One of My Favorite House Gifts

Pavel and Patty are two very cool people (despite the fact that they cheer for the Bears)! P&P are two of the people learning Open-C at Lauren's training class. This last week, they came over for drinks and dinner, as well as to meet the dogs. They also came bearing gifts.

A toaster and a very large Justin Bieber card which sings when you open it.

I got a downstairs toaster! And props to P&P...they know their toasters. They didn't bring one of those gaudy nouveaux four-slicers. They went with the two-slicer! Serious toast architects understand that while the four-slicer may be appealing on volume of toast, that the two-slicer produces a better overall consumption experience. The butter-melt is perfect on each slice (try that with a four-slicer...by the time you are buttering that last slice it has cooled to near frost-bite like temperature). And nobody wants to wait through the preparation of four slices before eating. That would be crazy. But, with the four-slicer, wait you will, because as a toast optimist there is always the hope of melted butter on even that last slice, and that hope is enough to keep on preparing through the last slice before even a morsel of the sweet nectar-like ambrosia of any toast is indulged upon.

Sleek, sophisticated and designed for excellent toast

This toaster has seven toast shade settings to "allow for customized toasting". Now, in my opinion, this is six more than is necessary, but it nice to have the option. The extra-wide and longer slots accommodate a variety of foods for toasting including bagels (there is also a bagel option button), texas toast, english muffins, and grilled cheese (just turn the toaster horizontally) without the friction rub that accompanies food toasted in a smaller slot.

There is also a cancel button which immediately shuts down the toasting cycle and elevates the food using the near perfect toast lift. This toaster even features a warm button, which the box claims, "warms without further toasting". This is a big waste on a two-slice toaster. Who isn't going to get to their second slice? Any person who would need a toast warmer on a two-slice toaster, is a person who needs all of their toasting privileges revoked. They probably also read Reader's Digest Condensed Books. Ugh. They should all be re-located to St. Paul.

The blurb on the box. I like "Toast just the way you LIKT it".
Now, no blog on such a divine food would be complete without a description or suggestion for an accompanying beverage. When serving toast, the pairing can be tricky. After all, are you topping the toast with jelly? honey? nutella? peanut butter? nothing? butter and salt? caramel sauce? Or is it the base of the perfect sandwich? (I won't even cover when idiots use toast as a side, that is just nonsense.)

P&P brought over what may be regarded by most toast experts to be the perfect pairing for toast. RumChata and Three Olives Loopy Vodka. Mix together and add (if desired) a dash of heavy cream. Wallah! (kiss thumb and forefinger) Perfection. Hints of Cinnamon Toast Crunch with a nose of Fruit Loops. Chateau d'Yquem my foot. This is heaven in a glass. It readies the palate for toast of any kind.


Why American Schools Stink

An interesting take in Bloomberg Business Week on why the education system in the United States is not up to par. Their conclusion is that it is because of the parents of American students, or rather the lack of commitment to education that their parents display. [Read the article here.] Some of the causes they shoot down, and the data they use to do it, are

  • Students are slackers: Between 2002 and 2009, the U.S. high school graduation rate climbed three percentage points, so that more than three quarters of all students now get a diploma.  And the average school kid is learning more than ever before (United States Department of Education’s National Assessment of Educational Progress).
  • Teachers are incompetent and don't work hard: Less than eight percent of teachers in their survey ranked below “basic” competence and the average teacher may be working an eleven-hour day (Measuring Effective Teaching: A Potential for Change, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation)
  • American schools suffer from a lack of resources: The average U.S. student costs around $80,000 to educate from the age of six to fifteen.  Only Switzerland spends at a similar level, and the Czech Republic, which scores higher that the U.S. on the international math tests, spends about a third of that amount (The Economics of International Differences in Educational Achievement, Stanford University).
After ruling these causes things out, they settle on parents as the problem. As with so many other issues, the problem is much more complex and there is no easy catch-all solution, even though the news and many politicians wish there was.

The two things that really caught my eye (and I agree with...duh...I'm blogging about it) were
  1. The calling out of the legislative nonsense that No Child Left Behind has become. I especially like that the article acknowledges that we can have standards and benchmarks (and should) yet needn't mandate standardized tests to have these. 
  2. The suggestion that the culture needs to shift in order to change anything. The unfortunate part of this is that the article ends all touchy-feely about it. Rah-rah parents. You can make a difference! I guess this crap sells magazines/journals. 
Last Thoughts: The article reports, "Around the world, the catch-all measure used to proxy for parental commitment to education is the number of books in a child‘s household".  Proxies are necessary for capturing so many latent traits and variables that their use is ubiquitous in every educational study. One question...in the technology age, especially that of e-books, will educational researchers continue to measure this proxy?  Should they? 


Two Scholarships I Wish I Could Have Applied For

Zombie Apocalypse Scholarship
It’s not so much a question of if the zombie apocalypse happens, but more of when it happens. And if you have ever watched the Walking Dead, you sometimes ponder escape strategies in a variety of situations. Well, why not get money for that?

ScholarshipExperts.com is offering college students a $1,000 scholarship for writing the best zombie-escape plan. In the essay, you must answer where you would run in the event of a zombie outbreak at your school and what five items you would take to ensure survival. It must not exceed 250 words. The deadline is Nov. 30.

Jon Fortenbury can get your creative juices flowing when you read his article about choosing a zombie-proof campus.

Stuck at Prom
If your inner-punk-rocker never died, then you’ll love this scholarship, since it asks you to rebel at what’s allegedly one of the most important events of your life: prom.

The Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contest (sponsored by Duck Brand Tape....get it...."Stuck"!) requires you and your date to accessorize those prom outfits with duck tape and wear it to the dance. The couple with the best outfit wins $5,000. Second place wins $3,000 and third place wins $2,000. The seven remaining runner-ups still score $500. Deadlines are in June each year.

Note to Mandy: We could have killed this!


Who Gets the Credit?

I read this Op-Ed piece the other day and was reminded again how much I love David Brooks. A reader wrote the following question
Over the past few years, I've built a successful business. I've worked hard, and I'm proud of what I've done. But now President Obama tells me that social and political forces helped build that. Mitt Romney went to Israel and said cultural forces explain the differences in the wealth of nations. I'm confused. How much of my success is me, and how much of my success comes from forces outside of me?
Brooks' reply is not only eloquent, but very funny [read it here]. Two things that particularly resonate are that in the opening line he makes mention of multiple regression, and the reference to Ayn Rand also made me laugh. (Note to Greg: Please pay attention to the age-group that buys into her crap.

Lastly, I believe the last paragraph of the essay should be required reading (and should probably be memorized) for every business school student from here on.

Great companies, charities and nations were built by groups of individuals who each vastly overestimated their own autonomy. As an ambitious executive, it's important that you believe that you will deserve credit for everything you achieve. As a human being, it's important for you to know that's nonsense.