Thursday, May 30, 2013


Because of proposed budget cuts, our seniors graduated about 3 weeks early this year.  This means that of the 5 classes I teach, 2 are now completely devoid of students and 1 has only 2 students, both juniors, in it.  Final exams for the remaining 2 classes start tomorrow.

The 2 juniors mentioned above took their final exam with the seniors a couple weeks ago so I've had them doing various miscellany--like, for example, "piloting" a new review sheet that I created based on the results of the final exams!  But today we were just talking, and one of them said she was going to send a "snapchat".

What's snapchat? I asked.
It's an app.  You send a picture, the recipient views it, and then the picture disappears.

What is the only purpose of this app?  It's as clear to me as the nose on my face--this app was created so people could send nudie pictures of themselves without having to worry about having the picture forwarded to others!  So-called sexting is not unheard of at our school and that's what came to mind.

When I mentioned that to the students, the one replied with horror that she'd never even thought of that!  Of course I believe her, but I also believe that I'm not the first to divine that particular use of that phone app.

And in case you're wondering, NO, I haven't downloaded it.  :-)

Free Speech and Tolerance

"Free speech and tolerance were only important back when communists and gays were being gone after. Now that the worm has turned, those bourgeois values no longer obtain."
--Glenn Reynolds

What The Heck Are Taxes For?

How's this, from the San Jose Mercury News, for stupidity:

Before the Lincoln High School prom last Saturday night, 16-year-old Sammi McCasland and seven of her friends -- a total of four couples -- decided to take photos with their smartphones at the Japanese Friendship Garden at Kelley Park.

Having duly paid the $6 per vehicle parking fee, the Lincoln students walked toward the bridges and ponds of the friendship garden in search of the right spot for a memory. That's when a San Jose park ranger told them no.

"We get there, and she says, 'Do you guys have a permit?' '' remembered Sammi. "We said 'no.' She said, 'No, you can't take pictures.' ''

The Lincoln kids, part of a wave of promgoers descending on the garden, waited until the park ranger had gone and then took their shots without benefit of the $100 permit...

When I ran this episode past Steve Hammack, the deputy director of parks, recreation and neighborhood services, he said the city's policy was clear.

"We encourage photography in the park and only require a permit when conducted for the purposes of doing business,'' he wrote me by email.

"This situation as you outlined below does not require a permit. I am following up with staff to make sure we are not misrepresenting the requirements for obtaining a permit.''

And that's fair enough. San Francisco, for example, says that permits aren't needed unless the photographer is being paid -- a wedding videographer, for instance.

You can see the reasoning behind that: In a paid gig, the city's grounds are being used as a business backdrop.  

I can't see that at all.  Does San Jose require a permit to photograph City Hall?  Should the National Park Service require a permit to photograph Half Dome, or Old Faithful, or the Lincoln Memorial?  This is yet another example of a government that tries to milk every cent it can out of the people.  Sometimes we call that tyranny.

I heard this on the radio this morning and a good point was made:  when you seek a "permit", you are getting the government's "permission" to do something.  In other words, the government has taken your rights and is selling them back to you.  At that point, what exactly are your rights?

But let's continue with the story, which gets murkier:

Yet it may not be wholly fair to blame the park ranger here. When you look up the city's policies online ( the rules appear ambiguous.
Under the "Photo Permit'' section, the city says, "Photo permits are necessary for any type of photography or filming in all city of San Jose parks.''

But an FAQ for photo permits has this question: "Do I have to have a permit for photos if I'm just visiting the park and snapping a few pictures?'' The answer is "No.''So it appears that "snapping a few pictures,'' which is presumably what the promgoers were attempting, is not the same as the "any type of photography'' requiring a $100 permit from the city.
Sometimes, perhaps too often, the law is an ass.  This is why I choose to limit the power of government.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Where Our School District Money Goes

I received the following from a colleague today and was given permission to post it here:
We have run out of money at our school site. We are out of paper for the copy machines. We ran out of money for the student award ice cream social (so teachers spent their own money so kids could still have ice cream). But don’t worry! Free lunches to anyone and everyone all summer long in {our district}. Isn’t Marxist ideology great?!
What might this colleague be talking about?
Free summer lunch program expanding to four District locations

The {school district} is once again offering all children 18 years of age and under a free lunch this summer as part of its popular Summer Fun Café – and this time, the café will be found at four locations throughout the community.

There are no qualifications to receive the free lunch. Students do not have to be enrolled in the {school district}, there are no income requirements and there is no paperwork to complete.

Below are the dates and locations for this year’s program...
This, ladies and gentlemen, is how we roll in California.

Public Universities Are A Public Good, Right?

Especially because they help the poor, right?  I know the president has popularized bashing for-profit schools and universities, but who says the public universities are doing any good, especially for the poor who are held up as beneficiaries?
Many public colleges and universities expect their poorest students to pay a third, half or even more of their families’ annual incomes each year for college, a new study of college costs has found.

With most American students enrolling in their states’ public institutions in hopes of gaining affordable degrees, the new data shows that the net price – the full cost of attending college minus scholarships – can be surprisingly high for families that make $30,000 a year or less.

The numbers track with larger national trends: the growing student-loan debt and decline in college completion among low-income students. 
This president sure likes to create bugaboo-bad-guys, doesn't he?  Does he have any good guys he and his ilk can point to?

Read more here:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Big Yellow Thing In The Sky

When the facts contradict your expectations, believe the facts.  The facts tell me that we understand way too little about atmospheric science to be jumping to conclusions about Venus-style global warming (and of course the statist solutions that always accompany such conclusions):
The height of the Little Ice Age is generally dated as 1650 to 1850 A.D. The American Revolutionary Army under General George Washington shivered at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-78, and New York harbor was frozen in the winter of 1780. Historic snowstorms struck Lisbon, Portugal in 1665, 1744 and 1886. Glaciers in Glacier National Park in Montana advanced until the late 18th or early 19th centuries. The last River Thames Frost Fair was held in 1814. The Little Ice Age phased out during the middle to late 19th century.

The Little Ice Age, following the historically warm temperatures of the Medieval Warm Period, which lasted from about AD 950 to 1250, has been attributed to natural cycles in solar activity, particularly sunspots. A period of sharply lower sunspot activity known as the Wolf Minimum began in 1280 and persisted for 70 years until 1350. That was followed by a period of even lower sunspot activity that lasted 90 years from 1460 to 1550 known as the Sporer Minimum. During the period 1645 to 1715, the low point of the Little Ice Age, the number of sunspots declined to zero for the entire time. This is known as the Maunder Minimum, named after English astronomer Walter Maunder. That was followed by the Dalton Minimum from 1790 to 1830, another period of well below normal sunspot activity.

The increase in global temperatures since the late 19th century just reflects the end of the Little Ice Age. The global temperature trends since then have followed not rising CO2 trends but the ocean temperature cycles of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). Every 20 to 30 years, the much colder water near the bottom of the oceans cycles up to the top, where it has a slight cooling effect on global temperatures until the sun warms that water. That warmed water then contributes to slightly warmer global temperatures, until the next churning cycle.

Those ocean temperature cycles, and the continued recovery from the Little Ice Age, are primarily why global temperatures rose from 1915 until 1945, when CO2 emissions were much lower than in recent years. The change to a cold ocean temperature cycle, primarily the PDO, is the main reason that global temperatures declined from 1945 until the late 1970s, despite the soaring CO2 emissions during that time from the postwar industrialization spreading across the globe.

The 20 to 30 year ocean temperature cycles turned back to warm from the late 1970s until the late 1990s, which is the primary reason that global temperatures warmed during this period. But that warming ended 15 years ago, and global temperatures have stopped increasing since then, if not actually cooled, even though global CO2 emissions have soared over this period. As The Economist magazine reported in March, “The world added roughly 100 billion tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere between 2000 and 2010. That is about a quarter of all the CO2 put there by humanity since 1750.” Yet, still no warming during that time. That is because the CO2 greenhouse effect is weak and marginal compared to natural causes of global temperature changes...

Britain’s Met Office, an international cheerleading headquarters for global warming hysteria, did concede last December that there would be no further warming at least through 2017, which would make 20 years with no global warming. That reflects grudging recognition of the newly developing trends. But that reflects as well growing divergence between the reality of real world temperatures and the projections of the climate models at the foundation of the global warming alarmism of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Since those models have never been validated, they are not science at this point, but just made up fantasies. That is why, “In the 12 years to 2011, 11 out of 12 [global temperature]forecasts [of the Met Office] were too high — and… none were colder than [resulted],” as BBC climate correspondent Paul Hudson wrote in January.

Global warming was never going to be the problem that the Lysenkoists who have brought down western science made it out to be. Human emissions of CO2 are only 4 to 5% of total global emissions, counting natural causes.
Mt. Pinatubo's eruption in the Philippines released more so-called greenhouses gases in that one Reagan-era eruption than mankind had put into the atmosphere in his entire existence as a species.  If I recall correctly, I read that at the time in the New York Times.

Monday, May 27, 2013

You Can't Say We Didn't Warn You

This comes from the New York Times so you lefties have to take it as gospel:

Say goodbye to that $500 deductible insurance plan and the $20 co-payment for a doctor’s office visit. They are likely to become luxuries of the past.

Get ready to enroll in a program to manage your diabetes. Or prepare for a health screening to determine your odds of developing a costly health condition.

Expect to have your blood pressure checked or a prescription filled at a clinic at your office, rather than by your private doctor.

Then blame — or credit — the so-called Cadillac tax, which penalizes companies that offer high-end health care plans to their employees.

While most of the attention on the Obama administration’s health care law has been on providing coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans by 2014, workers with employer-paid health insurance are also beginning to feel the effects. Companies hoping to avoid the tax are beginning to scale back the more generous health benefits they have traditionally offered and to look harder for ways to bring down the overall cost of care...

Proponents of the law say the Cadillac tax is helping bring down costs by making employers pay attention to what their health care costs are likely to be in the long run. “It’s really one of the most significant provisions” in the Affordable Care Act, said Jonathan Gruber, the M.I.T. economist who played an influential role in shaping the law. “It’s focusing employers on cost control, not slashing,” he said.

Cynthia Weidner, an executive at the benefits consultant HighRoads, agreed that the tax appeared to be having the intended effect. “The premise it’s built upon is happening,” she said, adding, “the consumer should continue to expect that their plan is going to be more expensive, and they will have less benefits. ” (emphasis mine--Darren)
Is this what you signed on for with Obamacare?  You thought you were going to get free health care, didn't you?  Remember what Margaret Thatcher said, the problem with socialism is you eventually run out of other people's money.

Update, 5/29/13:  Your quality of care will probably go down under Obamacare:
If you live in California and purchase health insurance on the newly created exchange called Covered California, don't expect care at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the prestigious academic hospital in Los Angeles. That top-drawer care won't be covered by exchange plans. Many Californians will have to give up doctors and hospitals they currently use if they want subsidized coverage.

That's one of the truths omitted from last Thursday's fanfare when Covered California unveiled the plans it will offer starting Oct. 1.

Covered California will be the largest exchange in the nation. So the unveiling attracted nationwide interest. ObamaCare boosters declared victory. But the truth gap between what they claimed and what exchange consumers will actually get is wider than San Francisco Bay. Setting the record straight is important, because the problems in California will be repeated elsewhere.

Maine, for example, hasn't officially announced its exchange plans yet, but already consumers are outraged to learn that they too will have to give up their current doctors and hospitals if they enroll on the exchange.
 Update #2, 5/31/13California leads the way!
“The rates submitted to Covered California for the 2014 individual market,” the state said in a press release, “ranged from two percent above to 29 percent below the 2013 average premium for small employer plans in California’s most populous regions.”

That’s the sentence that led to all of the triumphant commentary from the left. “This is a home run for consumers in every region of California,” exulted Peter Lee.

Except that Lee was making a misleading comparison. He was comparing apples—the plans that Californians buy today for themselves in a robust individual market—and oranges—the highly regulated plans that small employers purchase for their workers as a group. The difference is critical...

 It’s great that Covered California released this early the rates that insurers plan to charge on the exchange, as it gives us an early window into how the exchanges will work in a state that has an unusually competitive and inexpensive individual market for health insurance. But that’s the irony. The full rate report is subtitled “Making the Individual Market in California Affordable.” But Obamacare has actually doubled individual-market premiums in the Golden State.
Update #3, 5/31/13:  Who could have predicted thisI did, a long time ago!
Obamacare may make people with certain lifestyles pay a very real price.

According to new regulations just issued by the Obama Administration, if you smoke, you're overweight, or have high cholesterol or high blood pressure, you could be forced to pay a lot more for health insurance. 
You thought we were joking about being required to eat broccoli.  Not so much.

Hiatus Is Over, And Now I Need To Rest!

I didn't sleep much Friday night, but I was up bright and early Saturday to catch my flight to Las Vegas!

Went with a friend I've known since elementary school.  We stayed at Caesar's Palace--the room was indeed palatial, check out the view!

We kept ourselves busy on Saturday by going up the Stratosphere Tower, watching a performance of the Fountains at Bellagio, and checking out the stores at the Forum Shops and at the Venetian/Palazzo (chosen since we went to Rome and Venice last summer).  While in the Venetian I saw signs that the marine artist Wyland was in the gallery doing signings; I didn't get a signature, but we talked about a couple of his Whaling Walls that I've seen and I got this cool picture with him:

Sunday morning we headed over to Luxor to see the Titanic Exhibit, which was absolutely amazing.  They even have a wall-sized piece of hull plating!

We planned to go hit the swimming pool in the afternoon, but every seat was taken.  Here's a shot of just one of the 7(?) pools in the complex:

The culminating event, and the raison d'etre for the trip, was the Fleetwood Mac concert at the MGM Grand.  I had tickets to see them in late 1982, but Stevie "caught a cold" and when the tour was rescheduled, Sacramento was left off the list.  I've since seen keyboardist/vocalist Christine McVie, guitarist/vocalist Lindsey Buckingham, and singer Stevie Nicks on solo tours, but now, more than 30 years later, I finally got to see Fleetwood Mac (minus Christine, who doesn't tour anymore) as a group.  It was extra special because the concert was on Stevie's birthday :-)

It was an early morning today, but we made it back. I'm exhausted--I need to rest after this holiday weekend!

Update:  Oh, I forgot to mention that I had emergency exit row seats on both flights.  Score!

Friday, May 24, 2013


I felt last night's earthquake--my first thought was, "Dang, that's a loud truck rumbling down the road."  When I realized it wasn't getting any closer or further away, I thought, "That's a loud wind."  But wind doesn't cause my chair to move--and it certainly doesn't cause my walls to move!  That's when I realized it was an earthquake!  By the time I got excited about it, it was all over.  I didn't even feel the aftershock a couple minutes later, but that's not surprising given that the (first) aftershock was much smaller and both were centered about a hundred miles away.

But that's the most exciting thing I have to talk about, and I just did.  So rather than just fill space, I'll let you know I'll be on hiatus until Monday.

Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

What The Data Tell Us

In this post I identified a problem at our school, a decision that was made without backup data.  I had some students run the numbers yesterday and today, and I've checked their work and it's correct.

And it doesn't look good.  Our "Algebra 1.5" class isn't turning marginal students into excellent students.  It didn't take students unprepared for Algebra 2 and, in a year, turn them into A or B Algebra 2 students in a proportion similar to the excelling students who didn't need or take that intermediate course.

Knowing I'd set the standard high, I lowered it bit.  We then tested to see if the proportions of A's, B's, and C's overall matched that of Algebra 2 students who hadn't taken the course.  It did not.

This tells me that the course, as currently designed, isn't doing nearly as well as we'd like it to.  This could be a call to revamp the course, not just eliminate it, as our administration has done.

Ideally we'd evaluate the effectiveness of the course by comparing the Algebra 2 grades of students who took the intermediate course with the Algebra 2 grade they would have gotten had they not taken it; of course, that is impossible to do.  We're going to try one more analysis, though, and compare the Algebra 2 grades of students who needed the intermediate course and didn't take it to those who did.  We're going to search through our records and see if we can come up with that data.

As it stands right now, the course we have isn't what I'd call very effective.  Here's how we can spin that:  we created the course in response to what we saw as a student need, we tried the course for a few years, and now data tells us the course isn't effective and it's gone.  The WASC people should love that kind of data analysis and introspection!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ideological Diversity at the Ivies

With all the rich kids there you'd assume someone would be conservative, wouldn't you?  After all, I'm told that (despite all evidence to the contrary) the Republicans are the party of the rich!
The list of keynote commencement speakers at Ivy League institutions for 2013 does not include a single conservative, a recent study authored by the conservative Young America’s Foundation (YAF) found.

Instead seven of the elite schools opted to invite ideological liberal speakers such as media billionaire Oprah Winfrey, Vice President Joe Biden (D), Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D), Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I), among others.

Only Brown University, which chooses a commencement keynote from among its students, did not have a 2013 speaker who is generally associated with the left.

YAF spokesman Adam Tragone told Campus Reform on Tuesday the list appears to reveal a larger trend of liberal bias occurring on these campuses.
I'm sure the response to an inquiry would be something along the lines of not tolerating intolerance, or something equally goofy.

What Would Drive Someone To Do Something Like This?

I'm serious.  What would cause someone to do something so nasty?
A sergeant first class on the staff of the United States Military Academy at West Point has been accused of videotaping female cadets without their consent, sometimes when they were undressed in the bathroom or the shower, according to Army officials...

“The Army is committed to ensuring the safety and welfare of our cadets at the Military Academy at West Point — as well as all soldiers throughout our Army,” Gen. John F. Campbell, the Army vice chief of staff, said on Wednesday. “Once notified of the violation, a full investigation was launched, followed by swift action to correct the problem. Our cadets must be confident that issues such as these are handled quickly and decisively, and that our system will hold those responsible accountable.”  
If guilty, this NCO deserves (and will probably be sentenced to) the US Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


I support an individual's, or an organization's, giving as much (or as little) of its own money to relief efforts in Oklahoma.  Good people believe in and practice charity, and history shows that Americans are a very generous people.

It's impossible to be "generous" with other people's money, though.  I don't support the massive amounts of federal money that make up so much aid after such disasters, and if you would like to know why, read this post.  In it I relate a story about Davy Crockett (who as a Congressman voted for $20,000 for relief for Georgetown after a fire) and one about Grover Cleveland (who vetoed a bill providing drought and famine relief to Texas--because there was no authority to do so in the Constitution!).

You can donate to the American Red Cross here.

When You've Lost Eugene Robinson...

I've mentioned Eugene Robinson before, not very flatteringly in this post.  Let the Obama administration go after his kind of people (journalists) and not my kind of people (Tea Partiers) and Robinson finally sees the light:
The Obama administration has no business rummaging through journalists’ phone records, perusing their e-mails and tracking their movements in an attempt to keep them from gathering news. This heavy-handed business isn’t chilling, it’s just plain cold.

It also may well be unconstitutional...

The unwarranted snooping, which was revealed last week, would be troubling enough if it were an isolated incident. But it is part of a pattern that threatens to redefine investigative reporting as criminal behavior...
After discussing the AP story:
The Fox News case is even worse.
Wow, even Fox gets respect from some liberals now.  Too bad it took a direct threat of the loss of 1st Amendment freedoms to make that happen.
If this had been the view of prior administrations, surely Bob Woodward would be a lifer in some federal prison. The cell next door might be occupied by my Post colleague Dana Priest, who disclosed the CIA’s network of secret prisons. Or by the New York Times’ James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, who revealed the National Security Agency’s eavesdropping program.
Robinson sees the threat now. Welcome to the party.

I've heard it said that these current scandals have taken distrust of the government from the "tinfoil hat crowd" to "mainstream America".  I disagree.  I think they've confirmed what the Founders knew about excessive power, what conservatives have always believed about government power, and shown liberals to be flat out wrong.  That they believed these threats to be "tinfoil hat" just shows their own biases and blinders.

Why I Don't Support So-called "Hate Crimes" Legislation

From the major Sacramento newspaper:
The defense attorney for accused hate attacker Clayton Garzon asserted Monday that the March beating of another Davis man was not fueled by anti-gay sentiment.

Garzon, 20, faces three felony assault charges and hate crime allegations connected to the beating of Lawrence "Mikey" Partida early March 10 near Third and I streets in Davis. The attack occurred outside a birthday party for Partida that was across the street from where Garzon lives...

The attorney called Brigham Young University linguistics professor William Eggington, who testified that slurs targeted at Partida were "more consistent with challenging someone's masculinity," than with hate speech.

The professor also said that a tolerant upbringing at home in a liberal community "would lower the possibility that this would be a gender- related crime."
So if you grow up in Davis, you're less likely to be a bigot than if you grow up on Salt Lake City or Omaha.  Did you catch that?  But let's continue:
"I walked out and saw Mikey covered in blood," Cooper said. "Clayton was walking away. He said, 'Your (gay slur) cousin, was talking (expletive). I had to (expletive) him up.' "
Why isn't it bad enough that he beat the man to death?  Is it better, or worse, to have beaten the man to death because he's gay rather than because Garzon wanted to rob him or because the victim shot his mouth off at Garzon?

This stuff is too Orwellian for me.  Hate crime = thought crime.
(I've addressed this before--scroll to the bottom of the page and type 'hate crime', without the quote marks, into the search box.)

We Only Care If It's Women

Maybe it’s perfectly natural to expect the gender differences by academic discipline that are represented in the chart above, and maybe we should give up trying to socially engineer perfect gender parity for each academic field. And when there is so much concern about female under-representation in some of the STEM fields like engineering and computer science, where is the concern about male under-representation in the STEM field of biology, where is the concern about the significant male under-representation in female-dominated fields like health professions, public administration, education and psychology, and where is the concern about the gender imbalance favoring women for college degrees in general at all levels – associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees and doctoral degrees?
Also included in the article is a chart of major by sex.

Update:  Here's an entirely different angle on the "we only care if it's women" issue:
I often think about how men are silenced these days on anything having to do with gender issues. I received an email from a male reader who is concerned about the same thing: he is told he is a “rape apologist” for even suggesting that men might be unfairly accused of rape. Here is his letter....

Monday, May 20, 2013


I attended today, at least for awhile.  I'll update this tomorrow with impressions.

Update, 5/21/13:  I wasn't impressed with much at the ceremony.  I don't want any individual to take offense so I won't specify what I didn't like or why, choosing instead to say nothing when I don't have anything nice to say.

One thing I thought was very nice, though, was what was done with our two foreign exchange students.  Since they don't really graduate, our previous principal wouldn't let them participate in the ceremony at all.  Our current principal, though, brought with him from his previous job the nice gesture of allowing them to participate by calling them up onto the stage and presenting them each with an American flag.  Very classy.

Star Trek: Into Darkness

Let me start with the positive:

The run time of 2 hrs and 3 minutes goes by with a quickness.  It was certainly action-packed.  As an action movie, I genuinely enjoyed it.  Usually I leave Star Trek movies slightly disappointed; I haven't enjoyed a Star Trek-themed movie this much, the first time I saw it, since the 80s, with Wrath of Khan and The Voyage Home.  Also, the campiness and silliness present in the last movie (and the original series) was thankfully missing from this outing.

But this wasn't a Star Trek movie.  It was a great action/adventure/sci-fi movie, but it wasn't Star Trek.

I've figured out what the problem is.  This wasn't Star Trek, it was an action movie with Star Trek characters in it.  (I'm not the only one to comment on this.)

Part of the problem is that I have no affection for the people on the screen.  Part of the allure of Star Trek is the relationship, if you will, the viewer has with the characters.  The first 6 movies relied on characters we'd seen for 3 years on tv and dozens of years in syndication.  We knew and loved them.  The same goes for The Next Generation characters; we knew them so well after 7 seasons on tv, we cared about them in their movies.  We could see them as our friends.

In the new movies you can say that's Captain Kirk up there, but it's not.  I know who Captain Kirk is, and it's Shatner.  You can't just say this person on the screen is Captain Kirk.  He's not.  Same goes for the other characters.  And for better or worse, the two newest movies are really Kirk movies, with the rest of the characters thrown in because they're supposed to be there.  The attempt at recreating the bond between Kirk and Spock is failing, and totally lacking is any development of the third leg of that triad, McCoy. Let's not forget that it was the three of them that made for such compelling stories--the brash Kirk, the stoic Spock, the emotional McCoy.  All we have in the current movies is their names, their characters are missing.  The others--Scotty, Uhura, Sulu, Chekov--they exist now only to move the story along, not because they're important to us.

You know what else is missing?  The biggest and most understated character of all, Enterprise herself.  Who among us didn't cry when Enterprise was destroyed in Search For Spock?  Who didn't cheer when we saw Enterprise-A?  We'd already seen an Enterprise destroyed by the time Generations came around so the loss of Enterprise-D in that movie wasn't as big a shock, but it was still a loss.  And didn't you ache when Enterprise-E rammed Scimitar, probably saving humanity by doing so?  Enterprise is a beautiful thing, her captains speak of her with reverence--or at least they used to.  In the new movies you don't get that sense.  She's a set, not a ship with a crew that's like family.  She's a method of transportation.  Into Darkness didn't have a single shot of Enterprise porn, those sweeping exterior views of the ship that make you long to be aboard.

In Star Trek you must have shots of Enterprise.  In battles you must see her flying by, firing phasers, maneuvering--you cheer for her not just because of her crew, but because you want that particular ship to win the fight.  In Into Darkness you see brief shots of Enterprise being hit and damaged, severely, what's missing is any attempt to make you feel affection for the ship itself.  As for "grand shots", we're treated with one of her rising out of an ocean (really?  freakin' seriously???) and one of her rising out of clouds (as if she's an atmospheric vessel--what's next, landing gear?).

Can you identify any specific place in the new Enterprise besides her bridge?  We don't know this new ship.  On the original Enterprise and Enterprise-D we knew what crew quarters looked like, we knew Main Engineering, we knew the transporter room, we knew the shuttle bay, we knew sick bay.  On Enterprise-D we also knew 10 Forward, the captain's ready room, and even the battle bridge (used what, only twice?).

We don't know this new Enterprise.  Enterprise herself isn't taken seriously in the reboot movies.  She exists only to take Pine/Kirk where he needs to go.

All those criticisms above relate to the Star Trek ethos; notice I haven't even addressed the storyline and plot problems in the current movie--and they are legion, if you're a Star Trek fan.

If you're not a fan, Into Darkness is a thrilling movie that keeps your attention almost non-stop from beginning to end.  It's a good movie, but definitely not a fanboy movie.  It's too bad these reboots have to be one or the other, and not both.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

When You've Lost Jon Stewart...

Taking Statements Out of Context

Do you remember the brouhaha during the last election cycle, when people knowingly took out of context a Romney statement about the poor?  This is what people fixated on:
I’m not concerned about the very poor.

The entirety was much different:
“I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it.”

“I’m not concerned about the very rich, they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of the America, the 90, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling and I’ll continue to take that message across the nation.”
How easy would it be to take this statement, regarding the IRS scandal, out of context?
I can’t speak to the law here. The law is irrelevant.
Here's more context:
“I can’t speak to the law here. The law is irrelevant. The activity was outrageous and inexcusable, and it was stopped and it needs to be fixed so we ensure it never happens again,” Pfeiffer said.

Stephanopoulos asked Pfeiffer if he really thought the law is “irrelevant.”

“What I mean is, whether it’s legal or illegal is not important to the fact that the conduct doesn’t matter. The Department of Justice has said they’re looking into the legality of this. The president is not going to wait for that. We have to make sure it doesn’t happen again, regardless of how that turns out,” Pfeiffer said.
I leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine why the press fixated on the former but not the latter.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Leftie Professor Figures Out What I've Been Telling You For Years

From Twitchy, via Instapundit, we learn of one Marc Lamont's tweets:
Marc Lamont Hill         @marclamonthill

We have a permanent warfare state and liberals say nothing. Sometimes, it feels like the Left wasn't anti-war. It was just anti-Bush.
To which I say to Mr. Lamont, You are correct, sir.

Let's read on:
Stop the presses! Did über-lefty Prof. Marc Lamont Hill just admit that Bush Derangement Syndrome is a real phenomenon?
Let’s be clear, here: we’re not trying to suggest that Hill suddenly “gets it.” Rather, we’re drawing attention to the fact that he’s figured out that maybe, just maybe, the biggest issue the Left had (and still has) with George W. Bush is George W. Bush. 

Score Another Point For The Anglosphere

And look, it regards diversity!
Here’s what the data show:
• Anglo and Latin countries most tolerant. People in the survey were most likely to embrace a racially diverse neighbor in the United Kingdom and its Anglo former colonies (the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) and in Latin America. The only real exceptions were oil-rich Venezuela, where income inequality sometimes breaks along racial lines, and the Dominican Republic, perhaps because of its adjacency to troubled Haiti.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Last Day

For reasons I won't go into, our seniors graduate this coming Monday.  The only reason they were on campus at all today was to do their senior check-out--and at about 11:00 they went to a local park and had a catered lunch.  The next, and last, time they'll all be together will be together will be at graduation.

Several asked me if I was going to be at graduation Monday and seemed genuinely disappointed when I told them I probably wouldn't.  If one kid had acted that way I'd treat it as a one-off, but enough asked that I'm actually reconsidering not going. 

And I really would like to hear one of this year's speakers.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Without Data, All You Have Is An Opinion

A few years ago our math department created a new math class, sort of an "Algebra 1.5".  In the traditional Algebra 1-Geometry-Algebra 2 track, too many students just weren't ready after a 10-day intensive review of Algebra 1.  We created a "bridge" course just for them.

Our current principal doesn't like the course.  He doesn't think kids need it.  As a result, the course isn't scheduled for next year.  So instead of meeting the students where they are and offering a course than can help them progress, they'll now either sink or swim.

I provided much background information in the introduction to this post a couple weeks ago.

I received the data today.  Analysis begins next week!

Why next week, you ask?  Well, for reasons I won't go into in this post, our seniors graduate Monday, but our underclassmen attend school until the first week of June.  My statistics classes will be empty except for 2 juniors.  I'm going to give them the data and have them do a chi-square analysis to see if that Algebra 1.5 course adequately prepared students for Algebra 2.

You want real-world application?  I gotcher real-world application right here!

It may turn out that our principal is right.  I don't know what he's basing his opinion on, but it's not data.  I intend to find out.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Obama Is Living In A Fantasy World

'What's blocking us right now is sort of hyper-partisanship in Washington that, frankly, I was hoping to overcome in 2008,' he said. 'And in the midst of crisis, I think the other party reacted, rather than saying now is the time for us all to join together, decided to take a different path.

'My thinking was after we beat them in 2012, well, that might break the fever, and it's not quite broken yet.

'But I am persistent. And I am staying at it. And I genuinely believe that there are actually Republicans out there who would like to work with us but they're fearful of their base and they're concerned about what Rush Limbaugh might say about them.'
Can anyone identify for me what he's done to attempt to "overcome" this hyper-partisanship?  Was it when he told Republican congressmen "I won"?  Was it when he repeatedly made reference to the country as a car in a ditch, that Republicans drove the car there, and then should just drink Slurpees and stay out of the way while he and the Democrats fixed everything?  Was it when he said they also shouldn't talk to much?  Was it when he blamed everything on his predecessor?  Was it when he signed major legislation, specifically the porkulus bill and Obamacare, with only one or two Republican votes total out of 535 men and women in Congress?  Was it when he said to "punch back twice as hard", or perhaps when he said his followers needed to "punish" their "enemies"?

I'd really like an answer. 

Update, 5/16/13 I'm not the only one noticing:
President Obama is once again engaging in what psychiatrists refer to as projection, in which people lay their worst attributes on others...

Mr. Obama is the ultimate ad hominem president. 
Update #2, 5/16/13:  Nope, no hyperpartisanship here:
"Don't think we're not keeping score, brother." That's what President Barack Obama said to Rep. Peter DeFazio in a closed-door meeting of the House Democratic Caucus last week, according to the Associated Press.

Press Heavyweights Smell Blood In The Water

James C. Goodale, the so-called “father of reporters’ privilege” and the author of a new book called Fighting for the Press (CUNY Journalism Press, 255 pp., $20), was in his office at the Debevoise & Plimpton law firm, where he’s a partner, comparing Barack Obama to Richard M. Nixon...

Mr. Goodale, 79, was the general counsel of The New York Times during the 1971 Pentagon Papers case, when President Nixon ordered the old grey lady to cease publication of excerpts from a 7,000-page document, which detailed America’s involvement in Vietnam over the course of three decades. The Times published the first excerpt on June 13, 1971. By June 26, the case had reached the Supreme Court. Over the course of a few days, the justices ruled in a 6-3 decision that the U.S. government could not censor the Times. Nixon then convened a grand jury to indict the Times for conspiracy to violate the Espionage Act—”which really doesn’t mean anything,” Mr. Goodale said, rubbing his forehead in distress—but the case quickly fell apart. Fighting for the Press reads like a political thriller, with Nixon providing some dark comic relief. The guy was not exactly subtle: “As far as the Times is concerned,” he said to John Mitchell, the U.S. Attorney General, “hell they’re our enemies.”

Now, the man who successfully fought Nixon says President Obama has an even more troubling record.
That's one.  Here's another:
Investigative reporter Carl Bernstein on Tuesday called the scandal involving the Department of Justice securing telephone records of Associated Press reporters and editors a "nuclear event."

"This is outrageous," Bernstein said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "It is totally inexcusable. This administration has been terrible on this subject from the beginning.

"The object of it is to intimidate people who talk to reporters," he said. "This was an accident waiting to become a nuclear event, and now it's happened."
"This administration has been terrible on this subject from the beginning."  Why is this the first we're hearing of it from you, Mr. Bernstein?

While I have no sympathy for the press as victims—they've been absolutely complicit since before he was elected—I’m glad they’re finally starting to see the light:
The town is turning on President Obama — and this is very bad news for this White House...

Obama’s aloof mien and holier-than-thou rhetoric have left him with little reservoir of good will, even among Democrats. And the press, after years of being accused of being soft on Obama while being berated by West Wing aides on matters big and small, now has every incentive to be as ruthless as can be.

This White House’s instinctive petulance, arrogance and defensiveness have all worked to isolate Obama at a time when he most needs a support system. “It feel like they don’t know what they’re here to do,” a former senior Obama administration official said. “When there’s no narrative, stuff like this consumes you.”
This is nothing compared to the way they'd treat a Republican president, but I guess it's a start.

Update, 5/17/13:  And now Bob Woodward joins in:
Bob Woodward, who helped break the Watergate scandal as a Washington Post reporter in the early 1970s, sees a similarity between those events and the Benghazi scandal now embroiling the Obama administration.

He pointed to White House laundering of its talking points after last year's attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

"I have to go back 40 years to Watergate, when Nixon put out his edited transcripts of the conversations, and he personally went through them and said, Let's not tell this, let's not show this,'" the political author told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program.

"I would not dismiss Benghazi. It's a very serious issue. As people keep saying, four people were killed."

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Welcome to the Party

For 4 years now, conservatives have been trying to tell Americans that Obama isn't the Lightworker he was thought to be.  A lapdog press shielded, and shilled, for him at every opportunity.  They ignored as "partisan hackery" anything that might make him look bad.  But when one of their oxes finally gets bored, only then do they open their eyes to reality.  Here's the cover of the Boston Herald, not known for its conservative leanings:

You're a little late to the party, MSM, and for quite awhile you trashed the party all you could, but we'll be gracious hosts now that you've decided to attend anyway.  The press isn't up in arms about Benghazi or the IRS, but at least they're starting to report those stories seriously.  They sure are angry about the AP story, though:
The seizure of the phone records, disclosed earlier Monday by AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt, is the latest move in a series of high profile and controversial investigations of leaks of classified information by the Justice Department. In a letter of protest to Attorney General Eric Holder, Pruitt said obtaining more than two months of AP phone records on 20 separate telephone lines without prior notice was a "massive and unprecedented intrusion" into news-gathering operations.
A conservative is a liberal who's been mugged.

Here's more, this time from the AP:
President Barack Obama seemed to lose control of his second-term agenda even before he was sworn in, when a school massacre led him to lift gun control to the fore. Now, as he tries to pivot from a stinging defeat on that issue and push forward on others, the president finds himself rocked by multiple controversies that are demoralizing his allies, emboldening his political foes and posing huge distractions for all...

So far, there's no evidence that Obama knew about - let alone was involved in - the government actions in question. But a president usually is held accountable for his administration's actions, and Republicans now have material to fuel accusations and congressional hearings that they hope will embarrass him, erode his credibility and bolster their argument that his government is overreaching. Even some of his Democratic allies are publicly expressing dismay at the AP phone records seizure.
If I enjoyed schadenfreude, I'd giggle at watching an organization I've referred to in the past as "al-AP" get its knickers in a bunch over actions of the Obama Administration--but I'm far too calm and mature for such things. I'm not going to turn them away when they're doing the right thing just because they were wrong in the past.  Perhaps this experience will help those in the press remember the intent of press freedoms in the First Amendment--to serve as a watchdog, not a lapdog, over government.

This is how we on the right see things:
The past few days have seen a cascade of evidence that the administration not only feigned transparency, but may have covered up the politicization of the IRS and the response to the terrorist attack on the Benghazi consulate. Whistle-blowers on the Benghazi response moved that story back into the headlines, but not for long. Because on Friday, the IRS admitted that it had targeted conservative groups for aggressive investigations. And that wasn't even the worst of the scandals.

On top of everything, Obama's Department of Justice spied on the AP, and may have found a way to alienate a national press that had done its best to downplay any hint of corruption in this White House.
And let's not forget the burgeoning EPA scandal, wherein the EPA waived fees, or not, based on the political orientation of who's asking.

Obama has compared himself to Lincoln, has talked up Reagan, and has been compared to Roosevelt.  The scandals above are invoking comparisons to a different US president.

Update, 5/15/13:  Seems like I'm not the only one who wants to point out some of the press' own culpability:
Most pathetically, some of you are only turning on him now because he’s been exposed going after the Associated Press. Going after the good guys: you. Gasp! Hell hath no fury like a groupie scorned. Well, what did you expect? You let the guy walk all over you for four years, and then you flushed what’s left of your credibility down the toilet to get him reelected, despite all his failures. You think he ever respected you?

We told you this guy was a disaster waiting to happen. You didn’t listen. He said the things you wanted to hear, he promised everybody free candy for life, and you slobbered all over him like a bunch of idiots. Now we’re going to laugh at you while you get all indignant at him. While you pretend that only now has he gone too far.

You ruined your entire industry for this guy, MSM. Serves you right.

The Scientific Hypocrites of the Left

Lefties like to think of themselves as the so-called reality-based community, but only so long as reality comports with their beliefs:
The core trait of a scientific mind is that when its commitments clash with evidence, evidence rules. On that count, what grade do liberals deserve? Fail, given their reaction to the latest evidence on universal health care, global warming, and universal preschool.

The policy world was rocked recently by a New England Journal of Medicine study showing that Medicaid doesn't improve the health care outcomes of uninsured individuals...

For two decades, progressives have castigated those questioning global warming as "deniers."

But the Economist, once firmly in the alarmist camp, recently acknowledged that global temperatures have remained stagnant for 15 years even as greenhouse-gas emissions have soared.

This may be because existing models have overestimated the planet's sensitivity. Or because the heat generated is sinking to the ocean bottom. Or because of something else completely...

Numerous studies on Head Start, the federal pre-K program for poor kids, show that its reading and math gains virtually evaporate by fourth grade. And the latest evidence from Oklahoma and Georgia, two states that implemented universal pre-K in the 1990s, only confirms this.
When the facts contradict your expectations, believe the facts.

Update, 5/17/13Here's another one:
What’s the Matter With Portland?
The city has been fighting fluoridation for 50 years. Will facts trump fear this month?
Update #2, 5/18/13If the thesis is correct, what does that say about these Harvard students?
Harvard students, outraged over a doctoral dissertation arguing that Hispanic immigrants lack “raw cognitive ability or intelligence,” this week urged the university to investigate how the thesis came to be approved and to ban future research on racial superiority...

The thesis was accepted by Harvard in 2009....
The proof is mathematics, and science. To their credit, the school stands by the work:
Ellwood, the Kennedy School dean, said in a statement that any views and conclusions by its graduates do not reflect the views of Harvard. He urged scholars and critics to engage in reasoned discussion and criticism after fully reviewing the work.

“All PhD dissertations are reviewed by a committee of scholars,’’ Ellwood said in the statement. “In this case, the committee consisted of three highly respected and discerning faculty members who come from diverse intellectual traditions.”

George Borjas, chairman of the Kennedy School’s Standing Committee on Public Policy, which accepted Richwine’s work, also defended the paper.

“Jason’s research was sound,’’ wrote Borjas, in an e-mail to the Kennedy School student newspaper, The Citizen. “None of the members of the committee would have signed off on it if they thought that it was shoddy empirical work.”

Your Graduation Isn't About You. It's About...

...compelling you to do what the government thinks is good for you!
As worries continue to grow that “Obamacare” will permanently stain President Obama’s legacy, White House officials have been instructed to use college commencement ceremonies as an opportunity to praise the health care law.

“To counter the criticism, the White House has told all Cabinet members and senior officials to use commencement speeches to drive home for graduating college students and their parents the benefits they gain from a provision of the law that allows young adults to stay on their family’s insurance plans until they turn 26,” Bloomberg reports.
Tacky. Just tacky.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Not Letting A Tragedy Go To Waste?

Gotta love this op-ed in the NYT:
EARLY last month, a triple suicide was reported in the seaside town of Civitanova Marche, Italy. A married couple, Anna Maria Sopranzi, 68, and Romeo Dionisi, 62, had been struggling to live on her monthly pension of around 500 euros (about $650), and had fallen behind on rent.

Because the Italian government’s austerity budget had raised the retirement age, Mr. Dionisi, a former construction worker, became one of Italy’s esodati (exiled ones) — older workers plunged into poverty without a safety net. On April 5, he and his wife left a note on a

The correlation between unemployment and suicide has been observed since the 19th century. People looking for work are about twice as likely to end their lives as those who have jobs.
The title of the piece is How Austerity Kills.  Interesting.  You know what kills more?  Socialism, which eventually runs out of other people’s money while preventing job growth in the first place.  Even the author implies that they killed themselves because they didn't have jobs--and it wasn't government cuts that kept them from working.

Governments trying to get solvent don't kill.  Socialism kills.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Dumb College Student

This guy is a real ba-doomp-a-doomp:
A student at Tulsa Community College brought a live, 4.5-foot alligator to campus as a visual aid for his class presentation about alligators. However, the student never made it to class; instead, campus security found him passed out in his car in the parking lot, in possession of marijuana and prescription pills, with the alligator in the backseat.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Results Are In

Last Monday I took the last test in my Statistical Analysis course.  As I sent it in I anticipated either an epic failure or an epic success.  While I guess I can't really complain about an 88% on it, it was my lowest test grade (out of 6) in that class.  Either way, success or failure, it certainly wasn't epic--but the relatively low grade also wasn't unexpected.

My instructor also received my semester project, in which I tried to model the number of points the San Francisco 49ers scored in each game over the past 2 seasons using passing yards, rushing yards, number of opponent turnovers, number of offensive plays, and other variables, as inputs.  After 10 pages of text (including some graphics) and an additional 12 pages of graphs and computer code, I got a 95% on it.

Just under 95% overall in the course.  Now I get to take the summer off--definitely not going to take an accelerated summer session--and come back refreshed and ready to go in August!

What Math Do College Students Need?

I'm not one who pushes for everyone to take differential equations, but just as a college graduate should be literate, he or she should also be numerate:
Community college students are needlessly assigned to remedial math classes to learn lessons they won’t use during their studies, according to new research from a Washington, D.C. group.

And the study also found that many high school graduates are not learning subjects they will need to use in their careers...

The National Center on Education and the Economy study found that first-year college math work was generally on a level they called Algebra 1.25. That means community college students would have to know most of the concepts in Algebra I, plus some geometry, statistics and other lessons.

But the study found that some students were never taught elementary-level concepts necessary for college-level work, such as geometric visualization and complex measurement.

The authors argue schools need to ensure students master elementary and middle school-level concepts, and that the more advanced subjects, such as Algebra II, are less vital.

Just five percent of workers will use the math taught in the sequence of courses typically required by K-12 schools: Geometry, Algebra II, Pre-Calculus and Calculus.
Just about everyone should have facility with basic math including fractions, decimals, ratios, and linear relationships. College graduates should know more.

California May Cut Left-Leaning Program?

It's in education, though, and students don't vote, so this program is OK to cut as eventually the cries will go silent:
Just a generation ago, California’s schools were the pride of American education (it’s one of the reasons my parents moved with me to California in the early 1960s). Today, tracking with the economic woes of the rest of the Golden State, California’s schools rank 30th in the country . . .and falling.

Now it could get much worse – and quickly –as one of the few bright spots of California public education is at risk of disappearing. The implications to the state’s high education enclaves, such as Silicon Valley, are frightening. But for California’s low-income, high-unemployment regions in places like the Central Valley and the state’s urban centers, the impact could be devastating. Indeed, what lingering hope there is that California can recover its old luster in less than a generation may evaporate as well.

The program is called the International Baccalaureate. If you haven’t heard of it it’s probably because the program has done a far better job at helping elementary and high school students than it has at promoting itself or its confusing name. In retrospect, it probably should have spent more time on the latter, because now as California cuts its educational budget the program – at least its California operation of more than 200 schools across the state – is facing a dangerous shortfall of its $2.5 million annual budget.
I question whether California's K-12 schools were ever "the pride of American education", and while I know IB to be rigorous, I also know its curriculum to be, uh, how shall we put it generously, "not quite conservative".  Given those two points, it's not hard for me to dismiss the concerns raised in this article.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Only Educators Could Be This Stupid

Why does our profession do this to itself?
Two Virginia second graders were suspended for two days for making shooting noises while pointing pencils at each other. The two boys are 7 years old.


My project is done and submitted.  I have free time again!!!

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

I Can See The Light

There's no final exam for the current course I'm taking in my master's program, but there is a 10-page project--and it's due by 3pm on Friday.

Tonight I finished the write-up, and it's 9 pages with lots of appendices.  That'll have to do.  All I have to do to finish is take some screen shots of software-generated graphs, insert those graphs into the appendices, and email the report to my instructor.

How cliche it would be if my computer decided to take a dump tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Multitasking Is Just Another Word For "Goofing Off"

Here's another reason not to allow students to use their phones in class:

For a quarter of an hour, the investigators from the lab of Larry Rosen, a psychology professor at California State University–Dominguez Hills, marked down once a minute what the students were doing as they studied. A checklist on the form included: reading a book, writing on paper, typing on the computer—and also using email, looking at Facebook, engaging in instant messaging, texting, talking on the phone, watching television, listening to music, surfing the Web. Sitting unobtrusively at the back of the room, the observers counted the number of windows open on the students’ screens and noted whether the students were wearing earbuds.

Although the students had been told at the outset that they should “study something important, including homework, an upcoming examination or project, or reading a book for a course,” it wasn’t long before their attention drifted: Students’ “on-task behavior” started declining around the two-minute mark as they began responding to arriving texts or checking their Facebook feeds. By the time the 15 minutes were up, they had spent only about 65 percent of the observation period actually doing their schoolwork.
Allow me to share my personal experience here. 

I've always been a fairly academically-oriented guy.  I've always gotten good grades, and even now, pursuing my master's degree via distance learning, I'm still striving.  I'm about as motivated a student as you're going to get.  My classes are delivered via video over the internet--imagine watching a video of a math lecture!--and even I, Mr. Motivated, will switch over to Instapundit or Facebook or email for a moment once in awhile.  If I, with all I have going for me, can be distracted during from class, what hope does your average high school or college student have?

Study, or Sleep?

During finals week in college I always lived by two mantras:
1.  Well rested, well tested, and
2.  Study too long, you're wrong.
 I might have been on to something 26 years ago:
There are lots of distractions in the modern world that lead people to stay up late in the night.  For students, though, there is also homework.  On the night before a big exam or a major paper, many students put in a lot of extra study time in order to prepare.

Does that extra study time help performance in school?

The most important result, though, was that when students lost sleep because they spent extra time doing schoolwork, they had significantly more problems the next day than when they got their typical amount of sleep.  This negative effect of extra study time was strongest for 12th-grade-students and weaker for the 9th- and 10th-grade students...

It is an age-old tradition to cram for exams and to finish papers at the last minute.  There are lots of good reasons to want to avoid cramming.  For example, cramming for an exam may help a student pass that particular exam, but information learned the night before the test is not remembered in the long-term as well as information that is studied over several nights.  If cramming for a test also reduces the amount of sleep a student is getting, then that just adds to the problem. 

National Teacher Appreciation Day, or Week, or Something

I don't know which it is--California blazes its own trail in this arena, and it's usually a day during the week following the national one.

Whatever.  A student told me today that he'd heard it was National Teacher Appreciation Day/Week and he wanted to give me a cliched present--so pulled out a baggie, unwrapped the contents, and gave me a Fuji apple.

Being a teacher is cool sometimes.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Let's Hope His Lack Of Understanding Of Probability Doesn't Come Back To Bite Him

Here are the comments from a Florida teen who was bitten by a shark:
Adler says he is eager to surf again, despite the attack.

"Now I know I'm not gonna get bit again so I'm not scared," he told WSVN. "I mean, how many people get bitten by a shark, twice?"
Reminds me of the old (pre-9/11) joke about the guy who always carried a bomb on the plane with him to protect himself from other bombers--after all, what's the probability that there are two bombs on the plane?

For both situations I have two words:  conditional probability.

The kid's only 15, though, so it's possible he hasn't studied probability yet.

Students Busted For Simulating Sex At School

Here's the CNN story, complete with video shot at school, during school hours.

I absolutely agree that the video is in poor taste.  I would hope that no parent would want to see their children behaving that way.  Absent a published policy beforehand, though--and there's no indication in this story that one exists--I can't see forbidding students from participating in their graduation exercises over this. 

My school does have published policy--seniors who do any number of things, to include vandalism, will not participate in graduation.  One year that policy made things very uncomfortable but it was enforced, to the credit of the principal whom I thought would fold like a lawn chair.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Math in the City

Well-written piece from Smithsonian magazine:
The systematic study of cities dates back at least to the Greek historian Herodotus. In the early 20th century, scientific disciplines emerged around specific aspects of urban development: zoning theory, public health and sanitation, transit and traffic engineering. By the 1960s, the urban-planning writers Jane Jacobs and William H. Whyte used New York as their laboratory to study the street life of neighborhoods, the walking patterns of Midtown pedestrians, the way people gathered and sat in open spaces. But their judgments were generally aesthetic and intuitive (although Whyte, photographing the plaza of the Seagram Building, derived the seat-of-the-pants formula for bench space in public spaces: one linear foot per 30 square feet of open area). “They had fascinating ideas,” says Luís Bettencourt, a researcher at the Santa Fe Institute, a think tank better known for its contributions to theoretical physics, “but where is the science? What is the empirical basis for deciding what kind of cities we want?” Bettencourt, a physicist, practices a discipline that shares a deep affinity with quantitative urbanism. Both require understanding complex interactions among large numbers of entities: the 20 million people in the New York metropolitan area, or the countless subatomic particles in a nuclear reaction.

The birth of this new field can be dated to 2003, when researchers at SFI convened a workshop on ways to “model”—in the scientific sense of reducing to equations—aspects of human society. One of the leaders was Geoffrey West, who sports a neatly trimmed gray beard and retains a trace of the accent of his native Somerset. He was also a theoretical physicist, but had strayed into biology, exploring how the properties of organisms relate to their mass. An elephant is not just a bigger version of a mouse, but many of its measurable characteristics, such as metabolism and life span, are governed by mathematical laws that apply all up and down the scale of sizes. The bigger the animal, the longer but the slower it lives: A mouse heart rate is around 500 beats per minute; an elephant’s pulse is 28. If you plotted those points on a logarithmic graph, comparing size with pulse, every mammal would fall on or near the same line. West suggested that the same principles might be at work in human institutions. From the back of the room, Bettencourt (then at Los Alamos National Laboratory) and José Lobo, an economist at Arizona State University (who majored in physics as an undergraduate), chimed in with the motto of physicists since Galileo: “Why don’t we get the data to test it?”
You know you want to read the whole thing!

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Common Core Standards, Discovery/Inquiry-based Learning, and BS

Barry Garelick has a 3-part series in EducationNews about the attempt to use Common Core standards to force teachers into so-called discovery or inquiry-based learning.  It's a great antidote to the BS we're being fed at school:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Among those in the reform math area, there has been a push to interpret the SMPs (Standards of Mathematical Practice) along reform math ideologies that push certain mathematical “habits of mind” outside of the context in which such habits are learned, as well as a predominate use of collaborative group work and inquiry-based learning.  This article provides the description of each SMP as written in the Common Core math standards. (   It discusses aspects of each SMP that can be interpreted along conventional or traditional approaches to math teaching and contrasts this with how each one may be implemented under the math reform interpretation.
Here's some of his commentary on SMP 1:  Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them:
The SMP writeup describes a problem solving mind-set as well as a variety of problem solving strategies that students should have. It is important to realize that the goal of this SMP comes about after years of experience and practice.  The ability to solve problems and think mathematically develops over time.  Problem solving cannot be taught directly; rather, it is based on mastery of many basic skills.  (See ( )

Requisite for learning how to solve problems is an explanation of how specific types of problems are solved using worked examples and practice with routine problems.  A set of problems can then escalate in difficulty through careful scaffolding: i.e., by changing aspects of the problem so that students must apply their knowledge of the basic procedure to new forms of the problem.  In this way homework is not just a set of repetitive “exercises”.  Students progress from simple routine problems to those which increase in complexity and are non-routine.   The non-routine problems can then be extended into even more challenging problems.  Such challenging problems should definitely be given but students must be able to use prior knowledge of skills and procedures in solving them.  The goal of math teaching is to provide sufficient opportunities to apply skills and knowledge so that students know how to turn “problems” into routine exercises.

While the approach described above is a sensible and effective interpretation of this SMP, the reform math ideology that is dominating Common Core implementation is likely to reject it.  That philosophy is to regard math as some sort of magical thinking process.  It holds that “understanding” the problem and seeing the big picture is math, while the mechanics of problem solving are just a rote afterthought.  Worked examples and routine problems are generally disparaged as “non-thinking” and “routine achievement”. The reform approach usually manifests itself as giving students a steady diet of “challenging problems” in an effort to build up a problem solving habit of mind that is sometimes referred to as “sense-making”.  Such approach does not accomplish this, however.  Instead, the constant pursuit of “challenging problems” stands in the way of developing fluency with certain classes of problems and building on what one already knows.
It's a great series, I highly recommend it.


Late last night--OK, very early this morning--I was heading home from a friend's place.  It was about a half-hour drive, and I decided I was a little peckish and needed a snackie-snack to get me through 300, the movie I was going to finish when I got home.  At about 1:45 I pulled into the local Taco Bell and placed an order for a few items from the dollar menu.

As soon as I got to the window to pay, the employee animatedly said, "Mr. Miller!"  I recognized his face but not his name; turns out he is the friend of a former student of mine, and they both graduated a few years ago.  We had a brief chat, both of us seemingly pleased to see an unexpected familiar face at almost 2 in the morning.

It's a small perk of being a teacher.

Teachers, where's the most surprising place you've run into a former student?

This Is The Role Of Parents, Not The State

It amazes me that the residents of California not only tolerate this, but laud it:
With just a few clicks of a mouse, kids as young as 12 can have free condoms delivered to their doors in California.

News of the program's expansion to two new counties comes as the federal government approves the "morning-after pill" without a prescription for girls as young as 15.
Why do some people want to sexualize children?

Update:  From Ann Althouse:
It seems to me that when you’re talking about girls under the age of 14, if there is an occasion to buy a morning-after pill, there is an occasion to report a serious crime.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Does Spending Improve Schools?

The Brits say no--but I don't want more than the 30+ students I already have per class....
“There is no correlation at all between the level of per-pupil funding and educational outcomes,” concludes a Deloitte analysis of British schools, reports The Telegraph. The Department of Education had commissioned the study to provide support  for a “pupil premium” — extra funding — for disadvantaged students.
The report confirms what’s obvious to parents, editorializes The Telegraph: “Ethos is what matters most – and you can’t buy a good ethos. Head teachers who turn around a school are utterly priceless, in every way.”
We’d say “culture” instead of  ”ethos” and “principal” for “head teacher.”

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

I'm Screwed

From the major Sacramento newspaper:
David Crane, a businessman who advised former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on financial matters – particularly long-term public pension deficits – recently wrote an I-told-you-so piece for the Bloomberg news service about the State Teachers Retirement System.

He and others had postulated last year that if voters approved the sales and income tax hike being sought by Gov. Jerry Brown, they would see the money disappear into CalSTRS, rather than into classroom instruction, as Brown, et al., insisted.

CalSTRS is now seeking $4.5 billion a year in additional funds from someone – the state, local school districts or teachers themselves – to cover its projected pension obligations.

And as Crane points out, the $4.5 billion assumes that the trust fund can meet its "unrealistically high investment return assumption that implicitly forecasts the stock market to double every 10 years..."

The CalSTRS deficit is not new. Capitol politicians have been talking about it – but not doing anything about it – for several years.

Read more here:

Read more here: CalSTRS deficit is not new. Capitol politicians have been talking about it – but not doing anything about it – for several years.

Read more here: