Bulgaria: Alien Mecca

Roswell’s Area 51 scientists are eating humble pie this week. It has come to light that the Bulgarian Space Research Institute has established contact with aliens.

It figures. All those billions we spent on NASA, and the Russian’s on their space program. Even the Japanese, Indian, and most recently Chinese have ventured craft into orbit. And the ungrateful turds make contact in Bulgaria. Damn their space-borne hankering for a good schnitzel!

Lachezar Filipov, deputy director of the institute said:

“Aliens are currently all around us and are watching us all the time. They are not hostile towards us, rather, they want to help us but we have not grown enough in order to establish direct contact with them”

In other words, they are just big intergalactic teases.

Presumably, Roswell shot back:

“Uh uh!!!” and… “Your mother wears pointy ears!”

All Girl Tech

A couple days ago the local paper ran an editorial embracing a new program at the suburban Fairport school district allowing girls to opt to take tech classes in an all girl environment. The premise is that girls have a different learning style. But the motivation is that girls are underrepresented in tech classes.

I don’t disagree that in broad brush girls may have different learning styles. Yet I think we could also find other demographic slices or groups of individuals that would benefit from different learning styles on different topics. The schools would certainly be unable to accommodate offering all subjects in all learning styles. Classes are taught somewhere down the middle, and students at the edges have to cope. The reason for this exception is only that there are not enough girls opting for tech.

But are we fixing a problem that actually exists? Are girls turned off of or away from tech by “boy oriented” learning styles or are there other reasons girls don’t flock to tech careers? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying girls shouldn’t be in tech careers, and I know many who are quite skilled in the art. But I know many more who would rather slit their wrists than spend their days tweaking machines. It just may be the nature of the work rather than the style of learning the subject matter that causes girls to gravitate to other careers.

I’m reminded of a time when my son was just under two. We were headed to a friends’ home whose daughter was just his age. She was all excited that she would get to play with my son. He was all excited because he would get to plays with her toys. I don’t think it was that the evening didn’t cater to their individual learning styles. Rather, their brains were wired differently. Their desires, their motivations were different.

I desperately want people of any gender to gravitate to tech careers. I do think that many potentially talented people turn away from the field for a variety of reasons that might be correctable. But I think the notion that somehow the field (or any field) should be populated with proportionate numbers of boys and girls, whites and blacks, Protestants and Catholics, or any other groups is misguided.

The Sequel I Really Want to See

Kim is annoyingly correct in that I haven’t given the Twilight series a fair shake. I’ve not read the books, I’ve not seen the movies, and I cop an attitude about the whole she-bang just based on its teen-girl appeal. Any movie that attracts throngs of swooning teeny-boppers (and their moms) just somehow doesn’t seem to fit in a genre with the likes of Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr. I like movies with all manner of creatures. I’ve enjoyed countless vampire and werewolf flicks. But it seems vampire flicks should somehow qualify as horror movies like Dracula, or at least action-adventures like Van Helsing. They should simply not be found in the store next to the Miley Cyrus DVDs.

To that end, I share a photo from a would-be Twilight sequel I probably would pay to see:

Is Worse Better?

As the struggle to reform healthcare goes on, it’s becoming increasingly clear that we aren’t going to get what we really need out of any legislation that could actually clear Congress. Don’t get me wrong, I like the provisions to get more people insured, prevent you being dropped for pre-existing conditions, and other attempts to make healthcare in this country a bit more humane. However, it doesn’t look like there’s even a small remaining hope of getting anything into the reform bill that will actually reduce the cost of health insurance.

The public option, while hotly debated, isn’t providing competition for any existing insurance customers. And any attempts to regulate the existing industry or remove monopolistic practices are pretty much dead on arrival. Robert Bixby, the executive director of the Concord Coalition, a bipartisan group of budget watchdogs said of the bill, “As of now, it’s basically a big entitlement expansion, plus tax increases.”

As a practical matter, the health lobby is never going to allow the Congressmen they’ve paid good money for to vote for anything that will cut into their profits. And so far, the public isn’t united enough around any particular reform policy, or even the need for reform at all, to exact their will on Congress at the polls in 2010. This leaves us with two options: leave the system as it is, or accept “reform” that pads the pockets of the companies that are already the heart of the problem.

If we can agree on one thing, it is that the current system is broken. To not do something when we are this close would be devastating to future attempts. Further, we’d be right back here next time. But passing reform without cost containment of some form seems ultimately destructive. Minimally, it would be used as a weapon by those who opposed reform to say, “I told you so.”

Yet there might be a constructive aspect of expensive reform. Perhaps things need to get worse for people to unite against the current non-competitive expensive employer based system. The only thing that will break the stranglehold the industry and their lobby has over our government is a people’s revolt that is at least somewhat unidirectional. And that kind of focus will only be achieved through some shared pain. In part, I think we are not in agreement on a cure for healthcare because it doesn’t hurt enough yet.