Archive for August 31st, 2010

31
Aug
10

‎8.31.2010 … why do I feel the need to fix our cars and clean my house before I go on vacation?

random, RIP: Loved this Daniel Pink Spotlight on a unique individual. Rest in peace, Mr. Foster … I am sure you are leading the band now and forevermore.

I’ve got a soft spot for people who take on the status quo — of an industry, a sport, an art form — and then turn it upside down and inside out. Think Marcel Duchamp for art. Or Ray Kroc for restaurants. Or Bill Walsh for football.One such person passed away this weekend: William P. Foster, whose obituary runs in today’s New York Times. Foster was a consummate outsider — an African-American clarinetist who aspired to become a symphony conductor, only to realize that his race prevented him from attaining that position.So instead Foster decided to reinvent the marching band.

via What a fabled marching band can teach you about innovation | Daniel Pink.

colleges, green:

CU-Boulder is no longer the reigning king of environmentally friendly colleges and universities across the nation, at least according to Sierra Magazine.

After Sierra Magazine gave CU the top spot on the “Coolest Schools” list for being green last year, the Buffs fell to 13th out of 162 surveyed schools with an overall score of 81.9 points, according to Sierra. However the lower ranking is not due to decreased sustainability on campus, said Dave Newport, director of CU Boulder’s Environmental Center.

“All our process indicators are up, we are doing more than we were doing last year when we were first [in the nation],” Newport said.

This year, according to Sierra, the magazine put more scoring emphasis on energy supply than last year, which affected CU’s score. When it comes to energy supply, CU is dependent on the utility provider because the school does not have access to as many renewable resources, Newport said.

via CU slides to 13th “Coolest School” | CU Independent.

Great Recession:

A growing number of homeowners are choosing to pay down their mortgages at a faster rate–even if it means a substantial jump in their monthly payments.

Between January and June, 26% of homeowners who refinanced chose a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage, according to data from CoreLogic, a provider of financial, property and consumer information. During all of 2009, 18.5% of borrowers who refinanced opted for a 15-year term.

What’s prompting the shift to shorter loans? Historically low interest rates for fixed-rate mortgages.

Homeowners are doing the math and realizing that rates have fallen enough so the increase in payment between a new 15-year mortgage and their current loan is no longer unbearable for their budgets, says Bob Walters, chief economist at online lender Quicken Loans.

via Paying Off the House in 15 Years – WSJ.com.

Great Recession:

Faced with mounting debt and looming costs from the new federal health-care law, many local governments are leaving the hospital business, shedding public facilities that can be the caregiver of last resort.

More than a fifth of the nation’s 5,000 hospitals are owned by governments and many are drowning in debt caused by rising health-care costs, a spike in uninsured patients, cuts in Medicare and Medicaid and payments on construction bonds sold in fatter times. Because most public hospitals tend to be solo operations, they don’t enjoy the economies of scale, or more generous insurance contracts, which bolster revenue at many larger nonprofit and for-profit systems.

via Cash-Poor Governments Ditching Public Hospitals – WSJ.com.

Retail, bookstores: Guilty.

People browsing at the Lincoln Center store on Monday lamented the loss of one of the city’s largest and most prominent bookstores, a sprawling space with a cafe on the fourth floor and an enormous music selection. For devoted theatergoers, it was a reliable site for readings and events that focused on the performing arts. (Still on the fall schedule are appearances by Patti LuPone and Elaine Paige.)

But many of those same people conceded that they have not bought as many books there as they did in the past. Some said they were more likely to browse the shelves, then head home and make purchases online. Others said they prized the store most for its sunny cafe or its magazines and other nonbook items.

via At Bookstore, Even Those Not Buying Regret Its End – NYTimes.com.

random:

Lights are going on across the country as cities try to cut crime by flipping a switch.

Los Angeles this year added eight parks to its Summer Night Lights program, which now keeps the lights on until midnight at 24 parks in neighborhoods with high levels of gang-related crime, as part of a broader community-involvement effort.

Earlier this year, Joplin, Mo., reported a 47% drop in crime since 2007, when it started adding or replacing more than 1,000 lights throughout the city to reduce crime. And in other cities, like Fresno, Calif., plans to turn off street lights to cut carbon emissions and reduce costs have been thwarted by resistance from those with concerns about crime levels.

via Los Angeles Uses Light to Fight Crime – WSJ.com.

Great Recession, banking:

Since 2008, Friday night bank failures have become something of a certainty — almost as likely as death and taxes.But last Friday regulators didn’t seize a single bank. When was the last time that happened?Excluding holiday weekends, when the FDIC typically doesn’t seize banks, you have to go back to June 2009 for the last time regulators didn’t close a bank on Friday.Is this a positive sign? Not exactly. Bank failures remain ahead of last year’s pace — 118 to 84 — and FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair expects it to remain that way. The weakening economic recovery hardly suggests fewer bank failures, either.On the positive side, as Colin Barr writes, it’s unlikely that this year’s total will top 1989’s when 534 banks failed.

via Tracking Bank Failures: Regulators Take a Weekend Off – Deal Journal – WSJ.

religion, culture:  OK, this one fascinated me.

In the history of the world, every culture in every location at every point in time has developed some supernatural belief system. And when a human behavior is so universal, scientists often argue that it must be an evolutionary adaptation along the lines of standing upright. That is, something so helpful that the people who had it thrived, and the people who didn’t slowly died out until we were all left with the trait. But what could be the evolutionary advantage of believing in God?

Bering is one of the academics who are trying to figure that out. In the years since his mother’s death, Bering has done experiments in his lab at Queens University, Belfast, in an attempt to understand how belief in the supernatural might have conferred some advantage and made us into the species we are today.

For Bering, and some of his friends, the answer to that question has everything to do with what he discovered in his lab — the way the kids and adults stopped cheating as soon as they thought a supernatural being might be watching them. Through the lens of evolution then, a belief in God serves a very important purpose: Religious belief set us on the path to modern life by stopping cheaters and promoting the social good.

Dominic Johnson is a professor at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom and another one of the leaders in this field. And to Johnson, before you can understand the role religion and the supernatural might have played in making us the people we are today, you really have to appreciate just how improbable our modern lives are.

Today we live in a world where perfect strangers are incredibly nice to each other on a regular basis. All day long, strangers open doors for each other, repair each other’s bodies and cars and washing machines. They swap money for food and food for money.  In short: they cooperate.

This cooperation makes all kinds of things possible, of course. Because we can cooperate, we can build sophisticated machines and create whole cities — communities that require huge amounts of coordination. We can do things that no individual or small group could do.

The question is: How did we get to be so cooperative? For academics like Johnson, this is a profound puzzle.

“Explaining cooperation is a huge cottage industry,” Johnson says. “It dominates the pages of top journals in science and economics and psychology. You would think that it was very simple, but in fact from a scientific academic point of view, it just often doesn’t make sense.”

via Is Believing In God Evolutionarily Advantageous? : NPR.




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