Saturday, July 4, 2020

Book: My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

Jean Craighead George. 2004 [1959]. My Side of the Mountain. Puffin Modern Classics.

This was one of my favorite books in my tween years, which were a while ago now. It concerns a boy in his tween years who runs away from his overcrowded home in NYC to his family's unused property on a mountainside (in the east coast sense of mountain) in rural upstate New York. He spends a year there on his own, living in a hollowed-out tree, hunting and fishing and gathering with the help of a pet falcon he tames.

The New York Review of Books, as quoted in on the first page, opined back in the day that My Side of the Mountain "[s]hould appeal to all rugged individualists who dream of escape to the forest."

Alas, the book did not appeal to my dear daughter, for whom I purchased a copy a few years ago. She found it dull and did not finish it.

I thought I would reread it to see how the intervening 45 years changed my own view. There is not much plot here - in that sense it is more like a fictional memoir than a novel. There is lots of detail about how to actually get along and survive in the woods, which was interesting to my city boy younger self and remained interesting to me now. The thought of all that loner time continues to appeal.

I was surprised how much of the book came back to me once I got back into it. I was moved too by the lost social world it described, before the overblown (and empirically groundless) freak-out about child abductions in the 1970s and before the rise of helicopter parents. As an example, in the book the young man visits the local town a couple of times and goes to the library. The librarian, rather than calling the news media or the cops, gives our hero a haircut and helps him find books with the information he seeks. Imagine.

I bought this at the Barnes and Noble store in Madison.
Amazon book page.
Barnes and Noble book page.

Well, I declare.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.”

I tend to celebrate the ideas, rather than the government that does such a persistently mediocre job of embodying them.

And I read men (and even Men) = people, which some (many? most?) of the men who signed would surely not have done.

Happy 4th.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Interview with Jerry Seinfeld

The interview is from the Harvard Business Review in 2017 but it only crossed my radar screen in the last few days.

I was sort of a late adopter of both Seinfeld the stand-up comedian and Seinfeld the show but have become a big fan of both.

My favorite bit from the interview:
Being funny is one of the ultimate weapons a person can have in human society. It might even compete with being really good-looking.
My sense is that it helps on ratemyprofessor.com too.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Carl Reiner, R.I.P.

This made me sad, while at the same time, he had a long, fruitful and enjoyable life.

I enjoyed this story about Reiner, which is making the rounds.

The episode of Jerry Seinfeld's "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" with Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks - it is Season 1, Episode 9 - is well worth watching if you have Netflix.

Dillon and Smith published at last!

The Consequences of Academic Match between Students and Colleges
Eleanor Wiske Dillon and Jeffrey Andrew Smith

Abstract
We consider the effects of student ability, college quality, and the interaction between the two on academic outcomes and earnings, using data on two cohorts of college enrollees. Student ability and college quality strongly improve degree completion and earnings for all students. We find evidence of meaningful complementarity between student ability and college quality in degree completion at four years and in long-term earnings, but not in degree completion at six years or STEM degree completion. This complementarity implies some trade-off between equity and efficiency for policies that move lower-ability students to higher-quality colleges.

Find it at the Journal of Human Regressions here.

We spent a bunch of my start-up money to make it free to download for everyone, so have at it.

Hat tip: Lois Miller

Happy Canada Day!

In honor of the national holiday of our neighbor to the north, I recall once again one of my very favorite Onion stories.

One novel way to celebrate: have a seance in honor of former Prime Minister Mackenzie King.