The interviewer added, “Uh, I’m asking for a friend.”

Apparently, a NFL prospect revealed that a team asked him whether he would use a knife or a gun to kill someone as part of his interview. Personally, I want more weird questions like this one. It reminds me of the Browns asking a player what he’d do with a brick. There are so many possibilities; are these questions a weird experiment? Are they genuine? Are team officials trying to decide whether chain mail or Kevlar should be worn in a potential team riot? Perhaps if you’re a knife guy, you are gritty, but people with guns lack the heart to play in the NFL. Maybe we don’t want Plaxico Burress 2.0.

I do not discount the possibility that the interviewer either loves the Untouchables or wants a new innovation to a classic Australian past time .

My Personality Insights and Tone Analyzer

Based on Kevin’s experiment from a few days ago, I decided to try out the personality analyzer. I started with a section of the first chapter of my dissertation and got the following:

You are inner-directed, skeptical and can be perceived as insensitive.

You are philosophical: you are open to and intrigued by new ideas and love to explore them. You are calm under pressure: you handle unexpected events calmly and effectively. And you are calm-seeking: you prefer activities that are quiet, calm, and safe.

You are motivated to seek out experiences that provide a strong feeling of organization.

You are relatively unconcerned with taking pleasure in life: you prefer activities with a purpose greater than just personal enjoyment. You consider achieving success to guide a large part of what you do: you seek out opportunities to improve yourself and demonstrate that you are a capable person.

To be as accurate as possible, I did the same with a later section, and I got this:

You are shrewd, skeptical and tranquil.

You are adventurous: you are eager to experience new things. You are imaginative: you have a wild imagination. And you are independent: you have a strong desire to have time to yourself.

You are motivated to seek out experiences that provide a strong feeling of prestige.

You are relatively unconcerned with both tradition and taking pleasure in life. You care more about making your own path than following what others have done. And you prefer activities with a purpose greater than just personal enjoyment.

I think these are absolutely fair points to make: shrewd, skeptical, inner-directed, and tranquil fits me to a tee most days.

The later section got me these results on the tone analyzer:

2015-11-21 22_44_55-Tone Analyzer

Because of the nature of my dissertation (which involves military history), I get a pretty angry score.

I had fun testing both of them, and as Kevin noted, I can’t gripe too much about the results.

This might be the greatest thing ever

Just read this article and look at the charts. Find yourself asking questions like How robust is my smile? or Is happiness a good thing? or How do I decrease my neuroticism by .2% and thus be the least neurotic player on my team?

I really, really, want to take this test and figure out what my results are. I’m just not sure I’m qualified to judge my own skeptical smile. Is it skeptical enough? Is it too skeptical? I MUST KNOW.

So long, Adam Dunn

Fivethirtyeight has a nice write-up of Dunn’s career. Part of me wonders if Adam Dunn’s career — a pretty good one at times, 2011 excepted — is about as good as the Rob Deer/Russell Branyan type could expect. Dunn had some speed, too, earlier in his career with Cincinnati.

Looking at his statistics, I can’t help but marvel at somebody who was so terrible at making contact being so valuable a baseball player. Not to mention that he never had a positive dWAR in his entire career.

I wonder if, now that he’s retired, he’ll shed some light on why his career took a huge nose dive in 2011. Even the “rebound” he’s enjoyed in the past few years has hardly been earth shattering. 2012, though… how do you almost slug .500 when you’re hitting just above the Mendoza line?!

Adam Dunn will need to buy a ticket to get into the Hall of Fame, and I’m totally okay with that. I don’t want to fetishize batting average, but if your career average is .237, I’m not even sure if you make it into the Hall of Very Good. Maybe the Hall of Statistical Oddities?

100% of the people reading this post are reading this post (and other lies about statistics)

A friend recently shared an article about the Ice Bucket Challenge that claimed only 27% of the money raised is going towards research. Here’s the article. 

Here’s the headline: 

ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE: ALS FOUNDATION ADMITS LESS THAN 27% OF DONATIONS FUND RESEARCH & CURES

$95 Million Later: Only 27% Of Donations Actually Help ‘Research The Cure’

I was pretty angry. The tone of the article is really awful too, slamming the ALS foundation for these heinous crimes. Yet, there’s some additional facts tucked away in a pie chart that give the lie to the headline. 19% of the funds raised go to patient and community outreach; a viable use of funding, don’t you think? 32%, the largest chunk of the funding, goes to public education. How dare they spend the money trying to make people aware of the disease and its effects! That’s what Wikipedia and webMD are for! Oh, and the $95 million figure they quote isn’t what they actually break down in the chart either — it’s only the expenses for the year ending January 31, 2014.

Given that pie chart, in fact, 79% of the donations go directly to aiding sufferers of the disease or increasing awareness; that’s pretty good. The foundation is rated very highly by Charity Navigator too. 

The salary for the CEO is pretty insane — $300k+ is nuts for a non-profit. However, it’s only a tiny slice of the total pie, and not nearly as bad as scaremongers would have you believe. If we, in the United States, don’t want to use tax dollars to contribute to health care, funding of organizations like this one is a great way to contribute. 

Josh Gordon is better than an air traffic controller

I’m not surprised that Josh Gordon’s 1 year suspension was upheld. Here’s what I did find surprising, courtesy of Dawgs by Nature:

ESPN’s Outside the Lines first broke the story of the impending suspension on the second day of the NFL Draft back in early May.

 

Later report near the end of July revealed that Gordon had tested positive for marijuana, but that the level of THC metabolites were 16 nanograms per millimeter (barely over 16.01 parts per billion) in one of his samples and above the league’s absurdly low threshold of 15 ng/ml to consist of a “positive.”

 

That threshold is higher than any other major sport, including the very strict IOC, which stands at 175 ng/ml. Even air traffic controllers can have a level up to 50.

 

However, due to what effectively equates to a coin flip, the NFL’s standard testing procedure is to randomly select one of the two samples provided by the player. The first one is tested and if it comes up positive, above the threshold, the second sample is tested merely for the presence of the same banned substance, without regards to the threshold. If the first sample comes up negative, below the threshold, the second sample isn’t tested.

 

Gordon’s first 16 ng/ml sample sparked a test of his second sample. The second one came up 13.6 ng/ml. Based on this procedure, it confirmed what the league considers a “positive.” And the rest is history.

Well, it’s good to know he’ll be able to find a job directing air traffic while he’s suspended. A much less stressful job than catching footballs, apparently. 

Elon Musk: World’s greatest pro wrestler? Or greatest human being?

Sadly, he is not a pro wrestler. But he is the CEO of Tesla Motors, and he just did something so awesome that he may qualify for greatest human being in the world. Let’s set the brilliant title of his post aside for a moment. (Okay, giggle for a moment or two at the title.)

Tesla renouncing all of their patents is more than just whipping it out and laying it on the table. Well, okay, whipping out their patents and laying them on the the table is exactly what they did. It is, however, a gauntlet thrown down at the feet of every major motor vehicle manufacturing in the world. This is Tesla saying, to be bluntly, “our product is so awesome, that we will tell you how to make it, and you still won’t succeed.” It is also Tesla saying, “Yeah, we’re already super rich, but we think that better, safer, more reliable cars is good for everybody and good for the planet.”

Maybe you believe human caused global warming isn’t a thing. Maybe you think that fossil fuel dependency isn’t a big deal. I’m not judging you. I’m not sure either. However, let me share a story for a moment.

As long time readers know, I have been in St. Petersburg, Russia, for the past ten months. Russia has been in the news quite a bit in those ten months for violence both inside the country and outside. I’ve even had my wallet stolen. Yet the one time I felt most in danger was when I was in the car going from the airport to the hostel. Why? Because the air quality was so absolutely putrid (and I’m an asthmatic) that for a few moments here and there, I literally could not breathe.

That’s not good. While I’m generally a misanthrope, I would prefer that human beings not die for stupid reasons. I share DNA with them. So, auto companies: pick up the gauntlet. Mass produce the ever loving shit out of these fuckers. Bring the cost down to a level where the average citizen can afford one. You will make shit tons of money — humans like moving around. I’m pretty sure you like money. There is no downside.

Prontra Kevin: more on tuition costs

Yes, prontra is a portmanteau of pro and contra, as I am both in favor of and against some of Kevin’s propositions.

The subsidies I described are going to the universities, not to the students, in exchange for a reduction in tuition. More like agricultural subsidies in this sense. I think his cause #3 is responding to the system, not to me, but I wanted to emphasize that part of my solution.

For Kevin’s causes, 1 and 1a I obviously agree with. Item 2 I agree to with reservations. Item 3 makes sense, but again, reservations.

I like the free market as much as anyone else. Probably a bit less than Kevin, but much more than the average guy. I do not like the idea of kicking accreditation out of the process entirely because not all degrees are created equally. If you can get a medical degree anywhere, you get hordes of Dr. Nicks flooding the streets. Yes, hospitals wouldn’t hire them (but what if they were really, really cheap?), but clinics? Maybe they would. The process could use fine tuning, to be sure, but that doesn’t mean you throw the baby out with the bathwater. A private institution for accreditation could work, but I’d have to see more evidence before I’d agree to it.

The argument with subsidies I would buy entirely if the student was making the buying decision. In some cases, he is (this applies to Kevin and I), but in many cases, he is not. This feeds into your other points — parents think college = more $ (which is true, on the average), college = more educated people (which is… sort of true — throw enough knowledge at somebody and some of it is bound to stick), and that college = better people (complete bullshit). I don’t think the problem is that students are overvaluing certain degrees, but that parents are.

I like Kevin’s solutions, but I see them as long term decisions. The culture needs to change. This will not happen overnight. However, among Kevin’s continued references to elementary education majors (I’ll take a liberty here and say he is railing not against the institution, but the absurdly low requirements and ease of graduations) lies a problem. How many people, gainfully employed in this profession, who may have done so out of a desire to be blacked out for the better part of four years, are going to tell our next generation that they made a mistake? If we are employing teachers who do not want to teach but just need a paycheck (the Miss Hoovers), all we do is see the cycle repeat.

Fewer high school graduates means fewer college entrants. Agreed, and it’s a direct solution to the problem, and we all know people who graduated high school who had no business doing so. Yet, if they’re bombarded by media that tells them blue collar work is worthless, regardless of pay, parents will scream and holler that their child’s future is being destroyed when those evil teachers flunk the little moron. So, before we make high school harder, the culture needs to change first.

So, set changing the culture aside as a long term ideal solution, but one we can’t fix right now. I’ve already talked about accreditation and subsidies. My solutions, as presented earlier, were focused on reducing debt burdens to students, but Kevin’s right that we absolutely need to address the roots of the cost. As Kevin correctly pointed out, the problem is one of demand. I’ll give you a concrete example. The largest university in the Russian Federation, Moscow State University, has about 40,000 students — and about 22,000 are undergraduates. (Note: the English version of the site incorrectly claims there are 7000 undergraduates; this is a typo.) The rest are graduate students or students pursuing “refresher courses,” or short term learning. The number of graduate students in Russia is slightly inflated because they have two doctorates, as in the British system: the second doctorate is roughly the equivalent of tenure in the United States. There are a couple of other universities with about that level of enrollment — St. Petersburg State is close, with around 35,000 students — but most tend to be quite small.

Compare this with the US. Kevin and I went to a university of around 10,000 students. About 80% are undergraduates, but again, consider the inflation rate of Russian graduate students. We also have to consider that the US has roughly double the population of Russia. Still, contrast this to the largest universities in the US. There are multiple universities with more undergraduates — just undergraduates — than Moscow State has students.

So, the best way to cut costs, as Kevin suggested, is to cut demand. As we can see, there is a lot of demand. How can we do this effectively and realistically?

1) Make it harder to get into college. The United States is the only country I know of that does not have entrance exams to pass to get into a university. Even a private university like the University of Dayton only required an application, an application fee, my scores from high school, and an essay. The ACT and SAT are not entrance exams and have their own problems: I’m talking about mandated exams to get into a university, determined by that university and the department they’re applying for. This should replace the entire entry system as it exists now. You pass the exam, you’re in. You don’t, try again next year. No other criteria for entry, apart from a high school diploma.

2) Force students to choose a major. The longer you go without a major in a university, the worse off you are. I can buy using year one to figure out what you want to do — I’d even argue for a relatively standardized sample of courses freshman year — but after that, you need to decide. No open option bullshit that lasts until the junior or even senior year. Changing the major is fine — go nuts — but pick one and stick with it.

3) Eliminate generic majors. This includes “General Studies” and “Liberal Arts.” Interdisciplinary is fine, but generic is not.

4) Promote associate’s degrees. This is a good compromise for making getting into college harder. An associate’s degree for a specific skill is a much better solution than a bachelor’s degree in “general studies.”

All of these, I think, would reduce demand in the short term, and if we work to change the culture too, we end up with a better education system at more affordable rates, which leads to a better America. Fuck yeah.