Obama’s Two Year College Plan

I’m getting up to speed on Obama’s Two Years Free at a Community College plan.

I’m predisposed to like the plan, because I love community colleges. My parents benefitted from local, inexpensive schools that enabled them to jump to more competitive schools on a scholarship. So, I also love schools like CUNY, even if they are losing sight of their mission.

Some commentary. Tom Hanks loves the plan. Megan McArdle doesn’t. More who love it: here and here….

French Humor


Charlie Hebdo

I have to admit that I don’t entirely get the Charlie Hebdo cover. There’s a picture of Mohammed crying and holding a sign “Je Suis Charlie.” Behind him it says, “All is forgiven.” Now, who is saying that phrase – the artist? Mohammed? French people? Why is Mohammed sad? Is it because jerks used his name to commit atrocities?

Apparently, that’s a penis on his face. It’s a sub-joke. I missed it and had to read about it.

The artist doesn’t explain the joke, but just said that they wanted to have a light-hearted fun cover and not a heavy one, like other magazines have done with bullet holes and pencils. I appreciate that.

Intellectually Open for Love

Sunday’s Modern Love column is cool. The author recreated a study by Arthur Aron and fell in love.

“In Mandy Len Catron’s Modern Love essay, “To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This,” she refers to a study by the psychologist Arthur Aron (and others) that explores whether intimacy between two strangers can be accelerated by having them ask each other a specific series of personal questions. The 36 questions in the study are broken up into three sets, with each set intended to be more probing than the previous one.” They also have to gaze into each other’s eyes for four minutes.

The full list of questions are here. The questions are good. In fact, we had to answer many of those questions in our pre-cana class before we got married. I feel like there should be an app for that.

I love the concept that love is found through intellectual intimacy. A willingness to share information.

Europe. What Next?


Eugene Delacoix’s painting, La Liberté guidant le peuple,” is getting lots of love on social media and in real life. Delacroix was a romantic painter. The romantic painters really loved dead bodies and foreign places. There were lots of romantic dead bodies in The Raft of the Medusa. I also like this version of the Raft.

These protests in Europe can go two ways. The first way is towards a greater commitment towards combatting terrorism and support for American troops in these international hotspots. The second way is more nationalism and increased anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim. Which way will it go?


Are You Charlie Hebdo?

I’m getting organized to take Ian to his drum lessons, so here’s a quickie post. A diversity of pundits are talking about hate speech and when humor steps over the line.

David Brooks

In most societies, there’s the adults’ table and there’s the kids’ table. The people who read Le Monde or the establishment organs are at the adults’ table. The jesters, the holy fools and people like Ann Coulter and Bill Maher are at the kids’ table. They’re not granted complete respectability, but they are heard because in their unguided missile manner, they sometimes say necessary things that no one else is saying.

Healthy societies, in other words, don’t suppress speech, but they do grant different standing to different sorts of people. Wise and considerate scholars are heard with high respect. Satirists are heard with bemused semirespect. Racists and anti-Semites are heard through a filter of opprobrium and disrespect. People who want to be heard attentively have to earn it through their conduct.

John Podhoretz

Once the fight for free speech was conducted on the lofty terrain of high art. Now, perforce, it must be conducted on less exalted terrain — tasteless and sophomoric would-be humor.

And yet the fight is no less important, because the enemies of free expression today are adopting terrorist tactics to do battle with Western freedoms in an entirely novel and uniquely terrifying way.

Anthoy Lane

To claim, as Tony Barber, the Europe editor of the Financial Times, did in an opinion pieceyesterday, that “some common sense would be useful at publications such as Charlie Hebdo,” is to grasp the wrong end of the stick. One of the joys—more often than not, a joyful embarrassment—of a democracy is that it allows time and room for people who find the whole lark of maturing, whether in politics or in personal conduct, to be overrated.

(ack. out of time. more later.)

Backdoor College Admission Programs for Rich Kids

A friend’s daughter was just admitted to her first choice -Northeastern. My friend was joyous, but said that her daughter was initially upset. The daughter was admitted, but was told that she was enrolled in the Freshman Abroad semester. Some students are chosen to attend the school’s international program for their first semester. There is no box to check off during the admissions process that indicates whether they want to spend their first semester abroad or not. The school makes the determination of which students will study on campus and which ones must study overseas.

The students who are chosen for this program must attend their first semester abroad. If they decline, then their acceptance to the school is rescinded.

What’s up with that? What if the student’s family can’t afford to send their child abroad on top of the $40,000 tuition fee?

SL 644

Alright, let me do one big link dump.

Being married is good for your health. So is broth. So is lots of exercise. These are all the most read articles at the NYTs. No political articles in the top ten, fyi.

The cover article at Newsweek is about David Foster Wallace.

What Ruth Bader Ginsberg talk me about being a stay-at-home dad. Eye roll. It’s a linkbait title. Mildly interesting.

Minors refusing chemo treatments makes me very uncomfortable.

The new rules for frat parties at University of Virginia.

Not a Regular Parent

I had a plan for the morning. After the kids went to school, I was going to immediately go to the gym and get in a workout before doing the morning procrastination routine (aka blogging and reading gossip websites) and a few hours of proper writing. I’m finally getting back to proper writing after an embarrassing long hiatus. I thought I would get the workout done in the morning, instead of later in the day when it often doesn’t happen at all.

But then Jonah’s school bus didn’t show up. It was too cold for the busses to work this morning. So, I had to drive him to school after Ian’s bus showed up. So, instead of calmly working through the checklist of chores before Ian got on the bus (breakfast, medicine, vitamins, teeth brushing, socks on, lunch packed, backpack by the front door, shoes tied), it happened more chaotically. I was locating my gym bag and my missing ear buds. I had to warm up the car. Jonah was stressing out about being late for school.

When Ian got on the bus, we screeched out of the driveway. After we finally got close enough to the school, I dropped him off, so he could jog past the traffic jam around the school and make it to his first class on time. I got to the gym and changed. Randomly, I decided to check my phone before I got on the treadmill. There was a call from school. Ian was having a meltdown, because he forgot his backpack at  home.

I raced out the gym, located the backpack on the kitchen table, and dropped it of at school. I came home to send apologetic e-mails to the teachers. While I was at it, I sent the case manager another e-mail about summer school, the district’s new reading policy, and a much-needed team meeting.

With Ian making so much progress and participating in a typical public school classroom, I was starting to feel like a regular parent, not a special needs parent.

There were years when my life bore very little resemblance to the lives of other parents. I was always on call in case of an emergency. There were calls from the school nurse because Ian’s sensitive skin made mosquito bites look like the measles. Or he vomited in the school cafeteria, because he was grossed out by someone’s tuna fish sandwich. The nurse always made me come get him, because she was worried he had a stomach virus. There were stomach-churning notes home when he didn’t act appropriately. There was the research involved in finding after school programs, in comparing public schools to private schools, in finding summer camps that would support him. There were times when I had weekly meetings with the school to discuss deficits in their programs. It’s been a lot of work, and I’ve been in a three-month sweet spot that has involved very little work. I could put my brain to better purposes, like actually working on articles that have been swimming around in the back of my head for months.

I think I’ve excised the stress for the morning. Thanks for letting me vent. Proper blogging next.

SL 643

This interview between Jimmy Fallon and Nichole Kidman cracked me up.

Student tuition contributes more over the costs for running public universities than state governments.

Can suburban governments handle the growing percentage of needy residents? (No.)

Real life inspirations for Downton Abbey.

More stories about rich and powerful perverts.

How families are surviving economic instability and inequality. Why aren’t they angry?

More evidence that the uptick in autism is entirely due to increased diagnoses.

Ghost ships that carry live souls from Syria. Wow.

Where Women Work and What Unemployed Women Do

The Upshot is one my first reads of the day. Best new section of the New York Times by far. They had two great articles in the past two days. There is so much data to be unpacked. Loves it.

Yesterday’s article was about the differences in time-use studies between unemployed women and men. There’s a lot of info in that chart, but the main take away is that unemployed men are unhealthy, watch a lot of TV, and spend a lot of time looking for a job. Unemployed women spend most of their time caring for others and doing housework. They are healthier than when they worked.

Today, they have a map of where working women are most common. The upper mid-west and New England have the highest proportion of working women.

These numbers are tough to unpack. Are women unemployed, because they live in wealthy communities that support stay-at-home mothers and have spouses with high paying careers? Or are they full time parents, because the obstacles to work are too high? Are they caring for elementary aged children with relative ease or are they caring for multiple aging adults and special needs kids?

If unemployed women have a full range of choices and are financially affluent, then there doesn’t seem to be a problem. Choices were freely and happily made. If unemployed women are facing the same dismal job market as men and can’t afford childcare or eldercare, then there’s a real problem. The fact that the employment of women has a geographic pattern makes me think that childcare policies and job opportunities are major issues. The Upper Midwest and New England have more progressive policies for parents.

The Co-Pay Controversy at Harvard

Pretty much everybody is mocking the Harvard professors for getting in an uproar over a new policy at the school to have the employees pay a co-pay for doctor’s visits. Previously, they had no co-pays or deductables.

The university is adopting standard features of most employer-sponsored health plans: Employees will now pay deductibles and a share of the costs, known as coinsurance, for hospitalization, surgery and certain advanced diagnostic tests. The plan has an annual deductible of $250 per individual and $750 for a family. For a doctor’s office visit, the charge is $20. For most other services, patients will pay 10 percent of the cost until they reach the out-of-pocket limit of $1,500 for an individual and $4,500 for a family.

The mockery is especially strong, because most people have had co-pays and deductables on their health insurance plans for years. Including professors at other universities, who aren’t paid Harvard-level salaries. Also, these same Harvard professors were champions of the ACA.


Talk Policy

I love it when interesting sociological studies are used to create public policy. There has been a lot of discussion on this blog about the research about parents talking to children. In short, the research finds that a child’s vocabulary and IQ grows in proportion to the rate their parents talk to him/her. And there is a difference between the classes in terms of how much people talk to their kids.

An article in the New Yorker looks at an effort by the Mayor of Province to implement a program to increase the parent-child speech patterns in needy families. Caseworkers would talk to young parents about the value of talking with young children.

Taveras named his proposed project Providence Talks, and decided that technology would be supported with counselling. During home visits with low-income parents, caseworkers would discuss the science of early brain development. They’d advise parents to try to understand better what their kids were feeling, instead of simply saying no. Parents would be told that, even when they were bathing a child or cooking dinner, they could be narrating what was going on, as well as singing, counting, and asking questions. The caseworkers would bring books and demonstrate how to read them: asking children questions about what was going to happen next and livening up the dialogue with funny, high-pitched voices and enthusiastic mooing and woofing.

Because I had a kid with a speech delay, I have seen the benefits of constant chatter. But the critics of these policies make some good points, too. This policy is certainly not a silver bullet. Worth a read.

How to Do “Healthy” — Cook and Prep in Large Quantities

Making fun of Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP advice is low hanging fruit. It’s way too easy to mock. But I’m feeling lazy this morning, so let’s look at her 7 Day Detox diet. In addition to getting tons of colonics (!), she says we should purge toxic foods from your diet. OK, I’m down with clean eating. The colonics, not so much. So, what does she have to say?

She provides a menu for three full meals, a snack and lemon water for seven days. The recipes look tasty enough. I would probably eat everything and enjoy it. But the time, oh Gwyneth, the time.

Shopping for the week of ingredients, many of which can’t be found even in a Whole Foods, would require at least five hours. The list of ingredients were long. They would require several trips to stores on multiple days to assure vegetable freshness. And what are coconut aminos? Then there’s cooking and clean up time. This menu is a full time job.

Here’s my shortcut to healthy eating… Cook and prepare in large quantities.

Yesterday was my heavy lifting cooking day. I was in the kitchen for about two or three hours and Steve did the clean up later. What did I do?

Three Days of Salad

Because I’m Italian, we eat a cooked vegetable and a salad every night. I try to eat one at lunch, too. When I was growing up , our salads were very simple — some lettuce with some tomato or cucumber and some dressing. Now, we eat more complex salads.

A complex salad is a mix of raw vegetables, a protein, a sharp taste (cheese or olives or herbs), and a touch of dressing. If there are leftover cooked vegetables, they can go in, too. Not so complex, really.

The trick with salads is to cut up a ton of vegetables all at once. Enough for three days of salad. I put them in handy see through containers in the fridge and then assemble them when needed. It takes three minutes or less to do the assembling. Last night, I cut up cucumber, red onion, and cilantro. I had some feta crumbles and leftover olives from the holidays. I use bottled dressing to save time.

I wash enough lettuce for the week and keep the salad spinner in the fridge. Last night, it was arugula and green leaf lettuce.

Other items that could be ready and handy might be — sliced hard boiled eggs, leftover chicken (also sliced and ready to go), rinsed beans of any kind, celery, shredded carrots, boiled potatoes, green peppers.

Power Cooking Squash

I got a ton of squash from my CSA this year. At the end of the season, I had almost twenty squash in storage in the garage. There were pumpkins, butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, and kabocha squash. Making squash can be very time consuming. So, it’s best to cook several at the same time and then freeze them. They freeze very well. I now have side dishes for six meals in the future.

Last night, I was down to the last four squash. I made two spaghetti squash using this Martha Stewart method.  They went into freezer bags for future use. The last two were small butternut squash. I cut them in half. I covered the cut half with a little olive oil and salt. Then I roasted them cut side down for half an hour at 375 degrees. When they were done, I flipped them over, added a small pad of butter and a sprinkle of brown sugar. Cook for another five minutes.

I told the kids that it was a “squash bowl” and that they should scoop out the food. They ate it.

When you freeze food, remember to label the item with a date. It’s good for six months.

Power Cook Everything

Along with the squash and salad, I made black beans and brown rice. (Ian, who is only 12, got leftover pasta and pork.)

I like to double or triple the quantities of everything that I cook. Steve packs up leftovers for lunch. I eat it for lunch. Jonah eats it as his first dinner, when he comes home from school. And I like to reuse parts of the previous meal in the next dinner. Picky eaters have a plan B in the fridge.

So, I made two cups of brown rice (Trader Joe’s Basmati plus one cube of chicken bouillon). I sautéed some fresh salsa from the local supermarket in some olive oil. I added two cans of Goya black beans, a dash of cumin, salt, and cayenne.

Many supermarkets, not just the high end ones, prepare their own salsas now. Our local one is great. It isn’t spicy ketchup, like some of the jarred stuff. It’s nice chunks of tomato, onion, pepper, and cilantro. They’ve done the prep work for me for so many meals — omelettes, rice, beans, fish, whatever. Supermarket salsa is my favorite cooking hack.

Brown rice takes an hour. Black beans take three minutes.

It takes the same amount of time to make twelve servings of food as four servings, so make more food.