Sunday, June 30, 2013

We Need To Introduce This Gentleman To CTEN

Teacher Jeff Castle explains why he's resigned from his union.

Notice the link is from KQED/NPR, and notice how vicious and hostile the liberals are now that this teacher dare question the union.

Wait, this was played on NPR?  Heads are exploding in Burlingame.

Be It Ever So Freakin' Hot....

...there's no place like home.

Three nights ago was spent in a Wal*mart parking lot, and the last two nights were spent in rest stops on the edge of the road.  But oh, the things I saw!

When I got off the Coho I pulled into the Wally World parking lot and slept for the night.  Then instead of heading southeast, towards I-5, I headed west, going down the Pacific Coast of Washington.  Made a couple stops on the way (pictures to be posted later)--and noticed the truism that the only people whose votes count in Washington can see the Space Needle. Those rural folks don't like Patty Murray at all!  And they think that DC and Olympia don't listen to, respect, or care about them.  It was very eye-opening.

Crossed into Oregon, saw Lewis and Clark's camp at Fort Clatsop, and then headed to Portland to see a friend from my Air Force Academy days, and his family.    After a visit of a few hours I was on the road again, stopping for the night at a rest stop near Albany, Oregon.

The next morning in southern Oregon I headed southwest, emerging from the mountains along the California coast at Crescent City.  That's some beautiful real estate!  Back on 101 again, I continued south, stopping for dinner in a mall parking lot in Eureka (I think), and bedded down for the night at a rest stop outside of Leggett.

I have a picture of my grandparents driving through the Drive Thru Tree some time before I was born, and now I've been there.  My Camry would have fit but I didn't want to disconnect the trailer to do it, so instead I just walked up to it and got some pictures.

A few hours later I broke out of the hills on CA-20 and got my first view of the Central Valley in 12 days, and the Sutter Buttes were right in front of me.  Back on I-5 again, it was a straight shot to suburban Sacramento, and then a turn east on I-80 put me back in "my" terrain.

The thermometer in my car registered 110 degrees today.  Thank God for air conditioning, both in the car and at home!

Pictures to be added soon.

Update, 7/1/13:  See new post for pics.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What A Shock, I Don't Support Affirmative Action

To those who unjustly benefit from AA (and, of course, their allies), I'm a racist.  Of course I'm not, but it makes them feel better to call me one.  Perhaps they're racist against Asians:
There's a certain irony in the fact that white students usually bring these affirmative action lawsuits (and that defenses of affirmative action are often framed in terms of white privilege).  The evidence seems to show that if completely race-neutral admissions policies were adopted at colleges and universities, the admissions rates for blacks and hispanic would fall dramatically . . . but the admissions rates for whites wouldn't change much.  The primary beneficiaries would be Asian students, who would fill nearly four out of five of the extra admissions slots.

One of the oddest facts about college admissions is that everyone seems to be aware that colleges have imposed restrictive admissions quotas to keep Asians underrepresented in their student bodies, akin to the "Jewish quotas" which used to exist at Ivy League schools until the 1950s.  But no one seems particularly bothered about systemic, institutionalized racial discrimination against a large group of Americans.  I'm not even aware of any concerted effort by Asian community groups to shame universities into stopping this.
I would support such a meritocracy no matter who benefited from it.

Public Politeness

I was picked up this morning at the RV park and taken to the whale watching tour but had to take the city bus back this evening.  Like so many other buses in so many other cities, here in Victoria you board (and pay) at the front of the bus and exit at the doors towards the rear. I noticed that whenever people exited they said "thank you" to the driver, even though it's unlikely that he heard most of them at all. 

I like the spirit of politeness.

Whale Watching Wasted :(

OK, it wasn't really wasted, but let's admit up front that 99% of the people go whale watching here to see orcas, and none were sighted today.  We got brief glimpses of a young humpback, though, and some very fast rides though relatively smooth water.  We did see many "west coast whales"--logs with birds on them :)  It's amazing how much driftwood there is in the Juan de Fuca Strait.
Here's the special ops team before heading out--your intrepid blogger has the front seat, of course, the bounciest in the boat.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Less Than Optimal

At 8:30 tomorrow morning I have to mosey on down to the ferry terminal to get in line.  I already have a reservation over to the Victoria area, but I still have to be there an hour early.

I've checked the weather in Victoria--rain for the next several days, clearing up just in time for Canada Day on July 1st, by which time I'll be home.  That's less than optimal, but I'll still enjoy myself I'm sure.  I've already found some hot yoga studios so I'll do that at least once while I'm up here; the 106 degree room will almost make it feel like California!

Sunday in Friday Harbor

I'm having a great time visiting friends again here in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island.  The last two days have been beautiful, but today there's a slight rain.

Tonight I need to break camp, because even with a reservation I have to be in line at the ferry terminal at 8:30 for the 9:45 trip to Sidney, British Columbia.  I'm looking forward to being in Canada again :-)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Travel Update

Left Tuesday night, made it to Weed and crashed in a rest stop for the night.  Drove all day today, meeting up with a friend in Tacoma.  Now I'm in a hotel (a shower is good) because I'm meeting two people tomorrow, including a reader/commenter on this blog!  Hopefully will get to sleep at the ferry terminal Thursday night so I can catch a Friday morning ferry to Friday Harbor.

I don't know why, but I used to have a really bad attitude about the I-5 corridor section of Oregon.  Driving through today I found it quite beautiful and not at all hillbilly :-)  Rain started at about the Mile 1 marker and continued intermittently until about the time I crossed the Columbia River.  Time really seemed to fly--except, of course, for rush hour traffic in Portland.

Off to bed now, been a long day.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

It Won't Get Fixed Until It's Known

Gotta admire this kid's spunk:
It's the documentary that audiences and film critics are eating up.

In a covert six-month mission to expose the inside world of school lunches, 11-year-old Zachary Maxwell made "Yuck: A 4th Grader's Documentary About School Lunch" when he was a fourth-grader at a New York City public school.

Armed with hidden cameras, the precocious filmmaker went undercover to document dozens of lunches he was served at school.

During Zachary's investigation, he compared descriptions of lunch items on the school-provided menu with secretly recorded video of what he was actually being served.

"It sounded like it was coming from the finest restaurant, but what we were actually getting served, it wasn't too good," Zachary told ABC News.
His 19-minute movie has already been featured at film festivals this year, and will be shown in the Manhattan Film Festival June 21, something the now fifth-grader is quite proud of.

Blogging May Be Light For Awhile

I'm heading north tonight!

It's odd, but I like to start my vacations in the evening.  I'm a night owl anyway so I can drive into the night and, when I wake up, feel like I've gotten a head start on my trip.  That's what I'm doing tonight.

I've driven every single mile of Interstate 5 from the Canadian border to the Mexican border, and tonight I head back towards the Canadian border.  I'll stop and lunch with a couple people on the way up before spending a few days visiting friends on San Juan Island (last year's pics and video here and here), and then I'm over to Victoria, BC, where I haven't been in 8 years (I doubt it's changed much).  Visiting a friend from my Air Force Academy days on the way back home.

Curious about my accommodations for this trip?  Don't be!

If You're Surprised By This, You Haven't Been Paying Attention

Really?  Teacher preparation is substandard?  Who'd'a thunk???
“We don’t know how to prepare teachers,” said Arthur Levine, former president of Teachers College at Columbia University and author of a scathing critique of teacher preparation. “We can’t decide whether it’s a craft or a profession. Do you need a lot of education as you would in a profession, or do you need a little bit and then learn on the job, like a craft? I don’t know of any other profession that’s so uncertain about how to educate their professionals.”
Interesing.  I pondered that topic over 8 years ago.

The Liberal Myth That Will Not Die

Can you imagine a world wherein liberals would tell the truth when promoting their views and policies?  I can't, either, because no one could possibly take them seriously then:
Just in time for the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act comes the publication of a new book by American Enterprise Institute scholar Christina Hoff Sommers, Freedom Feminism: Its Surprising History and Why It Matters Today.
President Obama should read this book. Last week in the Rose Garden, at an event celebrating the Equal Pay Act, he once again repeated the myth that women earn 77 cents on a man's dollar.

"The day that the bill was signed into law, women earned 59 cents for every dollar a man earned on average. Today, it's about 77 cents," the president said. "Over the course of her career, a working woman with a college degree will earn on average hundreds of thousands of dollars less than a man who does the same work. "


Monday, June 17, 2013

I Don't Understand

I've never understood the whole fashion show/catwalk thing for women.  I understand it for guys even less.  I mean, seriously, what is the point of this?  No one would ever wear these things in public....

Yes, some of the models are hot.  Why not dress them up in good-looking clothing?

Who Could Have Seen This Coming?

Anyone not religiously devoted to Obamacare, that's who.  The only question is, was this the intended consequence of Obamacare, a stop on the road to completely-government-run medicine a la Canada and Britain?
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, set to go into full effect on Jan 1., is certain to have broad-reaching impacts on the way that insurance companies sell their products to consumers. Some insurers, like Aetna  (NYSE: AET  ) , have been jockeying for position in the Medicaid arena, purchasing Coventry Health Care for $5.7 billion to take advantage of the coming Medicaid expansion. Other insurers have chosen to enter new markets and utilize the transparent state-run health exchanges being formed under the PPACA, also known as Obamacare, to expand their presence.

Over the weekend, Aetna made it very clear to consumers and the government that increasing levels of competition may not be the end result of state-run health exchanges.

On Saturday, Aetna informed California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones that, in addition to not participating in California's health exchange, it planned to pull out of the state altogether with regard to offering individual health plans. Keep in mind that Aetna still intends to offer health plans to businesses and Medicare beneficiaries, which is where the bulk of its profits are in California, but it is nonetheless going to send 49,000 current members out into the cold (or should I say the palm trees?) to find another health plan.

If this sounds eerily familiar, it should be, because we saw very similar anti-competitive announcements from three of the nation's biggest insurers in California last month: Aetna, CIGNA (NYSE: CI  ) , and UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH  ) , which all decided not to participate in Covered California, the state's health exchange.
Cue one of my Mountain West readers to tell me how awesome! Obamacare is and how I don't understand private health insurance.

In Favor Of Suspension

From Joanne Jacobs:
Suspension helps create safe, orderly, schools — and tells parents they share responsibility for their child’s behavior, writes Eva Moskowitz, founder of Success Academies in the New York Post...

Sending a child home for a day or two puts the burden of children’s misbehavior on the parents, Moskowitz writes. “Many politicians give lip service to supporting teachers — yet would undermine them by depriving them of the tools they need to create a safe learning environment.”
An imbedded link likens a suspension to a "time out" at home, and states explicitly that "order and civility" are crucial elements of effective schools.  I assert they are, in terms we math people love, "necessary but not sufficient" elements.

Anti-Firearm Mindset Permeates Schools

Can't argue with this:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, automobile accidents are the leading cause of teenage deaths in the United States.

Some 2,700 teens aged 16-19 died in car crashes in 2010, the most recent year for which the federal agency's website has figures, and 282,000 were injured. So, the nation's schools have rightly implemented programs that teach teens to be safer drivers.

Yet, suppose educators instead declared that cars themselves were harmful instruments of death and destruction with no useful purpose.

Then they began punishing students at all ages, even down to kindergarten level, for such "offenses" as drawing pictures of cars, bringing toy cars to school or even mentioning the word "car."

You'd likely think this was an extreme overreaction, a textbook example of irrational behavior that was likely to punish innocent students for harmless words and actions.

Now, substitute the word "guns" for "cars," and you have a description of what appears to be a widespread mindset on the part of school officials nationwide that one psychologist and family doctor has called "psychotic."
The damage my fellow educators do to the credibility of our profession....

This is my favorite quote from the article:
In truth, there are effective and ineffective ways of addressing any problem. Schools' "zero tolerance" policies that punish children for words and actions that create absolutely no danger to anyone are not only unjust, they border on ideologically motivated child abuse.

Will This Ever Happen In California?

My guess is no, but we'll see:
In response to Newtown shootings, some states move to put guns in classrooms

Sunday, June 16, 2013

"Rubble Don't Make Trouble"

Republicans should stop their attacks on government:
Many conservatives are surprised and saddened by the government’s recent attacks on us. The IRS has been targeting conservatives, the Department of Justice is going after Fox News, and the State Department fudged facts about Benghazi to help the Democrat president get re-elected. Conservatives feel hurt and angry that the government is actively working against us and in the interests of our political opponents, and we have reacted largely by pushing for retaliation. We want people fired. We want people in prison. We want a flat tax instituted and the IRS completely abolished. But before we take action and fight back, there is one question we should ask ourselves: Why does the government hate us?

I know it’s a question many conservatives want to avoid, but when you look at our actions you can see we’ve given the government every reason to lash out at us. We’ve been invading the government with people who don’t belong there — politicians who don’t even like government and want to strip it of power. And basically the Tea Party movement has been a big, violent threat to cut the government. Really, we conservatives have been doing everything we can to make the government hate us, and then we act surprised when it lashes out? That’s just the chickens coming home to roost.
Yes, it's written tongue-in-cheek.  Read the whole thing; I like the ending.

Superman is a Teacher?

I just smile :)

Friday, June 14, 2013

It's Only Surprising If You're A True Believer

When the facts contradict your expectations, believe the facts:
Last week, the National Bureau of Economic Research released a working paper with a surprising conclusion — giving computers to low-income families does not affect student educational outcomes.
Repeat after me:  it's culture.   Keep repeating it until it sticks in your head.

The Pain

Usually, savasana (dead man's posture) is my favorite posture in hot yoga.  Today, though, it was agony.

A few weeks ago I bought a groupon-like pass for a 60 minute massage.  I redeemed it yesterday, and the entire 60 minutes was spent working out knots on my back.  It was agony, but I certainly felt more loose when I got in the car to drive home.

When I woke up this morning, it felt like my back was covered in bruises, or perhaps that someone had pinched my back, hard, in dozens of places.  In other words, it hurt like heck.

Lying on my mat between postures, in savasana, was not pleasant today.  No sir, not pleasant at all.

But I still want this shirt.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

My Point About Forced Unionism

This story didn't stay in Las Vegas:
Teacher union officials say their organizations provide a very valuable service to members.

The truth shall set you freeSo why should they worry when someone comes along and reminds union members that they are allowed to drop out, and when they can do it?

If the service is so great, very few members will ever want to leave, and the union will have nothing to worry about.
Teachers unions don't like it when you speak truth to their power. Go read the whole thing.

And then, if you're curious about how to leave the teachers union here in California, head over to the web page of the California Teachers Empowerment Network.

Relevance in Education

Joanne has an excellent post on the subject of relevance, I recommend it to you.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Most Racism Is Dead In This Country

When people have to go looking for it, or make up stupid crap like this, you know the amount of true racism left is too miniscule to find:
Dr. Verenice Gutierrez, a principal with Oregon’s Portland Public Schools, has become convinced that America’s “white culture” negatively influences educators’ world view and the manner in which they teach their students.

For instance, last year a teacher in the district presented a lesson that included a reference to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Gutierrez says that by using sandwiches as an illustration, the teacher was engaged in a very subtle form of racism.

“What about Somali or Hispanic students, who might not eat sandwiches?” asked Gutierrez, according to Portland Tribune. “Another way would be to say: ‘Americans eat peanut butter and jelly, do you have anything like that?’ Let them tell you. Maybe they eat torta. Or pita.”

Gutierrez is not the only Portland administrator who has become obsessed with identifying such forms of alleged racism. Almost all Portland school leaders have gone through “Coaching for Educational Equity,” a week-long seminar on race that’s conducted by the Pacific Educational Group...

In addition to teaching that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are racist, PEG trains educators to view “rugged individualism,” “adherence to rigid time schedules,” and the belief that “hard work is the key to success” as traits of the dominant white culture.

PEG teaches that minority cultures value “color group collectivism,” “interdependence,” group success, shared property, learning through social relationships, and making life choices based on “what will be best for the family or group.”

Why are there so many crazies in my chosen profession?

The article closes in the same manner as I closed my own post about the school that wants students to turn in toy guns for books:
The Tribune reports that “Oregon’s Department of Education just last month identified Harvey Scott School (where Gutierrez is principal) as a ‘focus school,’ which means it’s among the state’s lowest performing 15 percent.”

Perhaps if the staff spent more time on academic fundamentals, instead of obsessing about non-existent racial issues, the students would learn more.
Notice a similarity?

Hat tip to reader MikeAT.

Media Bias

An interesting piece here.

This unsavory relationship between the media and the Democrats has long existed, but the political career of Barack Obama marks a quantum leap beyond the media’s traditional liberal preferences and biases––which in the past had at least a patina of objectivity and neutrality––to blatant advocacy, double standards, and explicit partisan hatred.

The roots of media bias go back to the nineteenth century, and complaints about bias in part reflect a questionable idea about the media’s role and purpose: that newspapers and other dispensers of public information exist to transmit objective, factual information gleaned and communicated by credentialed professionals.
I don't expect them to be biased.  I expect them to be honest about their biases.


A couple days ago I wrote about the asinine idea at a school in Hayward--a toy gun trade-in.  Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, linked, and here's what happens to my page views when that happens:
Cruising along at 200 hits a day (I used to get 500 a couple years ago!) and then BAM!  Spike-a-san!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Workers, Know Your Rights!

Written by Larry Sand, president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network:
Unknown to many employees throughout the country – especially in non-right-to-work states – they have a right to not belong to a union. This year, June 23rd - 29th is being dedicated to informing America’s wage earners of their union membership options. This project, National Employee Freedom Week (NEFW), is spearheaded by the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI) and the Association of American Educators (AAE).

The idea for this undertaking came about in the summer of 2012 when NPRI, a non-partisan think tank based in Las Vegas, launched a small-scale campaign to let local teachers know that they could opt out of their union, the Clark County Education Association, by submitting written notice from July 1st to July 15th.

The reaction was stunning. Teachers thanked NPRI for sharing that information. Hundreds of teachers wanted to leave CCEA, each for their own unique reasons, but didn’t know it was possible or forgot because of the narrow and inconvenient drop window. Empowered by the information NPRI shared, over 400 teachers opted out by submitting written notice and over 400 more left CCEA and weren’t replaced by a union member.

The U.S. is comprised of 24 “right-to-work” states which grant workers a choice whether or not to belong to a union. In the other 26 and Washington, D.C., they don’t have to belong but must still pay the portion of union dues that goes toward collective bargaining and other non-political union-related activities. The dissenters who select this “agency fee” option typically do so because they don’t like that about one-third of their dues goes for political spending...

To be clear, NEFW is not about denying anyone the right to belong to a union, but rather about letting employees know their options and providing them with facts that they can use to make an informed decision. Unions are threatened when workers choose to opt out, and typically accuse dissidents of being “free riders” or freeloaders. But, if employees don’t want the services that the union has to offer, they have no choice but to accept them because the union demands exclusivity.
Read the entire piece here.

STEM Yes, Degree No?

From Joanne Jacobs' Community College Spotlight blog:
Half of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) jobs are open to workers without a bachelor’s degree, according to a new Brookings report, The Hidden STEM Economy.  These jobs in manufacturing, health care, construction, installation, maintenance and repair pay $53,000 on average, 10 percent more than jobs with similar educational requirements. For example, a computer systems analyst averages $82,320 without a four-year degree, according to Brookings.

Overall, 20 percent of U.S. jobs now require STEM skills, Brookings estimates.

Even in high-tech Silicon Valley, there’s a demand for people with math and fix-it skills but no bachelor’s degree, reports the San Jose Mercury News.
Go read the whole thing.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Conversion: A Conservative Is A Liberal Who's Been Mugged

The folks at the news source I've referred to as al-AP seem to be coming to their senses:
AP Turns On Obama: Second Term On Verge of Imploding
In a brutal Monday column, Liz Sidoti, the national politics editor for The Associated Press, takes a look at the Obama Administration's mounting scandals, the president's promises, and the polls. Her conclusion is that Obama's second term is on the verge of imploding. Oh, and on top of the scandals, Obama has one more problem -- ObamaCare....
Let's hope it's true that converts are always the most zealous.  Our republic can't last without a skeptical press watchdog.

I Warned You About This A Year And A Half Ago

Not that I'm one to say I Told You So--oh heck, of course I am!
North Carolina is joining a growing number of states exploring new fees for hybrid and electric car owners to help make up for revenue those drivers aren't paying in gas taxes on their fuel-efficient vehicles.

The proposal strikes many owners of alternative-fuel vehicles and some advocacy groups as a wrong-headed approach to balancing priorities of promoting U.S. energy independence with sustainable infrastructure funding. But policymakers and some experts argue taxing hybrid and electric vehicle owners is a matter of making sure all drivers help maintain the roads they use and construct new ones.  link
The logic is infallible, of course.  Gas usage used to be a proxy for how much you drove, and it seemed reasonable to tax it to pay for roads.  Now that some people are getting around gas usage but are still using the roads, lawmakers are coming up with better, more intrusive ways of generating road money.

Earlier post on the topic here, with a warning about water conservation here and at the link in the previous paragraph.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

NYT Posts Anti-Common Core Op-Ed

There's much in here to like:

By definition, America has never had a national education policy; this has indeed contributed to our country’s ambivalence on the subject. As it stands, the Common Core is currently getting hit mainly from the right. Tea Party-like groups have been gaining traction in opposition to the program, arguing that it is another intrusion into the lives of ordinary Americans by a faceless elite. While we don’t often agree with the Tea Party, we’ve concluded that there’s more than a grain of truth to their concerns.

The anxiety that drives this criticism comes from the fact that a radical curriculum — one that has the potential to affect more than 50 million children and their parents — was introduced with hardly any public discussion. Americans know more about the events in Benghazi than they do about the Common Core...

For all its impact, the Common Core is essentially an invisible empire. It doesn’t have a public office, a board of directors or a salaried staff. Its Web site lists neither a postal address nor a telephone number...

The Common Core is not oblique in its aim: to instill “college and career readiness” in every American teenager — in theory, a highly democratic ideal. In the past, students were unabashedly tracked, which usually placed middle-class students in academic courses and their working-class peers in vocational programs. New York City had high schools for cooking, printing and needle trades. (There was even one in Brooklyn called Manual Training.) Indeed, the aim of these schools was to prepare a slice of society for blue-collar life. Since the 1960s, this has been seen as undemocratic. Today, students are typically required to take algebra, so they will have more options upon graduation (should they graduate). The irony — and tragedy — is that students who don’t surmount these hurdles now fall even further...

The answer is simple. “College and career skills are the same,” Ken Wagner, New York State’s associate commissioner of education for curriculum, assessment and educational technology, told us. The presumption is that the kind of “critical thinking” taught in classrooms — and tested by the Common Core — improves job performance, whether it’s driving a bus or performing neurosurgery. But Anthony Carnevale, the director of Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce, calls the Common Core a “one-size-fits-all pathway governed by abstract academic content.”

Anyone who tries to tell you that "college ready is career ready" is too stupid, or too rabid, to spend any more time with.   The statement is stupid on its face, in addition to being demonstrably wrong.  Back to the article:
IN sum, the Common Core takes as its model schools from which most students go on to selective colleges. Is this really a level playing field? Or has the game been so prearranged that many, if not most, of the players will fail? 
And my good friend Diane Ravitch won't be happy until every teacher is free to do as he or she wishes, with no oversight whatsoever:
For Diane Ravitch, a historian of education and former assistant education secretary, the program is predicated on “the idea that you can’t trust teachers.” If we want our children taught from standardized scripts, she told us, let’s say so and accept the consequences. 
She and I agree that Common Core is bad, but for entirely different reasons.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

There's Something A Little Fanatical About This

Some people are just plain crazy, and they seem to congregate in my chosen profession:

An elementary school will hold a toy gun exchange Saturday, offering students a book and a chance to win a bicycle if they turn in their play weapons.

Strobridge Elementary Principal Charles Hill maintains that children who play with toy guns may not take real guns seriously.

"Playing with toys guns, saying 'I'm going to shoot you,' desensitizes them, so as they get older, it's easier for them to use a real gun," Hill said.

Is there any evidence that all those kids with their Daniel Boone caps and play rifles in the 50s grew up to be mass murderers?  How about my generation with our cap guns?

Perhaps Mr. Hill and the gang at Strobridge Elementary should be focusing on academics and not the firearms bugaboo.  After all,  a quick search of the California Department of Education web site shows Strobridge to be a 1/1 school.  The first 1 means that, in terms of academic performance, their school is in the lowest decile of all schools in California.  The second 1 means that if, instead of being compared to all schools in the state they're only compared to schools with similar demographics, they're still in the bottom decile.

Actually, given this information it's now obvious why they'd rather focus on toy guns.

Hat tip to Instapundit for the original story.

Update, 6/10/13: Instalanche!  (Thanks, Glenn).  Check my Stat Counter (at left) to see what an Instalanche looks like on a small blog like this!  Since you'll only be able to see it for a couple days, I'll post a screenshot later.

Update #2, 6/12/13:   Screen shot here.

Friday, June 07, 2013

They Seem Surprised To Learn That Climate Isn't Constant

A new set of long-term climate records based on cave stalagmites collected from tropical Borneo shows that the western tropical Pacific responded very differently than other regions of the globe to abrupt climate change events. The 100,000-year climate record adds to data on past climate events, and may help scientists assess models designed to predict how the Earth's climate will respond in the future.
How these changes occurred without SUVs I'll never understand.
Among the findings were some surprises that show just how complicated the Earth's climate system can be.
Huh, you don't say.
The researchers were also surprised to discover a very large and abrupt signal in their stalagmite climate records precisely when super-volcano Toba erupted nearby, roughly 74,000 years ago.
If volcanic activity effects are a surprise, then these people shouldn't be studying climate. They should be on the couch, watching Oprah and eating bonbons.
Climate scientists are interested in learning more about abrupt climate changes because they indicate that the climate system may have "tipping points." So far, the climate system has responded to rising carbon dioxide levels at a fairly steady rate, but many scientists worry about possible nonlinear effects.
Is there any evidence of these nonlinear effects?
For Carolin, studying the half-meter-long stalagmites brought an awareness that the Earth has not always been as we know it today.

"You have to be impressed with the scope of what you are studying, and recognize that the state our climate is in today is incredibly different from Earth's climate during the last Ice Age," she said.
Read the entire article here.


Back when I was a cadet, I had "issues" with heat exhaustion when humidity was extremely high.  I didn't even have to be doing anything; just standing in the heat and humidity was enough to make me pass out sometimes.

Today in yoga class I noticed my heart was racing and my breathing fast.  Why, when it's only been a week since my last class and I haven't been doing anything that would cause problems?  When our instructor announced the temperature and humidity--106 degrees and 50%--it all made sense.

Family Law

Thought for the day:

Could alimony and child support laws be challenged as unconstitutional under "disparate impact" theory since they overwhelmingly harm men despite their gender-neutral wording?

Would lefties, especially women's groups, go nuts if that were ever proposed?


Thursday, June 06, 2013

Why I Do What I Do

The following tag was attached to a bottle of wine and a gift certificate and was delivered to me on behalf of my (anonymous) Parent Secret Pal on the last day of school yesterday:
I don't teach where I do because of gifts.  I teach there because of the thoughtfulness, appreciation, and kindness of so many in the community.  What more could a teacher ask for than the sentiment shown above?

Another example of this generosity and thoughfulness is the lunch that was put on for the staff by our PTSA on Tuesday.  Talk about a spread!  I kid you not, there was even a guy outside the library (where we held the luncheon) grilling chicken for us!  And it came out perfectly.

Yes, we have some annoying parents.  We have some annoying students.  But we have so many more like the one who made the tag above, and who put on 2 luncheons a year for us.

I am grateful.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Need Some Tar With That Feather?

This seems sort of stupid to me.  Why is a feather any different from a bow, a ribbon, odd coloring, or anything else women do to their hair?
A Native American student did not receive her high school diploma and faces a $1,000 fine because she wore a feather during her graduation.

WPMI reports 17-year-old Chelsey Ramer decided to wear the eagle feather during her May 23 graduation at an Alabama high school to honor her heritage. Ramer is a member of the Poarch Creek Band of Indians.

Although the school prohibits graduates from wearing "extraneous items" during the ceremony, Ramer says she asked the headmaster if she could wear the feather anyway. She was denied, and was told she had to sign a dress code contract to walk at graduation.

Ramer did not sign it, and wore the feather in her graduation ceremony anyway. She was denied her diploma, and now must pay a $1,000 fine to the school to receive it and her transcripts, WPMI reports.
$1000?  Really?  I think the school will end up paying more than that when they lose this in court.  Gawd, sometimes I think there are no worse petty tyrants in the world than people in my own field.

Wrong? Moving The Goalposts? Lying? Some Combination Of Those?

The brazenness of liberals:
President Barack Obama and his supporters sold Obamacare as a plan to cover everyone while bringing down health insurance premiums and government health care spending. Anyone who expressed skepticism that the bill could offer more coverage to more people for less money or pointed out possible unintended consequences was maligned as a partisan liar. Now that it turns out, yes, more coverage for more people requires many people to pay more money, Obamacare supporters are simply asserting this is a great trade-off and they shouldn’t be held to the promises they made about Obamacare’s outcomes.
Oh, we were also racist.  Don't forget racist.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The US Doesn't Have A Monopoly On Stupid Educators

Even in Canada, the stupidity of educators can make the head spin:
Briar MacLean was sitting in class during a study period Tuesday, the teacher was on the other side of the room and, as Grade 7 bullies are wont to do, one kid started harassing another.

“I was in between two desks and he was poking and prodding the guy,” Briar, 13, said at the kitchen table of his Calgary home Friday.

“He put him in a headlock, and I saw that.”

He added he didn’t see the knife, but “I heard the flick, and I heard them say there was a knife.”

The rest was just instinct. Briar stepped up to defend his classmate, pushing the knife-wielding bully away.

The teacher took notice, the principal was summoned and Briar went about his day. It wasn’t until fourth period everything went haywire.

“I got called to the office and I wasn’t able to leave until the end of the day,” he said.

That’s when Leah O’Donnell, Briar’s mother, received a call from the vice-principal.

“They phoned me and said, ‘Briar was involved in an incident today,’” she said. “That he decided to ‘play hero’ and jump in.”

Ms. O’Donnell was politely informed the school did not “condone heroics,” she said. Instead, Briar should have found a teacher to handle the situation.

“I asked: ‘In the time it would have taken him to go get a teacher, could that kid’s throat have been slit?’ She said yes, but that’s beside the point. That we ‘don’t condone heroics in this school.’ ”

Instead of getting a pat on the back for his bravery, Briar was made to feel as if he had done something terribly wrong.
How can anyone be so devoid of common sense?

Turn Off The Darned Phones When You're Told To

I get driven nuts by kids and their phones.  How can anyone lack the self-discipline to disconnect for a short period of time?

Yes, I think the rule requiring electronics to be turned off during take-off and landing is a silly rule, but it must be followed until it's changed.  I'm having a hard time having sympathy for the kids here:
The dispute surrounding a student vacation flight from New York to Atlanta is getting uglier.

One hundred one students and eight chaperones were kicked off an early morning AirTran flight before its scheduled departure Monday. The controversy now pits the airline against an Orthodox Jewish high school.

"We take this matter seriously and have started our own investigation," said a statement released Tuesday by Rabbi Seth Linfield, executive director of the Yeshiva of Flatbush school. "Preliminarily, it does not appear that the action taken by the flight crew was justified."

From the airline's perspective, it sounds like a large-scale version of the parental "don't-make-me-turn-this-car-around" scenario.

Southwest, which owns AirTran, said the group of "non-compliant passengers" would not stay seated, and some were using their mobile devices after being asked not to. When the students failed to comply with requests from the flight crew, including the captain, they were asked to leave the plane, delaying the AirTran flight for 45 minutes, said Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins.
Sometimes in the real world, boys and girls, you don't get warning after repeated warning with no consequences.  Sometimes you're required to do what you're told, or else.  You have now encountered one of those times. 

Related story:  a couple weekends ago I flew to Las Vegas, and a 20-something woman sat in the middle seat between me and my traveling companion.  After the announcement to turn off all electronics, a flight attendant told her specifically that she had to turn the phone off.  She was startled a few moments later when a second flight attendant came from behind us, saw her using it, and told her to turn it off.  She blanked the screen but anyone with a phone knows you have to push the button longer than half a second to power off.  A few moments later she looked around to ensure no flight attendants were around, then she went back to her texting.

I spoke to her in somewhat condescending terms, but honestly, she was too dumb to know I was being condescending.  She tried to justify to me why she needed to coordinate with her friends, so many of whom were converging on Las Vegas by many different modes of transportation.  About the time we were forced back into our seats by the acceleration of take-off, she shut her phone down.

It came on again during our approach to McCarran.  I couldn't believe it.

The world apparently revolves around some people.

Monday, June 03, 2013


Entirely coincidentally I came across two unrelated but interesting articles about Sweden:

Swedish colleges and universities are free. Yep. Totally free.

But students there still end up with a lot of debt. The average at the beginning of 2013 was roughly 124,000 Swedish krona ($19,000). Sure, the average US student was carrying about 30% more, at $24,800.

But remember: Free. College in Sweden is free. That’s not even all that common in Europe anymore. While the costs of education are far lower than in the US, over the past two decades sometimes-hefty fees have become a  fact of life for many European students. Britain got them in 1998. Some German states instituted them after a federal ban on student fees was overturned in the courts. In fact, since 1995 more than half of the 25 OECD countries with available data on higher education have overhauled their college tuition policies at public institions, with many adding or raising fees.

And yet, students in Germany and the UK have far lower debts than in Sweden.
Personally, I think "fees"--whether they be airline baggage fees, hotel resort fees, or school student body fees--are a coward's way of gaming the system.  They're unjust.

And from the 2nd article:
Swedish repay their mortgages so slowly that it will take 140 years on average, according to the IMF.
I wonder if there's any link between the two....

Student Loses Fight To Participate in Graduation Ceremony

Obviously I don't condone underage drinking, or drinking at a school activity.  On the other hand, if a school is going to accuse a student of such a major offense--especially when the penalty is failure to participate in graduation exercises--there ought to be some proof besides just a statement of guilt:
A straight-A student at the top of her class has lost her legal battle to walk at her high school graduation after she was barred from the ceremony because she was allegedly drinking alcohol at her prom.

Lauren Green, 18, of McKinney, Texas, filed a lawsuit against the McKinney Independent School District, alleging that school administrators sent her and a group of her friends home from the prom for reportedly drinking before the event...

According to court documents, Green alleges that she was "never addressed individually [by administrators], nor ever afforded an opportunity to take a breathalyzer" at the prom on May 11 to prove that she had not been drinking. 
The court ruled that it couldn't do anything in this case because she hadn't been expelled.
"Obviously if the court doesn't have any jurisdiction over this, who else is going to overlook the McKinney Independent School District when they're shafting a bunch of kids?" Green's attorney, Julie Krenek told ABC News affiliate WFAA-TV...

(School district attorny Mari) McGowan said that despite Green's allegations in the suit that she had not consumed alcohol before attending the prom, Green had previously admitted that she had been drinking. 
This is a fairly strong sanction, there should be some sort of breathylizer or similar evidence.

Who'd'a Thunk It?

Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan agree with Scalia, and I agree with them!  The four of them dissented from the majority in a case that now allows police departments to swab arrested individuals for DNA samples.

If police can fingerprint, why can't they take DNA samples?  There are many good comments at the link above, including:
I know where you're going, a database of who and what everybody is.

Plus once your DNA is in a database it can be accessed for other databases such as insurance research etc.

It should not allow a police officer to poke around someone's DNA looking for medically relevant markers ( is this person prone to breast cancer? ) or racial ancestry ( is this person really 1/32 native american? ), just to give a couple examples of what should not be allowed.
If merely arresting a person requires a DNA record creation, then there is no 4th Amendment. Why not wait until the conviction, if any?

The National Health Service currently being called Medicare and Medicaide has the DNA test results available. I suspect it is already secretly in the database at Homeland Security.

I think the court makes the distinction that the fingerprints are being taken to identify this guy who says he's Sparticus, from the ten other Sparticus's in custody.

The DNA swab isn't easy enough to use in routine administration of the cell block, but is very useful in cold cases that have no connection to the current crime. and for which the police can make an investigatory guess, absent the swab they don't have yet. DNA allows bootstrapping...
Make DNA testing mandatory for child support and see how fast the court reconsiders this ruling. Especially if the mothers could be sued for fraud and the on going support cancelled.

Fingerprints contain information only about the tips of your fingers. DNA contains information about your health, who your relatives are, etc. That goes far beyond establishing the fact of who you are.
And my personal favorite:
My concern is that with this ability to capture DNA upon arrest, we will have people arrested just so they can get their DNA. If I suspect Joe is guilty of rape, then I can arrest him for some driving violation and get his DNA to see if he is the rapist. 
I am absolutely a "law and order" kinda guy.  The first law, though, is the Constitution, and I can find nothing wrong with Scalia's 4th Amendment reasoning or with the concerns quoted above.

Update, 6-4-13:  Senator Cruz agrees:
“Today’s unfortunate U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Maryland v. King, by a vote of 5-4, expands government power, invades our liberty, and undermines our constitutional rights,” Cruz said in a Monday evening statement. “The Court held that the police can forcibly take DNA samples from people who have been arrested — but have not been tried or convicted — of a serious offense. So now the government can capture, without a search warrant, the most personal information about an individual, and use it to search vast databases for unrelated offenses.”

Employer-Provided Health Care

"There are concerns that employers will be gaming this new system and taking less and less responsibility for their workers," said Sonya Schwartz, program director at the National Academy for State Health Policy. "This may make employers think twice."  link
Why is health care the responsibility of employers?   I continue to be amazed at the way liberals (pretend to) think.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Smart Diplomacy

Absent any reason to believe the people involved are trying to commit a crime, is this really how our government needs to act?
A Canadian shipment of relief goods bound for storm-ravaged Oklahoma has been stopped at the Canada-U.S. border in Windsor, Ont.

American officials will not allow the 20,000 kilograms of food, blankets and diapers into the country until every item on board is itemized in alphabetical order and has the country of origin of every product noted.

Dennis Sauve, the volunteer co-ordinator for Windsor Lifeline Outreach and the food bank co-ordinator at the Windsor Christian Fellowship, the two organizations that gathered the goods, said it's a "physical impossibility" to do the paperwork required in time to get the perishable food to Oklahoma before it spoils.

Because U.S. President Barack Obama hasn't declared Moore, Okla., tornado a disaster area, the 52-foot trailer of goods is considered a commercial shipment rather than humanitarian aid.

College Majors, Unemployment, and Earnings

I love this quote from this post:
People who make technology are still better off than people who use technology. Unemployment rates for recent graduates in information systems, concentrated in clerical functions, is high (14.7%) compared with mathematics (5.9%) and computer science (8.7%). (italics mine--Darren)

Clouds All Over The World

Since getting a smartphone a few months ago, I've really enjoyed downloading (free) apps and entertaining myself with their functionality.  One such app is Worldscope Webcams.

Looks like high overcast in Venice right now.  The Rialto looks as beautiful as ever, and the Grand Canal appears devoid of traffic.

The Acropolis stands defiant against ominous cloud cover in Athens.

Sunlight still illuminates the buildings beneath the billowing clouds over London.

The clouds are dark over St. Peter's Basilica.

Sunlight is trying to break through the heavy cloud cover in Cancun.

Thick, dark clouds periodically shade the Eiffel Tower.

Clouds enshroud the peak that overlooks Schloss Neuschwanstein in Fuessen, Germany.

The view towards The City from Sausalito makes it apparent that the fog is already burning off and it will be a beautiful day in the City By The Bay.

Victoria, BC, appears cheerful as ever under clouds.

Vancouver seems somewhat darker.

The picture from Waikiki must not be current because it looks to be late at night there.

That's how I usually spend 10-20 minutes before getting out of bed each Saturday morning, taking a little vacation to some of my favorite places.  I just wish this app linked to a webcam showing Pikes Peak and not just to every traffic cam in Colorado Springs.

Cruising Into The End of the School Year

Our last day of school is this coming Wednesday (yes, it's weird, and no, I don't know why).  Today we had final exams for two periods, and we'll have 2 a day on Monday and Tuesday.

The deal is, though, that our seniors graduated 2 weeks ago.  We had to reserve Memorial Auditorium last September, when there was talk of cutting 3 weeks off the end of the school year unless a tax increase passed in November.  So we reserved Memorial Auditorium 3 weeks early, and when the tax increase passed, we were stuck with that graduation date.

I teach 2 classes that are 100% seniors, and one class that's all seniors except for 2 juniors.  Today I gave a final to one of my remaining classes, on Monday I have the 2 juniors (who have already taken their final exam with the seniors) and the other remaining class, and on Tuesday I have no students at all.

The teachers who don't have all-senior classes are complaining because we who do get some time off that they don't, but I'm not feeling bad about it since this schedule is a one-time-only deal anyway.  I've been observing other teachers and their teaching strategies, improving specific lessons, and getting all signed off on all the things we have to do to close out the school year.

OK, sometimes I work on the 3-D puzzle in the staff room, but mostly I'm accomplishing real work.

It's a nice, stress-free way to finish the school year.