31.10.13

IT WILL STILL BE THERE FOR FINALS WEEK

Regular readers know that The House Cafe occasionally provides inspirations for posts, as well as serving as a refuge for paper grading refuelled by cappuccino and ginger-cayenne cookies, or a place to hold a civilized question time in advance of examinations.  It's also home to live music, and among its redeeming virtues, it's Not. Starbuck's.  But it rents space, which can be a problem.

Problem solved.
A trio of longtime patrons have purchased The House Cafe and signed a long-term lease with building owner Fareed Haque.

While plans are still being finalized, new owners Anthony Solario, Lisa Cowley and Corey Twombly plan to keep the name and continue the schedule of ongoing events at The House Cafe, 263 E. Lincoln Highway in DeKalb.

"When we heard Jan (Pascolini) was leaving, we decided to look into buying the business," Solario said. Pascolini is the former owner of The House Cafe.

"We are in the last stages of getting it all wrapped up," Solario said. Neither Solario nor Haque would disclose the length of the lease, but Solario said "the House will be around for a good long while.

"We want to keep it the way it is in terms of events," he said. "We want to expand the menu and, as new owners, we'll have to reapply for a liquor license."

He said dates have not been finalized, but he does foresee closing for no more than two weeks while licenses to serve food and liquor are obtained, and the interior of the building is freshened up. He said no major remodeling was planned.
One of the things that gives the place its character is its eclectic decor. A major remodeling would impose way too much structure.

The transition is likely to go smoothly, and to the delight of regulars.
A public announcement was made at The House on Wednesday and Haque said everyone applauded and expressed their gratitude for all that Pascolini has done in the six years she has owned the business.

"I think the hand-off is being done very amicably. Everything feels really positive," Haque said.

"And I'm glad we didn't have to put a sports bar in there."
There is an adequate sports bar just down the street.  I recommend the chicken wing special on Wednesdays.  Get six with "Hail Mary" sauce and six with nuclear.  They go well with Guinness.  It's not the kind of place, though, for grading papers or watching trains.

A GENERATIONAL DECLARATION OF WAR?

Matthew Fleischer, in the Los Angeles Times. "You can only ride our backs for so long before we’re going to tell you enough is enough."  He's worked up about the rollout of Government Approved Health Insurance Policies, which replace existing policies, not all of which are sub-prime.
Backers of Obamacare also note that although young healthy people are being asked to sacrifice, they are the ones most likely to be eligible for a subsidized plan. But what exactly does that mean? According to Covered California’s online calculator, were I to make $30,000 (hardly rolling in dough), I would be eligible for a subsidy of $40 a month.

I would still be paying more than I am now for substandard health insurance.

What I mean by substandard is this. We’ve been hearing people complain that the Obamacare-approved policies cover too much, not too little. That’s part of the reason premiums are higher. But from my view, a higher monthly premium along with higher copays create a disincentive. Paying more to see a doctor means there’s less chance I’'ll use that service unless I’m absolutely desperate.

All of this isn’t simply idle hand-wringing. If young healthy people like myself feel we’re being taken advantage of, and opt out of purchasing insurance -- paying the penalty instead -- the healthcare exchanges will collapse. (The penalty in year one for opting out is only $95 or 1% of your salary, whichever is higher -- far less than the cost of even the most basic insurance plan.)

When Obamacare comes fully online, it will do wonders to provide healthcare for people who were not eligible for Medicaid but still could not afford health insurance. If this system is going to be sustainable, however, we’re going to need to find a way to get older and wealthier Americans to chip in more. Because, right now, it’s young, middle-class people just outside the subsidy range who are biting the bullet. Young, middle-class people who already bore the highest toll in the recent financial collapse, who have seen our wages sliced and our job prospects dwindle.
The State may be that grand fiction by which Everyone attempts to live at the expense of Everyone Else. Until Everyone Else says No.

THERE ARE LAWS OF CONSERVATION IN ECONOMICS.

The women of the fevered brow find another institution to trash. "[Gallup] found more than 130,000 people and found that married people throw their money around town like they're doomsday preppers at Costco."  The first comment to the post carps, "The average double-income household makes about the same as a single-income household did in the 70s. Create an economy where you don't need to be married to have any disposable income, and I'm sure the resulting rich singletons will be happy to spend it."  You can have an economy in which one income supports a household, or you can have an economy with high female labor force participation rates.  You can't have both.

DESTROYING THE CULT OF THE PRESIDENCY.

Victor Davis Hanson suggests that Barack Obama is doing a pretty good job, just by being himself.
Barack Obama has become a mere figurehead, who gives speeches few listen to any more, issues threats that scare fewer, and makes promises that almost no one believes he will keep. Yet America continues on, despite the fact that the foreign and domestic policies of Barack Obama are unraveling, in a manner unusual even for star-crossed presidential second terms.
We've noted, previously, the perennial cycle of disappointment and centralization.
The world’s leaders do not any longer seem much impressed by the president’s cat-like walk down the steps of Air Force One, or the soaring cadences that rechannel hope-and=change themes onto the world scene. They acknowledge that their own publics may like the American president, and especially his equivocation about the traditional role of American power in the world. But otherwise, for the next three years, the world is in a holding pattern, wondering whether there is a president of the United States to reckon with or a mere teleprompted functionary. Certainly, the Obama Nobel Peace Prize is now the stuff of comedy.

At home, the signature Affordable Care Act is proving its sternest critics prescient. The mess can best be summed up by Republicans’ being demonized for trying to delay or defund Obamacare — after the president himself chose not to implement elements of his own law — followed immediately by congressional Democrats’ seeking to parrot the Republicans.
We are not yet seeing the end of the presidential cargo cult. But ominous signs proliferate.
Three considerations are keeping the U.S. afloat without an active president. First, many working Americans have tuned the president out and simply go on about their business despite rather than because of this administration. If gas and oil leases have been curtailed on federal lands, there is record production on private land. Farmers are producing huge harvests and receiving historically high prices. Wall Street welcomes in capital that can find no return elsewhere. American universities’ science departments and professional schools still rate among the world’s best. There is as yet no French or Chinese Silicon Valley. In other words, after five years of stagnation, half the public more or less ignores the Obama administration and plods on.

Second, the other half of Americans gladly accept that Obama is an iconic rather than a serious president. Given his emblematic status as the nation’s first African-American president and his efforts to craft a vast coalition of those with supposed grievances against the majority, he will always have a strong base of supporters. With huge increases in federal redistributive support programs, and about half the population not paying federal income taxes, Obama is seen as the protector of the noble deserving, who should receive more from a government to which the ignoble undeserving must give far more. And if it is a question of adding another million or so people to the food-stamp or disability rolls, or ensuring that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon or that China does not bully Japan, the former wins every time.

Finally, the media accept that Obama represents a rare confluence of forces that promotes a progressive agenda. His youth, his charisma, his background, his exotic nomenclature, and his “cool” all have allowed a traditionally unpopular leftist ideology to enter the mainstream. Why endanger all that with a focus on Benghazi or the disaster of Obamacare? We have had, in the course of our history, plenty of Grants, McKinleys, Hardings, Nixons, and Clintons, but never quite an administration of scandal so exempt from media scrutiny.

As far as his image goes, it does not really matter to what degree Obama actually “fundamentally transforms America.” For the media, that he seeks to do so, and that he drives conservatives crazy trying, is seen as enough reason to surrender their autonomy and become ancillary to the effort. The media believe that once he is out of office, they can regain their credibility by going after the next president with renewed vigor as recompense.

In other words, the presidency has become a virtual office. Almost half the people and most of the media do not mind, and those who do just plod onward.
This correlation of forces is already crumbling, with the observant and productive people of point one able to entertain the thought that Washington is irrelevant if not an obstacle; the coalition of the aggrieved is about to confront a sequester in food stamps; the press discovering that Affordable Care Act is an oxymoron (and the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the White House press secretary are morons).  Now comes Hughey Newsome of Daily Caller suggesting it's time for Our President to downsize his ambitions.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt had six people titled with some variation of “assistant to the President.” President Harry Truman had twelve such advisors. President Obama has more than a hundred assistants with this status.

Has Obama simply put these people in charge of America while he goes golfing? Is this why he feels he can say that “we did not know how big the problem was” when it comes to his failed stimulus spending? Is that why he was reportedly unaware of the mismanagement of diplomatic security leading up to the Benghazi disaster? Maybe this is why the IRS became what appears to be a uncontrollable, runaway political weapon under his watch. It now makes more sense how a simple website, which is supposed to be the conduit to his signature health care overhaul, devolved into the late-night TV show punch-line it now is.

The point is simple: the same people that push government as the solver of society’s problems cannot then imply that the task is too big when government fails to solve those problems. Conversely, those of us who argue that government is too big should be vindicated by these recent events.

If President Barack Obama is as great and smart as his supporters say he is, and even he is caught off-guard when actions within his own administration are unknown to him, is that not a clear sign that he is taking on too much?
It's a reality check for the idiotic cerebral meritocracy.  "The tussle, however, is one in which the next step forward in individual autonomy is wresting power from the philosopher kings who supplanted the hereditary kings."

29.10.13

MAKE HIGHER EDUCATION HIGHER.

Wall Street Journal columnist Lyell Asher asserts, When Students Rate Teachers, Standards Drop. It includes the expected stuff on professors, particularly untenured faculty, easing up on students to get better end-of-semester evaluations.
But it isn’t as if most teachers are consciously calculating the grade-to-evaluation exchange rate anyway. Lenient grading is always the path of least resistance with or without student reviews: Fewer students show up in your office if you tell them everything is OK, and essays can be graded in half the time if you pretend they’re twice as good.

There’s also a natural tendency to avoid delivering bad news if you don’t have to. So the prospect of end-of-term student reviews, which are increasingly tied to job security and salary increases, is another current of upward pressure on professors to relax standards.

There is no downward pressure. College administrators have little interest in solving or even acknowledging the problem. They’re focused on student retention and graduation rates, both of which they assume might suffer if the college required more of its students.
Some of that is the standard beer-'n-circus nonaggresion pact, some of that is the consequence of offices for retention and completion that justify their existence by reminding professors of their existence, that is, if they're not actively enabling the slackers.

Mr Asher notes, enabling is a choice.
Colleges can change this culture, in other words, without spending a dime. The first thing they can do is adopt a version of the Hippocratic oath: Stop doing harm. Stop encouraging low standards with student evaluations that largely ignore academic rigor and difficulty. Reward faculty for expecting more of students, for pushing them out of their comfort zone and for requiring them to put academics back at the center of college life.

Accrediting agencies could initiate this reform, but they too would first have to stop doing harm. They would have to acknowledge, for example, that since “learning outcomes” are calculated by professors in the exact same way that grades are, it’s a distinction without a difference, save for the uptick in pseudo-technical jargon.

Then the accrediting agencies should insist that colleges take concrete steps to make courses more uniformly demanding across the board, and to decouple faculty wages and job security from student opinion. The latter is an especially critical issue now, given the increase in adjuncts and part-time faculty, whose job security often hangs by the thread of student reviews.
Yes, and creating additional tenure-line jobs, particularly in introductory courses, is even more important.  The faculty owns the curriculum, not the diversity office, not student affairs, not the retention and assessment weenies.  Leaving the introduction to the university in the hands of individuals who may not even have an office for consultations looks amateurish.

SPEAK FOR YOURSELF.

Bob Schieffer concluded last Sunday's Face The Nation with a lament for his version of the end of The America That Worked(TM) in Dallas in 1963.


His premise about what came before was "We believed in our leaders.  We came to see our presidents as all but invincible."  That's not quite the way I remember it.  The Kennedy cult was all about Presidential Activism after what the chattering classes of the time thought of as an eight-year nap with President Eisenhower, which came after "To err is Truman."  Popular culture, in the form of Chicago, only rediscovered Harry Truman after Lyndon Johnson, who could twist more arms in the Senate in a morning than John Kennedy could twist in a year, demonstrated the limits of Presidential Activism, and in the middle of Richard Nixon's perversion of Presidential Activism to suit his paranoia.

Now, if we had a Washington press corps that had a healthy skepticism about Government, including but not limited to, doubts about Presidential Activism, perhaps we'd have less lamentation for a Camelot that never was.

Mr Schieffer concludes his meditation with "America lost its innocence."  Come off it.  Pearl Harbor.  Fort Sumter.  Aaron Burr settling scores with Alexander Hamilton.  The innocents are those members of the press corps that see Presidential Activism and Got a Problem, Get a Program as default settings for dealing with national affairs.


THE MEN LOST REASON AND FAITH.

The women of the fevered brow may scoff at men's rights activism.

But men don't have to respond to such criticism, they can tune it out.

THE CASE FOR HIGH STANDARDS.

The common schools underachieve, and too much of higher education no longer is.  On the other hand, The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens reminds readers of one piece of good news.
Since 2000, Americans have won 21 of the 37 physics prizes, 18 of the 33 medicine prizes, 22 of the 33 chemistry prizes and an astonishing 27 of the 30 economics prizes. Pretty impressive considering our nonstop anxiety about failing schools, mediocre international test scores, undergrads not majoring in math or the sciences, and the rest. Singapore, South Korea and Finland may regularly produce the highest test scores among 15-year-olds, but something isn't translating: Nobody from Singapore has ever won a Nobel. Korea has one—for peace. The Finns last took a science prize in 1967.

The secret of America's Nobel sauce isn't hard to understand: an immigration culture that welcomed everyone from Ronald Coase (from the U.K.) to Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (from India) to Martin Kaplus (from Nazi-era Austria) to Elizabeth Blackburn (from Australia). A mostly private, highly competitive, lavishly endowed university system, juiced by federal funding for fundamental research. A culture of individualism and an ingrained respect for against-the-grain thinking.
I'm not sure about that "mostly private" university system. The bulk of the undergraduate teaching goes on in community colleges and regional state universities. On the other hand, the way the states are treating their flagship campuses, "partial privatization" might best describe Wisconsin, Illinois, California, and Michigan.
The government shutdown is unfortunate; a default would be a disaster. But anyone who thinks America's best days are behind us should take a close look at the latest Nobel haul. It says something that we take it for granted.
Indeed it does. Graduate education remains a strength of the university system, although degree creep (college the new high school, the master's degree the new baccalaureate) will eventually erode the intellectual base for those Nobels.

HE'S NOT SNEERING ANY MORE.

Democrat flack and MSNBC host (but I repeat myself) Chris Matthews, until recently, pronounced "Benghazi" in such a way as to suggest extreme contempt for nasty Republicans inventing scandals.

Until earlier this week, when he had a mugging by reality.
Where were the people that could’ve come or tried to get there within how many hours it took to save the lives of the people still living? Where were they and why weren’t they called to do it? I’m going to ask that question until I get an answer.
Or until the network grows weary of him using his closing segment to shill his book?

27.10.13

KEEPING THE RAILROAD FLUID.

Freight cars sitting in a classification yard aren't making money, and tracks full of cars not yet classified imply delayed freight, disgruntled consignees, and trains held out of the yard waiting their turn.


Here's the Marquette (Iowa) West Yard on the Fox Valley O Scalers Milwaukee Road layout.  Patrols have been dispatched to Waukon, Edmore, the docks at South Marquette, and through freights are on their way to Calmar (westward) and Dubuque (eastward).  There's plenty of room for the cars that will come in from the docks and off the returning patrols.

With another subdivision yard now open at Calmar, expedited train movements are now possible, such as this solid livestock train about to make a priority pickup at Ossian.


The Calmar yard is where crews sort cars for solid meat trains, which makes the life of the Marquette yardmaster much easier.  Run the icers past the ice dock, pull the shorts and the La Crescents off the hind end, tack any iced cars that have arrived off the patrols on, get 'em out of town.  The dispatcher has to stay sharp, though, not letting dead freight with work at several online towns get in the way.

RESERVES CALLED UP.

Saturday offered a properly brisk day for a college football game.  The Northern Illinois University run continues, to a well-attended, if not sold-out stadium.


It's been a difficult two weeks for Eastern Michigan, beginning with the murder, possibly involving a robbery, of receiver Demarius Reed at his Ypsilanti apartment.  The game went on as scheduled.  Four different Northern Illinois players threw touchdown passes in the convincing win.  Starting quarterback Jordan Lynch threw for two touchdowns, ran for one, and caught a pass from Tommylee Lewis for another.  The most instructive highlight, however, involved reserve quarterback Matt McIntosh on a third quarter touchdown pass to Matt Williams.


That's not the canonical Bart Starr special, coming as it does on first down, but it illustrates one way to keep a defense honest.  The play starts with a man in motion right to left, often a tell of a fly sweep or jet sweep.  (The timing of the jet sweep involves the snap of the ball with just enough time for the quarterback to hand off, which suggests some trickery decoying aggressive defenders into an encroachment).  The defense has to respect the run, giving the receiver space to get behind the coverage for a well-timed pass.

Huskie Wire commentator Steve Nitz enjoys the moment. "Illinois and Northwestern are a combined 0-7 in Big Ten competition, while the Huskies are 2-0 against the Big Ten."  That's 2-0 against Iowa and Purdue.  Lining up regularly against Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio State is another matter.

It's fun and good for the local morale nonetheless.  Unfortunately, we've seen the last Saturday home game for the year.  The November home games will be in the evening, one of them concluding the inauguration festivities for new president Douglas Baker.

25.10.13

FRIDAY'S RAILROAD READING

There are people working to improve Passenger Rail service on the midwestern corridors.  The former New York Central west of Porter, Indiana is full of freight trains, and mingling additional Michigan and Ohio trains is unlikely to sit well with Norfolk Southern.  Two tracks dedicated to passenger service are the way to go.  But when I first looked at this picture, I wondered who Photoshopped catenary onto the Norfolk Southern.


Think about the alignment of tracks from Bailly to just east of Gary.  South to north: Norfolk Southern, South Shore, steel mill yard trackage.  Amtrak crews are already qualified on the South Shore in the event of an emergency on Norfolk Southern, why not move the Michigan trains to the South Shore at Michigan City, and restore the Nickel Plate flyover from the Illinois Central?

There have been no passenger trains to Green Bay since April 30, 1971.  NEW Rails would like to change that.  It's been a Cold Spring Shops cause for years.

WHERE THE BLUE COLLAR ARISTOCRATS PLAYED.

Milwaukee's Hamilton High School now has its own stadium, named after history teacher Rudy Royten who also coached the first few teams to take the field.  At the time the school opened, however, home games were at Pulaski Stadium, adjacent to (not surprisingly) Pulaski High School.  In those days, the football games were either early evening on Friday, or by day Saturday, and the city had four football fields:  Pulaski, Custer, North (next to Rufus King High School), and South, on Windlake Avenue hard by Kosciuszko Junior High.

Pulaski had relatively small grandstands, with all entry and exit through one gate on each side of the field, and all aisles reached by a ground-level walkway just behind the fence protecting the team benches.

South Stadium, which was home for South Division and Milwaukee Tech (in my recollection, the Trade and Technical High School for Boys) was larger, with seating for up to ten thousand fans, and seats reached by internal passageways and ramps in the style of much larger stadia.

In my three years at Hamilton, football played exactly one game at South Stadium, against Tech.



That's Hamilton's team in the white jerseys, about to score early in the game.  Tech, however, scored 32 unanswered points in the second half to ruin an otherwise unbeaten season for Hamilton.

Milwaukee has lost population in the past forty years, and the school system hasn't had a lot of money for fixing its stadiums.  In October of 2008, all spectators at a Hamilton - Washington game at Pulaski Stadium had to share the north stands, account the south stands were condemned.  Made for an instructive contrast with Greendale's youth football facilities.

South Stadium is older, and there's more stuff to wear out, and now it will be torn down and replaced.  The final two games were Bay View at South Division, fittingly, and Vincent at Tech.

Perhaps there is a case for naming the new field for Mike Wenzel.
Also here in Milwaukee, sports fans can’t think of historic South Stadium without the name Mike Wenzel coming to mind. Mike has been involved in one capacity or another at South Stadium for more than 50 years, including many as the stadium manager. While it is possible there may be someone else in Wisconsin who has devoted more than a half-century of his or her life to the operation of a sports facility, it’s highly doubtful. This is not to imply that Mike’s work at South Stadium has been his main job, because it is far from it. Since 1971, when he graduated from the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee with a degree in education, Mike’s primary work has been with the Milwaukee Public School System as a teacher, recreation director, coach, referee and you name it. He retired in 2004 at 55 years old. But Mike has had his share of physical ailments in recent years; 10 separate operations including three hip replacements.
He had the opportunity to watch Milwaukee's schools decline.
During 1975, Mike was given the official title, South Stadium Manager. At only 26, he was still comparatively young for the job, but so what? He knew what he was doing, and everyone who worked there respected him and followed his instructions.

He carried on as the stadium manager for the next ten years. But changes had developed in the Milwaukee Public Schools and public school systems virtually everywhere. Drugs had come onto the scene in all their horror, as well as teenage gangs that were roaming about causing fights and other disturbances. Thus in 1985, MPS implemented a School Safety/Security Staff, which took over the operation of the school stadiums and other facilities. The new system had its own director and management team, and Mike’s title was abolished. Since that time, even though his duties have remained basically the same, he has worked under various titles, such as co-stadium manager, game manager and currently assistant stadium manager. Since 1985, Mike has also worked under seven different Security/Event Staff Managers.
Mr Wenzel wrote a memoir,  My Life in Milwaukee Public Schools, including a recollection of South Stadium that devotes a few paragraphs to school rivalries gone bad.  "These characters would take some of the so-called hard-core gang members of today and spit them out."  Yes, and then go on to build heavy equipment at Allis-Chalmers or Harnischfeger.

21.10.13

LOSING THE FUTURE.

Via Media contemplates the microstructure of declining birth rates in prosperous countries.
Some feminists see low birth rates as a natural and entirely desirable response of women around the world to better educational and professional opportunities—not to mention the availability of cheap and reliable birth control.

But if we look at America’s case, we don’t just see hipster ZPG worries and feminist career building at work; we see a general crisis of the entire system by which our society reproduces its biological substance and cultural values from one generation to the next. If a mix of ecological consciousness and conscious choice by empowered women were driving our birth rate, one would expect to see that even as the quantity of new babies fell, the quality of their life circumstances would rise. Women might delay birth until their careers were on track and so might have fewer babies overall, but the babies they did have would be born into more affluent and stable homes. Those who chose to limit the number of children they had because of ecological worries would again be expected to have fewer children, but would have more resources to devote to their care.
Thus does the mix of babies change.
While there certainly are families who fit these descriptions, the state of American children casts doubt on the likelihood that these are the factors driving our fertility shift. More and more American children are born to single mothers, many (though of course not all) of whom are economically or socially disadvantaged in some way. Reflecting that reality, the percentage of American children living in poverty is rising. Other social indicators—like food insecurity, education inequality, and children born out of wedlock — point to declining well being among American children, with the youngest often suffering most.
Worst case scenario:
On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death."
Or as Via Media would have it,
This can only be seen as a spectacular, and spectacularly dangerous social failure. It is a catastrophe of historic proportions, but we are reacting to it with a mix of learned helplessness and willed ignorance.
Or simply being non-judgemental?

A POX ON OFFICIAL WASHINGTON.

En route to a swap meet and a model railroad operating session, I had the car radio tuned to Meet The Press, obsessed, as it always is, with the latest made up Washington crisis. Current moderator David Gregory (a pathetic successor to Lawrence Spivak or Tim Russert) had a potentially enligtening exchange of views on partisan wrangling and government failure that he Just. Couldn't. Leave. Well. Enough. Alone.
Let me get beyond policy and get back to politics. You know, one of the striking things out of our poll, the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, was the following question: "Would you vote to replace every member of Congress?" 60% said yes. We asked here on Meet the Press on Twitter, for our viewer ideas for #breakinggridlock.

We heard three that really stood out. "End the gerrymandering, term limits, campaign finance reform."
Process-worshippers.

Until people take seriously the idea that not every challenge they face has to be turned into something that can be ameliorated, or not, by a grandiloquently titled Act of Congress or a clever new acronym, there will be no end to strategic reapportionment, there will be no term limits, there will be no end of attempts by agents of influence to influence campaigns.

On the other hand, the Elected Representatives, the Agents of Influence, and the Chin Pullers who engage in ritual disagreement with each other on Sunday mornings in front of images of the Capitol Dome, would find the Devolution of Governmental Powers to be a threat to their power and prestige, which depends heavily on their ability to keep the electorate in an agitated and dependent state.

IT'S NOT RIOT RENAISSANCE.

I am complicit in perpetuating an urban legend.
Assuming that your campus did have a Brutalist building, you’ve probably been told a lie about it that goes something like, “Hideous, right? The administration chose that design because it was good at preventing student riots and occupations.” The notion, apparently, is that the style’s typically complex floor plans, dazzling edifices, and oddly placed entrances would discourage those kinds of activities. I’ve heard versions of this tall tale used to explain both the International Affairs Building at my alma mater, Columbia, as well as the North Academic Center at City College, looming as it does a few blocks from my home in Harlem. Colleagues have heard similar apologies in reference to structures at schools all over the place. For years, we’ve all passively accepted this story; however, a little research shows that it is exactly that—a myth.

Though the riot-prevention narrative is widely known, every architectural historian or critical source that I consulted viewed it as extremely dubious. For one thing, the claim is somewhat anachronistic. Many campus Brutalist projects were planned (if not totally completed) before the student movements of the late '60s and early '70s really took off, so crafty administrators would have to have been very prescient to foresee the countercultural-quashing usefulness of any particular style. Plus, as one practical-minded source put it, “not only was [Brutalism] in vogue, architecturally speaking, but building in concrete was way, way cheap. Hence its widespread use in institutional building” during the period.
Never use a complex explanation when a simple one will do. Trendy. Cheap.

Butt-ugly, too, despite the pretensions of architects of the era.

RUNNING TO WIN.

The most stressful part of the semester is upon us.  Late six-week exams, midterms, early ten-week exams, grading gulag, academic open houses, the beat goes on.

As does the football, and continued cheerful news from the Cold Spring Shops perspective.

First up on Saturday, Northern Illinois at Central Michigan, for some reason a difficult place to play.  Another weekend, another opportunity to come from behind.
In the history of NCAA football, no quarterback has accomplished what redshirt senior quarterback Jordan Lynch did Saturday: setting the NCAA record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a game.

In the Huskies’ 38-17 victory over Central Michigan, Lynch set the record by rushing for 316 total yards. The previous record holder was NIU’s own Stacey Robinson, who set the record in 1990 when he rushed for 308 yards against Fresno State.

Not only did Lynch secure his name in the NCAA record books, his 316 rushing yards rank him fourth in NIU history for most rushing yards in a single game. Lynch finished 37 yards short of former running back Garrett Wolfe’s school record of 353 yards against Ball State in 2006.

In Lynch’s record-setting performance on the ground, he ran the ball 32 times for an average of 9.9 yards per carry. Lynch got into the end zone on three occasions: on a 5-yard touchdown in the second quarter, a 1-yard touchdown plunge in the third quarter and a 3-yard touchdown rush in the fourth quarter. For his performance, Lynch was also named the Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week. Lynch did most of his damage in the second half as he shredded the Chippewas’ defense for 232 yards on 18 carries.

“Lynch and the blocking [were huge],” said Central Michigan coach Dan Enos. “He’s a great player. I’m not taking anything from Jordan Lynch, but you don’t just go up there and rush for 300 yards and nobody blocks.”
Of course not. Football is blocking and tackling.  Northern Illinois has been in several games that were close at the half (tied at Central Michigan) only to pull away in the second half by adjusting their mix of plays to favor those that had been working better.

Later that same evening came Wisconsin at Illinois.  There's no mixing at Wisconsin, just running.
Grab a big early lead by dominating play to take a soft home crowd out of the game. And then, after the home team makes a surge late in the half, re-establish control quickly in the second half.
The running sets up the play-action passing, although there's nothing quite as frustrating as a Bart Starr special that misfires.

After the dust settled, Northern Illinois enters the first BCS ranking at 18, and Wisconsin comes in just above Northern Illinois in the Associated Press poll, after demonstrating that the best college football team in Illinois isn't Northwestern or Illinois.

It's Throwback Thursday on Sunday, with the Packers wearing the colors of the 1929 - 1930 - 1931 first team to three-peat, and the Browns wearing the 1960s era colors worn by the Team Now Known As The Baltimore Ravens in the 1965 Mud Bowl, at the beginning of the 1965 - 1966 - 1967 three-peat.  The weather wasn't quite as foul, although it wasn't exactly blue skies and red leaves on the trees.
An underdog's rain, the type that can make a team such as the Cleveland Browns a bear to handle, waited until early in the second quarter before pelting down at Lambeau Field on Sunday afternoon.

But because the Green Bay Packers played extraordinarily well in that first quarter, precipitation and a slippery surface never became factors.

Neither did the Browns, a dangerous team with a talented, physical defense that never could catch up with Aaron Rodgers no matter how many anonymous teammates were next to him in the huddle.
Establish a lead, weather the rally, score two late touchdowns to secure the victory.



We're not yet to mid-season and many teams take the field with a lineup very different from what looked like the first team out of training camp.  Make helmets more effective at cushioning heads against concussion, does it come as any surprise that players might use their helmets more aggressively?   Peltzman effects, everywhere.

Perhaps the way forward is to replace those military-grade facemasks and industrial-strength plastics with brown leather helmets sans facemasks.

17.10.13

HELPING UNDERWRITE RAILWAY PRESERVATION.

The forthcoming "Chicago Fire" train wreck has now been recorded for future broadcast.

Hicks Car Works reports that the steam locomotive servicing area is being used for the show.  The Illinois Railway Museum's Barn 9 web camera has been disconnected from the internet to prevent any unathorized out-takes.  The steam locomotives were moved out to the main line for the duration of the shooting, and the Chicago and North Western Commuter Streamliner became a train of the Chicago Commuter Rail authority that had a close encounter of the incendiary kind with a tank car.

We'll have to wait a few more weeks to see which characters' development is going to be interrupted by an "All Hands" alarm headed to trackside.

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR.

A substantial part of the Republican Party is no longer in thrall to Big Business, to the dismay of John Judis.
The single-issue and evangelical groups have been superseded by right-wing populist groups, which are generally identified with the Tea Party, although there is no single Tea Party organization. These groups can’t easily be co-opted by the party’s Washington leadership. And the business groups in Washington, who funded the party over the last two decades, have grown disillusioned with a party that appears to be increasingly held hostage by its radical base and by outsider groups. The newspapers are now filled with stories about business opposition to the shutdown strategy, and there are even hints of business groups backing challenges to Tea Party candidates. “The business community has got to stand up and say we are not going to back the most self-described conservative candidate. We are going to back the candidates that are the most rational,” says John Feehery, a former aide to DeLay and Hastert who is now president of Quinn Gillespie & Associates, a Washington lobbying firm.
Mr Judis notes elsewhere in his article that these elements of the Republican coalition are not fond of Big Anything, and not funded by the usual suspects on K Street.  In his view, these populist elements are breaking up the Republican Party as he understands it.

Government of the people, by the people, and for the people is sometimes messy.  That's a feature, one that Our President evidently doesn't understand.

THE REMFS GO HOME AT 4.30 PM.

Mike Munger: "What is the most ridiculous use of the 'sustainable' you have seen, readers?"


Founders Memorial Library, ground floor, in the escalator well.

14.10.13

UNTIL THEY PLAY NICE IN WASHINGTON.


I don't have the greatest digital editing skills in the world, but it will serve.

SAYING NO TO THE SPORTS TAX.

The Mid-American Conference is a major money-suck for member universities.

Despite the on-field success of the football program, at least one Northern Star columnist objects to the activity fee each student pays to underwrite athletics.
So not everyone is a fan of NIU’s athletic money-grabbing machine. There are already hefty, but reasonable for what they do, fees for activities and services on campus, so an additional one for athletics should not be crucial to keeping these programs running.

Again, there are Huskies who are only here to learn about a future job, do good work in their classes and get degrees. The athletic fee also hurts commuter students who are not around campus on evenings and weekends to go to games in the first place.

I think students who do attend games could pay a discounted admission price. Funding athletics does not have to work on a tax-like basis.
Note also that those evening games on school nights conflict with sessions students, commuter or resident, schedule to work on those group projects that are all the rage in some disciplines.

WHAT ARE THE SCHOOLS TEACHING?

Sadhbh Walsh suggests that differences in developing human capital produce differences in the returns to human capital.
It doesn't bode well for the future then that so many American students, particularly low-income and minority students, are graduating high school without basic reading or math skills. Nor does it inspire confidence that students who leave school without basic skills are not acquiring them as adults. So America's alleged dumbness has a lot to do with inadequate schooling for (poor) children and teenagers and a dearth of continuing education opportunities for low-income adults. By contrast, the OECD study found that in (more equal) countries that fared better in the tests, like Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands, more than 60% of the adult population have engaged in continuing education programs or on the job training.
Denmark and the Netherlands are relatively homogeneous populations, at least over intervals in which returns to human capital in adults are concerned.  I'll also conjecture that in Finland, Suomi oppression of Sami probably is less important than reading, writing, and arithmetic in the schools.  If I'm in error, please let me know.  Inadequate schooling in the United States, against a background of identity politics crowding out learning, and life management skills viewed as oppression, only helps keep the poor poor.

THE CASE FOR GETTING OUTSIDE YOUR BUBBLE.

Greg Mankiw.
Among most of my friends and colleagues here in Massachusetts, I am that oddball conservative. Among most of my family and political allies, I am that oddball from liberal Harvard. Yet hanging out with both Democrats and Republicans has some benefits. One is that I avoid the disdain that each group often feels for the other.
You can't play well with Others, until you discover Others to play with.

THE CASE FOR THE DEFENSE.

I've been exiled to Grading Siberia for the past few days.  Bluebooks and assignments have been scored, let the recriminations begin.

It's been a good weekend for homecomings not spoiled, though.  Start with Northwestern, which had its homecoming spoiled by Ohio State last weekend.  Their opportunity to spoil Wisconsin's homecoming fell short, though.  Wisconsin limited Northwestern to two field goals, took an early lead on a Bart Starr special, and unleashed the runners.  Northwestern's defense is much improved though: in the previous meeting of the teams Wisconsin put 70 points on the board, but only 35 last Saturday.

Later that day, Northern Illinois, off of spoiling homecomings at Purdue and Kent State, played to another full Huskie Stadium.  The putative spoiler was Akron, which battled to the very end of the game.  Earlier this year, Akron made a strong case that Michigan's Wolverines were over-rated.  Penn State completed the demonstration in four overtimes.  The Akron coaching staff is a demonstration either of the ability of former power conference coaches to turn a program around, or of the limits of nepotism, or you'd think Northern Illinois could have done more against a Terrell Buckley coached secondary.

Come Sunday, the Packers did spoil a homecoming for last year's champions, the Cleveland Browns now called the Baltimore Ravens because the Baltimore Colts are in Indianapolis.  Whatever.  The defense put up a goal-line stand worthy of Davis, Jordan, and Nitschke, then Aaron Rodgers found Jordy Nelson on a Bart Starr special, and Raven coach John Harbaugh is undefeated against National Conference teams at home, Nevermore.

9.10.13

TOTAL RECALL.

The Chicago Tribune offers a photo gallery of excursion trains in the Southwest.


Grand Canyon Railway photograph courtesy Chicago Tribune.

That's former Burlington 4960, converted to burn recycled vegetable oil according to the caption, on the Grand Canyon Railway.  The string of stainless steel cars behind, including some dome cars, brings to mind some of the final Burlington steam excursions of the mid-1960s.

QUESTION OF THE DAY.

Megan Fox: "Why are today’s women so stupid that they allow men they wouldn’t trust to run errands deposit their DNA inside of them?" Dan Quayle was right about Murphy Brown mocking the importance of fathers, and the mugging by reality goes on today.
The problem is women have lowered their worth in the eyes of men so dramatically by playing the whore and having babies (or destroying them through abortion) outside the lawful constraints of marriage that men no longer feel honor-bound to support them. When 1 in 5 women have multiple baby daddies, why not let the next guy take care of her? Or why not let her do it on her own? After all, a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle, or so we’ve been told.

I’m sure my detractors will say I am letting men off the hook by not addressing absent fathers, but the truth is this is a female-centered problem. Ladies, stop having sex with unsuitable men. Women have the power to turn this situation around simply by saying, “No.” If you truly believe it’s your body and your choice, then choose to be wise about the decisions you make with that body.
Ms Fox has posted a second part of the column, laying out the worst-case consequences of bastardy. It has apparently not yet been blurbed at the main Pajamas Media site, as there are no angry comments as of this evening.

THE CASE FOR BUILDING INFRASTRUCTURE.

It's no fun attempting to drive around the southern tip of Lake Michigan on the Illinois Tri-State Tollway and Interstates 80 - 94 in Indiana.  No room to build to the north, and transcontinental traffic coming in from St. Louis and points southwest funnels onto 80 near Joliet.  Wouldn't it make sense to provide additional capacity, perhaps to the south in a way to divert some west to southeast traffic out of the funnel?
A panel of state and local transportation agency officials, advocacy groups and county officials voted by a slim margin today to support the controversial Illiana Corridor.

The proposed $1.25 billion toll road through Will County would connect Interstates 55, 57 and 65 in Illinois and Indiana.
I like the idea of congestion pricing and toll roads, as the so-called freeways are not self-supporting.  The problem, though, with charging tolls on a new road south of the 55 - 80 - 94 - 65 funnel is that only a small stretch of the existing funnel is subject to toll, and the road-wrecking truckers are bypassing the toll segment already.
Advocates, chiefly officials from the Illinois Department of Transportation and officials from Will County, touted the estimated economic benefits of the Illiana and the need for relief from congestion.

“Local arterials (roads) are getting pounded by trucks,” said Peter Harmet, a top planning official with IDOT.

Critics cited the potential financial risks, including the possibility that if toll revenues fall short, taxpayers might be on the hook for as much as $1.1 billion to pay for the project.
Toll projections based on estimates of truck traffic are likely to be optimistic, as the trucking companies are experts of long standing at finding ways around the toll portion. On the other hand, it might be worth something to passenger car drivers to go cross-country without playing ducks and drakes with two or three lanes packed with semis in the funnel.  Perhaps that's the best reason to be skeptical of the project, although the editorial board at the Chicago Tribune offer numerous objections.
The 47-mile toll road is envisioned mainly as a trucking corridor, serving the Southland's growing intermodal freight system. It's meant to relieve congestion on I-80 and on local roads that are crowded with trucks seeking to avoid that traffic. It would pass just south of the planned south suburban airport near Peotone.

For local businesses and governments, the need for the Illiana is a no-brainer. Will County was among the nation's fastest growing counties from 2000 to 2008, as the region's population continued its outward migration from Chicago to the inner suburbs to the exurbs.

But the recession slowed that trend. And the debate over the Illiana is largely about whether regional planners should assume that growth will resume and build the infrastructure to support it — or try to arrest the pattern in favor of more controlled development.

The GO TO 2040 blueprint [a long range regional plan for Greater Chicago] encourages growth centered around the existing urban core and close to public transportation. Instead of reacting to population trends, the plan emphasizes "investment in existing communities, maintenance and modernization of our current transportation and infrastructure assets and targeted expansion."

The forecasts underlying IDOT's plan for the Illiana "assume a substantially different outcome for the region, placing more of the region's growth in outlying, undeveloped areas," the [Chicago Metropolitan Association for Planning] staff analysis says.

The [Metropolitan Planning Council] makes a strong case that IDOT is getting ahead of itself. A toll road that cuts through a sparsely populated area is not automatically a magnet for the trucks now crowding I-80.
Especially if there are opportunities to bypass the tolls. The editorial compares projected traffic on the Illiana to current traffic on Irving Park Road (from where to where is not specified).  There are stretches of Irving Park being beaten up by trucks, either heading into warehouses or avoiding the tolls.  On the other hand, because complex adaptive systems tend to do what they darn well please, opting not to provide additional capacity for passenger vehicles in areas that continue to develop as Chicago and the inner suburbs become even less desirable places to live is unlikely to stop the migration of people to safer quarters.

PANCAKE BLOCKING.

It is a term of art in football, although sometimes it leads to a birthday treat.
Behind a veteran offensive line, going against the [Kent State] Golden Flashes defense that stacked the box from the third quarter on, the [Northern Illinois] Huskies rushed for 454 yards overall.

[Running back Cameron] Stingily, who turned 22 Saturday, said he now has to buy the linemen a meal at IHOP because he promised to do so if he went above 150 yards in a game. They helped him to a huge serving against the Golden Flashes (2-4, 1-2), producing a MAC high for the season and the most yards for an NIU running back since 2006.
Four of the first five games on the road, and a sold out Huskie Stadium for homecoming (invented here) this upcoming Saturday.  I'm not sure what bucking the national trend of declining attendance at college football games means.  I suspect, though, that having games at a decent hour on Saturday doesn't discourage spectators.

5.10.13

SPOTTING A SUBPRIME PROVIDER.

Does a university that has so few students enrolling in physics that it is contemplating eliminating its physics department (perhaps offering a few physics classes as part of a laboratory science cluster) deserve to call itself a university?

I'm not making this up.  "College Physics Departments Imploding" is the College Insurrection headline.

It's a reaction to a proposal from the University of Southern Maine, which Inside Higher Education frames in an instructive way.
Citing budget concerns and low numbers of majors, the University of Southern Maine is the latest institution to consider eliminating its physics major.
I confess to not paying too close attention lately, whether this is a trend of three universities or three hundred I cannot tell you.  The suggestions some in higher education offer are also instructive.
Some proponents of the discipline say it’s a shortsighted move, and, like similar initiatives in other states, could contribute to the country’s dearth of qualified candidates for science-related jobs. The value of physics – a “foundational” science – isn’t tied to enrollment alone, they say.

Yet some of those proponents – along with critics – also say anger about department closures should be directed inward. Physicists need to address longstanding concerns about diversity within their ranks and better communicate the value of the discipline to the general public, they say. Better teaching and mentoring also could capture more student interest.

"It’s a mistake,” said Paul Nakroshis, an associate professor of physics at Southern Maine who has been involved in university discussions about cutting physics. Not only is it an essential part of a “comprehensive” university, physics is “excellent training for almost any scientific career because of its breadth. It spreads over many areas of technology, math and science.”

Without a physics major – and the upper-level courses that come with it – quality of study would decline, diminishing the university’s ability to attract talented students and faculty interested in physics and possibly science in general, and that’s bad for everyone, Nakroshis said. “Already in this country there are some pretty grim statistics in terms of how many people think the world is 6,000 years old and about [the validity of] global warming.”

But administrators, who instituted a “rule of five” several years ago to justify the closure of other departments graduating fewer than five majors annually, including Russian and German, say that physics simply isn’t attracting enough students. In a draft “action plan” presented last month, the university told the department – which graduates about three majors annually – to stop admitting new majors immediately; advise current majors on completing their course of study “as quickly as possible;” and to think about reorganizing itself into a new kind of science unit with “at least 20 faculty members" and some different focus by the end of this academic year.

The “necessity” of all physics courses will be assessed by the department and an outside curriculum developer, according to the plan. But lower-level courses will continue to be offered for students who need them to complete other majors, such as engineering. Students interested in majoring in physics can do so at the University of Maine at Orono, the state’s flagship institution, about three hours away.
"A new kind of science unit" with 'at least 20 faculty members'". In 1971, my Milwaukee Hamilton High School yearbook listed nine teachers in the science department.  A chemistry teacher was the department chairman, and there were specialists in astronomy, biology, chemistry, and physics.  Southern Maine's action plan, which envisions keeping the planetarium open, reads like a plan for a high school with somewhat larger enrollment than Milwaukee Hamilton (about 2300 South Siders back in the day).

Let's rewrite that last sentence.  Students interested in receiving a university education can do so at the University of Maine at Orono, the state's flagship institution.  At least until the outside curriculum developers and adminstrators get around to gutting Orono's offerings.

The Southern Maine plan may or may not be a trial balloon, and pushback from local interests might have killed it.  For now.  The Perpetually Aggrieved have something to be aggrieved about.
According to data from the American Physical Society, underrepresented minorities receive about 10 percent of the bachelor's degrees in physics given to U.S. citizens or permanent residents, with women earning about 20 percent of degrees.

The organization has several programs directly address these issues, and the numbers of women and Hispanic Americans in the discipline are on the rise.

But physics also faces another problem, advocates said: people don’t understand it.

Crystal Bailey, education and careers program manager at the society, said physics cuts are part of nationwide trend of "culling" costs in higher education. But “people making these decisions don’t have a sense of what physics departments actually are contributing, both in terms of educating a powerful STEM workforce in really important ways, and the amount of research dollars that that help physics departments, as well as their universities.”
The special pleading of the diversity hustlers and the grant hustlers is to be expected. There is, however, a responsibility for professors to profess.
Carl Wieman, a Nobel Prize-winning professor of physics and education at Stanford University and former associate director of science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said physics departments face more than a public relations problem. Programs with unusually high numbers of majors tend to have faculty with a strong sense of purpose who view attracting and retaining students as a responsibility, he said, pointing to the widely cited SPIN-UP study on which he worked.

"What that study found was the departments and faculty in those highly successful schools felt a clear responsibility to recruit students to major in physics and make sure they were happy and successful after they became majors," he said in an e-mail. "The physics faculty in the comparison schools always saw the number of physics majors as someone else's problem and responsibility."

Professors in popular physics programs also have been shown to use engaging teaching methods that inspire students to continue on to upper-level courses, he said. Despite that, most professors continue to teach “very traditionally.”

Program closures should “signal” to the discipline “that a physics major should be seen as a responsibility, not an entitlement,” Wieman said. “I think the outrage expressed by the physics community when things like this happen, or the dropping of physics programs at schools in Texas due to low enrollment, is misplaced. The concerns should be directed inward, not outward.”
There's no necessary distinction between teaching traditionally and inspiring students. I'm aware of a lot of research and anecdotal evidence to the effect that a good first teacher can get students enthused, and that's probably as true in physics as it is in economics. And the physicists have better toys, and better war stories, to fire students' interest.  But too much Distressed Material in the freshman class can demoralize even the most dedicated and motivated professor.
[Kelly] Mack, [vice-president for undergraduate science education with] the Association of American Colleges and Universities, said physicists need to do a better job of promoting their discipline in a variety of ways. But they also face external challenges, such as students coming out of high school underprepared for the kind of math that physics requires.

Nakroshis also said students are coming out of high school underprepared for physics, given that only about one-third of high school physics teachers have physics backgrounds. Sadly, he said, a planned branch of a feeder program for physics majors to become high school physics teachers in the state would die at Southern Maine as a result of the plan.
But when Ms Mack fears that if it's physics today, it could be mathematics tomorrow, she's indirectly suggesting that the real problem is a dearth of students capable of doing college-level physics, or mathematics, or economics.  The physics faculty at Bowdoin (five professors in a relatively small college) has it right: Challenge your students.

NULLIFICATION?

The National Park Service apparently contributes some money to the operation of Wisconsin state parks.  Not enough, though, to give them authority to close those parks.
The park service ordered state officials to close the northern unit of the Kettle Moraine, Devil's Lake, and Interstate state parks and the state-owned portion of the Horicon Marsh, but state authorities rebuffed the request because the lion's share of the funding came from state, not federal coffers.

State officials opted to keep public lands open as Gov. Scott Walker blamed both Republicans and Democrats for the partial government shutdown and said congressional leaders should run the nation more like Wisconsin. Democrats balked at those comments, saying the Republican governor has had a tumultuous tenure that has divided people.

Even though federal lands such as the Apostle Islands National Lakeshorehave been shuttered, the DNR issued a statement saying all state parks, trails and other recreational properties were open and not affected by the federal government's budget problems.

The agency also reopened a boat launch Wednesday at Wyalusing State Park on the Mississippi River. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service closed the launch on Tuesday because it was on federal land.

But in a sign of defiance, the DNR removed the barricades at the landing, saying it had the legal authority to operate the launch under a 1961 agreement with the federal government.
The same article reports that the national forests in Wisconsin are closed, meaning there is an embargo on the issuance of permits.  Good luck with anything more restrictive: there are large parts of the Nicolet National Forest that abut private property (go hiking north from the old Stankevitz compound on Gilkey Lake, cross Sunset Road, strictly speaking, you're transgressing the law.)  There's apparently a major industry using the national forests for commercial purposes that hikers ought be aware of.

Wisconsin's defiance (no surprise that a Republican governor and legislature would take advantage of a petulant Democratic president, from Illinois, no less) suggests a course of action for beleaguered university presidents.  It's a common complaint from Madison to DeKalb to San Diego that legislators are attempting to dictate 100% of what the state universities do, whilst providing a share of operating budgets that seems as small as the National Park Service's contribution to the operation of Wisconsin's state parks.

2.10.13

TOM CLANCY.

Worth an entire Ivy League of English Lit professors, says Stephen "Vodka Pundit" Green.

Indeed.  R.I.P.

DISCOVERING THE LAW OF DEMAND.

The ACT has, since 1997, allowed test-takers to send their scores to four, rather than three, institutions for higher learning, at no additional expense.  It takes a NBER working paper to identify the way in which students respond to the incentive.
On average, most students used the extra free report to apply to a more selective school, but others used it to apply to a less selective school with higher admissions rates.
The old heuristic for applying was "long shot, realistic shot, safety." It makes sense for a fourth free submission to be a convex combination of long and realistic shots.
The free score report policy increased the expected earnings of low-income students. Although [Harvard Faculty Research Fellow Amanda] Pallais  did not study the earnings of the low-income students, back-of-the-envelope calculations suggested that sending in a fourth application increased a student’s future earnings by $10,000.

As for why the new policy encouraged students to apply to more schools, Pallais suggests that students “may use simple heuristics in making application decisions.” In other words, students may interpret the number of free test scores as a recommendation for the number of applications to send. A lesson from this study, then, could be that providing students with better information about the college admissions process helps low-income students attend more-selective colleges.
That there's usually an application submission fee probably also matters.  There's thus a nonlinearity in the budget constraint with the fifth application.  If the incentive steers low-income students out of dropout factories, that's normatively redeeming.

AN NBC TRAIN WRECK.

No, not their suck-up coverage of Democrats.
[John] Roman, who's produced episodes of "Chicago Fire" since its first season last year, called upon the museum once again as the series returned for a second season. "Chicago Fire" premiered Monday.

The television series based on the firefighters and drama surrounding the fictitious Chicago Firehouse 51 will film an accident scene in Union.

Roman wouldn't reveal much more about the scene to prevent from spoiling the upcoming season for fans, but a call is out for roughly 150 extras to be available Oct. 4-10.

"We're looking for people who live in the western suburbs," Roman said.

The extras, adults and children, would take on non-speaking roles acting as victims, pedestrians, workers and such, said Joan Philo, the extras casting director for the upcoming episode.
The museum is well-known to ferroequinologists and movie producers.  To local residents, it may still be a secret.
Museum officials always are eager to welcome film crews, having served as a setting for other projects, including 1992's "A League of Their Own.” The museum is closed during the week and only on the weekends during the fall season so filming does not impact museum-goers.

No filming for "Chicago Fire" will take place during the weekend.

"We welcome it. We solicit it," said Nick Kallas, the museum's executive director. "It's a nice boost to income. . . Look at 'Groundhog Day' and the carry-over for Woodstock. So I think that's a good thing for the county, and you can hang your hat on that."

Of the scene, he said it definitely would involve railroad cars, "But the whole thing is still to be determined, you know."

Along with being known in the film world as an ideal location for scenes involving trains, the museum is known worldwide as the largest of its kind in the country.

"The other day, we had a visitor from Australia," Kallas said.

Oddly enough, though, many in McHenry County fail to visit because the museum is in their back yard, he said.

"You go to stuff miles away," he said. "That's human nature, I think . . . The people that are coming as extras and all of that, they'll at least find out where we're located."
I get the bit about residents not visiting local tourist attractions. Sixteen years in Milwaukee, and nary a brewery tour (in those days, three or four were available).

I wonder what the scenario for the train wreck will be.  The firehouse in the show appears to be on the near southwest side, possibly west of the Dan Ryan, but south of the UIC campus.  There are a lot of potential places for trains to get into trouble near there (although crews from this firehouse wind up all over Chicago, not that coastal viewers will notice).

I can depend, though, on character development being interrupted by the alarm.  "Chicago Fire" is a soap opera with heavier machinery than "General Hospital" would feature.  There is, however, an intriguing sub-plot this year, featuring a ball-busting consultant who has probably never handled anything pressurized higher than a garden hose, but who gets to pick several firehouses to close, and to harass the battalion chiefs into filling in information for some kind of firehouse management system.

Intrusive REMFs are the same the world over.  It's easier, however, to turn a business consultant into a figure of fun than it would be an assessment coordinator.

WASTING MONEY.

If you seek administrative bloat to eliminate, take a lesson from Jordan Weissmann.
In other words, what makes this chart truly galling isn't that we're spending extraordinary amounts of money to produce college graduates. It's that we're spending extraordinary amounts of money to produce college dropouts.
Like any index number, a "weighted postsecondary efficiency" score suffers from aggregation and omitted variable biases.  But it suggests that it's a fool's errand for institutions of higher education to seek approval for admitting unprepared students and calling it access.  Or for such institutions to devote a lot of resources to work on retaining unprepared or unmotivated students.

And yet I'm again swimming against the tide.  The latest version of Blackboard allows me to flag students who have neglected to turn in assignments as "at risk", whatever that means, and it provides some helpful scripts for attempting to be Tiger Mom or something to get them back on the straight and narrow.  For all the good I suspect it will do.

GET TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER

Betsy Newmark teaches civics and government.  "It's pretty pitiful that what was adopted as a solution to Congress's inability to get its work done is now regarded as the gold standard for budgeting the government."  The balance of her post is elaboration.

SAY STRIKES.

The Atlantic's Derek Thompson looks at income inequality.
[L]ook closer at where all the money's come from in the last few decades. It's not the husband. It's coming from the wife.

Marriage used to be a pairing of opposites: Men would work for pay and women would work at home. But in the second half of the 20th century, women flooded the labor force, raising their participation rate from 32 percent, in 1950, to nearly 60 percent in the last decade. As women closed the education gap, the very nature of marriage has changed. It has slowly become an arrangement pairing similarly rich and educated people. Ambitious workaholics used to seek partners who were happy to take care of the house. Today, they're more likely to seek another ambitious workaholic.

Married workaholics both want to work—and, often, they do. Married women have nearly tripled their average workweek since the 1950s, absolutely crushing the working-hour growth of every other demographic.
What comes next should not surprise anybody.
In America today, a healthy, growing family income is a two-person job.

Just look what happens otherwise. The typical family with a stay-at-home wife/mom has seen incomes grow only 1 percent, after inflation, since 1980. But dual-earner households have seen a 29 percent raise, according to 2012 Census data.
The conclusion, though, is too strong.
The marriage inequality crisis creates a virtuous cycle at the top and a vicious one at the bottom. It pushes educated and non-educated Americans into entirely different worlds.
There is no social science consensus on the rising bastardy rate among the poor and less-educated.  Wealthy people are more likely to defer gratification (that ambitious workaholic may not be your high school locker partner or a next door neighbor).  There's no reason the common schools can't attempt to teach that skill.