Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Newest Civil Right--The Right To Attend A Bad School

You can't make stuff like this up:
Closing or reorganizing low-performing urban schools discriminates against black and Hispanic students whose schools are most likely to be targeted, charge community activists in the Journey for Justice Movement.

Closing neighborhood schools is “a violation of our human rights,” said Jitu Brown, an organizer from the South Side of Chicago, in a meeting with Education Secretary Arne Duncan yesterday.
As I said in my comment at the end of that post:
Maybe they’re tacitly admitting that the *school* isn’t the root cause of the poor performance.
It's the culture.


When I moved into this house almost 8 years ago, I planted an orange tree in the front yard.  A year later I planted one in the back yard.  I don't like oranges much, but I love orange juice, and the idea of having some shade, as well as having some fresh-squeezed orange juice, sealed the deal for me.

The tree in front has long been shaded by some of my neighbor's trees, so this year was the first year I got oranges off the front tree.  Last year I got oranges off the back tree but the juice was very bitter.  Anyway, a couple days ago I harvested my first crop from the front, about a dozen oranges, and this afternoon I juiced them.

Heaven :-)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

UC Students and Health Insurance

The headline is Obamacare Loophole Threatens UC Students--but does it really?  That fact that it doesn't give them new, free (ie, paid for by someone else) healthcare, does that mean it really threatens them?  Talk about some biased reporting!
Life was great for Kenya Wheeler in the spring of 2011. He'd just enrolled in a UC Berkeley master's program in city planning and had won a research position that would pay his fees. Healthy as a horse, he biked to campus every day.

A year later, a cancer diagnosis had changed everything. Wheeler, 38, had so many medical bills that he reached the $400,000 limit allowed by his UC student health plan. He scheduled a hasty wedding with his girlfriend in March so he could continue receiving life-saving chemotherapy through her insurance.

"I didn't know when I was diagnosed that I would be in for a battle to fight my cancer - and for my medical care," Wheeler told the UC regents at this month's meeting in San Francisco.

Health care limits like the one imposed by UC are already illegal under the sweeping federal health-care law - dubbed Obamacare - that takes full effect next Jan. 1. But the health care act does not apply to "self-funded" college plans like UC's, in which the university takes on the financial risk of medical claims.

Now, thousands of UC students are demanding through a petition drive that the university voluntarily lift its insurance caps.
It amazes me when our privileged UC students want even more--and they want me to pay for it!  This state is going to continue reaping a bad harvest if this is what we're sowing amongst our putative best and brightest.  Don't they know this state is already broke?  How do they expect the state to pay for this?  My guess is they don't care as long as they don't have to pay for it.  They don't understand that most basic of natural laws, there ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

Performance Excellence/Setting The Example

A captain--not a cadet, but a captain--sets a new record on West Point's Indoor Obstacle Course Test.

Gawd, I remember that test.  The only part I feared was "walking across the bars", shown at :25.  When running:  1st lap is with a medicine ball, 2nd with a baton, last lap and a half carrying nothing.

We had a term for someone like this back in my day:  stud.

No, I don't remember at all what my best time was.  Honestly.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

It Pains Me, How True This Is

California is in a death spiral:
VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: California’s Twilight. “The result of 30 years of illegal immigration, the reigning culture of the coastal childless households, the exodus of the overtaxed, and the rule of public employees is not just Democratic, but hyper-liberal supermajorities in the legislature. In the most naturally wealthy state in the union with a rich endowment from prior generations, California is serially broke — the master now of its own fate. It has the highest menu of income, sales, and gas taxes in the nation, and about the worst infrastructure, business climate, and public education. Is the latter fact despite or because of the former?”

Licence Plates

Here in Sacramento we don't see too many non-native license plates.  We're a couple hours' drive from Nevada, and several hours from either Oregon or Arizona.

On the way to work this morning, though, I saw two interesting plates.  The first was from Distrito Federal--Mexico City!--and the second was a consular plate (country unkown). 


Where Are The Protests?

Obama fails yet again:
HOW’S THAT HOPEY-CHANGEY STUFF WORKIN’ OUT FOR YA? (CONT’D): Obama administration closing Gitmo-closing office. “Four years ago, Barack Obama’s first act as President was an executive order to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The White House created a position at State of ‘special envoy’ to Guantanamo, whose duties included reviewing the pending cases with Attorney General Eric Holder, and diplomacy with allies to place the current detainees in order to close the facility. Four years later, the only thing being closed is Special Envoy Daniel Freed’s office.”
I guess he can't do everything by fiat.

Where else has he failed?  Can't lead from behind in Libya, can't require the Egyptians to be democratic, can't get Republicans to agree to anything, can't compromise, can't lead at all.  I can't wait to hear the howls from the liberals when the next Republican president tries to behave the same dictatorial way.

Oh, and where are the leftie peacenik protestors on this one?  One could be excused for believing that their beliefs are not sincere, that they only care about such things when the president has an "R" after his name.

And one would be correct.

Monday, January 28, 2013

15 Lies of Liberalism

It's hard to argue with this article:
Liberalism offers up a utopian vision of the world and then invites its practitioners to feel good about themselves for embracing it. Not only does this beautiful fantasy world never come to pass, liberalism fails to address the root causes of the problems it sets out to solve while creating whole new disasters in the process. In other words, it's a never ending circle. There's a problem, liberalism is offered up as the solution, it doesn't work and creates more problems, for which liberalism is offered up as the solution, etc., etc., etc. until you're starving, bankrupt, or your society is tearing itself apart at the seams.
Liberalism says that....
Yeah, go read the whole thing.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Apollo 1, et. al.

Today is the 46th anniversary of the fire that killed Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chafee in the Apollo 1 capsule.  Tomorrow is the 27th anniversary of the destruction of Challenger and her crew: Dick Scobee, Mike Smith, Ron McNair, El Onizuka, Judy Resnick, Christa McAuliffe, and Greg Jarvis.

There's always a price.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Climate Change and Nuclear Energy

Bjorn Lomborg, the skeptical environmentalist on whom I've written several posts, has another great opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal.  While I don't agree with everything he says, I do celebrate his pragmatism:
In his second inaugural address on Monday, President Obama laudably promised to "respond to the threat of climate change." Unfortunately, when the president described the urgent nature of the threat—the "devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms"—the scary examples suggested that he is contemplating poor policies that don't point to any real, let alone smart, solutions. Global warming is a problem that needs fixing, but exaggeration doesn't help, and it often distracts us from simple, cheaper and smarter solutions.

For starters, let's address the three horsemen of the climate apocalypse that Mr. Obama mentioned.

Historical analysis of wildfires around the world shows that since 1950 their numbers have decreased globally by 15%...

Claiming that droughts are a consequence of global warming is also wrong. The world has not seen a general increase in drought...

As for one of the favorites of alarmism, hurricanes in recent years don't indicate that storms are getting worse...

This does not mean that climate change isn't an issue. It means that exaggerating the threat concentrates resources in the wrong areas.
The left's solutions are always the same--more government control, more showy proposals that endanger prosperity, more punishing of success and affluence.  Lomborg, rightly, sees better alternatives.

One of my litmus tests to determine if someone truly believes or is just an ideologue is their stance on clean, safe, relatively inexpensive nuclear energy.  If they support use of that clean, mature technology, then we have some common ground on which to stand.  If not, they're just a leftie spouting off their talking points, and I have no use for that.  There's even a documentary at Sundance:
Meanwhile, sit down for this: at the current Sundance Film Festival–Robert Redford’s baby–there is debuting a new documentary about environmentalists who have changed their mind and are now pro-nuclear power.  Does Redford, who signs direct-mail letters for the anti-nuke NRDC, know about this?  The film is called Pandora’s Promise, and here’s what one early critic at Sundance has to say about it:
When was the last time you saw a documentary that fundamentally changed the way you think? It’s no secret that just about every political and socially-minded documentary shown at Sundance is preaching to the liberal-left choir. The issue may be dairy farming, human rights abuses in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the marketing of AIDS drugs, or Occupy Wall Street (to list the topics of four festival docs this year), but the point of view is almost always conventionally “progressive” and orthodox. So when Robert Stone, who may be the most under-celebrated great documentary filmmaker in America (watch Oswald’s Ghost if you want to touch the elusive truth of the JFK assassination), arrived at Sundance this year with Pandora’s Promise, a look at the myths and realities of nuclear power, he was walking into the lion’s den. For this isn’t a movie that preaches to the choir. It’s a movie that says: “Stop thinking what you’ve been thinking, because if you don’t, you’re going to collude in wrecking the world.” Pandora’s Promise is built around what should be the real liberal agenda: looking at an issue not with orthodoxy, but with open eyes.
When liberals use reason, I can understand them. When they just emote and cry and beat their drums, I can't. The lefties I've quoted above, I could sit down over a burger and have a nice discussion with them.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Head Start

I've written about the failure of the Head Start program before, but here's more information.

Given that it doesn't show any lasting effects--and what's the point, if it doesn't have any effect--why does that program still exist, $180 billion dollars later?  Because it's a liberal government program that has a constituency that votes Democratic.  And it makes libs feel like they're doing something to help poor kids.

Reality-based community?  This program doesn't even meet its own goals!  Why do you continue to support it?  Yes, I know the answer, I just want you to admit it.

I'm Not Going To Make Too Many Friends With This One

Is there anyone who, deep down in their heart of hearts, is genuinely surprised by this?
Academic profiles continue to be markedly different for secondary school subject matter teachers in contrast with elementary, special education, and physical education teachers. Those with secondary licenses have much stronger academic histories.
When I hear the old factoid that teachers generally come from the bottom of their college classes, I've always doubted it--at least for people who graduate with degrees other than general liberal arts or education.  There is, however, some good news on the teacher quality front:
Praxis passing rates have decreased substantially. This decrease is likely attributable to the
increasingly demanding testing requirements put in place during the (previous) eight years.

The academic profile of the entire candidate pool has improved. Candidates who graduate from teacher education programs are stronger than in years past. Those who report not having gone through a teacher education program are similarly strong.

The academic profile of those meeting state Praxis requirements has improved.

These improvements are consistent for both males and females, across racial/ethnic groups, and across licensure areas.
This report came out in 2007. I wonder what it similar statements could be made today.


Today I saw on Facebook that one of my former students (who graduated 6 years ago) has now been granted his California Teaching Credential in math.  He once told me (and another teacher, so I have proof!) that he chose being a math teacher because of me. 

Yeah, I'm a little proud.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

How Could Anyone Possibly Have Thought This Was Reasonable In The First Place?

California gets something right--but it's something that should be so obvious that a law shouldn't even have been necessary in the first place:
Starting Jan. 1, 2013, California will be the first state to enact comprehensive social media privacy legislation, officials say.

As he passed the act known as the Social Media Privacy Act on Sept. 27, California Gov. Jerry Brown posted on his Google+ page: ”Today I am signing Assembly Bill 1844 and Senate Bill 1349, which prohibit universities and employers from demanding your email and social media passwords. California pioneered the social media revolution. These laws protect Californians from unwarranted invasions of their social media accounts"...

“The practice of employers or colleges demanding social media passwords is entirely unnecessary and completely unrelated to someone’s performance or abilities,” said (State Senator) Yee in a news release issued by his office. “Today, California has declared that this is an unacceptable invasion of personal privacy.”

Is This Legal?

No.  Next question.

It's 2013, do we really need a women-only lounge on a public university campus?


8 years ago I wrote my first blog post. 

Wow, maybe I need a new hobby!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


This past 3-day weekend was somewhat active for me; I went skiing on Saturday, did a 90-minute hot yoga class on Sunday, and also attended a 75-minute hot yoga class on Monday.  Before Monday's class I asked the instructor to assist me in getting into some of the postures, as even with the heat I'm still not very "bendy".  She knows what to do--push, pull, twist, whatever is necessary.  My body will take it.

One of the postures (#22 here) requires a fairly significant back bend, which I was close to achieving.  Just before reaching my ankles with my hands, though, my instructor grabbed my hands, spread my arms behind me, and I think put her foot in my back, arching me into an exaggerated "I'm the king of the world!" pose.

Let's take a break at this juncture of our story and talk about an ancient Roman method of execution, crucifixion.  What's, uh, interesting about crucifixion is the way you actually die.  The whole point of crucifixion was the painful torture of it, but people could survive that as well as the blood loss.  No, the way you died, generally, was the day wore on and you couldn't be left up there at night, so they took the Roman equivalent of a 2x4 and broke your legs.  This caused you to arch forward because you couldn't stand up straight, and in that position you suffocated.  That's how you died in crucifixion, you suffocated.  One of the many novel things about Jesus' crucifixion was that the guards did not have to break his legs, he was dead already.  Now back to my yoga class.

With my arms spread back, and my weight pushed forward, I couldn't breath!  I could barely squeeze out "that's enough", so she didn't push any more, but I still couldn't get air.  I didn't panic, though, knowing that the posture would last only a few more seconds, so I stuck it out, but it was a remarkable experience.

I remember when I first learned about the suffocation aspect of crucifixion, I didn't believe it.  Put your arms behind you and try it, you can't replicate it.  So while intellectually I knew what was supposed to happen, my experience told me that it just wasn't so.

I'm a believer now.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Dr. King Holiday

How appropriate that I saw the following on Facebook today, when we honor the memory of Dr. King:

Why do you "need" an AR-15?

Why did Rosa Parks "need" to sit in front of the bus?

In a free country, there is no requirement to show a "need" to exercise a right.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


Today I got back in the saddle.

Almost two years ago, on Saturday, April 23, 2011, I got spectacularly hurt in a rather mundane skiing accident.  Just a couple weeks before, Boreal had offered a special: buy a season pass, and it would be good for the remainder of the 2010-11 ski season and all of the 11-12 season.  I bought one, and was using it for only the 4th time when I had my accident.  I was unable to use it the rest of that season (which ran until the 4th of July!) and was out the 11-12 season as well.

Working with the general manager at Boreal, I was able to get the pass reissued for this season--and today I went up there, skiing for the first time in almost 2 years.
I admit to being somewhat nervous, in part because I didn't know what I'd be capable of and also because I now know the consequences of screwing up.  My first run was on a green (easiest) trail, and it was immediately clear that my injured leg is not "up to snuff", not anywhere near its pre-injury capabilities.  I was constantly aware of it--somewhat weak, and feeling "questionable".  I made a few green runs, but that was getting boring, so I tried some others--the terrain park and a couple of intermediate slopes.  I didn't do any of the terrain "features"--never could--I just wanted to ski over the mounds and through the narrow slides.  It was beyond my current capabilities and was probably dangerous so I only did it once.  I had enough confidence to make a few intermediate runs, just gliding back and forth across the trail so that I could stay in control and not risk any shenanigans from the knee.

I only skied for 3 hours, deciding that that was enough for a first time.  To be honest I thought I'd be able to do more than I did, but at least I got back up on the mountain.  I've got the rest of the season to improve.

Here's to no more injuries!

Update:  On the way home I stopped at my aunt and uncle's place in Auburn to visit with them and grandpa, who will be 101 in a few weeks!

Achieving Diversity At Universities

The ways they'll twist and contort to avoid what is so plainly obvious to us mere mortals:
After a morning here in which admissions leaders and legal experts discussed strategies for colleges to look beyond the grades and test scores of applicants, Art Coleman said that it was time to acknowledge the "proverbial elephant in the room." That's the issue of merit.

Coleman is a lawyer who has worked with numerous colleges and higher education groups to craft admissions policies that promote diversity and can also survive legal challenges. And he is sympathetic to the strategies discussed here, and to the idea that diversity is important to higher education, and that colleges have good reason to look beyond a formula of test scores and grades. But he said that if colleges fail to talk about merit and what it means, they are likely to lose the battle (in courts and public opinion) for the way they seek to diversify their classes.
My favorite line in the article:
"There is a fundamental disconnect between the ivory tower and Main Street on these issues," he said.
Well, duh.

Friday, January 18, 2013

It's A Start

While I still think the entire TSA, and perhaps the Department of Homeland Security, should be scrapped, this is a tiny positive move:
The agency is ending a contract with Rapiscan Systems, which manufactures the scanners which produce a naked image of travelers who pass through them. Privacy rights activists have complained that the scanners, first rolled out in 2007, constitute a virtual strip search. The TSA plans to continue using a scanner that is considered less invasive, and which makes a generic image that has been likened to a cartoon, or stick figure, yet highlights potential foreign objects on the traveler's body.

Federal Court Upholds The Wisconsin Law That Caused So Many To Get Their Panties In A Bunch

A federal court of appeals has upheld the law in its entirety:
A federal court of appeals on Friday upheld Wisconsin's law repealing most collective bargaining for most public employees, handing a victory to Gov. Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans who put the law in place amid tumult two years ago.

Parts of the collective bargaining law, known as Act 10, remain on hold because of a state judge's ruling in a separate case, but Friday's decision was a setback for public employees and their unions...

The lawsuit was brought by the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the Wisconsin State Employees Union and other unions. WEAC President Mary Bell expressed disappointment with the decision...

Among the provisions was a ban on allowing the state or local governments from deducting union dues from employees' paychecks. Another element of the bill required unions to hold annual recertification votes to remain intact, and to succeed they had to get the approval of 51% of all eligible employees, not just a majority of those voting...

The unions now have to decide whether to ask the full Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to review the panel's decision. The unions have the option of skipping that step and appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, which takes only a small number of cases.
Good for Wisconsin. I can fantasize about the day that Californians come to their senses.

Insubordinate. And Churlish.
Do not mess with this guy.  I think he'll go beyond the beatings that I suggest on a daily basis.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Statistical Analysis

I passed Linear Algebra last semester with over 99% in the class, a high bar indeed to set for myself as I start my second of ten master's courses, Statistical Analysis.  Honestly, I think I have a few "gaps" in what they consider should be prerequisite stats knowledge, despite the fact that I teach introductory stats in high school.

The instructor is quite good about answering my questions via email, though, and I feel like I'm catching up to where I should be.  This is good, because I'll probably take the first test (out of 6) next week!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Escaping the Past

Education of students is the purpose of our schools, and anything that interferes with that purpose must be looked at with a critical eye.

I understand that it would be highly disruptive to the educational environment for students to have access to, be interested in, and talk about a teacher's sex life.  It is unfortunate, though, that a woman's past--doing something that's entirely legal, don't forget--prevents her from being a teacher:
A middle-school science teacher fired after students learned she had appeared in pornographic movies had hoped not just to get her job back, but to set a precedent for people looking to escape an embarrassing personal history.

A three-judge commission put a decisive stop to both, saying firmly and unanimously that Stacie Halas should not be in the classroom.

"We were hoping we could show you could overcome your past," Halas lawyer Richard Schwab said Tuesday. "I think she's representative of a lot of people who may have a past that may not involve anything illegal or anything that hurts anybody."

Judge Julie Cabos-Owen said such a past matters in an age when technology makes porn easy to access and hard to bury.

"Although her pornography career has concluded, the ongoing availability of her pornographic materials on the Internet will continue to impede her from being an effective teacher and respected colleague," Cabos-Owen said in the 46-page decision issued Friday by the Commission on Professional Competence.
I completely understand this ruling and its logic, but I still don't like it.  I admit, though, that I cannot think of how they could have ruled reasonably in a manner that I would find more appealing.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Boys Will Be Boys

This kind of stupidity has to end:
Two more Maryland school kids got into trouble for pointing their fingers playing cops and robbers at school.

Actually, in the Eastern Shore schoolyard during recess in this latest case.
What kind of person can honestly punish children for this type of behavior and expect to be taken seriously ever again?

Why Gun Control

Question:  Why is the so-called reality-based community so wedded to gun control in the face of facts?
Once you strip away the raw emotionalism of the carnage at Sandy Hook, or the Aurora theater, or Columbine, or Luby's, or whatever, you're left with a series of inconvenient truths for gun-control advocates: Over the past 20 years or so, more guns are in circulation and violent crime is down. So is violent crime that uses guns. Murders are down, too, even as video games and movies and music and everything else are filled with more fantasy violence than ever. For god's sake, even mass shootings are not becoming more common. If ever there was a case to stand pat in terms of public policy, the state of gun control provides it (and that's without even delving into the fact that Supreme Court has recently validated a personal right to own guns in two landmark cases). It's probably always been the case but certainly since the start of 21st century, it seems like we legislate only by crisis-mongering and the results have not been good: The PATRIOT Act, the Iraq War, TARP, fiscal cliff deals, you name it. Would that cooler heads prevailed then and now.
Answer: because facts don't form the basis of their belief structure.


I wouldn't really have a problem with legalized prostitution--I used to know someone who made the reasonable argument that it shouldn't be illegal to do for money what it's perfectly legal to do for free.  If it were legal, would the stigma currently attached to being a whore remain?

I ask because--well let's be honest here, these women are whores.  We can dance around the word, and we can pretend they're just "escorts" or "arm candy", but a reasonable person could make the assumption I'm making:
A new study out Monday by dating website Seeking Arrangements reports that UC Davis ranks 43rd in the nation for female students looking to “sugar daddies” to pay for college...

The average monthly payment to the girls is around $3,000. UC Davis students aren’t shocked by girls turning wealthy men for money.
Be honest.

According to further research, Cal-Berkeley tops California schools at #18.  The top school is NYU.

If I'm Ever In Eastern Utah....

I like smoothies.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Lions and Lambs, Lying Down Together

This I like:
Yes, that’s right.  You’re not misreading the headline.  This weekend I had a chance to go to Berkeley, California and hang out at the home of my friend Joan Blades, one of the co-founders of  “What???  How is that possible,” you ask?  It’s possible because there is more common ground between left and right in this country than you might think.  And Joan and I (and many others) intend to do our best to explore that ground, and force intransigent incumbent politicians to take action on the issues where we agree…

There are many things that divide us politically, and when the time comes, we’ll all still have our very partisan fights about those.  But we can’t continue to buy into the overall politics of hate, perpetrated upon us by politicians and others in the ruling elite who find it quite profitable to keep us apart in order to maintain the status quo.

A Genius Plan!

You're a teacher and don't want to teach, or don't want to be reassigned?  Try what this teacher is doing:
A 61-year-old high school teacher has filed a disability discrimination lawsuit against a suburban Cincinnati school district. Her disability? She has a phobia of young children, The Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

Maria C. Waltherr-Willard, a French and Spanish teacher who was employed by the Mariemont school district for 35 years, alleges that the discrimination occurred primarily in 2010, when the district reassigned her from high school to junior high. The suit also claims the district wanted her to resign because of her age.

Feds "Going Nuclear" on California Pot Provider

The New York Times gave a sympathetic hearing to Mr. Nagourney, but Ann Althouse is having none of it:
Yes, and it is mind-boggling that those who argue for the broad interpretation of federal power and who scoff at the idea of the 10th Amendment and reserving powers to the state somehow can't grasp the meaning of their general propositions when they encounter an issue where they prefer the state policy to the federal policy. The NYT and other drivers of elite opinion ought to have to face up to the reality of what their legal propositions entail.

And quite aside from the problem of the allocation of power at the federal and the state levels, how about some consistency about equal justice under the law? Let the law — as written — apply the same way to everyone, whether they have a round face and 2 young daughters or not, whether they've gone to grad school or not, whether they have big visions of massive profits or they are living hand to mouth. If the law is wrong, change the law — for everybody. Don't cry over the people you think are nice — like David Gregory and Aaron Swartz. Nonphotogenic and low-class people deserve equal treatment, and cutting breaks for the ones who pull your heart strings is not justice.
Yet another data point in my conservative belief that we should not invest so much power in the federal government. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and all that.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

I'm Not Sure This Is The Right Way To Act

Laws are sometimes stupid, and the stupid ones need to be changed, but unless we're willing to live with anarchy, laws should be followed until they're overturned (or at least you should risk the consequences of not following them).  I'm not sure these teachers are acting appropriately:
Teachers at a Seattle high school, in a rare boycott by educators against a standardized test, are refusing to give students a decades-old reading and math test after the city's school district decided to factor the exam into the instructors' evaluations.

The 19 teachers at Garfield High School have complained they are unable to adequately prepare students for the Measures of Academic Progress test, which was created more than 25 years ago and introduced to Seattle public schools in 2009.

The revolt by the Garfield teachers, who comprise all the instructors at the school required to give the MAP test, comes at a time of fierce political battles over teacher evaluations that has played out in cities from Chicago to Los Angeles.

The MAP test that has become a point of contention at Garfield is given at schools around the country, but is not required by Washington state.

Unlike the tests required by the state, which are the High School Proficiency Exam and the End-of-Course exams, it has no bearing on students' grades or their ability to graduate.
You want stupid? I'll give you stupid.  This year I teach two courses for which there is not a state test.  Juniors and below in my courses will take the "summative high school math" test, which covers Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and geometry topics--nothing I've taught them.  I guess if I were being evaluated on their performance, I'd have issues with that.  But refusing to give the test?  Are there no better ways of addressing that issue?  I notice that Washington is not a "right to work" state, so surely there's a powerful teachers union there--and this is exactly the type of issue a teachers union should address.

Hat tip to reader PeggyU for the link.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Hot Yoga

A little over 2 years ago I started dieting and doing Bikram hot yoga, and in 4 months I lost 25 pounds.  Yoga is expensive, though, so I stopped and signed up for a gym membership.  My weight loss stalled.

It took me 4 months to lose the weight and 2 years to gain the vast majority of it back.

This morning I started yoga again.  As I was driving to the studio it was 32 degrees; 2 hrs later, on the drive home, it was 10 degrees warmer.

I'm toying with going skiing tomorrow.

(BTW, that yoga kicked my butt.)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Now I Will Have Even Less Of A Retirement

It's not like the California State Teachers Retirement System, or CalSTRS, isn't in enough financial trouble already:
The nation's largest teacher pension fund took the first step Wednesday toward divesting from companies that make guns and high-capacity ammunition magazines that are illegal in California.

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer made a motion to begin the divestment process after pension fund officials determined that the fund invests in the owner of a company that manufactured one of the weapons used in the Connecticut school shooting. The California State Teachers' Retirement System's investment committee unanimously approved the motion.
Thank you, idiots.  I guess more of my money will be invested in Solyndra and its look-alikes.

Should Students Be Required to Wear RFID Badges At School?

First off, I believe that requiring students to wear such badges is entirely legal, and that the religious argument against it, that it's akin to "the mark of the Beast", is beyond silly. 

On the other hand, just because something is legal doesn't make it "right" or even good policy.  I'm just starting to form an opinion on this so I solicit intelligent commentary.  I'm especially interested in the security vs. privacy discussion.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

They Don't Always Think Before They Talk

Real live no crap, this conversation took place at the beginning of one of my classes today:

Me:  Cameron, you and I have the same birthday.
Cameron:  Really?  When's yours?

Who doesn't love teenagers?  :-)

Monday, January 07, 2013

Teacher Work Day

For the first time since I became a teacher, our semester ended before Christmas break.  What that means, though, is the last Friday before break, which was often a "party day", was actually a final exam day!  One less day of fun, but the benefits of not having the Sword of Damocles hanging over your head for two weeks of break is more than worth it to both staff and students.

Today was a teacher work day, students start classes tomorrow.

I left home later than I usually do but actually got to school earlier than I usually do--must have hit the lights perfectly this morning.  Had a half a class of final exams left to grade, which didn't take long, and then got all the semester grades entered and submitted.

Then I really got to work on the computer.  Planned out my teaching for the rest of the month, got my web site updated with January's assignments, made new seating charts, and did a few other administrative/bookkeeping tasks.  Wrote a couple letters of recommendation, had a nice lunch at a nearby restaurant (courtesy of a gift certificate given to me by my Parent Secret Pal),

When the kids show up tomorrow it'll be like we never left.  Won't miss a beat.  The river keeps a-flowin'.

And they'll hate it.  But they've had me for a semester already, so they should know to expect it.

School Supplies

I've written many times about the illegal fees charged in so many of California's classrooms.  Our law is extremely clear, even though it's ignored to the point that my own school district, whilst having policies that comport with the law, also lists teacher "student supply lists" right on our district's web page!

It's a lonely battle to fight but I do in fact fight it.  I don't know what the law is in Michigan, but I'm glad someone there is picking up the fight:
School may be on break but school supplies are causing quite a controversy in Birmingham.

The parents of a 6th-grader at Derby Middle School have filed a lawsuit, possibly a class action suit, against Birmingham Public Schools claiming the district is violating state policy by asking families to pay for supplies used in a public school...

"This lawsuit doesn't have any merit," said attorney Timothy Mullins. "There is nothing inappropriate about asking parents to pay for certain school supplies."
I don't care which way the law goes; either parents can be asked to pay for certain things, or they can't. What I can't tolerate is having a law that is clear and explicit--and totally ignored.

Hat tip to reader Steve K for the link.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Goodwin Liu Doesn't Like The First Amendment?

How nice it is to know this lib is on the California Supreme Court:
While Seidman was preaching contempt for the Constitution, the radical former law professor Goodwin Liu, whose nomination by Obama to be on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was thwarted by the Senate, was counseling evasion of the First Amendment. (After his federal appeals court nomination was defeated, he was appointed by California Governor Jerry Brown to the California Supreme Court.) With Liu voting in the majority, the California Supreme Court undermined property rights and the First Amendment rule against content discrimination by forcing an employer to host union picketing on its own private property. Liu argues that speech by businesses or other economic entities, or on their premises, can be sharply restricted by the government, to achieve the goals of the modern regulatory state: he approvingly cites progressive legal scholars exulting that “large areas of communication still remain untouched by the First Amendment,” and that “the state [supposedly] may criminalize speech [that] is face-to-face, informational, particular, and for private gain.” This claim is at odds with the First Amendment’s established protection for commercial speech, which liberal justices once defended more avidly than conservatives, before they became less enthusiastic than conservatives about it, as American conservatism became more tolerant, and American liberalism decayed into controlling statist orthodoxy.

Alarmingly, Liu also approving cited a left-leaning legal scholar’s claim “the First Amendment’s coverage in the civil context may be partly explained by the existence or absence of a sympathetic class of litigants or a well-entrenched regulatory scheme.” So if Goodwin Liu doesn’t empathize with you, you apparently don’t deserve free speech (an outlook that echoes Obama’s claim that empathy rather than purely legal considerations should dictate the outcome in certain cases). Liu also argues that “the Supreme Court has consistently rejected First Amendment challenges to content-based speech regulations in the context of labor relations” and that content-based restrictions on speech are just fine in areas like antitrust law. (His argument gives short shrift to Supreme Court decisions limiting the reach of labor and antitrust law on First Amendment grounds, cases like BE&K Construction v. NLRB and the Noerr-Pennington line of cases, and lower court rulings limiting federal law’s reach over speech, like Rodriguez v. Maricopa Community College, and White v. Lee.) Once upon a time, left-leaning judges were more likely to rule in favor of free speech than conservative judges, but, alas, that time has long passed, and UCLA law professor Eugene “Volokh found that the conservatives have been considerably more likely to vote in favor of First Amendment claimants than liberals on the [Supreme] court” since 1994.

Liu’s pinched interpretation of the First Amendment came in a case known as Ralph’s Grocery v. United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 8. In its decision in that case, the California Supreme Court refused to follow a federal appeals court ruling invalidating a requirement that employers host labor picketing, but not other picketing (Waremart Foods v. N.L.R.B. (2004)). The state supreme court disregarded the fact that a California statute imposing this requirement discriminates based on the content of speech without any compelling reason for doing so (the union could have picketed instead on nearby public property, without trespassing on the employer’s property). It rejected the employer’s challenge to forcing it to host the picketing, based on the reasoning that the employer’s property was not a public forum, which turns logic upside down, since the fact that the employer’s property was not a public forum is an added reason to leave it alone, and since the purpose of public-forum analysis is to distinguish among different owned government-owned settings based on whether public debate is permitted there (such as distinguishing a public park designed partly for speaking and assembly, from a government office designed for working, not public intrusion or debate), not to deny the First Amendment’s protection in private settings where First Amendment norms protected speech even before the concept of a public forum was invented — and which thus are fully protected against government meddling by the First Amendment regardless of whether they resemble “public forums.” As the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals once noted, “Private property affords the strongest protection to free speech,” so speech in a company-owned bus shelter would be just as protected as speech in a government-owned public forum. Metro Display. Advertising, Inc. v. City of Victorville, 143 F.3d 1191, 1195 (9th Cir. 1998). (For example, your home is not a public forum, but that doesn’t mean the government can restrict speech there — the Supreme Court has said that the government cannot restrict the books that you possess in your own home, even if they contain obscenity that could be banned in public forums, and it has no more power to ban signs that you display from your home based on their viewpoint than it does to ban such signs in traditional public forums.)
Libs would be more honest if they just admitted they wanted to get rid of the Constitution, but then again, libs aren't known for their honesty.

They're Luckier In Ohio

I pay over $1000/year to teachers unions, and get about 1/3 of it back because I'm not a union member!  Why do I have to pay anything at all?  Because California is a so-called fair share state, not a "right to work" state.  That 1/3 I get refunded each fall is my "agency fee rebate".  All that coerced union money is being spent on some lavish paychecks:
Dennis Van Roekel was paid $389,620 in fiscal year 2012 as president of the National Education Association (NEA), America’s largest labor union. Van Roekel was one of 14 NEA bosses paid more than $250,000 with dues taken from teachers in Ohio and other forced-unionism states as a condition of employment.

Based on union filings with the U.S. Department of Labor, 436 NEA employees were paid over $100,000 from September 1, 2011 to August 31, 2012. Full-time teachers across Ohio were forced to pay NEA $178 – in addition to $425 in Ohio Education Association (OEA) dues – during the 2011-2012 school year.

As current union contracts expire, Michigan’s new workplace freedom law will make Michigan the 24th state to protect the right of educators to choose whether they contribute to the following NEA paychecks...

Including the 14 NEA bosses listed above, 53 of the union’s staff and officers were paid in excess of $200,000 in the most recent fiscal year.
Fourteen officers make over a quarter of a million dollars a year. One-percenters.


The show's writing quality has dropped in the last season or two, but that doesn't lessen how cool this is:
If you watch "The Big Bang Theory," you probably laugh every time Sheldon Cooper says the B-word: "Bazinga!"

Now, in one of those amusing science-imitates-art moments, "bazinga" has been officially dubbed a species of a bee.

The writers of the hit comedy probably never imagined that the persnickety physicist Cooper's favorite word would be immortalized in actual science.

But thanks to a team of Brazilian biologists, a Brazilian orchid bee is now known by the name Euglossa bazinga.

"The idea was to honor actor Jim Parsons and his brilliant interpretation of Sheldon Cooper," Dr. André Nemésio, a biology professor at the Universidade Federal de Uberlândia in Brazil told CNN.

Did the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) Lead to Risky Lending?

Yes, it did. And let's be honest, that was its purpose--couched in racial terms.

Here's A Shocker

There were so many problems with the Cash For Clunkers program--anyone who wasn't blinded by rewarding political friends could see them, and the rewarding was the actual purpose of the program.
Back in 2009, President Obama’s “Cash for Clunkers” program was supposed to be a boon for the environment and the economy. During a limited time, consumers could trade in an old gas-guzzling used car for up to $4,500 cash back towards the purchase of a fuel-efficient new car. It seemed like a win for everyone: the environment, the gasping auto industry and cash-strapped consumers.

Though almost a million people poured into car dealerships eager to exchange their old jalopies for something shiny and new, recent reports indicate the entire program may have actually hurt the environment far more than it helped.

According to E Magazine, the “Clunkers” program, which is officially known as the Car Allowance Rebates System (CARS), produced tons of unnecessary waste while doing little to curb greenhouse gas emissions...

And though the point was to get less fuel efficient cars off the roads, with only 690,000 traded in, and over 250 million registered in the U.S., the difference in pollutant levels seems pretty negligible.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Another Turnaround

Patrick Moore of Greenpeace changed his mind on nuclear power, and now Mark Lynas is changing his on genetically-modified foods:
But Lynas has changed his mind—and he’s not being quiet about it. On Thursday at the Oxford Farming Conference, Lynas delivered a blunt address: He got GMOs wrong. According to the version of his remarks posted online (as yet, there’s no video or transcript of the actual delivery), he opened with a bang:
I want to start with some apologies. For the record, here and upfront, I apologise for having spent several years ripping up GM crops. I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid 1990s, and that I thereby assisted in demonising an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment.
As an environmentalist, and someone who believes that everyone in this world has a right to a healthy and nutritious diet of their choosing, I could not have chosen a more counter-productive path. I now regret it completely.
DDT isn't the evil it was supposed to be, but Rachel Carson is dead and can't apologize to the millions of malaria victims she helped kill.

What's the next leftie totem to fall?

Update, 1/6/12:  I guess we have our answer:
The state’s Health Department found in an analysis it prepared early last year that the much-debated drilling technology known as hydrofracking could be conducted safely in New York, according to a copy obtained by The New York Times from an expert who did not believe it should be kept secret.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Boys Will Be Boys

Even if prissy idiots don't want them to be:
Well, in the latest in hysterical responses to Newtown and weapons in general, a first-grade boy has been suspended for pointing a finger at someone and saying "Pow!"...

The finger I want to raise to (school spokesidiot) Dana is my middle one.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Roger L. Simon on lefties in general:
Leftism has devolved into a kind of scam run not only on others but also on the self. Leftists are brilliant at convincing themselves of their own altruism and then broadcasting it to the public, thus providing cover for the most conventionally greedy and selfish behaviors. We see that in our society all the time: the quondam Marxists of Hollywood, the media, and the academy blathering on about economic equality while living lives the Medici could not have dreamed of.

Part of this construct is a “prevent game,” a public persona and system erected so privilege cannot be questioned or undermined. A nomenklatura more successful and sophisticated than anything ever conceived in the Soviet Union. The result of this is a highly stratified society. As is well known but scarcely reported, blacks and Latinos have actually done worse under Obama than other groups. Normally, that would be unconscionable, considering the rhetoric. But as we know, it’s all about the rhetoric. Reality is unimportant — an inconvenience.

Relatively unbridled capitalism has always the best way out of this, the best way to true social mobility, but our nomenklatura doesn’t want to admit this because it might threaten them and their perquisites. It would blow their cover.
Instapundit on Al Gore:

AL JAZEERA BUYS CURRENT TV. “Mr. Gore and his partners were eager to complete the deal by Dec. 31, lest it be subject to higher tax rates that took effect on Jan. 1.”

That’s Irony #1. Irony #2 is Al Gore walking away with $100 million in dirty oil money. Well, it would be ironic if it weren’t so predictable. Al’s a whore, basically. Gore, I mean. Not Jazeera.
In an earlier post I said I might need to create a new post label for firearms. I certainly didn't need any new labels for this post.

How Much Control Are You Willing To Cede To Government?

This much?
A 15-year-old is suing the Icelandic state for the right to legally use the name given to her by her mother. The problem? Blaer, which means "light breeze" in Icelandic, is not on a list approved by the government.

Like a handful of other countries, including Germany and Denmark, Iceland has official rules about what a baby can be named. In a country comfortable with a firm state role, most people don't question the Personal Names Register, a list of 1,712 male names and 1,853 female names that fit Icelandic grammar and pronunciation rules and that officials maintain will protect children from embarrassment. Parents can take from the list or apply to a special committee that has the power to say yea or nay.

In Blaer's case, her mother said she learned the name wasn't on the register only after the priest who baptized the child later informed her he had mistakenly allowed it.
We conservatives don't think government should have this kind of control (although I'd consider cases of abuse, e.g. Shih Tedd Smith); what do you libs think?  On what legal theory do you justify allowing government to dictate that you purchase health care but not allowing it to "assist" you in choosing your child's name?  You like socialism?  Doesn't get much more "social" than your name....

Weren't Klebold and Harris Both From Intact Families?

While there's something some worthwhile points in this article, one of those points is not a connection between so-called absentee fathers and mass murderers.  The problem in Sandy Hook was not a missing dad but a wackadoo son:
It's hard to read such an account without feeling great sadness for someone like Nancy Lanza—a single mother with a deeply disturbed male adolescent on her hands and no man in the house to turn to for help or advice. Those who knew her said that she was at her wit’s end and thought she could no longer care for her son by herself. In a saner age, when people understood the palpable harms of “broken homes” and “fatherless boys” (the terms themselves have become quaint if not archaic), the “family structure issue” would have guided reflection on the Lanza killings. But now, since any such discussion of divorce’s harms, especially the harm of not having a father present in the home, would step on too many toes, we focus instead on the safer territory of gun control and our mental health system.

A preview of the current non-discussion was provided almost fifty years ago when Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote his famous report The Negro Family: The Case for National Action. As Moynihan learned, however important the “family structure issue” may be to an understanding of an acute social problem, for many it strikes a raw nerve, the pain of which shuts down all serious discussion. A preoccupation with "racism" and "de-industrialization" were the equivalents in Moynihan's day of guns and the mental health system today, as topics to raise to avoid the salient but hypersensitive issue of family breakdown.
At this rate I may need to create a "firearms" label for posts.

Legitimate Reason, or Political Bias?

You make the call:
Today, St. Charles has a population of around 65,000 and home to the Francis Howell School District and a growing controversy over political discrimination charges. Bryan Spencer has been an elementary school teacher in the district for the past 22 years. In November, he was elected to the Missouri State House of Representatives. Upon his election, Spencer applied for an unpaid leave of absence from his teaching job for the time that he will spend at the state capital in Springfield.

However, the school board denied his request, basically forcing Spencer to have to resign from his teaching position in order to serve his district in the state legislature. Herein lies the issue. The same school board has approved other requests for unpaid leaves of absence from other teachers. Spencer pointed out that two other teachers in the district were granted their leaves in order that they could serve as leaders with the Missouri National Education Association, which is a politically driven union.

Spencer claims the difference is that the teachers union is Democratic controlled and that those involved with the union, including the two teachers from the same district actively campaigned for Democrats. Spencer is a Republican, and as such does not hold with some of the union practices. He believes that the school board denied his request for an unpaid leave because of his political party, so he sent in a second request for an unpaid leave, but the board voted 5-2 to deny him a second time.
Hat tip to reader MikeAT for the link.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

I Feel Much Safer Now

According to the graphic in this article, teaching is a field with a relatively low number of psychopaths.  Guess our students need to find a better argument!

How Much Does Free Healthcare Cost?

Like California's bullet train, the price of which has more than tripled since Californians stupidly voted for a $10 billion bond to pay for (part of) it, so too has Obamacare's price tag gone up:

Oops. New CBO Estimate: Obamacare Will Be TRIPLE Initial Estimate

P. J. O'Rourke had it right in The Liberty Manifesto.

Firearms--in Schools?

The lefties are looking for a win, anywhere, on the firearms issue.  They don't really care where it is; it's like a small string in a sweater, once you start pulling it the whole sweater comes undone.  And let's face it, that's what they want.  They'll use Sandy Hook not because they think it's better or worse than any other firearms event, but because it's a string they can pull.

Don't let them get away with it.

Here are two articles on the subject of firearms:

Experts: Trained police needed for school security
An officer, he said, "is not just a hired gun. They have an office in the school. They are trained in crisis management, handling mass casualties and medical emergencies."
Gun Control Tramples On The Certain Virtues Of A Heavily Armed Citizenry
Hard cases make bad law, which is why they are reserved for the Constitution, not left to the caprice of legislatures, the sophistry and casuistry of judges or the despotic rule making of the chief executive and his bureaucracy.  And make no mistake, guns pose one of the hardest cases a free people confronts in the 21st century, a test of whether that people cherishes liberty above tyranny, values individual sovereignty above dependency on the state, and whether they dare any longer to live free.

I'm Back!

After 3 days of camping and one day of returning home while feeling on death's doorstep, I'm back in the Land of the Reasonably Fast Internet. 

Did we fall off the "fiscal cliff"?  I honestly don't know!  But here's my guess:
1.  Yes, we did. 
2.  It'll get fixed, retroactively, when an agreement finally is reached.
3.  An agreement will be reached.
4.  It will include far more in tax increases than in any real cuts.

I hope I'm wrong, but this one's too easy.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Resolved To Lose Weight?

Maybe the science isn't settled:
In my new book, The 8-Hour Diet, I'm proposing something that may sound a little radical: Skipping breakfast may be the key to skipping a lot of things -- excess weight, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and premature death, among them. How are you going to do all that, simply by pushing away from the breakfast buffet? By engaging an amazing process called "hormesis." Scientists tell us that if you challenge your body, the way you do with a 16-hour fast, it responds by preferentially burning fat, sharpening your mind, tuning up your heart, and turning on the human growth hormone jets. Cool, right?

Which leads me back to breakfast, and why it's important to skip it.
Some of what he said sounded contradictory to me--maybe you'll do a better job of understanding!