thoughts from kent drive

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.

Biebs:



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.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Have a spare 45 minutes?

If so, check out this documentary on Lionel Messi. Even if you aren't a soccer fan, you probably have still heard of Messi. He's the best player in the world and possibly the greatest of all time.



Even if you don't watch the entire video, just watch a couple clips so you can see why Messi is so great. Watch Messi as a little boy playing (1:20, 2:20), then as a youth (9:20) and then compare them to some of his clips as a pro. There are various throughout the video, but the most impressive in my opinion is the one at 28:45. It shows first of all how fast the game is on the professional level. Something you don't always see or appreciate when you are watching it on TV. But it's also remarkable because these are the best players in the world and Messi is running through them just like he did as a kid and a youth. Many kids and youth dominate the opposition and are talented at a young age. But eventually the other kids mature or the competition catches up with them and the playing field levels. Sure, some players are always a little bit better, but Messi has stayed an entire level above even the highest competition. It's really amazing and something only a handful of players in the history of all sports have been able to do.

For awhile there was a debate about who is the best player in the world right now, but like I said Messi has sort of put that discussion to bed and it has moved to whether he is the greatest of all time. What is amazing about that discussion isn't just the fact that you can legitimately compare Messi to the godlike figures of Pele and Maradona, but that Messi is only 24 years old. He has at least 6 more years of his prime left in him. Without offending the gods, it is possible that when Messi retires there won't even be a debate.

Anyways, even if you aren't a soccer fan, it's worth paying attention to Messi, even if just casually. He's the Michael Jordan of soccer. If you had no interest in basketball you would have at least appreciated someone pointing out Jordan and watching some of his games because as a human you can't help but enjoy watching someone perfect and dominate their craft (sort of like watching Mondo on Project Runway).

The only downside to Messi is that he plays for Barcelona, which happen to be the rivals of Real Madrid. I do think that Madrid might be closing the gap on Barcelona and as a team, might soon be able to beat Barcelona. But that is a post for another time, and probably another blog.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

MJ Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is this weekend. There are various lists across the internet providing the top 10 Super Bowl Halftime shows. I was looking at a couple of them - because that is what you do when you are on the internet - look at other people's lists, and I noticed that Michael Jackson did a halftime show back in 1993.

Not surprisingly, most of the commentary on the show is that MJ reinvented halftime shows and turned them into what they are today - 10 minute over-the-top, no holds barred, spectaculars.

So in preparation for the big game on Sunday, let's breakdown MJ's legendary performance from almost 20 years ago.



0:01 - A countdown. Awesome.

0:03 - James Earl Jones is the intro man - the Morgan Freeman of the 80's and 90's. Was there an official passing of the torch there? Is James Earl Jones dead? Because once Freeman took over, JEJ has fallen off the planet.

0:26 - Cameraman 2 was thrown off by the intro music. Zoomed in too early. Producer: "What the... quick, back to Camera 1. C2, you idiot!"

0:38: Ok, now zoom C2.

0:46: Aw snap! It's MJ on the jumbotron.

0:57: Psyche! No it's not. That was just a stuntdouble. By the way, how did one become an MJ stunt double? Were these the last people to get cut from the backup dance crew?

1:11: Michael emerges.

I wonder how the discussion went with the choreographer during the planning of the show:

C: Ok Michael, so then you will emerge from the stage. There will be sparklers and stuff of course. And then you will hold your pose. How long do you want to hold your pose? 10 seconds? 20? 30 tops?

MJ: I will hold it for at least a minute. After that I will take another minute to move my head and take off my sunglasses.

C: Um, yeah, this isn't a regular concert. We only have 13 minutes for the entire show. Pretty sure we shouldn't dedicate a sixth of the time to you just standing there motionless.

2:08: He's still motionless.

2:24: Apparently not dead.

2:41: Also apparently not that bright outside.

2:43: Cue the electric guitar from the... HOLY HANNAH WHAT IS THAT THING? Best guess is it's an extra from The Lion King. There is no way of knowing though if it's male or female. Impossible to determine.

3:05: The crowd in the foreground is doing the classic Michael Jackson song dance move which is just to sort of jump and or shake your body wildly because as great as MJ songs are, the only way to dance to them is to dance like MJ and since only about 1% of the population can do that, the rest of us are left to just flail our arms and hope nobody is watching. Unfortunately for these people, the U.S. was watching.

3:30: And scene. Quick change, cue the hat and drum beat. Let the hip thrusting begin.

4:25: No matter how many impersonators you will see over the years, no one does it quite like him.

4:55: The Lion King is making its move onto the stage. I'm hoping the song culminates in a King of Pop v. King of the Jungle battle royale. Granted, MJ is a lover not a fighter, so this likely won't happen.

5:22: Go back up dancers.

5:37: "Five, six, seven, and...point to the crowd!"

6:05: I wonder if MJ's nose ever blew off while standing on one of those wind vents. It had to have worried him.

6:20: Some guy wearing one of those fake mustaches with glasses just grabbed a little screen time.

6:25: Black or white? How about male or female? Please settle this.

6:42: The Super Bowl, sponsored by United Way.

8:00: How awesome would it be if MJ ditched the rest of his performance and just got out a football and tried to kick a field goal from the stage? How far do you think it would go? I'm guessing no more than 15 yards. I don't even think it would make it off the stage.

8:20: Not really sure what to say here. MJ is holding what appears to be a magic wand of sorts. He uses it to make children appear. All jokes seem too easy and likely to cross the line quickly. We'll just respect the dead (and molested) and move on.

8:50: Apparently the Nickelodeon Rugrats are also sponsoring the Superbowl. I wonder if Doug and Ren and Stimpy will also be featured.

9:30: I mean, I honestly feel like MJ is a sincere guy and all, just not the choicest words since we know that in a few months he is going to be charged with child molestation.


9:55: Cue the children.


10:01: Was that a boy in lederhosen? Das good.


10:25: Looks like they have children dressed in costumes from all over the world...and also a few adults in solid green Ross sweatshirts. They are pretending to be helpers but really just jockeying for position and trying to get some face time. MJ will not be happy if he's not surrounded entirely by children.


11:09: "Peace bud. Peace."


11:22: Here come the United Way graduates.


12:26: Let's be honest, would I have preferred some sort of Beat It/Smooth Criminal/Bad/The Dog-gone Girl Is Mine Medley. At the same time, it is quite an amazing production. He literally has the entire stadium involved. Scores of people singing and then everyone in the crowd holding up some sort of poster. Pretty impressive. I bet the athletes were jealous they didn't get to participate.


So there you have it. The production that started it all. Your move Madonna.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Russian Schooling

I read this article in the NY Times the other day. It is a fascinating story about a NY Times correspondent that moved to Russia for a few years. He discusses their decision to put their kids, who don't know any Russian at all, in the Russian school system as opposed to in an international school where they would speak and teach in English.

"But when I became a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, my wife and I decided that we wanted to immerse them in life abroad. No international schools where the instruction is in English. Ours would go to a local one, with real Russians. When we told friends in Brooklyn of our plans, they tended to say things like, Wow, you’re so brave. But we knew what they were really thinking: What are you, crazy?"

I'm pretty sure that I would want to do the same thing with my kids, but I doubt that I would actually be able to go through with it. I think it would be a great experience for my kids to experience living in another country and in another culture and to be fully immersed in that culture. I've met plenty of people who lived in other countries, but hardly knew anything about that country because they spent their few years in that country mostly speaking and associating with English speaking people. Sure, they knew more about the country than I did, but their experience seemed to be vastly different than that of these kids.

I think the key for making something like this work, would be finding the right school. The founder/headmaster of this school and the teachers sound excellent.

"When Bogin [founder] was growing up in the Soviet era, the party used schools to mold loyal Communists. Teachers wove propaganda through the lessons and enforced memorization like drill sergeants. Bogin detested it. “I didn’t want to be a slave,” he told me. “I didn’t want to be a person who is ordered and must obey the orders without any thinking. I didn’t consider myself to be a person who repeats texts without any criticism or thinking or any alternatives.

Just as political dissidents fought the Soviet regime, so, too, did others oppose the educational system. Bogin was one of them. After studying English in college and serving in the army, he decided to become the kind of teacher he craved as a child. At a school in the Moscow suburbs in the late 1980s, he challenged pupils to challenge him — and everyone else...

"When I asked Bogin to explain Shchedrovitsky, he asked a question. “Does 2 + 2 = 4? No! Because two cats plus two sausages is what? Two cats. Two drops of water plus two drops of water? One drop of water.”

From there, the theories became more complex. In practice, though, the philosophy meant that Bogin delighted in barraging children with word problems and puzzles to force them to think broadly. It was the opposite of the rote memorization of the Soviet system."

Love it.

And a great story about one of the teachers:

"At the beginning of the year, the other children treated Danya, Arden and Emmett as curiosities. They occasionally mocked the three for their mangled syntax, though the school cracked down on that. Bogin even devised a ploy for Emmett’s class: one of the school’s English teachers conducted a lesson entirely in English. “This is what every day is like for Emmett,” the teacher explained. One boy was so tormented trying to follow along that he burst into tears."

Brilliant.

Anyways, it's a great read. The kids naturally start off completely lost and discouraged and come home in tears. The parents question whether they should pull them out of school and if they made the right decision. They almost pull them out after one day but decide to stick by the decision and three years later when they are leaving Russia the kids are fluent in Russian and have made great friendships.

Reading this story made me ponder a few things. First of all, it just reminds me of how resilient people, and especially children can be. They clearly struggled and life was really difficult, but they stuck with it and their decision and I think the entire family would agree that they were glad they did.

I think we as a society, or at least as adults, shun or are embarrassed by struggling or failing. Even though it really is part of life. I'm reminded of this with Win. I know it is small and trivial stuff that he does, but it is inspiring to watch him grow. His life is full of struggles and failures at the moment. He spent weeks just trying to pull himself up to a standing position. Even when he does, he still falls over sometimes. He will usually cry for a bit. But once he is better, he tries again. And again. And again until he gets it. And when he does, he is so proud. He spent weeks trying to pull himself up in his crib. When he finally could do it he was so excited it took him a few hours to finally go to sleep. We would put him on his back and he would just flip over and pull himself up and giggle with excitement that he had finally done it.

The other thing this article made me think about was what I mentioned above about how many people, including myself, would actually do what this family did. It made me think about the many immigrants and people that come to the US and what they must be going through. Granted, I have lived in another country and struggled to learn the language and assimilate myself into the culture. But that was all part of the program I signed up for. This family didn't have to do what they did. There were plenty of English-speaking international schools they could have attended.

I guess I just often look at immigrants and think that if they would just learn the language and try to be more American, then life would be easier for them. First of all, I think many are trying and it's just not easy. And second, I'm already pretty sure that if I went to Russia I wouldn't do what this family did and I would likely spend my three years there partially getting involved with the culture, but also spending a lot of time with any English speaking acquaintances I made. I'm pretty sure most Americans would do the same.

Anyways, I'm not trying to get preachy and this isn't some sort of pro-Dream Act or immigrants rights blog post or anything. I don't know if I have a specific point. Just had one of those moments where my perspective was altered a bit and I realized I can't completely fault some people for their behavior because I'm not sure I would do differently if I was in their situation. I know I, and they, would be better off if they did; as demonstrated by this article. I guess I'm still a little too proud and afraid to struggle and fail. I need to better follow Win's example.