The Philadelphia Inquirer
In a calculating, chaotic world, statisticians are almost cool
By Melissa Dribben, Inquirer staff writer
February 16, 2012
In 2005, Cliff Arnall, a Welsh psychologist, claimed to have calculated the most depressing day of the year.
Using the variables W for weather, D for debt, T for time elapsed since Christmas, Q for how quickly people abandon their New Year's resolutions, and M for motivation, he devised a formula. It had nth degrees, ratios, and a definitive "= X." Everything a good equation should have - minus the scientific merit.
The calculus was a bit of pseudoscience concocted to boost business for a travel company. And yet, every year since, at the end of January, respectable news outlets have announced the arrival of Blue Monday, the so-called emotional nadir of the Gregorian go-round.
The world is so chaotic, we are desperate for predictability. And so, statisticians have never been more popular.
"The field is exploding," says Lynne Schofield, a 34-year-old assistant professor of statistics at Swarthmore College. She says she has seen a huge increase in enrollment in statistics classes.
Computers and a wealth of data have opened a world of possibilities, she says, then quotes John Wilder Tukey, one of the most influential statisticians of all time: "The best thing about being a statistician is that you get to play in everyone's backyard."
Schofield studies educational and psychological statistics.
"Academic-skills tests are a good predictor of everything," she says, "from wages to the likelihood of going to college, who and whether you marry, and longevity."
Statistically speaking, if you do well on your SATs, you're likely to live longer, she says, stipulating, "This is not causal." Which means the test-prep pros at Stanley H. Kaplan can't promise you a 100th birthday.
Her research merely shows a correlation, though one more accurate than the link between post-Christmas debt and feeling grumpy on Jan. 23.
Delaware County Daily Times
Renowned pianist to perform at Neumann
February 16, 2012
ASTON - The Delaware County Symphony will present the third concert of its full symphony series for the 2011-2012 season Sunday, Feb. 26 at 3 p.m. in the Meagher Theatre of the Thomas A. Bruder, Jr. Life Center at Neumann University.
The concert will feature pianist Marcantonio Barone performing "Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major" by Ludwig Van Beethoven.
In more than three decades of concertizing, Barone has given solo recitals at the Metropolitan Museum and Weill Recital Hall in New York and the National Gallery in Washington, on the recital series of the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, at the Ravinia Festival and San Francisco's Midsummer Mozart Festival, at the Wigmore Hall in London, the Rachmaninoff Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, and the Great Hall of the St. Petersburg Filarmoniya, and in various cities in Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy, and Malta. In the 1980s and '90s, he frequently performed as soloist with major orchestras on four continents, in collaboration with such conductors as Sir Simon Rattle, Sergiu Comissiona, Leon Fleisher, Arthur Fiedler, Barry Tuckwell, Antonio de Almeida and Vladimir Ziva.
He serves as head of the piano department and assistant director of the Bryn Mawr Conservatory of Music, where he has taught since 1980. In addition, he teaches piano, keyboard harmony, and chamber music at Swarthmore College.
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Drexel sociologist helps out when disaster strikes anywhere in the world
By Susan Snyder, Inquirer staff writer
February 13, 2012
From history to literature to Caribbean studies and beyond, Drexel University sociologist Mimi Sheller has always been interested in a lot of areas.
So she helped create a broad academic field known as mobilities research - the interdisciplinary study of the movement of people, goods, and information and their impact on the world - that can take [with] her wherever she wants to go.
Her latest pursuit has landed her on the front lines of disaster planning.
Sheller was one of 12 international experts invited to the World Bank Headquarters in Tokyo last month to examine the lessons learned in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the country in March.
After two years as a visiting professor at Swarthmore, Sheller was hired by Drexel in 2009 to create and head the Center for Mobilities Research and Policy. ...
Fresh growth: A sample of what's sprouting for spring and summer at area gardens and arboretums.
February 10, 2012
By Virginia A. Smith, Inquirer staff writer
Curious about what some of the public gardens and arboretums in the Philadelphia region are planning for 2012?
Here's a preview:
Scott Arboretum at Swarthmore College has an interesting art installation - an earthen wall made of local clay. "It's kind of this amorphous mud structure with a slate roof. It's neat," says curator Andrew Bunting, and it's meant to be ephemeral, or temporary, lasting about two years.
Also this spring, Scott will be planting 500 hellebores along Magill Walk, the latest piece of a decade long project to transform the walkway leading to Parrish Hall, the college's main building.
The National Journal
Carl Levin: The Raptor
By John Aloysius Farrell
February 9, 2012
The Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations is a vestige of another era. ... In its six and a half decades, the subcommittee has stalked an array of notorious targets: racketeering mobsters and Black Panthers, corrupt defense contractors and homegrown communists.
But like Sen. Carl Levin ['56], its current chairman, this unique panel is no less grand or bold for its years. ...
"Does the IRS care about people circumventing our tax laws through the use of sham or shell corporations offshore?" It is a Thursday morning in January, and Levin is grilling Commissioner of Internal Revenue Douglas Shulman.
American mutual funds have been speculating in commodity markets and avoiding U.S. taxes by creating phony companies in tax havens such as the Cayman Islands. The Internal Revenue Service tolerates it, and Levin is outraged. ...
"We need to make sure people know, for mutual funds that speculate in commodities, what the significant risk is," says Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., the subcommittee's ranking member. "A considerable amount of money is out there." More than $50 billion, in fact. Shulman says mildly that the IRS is studying the matter and is "open" to shutting the loophole. Levin thinks the commissioner is hedging, and lets him have it.
These are "totally phony transactions," he scolds the red-faced Shulman. "It's a shell. It's a sham" on which the IRS is "putting your stamp of approval."
Shulman may be forgiven for his miscalculation. The 77-year-old Levin looks more like a kindly toymaker or small-town family doc than a Grand Inquisitor. There is an element of bumble in him: He is often found in his shirtsleeves, his breast pocket jammed with scrawled little notes-to-self and reminders-for-staff. "Rumpled" is a word folks use to describe him.
But Levin acts younger than his years. He has the energy to chair both the Senate Armed Services Committee and the investigations subcommittee, two complex and intellectually demanding undertakings. His mind is sharp and his skin is smooth, and hair enough remains for a snowy senatorial comb-over. He gazes out over gold spectacles, contained but vigilant, like a raptor of the northern woods.
Not every chairman has seized the possibilities offered by the investigative subcommittee. Levin, however, is a natural fit. ... His early legal and political experience prepped him for the committee's work. After graduating from Swarthmore and Harvard Law, Levin served as first general counsel to the Michigan Civil Rights Commission; chief of the appellate division in the public defender's office; and Detroit City Council member and president.
"You have to listen. You have to really know a subject if you are going to examine, or cross-examine, a witness," Levin says. "You have to know it all for that one moment that the witness is on the stand. You must master the technical stuff."
Levin's committee "doesn't do the quick hits," Winer says. "They write it all up in detail, and it is correct. Then, when a crisis suddenly emerges, Levin has a series of prefabricated solutions" that his Senate colleagues, pressed for answers, are grateful to grasp. "That is where he has had an impact."
Not the stuff of trumpets and triumph, perhaps, but neither is most of what happens in Washington. In a capital markedly short on valor, Levin's unsung heroics command respect.
Thomas Rowe Price, Jr. 'Father of Growth Investing'
February 9, 2012
"No one can see ahead three years, let alone five or ten. Competition, new inventions - all kinds of things - can change the situation in twelve months."
Great investors tend to find one thing they are exceptionally good at and stick to it. Donald Trump has real estate, Warren Buffett has value stocks and Jesse Livermore knew momentum. Thomas Rowe Price, Jr. ['19], mastered the art of investing in growth stocks. Price spent his formative years struggling with the Great Depression and the lesson he learned was not to stay out of stocks but to embrace them. Price viewed financial markets as cyclical. As a 'crowd opposer,' he took to investing in good companies for the long term.
Born in Linwood, Maryland (US) in 1898, Price graduated from Swarthmore College with a degree in chemistry in 1919 before discovering that he liked working with numbers better than chemicals. After a very brief stint as a chemist and two false starts at brokerages that went under, Price found steady work at Baltimore based brokerage firm of Mackubin, Goodrich & Company which today is known as Legg Mason. He worked his way up to become the firm's chief investment officer even though he was in constant conflict with the company's management. He was trying to convince his superiors to try his growth investing strategy. Their resistance eventually led him to leave and start his own firm.
Price founded T. Rowe Price Associates in 1937. At that time, he defied convention by charging fees based on investments that clients had with the firm, not commissions, and always putting the client's interests first.
[Price] passed away in 1983, just as a bull market was forming.
Delaware County Daily Times
Swarthmore planners review on Town Center West plans
By Susan L. Serbin, Times correspondent
February 9, 2012
SWARTHMORE - The planning commission has seen the first official submission by Swarthmore College regarding the project called Town Center West.
As conceived, the application shows a multi-use, single structure consisting of an inn, bookstore and restaurant as well as the associated parking fields.
The concept has been under discussion by the college since 1999, and part of the borough revitalization vision for about as long. Development is permitted by an overlay zoning district approved in 2005, and the college is now moving forward.
Waging Nonviolence (Web site)
How Swedes And Norwegians Broke The Power Of The '1 Percent'
By George Lakey, [Swarthmore College Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies and Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility Research Fellow]
January 25, 2012
While many of us are working to ensure that the Occupy movement will have a lasting impact, it's worthwhile to consider other countries where masses of people succeeded in nonviolently bringing about a high degree of democracy and economic justice.
Sweden and Norway, for example, both experienced a major power shift in the 1930s after prolonged nonviolent struggle. They "fired" the top 1 percent of people who set the direction for society and created the basis for something different.
Both countries had a history of horrendous poverty. When the 1 percent was in charge, hundreds of thousands of people emigrated to avoid starvation. Under the leadership of the working class, however, both countries built robust and successful economies that nearly eliminated poverty, expanded free university education, abolished slums, provided excellent health care available to all as a matter of right and created a system of full employment. Unlike the Norwegians, the Swedes didn't find oil, but that didn't stop them from building what the latest CIA World Factbook calls "an enviable standard of living."
Neither country is a utopia, as readers of the crime novels by Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell and Jo Nesbro will know. Critical left-wing authors such as these try to push Sweden and Norway to continue on the path toward more fully just societies. However, as an American activist who first encountered Norway as a student in 1959 and learned some of its language and culture, the achievements I found amazed me. I remember, for example, bicycling for hours through a small industrial city, looking in vain for substandard housing. Sometimes resisting the evidence of my eyes, I made up stories that "accounted for" the differences I saw: "small country," "homogeneous," "a value consensus." I finally gave up imposing my frameworks on these countries and learned the real reason: their own histories.
Then I began to learn that the Swedes and Norwegians paid a price for their standards of living through nonviolent struggle. There was a time when Scandinavian workers didn't expect that the electoral arena could deliver the change they believed in. They realized that, with the 1 percent in charge, electoral "democracy" was stacked against them, so nonviolent direct action was needed to exert the power for change.
(Note: This article also appeared on CommonDreams.org and BusinessInsider.com)
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Best Values in Private Colleges 2011-12
By Jane Bennett Clark, senior editor
Liberal arts colleges typically have smaller enrollments than universities and focus on undergraduate education, with an emphasis on teaching rather than research.
This year's top 100 liberal arts colleges excel at that format, providing the academic support that encourages learning and allows students to graduate on time.
They also make their education affordable by offsetting tuition hikes with generous need-based financial aid and, at many schools, offering merit scholarships to students who don't qualify for need.
Here is the Top 10 List:
1. Pomona College
2. Washington and Lee University
3. Swarthmore College
4. Williams College
5. Davidson College
6. Hamilton College
7. Vassar College
8. Wellesley College
9. Bowdoin College
10. Amherst College
Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,524
Total Annual Cost: $54,400
Average Annual Need-Based Aid: $35,033
Average Debt at Graduation: $18,739
Founded by Quakers, this small school admits only 16% of its applicants, making it one of the most competitive liberal arts colleges on our list. Its billion-dollar-plus endowment allows it to meet 100% of need for students who qualify, reducing the average cost of attendance to less than $20,000.