Inside the data from the Winter Storm Uri power crisis in Texas

Photo by Thomas Park on Unsplash

The blame game started almost immediately. With approximately four million Texas households out of power on Monday, February 15, 2021 (mine included), everyone was looking for an explanation. National and state politicians blamed windmills; others pointed fingers at renewable energy sources more broadly. Market analysts and media were quick to point out problems with fossil fuel-based energy production and the Texas power grid.

Sitting home that week with my family, eating pancakes by candlelight (we still had gas on our stovetop), I wondered what could have caused such a massive failure of infrastructure. Chatter online was hard to follow —…


A data-based guide on what to look for on Election Day

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Everyone wants to know if Texas will turn blue this year, but most analysis focuses on Houston, Dallas, and the suburbs. Some talk about how an increase in historically low turnout among Hispanic voters could turn the state blue. Far fewer mention the “red firewall” of rural, small town, and mid-size city voters that make up around 25% of the state’s population and overwhelmingly vote Republican (72% for Trump in 2016 and 71% for Cruz in 2018). Texas is a huge and diverse state, and any realistic analysis needs to factor in that complexity.

Understanding Texas by county

Using population and demographic data from…


Lessons from the Black Death

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Don’t be like Oxford.

It’s not every day one advises colleges and universities to avoid acting like one of the world’s premier higher education institutions, but Oxford’s inaction in the aftermath of the Black Death is a rare case where such advice is justified.

The Black Death and higher education

The Black Death was a bacterial pandemic that swept across Eurasia in the 1340s and 1350s, wiping out approximately one-third of Europe’s population. It was a profoundly destructive event that contributed to massive social and economic change; higher education was not immune. Much of this will sound familiar to observers of contemporary higher education.

Population decline…


Written by Jeff Freels & Kathleen Krysher

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Design thinking is everywhere these days. Primarily used as an innovation strategy for designing objects and services for business, its use has expanded in recent years to encompass planning and design for diverse types of organizations, including higher education. Advocates argue that design thinking is ideal for tackling complex problems such as climate change, obesity, and crime. Critics allege that it is a “failed experiment.”

From its origins in traditional design fields — art, architecture, and engineering— design thinking emerged as a business innovation strategy in the 1990s, achieved widespread acceptance in the 2000s, and has been increasingly applied to…


90% will still get you an A, and most people won’t know the difference

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Perfectionism is more often a burden than a blessing; an obstacle to happiness rather than a contributor to success. Neither is it a necessary precursor to success.

On a recent episode of the Dr. Drew After Dark podcast, comedian Nikki Glaser talked about her performance at the Comedy Central roast of Alec Baldwin. Despite having a successful set, Glaser “punished” herself for forgetting two jokes.

I could not let it go. I could not enjoy myself the entire night. I’m at the after-party, and people are telling me it was an amazing set, and I’m like ‘I forgot two jokes!’…

Jeff Freels

Teacher, creator, historian. PhD in Higher Education.

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