Further Musings

Beauty smote his heart, he looked up from the forsaken land & hope returned to him

Archive for January 2011

Giving up Football?

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This week the New Yorker published a challenging article titled: Football and the Concussion Crisis.  It’s particularly challenging to me because I really enjoy watching football and married a woman who loves to watch football.  Even so, watching some of the worst hits from this season made my stomach turn.

Can I continue watching a sport that permanently damages people’s bodies for my entertainment?  The litany of injuries described in the article, both deaths and chronic brain injuries, is pretty horrendous, especially the fairly common onset of dementia for men in their 40s and 50s caused by repeated head injuries.

I’m not sure that I can . . .

Written by furthermusings

January 30, 2011 at 7:47 pm

Posted in Reflections

Public Colleges become Private?

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The NYTimes ran a nice article today on the changing nature of “public universities.”   State budgets are in a pickle, legislatures won’t or can’t cut K-12 & Medicaid so universities are the next big target.  Universities can cut some and make classes bigger but they still need funds.  Higher tuition is the answer.

More expensive public universities gradually undermines the ability of poor kids to go to college.  The implicit claim, “work hard as a high school student and you can make it to college even if your family doesn’t have much money” is gradually being undercut by the reality of 100% tuition increases in the last 5-10 years.  You can still go, but decades of debt await (as we know).  States still subsidize higher ed by the billions but that doesn’t change the reality that college is more expensive today for a freshman than it was a decade ago.

Tis a sad new reality and I think an important shift in our society.

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January 24, 2011 at 8:52 am

Posted in Politics

North Caorlina’s State Budget Choices

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The N&O ask the liberal North Carolina Budget and Tax Center and the conservative John Lock Foundation to present two visions of what the state budget might look like.  Both do a great job of saying how they suggest closing the gap.  Decidedly worth reading if you live in NC.

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January 23, 2011 at 8:47 am

Posted in Politics

State Budgets . . . Oi

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Seems like every newscast I hear these days talks about state or local budgets.  They probably should.  A crisis is arriving and will hit this spring as states start to make their budgets for next year.

This graphic from the NYTimes does a nice job of visually conveying the magnitude of the crisis.  It really isn’t the ideal time to try to become a state government employee.

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January 22, 2011 at 8:55 pm

Posted in Politics

Past the Finish Line

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“A Mother’s Poem” by My Mom:

When he was two he liked to “read” his books.

His mother said the words and prayed a prayer.

When he was six he left her for a school.

His mother packed his lunch and prayed a prayer.

When he was eight his teacher said, “he’s bored.”

His mother talked to her and prayed a prayer.

When he was twelve he hated Ms. L,

His mother drove the car and prayed a prayer.

His junior year his homework was “undone.”

His mother found his book and prayed a prayer.


Today this boy received his P-H-D.

His mother smiled a smile and prayed a prayer.

Written by furthermusings

January 11, 2011 at 1:07 pm

The Truth Wears Off?

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The talk of the town (or at least the house) for the last two weeks has been “The Truth Wears Off” from The New Yorker.  The subtitle is “Is there something wrong with the scientific method?”  It’s a great discussion of how scientific results tend to become weaker over time.  Since we take powerful medicines, change laws, and alter our personal behaviors based off of scientific studies this is pretty problematic.

I’ll let Lehrer sell you on the existence called “decline effect.”  Two things really stood out to me about it all.  First, the decline effect really challenges the inherent reliability of the scientific method and therefore our ability to know things.  Knowing which medicines save lives is pretty important to me and not knowing whether or not to trust results is pretty challenging.  Second, the list of objections Lehrer received and his replies were fascinating. I particularly liked this quote by the author

I think the decline effect is an important reminder that we shouldn’t simply reassure ourselves with platitudes about the rigors of replication or the inevitable corrections of peer review.  Although we often pretend that experiments settle the truth for us—that we are mere passive observers, dutifully recording the facts—the reality of science is a lot messier. It is an intensely human process, shaped by all of our usual talents, tendencies, and flaws.


Written by furthermusings

January 9, 2011 at 5:51 pm

Posted in Geeky Blogs

The Big Short

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This week I finished The Big Short by Michael Lewis. It’s the story of three small companies who saw the housing bubble coming, put their money were their mouths were, and made tens of millions in doing so.

In weaving his tale Lewis does an excellent job of explaining how loans made to people with no proven income and no down payment (so called “liar loans”) eventually were sold to retirees as the safest investments money can buy.  Learning about the financial wizardry was interesting, but more interesting were the personalities.  The financial system a jungle filled with honest fools, contemptible fools, and villains.  The main characters encountered them all.  It takes someone special to spit in the face of a trillion dollar industry, endure the scorn of your peers for a year, and still proclaim that the emperor has no clothes.

The Big Short was a gripping read personally.  For one, I’m working on a paper examining the spread of the financial crisis that this book describes.  For two, as state budgets move further and further into the red because of this crisis, fewer and fewer academic jobs post for next year.  While the innards of the book can be arcane, the consequences couldn’t be more real for me today.

Written by furthermusings

January 7, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Posted in Reviews