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from the gut
Shane on October 23rd, 2009

Fantastic piece by Charles Kenny on Foreign Policy on the effect of television on modernization. TV has become such an integral part of our culture in the US, but as television penetrates globally, we are seeing dramatic social consequences. Many of them good consequences.

A couple of these changes that jumped out at me.

Exposing (or Complicating) Corruption

Consider the bribes that Peruvian secret-police chief Vladimiro Montesinos had to pay to subvert competitive newsmaking during the 1990s. It cost only $300,000 per month for Montesinos to bribe most of the congressmen in Peru’s government, and about $250,000 a month to bribe the judges — a real bargain. But Montesinos had to spend about $3 million a month to subvert six of the seven available television channels to ensure friendly coverage for the government. The good news here is that competition in the electronic Fourth Estate can apparently make it more expensive to run a country corruptly.

Women’s Equality and Education

The soaps in Brazil and India provided images of women who were empowered to make decisions affecting not only childbirth, but a range of household activities. The introduction of cable or satellite services in a village, Jensen and Oster found, goes along with higher girls’ school enrollment rates and increased female autonomy. Within two years of getting cable or satellite, between 45 and 70 percent of the difference between urban and rural areas on these measures disappears.

Youth Truancy

Kids who watch TV out of school, according to a World Bank survey of young people in the shantytowns of Fortaleza in Brazil, are considerably less likely to consume drugs (or, for that matter, get pregnant). TV’s power to reduce youth drug use was two times larger than having a comparatively well-educated mother.

Youth Education

Today, more than 700,000 secondary-school students in remote Mexican villages watch the Telesecundaria program of televised classes. Although students enter the program with below-average test scores in mathematics and language, by graduation they have caught up in math and halved the language-score deficit.

Intercultural Empathy

In the United States, an additional minute of nightly news coverage of the Asian tsunami increased online donation levels to charities involved in relief efforts by 13 percent, according to research from the William Davidson Institute. And analysis of U.S. public opinion indicates that more coverage of a country on evening news shows is related to increased sympathy and support for that country.

[Source: Revolution in a Box]

Shane on October 21st, 2009

Interesting study in the Scientific American today on mind matters.

In a series of experiments, they showed that if students make an unsuccessful attempt to retrieve information before receiving an answer, they remember the information better than in a control condition in which they simply study the information.

The authors of the “Dummies Guide” and “For Dummies” books have had this going for years. They start every chapter with a series of questions. In essence forcing the reader to prime their minds and improve retention.

The author mentions that next time you want to search for an answer online, take a guess first and then compare it with your online result. You learn more, even if you get it wrong.

Getting It Wrong: Surprising Tips on How to Learn

Shane on October 19th, 2009

I’d never heard of Louis CK before I saw this clip. Apparently he used to write for Conan O’Brien back in the glory days. I’m not too crazy about a lot of his other humor, but this is funny.

Funny because it’s true.

Shane on January 13th, 2009

Jonathan from MyMoneyBlog discusses the question of full-retirement or semi-retirement by asking the question:

Which would you rather do:
A) Work 40 hours/week for 15 years, and then not work at all for the next 15 years, or
B) Work 20 hours/week for 30 years?


Last Sunday, I had a similar conversation with a guy as we discussed the idea of Free Agency. What if a side business could sustain you enough to open doors and not tie you to one higher-paying job that might require travel, a long commute, more stress, etc.

Daniel Pink lays out a compelling case in Free Agent Nation for cobbling together small part-time gigs instead of working for one employer for 40+ hours per week. This pattern allows you the option of “e-tirement”, where you can pick and choose opportunities and simply cut back when you’re ready. Just the thought of saying “no” to more work can be liberating.

There are complications, of course, Jonathan raises a big one, how do you pay for your own health care in your later years. But it’s a wonderful and timely thought in this job market, what would my career look like if I weren’t depending on my regular job?

Shane on January 11th, 2009

One of the books I have on-call at the library is Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. The books explores the myth of the “self-made man”, asserting instead that “they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot.”

Charlie Rose interviewed Malcolm Gladwell recently. He has a great quote at 26:00 into the interview.

Gladwell: Meaningful work is one of the most important things we can impart to children. Meaningful work is work that is autonomous. Work that is complex, that occupies your mind. And work where there is a relationship between effort and reward — for everything you put in, you get something out…

If you are convinced that the work you are doing is meaningful, then curiosity, there’s no cost to it. If you think there’s always got to be a connection between what you put in and what you get out, then of course you’ll run off with a great excitement after an idea that catches your idea.

Rose: People often ask me to define leadership and I say to them what you just said all the time. You have to communicate what the mission is all the time — and how meaningful someone’s contribution is to the mission.

Shane on January 3rd, 2009

There are some people that you can meet just once and they make an impression on you. Dr. W. Scott Nobles or “Dr. Nobles” and was reverently referred to, was such a person. A great man. A great mind.

Shane on December 11th, 2008

Achieving emptiness with “Bit Literacy” – (37signals)

Maintaining a healthy media diet requires vigilance about what you’re consuming. Thus it’s important to constantly ask the question, “Is this worth my time?” at every level: the source (“Is this source worth my time?”), a particular issue of the source, an article, even down to the paragraph or section of an article you’re in. If the answer is “no” to any of these, skip it. Move to the next article, or trash the entire issue; and if it happens too often with one source, consider removing it from the lineup altogether.

Quit your job!

Small steps towards those simple dreams are more rewarding in the long run than jumping the rungs on the corporate ladder any day. In my opinion, a VC is just a creditor, and should never be what you dream of obtaining one day. … Profitable small businesses exist in every city, owned by people who love what they do.

Create Your Own Free Virtual Assistant

Let’s say you’re on your mobile phone and a colleague tells you about a meeting you have to attend tomorrow at 3pm. You’re walking quickly and don’t want to slow down, so you call Jott’s toll-free number and have this conversation: …

Ode to the Bean

I’ve become convinced lately that the most cost-efficient food in our kitchen is beans, and it’s a food that people often overlook. Beans are loaded with protein and are quite flavorful, particularly as a substitute for meats in a vegetarian diet.