THINGS THAT ARE UNDERRATED

Thanks @mianguyen for the suggestion. Of course it is harder to be constructive than to complain so this list took a lot more thought than THINGS THAT ARE OVERRATED. But that's good because it made me happier in the end.
  1. People
    Herman Melville put it best: "See how elastic our stiff prejudices grow when love once comes to bend them." In the few cases where I've come to understand someone I judged harshly, I've always grown to love them. I have to assume this prevails. It may be related to the so-called fundamental attribution error: our tendency to ascribe bad behavior to *character* in others and to *circumstance* in ourselves. Whatever the cause the implication is clear: People are better than we give them credit.
  2. The American Education System
    Depending on how you measure, our schools are ranked 15th or 35th internationally behind basically every wealthy country. People talk about fixing this with better teachers, bigger tests, more accountability, new standards, hot technology… The thing is, "When you measure…American schools with poverty rates less than 20% our kids…out perform every nation in the world" (http://usat.ly/IPTgjr). We have great schools. But we have a terrible poverty problem, which is something you can't teach around.
  3. The New Horizons Pluto Flyby Mission
    I was a huge astronomy nut when I was a kid. I checked out books on astronomy from our tiny small-town library every chance I got. At the time Pluto was shrouded in mystery. The books didn't even have a picture better than a fuzzy smear. I remember thinking that some day we would fix that. 10 years ago New Horizons launched and I was thrilled. And now finally the day is almost here: a day I've been waiting for literally for 30 years. In 45 days the Pluto encounter begins.
  4. The Movie Brave
    This is one of Pixar's least critically successful movies with a rotten tomatoes rating of 76% and lots of bad reviews, which is sad because it's a princess story with no love interest and a mother/daughter "psychodrama" that values mother/daughter relationships as the complex, important, salvageable things they are. I sometimes think viewers didn't know what to do with a princess who doesn't fall in love. Also, my Sophie says Merida is "her" princess because she's strong-willed and wild.
  5. The King James Bible
    Just like with iPhone and Android, the King James Bible is a pretty neat thing that's ruined by its most die-hard fans. The translation is contemporary to Shakespeare and it's intimacy provides a fascinating contrast to his high-minded style. It is full of beauty poetic (John 1:1-5), didactic (1 Corinthian 13), and philosophic (Ecclesiastes 1:7-11).
  6. Phoenix
    A lot of people think Arizona is full of homophobic right-wing cowboys with concealed handguns. And we deserve that a little bit with our run of bad lawmakers. But this is also a culturally diverse city with a booming local business scene and signs of a renaissance. I live uptown and I love the murals, local restaurants, farmers markets, Latino-American culture, bike shares, rehabs, smile-inducing pride parade, desert flora, hipster biker gangs, mountains, and three seasons of gorgeous weather.
  7. Facebook
    This is the social site people love to hate. Sure, Zuckerberg is (was?) a slime ball, and there have been some privacy concerns. But 1) from a technical perspective it is an exceptionally well designed site, always fast and reliable despite astronomical load, and 2) functionally it is the place I stay in touch with family and friends spread all around the world. I am more connected to my sisters, their kids, and my extended family than ever before Facebook. Relevant XKCD: http://bit.ly/1GICZIm