Thursday, January 21, 2016

Theory: Why Washington DC Comes to a Halt in the Snow

With a major storm approaching, I was thinking about the allegation by many people from Northern states that "DC comes to a grinding halt when there is only 1 inch of snow."

While it's not quite that bad, things definitely don't move as smoothly here as they do, say, in Minneapolis, Albany, or Buffalo during the Winter.

I have a theory why.

Blame the Foreigners.

Ok, that's a bit hyperbolic, but it's a combination of demographics and network theory.

Think about cities like Minneapolis, Buffalo, or Albany...what percentage of the population living there this year ALSO lived there last year?

I don't know, but it's probably pretty high.

Now, compare that percentage to a city like DC which has:

  • elected official turnover every 2 years, bringing in many new staffers
  • a large military presence (Pentagon, etc.) where transfers go in/out
  • a large international presence (World Bank, diplomats, etc.)
Now, factor in the high probability that many of these people come from places where they have little to NO snow at all. 

So, when people from Africa or most of Asia, or parts of Latin America or, even San Diego, come to DC and must drive in the snow, what do they do?

They naturally go VERY, VERY slowly. Extra cautious...which makes sense.

Now for the network theory portion of it.

Have you ever been on a highway and one person brakes sharply or turns to look at an accident?

It creates a domino effect that can backup/slow down traffic for miles.

Now, imagine you have all of these people from non-snow intensive areas on main roads. And they are going extra slowly because it's either new or somewhat new to them.

The ripple effect can be massive...

And that's one possible reason why DC during a snowstorm is particularly bad.

Now, 24 inch storms like the one we're supposed to get this weekend are a different thing entirely...

Stay warm!

Friday, January 08, 2016

Does College Prepare Students for the World Today?

Continuing with my efforts to call into question the structure of Higher Education as it stands today (not the need for it), I offer this post.

It argues that college doesn't prepare students for the job market.

For background: When will American higher education system fall apart?

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Chincoteague, Horses, the Ocean, and Harriet Tubman-- Winter 2015 Vacation

For our Winter vacation, we just took a short jaunt down to Chincoteague Island, most famous for its wild horses (they are really on Assateague) which were, supposedly, the survivors of a shipwrecked Spanish galleon.
We didn't see the wild horses, but we did get the Epsteins on horseback in a throwback to our heritage (my dad was born in Texas).
We also had a chance to experience the beach at a special time...when it's windy and a bit cold.  To me, the power of the ocean is always wonderful and the solitude of the wintertime affords time for great reflection and contemplation, perfect for this time of year.

We took advantage of the pool at the wonderful Hampton Inn (4 times!) and during our jaunt through the Eastern Shore of Maryland, we stopped at the Harriet Tubman Organization's HQ in Cambridge, MD--located miles from the plantation where she lived.

There was a great film for the kids and the exhibit about her life and the Underground Railroad-particularly for the small space-was very well done, reminding us and the kids of the horrors of the experience of African enslavement in the United States.

BTW...that's not the NFO in any picture, it is just someone who resembles her closely ;-)

Monday, January 04, 2016

Reinventing Education...My MOOC Experience

One of my New Year's Resolutions is to become a better team leader at work.

OK, so I got a head start by beginning a few months ago, but what can I say? I'm aggressive that way ;-)

So, I signed up for a course via Coursera (for free) taught by 2 University of Michigan,  Ross School of Business professors called "Leading Teams."

The course itself is very interesting and informative. The lectures are delivered in bite-size chunks and they creatively integrate the coach of the Men's basketball team. There are quizzes, video, external articles, and the discussion forum.

Much like a traditional classroom setting, the discussions are what you make of them. Participate and you get something out of it.

I'm about 50% of the way through the class, but the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) experience so far has been very valuable for me, with a ton of useful information.

But what it really has done for me is further convince me of the possibilities of how education will be reinvented (here's my most recent rant).

  1. I have access to some of the best business minds in the world...from my basement.
  2. I'm connected with a self-selecting group of learners who enrich it...from my phone.
  3. I'm learning.
Yes, you still need the face to face and opportunity to get exposed to other/new ideas...but I just have to believe there are going to be more cost-effective ways to do that than the traditional model.