Sunday, July 27, 2008

Stop Reading This and Pick Up a Book

What short attention span?

Read here.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Meat-Free Month: Day 13 Update

I admire real vegetarians. Doing this for a month is pretty challenging; doing it for a lifetime would be more work than I have in me.

It's not hard in that I am just dying for meat (however I was not especially thrilled when my wife ordered the mixed grill at Olive Garden the other night). It's just that if I cannot have meat, I am pretty much not so interested in eating.

The vegetarian Phad Thai at Thai Pepper was really good, but I can hardly eat out every night. And I have to remember to ask someone what is the best kind of tofu to buy to make tofu stir fry.

Lunch is OK because of the Amy's line of vegetarian microwave meals. In fact, this is no problem. And I never eat meat for breakfast unless we're visiting someone or it's a special occasion, so this, too, is no big deal.

But dinner is starting to be a drag. I've eaten bean burritos about half of the time -- my wife was nice enough to make a nice black bean burrito last night. I'm also already tired of tortellini with spaghetti sauce.

So specific tofu suggestions would be appreciated. Apparently there are many different kinds with many different textures.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Diaper Sales Also Need Opinion Leaders

From the print edition of the July 14, 2008, Advertising Age:
P&G relies on power of Mommy bloggers
Giant calls then the 'new influences'; will recruit up to 15 to headquarters

PROCTER & GAMBLE CO.'S Pampers is bringing as many as 15 top "mommy bloggers" to the company's Cincinnati headquarters later this month in what appears to be the company's biggest effort yet to reach online influencers.

That it's doing so with all-expense-paid trips could place P&G in a controversy similar to those that have confronted other marketers, such as Microsoft, in years past. But P&G sees the move as an emerging standard industry practice to inform bloggers, rather than buy their loyalty.
P&G should bring me to Cincinnati. I would enjoy being informed. I'd even give a research presentation gratis.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Gore Enlists Opinion Leaders on Energy

An interesting story in this morning's New York Times caught my eye. Former vice president Al Gore is calling upon bloggers to help spread the word about his energy independence campaign at

Gore's group seems to be leaning upon a bedrock of communication theory, the two-step flow. Dating back to the 1940s, this body of research found that certain opinion leaders got a lot of information from the media, and those opinion leaders were then influential within the community. Thus, the media exerted a two-step influence on public opinion.

Gore's attempt is nonpartisan in nature, and at the very least, I hope that it gets people talking about something more meaningful. The current rhetoric in the presidential campaign is extremely hollow, especially the call on more drilling, which estimates show might lower gasoline costs by 2030! We'll have much bigger problems in 22 years.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Does Voting Republican Make You Fat?

Or does being fat make you vote Republican?

I love maps. They catch my eye. The other day, I was passing through some site or another (I forget), and I saw a map of the most obese U.S. states. When I saw it, I thought it looked a lot like the results of the 2004 presidential election.

Then today, I saw a story about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention releasing new statistics on the most obese states.

So I wondered whether the states whose electoral votes went to George W. Bush were actually fatter than those who voted for John Kerry. Being a research type, I crunched the numbers.

Indeed, those residents of states whose electoral votes went to Bush are indeed more obsese (26.53%) than those states whose electoral votes went to Kerry (24.11%), t(49) = 3.22,
p = .002.

This is especially telling given that the Bush states contain the skinniest state, Colorado (18.7% obese).

Although the slightly more than 2% point difference may seem modest to you, the statistics suggest that there is less than one quarter of a percent chance of observing a difference this big (or bigger) given that there is no real difference between the states. And it suggests a difference of almost 10% between the states (i.e., 2% is about 10% of 20%).

Obviously my headline is misleading, as there is most likely no direct causal link between the two variables. However, the connection is an interesting one and likely points to a third variable that causes both obesity and Republican voting. The new story suggested that rural populations are likely to be more obese, and most Bush states are predominantly rural.

Glean what you wish from the data. I found them to be interesting.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Interesting Political Campaign

Check out this page by Sean Tevis, who is running for state representative in my native state of Kansas.

It's an interesting campaign.

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My Meat-Free Month

A couple of weeks ago, we were having dinner with some friends, one of whom is a vegetarian.

We were grilling, and there was much teasing about her vegetarian hamburger. It was all good fun, but it reminded me of a time while at Kansas State when I went a week without eating meat just to see whether I could do it.

Although I succeeded, I didn't try very hard to eat a varied diet, and it was pretty miserable. Seven straight days of peanut butter and jelly for lunch make for a boring life.

Thinking about that week made me wonder whether I could make it a month without meat. Well, for reasons both good and bad, I am the kind of person that once that challenge makes it into my head, I am pretty much stuck trying.

So here I am on Day 5 of the Meat-Free Month. It hasn't been bad, and my wife has helped me find some more interesting things to eat.

However, there are some issues. For example, last night our air conditioner broke at home, and a repair person could not make it until today (I hope). So the house was hot, and it was ill-advised to cook and add to the heat. I needed to get dinner out quickly.

In such instances, vegetarian choices for fast food are slim pickings. As a friend recently told me, you pretty much have to choose between Taco Bell bean burritos and a veggie sub from Subway. And, seriously, I am into this, but I have no desire to eat lettuce and cucumbers in a piece of bread.

All the good fast food salads have chicken, and besides, there is not much protein in a salad.

File this under arbitrary thoughts, but I will provide occasional updates here. I think that it would be pretty difficult to make a life out of this. It's probably the best thing to do for myriad reasons, but for a kid who grew up in a BBQ mecca like Kansas City, the odds are long.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Fourth Estate Checks Tyranny from Other Three

I believe in journalism. I believe in the Fourth Estate. I believe that there can be no open and free society without an active and vibrant press.

And I'm worried.

Because journalism looks quite ill. Gravely ill. It's always been a business about shedding light, but now there is not much business left. And without the dollars, the light goes out.

My wife forwarded me an article from Time magazine titled "The Nightly News, Not-for-Profit."
The newspaper industry is in a bad spot. Actually, run a correction on that statement — newspapers are in a "time to panic" spot. The business model is collapsing, ad dollars are disappearing, newsprint prices are at a 12-year high and the Internet is just giving news away for free. On July 2, the Los Angeles Times announced it was cutting more than one-sixth of its newsroom staff; the Tampa Tribune said it would cut 20%.
These are huge cuts just 11 years after I graduated with a degree in journalism. The work is just as important as ever -- even more important than ever given the current state of American affairs.

The Time article outlines that problem that investigative reporting is slow and minimally productive in terms of column inches. It's exactly investigative reporting that we need now.

The Internet has fueled the 24-hour-news cycle that makes it more important to have new news than to have solid news. I attribute most of the failings of journalism during the past decade to the rush to publish.

I firmly believe that Watergate could not have happened today. No editor has the resources to turn people loose for that long.

And bloggers are well meaning, but most are like me and have a day job that gets most of the attention. How many bloggers have time to do real in-depth investigative reporting?

We're in trouble if this ship sinks the rest of the way. And any talk of a new business model is just about that: dollars. The truth does not get mentioned very often.
As Duke University economist James T. Hamilton puts it, "Newspapers used to be owned by people who were willing to trade off profits for the notion that they were doing the right thing." And with profits disappearing, doing the right thing is becoming increasingly important.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Tech President Appears to Be Solid Choice

Regular readers will know that Texas Tech's choice for a new president has been a topic of great concern for me.

Last week Tech announced the University of Missouri at Kansas City chancellor Guy Bailey has been named the sole finalist for the position (read news release here).

I do not know much about Bailey personally, but everything that I have read sounds very promising. He seems to have great potential as a president.

This bodes well for Tech's future and relieves a great deal of anxiety for me.

However, I still strongly oppose the process of a sole finalist. It is my conviction that multiple candidates must come to campus, and there must be dialog with the entire campus community.

In this case, the choice of a president is a bit like sausage: I like the end product, but I am not too fond of the way it is made.


Friday, July 04, 2008

Spending Time in Colorado with Family

Sorry to have gone out-of-touch. Staying at a cottage in the woods with no Internet access.

Regular posts will resume next week.