thoughts from kent drive

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Walking to School

This blog really isn't meant to be some sort of recap of material you can find on The Atlantic, but I found yet another video on their site that was interesting.  Wish I had more time to form and articulate my thoughts on this. But if I tried to make every post perfect and a complete overview of all my thoughts on each subject then my posting would be as frequent as it has been the past few years.

But first of all, I always walked to school growing up. And not because there wasn't transportation available. There were rainy days and other days when we were running late and my mom would give us a ride, but I would say that I walked or rode my bike to elementary school and Jr. high school 95% of the time. I even remember walking home in the rain one day. I was really upset that my mom hadn't picked me up. She replied that she thought I would enjoy walking in the rain. I promptly called child protective services.

I didn't love walking to/from school, but I definitely would like my kids to walk to school, for many of the reasons mentioned in the video. Great exercise. Great way to get to know the neighborhood. You are an overall better human and superior to everyone else.

The video says that less than 10% of kids now walk to school. I would have guessed the figure to actually be lower than that. I don't know why so few walk to school now. Part of me wants to say it all relates to the fact that parents today seem to be overly protective.   Which is an area I hesitate to talk about because it's overly discussed and analyzed at this point, and I don't have completely organized thoughts on that subject.

I personally fall on the side of being less protective, which is probably why I want my kids to walk to school. But using the term 'less protective' is so negative and feels terrible. As a parent myself, I have the strong desire to protect your children. But I also think you have to find the balance between understanding when you are actually protecting your child and when you might be hurting your child by stunting their growth because they have had their parent's shadow constantly over them.

I also think that there are unfounded fears and concerns that cause people now to be overly protected. I don't know the reason why that is. A theory that I seem to buy into is that mass media and global media has caused concern. Before you were only aware of news that happened nearby. So with kidnappings for instance, the only time you heard about one was if it happened in your neighborhood. If you grew up in a neighborhood like the one I grew in, that meant you never heard about a kidnapping. Now though, you'll hear about a kidnapping in Cleveland or kids being sold into prostitution in Atlanta.

Before people would only hear about crime in their area and would use the local news to gauge how safe or unsafe their surrounding area is. That arguably isn't even a good gauge for the safety of your community, but it's much better than using the national or world news to gauge how safe your community is. There hasn't been a rise in kidnappings in the past few decades. Violent crime is actually down. But there has been a rise in hearing about violent crime because of global and instant news media.

I suppose that it is good because it lets you know what is going on in the world and keeps you informed. Plus, "just because something happened in Atlanta doesn't mean that it can't happen or isn't happening in your backyard." True, it could happen or perhaps is happening nearby. Not arguing people should be ignorant. But the reality is that it's not really happening, or if it is, it's very rare.

I can't fault someone for not swimming in the ocean in southern California because of the possibility of a shark attack. After all, you hear about shark attacks in Australia or in northern California, so sharks do attack people.

They do, but those areas aren't southern California and even in those areas, the attacks aren't as often as people think.

But attacks have happened in southern California before.

They have. So I can't fault you for not going in the water.

You don't need to go into the ocean to have a complete life. You can have a great life if you don't walk to school. But there is enjoyment and experience to be gained from those experiences, at least in my opinion, and not having them because of the remote risk associated with the activities, just doesn't make much sense to me.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Light Pollution

I saw this video the other day, I really liked it. So much so that I'm writing about it.  Here it is:

A couple things and thoughts about this video:

1. I think everyone has thought at some point about how it is unfortunate that you can't see the stars at night and that it's tough to see the night sky because there are constant lights. But every time after I had that thought, I just said, "yep, that's a bummer I can't see stars very well. I'll go back inside and go to bed now." I like the fact that this video doesn't stop there where I and most people stop, but goes to the next step and ponders the question of whether there is any consequence to the fact that we can't see the night sky and what the possible implications are for not being able to see the night sky. I like that. I think asking additional questions is great. Wish I had done it. But happy they did for me.

2. I do sort of buy into some of the issues they raise about having constant light at night. I agree that I think that humans should become more comfortable with the dark. When I say dark, I'm not referring to evil dark, but nighttime dark. I think that there is an innate fear of the dark and it makes sense that we would surround ourselves with as much light as possible in order to avoid being in the dark. But as this video discusses, I don't think that is the appropriate or best response to the innate fear of the dark.

First of all, this isn't deep cave pitch black darkness. It's nighttime darkness and there is a big difference.

But second, I think there is value in facing that innate fear and appreciating it. That doesn't mean everyone has to become comfortable with the dark or like to live in it, but I think appreciating it and finding the good in it instead of avoiding it altogether is valuable. Makes me think of the desert. It's easy to find and see the beauty or good of mountains or beaches or rainforests. But it takes additional attention and effort to appreciate the desert and its beauty. Not the best analogy, but it's what just came to mind.

But I think in the process of being in then nighttime dark and learning to appreciate it relates to the other issue I liked from this video. At the very end they mention the fact that for all of history you could step outside and see the night sky and that the sky inspired art and philosophy and religion and science from the beginning of time. And now for the first time, many people are living in a place without that sight. I don't know my exact thoughts on that comment from the video, but I think it's true. Science still progresses and philosophy and religion still exists, but I think there is an overall collective societal harm from the vast majority of people not seeing the night sky on a regular basis.

People go camping or have moments where they are able to see the sky without city lights and probably have a moment of pondering questions that go beyond when a deadline is for some work assignment. But that's a few days at best and most days are spent in the city lights bubble where you can't see the night sky and all you can see is just faint stars and city lights that illuminate the horizon. And it does make you feel like you are in a bubble. It restricts one from easily seeing that there is a lot in the sky and universe and we thus tend to focus on what is immediately around us. That's not always a bad thing, there are important things around us that need our time and attenion.  But those aren't the only things and to just focus on those things severely limits our view on life.  Whereas if we are able to expand our focus, we realize that everything doesn't revolve around us, but rather, we are but a small cog in the enormous wheel. 

Unfortuntely, we have to make an effort to think about things that are bigger than us and make an effort to look beyond our immediate surroundings. Previously, because of darkness at night, I think it was thrust upon everyone. You couldn't help but notice the night sky and couldn't help but ponder the heavens. And I don't think people make that effort and I do think that it is a detriment to society as a whole. I don't know what that harm is. I'd hesitate to make any sort of conclusion. I think it's difficult to quantify the impact. I just think the important thing is just noting that there is such a thing as light pollution exists and that there is a benefit to spending time without artificial light.

Monday, January 26, 2015

100 Books

Amazon's has a list of 100 books to read in a lifetime.  I've already read a few of these, which is good because I'm already a few years into my lifetime. 

More to come later.

Amazon's list. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Real College Crisis

Look at this!  A new blog post!  It's been about a year so clearly time to get back in the saddle.  Not sure if anyone reads this thing or reads blogs in general. They are dying (or are already dead).  Given way to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr to name a few.  Which is fine.  I find those more enjoyable anyways.  But sometimes you have thoughts which are longer than 160 characters or thoughts that don't involve photos of your kids.  What to do with those thoughts?  Blog them for no one I guess.  

I read a lot of stuff on the internet throughout the day.  Most of it is garbage.  Stuff that is just adding to the "Random Information that is not really useful and may only get used once or twice in your lifetime and only in social and non-educational settings" portion of my brain.  Which over the years I think has become the largest part of my brain.  

But not everything is useless or garbage.  If there is one thing I'm a sucker for that isn't garbage it is articles or information about the rising cost of higher education.  It's fascinating to me.  

Anyways, an article just came out about the rising cost.  It's nothing new.  These articles pop up all the time.  Consumers are aware of it.  Society is aware of it.  People ("experts") are warning us about it.  Yet the colleges, who are also likely aware of what is going on, are ignoring doing anything about it presumably because, "Hey, the students keep paying the higher price, so why not charge it."  For whatever reason people treat college like Disneyland.  No matter how absurd the admission price is, people won't even question it and will just open their wallet and hand over their money.  (Speaking of Disneyland, based upon the description of some of these schools, they sound about as entertaining as the Happiest Place on Earth). 

Two fun excerpts that I enjoyed that seemed too long to post on Facebook.  By the way, at first I was reluctant to blog this because I felt that if I didn't post about it on FB no one would read it. But then I remembered that no one reads anything on FB anyways.  Sometimes you click on links, but mostly you just scroll through  the news feed to remind yourself that even though life isn't as great as some people, it's not nearly as pathetic and lame as other people. 

Here is the article:

Here's an interesting stat from the article about how much tuition has gone up at Auburn, which I'm pretty sure is on track with most every other school:

"The Auburn trustees who approved Gogue’s salary also recently voted to increase next year's student tuition by 4.5 percent, on top of an 8 percent increase last year and a 13 percent increase in 2010."

A 25.5% increase over a 3 year span?  That's just unbelievable and unsustainable. Unsustainable meaning that I'm sure they haven't provided their graduates with jobs that pay 25% more than the jobs their graduates from 3 years ago received. 

So generous of them to only increase it by 4.5% this year after increasing it by 21% over the past two years.  Tuition of course should have gone down over the past 5 years when the economy was in the tank and no one could get jobs.  But no chance any school will ever drop their cost of tuition.  

If you read the article it explains where a lot of the money goes - to unnecessary things.  Which is fine.  If there is one thing the housing bubble taught us it is to live large while the money is pouring in because the money will always be there.   

"Looking for a rec center with an acre of cardio and weight machines like the ones used at the Beijing Olympics? Then UMass Amherst could be the school for you. The aquatic enthusiast should head to the University of Cincinnati, whose rec center promises "850,000 gallons of fun," with three indoor pools, a vortex, a bubble couch (whatever that is), and a current channel for those "looking for an upstream workout.”  The University of Iowa’s $72 million rec center also has a vortex, a massive climbing wall, 72 tread mills with TVs, a 25-person hot tub, and a “club level” locker room with a biometric hand scanner for extra security."

Maybe I'm off with all of this.  Maybe a lifetime of debt and having to pass on getting a home or a nice car because you can't afford one with all your student loan debt is worth 4 years of sharing a vortex pool with 20,000 other people. 

Here is the part that goes without saying and what fascinates me about the rising cost of tuition: money (or students) won't always be there because iIt's another bubble only this bubble is so obvious coming on the heels of the last one.  But people seem to be ignoring it and yet like all bubbles, they eventually pop and are a sticky mess. 

“It’s very similar to housing loans in that the federal government is contributing to this by making it easy to borrow,” he said. “It's a bubble, but it's a different kind of bubble in the sense that it can't go on like this. Eventually you hit the wall."

Sounds like fun.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Call Me Maybe

By now most everyone has probably heard the Carly Rae Jepsen song "Call Me Maybe." What's sort of crazy is that there is a good chance you first heard the song in a YouTube video. Apparently soon after the song came out Justin Bieber and his friends filmed themselves lip syncing this song. Like everything Bieber does, it blew up on the internet and twitter and on the youtube and spawned a movement where everyone makes their own music video to this song. (It's actually pretty incredible the impact and influence Bieber has on popular culture. Love him or hate him, he's a internet and twitter freight train that can't be contained).

My younger brother and his friends a couple months ago made their own music to the song because they are in college and that's the type of stuff you do in college. It's actually pretty entertaining. Although I'm still not sure if that's because it is actually entertaining or just because I know someone in the video. Sort of like when Dave and I podcasted back in the day and people would say they enjoyed the podcast, which was nice. But all of those people were friends or family that knew Dave and I. So their input/response, although appreciated, didn't really indicate if our podcast was any good. It's one thing to be entertaining your wife or people you know, but even if you are, it doesn't mean you are entertaining to 300 complete strangers.

Anyways, as usual, I digress.

I bring this all up because I saw another video today of the Call Me Maybe song that was entertaining. It's by Jimmy Fallon and the Roots so they are professionals. It also features the girl that actually sang the song. But it's still pretty fun.


Lance and his Crew:

Jimmy and Roots:

Has a very organic feel to it. Sort of reminds me of this video by Arcade Fire:

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Masterpiece Mystery: Sherlock

A couple months ago, Nellie set our DVR to record the Downtown Abbey series on PBS. For whatever reason though, our DVR recorded every program on PBS with the word "Masterpiece" in the title. If this also happened to you, then your DVR was also likely clogged with a bunch of nonsense and poppycock PBS programming. But it also likely recorded a few episodes of Sherlock Holmes, which isn't poppycock, but awesomeness.

It's a modern day version of Sherlock Holmes and frankly, it's highly entertaining. Here is the episode we saw on Sunday.

After seeing one episode we were hooked and I was thinking about putting in a plug for it for my six readers. I then became lazy and wasn't going to mention it. Then I heard about this and I knew I had to make some sort of plug for it.

Apparently, our counterparts here in America are planning on rolling out their own version of the show this fall. Now, we Americans can do what we want.  I'm not mentioning the BBC show so that I can sound cool or hip like some fan of an indie band that was a loyalist long before the band was popular or sold out and "went mainstream" (aka – did what every band seeks out to do and creates a successful record that sells a lot of copies and makes the band a lot of money).

Obviously, I haven't seen an episode of the American version yet, so I can't bash it. But just based on the preview I'm guessing that this series will be much like The Office where the American version is decent and may eventually be great, but at least initially pales in comparison to its original British counterpart. Although I will say I have serious doubts about the show considering they are calling it "Elementary." Weak.

Anyways, the British show is already in its second season. Like all British sitcoms, they aren't traditional American seasons and this season only has three episodes. However, each episode is an hour and a half long, without commercials. So even if there are only three episodes, you are still getting hours of excellent entertainment. Plus, since the second season finishes off this Sunday, there are plenty of hours for you to watch between the first season and catching up with this season.  Right now you can actually watch the first two episodes online.  I promise it's more enjoyable than Facebooking.

Another reason to watch: Watson is played by Martin Freeman, who was in the British version of The Office and will be The Hobbit.

Also, I'm not the only one plugging this show.  Here is a good request for your viewership and explanation of the show.

A great clip of Martin Freeman from The Office.  I always wanted a HatFM

Monday, April 23, 2012

Greg Ham

They say celebrities die in threes. Last week news broke that Dick Clark had died. The following day some member of The Band died. Not Dick Clark's band, he didn't have a band as far as I know. Apparently there is a music group named The Band and a member of their group died.

I had no idea The Band existed. I may have known or read about them at some point but been confused by the very unassuming and quite bland name. Reminds me of the clip from That Thing You Do where Lenny suggests they name their band The Band You Are About to Hear.

Anyways, that same day, news broke that Greg Ham died. Greg Ham is of course responsible for arguably the most famous and recognizable flute solos ever.

I'm actually being 100% honest with that last sentence. If someone told you to think of a flute rift or solo, chances are this would be one of the first things, if not the first thing to pop in your mind:

By the way, Men at Work's Land Down Under is quite possibly the greatest music video of all time that is absolutely terrible. They literally act out every single lyric. Not some of the lyrics or part of the song, but everything.

Some gems:

0:30: The lady that "takes him in and made him breakfast" and feeds him "Vitos E." Not eggs and fruit or something fancy, but Vitos E. In the middle of the desert. Makes sense.

0:50: Flute solo in the thicket.

1:07: The 6'4" man full of "muscles"

Speaking of the big Brussels man. I'm confused by that entire sequence. The big man doesn't understand him, but then gives him a vegimite sandwich and starts saying that he comes from a land down under. For not understanding him, the big man sure knew what the guy wanted/liked (vegimite sandwich and beer) and also knew how to sing pretty well. Not really sure where the miscommunication occurred.

1:37-2:03: Twenty-six seconds is entirely too long to show guys fake shoveling sand and then hopping away like bunnies. I hope the director was fired.

2:42 - end: Video ends by showing the group walk across the sand for a minute. Apparently the director had run out of ideas. Which isn't saying much considering his only other "idea" was to have them act out the song's lyrics.

So now that Greg Ham is dead, the debate about "best 80's song flute solo by a flautist that is still alive" is essentially over. It belongs to Toto. They now carry the torch for great 80's flautists.

Toto's Africa is at the opposite end of the music video spectrum from Land Down Under. If you don't know what is going on in Land Down Under you are likely blind or deaf. If you could follow Toto's Africa then you are probably a wizard, or you just have more patience and interest than I do.

Here is what I observed: they are in a library which throughout the course of the video slowly is tranforming into Africa. I'm guessing Africa because a globe is spinning and twice stops on Africa. If it only happened once I would just think it was a coincidence and that the library was just turning into any jungle. But when it happens again I think they are trying to tell us that Africa is happening. A man has a piece of a page from a book and is sorting through all of the books looking for where it came from. Just when the guy finds a book titled "Africa" a spear comes into the library and burns a bunch of books including the book with the page he's looking for. I think it's the Africa book but I'm not sure. If it is, it's ironic/unfortunate that a book about Africa, a place with so much rain, was burned. Also, eyeglasses.

Anyways, I bring this up because check out the 2:50 point in the video. Right where you would expect to see someone jamming out on a flute, they show a guy playing the piano! Was there no flute? Was it just a synthesizer on the "flute" setting?! I'm honestly not sure. It would appear that is is a piano, but then at the 3:05 point they show what looks like the shadow of a person playing a flute, except that it might just be arsonist spear guy.

If it was just a synthesizer, it makes Greg Ham's death all the more troubling. With Toto being a fraud, all great 80's flautists died with Mr. Ham. A sad end to a great era.