Working longer not harder

 Via The Nation:

 
The countries putting in the least time at work are generally the most productive. Greeks work about 600 more hours a year than Germans do, but German productivity is 70 percent higher. The amount of growth in the gross domestic product for each hour that Americans work has increased by 1.7 percent since 1970—less than the increases in all of the Nordic countries, where people work fewer hours. [link]

Stephen Colbert on theology

“…That might be why you don’t see me as someone angry and working out my demons onstage. It’s that I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.”

I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.

I asked him if he could help me understand that better, and he described a letter from Tolkien in response to a priest who had questioned whether Tolkien’s mythos was sufficiently doctrinaire, since it treated death not as a punishment for the sin of the fall but as a gift. “Tolkien says, in a letter back: ‘What punishments of God are not gifts?’ ” Colbert knocked his knuckles on the table. “ ‘What punishments of God are not gifts?’ ” he said again. His eyes were filled with tears. [link]

Taking life alone seriously 

I realize now what that life was made of: a life in no way insignificant; on the contrary, it was rich, a perfect match for my body and myself. Yet nothing was simple, and these words I write would once have seemed leaden to me, so ashamed was I at times of my singularity, a strangeness worse than difference. Everyone knows that even people who are different have a certain sexuality worthy of the name, things to show for it, defeats they can lay claim to. Whereas we, the loners, an army that does violence only to itself, a small tribe, unavowable and hence unknowable in number, we understand instinctively that speaking out will allow the world to send us deeper into exile–and foster the kind of stupid nonsense people say about whatever they cannot comprehend. They turn us into scapegoats who reassure all others on this point: however problematic their carnal pleasures might be, we offer proof, through our most definite exclusion, that their circumstances are still better than nothing. [link

Divorce saves lives

Economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers found that in states that adopted unilateral divorce, this was followed, on average, by a 20 percent reduction in the number of married women committing suicide, as well as a significant drop in domestic violence for both men and women. Criminologists William Bailey and Ruth Peterson report that higher rates of marital separation lead to lower homicide rates against women. But a woman’s right to leave a marriage can also be a lifesaver for men. The Centers on Disease Control reports that the rate at which husbands were killed by their wives fell by approximately two-thirds between 1981 and 1998, in part because women could more easily leave their partners. [link]

Instead of the marshmallow test, the cookie test …

By the hilarious Jennifer Senior in New York Mag 

In one of my favorite experiments described in Loneliness, students were divided into two groups and told to evaluate … bite-size cookies. Specifically, researchers took aside each of the kids in one group and told them that no one wanted to work with them, so they’d have to work on their own. The others, by contrast, were each privately told that everyone wanted to work with them, but they’d still have to work on their own because it would be impossible to work with so many people. Then all of the participants were handed a plate of cookies and told to evaluate them. On average, the ones who had been told they were universally liked ate 4.5. Those who had been told they’d been universally rejected ate 9. “Is it any wonder we turn to ice cream,” the authors ask, “when we’re sitting at home feeling all alone in the world?” [link]

Does marriage make you healthier and happier? Yes, but …

Nor do rotten marriages do much for your health… married people were indeed healthier—if they weren’t lonely in their marriages. If they were, the health benefits were so negligible the researchers considered them statistically insignificant.

No one disputes the value of a good marriage, of course. Andrew Oswald, an economist at the University of Warwick, in fact tried to calculate that value, based on tens of thousands of happiness surveys collected here and in the U.K., and found that it’s worth $100,000—or roughly doubling your salary, because working Americans earn, on average, $46,996 per year. But you know what else was worth $100,000? A large circle of friends. [link]

The trouble with academic prose is that nobody would dance with most professors when they were in high school

An excerpt from Dancing with Professors: The Trouble with Academic Prose by Patricia Nelson Limerick

Why do so many professors write bad prose?

Ten years ago, I heard a classics professor say the single most important thing_in my opinion_that anyone has said about professors. “We must remember,” he declared, “that professors are the ones nobody wanted to dance with in high school.”

This is an insight that lights up the universe_or at least the university. It is a proposition that every entering freshman should be told, and it is certainly a proposition that helps to explain the problem of academic writing. What one sees in professors, repeatedly, is exactly the manner that anyone would adopt after a couple of sad evenings sidelined under the crepe_paper streamers in the gym, sitting on a folding chair while everyone else danced. Dignity, for professors, perches precariously on how well they can convey this message, “I am immersed in some very important thoughts, which unsophisticated people could not even begin to understand. Thus, I would not want to dance, even if one of you unsophisticated people were to ask me.”

Think of this, then, the next time you look at an unintelligible academic text. “I would not want the attention of a wide reading audience, even if a wide audience were to ask for me.” Isn’t that exactly what the pompous and pedantic tone of the classically academic writer conveys? [link]