information in real time, an Erhardt-Perkins quarterback only has to read a given arrangement of receivers. "You can cut down on the plays and get different looks from your formations and who's in them. It's easier for the players to learn. It's easier for the quarterback to learn," former Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis said back in 2000. "You get different looks without changing his reads. You don't need an open-ended number of plays."

This simplicity is one of the reasons coaches around the league have been gravitating to the Erhardt-Perkins approach. "Concepts benefit you because you can plug different guys into different formations, into different personnel groups, and if they understand the concept, it gives you more flexibility," [...]

With the help of his assistants, Belichick's primary innovation was to go from an Erhardt-Perkins offense to an Erhardt-Perkins system, built on its method of organizing and naming plays. The offense itself would be philosophically neutral. This is how, using the terminology and framework of what was once thought to be the league's least progressive offensive system, Brady and Belichick built one of the most consistently dynamic and explosive offenses in NFL history. From conservative to spread to blistering no-huddle, the tactics -- and players -- have changed while the underlying approach has not.2

Let's look at a play that has long been a staple of the Patriots attack. This is actually two different concepts put together -- "ghost/tosser," which has the Patriots run the ghost concept to one side and the tosser concept to the other. Ghost has the outermost receiver, whoever it is, run a vertical route, one inside receiver run to a depth of roughly eight yards before breaking flat to the outside, and the innermost receiver run immediately to the flat. It's a form of the "stick" or "turn" concept that essentially every NFL team uses. On the other side, tosser means that the receivers run the double-slant concept. The page below is from the Patriots' playbook.

The theory here is that no matter the formation, there is an outside receiver, an inside receiver, and a middle receiver, and each will be responsible for running his designated route. For the quarterback, this means the play can be run repeatedly, from different formations and with different personnel, all while his read stays effectively the same. Once receivers understand each concept, they only have to know at which position they're lined up. The personnel and formation might cause the defense to respond differently, but for New England those changes only affect which side Brady prefers or which receiver he expects to be open. This conceptual approach is how the Patriots are able to run the same basic plays, whether spreading the field with four or five receivers or using multiple tight ends and running backs.

The most recent innovation to fall into New England's Erhardt-Perkins framework is a commitment to the no-huddle. In 2012, the Patriots were the league leaders in total plays, first downs, points, and yards -- all by a significant margin. Other teams have dabbled in the no-huddle, but they can't commit to it like the Patriots can, for one simple reason: terminology. No team that uses the Coryell or true West Coast systems can adapt easily to a fully functional up-tempo no-huddle because, simply, they can't communicate that efficiently. The Patriots are built to communicate in one- or two-word designations, and so, with judicious use of code words, it's simply a matter of translating what they already do into a no-huddle pace.

Posted by orrinj at 6:48 PM


Whoa What: All US iPhone Users Can Now Make Free Phone Calls Via Facebook : No more caring about minutes. Free phone calls over Wi-Fi and 3G/4G! (Dan NosowitzPosted 01.16.2013, Popular Science)

The new feature lets you make phone calls using VoIP, with either a Wi-Fi connection or over your phone's 3G/4G connection, for free. Yep, Skype can already do this, but there's a very good chance more people you know use Facebook than Skype--the Facebook branding and built-in network of people could mean a boost for VoIP like it's never seen before. The only downside might be that calling someone over Messenger doesn't trigger your phone's ringer--instead, it pops up with a notification, just like you've gotten an email or text message.

This also, critically, is a major step backwards for the wireless carriers like Verizon and AT&T, who have been wildly overcharging for voice service and text messaging for, well, pretty much ever. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:25 PM


What Happens When China Goes "Gray"? (Mark W. Frazier, 1/14/13, The Diplomat)

Essentially what happened is that Beijing designed a pension system in the late 1990s that will leave households with much less to spend than many observers assume. Urged by World Bank economists and foreign pension experts, the Chinese government put in place a hybrid pension arrangement that relies on both traditional pay-as-you-go collections from employers and mandatory individual accounts, from which workers were to finance anywhere from one half to two-thirds of their retirement needs. (They also were expected to buy pension and annuity products from commercial providers). But that pension design has resulted in a double whammy: households consume less in order to save for retirement needs, while the government's long term pension debt is escalating rapidly because local governments raided the individual accounts to pay benefits to current retirees.

The central government has tried to prevent local governments from tapping current pension assets, but has done so only by allowing them to accumulate further debt. Moreover, many local administrations bristle under the requirement that pension assets must be invested in low-interest bonds and bank deposits. Don't be surprised if future pension scandals like the one that rocked Shanghai in 2006 are exposed as local administrations seek a higher, though riskier return on their pension assets.

As China's population ages, scholars and officials are seriously considering proposals to phase out the one-child policy that is beginning to curb the flow of new workers into the economy, as well as raise retirement ages (currently 60 for men, 5 or 10 years earlier for women). But such adjustments are just as politically difficult in China as in in Western democracies because, as it turns out, not wanting to work longer is a widely held preference. Many Chinese also view the relatively early retirement age as a way to make vacancies for the millions of young people who enter the labor market each year. If older workers continue working into their twilight years, young workers may encounter greater difficulty in trying to find employment. This would pose its own issues for the country.

What does all this mean for the Asian, European, and American economies that trade with China? First, they should understand that China's aging problem is a slow-motion fiscal crisis.

Study Measures Impact of China's One-Child Policy (SINDYA N. BHANOO, 1/14/13, NY Times)

The Chinese policy that limits most families to having one child has had psychological fallout for the children born after it was instituted in 1979, economists report in the journal Science.

The researchers asked two groups of people -- born just before and just after the policy was put into place -- to play a set of games using real money.

In a game involving trust, test subjects were paired with anonymous partners. Player One was given 100 renminbi (about $16) and invited to pass it along to Player Two. The money would then be tripled, and Player Two could pass some of it back.

Players born after the one-child policy was instituted were less likely to pass money along than the older participants.

The researchers concluded that the "one-child-policy" players were less trusting, less trustworthy, less competitive and more risk-averse than the older ones.

Posted by orrinj at 1:15 PM


Dixie's Enemy Within : How the ideology of white supremacy undermined the South's own war effort. (Colin Woodard, January/February 2013, Washington Monthly)

Wars have often unleashed forces the warring parties hadn't expected and couldn't control. The Thirty Years' War began as a struggle between religions but gave birth to the modern system of secular states, while World War I profoundly undermined the legitimacy of the British aristocracy and the stability of that country's global empire.

The U.S. Civil War, University of Illinois historian Bruce Levine argues in his new book, The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution That Transformed the South, was no exception. Southerners launched the war to preserve slavery, and President Abraham Lincoln responded to save the Union. Ironically, the stresses and necessities of a near-total war quickly began to corrode the Confederate slave system from within and pushed an ambivalent Union to embrace emancipation to ensure victory in the field.

"A war launched to preserve slavery succeeded instead in abolishing that institution more rapidly and more radically than would have occurred otherwise," Levine writes. "[The] ideology of white supremacy, which had always provided critical support for slavery, inhibit[ed] the slaveholders' government from doing what it needed to do to survive." [...]

Levine makes clear both that the South seceded to protect slavery--as anyone who wades into the primary sources knows--and that the Union at large fought to save the Union. That said, he also shows that "a war to save the Union was necessary in 1861 only because a political party that denounced slavery and menaced its future in the Union had won the support of a clear majority of northern voters in 1860. If secession had caused the war, therefore, it was the sharpening conflict over slavery that had caused secession." Nor were "northern" concerns centered only on whether slavery would be allowed to expand to new territories. It had become a threat to democracy throughout the United States. Slaveholders came down hard on any Southern whites who criticized slavery--those who did were driven from pulpits, classrooms, and newsrooms--but they also worked to ban both the distribution of abolitionist materials by the U.S. Postal Service and speaking against slavery in the U.S House. Slavery was coming to threaten liberties of free people in the free states.

Still, federal forces initially had no intention of freeing slaves when they invaded Southern territory, but military expediency pushed many commanders in that direction. Some seized human "property" as contraband, effectively freeing slaves from bondage by declaring them federal property. This drew thousands of slaves to flee to Union lines, weakening Southern production and filling up federal forts and encampments with people often eager to provide intelligence, build fortifications, or even take up arms when allowed to do so. Lincoln pushed back, fearful of upsetting the fragile political coalition of "border state" slaveholders, Yankee abolitionists, and pro-slavery, pro-Union patriots the war effort depended on. But as the war went on, most members of the coalition came to accept what Frederick Douglass had called the "inexorable logic of events." As Union lines expanded southward, hundreds of thousands of enslaved people had tasted freedom. Returning them to bondage would be morally questionable and practically impossible. From 1862, captured and runaway slaves were emancipated and even welcomed into the Union army. [...]

For Confederates, the increasing military burdens tested public commitment to the war. Slaveholders were insulted when the government tried to force them to provide slaves to support the war effort or to join the army even if they felt they had more important things to do. Such policies--which grew more draconian as the South's position deteriorated--"violated political, social, and other cultural imperatives and taboos." This included "keeping government small and weak, extolling local and state sovereignty over that of a national government, and keeping black people firmly subordinated and strictly excluded from many spheres of life." Planters refused to grow food for the army instead of cotton for profit. Critical fortifications were left unfinished because they refused to loan slaves to accomplish the task. Morale in Confederate ranks was eroded when well-connected plantation owners passed laws giving their families special exemptions from conscription.

Posted by orrinj at 12:57 PM


Can Autism Fade Over Time? (LAURA MCMULLEN, January 16, 2013 , US News)

A new study published in the February issue of the Journal of Child Psychology hints that children diagnosed with autism could grow out of the disorder. University of Connecticut researchers analyzed 34 children who had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder early on, but who no longer met the criteria for the disorder and lost all its symptoms.

Posted by orrinj at 10:55 AM


No, inflation still isn't a problem (Jim Tankersley, January 16, 2013, Washington Post)

Know what's not a problem? Inflation.

The Labor Department reported Wednesday morning that consumer prices were unchanged in December. So-called "core" prices - the better measure to watch, because they exclude volatile food and energy prices - rose by 0.1 percent. From December 2011 to December 2012, core prices rose by 1.9 percent. 

Which makes demands for wage growth inane.

Posted by orrinj at 10:49 AM


What Is the Future of Conservatism? (MARK STEYN, January 2013, Commentary)

As his post-mortem observations to donors confirmed, Romney's leaked "47 percent" aside is indicative of the way he thinks, and not a small thing. Indeed, it's a betrayal of core conservative morality: from "Teach a man to fish" to "There's no point even bothering to try to teach 47 percent to fish." I was born a subject of Her Canadian Majesty and, even in a parliamentary system, it would not be regarded as healthy for the Queen's Prime Minister to think like this. In a republic in which the head of government is also head of state, it's simply unbecoming. The next guy has to be running as president of all Americans, even the deadbeats.

That means an end to the consultant-driven, small-ball model of Republican strategy. The Democrats used their brutal Romney-gives-you-cancer/ Ryan-offs-your-granny advertising in Ohio as bad cop to the good cop of Obama's cultural cool. The trouble for conservatives is we have no good cop. That's to say, we have no positive presence in the broader cultural space where real people actually live. 

...but the folks who occupy the narrow cultural space with the Beltway could never forgive him for running against them.   Even they though seem to realize now that the next nominee has to be a carbon copy of W.

Posted by orrinj at 10:39 AM


The Real Cuban Missile Crisis : Everything you think you know about those 13 days is wrong. (BENJAMIN SCHWARZ, January/February 2013, Atlantic)

Scholars, however, have long known a very different story: since 1997, they have had access to recordings that Kennedy secretly made of meetings with his top advisers, the Executive Committee of the National Security Council (the "ExComm"). Sheldon M. Stern--who was the historian at the John F. Kennedy Library for 23 years and the first scholar to evaluate the ExComm tapes--is among the numerous historians who have tried to set the record straight. His new book marshals irrefutable evidence to succinctly demolish the mythic version of the crisis. Although there's little reason to believe his effort will be to any avail, it should nevertheless be applauded.

Reached through sober analysis, Stern's conclusion that "John F. Kennedy and his administration, without question, bore a substantial share of the responsibility for the onset of the Cuban missile crisis" would have shocked the American people in 1962, for the simple reason that Kennedy's administration had misled them about the military imbalance between the superpowers and had concealed its campaign of threats, assassination plots, and sabotage designed to overthrow the government in Cuba--an effort well known to Soviet and Cuban officials.

In the 1960 presidential election, Kennedy had cynically attacked Richard Nixon from the right, claiming that the Eisenhower-Nixon administration had allowed a dangerous "missile gap" to grow in the U.S.S.R.'s favor. But in fact, just as Eisenhower and Nixon had suggested--and just as the classified briefings that Kennedy received as a presidential candidate indicated--the missile gap, and the nuclear balance generally, was overwhelmingly to America's advantage. At the time of the missile crisis, the Soviets had 36 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), 138 long-range bombers with 392 nuclear warheads, and 72 submarine-launched ballistic-missile warheads (SLBMs). These forces were arrayed against a vastly more powerful U.S. nuclear arsenal of 203 ICBMs, 1,306 long-range bombers with 3,104 nuclear warheads, and 144 SLBMs--all told, about nine times as many nuclear weapons as the U.S.S.R. Nikita Khrushchev was acutely aware of America's huge advantage not just in the number of weapons but in their quality and deployment as well.

Kennedy and his civilian advisers understood that the missiles in Cuba did not alter the strategic nuclear balance.
Moreover, despite America's overwhelming nuclear preponderance, JFK, in keeping with his avowed aim to pursue a foreign policy characterized by "vigor," had ordered the largest peacetime expansion of America's military power, and specifically the colossal growth of its strategic nuclear forces. This included deploying, beginning in 1961, intermediate-range "Jupiter" nuclear missiles in Italy and Turkey--adjacent to the Soviet Union. From there, the missiles could reach all of the western U.S.S.R., including Moscow and Leningrad (and that doesn't count the nuclear-armed "Thor" missiles that the U.S. already had aimed at the Soviet Union from bases in Britain).

The Jupiter missiles were an exceptionally vexing component of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Because they sat aboveground, were immobile, and required a long time to prepare for launch, they were extremely vulnerable. Of no value as a deterrent, they appeared to be weapons meant for a disarming first strike--and thus greatly undermined deterrence, because they encouraged a preemptive Soviet strike against them. The Jupiters' destabilizing effect was widely recognized among defense experts within and outside the U.S. government and even by congressional leaders. For instance, Senator Albert Gore Sr., an ally of the administration, told Secretary of State Dean Rusk that they were a "provocation" in a closed session of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in February 1961 (more than a year and a half before the missile crisis), adding, "I wonder what our attitude would be" if the Soviets deployed nuclear-armed missiles to Cuba. Senator Claiborne Pell raised an identical argument in a memo passed on to Kennedy in May 1961.

Given America's powerful nuclear superiority, as well as the deployment of the Jupiter missiles, Moscow suspected that Washington viewed a nuclear first strike as an attractive option. They were right to be suspicious. The archives reveal that in fact the Kennedy administration had strongly considered this option during the Berlin crisis in 1961.

Given the nuclear dominance we enjoyed for a minimum of twenty years, it's shameful that we failed to decapitate the regime.
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Posted by orrinj at 10:33 AM


Disney World Food: The Best Thing I Ate in the Magic Kingdom (Conde Nast Traveler)

When I was asking friends about the one thing I absolutely had to experience in the Happiest Place on Earth, I kept getting the same emphatic response--"Dole Whip." Wait, what? Is that a ride? Nope, the Dole Whip is a smooth and velvety ice cream confection that is sold only in the Magic Kingdom (read: you can't get this baby anywhere else on earth). 

a potato volcano that was ambrosiac.
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Posted by orrinj at 10:12 AM


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...on the other hand, the bread braid I made for MLK day was so bad the pigs wouldn't eat it, nevermind the food kitchens we were baking for.

Posted by orrinj at 10:08 AM

Ben Harper, with Charlie Musselwhite - Get Up! (2013) ( S. Victor Aaron, Something Else Reviews)

Musselwhite can compose and sing, too, but does neither with Harper taking care of those tasks, and it doesn't matter. What matters is Charlie doing what he's been the best at doing since the late 60s. His vintage harmonica can fill up space without being very loud and send tingle down your spine without going over the top. Musselwhite occupies the space normally occupied by the rhythm guitar, the lead guitar or the vocalist, depending on where he is within the song. He's always in the right place at the right time, never having to force his way up front.

Harper brings his Relentless7 band in tow for these sessions, comprising of guitarist Jason Mozersky, bassist Jesse Ingalls, and drummer Jordan Richardson. The rapport with his backing band is never in doubt, and this is a pretty rugged unit. Combined with Musselwhite and bringing in Grammy winning Chris Goldsmith to help out with production, every track is oozing with grit and it has the unmistakable feel of a "live in the studio, no edits" sort of recordings. Even accounting for such seasoned blues and roots pros like Harper and Musselwhite, there's so little between the musicians hashing out these tunes in the studio, and the listener of this record. It's that kind of relaxed mindset that made it possible for "All That Matters Now" to come about as the result of rolling tape on the spot to capture Musselwhite and Mozersky noodling around on a groove.