Linky Friday No. 62

Sports!

[S1] Grantland examines why the world’s best juggler works construction in Florida. If you only read one 6,700-word juggling article this week, let this be it.

[S2] The same goes for this bowling article recommended by James Hanley: “Harry Smith, the top bowler in 1963, made more money than MLB MVP Sandy Koufax and NFL MVP Y.A. Tittle combined.”

[S3] Mike Schilling points us to “the best take ever on why Yankee fans make the rest of us hate Derek Jeter.”

[S4] What do women want to see on the dance floor? The researchers chose a nice methodology for answering this question. Practically speaking though, I just wish this tutorial had been around in my time.

[S5] The NLRB decided Northwestern college football players do have the right to form a union. Kazzy points us to some legal analysis from ESPN. If this judgment stands, it would change everything, which makes me think it won’t stand.

[S6] One of the obvious issues to tackle will be whether this means student athletes should be paid. Winner of the most unsurprising survey results of the week award go to the finding that white people don’t think student athletes should be paid, but non-whites do.

Business and Economics!

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 9.49.29 PM[B1] Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has quietly but quickly implemented seemingly subtle, but actually huge shifts in corporate policy. He cut the price of Windows on crappy machines 70% (presumably to preempt Google’s Chrome OS) and has now allowed the release of a version of Office for the iPad that, far from being castrated, is actually getting good reviews. This seemingly robs the Surface of its lone selling point, a sign that Microsoft is pivoting back to software. Any chance they can get a refund on Nokia?

[B2] John Cochrane has a graphic novel on a world without banks.

Politics!

[P1] Christopher Carr “[finds himself] in the awkward position of defending Vladimir Putin here: leaking private phone calls while simultaneously supporting a leaker does not indicate hypocrisy; nor is the media’s beating of war drums helping with the tense situation in Eastern Europe.”

[P2] Scott Alexander makes a good case that you should reverse any advice you hear. But that itself is advice, which I guess means you shouldn’t.

[P3] “Is today’s left more opposed to free speech than yesterday’s?”

Culture!

[C1] NPR asks whether doctors or artists had richer parents. I guess I know enough rich people with kids that I found the answer obvious. Still, the article has some nice charts.

[C2] A woman with metastatic breast cancer explains why she hates pink and how little she has in common with everyone else who gets breast cancer. Read the whole thing.

[O]nly about 5% of all monies donated to breast cancer charities end up helping metastatic women.

And, of course, you are aware that only metastatic women die of cancer, right?

Put those things together and you realize nobody is trying to save us.

[C3] James Coulson presents a disturbing but beautiful version of the two lies and one truth game.

[C4] Maybe we could tell which statement was the lie with technology. I’ve been watching the science fiction show Continuum recently, and the heroine has an implant that reads people’s emotions to know whether they are lying. We might not be that far off from having that sort of technology in our phones.

[C5] The Daily Beast investigates how Nyphomaniac Volume 1 got its realistic sex scenes. Spoiler: They taped people actually having sex. Don’t read the whole thing.

[C6] The New Yorker reports on the latest parenting study.

Government!

[G1] Radley Balko points out that police officers equipped with video cameras are great til the point that the police selectively lose footage. Missing footage is strong Bayesian evidence that the police are trying to cover something up.

[G2] I have a lot of issues with this article on stop and frisk from this month’s Atlantic, but it still broke my heart a few times.

[G3] Jason Kuznicki’s bleb here at OT concerning the social levers to pull to spur procreation brought up a good point in the comments about whether there was a need to bother, but that hasn’t stopped Denmark from plowing ahead in telling its citizenry to plow ahead (safe, but possibly embarrassing for work):

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63 thoughts on “Linky Friday No. 62

  1. Though I never quite thought about the issue raised in S6 in those terms, it makes perfect sense.

    I’m also curious how much the concerns around NBA tanking have to do with race. All major American team sports incentivize losing. In fact, the NBA incentivizes it the least because they have a lottery. The Astros in MLB and Jaguars in the NFL are both recent examples of pretty inglorious and obvious tanking, at least on the part of ownership. And while the problem might be more pervasive in NBA, I wonder if there is something about primarily black guys dogging it that rubs people worse than a more heterogenous mix of players.

    Of course, this ignores that the players themselves are rarely involved in the tanking. Not only do they have no guarantee to still be around if/when the team turns it around, but most of them take enough pride in their work to compete. Tanking is an ownership issue, one largely perpetrated by rich white guys. But it is often the athletes who are most maligned.

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    • I wonder if there is something about primarily black guys dogging it that rubs people worse than a more heterogenous mix of players.

      There is experimental evidence that whites are more likely to judge blacks guilty in a given situation and recommend harsher punishments than they would whites in the same situation, but I don’t know whether that extends to tanking games rather than, say, assault.

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      • I’d venture to guess it permeates most things, probably to varying degrees. The paying-college-athletes thing might be an extension of it: they’re not judged to be “guilty” but they are judged to be undeserving of something.

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  2. Should you reverse any advice that you hear?

    Yes. This is part of what it means to think dialectically, and to consider any issue from multiple vantage points.

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    • This reminds me of my post on always being right (which was really about acting purposefully). Should I eat more or less? Well, that depends on your goal. Which depends on your situation. If you weigh 350 pounds and want to weigh 200 pounds, you should probably eat less. If you weigh 100 pounds and want to weigh 150 pounds, you should probably eat more.

      The idea that there is a one-size-fits-all approach to just about anything is imbecilic.

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      • If you are to implement this, I think you need to use the checklist provided by Scott, two elements of which are

        1. Are there plausibly near-equal groups of people who need this advice versus the opposite advice?

        2. Have you self-selected into the group of people receiving this advice by, for example, being a fan of the blog / magazine / TV channel / political party / self-help-movement offering it?

        Otherwise, it’s easy for someone like Will to say “hey, I spend a lot of time thinking about quitting and reducing smoking. Maybe I should just give myself a break.”

        Scott’s point is that people seem to self-select advice in a way that exaggerates their biases. For example, the anorexics might be the ones who are most likely to research about weight loss whereas the people who perhaps should try exercising more might be most likely to frequent a fat acceptance blog. It’s not that weight loss information and fat acceptance are bad; it’s that the people who are least likely to need it are most likely to seek it out (according to Scott’s suspicions).

        So, maybe we should all spend the next week just reading articles from TheBlaze or something.

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      • I missed that. But what you say/he says makes perfect sense. I think to an extent we are incentivized to that sort of bias. If I’m overweight but think that losing weight is the ideal course of action, well, now I’ve got to rectify the disparity between my actions and my knowledge. But if I find Dr. Nick Riviera who is willing to say that weight gain is an objective good, holy hell, I’m a success story!

        Reflection is hard for people.

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      • Can you think of any area of your life where you might be self-selecting for the wrong advice? I think it’s valuable to recognize the phenomenon and appreciate that reflection is hard for people in general, but I struggle to identify for myself what bits of advice I might be getting too much of and what I might be ignoring.

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      • I certainly can. I would actually say I’m at a bit of a crossroads — both professionally and personally — wherein I am trying to better understand myself, my practices, my preferences, and my choices. In doing so, I’m realizing the degree to which selection bias played a part in selecting to focus on things which affirmed all those. “See, Zazzy, this article says I’m right about the dishwasher! To hell with all the others!”

        It is a difficult, depressing, enlightening, draining, and hairy process. I’m not doing it perfectly. I couldn’t imagine doing it on a constant basis… at least not as thoroughly as I’m trying to do it right now. But I think it’s possible.

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  3. S6: You are right that this is the most unsurprising survey result ever done or at least one of them. I think Americans like their myths too much and one of our most cherished myths is that of the “amatuer” scholar athlete in college sports. College sports don’t seem to be anything to me but a free training ground for the professional leagues. My suspicion is that many if most white college athletes come from middle class to upper-middle class families. Last summer, I remember a series of articles about how poor families are getting priced out of sports because now the leagues are largely private and cost and arm and a leg for all the equipment and other issues.

    John Chait at New York has been running a good series of articles on how announcers talk about white players during March Madness and basically make them to be the Great White Hopes:

    http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/03/cbs-white-basketball-player-is-basically-jesus.html

    G3: This might be the most European ad I have ever seen.

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    • “I think Americans like their myths too much and one of our most cherished myths is that of the “amatuer” scholar athlete in college sports.”

      Doesn’t this study show that it is not AMERICANS who like their myths too much, but perhaps WHITE Americans who do?

      Thanks for the Chait link. The coded racial language around sports/athletes is a very real thing.

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      • FWIW, I went to a Division III school without a football team and am willing to entertain the even more radical notion of ending college sports as entertainment entirely.

        But you have a point. Though the article still showed it was really close between black survey participants about whether college athletes should be paid or not.

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      • I think the myth of the amateur scholar athlete is itself a myth. There are plenty of students in real degree programs who happen to play an NCAA sport. They’ve been in my classes at the business school where they get no special treatment and do better than average academically in my experience. They are in sports like tennis or soccer or cross country skiing, which I think means that they probably didn’t get much of a scholarship for it. They have no illusions of going pro.

        Yes, you also have the folks who are playing on TV right now. But for every one of them, there are ten who are in some random sport like water acrobatics just because they wanted a competitive activity to do while going to college.

        The video clip on that Chait link is hilarious. Right after the announcer says he’s the best player he’s seen in 35 years, he gets beat for a layup and then misses a layup at the other end.

        Kazzy, you might also be interested in http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/08/how-mlb-announcers-favor-american-players-over-foreign-ones/261265/

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      • I don’t mean to make this sound like it is a representative case, but I do want to share an anecdote as well. I went to a big state university with an enormous sports program for my undergraduate degree. One of the starters on our basketball team was a very large black man who nevertheless was in the exact same engineering program I was in. Yes, he was surrounded by kinesiology folks on the team, but at least that one guy was very clear on the fact that he was using basketball as a way to get an education.

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      • Almost all NCAA athletes are as amateur as can be. I played D3 hockey; none of us were going pro. It is the small minority of sports where college athletics might lead to playing pro; mostly basketball, football, in some places baseball and hockey, alpine, nordic skiing and soccer. However that is only for the top players in those sports. There are far more sports then those i listed and D1 is where the most serious athletes are at. Athletics are fine, they offer a lot to a person and the college experience. They were certainly good for me.

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      • The comedy show “The League” beat that guy to it in Season 2. I can’t find a clip, so here is a transcript:

        “Andre: I met this doctor, Dr. Maxwell. Real class act.
        Pete: Is he…black?
        Andre: How’d you know?
        Pete: Nine times out of ten, when a sportscaster is referring to someone as a “class act”, they’re talking about a head coach who’s black. “Tony Dungy, what a class act.”
        Kevin: “Total. Lovie Smith—class act.”
        Andre: I never noticed that. I mean, it happens all the time?
        Kevin: It’s not just football. Sportscasters use these code words in all sports. If they’re talking about a Latino player in baseball, like, “Ozzie Guillen is a…”
        Ruxin: Firecracker. Latin guys are always firecrackers.
        Kevin: “…firecracker.”
        Pete: Spark plug.
        Kevin: Spark plug in the clubhouse.
        Ruxin: Wes Welker is like a gym rat, a real scrappy player.
        Kevin: Which is code word for “white.”
        Ruxin: Always a white guy.
        Kevin: Ichiro Suzuki is…
        Taco: Inscrutable.”

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      • I know I’ve said this at various points over the years here, but NBA fans do this as well.

        If you have a bench guy who averages 3 points and 2 boards who is black, that guy is viewed as a lazy underachiever who wasted away the natural talent god gave him — definitely a gang-banger. Attach those same stats to a white player, and suddenly the guy is a scrappy, gritty, blue-collar worker who plays a cerebral game.

        I’m not even sure I can think of any exceptions to this rule off the top of my head. It’s pretty universal.

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      • I read an interesting article a few years back when Michael Beasley and Tyler Hansbrough were vying for the national player of the year. Beasley averaged 26-12 playing in the Big 12. Hansbrough had a 22-10 playing in the ACC. The author was exploring the way in which the players described, with Beasley being described as a naturally gifted athlete and Hansbrough as a workhorse, with much of the narrative anointing Hansbrough over Beasley. And while there was certainly arguments to be made in favor of both players, the author took objection to the idea that Hansbrough should be rewarded for supposedly working harder. His argument was more or less, “If Beasley can put up 26-12 without working hard, doesn’t that make him vastly superior to just about everyone else?”

        This silliness is harmful and insulting to all the guys subjected to it.

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  4. [S2]
    Neither Koufax nor Tittle was able to earn a market wage by selling his services to the highest bidder. Also, this was before the NFL became the juggernaut it is today. Salaries were so low that Tittle was at first going to retire from football rather than accept a trade from the 49ers to the Giants, because he couldn’t afford to abandon his insurance business. It was only after his partners insisted they’d cover for him that he went back east.

    And nitpick: Koufax was the MVP of the National League, not MLB, though Elston Howard probably made about the same. (The pre-Steinbrenner Yankees were known for being cheapskates.)

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  5. You know, if Denmark modified its medical insurance regime to make contraception more difficult to obtain, then when couples “do it for Denmark,” their chances of contributing to the desired rising birth rate would likely increase.

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  6. [B2] I see only four panels of the comic strip but I sort of get the idea. I think. I’m not sure how a bankless economic system founded on the purchase and resale of government debt isn’t basically an accelerated all-cash economy, and I’m really not sure how long-term loans like home mortgages fit (or if there’s not room for them, what substitutes exist for big-ticket items that require financing).

    They need to overcome the presumption that banks loan money to individual people, not the other way around, but some exposition could accomplish that.

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    • There are some little circles above the strip that let you move between the pages.

      It’s not the best implementation of a graphic novel that I’ve ever seen…

      I’m really not sure how long-term loans like home mortgages fit

      Strangely enough, we don’t actually use banks for home mortgages. Most of them are actually owned by the government. Ours was sold a few times in the first two months until it eventually ended up with the Feds. If the government didn’t exist as a buyer, it’s unlikely that the particular product we were buying would exist.

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      • So you’re talking Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loans? Natasha and I haven’t ever had a government-held loan; we’ve always found the best deals available in FHA loans. Perhaps my understanding is incomplete, but to my knowledge the lenders have always been private (and plural, since the loans are bundled and securitized almost immediately after origination).

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      • Yes, Fannie Mae in our case. According to these guys,

        By 2010, Fannie and Freddie owned or guaranteed approximately half of all outstanding mortgages in the United States, including a significant share of sub-prime mortgages, and they financed 63 percent of new mortgages originated that year.[11] Other federal agencies, including the Federal Housing Administration and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, insured another 23 percent of home loans. This means that federal taxpayers guaranteed approximately 86 percent of all new mortgage originations in 2010.

        The longer term loans like the 30-year fixed mortgage loan are almost entirely reliant on government demand. That’s why you don’t seem them in other countries.

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  7. S4-The article mainly seems to be talking about free-style dancing, where people don’t touch. As a partner dancer, I’m wondering if this is the same for partner dances.

    G3-Do they really think this is going to work?

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    • S4 – Yes, that’s an important limitation to point out, especially considering how touch-relevant some types of dancing are.

      G3 – Dunno. I think people who make public policy tend to not have that great of an idea of how people make decisions on the ground. The year’s worth of supplies actually does sound like something that might tilt some people who might otherwise be on the fence toward having a child. In general though, I don’t think the people who don’t want to have kids are anywhere near the fence so as to be tempted by such nudges.

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      • S4-To be fair to the study, free-style dancing is much more common than partner dancing. Millions more people dance free-style. It probably never occured to the people doing the study to include partner dancing. The key for doing free-style is moving in time with the music and looking good while your doing it. Partner dancing is about moving in time with the music and having moves to impress the follower and making sure the follower is having a good time. Its probably a lot harder to qualify.

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      • Part of what I liked about the methodology was their way of obscuring any markers other than the movements. Women just saw a featureless humanoid dancing, not a black guy dancing or a guy with a cardigan dancing. That allowed them to isolate the effect of the movements themselves rather than anything else.

        With partner dancing, you lose some of that ability to obscure those details.

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  8. [C2] Very compassionate and heart-wrenching. Her concerns aren’t any different than that of any cancer patient suffering metastasis, someone whose death is within the horizon but who is not yet near enough to the end for hospice. Her cancer isn’t going to be cured; her medication is palliative and not therapeutic. Her disappointment with the Komen Foundation pink ribbon crowd ought not to be so bitter, in my mind, because she’s looking in the wrong place for help and support.

    Rather, she’s pointing out that there’s a need for pre-hospice regimen of care and counseling that is not being met. This need not be, and ought not be, confined only to those whose specific illness is breast cancer. Post-metastasis testicular cancer patients are, as far as I can tell, in exactly the same boat she is without the resentment towards the Komen foundation. Or even non-cancerous, terminal but-not-yet-imminently-so illnesses, although not being a doctor I’m not fluent to describe what those might be.

    It’s not that hard to imagine a list of services that need to be efficiently and compassionately delivered to pre-hospice patients, and not all of them are medical. Such a person needs to get their estate planning in order. Insurance needs to be squared away to the extent that is possible. Grief counseling and coordination with sectarian figures should be arranged, both for the patient and her family. And of course, doctors must advise about last-ditch therapies, palliatives, and the reasonable expectations for how much and what kind of time yet remains. The author touches on many of these things, and I’m sure the list goes on.

    Point is, this really isn’t about breast cancer. It’s about a gap in the spectrum of services offered to people with serious medical problems of all sorts.

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    • Good points, but I feel she is entitled to at least some of her bitterness. The Komen Foundation represents itself as supporting everyone with breast cancer, and she makes a compelling case that they actually don’t. And though she hasn’t made the argument so directly, I think she could argue that Komen’s success squeezes out other organizations who might do more to help people like her. After all, breast cancer => pink ribbons => Komen, who will sue any other organizations who try to use pink ribbons to raise money for cancer research.

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  9. S2 was interesting from a historical perspective. I’ve always associated bowling as something I did at birthday parties as a kid or as a recreational activity and hobby. It never occured to me that bowling was a professional sport, let alone one that used to be a big money professional sport. The article didn’t really explain why it experienced a sharp decline in popularity during the 1980s though. Based on the photographs in the article, the fact that lots of professional bowlers weren’t exactly what you would call good looking.

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  10. B1: Perhaps an acknowledgement that MS is first and foremost an Office company, rather than an operating system company. The biggest lever Windows has in the business world is that it’s the only platform that runs the full version of Excel. My own guess at the cost for corporate America to move from Excel with VBA and Solver to some other computation platform would run to billions of hours. My limited experience with academia is that full Excel is the assumed computation platform an embarrassing amount of the time.

    S1: I love watching jugglers work. The small thing that most impresses me is their ability to hold multiple things in one hand and throw them, in a single move, to two or three very different heights.

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  11. has now allowed the release of a version of Office for the iPad that, far from being castrated, is actually getting good reviews.

    Well, that’s really all that’s needed to make laptops obsolete, isn’t it? I’ve already seen people using iPads with detachable keyboards, so now they can have all the same qualities as a laptop, but are more portable.

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  12. Just wanted to add a link that might be of interest:

    The Libertarian Party has had an 11% increase in voter registrations.

    The press release:

    According to ballot access expert Richard Winger, Libertarian Party voter registration in the U.S. has grown 11.4% since late 2012. Registration in all other nationally-organized parties has decreased.

    According to Winger, the most recent figures available from state governments show that there were 368,561 registered Libertarians in March 2014, compared to 330,811 in November 2012.

    Thirty states and the District of Columbia allow voters to include a party affiliation with their voter registration.

    Libertarian Party Chair Geoffrey Neale commented, “I think it’s great that Libertarian registration is increasing throughout America, while the Democrats and Republicans have been shrinking. Maybe it’s our across-the-board message of ‘more freedom, less government.'”

    The states with the largest percent increases were Idaho (161% increase), Wyoming (68% increase), Nebraska (55% increase), and Louisiana (33% increase).

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