Super Freak (economically speaking)

Been trying to catch up with some of the books that people have kindly loaned me so that I can return them to their proper homes. One of these happens to be “SuperFreakonomics” by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner (2009).  Levitt is an economist at the University of Chicago, and Dubner is an NYT journalist and this is a sequel to “Freakonomics” (which I haven’t actually read – I just skipped to the most recent book as I am a bit picky about how timely non-fiction news-based info is.)

I don’t have much background in economics, although I did take (and barely scraped through) an A-level in Economics. I had very little interest in this topic, but when push came to shove and I needed to choose a couple of subjects for A-levels, I took Economics because my brother had. I had no idea what it was about or anything, but once I had chosen it, that was it and I was stuck (and a bit bored) by the topic for two years.

Moving on, I really like this approach to economics. I don’t know if it’s seen as “Economics For Dummies” or something, but I could actually understand what these guys were saying and didn’t glaze over and daydream my way through as I did for A-level study. I think what was so interesting about “SuperFreakonomics” is that the academic one’s bright ideas and theories are being funneled through a journalist mindset and translated into English. (I don’t mean to say that this book is E-Z reading or to discount either author, but it does cover interesting subjects in a similar vein to Malcolm Gladwell who I find fascinating to read.) I certainly don’t remember Mrs. Davis being this fascinating during my A-level years, but perhaps it was the student not the teacher.

Among the many intriguing points, the authors talk about climate change (called “global warming” in this edition, although I know that there is some discussion about terminology here). The studies that Levitt and Dubner use to make their point suggest that (in regard to global warming/greenhouse gases), it’s actually much better to actually change  one day’s meals in the week from mostly meat to dairy, fish, eggs, or a vegetable-based diet. Since animals (cows in particular) produce so many greenhouse gases themselves (through farting etc. 🙂 ), reducing the amount of meat that is demanded would apparently reduce greenhouse gas emissions more than just focusing on locally-produced food. Hmm.

This point also links back to a lecture I saw a few years ago from a British scientist who had focused on how to reduce the worldwide water shortage and still get people fed. His thesis was a bit more emphatic about turning to a 100% vegetable diet as cows (and other animals for market) require so much more water than some crops do.

And then, add that to the recent book release by Paul McCartney of recipes for a “Meatless Monday” and it is all quite convincing to cut back on meat in our household. I don’t usually have any meat for breakfast, not every time for lunch, but usually supper includes someone who had parents at some point. (!) I would be quite happy to try meatless Mondays in our house, and will have to run it through committee to get agreement on this. 🙂 I bet D will agree for at least for a while.

Along these lines, I also learned that kangaroos are a better meat choice (in terms of negatively affecting climate change) as their farts don’t contain methane. “Hi there! Would you like to try our McJoey today?”…!

And there you have it. Another valuable piece of trivia for you to throw in your everyday conversation this week.

Super Freakonomics is not something that I would have necessarily picked up on my own volition, but you know – it was actually really fascinating overall. Yeah for reading outside one’s comfort zone.

Another case of reading outside the comfort zone was my picking up Jennifer Weiner’s chick-lit “In her Shoes”… I was looking for something easy to read and also to get off my TBR pile so this title rose to the surface. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for me.

First, I hadn’t realized this but I was actually embarrassed to read this in public and was forced to fold the cover back so others wouldn’t see my appalling book selection when I went to eat out. And second, Weiner needs to get a better editor, because there were several glaring inconsistencies that someone paid the big bucks should have caught (and I didn’t even finish the book as I felt my brain cells were rotting with every page I turned). Sigh. I don’t mean to be a book snob, but when you read a lot of consistently high quality books, it does ruin you for your average mass market title. However, keep in mind also that I am not the one with a NYT bestselling book or a movie with Cameron Diaz. 🙂

Oh, and here is chit-chat about a call for Ray Bradbury’s F451 to be honored with an internet error message. (From The Guardian.)

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