Driving Directions

I love google maps and mapquest, but if you are planning a multi-leg road trip — say for instance visiting 8 colleges and universities over 4 days — AAA triptiks are still pretty darn useful. They make it easy to specify multiple stops, save your plans and try variants, and they print out pretty well. I joined AAA for other reasons, I’m not sure I would pay the fee just for triptiks, but if you are already a member, worth trying.

Great articles on college admissions in November Atlantic Monthly

One is online — from the President of Reed College — concerning Reed’s withdrawal from the US News ranking system.  Another only in print or paid sub — The Best Class Money Can Buy.  Great discussions about how the ranking systems corrupt behaviour, and how colleges are using sophisticated yield management thinking to buff up their rankings and their revenues.  Depressing in many ways but anyone who is working through the college decision process should read.

Teach for America

Good article about Teach for America in nyt this weekend. I didn’t know anything about the program.

Teach For America is the national corps of outstanding recent college graduates of all academic majors who commit two years to teach in urban and rural public schools, and become lifelong leaders in the effort to expand educational opportunity. Our mission is to build the movement to eliminate educational inequity by enlisting some of our nation’s most promising future leaders in the effort.


Helping Hurricane Victims

I sure hope that all the bloggers, who have so much time and energy to blast the emergency preparedness and emergency response of our various levels of government, have spent just as much time and energy actually trying to help the victims of this disaster.

Kudos to everyone who has helped. We gave at the American Red Cross. CharityNavigator has some other ideas as well. I understand some refugees are coming to the northwest and we’ll look for ways to help them as well.

I don’t know how effective our government response has been and I personally don’t care to dig into that right now. First job is to help people. None of us should expect the government to solve the problem, that is not the way the world works.

Catching up with Martin

Catching up with all of Martin’s postings:

* Responding to the negative energy balance FUD around biodiesel — good stuff
* Seattle leading way to embrace Kyoto — great news. I think we’re way behind in fully embracing eco-friendly industrial policies in this country. Put it this way — if you want to defend your economy and markets from high growth, emerging producers — raising the eco-bar way high is probably a good thing to do. Emerging producers may be able to produce basic high volume goods cheaply, but it will take them a while to catch up with highly-engineered green goods and services.
* Martin discovers process modelling software — I have no real use for these tools but they are incredibly fun to play with.
* Current supply and demand numbers — fuel prices are only going one way.
* From Bits to Barrels — Martin’s contribution to SNS, journaling his transformation into the John D. Rockefeller of the next century :). Hey martin, go read “Titan”.

Random observations on the road from Seattle to Phoenix

* What is up with the speed limits in Oregon? Vast stretches of empty country in the eastern part of the state, and speed limits set at 65. No other state in the west is stuck back at this level.
* I didn’t expect the bars in Salt Lake City to be so rockin’ on a Saturday night. They are wilder than Seattle bars.
* Littering is illegal, but trucks are allowed to leave huge horking pieces of blown tires all over the highway?
* The security at the parking garage at the Bellagio in LV was tighter than the security for driving over Hoover Dam.
* Prescott is a very nice town. Has to be my favorite spot in Arizona so far. The granite dells are beautiful.
* Phoenix on the other hand — LA, only hotter and without the ocean.

FBI computer systems

When I first read last week about the problems with the FBI computer system overhaul, I was pissed at our government. $170M wasted, now another $2M to consultants to figure out why. What waste — and in an important system.

On further reflection, this is such an immature reaction on my part. It is the easy reaction. Today, on inauguration day, I am reminded of JFK’s words — “Ask not what your country can do for you; Ask what you can do for your country.”

Our industry should be reaching out to help the FBI. We can’t expect the FBI to be expert at IT, or to be able to necessarily hire or evaluate the best IT staff or consultants. It is not the FBI’s core competency. The FBI needs to solve a really big database problem — I bet there are people at MSFT, Oracle, Google who know something about these problems and could help.

I’m not dying to help the FBI build some huge tracking database for every citizen — but if they have the legal mandate to build something, and are going to build it, I certainly feel like we should help them spend our tax dollars wisely and get a system that does something useful.

Anyway — just a reminder to myself — it is not the government’s job to solve all our problems — it is our responsibility to pitch in and help solve the issues in our society that need solutions or that we are uniquely equipped to help solve.

Impressions of Duluth

Landed in Duluth at 9pm Saturday. Temperature on the ground: -20 degrees F. Airport has one ticket counter, a handful of gates, and a luggage carousel the size of a small bedroom.

Hey, everyone here sounds like Frances McDormand in Fargo.

Checked in to the brand new Country Inn near the airport. Very pleasant, brand new. A million kids in the hotel — hockey teams in town for a tournament. All running thru the halls in swimsuits to the indoor heated pool and slide — who knew I should bring a swimsuit to Duluth in January?

Watching the local NBC affiliate news was an education all by itself about northern Minnesota. The news anchor and the weatherman both looked to be about 24 — they are the backup team at the station — I guess if you are a new journalism grad, Duluth is the kind of market you can start in. The weather report was all about “how many consecutive hours will the temperature stay below zero”. Record is 160+ as I recall. We’re at 60+ now, the weatherman doesn’t think we’ll break the record.

Sports report — Div III college hockey, Div II college hockey, Div I college hockey, high school hockey, minor league hockey. Oh yeah at the end he mentioned the NFL playoff results.

Down to 24 below overnight. The building popped and cracked all night long — a constant battle between freezing weather and our room heater. And not a gentle popping and cracking — more like the last 30 seconds of a bag of microwave popcorn, all night long.

Holiday Giving 2004

This holiday season, we particularly wanted to help out the families of servicemen and servicewomen who have made or are making significant sacrifices for all of us. We gave to three organizations:

* Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund — “The Fund provides unrestricted grants to the families of military personnel who have given their lives in the current operations in defense of our country. The gifts, $10,000 to each dependent family and an additional $5,000 per child, are intended to help these families through any immediate or long-term financial difficulties they may face.”
* Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund — “On May 18, 2004, a small group of concerned Marine Corps spouses founded the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund to provide financial grants and other assistance to the Marines, sailors, and families of those injured serving our nation.”
* Army Emergency Relief — “AER funds are made available to commanders having AER Sections to provide emergency financial assistance to soldiers – active & retired – and their dependents when there is a valid need.”

Thanks again to Winds of Change for maintaining this great list of pointers for ways to help the troops.

The depressing thing about this election…

…is not the presidential results. I am sure the country will muddle through whoever is inhabiting that office.

The thing that is of most local, immediate importance to me is the failure of I-884, the education funding initiative. I’m suprised about the totality of the failure here. Obviously the electorate does not like new taxes. It is obviously going to take way more effort to increase our educational funding — it is going to take unified statewide political support — both parties, all major state and federal elected officials — as well as private sector leaders to ever push any significant educational funding package through.

Teachers' preference for private schools

Winds of Change.NET: Watch the Teachers’ Feet

“[American] public school teachers are almost twice as likely as other parents to choose private schools for their own children, the study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute found. More than 1 in 5 public school teachers said their children attend private schools.
In Washington (28 percent), Baltimore (35 percent) and 16 other major cities, the figure is more than 1 in 4. In some cities, nearly half of the children of public school teachers have abandoned public schools.”

AAA road service

34 miles into our drive to LA and we hit a big whomping chunk of metal in the road — and there goes a tire. Could have been worse — we were right at the Federal Way exit; later in the drive in southern Oregon or central California we might have had a real long wait.

But AAA service was great — great call center, quick arrival, found an open tire center for us, took us right there. Well worth the annual membership fee.