Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy Teachers

This should make for some interesting talk in the staff room next week:

A career in teaching might be good for your well-being. While the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index previously revealed that business owners were richer in well-being than other job types, further research isolating teachers from other professionals finds teachers fare as well as or better than business owners in overall well-being.

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
What was the name given to the throne upon which the Shah of Iran sat?

Social Networking Media In Classrooms

Joanne links to an article promoting the use of Facebook, et al, in the K-12 classroom. At the time I write this there are only four comments and I agree with all of them.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
10 Downing Street.

There's a short if not mildly entertaining story behind the picture below. In the late Spring of 1986 I was one of four cadets sent for two weeks on exchange to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. We trained with the Brits for about seven of those days and toured on the other seven. One day we ended up in London.

I was disappointed to see that Downing Street, a very short dead-end street, was blocked off and one bobby was guarding it (clearly he was for security theater only, as one cop couldn't do much of anything). I mentioned to him how disappointed I was, because I'd have liked to take a picture of #10. I should be embarrassed to admit this next part, but since I only did it a couple times in life I guess it's not so bad--I name-dropped. I told him I was a cadet at the US Military Academy on exchange to Sandhurst. He asked if I had any identification, I showed him my ID with "Cadet USMA" listed as rank, and that, along with my short hair and American accent, must have convinced him I was legit. He told me to go quickly, stay on the left side of the street, take my picture quickly, and check back in with him when I was done.

And that's the story of the picture above. The bobby outside #10 did not react to my presence at all, even though he and I were the only two people outside on the street.

I've been told that #10 doesn't have a doorknob on the outside of the door because there's always someone on the inside ready to open the door. The picture above seems to confirm this.

And now for today's question:
In what country is Waterloo, the site of Napoleon's last battle, located?

A New Twist On An Old Story

Via The Volokh Conspiracy we learn of this strange tale of racial discrimination. Oh, the beginning of the tale isn't so strange, as blacks' accusing each other of "acting white" for doing well in school is nothing new. What's new is a school losing a suit, or settling, for allowing such taunting, and progressively worse acts, to occur:

"What made this unique is that this, as far as I know, is the only Title VI case ever brought in federal court when it's an intra-racial hostile environment," Kobrovsky said.

Title VI prohibits allowing a racially hostile educational environment in schools and programs receiving federal financial assistance and provides for a private cause of action for violations.

The younger student initially asserted nine causes of action, but only the Title VI claim went to trial.

She claimed she suffered emotional trauma because she was subjected to racial and sexual slurs at an elementary school in Salters during September and November 2006. She had to receive home instruction for the rest of the school year, according to an amended complaint.

Despite complaints, school administrative staff and district officials allowed the abuse to "escalate to the point where [she] was physically threatened, assaulted and battered," the suit alleged.

The suit also claimed that a school official and a district official, either individually or together, "retaliated" against the student by causing the state Department of Social Services to launch an abuse-and-neglect investigation of the plaintiffs and their household. The complaint said DSS determined the investigation, which included a strip search of the student, was unfounded...

"You have a culture where to act like you want to do well in school is considered acting white. And that is part of why we're saying that it was racial, even though the students were all of the same race because they weren't acting how the others thought they should be acting as members of that race," Kobrovsky said.

Could whites make such coin by accusing each other of "acting white"?

OK, I ask that question only to be snarky. The far more important question is how adults could allow children to be bullied. There's far more at work than some B.S. racial identity thing here, there's a definite hatred.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
The White House is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. What is the address of the residence of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Uh Oh

When I left for Reno yesterday, the weather report said "light snow" for Monday and only a 30% of flurries for Tuesday.

When I got outside today, the car was covered with snow. After losing a bunch of money playing Pai Gow, the car was covered again--and the snow wasn't stopping.

That was a few hours ago. The snow still hasn't stopped. The Weather Channel says 1-3" accumulation tonight with more expected tomorrow. The California Department of Transportation web site says that chains are required for quite some distance over the summit.

Good thing I have chains and lots of snackies. Wish I had some patience!

It sure is beautiful looking out the 9th floor window right now, though.

Update, 12/29/09: The snow stopped falling at about 3am, and I wish I'd brought my camera to show you how nice it looks outside. Oh, it's still relatively dark with overcast, but the roads look clear--and CalTrans reports no chains required over the summit! We'll be leaving after lunch.

Update #2, 12/29/09: Under ideal conditions the drive home would have taken 2:15, and today it took only 2:30. Considering what I was watching late last night and early this morning, I'm going to call that a win.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Racer X.

Today's question is:
What was the designation of John Kennedy's torpedo boat?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The Breakfast Club, 1985. The line was spoken by Anthony Michael Hall's character Brian, during the pot smoking scene.
(I guess that wasn't a classic line, it was a line from a classic movie!)

And that's the end of Classic Movie Lines Week. We'll do a week of random trivia questions, and next Sunday we'll start a new theme week.

Today's question is:
Who was Speed Racer's older brother?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Braveheart, from 1995.

Today's question, the last in Classic Movie Lines Week, is:
From which movie do we get the line, “Chicks cannot hold they smoke, that's what it is”?

We're In Trouble

Why we're in trouble:

No offense intended to New York Post reporter Charles Hurt, but the behavior of Barack Obama is not showing us a "new side" of him. This is who he's always been. You don't sit in the "church" of Jeremiah Wright for two decades and not be angry and resentful toward America. You do not write books with Bill Ayers and learn how to love America. Trashing America in nearly every speech isn't anything new for Obama.

This is who he is and who he's always been. Bitter, angry and resentful.

Nothing new about this at all. We were never dazzled by his "soaring oratory" or seduced by Hopenchange. Now, it seems, we're in the majority.

Those of you who were taken in by the "soaring oratory" or who thought this insider Chicago politician, who's never done anything in the business world, would "reach across the aisle" and be a "transformative" or a "post-racial" president--well, accept that you were fooled, and vow not to make that mistake again. Don't cling to your clearly wrong beliefs out of embarrassment or stubbornness.

More reasons why we're in trouble:

Recent headlines seem lifted directly out of an Ayn Rand novel. President Obama decries the “fat cat bankers on Wall Street”. Harry Reid attacks insurance companies for making too much profit. House Democrat leaders call Tea Partiers “Racist, Nazi, Gun Nuts”. How about this nauseating statement made by Army General George Casey after the Muslim terrorist attack on Ft. Hood?

As great a tragedy as this was, it would be a shame if our diversity became a casualty as well

Each of these headlines might well have been uttered by an Ayn Rand character. Rand, whose father’s pharmacy was confiscated by the Soviets during the communist revolution of 1917, and who came to America in 1926, seems uniquely able to speak to us about the inverted morality of our times. Virtue is to be apologized for. Depravity commands respect. Success is cast as evil and punished while failure is blamed on others and rewarded. Rand’s insights into the psychological state of collectivists—those who demand that we sacrifice our individual freedom and happiness for the sake of the state—explain what often seems incomprehensible to thinking people.

We're not in trouble because people believe these things. We're in trouble because they're true.

Our only hope is for conservatives (not necessarily Republicans) to make headway in next November's elections, and for our rookie President to be shown the door two years after that.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Top Gun, from 1986.

Today's question is:
From which movie do we get the line, “They may take our lives, but they'll never take—our freedom!”?

Cheesy Decorations

click to embiggen

Some people do very elaborate, beautiful Christmas lighting displays, and others do cheesy. I'm OK with both.

Here's one not far from my house--note they've strung a line across the street so Santa can fly overhead! This display counts as cheesy, but I like it.

Merry Christmas.

Litmus Test Currently Dead

I've written twice recently about the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities' plan for an ideological litmus test for prospective teachers (and you might correctly guess that it's a somewhat left-leaning litmus test). Joanne reports that under pressure from FIRE, the school has backed down--at least for now.

University of Minnesota-Twin Cities has promised not to enforce a “political litmus test for future teachers,” FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights) proclaims...

In response to a letter from FIRE, General Counsel Mark B. Rotenberg promised that “[n]o University policy or practice ever will mandate any particular beliefs, or screen out people with ‘wrong beliefs’ from the University.”

Think this is over? No, this is just one skirmish. They'll be back.

It's Christmastime

Merry Christmas!

I hope you enjoy this video as much as I do.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
A Streetcar Named Desire, from 1951.

Today's question is:
From which movie do we get the line, "I feel the need—the need for speed!"?

Christmas Eve in California

It was a clear blue sky today, although a few wispy clouds showed up in the late afternoon. It was crisp out this morning, but got up to 58 degrees.

After heading up into the foothills to visit some relatives today, my son and I stopped by Jamba Juice on the way home.

That's how we roll here in California :-)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Network, from 1976.

Today's question is:
From which movie do we get the line, "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers”?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Sudden Impact, from 1983.

Today's question is:
From which movie do we get the line, "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"?

Yale Administrators (and the students who back down to them) Are Sissies

I have to quote this from the Huffington Post. Me, quoting Huffington Post! Actually, I'm just linking to Huffington Post, but I'm quoting Greg Lukianoff of FIRE:

It started before the Harvard and Yale teams flailed against each other on the football field last month; Yale's freshman class designed and voted to produce an anti-Harvard T-shirt that actually had some literary merit. According to the Yale Daily News,

The original design, which won out over five other entries, displayed an F. Scott Fitzgerald quote in the front -- "I think of all Harvard men as sissies" -- in bold white letters. The back of the long-sleeved, navy blue T-shirt said "WE AGREE" in capital letters, with "The Game 2009" scrawled in script underneath it.

Unfortunately--and is it any surprise these days?--a couple of Yale administrators decided that the word "sissies" was too offensive because some people interpreted it as a slur against gay men. This was news to the Yale freshmen who, like me, see "sissies" as being funny primarily because it is such a ridiculous, silly, old-fashioned put down, somewhere between "cad" and "toots" as far as insults go. Besides, in context, Fitzgerald actually wrote, "I think of all Harvard men as sissies, like I used to be." Does anyone really think Fitzgerald was coming out as a success story of the ex-gay movement, or was he simply calling Harvard men, well, a bunch of sissies (modern translation: wusses, wimps, etc.)? The administrators were gearing up to ban the T-shirt, but the students backed down and changed the design.
Why do people actually pay money to attend such schools?

It's Good To Be The Boss

Especially if you're a university president:

In the 1990s, the president of Adelphi University was accused of receiving excessive compensation and forced from office. Since then, the leaders of American, Towson, Texas Southern and other endowment-poor universities have also crashed to earth after plunging their institutions into turmoil for similar excesses.

Now, charges are swirling over Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J. The state attorney general has sued the institute and its president, Harold J. Raveché, accusing him of plundering the endowment and receiving $1.8 million in illegal low-interest loans for vacation homes, with half of them later forgiven.

The institute’s trustees tripled Dr. Raveché’s salary over a decade, to $1.1 million last year, higher than presidential salaries at Harvard, M.I.T. and Princeton, and, the lawsuit says, Stevens used multiple sets of books to hide its deteriorating financial condition.

I guess it's not just "Wall Street fat cats" and "evil corporations" who do this sort of thing.

Update: The theme of the above post hits a little close to home:

Attorney General Jerry Brown is auditing University Enterprises Inc., a nonprofit organization that is closely affiliated with Sacramento State.

In a letter dated Nov. 5, the attorney general's office asked University Enterprises for seven years of financial information as well as information about loans made to Alexander Gonzalez, president of California State University, Sacramento. Gonzalez also serves as the president of University Enterprise's board of directors...

But the audit of University Enterprises appears to come in response to a request from the California Faculty Association, the union that represents CSU professors, which sent a letter to the attorney general in July. The letter alleges that University Enterprises and other foundations affiliated with Cal State campuses have mismanaged millions of dollars. It cites these examples....


Pittsburgh Tuition Tax Post Updated

My post about the attempt by the mayor of Pittsburgh to place a "tuition tax" on local university students has been updated, and a resolution reached.

Monday, December 21, 2009

How The Environmental Movement Can Win Friends And Influence People

Yes, this is the way to sell your idea of treading lightly on Mother Earth:

Man's best friend could be one of the environment's worst enemies, according to a new study which says the carbon pawprint of a pet dog is more than double that of a gas-guzzling sports utility vehicle...

Combine the land required to generate its food and a "medium" sized dog has an annual footprint of 0.84 hectares (2.07 acres) -- around twice the 0.41 hectares required by a 4x4 driving 10,000 kilometres (6,200 miles) a year, including energy to build the car.

To confirm the results, the New Scientist magazine asked John Barrett at the Stockholm Environment Institute in York, Britain, to calculate eco-pawprints based on his own data. The results were essentially the same.

"Owning a dog really is quite an extravagance, mainly because of the carbon footprint of meat," Barrett said.

Other animals aren't much better for the environment, the Vales (authors) say.

Cats have an eco-footprint of about 0.15 hectares, slightly less than driving a Volkswagen Golf for a year, while two hamsters equates to a plasma television and even the humble goldfish burns energy equivalent to two mobile telephones...

And pets' environmental impact is not limited to their carbon footprint, as cats and dogs devastate wildlife, spread disease and pollute waterways, the Vales say...

But the best way of compensating for that paw or clawprint is to make sure your animal is dual purpose, the Vales urge. Get a hen, which offsets its impact by laying edible eggs, or a rabbit, prepared to make the ultimate environmental sacrifice by ending up on the dinner table.

"Rabbits are good, provided you eat them," said Robert Vale.

Eat your pets. It's good for you, it's good for the pet, it's good for the Earth.

Ask some people about their particular brand of environmentalism, they'll tell you about recycling, taking mass transit, and replacing incandescent light bulbs with fluorescents or LEDs. None of those is necessarily bad, but the people who want to force them on everyone else probably already do these things and hence wouldn't be giving up very much. Ask them to do without a pet, though....

Sylvie Comont, proud owner of seven cats and two dogs -- the environmental equivalent of a small fleet of cars -- says defiantly, "Our animals give us so much that I don't feel like a polluter at all.

"I think the love we have for our animals and what they contribute to our lives outweighs the environmental considerations.

"I don't want a life without animals," she told AFP.

There are too many people to laugh at in this one little story.

Who comes across worse: the woman who loves her animals and because of that decides, against the evidence, that she's not a polluter, or the people who published this study and who apparently think they're going to win converts to the environmentalist cause by telling people to eat their pets?

(Here's another link, as the first will invariably go bad.)

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, from 1948.

Today's question is:
From which movie do we get the line, “Go ahead, make my day”?

California Legislature Can't Agree On "Reforming" Education

It's a valid question: are the changes required in order to qualify for federal Race To The Top funds genuine reforms, or just changes with no real teeth?

I already wrote about one change the legislature has made in order to be compliant--and no one can tell me its impact!--but now they can't agree on others:

With time running short, the Legislature on Thursday failed once again to strike agreement on legislation to compete for a share of $4.35 billion in Race to the Top federal funds.

The Senate instead passed a partial compromise, SBX5 4, that combined portions of two competing Assembly and Senate bills.

Under the bill, California would adopt new academic content standards, alter student testing, overhaul failing schools, and give parents the right to transfer their children from the lowest-performing campuses or to force major campus changes by gathering enough signatures on petitions.

I'm not sure what changes in our content standards would be required; our math standards are exceedingly rigorous, and some say too rigorous. Our state standards have repeatedly gained high praise from national organizations. And our testing requirements are more rigorous than required by NCLB.

It would be nice to know my details about what changes are required, and why.

Update, 12/22/09: Here's some interesting information about the proposed changes:

Of all the reforms that legislators are on the verge of passing to enhance its Race to the Top application, the most consequential also has been the least discussed.

California is about to commit to junk its decade-old, much ballyhooed system of K-12 academic standards by Aug. 2. Doing so will the require writing new assessments and curriculum frameworks and adopting new textbooks over the next few years– at a cost that easily run in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

What’s amazing is not the state’s consideration of the Obama administration’s push for “common core” standards. The concept of internationally benchmarked academic standards to which students in all states can be measured and compared is certainly sound.

But, in the hopes of scoring extra points in the Race to the Top contest the state is saying it will adopt common core standards as article of faith, essentially sight unseen.

California’s standards aren’t perfect; there appear to be too many of them in many grades in many subjects. But they are tough. Skeptics have raised legitimate worries that common core standards may be flabby, especially in math.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question, the first in Classic Movie Lines Week, is:
From which movie do we get the line, “Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges! I don't have to show you any stinkin' badges!”?

Praying For Someone = Bullying?

I weep for the land of my ancestors.

A devout Christian teacher has lost her job after discussing her faith with a mother and her sick child and offering to pray for them.

Olive Jones, a 54-year-old mother of two, who taught maths to children too ill to attend school, was dismissed following a complaint from the girl’s mother. She was visiting the home of the child when she spoke about her belief in miracles and asked whether she could say a prayer, but when the mother indicated they were not believers she did not go ahead.

Mrs Jones was then called in by her managers who, she says, told her that sharing her faith with a child could be deemed to be bullying and informed her that her services were no longer required.


And let's not forget that this occurred in a country with a state religion!

Wearing Flowers In Your Hair, Not Phones In Your Ear

Weren't those hippies against "the Man" back then? Let's see what "the Man" has in store for their little bohemian paradise today:

Gavin Newsom is at it again. The San Francisco mayor's latest foray into annoying nanny statism is a proposal, reported in The Chronicle last week, to require the city's cell phone retailers to post the radiation levels of their products...

In other cities, mayors usually try to make it easier for local businesses to prosper. But in The Special City, the mayor somehow manages to find ways that, if anything, make it harder for commercial enterprises to compete with out-of-town retailers...

The Federal Communications Commission and the Food and Drug Administration say cell phones sold in America are safe. The World Health Organization says they are not a health risk.

The Environmental Working Group has found studies that suggest that there could be problems from long-term cell phone use.

On the other hand, the American Cancer Society -- which isn't afraid to cry "carcinogen" -- looked at studies on cell phone use and cancer and found the following: "Patients with brain tumors do not report more cell phone use overall than the controls. This finding is true when all brain tumors are considered as a group, when specific types of tumors are considered, and when specific locations within the brain are considered. In fact, most of the studies show a trend toward (SET ITAL) a lower risk of brain tumors among cell phone uses, for unclear reasons (END ITAL)." (My italics.) The Cancer Society did warn that there has not been enough research to determine if cell phones might affect children differently than adults...

There's no need to be a fill-in for the FDA. If Newsom thinks it is his job to reduce risky behavior, he instead could focus on the estimated 900-plus new cases of HIV in the city each year.

Closer to home, if Newsom feels the urge to warn people of potential threats, he might want to put up a warning signs under Welcome to San Francisco banners -- that disclose the city's 99 homicides in 2008. As the precautionary principle ordinance notes, the public has a "right to know."

I shake my head in wonder.

Updated Post on Climate Change

My recent post on climate change has been updated.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Hattie McDaniel in 1939, for her role in Gone With The Wind.

Today's question is:
In what state is the US Air Force Academy located?

And for those readers who still pop in during Christmas break, tomorrow will be the start of Classic Movie Lines Week! Each day's trivia question will be a line from a movie, and you get to identify the movie.

Learning Styles--No Scientific Basis

I'm skeptical about the whole global warming thing, and have been for quite some time. I've also been skeptical about some educational dogma, specifically "multiple intelligences" and "learning styles". Joanne's blog has pointed me to the current issue of Psychological Science In The Public Interest, which contains an article about learning styles. I'll quote from the abstract:

The term "learning styles" refers to the concept that individuals differ in regard to what mode of instruction or study is most effective for them. Proponents of learning-style assessment contend that optimal instruction requires diagnosing individuals' learning style and tailoring instruction accordingly. Assessments of learning style typically ask people to evaluate what sort of information presentation they prefer (e.g., words versus pictures versus speech) and/or what kind of mental activity they find most engaging or congenial (e.g., analysis versus listening), although assessment instruments are extremely diverse. The most common—but not the only—hypothesis about the instructional relevance of learning styles is the meshing hypothesis, according to which instruction is best provided in a format that matches the preferences of the learner (e.g., for a "visual learner," emphasizing visual presentation of information).

The learning-styles view has acquired great influence within the education field, and is frequently encountered at levels ranging from kindergarten to graduate school. There is a thriving industry devoted to publishing learning-styles tests and guidebooks for teachers, and many organizations offer professional development workshops for teachers and educators built around the concept of learning styles.

The authors of the present review were charged with determining whether these practices are supported by scientific evidence...

Although the literature on learning styles is enormous, very few studies have even used an experimental methodology capable of testing the validity of learning styles applied to education. Moreover, of those that did use an appropriate method, several found results that flatly contradict the popular meshing hypothesis.

We conclude therefore, that at present, there is no adequate evidence base to justify incorporating learning-styles assessments into general educational practice. Thus, limited education resources would better be devoted to adopting other educational practices that have a strong evidence base, of which there are an increasing number.

Of course, no such article could be printed in such a magazine without the caveat at the end: more research is needed.

Pittsburgh Inadvertently Teaches College Students About The Ills Of Statism?

The mayor of Pittsburgh, PA, wants to impose a 1% tax on tuitions for the college and university students in the city to, and I quote, “to help pay for pensions of retired city employees.” You might imagine that the students are none too happy about this.

Many students have been led to believe by their state-loving profs, as well as by many elementary and secondary school educators who preceded them, that the government must always be granted whatever it needs to accomplish its objectives, regardless of the costs involved. Now these collegians have discovered that the government is not their presumptive friend and will eventually turn on them if not reined in. Many of them are currently having their entire cost of attendance, including living expenses, financed by the federal government and would be facing an immediate out-of-pocket cost that someone else isn’t paying for ranging from “$27 at the Community College of Allegheny County to $409 at Carnegie Mellon University.” They are not taking it well.

Faculty and administrators who so loathe the American capitalist model of free enterprise and competition have figured out that they would have an externally imposed competitive disadvantage against their peers outside of Pittsburgh. Perhaps they’ll take a belated interest in the city’s fiscal situation. If they do, they’ll likely discover that its annual municipal budget of roughly $450 million contains more than a little fat.

Moreover, radical faculty members would have a more difficult time justifying their ardent love of statism in front of their tax-paying students if the government begins in essence biting the hand that feeds it philosophical support for its voracious desires. These poor saps must be wondering how it can be that Democrat Ravenstahl, who attended Pitt for a time, is employing the tactics normally associated with romanticized thugs like Chavez, Castro, and Ahmadinejad on his “friends.” Perhaps they’ll begin to understand how the term “useful idiots” applies to them.

My goodness, students are even engaging in anti-tax and anti-spending protests like the tea partiers they’ve been taught to despise. What’s more, they’re coming up with constructive, cost-saving ideas of their own.

Perhaps during all of this the kids will meet up with patriotic everyday Americans who will impart important lessons about how free markets and limited government are supposed to work.

It's hard not to giggle, isn't it?

The first comment on the story at the link goes the opposite direction from giggling:

Classic case of, ”I was a liberal until I got mugged.” Personally, I wouldn’t be disturbed one bit if an even higher tax was imposed. And, I think it would be a great idea to impose a ”tenure tax” on professors, a special levy on research grants, a special tax on university investment income to pay for ‘’social projects” in the community, tuition surcharges to pay for increased diversity, and any other taxes anyone can think of on students & faculty – in other words, take their lefty ideology & shove it down their throats until they choke on it.

Trust me, it will definitely be an educational experience.

Update, 12/22/09: I'm almost disappointed that this didn't drag on a little longer. Maybe some liberal students and professors would have learned something from it:

In what he described as a “leap of faith,” Mayor Luke Ravenstahl of Pittsburgh agreed on Monday to shelve his plans for the nation’s first tax on college tuition in exchange for an increase in voluntary contributions from local colleges and universities to the city...

He threatened, they caved.

By the by, wasn't Pittsburgh the city that President Obama praised in front of the G20? Why yes, it was. And yet the city has to threaten college students, who prop up the economy already, just to make ends meet? Lefties, God love 'em!

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Personal View of the Economy

Of course today was the last day of school before Christmas break, and at our school that meant the traditional staff potluck at lunchtime. How nice it is to take over the library and have food as far as the eye can see.

While eating, some other teachers at my table were talking about something that I had been thinking about but didn't feel comfortable voicing. I teach in an upscale area wherein live some very generous people, and there have been years in which I've had to make a couple trips to the car to pack up all the Christmas presents I'd received--and I'm not the only one, by a long shot. Anyway, conversation at the table was about how many fewer gifts teachers were receiving this year than in years past.

Now please, don't get me wrong--no one was lamenting the lack of a haul, or showing any sign of being personally disappointed in receiving fewer gifts. No, there was widespread recognition that even in an upscale area, people are feeling the effects and uncertainties of today's economy.

I am very thankful for the gifts I received, and on the first day of school after break I'll be giving out handwritten thank you cards as I do each year.

I love the Christmas season.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
C+C Music Factory.

Today's question is:
Who was the first African-American to win an Oscar?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Things Your Kid's Teacher Won't Tell You

I came upon these two sets of lists, 13 Things Your Child's Teacher Won't Tell You and 20 More Things Your Child's Teacher Won't Tell You.

I agreed with, and enjoyed, the second list more.

Here's one I liked from the first list:
Your child may be the center of your universe, but I have to share mine with 25 others. (Darren's note: if it were only 25 others!)

Here's one from the second:
The truth is simple: Your kid will lie to get out of trouble.

Here's a bonus one from the second:
Parents give their kids the pricey gadgets and labels, but what kids really crave is for you to talk to them. They want to know you are interested in their lives.

It's true. We teachers may discuss these amongst ourselves, but we usually won't tell parents these things.

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
21 states end with the letter “a”.

Today's question is:
Which group performed the 1990 dance hit Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)?

School Segregates 4-year-old Boy Because of Long Hair

I support reasonable dress codes and standards of appearance. As this boy's father says, if the boy's hair were dyed some bright color or up in Statue of Liberty spikes, that could be what the school considers "distracting" to the learning environment. But the boy's hair just covers his ears.

The school has no business regulating a student's hair length in this manner.

Update: More info here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Court OK's "Bullying" Video

Via Joanne:

A student who posted a nasty video about a classmate can’t be suspended for bullying, ruled a US District Court judge.

A Beverly Hills girl posted a video calling another girl “spoiled,” a “brat” and a “slut.” The victim complained to a school counselor.

Judge Stephen Wilson wrote in his judgment: “To allow the school to cast this wide a net and suspend a student simply because another student takes offence to their speech, without any evidence that such speech caused a substantial disruption of the school’s activities, runs afoul [of the law].

I agree with this judgement. In fact, I'd go further. Just because some off-campus activity might interfere with the school environment is not enough for the school to take disciplinary action. Hurting someone so they miss a couple days of school will certainly affect their schooling, but that doesn't mean that the school can suspend people who fight on Saturday afternoon; assault and battery is a crime, and the courts, not schools, are the appropriate place to deal with such offenses.

While the girl who made the video clearly has some issues and has shown herself to be less than a stellar person (her parents must be so proud), I can't see how the school has any business punishing her for this.

I have consistently advocated the belief that schools need to focus only on events that occur at school and at related activities.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
American Samoa.

Today's question is:
What is the most common last letter in US State names?

Another Reason Not To Buy Into The Global Warming Hysteria

The hysteria rests on a fallacy:

There is a variation on this fallacy, in fact. It goes: There is a crisis; something must be done! What we propose to do is something. Therefore, it must be done!

This invalid argument is otherwise known as false choice, of course, because the alternative to the particular something being proposed is not nothing (even if one accepts the initial premise that there is a crisis about which something must be done) — it is a variety of other somethings, some of which may be the something that is actually key to solving the problem, even if their own is not necessarily.

Color Me Surprised

San Francisco is not the best-run city in the country:

Despite its good intentions, San Francisco is not leading the country in gay marriage. Despite its good intentions, it is not stopping wars. Despite its spending more money per capita on homelessness than any comparable city, its homeless problem is worse than any comparable city's. Despite its spending more money per capita, period, than almost any city in the nation, San Francisco has poorly managed, budget-busting capital projects, overlapping social programs no one is certain are working, and a transportation system where the only thing running ahead of schedule is the size of its deficit.

It's time to face facts: San Francisco is spectacularly mismanaged and arguably the worst-run big city in America. This year's city budget is an astonishing $6.6 billion — more than twice the budget for the entire state of Idaho — for roughly 800,000 residents. Yet despite that stratospheric amount, San Francisco can't point to progress on many of the social issues it spends liberally to tackle — and no one is made to answer when the city comes up short.
But they're good "progressives" so we must look the other way.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Hot Tub Is Warming Up

Recently the Ultimate Frisbee Club at school challenged the faculty to a game, played after school today.

Is it amazing how fast those kids move, or how slowly we do now?

As far as I'm concerned, the faculty/alumni team won. There are ways to interpret the final score, however, to give the opposite result.

That tub can't heat up fast enough!

Those Wacky Libertarians!

They seem to think those first 10 amendments to the Constitution actually mean what they say.

Math Can Be Fun--And Tasty!

Sometimes the most trivial-sounding problems can involve some intense math. Who ever would have thought that cutting and eating pizza could involve decades of work?

The problem that bothered them was this. Suppose the harried waiter cuts the pizza off-centre, but with all the edge-to-edge cuts crossing at a single point, and with the same angle between adjacent cuts. The off-centre cuts mean the slices will not all be the same size, so if two people take turns to take neighbouring slices, will they get equal shares by the time they have gone right round the pizza - and if not, who will get more?...

As with many mathematical conundrums, the answer has arrived in stages - each looking at different possible cases of the problem.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The Go-Gos.

Today's question is:
What is the only US possession/territory that lies south of the equator? (No, the Antarctic bases don't count as possessions/territories.)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Double Down on Teacher Retirement Losses

The major Sacramento newspaper reports that the State Teachers Retirement System not only lost big bucks in real estate, but is going to throw good money after bad to try to recoup some of the losses:

Ricardo Duran, a spokesman for the pension fund, said CalSTRS has written off $64 million invested in Fairfield Residential LLC, a major apartment developer based in San Diego. Fairfield filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization Sunday.

"It's been written off at this point," Duran said. "Current market value: zero."

However, the California State Teachers' Retirement System isn't abandoning the deal. It still plans to invest an additional $6 million to complete its original commitment of $70 million and believes there's a chance to recover at least some of its losses, he said.

When I try that strategy in Reno it usually doesn't work well. Here's to hoping that it works better for CalSTRS.

I guess I don't have to worry, though. The taxpayers are going to pay for my retirement regardless of whether or not CalSTRS makes good investments.

A Rose By Any Other Name

I couldn't say this any more clearly myself:

Quote of the Week. "When your boss gives you a check and says you either have to give up part of it or lose your job, that's extortion." - Stephen Conn, former (and future?) candidate for president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, discussing the district's proposal in which teachers would agree to a $250 deduction from their bi-weekly paychecks to close a $219 million budget deficit. (December 12 Detroit News)

All right, Stephen. If it's extortion when your boss does it, what is it when your union does it?

Media Bias

al-AP assigns 11 writers to "fact check" Sarah Palin's new book, but only 5 to analyze the leaked emails from the Climate Research Unit in Britain.

Media bias? No, nothing to see here, move right along please.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The Happy Hooker.

Today's question is:
What early-80's band consisted of members Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin, Charlotte Caffey, Kathy Valentine, and Gina Schock?

Not Looking Good For The Home Team

All teachers have heard the old saying that begins with, "Those who can, do..." and this doesn't give us any wiggle room:

Scores vary greatly with the gifted programs, not surprisingly, leading the pack. Among the programs with abysmal math scores and very poor English scores is the Teacher Training Magnet at troubled Crenshaw High.

$7 Coat At Wal*Mart

Even though I'll be boycotting my local Wal*Mart during the month of January (see here for the reason), I still enjoy stories like this.

I found the basketball court sized area marked ‘MEN’ and turned in. Fleece coats, fleece vests, overcoats, Dickie work coats, and then winter coats in the quilted style that simply shouts, “You’ll stay toasty inside even in Nome!” And, amidst three or four circular racks, I saw a selection in blue, grey, black, green, and red of bright and shiny new winter coats. Above the racks was the simple sign in red and it said: “$7”.

Yes, I blinked and looked away. I looked back. It still said: “$7”. Above it a smaller sign said, almost in apology, “Was $15.”

I'll bet they put his groceries in a bag, though.

And I've got to toss in this quote:
Then I remembered that this town has something that Seattle didn’t because Seattle is just far too “smart” to have one – A Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart, the greatest thing to happen for working people in the United States since trade unions and, today, a lot more beneficial to them as well.
True enough.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Coed Bunking At Columbia

I think this could be a valuable learning experience:

Columbia University students of the opposite sex will soon be allowed to share dorm rooms -- or, as the New York Post puts it in a 1950s time-warp of an article, "live in sin ... on their parents' dime"...

As of next fall, the school will institute "gender-neutral" housing on campus for all students except for freshmen. This will mean that students can select roommates regardless of their sex, and hetero couples can shack up together. You know what that means: Sexy time.

This is awesome. Let these kids (and yes, college students, to someone my age you are kids) shack up. Learn how difficult it can be to live with someone. Learn about the compromises that must be made to keep a "home", and how just enjoying sex isn't enough.

After they move in and out a couple times, maybe they won't be so quick to shack up in the future, when they're out in the real world. And maybe they won't enter into marriage blindly.

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question, the last in UN Week, is:
San Francisco, in 1945.

Today's question is:
What was Xaviera Hollander's nom de plume?

Next Sunday will begin another theme week--Classic Movie Lines Week!

Interviewing A Global Warming Nutjob

The video is 10 minutes long, but it's wildly entertaining. Lord Monckton shreds this Greenpeace supporter.

Lord Monckton: "What is interesting to me is that you don't know any of the facts about the climate at all, and yet you are wanting to change it in a particular direction. Can you explain why?"
Greenpeace member: "I think we're talking different planets."

Lord Monckton: "If you were to discover that everything I said to you about climate, that we've had global...cooling for 9 years, that we've had less hurricane activity recently than at any time in the last 30 years, that there has been no change in the extent of global sea ice, or virtually no change for the last 30 years--would you think that therefore the organization that you believe in (Greenpeace) has mislead you?"
Greenpeace supporter: "No."

There's a reason I call it the Church of Global Warming.

Update: The leaked emails from East Anglia mention this man. A lot. Has anyone shown him to be on the payroll of Big Oil?

The political stakes are now so high when it comes to the “Climategate” scandal, and motives are being questioned so loudly on both sides, that few are noticing the remarkable story at the heart of it all: a 62-year-old mining executive and squash enthusiast has, for better or worse, found his way into the centre of a major scientific melée—almost by accident—and been able to make legitimate contributions.

McIntyre first became notorious in 2003 for his statistical critique, co-authored with economist Ross McKitrick, of the “hockey stick graph” that showed global temperatures rocketing upward in the 20th century.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Palestine, and the Holy See.

Today's question, the last in United Nations Week, is:
In which city, and in what year, was the UN Charter signed?

Liveblogging Today's 110th Army-Navy Game

The first Army-Navy football game was played in 1890 at West Point. Navy won 24-0--and that's how it's been since 2001, with Navy winning the last 7 games by a combined score of 274-71 and holding Army to only 3 points total in the last 2 games. The series was tied in 2004, but now Navy leads the series 49-53-7. Army's season record coming into this game is 5-6, Navy's is 8-4.

Given that background, you might wonder why I'd want to liveblog a game that doesn't look good for Army. The answer is simple: Army is my team.

Beat Navy!

11:35 am PST: What an inspirational commercial!

And a proud "thank you" to CBS Sports for streaming today's game live on the internet.

15:00 in the 1st Quarter: Navy kicks off, and what a return by Army!

13:20 Lousy series, short punt by Army, covered well.

Strange defense by Army: 3 linemen, 3 linebackers, 5 db's. It's 4th and a foot, defense is disciplined and doesn't get pulled offsides, timeout Navy.

Fair catch by Army at their own 42. Bring on the offense!

And now the announcers mention the spirit videos. Navy always wins those.

10:30 Army gets the first 1st down of the game.
9:20 Army gets the second 1st down of the game. Let's keep this up.

7:05 47 yard field goal kick is wide left. As they'd say on Battlestar Galactica: frak.

4:00 Army holds against Navy and takes the fair catch inside their own 30.

3:17 Planned pass, crappy pass. Dance with the one that brung ya, Army.

2:00 Another planned pass, shoulda coulda woulda been caught.

1:55 Bad series for Army. Penalty on 3rd down is declined, Army will punt.

1:19 INTERCEPTION! on Navy's 40, runs it down the sideline to the Navy 12, first and goal!

Apparently Army has a crappy record inside the red zone, and today is no different. 23 yard field goal is GOOD! Still, it's been over 2 years since Army's been in the end zone. This is Army's first lead in the game in 3 years.

With seconds left in the 1st Quarter, both defenses have been playing well.

13:07 in the 2nd Quarter: FUMBLE! ARMY BALL!

13:00 Fumbled snap, Army recovers.

11:30 Army punts, fair catch inside the Navy 20.

During the commercial, Navy has an awesome CGI spirit video.

AFLAC trivia question: when was the last time both teams qualified for a bowl game in the same season?

9:33 Long pass for Navy, shoestring tackle inside the 10. Flag on the play....

9:21 Timeout, Army. Still no indication what the foul is.

Holding, Navy. No long pass. Ball back inside Navy's 30. I'm sure we'll see that long pass again.

8:40 Very next play! Ball off the player's fingertips, another penalty (declined), 4th down. Long punt, Army downs it inside the 18.

8:21 Army tries a reverse with a pass downfield, almost intercepted.

7:00 Army comes up short, 4th down.

6:10 Crappy punt, fortunately Army could protect the roll down to the Navy 30.

CBS announces the 5 Heisman winners from the two schools, the first 3 from Army and the last 2 from Navy. Staubach in '63 was the last one.

AFLAC trivia answer: 1996. Army went to the Independence Bowl, Navy to the Aloha Bowl.

4:10 Another long pass for Navy, brought back by holding.

1:53 Army is 2/8 in 3rd down conversions, now 2/9. Punt coming up after the commercial. Navy will have a shot at the end zone before the half, and they'll receive the kickoff after the half.

1:37 Another crappy punt that the announcer correctly says never got more than 10 yards off the ground. Army covered the roll down to the 39.

Navy's out of timeouts, will play for the sideline.

1:09 3rd and 11, now 4th and 9. What will Navy do?

Army tried to block the punt, fair caught at the 20. 55 seconds remaining in the half. Army has 0 yards passing. Run it up the gut to run down the clock, and then a stupid pass! Go in to the locker room with the lead, don't try to be a hero--there's a whole half remaining.

:15 Army takes my advice and kneels.

Stat on the screen: first halftime deficit for Navy since 2001--Army's last victory.

I called and left a voice mail for one of my midshipmen--just in case the outcome at the end of the 2nd half is reversed!

14:55 in the 3rd Quarter, Navy 1st and 10 on the 32.

13:33 Second 3rd down conversion for Navy, as a pass down the right sideline is complete.

11:10 Army is having trouble tackling the Navy quarterback....

10:14 4th and a foot, Navy timeout.

10:06, 1st down Navy.

Navy has a good drive going, now down inside Army's 30. Defense needs to tighten up, and wrap up when they're tackling.

8:55 Touchdown, Navy. Wide open on the pass. Army has been doing a lousy job all day on pass defense, getting lucky with a couple penalties, but no such luck this time.

8:04 Official timeout for an injured Navy player on the sideout. He appears to be holding his arm.

Compared to other football games, this one has been relatively flag-free. Good discipline being shown by both teams.

Now we get to see if Army can get its offense working.

7:47 Army cannot. 4th down. Another pooch punt, covered and downed by Army inside the 30.

4:50 And now Army jumps offsides, with Navy on our half of the field. Tighten up guys, don't fall apart.

4:18 I write that, and now Army has a man down. Looks like a knee injury.

:11 Army holds Navy to a field goal, now trailing 10-3. That's a small victory, but too many such victories and I won't like the outcome of this game.

Army needs a touchdown.

12:00 in the 4th Quarter, Army's thrown a couple passes and now the receiver fumbles. Fortunately he recovers.

10:22 Another missed field goal for Army. Are we to go three full years without getting in the end zone?

8:00 Turnover, and Navy's in scoring position.

7:00 Army cannot tackle that Navy quarterback, 1st and goal at the 1.

6:15 Another touchdown. Army's going to have a very difficult time coming back from this deficit this late in the game. 17-3.

2:47 and Army's in the red zone again, but 3 bad pass plays bring up 4th down. Timeout, Army.

2:36 and Navy intercepts in the end zone. Frak.

1:27 Squids are singing Na Na Hey Hey Good-bye, and with good reason.

0:00 It's over. The last time the score was 17-3 was 1987. I watched the game on a Sony Watchman downrange Fort Carson, as someone had stupidly scheduled a Chaparral live fire on the day of The Game. We grads kept sneaking away to catch up on the game. The outcome then was more to my liking, that's for sure.

Navy played a good game. Army played better than they've played for awhile.

Here's to next year!

What An Awesome Excuse!

I'm going to file this excuse away in case I ever need a good one:

Seven-year-old Lamya Cammon was absentmindedly playing with her braids, which have plastic beads on their ends. The noise annoyed her first-grade teacher. The teacher called Lamya to the front of the room, cut off one of her braids, and sent her back to her seat, crying. The teacher ultimately apologized to Lamya’s mother and was fined $175 by police for disorderly conduct. She remains in the classroom but Lamya was assigned to a different teacher.

That would be the end of this unremarkable story if not for the efforts of Mr. Hatch, who told WISN-TV on camera:

“As budget constraints get tighter every year, the stress level and frustrations do increase.”
Nice one. Idiot.

Friday, December 11, 2009

In Loco Parentis

Universities. Stupid rules. What a surprise.

It was a rough week for gun rights in Colorado.

First, Colorado State University voted to ban concealed firearms on campus.

Then the University of Colorado went a few steps further and cracked down on another nefarious threat: Nerf guns...

"No guns of any kind, real or toy, from air rifles to paintball guns to Nerf guns, are allowed on campus under the laws of the regents," said a statement issued by Joe E. Roy, chief of police at the University of Colorado Police Department. "We are simply enforcing a longstanding policy, not inventing a new category of enforcement"...

Chief Roy noted that Nerf guns can look real to passers-by at a distance.

Then passers-by need to get their glasses checked. And University officials need to concern themselves with more substantial issues than Nerf guns.

I'm just saying.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Running a close second is The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and rounding out the top three is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Today's question is:
Identify either of the two non-member states/entities that are considered “observers” at the UN.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What Is It With Language Teachers?

The only teacher I've ever heard mention having sex in his/her classroom was a teacher who also used to volunteer to teach English to migrant farmworkers. She talked about how she'd bring them to her classroom at school late at night on weekends--because, get this, taking them to her apartment would be too weird!

Oh, I have lots of stories about that one.

She was young, reasonably attractive, academically intelligent, and odd as a three dollar bill. I wonder if she'd fit in with this crowd:

Two female Romance language instructors were tossed out of their Brooklyn high school after being caught "undressed" in an empty classroom, sources told the Daily News Tuesday.

Students at James Madison High School in Midwood were watching a talent show in the auditorium while Alini Brito and Cindy Mauro were speaking the international language of love, sources said.

Of course, nothing is proven yet and the district is investigating.

Bow shicka bow shicka bow-wow.

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Montenegro, on June 28, 2006.

Today's question is:
Which UN member state has the longest official name?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

It Was a Different Time, Post-Pearl Harbor

All of us, especially those of us who grew up in California, know about the executive order that compelled Japanese and Japanese-Americans to be incarcerated at the beginning of World War II. I attended Kohler Elementary, on the grounds of the former Camp Kohler, which we knew had been a Japanese relocation center (historical marker information here). As a child I played and built forts in the ruins and remnants of Camp Kohler. So stories like this strike very close to home here in the Central Valley:

Japanese-Americans who were forced from their studies in the 1940s at the University of California, Davis will be given honorary degrees Saturday.

Forty-seven people who were students at UC Davis when the United States entered World War II will receive honorary degrees, although few will attend. Some of those being honored will be represented by friends and family.

It happened almost 70 years ago. In the interim a national apology has been issued, and financial reparations have been paid. I've known two people who were relocated and imprisoned, and they were both babies at the time.

I guess this is a nice gesture, but I wonder whom the intended audience is, and why.

Litmus Test For Teachers

I posted a few weeks ago about the University of Minnesota's ideological litmus test for students enrolled in its teacher education program; I feel a little better now that FIRE is involved.

The task group, formed as part of the Teacher Education Redesign Initiative at the state university, aims to change how future teachers are trained, based on the assertion that the teachers' lack of "cultural competence" contributes to minority students' poor grades...

But the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) says the Race, Culture, Class and Gender group is going beyond addressing how teachers are educated and is trying instead to mandate their beliefs and values.

"Unlike what many schools of education have in terms of cultural competence, this task group really wants to invade the minds of future teachers and demand that they hold the 'right' values attitudes and beliefs about society, about themselves, and about race, class, culture, and gender, to a degree to which it really violates the freedom of conscience of future teachers," Adam Kissel, Director of FIRE's Individual Rights Defense Program, told

Of course the university spokesman says FIRE has it all wrong, but you can go here and see the inflammatory report for yourself.

Some of the proposed curriculum requirements are:

• "Future teachers will be able to discuss their own histories and current thinking drawing on notions of white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression."

• Teachers will be able to articulate a "critical analysis of this story of America, for what it illuminates and what it hides or distorts" including:

- "myth of meritocracy in the United States"

- "historical connections between scientific racism, intelligence testing, and assumptions of fixed mental capacity"

- "alternative explanations for mobility (and lack of it)"

- "history of demands for assimilation to white, middle-class, Christian meanings and values"

- "history of white racism, with special focus on current colorblind ideology"

• "Future teachers are able to explain how institutional racism works in schools" and recognize that "schools and classrooms are often structured in ways that advantage and disadvantage some groups but are also critical sites for social and cultural transformation."

Wow. Schools sure are hotbeds of racism. Who knew all those liberal, union-supporting teachers were racists! I blame the NEA.

Meat and Poultry Used In School Lunches

The following article from USA Today, while good enough in its own right, leads to some serious and important questions. First, though, let's excerpt from the story:

In the past three years, the government has provided the nation's schools with millions of pounds of beef and chicken that wouldn't meet the quality or safety standards of many fast-food restaurants, from Jack in the Box and other burger places to chicken chains such as KFC, a USA TODAY investigation found.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the meat it buys for the National School Lunch Program "meets or exceeds standards in commercial products."

That isn't always the case. McDonald's, Burger King and Costco, for instance, are far more rigorous in checking for bacteria and dangerous pathogens. They test the ground beef they buy five to 10 times more often than the USDA tests beef made for schools during a typical production day.

And the limits Jack in the Box and other big retailers set for certain bacteria in their burgers are up to 10 times more stringent than what the USDA sets for school beef.

For chicken, the USDA has supplied schools with thousands of tons of meat from old birds that might otherwise go to compost or pet food. Called "spent hens" because they're past their egg-laying prime, the chickens don't pass muster with Colonel Sanders— KFC won't buy them — and they don't pass the soup test, either. The Campbell Soup Company says it stopped using them a decade ago based on "quality considerations"...

USDA-purchased meat is donated to almost every school district in the country and served to 31 million students a day, 62% of whom qualify for free or reduced-price meals. President Obama noted earlier this year that, for many children, school lunches are "their most nutritious meal — sometimes their only meal — of the day."

This story is focused on the appalling fact that food that wouldn't pass inspection in a fast-food joint is routinely fed to schoolchildren, compliments of the US government (insert snarky comment about the potential for government-run health care here!).

But I have a more fundamental question: why is the US government buying food and providing it to local school districts? How did anyone determine this was a good idea? I give state governments a lot of latitude to do stupid things in our republic, as state constitutions are limited only by the people of the state and the people can grant whatever powers they want to the state governments. But the US Constitution is limited by enumerated powers granted by the states, and those powers not granted under the Constitution are supposed to be reserved to the states and to the people. That we have gotten so far from that structure that Congress now dictates how many gallons of water your toilet can flush, that the USDA can buy and distribute meat and poultry to local school districts, that Congress can consider whether or not a college football game can be called a "championship game" or not, I'm forced to repeat my statement from this post: maybe it's time to refresh Jefferson's tree of liberty.

Carnival of Education

This week's is here and includes my recent post about receiving my agency fee rebate from the CTA.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Ban-Ki Moon, of Korea.

Today's question is:
What is the newest UN member state?

The Founders Must Be So Proud

When you don't limit your government at all, your government will inject itself anywhere it wants to:

A top official of the Bowl Championship Series says there are more important things for Congress to worry about than pressing for a playoff system for college football.

But lawmakers were taking a crack at it anyway Wednesday. A House panel was to consider a proposal to ban the promotion of a postseason NCAA Division I football game as a national championship unless it's the outcome of a playoff.

Like the BCS or hate it, does Congress have any business getting involved? The congressman who's pushing this, a Republican, says that college football is a business like any other.

You can't simultaneously support this and wonder why the Tea Parties are so popular; the first begets the second.

Congressman, you're an idiot. And if this is what we can expect from our legislature, it might be time to "refresh" Jefferson's tree of liberty.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Vanuatu, Venezuela, and Vietnam.

Today's question is:
Who is the current UN Secretary-General?

Monday, December 07, 2009

Another "My Union Sucks" Story

Forty minutes ago I posted about Detroit teachers and the pathetic agreement their union negotiated on their behalf. I've just finished reading another "union done me wrong" story:

After losing a court challenge, several teachers laid off from D.C. public schools are now criticizing the union for not being proactive enough in helping them keep their jobs.

Crystal Proctor is one of several teachers who say union lawyers were not well prepared in court when they argued in favor of reinstating the more than 250 teachers. "We don't think that the legal representation was competent," says Proctor. "Watching our attorney perform, it was laughable. It was ridiculous."

Another teacher Natasha Mason says she didn't get replies when she sent emails to her union representative. She says she's gotten "nothing" out of her membership. "I'm totally disappointed," says Mason. "It's a pity we've been paying all this money into people to protect us and represent us and to stand up for what our rights are none of it has been done."
Some jurisdictions (like California and most assuredly DC) are so-called fair share states, where teachers are required to pay a union for representation whether they want that representation or not. When the union doesn't have to work for its money, when it doesn't have to "satisfy the customer", when it's entitled to your money by law, it can perform as well or as shabbily as it wants.

Would you like to find out your rights regarding union membership in California? Please visit the web site of the California Teachers Empowerment Network and read my CTEN posts by clicking here.

Hat tip to EIA.

Cool, But Necessary?

I don't think so, but then again I'm not what's known as an "early adopter" of new technologies (except for Windows Vista):

NEWSPAPERS and novels are moving briskly from paper to pixels, but textbooks have yet to find the perfect electronic home. They are readable on laptops and smartphones, but the displays can be eye-taxing. Even dedicated e-readers with their crisp printlike displays can’t handle textbook staples like color illustrations or the videos and Web-linked supplements publishers increasingly supply.

Now there is a new approach that may adapt well to textbook pages: two-screen e-book readers with a traditional e-paper display on one screen and a liquid-crystal display on the other to render graphics like science animations in color.

The dual screens are linked by a central processor so that, for example, a link on the e-paper display can open on the color screen.

A picture at the link shows the new device. Imagine opening a book; the left page (screen) would be the text, and the right page (screen) would be the graphics.

I don't see such fragile electronics replacing books in public schools for a very long time. At the college level, where students pay for their books already, there might be a market.

Detroit Teachers Need A Better Option

If this is the best the Detroit teachers can get out of their union, they should do two things:
1. recall all their union officers, replacing them with people who are worth a darn, and
2. go on strike.

I'm hard pressed to see how going on strike would yield results worse than their union has bargained for on their behalf:

Cobo Center filled with a chorus of boos and chants of "No, No, No" Sunday afternoon as Detroit Public School teachers reviewed a tentative contract that will subtract $250 out of each paycheck, or $500 a month.

The money will be given to the district to help plug a $219 million deficit, and it will be returned when they retire... (boldface mine--Darren)

But union leaders say the best offers already are on the table and warned of dire consequences if the deal is defeated.

"Your pay will drastically be reduced and more than 1,500 members will lose their jobs," (union president) Johnson said.

Despite the overwhelming verbal no vote, union officials insist they will not change their original strategy in the next two weeks to try to sway the vote...

(Union Executive Vice President) O'Keefe said the district was asking for concessions that would amount to an average cost of about $51,319 per member. "That's money they'd never get back," he said. "What we're saying is take away $10,000 at zero interest, which we understand they don't like, but at least they'll eventually get it back"...

But Johnson issued an ultimatum. "Please be aware: If this ratification is turned down, and this district declares bankruptcy, seniority is gone, longevity is gone, oversized class payments are gone," he said.

Detroit may very well be doomed.

Unbiased Press

It's bad enough when the press claims to be unbiased but is remarkably biased, but it's even worse when this press is supported by the government!

Executives at National Public Radio recently asked the network’s top political correspondent, Mara Liasson, to reconsider her regular appearances on Fox News because of what they perceived as the network’s political bias, two sources familiar with the effort said.

According to a source, Liasson was summoned in early October by NPR’s executive editor for news, Dick Meyer, and the network’s supervising senior Washington editor, Ron Elving. The NPR executives said they had concerns that Fox’s programming had grown more partisan, and they asked Liasson to spend 30 days watching the network.

At a follow-up meeting last month, Liasson reported that she’d seen no significant change in Fox’s programming and planned to continue appearing on the network, the source said.

Which group comes across here as the most biased? Just askin'....

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Afghanistan, and Zimbabwe.

Today's question is:
What are the three UN member states that begin with V?

On The Day The Copenhagen Global Warming Conference Begins...

...Snow Falls In The Valley!!

This must be the California Edition of the Gore Effect :-)

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Soldier Nutcrackers

It's good to see that after 8 years of fighting, our soldiers are still popular, even if the war they fight might be less so.

click to enlarge

I took these pictures at a local Target store today.

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Kronborg, although it is mistakenly called Elsinore by many.

And now, it's another theme week!

Today's question, the first of United Nations Week, is:
Alphabetically, what are the first and last members of the United Nations?

Mona Charen Nails It

In this column she blasts the president for his gracelessness:

Barack Obama is demonstrating bottomless reservoirs of gracelessness. A full 13 months after his election, in the course of justifying the deployment of 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, President Obama could not spare a word of praise for George W. Bush -- not even when recounting the nation's "unified" response to 9/11. To the contrary, throughout his pained recitation of the choices we face in Afghanistan, he adverted at least half a dozen times to the supposed blunders of his predecessor.

It's beginning to sound whiny -- and unpresidential. Enough about the terrible mess he inherited. Let's hear a little more about the tremendous honor that has been bestowed on him. Ronald Reagan inherited a worse situation in 1980 -- inflation at 13.5 percent; the prime rate at 21 percent; the Soviets in Afghanistan; American hostages in Tehran; communist coups in 10 new countries over the previous decade -- but Reagan never impugned his predecessor. As biographer Lou Cannon noted "Reagan ... was generous to Carter in his public statements even though he did not care for him."

George W. Bush showed the same chivalry toward Bill Clinton, declining to breathe a negative word about him -- even when sorely tempted by the pardon scandal that further tarnished an already clouded tenure. Even now, despite the unremitting barrage from his successor, Bush keeps silent, true to his tradition of civility toward opponents.

President Obama is so spiteful that he warps history to fit his prejudices...

He had the gall, after kneecapping Bush, to demand a halt to "rancor" and "partisanship." But the greater outrage was his pious declaration that "we must make it clear to every man, woman, and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights"? This from the man whose State Department told China early on that human rights were not our priority; who has decided he can deal with the butchers of Darfur; who averted his eyes from the bloody crackdown on protests in Iran; and who tamely permitted the Chinese to censor his words during his visit.

And let's not forget about his shameful position on Honduras, essentially threatening that country with a cutoff of aid and with diplomatic isolation if it didn't restore its legally-removed president.

OK, Mona got one thing wrong. President Reagan didn't really have to deal with the Iranian hostage crisis, as the hostages were released within a few hours of his inauguration. He did, however, have to deal with the resulting loss of American prestige, power, and influence.

This president lacks graciousness. I assert graciousness is far more important in a president than is skill at reading a teleprompter.

Throwing Teachers Out Of Their Homes And Onto The Streets?

One Southern California school district is looking at 10% teacher pay cuts, retroactive to last July, to help balance its books. Let's hear from the union president:

Vicki Soderberg, president of the Capistrano Unified Education Assn., which represents some 2,200 teachers, said the proposed salary decrease would be dire.

"Asking for a 10% pay cut would throw a lot of our teachers out of their homes and onto the streets," she said.

Teachers would consider furloughs, Soderberg said.

Can anyone explain to me how a pay cut due to furloughs won't "throw a lot of our teachers out of their homes and onto the streets," but a pay cut without the lost days would?

Of course I'm sympathetic to the teachers here. If I'm going to get a pay cut, I'd want to work less, too. My issue here is with the stupidity and lack of logic in Ms. Soderberg's statement. And she's the one those union members chose to represent them....

Update: I just received the following in an email. Whether it's true or apocryphal, it's funny and applicable:
She makes about as much sense as the old Yogi Berra line. When asked if he would like the pizza he just ordered cut into 6 or 8 pieces, Yogi said, "8... I'm really hungry."

The Church of Global Warming Cult Keeps Unravelling

The science is not settled; saying it is doesn't end the discussion.

There are scientists who question this charade, and saying there aren't doesn't end the discussion.

And scientists who don't accede to the Church's demands are blacklisted for their heretical beliefs.

Back in those days, it was. I regularly got my research papers published in Nature, that august journal.

I also was invited to become trustee, president, vice president, or patron of over 30 organizations, including: WWF, Wildlife Trusts, YHA, Population Concern, Marine Conservation Society, Coral Cay Conservation, Galapagos Conservation Trust, Plantlife, and BTCV. I was also bestowed with media and conservation awards from around the world, including the Dutch Order of the Golden Ark, BAFTA’s Richard Dimbleby Award, and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award for Underwater Research.

Then the global warming rot set in.

Climate-gate is a serious blow to the Church, and pretending it isn't won't make it go away and end the discussion.

Now, I wouldn’t want to jump to any conclusions here, but it kind of looks to me like the “small group of scientists” caught out by Climategate are pretty much the same people who make up the vast and strong scientific consensus on global warming and write the official reports that the U.S. and other governments rely on to inform their policy decisions. I’m sure Dr. John P. Holdren, President Obama’s science adviser, has a plausible alternative explanation.

It's hard to admit you were scammed, but CGW acolytes, you were scammed.

Update: How would you describe the president's plan?

Barack Obama, understanding the histrionics required in climate change debates, promises that U.S. emissions in 2050 will be 83 percent below 2005 levels. If so, 2050 emissions will equal those in 1910, when there were 92 million Americans. But there will be 420 million in 2050, so Obama's promise means that per capita emissions then will be about what they were in 1875.

We'll need a lot more than just nuclear power plants if we're to make that happen--but no one, not even the president, expects that to happen. So why, I wonder, would he suggest such a thing?

Update #2: The altarboys get huffy:

A professor who is accusing global warming skeptics of engaging in “tabloid-style character assassination” of scientists, called an American climate skeptic “an assh*le” on the December 4, 2009 live broadcast of BBC’s Newsnight program.
When backed into a corner, the typical leftie will resort to name-calling, even profanity. Count on it.

Update #3: Clearly, this scientist is also in a snit, and is threatening retribution to a New York Times science reporter:

Back story: Ever since Chris Horner and I were at a conference together with warmenist Michael Schlesinger of the University of Illinois a couple years ago, Chris and I have been included on Prof. Schesingler's e-mail distribution list, which usually consist of flagging climate news stories. Yesterday we got copied on this message Schlesinger sent to New York Times science reporter Andy Revkin:


Copenhagen prostitutes?

Climate prostitutes?

Shame on you for this gutter reportage. [Emphasis added.]

This is the second time this week I have written you thereon, the first about giving space in your blog to the Pielkes.

The vibe that I am getting from here, there and everywhere is that your reportage is very worrisome to most climate scientists.

Of course, your blog is your blog.

But, I sense that you are about to experience the 'Big Cutoff' from those of us who believe we can no longer trust you, me included. [Emphasis added.]

Copenhagen prostitutes?

Unbelievable and unacceptable.

What are you doing and why?


So what so annoyed Schlesinger? Here's Revkin's offending blog post, which among other things passes along the amusing story of Copenhagen prostitutes offering free sex to climate campaigners....

Apparently, threatening people whom you think aren't loyal enough to a theory is how we build a scientific consensus.

The first rule of being stuck in a hole is: quit digging.

Update #4: Here's a good summary of what's going on, including "the science", "the politics", and "the finances".

Update #5, 12/7/09: These physicists are asking the American Physical Society to rescind its political statement on climate change, at least until the extent of the CRU cheating can be determined.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The Balearic Islands. (I thought *someone* would have gotten that one.)

Today's question is:
What is the name of the actual castle that is said to have been the setting for Hamlet?

There's a new Theme Week tomorrow. Get excited! :)

Still At It

Two years ago I wrote about our school's Secret Snowman program, and how it was explicitly stated on the Secret Snowman form that "Snowman" was used instead of "Santa" so as not to have a religious connotation--even though the gift-giving itself is based on the gifts to the Christ-child from the three wise men!

Looks like we're using the exact same form this year, with the exact same explanation. (Don't recall if we used this form last year or not.)


Compulsory Public "Option" In Student Loans

From the Wall Street Journal:

There's encouraging news on that other Washington effort to force Americans into a government-run system. The White House plan to drive private lenders out of the market for student loans is igniting a backlash on campus and Capitol Hill.

The typical tale of a free-speech controversy on campus involves administrators landing on some poor undergrad who violates political correctness. But in this story the administrators have been afraid to speak as the Department of Education pressured them to drop private lenders and embrace the department's own Direct Lending (DL) program. The pending bill, which has passed the House but is stalled in the Senate, would ban private lenders from making federally guaranteed loans after July 1, 2010.

Congress has already enacted regulations in recent years to discourage making loans without a federal guarantee. And many lenders have quit the business. Now the White House and Democrats like California Rep. George Miller want to go further and convert students from private loans largely backed by the taxpayer into government loans made and serviced by government and backed by the taxpayer. Think of this as a prelude to how Congress will rig the rules for any public option in health care.

The private lenders have been the most popular choice, while—big surprise—the government's program has a history of shoddy customer service...

Schools got the message. The leader of a large university recently refused to discuss the issue with us on the record, fearful that the feds are taking names.

You'll want to read the whole thing.