Thursday, March 17, 2011

12 Steps

Hi. I'm Xister and I'm a Netflix-oholic.

I think that the first step is to acknowledge you have a problem.

I realized over Christmas break that I had watched way too much TV on Netflix this past semester. The first sign to me was when my sister recommended the series Battlestar Gallactica (which was great, by the way) and I got through the whole thing from beginning to end before she finished it herself. I think it took me a little over 3 weeks.

I've made adjustments this semester and have cut back significantly, but until recently, I've been nervous to actually look up how much TV I actually watched. This week, I was finally brave enough to look up the stats.

On watch instantly alone, I watched 23 seasons of various TV shows and 8 movies. This adds up to 244 hours or about 16 hours a week. If you include the DVDs that were shipped to me, I watched 5 more movies and 2 more seasons. I also followed 5 shows on Hulu. This means that my TV watching was about equivalent to a part-time job. My mother pointed out today that in this time, I could've have become conversational in a foreign language. (If only I had watched all these movies in Spanish.)

I don't really know what happened to me. I used to be such a responsible kid. Lest you are quick to judge me, I feel like I have a defense that makes me seem only a little ridiculous. First, I was really burnt out last semester. I had not had a chance to rest during the summer, and I never really got the chance to take a break before classes started. Second, most of the time which I was "watching" these shows, I was also doing other things (like studying, cooking, folding laundry, etc.). Third, a lot of the TV I watched was during holidays when you are supposed to relax already. Fourth, the quantity of Netflix that I watched means I was only paying about 10 cents an hour for their services. And fifth, I really have cut back this semester. It is already half-way over and I've only watched 2.5 seasons of TV shows and 1 movie.

In any case, I'm not sure why I felt the need to expose this in the blogosphere (it is probably one of the 12 steps too), but it sort of legitimizes my efforts to move on. I've taken up swimming to fill the time that I used to use on TV, and it's going well. Last week, I got to the point that I can swim a whole mile, which means I'm about ready to sign up for my triathlon. See? I'm a good kid.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Cities (and a little bit of ethics)

Last semester, I took a class from this guy. He is actually this intense.

After seeing this, I decided to read his book because several of his claims seemed a little far fetched. It's well-written, but he doesn't cite many of the studies that he refers to. He is a very smart man, however, and I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt in a lot of circumstances (i.e. that he is controlling for the right things and that the effects that he claims to be measuring are actually what he is measuring).

However, yesterday as I read it, I came across a passage where he was talking about the fall of Detroit. As evidence, he says that "the current median income in Detroit is $33,000, which is about half of the US average." I assume he means the US mean income because the median is around $40,000. It is odd to me that he would try to compare median and mean incomes when the mean of income data is systematically higher than the median (and particularly since comparing medians would have also supported his point). What he said is true, but it is definitely misleading.

So question one: What do people think about Glaeser's claim that large cities are better for the economy, mental and physical health, the environment, etc.?

Question two: To what degree are authors accountable to avoid true but misleading information, especially when the audience of the writing is primarily people who should be able to recognize this?