Showing posts from March, 2013

Student Loans Are Diving Underwater

The student loan market has a lot of factors that seem to say "Stay the heck away!": they're relatively easy to qualify for, college costs have increased far more rapidly than general consumer prices, we now seem to feel that EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE A COLLEGE EDUCATION. ELEVENTY!!!, and most importantly, the job outlook for many (most?) college grads is to put it mildly, pathetic.   This graph from the Washington Post piece points out some evidence that we might be seeing the beginning of the next "bubble pop".  Although they're a fairly small part of the overall consumer loan market, student loans are more likely to be 90+ days past due than any other loan class.  And the percentage is growing pretty rapidly.    Luckily, the Unknown Daughter gets free tuition at Unknown University.   We still have a half-dozen years until we have to shell out for college, but it'll take a lot to justify her going somewhere other than to my (fairly low-cost) school. 

But I'm Not Dead

It's been almost a year since I last posted.  And a lot has happened at Unknown University since then.   I'm waiting to hear from the University P&T Committee and the Provost on my tenure case (I've made it past all the other hurdles - department, college peers, college P&T committee, and dean).  So I've been keeping a low profile since then regarding the blogosphere and trying to get stuff done. Since the last post, the Unknown Baby Boy (a.k.a. KnuckleHead) has turned 4.  He is a lunatic, and a great deal of fun (despite the occasional head butt to the package).   The Unknown Daughter (a.k.a. Future Ruler of the Universe) is finishing up 6th grade.  She's planning on going to a 1-week computer camp to learn HTML this summer, so the blog might actually end up looking good.  On the down side, she just let slip that she's sweet on a young man, so it starts.  Looks like I'll have to buy a large knife to sharpen with e demented grin when he comes a-calli


In my previous blog entry, I responded to a student from Florida who wrote in about the potentially devastating results of a bad first test.    As often happens with me, I have spent a lot of time since then thinking about how I could better prevent my own students from being trapped by the results of that first test.    I do not want my students to come to accept that they are just C or D students and have no possible way to improve.    I too often hear “well, I made a low C on that first test; I guess I’m destined to do poorly in this class.”    That’s nonsense.    I want them to fight back.    One test grade is just one test grade.    But, we are all human and much of our self-image is based on what happens to us right now.   A lot of success in life comes from having confidence and a bad first test grade can kill anyone’s confidence.    How do you avoid ruining a student’s confidence as a result of a bad first test? I am giving my second test next week so I sent out the email b

The JP Morgan ‘hedging’ fiasco

Ina Drew - Senate Hearing (Source: CNNMoney) “The strategy was flawed, complex, poorly executed, and poorly monitored.” – Jamie Dimon on the scheme that cost the firm over $6.2 billion last year. Right before a series of hearings related to the failed hedging portfolio, the Senate released a 300-page report two days ago that revisited significant missteps in the risk-management process at JP Morgan that led to catastrophic losses in the first half of last year, as well as casting a dark shadow over former Chief Investment Officer Ina Drew. The heavy losses sustained by JP Morgan where from a complex derivatives portfolio that was build to hedge against credit risk in the Firm’s Chief Investment Office (CIO) and “in its capacity as a lender.” [1] The Senate report claims that JP Morgan failed miserably in heeding repeated warnings from its internal risk controls (more than 330 of them throughout the first four months of 2012), misled investors in a conference call in April 13 of


T oday, Samsung unveiled its newest smartphone, the Galaxy S 4, right here in New York’s Radio City Music Hall. The Samsung S 4 is the latest smartphone to be previewed and has yet to come out into retail, with a release date set sometime in late April. The phone is the work of new technology, new logistics and a sleeker design. The S 4 has a 5 inch screen and is .31 inches thin. It   runs on a faster chip and has a 13-megapixel camera that allows rear and front cameras to take simultaneous photos and videos. The phone will connect to next-generation LTE networks and has capability to connect to higher speed Wi-Fi networks. New software features includes   a function that lets users control the smartphone screen with their eyes. Users can also wave their hands to scroll up and down a Web page or accept a call, or hover their fingers to preview the content of any media without having to open it. The phone also includes temperature and humidity sensors, as well as one designed to automa

New Pope for a New World

Today, the Catholic Church made the decision to modernize and recognize the changing realities of the world. By electing Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis I, as head of the church, the cardinals have shown that they understand the prevalence of the developing world and the need for changes in the papal order. In addition, the support for Pope Francis was magnified by the swiftness of the decision, coming after only 2 days in the fifth round of voting in what was thought to be one of the most wide open papal races in recent memory. The selection of Pope Francis is a crucial one for the church as it moves forward because it gives new hope to members worldwide by thinking outside the box and selecting not only the first Jesuit pope, but also the first from Latin America. Through his name selection alone, Pope Francis showed that changes would be coming to the Church. By taking the name of St. Francis of Assisi, a man who gave up his wealth and worldly lifestyle in service of the church, P

American Auto Sales Rise

            The sale of automobiles has been one of the most consistently reassuring economic indicators during the past few years, as automobile sales in the United States has steadily increased from their 2009 bottom. Although car purchases rose by 3.7% in February, they did move at a slower pace relative to last year. This fact reflects the notion that the possibility of job cuts and tax hikes amid budget debates in Washington have somewhat slowed consumer confidence regarding their job security, and, in turn, their disposable income. However, Ford’s U.S. sales chief came out and stated that the strength of this industry, determined by low interest rates and pent-up demand, have the potential to weather any storm that may arise from the sequester recently implemented. Many buyers have, therefore, been gradually returning to the market in order to purchase new vehicles. Most American auto manufacturers saw sales surge, whereas many foreign car companies saw their sales in the U.S. de


I think college education would improve rather quickly if students would start asking more questions about the process. For most of them, it is their one and only shot at a college education. What they learn and then know for the rest of their lives is dependent on how well that process works. It is not something that they should take lightly. The efficiency of the process might be important to the teacher but it is essential to the lives of the students. Personally, I believe transparency is a good idea. Plus, what a teacher does should be able to withstand a little scrutiny from the students that are involved. If I cannot explain why I am doing something, I probably need to rethink it. However, we tend to train our young people to be very obedient – to do what their elders tell them to do without asking any questions. I have often speculated that I could walk into a college class and start giving nonsense assignments about Martians and the North Pole and most students

Swiss Shareholders Gain Control of Executive Pay

On Sunday, 68% voted in favor of giving binding control over executive pay to Swiss shareholders. This would allow shareholders to vote on the compensation given to board members and corporate executives for any company listed in Switzerland. The initiative would also pose limitations to signing bonuses, severance packages, side contracts, and rewards for buying or selling companies.                    Discontent over exorbitant executive salaries has been growing. Last month, public outcry prevented pharmaceutical company Novartis from giving its chairman $76 million for an exit package. Outrage over UBS’ hefty losses in 2008 along with its large bonuses also contributed to the plan, which was spearheaded by Thomas Minder, the head of a Swiss company Schaffhausen. Minder’s stated that his goal was not to reduce salaries, but wanted shareholders to take responsibility for remuneration. It is unclear when the plan will actually be implemented.