Thursday, January 28, 2010

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Round-Up: Wednesday, Jan. 27

Debate: Do you think Whole Food's incentive program to get their employees to be healthier (and therefore cost the company less in health care costs) is a good one?

Drink: I hope these Growlers catch on in LA. Would love to fill up a jug on my way home from work on occasion.

Gross: Screech's 11 Most Scandalous Accusations in his book.

Shop: Awesome Tarantino (and Curb Your Enthusiasm) movie posters

Eat: Ten Breakfast Spots in LA (LAW) and The Best Burgers according to the LAist.

Watch: I tend to avoid American Idol, but I was talking to Jason Green last night who happened to have been on last night's American Idol. Pretty funny, worth a watch. He was more hilarious (and wasted) in person though.

Watch: SNL Digital Short Spoof of Andy Samburg

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Round-Up: Tuesday, Jan. 26

Dine: Food & Wine's "World's Top 10 Life-Changing Restaurants"

Illegal Eats: "The foods America doesn't want you to eat." They even include a gnarly video of cazu marzu, or "maggot cheese."

Art: Possibly the coolest poster I've ever seen.

Sneak Peek: Hogwarts in Orlando

Drink: What do your favorite LA Chef's drink?

Map: Redrawing the state lines to make the Senate representational and more democratic.

Watch: Fever Ray acceptance speech

Watch: Mmm... crap

Monday, January 25, 2010

Round-Up: Monday, Jan. 25

Entertainment: Summary of this week's rumors and news in movies & television. Could Gervais' David Brent go toe to toe with Michael Scott on The Office? Neil Patrick Harris on Glee? Johnny Depp in Pirates 4, Avatar 2, Ghostbusters 3D, Jurassic Park 4, Cloverfield 2.

Waste time: Mom's Messages

mc_lars: Doesn't it make you question the Social Contract when cops change lanes without signalling?
johncmayer: If I were on 24, I'd make sure to be in the bathroom during the last 5 minutes of every hour. Good things do NOT happen then.
JeremyDempster: I hope that everybody who spent tonight cramming for our midterm tomorrow is intimidated by my lackadaisical demeanor. And my BrewCo stamp.
JenKirkman: Not sure who is more evil and responsible for more upheavals of lives - Jay Leno or Dick Cheney. 
ScottAukerman: What's weird is pineapple supposedly makes semen taste better, yet semen makes pineapple taste AWFUL.

Laugh: ?uestlove's favorite snarky walk-on songs from Late Night.

News: Prince Frederic von Anhalt (Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband ) for CA Governor? Guess Jeans founder Georges Marciano?

Listen: Tallest Man on Earth - "King of Spain"
List: What does President Obama read?

Watch: I love watching TV News talking-heads talk about ridiculous things they don't understand. I actually remember these stories popping up over this past summer.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Round-Up: Friday, Jan. 22

Read: On Friedman & spending money at home vs. abroad.

Listen: It's a little too early to tell, but after a couple of spins, I love the new Los Campesinos album. An early favorite lyrically: "Straight in at 101"

Fun: Boy Meets World & Les Miserables.

What?: The Economist compares McDonald's to Thomas Keller's French Laundry. "The French Laundry and McDonald's may well be America’s two most internationally renowned restaurants. McDonald's has long served as ambassador for American culture and cuisine, while Thomas Keller’s restaurant has more recently reached the pinnacle of Michelin-starred global prominence. But worldwide fame is just the start of their similarities..."

Impress: How to be a superstar bartender

Download: Mp3's of the Top 50 Songs of 2009 according to We All Want Someone to Shout For. 

Abstract: The Economics of Getting Sloshed. "There is a trade-off between the efficiency gains due to the signaling effect and the loss of productivity associated with intoxication"

Eat Less Processed Food: A new study suggests that a national program to reduce dietary salt could cut as much as $24 billion from the national health care budget. [WSJ] "In the current study, researchers found that lowering salt intake by three grams a day would cut new cases of heart disease annually by a third—an estimated 60,000 to 120,000 cases per year—heart attacks by 54,000 to 99,000 cases and strokes by 32,000 to 66,000 cases. It would reduce about 100,000 deaths a year in the U.S."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Round-Up: Thursday, Jan. 21

Read: This should be required reading. "The bills before Congress are politically partisan and substantively bipartisan"

Listen: Surfer Blood's new album Astro Coast. So good.

Snubbed: Kanye West not invited to Haiti telethon.

Notice: How lucky Tiger Woods is that the Conan v. Leno story totally knocked him out of the news cycle.

Watch: Ideas for presenting your design work. Such a brilliant video.

Watch: Trailer for PBS Show I want to See

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Round-Up: Wednesday, Jan. 20

Listen: Ann Peebles - "I Can't Stand the Rain"

Listen: I can't stop listening to Fanfarlo in my car

Laugh: Best Craigslist Ad, Jay Leno is....Spiderman?, Funny or Die: Twilebrity video

Read: In response to the devastating election in MA, The Economist asks "So how do we get universal coverage now?"

Read: My thesis adviser Jeff Lewis  got a shout-out on the highly-influential political blog 538 concerning the MA election.

Cook: Potato & Kale Soup from TJ's and Stuffed Peppers for Under $8

Eat: Review of Jose Andres' The Bazaar. I feel like I have to go for the experience, but I better go with a lot of people so I can only order a couple of things but try/see a lot more. The bill is going to add up real fast when $7-$38 tapas are involved. Maybe I should just go back to Animal and try the Loco Moco.

Watch: I attended an excellent panel discussion last night about the legacy of Gourmet Magazine. It featured my favorite food critic Jonathan Gold, former Gourmet editors Ruth Reichl and Laurie Ochoa, and KCRW’s Evan Kleiman.Watch the video here.

Download: Wu Tang & Beatles mashup

Watch: Highlights of prankster RĂ©mi Gaillard

Monday, January 18, 2010

Round-Up: Monday, Jan. 18

Drink: Top LA Cocktails of 2009

Feast Your Eyes: The Most Relevant Identity Work of the Decade

Laugh: The letter asking for money you'll never see about the special election in MA.

Listen: Arcade Fire - "Haiti"

Listen: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros "Home"

Thanks for the birthday wishes!

Restaurants in 2009 & 2010

Top Restaurants I Ate at in 2009
1. Craft (Century City)
2. Animal (Mid-City)
3. Foundry on Melrose (W. Hollywood)
4. Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill (Las Vegas)
5. Gjelina (Venice)
6. JiRaffe (Santa Monica)
7. Luna Park (Mid-Wilshire)
8. Beacon (Culver City)
9. Drago (Santa Monica)
10. Nine Thirty (Westwood)
11. Joe’s Restaurant (Venice)
12. Mon Ami Gabi (Las Vegas)
13. Beechwood (Venice)
14. Fraiche (Santa Monica, Culver City)
15. Ford’s Filling Station (Culver City)
16. Jitlada (Hollywood)
17. Zimzala (OC)
18. Border Grill (Santa Monica)
19. 8 oz. Burger Bar (W. Hollywood, Night of Graduation)
20. Joan's on Third (Mid-City)
21. Henry's Hat (Studio City - great brunch)
22. La Dijonaise (Culver City)
23. Father's Office (Culver City, Santa Monica)
24. Westside Tavern (West LA)

Top Restaurants I Want to Try in 2010

1. Providence (Hancock Park) (note: I actually ate here for my bday, soon after I made this list)
2. Melisse (Santa Monica)
3. Bouchon (Beverly Hills)
4. Whatever pop-up Chef Ludo Lefebvre does next
5. The Bazaar by Jose Andres (Beverly Hills)
6. Mozza Pizzeria (Hollywood)
7. Comme Ca (Beverly Hills)
8. Church and State (Downtown)
9. Osteria Mozza (Hollywood)
10. Golden State (Mid-City)
11. Huckleberry (Santa Monica)
12. Il Moro (Santa Monica)
13. Canter's Deli (Mid-City)
14. Langer's (Downtown)
15. The Nickel (Downtown)
16. Rustic Canyon (Santa Monica)
17. Street (Hollywood)
18. Bay Cities Italian Deli (Santa Monica)19. Antica Pizza (Marina Del Rey)
20. La Casita Mexicana (Bell)
21. Urasawa (Beverly Hills - being the most expensive restaurant around, would only go if I won a free meal/the lottery)

Bonus: For Coffee
1. Intelligentsia (Venice)
2. La Mill (Silverlake)

Top Restaurants I Ate at in the First Two Weeks of 2010

1. Tupelo Junction Cafe (Santa Barbara)
2. Brent's (Northridge)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Round-Up: Friday, Jan. 14

Watch: Jay Leno interviews Jimmy Kimmel. More like Kimmel roasts Leno.

Dine Out: dineLA Restaurant Week : Jan. 24-29, Jan. 31-Feb. 5. OC Restaurant Week: Feb. 28 - March 6

Headline of the Day: "Floor collapses during Swedish Weight Watchers meeting" (NYP)

News: Things For Which Texas Will And Will Not Take Federal Money (Hint: one is education and one is guns. Which do you think they took?)

Laugh: Taking Avatar webcomic, NBC's Late Show listed on craigslist,

Listen: Owen Pallett/Final Fantasy new album "Heartland"

Read: Damien Rice fans will love this interview, supposedly his first in 3 years.

Listen: Covers of "Bad Romance" by The Modern Elite and Addicted to Love by Florence + the Machine
Watch: Crazy music video from musical genius Dan Deacon (the tiger in the video)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Food Matters: Eat less meat, eat more veggies, whole grains

My growing interest in food politics has lead me to start reading authors like Michael Pollan (Omnivore's Dilemma is still on my to-read list), watch documentaries like Food, Inc., and learn more about biofuels and farm subsidies. One great book that I read recently was Food Matters by NYT Columnist and famed cookbook author Mark Bittman.

The book is half summary of the current state of food & health in America (we're up shit's creek). The second half is composed of guidelines and recipes to start to change the way we eat to help our health and the environment (this is where he gives us a paddle).

From the book that you can browse here at Google Books:

"Here's the summary: Eat less meat, and fewer animal products in general (I'll get to specifics on page 93). Eat fewer refined carbohydrates, like white bread, cookies, white rice, and pretzels. Eat way less junk food: soda, chips, snack food, candy, and so on. And eat far more vegetables, legumes, fruits, and whole grains—as much as you can.

If you followed those general rules and read no farther, you'd be doing yourself and the earth a favor. And I'm by no means the only one who thinks so."

Bittman lost a lot of weight by sticking to "vegan until six" and then eating close to how he ate before, but with more vegetables and less meat. Little was off limits, and he indulged in the occasional hamburger and desserts. He lost 35 pounds and lowered his cholesterol and blood sugar and slept better at night.

None of this is brand new. I think Salon nailed it when they called this book "applied Pollan." Before I read the book, I had already incorporated most of the recommendations into my diet (except I am not always vigilant since I find it difficult to not order dessert when I go to a new restaurant). I highly recommend this book and think that the role of food in public policy is only going to become more important with obesity and environmental issues on the rise.

"Lose Weight! Save the Planet! Become a Lessmeatarian!"

Round-Up: Thursday, Jan. 13

Free: Free drinks at Coffee Bean today 4-7 pm

Watch: Sarah Palin making me die a little bit inside.

News: Summary of Howard Stern's take on the NBC/Leno/Conan debacle.

Real News: "12% of juvenile prisoners report being sexually abused, more than 10% of them by staff (the surprising nugget within this subgroup is that 95%—95%!—of that 10% report having been victimised by female staff). Non-heterosexual inmates report a higher rate of abuse by another youth (12.5%) than their heterosexual counterparts (1.3%)."

Play: The foodie nerd in me loves this interactive family tree of LA restaurants. Find out where your favorite chefs have worked

Laugh: Girl gets arrested at UCLA in the "Greatest Undie Run Picture Ever" & Infographics of greatest stories ever told

Infographic: SFW infographic of numbers in porn

Quote: Steinbeck & Paris Hilton

Drink: Essential facts about Whiskey.

Tip: How to Hide Your Alcohol at Work

Bad Google: What is google's stance on rape?

Debate: What is the best way to get gay marriage in CA? I am very uncomfortable with the idea of using the courts to overturn a popular vote that overturned the courts. But I also agree that going door to door isn't going to change enough votes. I like to think that the current trend of increased support for gay marriage will continue enough that in a couple of years a ballot initiative will get enough support to reverse Prop. 8. Not sure if it's worth the wait or the risk of it not happening, but I don't want this to be settled by the CA Supreme Court. Bonus story: Divorce Rates Higher in States that Ban Gay Marriage.

 Watch: Parks and Recreation spoof featuring Wu-Tang Clan.

Watch: Clip of documentary "Objectified." Jonathan Ive discusses Apple products.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Round-Up: Wednesday, Jan. 12

Read: Pitchfork reviews Lady Gaga's The Fame Monster. One of the best reviews I've read recently. 

Local Politics: Sadly Tom Campbell has dropped out of the race to be Governor of CA. As with most elections, I choose one Democrat and one Republican I'd like to see win the nomination. Campbell was my Republican choice. He may challenge Boxer for her Senate seat, but that is probably futile.A Meg "eBay" Whitman vs. Jerry "Already Been Governor for 8 Years" Brown sounds horrible.

Cook: Grilled Veggie Sandwich with Trader Joe's ingredients.

Laugh: Don't take this the wrong way & chess & Bluetooth webcomic, 25 brutally honest signs, If political parties actually threw parties  (the Democrat one makes it worth reading), Stuff White People Like: Conan O'Brien

Listen: Cornershop - Brimful of Asha (Norman Cook Remix) This song makes me happy

TV: How is Lost going to end? No spoilers, but the producers give some advice on managing your expectations.

Scary: Inside Look at Privacy & Facebook "Employee: See, the thing is — and I don’t know how much you know about it — it’s all stored in a database on the backend. Literally everything. Your messages are stored in a database, whether deleted or not. So we can just query the database, and easily look at it without every logging into your account. That’s what most people don’t understand."

Debate: Should you place your cell phone on the table at a restaurant?

RIP: Jay Reatard (29 year old indie rocker) 

Quote of the Day: "When people ask me why I never went to law school, I usually answer, 'Because I know the difference between right and wrong, and want to keep it that way.' How can the lawyer who made that claim, or that lawyer’s superiors, live with themselves? Answer? They were trained in law school not to feel guilty for doing such things, under the labels 'Adversary system' and “Zealous advocacy.' Ycccch!" - Mark Kleiman on the supreme court case discussing two prosecutors who helped frame two black men for murder.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Round-Up: Tuesday, Jan. 12

Learn: Great NYT article on crime control policy. Good summary of a bunch of ideas I learned at UCLA.

Tweet: Article on how to use twitter effectively (article is tailored for a musician, but interesting for everyone) and 10 things music fans want.

Fun: Finalists for Words of the Year and Decade. Spoiler alert: winners are "tweet" and "google"

Laugh: A father gets carried away with the Facebook bra meme.

Laugh: A Guide to Reading the Huffington Post

What?: "Former alleged Tiger Woods mistress Jamie Jungers is teaming up with Sarah Symonds, Gordon Ramsay's alleged former mistress, on a project to help mistresses get out of bad relationships." [NYP] (via Grub Street)

Eat: Eater LA updated their list of 38 Essential LA restaurants.

News: Bradley Byrne, a Republican candidate for governor of Alabama, gets in hot water for saying: "I think there are parts of the Bible that are meant to be literally true and parts that are not."

Photography: Check out work by Kevin Cooley (h/t Kitsune Noir)

Question: Why do people still find prison rape funny? Rape is just not funny.

Be Classy: Sushi eating etiquette

Compare: Differences between the online portraits men and women post.

Watch: Music video for Michael Cera fans.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Round-Up: Monday, Jan. 11

Laugh: How to Fake that You've Listened to Animal Collective (One of my top 5 albums of 2009)

Laugh: How to make a Michael Cera film.

Laugh: Spelling Nazi's on the Internet webcomic

Fun: 6 Insane Fan Theories that Make Great Movies Better (James Bond films, Star Wars, Matrix, Ferris Bueller)

Watch: Mark Hoppus and Panic! At the Disco - "What's My Age Again?"

News: According to researchers at Brown University, Lighter-colored liquors cause lesser hangovers.

News: Researchers receive grant to develop color-changing contacts for diabetics.

Debate: Did Netflix sign a good deal by acquiring rights to stream more movies, but giving up the right to rent Warner Bros. movies within 28 days after release?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Round-Up: Sat, Jan. 9

Tweet: jimgaffigan: "Did some1 really think naming a restaurant Pizza HUT was a good idea? "We want a name that communicates quality food & 3rd world housing!"

Read: Not a light read, but definitely worth your time. PDF of the first two chapters of the paperback version of Thomas Friedman's Hot, Flat and Crowded. Good summary of the financial meltdown and some big ideas that are being debated about the future of America.
Watch: NSFW Google phone vs. iPhone


Drink: From this clever soda fountain

Listen: Piebald is reuniting at Bamboozle in NJ in May. I hope they make it to LA soon.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Round-Up: Friday, Jan. 8

Eargasm: Possibly the coolest (and simplest) thing I've seen in awhile. Choose any two youtube videos and use the built-in crossfader to mix them.

Chart: 5 Reasons Pigs are More Awesome than You

Eat: LA Times food critic S. Irene Virbila most memorable dining experiences in 2009.

Debate: "Should craft bartenders be cool with making 'easy' drinks like Jack and Coke for less experimental customers?...many customers wouldn't even dream of walking into a white-tablecloth restaurant and ordering something safe and pedestrian off-menu—such as a hot dog or cheeseburger—but the same customers might venture into a bar with a creative cocktail menu and order a Jack and Coke...But does the customer have a responsibility as well?" Short and good read.

Tweet: rainnwilson: "I wonder if Bernie Madoff would b interested in playing Shylock in my new production of The Merchant of Venice..."

Laugh: (h/t High Definite)

Listen: Last night I got pretty nostalgic at an acoustic show at the Troubadour. It was called "Where's the Band?" and featured the frontmen of Thrice, The Get Up Kids, Saves the Day, and Bayside. Highlights included: Matt (Get up Kids) playing a cover of Reggie and the Full Effect (his bandmate), seeing Dustin (Thrice) playing stuff off his solo record and playing covers of Tom Waits & Peter Gabriel. It was also cool at the end when all four guys played a NoFX and a Jawbreaker cover.

Dustin Krensue (Thrice) - "Pistol"

Get Up Kids - "Overdue"

Chris Conley (Saves the Day) - Jessie and my Whetstone (video from '07)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Search for the Best Burger in LA

For about a year now, I've been trying to drastically limit the amount of red meat I eat. Since I only eat red meat a couple of times a month, I try to make sure that I make it count. LA is known for it's great burgers, so one goal for this year is to very slowly eat my way through some of the top burger spots in the city. Let me know if you want to make a trip sometime to any of the ones listed that I haven't visited!

Already Visited:
The Counter (Santa Monica)
In 'N Out (various) (I still don't get all the hype. Good for fast food, still not the best burger)
8 Oz (Hollywood)
Father's Office (Santa Monica, Culver City)
Westside Tavern
Rush Street (Culver City - I am counting this even though I actually had a great turkey burger with a fried egg on it)

Need to visit:

Comme Ca, West Hollywood

Umami (La Brea)

Zeke's Smokehouse (West Hollywood)

Rustic Canyon (Santa Monica)

The Oinkster (Eagle Rock)

Dino's Burgers (South LA)

25 Degrees (Hollywood) - Note to self: Get the onion rings & Guinness shake

The Hungry Cat (Hollywood)

Apple Pan (West LA)

Are there any that I'm missing that I should try? If I do one a month, I can get through these by the end of the year.

Round-Up: Thursday, Jan. 7

Eat: You have until midnight to get this coupon for 30% of Mozza2Go. They are supposed to have the best pizza in all of LA.

Serious Read: UCLA Professor Amy Zegart on the Christmas Day intelligence failure. Taking her classes was one of the best decisions I made at UCLA.

Fun Read: Breaking Up in a Digital Fishbowl (NYT). Reading this article will certainly cause lots of head shaking.

List: There's officially a list for everything. Here is one of the 10 hottest aliens.

Photography: Great photos of the Harbin Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. I really want to visit China soon.

Chart: Compare the states that allow same sex marriage vs. marriage between cousins.

Chart: US Daily Data Consumption (h/t Kitsune Noir)

Listen: Stereogum & team9 Present... MySplice 4: 2009 Mashed Up

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Best Albums of 2009

The much-anticipated list of my favorite albums of 2009. These are not necessarily the best, just personal favorites. What should I check out that I may have missed?


Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion

The Antlers - Hospice

The Avett Brothers - I And Love And You

Bombadil – Tarpits and Canyonlands

Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career

Conor Oberst and The Mystic Valley Band - Outer South

The Dangerous Summer - Reach For the Sun

Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - Up From Below

Florence and the Machine - Lungs

Fun. - Aim and Ignite

Girls - Album

Ida Maria - Fortress Round My Heart

Japandroids - Post-Nothing

Kevin Devine - Brother’s Blood

Langhorne Slim - Be Set Free

Manchester Orchestra – Mean Everything to Nothing

Matt and Kim - Grand

Monsters of Folk - Monsters of Folk

Mountain Goats - Life of the World to Come

M. Ward - Hold Time

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

Passion Pit - Manners

Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

P.O.S. - Never Better

Set Your Goals - This Will Be the Death of Us

Silversun Pickups - Swoon

St. Vincent - Actor

Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer

The Thermals - Now We Can See

Various Artists - Dark Was the Night

Weatherbox – The Cosmic Drama

We Were Promised Jetpacks – These Four Walls

Wilco – Wilco (The Album)

The xx - XX

Yeah Yeah Yeahs It's Blitz

Albums in blue indicate they are my Top 5

Top 5 EPs

Beirut - March of the Zapotec/Holland

Bon Iver - Blood Bank

The Drums – Summertime!

Modest Mouse No One's First, And You're Next

No Age – Losing Feeling

Best Production

Miike Snow - Miike Snow

Memorable Singles that Didn’t Make My Other Lists

Big Pink – “Dominos”

Lilly Allen – “I Do Not Hook Up”

Peter Bjorn and John – “Nothing to Worry About (Remix ft. Wale)”

Overlooked Albums from 2008

Titus Andronicus - The Airing of Grievances

The Tallest Man on Earth – Shallow Grave

From when I saw Animal Collective at the Troubadour on 2/27/09

Round-Up: Wednesday, Jan. 6

Eat: Black beans. So nutritious and simple. When I'm feeling lazy and want a nutritious meal, I'll just microwave some black beans and frozen brown rice from Trader Joe's. The Trader Joe's cookbook suggested throwing in some peach salsa. I'm looking forward to trying that.

News: Sen. Chris Dodd's retirement = good news for Democrats. The seat is now safer than it was before. Sen. Byron Dorgan's retirement, on the other hand, is pretty bad news for the Democrats.

Read: List of Gen X Classics

Answer: Why do Conservative's Hate Avatar? (LAT)

Watch: Top 10 Criterion Collection movies

Listen: The Top Songs of 2009 according to Hypem users. Download a podcast of the songs or listen here:
#014 Hype Machine Radio Show - Music Blog Zeitgeist 2009 Top Tracks (01.02.10) by hypem

Laugh: G-spot webcomic and New Yorker therapist comic

Read & Laugh: Vampire Weekend interviews Tom DeLonge (Blink 182), New Yorker excerpt

Watch: NCIS on the internet

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Women in the Workplace

"Motherhood, not sexism, is the issue: in America, childless women earn almost as much as men, but mothers earn significantly less. And those mothers’ relative poverty also disadvantages their children."

"Women have certainly performed better over the past decade than men. In the European Union women have filled 6m of the 8m new jobs created since 2000. In America three out of four people thrown out of work since the “mancession” began have been male. And the shift towards women is likely to continue: by 2011 there will be 2.6m more female than male university students in America"

The article below is the cover story from this week's Economist. I read it on my way lunch break today and it brought up a lot of topics and ideas I've been mulling over in my head.

One of the broadest and most important topics I've been thinking about over the past few months is when should the government intervene or regulate. One of the most reliable ways for me to determine if someone is generally conservative or liberal is for me to ask: do you believe the government can do more good than harm when it intervenes in a variety of situations? I've been thinking a lot about this question as I think about health care reform, combating climate change, or whether or not I want to devote my career to studying, teaching and doing public policy. I believe that government regulation and intervention can do considerable damage (just look at California right now) but I think that in certain situations it is necessary and desirable. If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't be planning on going to grad school for public policy.

I believe the Economist is correct here in saying that promoting equality between men and women in the workforce is NOT one of those situations that could be improved by large-scale government intervention (especially if it involves quotas and affirmative-action). Women have made impressive leaps and bounds with little government help. I do agree, however, that some improvements can be made to encourage equality.

One idea that I've thought about for about 4 years now is extending the length of the school day. It's no secret that our K-12 system is embarrassing, especially considering our relative wealth and the quality of our higher education. Lengthening the school day is just one of many reforms that is necessary to improve our schools.

My friend Aaron J. is reading Greenspan's memoir and we were just discussing the other day about how our economy needs to move away from manufacturing and towards innovation, which means more math and science skills. This is basically what Friedman is always talking about when promoting his book Hot, Flat, and Crowded. In addition to making our students better educated, a longer school day will also ease the burden on households where both parents work (which has slowly become the standard to maintain our level of prosperity in this country). Another key part of the reform to make the longer school day possible and to get good math and science teachers: we need to pay our teachers considerably more.

We did it! The rich world’s quiet revolution: women are gradually taking over the workplace

AT A time when the world is short of causes for celebration, here is a candidate: within the next few months women will cross the 50% threshold and become the majority of the American workforce. Women already make up the majority of university graduates in the OECD countries and the majority of professional workers in several rich countries, including the United States. Women run many of the world’s great companies, from PepsiCo in America to Areva in France.

Women’s economic empowerment is arguably the biggest social change of our times. Just a generation ago, women were largely confined to repetitive, menial jobs. They were routinely subjected to casual sexism and were expected to abandon their careers when they married and had children. Today they are running some of the organisations that once treated them as second-class citizens. Millions of women have been given more control over their own lives. And millions of brains have been put to more productive use. Societies that try to resist this trend—most notably the Arab countries, but also Japan and some southern European countries—will pay a heavy price in the form of wasted talent and frustrated citizens.

Men have, by and large, welcomed women’s invasion of the workplace. Yet even the most positive changes can be incomplete or unsatisfactory. This particular advance comes with two stings. The first is that women are still under-represented at the top of companies. Only 2% of the bosses of America’s largest companies and 5% of their peers in Britain are women. They are also paid significantly less than men on average. The second is that juggling work and child-rearing is difficult. Middle-class couples routinely complain that they have too little time for their children. But the biggest losers are poor children—particularly in places like America and Britain that have combined high levels of female participation in the labour force with a reluctance to spend public money on child care.

Dealing with the juggle

These two problems are closely related. Many women feel they have to choose between their children and their careers. Women who prosper in high-pressure companies during their 20s drop out in dramatic numbers in their 30s and then find it almost impossible to regain their earlier momentum. Less-skilled women are trapped in poorly paid jobs with hand-to-mouth child-care arrangements. Motherhood, not sexism, is the issue: in America, childless women earn almost as much as men, but mothers earn significantly less. And those mothers’ relative poverty also disadvantages their children.

Demand for female brains is helping to alleviate some of these problems. Even if some of the new theories about warm-hearted women making inherently superior workers are bunk (see article), several trends favour the more educated sex, including the “war for talent” and the growing flexibility of the workplace. Law firms, consultancies and banks are rethinking their “up or out” promotion systems because they are losing so many able women. More than 90% of companies in Germany and Sweden allow flexible working. And new technology is making it easier to redesign work in all sorts of family-friendly ways.

Women have certainly performed better over the past decade than men. In the European Union women have filled 6m of the 8m new jobs created since 2000. In America three out of four people thrown out of work since the “mancession” began have been male. And the shift towards women is likely to continue: by 2011 there will be 2.6m more female than male university students in America.

The light hand of the state

All this argues, mostly, for letting the market do the work. That has not stopped calls for hefty state intervention of the Scandinavian sort. Norway has used threats of quotas to dramatic effect. Some 40% of the legislators there are women. All the Scandinavian countries provide plenty of state-financed nurseries. They have the highest levels of female employment in the world and far fewer of the social problems that plague Britain and America. Surely, comes the argument, there is a way to speed up the revolution—and improve the tough lives of many working women and their children?

If that means massive intervention, in the shape of affirmative-action programmes and across-the-board benefits for parents of all sorts, the answer is no. To begin with, promoting people on the basis of their sex is illiberal and unfair, and stigmatises its beneficiaries. And there are practical problems. Lengthy periods of paid maternity leave can put firms off hiring women, which helps explain why most Swedish women work in the public sector and Sweden has a lower proportion of women in management than America does.

But there are plenty of cheaper, subtler ways in which governments can make life easier for women. Welfare states were designed when most women stayed at home. They need to change the way they operate. German schools, for instance, close at midday. American schools shut down for two months in the summer. These things can be changed without huge cost. Some popular American charter schools now offer longer school days and shorter summer holidays. And, without going to Scandinavian lengths, America could invest more in its children: it spends a lower share of its GDP on public child-care than almost any other rich country, and is the only rich country that refuses to provide mothers with paid maternity leave. Barack Obama needs to measure up to his campaign rhetoric about “real family values”.

Still, these nagging problems should not overshadow the dramatic progress that women have made in recent decades. During the second world war, when America’s menfolk were off at the front, the government had to summon up the image of Rosie the Riveter, with her flexed muscle and “We Can Do It” slogan, to encourage women into the workforce. Today women are marching into the workplace in ever larger numbers and taking a sledgehammer to the remaining glass ceilings.

Round-Up: Tuesday, Jan. 5

Read: LA Times article on injecting chicken with saltwater and "natural flavor." I've been getting a lot more cautious about where I buy my chicken (and try to avoid cooking meat in general more and more).

Listen: Super Smash Bros - Livin The Dream (I’m On A Float) (dl both here)

Super Smash Bros - Jaein Off On My Day Off

Random Fact of the Day: "Only 202 of the 500 biggest companies in America in 1980 were still in existence 20 years later" (Economist)

Cook: This picture I took doesn't do any justice to how my open faced Parmesan chicken sandwich looked before I devoured it, but this was a great and simple lunch. Take some whole wheat baguette, cut it in half so it lays flat, throw on some marina sauce, fresh mozzarella cheese, cooked chicken, and top with some sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. Then throw it in the toaster oven (I'm lucky enough to have one of these at work) for 10 minutes and enjoy.

Debate: I've had this debate twice now over the past two days. Do you think pocket knives should be allowed on planes? This article by Berkeley Professor Michael O'Hare prompted the discussions. Here is an excerpt:

"....Would you rather be on a plane where the only person with a knife (or a bomb) is the terrorist who got it through screening, and the air marshal with a heater is a twenty rows back or not on this flight…or on a plane where you and lots of other passengers have Swiss Army knives in their pockets? Would you think you could hijack a plane more easily by smuggling that knife or bomb kit on (or even a gun) if most of the passengers were equipped, or if most had been graciously disarmed by TSA? If we know the “no weapons” rule would exclude all weapons, it might make sense, but we know it doesn’t, and therefore enables the bad guy. Actually, I would feel much better overall if adult passengers were charged a few bucks extra if they were careless enough to fly without a pocket knife."

Congrats: Despite hikes in fees, UCLA ranked #13 and UCI #20 in a national list of the 100 "best values" in public colleges.

by Tom Andrews/LAist

Monday, January 4, 2010

Round-Up: Monday, Jan. 4

Listen: Stream the new Vampire Weekend album.

What?: A short post about one of the controversial Mohammad cartoonists being attacked at home and leaving his granddaughter behind to hide in his panic room. Strange.

Read: "In Recession, Americans Doing More, Buying Less"An encouraging trend and a good opportunity to rethink how you spend your time and money.

Chart: Health Care Spending and Life Expectancy. Click on it to see where the US lands.

Watch: Vampire Weekend playing "Cousins." Such a tight performance

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Round-Up: Saturday, Jan. 2, 2010

Read: NYT on the explosion of sub-genres in the indie rock scene.

Cook: I made these mushroom quesadillas last night from my new favorite cookbook So Easy

Listen: The Very Best – Warm Heart of Africa (featuring Ezra Koenig

Laugh: New Year webcomic

Watch: Lloyd!!