July 30, 2007

The data said otherwise   {Comments: 0}

Henry Abbott over at Truehoop digs up Jonathan Gibbs, the author of an undergraudate economics thesis about point shaving, and interviews him about the results. My first reaction to the synopsis at TrueHoop was to wonder about players getting bored at the end of the game or just not wanting to run up the score, but Gibbs gives a good explanation of how this would interact with the spread.

July 26, 2007

A kind of benign coma   {Comments: 0}

Here's an interesting piece on adult-child play from an anthropological perspective:

American-style parent-child play is a distinct feature of wealthy developed countries -- a recent byproduct of the pressure to get kids ready for the information-age economy, Lancy argues in a recent article in American Anthropologist, the field's flagship journal in the United States.

"Adults think it is silly to play with children" in most cultures, says Lancy, who teaches at Utah State University. Play is a cultural universal, he concedes, "but adults aren't part of the picture." Yet middle-class and upper-middle-class Americans -- abetted, he says, by psychologists -- are increasingly proclaiming the parents-on-all-fours style the One True Way to raise a smart, well-adjusted child.

I don't have anything informed to add to this; personally I've been playing with my daughter a lot, but I also try and give her a lot of space to play and explore on her own.

I do think it's interesting that Lancy refers to play as a cultural universal. If play is really universal across cultures, isn't it likely possible that it's not a cultural phenomenon at all? I assume children who are isolated from other children (or even playful parents) still play.

(While I'm on the subject of parenting practice, here's an article in praise that I found particularly interesting a couple months back -- when I wasn't really blogging.)

I'm glad I don't live in DC   {Comments: 2}

This guy was unlucky enough that an unmarked building he photographed turned out to be DARPA, which naturally you're not allowed to photograph. His name is now on a list somewhere.

Actually, linking to the DARPA homepage probably isn't too smart either.

July 25, 2007

Sense of taste   {Comments: 0}

I was stunned by the specific cruelty of this cancer diagnosis for Grant Achatz, currently the chef at Alinea and only 33 years old. I haven't had the opportunity to eat at either of his restaurants here in Chicago, but I've heard enough about it from friends (and reviews!) to know that he's a genius, a real treasure for the city. We'll be pulling for him.

MORE: Barrett, who's actually eaten at Alinea, has more here.

Voldy's gone moldy   {Comments: 1}

I need to start blogging again, and Harry Potter 7 (spoilers follow!) is as good an excuse as any -- especially when it was so disappointing. Not that I didn't enjoy reading it; there certainly was a lot of payoff, and I particularly loved the insight into and tweaking of Dumbledore. But the line-by-line writing was the clunkiest of the big books (especially in the middle section), the ending seemed contrived and inelegant, and the characters for whom I most wanted to see big payoffs were either ignored or mishandled.

Ron and Hermione in particular didn't have much opportunity to shine in the end (even in the epilogue!). Ginny was mostly out of the picture, despite her closeness with Harry and that provocative earlier brush with Voldemort. And of course the biggest single disappointment of the book was the lack of any kind of confrontation between Harry and Snape. Their connection, so well handled in the first six books, had great potential for some kind of redemptive, sacrificing act; instead, Snape dies over a technicality that's introduced in the last book without even getting a chance to engage Harry directly. And then why is his story relayed through the pensieve after the last book set up the ideas of occlumency and legilmency so well?

Anyway I don't think it ruins the series, and in a lot of ways the magical-technicality-laden ending was to be expected after the other books (which, by the way, I'm quite fond of). But I at least was hoping that ultimately the arc would be artless and transparent, and so I was disappointed.

MORE: J.K. Rowling reveals even more about what happens in the Potterverse after the end of book 7.