University Diversity Plan in Texas Is Working

Texas has a law that guarantees admission to public universities to the top 10% of any high school graduating class. While the law has a lot of critics, it sure has been a success from a diversity perspective. According to

Minimum Wage

We had an interesting after dinner conversation last night. Yet another new Super Walmart is moving into town and we were discussing if they were good or bad for the local economy. The majority of the room was in favor of Super Walmart saying it would bring cheap goods and lots of jobs to the area. While I agree it will bring cheap goods and lots of jobs to the area, I believe it will replace small businesses and higher paying jobs with minimum wage jobs.

Minimum wage jobs are evil. Not only can you not live well off a minimum wage job, they rarely come with paid time off, sick time off or benefits. So any accident or health problem kills you, financially speaking.

Let’s just play with some numbers here. Minimum wage is $5.15/hr. Take that for 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year (who needs vacation?). Subtract 10% federal tax and divide by 12 months. You come up with $803/month.

I challenge you to come up with a budget that allows you to live off $803/month without any help from others. Average rent for a one bedroom apartment in my hometown is $550/month! Even with a roommate, you’d have a hard time affording a car, gas, food, utility bills, phone bill, etc. And I’m assuming you don’t have any kids, medical bills or credit card debt.

And yet I was told last night that I should be glad Super Walmart only paid minimum wage because that’s how I get cheap groceries and goods. Personally, I can afford to pay a few dollars more on my weekly grocery bill if it means the kids across town get to eat well too.

[6/11/04 Modified to take out social security as earnings under $11,640 are exempt.]

Research Shows Dogs Can Comprehend Words

I knew it! Dogs can understand words. Yahoo! News – Research Shows Dogs Can Comprehend Words

My dog knows all her toys and most of her human and dog friends by name. I’ve always said she got left behind at the level of a 1-2 year old human child. This article claims the border collie they tested, tested at a 3 year old human level. Not only does the border collie, Rico, know all of his toys by name, but if an unknown toy is placed in the middle and he is asked for the unknown toy by name, he correctly assumes 7 times out of 10 that the toy he doesn’t know cooresponds to the name he doesn’t know AND a month later he still remembers the name of the new toy!

Pretty amazing.

Progress Paradox

I recently read the Progress Paradox by Gregg Easterbrook and really enjoyed it. In my mind the book had three parts.

In the first part, Easterbrook spends quite a bit of time explaining how much better off we are then humans have been at any point in history. More of us eat better, work less, are healthier and have more leisure time than any other point in history. He backs this up with a lot of detail and debunks quite a few myths. It was very interesting.

In the second part, Easterbrook theorizes on some of the reasons why we are almost always unhappy and why continuously strive to have more. Why do people want always bigger, better and more? One of the ideas I found intriguing is that maybe stress and the desire to accumulate things have been tied to success in the past. (The past of our species that is.)

In the last part, Easterbrook details his ideas for how life could be better for more people. His main point is that the US should have universal health care coverage. He also talks about giving more to developing nations and raising the minimum wage.

I recommend the book to anyone who likes to think about the state of our current society.

Smart clothes

Researchers build what they envision as wearable computers

“In the future, such an outfit could diagnose diseases and deliver medications to the wearer, monitor heart rate or blood pressure, deliver interactive games and other forms of entertainment or function as a wearable computer. ” And you could download new colors and textures just as you download ring tones for your phone.

Virtual Real Estate

I’ve been reading a lot about online gaming. The worlds are so real to people that they not only spend hours playing but they spend real money buying objects, homes and even land in the virtual world. You can check out the exchange rate for the gaming currencies on Ebay. Money in Everquest or Sims Online is worth real US dollars!

This article in USAToday, Virtual real estate boom draws real dollars, talks about virtual land in Second Life that goes for $550/acre!

“Your Next Computer”, Phone or laptop?

In a recent post I talked about how I think tablet PCs and handhelds like Blackberries and iPods are going to merge. Some day in the future we’ll all carry around a small device that is our only computer/music player/organizer. This Newsweek article, Your Next Computer, theorizes that your cell phone will become your next computer.