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Cultivating Failure
Posted by: manu_s 11:53am, Monday, 8 February 2010
It’s rare for an im­mi­grant ex­pe­ri­ence to go the whole 360 in a sin­gle gen­er­a­tion—one imag­ines the novel of as­sim­i­la­tion, The White Man Calls It Ro­maine. The cruel trick has been pulled on this be­night­ed child by an ag­glom­er­a­tion of food­ies and ed­u­ca­tion­al re­form­ers who are pro­pelled by a vac­u­ous if well-mean­ing ide­ol­o­gy that is re­spon­si­ble for rob­bing an in­creas­ing num­ber of Amer­i­can schoolchil­dren of hours they might other wise have spent read­ing im­por­tant books or learn­ing high­er math (at­tain­ing the cul­tur­al achieve­ments, in other words, that have lift­ed un­count­ed gen­er­a­tions of human be­ings out of the des­per­ate daily scrab­ble to wrest sus­te­nance from dirt). The gal­va­niz­ing force be­hind this ide­ol­o­gy is Alice Wa­ters, the dowa­ger queen of the grown-lo­cal­ly move­ment. Her goal is that chil­dren might be­come “eco-gas­tronomes” and dis­cov­er “how food grows”—a les­son, if ever there was one, that our farm work­er’s son might have learned at his fa­ther’s knee—leav­ing the Emer­son and Eu­clid to the pro­fes­sion­als over at the school­house. Wa­ters’s enor­mous celebri­ty, com­bined with her de­ci­sion in the 1990s to ex­pand her hori­zons into the field of pub­lic-school ed­u­ca­tion, has helped thrust thou­sands of schoolchil­dren into the grip of a giant ex­per­i­ment, one that is pred­i­cat­ed on a set of as­sump­tions that are large­ly un­proved, even un­ex­am­ined. That no one is call­ing foul on this is only one man­i­fes­ta­tion of the way the new Food Hys­te­ria has come to dom­i­nate and di­min­ish our shared cul­tur­al life, and to make an ed­u­ca­tion­al re­former out of some­one whose bril­liant cook­ery and laud­able goals may not be the best qual­i­fi­ca­tions for de­sign­ing aca­dem­ic cur­ric­u­la for the pub­lic schools.
manu_s says: Thought the NewsDog crowd (is there still a NewsDog crowd?) would like this one.
Haggling for Hot Dogs
Posted by: manu_s 9:33am, Friday, 18 December 2009
Everything is open to negotiation. Everything. For three months, the author treated the world that way. This is what ensued.
So it was that while haggling over an eighty-hour TiVo at Circuit City, I blurted out, "It's for my son!" And, realizing that that made me about as remarkable as a sneeze, I added, without thinking, "He's narcoleptic!" A complete lie. First, I already have a forty-hour TiVo. Furthermore, my son is no narcoleptic. In point of fact, he might even be encouraged to watch a little less television. But I spun out a tale of a boy who needed to rewind television when he woke up from his sudden fits of sleep. It was all very sad, but we had learned to cope. The salesman called the manager. The manager told me there had been a kid like that in his French class in high school. I might need a bigger memory cache if my son slept more than thirty minutes at a pop. He made suggestions. "Does he fall asleep during sports, too?" he asked earnestly. Then he gave me a price, sixty dollars below list. I thanked him, told him I needed to talk to my ex-wife, then took the price and drove across the street to Best Buy, where I got them to knock off another twenty bucks.
manu_s says: Fun read.
The Big Fix
Posted by: manu_s 2:46pm, Wednesday, 28 January 2009
Once governments finally decide to use the enormous resources at their disposal, they have typically been able to shock an economy back to life. They can put to work the people, money and equipment sitting idle, until the private sector is willing to begin using them again. The prescription developed almost a century ago by John Maynard Keynes does appear to work.

But while Washington has been preoccupied with stimulus and bailouts, another, equally important issue has received far less attention — and the resolution of it is far more uncertain. What will happen once the paddles have been applied and the economy’s heart starts beating again? How should the new American economy be remade? Above all, how fast will it grow?

manu_s says: Very nice read, covering topics like green energy, health care, and education.
British Balance Benefit vs. Cost of Latest Drugs
Posted by: manu_s 1:24pm, Thursday, 4 December 2008
When Bruce Hardy’s kidney cancer spread to his lung, his doctor recommended an expensive new pill from Pfizer. But Mr. Hardy is British, and the British health authorities refused to buy the medicine. His wife has been distraught.

“Everybody should be allowed to have as much life as they can,” Joy Hardy said in the couple’s modest home outside London.

If the Hardys lived in the United States or just about any European country other than Britain, Mr. Hardy would most likely get the drug, although he might have to pay part of the cost. A clinical trial showed that the pill, called Sutent, delays cancer progression for six months at an estimated treatment cost of $54,000.

But at that price, Mr. Hardy’s life is not worth prolonging, according to a British government agency, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. The institute, known as NICE, has decided that Britain, except in rare cases, can afford only £15,000, or about $22,750, to save six months of a citizen’s life.

manu_s says: Interesting article on what happens when people are forced to do a real cost-benefit analysis of medical treatment. This blog post gives some good background.
The End
Posted by: manu_s 3:29pm, Thursday, 13 November 2008
The era that defined Wall Street is finally, officially over. Michael Lewis, who chronicled its excess in Liar’s Poker, returns to his old haunt to figure out what went wrong.
When I sat down to write my account of the experience in 1989—Liar’s Poker, it was called—it was in the spirit of a young man who thought he was getting out while the getting was good. I was merely scribbling down a message on my way out and stuffing it into a bottle for those who would pass through these parts in the far distant future.

Unless some insider got all of this down on paper, I figured, no future human would believe that it happened.

I thought I was writing a period piece about the 1980s in America. Not for a moment did I suspect that the financial 1980s would last two full decades longer or that the difference in degree between Wall Street and ordinary life would swell into a difference in kind. I expected readers of the future to be outraged that back in 1986, the C.E.O. of Salomon Brothers, John Gutfreund, was paid $3.1 million; I expected them to gape in horror when I reported that one of our traders, Howie Rubin, had moved to Merrill Lynch, where he lost $250 million; I assumed they’d be shocked to learn that a Wall Street C.E.O. had only the vaguest idea of the risks his traders were running. What I didn’t expect was that any future reader would look on my experience and say, “How quaint.”

manu_s says: Hard to find a single good quote, but very entertaining.

Recent Comments
great article
Posted by: manu_s 10:24am, Friday, 12 June 2009
Posted by: manu_s 4:45pm, Monday, 3 December 2007
Didn't see the subject of the previous comment :)
Be sure to watch the videos
Posted by: manu_s 4:45pm, Monday, 3 December 2007
Amazing stuff.
(no subject)
Posted by: manu_s 2:43pm, Sunday, 2 December 2007
How so?
another relevant article
Posted by: manu_s 9:42am, Monday, 16 July 2007
This recent article from The Atlantic also talks about manufacturing in China, and I thought it was really interesting. Let me know if it's expired and I'll email you a link.