Wednesday, December 10, 2008

$15B down the oil drain

Warren Buffet put $230M in for 10% of BYD (leading cell phone battery manufacturer rolling out electric cars.) For $25B you could start 10 of those companies in the US (and invest the remainder in Tesla). The govt could get warrant coverage on the investments so we could convert to stock if anyone ever IPOs again. We could use the profits to pay a portion of the lost pension benefits. The government already operates several venture funds for military purposes, so it's legally sound. These 3 Detroit behemoths aren't going to be competing on the world stage.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The simple way to save money

I am sick of people saying that clipping coupons is good way to save money, if you really want money, here are your options:

  1. Move to a cheaper house/apartment - your biggest expense is the best place to save.
  2. Buy a cheaper used car with a good warranty.
  3. Get a better paying job or a second job (like cooking at home).
  4. Don't tithe- it's for suckers only- Gods don't want money, they can make their own.
  5. Travel cheaply, stay with friends.
  6. Stop buying expensive things. You don't need them.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Go faster...

Great plan from New Hampshire for making sure everyone is making progress. I don't know if getting out early is the big benefit, but...

"We're simply telling students it's okay to go at their own pace," he says. Especially if that pace is a little quicker than the status quo.

That sounds great!

Nearly four years ago, New Hampshire began an initiative called Follow the Child. Starting practically from birth, educators are expected to chart children's educational progress year to year. In the future, this effort will be bolstered by formalized curricula that specify exactly what kids should know by the end of each grade level.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Racism sucks

There is a great way of stating the obvious. I am disappointed by this New York Times article and the apparent contradictions it supports. First this claim is made:
"When New York City set a uniform threshold for admission to public school gifted programs last fall, it was a crucial step in a prolonged effort to equalize access to programs that critics complained were dominated by white middle-class children whose parents knew how to navigate the system."
This sounds like a great move to me. Take something that lets whiny parents get their way and replace it with an objective standard.

"The move was controversial, with experts warning that standardized tests given to young children were heavily influenced by their upbringing and preschool education, and therefore biased toward the affluent."

Hmmm...there's something wrong with this: "Tests are influenced by upbringing and preschool and therefore biased toward the affluent". The use of the word "biased" there is very misleading. They don't claim that the tests are biased- the claim that the results are influenced by prior education, and thus those who have had access to better preschool education do better. What sort of test do they propose that wouldn't exhibit this? I submit that any test that doesn't reflect this must be biased in some other way.

What exactly are we talking about here? We are talking about putting children in classes that move at a pace that will keep them stimulated and interested in learning. One that is not too fast nor too slow.

"...last year, there was no citywide cutoff, so available seats were distributed to the top scorers in each district. Some districts that had many spots or few applicants welcomed children with very low scores."
If we have children that don't know their alphabet in a class where everyone else is reading, that is missing the point of leveled education. But I see a much larger access problem that the Times missed- why do kids have to apply? Just test them all and put them in appropriate classes. Kids can learn how to count and other kids can learn how to add.

“They’re trying to push Hispanic kids and minority kids away from gifted program,” said Judith Amaro, a parent leader in District 6.
Now that just sounds idiotic. What does race have to do with a test? If I make a test where you have to be able to add 2+5 to get into the gifted addition class, the test doesn't care what race you are. Still, racism exists- see Obama in West Virginia. So people that don't understand the nature of the test, assume that any different performances of people across racial groups must be racist. It's really sad.

I still question Ms. Amaro- why would you want an underqualified kid in the gifted addition class?

I think the bigger problem with gifted programs is that it's all in. It should be differential by subject and you should have to keep qualifying. Check kids again every year. Check the pace at which they are learning.

“a group of professors and luminaries — including Deborah Stipek, the dean of Stanford’s School of Education, and former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo — deplored the practice in a letter to the chancellor and mayor. Testing young children for gifted classes most likely will increase inequities,” read the letter, “and undermine educational opportunities for all children
Far be it from me to say that the dean of Stanford's School of Education is wrong, but she is wrong. Gifted classes aren't magical bunny treats for rich kids- they are classes designed to run at a faster pace for kids that are ready for them.

If you want to fix the problem, spend money on Head Start and offer free preschool for the disadvantaged. Don't pretend the problem doesn't exist by pretending that kids who aren't ready for school are ready for school.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Too Rad

Radiation medicine sucks: CT scans are killing us! We're an over-medicated lot.

I think this bit neatly sums up a lot of what's wrong with health care in the USA:
"Some say part of the blame lies with physicians who have financial interests in imaging facilities. "There is statistical evidence that indicates that more scans are ordered when a physician has a financial interest than when he doesn't," said Moore.

Defensive medicine also plays a role, with some doctors ordering the tests to stave off accusations that they withheld the most cutting-edge technology from their patients.

In other cases, overuse results from worried patients and from parents demanding CT scans that may not be needed. "

So we have:
1) Doctors increasing income by ordering more care
2) Doctors lowering lawsuit risk by ordering more care
3) Patients demanding care they don't need

Resulting in: more Americans being killed by their healthcare providers (see graph). It sounds utterly cynical, until we change those three things, maybe people should get less care than they do.

I know my grandmother was more or less sent on a path to death by her doctor, who misdiagnosed her broken rib as a heart condition and gave her more pills to take- that sent her on a downward spiral. Ironically, to my argument, perhaps an x-ray would have done some good there, as she didn't have that much time left to develop a cancer.

Overall though, people need to be a little less optimistic about medicine and doctors. Those bright colored commercials for prescription drugs really do make people think there's a magical cure out there for everything. Even diseases that might not exist, like fibromylagia. It reminds me of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which is a fancy way of saying your stomach hurts and you have constipation or the opposite, and your doctor doesn't know why. Except, in fibromylagia, all of you hurts, and your doctor doesn't know why. It sounds very very similar to arthritis to me- except that the (mainly) women that get it fight the arthritis diagnosis because they don't want to feel old. Of course, now Pfizer is marketing a painkiller called "Lyrica" (sounds like the name of a girly folk music concert?) to treat it. It doesn't actually cure anything (reminds me of the old Chris Rock bit on AIDS) it just alleviates a symptom.

And please don't get me started on the "Restless Leg Syndrome".

I'm 34 and I'm already achy- it ain't f-ing fibromylagia- I'm just getting old. Get used to it, ladies. It doesn't get any better.

And just because you name a symptom- it doesn't make it a disease. For example- depression is the symptom, serotonin deficit is a cause. We can't have people walking the streets saying they have headachitis. It just doesn't make any sense.

Anyway- that's phase one of my health plan- educate the people of the old USA so they aren't so overconfident in their medical science. That should save enough money to fund phase two...