University News Chum: UCLA, UC Berkeley, Emerson

userpic=ucla-csunToday’s lunchtime news chum brings together a number of articles related to happenings on campus:

Music: Once On This Island (Original Cast): “When We Are Wed”


Teach Your Children Well

userpic=ucla-csunToday’s lunchtime news chum brings together a collection of articles related to education:

  • The Middle “R”: The Ventura County Star has an interesting article on California’s writing standards: particularly, the standard that requires cursive to be taught. It’s an interesting debate: in this era where “typing”  (or is that “keyboarding”) is a required skill (when I grew up, it was optional), is there a need for two styles of writing: block and cursive? Is block sufficient? In particular, is block sufficient to provide a unique written signature upon which we still depend? As for me, I know my normal writing style is a mix of block and cursive, with a signature that doesn’t match either. But what about you? Do you still use cursive?
  • GPAs above 4.0. When I went to school, back in the dark ages, the best grade you could get was a 4.0; perhaps a 4.2 if you got an A+. Nowadays, AP classes permit even higher grades, and students are going to college with a whole portfolio of AP classes. Universities are fighting back. Here’s an example: Darthmouth has announced they will no longer accept AP credit. The concern is that AP courses do not resemble actual college courses in any way–for one thing, they are “teach to the standard test”.
  • Community Colleges. Community colleges are in trouble; in fact, the community college in San Francisco is on accreditation-watch and may close. So Gov. Brown is trying to rescue the institution (which is vitally important to the middle-and-lower tier HS students — it is a way to get the education HS didn’t provide and get the associates degree — a vital stepping stone to CSU or UC). Brown’s goal is to keep community colleges affordable, keep classes accessible and move students faster through the system to allow them to graduate or transfer to a four-year university at higher rates. His plan is to limit the number of credits students can accumulate, with a cap on state-subsidized classes at 90 units. Students who exceed that to pay the full cost of instruction, about $190 per semester unit versus $46 per unit. He would also change the funding formula to reflect students who complete the class, not students enrolled at the 3rd-week.
  • Online Courses. The Internet (founded, I should note, at my alma-mater UCLA) has revolutionized education. Earlier this week my daughter posted about the distance between two courses, noting that the second course (which was a 700 person Astronomy lecture) had a webcast that the professor was encouraging students to watch instead of attending†. The impact of the Internet is also seen in funding — based on direction from Gov. Brown, the UC Regents are exploring expanding online courses, although they are not sure whether they will make or save any money.  I think online courses can work if done right — in particular, they need the equivalent of face-to-face small sections to encourage student discussion and critical thinking on the topic. These sections could also be online, but if the online course is lecture only, it won’t be successful.
    [†: PS to my daughter if you are reading this: I encourage you to go the lectures anyway. Not only are you likely to meet interesting people outside of your discipline (History ≠ Astronomy), but you are likely to be able to see the board better, and being at the lecture will eliminate distractions.]
  • Paying for College. There were all sorts of things hidden in the fiscal cliff legislation — that probably doesn’t surprise you. Providing goodies to congresscritters (or there constituencies) is a way to get a bill through. I’ve previously mentioned the commuter benefit. Here’s another. The bill extended the American Opportunity Tax Credit. This credit “allows students and their parents to claim up to $2,500 a year for college expenses, (which) benefits 9 million families a year.” It also extended a few more tax deductions and credits until the end of 2013 and gave permanent status for employer-provided education expenses, the Student Loan Interest Deduction and Coverdell Education Savings Accounts. I know that these will affect us — both the credit and the interest deduction (we are paying the interest on our daughter’s loans until she graduates). Alas, there may be some cuts to Federal Work Study programs.

Music: I Can Get It For You Wholesale (Original Broadway Cast): “The Sound of Money”


Furious News Chum: Hostages, Logos, and Sex

userpic=observationsAlas, I seemed to have come back from ACSAC with a cold; that combined with a lot of backed up stuff has delayed any posts. Still, I do have a few stories about people getting furious about things that I want to share:

  • A Hostage Situation. When I returned to the ranch here at Circle A, I eventually needed to visit the men’s restroom. Upon entry, I was presented with a wall detailing an odd hostage situation. Evidently, someone had left their reusable Starbucks mug on a shelf. They forgot about it, and came back and posted a note requesting its return. This was followed by a number of pictures showing the cup in various places (the top of A1′ with a gnome, at the top of a Christmas tree, with Santa). There was also a ransom note, done in the normal cut out letter font, indicating that the cup was still alive (and including a picture of the cup and today’s newspaper to prove it was alive). The note requested that 2 STE (staff-time equivalents) of charge number be deposited in a particular job order (9990-00) if the cup was to be returned alive. There was also a handwritten note from the cup indicating they were threatening to recycle it. I think some people have slipped over the edge. [ETA: The wall has grown with a note from a concerned party indicating that the cup is required to administer an critical chemical solution to its owner vital to the owner’s technological output, a photoshop of the cup on the side of a milk carton, and a disposable Starbuck cup with a Post-It stating “Found in Stall #26”. I’d take a picture, but we can’t use cameras at work.]
  • A Logo Situation. The University of California has redesigned their logo, and everyone is up in arms about it. Most people think it is undignified, and looks like a loading symbol. It has gotten so bad that memes have developed with people doing strange things with the logo. I agree with the Lt. Gov. — the new logo should be ditched. A simplified version of the current logo could easily be designed for webpages; not the radical silly redesign they have done.
  • A Sexual Situation. There’s another furor about UC — this time about sex. Specifically, a columnist for the Daily Cal took advantage of the lack of people on campus the day before Thanksgiving to explore where she and her partner could, umm, conduct human relation experiments. Naturally, the prudish folks protested to the Daily Cal in the comments, and the story was picked up by the newservices. Insert predictable response about those crazy students at radical Berkeley.

Historical Items of Interest: Preserving Catsup, Ansel Adams at UCB, and the Ovation Award Statuette

Today’s lunchtime news chum brings together three stories that have a loose connection with history:

  • Ketchup Worth Saving. A catsup bottle near St. Louis is receiving a historic preservation award. Well, to be precise, it is the world’s largest Ketchup bottle, and it has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. To clarify, we’re talking about a Catsup-shaped water tower along Illinois Route 159, just south of Collinsville. The 170-foot tall water tower was built in 1949 by the W.E. Caldwell Company for the G.S. Suppiger Ketchup bottling plant, which bottled Brooks catsup. In 1995, due to the efforts of the Ketchup (or is that Catsup) Bottle Preservation Group, the roadside attraction was saved from demolition and restored to its original appearance. It was named to the National Register of Historic Places in August 2002 and the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame in 2008.
  • Someday My Prints Will Come. A theatre and dance professor doing research at UC Berkeley discovered a treasure-trove of Ansel Adams prints of UCB while looking up something else. What happened is this: In 1964, University of California President Clark Kerr hired Ansel Adams to photograph the UC system. The goal was an elegant and oversize table book to celebrate the centennial of the university. However, before the celebration could begin, Gov. Ronald Reagan fired Kerr.  The book disappeared. The photographs went into the library archives. The pictures are now on exhibit at the Bancroft Library, and the book, Fiat Lux, was republished this year. Further, the UCB administration was persuaded issue the book to every faculty member and incoming student at UC Berkeley. That means 11,000 new copies are out there, more than the original print run of 10,000. Funded by private donation, “Fiat Lux” is a gift, compliments of the Board of Regents , in exchange for a tuition check in the amount of $5,610 for the fall semester. Unless the University of California Press adds a commercial run, the only way to see it is to come to the Bancroft, find a freshman, or search the used bookstores next to campus. I’ve seen the book (we have a new freshman), and it is beautiful.
  • Standing Strong. Have you ever wondered where award statues come from? Here’s an interesting history of the Ovation Award statuette from the LA Stage Alliance. Next time I see the statue (in a couple of weeks when we go to the Colony), I’ll look at it quite differently.



Adventures in Moving

As you probably know, yesterday we moved our daughter into UC Berkeley. It was an adventure, and I thought I would share some of the experience with you:

  • The drive to Berkeley was complicated by some significant delays due to Caltrans. Although we knew they might occur thanks to the Cal Parents FB group, and had read the Caltrans advisory and had checked Quickmap, it was much worse than we expected (over an hour). Those Cal-bound parents might consider staying on Route 24 and instead using College or Telegraph NB instead.
  • Once at Cal, the Move-In was chaos, especially in regard to parking. Most spaces near the halls were 15 or 20 minute move-in parking, which wasn’t sufficient given the number of loads to be moved, the elevator delays, and such. Berkeley really needs to make move-in spaces be longer parking (I suggest 1 hr or 90 minutes, and then enforce it) to provide sufficient time to confused and flustered parents.
  • We had been debating whether it was better to arrive at 10am (the scheduled start of move-in) or later. I was in the “earlier” camp, but after going through move-in, I think the answer is “later”. Later doesn’t help with the parking time situation (due to the 15- or 20- minute spaces), but it does help with finding them. More importantly, it makes it easier to get the big orange bucket bins, which (had we known) were essential for getting moved in one or two trips. We had brought our own carts, and using it and two people, it still took us 4 trips.
  • For those moving into Slottman (Unit 1), it is much easier to enter on the lower level where there is a ramp and unlocked door. You need your key to call the elevator.

We also had a problem with Windows Update — her computer decided to install patches just as we were shutting it down to go move in, and then hung on the “updating” screen for 2+ hours. After she was all moved in, we ended up forcibly rebooting, and everything seemed to be fine.

Lunch was at Crossroads, and as usual, UC Berkeley food service was excellent. That’s one thing I no longer like about UCLA — the excellent local ASUCLA food service (such as the Cooperage, back in my day) has been replaced with chain food. Berkeley has no such chain food, and the quality and variety was great. Bed Bath and Beyond also had a pop-up sale at Crossroads, enabling us to get an extra power strip.

She is now all moved in. Her room has a wonderful view of The City and the bay, and she’s all unpacked. I’m still waiting for her to get connected and start posting, but a text we received indicated she was fine. Us? I’m going through withdrawal from being able to talk to her and find out what is happening.

A last PS to those driving along I-5 to/from LA. There is major construction in Buttonwillow. We tried to avoid it by using Route 43 to Route 58, but discovered the Route 58 ramp to I-5 was closed, and the detour takes one SB into the worst of the construction. Instead, drivers should stay on Route 43 to 7th Standard Road, take that under I-5 to Buttonwillow Rd, and go N on Buttonwillow Road to get to the NB ramp. SB drivers could avoid the construction by exiting at Buttonwillow/McKittrick (Exit 263), going S on Buttonwillow to 7th Std Road, going E to Route 43, and S on Route 43 to I-5. Mr. Roadshow is also warning about major delays on I-5 in Fresno County near Mendota. By the map, you could probably use Route 33 as a detour, but the combination of this and the Buttonwillow delays might make Route 101 or Route 99 a better option.


Bright College Days

As I write this, I’m on the eve of driving my daughter up to UC Berkeley to start her college years. So here are a few college related stories:



The Reality Has Hit

The reality has hit. We got our first CARS (Tuition and Housing) bill from UC Berkeley for our daughter today. It’s bad, but not as bad as it could have been. This also means move-in day is rapidly approaching. So, a question for my friends in the Bay Area: Move-in is at 10am on a Friday. We’re planning on driving up Thursday and spending the night somewhere (probably not Berkeley proper). What makes more sense, given the commuting patterns: staying down in the south bay (San Jose area), or staying out Livermore way?


Colleges and Finances

My lunchtime reading has also highlighted a number of articles related to colleges (particularly UC) and finances. Hopefully, they won’t ruin your lunch.

  • UC Fees Increasing… maybe. Well, that “maybe” is a highly-likely (sigh). If the state doesn’t increase funding by $125 million, it is likely the 10-campus UC system would raise tuition by 6% this fall. Further, if the initiative in November doesn’t pass, we’re looking at a mid-year tuition increase in the “range of double digits” or drastic cuts to campus programs and staffing. With the 6% increase, tuition for in-state undergraduates would rise $731 to $12,923. Sigh. I just keep reminding myself that it is still a lot less than private school tuition, even with merit scholarships. One side effect of the increasing tuition, though, is that more and more California students are going out of state. There are a number of factors that are fallout of that: some are taking advantage of a special program that gives in-state tuition to some out of state students, others are depending more on merit/need scholarships from out of state private schools (which increases their costs, and thus tuition), and it creates more space for out of state students to attend UC/CSU (bringing in out of state resident fees).
  • Paying for College. When you think about paying for college, there are a number of ways to do it. One is scholarships. The other is to reduce parental costs, freeing up cash for college. Erin’s exploring the former, and we’re doing the latter. This includes shopping for the best auto insurance quotes, and exploring refinancing. Alas, since the last ReFi, values had dropped more. This is why I’m pleased to read about the streamlining of HARP. We’re not underwater, but we’re now under 20% equity. Doing a HARP ReFi will go a large way towards making college more affordable. We won’t be able to take advantage of the other program to reduce loan balances because we’re not underwater–but that’s OK.
  • Bright College Days. Thinking about Erin going off to college has me wistfully looking back at my days at UCLA. I uncovered a few articles looking at the history of buildings in Westwood, including the buildings that used to be the Bratskeller and the BofA and the buildings that used to be Maria’s and Bullocks. Ah, the days when Westwood was a real college town…
  • Value of College. Is college worth it? That’s the on-going debate these days. A recent study shows the effect of a college degree: Only about half are working full-time, with the majority starting with less pay than expected while also dealing with huge student debts. Nearly six in 10 think they’ll end up less financially successful than their elders. Workers who graduated during the recession – from 2009 through last year – earned a median starting salary of $27,000 – or $3,000 less annually than earlier graduates. Nearly a quarter of all respondents said their current job pays much less than they’d anticipated.Female graduates earned $2,000 less than their male counterparts. Most fresh college grads said their first jobs didn’t help them advance along a career path – and that the positions didn’t even require a four-year degree. Four in 10 said they took the work just to get by. So does it pay to go to college? Is it worth between $150K-$300K over a lifetime? Well, a survey from 2011 showed that people with a bachelor’s degree make 84% more over a lifetime than high school graduates. In 1999, the premium was 75%. How much do they make? The 2011 survey showed that, on average, a doctoral degree-holder will earn $3.3 million over a lifetime, compared to $2.3 million for a college graduate and $1.3 million for those with a high school diploma. That said, people with less education in high-paying occupations can out-earn their counterparts with advanced degrees, yet within the same industry, workers with more schooling usually earn more. What is unknown is how that changed between 2011 and 2012. Still, these are important things to keep in mind when trying to decide if college is worth what you pay. Lastly, it is important to remember that college is often more than just what you learn: it is the ability to network with alumni that might open the door for you, make the connections to recommend you, or provide you with contacts. Often these are much more valuable in the end run.