Riddle Me This

This is from an old vocabulary paper from my senior year in high school.

A Blankie is a progressive anagram. Each blank in a series of blanks in a sentence represents a missing letter. You will notice that in succeeding sentences additional letters are missing. That is because you must use a word that one more letter added each time. That is, if the first word may be


; the second might then be


Casey was _ _ (one word) _ _ _. He took a third _ _ _ _ at the ball, but his swing was as clumsy as a Frenchman hobbling along on on _ _ _ _ _, or an orchestra leader using three _ _ _ _ _ _.

From the bleachers, _ _ _ _ _ _ _, of the common people, fortress of the fens, there arose a chorus of boos. As he approached left field, the spectators stood up and jeered, and a spontaneously organized ‘informal cheery squad’ gave him a long and delerious Bronx salute.
Casey deserving the roasting.

The sap had been _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _.

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Of Death Panels and Robed Sith Lords

Howard Kurtz admits that the media has simply stopped being neutral journalists and chosen to take sides. He doesn’t realize that’s what he admitted, but it is. And he’s really annoyed that the stupid people aren’t listening to him and his colleagues in their biased, one-sided reporting. We don’t know what’s good for us.

I really like Drew’s response. Here’s a taste:

Here’s a little free info for Mr. Kurtz…people simply don’t trust you guys anymore. There are too many sources of information and the party line doesn’t square with reality as many people know it.

No, the health care bills don’t refer to “death panels” but people know that when you talk about “bending the cost curve down” that means cutting services. Given Obama’s creepy science adviser and his less than stellar record on life issues (he never met an abortion regulation he liked, he’s supported what amounted to infanticide and he himself openly wondered whether hip replacement surgery for the elderly who were terminally ill was a good use of resources), a lot of people simply don’t trust the guy on this issue.

Kurtz and his ilk may decide they will buy Obama’s promises of ‘savings’ through better record keeping and increased testing (which won’t actually save money according to the CBO. How about the media get on “influencing public opinion” about that lie?) but the public is not obligated to do so.

There is a bigger divide than Democrat vs Republican- and that’s the elite vs the rest of us, as can be seen by the usually more accurate Krauthammer, who requests that Sarah Palin leave the room, and I like Dr. Zero’s response to that as well:

Those Facebook pages she’s tossing around like ninja throwing stars are eloquent proof that no one has the right to pat Sarah Palin on the head and send her out of the room, while the grown-ups settle down to serious talk. She isn’t just writing snarky rants. She’s providing both devastatingly effective criticism, and substantial policy alternatives. It’s fairly obvious the White House paid a great deal of attention to her infamous “death panel” column. I haven’t seen that many people turned into nervous wrecks by Facebook since the last time the “Mafia Wars” servers went down.

As many others have noted, Krauthammer begins his latest essay with his bizarrely offensive demand that Palin “leave the room,” then spends the rest of the essay essentially agreeing with her. It seems fair to say that his problem is more with her style than her substance. He misconstrues the “death panel” comment in a manner that suggests he might not have read her original Facebook posting. The “death panel” solar flare occurs in this paragraph:

The Democrats promise that a government health care system will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost. And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

There is no doubt Obama and his allies want to drive the United States toward a single-payer health system. Some of his more colorful co-conspirators, like Barney Frank, aren’t particularly cagey about it when they speak in front of friendly audiences, and Obama himself has expressed that desire in the past. A health-insurance industry dominated by a tax-subsidized public option, whose vampiric “providers” can re-write the laws of the industry to destroy their nominal competitors, will inevitably collapse… leaving only the government. Tossing a shark into your aquarium is not a good way to enhance “competition” among the fish. When America inevitably loses enough blood to lapse into a single-payer coma, there will be rationing, and that means government functionaries will decide how the limited pool of medical resources is allocated. I don’t think “death panel” is an unfair metaphor for the resulting system, and the sense of dread it provokes in the listener is entirely appropriate.

Just a little sidenote of my own- Sarah Palin used the phrase ‘death panel’ wrapped in great, big, obvious scare quotes. For the intellectually honest, the fair minded, and those with a clue, the use of those quotes was a huge signal that she was not being literal.

In fact, as Drew goes on to say (quite deliciously):

The death panel doesn’t have to take the form of nine robed Sith Lords, stamping your grandmothers’ termination orders with a giant red skull, then handing them to a ghoul in surgical scrubs. It will be no less deadly if it consists of thousands of faceless government drones in cubicles, processing Quality of Life spreadsheets and crossing out the unlucky Social Security numbers with pink highlighter pens. In fact, my only quibble with Palin’s prediction is that, given the style of the current Administration, it is much more likely that we’ll have a Death Czar.

So read it all, and whatever you think of Palin, accept the reality that in every country where they have nationalized single payer systems, yes, health care is rationed.

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College and Costs

I read Gary North when somebody else links to him and with a generous dose of salt, and I don’t agree with everything he has to say here. I do, however, think he brings up some interesting points.

As we’ve mentioned here before (and here), MIT is offering all kinds of free stuff- their curriculum, basically- lectures, syllabi, notes, video, and more. It’s a wonderful opportunity for learning.

Gary uses that as the launching pad to talk about the inflated financial cost of a college education, and he says a lot of interesting things- not all of which, again, I agree with, but it’s still a thought-provoking post.

For many, many people and professions, college is a gatekeeper- it is the way to certification, or the way to bar people from certification.

This is what the college diploma has always done. It has created a guild that restricts entry by non-certified people. This keeps wages high.

To obtain the diploma, a person must pay money to the trainers. The trainers are located at one center or special regional centers. Journeying to the center adds costs. Quitting a full-time job back home also adds to the expense. Forcing students to attend pre-requisites adds to the cost. Everything is done to screen access to the knowledge.

So, the knowledge does not spread. This is the crucial function of the academic screening system, especially for practical knowledge: healing people and building things.

MIT has lowered that bar a little. What MIT has not done is given an MIT education to everybody, in spite of Gary’s claim otherwise:

A student in India who understands English and who has access to the Web can get an MIT education.

MIT says not:

* OCW is not an MIT education.
* OCW does not grant degrees or certificates.
* OCW does not provide access to MIT faculty.
* Materials may not reflect entire content of the course.

Emphasis mine.

This is at least partially because an excellent college education (and not all college programs are excellent) is more than books, papers, and programs. It’s that extra something given by a teacher of excellence who passionately loves his or her topic, and is inspired by students who want to learn.

I would say it was about three years into her college experience before the HG met one of these.

It’s also about that extra give and take provided by fellow students who love their studies and who like to learn. I would say it was about three years into her college experience before the HG met these in any significant number, either.

Parents who send their children off to Podunk College are behind the technological curve.

First, about half of college freshmen don’t graduate, even after six years. Second, those who do graduate enter a job market in which only 20% of graduates can find a non-minimum wage job.

While this is currently true, I don’t know how long it’s been true, and I don’t know if the education will pay off in ten years (nobody knows, because we don’t know where the economy will be in ten years). We don’t know how long those graduates will stay in minimum wage jobs before moving on as compared to the noncollege grads.

The graduates are four to six years older, minimally educated, have no full-time work experience, and have forfeited four to six years of income. I call this “formally certified stupidity.” What would you call it?

A college could easily provide free on-line guides to passing the Advanced Placement, CLEP, and DSST exams to quiz out of the first two years. Total cost: under $2,000 for the exams. That would save parents at least $60,000. The school would provide conservative guidelines for free on-line in PDF. It would also provide free YouTube or Blip.tv video courses.

If the school were interested in educating people, it would do all this. But Podunk College is interested in selling accredited degrees at above-market rates. It is not interested in educating people. This includes all of the “dedicated to furthering God’s kingdom” colleges. They are dedicated to furthering their little kingdoms at parents’ expense.

The first two years are fairly generic, so this makes good sense.

Gary is aiming his guns in particular at so called Christian colleges:

If the school were interested in educating people, it would do all this. But Podunk College is interested in selling accredited degrees at above-market rates. It is not interested in educating people. This includes all of the “dedicated to furthering God’s kingdom” colleges. They are dedicated to furthering their little kingdoms at parents’ expense.

If parents could see the classroom presentations, they might conclude that the academic content is essentially the same, the perspective is the same, and the cost is far higher than tax-funded education. A prayer before each class is not worth an extra $80,000.

Of course, most such colleges do offer more than a prayer before class, but the point is- is what they do offer substantive and meaningful enough to make it work the extra thousands of dollars you’ll be paying? Think hard and carefully about the risk assessment here.

In a silly online argument I permitted myself to get involved in, a college girl took the line that there is always something valuable to be learned from college, every college class, no matter what. This might be true, but what if what you learned is that the course wasn’t worth the price? That’s a high cost to that bit of information. Her example was, and I am not making this up, a college course she found otherwise useless, except she learned- wait for it…..

a new word.

As I recall, it wasn’t even that impressive as a new word. And that may rate as the most expensive vocabulary lesson in the history of mankind. Her textbook alone for that class probably cost as much as the entire Oxford English Dictionary. Class credits generally run a couple hundred dollars per credit, and a typical class is three credits- so, conservatively, somebody (probably you and I, as the taxpayers providing her college grants) paid at least three hundred dollars for her to learn a new word, when we could have just given her a dictionary and told her to have at it.

Under no circumstances – none – should a family or a student go into debt for college. The average student graduates with $20,000 of debt. This is suicidal. When graduates marry, they are $40,000 in debt.

That’s just the graduates. What really stings is when a student has to drop out without graduating and still carries that debt load.

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The Escalator Approach to Self-Improvement

The escalator approach is what we call it when we compare ourselves to those around us and find that we’re not doing too badly. This applies whether we’re talking about how to save money, live within our means, hw our kids are doing (rebellious? Sassy? They don’t do drugs?), how we dress, how we talk, how we live- whatever.

There are two problems with this. One is that we need to spend less time looking at how badly others are doing and more time on we should be doing.

The other is that our entire culture is on the down escalator. We might think we’re two or three steps above most of it (but we could be wrong about that, too), so we look around us and see that we are better than the next guy (not addicted to new cars, pricey clothes, shoes, and jewelry, we don’t do drugs or swear. Much. We don’t do…. etc), so we’re good.

But we don’t notice that the escalator is still going down, and with us on it. And really, that next guy? He’s a really sad specimen for a standard, and so are we. Instead of preening ourselves on how much worse we could be, self-improvement is found in aiming for how much better we should be. It’s not as comfortably complacent a view, (believe me, I am wincing all over and have pretty much annihilated my own toes), but it IS more conducive to personal growth.

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Usborne Books

The Equuschick is trying her hand at selling Usborne books, I’m hosting her first party this week. I told her I’d do that (she did not ask), but I am not much of a success with this sort of thing, so I am a little nervous.

I want it to be fun, not just a selling thing. Snacks are going to be based on a couple favorite children’s stories or Mother Goose, or maybe from one of their children’s cookbooks. I thought I’d set out some of our older Usborne books to look at and maybe talk a little bit about books in general and what they have meant to us.

To be honest, in general Usborne are not *my* personal favorite books because the pages are too busy for my linear, easily confused brain and I did not see the point of them at all until about ten years ago.

That’s when my son got interested in looking at books and I discovered that these books have major, major appeal to kids like him- boys? Kids who like their information presented in short, scattered but intense bursts? The kind of people who like to get directions in the form of drawn maps as opposed to the only proper way- a list of directions in written form with no pictures whatsoever?

My son spent long periods of intense study examining our Usborne books with the busiest pages- the Ancient World is a current favorite, and books on knights, castles, Greeks, Romans, and the middle ages have been favorites, too, even before he could read. And when the EC was young, one of her favorites was Creepy Crawlies, a book about bugs we bought from Usborne.

They’ve been around a awhile, so somebody really loves these books. Are you one of them? Tell me why, please, and maybe share a fun story about your child and an Usborne book (like the time I found the FYB sitting on the toilet, his fat little legs sticking straight out, perusing the Knights and Castles book and totally lost to the red ring he was embedding in his backside).

* I am also learning how to spell Usborne.

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