Social Networks

Everything we do is influenced by social networks.  That’s what Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler argue in their book, “Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives“.  While it might seem obvious that if people you meet on a daily basis are upbeat and happy you’re more likely to be happy, it turns out that friends who live far away can influence a lot of behaviors such as smoking, political views, and a host of other things.  In fact, their friends, by influencing them, might have an influence on you that you’re not even aware of.

Continue reading

Anime

What do you do when you’re stuck in a rut?  Is doing the same, old same-old really good enough?  The answer can be found in entertainment, at least if you’re willing to go along with the flow and accept something very different.  In a world that seems like it’s full of very similar knock-off movies and teevee shows based on proven formulas, there is one place where creative people found themselves uninterested in just doing the same things over and over, and that’s in animation.  There may be a lesson there for everyone who finds that what they’ve been doing for a long time may not be good enough anymore.

Continue reading

Keep Fighting

The world of political blogs is a world where people often zing each other and make small rhetorical points for the simple reason that this is how the game is played.  If you read Barataria often, you’ll know that I have little time for this.  I was called to task by a friend in e-mail recently, who stated the case for standard blog MO blankly:

We have to answer the right.  This is what they’ve been doing to us for a long time, and we’re just giving it back.  You can’t be asking us to leave their hate machine unanswered, are you?

The short answer is “No, I’m not”.  But I still think that using the tactics of the right is ultimately very counter-productive for the left.  This is why.

Continue reading

Late Night Politics

President Obama’s appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman was a brilliant performance for many reasons.  The most obvious was the simple and direct way he related his goals and how he hoped to achieve them, casually bringing the whole country into his inner circle.  Less obvious was how he closed the loop, connecting politics and entertainment in a way that we usually like to deny.  That’s where the future of the Obama administration starts to look far more interesting than just a series of policy choices and potential accomplishments.

Continue reading

Excellent

It’s been fashionable for the last 10 years to write endlessly about the wonders that computers and the internet have brought to our lives.  The Federal Reserve has even taken to fudging productivity numbers based on what they call the “hedonic adjustment” – the supposed increases in productivity that this very special piece of equipment brings to our lives.  But for all the great things that email, then web browsers, then any number of web based interfaces are supposed to have brought to our lives, nothing exceeds like good old Excel.

Continue reading

Learned Helplessness

“What can you do?”  Often said under a deep sigh, it’s something I’ve heard even more often than “What happened?” recently.  People venting their anger have become a staple on the evening nooze, but resigned apathy remains a much more common emotion in response to the Depression.  It’s the economic Depression made into a personal depression, matching the lack of income with a sense of helplessness.  It’s understandable, yes, but countering it is the most important task we have ahead of us.

Continue reading

Football

Football is the most intellectual of all the major sports in the USofA.  Go ahead, laugh, but it’s true.  All those breaks between plays are more than time for wagging commentary and the occasional Bud commercial, they are a chance for the coach to send in a play that one side will attempt to execute while the other tries to foil it.  Raw athletic ability is often thwarted by a clever plan or a quick wit that sees past it.  Amid the changing fronts of trench warfare that make the game, a good General is what it takes to win.

Continue reading