Archive for July, 2012

Harvard’s Money Problems

Posted on July 31st, 2012 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

The Journal reports today on the impact the recession has been having on Harvard’s endowment—and, by extension, Drew Faust’s presidency.

At Harvard—and some of its Ivy League peers —the recession has lingered because of an unusually heavy dependency on their endowments for operating income. Harvard’s $32 billion endowment is up from its 2009 drop to $26 billion, but still off its pre-recession 2008 value of $36.9 billion.

I want to write more about this later, but right now, I’m headed to Yankee Stadium…. (And thanks to the reader who pointed this article out to me, by the way.)

Must I Congratulate Myself?

Posted on July 31st, 2012 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »


Here’s from Forbes’ John McQuaid, writing today on “Where Jonah Lehrer Went Astray” [emphasis added]:

...problems arise when those explanations become not just journalistic narratives but fungible commodities that can be sold not just as books but as “ideas” to media and corporate audiences…. Call it Gladwellization.”

Here’s me, writing in…um…2005:

The Gladwell Effect is my term for writers who try to imitate Gladwell’s techniques in hope of attaining something near his popularity.

Hey, if ideas are so lucrative, I have to point it out, right?

Still Remembering Levon

Posted on July 31st, 2012 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

A nice version of “It Makes No Difference” from My Morning Jacket.

This Looks Like Fun, Doesn’t It?

Posted on July 31st, 2012 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

(Pardon the ad at first.)

One Way to Promote Reading

Posted on July 31st, 2012 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

This website matches bikinis and book covers. Seriously.

“Distracted Walking”

Posted on July 31st, 2012 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

I’ve mentioned before my irritation with people who walk through New York streets while texting or otherwise staring into their smart phone. Their assumption, as they blithely head towards a collision with you, is that you will do them the favor of moving, because clearly whatever they’re texting about is more important than your ability to walk uninterrupted. (In my opinion, the rest of us should all stop changing direction and take them out like a blocking dummy at football training camp.)

So I am not surprised/amused/sort of glad to see that there is apparently an epidemic of “distracted walking” injuries.

From the LA Times:

The number of people who have landed in U.S. emergency rooms thanks to injuries incurred while they were walking and texting, tweeting, playing video games, talking on the phone, or listening to music on headphones, has more than quadrupled in the past seven years….

I’m hoping that our infatuation with our devices—which so often translates into a kind of anti-social narcissism at the expense of community and courtesy—is simply a phase of our electronic evolution, and that eventually people will realize that it’s kind of obnoxious to walk and text, and that their text isn’t very important anyway.

But in the meantime, this news is wickedly satisfying…

Lies at the New Yorker

Posted on July 30th, 2012 in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

I love and admire the New Yorker; it’s the pinnacle of magazine writing and reporting. But this is what happens when you don’t seem to care whether your hip, star reporters are reporters or corporate shills.

From the Times:

Jonah Lehrer, the staff writer for The New Yorker who apologized in June for recycling his previous work in articles, blogs and his best-selling book “Imagine,” resigned from the magazine, he said in a statement.

Mr. Lehrer faced new questions about his work on Monday in an article in the online magazine Tablet that reported that he had admitted to fabricating quotes attributed to Bob Dylan….

I guarantee you, this won’t be the last shoe to drop in this story.

What’s going on here is larger than the New Yorker, or course: It’s the phenomenon of writers who care about their research and prose only insofar as it gets them speaking gigs, corporate appearances and so on. In other words, it’s another consequence of the Gladwell Effect, a term I coined some years back. (Weirdly, it hasn’t caught on.)

This kind of thing happens when a type of professional feels that society insufficiently appreciates his work for its own merits; in other words, it’s part of the existential crisis of journalism. And so it’s not really surprising to me that this scandal involves someone who writes for the New Yorker’s website. The journalistic values of a media website should be exactly the same as that of a print publication; more often than not, they aren’t—because of the advertising model—how do you get people to actually look at those obnoxious ads—because websites are seen as less fundamental than printed versions, because they’re a training ground for young (read: low-paid) journalists, and because many of the people who write for the web were trained in technology more than journalism….

What Up, America?

Posted on July 25th, 2012 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Frank Rich thinks you’re dead—or at least possibly dying. And John Cassidy thinks you’re crazy.

Whereas I can’t say enough good things about you, and in particular the Harvard Extension School. Except that I think you might be going deaf.

Saying yes to immigration

Posted on July 25th, 2012 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

WashPo has a good piece about how Baltimore and other cities (Detroit, Dayton) struggling with declining populations are welcoming Mexican immigrants in hopes of rejuvenating their cities. Smart idea.

The welcome mats thrown out by struggling cities and states stand in stark contrast to the reception immigrants have faced in places such as Arizona and Alabama. There, laws requiring police to ask a person’s immigration status have raised concerns about racial profiling among many immigrants, whether or not they are in the country legally, and many have left because of the stricter laws, as well as the recession.

Local Republicans, in their political wisdom, are doing their best to stop the trend….

Are Whales Better than We Are?

Posted on July 24th, 2012 in Uncategorized | 16 Comments »

I love the juxtaposition of these two stories in the Times.

This one tells of how whales have adapted to human noise pollution in the ocean (sonar, weapons testing, drilling, etc.) by learning how to shut out certain sounds.

“It’s equivalent to plugging your ears when a jet flies over,” said Paul E. Nachtigall, a marine biologist at the University of Hawaii who led the discovery team. “It’s like a volume control.

While this one tells of how human beings are experiencing hearing problems due to the noise level of certain clubs, restaurants and stores…

Across New York City, in restaurants and bars, but also in stores and gyms, loud noise has become a fact of life in the very places where people have traditionally sought respite from urban stress. The New York Times measured noise levels at 37 restaurants, bars, stores and gyms across the city and found levels that experts said bordered on dangerous at one-third of them.

…Hearing experts say ears never get used to loud noise. “Your ears don’t get more tolerant,” said Dr. Gordon Hughes, director for clinical trials at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. “Your psyche gets more tolerant.

So we’re causing noise pollution that affects both humans and whales—and the whales are adapting to it better than we are?