Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Things I Thought We'd Have Figured Out by Now

Waiting to board a plane in Los Angeles and these two things struck me in rapid succession. Since I am traveling alone with no companion to serve as crash test dummy for my pointless banter, I have to turn to my trusted army of imaginary readers at WWDS and leave my thoughts in this blog posting.

First, it says here in this discarded newspaper (Dallas Morning News), that scientists don’t know how trees get water out of the ground. They’re pretty sure the roots are involved but can’t really say after that how it happens.

Really? We don’t know how trees work? Next time I need an example of a category of professionals who haven’t really made much progress in their field, I plan to invoke agrobiologists.

Second, I have heard a couple dozen announcements over the PA system since I arrived here at gate 48A but haven’t understood a single one. Aside from the universally poor quality of the audio that all public address systems strive to maintain, this one happens to be in an airport which means...multiple people enjoy making announcements simultaneously over the same speakers.

Let me tell you something. When I was in second grade and the teacher brought out a big box of wire and switches and lights and bells, me and Derek Perreault built a messaging system so that we could send silent, coded messages to each other by pressing a button and making a light blink. With two messengers and only one light, we had to devise a dampening mechanism to enforce control of the light. We put in a second circuit so that when one of us flipped a switch, the other guy couldn’t make the light blink.

That was in 1971. Me and Derek had about three and a half years of combined formal education counting Kindergarten. We figured it out between recess and lunch.

Now it’s 2010 and I am sitting in Amercan Airlines’ new terminal at one of the planet’s most high-tech airports. I am surrounded by nine gate agents with microphones that all flow through the same, crackly, overhead speakers and nothing prevents them from making simultaneous announcements. Why haven’t we figured this out?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

High School Angst

I happened to have lunch today near a spot where many high school students passed after completing some exam that I gathered to be relatively important in the grand scheme of college admissions. It was obvious to me that these students had assigned enormous importance to their performance on this test and, I am sad to report, they virtually dripped with angst.

Didn't all the studies come out five years ago showing that we parents and teachers were over-hyping the importance of getting into any particular "school of choice"?

Wasn't it clearly shown that Stanford, MIT, and the Ivy League schools conferred a small lifetime benefit in income but the next 2500 schools were pretty equivalent? Didn't it also show that income had no correlation with personal fulfillment and social success in general?

Wasn't it strongly advised that students shouldn't marry the idea of attending any particular school given the giant crap shoot that the admissions process has become?

Weren't the data incontrovertible that, upon University graduation, students were really happy that life circumstances had led them to a four-year experience at a school that was originally low on their B list?

If any of you imaginary readers are in high school, here is my advice: Try to get good grades, participate in extra-curricular activities, and do community service, but be sure you are paying attention as you go and learning from all of that effort and experience. If you are merely marching through an exercise in rounding out a solid college application, you are missing the point.

As you make the transition to University, aim high but don't despair if you need to attend your 5th choice. It is true that you get out what you put in, so the quality of your education is in your own hands, regardless of the name on the old brick buildings. Also, it is equally important during college to grow up and to hone your life values as it is to master bio-chemistry (unless you are a pre-med student and then it is more important to master bio-chemistry).

Too many of the students I saw today were crestfallen by the thought that they had not performed well on their test. Their logic was that the poor performance meant that they would not be accepted to the top University of their choice and therefore would lead a failed life. This is not true and it is unfair of parents and teachers to let them believe this just because it is an effective tactic to motivate academic effort.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Gotta Love Phillies Fans

Sometimes we understand things at the gut level that we cannot describe rationally. This was the case when I wrote about Mets fans last year and, though I could not articulate why the particular predicament was apropos of a Met fan, the post reverberated across the imaginary readership of WWDS and excited the blogosphere.

Similarly, I don't know why this incident, a goofy fan runs on the field and gets knocked out by a rent-a-cop with a tazer gun, seems right for Philadelphia, but I am sure you will all agree that it is:

I know that one point does not a pattern make, and that two posts do not a series make, but keep your eye out for other stories that see seem intuitively befitting of a particular fan base and this might just become a staple of the blog.