KIDS ARE EXPENSIVE: American families will shell out an average of $233,610 from birth through age 17 — or about $13,000 a year. The ballooning price tag, a 3% increase, comes at a time when day-care costs can exceed university tuitions and homes prices have skyrocketed to record highs. (Washington Post)
Families in urban areas in the Northeast, such as New York and Boston, were likely to pay even more — an average of $253,770, or roughly $14,000 a year — because of higher housing and child-care costs.
Lower-income families are likely to spend $212,300 per child through age 17, while higher-income families will spend more than double that, or about $454,770.
Families in rural areas, meanwhile, are likely to spend 24% less than their counterparts in urban areas in the Northeast.
Credit: Washington Post
PERSONALIZED LEARNING FOR 6-12 GRADES: A nationwide pilot program, one that could indicate just how deeply and how quickly the personalized-learning trend will penetrate the average classroom. Indeed, despite the buzz around personalized learning, there’s no simple recipe for success, and the common ingredients — such as adaptive-learning technology and student control over learning — can backfire if poorly implemented. (Wired)
One early November afternoon in an hour’s drive south of San Francisco, a class of ninth-graders sat at computers for a 45-minute session of personalized learning time. Many watched instructional videos or worked with adaptive-learning software that adjusted lessons based on each student’s proficiency. Other than a few murmured conversations and the clicking of keyboards, the only sound was mellow acoustic guitar music played on their teacher’s laptop.
By offloading some rote learning to a computer—such as memorizing the steps of cell division or the formulas for sine, cosine and tangent—we can make the most of the connections between teachers and kids. We want more of those interactions to be about big ideas, deeper learning and the sort of feedback that you can only get from a real, live adult.
“I took a speed reading course and read ‘War and Peace’ in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.” ~Woody Allen
BOREDOM: What if boredom is a meaningful experience—one that propels us to states of deeper thoughtfulness or creativity? Boredom might spark creativity because a restless mind hungers for stimulation.
Bored subjects came up with more ideas than a nonbored control group, and their ideas were often more creative. Subjects who took an “associative thought” word test came up with more answers when they’d been forced to watch a dull screensaver.
The problem is that these days we don’t wrestle with these slow moments. We eliminate them. “We try to extinguish every moment of boredom in our lives with mobile devices.” This might relieve us temporarily, but it shuts down the deeper thinking that can come from staring down the doldrums.
Credit: Wayne Miller/Magnum USA, 1955
SPEED READING: Skilled readers know more about language, including many words and structures that occur in print but not in speech. They also have greater “background knowledge,” familiarity with the structure and content of what is being read. We acquire this information in the act of reading itself—not by training our eyes to rotate in opposite directions, playing brain exercise games, or breathing diaphragmatically. Just reading.
Boustrophedon (Ancient Greek method): Texts were written bidirectionally, left to right on one line, then right to left on the next. This method would seem to allow reading to proceed continuously, uninterrupted by line sweeps. Try it.
Here we have a nice normal first line.
.siht ekil nettirw eb dluoc enil txen ehT
Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP): A text is presented at a single location on a screen, one word (or sometimes a few) at a time. It was developed for research purposes in the 1960s. College students could read with RSVP at up to 700 words per minute with good comprehension, about triple their normal speeds. Alas, the experiments also found that subjects could only sustain reading at high speeds with good comprehension for short bursts.
FITBIT FOR CRUISES: Carnival has developed Fitbit-style bracelets that link to personal information, and applied them to cruises. The result: Millions of passengers on Carnival ships will soon be using a similar but more advanced system that allows travelers to do everything from plan vacations to open stateroom doors to order poolside cocktails.
Cruisers will be able to pay for food, drinks and merchandise simply by having their credit card-connected Ocean Medallion in their pocket.
Carnival’s disks, each laser-etched with the guest’s name, will also power a new, shipwide gambling platform.
WEDDING TECH: For many couples, wedding planning is a frustrating monthslong project that requires sifting through masses of details and costs on venues, services and products. The field is crowded with small, local businesses that are predominantly low tech and survive on word-of-mouth recommendations. However, the overall industry is large, with $58 billion in revenue, with an average $26,500 per wedding.
Lover.ly has been able to build a database of 65,000 vendors. A virtual wedding planners assembles a list of vendors based on a couple’s criteria, and the couples receive it within 48 hours of purchasing a service. Couples are charged from $10 to $399, and vendors $10 per client lead. Lover.ly is also beta testing its chatbot.
Another app, LadyMarry developed its own artificial intelligence bot to streamline communications between the company, vendors and couples. LadyMarry had been used to plan 90,000 weddings. It is free for couples; the company charges vendors 15-45%, depending on the location and service.
Carats & Cake partnered with the payment platform Stripe to offer online invoicing and bill paying. It has 20,000 member businesses; about 300,000 couples used the site in 2016.
PALLIATIVE CARE: In a life changing event like a permanent disability, life is not extra difficult now, but only uniquely difficult, as all lives are. Suffering is simply a “variation on a theme we all deal with — to be human is really hard.” Don’t we all treat suffering as a disruption to existence, instead of an inevitable part of it? what would happen if you could “reincorporate your version of reality, of normalcy, to accommodate suffering.”
We call ancient sculptures with missing limbs art: monumental, beautiful and important, but we’d never seen them whole. Medicine didn’t think about bodies this way. Embedded in words like “disability” and “rehabilitation” was a less generous view: “There was an aberrant moment in your life and, with some help, you could get back to what you were, or approximate it.” So, instead of regarding injuries as something to get over, try to get into them, to see life as its own novel challenge, like traveling through a country whose language you don’t speak.
All palliative-care departments and home-hospice agencies believe patients’ wishes should be honored, but Zen Hospice’s small size allows it to “actualize” these ideals more fully. Sharpen the essential set of questions: What is a good death? How do you judge? In the end, what matters?
As we wrap up 2016, I’ve been reflective on how I lived my 2016 and how I want to live my 2017. I found many nuggets of inspirations in Creative Inc. by Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar, on how to better manage people, organizations, and our work lives. He is an amazing storyteller and distilled many truths about creating and maintaining a creative, innovative, and inclusive culture. Many of these thoughts resonated a lot with me on a personal level as well. Here are nine notes of inspiration to be a better you in 2017.
WORK: NURTURING TEAMS OF TOMORROW
Many people ask, what is more important – people or ideas? Ed’s answer is: people, because ideas originate from people. Ideas do not self-generate.
CREATE GREAT TEAMS FOR GREAT IDEAS: Give an idea to a mediocre team, and they will screw it up. Give a mediocre idea to a great team, and they will either fix it or come up with something better. If you get the team right, chances, are that they’ll get the ideas right.
HIRE FOR POTENTIAL: When looking to hire people, give their potential to grow more weight than their current skill level. What they will be capable of tomorrow is more important than what they can do today.
MAKE IT SAFE TO TAKE RISKS: It’s not the manager’s job to prevent risks. It is the manager’s job to make it safe to take them.
LIFE: FAIL OFTEN AND CHEAPLY
We grow up striving to succeed. Success is equated with not failing. However, if we are always afraid to fail, we may not grow to become greater than who are now. Perhaps the real recipe to success is to make the cost of failure low, so we can fail often. That way, we can learn from them more easily and build something that we couldn’t have fathomed before.
MEASURE PROBLEMS SOLVED NOT MISTAKES: The desire for everything to run smoothly is a false goal – it leads to measuring people by the mistakes they make rather than by their ability to solve problems.
FAIL – TO DO SOMETHING NEW: Failure isn’t a necessary evil. It is a necessary consequence of doing something new.
FIX ON THE CHEAP: The cost of preventing errors is often far greater than the cost of fixing them.
RELATIONSHIPS: TRUST, TRANSPARENCY, AND BALANCE
We equate trust to not failing – like I trust you not to let me down. However, we are human and sometimes fail to live up to our promises. So trust in your family, your significant other, your friends, and your colleagues, mean that you trust them to do the best they can. If they screw up, you trust them to try their best to fix it. You trust them to be authentic and transparent with you.
TRUST EVEN WHEN THEY SCREW UP: Trust doesn’t mean that you trust that someone won’t screw up – it means you trust them even when they do screw up.
SHOW EARLY AND OFTEN: Don’t wait for things to be perfect before you share them with others. Show early and show often. It’ll be pretty when you get there, but it won’t be pretty along the way. And that’s as it should be.
FIND BALANCE, NOT STABILITY: Do not accidentally make stability a goal. Balance is more important than stability.
Do you agree with these points? Do you have others to add? Feel free to comment.
SURPRISING COINCIDENCES: We tend to fail to understand how the basic laws of probability work and our selective attention, which lead to great surprise at many coincidences. Stunning coincidences are only natural — like stumbling into a close friend halfway around the world or meeting someone with the same birthday can be explained by simple mathematics.
In a group of 366 people, there’s 100 percent probability that two people will have the same birthday — since there are only 365 days in a year, excluding leap year. In a group of 23 people, there’s >50% two people in the room have the same birthday
We also have selective attention — we notice and remember coincidences, but we hardly ever heed their absence.
Credits: Guillaume Jacquenot (Wikimedia Commons)
FAT TEMPTATION: Drop a bunch of kale into your cart and you’re more likely to head next to the ice cream or beer section. The more “virtuous” products you have in your basket, the stronger your temptation to succumb to vice. When shown a burger, their average guess was 734 calories; when shown the same burger alongside three celery sticks, the average guess dropped to 619. These are not rational calculations; they betray the shortcuts your brain takes in its running tally of vice and virtue.
LIFE EXPECTANCY OF MUSICIANS BY GENRE: Musicians from the older genres – blues, jazz (including bebop and dixieland), country (including country and western, boogie woogie, honky tonk and bluegrass), and gospel (including spiritual and Christian rock) – enjoyed, on average, similar lifespans as those from the U.S. population with the same year of birth and gender.
The next group – R&B (including doo wop and soul), pop, folk (including ballad and polka) and world music – had lower life expectancies compared with the U.S. population.
Thereafter, the gap between population lifespans and average age of death for the more recent genres – rock (including rockabilly), electronic (including experimental, techno, disco, and funk), punk, metal, rap and hip hop – widens.