Tuesday, December 06, 2016

You've Got To Be Kidding Me

I remember having hot chocolate and cookies brought into the barracks during finals week, but that's about it.  I certainly don't remember anything like this at West Point, thankfully:
A prestigious military school is providing coloring books for cadets to deal with stress.
The Virginia Military Institute, the first state-sponsored military college in the country founded in 1839, offers a “stress busters” program to provide students with yoga classes to “unwind and relax"...

“Stress Busters is held on Reading Day of each semester,” the school said. “This is an opportunity for cadets to unwind and relax before studying for finals. This event often includes stress reduction activities such as yoga, therapy dogs, coloring book stations, card/game stations, and grab-and-go snacks to take with you on your way to study!”
At least one person gets it:
“VMI once took America’s youth and prepared them for duty and the harsh realities of war,” a VMI alumnus and veteran told the Washington Free Beacon. “Now, for $20k a year, VMI will turn your teenagers back into children.”

Monday, December 05, 2016

It's Better Than Nothing, I Guess

It's not the Rose Bowl, or the BCS Championship Game, or anything like that, but for the first time in a couple decades, Army is going to a bowl game:
Motivation level: Army has been to only one bowl in the last 20 years, so the Black Knights should be fired up to put an exclamation point on what has been a terrific season.
And for the opposition:
Best moment: Facing the second-rated defense in the nation at the time, Jeffrey Wilson rushed for 160 yards and three touchdowns and North Texas beat Army 35-18 on a rainy field. It was the Mean Green’s first victory over Army in five tries.
They've already beaten us this year. Great.

Going into the Navy game, Army is 6-5.

Sunday, December 04, 2016


When I got to the mall about 12:30 this afternoon, I had no difficulty finding a parking spot.  I'm not saying there were tumbleweeds blowing by, but I didn't have to drive all over the place to find a spot.  There were many to be had.

Is anyone else seeing the same thing?  I thought it odd because I've heard that consumer confidence is way up this season--thank you, President-elect Trump  :-) 

Saturday, December 03, 2016

The Top And The Bottom

The 5 highest paying college majors

Video: 10 College Majors That Earn the Least

An Astounding Lack of Self-Awareness

I marvel that our friends on the left, nearly a month after the election, can still not be aware of the fact that their elitism, their bulldozing, and their disdain and hatred for those of us on the right, hasn't worked for them in years.  This author is so "enbubbled" that he not only misdiagnoses the Democrats' problem, but his so-called solution only works in favor of Republicans.  To believe, as he does, that the Democrats haven't been playing dirty and thus need to start (do I need to run through the list of dirty plays, starting with Obama's weaponization of the federal bureaucracy, specifically the EPA and IRS, to a degree that would cause even Richard Nixon to blush), is to be in such denial of today's reality that one wonders about his mental state:
The emerging Trump administration is a frightening mixture of free-market fundamentalists and C-list conspiracy theorists. This motley crew may well run headlong into political disaster. But Democrats should not assume that the Trump administration's incompetence will automatically result in a Democratic wave in 2018. Remember, Democrats are in their weakest position in national and state government since before the Great Depression.

So what should Democrats do? Take a page from the GOP playbook and obstruct everything.

One of the most galling things about the complete Republican takeover of American government that we witnessed last month is the way it rewarded the party's destructive behavior during the Obama years. Not only did voters never punish Republican leaders for pouring sand into the gas tank of representative democracy, they granted them victories in nearly every contested House and Senate race, proving incontrovertibly that voters simply do not care about or understand the ways that Republican leadership subverted longstanding norms of parliamentary procedure.

In perhaps the most brazen violation of democratic norms in living memory, the Republicans just stole the colossally important swing seat on the Supreme Court by obliterating precedent and refusing even to hold hearings for Merrick Garland. If Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer cannot continue their heroic work into their late 80s, the Democrats may be facing a hostile Supreme Court until most of Bernie Sanders' young voters are having their midlife crises.

But the Senate's Great Merrick Garland Heist is a symptom rather than the cause of our dysfunction. The towering mountaintop snowcap from which the swollen river of hateful, paralyzing, and destructive nihilism flows is the House GOP. The face of America's political torment is the smug visage of Utah's Jason Chaffetz, a man who epitomizes everything that is wrong with our politics, and who the Democrats have no realistic chance of ever unseating. Secure behind their ingenious 2010 gerrymandering plan, and the concentration of Democratic voters in big cities, it was Chaffetz and his minions who turned the tragedy of Benghazi into the 21st century's Scopes trial, and who decided to use the legislature's oversight responsibilities to hold a series of theatrical hearings about Libya rather than, say, holding President Obama accountable for his (morally outrageous and possibly illegal) policy of perpetual drone warfare.
Perhaps the author doesn't realize that tens of millions of us across this country don't want what he wants. Perhaps he doesn't realize that it was the Democratic congressional stranglehold on the Congress from 2007-2011, along with President Obama from January 2009 to January 2011, that was so hideous, so brazen in its actions, so un-American in its outlook, that the American people returned Republicans to power in the House of Representatives after only 4 years of Nancy Pelosi's so-called leadership, and two years later returned Republicans to power in the Senate, and last month gave Republicans control of more offices and legislatures than that party has had in a century.  Perhaps he doesn't realize that the American public does care about and understand their government, and they don't like what the Democrats in general, and President Obama in particular, have done with it.

Perhaps the Democrats should have considered, while they were using the federal bureaucracy to attack their political opponents, that the federal bureaucracy would not always be in their hands.  And they should pray to the God that so many of them refuse to believe in that the Republicans don't return the favor, they should pray that a President Trump doesn't do to them what they hoped a President Clinton would do to Republicans.

After losing so handily, as the Democrats have, you might expect reasonable people to reassess what they've been doing.  You might think they would be a bit more reflective.  Doubling down on the hatred of the last 8 years--and let's be honest, that's what the author above is recommending--is not a recipe for his party's success.  The American public--outside of coastal urban enclaves--has shown no stomach for what he is suggesting.

Believing that as I do, I hope the Democrats follow that author's advice.  One rule about holes is:  when you're in a hole, stop digging.  A second rule about holes is:  when your opponent is in a hole, give him the nicest, biggest shovel you can find.  Take that author's shovel of hatred, Democrats.  Please take it.  I implore you.

Cool Currency

In this post from over a week ago I threw out the suggestion that maybe I could post pictures of some of the beautiful coins and currency I have, in part to show how money can be functional as well as beautiful (I think American money is quite ugly).

For those who think I'm asking to be robbed by doing this, I keep my collection in a secure, secured location.  And while I've been collecting since my first trip to Europe in 1974, most of what I have couldn't be sold for much--it means much more to me than it's worth.

Anyway, here's a note from South Africa that my nana brought back for me after her visit to see some relatives there in the 1970s (the quarter is for size reference):

Beautiful, isn't it?

Friday, December 02, 2016

What An Ideologue Regrets

Smart people knew 8 years ago that this was a foolish move, but hey, welcome to the party, Mr. Lundestad:
Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to President Barack Obama in 2009 was an experiment to encourage the newly elected Democrat to follow through on his lofty promises, according to at least one former member of the Nobel committee. But apparently, that was a failed experiment.

A regretful Geir Lundestad, onetime secretary of the Nobel committee, told the Associated Press that he hoped the award would strengthen Obama. But it didn’t, according to the group, despite the White House’s belief that the president “lived up to the standard that he has set for himself” regarding the prize.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

McDonald's In The News

I can't remember the last time I ate at McDonald's.  Or Burger King.  Or Wendy's.  I just don't do fast food much anymore.  Periodically a friend will pick up tacos at Taco Bell or Jack in the Box and bring them over for movie night, but otherwise, I just don't.

But I saw McDonald's in the news twice today and thought it might make an interesting blog post.

First, the Big Mac is almost as old as I am.  And its creator has died:
Michael Delligatti, the man who brought you the Big Mac, has died. He was 98.

Delligatti, more affectionately known as “Jim,” was one of McDonald’s first franchisees. He first created the Big Mac in 1967 at his Uniontown, Penn. restaurant, Business Insider reports.

Almost 50 years later, it’s the same recipe served in chains today: two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions—on a sesame seed bun (for those of you old enough to remember the jingle).
That was the creative, entrepreneurial part of the story.  Now comes the economics segment:
As the labor union-backed Fight for $15 begins yet another nationwide strike on November 29, I have a simple message for the protest organizers and the reporters covering them: I told you so.

It brings me no joy to write these words. The push for a $15 starter wage has negatively impacted the career prospects of employees who were just getting started in the workforce while extinguishing the businesses that employed them. I wish it were not so. But it’s important to document these consequences, lest policymakers elsewhere decide that the $15 movement is worth embracing.

Let’s start with automation. In 2013, when the Fight for $15 was still in its growth stage, I and others warned that union demands for a much higher minimum wage would force businesses with small profit margins to replace full-service employees with costly investments in self-service alternatives. At the time, labor groups accused business owners of crying wolf. It turns out the wolf was real.

Earlier this month, McDonald’s announced the nationwide roll-out of touchscreen self-service kiosks. In a video the company released to showcase the new customer experience, it’s striking to see employees who once would have managed a cash register now reduced to monitoring a customer’s choices at an iPad-style kiosk...

Of course, not all businesses have the capital necessary to shift from full-service to self-service. And that brings me to my next correct prediction--that a $15 minimum wage would force many small businesses to lay off staff, seek less-costly locations, or close altogether.

Tragically, these stories—in California in particular--are too numerous to cite in detail here. They include a bookstore in Roseville, a pub in Fresno, restaurants and bakeries in San Francisco, a coffee shop in Berkeley, grocery stores in Oakland, a grill in Santa Clara, and apparel manufacturers through the state. In September of this year, nearly one-quarter of restaurant closures in the Bay Area cited labor costs as one of the reasons for shutting down operations. And just this past week, a California-based communications firm announced it was moving 75 call center jobs from San Diego to El Paso, Texas, citing California’s rising minimum as the “deciding factor.” (Dozens of additional stories can be found at the website FacesOf15.com.)
Idiot $15/hr protesters are protesting people right out of their jobs.  You can't rewrite the laws of economics.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Let The Stress Begin!

Last night I heard from the department chair in my master's program.  Crap is getting real now.

Over the past 4 1/2 years I've taken one graduate course per semester; next semester will be my 10th class, my 30th unit, and then end of my program.  Rather than writing a thesis, though, I have to take a cumulative final exam over 6 of the 8 math classes I took as part of the program (the other two classes were education classes).  I got to choose which 6 classes to be tested on--yay me.

Last night the department chair sent me review topics for 4 of those classes.  The other two were taught by an instructor who died in a car accident about a year ago, so the instructions I was given for those two courses was "study the tests you took in those classes"--in other words, review those classes in their entirety!  By the way, the review topics for just those 4 classes took two typed pages.

So next semester I'll be teaching as well as devising new lesson plans for all the classes I teach (that takes time, if you want quality education for your kids) because we got new curricula this year.  I'll also be taking my 10th class--a math class, not an education class!--and studying math I've learned over the past 5 years in order to prepare for my cumulative exam.  And I'll take this cumulative exam a few weeks before I finish the 10th class, and that 10th class will be covered on the cumulative exam!

So yes, the stress curve has taken a jump.  Crap is getting real now.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Fun of Teaching Probability and Statistics

There are so many interesting real-world examples from which to draw!

The last chapter my students studied was about probability, and the current chapter is on the normal curve.  I've been writing quiz and test questions (I don't really like using the "test bank" that comes with our adopted curriculum materials) recently and having fun. 

For example, last week I spent a lot of time sick in bed--playing Yahtzee on my phone :)  As I played I realized that I was constantly calculating expected values, probabilities, etc., in my head, and that some of these would make excellent quiz and test questions.  But that was last chapter's material.  No problem--my bonus question on each chapter test relates to last chapter's material, to keep it current in the students' minds.  I could use a Yahtzee question as a bonus question for this chapter's test!  Example:  I need 4 5's in order to score 63 points on the left (of the Yahtzee scorepad) and thus earn the 35 point bonus.  On my first roll I got two 5's and on my 2nd roll I got one 5.  What is the probability of getting 1 or 2 5's on my 3rd and final roll?  Example:  On my first roll I got a 23345. I keep the 2345 and roll the remaining die.  What is the probability of getting a 1 or a 6 on either of my next two rolls, thus getting a "large straight"?

Today we had 3 2-hour block periods (don't ask), and I spent about 20 minutes each period today teaching my students how to play Yahtzee.  My rationale was simple:  if they understood how to play the game, they'll be able to better understand what I'm asking on their test.  They'll be able to devote all their brain power to calculating the probabilities rather than trying to figure out exactly what I'm asking.  In another couple years I'll probably have to do that for playing cards, too, as entirely too many students today don't know what comprises a standard deck of cards (and hence have difficulty understanding probability questions about drawing from a deck of cards). 

My current master's class is on testing/measurement/assessment, and one of the last chapters in our book was about standardized tests.  We read about stanines, deciles, having a score in the xth percentile, etc.  Since standardized tests mostly assume a normal distribution of scores, questions about stanines, deciles, etc., are great questions for our current chapter on the normal curve.  Throw in a little SAT score information gleaned from the College Board and you have a smorgasbord of questions that can be asked, all of which have some applicability to the students themselves.  Example:  given that the average SAT math score is such-and-such with a standard deviation of this-and-that, what is the minimum score that would place a student in the top decile?  Example:  what fraction of test scores are in the 5th stanine?

If you're creative enough and thoughtful enough, writing test questions can be quite enjoyable.

Monday, November 28, 2016

In Solidarity With My Gay Brothers and Sisters...

...I recommend that we petition the City and County of San Francisco to rename Castro Street and the neighborhood known as The Castro.  After all, how can a gay enclave share a name with a notorious homophobe?
Fidel Castro was many things: a revolutionary, a communist, a garrulous orator. Amid the fawning encomia released upon his long-overdue death at the age of 90, it should never be forgotten that he was also an oppressor, torturer, and murderer of gay people.

“We would never come to believe that a homosexual could embody the conditions and requirements of conduct that would enable us to consider him a true revolutionary, a true communist militant,” Castro told an interviewer in 1965. “A deviation of that nature clashes with the concept we have of what a militant communist should be.”

In the eyes of Castro and his revolutionary comrade Che Guevara—who frequently referred to gay men as maricones, “faggots”—homosexuality was inherently counterrevolutionary, a bourgeois decadence. To a traditional Latin American machismo that viewed gayness pejoratively, they married an ideological fixation treating it as politically undesirable...

Though the Cuban regime closed down the UMAPs in the late 1960s, it continued to repress gay men as ideologically subversive elements. Openly homosexual people were prevented from joining the Communist Party and fired from their jobs. One of the country’s most distinguished writers, Reinaldo Arenas, recounted the prison experience he and countless other gay men endured in his memoir Before Night Falls. “It was a sweltering place without a bathroom,” he wrote. “Gays were not treated like human beings, they were treated like beasts. They were the last ones to come out for meals, so we saw them walk by, and the most insignificant incident was an excuse to beat them mercilessly.”

Gays comprised a significant portion of the 125,000 Cubans (“worms,” in Fidel Castro’s words) permitted to leave the island for the United States as part of the 1980 Mariel Boatlift.
You know, just in case you know of some leftie who worships this now-dead human piece of excrement.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Final Push

I've been kind of a slacker in my master's course the last couple weeks.  In my defense, though, I had worked ahead and was all caught up, and then some!

I have 4 short assignments, and one longer assignment, that are due by next Sunday.  I thought I'd better get started on them so I decided to tackle the longer assignment, which is a peer evaluation of a classmate's project.  Turns out, though, that she posted the wrong assignment, leaving me with nothing to evaluate.  I emailed both her and the instructor, and hope this will get fixed pronto.  (I have a comment I'm dying to make about this, but I'm not going to.  Maybe someday.  It's so hard not to!)

Instead I knocked out two of the smaller assignments.  I'm working late tomorrow and then going to my mother's house for dinner, so I doubt I'll do anything tomorrow (except send another email if the situation above still hasn't been corrected).  I can finish the other two assignments on Tuesday.  That leaves only Wednesday and Thursday to do the big assignment, because I don't want to be working on it during the weekend!  Ugh!

Now I'm going to go chug some more cough syrup and relax the rest of the evening, knowing I have to be healthy enough to go back to work tomorrow.