Monday, July 30, 2012

Is Algebra Necessary? Only If We Want Our Education System to Produce Kids in A League of Their Own

The New York Times Sunday Review had a bizarre editorial on the value or should I say, lack of value of teaching Algebra as a mandatory subject to Secondary School (High School) students. The article can be found at
and is written by Andrew Hacker, who is described by The Times as follows: Andrew Hacker is an emeritus professor of political science at Queens College, City University of New York, and a co-author of “Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids — and What We Can Do About It.”
As someone whose almost entire working career has been spent utilizing least squares approximations, first as a scientist, predicting the behaviour of anti-ferro magnetic materials in outer space conditions, then as a computer guy developing consumer predictive behavioural buying models for retailers, I am shocked. It appears to me that Mr. Hacker's logic is that if so many people can't do it, it is just a set up for failure, and the last thing that the Americans can afford is more High School drop outs. So, remove it from the curriculum. Or, as they say in algebraic terms, If Math+ Reading+Writing=Diploma, but no one can do Math, change the formula to Reading+Writing=Diploma. 
I don't get it. And, I thought the purpose of education was to educate, even though it might sometimes be hard.
And, to back me up, here's one of my favourite exchanges from A League of Their Own:
Jimmy Dugan: Taking a little day trip? 
Dottie Hinson: No, Bob and I are driving home. To Oregon. 
Jimmy Dugan: [long pause] You know, I really thought you were a ballplayer. 
Dottie Hinson: Well, you were wrong. 
Jimmy Dugan: Was I? 
Dottie Hinson: Yeah. It is only a game, Jimmy. It's only a game, and, and, I don't need this. I have Bob; I don't need this. At all. 
Jimmy Dugan: I, I gave away five years at the end my career to drink. Five years. And now there isn't anything I wouldn't give to get back any one day of it. 
Dottie Hinson: Well, we're different. 
Jimmy Dugan: Shit, Dottie, if you want to go back to Oregon and make a hundred babies, great, I'm in no position to tell anyone how to live. But sneaking out like this, quitting, you'll regret it for the rest of your life. Baseball is what gets inside you. It's what lights you up, you can't deny that. 
Dottie Hinson: It just got too hard. 
Jimmy Dugan: It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard... is what makes it great. 
And, just for fun, here's the trailer:

Friday, July 27, 2012

Ernie Kovacs: Brilliant Brilliant Brilliant

I was in the midst of finalizing my work week when I somehow got to thinking about Ernie Kovacs and how when I was a kid I loved all those wonderful skits. I thought, could youtube have them.


Here are a few from the Nairobi Trio, you must stick it out for the entire 3 minutes because the end is always worth the setup....

Loved that one, here's another one...

I'm not sure that I knew when I was a kid that it was Ernie in the monkey suit. I'm not sure what I thought when I was 9 or 10, but I definitely knew comedy.
During Ernie's time on late night TV, he often performed with his wife, Edie Adams. Edie was a spectacular talent in her own right and was the beauty to his beast. One of the more famous episodes in her career was her Muriel cigar commercials. At first, so the story goes, Muriel rejected her as not sexy enough to sell their cigars, even with a husband who was never seen without one in her mouth. So, Edie and Ernie produced their own mock commercial to try and convince Muriel. They did. Here's Edie in 1971, in her 40's, singing Hey Big Spender for Muriel...

Wow. Wasn't that great.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Importance of protecting the Brand

The beauty and I are in the market for a new TV for the family room. We currently have a Sony 52 inch rear projection model in the room, and, we've built around it a very nice wall unit. Regretfully, it doesn't compare to high definition models, so, it's time to go.
When we were in the mall a few weeks back, after seeing the 55 inch and larger models side by side, we decided that the optimal size for that room was 60 inches. And, since the TV was in a room with a bay window, and the TV was angled towards that window, the choice became 60 inches LED.
In shopping around, I've found 4 manufacturers who sell that model size, LG, Sony, Samsung and Sharp.  
We've eliminated LG because of our previous experience with the Brand.
Less than 3 years ago, we upgraded our fridge to a french door model and chose the LG brand. In retrospect, not a good choice, in my opinion. Within 18 months, the unit turned off and the display read "FF" (freezer fan). When the repairman came, he removed the freezer back panel and showed me the ice build up on the rear wall of the unit. He said he had seen this in LG models in the past. He said, the problem was that when the model was designed, they didn't build a path for condensed water to run down the back of the freezer compartment. and so, at some point in time, the odds were good that with no direction, the ice might decide to build up around the fan and eventually interfere with the turning of the blades. He solved the problem by thawing out the ice and building a path out of aluminum foil to direct any future water away from the fan area. He said that if this was an easier product to deal with, he suspected that there would have been a manufacturers recall. Since then, two of the plastic shelves have cracked. Granted, for awhile we had the 2 grandkids and our daughter and son-in-law living with us, so, we did have a full house and a full fridge, but, this is the third fridge that we've owned since having children and the only one that every had a shelf cracking problem. As a matter of fact, this is the only one that ever required service. Fridge one (bought in 1981) was retired when we bought the new fridge, and fridge 2 (bought in 1993) was moved to the basement and is still working just fine.
Now compare this Brand experience with our recent trip to Disney World. Talk about protecting the Brand in every way. Unbelievable. We didn't meet one employee who wasn't gracious and kind and helpful and friendly. We didn't eat one meal that wasn't of quality, either in a restaurant in a theme park, a restaurant in an on site resort, or in the Disney Marketplace. There are no bargains in Disney World, but there are no problems.
 In the end, what we remember are the problems, not the cost. Disney knows that, does LG?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pool Guard Door Alarm

We're back from the annual Visit the Family in Florida Vacation, or, as Uncle Bram used to describe it, hearing a years worth of "suris" condensed into a week.
After the stint in Southern Florida we joined the kids/grandkids for a week at Disney. We rented a house with 4 bedrooms, 4 ensuite bathrooms (all for the women, the guys still couldn't get in without waiting in line) and a swimming pool. And, a very clever contraption on each sliding door leading to the pool, a PoolGuard Door Alarm by PoolGuard ( This clever little device, or one of its competitors is mandatory for any "door" leading to a pool in 3 states, Florida, California, and Arizona. It's absolutely brilliant, and I don't know why anyone with a pool in their backyard doesn't have one.

I couldn't find a youtube video of the product, but I found a 14 second video that explains conceptually how these types of devices work.

What the video doesn't show is the use of the button in the middle of the master section. The button is a cut off switch. Simply put, if you place the magnets at around 5 feet, or, higher than a young child's reach, then, every time an adult passes through the door, they press the button and deactivate the alarm. Nevertheless, this deactivation only lasts around 30 seconds if the door is not shut, thus preventing accidentally leaving the door open. 
These devices cost around $50US, a very reasonable price to pay for a bit of peace of mind.
Here is the description of the PoolGuard product features, the one we had in the Florida house.

  • The Door Alarm will sound in 7 seconds when a child opens the door, and the alarm will continue to sound until an adult comes to the door and resets the alarm.
  • Poolguard Door Alarm will sound in 7 seconds even if a child goes through the door and closes it behind them.
  • The Door Alarm is always on and will automatically reset under all conditions.
  • Poolguard Door Alarm is equipped with an adult pass through feature that will allow adults to go through the door without the alarm sounding.
  • Optional screen door kits can be purchased for the alarm, this kit allows you to get air through your screen door without the alarm sounding.
  • Poolguard Door Alarm uses one 9-volt battery, (not included) with a battery life of approximately 1 year.
  • The Door Alarm is equipped with a low battery indicator that will audibly alert you when your battery is getting low.
  • Poolguard is the only door alarm that is UL listed under UL 2017 for water hazard entrance alarm equipment.

This is a wonderful product, but as the Safe Kids Canada website reminds us "Pool alarms, door alarms, pool covers and door locks are not an adequate substitute for a four-sided fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate"
Nevertheless, everything helps, so, if you have a friend/relative with a pool and a door leading directly to that pool, this is a great XMAS present.
You're Welcome.