Why Do (Some) Smart Kids Fail?

29 Mar 2014 /
Bored of Education

A woman is telling me about her two sons . . . they’ve grown up to be fine young men, she says. It’s disappointing, of course, that neither of them managed to finish high school but it was really unavoidable because the older boy was much smarter than his peers and so he was always bored and academically unengaged and finally dropped out completely, and the younger boy just imitated whatever the older boy did.

I’ve heard this type of woulda-coulda-shoulda before and I have to admit I’ve never been totally receptive to it: this happened . . . then that happened . . . the kid did such-and-such . . .

It sounds very passive. Parents aren’t supposed to be passive observers. There are intervention points every day. If things aren’t going in the right direction, you do something to take them in a different direction.

Look in any classroom in America . . . you’ll see kids with a range of abilities. Are you telling me that all of the smartest kids are destined to fail because they’re smart? That because they’re smart, they have no option but to get bored and check out and fail?

Lots of smart kids do very well in school . . . they get good grades and test scores and they go to good colleges. What is the difference between those kids and the kids who get bored and check out and fail?

Think about it . . .


The Surprising Benefits of Nonconformity

28 Mar 2014 /

New research finds that under certain circumstances, people wearing unconventional attire are perceived as having higher status and greater competence.


Expanding My Repertoire

22 Mar 2014 /
The only known photograph of Frédéric...

The only known photograph of Frédéric Chopin, often incorrectly described as a daguerreotype (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My piano teacher asks me if there are any pieces I want to learn . . .

“How about . . . ?” and here I name a piece by Chopin.

“This one?” she asks and starts to play it.

“Yeah.”

“It’s hard.”

“Well, it sounds quite impressive but I think if you break it down it’s just arpeggios and thirds.”

“No, it’s not just thirds,” she says and starts to play it again to show me. “And that’s with the left hand. Do you think you can play that with your left hand?”

“My left hand’s not very good.”

“I know.”

“So that one is too hard.”

“Yes.”

“OK, how about . . . ?” and here I name another piece by Chopin.

“That’s the only piece that’s harder than the first one.”

“How about this?” I ask, and play a YouTube video on my phone.

“What is that?”

“It’s from a film called The Piano.”

“Is that New Age music? It’s not classical music.”

“Is that bad?”

“IT’S TOO EASY! YOU COULD SIGHT-READ IT!”


Forget About Female Leadership

22 Mar 2014 /

Everyone can shut up about “let’s get more women into leadership positions.” Because they don’t want leadership positions. Or they’d get them. Obviously. Women want to have time for their kids. And leaders – especially top-down leaders – dedicate their lives to their work. There won’t be female leadership and male leadership. There will be people who lead at home and people who lead at work. People will take ownership of outcomes for the areas of life they care most about.


Childish Economics

22 Mar 2014 /

I have a very difficult time imagining the economic ‘theory’ that motivates proposals such as this one by Pres. Obama [to "streamline" the Fair Labor Standards Act so that more white-collar employees would be eligible for overtime pay]. The best that I can do is to imagine how a two-year-old child would respond if asked to propose a way to raise workers incomes.


I Am the Bath Day Messenger

22 Mar 2014 /
Lightning and his Bear

Lightning and his Bear

My wife is preparing to give the dog a bath in the kitchen sink . . .

I say, “Lightning says be sure to warm up the water before you start spraying him with it.”

“I always do that.”

“He says that in his experience, the water is sometimes too cold . . . I’m just telling you what he said. Don’t shoot the messenger.”

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20 Mar 2014 /

Death Row Headlines We’d Like to See

19 Mar 2014 /

I saw this headline on MSN News this morning:

Texas Set to Execute Aspiring Rapper

Here’s an undated photo of the musical murderer:

Ray Jasper

Ray Jasper

The fact that he was an aspiring rapper seems comically irrelevant to the fact that he was convicted of slitting a man’s throat — which didn’t kill him — and then stabbing him — which did.

Some future Death Row headlines we might expect to see from MSN:

  • Texas Set to Execute Aspiring Comic with 37 Twitter Followers
  • Texas Set to Execute Amateur Banjo Player
  • Texas Set to Execute Man With Irritating Laugh

EppsNet at the Movies: City Lights

19 Mar 2014 /

City Lights

Could there be a more perfect ending to a film? I’m a sap for a great ending, so I don’t even care that there were maybe a couple of moments where I caught myself thinking “This bit hasn’t really held up well over time.”

Rating: 5 stars

City Lights

The Tramp struggles to help a blind flower girl he has fallen in love with.

Director: Charles Chaplin
Cast: Charles Chaplin (as Charlie Chaplin) A Tramp, Virginia Cherrill A Blind Girl, Florence Lee Her Grandmother, Florence Lee The Blind Girl’s Grandmother

IMDb rating: 8.6 (71,314 votes)


The kind of man who demands that government enforce his ideas is always the kind whose ideas are idiotic. — H. L. Mencken


How to Answer Stupid Job Interview Questions

15 Mar 2014 /

Via Liz Ryan


The Best Advice I Got This Week

15 Mar 2014 /

Horowitz quote

I was watching a Paul Barton YouTube video about piano practice . . . he said that when someone asked Horowitz how he’s able to play so many difficult pieces, Horowitz replied, “You just got to really want to.”

That seems like excellent advice. It’s short, just a few words . . . you can remember it without even trying to. And I think it could be applied to almost any endeavor.

Imagine someone listening to Horowitz and thinking, “Wow, that’s great! I’d give anything to be able to play like that!”

But he wouldn’t really give anything. He wants to play like Horowitz but he doesn’t really want to play like Horowitz. He doesn’t want to practice 20 hours a day and give up everything else in his life.

In any endeavor, reaching a goal often requires more than someone is willing to give . . . not more than they are able to give but more than they are willing to give.


Disappearing Planes: Another Reason I Prefer to Just Stay Home

12 Mar 2014 /

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has left investigators, aviation experts and the authorities in several countries at a loss to explain what happened. . . .

From an observer’s point of view, air travel is a magic trick: you disappear from one place and you reappear somewhere else . . . unless the trick doesn’t work and you never reappear anywhere ever again . . .


A Mega Millions Lottery Ticket is a Good Investment

12 Mar 2014 /

Mega Millions uses 75 numbers for the first five selections and 15 numbers for the Mega ball.

The number of unique combinations of five numbers selected from a pool of 75 is

\frac{75!}{5!(75-5)!} = 17,259,390

Multiply that times 15 possibilities for the Mega ball and the odds of winning come out to 1 in 258,890,850.

BUT THE CURRENT MEGA MILLIONS JACKPOT IS OVER $350 MILLION!

Any time you can get 350 million to one odds on a 258 million to one bet, you’ve got to take it.


Rickie Lee Jones – Sympathy for the Devil (Live)

11 Mar 2014 /

Rickie Lee Jones “Wild Girl” Live

10 Mar 2014 /

Income Inequality Explained

10 Mar 2014 /

Via NPR:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/02/14/277058739/1-in-4-americans-think-the-sun-goes-around-the-earth-survey-says


The Secret to Playing Difficult Piano Pieces

9 Mar 2014 /

Horowitz quote


Risk = Cumulative Cost – Cumulative Value

9 Mar 2014 /

Henrik Kniberg has a presentation online called “What is Agile?” It includes a method of visualizing risk as the gap between cumulative cost and cumulative value, as well as methods of visualizing risk mitigation strategies.

I found it valuable. Here are some representative slides:

Big Bang = Big Risk

Agile = Iterative + Incremental

Improving the Value Curve


Geoff Edwards, 1931-2014

6 Mar 2014 /

Geoff Edwards

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Geoff Edwards, the hip-looking 1970s and ’80s host of TV game shows including “Jackpot!” and two incarnations of “Treasure Hunt” died Wednesday, his agent said. He was 83.

“Geoff was one of the cleverest, funniest radio and television personalities I’ve worked with,” said fellow game show host Wink Martindale. The two were DJs at pop radio station KMPC in Los Angeles.

Shocking, shocking news . . . Wink Martindale is still alive?!

RIP Geoff Edwards


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