This kind person on www.freechess.org kept challenging me over and over to 3 minutes a side chess matches, perhaps because he won more than I did, but not so many that it was not competitive. In my mind, if I could ever figure out the "Perfect Opening System", that is, the perfect way to spend my opening ten to twenty moves, I'd be a champion player. In fact, though, among the mottled sets of openings I play, my win/loss ratios are about the same whichever system I play. Whether I am playing my "best" system, the related Colle/Slav/Caro-Kann openings, or my odd Small Center opening, or a Philidor/Philidor Reversed/Old Indian system, I come out just about the same. Of course, if I played something really aggressive, such as an e4 gambits/Sicilian Defense/Modern Benoni repertoire, which does not suit me at all, I'm sure I could worsen my results substantially.
I was just beginning to feel guilty for not being at work, as I have so much work to do, when I realized I could make a strong inroad on a couple of work projects right here at home. I'm pleased to report that I got much more done already than I thought I could. Now I'm seriously contemplating a spot of fishing, if only it will warm up a bit. I still will get some more work done this weekend, though.
I spent yesterday on one of those "arise at 3:30 a.m., drive to the airport, catch a 6 a.m. flight, attend an extremely productive 11 a.m. meeting in San Francisco, catch a 3 p.m. departure flight, and land in DFW aiport at 11 p.m." nights.
My "re-read the Lord Peter Wimsey" books holiday project coninues apace, as I dispensed with a tasty "five red herrings" and then ingested "an unpleasantness at the bellona club". I really enjoy those books.
The BBC on the public radio station as I drove home near midnight had an interesting piece about Blair's UK university funding plan. Two "authorities", an MP who criticizes the plan as too American, and an American professor from Carnegie-Mellon who defended the American system, seemed to be going in altogether different directions, until they both realized that they thought essentially the same thing about the UK/US post-secondary contrast, yet their assumptions left them to different conclusions. I think so often that people have common understandings on things, even when they reach different conclusions. I like when people realize that amid their "nos" answers there are actually a good few instances of "yes".
I always find US/UK contrasts interesting on matters such as this. The US high schools lag behind UK ones, but in the UK so many fewer people go on to post-secondary education. I also find the contrasts between "talking heads" in either country and everyday people quite interesting. I do not worry so much about whether Mr. Blair's plan (or Mr. Bush's "plans", if he has any) for post-secondary education
will require kids who go to Oxbridge (or Ivy League) colleges to have to take out student loans as most folks here do. I get much more concerned about how, in either country, people who are not the "best and brightest" are going to get educated in an affordable way for real work. I love smart people. I think they are the greatest. But I am less concerned with how the best of the best go to Harvard than with how the class system gets overcome by getting education and job training for people who are not by intellect or opportunity in the best position.
The tuition increases that the UK and US schools consider do pose an issue. But my concern is that in each place, there should be solid, no-nonsense, "you can get a job with a degree from here" places which provide low-cost tuition and fees. In this country, the GI bill, which let returning WWII veterans afford college, did wonders to narrow class division, create a more educated work force, and ensure a round of prosperity. In our area, a few state universities are reasonably affordable, but too many go the route of "we want more prestige, so we'll raise tuition to help us build x, y and z".
People speak disparagingly of a "two tier" educational system, but I am not troubled that there are different schoools for people with different goals. In this country, one could argue that we have at least seven tiers of post-secondary education (truly elite universities, somewhat elite universities, solid main campus state universities, secondary state universities and proprietary universities, community colleges, proprietary trade schools and proprietary "business" schools). I do not mind this stratification, but I do mind that there is the assumption that more money should be spent on the top two or three tiers than on the bottom tiers. I come down a different way.
My view is that affordable post-secondary education is the best way to insure economic mobility for people without tremendous educational advantages. Yet, government doesn't fund enough of the community colleges and lesser state universities, which are the engines to ensure this happens.
It should be very low-cost to obtain these degrees, and the schools should be funded so that qualified faculty are suitably paid (and not, as in some places, paid part-time starvation wages). In our country, in general, the university systems "works". But the reason it became great is that in addition to "elite" schools, solid land-grant universities and state universities made education available to all. I don't mind at all asking the student to help in the process through student loans, but a low-tuition option must be available at each level of education if the system is to work at its best.
I went back and read entries from the first weekend in December 2002. A cold weather Saturday then made for a poor fishing trip. Portent, or anomaly? Maybe I'll head to Park Hill Prairie's little fishing ponds to find out.
I'm grateful that folks filled out my little poll. I must figure out my own answers this weekend, fill them into the poll, and then implement them in my own life.
I'm in a stunningly good mood. Yes, yes! I say.