Travel evolution in the 21st century

Stuff I carried around Hong Kong as I explored on my first trip there, October 2000:

  • Map
  • Camera
  • Guidebook/phrase book 
  • Magazine (for reading while on trains, at lunch, etc.)
  • Handwritten sheet of destinations
  • Nokia 8290 cell phone
Stuff I carried around Hong Kong as I explored last week:
  • iPhone

An incomplete list of plot twists crammed into the 15-episode first season of ‘Smash’

Hopeful female lead sleeps with director
Director tries to sleep with other hopeful female lead
The better actress wins top billing
The better actress loses top billing to the ingenue
Both actresses lose top billing to Big Name Star
Ingenue returns to bucolic country home, finds inspiration
Big Name Star can’t sing, burns out, quits show
Ingenue steals female lead’s side job
Spurned female lead contemplates suicide
Writer sleeps with male lead
Writer’s marriage breaks up
Writer’s marriage attempts reconciliation
Assistant keeps secrets
Assistant tries to bribe someone
Show loses funding
Show regains funding
Composer finds love
Composer loses love
Composer finds truer love
Ingenue faces pressure from impatient boyfriend
Producer and composer hate each other
Producer and composer find detente
Teenager gets busted on drug charges
Teenager briefly goes missing, but comes back
Everyone gets jealous of the relationship their partners have with the show instead of them

For what’s right

In my limited forays into politics, I have in this space previously noted my support for Barack Obama (moreso in 2008 than 2012, but still) and my heartfelt support of gay rights and gay marriage and my frustration in this country’s resistance to its obviousness. So today is a particularly gratifying moment, as I can note that Barack Obama, too, supports gay marriage.
That this comes a day after North Carolina residents banned gay marriage in all its forms makes this news all the more enjoyable. Fifty years ago many Americans were against civil rights for African-Americans, too. As Dave Pell noted in his NextDraft newsletter today, “History’s march towards equal rights often feels inevitable, but it can really take a long time.” Yesterday we slowed down, and today we sped up again.
Next Saturday I am attending a wedding party for my gay friends Chris and Stuart, who are getting married at City Hall, because as New Yorkers they thankfully can do so. I couldn’t be happier for them, or more supportive of their right to be married. And I am glad that the President of the United States of America feels the same way.

Turn on, tune in, drop out

EDUx, a new collaboration in online learning between Harvard and M.I.T., is newsy enough to receive splashy treatment in the New York Times today, including home-page link placement this morning.
But I think the Times buried the lede, for in the second paragraph is this nugget: “[M.I.T.’s first online course] began in March, enrolling about 120,000 students, some 10,000 of whom made it through the recent midterm exam.”
Or, to be more specific, the inaugural MITx class has an attrition rate of at least 91 percent.
As with all online data reporting, the truth is beyond the glossy top-line numbers. MITx claims 120,000 registrants, but it’s really 10,000 who have a level of engagement, perhaps less if we track it to the final exam; the rest are, in the old brick-and-mortar school terminology, dropouts. Twitter has 500 million users but 50 million daily active ones. Et cetera.
Perhaps MITx is on par with typical Internet usage, with 10 percent of interested users generating full engagement. I much prefer that data point to considering the 110,000 quitters MITx has on its hands. No wonder it’s hard to get into M.I.T.