Thursday, February 26, 2015

On a retirement theme this week...

New York is the worst, followed by West Virginia. From

10 worst states for retirement
This is probably not a surprise for anyone who lives (and pays taxes) in New York City. The Big Apple is home to nearly half of the state's residents, and the city's high taxes and cost of living has pushed the entire state into the very bottom of Bankrate's ranking of worst states for retirees. 
It takes a lot of infrastructure to cram 8.4 million people into New York's five boroughs. Residents help pay for the extensive subway system, police force, parks staff and other services with a tax rate that's second to none. 
"Higher spending is the biggest driver" for New York's 12.6 percent tax rate, says Elizabeth Malm, an economist at the Tax Foundation.
Besides the hefty tax bill, residents also deal with the fourth-highest cost of living in the country. The government also gives New York relatively low scores for health care quality, and New York received low scores in the Gallup-Healthways' wellness survey. 
The weather also can be pretty rough, with frigid winters and the potential for hurricanes later in the year.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Your working retirement plan

A lot of these are college towns.  From Forbes.

25 Best Places For A Working Retirement
Knoxville, Tennessee
The scenic Smokey Mountains adorn a pretty economic scene. Elements include a 6.6% unemployment rate, cost of living a tenth below the national norm, and median homes for $144,000. There are a lot of doctors, too. One downside: the highest crime rate on this list.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Is there anything you can't do?  More on the benefits of java from Time.

This Drink Could Protect You From Skin Cancer
The sun is the biggest culprit in causing skin cancer, but there’s a beverage that may thwart some of the tumor-causing effects of ultraviolet rays. 
You may grab a cup (or two) of coffee every morning to help you wake up and face the day, but you may also be doing your skin a favor. Researchers in a new paper released January 20 say that coffee can protect against melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Help for when you call in sick

You may get more sympathy if you can toss these terms around.  You're welcome.  From The Week.

Your doctor just broke the news to you: you have a bad case of rhinorrhea. Not only that, you've a touch of oscitancy and a bit of sudation, too. 
Prognosis? You have a runny nose, you're yawning, and you're sweaty. All of which adds up to, while not exactly a pretty picture, nothing too serious. 
Here are 10 more conditions that sound more serious than they actually are. 
"Wind is like the human breath, rain like secretions, and thunder like borborygmus." 
Ch'ung Wang, Lun-hêng: Philosophical essays of Wang Chʻung, 1907 
Borborygmus is the sound of a rumbling tummy caused by gas. The word comes from the Greek borboryzein, "to have a rumbling in the bowels," and is imitative in origin.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Java jive

Coffee.  Does a body good. From Salon.

Coffee and tea may protect the brain
Coffee and tea may do more than just jolt you awake—they could also help keep your brain healthy, according to a slew of recent studies. Researchers have linked these beverages with protection from depression, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. 
One large study investigated the link between depression and the intake of coffee, tea and sweet drinks [see box below]by following more than a quarter of a million older adults for 10 years. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health recorded consumption of each type of beverage in 1995 and 1996 and then compared those figures with participants’ self-reported diagnoses of depression after 2000. Results showed that coffee intake was associated with a slightly lower risk for depression, according to a paper published last April in PLOS ONE. The paper found little effect from tea, but other work has shown tea to be protective.

Monday, February 16, 2015

With friends like these...

So all I have to do is convince my friends I'm conscientious, and I'll live longer?  I guess that's not exactly how it works.  From The Week.

Your friends sort of know when you'll die
Your friends know you better than you know yourself. They even know how long you've got to live. Well, roughly speaking they do. 
It's not that they've got extrasensory perception, time machines, or membership in the secret conspiracy that surrounds you. It's just that psychological traits like conscientiousness and emotional stability are decent predictors of longevity, and your friends' beliefs about your traits are, when averaged, more reliable than your own. 
Researchers know that personality traits affect health — conscientiousness, for example, turns out to be a pretty good predictor for risk of death. But the studies linking personality, health, and mortality are limited because they rely on participants' assessments of their own personalities. Apart from the bias that might introduce, it's also privy to external factors which could sway the participant — say, the weather that day. Fixing this validity problem would take a study in which researchers asked someone else — preferably friends, who see one another in a variety of situations — about individuals' personalities.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Churches influence degree completion

It's probably a factor here in the South. From The Pacific Standard.

Those who took the bible literally, the three found, were much less likely to complete a college degree—about a third did, compared with more than half of non-literalists. That’s not a big surprise, given past research. Much more interesting was the effect of going to church with literalists. After controlling for demographic factors such as age, income, and church denomination, the researchers compute that 57 percent of non-literalists attending the least literalist churches graduated college, compared to just 32 percent for those in the churches most convinced of the Bible’s veracity. There was a similar though much smaller effect for individual literalists. 
Though the survey results can’t establish the mechanism underlying them, the team argues that immersion in a literalist church may discourage higher education, possibly because some would view college as lacking value or even as a threat to other goals such as starting a family. Regardless of the reason, “it is clear that involvement in a religious congregation with a higher percentage of biblical literalists is at odds with completing college,” especially for those who aren’t literalists, the team writes. That in turn suggests the powerful role religion might play in creating and maintaining socioeconomically stratified societies, they reason.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Complete College America looks at

Performance Funding best practices.   Ours may be a benchmark, but it needs full funding to drive change.  We did everything right last year, but funding was cut. From

The Game Changers
Tennessee has implemented the most aggressive performance-based funding model — with 100 percent of state higher education funding allocation. The state introduced performance funding with the Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010. Performance measures include student retention, degree attainment, and completion of remedial courses. Tennessee weights adults older than 25 and low-income students more heavily, and funding formulas are adjusted to address differences between community colleges and universities. In addition Tennessee provides rewards to institutions on the basis of the number of students who complete 24 credits, 48 credits, and 72 credits.

Monday, February 9, 2015

A writer takes exception

To the methodology used by Amazon to determine the county's most romantic city.  That is, Amazon culminates sales from steamy romance novels, relationship advice books, rom-com titles and a curated list of love songs to determine the list of America’s most romantic cities.  Murfreesboro is number ten.  I'm just glad to see Tennessee well represented on any list that uses reading as a criterion.  By Shane Ryan, writing in Paste.

HOLD UP! We’re judging the romance of a city by how much shitty romantic “art” its residents consume? Sorry, Amazon, but you and I both know that the people who read romance novels, or watch rom-coms, or listen to love songs, are the saddest people in existence. They’re seeking out love stories in the absence of their own, or as a temporary cure for being perpetually heartbroken. Happy people don’t buy this crap! They just go around whistling! 
Come on. That’s like saying, “Milwaukee, Wisconsin is the thinnest city in America because they buy the most fad diet books.” 
I can’t accept the premise, Amazon, so I’m sticking to my guns: Knoxville, TN is the saddest city in America. Here are the other sad cities that round out the top five: 
1. Knoxville, Tenn.
2. Miami, Fla.
3. Orlando, Fla.
4. Alexandria, Va.
5. Vancouver, Wash.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

I'm not sure how dual enrollment is a fix

For the problem of college students struggling in Math.  Wouldn't they just struggle in high school, then?  But if I worked for a community college, I'd say the same thing.  Not to minimize the problem because this is an obstacle for adult students as well. From The Community College Daily.

Math remains a major hurdle for students
If the U.S. is to remain competitive through a skilled workforce, it must develop better ways to help students learn math, according to a panel of federal officials. 
On Wednesday, the National Journal magazine held a discussion with leading federal lawmakers as well as representatives from the U.S. Department of Education, for-profit colleges and industry. On the topic of education reform and job training, the participants agreed that colleges, K-12 and businesses must work together to develop better strategies to help students tackle math. 
Rep. Virginia Foxx, (R-N.C.), chair of the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, said there is too much focus in K-12 on “teaching to the test” and not enough individual evaluation and helping student understand the concepts of math. Students coast through math in high school and then are surprised that they cannot do college-level math when they enter a community college or university, she said. 
Dual enrollment—which typically allows high school students to take college courses for which they earn high school and college credits—is one strategy that more K-12 schools could adapt to help students prepare for college-level work, said Foxx, a former community college president. 
“We need to be doing a lot more of that,” she said.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Those zany Millennials

They don't want to buy a house.  Or a car.  From The Atlantic.

The Cheapest Generation
Subaru’s publicist Doug O’Reilly told us, “The Millennial wants to tell people not just ‘I’ve made it,’ but also ‘I’m a tech person.’ ” Smartphones compete against cars for young people’s big-ticket dollars, since the cost of a good phone and data plan can exceed $1,000 a year. But they also provide some of the same psychic benefits—opening new vistas and carrying us far from the physical space in which we reside. “You no longer need to feel connected to your friends with a car when you have this technology that’s so ubiquitous, it transcends time and space,” Connelly said. 
In other words, mobile technology has empowered more than just car-sharing. It has empowered friendships that can be maintained from a distance. The upshot could be a continuing shift from automobiles to mobile technology, and a big reduction in spending.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

First-generation blues

First-generation college students struggle to succeed in college.  It's a problem here, but it's a problem everywhere. Some stories from Tennessee institutions.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a first generation student. Taken from The Atlantic.

First-Generation College-Goers: Unprepared and Behind
When Nijay Williams entered college last fall as a first-generation student and Jamaican immigrant, he was—despite being admitted to the school—academically unprepared for the rigors of higher education. Like many first-generation students, he enrolled in a medium-sized state university many of his high school peers were also attending, received a Pell grant, and took out some small federal loans to cover other costs. Given the high price of room and board and the proximity of the school to his family, he opted to live at home and worked between 30 and 40 hours a week while taking a full class schedule.

What Nijay didn’t realize about his school—Tennessee State University—was its frighteningly low graduation rate: a mere 29 percent for its first-generation students. At the end of his first year, Nijay lost his Pell Grant of over $5,000 after narrowly missing the 2.0 GPA cut-off, making it impossible for him to continue paying for school. . . . 
"[Many students] are coming from a situation where no one around them has the experience of successfully completing higher ed, so they’re coming in questioning themselves and [their] college worthiness," Jarrat continued. That helps explain why, as I’m First’s Rubinoff indicated, the schools to which these students end up resorting can end up being some of the poorest matches for them. The University of Tennessee in Knoxville offers one example of this dilemma. A flagship university in the South, the school graduates just 16 percent of its first-generation students, despite its overall graduation rate of 71 percent. Located only a few hours apart, The University of Tennessee and Tennessee State are worth comparing. Tennessee State’s overall graduation rate is a meager 39 percent, but at least it has a smaller gap between the outcomes for first-generation students and those of their peers.