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I loved Levinson's _The Box_, even though it took me years to get around to reading it. I had bought it in hardcover for my husband around the time it came out, and then promptly quit reading things in paper. Despite that, it took me a while -- altho only months, not years -- to convince myself to take a flyer on _An Extraordinary Time_. Levinson's book is about the immediate post war decades, but his perspective is to show how odd those decades were by comparing them to what came before and after. And since the after is my entire life, I've got some pretty strong feelings about those decades and I haven't run into a lot of economists or economic historians who agree with me much. I didn't want to find out that Levinson was just another one of Them.

Lucky me! I love this book.

Naturally, when I read something that runs along lines that I already think, I am predisposed to like it. Aren't we all. Actually, this is not entirely true. I can get hypercritical of stuff I like a little too much. But honestly, that didn't really happen here, either, because Levinson focuses on telling the story: what happened, what were the policy responses, what happened after the policy responses, how did various investigators, whether bureaucrats or academics, interpret the policy responses and the results of the policy responses.

And it is actually pretty impossible to entirely agree with the way I have thought about the world in which I grew up, because I've changed my mind far too many times. From a world in which I hated Reagan and Thatcher, to an age where I don't think what they did really worked in any larger sense but I can now really understand what they were reacting to, it's difficult to imagine how one could reconcile those very divergent opinions, each of which I have held in turn. And yet, Levinson's analysis is so measured, he can describe the outrageous demands being made and the dire economic circumstances, the bizarre and not particularly consistent ideologies subscribed to by supply siders and Conservatives in the UK, and come out the other side basically saying, well, you definitely couldn't keep doing what had been the status quo, and the new stuff didn't work either, but . . . it's not at all clear that anything was really going to make that much of a difference anyway.

If it all sounds kind of dry and non-committal, it didn't feel that way reading it. To me, it was like watching a sped up version of the background of my life, and along it unreeling the many ways I have tried to understand it. Behind it all, Levinson does really _get_ that this all went the way it did because of two underlying factors which are not handled in great detail. First, technological change and progress which initially was compatible with full employment but later was not. Second, different societal goals that arose over time that were not well captured by economic statistics (environment, especially, but others as well). Significantly lacking in the background is a sense of the massive demographic changes -- if I have a complaint, it would be that. Backgrounding the technological changes and the What Do You Measure problem does not bother me; backgrounding the demographics leaves me with a chicken and egg problem.

It's a great book. I have no idea what it would be like to read this book if you are significantly older or younger than me, nor do I have any idea what it would be like to read this if you've never explored an economics perspective on history. I can readily imagine that reading this with a different life span to measure it against, or with a different sense of economics could result in a very, very different opinion of the book.
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Tigana Press -- looks like it might be the author's own; other than this book, Amazon has a book by the same author about herbal treatments from a hundred years ago for treating the flu.

This is a small pub/self pub diet thing that I stumbled across purely by accident. Apparently, it has taken Vashon Island by storm, for whatever that might be worth.

The book is written in the Quite Awful Way that most diet books are written. So I'm not even going to get into that. I'm instead going to analyze the eating pattern being promoted.

(1) It's a dietary effort to minimize metabolic issues associated with pre diabetes.

(2) Distinct meals, lots of them (3 meals and 2 snacks)

(3) anti grains and high glycemic stuff like potatoes, insists on breakfast (but breakfast is protein and fruit/veg), anti sweeteners (caloric and otherwise), volumetric, proportion rather than portion. The golden ratio for this is: 1/3 protein and/or grain, 2/3 fruit/veg (with the exception of breakfast).

(4) Timing matters: breakfast to be very soon after awakening and there's supposed to be a big gap between the last food consumed and bedtime.

There is a _significant_ inconvenience/expense factor for this eating plan: most oils, peanuts, wheat and anything like wheat, dairy, anything GMO, etc. is off for the elimination phase and only some of it comes back later. It's almost impossible to imagine eating out during the elimination phase.

Speaking of the elimination phase, in addition to trying to reduce insulin overload during the first few weeks, this diet seeks to remove some common food allergens, with a goal to determining whether that is part of why someone is having troubles. I would argue that if you completely cut milk products for a month plus, and you are middle-aged, odds are that if you weren't lactose intolerant going into this, you will be lactose intolerant coming out of it. *shrug* I don't care; I'm allergic to milk products anyway. Treating wheat and wheat like grains with comparable suspicion (down to insisting on wheat free soy or tamari sauce during the opening phase) fits well with the current anti-gluten trend. Also, dried corn, peanuts are eliminated entirely, altho part of the justification there is to get people out of food ruts and to avoid some common molds. This seems like an incredibly weak argument, imo.

So basically, this diet starts out as an allergy elimination diet, with a proportion rule, 3 meals, 2 snacks, eat breakfast upon awakening, last meal some hours before bedtime, no grazing, no sweeteners, no alcohol, don't drink your food (no juices, smoothies, etc., but soup is okay -- this aligns well with a bunch of scientific studies on how we compensate for calories consumed in a beverage vs. in soup) and no dried fruit.

Interestingly, eggs are NOT eliminated, even tho red meat is (I'm assuming this is an inflammatory thing). Poultry, lamb, fish, etc. are left in, with some exceptions.

While I think you could easily argue that the opening phase is overly restrictive, the heart of this diet is clearly in the right place, with its focus on moving in the less-processed direction, more fruit and veg, paying attention to food quality and a lot more attention to our body's responses to food (eating rather than drinking calories).

There's a chapter on intestinal flora that is okay -- not great but okay.

There's a chapter on omega-6 to omega-3 fat ratio. This chapter exposes a lot of typical problems with this kind of nutritional advice. In theory, if you thought the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio was a really big deal, canola oil would be looking pretty good. However, the anti-processing/suspicion of chemical anything turns out to win and she opts for olive oil instead. She argues for leafy greens and wild berries, because they have more omega-3s, but it isn't like these things have that much fat in them anyway. And then basically eat flax, chia and hemp seed (this is the same woman who said _don't_ eat cottonseed oil because it's not a food. Ha!), and "wild, coldwater fish". I've become less and less convinced this ratio is something to worry about every year that goes by (sat fat has some pretty clear problems, by contrast).

There's a chapter on antioxidants: don't try to take pills, this is why to eat fruit and veg, smoking is bad, alcohol is bad, not enough sleep is bad, charred/burned food is bad, organic is good, plastic is bad, antioxidants from whole, (relatively) unprocessed foods are good, supplements are bad. Pretty straightforward.

There's a chapter on toxins and the liver, which is more or less what you would expect, right down to the There's Still DDT in Everything. The theory here is that by eating more fruits and veg, you've moved down the food chain so there's less bioaccumulated awfulness in what you are eating. Probably true ... but then why the Eat Fish recommendation? Sure, farmed fish is worse than wild caught, for the most part, but coldwater fish are particularly awful for bioaccumulating mercury. She does have the sense to acknowledge that conventional fruit and veg are still healthy for us and notes that, for example, human breast milk, despite toxins, is still really really good for babies. So there's that. Also, she isn't advocating some purge/detox thing, but rather more of the advice throughout the book: berries, fruits, veg, also things that make you sweat to clear water soluble so the liver can move on to other stuff, onions, garlic, mushrooms, fermented foods (no she does not mean beer), seaweed on the theory that these things feed supportive microbes, citrus peel, forage for wild greens and exercise in general.

Honestly, given how many odd things are sold as ways to Fix the problems she is describing, her approach looks fairly innocuous.

Next chapter is insulin resistance; I'm off to have some dinner that will likely be very non Abascal Way. Will update later.
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Subtitled: How Non-Conformists Move the World

Sheryl Sandberg wrote the foreword. The author has been producing shorter, essay outtakes from the book at a variety of places. It seemed okay, so I got it, and I _did_ finish it, which says a lot.

He starts by talking about the founders of Warby Parker, who apparently offered him (one of their b-school professors, if I understood correctly) the opportunity to invest. He declined, in part because he didn't think the four had high enough "commitment" (they were taking other jobs as backup plans etc.), also because he was skeptical of the basic idea (buy eyeglasses online?).

This error on his part -- thinking that "real" entrepreneur founders are "all in" -- leads to a substantial discussion on managing one's life risk portfolio. It's a good discussion, with a major weakness. He spends a bunch of time talking about how people who "accept the defaults" do "worse" by a number of measures in call center jobs (miss more days of work, take longer to get good at the job, leave the job sooner). In this case "accept the default" was measured in part by, do you use IE/Safari, or do you use Chrome/Firefox. I would not characterize this as "accepting the default". I would characterize this as, "having a higher threshold before perceiving a problem and/or problem solving". That would result in this discussion fitting in better with one of the last sections of the book, which has a two axis scheme involving "voice" and "agency" (do you stay or not, do you agitate for change or not). Interestingly, it would _also_ offer the opportunity to fit both of these sections in with the commitment vs. star vs. professional culture analysis of founding cultures.

This is sort of a technical complaint. However, it's sort of NOT a technical complaint. Social science folks have a tendency to look around, spot something interesting, think of a story to explain it, do some (or find some) shitty research that lines up with the story they have in mind, and then basically ignore other frames. They HAVE other frames, which they will deploy the NEXT time they look around, spot something interesting and need a story to explain it. It's sort of like ST:TNG -- constantly inventing civilization changing new technology on the fly and then never mentioning it again. It's lazy story telling. It's shit for analysis. Given that all social science folks typically have on offer is analysis, it is constantly surprising to me that they keep doing this.

(Gonna say Not All Social Science Folks? Yeah, sure you are. Good luck with that.)

If he _had_ gone with a where-is-your-threshold-for-perceiving-a-problem and where-is-your-threshold-for-engaging-in-problem-solving, that would ALSO have connected well with the power and status discussion involving the woman who set up Intellipedia, a wiki for intelligence services. Of course, it is apparent from the story that what really sold people on the idea was not just time passing and 9/11 happening. If she had still been blowing off the security issues, they'd have found someone else to implement. But by that point, she'd placed herself in the security issue chain, and was thus already having to meet those criteria. I don't know why Grant ignores the legit objection that the agencies had to her proposal the first time around, much less why he blows past how important it was for her to plausibly address that concern. But that process fits BEAUTIFULLY into a collaborative problem solving framework. It fits ill into a "nonconformist" framework.

And that, probably, is the problem here. When Grant describes Bridgewater and Dalio, it becomes apparent pretty rapidly that Grant thinks there is a Real Reality (and for some purposes, there is, but NOT HERE), and that it could be investigated with Experimentation. He specifically wants a hierarchy of principles, rather than the list and collaborative, ongoing amending of the list that is the bizarre corporate apologetics that Bridgewater/Dalio apparently have created. Given that Grant's particular beef is that he wants an authoritative answer to what is essentially the question of whether privileged actors should self-muzzle to avoid having a chilling effect on less-privileged actors (and this in an explicitly meritocratic when it comes to Believability organization!), I think leaving this question open says really good things about Bridgewater. If the group can come to some sort of solution, great, but that's an open question in our culture and shutting down debate to have some sort of Definitive Answer is almost certainly an error.

As business books go, this is definitely well above average. But I can't say that I would recommend it, unless it _really_ seems fascinating to you. I think that the overall frame is the error. It's not _precisely_ the same old same old romantic conception of non conforming genius yada yada yada, but it has entirely too much of that built in. Next time I'm tempted to read a book like this, I'm gonna remind myself that it is almost always more worthwhile to read books about better approaches to group problem solving than it is to read books about Not Being Like Everyone Else.

As always, YMMV.
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Aziz Ansari is apparently a comedian. It's entirely possible I've seen him somewhere at some point, but I don't remember one way or the other. Eric Klinenberg is a sociologist. Ansari wrote a book about the State of Dating, and Klinenberg was a big part of the research process. They did a ton of focus group work here and in Paris, Buenos Aires and Tokyo. Also, some insight from places like Qatar.

If you _are_ currently looking, the book is probably some combination of comforting and helpful. The author(s) manage to walk a narrow path between pretending the games of dating are a Good Idea and Here's How to Win and a Terrible Idea and You Should Just Be Honest/Yourself/WTF. They spend some time talking to older people about what dating has been like in various places in the past, putting them in a good place to compare/contrast with the present in different regions. I'm a little sad/disappointed that they didn't do anything overt in understanding class differences in dating then/now/here/elsewhere, but this is a humorous overview of dating in the US currently, so not too surprising.

They limited scope to hetero right from the beginning, altho they occasionally made observations about other groups (notably, Grindr preceding Tinder by so long, failed attempts to come up with a Grindr for hets and why Tinder worked when its predecessors failed). There's a great opportunity in the Tinder story for someone to explore various stages in adoption curves, but asking that in this context would be insane.

Ansari winds up about where you would expect: get off the phone and meeting people face to face relatively quickly. We're wired up to assess each other in person, and you can spend forever and just exhaust yourself texting. He also advocates for spending more time (3-5th meets) with people who are a 6 or above, because most people have something going on that isn't apparent immediately and if you are looking for getting hit hard with LUUURVE on a first date you are going to be perpetually disappointed (exhausted, etc.). He spent a bunch of time talking to Barry Schwartz, so he has a good grasp of the perils of Endless Choice and he does a nice job of showing how even people who in the past would have been lucky have one or two choices now have hundreds a month online.

Ansari has a dippy sense of humor, but he deploys it well. All the "tum-tum" and food focus could get old, but instead it builds naturally into how he came to be with the woman he loves. He does have a relatively traditional perspective, but he winds the book up in a chapter on monogamish in which he manages to step slightly out of the relentless Find the One perspective.

It was a fast read, unusually well-researched, humorous and very likable. This topic is very easy to be overly judgmental on -- and it's also easy to be _so_ open minded that you fail to acknowledge clear awfulness (Argentina apparently is an entire country full of people with anxious-avoidant attachment styles. Who knew?). Ansari finds a good balance.

I wasn't _looking_ for a book about dating when I stumbled across this one, so even if you are never gonna be Out There again, I really encourage you to give this a try. It'll help you make sense of what your single friends (grandchildren, etc.) are talking about, and may even give you the ability to frame Your Wisdom in a way that is accessible to them.

If you _are_ Out There, and you read this, I'd particularly love to hear what you think about how well he captured the current experience.

ETA: Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day, whatever your relationship status!
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A friend recommended this to me. I was a little surprised at how Christian Fritz is, given the friend, and the nature of our friendship. However, once I understood that Fritz' was actually talking about the importance of living your values, and just tended to use Christian language and examples for this but wasn't really meaning to suggest that this is the only way, I was able to roll with it.

Fritz is very chatty and funny. The structure of the book is about what you would expect. It starts with some discussion of schadenfreude and the history of lotteries, moves through the majority of the book which is lists of people who won and then what happened next, then ends with a discussion of What Can We Learn From This/What Should You Do If You Win. His advice is almost exactly what you would expect (take the payments, not the lump sum; do not be hasty; be careful about hiring advisors; do not continue to buy on credit; scale your plans to the size of your winnings, etc.)

I've been reading stories about lottery winners for my whole life. As a kid, the discussions were pretty simple: what would you do if you had a million dollars. When I got older, life got a lot more complex, and while I never played the lottery (any lottery), I had a related experience and it quit being so pie-in-the-sky and started to be more of an oh shit how do I not become one of Those People. I continue to read, with interest, stories about people who -- either through entrepreneurial activities or winning a lottery -- experience a change in resources that is very life changing.

This book is honestly one of the better ones out there. He's very pragmatic, in a really relatable and accessible way. It's not spectacularly well written, and what he is saying is not that complicated, but a lot of other people who write about financial transitions of this sort do so much _less good_ of a job, that this book really stands out. Also, very funny.
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Richard Yancey has a variety of series out for YA and adults, including at least one which has recently been made into a movie. This isn't any of those.

In 1990, Yancey (master's in English, did one year of law school before dropping out, theater work and theater critic, etc.) decided to get a Real Job. He became a Revenue Officer for the IRS, which is doing collections work. Wow, is it ever doing collections work. I read Rossotti's book a while back, so I had some sense of the transition that the IRS went through in the late 1990s/early 2000s in the wake of a really big scandal. Yancey's time as a Revenue Officer largely predated that scandal; the book entirely so, other than a mention in the epilogue. Just like Kevin Hazzard's paramedic work occurred in an Atlanta now firmly in the (recent) past, so Yancey's IRS collections work occurred in a Florida territory now firmly in the (recent) past.

Hazzard and Yancey share a number of things. Women in their lives who make more money than them and have more successful careers than they do. Women in their lives who take care of them. Women in their lives who tolerate their general fucked up ed ness. Yancey, however, spends the first several years of the memoir indefinitely engaged to someone he ultimately does not end up with. And I don't think anyone regrets the end of that relationship: not Yancey, not the slightly older woman, and definitely not the reader. Sure, we probably wouldn't want to live with someone training to become a Revenue Officer either. But I thin, we all like to believe we wouldn't be quite so relentlessly critical.

The reader does need to pay close attention to the narration. There are sections of the narration which occur in the protagonist's vivid imagination (notably)

HEY SPOILERS Run Away Or Your Property Will Be Seized

when he imagines the world after seizing Laura Marsh's house: she commits suicide and leaves a note blaming the IRS, leading to negative publicity. He imagines discussing this with a mentor in the agency, and it's unpleasant all around. Even though he starts the process and gets permission to seize, he ultimately closes that case in another manner.

Yancey and his colleagues are almost exclusively pursuing small business owners and the self-employed who are not making payroll tax deposits. And Yancey's work starts after those non-taxpayers have ignored a lot of letters and notices. Once I wrapped my brain around that, it was a lot easier to be sympathetic to his work. But I have to say I really chuckled when he asked his boss to route only tax protesters his way. It was _really_ easy to sympathize with his tactics against those particular non payers.

All that said, it does make clear something Rossotti and others have pointed out. The IRS, left to its own devices, tends to myopia. They don't go looking for elaborate, obscure means of concealing money. They go after Just Folks who are robbing Peter to pay Paul, and make the mistake of thinking the feds are gonna put up with that, the same way their relatives, the bank, suppliers and so forth put up with that.

I really enjoyed reading this book, even tho I really _don't_ enjoy reading first person narration that involves smoking. I hate that part. I hope he eventually quit. Because that stuff will kill you. I got a kick out of his character renovation over the course of the book, and how he seemed to be forever backing into important insights. Once he had them, tho, he ran with them, and I really respect that. Too many people figure it out, and then very carefully make sure they suppress that knowledge and go back to their old, damaged and messed up approaches. He sure didn't.
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After I read _A Thousand Naked Strangers_, I thought to myself, Self, you know a guy who rides ambulance. You should FB him and find out if he has an opinion of this book. He had not heard of it, but put it on his to read list, and recommended this one.

Schneider's book and Hazzard's have a variety of things in common and some important differences. Two southern cities, check -- Hazzard's book is in Atlanta, Schneider's in New Orleans and surrounding parishes. Two guys who you definitely do NOT want bored, check. Pranks appear during quiet times in both of them. Stories about fishing bodies out of water, check. Stories about people moving decomposed bodies without understanding what was about to happen next, check. Highly episodic in nature and both men appreciate how the world changed around them during their careers.

But big differences stand out, other than the relentless typos, word-os and other problems in Schneider's self-published (looks like he went with CreateSpace) work. Schneider seems to have traveled more and worked in more places. He seems to have had a much more traditional career path: Army, medic, cop. He had less of a Let's Climb to the Top of the local ladder orientation (Hazzard absorbed some sort of status system associated with working for Grady and pursued it, knowing it would burn him out ... and burning out). Perhaps because of all these differences, Schneider seems less angst-y than Hazzard. Or maybe that's an artifact of something else.

They are both very entertaining reads. Having read them both, I would urge anyone who finds themselves being transported in the care of medics to offer no violence to the medics. Because wow, some of these people apparently arrived at the hospital a lot worse off than when they were first loaded. I'm not blaming the medic -- who would? -- but geez. Don't be That Guy.

ETA: Last Monday, I also told my book group about Hazzard's book, and asked my friend A., who does some volunteer work for MERT (<-- not its real name, but I call the town I go to book group in Mayberry, so the Emergency Response Team in that town would logically then be MERT) if she knew the guy I know who rides ambulance. She does! Small world. In other small world stories, when T. and I were at the Starbucks in the new retail development in Littleton, I came back from the bathroom and realized that the table T. and I were sitting at was two tables away from M., who I know from walking around the block with my walking partner, a different M. We had a lovely chat. Small world, indeed! It makes all those ambulance stories in _Welcome to New Orleans ..._ in which the author goes to a call and sees a family member that much more believable, altho no less tragic.
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Subtitled: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy
Published by Viking, an imprint of what Nate over at The Digital Reader likes to call the Randy Penguin.

Excellent, super, amazeballs non-fiction. Honestly. Go buy it now and read it. Here, I'll give you a link to the kindle edition:


In any many ways, I should _not_ have liked this book so much. Witt has several axes grinding (he belabors the lead up to saying that Dell Glover destroyed an entire industry so he could pimp out a car that a few years later he found embarrassing -- he belabors it so hard that by the time the punch line arrives, I was like, finally, we can abandon that buildup). And he doesn't explicitly depict his research (I prefer non-fiction in which the author and their research process is a front-and-center part of the story. I'm not asserting this is _better_. I'm saying I like it more).

Nevertheless, I bought the book because, despite living through the mp3 format start to finish, and being quite aware of it from many different perspectives (right down to wondering whether I should do more about the co-worker ripping on company time and using company internet resources, or whether I should just ignore it because the dude was way productive and I didn't want to lose him), I had a whole bunch of questions about just how extensive piracy really had been and whether it had decreased or not and, if so, why (if you believe this guy, Spotify is why).

Anyway. If you've ever wondered what the hell that "Vevo" meant that popped up on a ton of music videos on YouTube a few years ago, and why the majors quit suing everyone for using pop music in their wedding videos on YouTube right around the same time, well, This Book Will Answer Your Questions. And many more, if you're like me.

What the book won't do is answer any questions about what the next format is going to be (altho it's worth pointing out, as my friend M. did, that when you buy from the Apple iTunes Store, you probably aren't actually getting an mp3; you're getting AAC, just not the lossless version).

But especially, if you've been wondering why people assert you can't tell the difference between an mp3 and a CD when you know perfectly well that it's actually quite easy to tell the difference on any kind of decent sound system, this book will introduce you to all the psychoacoustics research that led to the compression of music formats that made possible Our Streaming World (and music locker world, too, for that matter).

Fun stuff. Read it. It's really, really, really good, and the information is helpful.
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I bought this a Really Long Time Ago (October 1998, from University Books in Seattle, so if you're keeping track, I'd retired the previous month from a different bookstore in Seattle). I started reading it a couple February's ago, IIRC, and have finally just decided there are only two chapters left, I can do that, so I did.

Subtitled: _The Women's Movement in the Black Baptist Church, 1880-1920_

On the one hand, it's a really interesting book in a lot of ways. There is good documentary history here about post-Civil War efforts by women, mostly, but not entirely, black women in particular, but not exclusively, to educate and uplift their race out of poverty and oppression. It fits very well into reading I had been doing before starting reading this book (and books I had bought in roughly the same time frame) about the WCTU, and _White Women's Rights_, which is a somewhat flawed book about racial friction within earlier stages of the women's movement. The extensive use of quotations allows the reader to grasp rhetorical techniques that the author isn't necessarily drawing attention to, but which are interesting (turns out that people have been saying, "it's just as bad/worse than slavery" since very shortly after the end of the Civil War. Who knew? And not just white people, I might add.).

Activists used multiple strategies to advance the cause of equality and social justice, and the author devotes individual chapters to major ones. By directing group resources to the education and nurturing of particularly able individuals ("the talented tenth"), the group hoped to benefit by showing that blacks could be doctors and lawyers and learned preachers and academics. By emphasizing manners and demeanor, the group hoped to benefit by showing that while they were poor and oppressed, they adhered to the supposed codes of whites better than they did. Little mention is made of women in the Black Baptist Church and the women's suffrage movement (one gets the sense that they weren't particularly involved, but I'm not clear on that. It was so difficult for black men to vote that there was probably some prioritization going on there). Descriptions of coordination between white women activist groups and individuals and black women activist groups and individuals are included occasionally.

If there is something missing, it is any kind of detail on conflict in goals and strategies between the separate groups. Sure, there were some heinously bigoted women who said awful things, but they weren't typically all that great on women's issues for white women or black women. I feel some confidence that there _was_ conflict on goals and strategies, but I'm sort of feeling a little weird that I've now read two academic books (well respected ones) that should have given me a sense of where that conflict was, and I still just am not understanding. Perhaps it is my fault. (And before you ask, YES, I do understand the pre- and post- Civil War prioritization of abolition vs women's suffrage. And that's exactly why the weakness on where the Women's Convention was on suffrage stood out for me. Was that perceived at the time as a major difference in priorities/goals? How did groups and individuals talk about that? _Did_ they talk about that?)

It's a monograph. Because it's a monograph about a church, a good chunk of the middle is about women engaging in theology and/or preaching. That may have limited appeal. The author makes an effort to draw some larger themes out of the theology and preaching, but it is tough going. 19th century moralizing is not an attractive activity. At all, and I don't care _who_ is doing it. It just sounds terrible.

The book does provide a fairly good context for the civil rights movement(s) of our own era (it's imperfect, because the section on railroads and separate but equal doesn't get into any of the details of Plessy v Ferguson, which is a real pity, however, scope matters, and including details about women activists trying to get better bathrooms, or at least segregated by gender, was pretty amazing. Having to press for soap and towels is kind of shocking, altho again, this is in the era of lynching, so there's plenty of shocking to go around).

If any of the components of the topic (race, gender, religion, politics, education and activism) are of interest to you, and you have any tolerance for monographs at all, it's a good one.
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I got this via Kindle Unlimited, but I then bought a copy for my High Priestess to check out and get back to me with her opinion. I'll update this post when I hear back from her. In the mean time, I think this might be the second non-fiction I bought through Kindle Unlimited that I straight up enjoyed and can recommend (_Personal Kanban_ was the other one, and there are some common threads between the two books).

Subtitled: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results

The idea of Mini Habits is as the title would suggest. Most "good" habits (he does not directly tackle getting rid of habits, altho he discusses displacement strategies and points to Allen Carr's EasyWay for smoking cessation) that one might contemplate starting involve a large ask at the beginning: a half hour of exercise, possibly involving getting into a car and driving to a gym, reading a book, writing a thousand words would be typical examples in his schema. With Mini Habits, Guise advocates "minifying" the ask, to something so stupidly simple, it is laughable (that's actually the metric for being sure you made it small enough). So, in his schema, a _single_ pushup, rather than a half hour workout; reading two pages of a book; writing 50 words. Guise has done two things from GTD in this approach: he has identified something that you have to do to accomplish the task/goal/habit (what is the next thing to do) and he has reduced it to the 2 minutes or less rule, where David Allen would say, just do it if you are in the place where it needs to be done, rather than put it on a list and manage it there. From a GTD perspective, "mini" or "stupidly small" is great.

Guise, like many of the habit promoters that eventually turn up on LifeHacker in one form or another, is a big believer in daily habits, altho he is okay with non-daily habits (example: 3x a week strength training). I agree with him that non-daily habits tend to take a little longer to "stick".

As for triggering or scheduling the mini habit, Guise suggests not, other than making sure you get it done by the end of the day (and acknowledging that he wrote 50 words, read two pages and did a single push up while in bad about to go to sleep on at least some occasions). He asserts (and I am inclined to agree) that over time, these mini habits will grow triggers earlier in the day, particularly since he is emphatic on celebrating the win once you do your habits for the day. If you want to do more pushups, read more pages, write more words, fine, but he is emphatic that you shouldn't grow the requirement. In this, he does the Very Best Job I've Seen Yet at making sure that a daily routine continues to work not just on _good_ days, but even on your worst days (we're all going to ignore unconscious and in the hospital days, since those are, hopefully, fairly rare in the target audience of this book).

Essentially, Guise has designed an easily communicated system for levering out of a depressed hole of inactivity. It is also one of the best systems I've seen for enabling people who once had good habits to "restart" them. Almost everyone who once ate very healthfully, exercised regularly at a high level, etc. finds the return process difficult, because they cannot imagine returning at the level they left at (they'd have to throw out everything in the house and buy entirely new food that is not currently appealing to them, they'd never be able to lift that much weight, run that far, etc.) and have great difficulty imagining returning at a different level. Guise just says come in so low, that you cannot possibly fail. Make it so the ask is laughably small.

It's brilliant.

The book is short and a quick read. Inevitably, there is a certain repetitiveness, altho for the most part, the repetition is there so that Guise can explain the same idea from numerous perspectives (it is not poorly edited purposelessness, that is). Guise's strategy is well aligned with mine, with the exception that Guise has a focus on every day habits, and I do not.

My own personal problem with habits is exactly the automaticity/insensitivity to environment which Guise, Rubin and other habit advocates are aiming for. I'm constantly trying to get my own automatic do-the-same-thing-the-same-way-every-time to be less routine and more in tune with the current environment. There's some sort of lesson here, altho I'm not at all sure what it might be.

In any event, if you wish you did something more consistently (you want better habits), but find other approaches to establishing better habits to be daunting, I have a hard time imagining how this approach could go wrong. And even if you _don't_ find other strategies daunting, I think this is a really good approach. Also, the parenthetical remarks in the book are hilarious (in a good, intentional way).
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I think I've settled on an anti-recommendation, and I'm going to explain a little about why, and then I'm going to point out sections of the book that I marked for a variety of reasons, some positive and some negative.

I talked to my High Priestess last night and explained the taxonomy (Upholder, Questioners, Obligers, Rebels) to her in terms of externally vs. internally imposed requirements and response thereto. I didn't use the "names" (UQOR), just described the matrix. I was _careful_ to be very negative about the category that I fall into and to be as neutral as I could about the rest. My High Priestess said something very insightful about where she believed she fit currently/typically, and where she has fit in the past, and why she thought that had changed. And she is really onto something. If you have someone who is generally compliant (in this schema, an Upholder), and you interfere with them meeting their own goals (through ridicule, punishment, taking over all their time and energy, or just ignoring their preferences and focusing on your own relentlessly), you can turn them into an Obliger. If you have a Questioner -- a more self-centered person -- and do the same thing, you may wind up with an Obliger, you may wind up with a Rebel. If you create a really chaotic and punitive environment, you'll turn nearly anyone into a Rebel. That suggests that "Upholders" are basically people who have, over the arc of their lifetime, benefited from a socioeconomic milieu that is well-aligned with their personal preferences and values. Suddenly, the wealth/status thing that made me really wonder about the relevance of all this advice seems _so much more relevant_ to the critique.

I then went out and found a book that rather than being very dismissive of Rebels (in this schema), designed habits to benefit people who would tend to be categorized as Rebels (in this schema). And it is a _much much much better book_. Review to follow, when I am done, which will likely be later today. I'll be sending it off to my High Priestess for assessment as well, to make sure I'm not just haring off into Foolsville.

Back to Rubin.

On page 163, Rubin talks about if-then rules she has created for herself. This is in the context of sort of pre-deciding or pre-planning what to do if certain situations crop up. I agree with her that this is a very useful exercise, altho I don't so much agree with her predictions about what other of her "types" will do (especially the Rebels, and especially after having read about half of _Mini-Habits_). I worry about some of her if-thens:

"If I'm invited to dinner, I eat a snack before I go, so I won't be too hungry."

There are a bunch of ways to read this, and some of them are unproblematic (if the planned dinner may have nothing you can eat because of religious or other dietary restrictions, or if it will occur much later than the meal it will be supplanting, for example, then eating ahead of time makes perfect sense to me) and several of which suggest an eating disorder. I'm not suggesting anything like anorexia or bulimia -- I'm thinking more along the lines of orthorexia. But it might not be that at all, but rather a really common strategy among women of a certain class, who apparently aren't allowed to actually show any strong physical desire at all, even if they do feel desire and even satisfy that desire -- it must be done where non-intimates cannot see it. There are other indications in the book that some of this might be going on, and it is one of the more subtly disturbing aspects of gendered pressure that women experience. I'm not blaming the author; I'm pointing out that this may be amplifying an existing, problematic message.

On Page 193, she lists Malone and Lepper's list of intrinsic motivations (I don't know them or their work, so this is a critique of the summary, not for its accuracy of representing their work):

"Competition: we feel gratified when we can compare ourselves favorably to others.
Recognition: we're pleased when others recognize our accomplishments and contributions"

That's an abuse of the intrinsic/extrinsic divide as _I_ understand it as an erstwhile and occasionally, when nostalgia strikes, even yet, Alfie Kohn fan. Those aren't intrinsic. Those are extrinsic motivators. The rest of the discussion suffers from the usual problems of the analysis, in that evidence that purports to show that extrinsic motivators de-motivate in the long run, never check back to see if people did, ultimately, recover intrinsic desire. Ya know, if you overeat, you aren't going to be hungry after, but you will, eventually, assuming the pie eating contest doesn't kill you, get hungry again.

I'm off on my walk now; I'll be updating this later.


Back from my walk. Page 228-9

"A friend used the Strategy of Clarity to avoid this trap. "I know it would be good to exercise ... but I have two kids, I work full-time, and if I tried to exercise, it would be one more thing to worry about. When my kids are older, I'll deal with it.""

Rubin was supportive and explained why she did not criticize or pressure. ""Either way, you're not exercising, but because you have clarity about what you're doing, you felt in control. And you won't drain yourself feeling bad about it." Also, I predict, her feeling of self-control will help her do better if she does decide to start exercising, because she won't tell herself, "I've been trying and failing for years to do this.""

Other than Rubin's failure to recognize the built-in plan to start at a later date, this is -awesome- and way better than the typical response to this strategy which is so inevitable in this life circumstance that you would think people would be more reasonable about it. I was just a little bummed that it was described in the "red-herring habits" section. It is a strategy to avoid "red-herring habits", but still. I also disliked the idea of "red-herring habits", because I think Rubin failed to understand that in fact "red-herring habits" aren't what she thinks they are at all. They are acknowledgements of social mores that one is not meeting. That's all. Rubin taking them literally is right up there with people thinking that it's weird the correct response to "How are you doing?" is "Fine", even when you aren't. Or people who think that saying, "I'm sorry" is an odd way to express commiseration. Look, _all_ mandated social communications are weird and arbitrary. It's important not to overthink them.

On pages 258-9, Rubin is summarizing her journey of personal change, and how she better understands how unlike other people she is and therefore the limitations of her advice to other people, when it is based on herself. That's all well and good, but she segues into this:

"The only person we can change is ourselves, and how we command ourselves is always the question that most interests me." First one is not shown (and manifestly not true), but I'd rather focus here on her choice of verb: "command". She "commands" her _self_? Who is doing the commanding? W.T. everliving F. is going on here?

This kind of language (command, force, make) is rife in books about habits, and I find it utterly strange. That's not how I think of habits at all. I think of habits as ways to more efficiently do things I am already doing. I don't try to make myself do shit. I don't ever "command" myself. I used to. It was a terrible idea and a worse strategy, and I knocked that off in my mid 20s. And while Rubin's wikipedia entry doesn't give her age, that NYT style piece sure did (28 in 1994 -- oddly, I was getting divorced from my first marriage at 25, the year she was getting married for the first time at 28). She's older than me. Why is she still doing this?

Maybe it's working better for her than it did for me.

Next up (same page, 259): she's wandering around "a prominent tech company" where there is food everywhere. She's got the classic normal person history but super thin now and thinks she used to be overweight, so she's always looking to de-calorify the environment and sure enough, she "identifies" the "problem" to be "solved" as people gaining weight. My walking partner's dad brings cookies to meetings because he knows everyone gets along better and can keep their temper when they have some fatty carbs in them. Rubin, however well-read in this area she may be, has allowed her personal bias away from food to prevent her from seeing how the company benefits from making sure its employees have calories readily available at all times. She mischaracterizes _why_ there are calories around and that is either blinkered or dishonest. (ETA: I never marked the point in the book where she asks her sister if she is a killjoy. I sort of wish I had, but I bought it in paper so I can't even search on it. *shrug* Her sister was extremely kind in her response, but honestly, there are a lot of points in this book where it is basically impossible not to think, this is a person who is Anti Pleasure, Anti Enjoyment, Anti Joy. Relentlessly. She may or may not be -- she might be someone whose pleasures are sufficiently different from those of others that it just _seems_ that way. But boy, she doesn't show a lot of _respect_ for pleasure-seeking choices. It's as if pleasure is so deserving of contempt as a reason for doing something that she can't bring herself to acknowledge that there is even any pleasure _involved_. Total annihilation.)

None of the page-specific comments are enough to push me one way or the other in deciding whether to recommend or dis-recommend the book. Ultimately, however, creating a taxonomy without exploring how people wind up in a category and how they can move between categories takes a bad characteristic of self-help books (they ultimately are the author trying to make the reader more like the author's ideal) and reifies it. Which is a bummer, because it's a pretty awesome taxonomy.
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Subtitled: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives
Published by Crown, 2015

First off, I find habit adoption, abandonment and management to be generically fascinating. As annoyingly bad as most writing on the topic of the lifecycles of habits is, I've finished more books about habits than I have quit in the middle. And I finished this one, too.

Operating against Rubin: it's difficult to read a book written by a work from home mum of two in a NYC apartment big enough for her to have her own home office (albeit described as tiny) and think it has any meaningful relevance to, well, anyone. Her father-in-law is Robert Rubin (yeah, the former Treasury Secretary guy -- but the Jamie Rubin in wikipedia is not the Jamie Rubin who is her frequently mentioned husband in the book. Here is the NYT Style section mention of their wedding: http://www.nytimes.com/1994/09/04/style/weddings-gretchen-a-craft-james-s-rubin.html).

Operating _for_ Rubin is her self-deprecation, ability to absorb vast amounts of written information, basic goodness and recognition that not everyone is exactly the same and they shouldn't be encouraged to be so. She genuinely supports self-agency, in a way that few people thinking and writing in this space do.

What this book offers: a taxonomy of people in terms of how they respond to commitments (whether externally or internally opposed); a taxonomy of strategies for establishing and maintaining habits (interestingly, she has a lot more to say about positive actions and positive habits, rather than stopping or negative actions and negative habits -- that's unusual, and unusually wonderful); a lot of fantastic anecdotes of habit tinkering, and "lessons learned" from those anecdotes.

Rubin is very up front that while she reads widely, she finds the people she meets and talks to more compelling that a bunch of studies. I think that is, in part, because her mechanisms for critiquing scientific work are comparatively poor (they are much better than average, but compared to everything else she does, not as good). Thus, at least in how she presents herself, she is much more capable of spotting lies, misunderstandings and misrepresentation in person than buried in a study. The effect of that is to make this book, like virtually every other book about habits and their lifecycles, extremely dependent upon the social circles of the writer. (See above, socioeconomic status observations.)

Rubin mentions throughout the book, typically towards the end of the chapter, how various habit decisions reflect her values. Putting these observations at the ends of chapters does provide a natural "wrapping up", but the "moral at the end" is also a bit heavy handed (where "a bit" should be thought of as weaponized understatement). Further, there are some indications within the book that a particular key life insight hasn't really gotten through to the author yet, and the result is unfortunate. She describes attempts to adopt the habit of meditation, and like many people attempting to meditate in the early stages, she does a fine job describing all the annoying stray thoughts and sounds and so forth that plague one at the beginning. And I (honestly!) don't mind that she decides not to meditate (particularly as she has chosen to define meditation, sitting with a particular posture, etc. Arguably, the kind of book Rubin writes is itself meditation, both in process and product. Doesn't even require much argument!). However, I feel that her willingness to assume the presence and identity of "higher values" (vs. "worldy" -- her word -- or physical values) and her assumption that "in the long run" is the only way to assess the value of something indicate a degree of resistance to being present that is breathtaking (as in, get me out of here, I can't breathe, this is suffocating me).

I haven't decided whether I think this is a book anyone should read. I will say this. It's a fast and compelling read, it is well-thought out and well-researched, the author has a sense of humor that comes through in the text and she seems like a really good human being.

But as much as I love habits, I really wonder about someone who invents categories like "Abstainer" and "Upholder" to self-describe, and has such negative things to say about Moderation. Or, for that matter, who seems so utterly determined to create and reify a self-identity that involves so little value on the physical pleasures of food, movement, etc.

I'll be skipping her books on Happiness, if that helps you calibrate my feelings on this book and its author.
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Subtitled: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger

Levinson is an economist whose ability to write history is amazing. That's not a common trait of economists (<-- weaponized understatement there) or, for that matter, anyone else. I may buy his A&P history next, just because.

I bought this book because when it came out, the reviews were uniformly positive, and it seemed like the kind of thing my husband would enjoy, and it connected peripherally to a lot of the reading I was doing at the time in rail networks and rail history, and intermodal in general. I didn't read it myself, because it was published in 2006 and my life was kind of busy. By the time things were settled down somewhat, I had a kindle and was mostly reading on that.

The central figure of the origins of container shipping and this book was Malcom (spelling explained in the book) Mclean. He started out in trucking, switched to boats and never really looked back. For all that Mclean invented the container ship and the world we live in, he did not succeed in creating the seamless intermodal world we are still building now (not knocking him for it -- no one could have surely, altho his efforts in Vietnam gave a sense of the possible future, by contracting for end to end shipping). In the hands of a lesser author, Mclean's character would have taken over the tale; Levinson ably balances the idiosyncratic and ambitious man with the physical and economic realities of the world he acted in.

Levinson starts with a compelling description of what it was like to ship cargo before containers: the timelines, pilferage, hard and dangerous labor, how factories and longshoremen both were highly motivated to live and work as close to the docs as possible, the long standing conflict between those who loaded and unloaded ships, and everyone else, the politics of the port cities, etc. He shows how the end of WW2 made available, cheap, boats that could be converted to move containers. He does not spend time on the changes in the steel industry during this time frame (and they are kind of important but _way_ out of scope), or the growth of oil. Instead, inexpensive fuel for boats and inexpensive materials for the boxes are treated as a given.

Containers do several things. Like just about everything else in the middle of the 20th century, they make it cheaper per unit as long as you are willing to run a whole lot of units. They saved money by clearing up the port bottleneck: once you can load up the container and truck it around, you no longer have to have your factory located next to the docks. You also can pay a very different rate to have that container loaded, because you can have your own people do it, rather than deal with the dock workers and their complex work rules, unions, pilfering ways, etc. They saved money by reducing the amount of time spent in port, loading and unloading the ship, so the ship could move on to the next port. They ultimately made possible Just In Time inventory systems, reducing the overhead costs of keeping inventory. As insurers recognized the reduction in damage and theft to items being shipped, there was savings all around on insurance.

Over the longer term, they compressed the world, as the subtitle notes. One of the oddest bits of the book occurs when RJ Reynolds in the late 1960s/early 1970s has a lot of cash on hand and is staring in the face of increasing domestic regulation and a shrinking market at home. They wanted to diversify, to become one of the conglomerates characteristic of the age, and Mclean sold out to them so he'd get money to build more container ships. And thus, ironically, the bad habit of the blue collar factory worker became the instrument of the end of factory jobs through outsourcing. Altho not right away.

Mclean was imperfect, and in a particular way: he tended to optimize blindly. For a guy who created massive, longstanding change based on many stages of effects, he guessed wrong big on oil prices. Twice. He got caught out building super fast ships just before the oil crisis. And then he got caught out building super slow fuel sippers just before oil got real cheap again.

His biggest successes occurred when he looked at the world around him, saw how it worked and concluded that he was needed to Fix It. The chapter on Vietnam is a real eye opener. The military invited shipping execs to Washington, "where they were shown film clips of sailors lowering cargo nets by rope and asked for advice. When Malcom McLean saw the film, a colleague recalled, "[h]e got obsessed with the idea of putting containerships into Vietnam. He was back and forth to Washington, talking to people, and they told him there isn't anything you can do in Vietnam.""

Of course, the problem of container ships is you need special port facilities to realize benefits from them: huge cranes and a lot of space, mostly, but also significant organizational capacity to manage the containers moving in and out and making sure you don't sink the boat loading in the wrong order. Container shipping got into computers early, in a big way. New ports were built, and ""The port congestion problem was solved," the army's history of 1967 declared triumphantly." And since Sea-Land was making money on one leg, the backhaul was essentially pure profit.

Levinson tells the stories of West Coast, East Coast and English unions and how they wrestled with the changes brought by containerization. It would be incredibly easy to viciously denigrate unions and unions leaders when telling these stories. Levinson does not succumb to the temptation. He remains even handed and fair minded throughout the discussion.

I grew up in Seattle. Seattle, like many port cities, converted its older docks in an effort to revitalize a derelict area that had once been packed full of people and stuff. When we went down to the piers to go look around the shops or go to the Aquarium, my father told stories about the past, and, like young people everywhere, I mostly ignored those stories, hanging onto only occasional details like the eye popping salaries he claimed the longshoremen made running the cranes further south in the container port that had utterly replaced the piers we now came to for recreation (partly from reading this book, partly from reading other things, I now know that the eye popping salaries he quoted, like nearly everything he had to say about unions, was true). Levinson's book gave me a chance to really see the change happen that my father saw happen as a young man. And it gave a vivid backdrop to efforts around the country to revive derelict waterfronts with recreation, shopping and restaurants. All those waterfronts died at basically the same time, for the same reason.

Best of all, this book explained something that I've been scratching my head about for a decade or more. Whatever the hell happened to SeaLand, anyway? Those containers were everywhere when I was a kid, and then suddenly, I was 30 and that name was vanished as if it never existed, replaced by Maersk, mostly. My first wedding was officiated by a gentlemen who worked as a VP for Sealand -- I couldn't have imagined it all, could I? Whenever an economic segment commodifies, companies -- even big ones -- come and go with great rapidity, and it can be hard to understand why if you aren't in the industry during those years. Levinson manages to make it at least as accessible as a synopsis of a relationship-heavy novel or soap opera.

I can't recommend this book enough. It is a great read, an amazing story, and it explains so much of our world and why things changed when they did and how they did.
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I suffer from huge bias. I absolutely love reading Ronson's books. He is nothing like me, as near as I can tell, but he can describe what he is feeling, and he can describe what other people are feeling, in ways that I can understand. And I am _terrible_ at understanding how other people are feeling. Ronson is Magickal. And this book is a fantastic example of him at his very best.

When I think about online shaming (or offline shaming, for that matter), I think about it as a spectrum of techniques for enforcement of group norms. That is something a group _has to do_ but obvs the details matter (in terms of what is enforced and how). But it's not at all clear that Ronson understands the world in this way.

What Ronson does is point out a continuum of shaming and responses to shaming across time (altho his historical perspective is, honestly, weak at best, and he makes generalizations at times that just make me cringe -- fortunately, that's not where his focus is) and context (online, courtrooms, tabloids, etc.). He shows that shaming does more damage than many people realize when they are Dishing It Out, and he explores whether there is any possibility for redemption from social media shaming (Euro style Right to be forgotten isn't working out so well, but reputation scrubbing operations are also covered).

Ronson looks at whether specific targets of shaming campaigns actually did what they were accused of doing (appropriateness of targeting). He spends a _ton_ of time on proportionality, mostly hammering away on the idea that there isn't any proportionality anywhere in evidence. To the extent that he covers deterrence, he seems to present the deterrent effect of shaming campaigns as Not Good, which I think is unfortunate. He also looks at whether or not the people who were nominally harmed by the person ultimately shamed are satisfied with the results. He also gets into the sheer wastefulness of shaming, particularly in tabloid sex scandals of the past which led to suicides. I should point out that this is _my_ organizational scheme, not his. These are the categories I think about, when I am thinking about schemes for enforcing group norms. His presentation, which moves from one shamed person to another, with excellent attention to his own emotional responses to discussions and hilarious self-shaming (constantly looking at his phone in the Radical Honesty session -- that made me laugh), makes an excellent and compelling emotional case that shaming is not a great way to get people to behave better online. To some extent, his argument is basically, they aren't behaving that badly in the first place. And that's probably true, because when people behave really badly (like the people who perpetrated all those rape gifs in Jez comments and other Denton blogs) shaming doesn't even dent those people. Like at all. He also does not at all get into the ways in which insult culture In Real Life and online prepares people to behave badly even in the presence of significant efforts to shame them.

I spent a few years reading books about corporal approaches to discipline. My parents (who are evil -- if you pray for Jehovah God to genocide all the non JWs at least once a day for decades at a time and raise your children to do the same and ostracize them when they decide to stop, I'm prepared to call you evil) were big believers in beatings. I definitely understand the connections between anger, violence, physical punishment, shame, substance abuse, various other forms of mental illness, etc. Whenever I run into someone who had an upbringing that involved beatings and who _hasn't_ gone through some sort of cognitive process to understand what that did to them, I'm basically sitting around waiting for them to say, "But I deserved it." Ronson isn't writing that book, but he does talk about the role of shame in the criminal justice system, how it feeds into the cycle of abuse, and how treating people with respect reduces violence in general, and can help even murderers (and help the corrections system be a lot safer for everyone). Thinking about social media shaming in the context of generational abuse and more serious criminality is important, because it helps us recognize that while it _seems_ trivial, it isn't, and if we are dismissive of feelings in one context where it appears safe to do so, that is representative of how we will treat those same feelings in other contexts where it absolutely is not safe to do so. This book is another opportunity for people who have bought into a theory of human interaction that is all about You Deserve It and I'm Gonna Give It To You (and not in a good way) to start to think about human interaction in a very different way (Nobody Deserves That And It Will Hurt Me If I Dish It Out).

Because Ronson was focusing on shaming as something that the group does to an individual, and an individual experiences, I think Ronson missed out on two important components to this. One is the idea that there are alternative enforcement mechanisms. And social media _do this_ to a limited extent and will do more of it over time. You can take the shame/counter shame experience way down (and take the nuclear option away from the swamp dwellers who have inured themselves to all shame-based attacks) if you institute better Terms of Service policies and supply technology options that suppress attackers. You can do this by letting people hide themselves, hide other people from them, by creating a report-abuse mechanism with adjudication and an appeals process and other flexible moderation tools that combine technology and human judgment to help people get along together even when they don't agree, and provide conflict resolution mechanisms that don't instantly resort to character attacks and personal degradation. Ronson also downplayed or failed to observe clearly how self- or kin-network defined identity interacted with the larger social-media defined identity. Max Mosely, for example, thrived in part because he was inappropriately targeted (it wasn't Nazi themed, it was German military, and anyone who makes this mistake and then justified it as an unimportant distinction has essentially destroyed their own credibility and ability to effectively shame) and he was able to make that clear to judging observers, in part because he was extremely clear on who he was and why he did what he did, and the people who were close to him understood this as well. Mosely didn't _enjoy_ being targeted, but he definitely understood that he was engaged in conflict. It is not clear to me that Lehrer or several of the others understood that when you are being shamed, you are in conflict with others. If you aren't just going to utterly cave to rejoin the other side, you're going to have to figure out your strategy and tactics and goal and then go out there and win, whether that means smearing the other side or working towards a negotiated settlement.

It's a wonderful book, even more wonderful if when you were a child you were the victim of abuse by other children, other adults, your parents, etc. Triggery, obvs, but wonderful. It's great to read an emotionally brilliant writer articulate all that horrible stuff that is mostly felt in absence and silence, if it is felt at all.
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Recently, the WSJ had an article about why people are late.


The usual reasons appear here: being bad at estimating how long common tasks will take. My first husband was astonishingly bad at this, and always assuming he could get done much, much faster than he ever had in the past. My oldest sister said that there were two things her computer science professors said would make her and her classmates highly desirable employees: typing accurately and fast, and being able to schedule accurately. Getting people to think about how long it took them to do something in the past helps them better predict how long it will take them in the future. Getting people to break down larger tasks into small components and building an estimate based on the smaller components also makes a big difference.

Jeff Conte is quoted as finding in numerous studies something that shows up in studies done by many people. He sorted by type A/type B personality types, but people have been doing this research with a lot of different markers, and there are groups of people who will slightly short a minute (believing a minute has passed in about 58 seconds) and people who will drastically exaggerate a minute (77 seconds). It's a little terrifying how poorly centered that curve is!

Others mentioned in the article say that age of employee's child is a good predictor for lateness (I bet special needs kids have an extra impact). ADHD and other mental health issues are also contributors. Having difficulty saying no/overbooking is another.

All of this stuff is captured in numerous self help books, along with advice on how to fix the problem. I ran across DeLonzor's book, which enjoys phenomenal reviews on Amazon.

She offers 7 cures, for 7 different varieties. I have some issues with her perspective on how to develop self-discipline, in that self-denial, imo, doesn't actually build self-discipline and it's pretty easy to imagine some of her suggestions as depleting that capacity (see this NYT article from 2011, h/t Korbett Miller). She also repeats the marshmallow study in the overly simplistic way, which Alfie Kohn does an excellent job of debunking here: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/09/09/03kohn.h34.html.

But on the whole, Delonzor has a template for the self-help she is offering and it is a good one. Understand why you are late -- pay attention to the details. Design a way to counter that behavior in a tailored way. So for Cure #1 -- the Rationalizer -- the first exercise is to review your history of incidents and consequences especially the reactions of others. The second exercise is tracking future incidents on a calendar for a month. The third exercise (assuming #2 confirms that you really do have a problem) is to identify whether there are any changes you can make in your life to prevent recurrence. The second set of exercises is parallel, and involves the impact of lateness on others: talk to someone for another perspective, enlist someone to create incentives/disincentives (make me pay for dessert/the wine if I am late for dinner; compliment me if I show up on time or at least a lot less late than usual). Finally, notice how you feel when you start showing up. The third set of exercises involves self-talk/cognitive structures: quit with the denial and do some perspective taking on the person who is waiting for you; generally pay more attention to other people; apologize freely and quit making excuses.

So (in case it isn't obvious), the chapters first describe a cluster of symptoms or behaviors or mindset that leads to lateness, and then prescribes a set of relatively specific steps to take to move from lateness to punctuality, behaviorally. The first step is designed to move the person reading to acknowledge the problem as changeworthy. The second is designed to quantify the problem and design an intervention. And the third one is designed to ensure that the person who is making the changes perceives the effects of the change so that the change has a chance of becoming permanent.

Basically, competent habit change advice.

While this might sound like rationalization, I don't have a problem with tardiness in general. I do have some specific schedule problems. For example, the kids have swim lessons on Friday that are scheduled too tightly with T.'s arrival home from school for me to reliably get A. in to her lesson on time. This is not a problem except when R. works on Fridays, which he has been doing lately to make up for staying home on some snow days (shifting Friday to Monday, typically). Short of finding another teacher at a different pool to take my kids on, I'm pretty much gonna be late by at least 5-10 minutes when this happens, and maybe more if one of the kids throws a tantrum or Route 2 is stop-and-go. I used to have a horrible problem with Route 2 going down to Somerville for a Dutch lesson, but my instructor moved, which helped, and construction on Route 2 has passed the period of completely catastrophic and unpredictable 45 minute delays (in order to be sure I'd arrive on time, I was winding up arriving 20-25 minutes early, which is just awkward, and parking in Somerville being what it is, not actually easy to figure out something to do that fits into that time slot. You might think, hey, take the commuter rail, but the schedule to South Acton and back at that time of day did not work out at all). This book doesn't have any wisdom on the subject of specific schedule problems, which I harbor a suspicion other people have as well (and which is why I don't stress any more about people being late when it isn't habitual, or even when it _is_ habitual, if I understand and find legitimate the schedule conflict that is producing the problem). This book is aimed at that relative you have who reliably shows up to family functions 1-3 hours late (in this job market, if they were a coworker, they'd have lost their job, and if they are your friend, well, good luck to you), the old friend who is never less than 20 minutes late (and never, ever, ever early), etc. and whose explanation is banal (traffic when it wasn't any worse than usual, type of thing) or exasperating (I didn't have any clean clothes to wear, I took a nap and overslept, etc.)

I'm not sure I actually have any regular contact with anyone who behaves this way any more. Which is kind of amazing, now that I think about it, and probably means that I probably shouldn't push too hard in my efforts to become any more cold-hearted than I already am. But if you have a problem with chronic lateness, and it isn't driven by demands upon you as a caregiver, and assuming you aren't juggling multiple jobs none of which can be modified because you're barely making it as it is, you might find some useful ideas in here. Severe ADHD is beyond the scope of this book, as are issues such as agoraphobia and other global anxiety issues.

ETA: Here's the BI article that got me started on this:


Part of my interest is because I have an uncle who is just _infamous_ for this kind of lateness, and it didn't even seem to really bother him. I never understood it.

When I looked up the definitions of Type A/Type B, I was pretty unimpressed by them. I also hadn't realized just how much that typology was discredited some years ago by tobacco companies exploiting the Type A cardiac/smoking connection to justify non-cessation oriented interventions for the health risks of smoking (took me a minute even to understand the thought processes. I just went, whaa---? And then I remembered smoker-logic and just eyerolled and moved on).
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The author seems to be a few years older than me, and her experiences exploring self-defense appear to have occurred slightly earlier in her timeline than my experiences did in mine. But they are so close, that the book was interesting to me to buy while I was doing martial arts and taking firearms classes, going to the range and carrying a gun and taking a fencing class and things of that sort.

But my efforts to buy it at the time completely failed. Repeatedly. So it has been sitting on the shelf for more than a decade, surviving purge after purge -- my paper book library is less than a third the size that it once was. In the wake of my dismal failure to read _Smile at Strangers_, I thought I ought to go make a real effort to get through other books I own about women and self-defense.

Here are the problems.

(1) It was written in the first half of the 1990s. So while we had Terminator's Sarah Connor and Alien's Ripley, and we had Thelma and Louise, for whatever that may or may not have been worth, we didn't yet have Long Kiss Goodnight's Sam/Charly, or Barb Wire. And boy that shows in the cultural references. It is hard to really realize just how massive the turn was for women action heroes that occurred in 1996, but it was incredible. In a really good way.

(2) There are a lot of incorrect or very deceptive bits of evidence throughout the book. I've blogged a bunch of them, but notably the summaries of the Inez Garcia and Mary Ellen Nelson cases are incredibly misleading in ways that undermine how they fit into the argument. There are also fundamental misunderstandings of women's power movements of the past (separate spheres) and the interaction of women's activism in the Gilded Age and labor law (the results produce an inaccurate impression of what was actually going on).

(3) Because McCaughey comes at this topic from a Women's Studies perspective, the entire thing is framed through various lenses of feminism. And it turns out that feminism is a truly shitty way to frame self-defense, legally, or as an activity, or as a locus for activism or, really, anything. Who knew? Feminism, especially before same-sex activism beat back gender difference ideology as deployed by several kinds of feminists, was way hung up on rape, and McCaughey spends almost the entire book exploring the potential interaction between rape and self-defense. I spent a lot of time learning a lot of responsible ways to deploy and deflect and de-escalate violence. I am no pacifist and I'm not even particularly anti-violence (I just think you need to carefully consider the amount, type and target). And for all that I was raised to be freaked out about men sexually violating me, my childhood experience was of female on female sexual assault -- no men anywhere involved in it. My self-defense concerns were considerably more ordinary: I worried about property crime pointed at me, and violent interactions with persons experiencing psychotic breaks or otherwise altered. Basically, I wanted to be able to walk around large cities at night by myself and have a reasonable expectation that I would safely arrive at my destination without anything too traumatic happening along the way. If I was with other people, I wanted to be able to also protect them, altho this goal sort of faded as I realized that some people felt emboldened by my presence and their belief that I could cash whatever check their mouth and actions wrote. (Yeah, I got a list of idiot women I won't ever go drinking with again.)

So the book hasn't aged well, has a bad frame, and could have used much, much more rigorous editing for argument and evidence deployed in service of same. There are some nuggets buried here, because McCaughey really enjoyed her exploration of self-defense training and the people she met. She is sympathetic and clearly a really compassionate, earnest person who wants the world to get better, and believes that this is a way that women can make the world better for themselves and others.

If you _like_ women's studies arguments, and you read this book, I'm curious to know whether this qualifies as good, bad or indifferent. I can't tell -- I haven't read enough recently to have a decent sample size. I used to read some gender difference stuff, but I eventually gave up on it all because none of it made any sense to me and it just doesn't seem to have any utility.

If McCaughey had been able to take the perspective of the short, light men she ran into in martial arts contexts, she may have been able to work through their Little Man issues enough to understand that a lot of what we frame as _women's_ issues can be better understood as issues for people who are smaller adults. I know, I know, I'm going to sound all MRA here, and these idiots can definitely deploy white male privilege bravado with an offensively heavy hand, and they are often insanely aggressive. But they are coming from the same place of Easy Target, and at least a few of them are worth connecting with. If she _had_ been able to do that, it would have opened up a whole other area of analysis, particularly in the body work section. But, hey, that's okay.

I can't recommend it, but it's entirely possible that McCaughey's later work (she was pretty young when she produced this) is more careful on the evidence and so forth. I wouldn't walk away from a book she'd written. I'm unconvinced by her advocacy for a different self-defense standard for women than men, but I'm prepared to think about how a "reasonable woman" standard might be different from a "reasonable man" standard or even a "reasonable person" standard.
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I don't think I can recommend this, altho I did eventually finish reading it and there are some interesting aspects to it. Hamburg has a hand-rotation trick.

"Put your hands together so that they match up exactly, as if you were praying. [there's a picture]. Choose one of the three compatibility dimensions ... Now think of someone you know well ... Try to get a felt sense of how compatible you and that person are on the dimension you've chosen. .... Play the mental video you have of that aspect of your relationship with that person. Visualize key incidents that seem to exemplify that dimension. As you do, pay attention to how your body feels. ... keeping your hands together, rotate them with respect to each other until it feels like the angle between your hands matches your felt sense of how alike or different you two are on that dimension"

There's more detail and development, but this is basically trying to get you listening to your less-verbal/more-feeling side of yourself (get people out of denial, out of rationalization).

Hamburg has a taxonomy of compatibility: Practical, Sexual, Wavelength. He assesses couples using the hand rotation trick for compatibility based on a bunch of components of the three dimensions of compatibility. So this is an interesting variation on the more typical approach: fill in a five choice scale for a bunch of descriptions on a written test.

Hamburg has a theory of what kind of compatibility works and what doesn't, based on his clinical experience. Hamburg believes that open relationships cannot work because he has seen tortured looks on the faces of people who were cheated on. Needless to say, I find that perspective a little troubling. Thinking, oh, walkitout, that's a bit of an overreaction?

"An option that some of us choose is to marry but not be monogamous. That is not an option I can recommend. It's not my job, as a psychologist, to give you a moral argument about why infidelity [sic] is bad. You have enough other people moralizing at you about that. I'll just share a clinical observation: In my work with torture survivors and with people who have lost a child, I have seen the face of anguish. The only other people in whom I've seen anything even approaching that anguish are people who have been cheated on by their husband or their wife."

Equating nonmonogamy with infidelity is repulsive. Equating nonmonogamy with cheating is disgusting.

There are a lot of useful things in this book, that could be useful to those in poly relationships: the ideas that compatibility isn't a unitary scale but has parts and you might be compatible in some areas but not in others, and some incompatibilities cause one kind of problems and other incompatibilities cause very different problems -- these are great ideas. But they are so embedded in a monogamous perspective (and honestly, the heterocentricity is a bit wearing as well) that I cannot recommend this book and found it difficult to finish even as I was finding more details that I thought were useful and insightful. YMMV.

ETA: Oh, and please don't sit around worrying about my marriage or anything like that. That's not why I'm reading couples counseling books. I'm reading couples counseling books because I realized whenever someone I knew was having trouble, I was recommending Gottman, and I thought there surely must be better stuff out there since I've known about Gottman for a while. If you've found really useful LTR maintenance/fix-it books other than Gottman (or Hamburg, or that horrifyingly awful _Passionate Marriage_ thing that people were all over for a while), I'd be interested to know which ones you found useful. Think of it as spreading the word generally, so as to make best practice available to those in need.
walkitout: (Default)
Subtitled: The History of a Dangerous Idea
Published by Oxford University Press

First and foremost, thanks to R. (not my husband or sister) for getting me this for my birthday!

Second, Blyth quotes Tony Judt's _Ill Fares the Land_ favorably/references it in a footnote. Fortunately, while this happened at the very beginning of the book, I sort of didn't really pay any attention to it until the end, so I was able to finish the book and enjoy its many good points.

Here is an earlier post about _Ill Fares the Land_: http://walkitout.livejournal.com/729287.html

As my historian librarian friend I. pointed out at the time, Judt was dying when the book was written and it was completed by someone else. His other work is apparently much better.

Many parts of Blyth's book are excellent. It is a history of ideas; the people are transient and not well developed, so this is in stark contrast to Neil Irwin's _The Alchemists_ (http://walkitout.livejournal.com/1124124.html). Also, while Irwin focused tightly on the most recent downtown, only resorting to earlier history for context, Blyth's story covers a much broader sweep of history.

The biggest complaint -- and it is a serious one -- is that Blyth questions whether we should have saved the banks at all, given the large gap between potential and actual output that occurred anyway. So, first of all, that's scary, because there's a big difference between the total collapse of a nation and its reconstruction in some very unpredictable way and the nation just not doing as much as it could have for a few years. We should all be able to tell the difference. Second, his point of comparison is Iceland. As I was shocked to realize when I was trying to read another book about Iceland (really should go back and try it again), Iceland is tiny. It's smaller than _Cleveland, OH_. I don't think it is a valid basis for comparison, especially in a book where the REBLL countries were dismissed for a variety of reasons, including their small size.

The best thing about this book is that Blyth is prepared to repeatedly and forcefully argue that saving is just as immoral as spending more than you have. This is an important argument to make and remake and hammer on until everyone Gets It. You cannot have a current account surplus without someone else running a current account deficit. Honestly, Blyth's willingness to energetically and imaginatively make this point makes up for every other problem in the book.

walkitout: (Default)
I received Weil as a surprise (that is, not on my Amazon wish list -- I didn't even know this book existed!) gift from my long time, very dear friend I. She is a historian and knows of my interest in genealogy -- it was truly the perfect birthday present. She even made sure I understood that it wasn't a personal recommendation, thus insulating herself in part from any irritation I might have felt at this book (like virtually every other book I read. Hey, I have Issues. We all know that.).

In any event, it was a quick and enjoyable read. There were no obvious problems with it. There were slow paragraphs, that felt like, okay, now we're going to list a bunch of evidence in support of what I just said -- which is exactly what one wants in an academic work. Weil's periods of genealogy match reasonably well what I have noticed in the course of doing genealogical work and I even recognized a few of the genealogies he described (notably, the Rikers genealogy). I particularly enjoyed how well Weil wove together other social trends with genealogy as an activity -- it's entirely too easy to treat a subject in absence of the larger context and particularly important not to do that with genealogy!

One of the best parts is Weil's description of Haley's _Roots_ and his interpretation of various reactions to it and criticisms of it. It is extremely easy for me to be annoyed when people describe the controversies -- I don't want to see anyone be racist or even just insensitive, and I also don't like people to completely dismiss the value of evidence in doing genealogy. You can sort of imagine how easy it is to go off one way or the other, but Weil threads this particularly difficult needle with grace and aplomb.

I have two observations. First, I think Weil may underestimate some of the practical aspects of the earliest colonial descendant records. Also, nearly everyone fails to understand that people wrote this stuff in family Bibles because the family Bible was the only source of paper in the house for many. Weil's description of account books being used for the same purpose is quite wonderful (and I actually knew about this from the English side because of that awful Palgrave book about women's cookbooks). Second, I also feel that Weil may underestimate the ongoing importance of religion in current genealogical/family history efforts (and I don't mean LDS!). Weil is probably right and I'm overly aware of religion in genealogy/family history -- I think I'm probably wrong here.

But it's a wonderful book, subtly important and should have great staying power. If you've ever watched generations of people around you go mad for birth, marriage and death records, Weil is maybe your first real opportunity to make sense of the lunacy, and its cultural inflections over time.

Maud Newton has an excellent article about genealogy in the June edition of Harpers. Part commentary on her racist father, part idiosyncratic observations of unusual traits like women preachers cropping up on her mother's side, over and over again, part summary of the state of genetic genealogy, she's a sympathetic and well-read commentator. Weil and Newton have both given thought to the interaction between available evidence and individuals doing research, altho it shows up in different ways. Newton apparently has a book coming in the next year or so; I look forward to reading it when it arrives. She mentions Weil's book favorably.

I attempted to read the article online, but it is paywalled, and the only way I could find to read it involved paying $34.99 for a year's subscription, which I balked at (I would have paid up to $5 for just the one article, and perhaps $10 for the issue). I looked for Harper's at four stores, and failed each time (a couple drug stores, a bookstore and a grocery store -- the bookstore didn't have any magazines, and there were no copies of Harper's at the rest, even though at least one of them is listed on Harper's website as carrying the magazine). I ultimately read it in the library at Acton Memorial (in library use only, yay! Meant no one else had it at home and inaccessible to me) and I availed myself of modern technology (my phone) to bring a copy of the article home with me. Hint, er, hint.

In unrelated genealogical news, I've really been on a roll lately. I found out my great-uncle remarried and figured out to whom, found records on some of her family, etc. I also finally found one of my grandmother's (both on my dad's side, but the former was on his dad's side and this was on his mom's side) brother-in-law's birth records and other family in wiewaswie! The difficulty I had in finding him earlier involved a spelling reform that changed the last name from *dyk to *dijk. These days, that sort of thing is utterly obvious to me, but just a couple years ago, it was not at all.
walkitout: (Default)
Alas, my son started throwing up at quarter to 4 this morning. Not sure what happened; presumably he ate something (or otherwise something got into his mouth) that was Not Good. He is disturbingly quiet, other than reluctantly getting up to throw up more. I'm giving it another hour or so before I start to panic.

I'm reading Tom Farley and Deborah Cohen's _Prescription for a Healthy Nation_, since Farley had a recent op-ed in the NYT (that was about sodium levels in food, specifically, a topic of interest to me because it drives me nuts how freaking hard it is to find food that isn't insanely high in sodium, and I know from travel in other countries that it doesn't have to be that way. Arguing that adopting policy limits by category/type of food would reduce freedom makes me want to exercise freedom all over the person making the argument. Probably by screaming Right Up In Their Face. You know, freedom of speech.). It is, unfortunately, a really problematic book in a variety of ways, so my love for it is limited, however it is a relatively good piece of advocacy.

Anyway. We know -- and Farley and Cohen lay out some of the numbers -- that if you raise the price of tobacco and alcohol products, they are consumed less. They argue in favor of reducing the price of fruits and vegetables (including prepared ones like salads) and increasing the price of high fat/high sugar ("junk") foods. There is a slight problem here. While it is straight forward to tax stuff, collect the money for the general fund (or even targeted programs of a related nature, say, tax "junk" food to subsidize purchase of fruits and vegetables through SNAP), it is not so obvious how we could reduce the price of fruits and vegetables. I suppose we could provide subsidies to growers? But if you did it by regulating price, you could perversely increase production of high sugar/high fat (if you mandated higher prices, rather than tax, which doesn't seem too likely, it would have the effect of raising still further the profit margin on these items) and decrease production of fruit and veg (by reducing the already slim margin -- even when the margin on fruit and veg looks fat, it rarely is because the volatility associated with harvest is higher than the inputs for high sugar/high fat, altho that, in turn, is partly a result of historic farm policies here in the US).

Pricing is tricky, as the authors learned during an effort to recoup some of the costs of a condom campaign -- usage even at .25 a piece plummeted, which was entirely at odds with what they were attempting to accomplish.

I hope they start talking about advertising at some point. I really do. Because advertising is a huge obstacle for any public health campaign. Altho it is very difficult to deal with, given the aforementioned freedom.

ETA: "In the early 1980s, after years of state "buckle up campaigns that people ignored, seat belt use nationally was an abysmal 14 percent. The idea of requiring people to wear belts seemed ridiculous at first, because people had always had the option to use their seat belts, and the laws would be virtually unenforceable."

Seriously? _Always_ _had_ _the_ _option_? For 20 years, _maybe_, at that point.

Okay, whatev. NY usage went from 20% to 47%. "It wasn't the fear of punishment that made people buckle up, because cops didn't (and in most states legally couldn't) pull people over for not wearing belts it was the statement that the law represented. Buckling up was something people were supposed to do. It was expected, normal, what any regular person did."

Bull shit. I remember the early 1980s. My parents were vocally in favor of mandating new cars having car seat belts, always required that we use them and never let us forget how hard they'd worked to get them into cars. But everyone _else_ I knew started using seat belts after they got an add-on to their ticket for failing to wear a seat belt, or knew someone who did. There was _intense_ "lawyering" around who was required to buckle up and who wasn't and loud arguments in cars on group outings about who was going to pay the ticket if someone did not buckle up who was being told to and who wasn't accustomed to obeying that law. And the extra on the ticket was always mentioned. I also heard a bunch of stories about people getting pulled over with that as the explanation for the pull-over.

I have no mortal clue how the law was written in NY at the time, but given the behavior of law enforcement in NY with respect to other written law, I just don't even see how that would be relevant.

"the seat belt laws didn't always get a smooth ride through state legislatures...Of course it is stupid to drive without seat belts, some protested, but we have no right to force people to be smarter if the only ones they put at risk are themselves"

One of the arguments that I heard a lot in the early 80s did not accept that wearing a seat belt was smart: I heard dozens of people argument, sincerely, at length and volume, that they'd rather be ejected from a vehicle than be hurt by a seat belt. One of the counter arguments, of course, became hey, I don't want you flying around in the car hurting my neck and head, when people were arguing about whether passengers in the back seat needed to wear a seat belt (the rationale being that people riding in the back without a seat belt tend to have lower risk than people in the front with a seat belt, at least according to some statistics being tossed around at the time).

ETAYA: The authors do go on to talk about primary enforcement laws vs. secondary, but even if you have secondary only, you can usually increase a fine for failure to wear seat belts. A deterrent factor unmentioned, but that I remember people using in arguments.

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