Monthly Archive for December, 2010

Higher Education Bubble…

For the two of you reading this blog you know I am concerned about the higher education bubble for two reasons: one, I work in higher education right now and when the bubble bursts and if conditions at Directional U are the same as today, I’ll be out of a job; two, I have kids, ages 16 & 13, they are going to have to make tough decisions in this environment.  Decisions where I feel I am unable to provide the certainty a father would like to provide his children.

I am not alone in this thinking.  Take for example this post over at The Volokh Conspiracy by Kenneth Anderson.  He says this post will be the first of a series, I’ll be certain to follow.

I would like to point you to both this comment by Jardinero1 and this commentby pashley1411, both to the above Volokh post.

I worry that Jardinero1 is correct about the future.  Maybe worry isn’t the correct term, puzzled maybe?  It has been my experience that the college degree was not the be all end all and I’m only 50.  My father had the type of employment that I never had.  I almost certain that my children have to be prepared to make money on their own, that they will not be able to plan for, or count on, a career path like their grandfathers enjoyed.

The other comment by pashley1411 is spot on.  The institutions of higher education have been cut loose from any mooring that might leave them tied to any sense of a reasonable ROI for their median student.  If they are not training people for future jobs, they certainly should not be accepting federal loans as a form of tuition payment.  The liberal arts colleges, I believe, have an obligation to not enslave their students to debt payments for the consumption aspect of a college education.  Where are the liberal values of being enslaved to a student loan?  My only slight correction to pashley1411 is that the institutions are run for the benefit of the faculty and select administrators, not all the employees.

I hope my kids either enlist or become plumbers.

What I’ve been reading the last day or two…

God’s Middle Finger.  It’s about the Sierra Madre mountains of Mexico.  It is incredible to read about such lawless land just a day and one-half drive from Dallas.  The book is highly entertaining, I recommend it to anyone who thinks they would enjoy a travel adventure story.

You’ll also be able to tell that everything about Mexico is completely a mess when you read this story about guns.  The people from the Mexican government are complete liars.  The Washington Post reporter must be clueless.

Never Send a White Man…

To do the job of a Mexican.

Replaced my cooktop today.  Went from a 30″ to a 36″.  I have a granite countertop, so cutting the top was a chore and a mess.  I bought a diamond wheel for my angle cutter and went at it.  Here’s what I started with:

Notice the Blue Pearl granite, an older Dacor cooktop and a really crappy set of cabinets and possibly the worst floor I have ever had in any residence.  So I took out the old top:

The was an old metal j box in there that pretty much fell apart when I pulled the cord for the cooktop out.  So I put in a new j box:

Oh, and look at the slides I have to live with.  This is really a situation of the cobbler’s kids having no shoes.  I never sold a cabinet with anything other than Blum Tandem slides with Blumotion (soft close).  Here is a detail on the outside members of the slides:

The next few pictures will show the mess I made.  Now, I was in the kitchen business, but I was a designer and contractor.  I believe I’m pretty handy and have seen this work done hundreds of times.  I had #2 holding the vacuum hose will I cut the stone.  I’m thinking the vacuum just made noise.  Take a look at the dust I generated:

Here’s a little interesting bit.  Notice the beech knife block on the backsplash in the  photo above?  This photo shows more detail:

At least some of the dust from the granite is ferrous metal!  It was kind of a bitch to clean off of there too!  Finally, though we (me and the oldest) put away all the tools and cleaned up.  I would like to point out something on the new cooktop that is a sweet little improvement over the last one, the flat plug:

That little plug probably saves an inch and one-half that, at times, can be critical when putting together a kitchen.  You will notice from this final picture that I am partial to Dacor cooking equipment.  I really like the way these items work, the oven and cooktop are superb.  Here is the final, after install and clean up:

Now I have to figure out dinner.

Digital Photography Part Deux…

In my previous post about digital photography I complained about the results versions what the manual said I should get.  It gets even worse.  There has been a firmware upgrade that I just found and installed (the upgrade was published in 2006).  Now my problem is even worse!

But look!  I now have a black and white option that was not there before:

That was done with the camera, not photo editing software.  Pretty cool.

The Christmas Eve Movie…

I mentioned below that we were going to watch a movie on Christmas Eve.  Well, I lost out (normal for around here) and we watched It’s a Wonderful Life.  I fell asleep.  I still haven’t seen the whole thing from start to finish.  I guess I don’t like the movie much.  I can’t help but think that George Bailey is a whiny bitch.

I find I have trouble communicating with people…

I frequently lurk over at Chicago Boyz.  I like most of what I read over there and find myself particularly interested in what a couple of the regulars have to write about.

Dan from Madison has a humorous post about how people reacted to his owning a Hummer H3.  As a former business owner (Dan is clearly better at this than I was) I found the story to dovetail nicely with my own experiences.  I used to have the name of my company festooned in decals down the side of my truck.  I eventually removed them as I got tired of always being at work.  People would stop me in all manner of places to pump me for information.  I removed the decals and returned to relative anonymity in my travels about town.  Always parked the same vehicle in front of the store though.  Just like Dan I parked to one side, leaving the better spots for my customers.  Customers knew when I was there and the shop was open.

Like I said, I liked the post and offered a little storyin the comments from my own experience.  I guess I did something wrong, or failed to properly communicate that I was just trying to share with the other commenters.  The next comment made a claim that was entirely at odds with my purpose.  Dan from Madison agrees with Paul and I’m left scratching my head.

Several days have now passed, an eternity in internet time.  My sense of internet etiquette tells me to not say anything more over there.  My sense of internet etiquette also tells me I will get blasted for being too sensitive if I were to say anything.  Instead, I’ll write about it in on my own blog in my very obtuse manner.  As I can not communicate clearly, anybody that reads this post is unlikely to understand what I’ve written.  Also, anybody that reads this (and that might not be a number greater than zero) will probably look at this post and tell me to grow a pair.  I do hope that if anybody reads this post that they understand I have a sense of humor.  Mostly though, I just want to point out that I was not trying to say anybody is “ugly too.”

Now I know that just because I’m paranoid it doesn’t mean that these two comments are about my story, they could have been about another comment above in the chain.  But I don’t think so.  I encounter this all the time, mostly often with my wife.  I believe I am making clear what point I am trying to convey and it gets interpreted in the least charitable fashion.  I know it’s me.  I don’t quite understand how these misunderstandings take place, but yet they do.  My feelings don’t get hurt anymore, I just try to figure out where I went wrong.  I try to understand what convention of polite discourse I have just violated.  I should just claim I have Asperger’s Syndrome and assume victim status.  I could try to use that excuse as a Get Out of Jail Free card when I next commit a conversational faux pas.

Now no offense has been taken on my part.  I’m genuinely puzzled about the manner in which my comment was interpreted.  I’ll contnue to go read Chicago Boyz and will comment once in a while too.  I like the site quite a bit.  I do want them to know, however, that if I’m going to call them ugly, I will do so.  I will be clear when that has happened.

My spidey sense tells me I that now that I have written this post, I should delete it.  But fuck it, this is the internet.

You have to wonder at the decline of The New York Times…

When they have such wonderful writers as John Tierney.  I think I was in graduate school when I first learned of Julian Simon’s bet with Paul Ehrlich.  The concept behind Simon’s betting is very simple.  There is only one commodity that matters and it is increasing in both quantity and quality each day.  That commodity is human capital.

As China, India, and hopefully soon, the rest of Asia and all of Africa become more free and human capital takes a big jump in quantity and quality, our lives will be dramatically improved.

Digital Photography.

Photography is the one area of modern life I am somewhat ambivalent about.  Sure you can get a pretty good picture out of your digital camera up on the web for all to see in minutes, but I just can’t seem to master the process.  I have an old Nikon, with manual metering, manual lenses and, of course, requires the use of film.  It’s a Nikon FM for those of you in the know.

Over the years I took some awesome photos with that camers.  I several types of film, Kodachrome, Ektachrome, Pan-X, Tri-X and some of the Fuji stuff.  I developed some on my own.  Made my own prints from time to time.  In short, I was pretty good at photography.

Then the future arrives.  Everybody goes digital.  I believe, for taking photos of the kitchens I used to design, need a good camera.  Of course I say this out loud in front of a professional photographer that has a camera for sale as he is upgrading.  So I become the proud owner of a Nikon D2x.

I can’t take a picture for nothing anymore.  I can’t get the exposure correct,  I can’t focus with these auto focus lenses, I can’t get the color correct, nothing.  This camera I have is supposed to do everything for me, and yet also allows full manual over ride of every setting.  I have read the manual, I think I’m a pretty intelligent guy, yet I keep getting lousy results.

I now realize that I can’t believe anything the manual says.  I have to keep trying different settings until I get the ones that work.  For example, the flash unit does not automatically control the white balance.  See this shot of the punk with the white balance set on auto:

I looked at that on the monitor/screen on the back of the camera, decided it was crap and was left wondering what to do to fix the problem.  I go into the camera menu and change the white balance setting to flash, and get this result:

Way better, right?  The color is so much warmer and also much more representative of the evening we were having with family.  That’s my wife’s elbow behind him.  The color of her sweater is that olive drab.  Doesn’t really show correctly in the first picture.  In the second picture it is almost spot on.

Higher Education Bubble News…

I was away from the computer for a day and one-half.  I get back to my desk and Instapundit has a post up about for profit colleges under attack by the Obama administration.  Later he points us to a hit & run piece on the perverse incentives set up by student loan programs.  The Reason post has this wonderful comment which I find very accurate.

Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise, the schools are run for the benefit of the faculty and select administrators.  I guess we can make an exception for the for-profits like DeVry and Phoenix, they are run for the benefit of the shareholders.  In neither the for-profit or the non-profit does anybody give a rat’s ass about the student.

I am new to higher education and I just went through the year end sales push to end all year end sales pushes.  It is clear to me that the only significant difference between a non-profit and a for-profit is tax status.  Both types of institutions are profit maximizing organizations.  The profit is just shared differently within the two types.

I do think, given the advances in technology and the returns available to the “correct” types of human capital, that some for profit organization is going to make a killing in the next 10 to 20 years.  The existing for-profit higher education organizations were set up to milk the current financing scheme our government has created.  I envision a real for profit outfit that will provide its students higher income in return for a small share of that higher income.

Many people will hate this development.  It can’t some soon enough for me.

This whole extended family thing is still somewhat bothersome…

Notice these two.  They are both my neices.  Second marriages and such.  Kind of fun to have them as family members, don’t you think?

I could be bribed for contact information for the one on the right.  The one on the left is taken.  What do you think of my new flash unit (camera), pretty good, huh?