Friday Assorted Links

1. How Children’s Socioeconomic Differences Play Out Over Summer Break.

2. Moderation in everything, right? Sadly, wrong.

3. The Birth of the New American Aristocracy. Supe long. I’m only half way through. One provocative stat and important insight after another. Note how the author is preserving his family’s privilege in how he and his wife are aiding their high school daughter’s college search. I’m a 5G-er, how ’bout you?

4. Why do so many parents intervene shamelessly in their children’s professional lives?

Sad that this pgraph had to be written. Does the author’s use of “mom” suggest they’re the primary perps?

“If you’re unlucky enough to be the child of parents who are incorrigible when it comes to intervening in your professional life, the most effective approach might be to limit how much information you give them. If you keep things vague (or, with some parents, relentlessly positive), they’ll have less to opine on and fewer opportunities to interfere. But if the worst does happen and your parent contacts your employer, the best thing you can do is make clear that you had nothing to do with it and that you recognize how inappropriate it is. For example: ‘I’m mortified that my mom emailed you! She means well, but of course she shouldn’t be involved in this conversation. Please don’t feel you need to respond to her, and I’ll ensure it doesn’t happen again.'”

5. Bonus vid that I find strangely addictive. Whatever that says about me, it can’t be good.

Saturday Assorted Links

1. Where you live has a bigger impact on happiness and health than you might imagine. Unhappy? Maybe you should move.

2. The Most Ruthlessly Effective Move in Sports. Man, did I dominate kickball at Zachary Taylor Elementary School in Louisville, KY! A legend in my own mind. And another thing, you have to love Slate.com. Imagine, in this day and age, pitching this, “I’d like to do a piece on bunting in kickball” and then having it green-lighted. “By all means,” the editor responds, “this is a story that needs to be told.”

3. Dog ‘adopts’ nine orphaned ducks at Essex Castle. This link will be clicked more than all the others combined because who can resist doggies and duckies alone, let alone together?

4. The Men Who Terrorize Rio. Maybe our Second Amendment zealots who are down with citizen militias should vacation in Rio’s militia controlled neighborhoods this summer.

5. A Day in The Life of my Supposedly Frugal Stomach. An engineer tries to perfect his diet on the cheap.

The Simplest Way to Change the World

Form a family. Of any sort, biological or otherwise. Eat dinner together nightly. Repeat.

In that spirit, here’s a paragraph to ponder from the reading journal of one of my January-term students*:

“Since both my parents had careers in the Air Force, my family was run in a military manner with strict rules, many activities, and time management. We had timers to regulate our homework, play, and exercise. Our family vacations were notoriously un-relaxing, with us often traversing 6 different cities in two weeks or cycling the entire coast of a country. However, one area in which we were a “slow” family is related to dinner. My mom very strictly required that we have a sit-down family meal together at 6:00 P.M. every night, at which we were expected to try every food item on the table, chat about our days. Skipping or arriving late to dinner was unacceptable, as was leaving the table before 7:00 P.M. My brothers and I rotated through chores of setting the table, helping cook the meal, and loading the dishwasher. I thought this was normal until I found that none of my college friends had routine family dinners growing up. Though I resented this forced family interaction time, it became the stabilizing force in my life, a chance to wind down and reconnect with my family. Is this family priority outdated, unrealistic, and a little ridiculous?”

The “stabilizing force in my life”.

Social scientific research on the effects of family dinners is eye-opening. How can something so simple have so many positive correlations? From “The Importance of Eating Together” in the Atlantic:

“. . . children who do eat dinner with their parents five or more days a week have less trouble with drugs and alcohol, eat healthier, show better academic performance, and report being closer with their parents than children who eat dinner with their parents less often, according to a study conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.”

Consider the flip side, the negative consequences of families who do not eat together with any regularity:

“There are two big reasons for. . . negative effects associated with not eating meals together: the first is simply that when we eat out—especially at the inexpensive fast food and take-out places that most children go to when not eating with their family—we tend not to eat very healthy things. As Michael Pollan wrote in his most recent book, Cooked, meals eaten outside of the home are almost uniformly less healthy than homemade foods, generally having higher fat, salt, and caloric content.

The other reason is that eating alone can be alienating. The dinner table can act as a unifier, a place of community. Sharing a meal is an excuse to catch up and talk, one of the few times where people are happy to put aside their work and take time out of their day.”

Why don’t we eat dinner together more? Have we convinced ourselves we lack the time or are we unaware of the positive effects?

The more we follow the lead of my student’s mother, the better the world and we will be.

*shared by permission

The Mathematics of Happiness

Recent research in psychology suggests that 50% of happiness is determined by genetics. What positive psychologists refer to as a “happiness set point”. That’s why some people are almost always happier than others. You can thank or blame your parents and their parents for your particular happiness set point.

The same research suggests that 10% of our happiness is the result of life circumstances like marital status, occupation, and income. Most of the time, good or bad events, like getting a dream job or losing a pet affect our well-being, but only temporarily. Eventually, we adapt to the good and bad and our level of happiness returns to where it was before.

The remaining 40% results from “intentional activity” or our daily decision making. The conventional wisdom here is to 1) engage in positive self reflection; 2) avoid social comparison; 3) be optimistic; 4) pursue meaningful goals; and 5) practice gratitude.

Social scientists routinely privilege the mind over the body; consequently, three things are almost always missing from the conventional wisdom—physical activity, fruits and vegetables, and adequate sleep. I’m no Dr. Oz, but my hunch is those are every bit as important as the previous five. In fact, I suspect they account for half of my “non-genetically-determined” happiness, or half of half of my total well-being.

And I’m not unique in this regard. The more people make exercise, nutritious food, and sleep building blocks of their daily lives, the happier they will be.

I’ll Never Be Mistaken for a Foodie, but. . .

. . . my culinary skills are slowly improving. At this rate, in a few years, I won’t completely suck.

This is how I’ve been starting the day—when we happen to have strawbs.

Can something this tasty really be good for you too?

I’ve been doing my own oatmeal thang for awhile, but I kicked it up a knotch thanks to this recipe/story/video. Whenever I begin working my oatmeal magic I’m hungry, meaning impatient, so I microwave it for two minutes instead of following the recommendation to cook it more slowly. Meanwhile, I gather the butter, brown sugar, strawbs, raisins, molasses. Given a blindfold test, I don’t think I could distinguish between microwaved and stove-top oatmeal. Thanks to Chef Bijou, sometimes I add a poached (or fried, improvising again) egg or two for extra protein. And once or twice I tried the recommended bananas, but I usually just go with raisins. I like my banana separate with peanut butter, usually between breakfast and lunch. Which is a nice segue to part two of this culinary tour de force—between meal grazing.

Most of the year I workout about 9-10 hours a week, meaning I’m always burning a lot of calories. As a result, I’m eating something about every two or three hours. Between meals, I throw open the kitchen pantry and start pillaging. If it’s sweets, like Costco chocolate chips, tortilla chips, or leftover cake, I can put on a few pounds pretty easily. If it’s healthy snizzle, like carrots (with a little Ranch, come on I’m not Michael Pollan), baked teriyaki almonds, hardboiled eggs, or a piece of fruit, I can snack to my hearts content and not gain weight. For the next four months I’ll be swimming, cycling, and running for more than 9-10 hours a week, so I can pretty much eat whatever I want without gaining weight.

What, upset I mentioned the most awesome snack in passing without further explanation? Recently, the Good Wife taught me how to bake and season almonds and so that’s now a part of my growing culinary repertoire. It’s really hard so pay attention. Spread almonds out on a cookie sheet or baking pan. I use a toaster oven. Bake them at 350 for 14 minutes. Fill a large bowl with a tablespoon or so of low sodium teriyaki sauce. After they’re done cooking, pour them into the bowl with the sauce. Mix them up well. Leave the bowl out for awhile and let them dry before putting them in a glass jar.

Snack goodness

Also, keep in mind, as Chris in the Morning once said on Northern Exposure, every day you have to do something bad to feel alive. That’s what these are for.

So few calories, go ahead, have a couple

And finally, some bonus pics. Here’s today’s lunch—an open faced leftover salmon sandwich.

Well, this was the START of my lunch. Add bagel, pistachios, tortilla chips, half a banana, you get the picture.

And remember how conflict-ridden my domestic life was a month ago. Smooth sailing this week. I took Sixteen to the Farmer’s Market last weekend and bought her a double scoop ice-cream cone. And then she helped me pick these out for the Good Wife. End result. . . smooth seas for the forseable future!

Note to self—buy flowers more often. No other investment has as good a return.

Yogurt

Now that we’ve fixed pubic ed, we can move on to . . . yogurt.

Eating yogurt, like most of life, entails decision-making. What kind to eat?

Since Lance has recommended more pictures and you’ve been dying to know, here’s a pictorial that represents the yogurt journey I’ve been on.

Initially, my yoggie world was all YoPlait, all the time. It was ubiquitous, I was unsophisticated, and it had lots of sugar. Favorite flav was KeyLime, but French Vanilla rallied and overtook it as the #1 seed.

Everything was copacetic until the wife rocked my yoggie world one summer day by saying, “You know YoPlait has a lot of sugar.” Voice inside my head, “No duh, why do you think I like it so much.” Actual voice, “Mike said Tillamook is very good and has less sugar, maybe we should give it a try.”

And like a dairy Tiger Woods, I began eating around.

What wasn’t there to like about Tillamook? Good taste, less sugar, and two extra ounces.

It was a solid relationship, until, you knew an “until” was coming, until I started to hear repeated references to a different, more exotic and alluring yoggie. . .Greek.

I read references to it in triathlete’s blogs, I heard more and more people talking about it and got wanderlust. Because I wanted to be like the other kids, I instructed the wife to “Bring me some of this magical yoggie of which everyone speaks.”

And so yesterday, with the YoPlait and Tillamook quivering in the fridge, I assembled three versions of Greek on the kitchen island and proceeded to taste each. I was underwhelmed, whelmed, and overwhelmed.

Then I took a look at the nutritional info and understood why: blow those pics up and take a gander at the sugar, fat, protein, etc.

In layman’s term, you could eat the nonfat like it’s Hagen Daz, empty the cartoon, and barely move the needle on the scale. In contrast, you gain weight from the regular, which overwhelmed me, just by glancing at it in the fridge.

But this isn’t a problem, the wide range of choices is quite nice. This morning I ran 10k and then swam 3.5k. I sucked down some regular guilt free. Tomorrow morning, when I won’t have time to workout before teaching, I’ll apologize to my taste buds and probably go with the non-fat.

Imagine if life was so accommodating. I’m sure my wife would love it if she could alternate among three of me. When she hears me pull into the garage, she could say I want non-fat Ron so “Just zip it and listen to me all night.” Or regular Ron, “Okay, talk to me, engage me, make me laugh.” Or low-fat Ron, something in between.

Wondering about the Mountain High? It’s the (mostly summer) smoothie workhorse that the wife gets at the hippy co-op. It’s okay with some of the wife’s all-world granola, but it’s most at home in the blender with ice, fruit, and juice.