Tag Archives: freakonomics

Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

This Friday I point you to some worthwhile reading around the blogosphere:

1. If you missed this interview with Spike Jones, Dave Eggers and Maurice Sendak in Newsweek about the film version of that childhood classic, Where The Wild Things Are, it’s a must. Sendak is priceless!

2. One of my favorite new (to me) blogs is Katy Keim’s Book Snob. Her detailed and funny reviews make you want to leap out of your chair and buy them. On the strength of her latest review, I’ve already put The Last of Her Kind on my list.

3. Speaking of books, if you’ve ever tried selling a book to a publisher, you’ll love this send-up of where book marketing is at these days from the New Yorker. (Hat Tip: Help! I Need a Publisher.)

4. In honor of its 150th birthday, The British Psychological Society’s Reader’s Digest invited some of the world’s leading psychologists to share –  in 150 words –  one nagging thing that they still don’t understand about themselves. Brilliant! (Hat Tip: Freakonomics.)

5. If you haven’t seen it (and call still stomach reading anything about Roman Polanski), here’s Calvin Trillin’s hilarious satirical poem in The Nation.

6. Another beautiful meditation on middle age by Judith Warner in the New York Times. (Quick middle age quiz: What is her title a reference to?)

7. My take on what American Conservatives could learn from British Conservatives.

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Tips For Adulthood: Five Reasons You Should Go To The Dentist

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

One of the dirty secrets of adulthood is that you get cavities. When you’re a kid, you think cavities are just for children because you eat too many sweets. But then you you grow up and realize that – nope – you can still get new cavities or have to refill the ones from childhood.

Bummer.

Dentistry is a subject near and dear to my heart. I’m over on politicsdaily.com today talking about why government-sponsored dentistry in the U.K. is – IMHO – such a nightmare. (Subtitle: “Why The British Have Bad Teeth.”) Have a look.

But in the meantime, here are five reasons why it’s important to see your dentist regularly:

1. It’s Cheaper Than Therapy. Let’s face it. Most of us spend some portion of our time “in the chair” really “on the couch.” And why not? Dentists are such gentle, convivial people. I had one dentist in Chicago who was so comfortable with his patients that he told me he gave one guy advice on getting a vasectomy. I recently saw my own dentist the day my boiler broke and he allowed me to just sit there and swear – literally – for like five minutes. Later, when he was drilling my teeth he said, “Well, as bad as this feels, remember that you’re more upset with your boiler man than me. I’m probably only like 10th on your list of people you hate right now.” (Shame about all that alleged depression/suicide stuff among dentists, but it would appear that those stories are exaggerated.)

2. Tooth Decay is On the Rise. Despite all that fluoridated water, tooth decay is actually on the rise, particularly among the middle-aged and older. The reason? An increased reliance on medications for heart disease, high cholesterol, depression, etc., many of which cause drymouth, which in turn rots your teeth.

3. You’re Likely to Earn More. According to a study called The Economic Value of Teeth, there exists a mild “beauty premium” for having straight, white teeth. (At least if you’re female and not very wealthy). (Hat Tip: Freakonomics.)

4. You get free stuff. (At least in the U.S.) And everybody likes that. Just ask Chris Anderson.

5. You Don’t Want To Have British Teeth. It’s a cliché for Americans to mock Brits for their poor oral hygiene, just as they in turn make fun of us for obsessing about our pearly whites. But – as with most stereotypes – there’s some truth on both sides. And much as I tend to side with my British friends on many things, on this one I’ll proudly call myself American. See my article.

Bizarre, fascinating fact: A disproportionate number of dentists are named Dennis. Really. (Again, Hat Tip: Freakonomics.)

*****

While you’re over at politicsdaily.com, have a look at my post on Hillary Clinton threatening to cut off intelligence-sharing with Britain over a high-profile torture case.

Image: Recommended by Dentists by Guendal via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Tips For Adulthood: How To Figure Out If You're A Manager or a Maker

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

I’ve written before about how – on many of the world’s most pressing issues – most people sort neatly into one of two camps: Coke vs. Pepsi. Boxers vs. Briefs. Pet vs. Anti-pet.

In keeping with this concept, the Freakonomics blog linked yesterday to a fascinating post by a guy named Paul Graham about what he calls “managers vs. makers.”

On one side of the divide, you have a group of workers – usually managers – who divided their day into tiny bite-sized chunks and for whom meetings – even spontaneous ones – constitute the essence of their job. On the other side, you have what he calls “makers” – i.e. computer programmers, writers, artists – who need large blocks of time to carry out tasks and who find meetings onerous and inefficient because they cut into their productivity.

While the thrust of Graham’s article is to make each type more sensitive to the style/needs of the other sort of worker, figuring out which sort of worker you are before you embark on a career choice could also save you time and headaches down the road. (Trust me. I myself have a maker’s soul trapped in a manager’s body, which probably explains my own schizophrenic career choices along the way.)

To that end, here are five ways to figure out if you’re a maker or a manager:

1. Do you like working in increments of one hour or three hours? If one, you’re a manager. If three, you’re a maker. I have one friend who claims that she can be productive in 20 minutes. She is definitely a manager.

2. Does the prospect of a meeting fill you with anticipation or dread? My husband – the quintessential maker (he’s an academic) – hates going to meetings. Me? Despite being a writer, I love them. They’re social, they bring focus to the day and, most of all, they provide at least the possibility of getting something out the door (which, if you’re a writer/artist/fill-in-the-blank creative type is often elusive.)

3. Do you always have Outlook calendar open on your computer? And do you actually use it? If yes, you’re a manager. You like to schedule things. If no, you’re a maker.

4. Do you ever forget meetings? As Graham notes, one of the problems with meetings if you’re a maker is that you have to remember them. I don’t think I’ve ever forgotten a meeting in my life. But I know plenty of makers who get so caught up in whatever they are doing (I name no names) that they completely lose track of time.

5. Are you on twitter? All social networking requires that you spend a certain amount of your day away from whatever it is that you do. But Twitter – because it is so fast and furious – is the uber-managerial 2.0 tool. When used religiously, it forces you to constantly interrupt yourself to tweet an update about your life, mention an article, or react to breaking news.

How about you? Where do you fall on the manager/maker scale?

Oops, sorry. Gotta run. I have a meeting to get to…

Image: MYSTlore News and Events in Outlook 2003 by Soren “chucker” Kuklau via Flickr Under a Creative Commons License

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Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

This Friday, I point you to some worthwhile reading around the blogosphere:

1. Find out when middle-age kicked in for you by taking this musical quiz in the Chicago Tribune.

2. Apparently, the key to avoiding dementia  is getting married…and drinking more coffee.

3. Have a look at the best advertisements to save the planet in The Guardian.

4. Newsweek tells us that boomers have been responsible for economic stability over time. Speaking of economics, have a look at the Freakonomics Q and A with White House economist Austan Goolsbee. He’s very thoughtful and also pretty funny.

5. Two great ways to catch up on the news: The Daily Beast Cheat Sheet and Michael Kraskin’s Politics Dailies over at politicsdaily.com.

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Growing Up: Safety in Movement

Well, I’m back from Scotland, a place where they really do say “wee” for “little” and “aye” for “yes” and eat (gulp) haggis (end gulp).

One of the things I like most about living in London is how easy (and cheap) it is to leave. All of Europe – plus Northern Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia – is just a few hours away by plane. When we first moved here, I wasn’t sure how much of these we’d actually manage to squeeze in. (Answer: more than I expected, largely due to my new found stint as a travel writer.) But even if we hadn’t ended up traveling all that much, what really appealed to me was the idea that I could leave if I wanted to. In other words, it wasn’t the actual movement that attracted me; it was the possibility of movement.

“You strike me as someone for whom freedom of movement is a defining part of who you are,” a therapist once told me. This happened, by the way, during the interview phase of finding a new therapist here in London. I didn’t end up choosing this particular person (a Jungian, as it turned out), but boy was that an hour well spent. (The kicker: because it was just an interview, she didn’t even charge me for this mind-altering insight. Can you imagine that happening in the U.S.?)

I realized, as I thought about it, that she was absolutely right. It explains why I jumped at the possibility of moving overseas. It explains why I like to change careers. And it also explains why I used to have a lot of trouble committing to long-term relationships.

This isn’t, actually, how most people approach their lives. I know lots of people whose sense of security is derived from living in the same neighborhood over time…hanging out with the same group of people into adulthood…staying with the same job or company over their career. There is something about familiarity and routine that they find reassuring and predictable and it makes them happy.

But in my case, paradoxically – and for all sorts of complicated psychological reasons that I won’t bore you with but which have, rest assured, have been amply explored elsewhere –  I actually feel safer when I know that change is on the horizon (or at least potentially so). And so I’ve come, belatedly, to embrace this part of my character rather than just assuming, as I did for so long, that I’d eventually “grow up and settle down.” Because for better or for worse, this is who I am.

Which is a long way of saying that growing up is a really complicated thing to figure out. And you just hope that every so often, you bump into someone – it might be that random Jungian you interviewed and never saw again – who helps you make sense of it. In the meantime, thank goodness I can begin planning that next trip to Munich….

*****

Speaking of expat living, I was delighted to discover, courtesy of Freakonomics, that living abroad gives expats greater creativity in problem solving.

Image: First Air 727-100 by caribb via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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