Celebrate the Day

It’s Friday… and not just any Friday (which is enough of a reason to celebrate)… it is the end of the Government Fiscal Year, and the 2nd day of Rosh Hashanah (for those that observe two days). So, with a Happy FY11-12 to some, and a L’Shanah Tovah to others, let’s clear out those links. Note that I do plan a post on the excellent Erev Rosh Hashanah sermon given by Rabbi Shawna Brynjegard-Bialik*, as soon as she puts it online.

  • Gezundheit! The VC Star has an interesting article on ACHOO Syndrome, which causes people to sneeze when exposed to sunlight. It is a condition found in 10-35% of the population, and does have a genetic basis. It is also something that can be disruptive or dangerous. They don’t know why it happens.
  • Gluten Free Everywhere! You may have noticed that gluten-free products are popping up everywhere these days (they used to be quite scarce). Reuters has an interesting article on the trend. According to the article, Euromonitor International forecasts 2011 gluten-free sales of $1.31 billion in the United States and $2.67 billion worldwide. Sales have more than doubled since 2005 and are expected to hit $1.68 billion in the United States and $3.38 billion globally in 2015. A number of examples are given. For example, in the donut chain “fonuts”, over half the sales are GF. General Mills Inc is a leader, having reformulated some Chex breakfast cereals, Betty Crocker cake and brownie mixes and Bisquick pancake mix to remove gluten. Anheuser Busch Inbev SA sells a gluten-free beer called Redbridge, which is sold in many mainstream supermarkets. P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc for years has had a gluten-free menu and Subway, the popular sandwich chain, is testing gluten-free bread and brownies in Texas and Oregon. However, this could be a bubble. Trend chasers who have no medical reason to be on a gluten-free diet account for more than half of the daily consumption of gluten-free products, said Alessio Fasano, medical director at the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research.
  • A Hallmark Moment. Hallmark has introduced unemployment condolence cards. The article doesn’t mention whether there’s a version provided where you can tuck in a check, which is what the unemployed person really needs.
  • A Quiet Corner. Back in the early 1990s, I used to do a lot of travel to Washington DC… specifically to the McLean/Tysons Corners area. The Washington Post has an interesting article on the area, and its quest to become a real city. This includes moving beyond the business park, malls, and auto lots along Route 123 and Route 7 to a real walkable city core.
  • Keep That Allen Wrench. You’ve probably thought that the most ubiquitious and annoying things on Earth were cockroaches and politicians. Ikea wants to add itself to that list: Ikea believes that as long as there’s human life on Earth, a strong Ikea has its worth. Planet Money summarizes a New Yorker article on the chain, noting the tricks of Ikea store design (such as ‘bulla bulla,’ in which a bunch of items are purposely jumbled in bins to create the impression of volume and, therefore, inexpensiveness), the problems at US plans, and the corporate song.
  • College Planning. Lastly, something that makes me feel better for college app season. Seton Hall University is offering discounts for early applicants with strong academic credentials, giving them two-thirds off the regular sticker price for tuition, a discount of some $21,000. This is evidently part of a growing trend to go beyond need-based aid to where colleges give merit aid to get the students they really want. I hope this trend continues, for I know my daughter’s target colleges are going really want her!

*: For those who are curious: Rabbi Shawna’s sermon dealt with search engine results and how they are designed to give us what we want, and how that serves only to reinforce our beliefs, not challenge them. A really good subject, addressed well.


College Planning Notes: One of an Occasional Series…

Today’s lunchtime news chum brings a collection of college planning articles:


Stirring Up the News Chum

It’s Friday at lunch, and you know what that means: Clearing out the links accumulated during lunchtime reading over the week:


College Planning (Part x of many)

Every now and then, I’ll run across some posts that make me say, “Hmmm, I have a HS senior. I should remember these things for her college planning…”. So I save them here, tagged, as my memory bank. Perhaps they’ll help you as well…

  • 10 Practical Things To Know Before Your Freshman Starts College. There’s some really good advice here, such as “You won’t automatically get a bill” or that student health services won’t automatically bill your health insurance for non-covered costs.
  • 10 Best Colleges for the Money. Good institutions where it costs less to attend. Most of these aren’t places where my daughter would attend (although some have been sending her mail, such as Grinnell), but they do include the Claremont Colleges, which are worth investigating as a backup.
  • 10 Ways to Land More College Aid. I particularly like #3, where you can explain extenuating circumstances.

College Planning

As you are likely well aware, I’ve spent the last two weeks with my daughter looking at colleges. Recently, I’ve found a few lists of interest to those of us doing this search:

  • Most Expensive Colleges. USA Today alerted me to this one. The US Government has set up an excellent website that ranks colleges based on their tuition, or even better, their net cost (attendance costs less typical financial rewards). You can search based on the type of college. The most expensive state schools? UT San Antonio Health Center and the University of Guam. For private 4-year schools, Art Center College of Design and The New School. I’m pleased to see that none of the schools Erin is considering is on the list. It is sad to see California universities on the list of schools with the fastest rising tuitions, especially with today’s news.
  • Best Liberal Arts Schools. The College Planning Advisors blog alerted me to this list: the Best Liberal Arts Colleges in the US. Here I was pleased to see the high rankings of the Claremont Colleges, although some also showed up on the previously-mentioned most expensive list. Note that some of the universities we visited, such as Wash U. and Tulane, don’t show up on the US News list because they are not expressly liberal arts colleges.


The Friday Cleaning of the Links

Friday lunchtime. Time to clean out the accumulated links that don’t fit anywhere else:


News Chum: Education on the Brain (so to speak)

In looking over my collected articles for lunchtime news chum, there seems to be a theme in some: education, at various levels. So let’s run with that…

University and College Planning

As you may know, this summer I’ll be doing a college roadtrip with my daughter to the southeast. The current plan is to visit four schools: Tulane, in New Orleans; Emory, in Atlanta (replacing Rhodes in Memphis, as my daughter didn’t think it was a good fit after reading material the school sent); Bellarmine in Louisville; and Washington University, in St. Louis. This means I’ve got planning for college in my head. Here are some articles that caught my eye:

  • From US News and World Report: Which Colleges Claim To Meet Full Financial Need? A major concern is how to pay for college — yes, my salary is decent, but I’m also in a very high cost of living city. Thus, I’m pleased to see a number of our potentials are on the list: Emory, Washington University, and Reed, to name a few.
  • From the Wall Street Journal: Tips from Financial Advisors to those Choosing a College. Basic words of advice, such as (1) Encourage your child to select a career first, and then a school; (2) Don’t promise your child you’ll pay the entire tuition; (3) When deciding between schools, make your child responsible for at least some of the costs of choosing the more expensive option; (4) Make a deal with your child: Underperform and you’re out; and (5) Help children protect their health and finances from uncertainty and risk.
  • From the LA Times: In Paying for College, Better to be Lucky than Smart. In other words, it is not only what you socked away, but where you socked it away and (more importantly) when. Some hit the jackpot. Some get lemons.

K-12 Education

A few articles related to K-12 education:

  • Risks from the School Band. The LA Times looked into the cleanliness of school musical instruments, and found them teeming with bacteria. Researchers from Oklahoma State examined 13 instruments that belonged to a high school band. Six of the instruments had been played the previous week and seven hadn’t been played in a month. Swabs were taken of 117 different sites on the instruments, including the mouthpieces, internal chambers and even the carrying cases. They found 442 different bacteria, 58 types of mold and 19 types of yeast. Many of the bacteria were species of Staphylococcus, which can cause staph infection. Most of the bacteria can cause illness. Mold spores can contribute to the development of asthma. Even the instruments that had not been played recently harbored germs galore. Quite a scary study.
  • Fighting Over a Valley High School. Well, the battle is over: the LAUSD School Board decided to award “Hospital High” (New Valley Regional High School #4) to the teacher-led team from District 1 that wants to create a Performing Arts High School. This goes with the recommendation of the LAUSD Superintendent (the board ignored a number of other recommendations), and probably pissed off the team from Granada Hills Charter High School, which wanted to operate the new school. Of course, GHCHS has only themselves to blame, given the tactics they did during the vote. From the League of Women Voter’s report:
    • The large high school student turn-out was augmented by students voting from a list provided by Granada Hills Charter School.
    • Granada Hills Charter High School sponsored buses that traveled back and forth between the charter school and voting center in 30-minute cycles during both voting sessions. The bus was transporting students, parents, family members and friends to the voting site.
    • An email complaint was received by the League that students from Nobel Middle School were allegedly being called to vote for the Granada Hills Charter school plan.
    • A parent from Granada Hills Charter High School stated students were being offered “10 hours of detention removed” if they voted.
    • The League was given a ticket from a parent who claimed they were given a chance to enter into a raffle if they could submit “proof of voting” for a “charter high school”.

    Those are just some examples. Of course, I have problems with the District 1 LAUSD group as well—primarily, that they forget there is already a Performing Arts Magnet High School in the Valley that gets little support (at Van Nuys HS). My fear is that the new Performing Arts HS will simply kill the VNHS program, which isn’t a good thing. Still, I’m glad that GHCHS didn’t win the vote, for I’m not in favor of charter school dynasties. If GHCHS wants to do anything to help students and the community, they should become a charter complex of elementary, middle, and the high school, just as Palisades has done with their Charter Complex.