Thursday, 26 May 2011

When a Nickel isn't a Nickel Anymore

There was an interesting article over at the Wall Street Journal yesterday....talking about school fees and how they are going upward.

One kid (Kansas) has a $235 enrollment fee, with supply fees at the school going as high as $65 a class.

Another kid had a $150 fee per sport.

Another kid had a $350 fee to join a chess club.

Another kid had a $200 fee to join up with the Students Against Drunk Driving (I assume none of it will be used for booze, but it might as well have).

Another kid had to chuck out $85 to write for a school literary magazine.

Another kid's mom came to discover that the school had cancelled out calculus for his senior year....which would have torn up his chances of getting a "fine" university (Princeton, Yale, etc).  So she paid out $850 to enroll the kid in a online calcuus class to get the right credit.

Another kid had to pay out $263 for various exams and $3,990 to anticipate in the school's cross-country track club and band.

I read through this entire article (rather lengthly, but worth the read).  I feel blessed in a way of having attended school in Bama in the 1970s....and other than the $5 a year fee for paper & chalk, that was typically it.  At some point...prior to the 1970 period, the school ran a talent-like show once a year and collected around $500 which was sufficient for the whole school and it's paper requirements.  Basketball?  Nothing.  FAA?  Well, they ran a orange-sales deal in November and took in at least $3k to cover all the expenses they needed.

The sad thing here is that we are starting to have a case where some bright kids are going to be left behind on various school activities....because dad screwed up and lost his life savings with some dimwit insurance salesman.  Or mom's part-time job at Pizza Hut is just enough to cover the gas that the kid burns up each week in their 1992 Chevy that barely runs.

The way that things are going....we will eventually charge each kid $8 a year just to ensure enough toilet paper is around.  Kinda sad if you think about it.

The Change in Eating?

It was an odd piece of admitting in public today.....Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg....the boy wonder....finally came out and admit that he now only eats....what he kills.

He came to this decision to be humble and thankful for the food we have to eat.  This is an American attitude that we used to have back in the 1700s.  You ate fresh meat or pork or fish everyday, and tossed in a few vegetables.  Life was simple, and we revolved around just killing what you needed for your family or yourself.  

So Mark goes on to admit that he's eating healthier foods now.....and even starts to admit that he's into sustainable farming and raising of animals.

The truth of the matter is that we really didn't have vegetarianism go big-time until the past forty years.  There were always the folks who touted the idea but frankly....if you lived an active lifestyle....you just couldn't survive without some beef, chicken, pork or fish in your diet.

Will this change anything?  Well....some folks might actually get into this sustainable farm business, and start to think long-term in the concept of having five acres....a couple of goats and chickens.....a garden.....maybe an above-ground pool where you keep forty trout, and think in a different manner.  I'm not going to suggest this will catch on....but you might find a couple thousand folks thinking this way by the end of the year....if Mark does it.

The Difference in 300 Years

Three centuries ago....if you were a scientist or man of knowledge, and you wanted to proclaim a discovery....you got dragged in front of the Catholic Church or the government.   You had to establish your facts, lay out how you came to this logic, and you were peer-reviewed in the extreme fashion.  In most cases, your discovery was denied and you just went home knowing that they were idiots.

In the 1800's....things started to change.  If you were a scientist or man of knowledge....you'd put on a show for the public....publish all your data in a science journal.....and then stand a fair amount of public ridicule by your fellow men of knowledge.

Up until about the 1980s.....it was typical that you published a discovery and backed it up with a fair amount of data.  If you wanted acceptance....you had to allow people to see your raw data.  Shockingly enough.....guys like Einstein were peer-reviewed.  Even today, there are Einstein theories that are not 100 percent completely endorsed by the science community.  But to be honest, they haven't been totally disproved either.

This week.... compliments of the Guardian Newspaper in the UK.....we learn that scientists there in the UK are angry and disturbed about public requests, via the British Freedom of Information Act, that people and organizations can now demand the evidence on how you came to your discovery....including the raw data.

Who are these angry men of knowledge?  Mostly all global warming enthusiasts.

It's a curious thing....there was an investigation that centered on problems with global warming reports by government-funded scientists.  The guy in charge of this review?  Muir Russell, who happens to be a former civil servant.  At the end of his review....his chief comment over the men of knowledge was: "consistent pattern of failing to display the proper degree of openness".  Basically....they weren't worried about public or peer review.  They figured it'd all be accepted, period.

I sat and pondered over this for a while.  The amusing thing is that these guys want a "pass" and actually want more privileges than what Einstein himself had.  At the end of each report....they could easily put all their data onto a web site and allow everyone to come and review it.....but they don't seem to want that opportunity.

My guess is that these guys all have graduated via a university system where peer review and openness over data simply wasn't discussed.  These guys partied, studied, passed the tests, and were then noted as "men of knowledge".  The truth is....they pretty much don't want you to know how they arrive at fascinating discoveries.....and they certainly don't want a housewife in Oklahoma City or a peanut farmer in Red Bay, Bama.....to study their findings or find issues.  In essence, they don't want peer review.

For some reason, I am amused by the attitude.  Three hundred years ago....the church would have brought them in....been extremely upset by the attitude, and likely spanked them in some public ritual.  Today, you just get your name in the newspaper....mostly grinning.....after you refuse to be peer reviewed.  Either way, you lose your "man of knowledge" identifier.