Utilities failure

by WCE

Pacific Gas and Electric may declare bankruptcy over liability for California wildfires. Given that utilities are heavily regulated and limited to ~5% profitability by those regulators and that trimming trees and burying power lines are both expensive, I’m not sure that having some other company owning the pipelines and power lines in California will make much of a difference. Based on maintenance of school buildings and public housing, I suspect state or federal governments would do a worse job of funding routine maintenance if government owned utilities outright.

PG&E to file for bankruptcy following devastating California wildfires WaPo

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What motivates really rich people?

by WCE

I wouldn’t have chosen the title of this article, but the idea that wealthy people are driven more by competitiveness than desire for money was interesting. It makes me ponder taxing the incomes of people who are not dual professional couples paying off student loans more.

The Reason Many Ultrarich People Aren’t Satisfied With Their Wealth
At a certain point, another million dollars doesn’t make anything newly affordable. That’s when other motivations take over.

Leaving or staying in your hometown after college

by WCE

On going to college from the Blackfeet Indian Reservation:

The Blackfeet Brain Drain
Some Native kids who leave to pursue education find themselves stuck between a longing to help their community and the lack of viable employment back home.

We’ve talked about winning the geographic lottery at birth, which occurs when you are born/grow up somewhere with professional job opportunities. One of the reasons some people are reluctant to invest in higher education is that they don’t want to move and their communities have few jobs with returns to higher education.

When ideology trumps science

by WCE

This NY Times post on reading instruction reminds me of the disagreements my Mom had with her professors while she was getting a master’s in reading during the whole language movement. She had taught infantrymen who hadn’t learned to read in school during the Vietnam War, and she was a strong proponent of phonics instruction, which resulted in some poor grades in graduate school. Eighty percent of her students passed the GED, compared to 40% rates for comparable literacy teachers with the same soldier population, so she clearly did something right. That was true even when soldiers switched from a teacher with low pass rates to her class, so she didn’t cherrypick students.

What current ideologies do you think will change in 20-40 years time? Why is conformance to the reigning ideology so important in academia? (Industry is less rigid, IMHO, because we have to make money.)

Favorite Limericks

By WCE

Pelicans can hold up to three gallons of water in their bill, but only 1 gallon in their stomach, which is the equivalent of about 24 lbs in the bill to 8 lbs in the stomach. If the pelican catches more fish in its bill than it can fit in the stomach, then the excess is stored in its esophagus.

Dixon Lanier Merritt wrote this poem in 1910 about pelicans.

Oh, a wondrous bird is the pelican!

His bill holds more than his belican.

He can take in his beak

Enough food for a week.

But I’m darned if I know how the helican.

This made me smile. Do you have a favorite limerick or other memorable story or phrase that makes you smile?