Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Coffee Shops

Are like libraries nowadays. I like it. I was in a Caribou the other day and found myself speaking at a whisper, so as not to disturb everyone else there working.

Speaking of Caribou Coffee: at the shop at Piedmont and 10th there is a barista named Titus. Who knows whence his name derives of his name. His a nice guy too.

The Greatest Threat to Democracy

A little late - from

The Greatest Threat to Democracy

What is it? The uninformed electorate? As we’ve mentioned in our article on California voters, this certainly bears a negative impact. An uneducated citizenry? This is what Thomas Jefferson thought, and education certainly is a silver bullet for much, if not most, of what ails us. The biggest threat, specifically to democracy, however, is neither of those.
It is hysterical parents.
At this moment more than 1% of all American adults are in Jail. This is a rate more than twice as high as the South Africans, more than three times as high as the Iranians, more than six times as many as the Chinese. In fact, no society ever in history has imprisonedmore of its citizens. I’ll repeat that just for blogging effect: No society EVER in HISTORY has imprisoned more of its citizens than the United States is doing right now.
So why is America doing this? Are Americans inherently more violent than any other society ever in history? Or might the laws be a tad draconian? We have laws such as the three strike rule, wherein, if you are convicted of two crimes, the third, no matter how trivial, will result in life imprisonment. As an example Leandro Andrade is serving two consecutive life terms for shoplifting nine videotapes. Kevin Weber is serving 26 years forstealing 4 chocolate chip cookies. So: while 5% of the world is American, 25% of the world’s prisoners are American.
How does this tie into hysterical parents? Well, let us first mention some other overly-aggressive laws like the three strike rule, as well as mandatory minimums: there are the current laws against drugs and gambling, sex offense laws, the death penalty, etc.
The US spends close to $40 Billion each year for the war on drugs, while these drugs can still be bought more cheaply than ever in every city of the country. We’d be hard-pressed to find any metric calling that a success.
Gambling is another non-sensical part of the law. As it stands now (and this may change since writing), online gambling is illegal. Online betting is legal, as long as the bets are not on sports. Any bets on sports can of course be made in Las Vegas, Atlantic city, OTB venues and the Kentucky Derby. However, it is legal to have an online gambling company based in the United States, just as long as no money passes through US banks. No, there is no coherence there*.
Sex offender laws are a bit more controversial. However, there still is a difference between real sex offenders and college kids who urinated, flashed or streaked in public (which will get you sex offender registration for life in 32 states).
As for the death penalty, by comparing this map and this map, it is practically impossible to show that the death penalty has been any sort of deterrent to violent crimes.
Ok, great, so we have a laundry list of laws which make no sense. What do any of these have to do with parents, let alone hysterical ones? Well, let’s say these parents make up a huge part of the active electorate, and they want to keep their children safe from anything that may be called a threat, by any dubious standards, and to hell with all other consequences.
You may have heard the term “Helicopter parents”. Well, this is what we mean. Although, quite frankly, Ed Byrne puts this better than we can:

Ed Byrne on Parents
And in case you think we should not be allowed to comment because we do not have kids of our own, here is an example of someone who does:
Lenore Skenazy and Free Range Kids
* The UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act) was slipped into the 2006 SAFE port bill after it had been voted on by Congress and before it was signed by the president. The UIGEA was found to be unfair at the WTO but the US gave undisclosed concessions to the EU and Antigua to drop their demands. Freedom of information act filings to determine what those disclosures are, however, were denied due to national security.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Thoughts on Management

I'm reading Andrew Sorkin's Too Big To Fail (which is good). And two things come to mind. Although they are really two demonstrations of the same thing. Anyway:

Companies that are management driven are doomed to fail.

Or require rescuing.

It relates to the Peter Principle I suppose. You are great on the trading floor, sales desk, development team, whatever. You work your way up the ranks and end up in management. Your company is successful, it grows, management booms. All of a sudden it has been years since you have stepped in the mêlée of actual production, or any work closely associated with the product (or service) involved. 

Put briefly: you are detached from reality. 

The book is also a good reminder of the incompetence of Congress. 

Ok, I exaggerate for the sake effect. But the point is: no one person can have so much specialised knowledge as to make the decisions required of congress. The great scene where congress is being briefed by Paulson and Bernanke, to ultimately make a decision on TARP. *sigh*

Monday, 19 November 2012

Weekend Update

I tried to upload the video yesterday on location, but to no luck.

Anyway, another great Atlanta weekend including:

  • Dinner date at Bricktops
  • The most amazing carwash in the world
  • Framing our first ever proper work of art
  • New restaurant discovery H.Harper Station
  • Jack & Coke slushies at Victory
  • Highland Cigar Bar, one of my favourite Atlanta spots
  • A walk on the Beltline

And did I mention the weather?!

Friday, 16 November 2012


Ocean has his post forwarded to me, so I get a lot of "welcome to the neighbourhood" post. Which includes a lot of coupons. Many many. So I decide to go through these (this was new to me).

And I realised: coupons are great! I actually went to to my grocery store and had to ask, at check out, how they worked. But I'm getting the hang of it.

I would like to now be a crazy coupon lady.

3 more chins and I can move in with Honey Boo Boo.

Thursday, 15 November 2012


For Giuseppe's CleanTech conference. And drinks with college flat-mate Irini.

We tried to stop in Macon for coffee. There is no coffee in Macon before 11AM. 

Monday, 12 November 2012

Whose Brain?

  • Right-brain types
  •  are visually oriented. They tend to think in images rather than words, focus on the big picture rather than the details, and go through life in a somewhat seat-of-the-pants (a.k.a. scattered) way.
  • Left-brainers
  •  are those who think in words (attention, list makers!), do a lot of advance planning, and approach challenges in a rational, linear way.

I am visually-oriented, go through life in a scattered way, make endless lists and approach challenges in a linear way. Am I using both sides of my brain? Or neither?

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Voting, of course

So is it accurate that most voting is swayed by partisan voters anyway, who are more likely to come out and vote, etc etc? Where did I read that?

On a similar note: how different would outcomes be if voters focused more on their local issues when voting, rather than the president? There seems to be a lot of focus on the presidential candidates but very little discussion (and I'm generalising here), about local propositions up for vote. Some are getting more attention than others, but if those were the focus, if people were more concentrated on the votes that make a difference to their immediate lives, would that affect presidential voting outcomes?

I think so. But then I'm just thinking aloud here. Post-coffee but early morning.

In any case, a take on election outcomes from 

Monday, 5 November 2012

A clarification

The Red Cross. It's symbol is... wait for it... a red cross. For example:

This has now come to symbolise First Aid in general as well. (Although this is, traditionally, supposed to be a white cross on a green ground).

The Swiss Flag is the opposite of this (or, indeed, vice versa as the case may be). A white flag on a red ground. Like so:

If your first aid kit looks like this, it is, quite simply, wrong:

Saturday, 3 November 2012

The Kindness of Parents

Diminishes with time.

I was rudely awoken at 6AM with a fit of pain in my neck, which has remained immobile ever since. I later get on to Skype with my parents and explain why my left shoulder is about 6 cm higher than my left.

My mother found this "grotesque"
My father started twisting his neck in all directions, to show me that HE still can.

Reminding me of faraway 2004, when I suddenly lost my voice completely and could only speak in a hoarse whisper, which required great effort.
That same day I emailed my parents to let them know, so when my phone rang and they were calling I assumed it was urgent and responded (I wasn't taking calls during those days).

I reply to hear them both giggling down the phone and saying "Becky, Becky, sing us a song!"

Parents are mean.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Halloween is for everyone

As many friends posted pictures of their children in Halloween costumes, I bring you my husband:

The party we attended was a short walk away, so G took a few souls on the way. As the Grim Reaper is wont to do. And once at the bar went to say hello to his friends, who looked slightly disconcerted, until he pulled his hood off with dramatic flourish and announced: "It's Joe!"

The Education Bubble - DA Post

Read the original and leave a comment

More Evidence of that Education Bubble

Many top tier schools have lately been praised for allowing more and more people access to their education system. UC Berkeley and MIT offer all of their lectures for free on Youtube. Harvard, as well as many other schools, offers an “extension school“, where people can take classes part time or remotely.
While this is undoubtedly good public relations, one may start to wonder: “If I can get a full MIT education for free online, why would I want to pay upwards of $40,000 per year for the same privilege?”. And then one will wonder, if everyone else starts thinking in the same manner, won’t MIT et al lose all of their students, and therefore all of their money?
Well, they won’t. These schools have discovered that the most valuable part of a college education is not the education itself, but the “signalling” (or signaling) that goes along with it. A person who went to MIT will receive a diploma from MIT, and therefore be allowed to add it to their resume. Someone who followed the courses online will not. Likewise, someone who attended a Harvard extension course will only receive the extension course certificate, not the diploma. When looking for a job, most interviewers (or human resource departments) will not test the applicants on what they really learned and retained, but they will notice the degree (or lack thereof).
Once again, a bubble occurs when a certain product (or service) is bought not for its inherent value, but purely as an investment. If enough people keep purchasing something as an investment without regarding its value, the discrepancy will become larger and larger, until people decide to abandon the whole ordeal. In other words, I will choose to attend MIT because I know it will raise my expected salary by x%. MIT knows this as well, so it charges quite a bit. Of course, more money attracts better professors, but if smart professors worked solely for more money they would all become consultants. So I will be paying a lot solely for that degree on my resume (although these days being a Harvard dropout seems in vogue as well).
Unfortunately, in this global economy, people will start noticing that they can learn just as much at a good school in a foreign country, or simply my following the online lectures diligently. They will be at a disadvantage when job seeking, but will perform just as well once they have the job.
You could also make the networking argument, that you go to Harvard or MIT for the classmates (who will surely be very powerful in the future). If, however, over the years people of the same (or higher) caliber come from other places, the influence will wane, slowly but surely. Company bosses (and human resource departments) will start to notice that Harvard graduates are not the best people for the job.
At this point, these schools will be charging $40,000 for something that can be obtained for free, and they will be doling out degrees that are worth less and less, and students may wonder what the benefits are. And then, one day, these schools will lose a huge percentage of their students and realize they need to lower their tuition fees. Way down.