Weekly Meanderings

Weekly Meanderings August 10, 2013

Source for picture: Kyle Flubacker

Our prayers are for Margaret Feinberg: “A month earlier I found a lump in my breast. I scheduled a mammogram and informed the radiologist of my discovery.

Two weeks later, the mammogram came back clean. (Note to all the ladies out there: If you find anything in your breast, inform the radiologist. Do not assume the mammogram will catch everything.) During a follow-up ultrasound, they located the hard mass. I returned for a biopsy. On July 8, I learned it was cancerous.
I have breast cancer.”

Jean Twenge and Jeffrey Arnett, two of America’s leading sociologists of millennials, go nose to nose over whether or not the evidence suggests growing narcissism among millennials: “Much of the disagreement between Dr. Twenge and her critics comes down to interpretation. She believes that questions like “I am assertive” and “I like to take responsibility for making decisions” are indicators of narcissism; Dr. Arnett calls them “well within the range of normal personality,” and possibly even “desirable traits.” But critics have also taken issue with her data. In 2008, Dr. Donnellan and Kali Trzesniewski, a psychologist at the University of California, Davis, responded to her analysis of Narcissistic Personality Inventory scores with an analysis of their own. They, too, looked at scores from 1979 to 2007, but broke the survey’s questions into subsets to tease out more nuanced results. They concluded that some indicators of narcissism had increased while others had decreased. Over all, they said, there was no significant change.

Dr. Twenge, who grows noticeably irritated at the mention of the paper, calls the analysis invalid because it takes its earliest scores from just two University of California campuses (Berkeley and Santa Cruz) and its most recent scores from a third (Davis). “These are very different college campuses with different cultures and student populations,” she said, adding, “It would be like taking height samples of men from the 1800s and comparing it to recent samples of women and saying, ‘Oh look, height doesn’t change.’ ”

Robert Bellah, RIP: “Bellah had this very generosity, this concern for the little guy.  It’s what made him a communist and what made him a Christian.  He shares that move—from radical leftist to radical Christian—with another of my heroes, Dorothy Day.  The two had a lot in common: a gift for writing, a mysticism of quiet wonder, a sense that their lingering questions about community and meaning and God could be answered in a community of fellow travelers who cared about personal relationships and common meals and the idea that small steps like this could change the world.  They were also both brave.  Day stood up to her church and her government, and Bellah stood up to his government too, and the first church of every academic, Harvard University, going into Canadian exile rather than naming names during the McCarthy era.  Yet he eventually found his way back to Harvard, where he got tenure, and besides a brief controversy at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, he finished his life and work at the University of California, Berkeley, where many of my most important teachers and mentors worked with him.”

Good interview with Maria Popova.

Robert Gonzalez, iO9: “In a piece that will make you question every publicly accessible switch, toggle and button you encounter from this day forth, the folks at You Are Not So Smart reveal the truth about so-called “placebo buttons,” the triggers we’ve been conditioned since birth to associate with instantaneous gratification that actually do nothing. Crosswalk buttons. Thermostats. The close-door buttons in elevators. Why do placebo buttons exist? Because they are remarkably effective psychologically. And they are everywhere. “Placebo buttons are a lot like superstitions, or ancient rituals,” the article reads. “You do something in the hopes of an outcome – if you get the outcome, you keep the superstition.”

Charles Blow on marriage and the African American community: “We often hear that marriage is a panacea for our problems — as a nation as a whole, and especially for the black community, in which more than 70 percent of children are now born to unmarried women. Less discussed are the societal factors contributing to this phenomenon. Let’s start with this: while marriage may be losing a bit of its luster for some, it is still a desirable institution for most.”

Quote of the week, by Art Donovan, HOF football player who just passed away: “Donovan had a thousand more stories like that, many of which were chronicled in his autobiography, appropriately titled, “Fatso.” Donovan liked to say he was a light eater – “When it got light, I started eating.”

Miss Lorayne and Phil — a good story.

Now that’s an interesting collection of careers.

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