Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Adventures in Philadelphia

Twas my good fortune to join with the Ben Franklin Thinking Society the other morning, just two blocks from my hotel (Club Quarters). The topic was education reform, and we came from many walks of life.

One of our number was a psychiatrist who'd worked with some of the roughest kids, like that boy who'd witnessed a murder, heard gun shots at night, and slept with a knife under his pillow while shivering with fear. He forgot to take it out of his day pack, and when school authorities found it, expulsion was the only bureaucratically mandated solution. Yet this kid was a victim, not some perpetrator / bully. This scenario gets repeated endlessly.

To me, that analysis seemed highly nationalistic at first, with pronouns to suit. I heard a lot of "we" and "them", though when I pointed this out, many were quick to signal their allegiance to homo sapiens in general.

Chris Fearnley and I then meandered on through the Drexel University campus (from where the Math Forum is hosted) to a coffee shop, to continue our somewhat random discussion. Neither one of us had proper rain gear, and so made our way back by jumping from one overhang or doorway to another. Back at my hotel, we talked about global data and Hans Rosling. Coincidentally, the guy was on CNN just a few hours later, on Fareed Zakaria's show.

Drexel Dragon

My airplane trip back was the next day. I took SEPTA from Suburban Station (in the heart of downtown), direct to the airport. I enjoy flying Southwest. No seating by class, just first come first serve (in terms of when your boarding pass was printed). At lunch today, Stockton seemed to know a lot about their management philosophy.

Both directions, I read the O'Reilly book Statistics in a Nutshell. What's interesting to me is the examples that get chosen. Nothing too controversial. The usual stuff about "IQ". Yes, cigs cause lung cancer, and legal drugs lead to problems or maybe it's the other way around, or was it illegal drugs?

How many people think we should put the coke back in Coke (in small amounts)? It'd probably have to be a bar brand. Speaking of which, I sipped alcohol (Dewer's) on the first leg for $5 (Philly to Denver), then stuck to ginger ale and water on the final hop to Rose City. I was so immersed in a book on Git, the version control system, that I missed my Hollywood stop, had to back track from Lloyd Center.

Tara managed well in my absence. Our house guest, LW, a free schooler and beneficiary of our Quaker family scholarship, is continuing to work hard on her music, has really mastered R2 (her drum machine). Why are USB to MIDI cables so expensive and hard to find in this neighborhood?