Friday, February 26, 2010

The abridged edition

I've decided to add another intermittent feature to And Sometimes Tea. Like all the occasional features I post here, it will appear--or not--on Fridays--or not. I'm sorry, but master of consistent memes I'm...not.

But this one occurred to me for two reasons. First, there are usually quite a few articles I collect over the course of a week or so which are possible blog post starters; news or events I think are interesting, or I want to comment about, but never manage to get to as other things arise.

Second, Fridays are tricky, especially during Lent. Sometimes I reach an hour much later in the afternoon than usual without having managed to give this blog much thought, and with the prospect of family Lenten devotions, chores, and dinner preparation still ahead. This makes it difficult for me to focus on doing decent writing.

So I thought it would be a good idea to combine these two negatives and make them a positive (yes, we have been doing lots of math lately; thanks for asking!). In the abridged edition of And Sometimes Tea, I'll put up the links to the interesting articles I haven't quite managed to get to, along with a sentence or two of brief commentary. We'll see how it goes, or if this is one of those one-time features that disappears quietly into the blogging void as a not-so-good idea.

Without further ado, then:

And Sometimes Tea: the abridged edition

1. Reasons to reconsider college: here's a cautionary tale of a doctor who owes a whopping $555,000 in student loan debts, a debt it may take her decades to repay. In combination with Ramesh Ponnuru's interesting essay about whether college is really necessary, this is food for thought for parents of high school students. My take: if your children want to go to college, and you're not independently wealthy, you need to find out what they plan to study and how they plan to pay. Working a year or two before college to earn tuition money is a good idea; borrowing insane amounts of money that will hinder a vocation is not.

2. From the "Keep an eye on it!" file: Democrats are pushing for a "Safe Schools" bill that would be a nightmare for traditional parents. Under the guise of protecting students who are "sexual minorities" as early as elementary school on, this bill gives a huge amount of control over education to the federal government and creates a legal pipeline for the most bizarre types of sexual indoctrination of schoolchildren. The bill, HR 4530, has been referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor. My take: it may be that this will go nowhere, especially in an election year; but we can't afford to ignore it, either. It might be a good idea to let your House Representative know early on that you don't like the sound of this bill.

3. A beautiful, uplifting story in the Houston Chronicle tells us about the recent death of an elderly nun, Sister Damian Kuhn, and her loyal support for the Astros baseball team. The unlikely friendship of Sister Kuhn with the team's owner and the way Sister Kuhn's love for God and for her vocation shone through her life, even in her innocent love of baseball, makes for some compelling reading. A gem of a story!

4. Would you pay more than 26,000 for a virtual--not real, mind--island? A fascinating look at how the virtual goods market is growing. My take: I think there's a line somewhere between innocent fun and insane commercialism when it comes to purchasing something that isn't even real or tangible. I'm not too sure that too many people are ending up on the right side of that line, either.

5. The Christian Science Monitor asks the provocative question: did Woodstock hippies cause the present economic situation? Actually, the question is being asked by a producer of documentary films named David Bossie, whose film Generation Zero blames the narcissism and self-absorption of the hippies for the eventual economic collapse, as hippies-turned-yuppies-turned-Wall Street speculators brought their "me first" values and "never say no" morals to the world of high finance. My take: I'd love to see the movie; the hypothesis seems quite sound, to me.

6. Could we really get to Mars in 39 days? My take: if you were a rocket, and someone filled you with superheated plasma gas that's more than 51 million degrees (F) hot, you might be capable of speeds exceeding 35 per second, too. All kidding aside, sounds fascinating, and will be interesting to see if this works--a shot in the arm for space agencies, perhaps.

That's all for the abridged edition! See you next week!


MacBeth Derham said...

#6=Mars, not the moon, right? Of course, Obama makes it all just a theoretical exercise.

scotch meg said...

Thanks for posting the link to the student debt article. It is spot-on with regard to student debt. We are in th e same league as the doctor in the article, although it is due not so much to default as to deferrals during training (four years residency plus three years fellowship). Of course, if we had lived as DINKS or not gotten married we would have less debt... The infuriating thing (and something college students should realize) is that parental educational debt is not a consideration when determining parents' ability to contribute to their children's education. Thus, we have very high debt because medical schools considered the student's parents able to pay for medical school (despite marital status and parental status of the student), and our oldest child has educational debt because a university considered us able to pay for college despite $4000 per month in educational debt payments. It's now a generational problem in our family. Beware! Our other children will either earn merit scholarships, or go through the military. And if you need another reason to give your child as to why s/he should go to a REAL Catholic college -- well, they tend to be much less expensive than the Catholic-in-name-only kind!

Erin Manning said...

MacBeth--arrgh! Thanks! :)

My girls were interested in the concept and asked me how long it would take to get to the moon with this rocket. We figured 35 miles/second = 2100 miles/minute = 126,000 miles/hour; distance to moon approx. 285,000 miles; travel time approximately 1.9 hours, assuming the rocket's engines could achieve maximum speed fast enough and reverse that quickly--if our calculations were correct. :)

I guess I was still thinking about that when I typed this post...thanks for the catch!

Erin Manning said...

Scotch Meg, that's awful! It's a big concern of mine, college debt. I don't see how a traditional route will even be possible for our girls at this point.

John Thayer Jensen said...

It's not 35 miles/second the whole way. That's the peak speed. Assuming a constant acceleration, in 19.5 days they would have to go at 0.1g - that is, an acceleration of one tenth of earth's gravitational pull - but constantly the whole time - then turn around and push at the same deceleration the other direction.

All of which is quite doable if you have the fuel. Of course it isn't as simple as that as the mass of the ship decreases as fuel us used up, but you get the idea.

Erin Manning said...

John, thanks! :) That makes it much clearer.

freddy said...

Abridged comments:
1. College debt has become the insane intro to consumer society. With our first, we've opted to go the community college route. (Community college, then career, then money, then more college if desired.) ScotchMeg: eye-opener!
2. "Safe-schools" is an oxymoron.
3. God bless Sr. Kuhn. There must be baseball in heaven!
4. No.
5. Navel gazing leads to economic meltdown. Who'da thunk it?
6. Cool!

Anonymous said...

Brief comments.
From the 'If I can do it anyone can department....' Agree with the community college route, public university, etc. Unless the kid has expressed early interest in a college education, unlike early schooling and healthcare, society has no obligation in providing the incentive to work diligently to obtain merit scholarship, but on the other hand, with individual state financial woes--my state is reconsidering amount of merit scholarships offerings.

Virtual ownership of nothing is for people who have too much money--and, should be taxed at 60% to benefit society where the money came from to start with.

I was far removed from Woodstock and don't care a figgy pudding about it, but am inclined to think that it was an event to accompany the times, not the other way around, like pink, green, and purple Flower Power marketing andr psychedelic flip-out art.

John Thayer Jensen said...

Actually I did it wrong :-)

I looked at the .1 I got, which was correct - but not .1G. It was an acceleration of 0.1 feet per second per second - that is, in each second the ship goes a tenth of a foot per second faster.

Which turns out to be around three one thousandths of the force of gravity.

Which sounds unbelievable - but it is true. It adds up. It means they would travel about 50-55 million miles to get to Mars. Mars, at its closest approach, is about 35 million miles from Earth, but of course it is a moving target; the spaceship has to chase it.

And that acceleration - about one third of one per cent of earth's gravity - would be so very small you would scarcely feel it. But it builds up over such a long distance.

As I said, the ship has to turn around and push backwards at the halfway mark.

Similar projects have been proposed using "light sails" - huge sheets of reflective material that actually reflect the light from the Sun, which pushes them on.

Arithmetic is great fun, when you can deal with such large numbers.

John Thayer Jensen said...

PS - if you had the power to accelerate at 1G - meaning adding 32 feet per second to your speed each second (that's how fast you accelerate if you fall on Earth, excluding air resistance, etc), you could get to Mars in a couple of days.

All a question of how much power you have at your disposal.

hetyd4580 said...

Interesting blog you’ve got here. In relation to the aforementioned “Generation Zero” documentary, it is crucial to distinguish between the actual Baby Boom Generation (born 1942-1954) vs. Generation Jones (1954-1965). GenJones was originally lumped in with the Boomers, but is now generally seen by experts as a separate generation. Understanding the differences between these two generations is central to comprehending this documentary.

The post-WWII demographic boom in births is one thing, the cultural generations born during that era is another. Generations are a function of the common formative experiences of its members, not the fertility rates of its parents. And most analysts now see generations as getting shorter (usually 10-15 years now), partly because of the acceleration of culture. Many experts now believe it breaks down more or less this way:

DEMOGRAPHIC boom in babies: 1946-1964
Baby Boom GENERATION: 1942-1953
Generation Jones: 1954-1965
Generation X: 1966-1978
Generation Y/Millennials: 1979-1993

Google Generation Jones, and you’ll see it’s gotten lots of media attention, and many top commentators from many top publications and networks (Washington Post, Time magazine, NBC, Newsweek, ABC, etc.) now specifically use this term. In fact, the Associated Press' annual Trend Report chose the Rise of Generation Jones as the #1 trend of 2009. Here's a page with a good overview of recent media interest in GenJones:

MacBeth Derham said...

I don't know about the CC route for college. The one child of ours who took one class while "in" high school (she was homeschooled) hated every minute of her experience, except for the prof. A proper university ought to have an intellectual atmosphere. Perhaps our local CC is an exception, and there are CCs with strong intellectual communities, but that was not her experience. So, as we look at it, we either go the merit scholarship route or ivy/little ivy (current no-loan aid policies might change, though), or ROTC. The exception is our conservatory student (some scholarship, some loan), though there are two or three completely free conservatories, if you can get in. There are ways to avoid the long-term fetters of loans without sacrificing academic excellence both inside and outside the classroom.

Kim said...

I vote YES for the new abridged feature!! Go Erin!