Marie Kondo and the art of cleaning up

Let’s take a break from Snoopy’s opinion on how Google and Apple hire “low level” programmers and consign them to unimaginative grunt work. Instead, I wanted to point you towards an interesting and imaginative talk given at…Google! Check out the video above on how to organize your home. I heard about Marie Kondo at about.com, which had an article about Marie being one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People. Learn more about her method here. See the NY Times article about her here.

Child support and no free lunch

A week and a half ago, I wrote about Walter Scott’s murder at the hands of a White police officer. His murder was wrong and immoral. I and most of the rest of the world condemned the murder.

Yesterday, the NY Times published an article about Walter Scott’s child support. The article helped answer the question on many people’s minds: why did Walter Scott run? It turns out that Scott had been in and out of jail because of a failure to pay child support. He had four children altogether, and he had lost jobs because of his failure to pay child support to two women–the woman who was raising his first two children, and an ex-wife who was raising his third and fourth children. The article is about the cycle of poverty that child support imposes on poor men, where their failure to pay child support becomes worse because of imprisonment.

Preservers of history

T.H. Tsien, from University of Chicago

T.H. Tsien, from University of Chicago


Interesting obituary on T.H. Tsien, who died recently at the age of 105. According to the obit, Mr. Tsien hid and smuggled rare books out of China when it was occupied by the Japanese. He successfully saved around 30,000 volumes at great risk–the books would have been burned and he would have been executed had he been caught.

Rest in peace.

No such thing as an individual sport

Everyone who follows chess saw a big tragedy go down this past week when arbiter Tony Rich forfeited Wesley So for writing inspirational phrases during a match. In doing so, Rich gave a free point to Varuzhan Akobian, who is a much weaker player (relatively speaking) than Wesley So. So explained that he didn’t know the rules. While I can see how writing on a piece of paper could be distracting to an opponent, I don’t see how that merits an immediate forfeit. I agree with Emil Sutovsky and Sam Shankland: a lesser punishment would have been more appropriate. Rich’s decision basically destroyed the entire event. The forfeit overshadowed everything else.

The Walter Scott murder

Above is the video of Walter Scott’s murder at the hands of a white police officer. Below is the video from the officer’s dash cam.

See the NY Times stories here and here.

It looks like Scott had a long court record, which may be why he took off and ran. But there really is no excuse here. The cop shot him in the back as he was running. There was clearly no threat. It looks like the cop claimed that he felt threatened and that Scott had taken his Taser, but this clearly wasn’t the case at the time of the shooting. If you look at the video, the cop even picks something up and drops it near Scott as Scott lays dying. Whether that object is a Taser or not is unclear. What is clear is that the cop was not under threat.

Hard competition at Success Academy Charter Schools

Photo credit: Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

Photo credit: Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

There’s a good article in the Times today about Success Academy Charter Schools. Founded by hedge fund managers, Success Academy schools rely primarily on public funding, with additional fundraising–similar to what charter schools do in my area. They’re killing it.

Though it serves primarily poor, mostly black and Hispanic students, Success is a testing dynamo, outscoring schools in many wealthy suburbs, let alone their urban counterparts. In New York City last year, 29 percent of public school students passed the state reading tests, and 35 percent passed the math tests. At Success schools, the corresponding percentages were 64 and 94 percent.

Becoming black

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The actress Mindy Kaling’s brother Vijay Jojo Chokalingam was determined to get into med school. The only problem was that he had a 3.1 GPA and a 31 MCAT score, which is terrible…for an Indian or Asian applicant. On the other hand, he had heard rumors that affirmative action lowered the bar for people of other races. So he took the old advice: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. He joined ‘em by “becoming” black: he shaved his head and became a member of the Organization of Black Students. He got into med school, studied for two years, and then abandoned medicine. He reports that while it was easy to get into med school as a black man, he also dealt with other issues as well:

20 years in prison for cheating?

Photo credit: Kent D. Johnson

Photo credit: Kent D. Johnson

Educators in Atlanta were convicted of cheating on standardized tests yesterday. They allegedly gave students answers or changed the answers themselves. It was a sad end to the legacy of Superintendent Beverly Hall, who was previously celebrated for her achievements in turning the school district around–she had been named Superintendent of the Year and was hosted at the White House for her role in dramatically raising Atlanta’s test scores, all while collecting performance bonuses of $500,000. Hall died last month and was not present to see the verdict, nor did she have to stand trial (she had been granted a later trial because of health concerns). 11 of 12 educators were convicted of racketeering, a charge that is usually used against organized crime syndicates or similar offenders. Some of these teachers could spend up to 20 years in prison.

Why private school teachers work for less pay, and why “throwing money at it” doesn’t always work

Every so often things get heated here, as in a conversation we had over the last few days about private school pay vs. public school pay. Snoopy claimed that private school teachers get paid more, which is why all the “experienced” and supposedly better teachers go to private schools–they head for the money. As a private school kid who eventually grew up to have two private school kids who are now public school kids, I know about teacher pay–in both settings. Furthermore, I’ve spoken with many friends who are teachers, and I’m a former mortgage broker who has seen tons of teacher tax returns. I’m an authority on the subject and can say with authority that public school teachers in general get paid more. If you don’t believe me and feel that a reporter is more reliable than someone who spent all day looking at actual tax returns, check what a reporter (who is actually also a TEACHER) has to say about national statistics (thanks Yun Xu for the link). Check the government data as well. To quote this actual teacher: