U.S. News & World Report's "Best Colleges" is Fake News!

Be careful when reading the U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of “Best Colleges” because, well, the buzz among college advisors is that it is FAKE NEWS!  Yup.  Their rankings are really just measures of parent affluence and cater to the wealthy.

3 reasons why rankings are skewed:

1st: Student Selectivity:
Students who have better grades (private tutoring), strong SAT/ACT scores (private tutoring and test-prep programs), and don’t need financial aid (apply using Early Decision) have parents with deep pockets.

2nd: Faculty and Student Resources:
Professors who receive higher salaries and students who receive more resources cause tuition to skyrocket – often discouraging low-income students from applying.

3rd: Legacy Admissions:
Wealthy parents who donate generously to their alma mater, receive preferential treatment when their children apply for admissions.

Because parents rely too heavily on these college rankings, colleges redefine where their marketing dollars go to ensure that they inch their way up the U.S. News & World Report rankings. What’s missing in the criteria for these rankings is the college experience with professors, programs and opportunities.  Instead of reading these fake news rankings, read what the students say about their classes, majors, careers, and reflections.  Isn’t that what really counts?


Chicago, Chicago!

Just returned from a whirlwind visit in Chicago where we ate our way around the city.  We started out with Chicago’s famous deep-dish pizza at Gino’s, enjoyed their unique Eatily, where a medley of artisan chefs prepare gourmet dishes, and tried dozens of other specialty restaurants on just about every block downtown.  Jaclyn and Alex (and Radar!) live on the 40th floor right downtown and just 1.5 blocks from Kellogg’s grad school. 

We stayed in a suite with a conference table and a Murphy bed (love Murphy beds!) in their building, where we hosted a mini family reunion with Jean and Davis Tatsui-Satake.  It was our first time meeting the Chicago Tatsui relatives who left California right after Pearl Harbor.  Rather than be interned like the rest of the family, this part of our family moved to Chicago and has stayed there ever since.  We immediately hit it off with Jean and Davis, and have already made plans to get together again this year.  It’s exciting to make connections with family members, learn new facts, and hear interesting stories about our ancestors.  They contributed to our genealogy database and plan to help us fill in stories and data about our Chicago family.

We also had dinner with Rob’s brother Bill and his family in the suburbs south of Chicago. Rob and Bill exchanged stories about their youth – the ones you don’t want your children to hear – except, oops Jaclyn sat there in shock with her mouth wide open as she learned about her father’s earlier days. She kept looking at me to make sure these were real stories!  It’s shocking that Rob and Bill are alive today…

Jaclyn hosted a get together with her Kellogg friends (Alex, Rob, and Kelly – yup, weird coincidence!) so Rob and I could meet them.  As always, we love her new friends and had a blast with them.  We plan to return to Chicago in June for Jaclyn’s graduation ceremony.  Time flies; and we can’t wait to get her back to California!

Checking Out Colleges In The Windy City

Packing in business with pleasure in Chicago!  I joined Jaclyn in business classes at Kellogg’s MBA program at Northwestern last week.

Sitting in on one of the Top 10 MBA programs in the nation, I was intrigued and inspired by the excellence in both professors and grad students. We toured the new Global Hub on the Evanston campus where I saw students engaged in conversations and projects with fellow students.

The design of the Global Hub was quite impressive; with amphitheater social areas and modern architecture both inside and outside, it made me want to go back to college!

We also toured University of Chicago and Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.  Visiting these colleges makes us better resources to our students – so we can recommend programs that meet our students’ needs, expectations, and goals.  With over 4,000 colleges just in the United States, there’s a college that’s perfect for every student!

Lost Wallet = Chaos

Have you ever lost your wallet? Whether or not it was stolen, your life is thrown upside down as you try to remember all of its contents. Right?

Honestly, who really remembers EVERYTHING you have tucked away in all of those convenient spaces?  Not me! That’s why I empty my wallet every 6 months and make color copies of everything. By copying both sides, I have a record of each card’s numbers, expiration dates, and the CSC or CVC numbers, as well as the equally important phone numbers to call to report the missing cards.

I also make copies of membership, discount, and gift cards so I can have them replaced. It’s surprising to me each time I make these copies how many ridiculous things I stash away. Going through the cards often reminds me of debit cards and gift certificates I need to use before their expiration dates. After making these copies, I place one in my bank’s safe deposit box, one in my locked filing cabinet, and one on Google Drive. This way, no matter where I am when I lose my wallet, I can quickly make calls to prevent fraud and begin the arduous task of replacing all of the contents.

Drugs In Our Drinking Water?

Ten years ago, Becca Kassel’s project hit the TV and news headlines because her idea won then-Senator Joe Simitian’s Ought-to-be-a-law Contest.  Outraged by pharmaceutical drugs in our drinking water, she was determined to make drug companies take back unused meds to properly incinerate them.  Becca was appalled by the deformities she saw in fish as she researched the negative effects of drugs in our waterways and oceans.  Becca joined Senator Simitian in Sacramento to create a law to force pharmaceutical companies to take responsibility for the take-back program.  Check out her project! As it turned out, the pharmaceutical lobby was too powerful and succeeded in defeating the bill. 

When we flush our meds down the toilet or they end up at the landfill, these drugs end up in our water.  Becca talked with the water treatment plants to find out that they DO NOT TEST or REMOVE DRUGS from our WATER!  That’s right.  They don’t have the funds to pay for the expensive tests and equipment to deal with drugs in our water.  So, we’re drinking cocktails of hormones and antidepressants! 

Researchers are finding intersex development in fish and amphibians, and antidepressants in the brain tissue of fish downstream of wastewater treatment plants.  Worried about drugs in our water?  You should be.  High concentrations of drugs are found in waterways after music festivals and social events. 

But pharmaceutical companies are profit driven – even at the cost of the well being of their very customers that they claim to be helping.  Today, my husband Rob has been working to implement a local law requiring pharmaceutical companies to develop and finance take-back programs for unwanted and expired medications.  They’ve resisted the plan and have millions of dollars to avoid their responsibility. 

Considering that 70% of American take prescription medications, which calculates to almost $310 BILLION in sales per year, the pharmaceutical companies should do their part to keep the drugs out of our water. Don’t throw out your expired or left-over meds.  Take them to a local drop-off location to ensure that they don’t end up in our drinking water.  Visit

The Biology Of Our Best and Worst Selves

Why are we – as a human race – capable of doing horrific behaviors?  You know what I’m talking about.  Gunning down children in an elementary school or shooting babies?  Dropping atomic bombs on civilians?

Could it be what happens in our brains just seconds before these atrocities or from environmental factors over a lifetime? Dr. Robert Sapolsky discusses in a TED talk the potential variables responsible for iconic feats of heroism or despicable evils that any person might succumb to.  After all, everyone has the same neurons, neurochemicals, and biology. 

So why do villains come full circle to do the right thing?  Remember when Hugh Thompson turned his helicopter on his fellow soldiers to force them to stop shooting babies and raping women during the My Lai Massacre?

Sapolsky ends his TED talk with Those who don't study the history of extraordinary human change, those who don't study the biology of what can transform us from our worst to our best behaviors, those who don't do this are destined not to be able to repeat these incandescent, magnificent moments.”

Watch his TED talk here.

Finding a Genealogy Piece of the Tatsui Puzzle!

Nicole wrote a genealogy report in 3rd grade, and then Jaclyn wrote a genealogy book in 2nd grade. Family lineage is important in our family, and I try to create opportunities to get together with extended family to continue those connections even though our Japanese family has been in the US for over 4 generations. 

My second cousin Kiyoko hosted a family reunion luncheon to welcome our Tatsui family (Satakes) from Hiroshima, Japan, with over 50 relatives. Besides seeing people I haven’t seen in over 40 years, we had a surprise guest.  My grandfather told me stories about how the Tatsui family was originally “Tatsuiguchi” but he didn’t know why or when this happened.  The Satakes have been researching their recent find of a Tatsuguchi tombstone next to our Tatsui ancestors in the Hiroshima cemetery, and they reached out to a woman with the same name in LA. 

Our surprise guest was Lori Tatsuguchi, who may be the living piece of the name-change puzzle.  When she walked through the door, I felt a kinship with her and spent the afternoon talking with her and looking at the photo album that she brought of her father’s short life as a doctor during WWII.  The Satakes brought photos of people they didn’t recognize, and when Lori saw one photo, she was shocked and told us that it was a photo of her family!  Wow. 

The afternoon was a whirlwind of adding data to our RootsMagic software database and filling in bubbles on our 25-foot family tree banner.  Now that we have Lori Tatsuguchi in our lives, we’re planning a genealogy trip to Hiroshima with our family.  I love the way things fall into place when we make new connections with family members.  Can’t wait to discover more about my family roots. 

Does Your Drinking Water Contain Lead?

Remember the lead scare in Flint, Michigan back in 2014?  Lead-tainted water had 46% higher blood-lead levels than other parts of the state.  Over 12,000 Flint children were exposed to high levels of lead, which can cause learning disabilities, health risks, and even cancer.  Ever wonder if there is lead in your water?  Check out this handy app that will tell you what contaminants are in your drinking water. 

Go to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) site and simply enter your zip code. You'll get a list of problems with your local water.

Knowledge is power.  If you find that you have contaminants in your water, call your water treatment plant to find out what is being done to remove them.  You can also buy filters for drinking water to ensure that you and your children are safe. 


Cheating and Favoritism in College Sports

Honestly, how can colleges look the other way when their star athletes cheat and plagiarize, when other students are expelled and humiliated for doing the same thing?  What’s worse is that this rolls into a despicable arena where rape and sexual harassment are ignored when it involves athletes.  This is just wrong.  It sends the wrong message to the student body and to aspiring young athletes.

In my book, athletes shouldn’t receive any special treatment in the classroom or the courtroom.  These athletes should go into professional sports and leave spaces open on college campuses for students who really want a college education.  Period.


Did You Know That Some Colleges Are Slashing Tuition To Recruit Students?

Who would have believed that some colleges are desperately seeking students when you hear about how Stanford has a 4.8% acceptance rate, which is lower than Harvard’s 5.4%? Yup!  There are over 2,800 public colleges, and over 1,200 private colleges in the US. Only the top colleges are ridiculously selective.  Eight private colleges just announced that they are slashing tuition for next fall (2018-2019). Reducing college tuition is called “tuition reset.” 

Although you might think that this tuition reset attracts and helps financially struggling families, it actually does the opposite.  Students who would be entitled to financial aid (grant and loans), only receive less financial aid so the actual amount they pay is about the same.  ARGH.  And guess what?  The wealthy students are the only ones who actually pay less with tuition reset.  Because these students wouldn’t get financial aid anyway, the discounted tuition rate means that they pay less for college. 

So tuition reset is really just a marketing ploy that benefits the wealthy.  It moves the college into the limelight bringing more applicants; and to make up for the decrease in tuition revenues, many colleges are increasing their enrollment.  In my book, that may lead to lower academic standards with increased class sizes and fewer professors.