Archive for April, 2019

When it comes to your health, don’t bet on long shots …

April 30, 2019

… unless you’re out of options.

In my Business Analytics course, I had students read a couple of excerpts from a book called Think Twice: The Power of Counter-intuition by Michael Mauboussin.

In a chapter called “The Outside View” the author reports findings from a medical study that investigated the relative importance of hard data and anecdotal evidence when patients select from among treatment options for serious health conditions.

Patients were given the hard scientific data about a treatment‘s success rates and an anecdote about a case history.

Some anecdotes were positive (the treatment was a success), some were negative (the treatment failed or had complications), and some were neutral (neither a clear success nor a dramatic failure).

Below is an extract of the study’s results summarizing the percentage of respondents selecting a treatment given the hard data on its success rate and a related anecdote of a specific case’s outcome.


Let’s drill down …


Great moments in recycling.

April 26, 2019

Been wondering what to do with your banana peels?

I just received a flash alert from my well-intended (I think) county recycling folks.

In essence,the county authorities suggest that I  should be more ecologically sensitive and start bagging my spent banana peels along with other food waste (not in a plastic bag, of course) and drive my peels and grounds over to a recycling center and, god forbid, don’t even consider putting ihe stuff in my recycling can or my yard waste can or my garbage can for curbside pick-up.).


Think about that for a moment….


The aforementioned recycling center is about 15 miles away from my home.

Note: The flyer cautioned against just piling food waste in a distant corner of my backyard in an old fashioned compost heap

That’s 30 miles round trip … or about 1.5 gallons of gas in my garbage-hauling SUV.

That means increasing my fossil fuel consumption and carbon footprint to throw my peels on the community garbage pile.

Multiply that by a couple of thousand county residents and ask yourself:

Does that make any sense at all?

Not to me!


On a related matter, there were news flashes this week that  Philippine President Duarte directed Canadians to stop shipping their trash (banana peels?) to the Philippines.

Say, what?

Made me wonder if my banana peels are being shipped from my community recycling center to some far off port.

You know, it wouldn’t surprise me.


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Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford To Live Without.

April 25, 2019

From the summer reading pile.  I read ’em so you don’t have to …

Rath argues that “vital friends” play one or more of 8 roles.

Which of the role(s) do you play?  Which do each of your vital friends play?


“68% say they paid the same taxes or more”

April 24, 2019

Shocker … or just fuzzy math?
For the record, I’m for tax cuts since the Feds waste so much of OUR money … but, as I’ve posted previously, I would have done them differently than DJT did.

And, I predicted that most American’s wouldn’t recognize the benefits of the tax cuts because (1) they don’t understand basic economics (e.g. the corporate cuts boosted the economy) … and hopelessly confuse ‘taxes paid’ with ‘refunds received’.

Still, I’m surprised when I see shock-intending headlines like this one.


Let’s dig a little deeper into that claim…


Re: Mueller Report … the Washington Post nailed it.

April 22, 2019

I rarely quote from the far left-leaning Washington Post – which has trumpeted the Russia Collusion narrative for about 2 years, day-in-day-out.

But, I think an article appearing on WaPo’s editorial page last week got it right:


Quoting from the opinion piece …


It’s not your imagination, people are really getting dumber.

April 19, 2019

That’s the conclusion from a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The researchers that the  increase in population intelligence observed throughout the 20th century has peaked and has now gone into reverse.


More specifically…


Why Johnny can’t write …

April 18, 2019

Faculty colleagues and I often bemoaned that there seems to be a consensus that writing skills among MBA students have been declining.

I’m not talking about flowery prose and precise grammar.

I’m talking about logical argumentation … being able to explain why something is happening and what to do about it.

My hypothesis was that colleges aren’t requiring students to take courses (or demonstrate proficiency) in, say, critical thinking or logic … and that college students today aren’t required to write many papers that hone their thinking and writing skills.


Testing my hypothesis on a middle school math teacher-friend, I got a rude awakening …


More Disney: How does Mickey fingerprint me?

April 17, 2019

The tech behind biometric fingerprints


In prior posts, I gushed over the technology applications at Disney World … and recounted the plausible explanations for why Mickey digitally records guests’ fingerprints when then enter the park.

Ostensibly, the purpose is fraud protection – keeping folks from passing along their partially used tickets for reuse.

Of course, there are other sorts of uses for digital fingerprints (e.g. catching bad guys) … and ways that the information can be misused.



With my curiosity aroused, I did some digging re: digital fingerprints.


More Disney: Why is Mickey fingerprinting me?

April 16, 2019

A plausible “why” and a very interesting “how”.
In a prior post Seriously, why not outsource TSA ops to Disney? , I gushed over the technology applications at Disney World … the Magic Bands than let me into my hotel room & the park, Fast-Passed me to the front of lines, and “personalized” my family’s experience with real-time greetings and photos.

I noted that I was digitally fingerprinted when I entered the park and asked if anybody could tell me why.


A couple of loyal readers clued me and provoked some digging.

Here’s what I learned …


Seriously, why not outsource TSA ops to Disney?

April 15, 2019

Disney’s technology applications are impressive (and effective)

Last week, I took a  fact-finding trip (aka. family vacation) to Disney World.

Once again, I was blown away by the park’s technology and security operations ….


No surprise, there was a huge rush of “guests” entering the Magic Kingdom when the gates opened at 8 a.m.

The crowd measured into the thousands … all needing to be security-screened.

All bags and strollers had to be hand-checked … all kids – big & little – had to be ushered through metal detectors.

Nightmare, right?

Maybe at the airport, but not at Disney.

Our wait & processing time: less than 10 minutes.


Then came the good part…


Do students really learn what’s taught?

April 11, 2019

Though I’ve retired from the practice, I’m still very engaged on education issues … especially whether our students (at all levels) are being adequately schooled to compete in the real world.

So, one of my summer reads is “What Schools Could Be” by Ted Dinterersmith – a well credentialed, experience-deep educator.

In a nutshell, author Ted Dintersmith spent a year visiting schools across the nation to identify outstanding teachers and catalog their secret sauces.


One of the anecdotes that he recounts in the book hit one of my longstanding questions: Do students really learn what they’re being taught?


How much “learning” is lost during summer vacation?

April 10, 2019

In his book Outliers, one of the topics that Malcolm Gladwell explored was the academic achievement gap between kids from low income families and kids from higher incomes families … even for kids attending the same schools.


Malcolm uncovered  a learning dynamic that he coined the “summer slide”.


The degree-earning gender gap…

April 9, 2019

An interesting analysis done by economist Mark Perry concludes:

Since 1982, women have earned 13 million more college degrees than men.


Let’s drill down on those numbers…


What do colleges have in common with Kohl’s?

April 8, 2019

I oft say that anybody who pays sticker price at Kohl’s should look over their shoulder to make sure that Darwin isn’t chasing them.

Maybe the same should be said of parents who pay list price tuition to fund their kiddies through college.

Lots of talk re: how college costs are soaring.

According to the WSJ

Published tuition rates have soared in the last decade, but only a small percentage of families actually pays full freight.

Between grants to needy students and merit scholarships to entice other desirable candidates, schools these days are giving back nearly 50% of gross tuition revenue in the form of aid and awards.

In other words, list prices are going up, but more stuff is being sold at sale prices.



Increasingly, colleges are using pricing methods previously the domain of airlines and discount retailers …


So, what explains student loan defaults?

April 5, 2019

Prompted by ideas being floated  to make colleges underwrite their their students’ loans, I’ve been doing some digging.

The most headlined explanations of student loan defaults report that over half of for-profit college students and over half of black students default on their loans.

The numbers may be true, but they’re more emotionally-charged than they are instructive.

So,  the left-leaning Brookings Institution drilled deeper on the headlined conclusions to understand what accounts for gaps in student loan defaults.


Here are some of the more interesting conclusions from the “Evidence Speaks Report”…


Should colleges be forced to underwrite student loans?

April 4, 2019

Sounds like a logical, easy fix, right?

Yesterday, we posted about the $1.5 trillion in outstanding student loan debt held by about 45 million former students.

We argued that that’s a problem because (1) The student loans fuel tuition increases by enabling colleges to fund inefficiencies (2) Servicing the debt load constrains borrowers lifestyle choices (e.g. marriage, home buying) by crowding out other debt capacity, and (3) When interest rates rise (and, they eventually will) repayment will pose an increasingly difficult challenge for many (most?) borrowers.

Following on that last point,  the default rate on student loans is about already 20% on average … with big differences by the type of school the borrower attended.


What explains the differences?


Student debt continues to skyrocket …

April 3, 2019

One of the byproducts of the recent college admissions scandal has been an elevated look at college attainment (i.e. what are students really learning) … and ballooning student debt.

Last week we looked at what students are really learning.

Now lets shift the spotlight to student debt.

First, some sobering statistics

Student debt has more than tripled since 2004, and is now over $1.5 trillion — second only to mortgage debt — and higher than both credit cards and auto loans.

That’s a problem because (1) The student loans fuel tuition increases by enabling colleges to fund inefficiencies (2) Servicing the debt load constrains borrowers lifestyle choices (e.g. marriage, home buying) by crowding out other debt capacity, and (3) When interest rates rise (and, they eventually will) repayment will pose an increasingly difficult challenge for many (most?) borrowers.


Let’s drill down on that $1.5 trillion…


Teachers with conservative views don’t make the cut.

April 2, 2019

Last week, we looked at the ACTA college ratings. They evaluate a school based on whether (or not) they require that students take courses (or demonstrate proficiency) in core subject areas such as math, science, and critical thinking.  And, ACTA reports scores on how well schools deliver on freedom of speech and diversity of thought. 

See Have colleges watered down their curriculums? and If your kids are college bound…

Bottom line: few schools receive stellar grades.

Wonder why?

Here’s one plausible explanation….


GREAT article in the WSJ from MSB’s own John Hasnas – MSB Professor of Policy & Ethics: The One Kind of Diversity Colleges Avoid

His central point: When recruiting faculty, universities seek diversity by gender, race and nationality … but, not ideology.

In many instances, conservatives and libertarians need not apply.



That conclusion probably doesn’t surprise many of you who already see the elephant in the middle of the room.

But, Prof. Hasnas provides some texture and “inside scoop”

Here are a couple of highlight snippets from the article … (more…)

In praise of math, logic, and Latin … say, what?

April 1, 2019

Classical educators argued that these disciplines are the building blocks of reasoning, problem-solving and critical thinking.


The courses that I taught contained a heavy dose of problem-solving skills.

Early on, I’d assert my belief that that problem-solving skills can be taught – and, more importantly, learned – and set about to prove the point.




I’ve been doing some summer reading on the topic of reasoning & problem-solving and learned:

“For twenty-six hundred years many philosophers and educators have been confident that reasoning could be taught.”