Siddhartha Mukherjee Writes In Bed

I sang his praises here. He won a well-deserved Pulitzer for general nonfiction for Empire of All Maladies. And he deserves a Nobel Prize for science writing for helping a knucklehead like me (mostly) understand cellular biology.

I’m just settling in with The Song of the Cell: An Exploration of Medicine and the New Human.

Here’s the backstory to the book and his writing process.

How To Interview Professional Athletes

Fellow UCLA homie, Russell Westbrook is hella surly, especially after losses. Shooting 29% from deep will do that to you. If you ever get a chance to interview him after a(nother) Laker loss, follow this reporter’s three-step formula—stroke his ego, stroke his ego, stroke his ego.

Watch from 2:17-3:05.

The Ripple Effects of College Sports’ Name, Image, and Likeness Ruling

Excellent University of North Carolina case study detailing the wide ranging impact of the Supreme Court’s recent decision to let college athletes receive money for their “name, image, and likeness”. The main take-away is that alumni donations that used to go to athletic departments are going directly to a few star football and basketball players through “collectives”. One result is a glaring economic divide between teammates. Another is ever greater financial hardship for minor sports, many which are on life-support.

As always, the top comments from readers are interesting.

  • “I find it interesting that athletic directors and. coaches who rake in mega million dollars for themselves and billions for the schools, find it somehow disconcerting when the players, who generate the wealth for the system, make a couple hundred thousand. The player who makes $300,000 is somehow preventing that same $300,000 from going to the swim team? — funny that we don’t hear that argument when $5 million goes to the head football coach.”
  • “A lot of hand wringing over athletes getting their fair market value. I say: if coaches get paid, athletes should too. Oh, other sports may die out? Let colleges can dip into their endowment, tv rights, donations, etc. If they can find a way to pay coaches $10,000,000 a year, they can find a way to keep their swimming program.”

Postscript.

Pre and Post-Pandemic. . . What’s Different?

Besides, obviously, a lot of people having died.

Many “experts” made bold predictions about how the world would never be the same, but looking back now, they were mostly wrong.

Most people who worked in offices still do. Most people still go to doctors’ offices. Most schools aren’t any more on-line than they were during “Before Times”.

People prefer working out in gyms and eating out at restaurants. More generally, people enjoy doing things outside their homes with others.

To a large extent, we’ve returned to our “Before Times” setpoints.

One noticeable difference in my small, upper left-hand corner of the world is that there are more cycling groups attracting more people. Peloton’s stock was down 60% last year. From my anecdotal vantage point, group rides are up about the same amount.

What else has changed for reals?

On Congress

Glass empty. The faux representative of many names is providing endless comedic fodder, but his presence in the House is damaging its already declining reputation. Every rep’s credibility will be questioned a little or a lot more. Everyday he “serves”, people’s trust in the legislative process will erode further. Fairly or not, when it comes to our worst colleagues, we are often guilty by association.

Glass full. Keep an eye on MGP, a different kind of Demo.

“I don’t think that your traditional pedigreed Democrats are the solution to Trump extremism. I think that a lot of these traditional Democrats, the m.o. is to go into a community and start explaining shit. Nobody likes that. I’ve heard that so often: I’ll go to an urban community, and people will be like, ‘“’Oh, like this candidate was amazing. They are so smart.’ And then I’ll go to a rural community and talk to them about the same candidate. And they’ll say: ‘Yeah, they’re pedantic and they don’t understand. They didn’t listen to us.'”

Marie Gluesenkamp perez

Wednesday Required Reading

I Failed

How will large language models/artificial intelligence change K-12 education? Maybe the better question is will large language modes/artificial intelligence change K-12 education? Through teaching, research, and writing, I spent most of my academic career trying to make high schools more democratic, more international, more personal, and more relevant and purposeful.

I’m sad to report that I failed bigly. The fact of the matter is, except for all the surreptitious texting under desks, the typical high school today functions remarkably similar to the way Cypress (California) High School did when I graduated in 1980. What other institution in American life can you say that about?

Lesson learned. K-12 education is incredibly resistant to change. Like YouTube, surely ChatGPX-like devices will have some effect, but probably not enough to fundamentally alter the teacher-student relationship. One education scholar uses an ocean metaphor to explain the futility of education reform. Schedule tweaks, new curriculum initiatives, education technologies, all create changes on the surface of the ocean just as high winds do. Descend to the ocean floor however, meaning the teacher-student relationship in the classroom, and the water’s darkness, chemistry, and animal life are completely unaffected by the tumult on the surface. The teacher still mostly talks and the students listen.

Despite it being so obvious, it wasn’t easy to admit my my failure, you know, professional identity and ego and all. But the consolation is a quiet confidence that I have made a positive difference in a lot of individual teacher’s lives. Despite not having dented their work environment, I have made meaningful contributions to their professional success. I’ve failed, but I’m not a failure.

And even though I’ve admitted defeat and let go of my teacher education identity, I am still helping individual teachers on occasion, just fewer of them. Yesterday, for example, one of my first year writers from Fall 2021, a prospective teacher, wrote me seeking advice. Here’s how she started her missive:

“I hope all is well! I am reaching out to you because I need some advice. I figured you would be an excellent person to reach out to because you are part of the education faculty and have taught abroad and done things I want to do with my life. I also think you won’t sugarcoat things and you will tell me the truth.” 

I liked that she didn’t think I’d “sugarcoat things”. So, in that spirit of keeping it real, I predict high schools in 43 years, make that 2066, will still look and feel pretty damn similar. Given my protein bar consumption, it’s unlikely I’ll live long enough to see if my prediction comes true. I hope it does not.

Postscript: Not an “institution”, but same idea.