Monthly Archives: May 2007

Why Homework?

Why are students assigned homework? Isn’t eight hours of school enough to get the lesson across? Do teachers like grading? I’m sure some of it is state mandated, but I think there should be some containment, if only because homework itself runs contrary to what we strive for later in life, which is establishing a separation between our work and our personal time. Children and teens should be taught that there is a place for work and a place for play, and that they shouldn’t be playing at school all day and working at home all night.

I’m talking about elementary and high school, mostly. Sometimes there is extraneous homework in college, but from experience it is usually avoidable or for your own benefit. Well, isn’t all homework for you’re own benefit? I don’t think so. College and graduate school are distinct from lower-ed in that you aren’t required to be at school for the same duration. You aren’t under the scope of a teacher for the same duration, so some guided study outside of class is helpful and necessary.

Don’t get me wrong, learning can be fun, but it should be contained. I think children would approach school with a better attitude if they were able to leave it behind when they boarded the school bus home. I remember working and feeling like I could never escape from my job because I felt obligated to take some of it home with me. To me this was almost normal, but others were aghast at how it effected me. To them work was just an nine hour drama that they could leave behind, while I drove home feeling like I was going to have a heart attack. Not fun.

What’s the difference? Did they grow up without homework? Ha… I don’t think so. But, the homework doesn’t help. Maybe I just liked what I was doing more. Who knows.

The Number 8

I think I should wear a shirt with the number eight on it when I go to China in a month. To the Chinese the number eight is symbolic of fortune and wealth, and has a large influence on all parts of their life. For example, they will often invest in stocks with ticker codes with an eight or multiple eights. The Beijing Olympics will start at 8pm on 8-8-2008.

Contrary to the number eight’s goodwill is the number four, which is symbilic of death.

More in this WSJ article:

The 6, 8 and 9 keys on ATMs made by Diebold Inc. wear out first because those “are considered lucky numbers in China”…

Investing is likened to what we (Americans) would consider gabling…

Brokerages are set up like casinos. Investors drink tea, smoke and chat as they make trades on computers lined up like slot machines. Instead of dropping in coins, they swipe bank cards to pay for shares…

In China, individuals, often with little understanding of financial concepts, make up 60% to 80% of trading, unlike U.S. markets dominated by financial giant (firms).

There is no free press in China, which means that information can be misleading, their stock market is largely comprised of personal investors that view it as a high risk endeavor based on lucky numbers, and their GDP growth is ridiculously high. Is it a matter of if or when their economy implodes?

Third Places from 9am to 5pm

Awhile ago I wrote about “3rd places” – those places people go to gather, do work when not at work, or just hangout. Coffee shops are a prime example of third places. Bookstores, diners, etc. Often the common denominators between third places are a wifi connection and coffee.

One of the most bizarre things about going back to school in August of 2006 was the daily freedom. No longer did I feel obligated to sit at a specific desk in an office with co-workers. While some of my fellow students preferred to study in the library, sitting in the same spot day after day, I’ve never had a high tolerance for libraries. Instead, I prefer either home or a diner. There is something about having a medium amount of commotion that helps me focus in on what I need to get done. Perhaps, the distractions remind me that I want to be done so that I can get on with my day and enjoy what else there is to do – walk around outside, go see a movie, or hangout with friends.

A recent article posited the question of what are all the people doing that walk around during the day. Don’t they work? This isn’t as interesting of a question as it may have once been. When I did work, I hardly worked a 9-to-5 job. I had relative freedom to set my own hours when we weren’t super busy, which allowed me to work from a coffee shop near my house on Fridays or travel and work.

Seeing people hanging out at 3rd places between the hours of 9am to 5pm seems more normal than weird these days.

Michael Moore Interview

Michal Moore has been instrumental in starting the Traverse City Film Festival, which takes place for the third year this summer in Traverse City, MI (my hometown). It’s what Sundance wishes it could recapture – a more quaint, more interesting, more subtle approach to film that actually lets the films speak without the excess. In short, Paris Hilton doesn’t show up here and we would like to keep it that way.

The festival has been hugely successful each of the past two years, and brings many movies that we wouldn’t normally see. Last year I had the chance to see Borat before it was officially released and listen to Larry Charles talk about the filming process (they were arrested a lot).

Here’s a recent HBO Bill Maher interview with Michael Moore, his first in two years. It talks mostly about Moore’s new movie, Sicko, but is live from Traverse City, MI.

Interested in Politics?

I’m wondering what causes someone to be interested in Politics. Or, maybe more importantly, what turns those who are vehemently opposed or merely indifferent to voting off of the subject entirely.

There is a plethora of news available now, and we can customize it any way we like. I can completely exempt myself from any aspect of news. No longer does the newspaper and the nightly news dominate my info-stream. It never really did. Now it is RSS feeds, customizable online news sites, and email updates.

What will it take to get those who are not interested in politics and who don’t bother exercising one of, if not the most important, right – the right to vote. Every vote does matter.

Food Stamp Challenge

Does Rep. Tim Ryan (D – Ohio) really need to do a food stamp challenge to figure out that $21 a week is inadequate to sustain a healthy diet? Does the Washington Post really need to cover this? The gist is that a well fed Congressman realizes how difficult it is for poor America to live. This just seems like it is making light of how difficult it is for some to make ends meet, and is a stunt that I’ve read of college kids doing several times. Not a congressman.

Here’s what Ryan bought (link):

* One bag of corn meal- $1.43
* Two jars of strawberry preserves- $4.00
* One jar of chunky peanut butter- $2.48
* Two boxes of angel hair pasta- $1.54
* One can of coffee- $2.50
* Three jars of tomato sauce- $4.50
* Two cartons of cottage cheese- $3.00
* One loaf of wheat bread- $.89
* One clove of garlic- $.32

I would definitely buy the PBJ stuff and the pasta ingredients, however I would skip the coffee. Varying your meals and eating healthy life-sustaining meals would be more difficult than merely surviving on $21 a week.

Note: Ryan is a graduate of Franklin Pierce Law School in Concord, NH where he recently gave a commencement speech to the Class of 2007 graduates. (This is particularly interesting solely because I attend FPLC.)

I’m A Fan

I moved to New Hampshire about nine months ago and became a default Boston Red Sox fan, which means I’m on their side if I go to a game at Fenway and they’re playing anyone except my home team, the Detroit Tigers. I can see myself being a default Chicago Cubs fan if I were to move to Chicago, which makes me wonder if it isn’t the teams but good ball parks that I like. The Red Sox play in Fenway with the Green Monster and the Cubs play in Wrigley Field with the ivy. Each of these parks are historically significant, and have become as much a part of baseball history as their teams.

I am wondering if people are less inclined to be Red Sox Fans now that they’ve won a World Series title. They used to garner a sympathetic fan base because they just couldn’t close the deal, but now that they’re regularly topping the chart aren’t they on the way to being the Yankees? There are enough similarities to make me question this. I’m a bit sick of seeing people everywhere wearing Red Sox hats just because they’re riding the wave. I’d suggest they stick with their local team and get off the Red Sox bandwagon before the fad fades.

Visiting Asian Cities

Two rules for visiting Asian cities (link – NYT)

1. Don’t walk — seeing an Asian city on foot is like cruising the Caribbean in a rowboat
2. Don’t attempt more than three things per day — each will take far longer than expected.

The article goes on to say that the Beijing metro is 3 yuan, the base fare for a taxi is 10 yuan and if you can stand the heat, a bicycle rental is only 20 yuan for the entire day. However, I would assume that means you have to store the bike at each place you visit and return it to the rental shop, which is probably confusing.

I’m wondering if taking a compass would be a good ideas so that I can remain oriented if I go on a walk or bikeride. Having absolutely no knowledge of the language I anticipate getting lost frequently.

The Timing of Childbirth

From an article about when to have a child, if ever and how it impacts a woman later in life:

Early mothers were the least satisfied and most depressed of all four groups, while delayed or late mothers were the most satisfied with their lives and the happiest.

All other things being equal, the childless women were about as satisfied and happy with their lives as the on-time mothers.

“In mid-life, being married or having a partner has a greater impact on a woman’s well-being than whether or not she has children,” Pienta said.

Early mothers were the most likely to be single and to have lower incomes—factors that largely explained their lower psychological well-being. Delayed mothers tended to have more education and higher economic status than other groups, and were much more likely than early mothers to be married.

The monetary committment necessary to obtain a post-secondary degree necessitates a delay in marriage and childbirth. Time management may be an issue, but I don’t see how anyone can be less busy with a full time job than they are while in school. Maybe it is a matter of the flexibility of a school day schedule versus the containment of a job.

There is also the assumption that most people default to, which is that you aren’t supposed to get married or have children while in school. A few people buck this, and they are the reason for graduate housing. However, getting married while in school could be easier if done correctly. No time off work, a common destination upon marriage, being with someone you love, etc…

It’s to be expected that younger mother’s would be less satisfied later in life. After all they have less to offer their children and are less developed personally. Kids grow up and move on, and while I am only 25, I would imagine that having personal interests, knowledge, and skills is critical to being personally happy.

Driving Alone

Gone broke in my car and got nothin’ to listen to. I’m bored with two hours down and twenty to go on a plain old worn down road with a bump in the middle and no yellow line. The dust blows if I roll down the window, and my back sweats a sweaty hole in my seat if I roll it up. Doesn’t even seem like AC’s been invented yet with this old beater I’m rollin’ around in. It’s breathin’ too damn hard to worry about something so sophisticated as conditioning of the air.

I squint ahead to see what I can see, and what I see is mostly a light grey line splitting two green fields and a stray black and white dairy cow mooing on the left. No big red barn ’cause that’d be asking too much of this dust bowl landscape I, for some reason, chose to cross in the July heat. That’s a July heat with an emphasis on the July, like you hear people say in movies about southerners. I’ve never met a true southerner with a true accent, so I guess I’m just speculating my memory on a motion picture. But that’s the best I got, and if you were here you’d get that I gotta speculate on anything I can to keep on the pencil line-road.

Cell Phone Improvement

I want a cell phone company that allows me to access the content on my phone from the internet. For example, I want an online repository of my text message, phone numbers, photos, etc. I like to save some text messages, but it’s a pain in the ass to remember which ones and to copy them to a file on my computer, etc. And if I lose my phone, it would be nice to have an automatic backup copy that I could access.

Basically, the cellphone market should (and probably is) do its best to copy the Web 2.0 trend and the move of vital application online. Considering that you can now email, share photos, IM, maintain a calendar, and create word documents, spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations online, I think I’m not asking too much with phones.

Subway Systems to Scale

This is really cool…subway systems of the world, presented on the same scale.

The San Fransisco subway looks the biggest, but it isn’t very “dense.” London’s on the other hand is large and a lot “denser.” And it looks like Marseille is the smallest system. My favorite is the Beijing subway, which is just a straight line with a square that intersects it. I look forward to traveling on it this summer.

It would be interesting if someone would animate the construction of each system against time and include some socio-economic data regarding whether the subway system drove development of suburban areas or if it responded to it.

WMATA, the subway system that serves Washington D.C. and the surrounding area, is planning to extend the Orange Line further west as far as Dulles International Airport. I used to work beyond the reaches of the Orange Line, and I and my many co-workers who lived in D.C. would have used the metro everyday if it had reached our office in Herndon, VA. As it is now, the metro goes about half-way out. There is huge growth along the route of the proposed Orange Line, and the traffic was always horrendous both to and from work. So it seems the extension would supply vital demand for metro transport.

Here’s another version.

Some subways I’ve traveled on:

* Chicago – CTA
* Paris – RATP
* Wash DC – WMATA
* Los Angeles – MTA