Nuclear Risk Contained In Japan

The people of Japan are in the midst of a terrible disaster the scope of which I really can’t fathom. Through this they are dealing with a serious nuclear reactor problem.

But If Nots readers know that I am an advocate for nuclear power. This circumstance is enough to cause one, this one in particular, to take a more sober look at the scope of risk.

In reading the news I have come across this link at BraveNewClimate quoting Dr Josef Oehmen, a research scientist at MIT. The long and short of it, according to him, is that the current situation is contained and that there was never much of a chance of significant radioactive material exposure.

This stuff is above my pay grade.  All I can honestly say is I hope so.

Below the fold is his synopsis.  Check out the link for the full write-up.  It’s worth a read if you are into this kind of thing, or want to get beyond the emotion of the news media.

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Posted in Energy, Technology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Outliers

I missed something significant in my earlier post, an outlier.  There is one school in Wake County with both a high portion of poor kids and high pass rates.  Who is this miracle worker and what are they doing?  Can anyone help me?

Posted in Education, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Hiding poor performers is no fix

The News and Observer this morning attempts its own analysis of performance in Wake County schools.  Unfortunately they failed to clarify matters.  In response I sent the following letter to the editor. 



Your article on five big questions fails to clarify the reality in Wake schools.  On question 2, whether higher-poverty schools have higher teacher turnover and lower test scores, your response conceals a more discomfiting truth; that poor children perform comparably poor regardless how much of the student body they comprise. 

You cite Salem, for its low poor enrollment and high passing rates, and Brentwood, for its high poor enrollment and low passing rates.  Inconvenient to your “healthy schools” conclusion, 39% of Brentwood poor kids pass and only 26% of Salem poor kids pass.  By focusing on school pass rates, your story obscures the fact that we are failing to educate the poor. 

Worse still, like too many in this debate, you mix unrelated issues.  Suburban parents want proximity and, more importantly, stability in school assignment – a fair request.  The poor want, or ought to want, increased academic achievement beyond all else.  The one size fits all system struggles to serve both ends.

It’s time that we get on with adopting some of the successful programs that are making huge strides at raising academic achievement among the poor, and stop trying to spread the failure around.

 

Posted in Education, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Life’s Rich Pageant

Every now and again I come across an article in the newspaper about a real life circumstance that just tickles me beyond that which art or The Onion can do.  This morning I read such an article in the News and Observer titled “Panel leery of The Edge’s housing plan.” 

Okay . . . stop right there. . . “The Edge’s housing plan?”  Let’s deconstruct that.  The Edge  is the nom de guitar plume of the U2 guitarist Dave Evans, and the housing plan is his intention to build 5 high-end homes on a hill in Malibu.   These 4 words don’t belong together:  The – Edge’s – housing – plan. 

But this is just the beginning.  Here is the first sentence from the article:

“The Edge’s dream . . . [I can't even type it.  His dream?  Really?!?  He of many Grammy's, many, many millions, many records, many concerts, and little hair.  I'll try again.]

“The Edge’s dream of building a secluded compound of homes on a ridge high above Malibu has been dealt a serious blow by state regulators who accuse the U2 guitarist of scheming to get around environmental rules by concealing who owns the property.”

Yes, Yes.  I can see how concealing who owns the property can be damaging to the environment.  Wait.  No I can’t. 

But there’s more.

“Environmental groups and residents of the canyons and hillsides below have lined up against the project, saying it’s out of harmony for a member of a band that has advocated for humanitarian and green causes and even tried to offset the carbon footprint of its tours.”

Out of harmony?  Yes, I see.  Had The Edge been an otherwise money-grubbing Earth destroyer this development (all 5 homes of it) might have been in harmony, and therefore allowable.

There is so much going on here that it boggles the mind.  I would link to the article but the N&O has substantially changed it for its online edition, taking away so much of the fun.  Here is the source article from the LA Times.

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4G Smoke and Mirrors

I recently noticed that all cell carriers are now advertising 4G networks. As a technophile, my first thought should have been “Yeah!  More speed in more places.”  But it wasn’t.  It was a raised eyebrow.

A couple of years ago I was working with a relative on a cell tower investment.  The financial question essentially came down to a valuation of the future use of cell towers compared to alternative technologies.  To establish such an estimate I studied up on what the competing technologies were and what the various companies were investing in.  My conclusion, over simplifying a bit, was that cell towers would appreciate because; WiMax was a leap forward, needed cell towers, and was likely to be adopted broadly. 

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Second, Time On Task Yields Academic Achievement

There is an achievement gap between the poor and the wealthy and, in measure, it persists.  You can know this by reading the many studies that show it.  I know it first-hand.

I grew up in Great Brook Valley, a highly rent-subsidized public housing project.  Everyone was poor.  Academic achievement was scarce.  And, by my own observation, there is a generational repeater pattern.  

 Let’s forget why for now and instead talk about the exceptions.

KIPP schools target poor kids and get dramatically higher achievement than comparable schools in the same area serving a similar population. 

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Posted in Education, Parenting | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

First, Do No Harm

Mike has teed-up the broad question.  In this post I explore a portion of the nature-nurture question. 

We parents tend to get “wrapped around the pole” pushing our kids. If we are to believe Dr. Chua, perhaps Asians get more wrapped than others.   Implicit within Dr. Chua’s arguments are a strong defense for the nurture-side in the nature v. nurture debate. 

Timed nicely, this morning Jonah Lehrer writes about new research that finds a link between performance on intelligence tests and socio-economic status. 

By studying the performance of identical versus fraternal twins, the scientists could tease out the relative importance of factors such as genetics and the home environment. Because the infants came from households across the socioeconomic spectrum, it also was possible to see how wealth influenced test scores.

Specifically, the findings were that genes played a smaller part in low socioeconomic households and a much higher part in predicting intelligence in high socioeconomic households.

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