Friday, September 15, 2017

On the Prospects of Digital Currency

On the Prospects of Digital Currency: As a virtual form of money, digital currency (or electronic capital) has the potential to upend the global marketplace. Blockchain technology, which consists of a digital ledger for financial/online transactions, can be used to bypass traditional tracking mechanisms of paper money. When a central bank prints paper money for a particular country, it inflates the value of that money in an attempt to manipulate supply. With digital currency, however, pre-designated limits (or caps) to the money supply have already been written into their software codes. Thus, the chances of these digital assets experiencing hyper-inflation have essentially been reduced to nil. Perhaps the three most popular digital currencies today are Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin.  All of which benefit from the peer-to-peer anonymity (or lack of traceability) offered by blockchain technology.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

On McMansions and Suburban Sprawl

On McMansions & Suburban Sprawl: In a word, a "McMansion" is an unnecessarily over-sized house. That means, it contains over 3,000 square feet of space, and is generally plopped on a half-acre lot (of land). At bottom, McMansions seem to embody the notion of "space for space's sake" (which contributes to sprawl) instead of traditional architecture's preference for durability and usefulness. Part of the reasoning behind the explosion in popularity for this style of American residential architecture was the shift from seeing the house as a practical family-raising space to a liquid financial asset. This paradigm shift in thinking among Americans largely occurred during the 1980s, when the federal government deregulated a variety of industries (including banking and housing). In short, most McMansions tend to disregard basic design principles (balance, symmetry, etc.), and that makes them prime examples of poor architecture. (Photo credit: Kate Wagner)

Saturday, July 15, 2017

On Parochial Education

On Parochial Education: Perhaps the biggest actor in parochial (religious) education is the Catholic Church. As the largest operator of non-governmental (private) schools in the world, the Church seeks to evangelize its mission by incorporating religion as a core component of K-12 curricula. Following Martin Luther's "95 Theses" (1517) and Henry VIII's creation of the "Church of England" (1534), there was a strong drive among Counter-Reformationists like Ignatius of Loyola to establish Catholic schools. With Anti-Catholicism surging in Northern Europe during the 1500s, Catholic orders (such as the Jesuits) sought to preserve the Church's customs/rituals through education. Traditionally, Catholic schools operated as single-sex institutions, but a push toward co-education in recent decades has become the norm. And this push has ultimately kept many Catholic schools afloat, as the cost of (private) education continues to rise around the world.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

On the Gombe Chimpanzee War

On the Gombe Chimpanzee War: In the mid-1970s, an outbreak of war-like violence between two distinct communities (or groups) of chimpanzees occurred in the Gombe Stream National Park (GSNP). Located in Western Tanzania, along the shores of Lake Tanganyika, the GSNP covers only 20 square miles. Despite being the smallest national park in Tanzania, it's perhaps the most famous because of Jane Goodall's research efforts there. In total, she spent over 30 years conducting observations of chimp behavior in the GSNP. When Goodall's memoir emerged in 1990, it depicted the Gombe Chimpanzee War from a firsthand perspective. Critics of Goodall pounced on her insistence that the Gombe chimps actually had a "war." In fact, many of these critics believed she was anthropomorphizing the chimps to an extreme degree. How could chimpanzees have a human-like war? Did they use guns, planes, and tanks? No, but they did have sticks, fists, and rocks. Plus, many chimps were even known to use rape as a weapon of intimidation.

Monday, May 15, 2017

On Casino Design and Compulsive Gambling

On Casino Design and Compulsive Gambling: There's a unified purpose behind the lack of wall clocks and windows at casinos: confusion. That unique purpose only gets extended when you factor in the wacky carpets, hard-to-find bathrooms, and free drinks. What casino designers hope to achieve is a genuine lack of awareness among gamblers to the point where all they focus on is gambling.  In effect, neither time nor basic human functions should matter when it comes to betting money. Yet if you do manage to find the bathrooms, casinos usually maintain top-notch facilities. Needless to say, compulsive gambling becomes a distinct psychological problem when considering the numerous factors working against the gambler. But aside from all of the casino's purposeful distractions, compulsive gamblers often go to extreme lengths just to recoup any kind of losses. Unfortunately, it tends to morph into a downward spiral that never ends well.