The college dropout bubble

Did you know that every year $4 billion is lost due to college dropouts?

The number comes from lost income and compounds every year with new dropouts adding to the roll call. It’s an interesting statistic that highlights a problem in education.

One that I call the college dropout bubble, but unlike most bubbles this works backwards. It’s a negative bubble:

Positive bubble – trade in which products are at inflated values.

Negative bubble – trade in which products are at deflated values.

I propose that a college education in this country has a deflated value. To the vast majority of Americans it just isn’t worth it. We can get 87% of our multi-lingual/racial/cultural people to get a high school education but, when it comes to college degrees we are at 39%.

There are more college dropouts (17%) than high school dropouts (13%)!!

That is a definitely a negative bubble and is probably impossible to explain. One could say it’s due to the skyrocketing costs of college, or just blame the cool kids for shunning school.

I do have a few topics that really annoy me and one happy-positive solution.

There are a ridiculous amount of students picking “catch-all” majors like business, history, and health. The vast majority of which are only doing so to check the box, “got a college degree…now I should go figure out what I want to do.”

Another issue is the “point the finger” problem in education. Where everyone blames everyone else for our losing ways. Even the movie Waiting For Superman spreads it around liberally. Of course, we usually skip over the parents as if they play a role in getting a kid into and through college.

Then there is billionaire investor Peter Thiel offering $100,000 for students under the age of 20 to dropout. His rationale being that the cost of college is in a bubble (a positive one). An interesting argument until you realize that he is talking about exclusive Ivy-League and other private schools that cost $50,000 a year. As if they haven’t ever been over-priced…

For the record the average tuition at public schools is $7,600 and at private schools is $38,700.

This by no means covers all the issues and I bet my readers have many of their own.

For a solution I think we should go old-school. Pick up something that has been lost in our reverence for money and unhappiness, a hobby.

It’s easy to explain, ironically, by looking at America’s two most successful dropouts: Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. Both have a hidden truth. Before they achieved instant wealth they were nerds in high school. I know very revealing, but it’s true and they spent an absurd amount of time playing with computers.

What’s the difference between us and them. Well, when high school hit we all dropped our hobbies for chasing girls/boys and lots of drinking. Few of us were successful with the opposite sex, though, we like to think we did better than Bill and Mark.

I hope that one day our youth (aka my future children), are able to drink less and tinker more. Pick up some nerdy, DIY hobby and run with it. Like the other day I saw a fellow on the beach testing out a remote control surfer robot, future billionaire…

It comes down to..

spending your weekends at a comic convention

Or..

spending weekends working on the Jager

Photos by

bubble – HKD

comics – Kevin Dooley

jager – GadgetBubba

A note on salads

I have been agitating for a while that supermarkets sell the worst kind of food. I even go so far as to say that everything they sell makes you fat.

Which consistently causes folks to disagree with me, after all 98% of Americans buy their food from them.

But, that means they have a complete monopoly on our food system, and with our health in their hands, the US obesity rate is skyrocketing to unheard-of levels.

In the fast food industry, a recent report states that Subway is now the worlds largest fast food chain, displacing McDonalds. There is also a booming salad industry with an explosion of salad fast food chains.

Perhaps the fast food industry will save us?

Well, remember the cliche: “I’m on a diet so please give me a Diet Coke instead of a Coke.”

I think that fits as an analogy here.

Just saying you’re eating a salad doesn’t mean you are eating well. One could skip the hamburger for the salad then load it up with dressing and fried chicken. A report from ABC’s Good Morning America, points out that in many cases the salad is equally fatty or worse.

They point out that iceberg lettuce, which accounts for much of the salad, has “zero nutrients and zero fiber.”

Which is where I draw the line.

The story is all wrong. Yes, iceberg lettuce can be at zero, but so can everything else we eat. Let’s not take an entire crop and label it as useless.

Instead we should understand the nature of food. First and foremost, quality is the most important aspect of food and not all are created equal. Or, put another way, vegetables that are grown from quality seeds and harvested when ripe are densely filled with nutrients.

But, if you buy vegetables from a supermarket or fast food chain, you are not getting this. Instead, you are purchasing the cheapest food money can buy. Which means they are harvested before they are ripe and grown from the cheapest seeds.

There’s more. A growing number of items, like tomatoes and strawberries, have been modified to produce extra sugars. Added together you have produce practically empty of nutrients but with extra sugar.

Fantastic.

Even if you choose the best supermarkets have to offer, you skip the dressing, choose a lean meat, and all that…then the best you can do is “the cheapest food money can buy.”

A lot like choosing the Diet Coke.

If you’re new to this, here a good way to think about it.

Take the typical supermarket salad and cut it in half. That should be your portion size when eating high quality food. It should make you feel full and it should be delicious.

The reason for this is the dense amount of nutrients in the food which also makes it taste much better. Decrease the amount of nutrients and you will increase the amount you eat. It’s as simple as that.

Now, how long do you think it will take for 2/3 of America to understand this?

Sometimes you can spot the tomatoes that are "densely packed with nutrients"

photos

salad by catsper

tomatoes by clayirving

Milk, it does a body…BAD?

This is a re-post of a piece I wrote last year on Posterous about milk and breaking my addiction to it. I’m reposting it because I’m writing a piece in response to the recent controversy over a PMS milk campaign.

A habit is a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiologic exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance. An addiction is an excessive habit or behavior. I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I’m a milk addict.

Ever since college, I’ve been a huge milk consumer – a milk junkie really. One night my freshman year, I drank eight single serving milk cartons in one sitting – which didn’t bode too well for me since I discovered I’m lactose intolerant. Then I switched to lactose-free and soy milk and it only fueled my love affair with milk further. I love it in my morning coffee and I love the sugar-free caramel iced soy lattes the baristas at Starbucks create for me. I love it on the rocks. I love it from a box. On average I go through a 32oz carton (4 cups) a day which prompted @robotchampion to challenge me to examine my milk consumption habits as well as milk and the dairy industry. Upon doing so, I discovered some interesting facts.

First, the now famous “Got Milk?” campaign launched in 1993 was done so to compete with beverage titans like PepsiCo and Coca-Cola who were taking away market-share with the emergence of new juices, fruit drinks, iced teas, coffee drinks, bottled waters, and soft drinks. The advertising firm responsible for this campaign concluded that the best way to increase milk consumption was to not focus on the 30% of Americans who didn’t consume milk but instead convince the 70% of milk-drinkers to use milk more frequently or to drink it in larger amounts. And it worked. Between 1994 and 1995 alone, milk consumption increased almost 40%.

Second, in 2005, the USDA and HHS recommended an increase in non-fat or low-fat  milk and milk products as one its nine adjustments to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. However, to meet the dairy guidelines, consumption of milk and milk products would have to increase by 66 percent, even though approximately 70% of our population cannot tolerate lactose as adults – we lack of the required enzyme in our digestive system to metabolize the key ingredient in milk.

Third, non-drinking eastern cultures actually have lower incidents of maladies such as osteoporosis. In fact, hip fractures, associated with bone density loss, are more frequent in populations where dairy products are commonly consumed and calcium intakes are relatively high. Why? Many scientists and researchers believe that animal-based diets are the culpritA 20-year study of the health and dietary habits of rural Chinese found that:

[They] consume less than half the calcium we`re told is necessary, virtually all of it from plant sources, in particular leafy green vegetables. They have one-fifth the incidence of hip fracture of Americans. Although they consume more calories per day than we do, only about 10 percent of their diet is from animal sources. On average, American diets are 70 percent animal-based.

Furthermore it reveals:

Early in life, American girls consume higher amounts of animal-based foods than Asian girls, which leads to relatively dense bones, high levels of estrogen, and early sexual maturation. The age of menarche has been dropping for decades in this country and now often occurs as early as age 10. In rural China, girls don`t usually begin menstruation until age 15. Chinese women have only about two-thirds of the amount of circulating estrogen that American women do, which helps account for their far lower rate of breast cancer.

Finally, it’s been found that caffeine found in coffee and soda acts as a diuretic in the body and increases the amount of calcium we excrete in our urine for several hours after we drink it. Translation: the more soda and coffee we drink, the more calcium we need.

In giving up milk, I’m forgoing soy milk. I’m a little skeptical of something that’s so engineered. And it’s tough for me to support industries like dairy and soy that do so much harm to the environment. Thank god for Milkaholics Anonymous.

 *NOTE: As an update, I still drink Starbucks iced soy lattes but I no longer buy milk and consume it at home.

I Too Was Raised On Processed Foods…

The following is a response to an email asking me about food, health, and nutrition.  The initial email is included at bottom and the person’s name has been excised.

—-

Hey #### – thanks for reaching out to me.

I too was raised on processed foods and so a lot of this was new to me as well. The best piece of advice I can give you is to give it some time. I have helped a lot of people make the change and they are always shocked and surprised by where this path takes them.

For instance, the food sold in supermarkets is the worst kind you can buy. The only thing worse than them is something like hot dogs from 7-Eleven, but in terms of nutritional value they’re not much worse. This includes the produce as well.

There are a whole lot of reasons why this is true like they have a monopoly on the food supply and a need to make profits, so quality is forgotten in favor of quantity. Thankfully the folks behind our food system are rallying together. There is a resurgence in quality seeds, quality farming, and improving distribution systems to get us this food.

The difference between a quality food product and a supermarket one is dramatic. This study which delves deeply into the details found a 1:3 difference. Meaning that a high-quality seed can be 3x more nutritional than a low-quality seed.

Personally, I find it greater than that. The food that I buy is so high quality that I eat very little and have so much more energy. I would say it’s more like a 1:6 or something. I often joke that I buy so little food nowadays that I often splurge on things just because.

This quality food has yet to break into the supermarkets, not even Whole Foods is carrying it yet. We are still stuck in the race to offer the cheapest food we can, though some stores are focusing on improving quality. Which means the only “safe” place to find quality is at farmers markets or food co-operatives.

I can say that I shop twice a week at a farmers market and never shop at supermarkets (tho I do occasionally buy beans/rice from the open bulk bins at Whole Foods). It does take some time to learn a whole new set of routines but that is the ideal if you want to really improve your health, here is why.

The food industry spends a lot of money trying to include nutritional information about food. The trouble is that no two apples are alike. One picked when ripe will be much different than one picked weeks after that. To account for this they just make it up (i.e. educated guesses). More and more studies are coming out showing just how wrong these nutrition labels are. Here is one that shows how vitamins are more marketing than science.

The truth about nutrition is different than what most people think. Every food item has a ton of vitamins/minerals/carbs/fat/etc. For example, Broccoli contains varying amounts of the following:

Protein, Vitamin E, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Pantothenic Acid, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Selenium, Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Folate, Potassium and Manganese.

The question is how much of each does it have. Well, for plant based foods (vegetables, fruits, nuts) that depends on the starting seed (high, low quality stock) how it is grown (to produce maximum nutrition or to be picked quickly) and when/how it is harvested (at peak times or a few days/weeks early).

With all this variability in farming a single item of broccoli could either contain all you need or nothing at all. This holds true for every single food item out there.

So back to the beginning. Supermarkets sell the lowest quality food they can find (to offer the lowest prices). Farmers markets offer the highest quality they can find (often at higher prices).

The question then for most people is what happens if they switch from low quality to high quality food? Will they spend more or eat less? Are supermarkets just too convenient or is my health worth the trip to a farmers markets?

Steve

—-
Hi Steve,
You commented on a post here back in April

The 10 Cheapest, Healthiest Foods Money Can Buy

I’m new to healthy eating and haven’t really got a clue what I’m doing, I’ve been pretty much raised on processed foods but have recently decided to learn to cook and educate myself about nutrition. Though I’m in the early stages of transforming my diet and way of life I’ve noticed that a lot of foods that are purportedly healthy, turn out to be not so great. I want to gather as much info on nutrition as possible in order to make the right dietary choices so any info you could send my way would be greatly, greatly appreciated. You also mentioned studies into supermarket food quality which I would be very interested in reading. Thanks for your time Steve, hope you can help.

Kindest regards,
#####

[photo: denn]

Steve Jobs Health, Forced Sabbaticals, and His Brilliance

“No one wants to die,” said Steve Jobs. “And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”

Those words are from a famous keynote Steve gave at Stanford in 2005, nearly a year after his brush with cancer. It is well worth a listen to for it’s inspiring message of Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish (text version). A message that Steve says he wishes for himself and perhaps one he now is forced to live by.

Last week on Jan 17, 2011 Steve announced that he is taking a medical leave of absence from Apple. This is his third medical leave, with the previous two for removal of cancerous tumor and a liver transplant. One can only guess what painful problem the man is facing now. You could also guess how this changes a person, what it does to you. Facing death and triumphant returns over and over. It got me thinking what Steve has accomplished after each of these bouts with death.

To uncover this I did a little research and the story starts on July 9, 1997, when Steve was named interim-CEO of Apple. It was the first of his triumphant returns. Twelve years earlier he had been forced out of the company and watched it slowly turn into a disaster. Facing crippling financial losses, record low stock prices, and even a denouncement from Michael Dell, “I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.”

Then in 1997, an acquisition brought Steve back into the company and he quickly took the reigns as CEO. Not long after things starting happening like small tectonic shifts. Three major products were announced and soon the world was dramatically altered:

  • 1998 – iMac
  • 2001 – iPod
  • 2003 – iTunes Store

All three were huge successes and quickly put Apple back on top. The iPod sold over 100 million units, the iTunes Store sold over 10 billion songs, and the iMac breathed life back into their computers. Together they brought the company back to profitability and, individually, they revolutionized computers, consumer electronics, and music.

Then in July of 2004, Steve was again forced to leave Apple, this time due to a cancerous tumor. After having it removed via the  Whipple procedure, Steve triumphantly returned and released the following:

  • 2005-06 – MacBook
  • 2007 – iPhone
  • 2008 – App store

Three even more successful products. Each one revolutionizing laptops, mobile phones, and, for the app store, creating a whole new paradigm. At this point the company was on the move with the stock price catapulting and revenues soaring.

Then, in 2009, Steve’s third forced sabbatical hit. This time it was a liver transplant, a common ailment arising from the Whipple procedure. Upon returning he released the:

  • 2010 – iPad

Another extremely successful product which appears to be revolutionizing computer operating systems and the entire computer industry.

This takes us back to the present day and the announcement of Steve’s fourth sabbatical. To which many are predicting not a another leave of absence but a final departure into the sunset. After all, Tim Cook is at the helm as he has been in the two previous sabbaticals. Plus, Steve has no need to keep going since he has already accomplished so much and left the company in such a profitable condition.

I can see that happening, but I can also imagine another possibility. One that is in line with the “stay hungry, stay foolish” mantra. Is it possible that Steve has come to love these vacations?

I mean look at what he has accomplished after each one, not even a delay in success or a few years for the product “to hit.” The gratification is so instant it’s like a perfect test for Dr. Pavlov.

I’m not being callous about his health either. Pancreatic cancer is one of those rare, one-in-a-million forms that is completely curable. Most patients are known to have perfectly normal, healthy lives nearly indistinguishable from any other patient. However, there can be complications like liver failure, and this latest medical leave means something else is wrong.

All of these are painful problems and I empathize for Steve, but it does point out that he could likely be poised for another triumphant return.

Why not? Sabbaticals exist for this very reason. Leave at a point of high success and/or anxiety to recover and recoup. It’s a time honored tradition that is too often derided by others. Our community spirit says to work, work to death.

In some ways the move is inspiring. A CEO taking off time to improve his health, be with his family, and then return to change the world.

That is awesome. How many other examples like that do we have?

Have you ever taken a sabbatical?

What would it take for you to take some time off and recoup?

Photo by Peter Denton

Health, Wealth and Community: DC's Deal on Wheels


If there are two things I love, it’s markets and technology and I’ve noticed both at work in the district when it comes to parking and driving enforcement. Ever since the housing and nightlife market exploded in DC, the city has been making a killing on parking and driving violations. In fiscal year 2009 alone, 2.4 million tickets were issued. To give perspective on the lucrativeness of this number, if all 2.4 million tickets issued were at the minimum fine of $15 and went uncontested and paid, the district had the potential to reap in $36 million dollars and since upping the fines in June 2010, the number is now much higher.

Much of DC’s enforcement boom has come in part of technology. Traffic cameras are recording those of us driving over the speed limit and running orange lights, parking meters now accept credit cards, and parking officials (25% more have been employed by the district this year) are armed with handheld systems with built-in cameras that record license tags and remember parking histories.

Which has happened to me on several occasions and is why I made the decision to temporarily give up my car. I got sick of spending time and money on having a car in the district and it’s is a perfect example of how markets are supposed to work. The demand for resources, in this case parking, goes up, so the price goes up. And then new markets emerge. In this case, biking. Kudos to former mayor Adrian Fenty for his efforts to promote and support this. But with Fenty gone, his initiatives like the Capital Bikeshare program and bike lane expansion pilot are a waste if not fully implemented. Any resources dedicated to biking without the infrastructure to support them are made in vain and the reality is biking lanes in the city are too sporadic to be impactful. It’s a shame because with over 30% of DC residents not owning a car, that leaves many opting for the bus or metro without gaining the health benefits of any physical exercise. Did I mention DC ranks #1 in the country for having the highest medical costs of obesity, per capita, in the country?

My experience of biking as my go-to transportation has been, in a word, awesome. I don’t have to wait to get on my bike (I can’t say the same for the metro, bus or cabs), I always find parking, literally steps away (or sometimes inside) of my destination, I never get ticketed, I have an easy excuse not to go to events not bikeable to me and I get places a lot faster than by cab, metro, car or walking. One of the best aspects of my pro-cycling life, however, has been the physical and mental benefits of getting a workout without thinking about it and not waiting in traffic or for an unpredictable metro car.

If DC truly wants to be a world leader, it will help move us off our addiction of cars, which are an archaic and inefficient technology and unilaterally decrease the value and experience of the city. Everyone can agree that DC already has a bad enough climate in the summer with its ungodly heat and humidity; the last thing it needs is a growing exhaust-producing automotive population adding to the agony.

The bottom line and what Fenty recognized is a bike-friendly culture improves the quality of life for inhabitants of all economics means, it encourages more people to spend their dollars here (both residents and tourists), and it fosters a sense of community that’s virtually impossible to achieve in an automobile-based society.

Until transporters become a reality, biking has my vote for the best way to get around the city. If you agree, you can let the district know by voting at the OneCity Forum (an innovative campaign by iStrategyLabs to enable collaborative approaches to addressing the city’s greatest challenges).

Health, Wealth and Community: DC’s Deal on Wheels


If there are two things I love, it’s markets and technology and I’ve noticed both at work in the district when it comes to parking and driving enforcement. Ever since the housing and nightlife market exploded in DC, the city has been making a killing on parking and driving violations. In fiscal year 2009 alone, 2.4 million tickets were issued. To give perspective on the lucrativeness of this number, if all 2.4 million tickets issued were at the minimum fine of $15 and went uncontested and paid, the district had the potential to reap in $36 million dollars and since upping the fines in June 2010, the number is now much higher.

Much of DC’s enforcement boom has come in part of technology. Traffic cameras are recording those of us driving over the speed limit and running orange lights, parking meters now accept credit cards, and parking officials (25% more have been employed by the district this year) are armed with handheld systems with built-in cameras that record license tags and remember parking histories.

Which has happened to me on several occasions and is why I made the decision to temporarily give up my car. I got sick of spending time and money on having a car in the district and it’s is a perfect example of how markets are supposed to work. The demand for resources, in this case parking, goes up, so the price goes up. And then new markets emerge. In this case, biking. Kudos to former mayor Adrian Fenty for his efforts to promote and support this. But with Fenty gone, his initiatives like the Capital Bikeshare program and bike lane expansion pilot are a waste if not fully implemented. Any resources dedicated to biking without the infrastructure to support them are made in vain and the reality is biking lanes in the city are too sporadic to be impactful. It’s a shame because with over 30% of DC residents not owning a car, that leaves many opting for the bus or metro without gaining the health benefits of any physical exercise. Did I mention DC ranks #1 in the country for having the highest medical costs of obesity, per capita, in the country?

My experience of biking as my go-to transportation has been, in a word, awesome. I don’t have to wait to get on my bike (I can’t say the same for the metro, bus or cabs), I always find parking, literally steps away (or sometimes inside) of my destination, I never get ticketed, I have an easy excuse not to go to events not bikeable to me and I get places a lot faster than by cab, metro, car or walking. One of the best aspects of my pro-cycling life, however, has been the physical and mental benefits of getting a workout without thinking about it and not waiting in traffic or for an unpredictable metro car.

If DC truly wants to be a world leader, it will help move us off our addiction of cars, which are an archaic and inefficient technology and unilaterally decrease the value and experience of the city. Everyone can agree that DC already has a bad enough climate in the summer with its ungodly heat and humidity; the last thing it needs is a growing exhaust-producing automotive population adding to the agony.

The bottom line and what Fenty recognized is a bike-friendly culture improves the quality of life for inhabitants of all economics means, it encourages more people to spend their dollars here (both residents and tourists), and it fosters a sense of community that’s virtually impossible to achieve in an automobile-based society.

Until transporters become a reality, biking has my vote for the best way to get around the city. If you agree, you can let the district know by voting at the OneCity Forum (an innovative campaign by iStrategyLabs to enable collaborative approaches to addressing the city’s greatest challenges).