The cost of school interruptions

Narrative accounts of classroom instruction suggest that external interruptions, such as intercom announcements and visits from staff, are a regular occurrence in U.S. public schools. We study the frequency, nature, duration, and consequences of external interruptions in the Providence Public School District (PPSD) using original data from a district-wide survey and classroom observations. We estimate that a typical classroom in the PPSD is interrupted more than 2,000 times per year and that these interruptions and the disruptions they cause result in the loss of between 10 and 20 days of instructional time. Several findings suggest that there exists substantial scope for reducing interruptions. Administrators appear to systematically underestimate the frequency and negative consequences of interruptions. Furthermore, interruptions vary widely across schools and are largely caused by school staff. Schools might reduce disruptions to the learning environment by creating a culture that prioritizes instructional time, instituting better communication protocols, and addressing the challenges posed by student tardiness.

That is from a new paper by Matthew A. Kraft and Manuel Monti-Nussbaum.  Via the excellent Kevin Lewis.

Las Gemelas, now the best Mexican food in the DC area

Las Gemelas, 1280 4th st. NE, 202-866-0550.

There are two places here, a restaurant and on the other side of the (small) mall is a tacqueria. The tacqueria is the best Mexican food this region has seen. Real blue corn tortillas, everything else authentic, could be mistaken for excellent real Mexican food in Mexico.  The morning green chile chorizo tacos are the must-get – one of the best dishes in town – but everything is very good.

The restaurant proper has a small number of truly excellent dishes, and a bunch of “quite good” dishes, noting the menu is pretty small. The first time I went the lamb Borrego soup was the knockout, the second time it was off the menu but the pork cheeks enchilada with mole was an A+, again one of the best dishes in town. I quite liked the toast with honey, though it hardly seemed Mexican (not a complaint, just a warning).  If you go to the restaurant, make sure you figure out what you really should be getting.  In addition, the visuals and décor are very nice in both, excellent places to sit and take in the crowd and surroundings.

Overall, this is a major advance for this region’s Mexican dining, and the prices are entirely reasonable.

Chiapas fact of the day

With average daily consumption of 2.2 liters of Coca-Cola, Chiapas leads the world…It’s more than five times higher than the national average…

According to a 2019 study by the Chiapas and Southern Border Multidisciplinary Research Center (Cimsur), residents of the southern state drink an average of 821.25 liters of soda per person per year.

Broken down, the immensity of the quantity seems even more astonishing: every man, woman and child in Chiapas drinks an average of 3,285 — yes, three thousand two hundred and eighty-five – 250-milliliter cups of soda a year, according to the study.

According to the Cimsur study, among the reasons why Coca-Cola and other refrescos are so popular in Chiapas are marketing campaigns in indigenous languages – mainly Mayan – and limited access to clean drinking water.

Here is the full story.

Britney fact of the day

A systemic issue that I think is shocking is that Britney has to pay for everyone. In this case, she not only pays for her own court-appointed counsel, she pays for her dad’s lawyers — he has multiple sets of lawyers who are actively fighting against her wishes in court. Recently, one set of her dad’s lawyers billed $890,000 for roughly four months of work, which is about $10,000 a day. And that includes PR specialists that were defending the conservatorship to the media.

Here is further information.  Sounds optimal to me!  After all, I have a friend who knows somebody who is in a coma and needs a guardian.  Nothing to see here, move on people…why would you ever expect the political economy of this issue to yield suboptimal results, given how well the rest of our bureaucracies work…?

Fortunately it was just ruled that Britney can hire her own lawyer to represent her.

Via Shaffin Shariff.

“The Crypto Revolution Will Not be Public”

That is the title of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:

In a remarkably honest yet radical speech last month about stablecoins, Fed Governor Randal Quarles argued that current payments systems already incorporate a great deal of information technology — and they are improving rapidly. The implication is that a central bank digital currency, or CBDC, is a solution in search of a problem.

Quarles also suggested that the Fed tolerate stablecoins, just as central banking has coexisted and indeed thrived with numerous other private-sector innovations. Stablecoins can serve as a private-sector experiment to see if individuals and institutions truly desire a radically different payments system, in this case based on crypto and blockchains. If they do, the system can evolve by having some but not all transactions shift toward stablecoin.

There need not be any “do or die” date of transition requiring a perfectly functioning CBDC. But insofar as those stablecoins can achieve the very simple methods of funds transfer outlined above, market participants will continue to use them more.

Quarles argued that with suitable but non-extraordinary regulation of stablecoin issuers, such a system could prove stable. He even seems to prefer the private-sector alternative: “It seems to me that there has been considerable private-sector innovation in the payments industry without a CBDC, and it is conceivable that a Fed CBDC, or even plans for one, might deter private-sector innovation by effectively ‘occupying the field.’”

In essence, Quarles is willing to tolerate a system in which privately issued dollar equivalents become a major means of consummating payments outside of the Fed’s traditional institutions. Presumably capital requirements would be used to ensure solvency.

For many onlookers, even hearing of innovation in finance raises worries about systemic risk. But perhaps the U.S. would do better by letting information technology advance than trying to shut it down. And if you are afraid of instability, are you really so keen to see foreign central bank digital currencies fill up this space?

If you are still skeptical, ask yourself two final questions. First, which has been more innovative on these issues: the private sector or the public sector? Second, how realistic are the prospects that Congress takes any effective action at all?

This is now a world in which radical monetary ideas are produced and consumed like potato chips. I say, pass the bag.

Recommended.

Wednesday assorted links

1. On ARPA models for science funding and their possible limits.

2. “On this German farm, cows are in charge…” (NYT)

3. Claudia Goldin on the gender pay gap (NYT).

4. Why might the 21st century be the world’s most important century?

5. “A patient with a spinal injury was left waiting in a corridor at Sunshine Hospital for 14 hours on Monday just days after Australia’s leading doctors warned that hospitals across the country were at “breaking point”.”  Link here.

6. “The humble rice gruel from Bengal, Panta Bhat, on Masterchef Australia is a wholesome rejection of the hierarchy of tastes.

My Conversation with Alexander the Grate

Here is the audio and transcript, recorded outside in SW Washington, D.C.  And no, that is not a typo, he does call himself “Alexander the Grate,” his real name shall remain a secret.  Here is the event summary:

Alexander the Grate has spent 40 years — more than half of his life — living on the streets (and heating grates) of Washington, DC. He prefers the label NFA (No Fixed Address) rather than “homeless,” since in his view we’re all a little bit homeless: even millionaires are just one catastrophe away from losing their mansions. It’s a life that certainly comes with many challenges, but that hasn’t stopped him from enjoying the immense cultural riches of the capital: he and his friends have probably attended more lectures, foreign films, concerts, talks, and tours at local museums than many of its wealthiest denizens. The result is a perspective as unique as the city itself.

Alexander joined Tyler to discuss the little-recognized issue of “toilet insecurity,” how COVID-19 affected his lifestyle, the hierarchy of local shelters, the origins of the cootie game, the difference between being NFA in DC versus other cities, how networking helped him navigate life as a new NFA, how the Capitol Hill Freebie Finders Fellowship got started, why he loves school field trip season, his most memorable freebie food experience, the reason he isn’t enthusiastic about a Universal Basic Income, the economic sword of Damocles he sees hanging over America, how local development is changing DC, his design for a better community shelter, and more.

And:

And:

Recommended, you won’t find many podcast episodes like this one.  It is noteworthy that Alexander has a better and bigger vocabulary than the median CWT guest.  Also, this is one episode where listening and reading are especially different, due to the ambient sounds, Alexander’s comments on the passing trains, and so on — parts are Beckettesque!

What I’ve been reading

1. Russ Banham, The Fight for Fairfax: Private Citizens and Public Policymaking.  A well-informed story of the great men and women who built up Fairfax County, Virginia, including Til Hazel, Sid Dewberry, Earle Williams, Jack Herrity, George Johnson, Dwight Schar, and others.  WWNN: “We were never NIMBY!”  It is striking how much the key builders were not born as elites.

2. Dan Levy, Maxims for Thinking Analytically: The wisdom of legendary Harvard professor Richard Zeckhauser.  How many of us will end up getting books such as this in our honor?  If you are curious, Zeckhauser’s three maxims for personal life are: “There are some things you just don’t want to know,” “If you focus on people’s shortcomings, you’ll always be disappointed,” and “Practice asynchronous reciprocity.”  Zeckhauser, by the way, was on my dissertation committee.

3. Adeeb Khalid, Central Asia: A New History from the Imperial Conquests to the Present.  Could this be the best history of Central Asia?  The author takes special care to tie the region to the histories of Russia and China, the author seeming to have a specialization in Russian history, and for me that makes the entire enterprise far more intelligible.  Useful for Xinjiang history as well, here is one useful review of the book.

4. Paul Greenhalgh, Ceramic: Art and Civilisation.  Picture book!  Need I say more?  And a big one.

Edward J. Watts, The Eternal Decline and Fall of Rome: The History of a Dangerous Idea.  How has the decline of Rome been discussed and analyzed throughout the ages, including by the Romans themselves?

Loyd Grossman, The Artist and the Eternal City: Bernini, Pope Alexander VII, and the Making of Rome.  Has all the virtues of a picture book, but the price of a regular book.  With the common educated public, Bernini is still probably underrated.

Michael S. Malone, The Big Score: The billion dollar story of Silicon Valley is the new Stripe Press reprint.

Seth David Radwell, American Schism: How the Two Enlightenments Hold the Secrets to Healing Our Nation.  This is not a book written for me, but it is nonetheless good to see someone putting forward Enlightenment ideals as a solution to our problems.

Chess grandmaster markets in everything

But for some players, securing a prestigious title meant more than just playing well. It is an open secret in chess that many players cut side deals with tournament organizers and other top competitors that help them achieve norms they might have struggled to get legitimately.

This culture touched the Momot club. Many of its members acquired their grandmaster credentials in Crimea, at tournaments in places like Sudak and Alushta that were known as “norm factories” — where, for as little as $1,000, organizers would make sure players accumulated enough points for a norm.

But there were other, more subtle, ways to succeed, too. Far from prying eyes, secret agreements and cash exchanges to arrange results were not uncommon, according to interviews with chess players and FIDE officials. In a sport so wholly obsessed with status, title and rank, even selling a game could be accomplished for the right price.

Mikhail Zaitsev, who achieved the rank of International Master and is now a chess coach, estimated that of the world’s roughly 1,900 living grandmasters, at least 10 percent have cheated one way or another to acquire the title. Shohreh Bayat, one of the leading arbiters in chess, describes such arrangements in the plainest terms. “Match fixing,” she said, “is cheating.” Some hopefuls didn’t even have to play a game of chess to get the points they needed: Some tournaments, she said, took place only on paper.

Here is more from Ivan Nechepurenko and at the NYT.

The FTC train wreck continues

Seeing a pile of resumes already, several leaders of law firm antitrust practices are predicting many more government attorneys heading for private practice in the coming months as a new-look Federal Trade Commission forms under the leadership of chairperson Lina Khan.

“I’m getting a lot more resumes across my desk from the FTC,” said the co-chair of one antitrust practice in an Am Law 100 firm who declined to be named so that he could discuss an agency that he frequently interacts with. “There’s a lot more people coming out, and they’re going to get snapped up fast.”

While some staff turnover in the wake of an administration change is routine, law firm leaders said the number of agency lawyers seeking out career options outside the FTC appears to be high now and they are anticipating more later in the year. They attribute that, at least in part, to agency lawyers who have different views compared with Khan’s ideas of what constitutes antitrust behavior and how to bring cases…

“I think there’s a real disquiet there now—even in what I would say is a pretty liberal agency,” the antitrust co-chair said. “Eyebrows are up over some of the most recent moves, which to some career attorneys at the agency might see as a little heavy-handed. I won’t be surprised if more folks decide maybe now’s the time to test the [private practice] market.”

Those are the (largely Democratic) lawyers — just imagine how the economists must feel!  Here is the full article, with further detail, brutal throughout.  It is at least comforting to see that if you try to destroy America’s greatest companies, there is some pushback in the system.

Tuesday assorted links

1. ‘We Don’t Need Another Michelangelo’: In Italy, It’s Robots’ Turn to Sculpt — link here (NYT).

2. The ecosystem that is Minnesota: “Goldfish dumped in lakes grow to monstrous size, threatening ecosystems.”

3. Ransomware payment tracker.

4. That was then, this is now.  And more (sigh).

5. Noah interviews Matt.

6. John Cochrane on a carbon tax and the economics of extraction.  Are we just postponing the problem?

7. Mas-Colell update (in Spanish).  It seems he is off the hook for the money?

8. Very good Ross Douthat column on the Seven Years’ War (NYT).