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August 31, 2012

Slate: scratch cooking for fun is middle class

When you have no choice but to cook for yourself every single day, no matter what, it is not a fun, gratifying adventure. It is a chore. On many days, it kind of sucks.

I might have gone to my grave denying this fundamental truth if I hadn't reported a book that had me living and eating off minimum wage (and less). While working at Wal-Mart in Michigan, I stocked up on bulk items, foolishly using middle-class logic ("great unit price!") instead of working-class smarts ("save enough cash for rent plus small emergencies").

I soon ran out of money and found myself hungry and exhausted, staring down a pantry containing little more than flour, coconut flakes, a few scraggly vegetables, and two frozen chicken thighs. There was nothing about this scene that inspired me to cook. The ingredients were boring. There were no friends bringing over bottles of wine. I had left my glossy food magazines in New York.

But there would be no calling Papa John's for pizza or stopping at Trader Joe's for premade lasagna or a selection of fine cheeses; my $8.10 an hour precluded that. I had two choices: consume raw flour and cauliflower, or cook. By dint of my newfound poverty, I had lost the third option--the escape hatch, really--that most middle-class people take for granted: eating without having to cook.

Once subjected to the tyranny of necessity, I found that making my meals from scratch wasn't glamorous at all.

Tracie McMillan

August 30, 2012

Zynga ( $ZNGA ) stalls

Take 1

Since going public just over seven months ago at a price of $10 per share, shares of Zynga (ZNGA) have lost nearly 70% of their value, including today's decline of 40% following a disastrous earnings report. As if Wall Street didn't have enough of an image problem, stories like this only add fuel to the fire. Looking at the firms who underwrote the ZNGA offering shows a who's who of the most high profile firms on the street, including Morgan Stanley, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch (BAML), Barclays, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan. When the so-called most respected companies on Wall Street underwrite garbage like ZNGA, can you fault individual investors for becoming disillusioned with the stock market? In the eyes of investors, these firms are no different from a sleazy used car salesperson, or a guy on the street selling fake handbags or Rolex watches.

Take 2

Right now the company has cash on hand worth almost half of its market cap. At one point an analyst asked outright, "Why should people buy your stock at $3 a share?"

Pincus' answer was long but simple. Paraphrased, he said: If you believe in social gaming, we're the biggest and best. There's no denying social gaming is big, and that Zynga dominates the category. Whether anyone believes it's a big business is Zynga's challenge.

Take 3

It was a somewhat contentious conference call. One analyst, Richard Greenfield of BTIG, brought up to Mark Pincus, Zynga's chief executive, that he had sold stock at $12 a share shortly after the public offering. Mr. Pincus did not directly respond beyond saying "we believe in the opportunity for social gaming and play to be a mass-market activity, as it is already becoming."

After the call, Mr. Greenfield downgraded Zynga's stock to neutral from buy in a report titled, "We are sorry and embarrassed by our mistake."

In an interview, Mr. Greenfield said: "Right now, everything is going wrong for Zynga. In a rapidly changing Internet landscape that is moving to mobile, it's very hard to have confidence these issues are temporary."

Most Zynga games are free. The company makes money from a small core of dedicated users who buy virtual goods like tractors in FarmVille. Over the last year, the average daily amount of money Zynga took in from these core users dropped 10 percent even as the overall number of users expanded.

Zynga and Facebook are tied at the hip. Until recently, Zynga games could be played only on the Facebook platform, and for every dollar that users spent on buying virtual goods, Facebook pocketed 30 cents, its principal moneymaking channel other than advertising.

That partnership has continued. Zynga has seven of the top 10 games on Facebook.

Square availability 2

Though smartphone payments have a long way to go before they replace wallets altogether, Starbucks's adoption of Square will catapult the start-up's technology onto street corners nationwide, and is the clearest sign yet that mobile payments could become mainstream.

"Anyone who's going to break the mobile payments barrier in the U.S. has to overcome the resistance to try anything new when everything we have works really, really well, even cash, which is very convenient," said Bill Maurer, director of the Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion at the University of California, Irvine.

"My hope is that by creating a national footprint for Square technology in all Starbucks stores in the U.S., that it will be a catalyst for Square to get access to tens of thousands of other small business and democratize payments," Mr. Schultz said.

August 29, 2012

Strawberry and Almond Smoothie: A traditional smoothie with a twist of nutty protein.

Strawberry and Almond Smoothie: A traditional smoothie with a twist of nutty protein.

Coconut Pineapple Pumpkin Seed Smoothie: Ice cubes made with low-fat coconut milk give this blended drink extra flavor and texture.

Carrot, Papaya and Sesame Smoothie: Hazelnuts, pistachios and coconut milk add richness to this nutritious drink.

Seeded Banana Frappe: A simple banana smoothie gains complexity from almonds, a trio of seeds and a little spice.

Melon Pomegranate Almond Smoothie: You can get the ruby-colored pomegranate juice for this drink with a juicer or a citrus press.

Via well blogs ny times: it's smoothie time



6 hazelnuts

1 cup diced ripe papaya (6 ounces/ 180 grams)

1 small carrot, peeled and chopped (1 1/2 to 2 ounces / 45 to 60 grams)

2/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1 tablespoon pistachios

2 low-fat coconut milk ice cubes (3 tablespoons low-fat coconut milk)

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 teaspoon honey or agave nectar

1 slice ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped

1. Place the hazelnuts in a 300-degree oven and toast for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, wrap in a towel and rub the towel against your counter to rub off the skins.

2. Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend at high speed for a full minute. Pour into a glass and enjoy.

Yield: 1 serving.




August 28, 2012

Robots score essays well

the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation sponsored a competition to see how well algorithms submitted by professional data scientists and amateur statistics wizards could predict the scores assigned by human graders. The winners were announced last month -- and the predictive algorithms were eerily accurate.

The competition was hosted by Kaggle, a Web site that runs predictive-modeling contests for client organizations -- thus giving them the benefit of a global crowd of data scientists working on their behalf. The site says it "has never failed to outperform a pre-existing accuracy benchmark, and to do so resoundingly."

Kaggle's tagline is "We're making data science a sport." Some of its clients offer sizable prizes in exchange for the intellectual property used in the winning models. For example, the Heritage Health Prize ("Identify patients who will be admitted to a hospital within the next year, using historical claims data") will bestow $3 million on the team that develops the best algorithm.

The essay-scoring competition that just concluded offered a mere $60,000 as a first prize, but it drew 159 teams. At the same time, the Hewlett Foundation sponsored a study of automated essay-scoring engines now offered by commercial vendors. The researchers found that these produced scores effectively identical to those of human graders.

Barbara Chow, education program director at the Hewlett Foundation, says: "We had heard the claim that the machine algorithms are as good as human graders, but we wanted to create a neutral and fair platform to assess the various claims of the vendors. It turns out the claims are not hype."

-- Randall Stross.

"A few years back, almost all states evaluated writing at multiple grade levels, requiring students to actually write," says Mark D. Shermis, dean of the college of education at the University of Akron in Ohio. "But a few, citing cost considerations, have either switched back to multiple-choice format to evaluate or have dropped writing evaluation altogether."

Tom Vander Ark, chief executive of OpenEd Solutions, a consulting firm that is working with the Hewlett Foundation, says the cost of commercial essay-grading software is now $10 to $20 a student per year. But as the technology improves and the costs drop, he expects that it will be incorporated into the word processing software that all students use.

"Providing students with instant feedback about grammar, punctuation, word choice and sentence structure will lead to more writing assignments," Mr. Vander Ark says, "and allow teachers to focus on higher-order skills."

Teachers would still judge the content of the essays. That's crucial, because it's been shown that students can game software by feeding in essays filled with factual nonsense that a human would notice instantly but software could not.

Jason Tigg, a London-based member of the team that won the essay-grading competition at Kaggle. As a professional stock trader who uses very large sets of price data, Mr. Tigg says that "big data is what I do at work." But the essay-scoring software that he and his teammates developed uses relatively small data sets and ordinary PCs -- so the additional infrastructure cost for schools could be nil.

August 27, 2012

Mommy wars: Elisabeth Badinter vs Amy Allen

Much work in second wave feminist theory of the 1970s and 1980s converged around a diagnosis of the cultural value system that underpins patriarchal societies.

Feminists argued that the fundamental value structure of such societies rests on a series of conceptual dichotomies: reason vs. emotion; culture vs. nature; mind vs. body; and public vs. private. In patriarchal societies, they argued, these oppositions are not merely distinctions -- they are implicit hierarchies, with reason valued over emotion, culture over nature, and so on. And in all cases, the valorized terms of these hierarchies are associated with masculinity and the devalued terms with femininity.

Men are stereotypically thought to be more rational and logical, less emotional, more civilized and thus more fit for public life, while women are thought to be more emotional and irrational, closer to nature, more tied to their bodies and thus less fit for public life.

-- Amy Allen, the Parents Distinguished Research Professor in the Humanities and a professor of philosophy and women's and gender studies at Dartmouth College.


the publication of the English translation of Elisabeth Badinter's book, "The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women." In it, Badinter argues that a certain contemporary style of mothering -- a style that requires total devotion of mother to child, starting with natural childbirth and extending through exclusive and on-demand breastfeeding, baby-wearing and co-sleeping -- undermines women's equality.

Badinter claims that it does this in several ways: by squeezing fathers out of any meaningful role in parenting; by placing such high demands on mothers that it becomes nearly impossible to balance paid work with motherhood (especially once fathers have been sidelined); and by sending the message that day care, bottle feeding, sleep training and the other things that allow women to combine motherhood with paid work are harmful to children, and that the women who use them are selfish.


August 26, 2012

Restlessness as a malady ?

St. Augustine believed that "because God has made us for Himself, our hearts are restless until they rest in Him." We often think of restlessness as a malady.

Thus, we urgently need to reclaim the etymology of restlessness -- "stirring constantly, desirous of action" -- to signal our curiosity toward what isn't us, to explore outside the confines of our own environment. Getting lost isn't a curse. Not knowing where we are, what to eat, how to speak the language can certainly make us anxious and uneasy. But anxiety is part of any person's quest to find the parameters of life's possibilities.

August 25, 2012

Play smart to exercise the brain

"Play is one of the most cognitively stimulating things a child can do," says Megan McClelland, an early-childhood-development researcher at Oregon State University who has led much of the research.

The key to games education is to start with a simple game and add increasingly complicated rules. For instance, Oregon researchers have developed a game called Head-to-Toes, which they use to assess preschool children's development. Initially, the child copies the teacher's movements, touching her head or toes. But later, the child is expected to do the opposite, touching her toes when the teacher touches her head.

While the game may sound simple, it actually requires a high level of cognitive function for a preschooler, including focus and attention, working memory to remember rules, mental flexibility (to do the opposite) and self-control.

August 24, 2012

Square availability

Signing up for Square involves supplying your bank routing and account numbers, so Square can deposit your money. Only the first $1,000 of each week's charges lands in your bank account immediately. Anything over that is reviewed by the company's auditors; it can take as long as 30 days before you see the rest of the money. That could be a downside if you sell a lot of used cars.

Then again, that's just for first-timers. The more you use the service without incident, the higher the company will raise that $1,000 threshold. In fact, if you're willing to share more details about your business with Square upfront, they'll raise that threshold from the start.

August 23, 2012

Value of life, price of healthcare

While it is reasonable for politicians to shy away from rationing -- especially when voters believe no expense should be spared to save a human life -- if the experience of other countries serves as precedent, they will probably get there sooner or later. In Britain, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence determines what therapies will be covered by the National Health Service. It generally recommends against paying for a therapy that costs more than $31,000 to $47,000 for each year of life gained, adjusted for quality.

Putting a value on life, as it were, is controversial. The National Institute in Britain has denied or limited coverage of expensive drugs for ailments like pancreatic cancer, macular degeneration and Alzheimer's. But in a world of limited budgets, such decisions must be made.

Similar systems exist in many countries, including Australia and New Zealand, where the government decided not to pay for a universal vaccine against pneumococcal disease until its price fell to 25,000 New Zealand dollars (about $20,000) per quality-adjusted life year.

Though this concept may sound foreign, Washington has been putting a price on life since the administration of Ronald Reagan -- who determined that regulations should pass through a strict cost-benefit analysis, with values placed on factors like life and health. The Environmental Protection Agency values a life at about $9 million today. In 2009, the Transportation Department used a price tag of about $6 million. If safety improvements on a road were projected to cost more than the value of the lives expected to be saved by the improvement, the project would be deemed too expensive.

This approach has been contentious. And it has had an impact on Americans' health. In 1991 an appeals court reversed the E.P.A.'s decision to ban asbestos on the ground that it was too costly. The E.P.A., it argued, "would have this court believe that Congress, when it enacted its requirement that the E.P.A. consider the economic impacts of its regulations, thought that spending $200 million to $300 million to save approximately seven lives (approximately $30 million to $40 million per life) over 13 years is reasonable."

August 22, 2012

Dangers of the sun

Sunscreen and sunblock, not to be forgotten,

T.T.: Your skin is very fair. Do you have a special trick to help get a glow?

Kay Panabaker: It's a struggle having such incredibly fair skin, and when I spend time in the sun, it turns obnoxiously red, instead of getting a pretty glow. I use Jergens Natural Glow Daily facial moisturizer. It not only restores moisture to my face, but it builds up a natural color without giving me that orange, fake-tan look. I'll also use Physicians Formula Bronze Booster on my neck, so I don't get that weird face-is-a-different-color-than-my-neck look!

August 21, 2012

To argue that taxes on the working middle class must continue even as incomes contracted is to virtually guarantee a revival of conservatism and anti-government sentiments of the kind that now characterize our politics.

To argue that taxes on the working middle class must continue even as incomes contracted is to virtually guarantee a revival of conservatism and anti-government sentiments of the kind that now characterize our politics.

-- Gary Hart

The Democratic Road Not Taken

For more than four decades most Americans identified the Democratic Party with a social contract and safety net, equality of justice and opportunity, and progressive -- yes, even liberal -- causes. Sometime in the last 30 years the party of progress and change -- Emerson's party of hope -- became the party of reactionary liberalism.

This phrase would be an oxymoron were it not for the fact that merely defending social programs, liberal programs, is reactionary. Those programs included Roosevelt's social safety net, as expanded by Johnson's Great Society, and the expansion of minority rights and women's rights after that. They include the framework of environmental laws of the 1960s and '70s, often supported and occasionally created by what were then moderate Republicans.

But beginning dramatically in the 1970s things changed. Things being: globalization and foreign competition; the decline of the manufacturing base; petroleum-producing nations controlling the price of oil; and the unsustainable costs of cold war military engagements and deployments.

The OPEC oil embargoes of 1974 and 1979 contributed to the combination of stagnation and inflation and to the flattening of household incomes for the first time since the beginning of World War II. Meanwhile, the numbers of people qualifying for assistance under New Deal and Great Society programs increased, as did the overall costs of operating those programs, especially in the area of health care.

The Democratic Party during this period had the opportunity to develop a new economic platform but failed to do so. Having no constructive response to a tide of economic and social revolutions, it clung to the defense of its historic social agenda, which required taxation of working class and middle income people to finance that agenda at a time when their own economic security was endangered. As Todd S. Purdum described this phenomenon recently in Vanity Fair, "the Democrats came across more and more as the crouched consolidators and defenders of past gains." Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein echoed this conclusion in their new book, "It's Even Worse Than It Looks." The Democrats, they write, "have become the more status-quo oriented, centrist protectors of government."

August 20, 2012

We need a 21st century man to fix a 19th century system

Barack Obama stands for the old order. If Mitt Romney chooses to stand for the new one--for American principles, drive, and ingenuity applied to our novel circumstances--America's anxious electorate might just stand with him.

-- Yuval Levin, a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard, Hertog fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and editor of National Affairs.

August 19, 2012

travel: the heroic: a quest for communion and self-knowledge

The planet's size hasn't changed, of course, but our outsize egos have shrunk it dramatically. We might feel we know our own neighborhood, our own city, our own country, yet we still know so little about other individuals, what distinguishes them from us, how they make their habitat into home.

This lack of awareness is even more pronounced when it comes to different cultures. The media bombards us with images from far-away places, making distant people seem less foreign, more relatable to us, less threatening. It's a mirage, obviously. The kind of travel to which we aspire should tolerate uncertainty and discomfort. It isn't about pain or excessive strain -- travel doesn't need to be an extreme sport -- but we need to permit ourselves to be clumsy, inexpert and even a bit lonely. We might never understand travel as our ancestors did: our world is too open, relativistic, secular, demystified. But we will need to reclaim some notion of the heroic: a quest for communion and, ultimately, self-knowledge.

-- Ilan Stavans, professor of literature at Amherst College and Joshua Ellison, editor of the literary journal Habitus.

August 18, 2012

Pussy Riot

The name helps. It's its own form of culture jam, a savvy reference to feminist and musical history -- riot grrrl and Susie Bright, as well as a wink to women's appropriation of sexual agency and bodily power. Madonna has worn Pussy Riot's name on her bare skin, a statement both of her support and of her own rebelliousness. (She still knows how to flaunt it.)


The inevitable aesthetic judgment has found these girls, as they sometimes refer to themselves, on the right side of cool. For women identified with rock 'n' roll -- and for fans, especially in the West -- Pussy Riot is expertly constructed, perfectly charged. Plus, it's fun to say -- unless you're in American network news, which has been demurely referring to the group as an all-female punk band.

But for artists and activists around the world the recent travails of Pussy Riot, founded in 2011, have become a cause célèbre. When its members, Maria Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, were sentenced on Aug. 17 to two years each in a prison camp for staging a flash protest against President Vladimir V. Putin in Moscow's main Orthodox cathedral in February, it served as another rallying point, at a time when many are concerned with government malfeasance, economic and social equality, and, not incidentally, women's rights. The ladies of Pussy Riot are of-the-moment renegades.

That the group is so digestible to Western audiences has been much noted. Yes, the choppy performance that got its members arrested could have just as easily taken place at an undergrad art school, where the corresponding video might've been mocked for its low production value (or turned up in a flashback episode of HBO's "Girls"). Instead, when it made the rounds online, it found eager and sympathetic spectators and an instant distribution channel aided by social media. Punk was never shy about being amateur; DIY spread wide is its hallmark. And in a country where public dissent is at a neophyte stage, Pussy Riot's "Punk Prayer," a 40-second lip sync, only served to highlight the discordantly severe punishment its members received. Supporters -- like the hundreds who gathered at a reading in New York on the eve of the sentencing -- viewed the group members as unfairly judged, less creatively shackled musicians than oppressed symbols of heroism.


The Russian response to Ms. Alyokhina, 24; Ms. Samutsevich, 30; and Ms. Tolokonnikova, 23, has been mixed at best. Russians are generally deeply distrustful of feminism, even though Russian women are no shrinking violets.

Yet the stoicism of Ms. Samutsevich, Ms. Alyokhina and Ms. Tolokonnikova -- the latter two, we are frequently reminded, the mothers of young children -- has made a deep impact in both Russia and the West. Their symbolism as radicals -- Ms. Tolokonnikova with her fist raised as she was led out of the courtroom -- has been so successful in the West that there is now debate not about whether to support them but on what grounds: as social agitators, or broad critics of the Kremlin. For its part the group -- along with an unofficial spokesman in Pyotr Verzilov, Ms. Tolokonnikova's husband -- has made its ambitions plain: revolution.


Members of Pussy Riot Yekaterina Samutsevich (left), Maria Alyokhina (center), and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova sit in a glass-walled cage during a court hearing in Moscow

See also Slate slideshow.

August 17, 2012

New tax fraud: id fraud for refunds

From 2008 to 2011, the number of returns filed by identity thieves and stopped by the I.R.S. increased significantly, officials said. Last year, it was at least 1.3 million, said Steven T. Miller, deputy commissioner for services and enforcement at the agency.

This year, with only 30 percent of the filings reviewed so far, the number is already at 2.6 million. The bulk are related to identity theft, Mr. Miller said.


In South Florida and Tampa, the problem has gotten so bad that police officers conducting unrelated searches or simple traffic stops routinely stumble across ledgers with names and Social Security numbers, boxes of stolen medical records and envelopes with debit cards.

The Tampa Police Department set up a special unit last year related to this kind of fraud after officers continued to find an "ungodly amount" of identity-theft material, said Detective Sal Augeri, a veteran on the unit. Last year, the department handled nearly 1,000 incidents; this year, the number is "way, way above that," he said.

Fraudulent filers first used names and Social Security numbers of the deceased to file claims. The numbers become public by law and, until recently, were easily available on popular genealogy Web sites. Swindlers also used the Social Security numbers of prisoners.

When officials cracked down on those two avenues, the theft migrated to anywhere Social Security numbers are collected. Most vulnerable are records from health care facilities, assisted-living centers, schools, insurance companies, pension funds and large stores that issue credit cards. The police say employees steal the information and sell it, an increasingly common practice here.

Everyone is susceptible. Two dozen Tampa police officers, including one whose job it is to investigate identity-theft fraud, had their identities stolen and their tax refunds diverted this year.

August 16, 2012

A brief "golden age" of Mormonism's positive image

The brief "golden age" of Mormonism's positive image -- roughly 1935 to 1965, according to Jan Shipps, perhaps the leading non-Mormon scholar of the Latter-day Saints -- coincided with a period of conservative Protestant retreat. Embarrassed after their fight with modernists in the mid-1920s, evangelical Protestants withdrew from public engagement, built their own impressive church and educational networks, and re-emerged in the 1970s as a formidable force on the political right. The subsequent "countercult" movement within evangelicalism targeted Mormonism with gusto.

Anti-Mormon attacks by evangelicals have betrayed anxiety over the divisions in their movement and their slipping cultural authority as arbiters of religious authenticity. Some big-hearted evangelicals have recently reached out to Mormons with genuine understanding, but they must now fend off charges of getting too cozy with Satan's minions. Because evangelicals are hard pressed for unity to begin with, and because they have defined themselves less and less in terms of historic Christian creeds, their objections to Mormonism might carry less and less cultural weight.

J. Spencer Fluhman, assistant professor of history at Brigham Young University and author of t" 'A Peculiar People': Anti-Mormonism and the Making of Religion in 19th-Century America."

For the right, Mormonism figures in even more complicated ways. The Mormon road to respectability has often led, as it did for Mr. Romney, through Harvard Business School; pro-business Republicans have found ready friends among well-placed Mormons. But many rank-and-file evangelical Protestants call Mormonism a cult -- as the pastor Robert Jeffress did last fall -- or a "non-Christian religion." Indeed, evangelical hatred has been the driving force behind national anti-Mormonism.

Contemporary anti-Mormonism tends to emerge either from the secular left or from the evangelical Protestant right. For the left, Mormonism often functions as a stand-in for discomfort over religion generally. Mormon religious practice offers a lot of really, well, religious religion: ritual underclothing, baptism for the dead, secret temple rites and "clannishness" (a term invoked in the past in attacks on Catholics and Jews). Any religion looks weird from the outside, but the image of Mormonism seems caught somewhere between perpetual strangeness and strait-laced blandness.

When a perceived oddity is backed by Mormon money or growing political clout, the left gets jumpy. MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell and HBO's Bill Maher have resorted to caricature, stereotyping and hyperbole in their anti-Mormon attacks. Liberals were outraged by Mormon financing of Proposition 8, the 2008 ban on same-sex marriage in California. They scoff at Mormonism's all-male priesthood and ask why church leaders have yet to fully repudiate the racist teachings of previous authorities.

August 15, 2012

Valencia built it

Spain, a country where regions have fought hard to bolster their autonomy, including the right to use their own languages. They regained those powers in the late 1970s, when Spain's fledgling democracy drew up a new Constitution after decades of authoritarian rule under Gen. Francisco Franco.

Gradually, the regions were put in charge of more of Spain's public expenditures, eventually accounting for about half -- twice the level of three decades ago. Ciudad de la Luz has become a prominent example of Valencia's frenzy of modern-day pyramid building, which left a legacy of $25.5 billion in regional debt and bankrupt infrastructure projects as well as the backlash now building against it.

Valencia's other investments included a harbor for superyachts, an opera house styled like the one in Sydney, Australia, a futuristic science museum, the biggest aquarium in Europe and a sail-shaped bridge, not to mention an airport that never had a single arrival or departure. It also attracted extravagant events like the America's Cup and Formula One racing.

August 14, 2012

Big eaters

Eight million men and women in the United States who struggle with binge eating, defined as consuming large amounts of food within a two-hour period at least twice a week without purging, accompanied by a sense of being out of control.

While about 10 percent of patients with anorexia and bulimia are men, binge eating is a problem shared almost equally by both sexes. A study published online in October and then in the March issue of The International Journal of Eating Disorders found that among 46,351 men and women ages 18 to 65, about 11 percent of women and 7.5 percent of men acknowledged some degree of binge eating.

"Binge eating among men is associated with significant levels of emotional distress, obesity, depression and work productivity impairment," said Richard Bedrosian, a study author and director of behavioral health and solution development at Wellness and Prevention Inc., which works with employers and health plans.

But while binge eating is challenging for women who suffer from it, the perils are perhaps greater for men, who rarely seek treatment for what many believe is a "women's disease." Unlike bulimia and anorexia, binge eating does not even have a distinct listing in the current D.S.M., as the diagnostic guide for mental health professionals is known.

"Guys generally don't come forward for any reason," said Ron Saxen, 49, author of "The Good Eater," a memoir of his struggle with binge eating, which began when he was about 11. At his worst, Mr. Saxen was consuming 10,000 to 15,000 calories' worth of Big Macs, French fries, chocolate milkshakes, candy bars, ice cream and M & Ms, often within an hour-and-a-half window.

Those men who do seek treatment often have difficulty finding a facility or therapist to work with them -- even the literature is predominantly female-centric. Before Vic Avon was given a diagnosis of anorexia in 2006, for example, he scoured the Web for information relating to men and eating disorders. "Everything I saw was written for and by women," said Mr. Avon, 29, a building contractor in Brick Township, N.J.

Many binge-eating men do not even recognize that anything is wrong. About 70 percent of people with binge eating disorder are overweight or obese, but a higher weight is generally more culturally acceptable for men than for women.

"There's nothing wrong with a college guy eating a whole pizza by himself, but with women they would be horrified," said Roberto Olivardia, a clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of body image disorders and eating disorders in men and is an author of "The Adonis Complex."

Even if they are disturbed by their food intake, few men make the connection between gorging and emotional distress. "With men it's usually a disconnect," said Mr. Walen, the former binge eater turned therapist. "It's about 'I want to eat,' not 'I'm coping with an emotional trauma.' "

Adam Lamparello's binge eating was both physical and psychological, the result of the starvation that ensued during his six-year bout with anorexia, and his attempt to fill the "emptiness, loneliness and emotional void" that he felt in his life.

August 13, 2012

Guy Sorman on European federalism

Guy Sorman is an oddity--some might say a walking contradiction. The French economist and writer has for decades championed free markets in the birthplace of dirigisme. He is a man of the right who is guardedly upbeat about France's future under the first Socialist president in 20 years. And he's decidedly positive on the euro and the European Union.

The latest of his 25-odd books, "Journal of an Optimist," a series of diary-like essays on Europe and France, was published here this spring. His contrarian streak--a virtual job requirement for French public intellectuals going back to Voltaire--flies straight into the gloomiest headwinds. "The consensus is not always the truth," he says without hesitation.

Doomsday scenarios also overlook differences among EU states. The Berlin Wall was replaced by a sort of sunshine curtain that separates a healthy, growing north from the basket cases of Club Med. Visit Berlin, booming Warsaw or the Estonian capital of Tallinn to escape the depressed mood of Paris. "I think you'll have a European revival coming from Poland, the Baltic States and Finland" says Mr. Sorman. "Just look at what they've achieved."

Mr. Sorman has advised the South Korean president Lee Myung-bak since 2009 ("without much result," he says) and lived for a year recently in China. This up-close look makes him skeptical of the rising East hype and eager to halt Europe's premature burial.

Mr. Sorman, who taught economics for three decades at the prestigious Sciences-Po in Paris, knows all the free-market arguments against further empowering Brussels or pooling taxes. "A federation is not the same thing as a super state," he responds. "We're talking about a federation where free-market principles are much better implemented than they ever were when decisions belonged to each nation."

Mr. Sorman says the crisis has usefully brought quick fixes to obvious euro shortcomings. Greece cooked its budget numbers for years; Italy and Spain weren't always open about the rot on their books. After Greece collapsed, the EU introduced transparent national accounting standards. When France and Germany broke through the EU treaty's ceilings on fiscal deficit without any consequences a decade ago, they unwittingly encouraged bad fiscal behavior by others. No one will make that mistake again, says Mr. Sorman, and in any case the EU has strengthened its enforcement powers.

Margaret Thatcher considered Europe to be welfarism by the back door. Contra the Iron Lady, Mr. Sorman says more Europe brings more competition and more prosperity.

Brussels has wrenched open protected markets and broken up state monopolies in transport, telecommunications, energy and more. In the Sorman view, the EU has just gotten started. Its executive arm, the European Commission, "is the major free-market agent we have in Europe," he says. The euro, unveiled a dozen years ago, "is a new kind of gold standard."

By bringing currency stability and taking away the tool of devaluation from politicians who want an easy fix, the single currency has forced "each economy to be more rational, more flexible and more productive." The ECB, he adds, "is even more free-market oriented than the Federal Reserve." Its only job is keep inflation low, while the Fed has a second mandate to bring about full employment.

August 12, 2012

Katie Roiphe reproduces

All of the liberal concern about single motherhood might more usefully be channeled into protecting single mothers, rather than the elaborate clucking and exquisite condescension that get us nowhere. Attention should be paid to the serious underlying economic inequities, without the colorful surface distraction of concerned or judgmental prurience. Let's abandon the fundamentally frothy question of who is wearing a ring.

-- Katie Roiphe

To support the basic notion that single mothers are irresponsible and dangerous to the general order of things, people often refer vaguely to "studies." I am not a huge believer in studies because they tend to collapse the complexities and nuance of actual lived experience and because people lie to themselves and others. (One of these studies, for instance, in order to measure emotional distress asks teenagers to record how many times in a week "you felt lonely." Is there a teenager on earth who is a reliable narrator of her inner life? Can anyone of any age quantify how many times in a week they have felt lonely?) But since these studies provide fodder for those who want to blast single mothers, it's worth addressing what they actually say.

Studies like those done by the Princeton sociologist Sara S. McLanahan, who is one of the foremost authorities on single motherhood and its impact on children, show that conditions like poverty and instability, which frequently accompany single-mother households, increase the chances that the children involved will experience alcoholism, mental illness, academic failure and other troubles. But there is no conclusive evidence that, absent those conditions, the pure, pared-down state of single motherhood is itself dangerous to children.

PROFESSOR McLANAHAN'S studies over the years, and many others like them, show that the primary risks associated with single motherhood arise from financial insecurity. They also offer evidence that, to a lesser extent, particular romantic patterns of the mother -- namely introducing lots of boyfriends into children's lives -- contribute to the risk. What the studies don't show is that longing for a married father at the breakfast table injures children.

And Professor McLanahan's findings suggest that a two-parent, financially stable home with stress and conflict would be more destructive to children than a one-parent, financially stable home without stress and conflict.

There is no doubt, however, that single motherhood can be more difficult than other kinds of motherhood. In France, the response to the added difficulty is to give single mothers preferential access to excellent day care. Here the response is moralism disguised as concern and, at other times, simply moralism.

The idea of "single mothers" may itself be the convenient fiction of a fundamentally conservative society. In fact women move in and out of singleness, married parents break apart, men and women live together without marrying, spouses or partners die, romantic attachments form and dissolve. Those who brandish research like Professor McLanahan's ongoing Fragile Families study and Paul R. Amato's 2005 paper on changing family structures to critique "single mothers" conveniently ignore the fact that such investigations rely on shifting, differing and extremely complex definitions of the households involved.

August 11, 2012


While some critics faulted Mr. Rakoff's writing as overly aphoristic, many praised his singular style, which combined an amiable dyspepsia with an almost palpable undercurrent of melancholy.

August 10, 2012

functional body weight training

About 30 million children participate in organized sports in the United States; every year, three million to four million of them get injured. Dr. Metzl points to the rising number of young athletes suffering injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament -- the main ligament that stabilizes the knee joint -- as evidence of the need for greater emphasis on strength training in youth sports. Exercises like squats can strengthen the muscles around the knee joints, making them less vulnerable.

"A number of studies show that strengthening the muscles around the knee reduces the risk of A.C.L. injuries," Dr. Metzl said. "Stronger muscles make you a better athlete, but also a safer athlete."

"We want kids to play sports," he added, "but we also want to figure out how to make them safer."

But exactly what constitutes safe and effective strength training for young people? Dr. Metzl says the most important thing to realize is that strength training is not the same as powerlifting. For youngsters, the emphasis should be on low weight and high repetitions. If a child cannot lift a weight for 15 reps, then it's too heavy, Dr. Metzl says. In fact, many of the most useful strengthening exercises for children are full-body movements that do not involve any weights at all.

Many of these movements are demonstrated in a video that Dr. Metzl and the American Academy of Pediatrics released this month for parents and adolescents, called "Home Strength Training for Young Athletes".

The video looks like any other workout series, except the instructor -- a buff Dr. Metzl, who is preparing for an Ironman race -- leads a group of children ages 8 to 16 through a variety of exercises that can be done at home. The only equipment required is a set of light dumbbells.

Many of the exercises involve functional body weight training -- essentially using your own weight for resistance. Dr. Metzl leads his pint-size workout warriors through exercises like jump squats, biceps curls and overhead "presses" with weights (done while balancing on one foot). Some other movements Dr. Metzl teaches his young athletes are push-ups, single-leg squats and a tough, core-building exercise called mountain climbers, as well as burpees, a series of movements executed in rapid succession that develop agility, coordination and strength.

Doing these exercises at home -- in a roughly 45-minute session two or three times a week -- has several advantages, said Dr. Gregory of Vanderbilt Children's. For one, it allows parents to watch or join in on the workout. Many commercial gyms have a minimum age limit that forbids adolescents, and most children would risk injury trying to use machines designed for adults anyway.

August 9, 2012

Outlook is the new hotmail

Hope it has a good fast compound wildcard search: from ather about sujbec search

Microsoft admits that it's going after Gmail members with Outlook.com. Its sales pitch has three big pillars. First: unlimited mail storage. Not seven gigabytes or whatever -- unlimited.

Second, the design is far less cluttered than Gmail.

Third, no ads based on e-mail content. On Gmail, next to a message to you about a Disney World trip, you might see ads for Orlando hotels. No human reads the messages, but even a software algorithm analyzing your mail is enough to give some people the willies.

They won't have that discomfort with Outlook.com. Microsoft says that the ads are never based on your messages' contents. In fact, Microsoft lets you tailor the ads to your interests. The initial Ad Settings screen is still crude, but already you can specify categories that you are and are not interested in: yes to home electronics, no to adult diapers. It should be hard for either the advertisers or the public to argue with that basic premise: as long as you're earning this free service by seeing ads, at least they're ads you'll find interesting.

August 8, 2012

Sixteen words earn for stars

Over time, though, Mr. Humm and Mr. Guidara began asserting their own ideas. Indeed, the new changes will come only two years after they brought another jolt of innovation to the restaurant, removing 34 seats from the dining room and boiling down the printed menu to a sparely evocative, 16-word grid.

Those changes looked audacious in 2010. They seem modest in comparison to what is coming.

The grid menu will remain, but it will now be blended with a tasting menu of about a dozen dishes. The $195 price will be the same as for the restaurant's current tasting menu, but a $125 option will no longer be available.

"They're acting with what can only be called enormous New York confidence," said Clark Wolf, a restaurant consultant who keeps track of dining trends across the country. "I mean, wow."

Their vision, too, is all about New York. They want Eleven Madison Park to evolve into a restaurant not just in the city, but about it.
For Daniel Humm, the executive chef, and Will Guidara, his business partner and the general manager, both of whom are still in their 30s, the gamble represents a once-in-a-generation chance to redefine what going to a four-star restaurant is all about.

August 7, 2012

Everything Is a List: WorkFlowy

Everything Is a List
The genius of WorkFlowy

As long as I've been using computers, I've been searching for the perfect way to take digital notes. In theory, computers should be a natural place to keep all of the to-dos, reminders, meeting notes, ideas, grocery lists, and other ephemera that come streaming into our lives every day. But notes defy organization. When I get a brilliant idea or need to jot down a phone number very quickly, I often don't know where that data will fit among my other documents. As a result, word-processing software--programs that require that you put stuff in distinct files that are stored on a single computer--isn't very good for notes, because it imposes a level of structure that your notes can't live up to.

Instead, you've probably come up with other methods to take notes on your machine. Your system could be jury-rigged--maybe you write emails to yourself, maybe you keep your notes in a single Word doc or text file that's always opened on your machine--or perhaps you use dedicated note-taking or project-management software. Some people's desktops are covered in Mac Stickies. Others swear by Microsoft OneNote, Evernote, Omnifocus, Trello, ActionMethod, or Basecamp.

August 5, 2012

Fighting forest fires from airplanes

According to the RAND report, a quick, pre-emptive attack on an emerging fire could save $3.3 million, on average. Thus, it said, spending more on firefighting planes could save money over all.


Edward G. Keating, an economist who was the study's lead author, said some government agencies leased the scooper planes for $1.5 million to $2.5 million per season; depending on estimates of the destructiveness of fires and the effectiveness of air tankers, it might save money to use up to 55 of them, the study said.

But the Forest Service, which relies on older tanker planes that must land at an airport and be refilled by pumper trucks and which uses only a handful of scoopers, said the RAND study was wrong. The skimmer planes mostly drop water or foam, when often what is needed is fire retardant, said Thomas L. Tidwell, the chief of the Forest Service. And, he said, "they're underestimating the cost of scoopers and overestimating the cost of tankers."

Congress is considering a plan submitted by the Forest Service this year to buy C-130J air tankers, a variant of the Pentagon's cargo plane, but those could cost $85 million to $90 million each once refitted to carry fire retardant, government officials say.

The new study and the Forest Service's response highlight fundamental disagreements about how to fight fires. The study, for example, noted a "dearth of statistical evidence" about the effectiveness of using air tanker drops on already large fires. It used a term sometimes used by firefighters, who refer to "CNN drops," high-visibility efforts that give the impression of a strong government response.

The study also acknowledged uncertainties about the relative value of water, which is cheap and widely available, and retardant. Some of the water will blow off target or evaporate on the way down, and it will not last long on the ground, so dumping it in the path of a fire may not be effective. (Aircraft do not usually put out fires; they slow them down so workers on the ground can extinguish them or establish a firebreak around them.)

"Often when we're having these large fires, the relative humidity is in the single digits," Mr. Tidwell said, and what reaches the ground may be "just a real light sprinkling."

The retardant, which is denser and does not evaporate, can penetrate the canopy of leaves if the fire is in a wooded area, experts say, and can be dropped from a higher altitude, reducing risks.

Mr. Keating, the study's lead author, said such operations would be dangerous even with newer equipment. "There are extremely irregular wind currents because of the heat coming off the fire," he said. "You're at high elevation and low altitude in irregular terrain," close to the ground in mountainous areas, "and, oh, by the way, it's on fire." In some crashes, pilots may have become lost in the smoke.

But the RAND study argues that more frequent drops of water may be more effective. A scooper plane, which flies about 100 miles an hour over a river or lake and lowers a small scoop to skim off hundreds of gallons in a few seconds, can manage 60 loads a day if the water is convenient. That may be 10 times the capability of a plane dropping retardant. Two-thirds of the fires fought by the Forest Service are within 10 miles of a suitable body of water, the study said, and fires near towns are even more likely to be near water.

Another goal is to spot emerging fires that can be stopped by dropping water or retardant and focus on those, a challenge that the study called "dispatch prescience." Some firefighting assets, including helicopters, move so slowly that positioning them in places where they are most likely to be needed is an important step.

Firefighting strategy has other complications. Some environmental experts worry that scooper planes, or helicopters that lower buckets to collect water, could spread exotic mussels that contaminate rivers or lakes. And in some places, planes dump saltwater on the soil.

The Forest Service contracts for a variety of aircraft, mostly converted antisubmarine warplanes from the middle of the last century. At times it has used the Bombardier 415, a Canadian plane designed to fight fires. The plane can land on water, but refills its tanks, totaling 1,600 gallons, by skimming water off the surface in a fast pass.

A California company, International Emergency Services, has been trying to market a Russian plane that holds 3,000 gallons. This year, the company flew two Forest Service engineers to Russia to evaluate the plane, the BE-200. David Baskett, the president of International Emergency Services, offered to bring the plane to the United States for a "flyoff," but, he said, the Forest Service has not responded.

Mr. Tidwell said the Federal Aviation Administration had not certified the Russian plane for commercial use. F.A.A. rules would allow the Forest Service to use the plane if it wanted to, but government agencies without extensive in-house expertise in aviation often defer to the F.A.A.

One drawback is price. The Canadian plane's list price is about $35 million. The Russian plane's is about $50 million. Discounts are common, though, for volume purchases.

August 1, 2012

Middle class in Indonesia shops at 7 11

"Before you had a dirty, sweaty little street shop, and that's all there was," said Mr. Guharoy of Roy Morgan Research, referring to the warungs. "Now you can go to a clean, air-conditioned shop and it's a better experience."

To appeal to local tastes in the world's most populous Muslim country, 7-Eleven had to rethink its sales strategy.

The store offers ready-made fried rice, doughnuts and its signature Big Gulp soft drinks and flavored-ice Slurpees. Most outlets also sell beer and wine coolers -- though each new shop conducts neighborhood surveys to get community approval first.

Meals can cost less than 23,000 rupiah, which appeals to families that might once have gone to McDonald's, a close competitor. Novi, a 37-year-old travel agent who, like many Indonesians, goes by only one name, said she liked the comfort of being indoors and the international food options. Her favorite is chicken katsu, a Japanese-style fried cutlet.

"There is a different kind of atmosphere, a different kind of food," she said, in comparing 7-Eleven with the food stalls she used to frequent. "There is air-conditioning here and there are no buskers to bother you."

The store's Big Bite hot dogs and cafe items -- coffee and cappuccino -- bring in the most sales. Small snacks like chips and pillow bread, tiny sandwiches filled with cheese or chocolate, are also popular.

With 69 stores in Indonesia, all of them in Jakarta, 7-Eleven lags behind its closest competitors, including McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts and KFC, which together have more than 600 outlets.

But 7-Eleven is expanding much faster, having added 36 stores last year alone. In Thailand, 7-Eleven has one store for every 10,000 people. If the same ratio were applied in Jakarta, Mr. Honoris said, the city could see 2,000 outlets.

The swift growth of the middle class shows the enormous potential for expansion. From 2003 to 2010, about 50 million people entered the middle-income bracket, with disposable income of $2 to $20 per day, according to the World Bank. Indonesia's gross domestic product per capita is now more than $3,600, exceeding that of India, the second-largest consumer market in Asia, after China.

For 7-Eleven, positioning itself as more of a hangout and less of a convenience store has made both its owners and its customers happy.

Rendie Sumadilaga, 26, said the store was even a decent place to meet girls.

"There's lots of good eye candy," he said, nodding toward a nearby table.

And that is just one of many factors Mr. Honoris is banking on.