Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Lily and James Potter.

Today's question is:
What was the WWII predecessor of the CIA called?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Admiral Farragut, at the Battle of Mobile Bay during the US Civil War. “Torpedo” was the term used to describe what we today would call mines. The quote is not exact, but is a common paraphrase.

Today's question is:
Who were Harry Potter's parents?

Peanut Parents

Allow me (as if you have any choice!) to start this post by quoting from a post I wrote a couple months ago:

It's not that I'm unsympathetic to kids who have allergies, but at some point one kid's allergy cannot impact an entire class or school...

Schools can make reasonable accommodations for students with medical needs. If your child's medical needs are extreme--and life-threatening allergies constitute extreme, in my book--then perhaps an alternative to the neighborhood school would be the appropriate placement.

I am acquainted with another blogger, one who works in the education field but not as a teacher, who wrote a blog post expressing similar sentiments. She may as well have kicked a hornets nest.

It wasn't local parents who got their panties in a bunch. No, it was a group of parents in a distant city who got up in arms because she didn't suggest that schools should do everything under the sun to protect children from the scourge of a peanut. She wasn't sympathetic to their needs, she shouldn't work with children.

She should be fired.

Life got uncomfortable for this blogger when the Peanut Parents decided to march. I'm pleased that her school district didn't buckle.

Again, I'm not unsympathetic to parents who have children with such extreme allergies. However, we have to look at what's reasonable. If your kid has a life-threatening allergy, it's not reasonable to expect the whole school to accommodate that. As I wrote before, what happens when one parent forgets and packs something small in their child's lunch--does the kid get suspended or does the parent get brought up on attempted murder charges?

It's not the school's business at all what I pack in my kid's lunch. If your kid has an allergy, perhaps the school can set aside somewhere besides the cafeteria--where hundreds of kids congregate with all sorts of food--for your kid to eat. Perhaps your kid already knows enough to eat apart, or knows what to do if he/she encounters someone on the playground who might have had a PB&J at lunch.

But to go after someone's job to satisfy your own bloodlust because a school employee doesn't agree with you? I have to wonder if you're really trying to protect your kid, or if perhaps you're lashing out because you're angry that your kid has these allergies.

Peanut Parents, life has dealt you and your kid a difficult hand. I understand that; I have friends and relatives with life-threatening or difficult conditions (cerebral palsy, Parkinson's Disease, Down's Syndrome), and I know how hard it is to accept that. However, your threatening people is not going to make the world a more understanding or sympathetic place. Trying to get someone fired is bad enough--how angry must you be now that you've failed? Stop being angry.

Reasonable people can disagree on where that accommodation line can drawn; that doesn't mean they are insensitive or want your kid to die.

I don't hear anyone suggesting that Safeway not be allowed to have bulk peanuts in a bin over in the produce section. My guess is you just keep your kid away from that part of the store. Likewise, it's unreasonable to expect a school to ban a Snickers bar or a PB&J for several hundred students. Raising awareness in others and teaching your own kid how to cope will elicit plenty of compassion and willingness to help; marching on a school with pitchforks, whether to ban foods or get someone fired--not so much.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Down The Road To Socialized Medicine

Q. What is the market price for setting a broken arm in the US?
A. No one knows. The market has been distorted for so long that there's no way tell what a market price might be.

Reason Magazine has an interesting article on health care reform, and I especially liked these paragraphs:

Right now consumers are locked into the health insurance and health care plans that their employers choose, thanks to previous government meddling with the health care system and the tax code. Consequently, most consumers simply don't have a clue what their health insurance costs. They have no way to reduce those costs, and no incentive to do so, even if they could...

Third party payments are the main source of dysfunction in the American health system. "The devil systematically built our health insurance system," once suggested Princeton University health economist Uwe Reinhardt. As evidence, Reinhardt pointed out that it "has the feature that when you're down on your luck, you're unemployed, you lose your insurance. Only the devil could ever have invented such a system."

So the first step toward real reform is to give consumers responsibility for buying their own health insurance. The employer-based health insurance system must be dismantled, and the money spent by employers for insurance should be converted to additional income. This would immediately inject cost consciousness into health insurance decisions.

When I was growing up, my dad's insurance covered us for emergency room visits. A routine visit to a family doctor was paid out of his pocket, and it didn't happen often. Under the scenario above, a person could choose such a plan or could choose a costlier plan like those many HMOs offer, if any plan at all. It would be the consumer's choice.

Remember, though, that it was government that was touting HMOs as the so-called solution to health care complaints almost 30 years ago.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Six. Anne, Elizabeth I and II, Mary I and II, and Victoria.

Today's question is:
Who was quoted as saying, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead”?

Giving Credit Where It's Due--To The ACLU, Of All Groups!

Every once in awhile I'll find common cause with the ACLU, and this is one of those times. They're taking on one of my favorite targets in government, the Transportation Security Administration.

On March 29, 2009, the plaintiff in the case, Steven Bierfeldt was detained in a small room at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport and interrogated by TSA officials for nearly half an hour after he passed a metal box containing cash through a security checkpoint X-ray machine. He was carrying the cash in connection to his duties as Treasurer of Ron Paul’s Campaign For Liberty. Steven’s experience is part of a troubling pattern of the TSA transforming its valid but limited search authority into a license to invade people’s constitutional right to privacy.

Steven was detained and questioned as he returned home from a Campaign for Liberty event transporting proceeds from the sale of tickets, t-shirts, stickers and campaign material. He repeatedly asked the agents to explain the scope of their authority to detain and interrogate him and received no explanation. Instead, the agents escalated the threatening tone of their questions and ultimately told him that he was being placed under arrest. Steven recorded audio of the entire incident with his iPhone...

I despise the TSA with every fiber of my existence. They rank right up there with the NEA and CTA, and just above the ACLU (hehe), in organizations I'd just as soon live without. They're nothing more than minimum-wage-caliber people who are given a badge with the power of the US government behind it. They do next to nothing to secure transportation, and they harass millions of travelers a day in what I've heard accurately described as "security theater". It's bad enough that they get to do all that they do; if it takes the ACLU to keep them from going beyond even the stupid limits they're given, then bravo to the ACLU (in this case).

This may very well be one of those "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" situations. So be it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
He was forced to drink poison hemlock.

Today's question is:
How many sovereign queens has England had, and who were they? (Here England refers to independent England as well as to England as part of Great Britain.)

Strange Views In Academia

Law students protest the hiring of a new professor, and the groupthink isn't pretty:

The trouble is that the petition in opposition to Professor Thio imagines her appointment as a violation of NYU's "own policy of nondiscrimination." In other words, gay students (and members of other historically disadvantaged groups) are said to suffer actual discrimination when the administration hires faculty members who argue against anti-discrimination laws. This confusion of speech and action -- of advocating for discrimination and actually engaging in it -- is common in academia, where academic freedom is too often limited to the freedom to advance prevailing ideals of equality.

Also important:

The refusal of law students even to hear opposing views, reflecting opposing moral codes, is particularly worrisome. I wouldn't want one of these future lawyers ever advocating for me. They're unlikely to learn how to argue effectively if they limit their law school debates to matters about which only presumptively reasonable people disagree. Uniformity of opinion breeds complacency, close-mindedness, and a tendency to mistake attitudes for arguments.
I worry about what passes for higher education these days.

Monday, July 27, 2009

In This Ever Changing World In Which We Live In...

I'm not suggesting we Live and Let Die, but just today I was talking to a friend about things that will be gone in 25 years (he thinks wristwatches). I remember the milkman, twice-a-day mail delivery, and tv station sign-offs at night and sign-ons in the morning (with the national anthem, to boot).

So how entertaining is it to read this list of 100 Things Your Kids May Never Know About.

I wonder if my kid will ever look at my bookshelf and ponder what the book "Real Men Use DOS" is about.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
"Kiss my grits!" I can tell from the answers that many people watched Alice. Here's a great YouTube clip showing Flo saying it (about 34 seconds in)--and no, Larry, it was not an invitation!

Today's question is:
By what method was Socrates executed in 399 BC?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Off To The Races

Today's major Sacramento paper provides dueling quotes from Si Se Puede, the president of the California Teachers Association, and Jack O'Connell, state Superintendent of Public Instruction, regarding the Race To The Top funds which California cannot receive from the federal government unless it changes Section 44662 of state ed code.

California teachers are not opposed to tying teacher evaluations to student scores, said David Sanchez, president of the California Teachers Association. He said, however, that the union would never agree to merit pay or tying student achievement to salaries.

Actually, that's news to me. I don't recall that I've ever heard a CTA president say that the union doesn't oppose tying teacher evaluations to student scores. I wonder who insisted that Section 44662 be put into ed code, if not the CTA.

The Race to the Top funds are part of the $100 billion in stimulus funds directed to education. Duncan said the funds would go to 10 to 20 states that can serve as models of innovation. Applications for the funds will be available in October and due in December. The first round of awards will be given in March.

O'Connell said California will apply.

That signals a change to ed code; I can't believe the CTA would sit on the sidelines on this. Could be fun to watch the bloodletting.

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The Crimean War (1853-1856), between the Russian Empire and a coalition including the British and French. The Light Brigade, a British cavalry unit commanded by Lord Cardigan, received ambiguous orders and advanced through a valley under withering Russian artillery fire. Quoting from The Reason Why (ISBN 0-525-47053-00534-160): “Some 700 horsemen had charged down the valley, and 195 had returned. The 17th Lancers were reduced to 37 troopers, the 13th Light Dragoons could muster only two officers and eight mounted men; 500 horses had been killed.”

And that's the end of Disaster Week! Now, onto "ordinary" trivia questions.

Today's question is:
On the TV show “Alice”, what was Flo's signature insult?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
In what war did the Charge of the Light Brigade take place?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Met A Fellow Blogger Today

One of the extremely enjoyable benefits of blogging is getting to meet other bloggers whose work I respect. Today I had a great time meeting with Mike Antonucci of the Education Intelligence Agency. He's as personable as he is professional, and comes across in person exactly as he does in his written work.

A couple hours and some Noah's Bagels went by in no time at all....

You'd Think That Smart People Would Run Colleges

You might think that, but sometimes--more often than any of us would like--you'd be wrong:

Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) has failed to lift an unconstitutional ban on "unofficial" use of the initials "SRJC" in private e-mail addresses and website domain names, chilling the expression of students and faculty. After a faculty member came to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help, FIRE asked SRJC to lift its overbroad ban and to clarify the First Amendment rights of SRJC community members. SRJC, however, has told FIRE it intends to continue with its unconstitutional efforts to ban unofficial use of the college's name...

On May 5, Vice President of Academic Affairs/Assistant Superintendent Mary Kay Rudolph e-mailed faculty members and other SRJC community members a notice claiming that any "use of 'Santa Rosa Junior College' or any abbreviation of the college name" is a violation of California Education Code 72000(b)(4). The code prohibits, among other activities, speech that implies the college's official endorsement or affiliation. However, Rudolph stated in the e-mail that any use of "SRJC" was illegal, that violators would be commanded to "immediately cease using Santa Rosa Junior College or SRJC in their domain name or e-mail addresses," and that "failure to comply could result in legal action."

Perhaps they'll sue me because I'm using the letters SRJC in this post.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
In what year did Rachel Carson first publish Silent Spring?

A House Divided Against Itself

What will the California Teachers Association say about this?

States barring the use of student- achievement data to help set teacher pay would be ineligible for $4.35 billion in education stimulus funds under draft guidelines the Obama administration plans to announce today.

The proposal, e-mailed yesterday by the Education Department, would disqualify states such as California, New York and Wisconsin from applying for the grants unless they change rules excluding student-performance data from evaluations of teachers and principals.

President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who have long pressed for merit-pay programs that reward teachers for gains in student performance, plan to announce the draft guidelines today. The nation’s largest teachers’ unions oppose linking pay to pupil achievement, saying test scores aren’t an accurate measure of teacher effectiveness.

Linking teacher pay to student standardized test scores is expressly prohibited under California Ed Code, Section 44662(e), which states:

The evaluation and assessment of certificated employee performance pursuant to this section shall not include the use of publishers' norms established by standardized tests.

So what will happen here? Will the California legislature attempt to change this section of law in order to get a couple billion from the feds? How strongly will the CTA fight this--and fight President Obama on this? If the legislature overturns this section, will CTA obstruct implementation or work to ensure that it is completely defanged?

How will the CTA look when it fights the President over this?

Hat tip to NewsAlert.

Update, 7/26/09: EIA addressed this issue here:

We’re getting a lot of coverage of the goals and not much about how it’s going to happen. EVERYBODY has noticed that the teachers’ unions are going to find a lot of objectionable stuff in these regs. NOBODY is spending time to figure out what that will mean. Here’s a guess: The unions will first work to water down the regs, but Obama and Duncan will still get most of what they want. Then the districts and the unions will take the money, and four years from now, just like magic, everything will be exactly the same as it is now.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
In what year did Mt. Vesuvius destroy the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum?

The Bravery Displayed By Challenging Christians

The Church of Scotland said it condemned any sacrilegious act, while a spokesman for the Catholic Church said: “One wonders whether the organisers would have been quite as willing to have the Koran defaced.”

That is exactly what I was thinking as I read this story:
A Bible has been defaced with abuse and obscenities as part of a publicly-funded art exhibition that allows visitors to write comments on a copy of the text.

I'm sure the people who did this feel quite smug.

A contributor wrote on the first page of Genesis: “I am Bi, Female & Proud. I want no god who is disappointed in this.”

That's OK, honey. Write that in a Koran, if you can find a publicly funded place to do so; I'm sure Allah and his followers won't mind your rebuke, either. It's not like his followers will push a wall over onto you or throw you off a roof or anything.

I wish people would show genuine bravery sometimes, and not pick on the people least likely to fight back.

Why I'm Not A Socialist

From Instapundit:

JOHN STOSSEL: The Arrogance of Health Care Reform: Why do politicians with no business experience think they can run 15 percent of the economy? “Most people are oblivious to F.A. Hayek’s insight that the critical information needed to run an economy—or even 15 percent of one—doesn’t exist in any one place where it is accessible to central planners. Instead, it is scattered piecemeal among millions of people. All those people put together are far wiser and better informed than Congress could ever be. Only markets—private property, free exchange, and the price system—can put this knowledge at the disposal of entrepreneurs and consumers, ensuring the system will serve the people and not just the political class.”

Exactly. I'm reminded of the story of the old Soviet minister who, when visiting England, marveled at what the market could provide. He asked his host, "But who is responsible for making sure London has bread?" Of course the answer is "no one in particular", but London still had bread. Compliments of the market.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Protesting at West Point

Originally posted 7/15, updated and bumped to the top of the blog today

You may want to protest military activities, but the 1st Amendment doesn't allow you to do so on military installations. Courts have consistently held that the commander's need to maintain "good order and discipline" on post trumps some civilians desire to shoot his mouth off. You can stand outside the gate and do that, if you so desire.

As the last strains of "The Star-Spangled Banner" faded before the annual Army-Navy basketball game at West Point, Nick Mottern took off his jacket and revealed his T-shirt. It bore the letter "Q." His seven friends standing alongside him in the next-to-last row of the Holleder Center took off their jackets and shirts, uncovering their T-shirts.

They stood silently, each wearing a shirt emblazoned with lettering that when put together spelled out "U.S. Out of Iraq."

A few minutes later, they were escorted out by military police and the facility manager.

A month later, the garrison commander banned them from West Point for five years...

A lawyer for the U.S. Attorney's Office said West Point officials were not singling out the protesters. All political demonstrations are barred at the facility, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mara Trager said.

Back during the Vietnam War, hippies infrequently tried to disrupt parades. Two companies of cadets in each parade were trained how to respond if anyone ever tried to rush the color guard and take the flags.

Update, 7/22/09: As I sad above, courts consistently hold that you have no right to protest on a military installation:

A federal jury ruled today that West Point officials did not violate the rights of eight anti-war protesters during a 2004 demonstration on the military base.

The eight protesters, all from Westchester, had claimed that their First Amendment rights were violated by facility manager John Spisso and garrison commander Army Col. Ann Horner when they first booted them from an Army-Navy basketball game and then banned them for five years for staging a protest wearing T-shirts that read "U.S. Out of Iraq."

Long-haired hippies, smokin' dope and bad-mouthing their country :-)

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The fire took place in 1871, so the decade was the 1870's. (Fritz' answer looks straight off my answer key!)

Today's question is:
What is the Japanese term for the “divine wind” (typhoon) that, in 1281, saved Japan from a Mongol Invasion?

Student Interns Wire Up School's Computers

The school district in the article below didn't exist when I was a child; it only came into being a couple years ago, when a few elementary districts merged with one 7-12 district to form a unified district. Of my 13 years in K-12 education, I spent 11 1/2 of them in two of the districts that merged--so I'm always glad to learn of something good being done in those schools:

Instead of turning to costly vendors or overloading district support staff, Twin Rivers brought in high school interns to help prepare the technology-focused junior high, which is fitted with computers at all 32 student desks in all 35 classrooms.

And the results have district staff and the teens smiling about the partnership.

What? They used non-union workers? And they only paid $8/hr, not the "living wage" of $10/hr?

And yet both sides are happy with the arrangement. Good for them!

Snark aside, my own alma mater is mentioned in the article:
The idea stems from a pilot program at Foothill High School. Last spring, Foothill started MOUSE Squad of California, a student-run IT help desk that offers the district computer support while training students.

This fall, Foothill plans to build on the MOUSE Squad, which comes with its own curriculum. After further training, Foothill hopes to offer community members computer repair services and also will accept e-waste for recycling.
This strikes me as an exceptionally smart thing for schools to do.

Where To Go To Make The Dough

According to this site (which looks only at bachelor's degrees), linked at an interesting article in the New York Times, the best school to attend might be Dartmouth. California has 5 schools in the top 20: Harvey Mudd College, Stanford, California Institute of Technology, UC Berkeley, and Santa Clara University.

Step Into The Light, Children

It appears that Boston's mayor has seen the light regarding teachers unions:

When Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston announced his support of charter schools last month after years of opposition, he lauded their ability to attract and retain top-notch teachers, tailor lessons to students’ needs, and create flexible workplace rules.

The most pressing cause of his conversion, however, went unmentioned: his growing frustration with the Boston Teachers Union, which over the last few months had scuttled or stalled one key initiative after another, from education overhaul efforts to cost-saving measures...

“It’s their way or the highway; I get very frustrated by that,’’ Menino said yesterday, sitting on a marble staircase at the State House, after testifying on a bill he proposed that would enable school districts to create their own charter schools and control the state aid that goes to them. “I can’t continue to get stymied as I try to improve Boston schools.’’

Hat tip to NewsAlert.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
1666. (Maybe it was caused by the Antichrist.)

Today's question is:
In what decade was the Great Chicago Fire, falsely said to have been started by Mrs. O'Leary's cow?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Updated Advice For New Teachers

Lists like this are handy, but 50 items strikes me as a bit overwhelming if you're trying to give advice to a new teacher! On the other hand, that list is a great reminder of things for people (like me) who have been around the block a couple times.

I should probably get back to that book I was writing for new teachers. I might make a dime off it some day....

Stimulus, Bloat, Whatever

Check out this graphic. Even adjusted for inflation, we're spending more money than we did in World War II.

Of course, there are some things missing. We didn't have an interstate highway system in 1945. NASA, and weather satellites, didn't exist.

But the US government also didn't own car companies in 1945. Entitlement spending was a bit less than, and our military was several times larger than it is today.

And yet we're spending almost 4x as much today, in constant dollars, as in 1945. Wow.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
1912, and 1937.

Today's question is:
In what year was the Great Fire of London?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Paradise Theater.

And with that we start a new Theme Week! This week's theme is: Disasters!

Today's question is:
In what years did the Titanic sink and the Hindenburg crash? (Hint: they were separated by 25 years.)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Commodore Dewey, to his executive officer, upon sailing into Manila Bay at the start of the Spanish-American War.

Today's question is:
On which Styx album was the song “Too Much Time On My Hands” originally released?

The King Is Dead, Long Live The King

Card check is dead, but the Denver Post isn't ready to celebrate just yet:
While we opposed the card check portion of the bill — the right to a secret ballot is a cornerstone of our democracy — it was never our biggest worry.

By far, the most economically destructive provision in EFCA is one that imposes binding arbitration if the parties fail to reach a contract agreement within 90 days.

This, in effect, means unions have zero incentive to bargain in good faith. They do have an incentive to make over-the-top demands, knowing they would be the starting point in arbitration hearings.

Any guesses which President and which political party support this bill?

NEA: Against Black Kids and Military Kids

Actually, it's against all kids, except when it can exploit them for its own purposes, but try this on for size:

The Senate Armed Services Committee is considering a proposal to provide military families with tuition vouchers. The idea enjoys support in the military, but the National Education Association (NEA) has mounted an attack in a letter to the Committee as part of its ongoing battle against educational choice.

Both the NEA and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) have militantly opposed the continuation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program which provides tuition vouchers to approximately 1,700 students in the DC area. Parents clearly recognize the advantage of vouchers since the number of applicants last year far exceeded the number of available spots. And military families, who make great sacrifices for their country and are frequently on the move, could also benefit from such a choice program.

Military families move around every couple of years, and posts are not always located in what we might call the "garden spots" of the country. I don't think I need to explain the rationale behind giving vouchers to the children of military members.

Whether or not you agree with the military voucher program, not continuing the DC voucher program is a disgrace. The NEA and their lackeys in Congress should be ashamed of themselves.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Schloss Neuschwanstein, in Bavaria, Germany. It was one of three large castles (the other two were Linderhof and Herrenchiemsee) built by King Ludwig II in the mid-late 1800s, almost bankrupting Bavaria.

Today's question is:
Who was quoted as saying, “You may fire when ready, Gridley”?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The US Bullion Depository at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Today's question is:
What castle was shown in the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and also is said to have been the inspiration behind Sleeping Beauty's Castle at Disneyland?

Tonight starts a new 12-week quarter at Trivia Night. I do wish there were a way to study for it.

"That's Mighty White Of You, Senator Boxer."

Watch how this businessman handles Senator Boxer's racism. She's clueless how to respond.

Who Will Write The Lousy Textbooks?

I say with near certainty that there isn't a math textbook on the market today that is as good as textbooks from the 1970s or 80s.

McGraw-Hill Cos., hit by declines in its education, financial services and media properties, said Thursday it has cut 550 jobs.

The New York company, which publishes textbooks and owns BusinessWeek magazine and the credit-ratings agency Standard & Poor's, said it will take a $24.3 million pretax charge for severance costs in the second quarter.

McGraw-Hill said the deepest cutbacks were in the education unit, which lost 340 positions....

With all these cuts, how are we to get the lousy textbooks of today?

Climate Models Wrong?

Could the best climate models -- the ones used to predict global warming -- all be wrong?

Maybe so, says a new study published online today in the journal Nature Geoscience. The report found that only about half of the warming that occurred during a natural climate change 55 million years ago can be explained by excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. What caused the remainder of the warming is a mystery.

I don't know, maybe it's that big yellow disk in the sky. But let's read on:

"In a nutshell, theoretical models cannot explain what we observe in the geological record," says oceanographer Gerald Dickens, study co-author and professor of Earth Science at Rice University in Houston. "There appears to be something fundamentally wrong with the way temperature and carbon are linked in climate models."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Is Good Customer Service So Hard To Achieve?

It must be, or I wouldn't encounter so my problems.

Tomorrow is my son's 13th birthday. I decided on something low-key this year; we're going to have the family meet at a pizza joint tonight. Rather than calling, I went to the restaurant myself yesterday, told them I would have at least 12 people there at 6 tonight, and I wanted one pepperoni pizza ready at 6 so people would have something to eat as soon as they got there. There's nothing worse than waiting for pizza. Anyway, all this was dutifully recorded in a scheduling book as I stood there, and then I left.

I don't know why something was eating at me. Maybe it was my army training; it was my first commander who taught me never to do over the phone what you can do in person, and in the army we're taught to always follow up. I decided to call a few minutes ago.

Nope, no preparations were underway. I was speaking to a manager, apparently, and after we squared everything away I asked, "This wasn't going to happen if I hadn't called, was it?"

Now see, here's the thing. The appropriate answer to that question is, "No, it wasn't, and I'm very sorry about that. I'll work to ensure that doesn't happen again." Instead I got, "No, because the other manager didn't tell me about it."

Do you see the difference between the two answers? In the first one, the person would take responsibility (whether or not it was his fault, as manager it was his responsibility) and try to prevent such a mistake in the future. The second answer, while honest, only tells me that he has lousy communication with the other manager(s) and that he doesn't even read the calendar to see if something's scheduled on his shift--in other words, he's not taking responsibility for something that is his responsibility. And that just frosts me to no end.

I have a friend who often comes over late on Saturday nights to watch movies. He usually stops at Safeway or Taco Bell on his way here. Safeway always has a long line and only one cashier--can no manager figure out that needs to be fixed? Can't a manager hold down a register for a few minutes? And Taco Bell gets his order wrong almost every week. Sometimes it's to our advantage, sometimes not, but still. How tough is it to get the right number of tacos and some cinnamon twisty things into a bag?

My son's birthday party a few years ago was at a kid-oriented pizza place (no, not Chuck E Cheese) and was screwed up so badly that the manager refunded a significant part of my money. And this was at a place that specialized in parties.

I've worked in small business before. One thing I was always told--never make excuses to the customer. They don't want to hear it. They just want their problem resolved. And I've learned that that's absolutely true.

Later: just got back. Everything went smoothly and the pizza was great. I ate so much I feel like Jabba the Hut.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
Today, the US Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights are displayed at the National Archives. Where were they stored during World War II?

Ratios, DUI, and Stupid Judges

What, is Rose Bird sitting on the California Supreme Court again? You might think so, with the idiocy of this ruling:

The California Supreme Court last Thursday entered a ruling allowing motorists accused of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) to question the reliability of the breathalyzer machinery used to secure convictions. The decision, however, leaves room for the conviction of drivers even when the machine is proved unreliable.

The high court recognized that a breath testing machine does not directly measure the alcohol content in a person's bloodstream. Rather, the device estimates from a sample of breath how much alcohol might be present in the blood using a conversion factor called the "partition ratio." California's breathalyzer machines assume that the amount of alcohol in 2100 milliliters of breath is equal to the amount of alcohol in 1 milliliter of blood.

"Simply put, the machines all automatically convert the amount of alcohol tested in the tiny amount of breath taken from the suspect," California DUI attorney Lawrence Taylor explained. "The internal computer multiplies the amount by 2100 -- using the average ratio of alcohol in blood to alcohol in breath -- to estimate the amount of alcohol in the suspect's blood. Problem: We are not all average. And ratios vary from 1300:1 to 3500:1...[Y]ou can use scientific facts that the BAC reading is faulty to defend yourself against the BAC-based presumption of being under the influence -- but not against the charge that your BAC was .08 percent or higher."

Would a little more math knowledge help these judges? Or are they stupid anyway?

Sending More People To College

A recent study found that "Nationally, four-year colleges graduated an average of just 53% of entering students within six years." If 40 percent of students who enter college drop out before graduation and over 50 percent of students take six years to graduate, perhaps Obama is focusing on the wrong issue.

A video showing what's wrong with the federal governments' paying for even more people to go to college can be seen here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Catholics on the Court

A double standard from the left? Say it ain't so!

How different from just a few years ago. Back when the nominee was Sam Alito, talk was about the "fifth Catholic" on the bench. Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority, complained that "with Alito, the majority of the Court would be Roman Catholics."

Before that it was John Roberts. In the run-up to his confirmation, the Los Angeles Times ran a piece headlined "Wife of Nominee Holds Strong Antiabortion Views." Though the article conceded that a "spouse's views normally are not considered relevant in weighing someone's job suitability," plainly these were not normal times. Mrs. Roberts, the paper pointed out, had worked for a group called "Feminists for Life," and was characterized as an "extremely, extremely devout Catholic"...

It's possible, of course, that Democrats and their allies in the media and activist community no longer regard Catholics with the suspicion they did back when President George W. Bush's nominees were up for consideration. More likely, the relatively soft reaction to Ms. Sotomayor's Catholicism is because of a calculation that when it comes to hot-button issues such as abortion or gay marriage, she doesn't really believe what her church teaches.

Robert George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton, says the Sotomayor hearings highlight a glaring double standard about how the Catholicism of judicial nominees is treated -- and the great irony this treatment exposes...

"Yet here's the irony. The same people who feel no compunction in trying to use the Catholicism of an Alito or Pryor to raise suspicions about their suitability then cry foul when anyone demands to know the basis of the moral convictions and personal feelings of someone that a liberal Democratic president is trying to place on the Supreme Court."

I shall grow old waiting for consistency from the left.

The New Me

I've never done this before, not even as a plebe at West Point:
24 hours should be about long enough to keep this post up, then I'll delete it. I should probably start working on that cranial farmer's tan....

Update, 7/15/09: I'm getting positive commentary via email so maybe I'll keep this posted awhile longer.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Three: -1, 0, and 1.

Today's question is:
What independent country is nestled between France and Spain?

More On Diversity In Academia

The naivete of youth can be so cute sometimes:

Eugene, Ore. - When I began examining the political affiliation of faculty at the University of Oregon, the lone conservative professor I spoke with cautioned that I would "make a lot of people unhappy."

Though I mostly brushed off his warning – assuming that academia would be interested in such discourse – I was careful to frame my research for a column for the school newspaper diplomatically.

The University of Oregon (UO), where I study journalism, invested millions annually in a diversity program that explicitly included "political affiliation" as a component. Yet, out of the 111 registered Oregon voters in the departments of journalism, law, political science, economics, and sociology, there were only two registered Republicans.

A number of conservative students told me they felt Republican ideas were frequently caricatured and rarely presented fairly. Did the dearth of conservative professors on campus and apparent marginalization of ideas on the right belie the university's commitment to providing a marketplace of ideas?

The left is not interested in the diversity of ideas; their views cannot withstand scrutiny. That's why if you don't believe in anthropogenic global warming you're a "denier", if you don't support affirmative action you're a "racist", and if you don't support socialism you're "greedy". All of these terms are designed to stop debate and shame the possessor. Ever heard of any societies that use/used these tactics? Anyone? Are they what we would call free societies?


Look, I love the Canucks. I enjoy my trips to British Columbia (the only part of Canada I've visited).

But I certainly don't want their version of health care implemented here. Socialism means waiting in line.

What The Heck Is Going On At The Air Force Academy?

According to an al-AP report:

The number of cadets with confirmed cases of the swine flu at the Air Force Academy has increased to 67.

The Gazette newspaper in Colorado Springs reported Monday that 121 freshmen with flu-like symptoms have been separated from the rest of the cadets. They were placed in a dormitory on the base near Colorado Springs late last week when they started showing symptoms.

The "doolies," members of the incoming freshman class, are among about 1,300 cadets who arrived recently for their first weeks of military training.
And Ron from the Harry Potter movies is reportly recovering from swine flu. From where are all these people getting this sickness?

The Next Bubble

A bachelor's degree?

Point is, little of the data that colleges provide really tell you much about the value of your investment: the quality of the education, the experience of the students, or how the graduates fare later in life. Instead parents have long accepted the value of the diploma on faith. And many assume that a college that charges $50,000 a year will give their child a better education than one that charges $25,000.

That may be about to change. As tapped-out families realize they can no longer borrow more and more for expensive colleges, they are increasingly focusing on lower-priced schools. As two college officials recently warned, higher education may be the next bubble to burst. Many experts are even questioning the value of a college degree in an economy where B.A.s are competing, often unsuccessfully, with high school graduates and those with vocational training.

The times, they are a'changin'. Maybe.

Hat tip to NewsAlert.

#$%! That Hurts!

There's some science that says that cussing helps relieve pain.

Bad language could be good for you, a new study shows. For the first time, psychologists have found that swearing may serve an important function in relieving pain.

Go figure.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Math In The Bellagio Conservatory

If the fountains in front of Bellagio aren't enough, you can see more in the Conservatory:
click on the pictures to enlarge
I marvel at the flawless parabolas made by the squirting fountains, showing that gravity is a t-squared function.

And how much math and engineering had to go into the design and building of this fountain, whose four jets meet right at the center. Again, click on the pictures to enlarge them, as they look so much better full size:

And all this water in the middle of a desert!

Las Vegas Pictures

There's nothing static about the Las Vegas Strip. There's always some hotel being torn down and another going up. For example, the Stardust, Westward Ho, and Frontier are making way for some new towers by Boyd, and there's some glass monstrosity going up between Monte Carlo and Bellagio. What was it that Rush said in their song Tom Sawyer? "He knows changes aren't permanent, but change is."

So here are some pictures I took. Be sure to click on the pictures to enlarge them so they're reasonably viewable.

I took the above picture of the Strip from the Stratosphere Tower 2 years ago. Compare it to this one, which I took 2 days ago:

No visit to Las Vegas is complete without seeing a fountain show at Bellagio:

I can appreciate a double entendre/innuendo as much as the next guy:

These hang in the shopping area between Venetian and Palazzo:

Ah, your intrepid blogger stands 866' above the Strip:

It seems that the front (and back) of the Luxor pyramid are now used for advertising:

I'll be posting other pictures--from the Bellagio Conservatory, no less--in a separate post, about math!

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Clint Eastwood.

Today's question is:
For how many numbers is the square of the number equal to the absolute value of the number itself?

Getting Men To Become Teachers

I thought this to be a humorous, and sadly insightful, statement in a reasonably good article about one school's efforts at getting guys to become teachers:

Now, Wheelock is trying to boost its enrollment and its bottom line by making itself more attractive to this underrepresented group. One would think that it might have been easy to lure male students to a campus teeming with women, but Wheelock’s pursuit of the opposite sex is proving difficult when fewer men want to go into teaching, still the college’s specialty.

Men make up only 8% of the student body. When I went to West Point, the ratio was about 87:13 men to women. In other words, guys have more "options" at Wheelock than women did at West Point. Wow.

Shut Up And Sing

John Mellencamp has sung some beautiful songs over the past few decades, but that doesn't mean he has any more intelligence on other topics than the average man on the street. Clearly he knows nothing about the 1st Amendment, which prevents the government from silencing him and thereby protecting him from the scorn of people who actually have a clue.

Just to be clear, John: if you only have the freedom to voice popular views, you don't really have a freedom of speech at all.

Teachers and Trivia

Joanne links to a story about teachers who host trivia competitions--and also mentions my recent post about the Thursday Trivia Night competitions that I recently attended.

"The Evil Bastard Child of Game Theory and Behavioral Economics"

Even with socialism running rampant, there will always be people out there who fill find a new and creative way to separate people from their money. So it is with Swoopo, a bidding site that rakes in beaucoup dinero from participants:

Consider the MacBook Pro that Swoopo sold on Sunday for that $35.86. Swoopo lists its suggested retail price at $1,799; judging by the specs, you can actually get a similar one online from Apple (AAPL) for $1,349, but let's not quibble. Either way, it's a heck of a discount. But now look at what the bidding fee does. For each "bid" the price of the computer goes up by a penny and Swoopo collects 60 cents. To get up to $35.86, it takes, yes, an incredible 3,585 bids, for each of which Swoopo gets its fee. That means that before selling this computer, Swoopo took in $2,151 in bidding fees. Yikes.

Essentially, you pay 60 cents to place a bid. And since each bid causes the price of the item to go up only by 1 cent, that's a lot of 60 cent bids that Swoopo gets!

In essence, what your 60-cent bidding fee gets you at Swoopo is a ticket to a lottery, with a chance to get a high-end item at a ridiculously low price. With each bid the auction gets extended for a few seconds to keep it going as long as someone in the world is willing to take just one more shot. This can go on for a very, very long time. The winner of the MacBook Pro auction bid more than 750 times, accumulating $469.80 in fees.

With regards to math, economics, and psychology, this is akin to a "dollar auction", in which people place bids to buy a dollar bill:

The setup involves an auctioneer who volunteers to auction off a dollar bill with the following rule: the dollar goes to the highest bidder, who pays the amount he bids. The second-highest bidder also must pay the highest amount that he bid, but gets nothing in return. Suppose that the game begins with one of the players bidding 1 cent, hoping to make a 99 cent profit. He will quickly be outbid by another player bidding 2 cents, as a 98 cent profit is still desirable. Similarly, another bidder may bid 3 cents, making a 97 cent profit. Alternatively, the first bidder may attempt to convert their loss of 1 cent into a gain of 97 cents by also bidding 3 cents. In this way, a series of bids is maintained. However, a problem becomes evident as soon as the bidding reaches 99 cents. Supposing that the other player had bid 98 cents, they now have the choice of losing the 98 cents or bidding a dollar even, which would make their profit zero. After that, the original player has a choice of either losing 99 cents or bidding $1.01, and only losing one cent. After this point the two players continue to bid the value up well beyond the dollar, and neither stands to profit.

The human psyche....

Racism In America

This article uses the Philadelphia swim club story to posit that average people, decency, and the market can take care of racist acts in this country:

Racism is so unwelcome in America these days, government is no longer the most effective mechanism to thwart it. The common sense of good-hearted citizens is enough to shame culprits to relent. Modern institutions have filled the void where organizations like the NAACP have become more and more irrelevant - and hopelessly partisan - in confronting bigotry. ..

While racism does exist, it is no longer the natural order, nor is it representative of the majority. Otherwise, this story would not have played out the way it did.

Hear hear.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Another NEA/CTA Story

And this from the Independent Women's Forum:

Consider the NEA's largest affiliate, the California Teachers Association. It just raised union dues $26-on top of the $1,000 already taken out of teachers' paychecks. Surely the CTA will use those funds to offset education funding cuts and teacher layoffs. Or maybe the CTA could use those funds to improve teachers' working conditions, right? Wrong. The NEA and its affiliates like the CTA have started spending $ millions on political activities that have little if anything to do with education (see here and here). Thankfully, there are new and emerging options for teachers (see here and here) and parents, who together far outnumber the NEA's conscripts.
Gotta love independent women, eh?

NEA and Gay Marriage

NEA is supposed to be a labor union. Instead, it's a combination labor union and leftist agenda pusher. What possible relationship is there between a teacher's pay, benefits, and labor conditions, and whether or not a state allows gay marriage?

I'm impressed with this quote:

NEA does not believe that a single term must be used to designate this legally recognized "equal treatment" relationship, and recommends that each state decide for itself whether "marriage," "civil union," "domestic partnership," or some other term is most appropriate based upon the cultural, social, and religious values of its citizenry.

Perhaps it's just that I'm from California and such things seem old hat to me, but are there any states that don't allow some sort of civil union? If so, which ones? And if not, what is the purpose of this new business item (NBI) except to promote gay marriage? And why should a labor union get to spend my money promoting such an issue? Answer: it shouldn't.

Closing West Point

About 3 months ago there was a piece written in which the author advocated closing the US Military Academy and its sister academies. I wasn't impressed with his argument.

A "sosh" professor at West Point has articulated why we should not only keep West Point open, but should clone it for other fields. I don't agree with his argument, however. The primary reason for keeping West Point open is that it's doing exactly what it's supposed to be doing--training high-caliber officers for our army. The army is pleased with West Point's product, and it's graduates are helping to win our wars.

Why on earth would we want to close such an institution?

Back From Las Vegas

Clearly I am the only Star Trek fan at RotLC, as no one got Friday's trivia question.

But what's that got to do with Las Vegas? I'll tell you what that has to do with Las Vegas!

There are some new Star Trek slot machines in many of the casinos. Staying at the Stratosphere (I'll post pictures later) I played at one for quite some time. I kept winning these bonus rounds--they're awesome! This game has definitely replaced Tailgate Party as my favorite slot machine; heck, that game took $10 from me, but Star Trek gave it back. Anyway, I played Star Trek long enough to rack up enough points to get a Stratosphere t-shirt out of the deal, so in that regard life is pretty good.

Since school got out I've been to DC, Florida/Bahamas, and Las Vegas. I also bought a travel trailer, so you might imagine that the checkbook is running pretty low--and you'd be right. And I don't get another paycheck until the end of September! I think I'm done with big trips for the summer, although a couple trips camping wouldn't be so bad. And I just got a flier advertising $20 mid-week rooms at the Sands Regency in Reno....

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Cornish. The current Duke of Cornwall is Prince Charles.

Today's question is:
What actor's name is an anagram of “Old West Action”?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
April 5, 2063.

Today's question is:
What is the descriptive term for someone or something from Cornwall, England? (Bonus: who is the current Duke of Cornwall?)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Today's question is:
In the Star Trek universe, on what date do humans make “first contact” with Vulcans, an extra-terrestrial species?

Off Again!

Last week I was in the city I was told had the 2nd most hotel rooms in the country (Orlando). At the moment this is posted I expect to be taking off for a weekend in what I am told is the city with the most hotel rooms in the country--Las Vegas.

I'm not taking my computer so I won't be posting until I return on Sunday, but daily trivia questions are already scheduled to show up at 4pm each day.

Enjoy your weekend. I know I'll enjoy mine!


For the last 12 weeks I've been meeting a team of fellow teachers at the Sacramento Brewing Company for Trivia Night. The restaurant and bar fill with teams of at most 6 players each and 30 trivia questions plus a tiebreaker are asked throughout. Answers are written on an answer sheet and the host scores each one.

Two of us missed last week since we were in Florida, and three of our team missed tonight. After 11 weeks, though, we were still in the lead by 9 points over the next highest team, and tonight was the last night of the 12-week quarter. Win, and a $100 gift certificate to the restaurant was ours.

It was a rough night of questions. With half our team gone we didn't score as high as we usually do. We changed some right answers, and guessed some others.

Different subject. It was well over five years ago, on one of my trips to British Columbia, that I learned about the territory of Nunavut. The Northwest Territories were too large, and the eastern part was split off to create the new territory of Nunavut. (A competition was held to name the territory; the runner-up name was Bob.) Knowledge that this place even existed has never paid off for me, but I always somehow hoped it would.

Back to tonight's Trivia Night. One of the questions was, Iqaluit is the capital of what Canadian territory or province? Knowing it wasn't Yukon or any of the provinces, I was able to narrow it down to either the Northwest Territories or Nunavut. I rolled the dice, told our team scribe my guess, and let it be.

When the answers were read off at the end of the night, the correct answer was, in fact, Nunavut. My trivial knowledge of the existence of that Canadian territory has finally paid off!

We ended up winning the $100 gift certificate, too. We'd have won it without that particular answer, but I'm still stoked that I've heard about Nunavut.

And now you have, too.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Obama Supporter Doesn't Like Black Kids?

The owner of that Philadelphia "swim club" (whatever that is) that turned away a bunch of kids apparently for the crime of being black--he was an Obama supporter? Looks like it.

For those wondering how an Obama supporter could have problems with minority kids in his pool club, the answer’s actually depressingly simple. The skin color of a President several states away may be safely abstract. The skin color of the child currently splashing in the shallow end of your pool is rather, ah, concrete. Sad, but true.

Not that I’m alleging that this is the case, here. But that kind of break between the abstract and the concrete has been known to occur.

I've said it too many times to count--consistency isn't a strong suit of the left. But hypocrisy is.

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Pan Am 103.

Today's question is:
What was the name of the 2nd Harry Potter book and movie?


I had an interview yesterday. I don't have any feel for whether or not I knocked them dead, but I don't think I tubed it.

Odd Weather

So far this is turning out to be the Year Without A Summer in the Sacramento area. Yes, it's warm, but unless there was a hot streak when I was in Florida, it seems like it's been weeks since we've had a triple-digit day. Not that I'm complaining, of course.

And now there's hope that we might actually get some rain this winter:

El Nino is back.

Government scientists said Thursday that the periodic warming of water in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which can affect weather around the world, has returned...

In general, El Nino conditions are associated with increased rainfall across the east-central and eastern Pacific and with drier than normal conditions over northern Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

A summer El Nino can lead to wetter than normal conditions in the intermountain regions of the United States and over central Chile. In an El Nino year there tend to be more Eastern Pacific hurricanes and fewer Atlantic hurricanes.

The Wheels Of Justice Turn Slowly

Can't say I'm disappointed with this tidbit of news:
Former University of Colorado Professor Ward Churchill's request for reinstatement has been denied in Denver District Court. Front pay has also been deemed inappropriate in the case...

In April, a Denver jury agreed with Churchill's premise that he was illegally fired, but it stopped far short of awarding Churchill a high dollar figure. Instead it awarded Churchill $1...

"This is a huge win for the University of Colorado because the jury found against the university and the judge throwing the verdict out now can only be considered a major judicial upset," 9NEWS Legal Analyst Scott Robinson said.
Another story presents the events a bit more clearly:
In a resounding defeat for ousted University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill, a judge ruled Tuesday not only against his request for reinstatement at CU but that he deserves no financial compensation for having been fired from the school nearly two years ago.

The ruling from Chief Denver District Judge Larry Naves was in seemingly stunning contrast to a jury’s verdict from the civil trial Churchill brought against the school earlier this year.

The man is a wart on the ass of humanity.

I Would Not Do This

Periodically I'm asked how I handle being a teacher, especially when some students are just hot hot hot. Fortunately I have one of those switches in my brain that turns off any thoughts of my students as sexual beings; I can recognize that some of them are attractive without feeling attracted to them at all. Sadly, not all teachers have this switch:

British teacher Leonora Rustamova says she had the best interests of the boys in class in mind when she wrote a racy novel to encourage them to read...

Leonora Rustamova, a teacher in West Yorkshire, said she was only trying to motivate disaffected boys when she wrote a racy book that featured the boys in her class lusting after her.

The novel - Stop! Don’t Read This! - includes underage drinking, hints of drug use and “pupil fantasies”.

When I was in high school, one of my teachers discovered that a particular girl and I were having sex. Sometimes he would ask us about it, or would make a comment about it in class. It never occurred to us to complain to school administration--that's not how we did things back then--but it certainly made us feel uncomfortable. Our attitude was: those who knew, knew; those who didn't know, didn't need to. It wasn't a teacher's business what we were doing. However he found out, he should have kept that knowledge to himself.

I don't want to see my students as sexual creatures. Even those who are probably having sex, I do not--cannot--acknowledge it, even to myself. To me they're students, they're children. It's not what I want to think about.

It's bad enough that the teacher in the linked story above thought about students' having the hots for her. But to go that one extra step and write stories about it? Eww.

Hat tip to Joanne for this story.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Severe acute respiratory syndrome.

Today's question is:
What was the flight number of the 747 destroyed by Libyan terrorists over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988?

This Has All Happened Before...

...and it will all happen again.

The national budget must be balanced. The public debt must be reduced; the arrogance of the authorities must be moderated and controlled. Payments to foreign governments must be reduced, if the nation doesn't want to go bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.

Cicero understood--2064 years ago.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Why Is Global Warming Fakery Being Pushed?

This guy agrees with me:

If you like poverty, inefficiency, and bureaucratic controls over the economy, and therefore control over your choices, the "climate change" movement is ideal.

If you want to subsidize China and India, neither of which will enforce the rules laid down by unelected international bureaucrats, this movement is for you.

If you want to pay more for less energy, there is no better way than to pass the cap and tax bill which the House has passed. It will be sent to the U.S. Senate next week.

The rest of us should oppose it.

I certainly oppose it.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
United States Pharmacopeia, a standards-setting organization.

Today's question is:
Remember the SARS “epidemic”? What does SARS stand for?

UC Merced's Graduation Bill

UC Merced scored a coup by getting the First Lady as its graduation speaker. I wrote a post about that in May, noting the ballooning cost of having her speak and questioning how the university was going to raise as much money as was needed.

The number back then was $700,000. It turns out that the actual numbers are in now, and of course, they're higher:

The final price of the University of California, Merced's commencement ceremony featuring first lady Michelle Obama was more than $1 million — surpassing the original estimate tenfold.

Private contributions and interest on a private endowment fund have helped cover the cost. UC spokeswoman Patti Waid Istas said that nonstate dollars and other contributions will be used to cover the remaining balance of around $362,338.

The school had budgeted $100,000 for the May commencement ceremony. The price tag ended up being $1.04 million.

Was she worth it? I guess only the people present can make that call. And as long as no taxpayer dollars are being spent for that ego boost--and I'm not yet convinced that's the case, but I have no evidence otherwise--I'm really in no position to complain.

How Bad Is It In California?

In a state with about 37 million people, this is amazing:

Twenty-five percent of California's revenue comes from income taxes paid by the 144,000 richest taxpayers, so "if one of them leaves, it's a really bad thing." Lots have left. Some never really arrive. Pierre Omidyar, after founding eBay in San Jose, resided in Nevada, which has no income tax.

California's cascading crises prefigure America's future unless Washington reverses the growth of government subservient to organized labor. The state cannot pay its bills, poorly educates its young, and its taxation punishes whatever success that its suffocating regulatory regime does not prevent.

This is where the US is heading under President Obama and the Democrats. And what happens when the country gets there?

A group of the biggest U.S. banks said they would stop accepting California's IOUs on Friday, adding pressure on the state to close its $26.3 billion annual budget gap...

Meanwhile, on Monday morning, a budget meeting between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders failed to produce a result. Amid the budget deadlock, Fitch Ratings on Monday dropped California's bond rating to BBB, down from A minus, the latest in a series of ratings downgrades for the state.

The state is issuing IOUs instead of tax refunds or payments to its creditors.

He who has eyes to see, let him see.

NEA Finally Admits It's A Labor Union

If it looks, walks, and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck. But not to the NEA. No, for years they've avoided the word "union" like a plague, preferring instead "association". But now they've dropped the pretense.

NEA promises to post the video of General Counsel Bob Chanin’s farewell speech. I’m looking forward to it, because it began as a fascinating recital of the early history of public school teacher collective bargaining. Chanin was in on it from the very beginning. If he wasn’t the architect, he was certainly the mason, welder and custodian of the teacher union as we know it today.

Whether it was Chanin’s retirement, Van Roekel’s new emphasis, or a spontaneous paradigm shift, this year NEA finally embraced the labor union label it has downplayed for 25 years. Delegate after delegate touted unionism and identified themselves proudly as part of the broader labor movement. Chanin told the crowd that while professional issues were important, “NEA and its affiliates should never lose sight of the fact that they are unions”...

Whatever you think of Chanin, he is to be applauded for his clarity in an age where obfuscation is the norm in politics. We shall not see his like again.

Another "T-Shirt At School" Post

Some people never learn, and that's why they become principals:

Anna Amador has gone to court on behalf of her daughter, who she says was ordered by her principal to change her shirt on "National Pro-Life T-Shirt Day." The shirt the girl was wearing displays two graphic pictures of a fetus growing in the womb.

What does the author mean by "graphic"? That term often carries a negative connotation, and the pictures of this fetus (seen at the link) look like the ones I marveled at in Life magazine back in the late 60s. Anyway, in case the link changes and the picture goes away, the shirt shows the word "abortion" above two pictures of a fetus followed by an empty picture, and then the words, "growing, growing, gone."

Offensive? Inappropriate?

First Amendment attorney William Becker, who represents Amador, disagreed that the shirt could be seen as containing inappropriate messages.

"The message of the T-shirt is that life is sacred," he said. "One would be very hard pressed to find anything wrong with that particular idea, except that some people do object to the political message.”
Hammer. Nail. Whack.

If A Male Teacher Had Done This, The Reaction Would Be Much Different

Double standards--twice the fun!

Elk Grove Unified officials have rescinded a request for parents to return DVDs that included "inappropriate images" they say were inadvertently sent home with students at Isabelle Jackson Elementary.

Now, the district doesn't want the DVDs back.

"Just destroy them," said district spokeswoman Torrey Johnson.

A teacher apparently sent the DVD retrospective of class activity home with her 24 students on the last day of school Friday.

Although the district would not say what sort of images the DVD contained, a copy obtained by The Bee from a parent showed six seconds of sexual content.

I've given CDs to my graduating seniors each year for the last few years. You can bet there's no pornography on them.

The Wheels On The Bus May Not Be Going Round And Round For Much Longer

California ed code specifically allows for school districts to charge fees to ride school buses; some districts do charge, others don't. But with California mired in so much debt, there may be an alternative to charging for buses--not providing them at all:

Budget cuts and increased fuel costs are combining to make it harder for school districts to provide bus service for students. And a new state proposal could render transportation funding as optional for school officials.

The plan also would reduce state school transportation spending by 20 percent, to $496 million.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Liberals: Principles vs. Dollars

In that contest, which do you think will win?

If you know anything at all about liberals, you know that consistency isn't their strong point--and you'll find this story hilarious:

The (very liberal) San Francisco Chronicle announced that they would stop publishing their newspaper at their aging, unionized printing plant and instead outsource the printing to a Canadian owned, non-union company.

Teachers, Students, and Facebook

Suppose a teacher is "friended" on Facebook by students, and thereby learns that these students are doing things they probably shouldn't be doing. How should the teacher respond?

Joanne has a good post on the topic.

Pictures From Nassau, The Bahamas

You read about the trip. Do you want to see some pictures?

as always, click to enlarge
I, your intrepid blogger, stand near the entrance of Fort Fincastle, on the highest point in Nassau.

Looking over Nassau from Deck 9 (the pool deck) of the Bahamas Celebration.

Atlantis Resort, seen from the bridge over to Paradise Island.

Our ship, the Bahamas Celebration, is closest, with Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas behind.

Cracking the Social Security Code?

Leave it to the math and computer geeks:

For all the concern about identity theft, researchers say there's a surprisingly easy way for the technology-savvy to figure out the precious nine digits of Americans' Social Security numbers.

"It's good that we found it before the bad guys," Alessandro Acquisti of Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh said of the method for predicting the numbers...

For people born after 1988 — when the government began issuing numbers at birth — the researchers were able to identify, in a single attempt, the first five Social Security digits for 44 percent of individuals. And they got all nine digits for 8.5 percent of those people in fewer than 1,000 attempts...

Social Security spokesman Mark Lassiter said the public should not be alarmed by the report "because there is no foolproof method for predicting a person's Social Security number."

"The suggestion that Mr. Acquisti has cracked a code for predicting an SSN is a dramatic exaggeration," Lassiter said via e-mail...

A problem in the battle against identity thieves is that many businesses use Social Security numbers as passwords or for other forms of authentication, something that was not anticipated when Social Security was devised in the 1930s. The Social Security Administration has long cautioned educational, financial and health care institutions against using the numbers as personal identifiers.

Imagine what can happen when government runs your health care, using your SSN in the process.

Are You Fat? Maybe, Maybe Not.

The US government uses the Body Mass Index, or BMI, to determine if someone is at a proper weight, is overweight, or obese. According to this article, though, it might not be a good metric at all:

As the Weekend Edition math guy, I spoke to Scott Simon and told him the body mass index fails on 10 grounds....

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Oklahoma State University.

Today's question is:
As pertains to food ingredients, vitamins, and other dietary supplements, what does USP stand for?

President Obama--Friend of Teachers?

Teachers voted heavily for President Obama, and the teachers unions could scarcely have done more to get him elected. But as the old saying says, no good deed goes unpunished:

Another presidential "no new taxes" pledge may be ready to bite the dust.

President Barack Obama promised during his campaign to contain his tax hiking zeal to those Americans who, in his view, make too much money. For everyone else, candidate Obama vowed, "no one making less than $250,000 a year will see any type of tax increase. Not income tax, not capital gains taxes, not any kind of tax."

Except for maybe a tax on health insurance benefits...

Those employees impacted by the tax -- school teachers, autoworkers, etc. -- were heavily in Obama's column in last fall's election and didn't seem bothered by his attacks on wealth. Perhaps they didn't realize their generous benefits would qualify them as wealthy.

They're looking at $2,000 to $4,000 a year in extra income taxes as their reward.

It's not a right-wing mouthpiece saying this; heck, I doubt there are any right-wing mouthpieces in Detroit.

Thanks, CTA/NEA. Thanks, liberals. And thanks to any other idiot who voted for this man.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

The Florida Trip

This trip started off as a disaster.

A friend bought this travel package over a year ago and a few months ago asked if I'd like to go with him to South Florida. Ft. Lauderdale, a cruise to the Bahamas, and Orlando--what's not to like?

I'll tell you what's not to like.

Getting into Orlando and getting the rental car after midnight wasn't a problem. Getting to our hotel the first night wasn't a problem. Driving across Florida to get to Fort Lauderdale wasn't a problem, and encountering our first of many thunderstorms wasn't a problem.

The Ramada "resort" in Fort Lauderdale was the beginning of the problem. Out in the middle of nowhere ("The Gateway to the Florida Turnpike"?), run down, and only a resort if you consider having a tennis court in the parking lot a "resort"; it's only a resort if it's your last one. We went to the Florida Visitor Center there, and that's when we got the news: if we wanted to get all the things he'd been promised when he bought the travel package, we had to go to a timeshare presentation.

But when he bought the package, he asked three separate times if this package had anything to do with timeshares. He was told that it did not. When he asked if I wanted to go, I asked him if there were timeshares involved, and he was emphatic in his no. Yet, part of the reason he bought the package in the first place--and it was not cheap--was for the additional goodies it supposedly included. Not seeing a way out of it, we went. After all, what harm could come from looking at nice properties for 90 min?

I won't go into details, but it lasted 4 hours. It only ended when I got, shall we say, "direct". Given a couple of our salesman's comments, we probably could have gotten out of there quicker had we been black--not even subtle racism. Yes, that will be going into our complaint letter to Ramada, which sold the package.

We're from California's Central Valley. There are a few things you don't see there. Overt racism is one, and summer rainstorms are another. Both of us have traveled to such climes before, though, so we knew to expect rain. But we didn't expect what we encountered. We didn't get just a short afternoon rainshower. No, we got hours-long violent thunderstorms.

You'd think Fort Lauderdale would have some form of nightlife. We searched but didn't find much. And then there's beach. The Welcome Center folks sent us to a crappy beach (over 20 min away), when another 10 min of driving would have gotten us to a much nicer (and more populated) strand, even though there was a lot of rain. After 2 days of this, hopes were being dashed of having a nice vacation.

Phase 2 of the trip was a 2-night cruise to the Bahamas. It was a small ship by today's standards, displacing only about 35,000 tons and still carrying 1500 passengers, and the ship was full--and there were a lot of fellow Ramada passengers on board. The ship looked nice enough, though.

And then we got to our cabin. First off, it was on Deck 8. There were only 9 decks, and on a ship, upper is better. We didn't pay to upgrade to a nicer cabin; we were told we'd get a tiny interior cabin. Instead we got this outside cabin on Deck 8, and the bathroom in there was bigger than the one I had in my cabin on the Carnival cruise I took my son on during Spring Break! Things were starting to look up, but our hopes for a good trip had been crushed to such a degree that we were cautiously optimistic.

When we checked in, there was a sign that said "Ship full, no upgrades available". I flirted a little with the lady who checked us in, and we think that might explain our upgrade. Don't really care why we got it, just glad we did.

It was a short cruise. Sail out one afternoon, visit Nassau the next day, and dock back in Fort Lauderdale the next morning. That short cruise was enough to reinvigorate us, though, as it was fantastic. Nassau was everything I'd hoped it would be, and the Atlantis resort was just what I expected--Vegas-like.

I spent a lot of money in Nassau, especially on rumcakes! (Shared one with a neighbor today and it was delicious.) Took lots of pictures, and even some video. And after Nassau we still had one more night on the ship! And the weather, for the most part, was cooperating!

But we had one more day in Fort Lauderdale when we got back, and our room reeked of cigarette smoke. We found the nice beach on our own that afternoon, leaving when the hurricane hit. Didn't even go out that night--I wanted to get up early so we could leave that city as early as possible. Fort Lauderdale, and everything associated with it, was sapping my will to live.

Heading north on I-95 we headed for the Kennedy Space Center, where I haven't been since Spring Break '86 (just a few weeks after Challenger). En route we were hit by another hurricane, and the rain was coming down so hard that everyone was driving 25 on the freeway with their flasher lights on. Freeways there are white (they're black here in California), and with the rain I sometimes couldn't even see the lane lines on the road. Just followed the lights ahead of me....

The weather let up shortly before we got to KSC. There's a big (and expensive) visitors' center there now, and included in the theme-park-level admission price was a trip in the shuttle launch simulator. Tres cool! We had a reasonably good time there.

Then on to Orlando. The timeshare guy said we'd have to endure another presentation in Orlando--another of the many lies he told us--so we were in no hurry to get there. When we did, though, we found that these two Ramada facilities represent Good and Evil. While the Ramada in Ft. Lauderdale was crappy and their Visitor Center staff lied to us, in Orlando they were exceedingly helpful and friendly. Maybe it's Good Cop/Bad Cop, I don't know, but we things continued to look up for us after leaving Fort Lauderdale. Even this hotel was cool--our room overlooked an interior patio that contained a pool, hot tub, bar, and restaurant!

On our one full day in Orlando we had to decide what to do, and settled on Wet N Wild water park. I figured I'd get more out of that than I would any Disney theme park, and I'm sure I did.

We left for home on the 4th of July. I'd scored us emergency exit row seats on both legs our flight home, so again, life was good. Our connecting flight left Salt Lake City some time after 9, and as we took off I could see fireworks going off at different places all over the city. I didn't see Reno until we were well past it, but a flight attendant said he saw fireworks going off down there. And as we flew down I-80 and the Sacramento metropolitan area appeared before us, I could see fireworks celebrations going off all over the place.

We didn't wait long for the shuttle bus to pick us up and take us to the parking lot, and on the way I realized that I hadn't even noticed the weather. It was about 70 degrees at 10:30 at night--calm, low humidity. In other words, perfect. When you walk outside in Florida you're hit with a broadside of stifling humidity; you can't help but notice it, and the air conditioning, in buildings and in the car, stays on 24/7. But not here, not home.

I'm glad to be home. My next trip is very soon. My neighbor ladies and I are going to Las Vegas :-)