Saturday, December 31, 2011

Posts and Quotes of the Year

I've never done this before but will give it a try: here are the blog posts and statements I think represent some of my best or favorite work from 2011.

OK, So You Voted For Obama 2 1/2 Years Ago...
Filter Bubbles

If government-run programs were the answer to every problem, we wouldn't always hear about funding them by eliminating "waste, fraud, and abuse" in some other government program. link

It's one thing to get frustrated about my situation sometimes, but completely another to get into "woe is me" mode. I do not want to go there, but it's one of the few places I can get to easily given my current lack of mobility. link

No one should have a "right" to anything I have to pay for. If someone is entitled to have me pay for something, then what they have is an "entitlement", not a right, and an entitlement can be altered or abolished by the same government that grants it. link

Government Spending Is Out of Control

Spending, 1990-2010

Recent US Federal Deficit Numbers
Obama DeficitsBush Deficits
FY 2012: $1,101 billionFY 2009: $1,413 billion
FY 2011: $1,299 billionFY 2008: $248 billion
FY 2010: $1,293 billionFY 2007: $161 billion

And remember, Obamacare costs aren't yet included above.

Was all this caused by the Iraq War? Not if these charts on defense spending are correct.

Welfare and other programs for the poor?

We're in deep kimchee.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Grading Update

I randomly picked 8--I graded 8 tests a day until they were done. I finished them a few days ago, and then chose 5--5 stats projects a day to grade. That ended up taking too long, so I cut it down to 3. Yesterday I counted; at 3 a day, I finish grading on Monday. We go back to school on Tuesday.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Why Obamacare's Individual Mandate Is Wrong (Not Just Unconstitutional)

Government exists first and foremost for the sake of our protection. Without it, our lives and our property would not effectively be our own. Government exists also to promote our well-being. For its support, however, taxation is necessary, and we have tacitly agreed that, to be legitimate, these taxes must be passed by our elected representatives. By our own consent, we give up a certain proportion of our earnings for these purposes.

The money left in our possession, however, is our own -- to do with as we please. It is in this that our liberty largely lies. Romneycare and Obamacare, with the individual mandate, changes radically our relationship vis-a-vis the government. The former presupposes that state governments have the right to tell us how we are to spend our own money, and the latter presupposes that the federal government has that right as well. Both measures are tyrannical. They blur the distinction between public and private and extend the authority of the public over the disposition of that which is primordially private. Once this principle is accepted as legitimate, there is no limit to the authority of the government over us, and mandates of this sort will multiply -- as do-gooders interested in improving our lives by directing them encroach further and further into the one sphere in which we have been left free hitherto...

Raising taxes to reward free riders is, of course, objectionable. We should oppose it on principle. But it does not in and of itself narrow in any significant fashion the sphere of our liberty. It is a question of the proper use of the public purse. The individual mandate sets a new precedent. It extends government control to the private purse. link

When people want to discuss or debate politics with me, the first question I usually ask them is, what is the purpose of government? Anyone who cannot answer that question, who hasn't thought about that basic idea, is just spouting talking points without even knowing why they think what they do. My beliefs on the purpose of government are worded differently than in the first paragraph above, but the end result is effectively the same.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

We Want A New Performing Arts Center!

I like that these people aren't asking the taxpayers to foot the bill:
A determined group of parents, educators, students and alumni will begin the new year by kicking off a search for corporate sponsors to help them build a state-of-the art performing arts center at El Camino Fundamental High School.

The organization – ecARTS – wants to build a 600-seat theater with an orchestra pit, backstage facilities and professional lighting and sound at the campus in north Sacramento. A large lobby would serve as a gallery for student art.
As I stated in the comments on that article:
As long as the taxpayers aren't on the line for the cost, why should anyone object to this project? Donors can pay for whatever they like.
What they're seeking is more than the taxpayer should have to pay for, and they're seeking money for this project the right way. Kudos.

Open Source College Textbooks, And The Cost of College In General

I see this as an interesting way to help mitigate the high costs of tuition, but that doesn't relieve our state government of providing a university education at a reasonable price--a reasonable price for the student and for the taxpayers.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg wants to create a digital library of free course materials for California college students.

The proposal, unveiled earlier this month, is bound to be popular with students grappling with rising tuition and fees at California's public colleges and universities.
I'm currently reading, and the insights in that book regarding the goals, and the costs, of higher education are remarkable. I recommend it wholeheartedly. This, from the "Book Description" on the linked Amazon page:
While low-income students can’t find a spot in their local community colleges for lack of funding, public four-year universities are spending staggering sums on luxurious residence halls, ever-bigger football stadiums, and obscure research institutes. We have cosseted our most advantaged students even as we deny access to the working adults who urgently need higher education to advance their careers and our economy. In Rebooting for the New Talent Economy, Andrew S. Rosen clearly and entertainingly details how far the American higher education system has strayed from the goals of access, quality, affordability, and accountability that should characterize our system, and offers a prescription to restore American educational pre-eminence.
You see, it's not that I think today's college students should sit idly by and pay whatever the universities see fit to charge. It's just that, having accepted the cost upon admission, they cannot then protest and raise hell and ask me, the taxpayer, to pay that cost for them. They chose that option; perhaps they should have read and explored less costly options.

If you choose the resort lifestyle, don't expect me to pay for it. And if you choose the resort lifestyle whilst getting a bachelor's degree in "communications" or in Neo-classical Polish Music and Dance or in psychology or in Aggrieved Victim Studies, definitely don't expect me to pay for it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Illegal Classes at School

I'm glad the ruling went this way:
An administrative law judge ruled Tuesday that a Tucson school district's ethnic studies program violates state law, agreeing with the findings of Arizona's public schools chief...

Kowal's ruling, first reported by The Arizona Daily Star, said the district's Mexican-American Studies program violated state law by having one or more classes designed primarily for one ethnic group, promoting racial resentment and advocating ethnic solidarity instead of treating students as individuals.
What was going on in those classes was quite different from what one might consider a "reasonable" ethnic studies class. Do we really need our schools promoting racial resentment and victimhood? I think there are plenty of other organizations out there willing to perform that socially corrosive "service", we don't need that kind of crap in schools.

Monday, December 26, 2011

What's My Status?

Several months ago, when walking still was a distant prospect, I set a goal of being able to kneel by Christmas so that I could put presents under the tree and retrieve them. Thankfully, yesterday I was able to do so. It still felt strange, but at least it wasn't excruciating or impossible. My injured leg still appears atrophied, but progress obviously continues. As of Christmas Day I'm cleared by the doctor to begin running, which I'll probably do on a treadmill, and I feel on track to run that mile on the 1-year anniversary of my accident.

My cold from the week before break started morphed into bronchitis, which antibiotics seem to be whipping. I may go to the gym tomorrow for the first time in over 2 weeks. It's been forever since I've been sick for so long; as I've said so many times recently, 2011 was not my year for health!

While I usually don't bring work home, I did bring a large stack of statistics tests and projects to grade. Grading fewer than 10 a day, so I don't get bored with grading, I've now knocked out all the tests. Tomorrow I start the projects.

Why Math Is Important

Especially if you're trying to get people to vote for your guy.

Why Capitalism Is So Important

It's important because it works:
One of the central dynamics that made Britain great for so long still seems to be working. Financial and economic crises recur in healthy capitalist economies. When these crises come, some countries that have only reluctantly embraced a capitalist system (and usually done so poorly and half heartedly), see the crisis as proof that capitalism is a flop, and lurch toward “alternative models” that generally lead to stagnation and the capture of the state by rent-seeking elites spouting empty populist slogans. Think Argentina. Think Greece.

Britain is one of the countries that historically responds to crises of capitalism by doubling down: seeking reforms that make capitalism work more effectively rather than trying to hobble and block it. Between World War Two and Maggie Thatcher Britain lost its way, bumbling through decades of decline and well intentioned but hopeless efforts to find some other way to grow.
I defy anyone to find a better economic system for creating general prosperity, especially when it is coupled with a democratic-style government.


There are lefties out there who talk like this:
On Monday I noted Vaclav Havel’s death; there was an interesting article on Havel at The Guardian by Neil Clark:

No one questions that Havel, who went to prison twice, was a brave man who had the courage to stand up for his views. Yet the question which needs to be asked is whether his political campaigning made his country, and the world, a better place.

Havel’s anti-communist critique contained little if any acknowledgement of the positive achievements of the regimes of eastern Europe in the fields of employment, welfare provision, education and women’s rights. Or the fact that communism, for all its faults, was still a system which put the economic needs of the majority first.
What's worse is that they actually think like this, although I admit to using the word "think" loosely in this case.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Occupy This Nativity Scene

These are the people lefties support:

I hope the disinfectant of sunlight is enough to make "occupy" supporters ashamed of their stupidity. Have any of them done anything right yet? Have they accomplished anything positive?

Their movement has petered out, but I'm not going to stop pointing out its flaws. I will ensure they serve as a warning to the next utopians who come along.

Merry Christmas

May you experience happiness and health on this most revered of holidays.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Eating The Whale One Bite At A Time

As a rule, I don't bring work home with me.

I try to do all my correcting at school. I'm pretty efficient when correcting, and can often get it done during my prep period and in "free time" during class. I don't want to bring work home with me. I don't balance my checkbook at work, and I don't grade papers at home.

Sometimes, though, I have to give in. Over the break I've brought home 2 classes' worth of stats tests as well as the stats project write-ups. That's a lot of grading to be done. And of course, the best time to do that is during the holidays, right? (sarcastic voice on) It's not like there's anything else going on. (sarcastic voice off)

I hate grading papers at home, but these need to be done with my usual attention to detail. I've decided to grade 8 tests a day. It doesn't take me that long at all to do 8, so it doesn't seem like a major imposition on my time. When the tests are all graded, I'll do maybe 4 or 5 survey write-ups a day. I may be grading a few extra the last night before we go back to school, but other than that I won't feel like I spent so much of my time grading because I nickel-and-dimed it over two weeks.

I've Been Recommending This For Years

If you want a university degree, you should have knowledge of more than just your chosen field of study. I'm not saying that a modern dance major needs to know particle physics in order to get a degree, but said major should know at least Algebra 2 (the requirement for admission to California state universities) and how to write a term paper. Darren's rule, which I know rubs some people the wrong way: those who need remedial math or English should get such help before stepping foot onto a university campus, most likely at a junior college:
Wracked with frustration over the state's legions of unprepared high school graduates, the California State University system next summer will force freshmen with remedial needs to brush up on math or English before arriving on campus...

"I'm not at all optimistic that it's going to help," said Sally Murphy, a communications professor who directs general education at Cal State East Bay, where 73 percent of this year's freshmen were not ready for college math. Nearly 60 percent were not prepared for college English.
Yes, it's that bad. And while we can point the fingers at the local East Bay K-12 system and say they're not doing their job, that's not reason enough to compel taxpayers like me to foot the bill for these unprepared students to attend a university.

Sadly, though, CSU isn't even considering requiring students to go learn what they failed in 13 years of K-12 education to learn. No, they're only requiring a 15-hr online intervention that conceivably will give students enough knowledge, for just enough time, to pass a test which, miraculously, says they're now OK for the university. I would send them to JC and tell them to learn the material.

We're talking about getting a university degree here. Shouldn't that mean something? I got a math degree, but I can also talk intelligently about history, about (some of) the classics, about philosophy, about geography, about the military. I can write coherently. A well-rounded education should be the standard, not the pipe-dream, but we'll never get there as long as we continue to accept underqualified students into our universities and then allow them to earn degrees in narrow fields without the benefits of a liberal arts education.

I often hear about universities or courses that are "impacted", meaning there are too many students for the seats available. Getting rid of un(der)qualified students should solve that problem nicely.

Gotta Love Stories Like This One

And to think he was almost yanked from life support:
Sam Schmid, an Arizona college student believed to be brain dead and poised to be an organ donor, miraculously recovered just hours before doctors were considering taking him off life support.
As his mother said, what a great Christmas gift.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Anyone Not Remember This Story?

Anyone curious how it turned out?
Back in the spring of 1988, they’d all been friends at Seat Pleasant Elementary, part of a class of fifth-graders from some of Prince George’s County’s poorest neighborhoods.

Then, on a May afternoon, they received an unexpected gift that would alter their lives: the promise of a college education, paid for by two wealthy businessmen. Suddenly, the 11-year-olds were part of an ambitious social experiment being tried across the country, one that brought together rich benefactors and needy kids in a largely untested but intimate style of philanthropy aimed at lifting entire families out of poverty.

At Seat Pleasant, the promise generated a wave of publicity and excitement, transforming the fifth-graders into symbols of hope in their own neighborhoods and well beyond. The scholarships gave them a chance to achieve a kind of success that had eluded most of their parents. Yet their good fortune also became a burden that would endure long after they reached adulthood. The questions followed them: What would become of William Smith, Darone Robinson and the rest of the Seat Pleasant 59?

Would they graduate from high school?

Would they make it to college?

What would they make of their gift?

The Stats Teacher In Me Loves This

Gotta love how we can use stats to demolish a modern myth:
Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones and Amy Winehouse all passed away at age 27, leading some to believe this is a particularly risky and unlucky age for musicians.

Not so, says a study that finds that the "27 Club," as it's been named, may just be a coincidence. Research debunking the theory was released Tuesday in the Christmas edition of the British Journal of Medicine, because apparently nothing says the holidays like studies about dead musicians.
Click on the link to learn how the study was done.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

College Entrance Exams in Korea

This article from The Economist is all about the social and personal costs of this particular high stakes test, but I'm somewhat enamored of a country that values education so highly that its people act this way:
ON NOVEMBER 10th South Korea went silent. Aircraft were grounded. Offices opened late. Commuters stayed off the roads. The police stood by to deal with emergencies among the students who were taking their university entrance exams that day.

That's impressive, so let's read on:
Every year the country comes to a halt on the day of the exams, for it is the most important day in most South Koreans’ lives. The single set of multiple-choice tests that students take that day determines their future. Those who score well can enter one of Korea’s best universities, which has traditionally guaranteed them a job-for-life as a high-flying bureaucrat or desk warrior at a chaebol (conglomerate). Those who score poorly are doomed to attend a lesser university, or no university at all. They will then have to join a less prestigious firm and, since switching employers is frowned upon, may be stuck there for the rest of their lives. Ticking a few wrong boxes, then, may mean that they are permanently locked out of the upper tier of Korean society.
In this section

Making so much depend on an exam has several advantages for Korea. It is efficient: a single set of tests identifies intelligent and diligent teenagers, and launches them into society’s fast stream. It is meritocratic: poor but clever Koreans can rise to the top by studying very, very hard. The exam’s importance prompts children to pay attention in class and parents to hound them about their homework; and that, in turn, ensures that Korea’s educational results are the envy of the world. The country is pretty much the leading nation in the scoring system run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In 2009 it came fourth after Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong, but those are cities rather than full-sized countries.

Korea’s well-educated, hard-working population has powered its economic miracle. The country has risen from barefoot to broadband since 1960, and last year, despite the global slowdown, its economy grew by 6.2%. In the age of the knowledge economy, education is economic destiny. So the system has had far-reaching and beneficial consequences.
Kids care when the tests have personal meaning--unlike California's annual standardized testing, that has no direct meaning for students at all.

Update, 12/21/11: This comment (why can't I link to a specific comment on this post?) is so awesome that I'm reproducing part of it here. While I support a free K-12 system in this country, I see the value in the following:
For example, textbooks are not issued by the schools. The textbooks are typically paperback books, printed on cheap paper, printed in two or three colors, and bought in local bookstores for $10-$15 each.

When I taught in a public high school here in the states, the students were issued books by the school, and since folks tend not to value things they don't pay for, the campus lost thousands of dollars per year in texts that were not returned, for one reason or another.

Korean texts-- at least the high school math texts which I have, from about ten years ago-- aren't larded with photos that show diverse groups of students sitting around and smiling as they use graphing calculators, or other such fluff. They are pretty much all business.

He Gave A "D" To The Wrong Person

Was he fired because of it?
James Franco’s tired James Dean act got an NYU professor booted from the school last year — after the teacher dared to give the overhyped Hollywood hunk a “D” for blowing off class, a lawsuit charges.

José Angel Santana said he slapped the “127 Hours’’ star with the bad grade because he missed 12 of his 14 “Directing the Actor II” classes while pursuing a master’s in fine arts...

Santana, who is suing NYU in Manhattan Supreme Court for his job back, asserts that Franco, whose career took off after a 2001 portrayal of James Dean, acted like a rebel without a clue in his other courses, too, blowing off just as many classes. But the star’s other professors at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts still gave him good grades, Santana said.

Big names such as Franco’s typically translate into big bucks for universities.

Is Franco a cash cow for the school, a prima donna, a victim, or a straw at which a fired professor can grasp? I don't deny he's pretty, but that doesn't earn you a grade.

Will I Live Or Not

Just got up a little bit ago after 12 hrs in bed--most of that asleep! I feel alive but, like yesterday, have no voice at all. It'll be interesting trying to work with the bank today, since what I need to do is something they require be done over the phone!

This is a heck of a way to be spending a break.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

I Know Blogging's Been Light Lately

Usually when I post a "why blogging's been light lately" post, I include pictures from Reno or Las Vegas or the ski slope. Sadly, I have no such pictures this time.

For the first time in forever, I'm really sick. Usually a cold will get me for a day or two, but this is the 6th consecutive day and while I'm no longer dying, I don't seem to be healing. I feel like I've coughed up entire city blocks from my chest, and as the old saying goes, There's more where that came from.

So I stay at home, drinking green tea, eating sparingly, snacking not-so-sparingly, and trying to will this illness away. Until it goes, though, I'm just having a hard time getting motivated to comment on events in the blogosphere.

Keep coming back, though, as I'm bound to get fired up about something eventually!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Making Ourselves Look Like Idiots

We're teaching children when we do stupid stuff like this, but it isn't what we think we're teaching them, and it isn't anything good:
For the rest of the semester, a Rutherford County elementary student has to eat lunch at the "silent table" for allegedly waving around a slice of pizza some say resembled a gun.

Nicholas Taylor attends David Youree Elementary School in Smyrna, about 30 miles southeast of Nashville.

School leaders say the 10-year-old threatened other students at his lunch table with a piece of pizza with bites out of it so it looked like a gun and when asked about it was initially not truthful.
I'm embarrassed to work in the same field as these idiots.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Health Update

I made it back to work today. When people asked how I was feeling, about the best reply I could come up with was that my chances of dying today were lower than they were two days ago :)

I made it back and found everything in its place--my substitute was a friend who retired last June, so she knew how to run everything. I participated in our after-school snackie social, and now I need to make cornbread for tomorrow's luncheon in our staff lounge.

Yesterday, while hobbling around the house, I noticed that the odd feelings in my injured knee are significantly less noticeable than they've been in the past. I can still feel something "not quite right" in there, but it's not near as obvious as it has been. I'm taking this to mean that improvement is still occurring, and that come next April I will be able to run that mile on the anniversary of my accident.

Right now, though, I need to go lie down and rest a bit. I so despise feeling ill....

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dodging One Bullet In A Hail Of Machine Gun Fire

Many of California's teachers cheered last summer when the state budget required school districts to maintain the same staffing as they had last year, even if budgets were cut. "At least we won't lose any jobs", was the prevailing thought. And since California was projecting wine and ambrosia in its budget, it was thought that there would be no reason to have midyear cuts.

Sober minds knew better.

We've been waiting for the "trigger", the amount of budget shortfall that could trigger midyear budget cuts, and it's been reached:
The Democratic governor said Tuesday he expects California to fall $2.2 billion shy of its optimistic summer revenue forecast for the current fiscal year, triggering the $980 million in cuts.

Because of how Brown and lawmakers drafted the June budget, K-12 school districts could have lost as much as $1.5 billion in general-purpose funding – the equivalent of seven instructional days.

But Brown's latest revenue snapshot was robust enough that schools will instead face a smaller $79.6 million reduction in general funding and a $248 million elimination of bus transportation money. That should avert massive reductions in the school calendar or other drastic measures for most districts...

Still, districts remain nervous because Brown threatened Tuesday to impose deeper cuts next fall if voters reject his $7 billion plan to raise sales taxes, as well as income taxes on the wealthy.

Brown said he will propose "far more than a billion" in new cuts when he releases his budget in January. It is unclear how large his fiscal office believes the deficit will be, but the Legislative Analyst's Office pegged the figure last month at $12.8 billion.

"Schools may have dodged a bullet in December," said education lobbyist Kevin Gordon. "But they may find that in the budget come January, their share of a $13 billion hole will add to the uncertainty they've lived with the last couple of years."
The governor wants to increase taxes. The one or two fiscal conservatives left in California aren't impressed:
Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, whom the governor has blamed for dousing the last Capitol tax negotiation, said Brown's tax plan would drive business out of state.

Wait, that can't be true!

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the Golden State.

Companies Still Leaving California

What is it that these lefties think--are things so bad in California that we need more regulation and higher taxes? If so, to what end? And when jobs leave to Texas they scream about "deregulation" or some other bugaboo, which is supposed to give us the idea that Texas is some lawless place, but I'm not reading about environmental nightmares coming out of Texas. When you read a story about a child born with an arm sticking out of his/her forehead, let me know.

So to these people who think that we need even more regulation and higher taxes, I have to ask how you respond to these two stories:
Waste Connections Inc., the Sacramento region's largest publicly traded company, said Monday it's moving to Texas.

The departure of the Folsom-based garbage hauling and landfill firm will cost the region just 100 or so jobs. But losing one of the area's few publicly traded companies carries symbolic significance for a region struggling to build a private-sector employment base to reduce its reliance on government...

The company's top executive also used the announcement to take a parting shot at California's business climate and political leadership. Waste Connections first warned state officials it was considering a move in August.

"This state has the highest state tax rates in the nation, and they're going higher," Waste Connections' CEO Ron Mittelstaedt said in a telephone interview Monday.

California, he said, is "structurally and fiscally broke." link

Then there's this one:
A California company that develops advanced superconducting wire said it plans to move most of its business and 135 jobs to Austin early next year...

"This is a good win for Austin," said Dave Porter, senior vice president of economic development for the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, which collaborated with the Austin office of real estate firm CBRE in recruiting the company to Austin. "It continues the momentum we have seen out of California, with companies looking for a less-costly business environment."

The company's proposed average wage will be $75,000, Porter said, and most of its jobs are expected to be filled with local employees.

Superconductor Technologies did not seek local economic development incentives. The company also looked at locations in the Denver and Phoenix areas before deciding on Austin. link

Who will pay all these taxes when we run all the job producers out of the state?

Education Buzz

This week's is here, and I'm one of the host's 12 favorite education bloggers!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Battle Does Not Go Well

I'm giving tests in 4 of my 5 classes tomorrow--I have to go to school today. I feel worse this morning than I did yesterday, and that's after a good night's sleep. Ugh.

I should plan on *not* going tomorrow, just in case. A sub can administer the tests if I die!

Update, 3:57 pm: I felt so bad in 1st period today that I called a retired teacher and asked if she could come in for me today. She couldn't, but she'll take over for me tomorrow. I gutted it out today but I'm home now, gonna crawl in bed....

Monday, December 12, 2011

No More Posting Today

Just got home from a long day at school. At the risk of providing too much information about my impending cold, I offer this:
If there were a way to convert snot to electricity, I could single-handedly power a small city.
Hope to be back tomorrow!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Rough Job Market For Recent Grads

It might be hard to notice from the even, detached tone in which I write this blog (hehe), but I have little sympathy for those who complain about not getting jobs when their degrees are in Aggrieved Victim Studies, communications, Sanskrit Literature, Film History, Psychology, and the like. Those are all perfectly valid majors, if you're seeking self-actualization and enjoyment. If you're seeking employment, these are not the majors you are looking for--and you don't need Obi Wan's handwave while saying it to make it true.

These people, on the other hand, I have genuine sympathy for, because we always hear about how important these fields are and how we need more graduates in such fields:
"I'm frustrated," said Sergey Savrasov, 21. Savrasov recently graduated from UC Santa Cruz with degrees in computational mathematics and business management economics. He now works for a Davis moving company.

"The response rate to applications is pretty slow," he said, "even though I'm a very qualified job candidate with two degrees"...

Savrasov speaks three languages and twice made the dean's honor list. But he's still hauling furniture out of recently sold homes...

Savrasov managed to complete his education without racking up huge debts – his parents picked up most of the costs. And he's still working.

Eduardo Salinas, 31, of Sacramento is not so fortunate.

A U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Salinas worked the last several years as a CAD drafter – he used computer software to create blueprints for construction projects.

Salinas believed that he could do more, though, and enrolled in the construction management program at ITT Technical Institute in Rancho Cordova. He went to school full time while working full time. In June, his employer laid him off.

Salinas graduated from ITT in September. Now he's struggling to find a job in the anemic construction industry. He owes $60,000 in student loans.

He still wants something more prestigious than his old job, which does not require a four-year degree, but he's worried that he may not find it. His backup plan is to start his own business.

"I just want to get my foot in the door," he said. "But that's impossible."

STEM is supposed to be the Promised Land....

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Army-Navy Game

When the president and his entourage went to the center of the field for the coin toss, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army General Dempsey and Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno got noticeably more applause than did the president or vice president. What they got was polite applause.

Updates later.

Later: turnovers are killing Army.

Later: now trailing 14-7 late in the 1st half. As is to be expected from these two teams, remarkably few penalties.

Later: tied at 14 at the half. My two favorite words this time of year are "Touchdown, Army!" Have been for 28 years....

Later: Not another Army fumble! And on a kickoff return, too. :(

Later: Army, down by 6, essentially loses the game on a bad offsides call with under 3 minutes left.

End: bad call, not a bad game. Army hurt itself in this one--but still played respectably.

Satirical Post From the Past

Just stumbled upon this one from a couple years ago and thought it entertaining enough to link to it--just in case you missed it the first time!

Professional Teachers, Practicing Tolerance With Open Minds

If this is how they act regarding a fellow adult, do you think they really allow students to express their views in class? Are the teachers truly impartial in their dealings?
Apparently there’s no room for free thought or disagreement within the Wisconsin Education Association Council.

We suppose that’s not terribly surprising for a group that has to force its members to join.

Still, it’s troubling to hear that Kristi LaCroix, the courageous public school teacher who had the guts to film a television ad supporting Gov. Scott Walker’s reforms, is being harassed by union zealots to the point where she wants to change careers...

“Going through and deleting my daily amount of hate mail that is sent to my work email. I have now been assured, by one of the emails (all of which I forward to my Principal) that there is an online movement called ‘Fire Kristi‘ where they are going to email, post and talk to everyone (telling) millions of stories to ruin my reputation, career and life."

There's something very, very wrong with teachers in Wisconsin. We've heard from this crowd before....

Friday, December 09, 2011

What To Do About The School Paper

I came across two stories today about college newspapers.

Sac State:
An inflammatory cartoon published last year in Sacramento State's student newspaper has prompted the university's provost to push for greater oversight by faculty.

Provost Joseph Sheley in September told the Publications Board – made up of faculty advisers and students – to make changes to The Hornet's policies or he would consider taking the newspaper out of the curriculum at California State University, Sacramento, so students would no longer earn credits for writing for it.

On Tuesday, Sheley told The Bee he doesn't want to censor the paper or break ethical rules. "I want the advisers and the editors to work a little harder," he said. "To discuss the issues and some of the pitfalls that might accompany certain kinds of stories, instead of dissecting them after the fact."

Self-censorship is still censorship.

Yeshiva University:
An online student newspaper at a private Jewish university in New York lost its funding after it refused to take down a literary column detailing a sexual encounter between two students...

Matt Yaniv, Yeshiva University’s associate director of media relations, said in a statement Thursday that the school did not pull funding from The Beacon.

“The Beacon received their funding from the school’s student government, who allocates funds to all student clubs,” he wrote in an email to “After posting an article that made many students uncomfortable, the student council president approached The Beacon editors on behalf of the students, asking them to take it down.

“After an amicable discussion between the two sides, The Beacon decided to part ways and become an independent publication.”

The university, Yaniv said, acted only as a “mediator” between the newspaper and student council.

He who pays the piper calls the tune?

No Holiday Luncheon? No way!

In years past at my school, the Friday before Christmas break included an extended lunch period and a staff potluck luncheon in the library (the biggest room that can hold all of us). However, many on staff could not attend because phones have to be manned, students at lunch need supervision, etc.

Thursdays are short days for students; the last 75 minutes of the work day is "collaboration time". An idea was floated that we could have our luncheon on Thursday at 1:50, after the students have gone, so that everyone could attend. Sounds like a plan, right?

Too many people couldn't eat a small enough lunch during the normal lunch period to tie them over until 1:50, so instead we'll have our normal lunch period and at 1:50 we'll have appetizers and snacks. It's nice, but it's not like the old staff luncheons.

Our campus is very spread out, enough so that we have 3 staff lounges. During lunch today those of us in the lounge where I eat were lamenting the loss of the staff luncheon, but since in our lounge we often have "try mines" (potlucks), we got to thinking. One lady suggested a "try mine" for next Friday, and another said she'd brings a crock pot of soup. I said I'd bring corn bread, others started offering, and after lunch today I sent out an email to the usual denizens of our lounge gauging interest--and interest is quite high.

So next Thursday after school we'll have our whole-staff "hors d'ouvres", and on Friday our lounge will have a soup and salad lunch. All in all, not a bad way to roll into Christmas break!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Supporting the Occupy Movement

Today after our staff meeting our union rep discussed a few things, including CTA's support of the Occupy movement. Someone has suggested our local union to support it, too.

They're a day late and a dollar short. The Occupy movement is done, stick a fork in it.

My Jacket

I have a friend who's very active in community theater, both as an actor and as a director.

A year or more ago, he bought a jacket at a thrift store. He needed it for a character in one of his plays. The jacket cost $5.

When the play was over the actor didn't want the jacket, and since it was my size my friend offered it to me. A fleece-type interior and a suede-type exterior? So warm and comfortable! I accepted. The sleeves are a little long for me, so I roll them up a few inches so they don't encompass my hands, but other than that it's a great jacket.

And it's the only article of clothing I wear that elicits comments at work, both from students and from staff. Everyone loves this coat! This week a vice principal told me that if I ever left that coat lying around somewhere, he'd make off with it.

To me it's just a very warm, comfortable coat. But to everyone else, it's the most stylish thing around. Who knew?

Update, 12/23/11: I finally got around to getting a picture of it, although the colors don't look perfect:

It's actually somewhat lighter in color, but you get the idea.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Making the Commitment

Today, after a couple years of "thinking about it" and a couple weeks of trying to get my district to approve it, I finally got my district to approve my participation in the University of Idaho's Engineering Outreach Program. Through this program I'll earn a Master of Arts in Teaching Mathematics after taking 8 math courses and 2 education courses via distance learning (which is someone different than an "online program"). I plan to start next September and finish in 2-2 1/2 years.

Until then I'll never see another pay raise since I'm "topped out" for my education level. I considered doing a 10-month program at a so-called diploma mill and getting a "Masters in Education with an emphasis on Curriculum and Instruction", but I view that as mere jumping through hoops. I'd rather spend 2 1/2 years and get a degree that's personally rewarding and fulfilling rather than just rushing through a program to get something, anything, just to get a pay raise.

The die is cast. The Rubicon will be crossed next fall. Watch out, Rome, here I come.

If They Knew More Math, Maybe They'd Have Jobs

Yes, I'm talking about the Occupy crowd:
As Occupy Wall Street turns its focus to D.C. this week, its long-term agenda seems to be higher taxes for the top 1% and firmer government support for everyone else.

If so, then what the protesters want — even if they aren't saying it and almost certainly don't even realize it — is higher taxes for the 99%.
Hat tip to Instapundit, from whom I paraphrased the title of this post.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

What Do People Get Out Of Raising A Stink About Christmas?

I can understand not having creches in classrooms, and not emphasizing the religious components of the holiday known as Christmas, but some people go way too far:
Controversy is embroiling a California town over allegations that elementary school teachers have been told they cannot display poinsettias or Santa Claus in their classroom over fears that it might offend people.

“District office would like to remind everyone when displaying holiday decorations in and around school to be mindful no association to any religious affiliation i.e. Santa, poinsettias, Christmas trees, etc,” read a document obtained by News 10 in Sacramento that was reportedly sent to teachers at Claudia Landeen Elementary School in Stockton, CA.
Since when are poinsettias or Santa religious decorations? I don't recall reading about them in the Bible--or in any other religious text, for that matter.

Yes, Christmas has a Christian foundation, but it's also a secular holiday. If they want to forbid angels and "stars of Bethlehem" in classrooms, that's fine, but a poinsettia or a tree or Santa Claus? That's someone who's way too uptight, capable of making diamonds from the coal in their clenched buttocks.

Monday, December 05, 2011

The Latest Edition of Climategate

The latest release of emails is just as damning as the first:
New and explosive revelations continue to emerge from the Climategate 2 emails, two weeks after the 5,000-plus emails were first publicly unveiled. While Climategate 2 does not share the “novelty factor” of Climategate 1, the contents of the Climategate 2 emails are at least as appalling as Climategate 1. Most importantly, the Climategate 2 emails show scientists at the forefront of global warming activism acknowledging serious flaws in alarmist global warming theory, working together to hide data contradicting alarmist global warming theory, and taking concerted and nefarious action to ruin the careers of scientists and peer-reviewed science journal editors who publish studies and data that undermine alarmist global warming claims.
As one of the commenters said at the linked article:
The very young field of climate science has allowed itself to be politicized to the point where nothing coming from it can be trusted to shape government policies...especially economic policy.

If You Don't Like "Big Bankers", You Can't Like Barack Obama.

Do you want to listen to what he says, or note what he does?
Despite his occasional remarks that decry “fat cat”’ bankers, Obama has effectively serviced the financial bigwigs. Bank prosecutions have declined markedly under Obama — to levels not seen for more than 25 years. Obama has even tried to derail aggressive bank prosecutions pursued by state attorneys general, most of them liberal Democrats.
What do we call someone who says one thing and does another?


Back in 2002, when Joss Whedon's Firefly was on, I was watching other shows and didn't want to commit to yet another. I heard it was good, but I always figured I'd watch it some day in the future.

That day came when my Kindle Fire, loaded with a month of Amazon Prime, arrived. With a free month of downloads I started watching Doctor Who, at the suggestion of a teacher at school, but after a few episodes just couldn't get into it. I tried Firefly, and was hooked in less than the first episode.

I was one of the relatively few who was hooked, though. Its broadcast life was short, airing only 11 of the 14 episodes that were shot. Amazon Prime has all 14 available for streaming, and last night I watched the last one.

I saw the movie, Serenity, when it came out, but since I didn't know the back story I'm sure I missed a lot of it. Tonight I'll stream Serenity.

Great series.

Update: Dang it! Serenity isn't on Amazon Prime, so I have to pay for it! I'll watch something else tonight (my one month of Prime that came with the Kindle runs out in less than 2 weeks) and watch Serenity after my freebies run out.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

A More Dignified Way To Protest

You don't have to forego showers, bang on drums, block access to public or private property, or scream Marxist talking points to make your point. Sometimes, a little creativity and maturity can go a long way:
The most unusual aspect of Utah State's 67-54 loss to Denver on Wednesday night wasn't that the Aggies lost at the Spectrum after 33 consecutive home wins.

It was that maybe the nation's most creative, ear-splitting student section was eerily silent at the opening tipoff.

Already angered by the letter of apology their school president sent BYU regarding taunts aimed at forward Brandon Davies last month, Utah State students grew more irate when an usher warned them Wednesday not to lean over the railings or do certain traditional chants. As a result, the entire Utah State student section staged a silent protest, remaining dead quiet for the first three minutes of the game.
I can't say whether what they're protesting is reasonable or valid or not, I'm commenting only on the conduct of their protest.

No, This Doesn't Make Educators Look Like Idiots At All.

A Gastonia mother says her son was suspended for calling a teacher "cute.”

Chiquita Lockett said her 9-year-old son, Emanyea, spent the last two days at home.

Lockett said the principal of Brookside Elementary called her Wednesday to say the incident was a form of “sexual harassment.”

Emanyea told Eyewitness News a substitute teacher overheard him tell another student a teacher was cute.

Then he was suspended.
Go read the whole thing--the district spokespeople don't appear to add any "missing" information to what's mentioned above.

Good job, PC police. You've now gotten a child suspended from school for telling someone that someone else is "cute". You must be so proud.

Hat tip to Hot Air.

Update, 10/8/11: The principal has been canned. Seems like a bit of overkill to me, but that's the decision that was made.

The Higher Education Bubble

Like tulip bulbs or tech or housing, higher education appears to be a ready-to-burst bubble, and Glenn Reynolds (a law professor) has been predicting it for years. Here are his current thoughts on the subject:
A couple of years back, I suggested in these pages that higher education was facing a bubble much like the housing bubble: An overpriced good, propped up by cheap government-subsidized credit, luring borrowers and lenders alike into a potentially disastrous mess.

Subsequent events have proved me right as students have begun to think twice about indebtedness and schools have begun to face pressure over tuition. For higher education, costs have skyrocketed even as the value of their product has been declining, and people are starting to notice.

Just last week, the New York Times, normally a big fan of higher education, ran an article on "The Dwindling Power of a College Degree." In our grandparents' day, a college diploma nearly guaranteed a decent job.

Now, not so much: "One of the greatest changes is that a college degree is no longer the guarantor of a middle-class existence. Until the early 1970s, less than 11 percent of the adult population graduated from college, and most of them could get a decent job. Today nearly a third have college degrees, and a higher percentage of them graduated from non-elite schools. A bachelor's degree on its own no longer conveys intelligence and capability."

This is a simple case of inflation: When you artificially pump up the supply of something (whether it's currency or diplomas), the value drops. The reason why a bachelor's degree on its own no longer conveys intelligence and capability is that the government decided that as many people as possible should have bachelor's degrees.

There's something of a pattern here. The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we'll have more middle class people.

But homeownership and college aren't causes of middle-class status, they're markers for possessing the kinds of traits -- self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. -- that let you enter, and stay in, the middle class.
Correlation is not causation. Go read the whole thing.

To My Austrian Readers

Enjoy Krampus Night!

Saturday, December 03, 2011

I Guess It's Good I Didn't Put Down A Deposit

This is disappointing news, as I wanted to buy one--and not just for its environmental impact.

Keeping an HIV-Positive Student Out Of School?

It's a boarding school, so I guess the possibilities for, uh, "transmitting the disease" are a little higher than at a neighborhood public school:
The Hershey, Pa., boarding school that denied an HIV-positive 13-year-old boy entry said today that the school's residential setting and the risk of sexual activity made the teen too much of a "threat."

The AIDS Law Project filed suit on behalf of the unidentified boy Wednesday in Philadelphia District Court, alleging that the Milton Hershey School violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, which includes HIV in its scope.

"This young man is a motivated, intelligent kid who poses no health risk to other students, but is being denied an educational opportunity because of ignorance and fear about HIV and AIDS," said Ronda Goldfein, the boy's lawyer...

(School spokesperson) McNamara knows well that coughing, hugging, and public restrooms won't cause someone to get HIV.

She said the school was most worried the boy would have sex -- if not now, at some point in his future years at the school, where students in groups of 10-12 live together in on-campus housing.

"Our kids are no different than teenagers anywhere else," she said. "Despite encouraging abstinence, we can not be 100 percent certain our kids are not engaging in sexual activity."

Can they keep him out? Should they keep him out?

TSA--Too Stupid A-holes

Now the design of a gun on a purse gets you detained? Really?
It's not unusual for 17-year-old to find themselves in hot water with the fashion police. But on a flight from Virginia to Florida, Vanessa Gibbs found herself detained by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) over the appearance of her purse.

And just to be clear, it wasn't the content inside the purse that the TSA objected to. No, agency officials took exception with the design of a gun on Gibbs' handbag.
They really must be the stupidest people on the planet.

Friday, December 02, 2011

You Don't Like The Koch Brothers, Whoever They Are?

Then you must *really* not like the 78 organizations above Koch Industries on the influence and lobbying list--and I notice a lot more "leans heavily Democratic" than "leans heavily Republican" in those 78. In fact, you have to go to #19 on the list before you see a single elephant symbol. Five of the top ten donors are unions, and you know which way they lean.

Anyone Have Any Witty Titles For This Post?

Some people are just sick:
A third-grade teacher who resigned this week after parents accused her of dressing their daughters in lingerie and photographing them at a Christmas party was arrested on Thursday.

Crain had been an elementary teacher for six years in McLoud, Oklahoma, about 30 miles east of Oklahoma City, when she allegedly invited third- and fourth-grade girls to her home last month for a Christmas party. She is accused of having the girls dress in holiday-themed bras and panties and photographing them.
What could possibly be sexually appealing about 8 and 9-year-olds? Ew.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Willie Brown on California

From a column he wrote almost 2 years ago:
If we as a state want to make a New Year's resolution, I suggest taking a good look at the California we have created. From our out-of-sync tax system to our out-of-control civil service, it's time for politicians to begin an honest dialogue about what we've become.

Take the civil service.

The system was set up so politicians like me couldn't come in and fire the people (relatives) hired by the guy they beat and replace them with their own friends and relatives.

Over the years, however, the civil service system has changed from one that protects jobs to one that runs the show.

The deal used to be that civil servants were paid less than private sector workers in exchange for an understanding that they had job security for life.

But we politicians, pushed by our friends in labor, gradually expanded pay and benefits to private-sector levels while keeping the job protections and layering on incredibly generous retirement packages that pay ex-workers almost as much as current workers.

Talking about this is politically unpopular and potentially even career suicide for most officeholders. But at some point, someone is going to have to get honest about the fact that 80 percent of the state, county and city budget deficits are due to employee costs.

Either we do something about it at the ballot box, or a judge will do something about in Bankruptcy Court. And if you think I'm kidding, just look at Vallejo.
Hat tip to NewsAlert.

Does Everyone Have A Right To Be Respected

In an open letter to his school's new chancellor, professor and columnist Mike Adams says "no":
I hope you see the danger in granting a “right” to be respected. Once students begin to believe that respect is an entitlement they are granted - and not a privilege they must earn - the academic work product suffers.
I find his argument compelling. What do you think?

Some People Are Savages

What could possibly motivate people to act this way?
A teenage girl is battered and beaten inside a Detroit school restroom while other girls watch and record the whole thing. However, this isn't the first time this girl has been assaulted at school. Her family says administrators know about the fighting and chose to look the other way.

If I Went To The Naval Academy...

...I'd be unhappy, too!

When Democrats Call For The Deaths of Republicans... anyone truly surprised anymore? This from the civility crowd....

I Keep Telling You...

He who has eyes to see, let him see:
All one needs to do is to go over to OWS's official website. Under the very first article, entitled Who We Are, the group details their goals. Wade through some rambling craziness and you will come to a link, created and put there by the founders of the protests.

Simply follow that link and in big letters you will see this:
You know, I could swear that that says they want to stomp out capitalism... probably because they say they want to stomp out capitalism.

And under their declaration, it reads:
This is their official website. This is not some random guy rambling on the forum. This was put there by their founders. (boldface mine--Darren)
To those who say that many in the movement are believers, that they may just be young and impressionable and may not have enough experience in the world to know the "right" way to accomplish their goals, I say that we have a term for them: useful idiots, pawns of the people who posted the what's shown above.

And let's not forget that the California Teachers Association supports these people, enough to print signs for them with CTA's logo on the bottom.

What is it that these people have against capitalism? I'm reminded of something Milton Friedman once said on Phil Donahue's show:

Note how Donahue opens this clip, talking about the "maldistribution of wealth", in what could be ripped from today's headlines. Friedman has the perfect response, "In the only cases in which the masses have escaped from the kind of grinding poverty you're talking about, the only cases in recorded history, are where they have had capitalism and largely free trade. If you want to know where the masses are worse off, worst off, it's exactly in the kinds of societies that depart from that." Friedman also addresses so-called greed, commentary I find both hilarious and 100% correct.

If someone can show me that, historically, when wealth is "distributed" in a certain way, that the society collapses, and can show me that we're approaching that point, then I'll entertain discussion about higher tax rates for the rich and other such related issues. Until then I'll just consider such talk to be populist class warfare of the most base sort, conducted by the most base sort of people.

Update: What's causing this increased income disparity?
The Occupiers are right about American incomes: They've definitely grown more unequal. But this fact presents three inconvenient truths for the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Click and find out :-)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I Agree: School Went Over The Line On This One

There's nothing wrong with the mere mention of religious views in school, but even I think the school crossed a line in this case:
A North Carolina school has apologized after a teacher complained about a religious message found inside an Operation Christmas Child project.

“Our intent was not to offend anyone,” said Ira Trollinger, superintendent of McDowell County Schools in Marion, NC.

Trollinger said students at Glenwood Elementary School were preparing shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child, part of a community service project.

Operation Christmas Child is sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse, an organization run by Franklin Graham. They expect to send more than 8 million shoe box gifts to underprivileged children in 100 countries. Around 60,000 churches and 60,000 community groups in the United States are participating.

As part of the project, the school children received a questionnaire that asked students to fill in the blank: “I love Jesus because ______.”

A part time tutor at the school complained about the questionnaire arguing that it crossed the line and may have violated the First Amendment rights of students.

Trollinger told Fox News & Commentary that no children complained and no parents complained – just the part time tutor.
It doesn't matter who complained, it's still inappropriate.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Global Warming Religion

I've often called it the Church of Global Warming, and this Wall Street Journal article is pretty amazing.
Consider the case of global warming, another system of doomsaying prophecy and faith in things unseen.

As with religion, it is presided over by a caste of spectacularly unattractive people pretending to an obscure form of knowledge that promises to make the seas retreat and the winds abate. As with religion, it comes with an elaborate list of virtues, vices and indulgences. As with religion, its claims are often non-falsifiable, hence the convenience of the term "climate change" when thermometers don't oblige the expected trend lines. As with religion, it is harsh toward skeptics, heretics and other "deniers." And as with religion, it is susceptible to the earthly temptations of money, power, politics, arrogance and deceit...

Oh, you definitely want to read more.

This Isn't Tyranny.

It's at most an uncomfortable nuisance:
As education scandals go, the news that students at some of the best high schools on Long Island paid others to take their College Board tests seems mild. The Long Island scandal pales behind the sex scandal at Penn State.

Yet the fears driving the Long Island scandal come with much broader educational implications than those affecting Penn State. The cheating scandal reflects the tyranny that standardized testing has come to exercise over higher education in America.
Geez. There's no tyranny at all here. What rights are being trampled? If you want to get into a "good" school, learn a lot. Then you, too, can do well on the SAT and not have to cheat.

Why some people can't see that amazes me. The author of that piece is a professor; maybe we should talk about the "tyranny of essays" that causes students to plagiarize.

Again, geez.

Monday, November 28, 2011

"Not Sufficiently Deferential"

If there was a rule against using your phone during this speech, bust her for that. But just saying something negative about the governor? Quit trying to impose thoughts on kids.
A few days ago, her high school class made a trip to Topeka, Kansas, where Governor Sam Brownback gave a speech to several high school classes. During the course of the trip, Ms. Sullivan sent out the following tweet: “Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot.”

Ms. Sullivan didn’t actually make any critical comments in person, but the tweet, sent out to a following of about 60 people (though it’s over 800 now), somehow caught the eye of the Governor’s Director of Communication, Sherriene Jones-Sontag, during her daily monitoring of social media mentions of Governor Brownback. Shocked – shocked! – that a teenager’s tweet about a politician was “disrespectful,” she complained to the high school. “It’s also important for students to recognize the power of social media, how lasting it is. It is on the Internet,” she said.

The High School, in turn, apparently even more shocked about how kids these days don’t respect their elected leaders, scolded Ms. Sullivan and forced her to write a letter of apology to the Governor’s office. Sullivan wrote the letter – because she didn’t want a disciplinary action on her transcripts and have it affect her ability to go to college. But she is rightfully unapologetic in real life.
Obviously I'm against this compulsion on the part of the school, and some might wonder how I balance this with my agreement on the Bong Hits 4 Jesus case the Supreme Court decided a few years ago. The BH4J case involved public behavior, this case involves speech. Schools can proscribe behavior, but the bar for proscribing speech should be higher.

Update, 11/29/11: At least they figured it out:
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback apologized Monday for what he called his staff's "overreaction" to a disparaging tweet directed at him by a high school senior during a state Capitol visit.

Can't Live Without The Kiddie Porn

This sicko is so far gone that he couldn't wait until he was behind closed doors to check out his kiddie porn. No, he had to watch it while seated on an aircraft:
A university professor pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges that he viewed child pornography on his laptop during a flight from Salt Lake City to Boston...

Smith was sitting in first class when a passenger seated behind him saw the images and became concerned. The passenger took a cellphone picture of what Smith was doing, then alerted a flight attendant. The passenger also emailed a relative about the situation and asked that person to contact police, and the person did, Prosecutor Erik Bennett said.

Bennett said that Smith tried to erase pictures of what appeared to be pre-teen girls engaged in sexual acts after a flight attendant told him to turn off his computer.

The recently divorced Smith was met at the gate by state police, who asked for and were granted permission to view the contents of the laptop. Investigators allege they found several images of nude or nearly nude children, including girls apparently as young as 6 years old.
As I've said so many times, it's always a cop, a teacher, or a preacher. (At least, they're the ones that make the news.) And yes, I guess it's important to point out that his conduct is still only "alleged".

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Recovery Update

A few days ago marked 7 months since my injury. My son remarked recently how far I've come, but I still judge success, or the lack thereof, by what I still cannot do. That doesn't mean I don't recognize, and am not thankful for,the progress I've made so far, it's just that such a view doesn't motivate me to move ahead. It doesn't matter how far you've driven down the field, what matters is crossing the goal line into the end zone.

I'm getting a little better at stairs and at leg lifts. When I started doing leg lifts at the gym a couple months ago I struggled to lift 10 lbs with the bad leg, yet for the last week or so I've been able to do 20 lb fairly well. Yes, I recognize that 20 lbs is next to nothing, and the fact that it's taken a couple months to get to that level is somewhat pathetic, but I recognize the improvement. What I'm really looking for is to be able to walk down stairs like a "normal" person, able to lower my body down each stair without falling the last few inches from lack of strength.

Kneeling is still difficult, as there remains a noticeable amount of scar tissue under the skin. One goal was to be able to kneel and get presents from under the Christmas tree, and with less than a month to go I wonder if I'll reach that goal. At least at school I can squat down at a student's desk to offer assistance, although the strength to stand up from that position still isn't up to 100%.

When school started 3 months ago it seemed like such a long walk from my classroom to the office, but nowadays the distance isn't an issue. I do pay attention to the clocks a little more now, though, because if I'm late I can't just run across campus. A couple days a week I take a lap around campus with a couple other teachers on our prep period; I find that the break clears my mind and helps me focus on work when I get back.

Now, for the first time in over a week, I need to go to bed because I have to get up for work tomorrow. I look forward to that walk during 4th period....

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Agency Fee Rebate

Yesterday I received my agency fee rebate from the California Teachers Association (CTA). I receive this because in California, a "fair share" state, I'm required by law to pay dues to the CTA even though I'm not a member. Each year we "objectors" and the CTA have to jump through hoops, and we get refunded to us money the teachers unions--NEA, CTA, and local--admit to not spending on activities related to union organizing. The amounts are determined by an "impartial" auditor that's chosen and paid for by the CTA.

Last year I paid over $1,000 in union dues. Over $1,000. Refunded to me was $358.20. Here's the exact wording of the letter accompanying my check:
As noted in our prior letter, the rebate percentages are:

Look how much money these organizations are spending on activities not directly related to organizing employees! And remember, this is what their paid auditor says isn't chargeable, imagine what a truly impartial auditor would find!

What are these other, non-chargeable activities? Political donations and lobbying, to start.

The Utopia That Is California

It doesn't get any clearer than this:
California’s budget is in its usual multi-billion dollar deficit condition, so one could be forgiven for believing that the problem is too few taxes. Fortunately, Richard Rider spells out in depressing detail just how overburdened the California taxpayer is:

* California has the 3rd highest state income tax rate in the nation.

* California has the highest state sales tax rate in the nation.

* California has the 2nd highest corporate income tax rate west of the Mississippi and 8th highest overall.

* California has the 4th highest capital gains tax rate.

* California has the 2nd highest gas tax and the highest diesel tax.

* California property taxes per owner-occupied home are the 10th highest in the nation.

If the solution to the state’s problems were higher taxes, we’d be living in Shangri-La already.

This Is Better Than Anything Else They're Doing :-)

Maybe I've been a bit hard on (snicker snicker) these Occupy (insert city here) protesters. I've suggested they "get a job", and a couple have done just that! See, I support capitalism, and while some will decry this particular exercise of that economic philosophy, I think making a legal buck is better than banging (snicker snicker) a drum complaining that "the man" has got you down (snicker snicker):
An adult film company is capitalizing on the heat of the U.S. anti-establishment protests by using a tent in the middle of the "Occupy Oakland" encampment as the setting for a new gay porn flick.

Billed by The New York Observer as a "homoerotic caper through the tents of Oakland's Occupation," Dirty Boy Video's "Occupy My Throat" is likely to have been inspired by Brandon Watts, an original member of the Wall Street occupation who lost his virginity in Zuccotti Park before being arrested after a gruesome standoff with the police. Dirty Boy Video president Andy Fair reportedly contacted the 20-year-old Watts, whose experience was apparently noted in a New York Times magazine feature, and offered the protester cash for the chance to tape his next experience.

Did The UC Davis Protesters Deserve To Get Pepper-sprayed?

Let's listen to this little vixen explain how they provoked the police:

So, she complains that university "riot police" are on "her campus"--clearly she wishes they weren't--admits that she and her compatriots surrounded the officers and told them that if they wanted to leave they'd have to go through the students, and then she's surprised that the officers responded?

I'll grant that the officers did not appear to be under imminent threat; on the other hand, they shouldn't have to wait until they're in jeopardy before they act. I also grant those who have police power given to them in our society must be held to very high standards of conduct, as they have the power to take away that which is fundamental to our ethos as a people--freedom.

Did the officers respond appropriately? If you tease the nice dog enough, should you really be surprised when it nips at you?

Initially I was against this police behavior. Now I'm not so sure.

Update, 12/4/11: It's always nice when a fellow blogger links :) Coach also adds information from former students of his at Davis.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Why I'm Not Interested In Discourse With The Occupy Crowd

Some of the things they say are correct, but to engage them on even these topics is a mistake. Don't get sucked in:
A smaller group of conservatives, however, believes the occupiers are onto something. The banks do have too much power. Wages have been stagnant. The problem, these conservatives say, is that Occupy Wall Street doesn’t really know what to do about any of the problems it laments. So this smaller group of conservatives, along with the majority of liberals, is more than happy to supply the occupiers with an economic agenda.

But they might as well be talking to rocks. Both left and right have made the error of thinking that the forces behind Occupy Wall Street are interested in democratic politics and problem solving. The left mistakenly believes that the tendency of these protests to end in violence, dissolute behavior, and the melting away of the activists is an aberration, while the right mistakenly brushes off the whole thing as a combination of Boomer nostalgia for the New Left and Millennial grousing at the lousy job market. The truth is that the violence is not an aberration and Occupy Wall Street should not be laughed away. What we are seeing here is the latest iteration of an old political program that has been given new strength by the failures of the global economy and the power of postmodern technology.
I'm not so sure I agree with this next paragraph, at least the part about the unions:

To be sure, there are plenty of people flocking to the tents who are everyday Democrats and independents concerned about joblessness and the gap between rich and poor. The unions backing the occupiers fall into this group. But the concerns of labor intersect only tangentially with those of Occupy Wall Street’s theorists and prime movers. The occupiers have a lot more in common with the now-decades-old antiglobalization movement. They are linked much more closely to the “hacktivist” agents of chaos at WikiLeaks and Anonymous.

I definitely agree with this last part:
When the police officers and sanitation workers reclaimed Zuccotti Park, Occupy Wall Street’s supporters cried, “You can’t evict an idea whose time has come.” Whether the sympathizers or the critics really understand the idea and the method of the movement is a good question. The idea is utopian socialism. The method is revolutionary anarchism.
This is why I don't engage them.

If you agree with one or two points they make, fine. Their methods are not going to resolve their issues; I hope we're not to the point where mob rule influences sober government. Act like adults, and take your issues to the government that's hired for such purposes. If you think the government is unresponsive or a lost cause, surely you can do better than to bang a drum in a park.

The linked article goes on to discuss utopian socialism, and I highly recommend you read the whole thing.

Update, 12/3/11: The Occupy movement continues to be revealed as the bowel movement it really is:
A few weeks ago in Denver I had the opportunity for some up close and personal time with the Occupy movement, and what I saw was about what you would expect. These are marginal and marginally intelligent people who have grown up conditioned by public educators and the welfare state to believe that they’re something special and entitled to the good life just because they’re special and entitled to the good life. And they’ve also been brainwashed to believe that if America doesn’t acknowledge their specialness and if, indeed, they’re not enjoying the good life, the problem must be a corrupt America.

Occupy is all about greed, self-actualization, and narcissism. The fastest and easiest way to feel superior is to assume the role of a victim … because a victim is always superior to his or her oppressors.

Occupy is also an army the left and Alinksy-style community organizers like Barack Obama have been breeding for decades. The formula is simple: feed enough self-esteem to those who don’t deserve it and you create an entire generation of entitled crybabies desperate to direct the frustration of their unfulfilled lives at whomever.
Yeah, what he said.

California Keeps Bending Over For Obama and Education Secretary Duncan...

...and it keeps getting the shaft:
In another cockfight between California and Washington over education, the U.S. Department of Education has rejected California’s application – and only California’s application – in the third round of Race to the Top. The denial exasperated the seven California school districts that led the state’s effort and were counting on $49 million earmarked for California as critical to do the work they had committed to do.

In a statement Wednesday, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and State Board of Education President Michael Kirst each criticized the federal government’s inflexibility in not accepting what they described as California’s “innovative” approach of giving control of the reforms to local school districts. Seven unified districts, including Los Angeles, Frenso, and Long Beach, formed a coalition known as CORE, the California Office to Reform Education, to compete for round three and work together on the reform.

Torlakson also said the federal government failed to scale back its expectations for Race to the Top reforms during this fiscal crisis. “I had hoped the federal Administration would be mindful of the financial emergency facing California’s schools and the severe constraints it has placed on state resources,” he said. (In the third round of RTTT, the federal government slashed the available funding from $3.4 billion to $200 million. For California, that reduced the potential award from as much as $700 million to $50 million.)

The federal government saw things differently. In a statement congratulating the other seven states in line for the money, federal officials said California “submitted an incomplete application.”
This state gave, and will give again, 55 electoral votes to Obama. I'm sure some people think that's enough for us to get the money, but it clearly isn't. Then we chucked our world-class math standards for watered-down national "common core" standards. We've moved towards evaluating teachers based on student performance. And we don't even get any more education money for doing this.

Those of you who thought NCLB was the problem, how do you respond to this disaster?

Update, 11/26/11: Ouch.
When does a four-page cover sheet cost $49 million? When it's part of California's application for the latest round of federal school improvement funding.

Had they signed the cover sheet, state officials would have been endorsing the establishment of statewide teacher evaluation methods – a commitment they would not make.

Federal education officials announced that the state's bid for Race to the Top funds was denied earlier this week because its application was deemed by the U.S. Department of Education to be incomplete.

You Don't Have To Go To College... learn what you could learn at UC Davis. All you have to do is watch and learn from the news:
A woman shot pepper spray to keep shoppers from merchandise she wanted during a Black Friday sale, and 20 people suffered minor injuries, authorities said.

The incident occurred shortly after 10:20 p.m. Thursday in a crowded Los Angeles-area Walmart as shoppers hungry for deals were let inside the store.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Best Part of Thanksgiving

A few dozen gathered at my mother's place, including the two newest members of the clan, as two of my cousins have newborns. I gave one cousin and his wife a break for awhile:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Snackies, Coda

Remember this idiot, the professor who walked out of class because his students didn't bring him snackies? Well, the university has made a decision regarding his conduct:
Students of Sacramento State professor George Parrott won't have to supply snacks anymore in order to be taught psychology.

The Bee's report on Parrott walking out of his Psychology 101 lab class before a midterm review two weeks ago because of the lack of snacks made headlines across the country.

Since then, members of the psychology department at California State University, Sacramento, met and decided it was unacceptable for the professor to have left the class, said Kim Nava, university spokesperson.

"He's been told by the dean not to repeat the behavior," she said.
This is an appropriate response, but I hope they were a little more, uh, direct in their closed-door discussions with him.

Climategate #2?

It's looking possible....

Update, 11/26/11: More here:
*5,000 leaked emails reveal scientists deleted evidence that cast doubt on claims climate change was man-made
*Experts were under orders from US and UK officials to come up with a 'strong message'
*Critics claim: 'The stink of intellectual corruption is overpowering'
*Scientist asks, 'What if they find that climate change is a natural fluctuation? They'll kill us all'

Update #2, 11/28/11: Facts are such stubborn little critters:
The worst hurricanes were in 1926, the second-worst in 1900. The world's top hurricane experts say that there is no evidence that global warming affects storms. There is no such thing as a man-made hurricane. Storm cycles and long patterns of bad weather are entirely natural. Yet this good news is suppressed by our politicized media. We hear only one side.

More and more scientists are revolting against the global warming consensus enforced by government funding, the academic establishment, and media misrepresentation. They are saying that solar cycles and the complex systems of cloud formation have much more influence on our climate, and account for historical periods of warming and cooling much more accurately that a straight line graph of industrialization, CO2, and rising temperatures. They also point out that the rising temperatures that set off the global warming panic ended in 1998.

Khan Academy Success?

One report says so:
Last month we profiled the Khan Academy, a database of free videos that make learning subjects like math fun. Well, these videos are now being piloted in a school in California. Two grade five and seven classes in the district of Los Altos have chosen to heavily supplement their current methods with the Khan Academy. Their test run has so far yielded nothing short of colossal success, with both students and teachers alike more engaged and fulfilled.

I Didn't Know The President of the NEA Is A Former Math Teacher

Learned something new:

One reform idea floated by Republicans and others involves changing the definition of “effective teachers,” loosening restrictions on who can instruct in the classroom. Some argue that an experienced mathematician, for example, shouldn’t have to obtain a separate degree to become a teacher.

Mr. Van Roekel dismissed that idea as irresponsible.

The power of the teachers unions, many reformers argue, is the single biggest reason major changes have come so slowly to the U.S. education system.

Mr. Van Roekel strongly disagrees.

“I take it as a personal insult when people believe that anyone with a degree in math can do what I do in the classroom,” he said, referencing his 23-year career as a math teacher.

On the other hand, I haven't met too many teachers who thought their credentialing program was very useful. Teacher preparation needs to be completely revamped, getting rid of a lot of the political (8 zillion courses in "multicultural education", for example, as if no one's ever worked with people unlike themselves before) and focusing more on the practical. While I'll agree with Van Roekel that a good mathematician doesn't a priori make a good math teacher, neither does someone make a good teacher just because he/she has completed a credentialing program.

The Economist Is Three Weeks Behind Me

Almost 3 weeks ago I wrote the following:
If you drive a high-mpg vehicle, you don't get dinged with high gas taxes. However, if everybody drove high-mpg vehicles, we'd use less gas--which means the states and feds would get less gas tax revenue. Problem is, the roads would still need maintenance, so the taxes would have to be increased!

If everyone does it, there's no economic benefit to conservation.

Maybe someone at The Economist reads this blog :-) because here's what they reported in last week's edition:
And just as cars are growing more fuel-efficient, Americans are driving less. In 2010 they drove just under three trillion miles—less than they did in 2006. While better fuel-efficiency is good news for Americans’ wallets and less driving good for the country’s air, for its highways and mass-transit systems, it is something of a disaster.

That is because federal funds, mostly derived from fuel-tax revenue, account for 22% of all highway funding and 17% of mass-transit funding nationally (with the rest coming from state and local governments)...

But as that trend has slowed, the HTF (Highway Trust Fund, which is funded by federal gas tax monies) has suffered: monies paid into the HTF fell by around one-seventh from 2007 to 2010. From 2005 to 2009 every state received more from the fund than they paid in. Between 2008 and 2010 Congress transferred $34.5 billion in general revenues into the HTF—the first time it had ever received such an infusion. Earlier this year the Congressional Budget Office forecast that the HTF will be unable to fund highway maintenance by 2013.

So, what's the fair (don't you love that word??), or reasonable, or practical, way to fund highway maintenance?