on alternative explanations

January 4th, 2015

Another favorite from this year that I find myself frequently passing along as a response to all kinds of hasty conclusions: Count to ten when a plane goes down


medical licenses and state lines

December 27th, 2014

Still closing tabs. This story about efforts to make it easier for doctors to get licenses to practice in different states makes an interesting little study of irrationality in our intergovernmental system. Since state laws differ considerably, regulating legal practice at the state level makes some sense… but medicine?


historic hampton roads photos on a map

December 20th, 2014

I’m not good with bookmarks. Or with closing tabs.

The OneTab browser extension is thus a lifesaver. I’m working on paring down the 700 or so links I’ve built up over the last several months, though… and I’m running across a few things that I don’t entirely need to bookmark for frequent use, but also don’t want to lose. Blogging appropriate, right?

One is this map that links Virginian-Pilot archive and Norfolk Public Library collection photos to their geographic locations. So, for example, you can easily find a photo taken from the railroad trestle a block from here from circa 1924. Just cool.


who gets to talk?

December 18th, 2014

I ran across this post this morning, citing a Media Matters study’s findings that only 9% of the evening cable news guests who are brought on camera to discuss education issues are educators. I shared without thinking too much. Nine percent, after all, sounds frightfully low.

But later in the morning, I got to thinking a little more. What IS the right stakeholder share here?

While the story in question is talking about media representation, this is a constant issue for public administration in a democracy. As I struggle to become an expert, finding ways to properly balance expertise and wider stakeholder opinion is one of the big questions to grapple with. I really like Tom Nichols’ piece, The Death of Expertise, and yet. How many of our talking heads about education should be teachers? And how many parents, and how many politicians and students and business leaders and researchers and concerned community members? How much weight to one set of perspectives is too much?

Maybe there’s another question, too: are any of these guests listening to each other, giving expertise weight where it’s deserved while balancing it against broader concerns?



November 30th, 2014

My podcast queue generally stays a bit backed up. I tend to pick off the can’t-wait stuff like Serial (eeek, insta-addiction!), then go back to everything else when I’m running enough or doing enough housework to need more listening material.

And I just wanted to express total amazement at a sudden realization: somewhere in that couple months that I’m behind, we’ve gone from FREAKING OUT over ebola to… almost no noise.

The google trends line showing search interest across 2014 says this probably isn’t just my personal Facebook friends.

Meanwhile, it’s still happening. The recent news stories I found weren’t particularly reassuring — cases declining or stabilizing in Liberia and Guinea, but surging in Sierra Leone. To the extent that international fundraising was working, I’d bet it’s trickling off. In a few minutes of lazy searching, I can’t even find a nice recently updated graph of new cases to compare to the google search.

Limited public attention resources in action. Meanwhile, the Red Cross gets in trouble when it gets a public outpouring of donations for one cause and shifts some of the money to other purposes… this story gives pretty good coverage of the main points from the Planet Money episode that got me thinking about this, limits of rationality, and some of the risks associated with relying on philanthropic funds and fundraising pushes to solve big public problems.


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