Drive-by Truckers and Cancer Rates

Since moving to Nashville, I’ve tried to get into country music, relying largely on suggestions from the music threads of Lawyers, Guns, & Money.

Drive-by Truckers have a song, “Puttin’ People on the Moon,”with the lyrics:

Mary Alice got cancer just like everybody here
Seems everyone I know is gettin’ cancer every year

I have some connection to Appalachia, and everyone I know of who has gotten cancer and is under the age of 40 lives somewhere in Appalachia (and Appalachia folk are a distinct minority of people I know). So what does the data say?

The CDC keeps track of cancer rates, with the most recent data being from 2011. And sure enough, Kentucky is right there at the top for death rates, followed by West Virginia. As for actual cancer rates, D.C. is at the top, oddly. Kentucky is second, Pennsylvania 3rd, and West Virginia is thirteenth. So, don’t get cancer in West Virginia, because you’re more likely to die.

There is, of course, a huge and obvious confounding factor: smoking, which the CDC also tracks. And sure enough, Kentucky is first, followed by West Virginia.

I’ve included a sortable document at the end of the post, with the data cleaned up slightly.

Let’s look at some graphs! Continue reading

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I Finished a Draft of My Upcoming Book, Merchants of Zion

I. Prologue

Yesterday I finished redrafting a novel I wrote over the summer of 2009. It is one step closer to the light of day, and I want to record its history. The story of the story, so to speak.

As everyone who knows me is aware, finding conventional employment (especially the kind for which a college degree supposedly prepares you) is not my strong suit. It was with some surprise then, that on graduating from college it appeared I would land a job at the NYC Mayor’s Office. But this was early 2009, the recession was in full swing and, to make a moderately long story short, I didn’t get the job.

It was a setback certainly, but not the end of the world. I had graduated in January, a semester early, and had enough money for rent and living expenses to take me through the end of July, when our apartment’s lease ended. Obviously I would find some sort of unpaid internship, maybe take a side job, and continue the job hunt.

I wrote a book instead (and partied. And played DOTA).

When the lease ended I had no job and no money, so I moved to Atlanta with one of my roommates, who had been accepted into Emory’s law school. The rent was about a third of what I paid in New York, and I had my own room. I had a first draft of a book, a handful of short stories, and some ambition. I would redraft the book, apply to MFA programs, get accepted into the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, find an agent on graduation, and return to New York, triumphant.

But I lacked discipline and faith, and about half-way through redrafting the book I decided it sucked, was so bad that reading it made me physically ill. So I gave up on it.

Then I didn’t do much of anything, up to and including getting out of bed, for a period of maybe six months. It was a dark time.

At some point my troubles… they didn’t go away exactly, but they became less suffocating. I started a second book (cause or effect? I do not know), but I got stuck on around page 100 and gave up.

Roughly a year after moving to Atlanta I started my third book. I wrote the first half in three months, took a three month break (interrupted by partying. And playing HoN), then wrote the second half in three months.

I also applied to six MFA programs (Austin, Alabama, Arizona, Iowa, Indiana, and Michigan). I wasn’t accepted into any of them. No worries, I would try again the following year.

I redrafted the third book.

Then Occupy Atlanta happened, consuming ever waking hour for six months and introducing me the love of my life. Continue reading

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Nashville #NMOS14

We went to the Nashville rally for Ferguson and Michael Brown. There were over a hundred people there. Most of speakers spent their time tut-tutting each other about black/white stuff, from all viewpoints. I was glad to see more than a few dozen people, but beyond that it was a little disappointing.

Here are some pictures I took:

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Hello, Mysterious Blog Visitors

grey clouds (1)FurieofMarsWillStampGoblin Ambush, A Dwarf Story

Buy my fiction. Or let me me proofread/edit your book, paper or grant. More money from those means less dayjobbing, and more blogging.

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The New New Yorker

I have to say, I am digging the New Yorker’s new website.

And, as far as I can tell, they have gotten rid of comments. It must have been my tweet that did it.

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A Man Post on Cultural Appropriation

I have been doing some research on cultural appropriation, as it is something that upsets are large number of people, but which I don’t really get. 

Here are a list of what I would consider informative articles/essays/comics about the topic:

The Difference Between Cultural Exchange and Cultural Appropriation, by 

 This is a summary of things cultural appropriators do and how to avoid acting like that.

A Much Needed Primer on Cultural Appropriation, by Katie J.M. Baker 

Also a summary.

Fashion’s Culture-Appropriation Debate: Pointless, by Min-Ha T. Pham

This is a deconstruction of the cultural appropriation argument.

Eating the Other, by bell hooks

This essay is expansive, and covers much broader ground than that of white appropriation of non-white culture.

Just Eat It: A Comic, by Shing Yin Khor

My favorite. It is a comic about how a Malaysian person feels about the way her white friend treats Malaysian (and others’) culture. It is about her personal experiences, instead of being about other people or cultures as a whole. Continue reading

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The Evolution of Our Orwellian Language

This is strictly a rhetoric post. Two paragraphs from the New York Times, an article about ISIS:

Mr. Baghdadi’s ambitions don’t end in Mosul. ISIS has proclaimed nothing less than the re-establishment of the caliphate, that venerable institution of Islamic rule that was abolished in 1924, after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. And while he’s been elusive on camera, Mr. Baghdadi betrays a great deal of himself in the recorded speech.

Mr. Baghdadi is introduced in the recording as “our master, commander of the faithful, Abu Bakr al-Husayni al-Qureishi al-Baghdadi.” The phraseology is at once formulaic (“commander of the faithful” was the conventional title of address for a caliph) and cynical. The nom de guerre “Abu Bakr” recycles the name of Muhammad’s father-in-law and Islam’s first caliph, chosen by contemporaries over the objection of those who favored Muhammad’s son-in-law Ali — the Shiites. Meanwhile, Mr. Baghdadi’s alleged descent from the Qureish tribe fulfills one of the qualifications for the office held crucial by pre-modern Muslim scholars, who required that caliphs share Muhammad’s kinship. Baghdad, of course, was the principal seat of the caliphate from the eighth through the 13th centuries, when it was conquered by the Mongols.

What strange choices of wording for those two events. The Ottoman Empire didn’t collapse so much as it was divvied up between victorious colonial empires. Modern Turkey is actually larger than the amount of territory that the Empire was supposed to keep.

The Ottoman Empire was supposed to keep the yellow part. Not pictured: the rest of the Middle East.

Continue reading

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Jacobin, I Want to Like You

But I can’t.

Shorter Nichole Aschoff: Yes, the Left has problems with diminishing problems related to race and gender. Now let me tell you why race and gender are not very important.

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Piketty Reviews: Paul Krugman Is Smart, Alan Reynolds and Marc Andreessen Are Dumb

Now You Know This Post Is Serious

I’m currently reading Capital in the Twenty-First Century (I’m about halfway through it). It’s written in a very academic style, but is much more interesting than I expected. There is a lot of research synthesized and explained in the book, and r > g is just one important piece.

Once I finish I will go reread reviews I read before beginning the book, but what I find interesting is that most writing about it reflects the author’s prior opinions, i.e. all of the book’s data is of little interest to them. Maybe it’s because I’m not an economist, but there is a lot of stuff that I didn’t know (like the distribution of interest vs. labor across economic classes).

Paul Krugman, however, has taken the ideas in the book seriously, and has been going through some of the data. Maybe we will continue to see more economists referencing Piketty’s work as time goes on and ideas evolve.

I’ve also looked at some of the critiques from the right. They are, unsurprisingly but somewhat depressingly, not good. Most consist of throwing up sand to confuse the issue. There was a critique by Charles Giles, which was thoroughly refuted by Piketty, which nonetheless pops up in very critique of the book. It’s a safe bet that if you see someone citing him, you can safely ignore them. Continue reading

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Forcible Rapes at University of Michigan, 2004-2012

My new friend, Mark J. Perry over at The American Enterprise Institute, has a new post titled “Sexual assaults at UM don’t support claim of an ‘epidemic’.”

I looked up University of Michigan’s Clery Reports (2004-2006 data available here). The data looks very strange!


Apparently they had a rape epidemic in 2007 and 2008. I suspect it has something to do with reporting being done correctly and then being squashed. But the numbers were so strange I thought I’d share them.

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