Thursday, October 20, 2011

More on Dogs and Cats

Animals aren't cheap, but that is because we are rich and willing to spend on their health.
Dogs can cost between $310 and $7,100 to maintain every year and between $4,070 and $101,070 to maintain over a lifetime, says Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. That’s more than kibbles and bits.

Cats are cheaper on average: between $490 and $940 per year and between $7,760 and $15,260 per lifetime. The annual costs take into account many factors, including food, toys, monthly veterinarian visits, and other essential supplies

The first year of owning a cat or dog costs substantially more than the average annual cost. For dogs, the cost of ownership for year one averages between $710 and $8,730; for cats, the cost is between $930 and $2,060. The reason why this cost varies from the average annual cost is due to the purchase price of the pet itself. While both cats and dogs can be found for around $50, some breeds of dogs are sold for $1,000 while select breeds of cats are sold for $750. In addition to the purchase cost, there is also spaying and neutering ($190-$220 for dogs, $145 for cats) as well as an initial medical exam ($70 for dogs, $130 for cats) to account for.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pets in LA

My colleague Russ Kashian's sister to a comedic riff on pets in LA. Yet another example of why our healthcare "crisis" is a disease of the rich. We will spend money on our own health, adn our pets health, becuase we are rich. That is the reason for growing expenditures, not insurance companies, not obesity, not medical malpractice, and not big pharma.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Race in America

Mississippi. Segregated Prom Dances. The year 2007. The fact that racial attitudes like those discussed in the movie still persist in this country today amazes me. If you are looking for an interesting web movie, here you go.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


The ever intriguing Seth Roberts, describes why he thinks Psychiatry is doomed and anti-depressants barely work.
That is the situation of psychiatrists. I’m sure depression is due to the wrong environment. My work suggests we need to see faces in the morning for our mood-controlling system to work properly. Jon Cousins’ work suggests we need to believe others care about us. Those are two possibilities. Psychiatrists cannot fix the environment. The pieces of the environment we need to be healthy must have been abundant during the Stone Age. This means they must be cheap. Psychiatrists cannot supply things that are cheap and abundant. If that’s what they did, they couldn’t make a living. This means they can only supply something that is not what is missing. Like a repairman who cannot replace a broken part, they are stuck with second-rate solutions. This is the fundamental reason that all mainstream treatments for depression, whether talk or drug, have roughly the same effectiveness — and none of them work very well.
Hmm. Looks like I need to change my environment.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Learning Styles

In a recent Higher Ed piece Robert J. Sternberg claimed that Learning Styles exist.
When I received my first test score – a 3 out of 10 -- in college introductory psychology, I realized that I had some hard slogging ahead, especially after the professor told me that "there is a famous Sternberg in psychology and it is obvious there won’t be another one." I eventually pulled a C in the course, which the professor referred to as a "gift." That professor was probably as surprised as I was when I earned an A in his upper-level course, and I certainly was grateful to him when, as chair of the search committee, he hired me back to my alma mater (Yale University) as an assistant professor, where I would remain as a professor for 30 years. My instructor probably wondered, as did I, how I could have done so poorly in the introductory course and so much better in the upper-level course.

There may have been multiple contributing causes to the difference in performance, but one was almost certainly a difference in the styles of learning and thinking that were rewarded in the two courses. The lower-level course was pretty much a straight, memorize-the-book kind of course, whereas the upper-level course was one that encouraged students to formulate their own research studies and to analyze the research studies of others.

Psychologists and educators differ as to whether they believe in the existence of different styles of learning and thinking. Harold Pashler and his colleagues have claimed that the evidence for their existence is weak, but a number of scholars, whose work is summarized in a 2006 book I wrote with Li-fang Zhang entitled The Nature of Intellectual Styles, and in a forthcoming edited Handbook of Intellectual Styles, have provided what we believe to be compelling evidence for the existence and importance of diverse styles of learning and thinking. I have often felt that anyone who has raised two or more children will be aware, at an experiential level, that children learn and think in different ways.
I think he is confused about learning styles versus skills. Or at least he isn’t articulating it as clearly as I would like. I still like Willingham's short video on this. 

Let me offer an analogy.

No one says we have metabolic styles. Some people have higher metabolisms, and others lower. Should one want to lose weight, it may be easier for some then others, as some may have better self-control over food intake, and other may have better ability to commit to an exercise regime. But we wouldn’t say they have different metabolic styles. The metabolic process is the same.

Learning styles confuse the issues. Yes people have different skills, some have better ability to write, others do math, and others have better memories. I never forget a face, but have lots of trouble remembering names. That’s a skill, but that doesn’t mean I’m a visual learner. The cognitive process is the same in everybody, even if it works better, or faster in some than others, and even if its performance varies by task. The process is the same.

Assessing their “learning” involves requiring them to use their skills and their cognitive process. But we often assess the skill more than the cognitive process that goes on. Much like the metabolic explanation, it would be akin to asking them to run for 30 minutes as a demonstration of the metabolic improvement. Some students are better runners than others, even though there is a correlation between running and metabolism - as in increasing running, should increase metabolism – their metabolic improvement would be poorly measured by the distance they run in 30 minutes.