Sunday, September 7, 2014

Convenient Narratives

Last month I wrote about an NPR podcast that outlined how the real cost of education is not rising all that dramatically. In inflation adjusted dollars, the amount may be going down slightly. This is not the narrative we hear when we turn on the television or radio. We hear about skyrocketing tuition and fees that the average American family simply cannot keep up with. The truth is trickier than that. But I suspect that we're more comfortable hearing news stories and statistics that confirm what we already think: confirmation bias at work.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Is College Really Getting More Expensive?

Thanks to my only real source of news, NPR podcasts, I learned that the cost that college students are paying for tuition isn't rising very fast at all. This story from Planet Money tells a very different narrative than the one I'd been hearing for years. So I was skeptical. But as the good folks at NPR make clear, the disparity makes sense. There are two costs being tracked: the sticker price, which is the cost that colleges list on their official websites, and the net price, the average price that students actually end up paying. So while the sticker price is increasing, most students do not pay the sticker price.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

I Am Miley Cyrus

A quick note: I offered to write about any subject whatsoever if someone could get my comments to show up again on other blogs. EcoCatLady came to the rescue with a tip on Akismet, which was great, but then she took me up on my offer to do an in-depth analysis of Miley Cyrus' cover of "Jolene", which was terrifying. I mean, it's cute to say you can write 800 words on an ironic subject. Then someone calls your bluff, and you have to stare into your computer monitor and face the hard the truth: you only have about 80 words in the hopper, and they are not even good words. But, a promise is a promise, so it's time to give it the old college try. Lord help us.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Why Aren't We Getting Better With Money?

Why Aren't We Getting Better With Money
Cry for help: a few months ago, I noticed a lot of my comments weren't showing up on my favorite blogs. Apparently, WordPress thinks I am a spam bot. (This likely says something about the quality of my comments.) So, if you think I've stopped reading and commenting on your blog, it's likely that my comments are getting caught in a spam filter. If someone can fix this for me, I will write a post (on my blog or yours) on any subject you want. Want an in-depth analysis on Miley Cyrus' cover of "Jolene"? You got it. Want me to wax poetic about "In Living Color" and the sad, slow death of live sketch comedy? No problem. Just help me fix my computer problems and I'll gladly whore out my writing. And...back to the post.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Trickle Down Consumption

Trickle Down Consumption
I was driving to a kickball game the other day, when I heard a cool story on Marketplace about those little white oval stickers with two big letters that people sometimes put on their bumpers. You know, "GB" for Great Britain, or "F" for France, stating the places the driver has visited, or where he's from. The stickers were created by the UN back in the 1940s, in Europe. There were so many drivers from other parts of the world that the United Nations created the stickers as an easy way to identify the country the driver was from. The reporter notes that, "in the US, they became a status symbol: EH for East Hampton, or AK for Nantucket. Secret codes that said the driver of this car lives or vacations in America's most elite resorts." These days, the stickers are a way to brag about the cool places you've been, or a flag you can send up as a beacon, hoping others from your home town might be living in this new place with you.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Penny Saved is More Than a Penny Earned

I like debating false dichotomies. Black and white is more interesting than fifty shades of grey, right? So I really enjoy reading posts on whether we should devote our energy towards earning more or reducing our expenses. Yes, of course, the right answer is "both," but that's boring. Plus, we only have a finite number of hours and an equally finite amount of willpower to aim at behavior change. As anyone who creates a laundry list of new goals in January can tell you, spreading yourself too thin just results in broad failure. Like Joe Saul Sehy says, narrowing your focus to a small set of financial goals is the (only) way to success. So, if you have to choose between earning more and saving more, which way do you go?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Betting on Yourself

Betting on Yourself
Like so many others, I am a secret fan of "American Ninja Warrior". This is not television that you admit liking to coworkers around the water cooler. As with romantic comedies, the catalog of Katy Perry, and anything from KFC, American Ninja Warrior ought to be enjoyed in private, behind closed doors with the curtains drawn, and then should never be spoken of again. Like a lot of television, the show is a copy of a copy: the original program is from Japan, but NBC has kept the general format. Fit people from across the US try to complete an impossible series of obstacle courses, failing spectacularly as they careen into padded walls and then splash awkwardly into the water below. Competitors hurl themselves across chasms to grab comically small hand-holds mid-flight, propel themselves over water via trampolines, and, no joke, must run up a curved fourteen foot high wall just to complete the qualifying round. In the show's history, no American has even made it to the fourth and final course, let alone completed it. I find it strangely motivating to watch. It is the only show that gets me off the couch to do push-ups and ab workouts during the commercials. With all these athletes attempting the impossible, I mysteriously get off my tuchus and onto the living room floor.