Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Script Writing due to Ink Technology

I think I figured out why older people write in script and younger people write in print. It all has to do with writing technology. Back when a pen was really just a feather dunked in a bottle of ink, that ink would drip off the end of the pen. Every time you lift the quill off the paper, there is potential for a little drop to spill off. Since you only lift your pen a little over once per word with cursive, this limits the potential number of splotches when compared to lifting your pen a little over one time per letter when writing in print. Today's ballpoint technology allows us to print rather effectively without unwanted marks on the paper.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sexist Shirts

I got this email last week with the subject line Tell JC Penney and Forever 21: Stop insulting girls' intelligence. You kind of have to read at least some of it before scrolling down for my comments.

Just this week, retailer Forever 21 began offering for sale a shirt for girls emblazoned with the slogan "Allergic to Algebra." And a few weeks ago, JC Penney offered similar girls' shirts with the slogan "I'm too pretty to do homework, so my brother has to do it for me."
Sexist slogans like these play into and perpetuate the incorrect stereotype that women are innately bad at math or being pretty is more important than being smart. By selling these shirts, the stores give their implicit support of these stereotypes to convince girls that, to be stylish and fit in, they must be bad at math or less interested than boys in academic achievement. Slogans like these are also harmful to boys and reinforce with them the stereotype that they are innately better than girls when it comes to math or that a girl's worth comes only from her looks.
After backlash from outraged customers, both shirts were pulled from the shelves and online stores.1 But how did the sexist shirts get there in the first place? Clearly, something is totally broken within the corporate culture of these retailers. There is no effective review process for the clothing sold at JC Penney and Forever 21 if offensive clothing like this that demeans young girls makes it to their shelves.
These retailers are clearly sensitive to public pressure, as evidenced by how quickly they pulled the shirts after a public backlash arose. But that's not good enough. We must pressure JC Penney and Forever 21 to make the changes necessary at corporate headquarters to ensure sexist shirts like these never even come close to making it to the shelves.
Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people at JC Penney and Forever 21 encountered these shirts before they were made available to the public. Why didn't employees of these retailers at some point say, "Hey, are we really going to sell shirts to young girls that say 'I'm too pretty for homework' or 'Allergic to Algebra'?"
It's obvious that these shirts perpetuate offensive and harmful stereotypes about the ability of women to achieve academically relative to men. Of course, many studies have confirmed that these stereotypes are baseless, and that women's minds are just as well suited to performing academically as men's.
But, because popular culture is so powerful, many women and girls will conform to negative stereotypes of what a woman is supposed to achieve if they are continually reinforced. Stores like JC Penney and Forever 21 help shape that culture through the clothing they sell.
It's clear that these stores listen to public pressure, but we must pressure JC Penney and Forever 21 to take concrete steps to ensure that clothing this sexist never even comes close to making it onto shelves again.
[end email]

First of all, the girls wearing these shirts are probably not good at math. Maybe they could be if they tried. But I could also be good at caring for children. I just have no desire to do that. "Allergic to bratty little 3 year olds" would be a fine slogan for my shirt.
We could make these shirts for guys too. Would that be a problem? The responsibility falls on the parents buying these shirts or the allowing their kids to buy these shirts. The market will take care of things by making bad designs lose money.

There is plenty of other sexist clothing in stores everywhere. Why don't they routinely carry thongs for men? Is that sexist? I guess it is because they're treating one gender different than the other. BUT it's not a problem and the market hasn't demanded that stores carry man thongs. There are special stores that cater to that market.

The too pretty for homework slogan is offensive, but so is "too rich for homework" or something along those lines, but other flashy displays of wealth and shirking of responsibilities are also encountered in retail stores. What about that app for the iPhone called I'm Rich?? You paid $1,000 for it to display a ruby on your phone. No other features. Just to show that you're rich. Apple did away with that app and they can do whatever they want, but people did buy it.
Even things that you don't like or you think are stupid might not be bad for other people. It's a slippery slope when you start deciding what people can and can't purchase with their own money. Let them decide not to buy the shirts.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

STOP Government Spending

Write to your elected officials.  Let them know that we can't just keep letting the government spend all this money.  What does AA+ mean to you?  To find your representative, go here.  To find your senator, go here.

I sent the following letter to Steve Southerland, Bill Nelson, and Marco Rubio:

I need you to stop government spending.  When we are in debt, we should save as much as possible.  Even when we run a surplus, historical evidence shows that government spending is not as great a boon to the economy as private sector spending.

In addition to spending less, I realize that the government needs to take in more money.  I'm not a fan of taxes.  I know they cause distortions in the market.  I never like paying taxes nor does anyone else.  We need to face the fact that tax revenues need to increase, but it's tricky to say whether that means we should raise or lower the tax rate.  Any adjustments should be made carefully.

Everyone understands that a household encumbered by credit card debt needs to pay it off as soon as possible and do whatever it can to avoid borrowing more until the original principal is paid off.  Why is it that we cannot scale this same logic up to the level of federal government?  The easiest way to stop borrowing is to stop spending.  Stop funding peanut festivals.  Stop pork barrel spending.  Stop giving away agricultural subsidies.  Stop fighting 3 wars.  Stop blindly giving "aid" money to the corrupt governments in developing countries.  Aid money would be better invested in microfinance firms where we could recoup the investment after a couple years and the aid would go directly to the people.  Simplify the tax code and get rid of 3/4 of the IRS.  Stop trying to save failing companies.  The market NEEDS bad businesses to go away in order to free up capital for more productive endeavors.  Cut your losses on the failing post office (sell the rights to a private company).  Stop the war on drugs.  Legalize pot & prostitution...there's some sources of revenue that would reduce expenditure on law enforcement and lower crime.  Give a pay cut to all elected officials to show real leadership.  Stop giving idiosyncratic tax breaks to big campaign contributors.  Close tax loopholes.  Don't put the burden on the shoulders of my generation and those who come after me.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Riding a Fixed Gear Does NOT Connect You to the Road

I hear fixed gear riders talk all the time about how they are so connected with the road. They talk about having ultimate control over the speed of their rear wheel like it matters. I think it's especially silly when they say that kind of stuff without being clipped in.

I feel connected to the road when I tune in to that feeling.  When I pay attention to the feedback that I get from the bike.  When I feel the uneven pavement beneath my tires.  It doesn't matter if I have a more complex drivetrain on my bike; I feel the same.  Don't get me wrong, each bike provides different kinds of feedback (for instance, the mountain bikes have a front suspension).  But beyond mechanical efficiency, there is no inherent superiority in a fixed drive system.

I've been riding a fixie for over a year now, so it's not that I'm so new to the bike that I can't connect.  I have 4 bikes now and each of them feels different.  I can appreciate those differences and hopefully use the bike that best suits my needs.  The Diamondback 26" is great for getting around, hauling small stuff, having fun, and light off-roading.  The Kona 29er is great for off-road and kind of a bear to push on pavement.  The Trek 1200 is my choice for long rides.  The KHS fixie is a great commuter.  Each bike works different leg muscles.  Each bike responds differently to flying down a hill.  Each bike has its own unique personality (although I'm still getting acquainted with the Kona).

If you want to feel connected to your bike, just ride it.  Ride it a lot.  Everywhere.  Every day.  You can connect with your cruiser, recumbent, hybrid, TT, road, mountain, fixed, single speed, or vintage bike.  You can get high on cycling while retaining the ability to coast.  I encourage you to do so.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

What Happened to the Victory Garden?

Back in WWII, our country's debt to GDP ratio was around 120%, which is higher than even today although our current ratio of about 100% is nominally larger. We are fortunate that the government has not imposed on us a rationing system (other than the prices that serve to ration goods in a market system).

When the nation was in deep debt during WWII, residents were encouraged to grow their own food in a back yard "victory garden." The name comes from the idea that we'd be able to better feed our troops and domestic residents with the assistance of such gardens. I want to know why there's not a push for more victory gardens today.

Growing a substantial amount of one's own food encourages saving, which we will need to pay off some of this debt. There are also positive environmental effects of eating extremely locally. The country could save some on fuel costs from transporting produce. With more mouths fed at home, we could export more of our industrial agriculture, thus helping the balance of trade.

Overall, we would be more productive at home. We could have more household saving and use some of that to pay down our national debt. Victory gardening is something that you can do even if you're unemployed or lack the resources to save in other ways. All you need is a little bit of dirt and water.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

My Tri Family

Tonight was the first meeting of the new school year for my beloved triathlon club. I got brain drained in my office, so I showed up about 15 minutes early to the meeting. It was so nice to see everyone. I've not had contact with some of these people since the spring semester ended, but we're all such a close team that it really feels like a family. No matter how long you go without seeing your grandmother, she's still your grandmother. I guess it's like that with the tri team. Kind words were spoken of Tommy B and I feel like even someone as long gone as Dan C can still give off that family vibe.

The new officers are doing a great job and it's nice to sit back and admire from a distance now. I'm confident that the club will be in great shape when I leave. The new race director is doing an amazing job. I will be an enthusiastic participant. I hope to make it to an OK number of workouts. I fear that my newfound focus on school is going to get in the way of some of that. I might just have to re-prioritize to spend time training with the fam.

There were also a lot of new faces. I hope that they feel welcome and get involved, thus becoming a part of the family.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Otra manera de enseñar español a un nivel de la escuela secundaria

Con una meta de que los estudiantes aprendan la idioma y empiecen a hablar, tengo una idea de una nueva manera de organizar las clases de español en una aula de la secundaria.

Al principio, el profesor tiene que hablar en español y repetir la misma frase en inglés. La repetición es muy importante para poner las palabras en la mente de los estudiantes. El currículo debe enfocar en interacción entre los estudiantes y la lengua. Por ejemplo, una tarea es que tienen que ver por lo menos 1 hora de la televisión en canales de español cada semana. Escriben notas en que han visto. Durante el año, el conocomiento de las escenas crecerán.

Ganan "dinero" por cumplir las tareas y por las marcas de los exámenes. Este dinero se puedan usar para comprar cositas del mercado de la clase. Este mercado puede tener opciónes como puntos de extra crédito o dulces o trozitos de la cultura (por ejemplo un tapíz o una calabaza del día de los muertos). El precio de los artículos puede cambiar con las fuerzas de la oferta y la demanda. Se puede tener subatas en que los estudiantes tienen que ofrecer "dinero" y combatir con los otros estudiantes para ganar el artículo.

Es más, estudiantes ganan dinero durante la clase por su participación. Tengo una idea de una actividad. Empiezo y pregunto algo a un estudiante. Dicho estudiante tiene que responder sin usar inglés y eligir otro estudiante para preguntarle otra pregunta. El último estudiante que no ha usado inglés gana lo más dinero.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Finish Tags

Perhaps you've heard of Finish Tags. They're trying to compete with Road ID. They have a slightly different layout and plan for disseminating the medical info. There is no subscription with Finish Tags like there is with the Road ID interactive. I got a set of Finish Tags for free from a Facebook promotion. I decided to buy the "Sprint" which is basically a long nylon strap with velcro on it. It will fit just about any sized wrist and athletically sized ankles. It has some advantages and some disadvantages over Road ID. All around, Finish Tags are cheaper and if price is what's holding you back from Road ID, I definitely recommend getting the Finish Tags.

As for the receipt of emergency medical info, you can either enter an individual ID # online, call/fax it in, or text it. I texted my "lifepin" to the specified number and I got TWENTY NINE texts back with information about myself. That would totally suck if someone did not have an unlimited texting plan. Some of the texts were very short. Others weren't. Overall, it was pretty helpful and it would be easy enough for a first responder to get good info about a victim from the Finish Tags.

I'm not giving up on my Road ID. I like the wrist band way better for the Road ID. I haven't taken the Finish Tags swimming yet, but I imagine that it won't stay on the wrist as well.

Monday, September 5, 2011

ZipCar at FSU!!

If you haven't heard yet, FSU has a ZipCar program now! It's a car sharing club. You pay $25 to become a member and you can use the car for $7/hour. I think you can get it for $65/day or something like that and you can drive up to 180 miles without additional charge. There's a card in the visor that you use to pay for gasoline. You don't have to pay for maintenance or insurance or any of that. It's super cool and you should check it out, especially if you live on campus and sometimes need a ride.

Thursday, September 1, 2011