Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Picture From The Past

I don't know where it came from, but this evening my mother gave me this picture of my cousin Kathy and me--taken when we were in 8th grade.  I didn't see her again until last November, and we recognized each other immediately :-)

I Now Own My First...

...set of electric beaters.

I got a call from my uncle last night.  They're clearing out grandpa's house (he's 101 and in an assisted living facility now) and he asked me if I wanted some things.  I didn't want the hutch he called about but I told him that since my son will be 18 in a year, I'd like to get some kitchen things for him.  I already have pots and pans for him, and today I went and gathered up dishes, flatware, a microwave, a toaster oven, and a small blender.

I've always used old-school hand crank beaters. All I've ever made with them are pudding, jello, cornbread, things like that; clearly I'm not much of a cook.  But there in the drawer was grandma's set of electric beaters.  So now, for the first time in my life I own a set of electric beaters.

I wonder how long it will take me to use them!

I'll still keep my hand beaters, and since grandma had a set of those, too, I took hers for my son.


The house was built up in the foothills in the 1930's.  It was probably never in good shape, but it's in pretty bad shape now.  A cousin and her husband are going to gut it or knock it down and build a new house for themselves in its place.  Grandma and grandpa bought it in 1976 or '77 and I've always loved going there.  Even when I was old enough to see how decrepit the place was, it always felt "cozy".

There's stuff all over the floors now, and what's left will soon get cleared out and sent to a thrift store (or worse).  I took my phone in and got some video of the house itself, just so I'll have it.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Voice Against Common Core

My good friend Diane Ravitch doesn't like Common Core:
That is because standardized testing guru David Coleman, lead architect of Common Core, decreed upon becoming College Board CEO in 2012 that college-entrance tests would be tightly aligned with the one-size-fits-all national K-12 standards. 

That means even home educators cannot steer clear of the nationalized curriculum if they want their kids to score high enough on the SAT to gain university admission. 

Education historian Diane Ravitch, who has supported voluntary national standards, has blogged that Coleman “is now the de facto controller of American education,” a man with no teaching experience who has decided what all grade-schoolers should know, how they should be relentlessly tested and what they must show they know to go to college.
It's interesting to me that people who squealed against federal mandates during NCLB are now so supportive of Common Core.  Should I wonder what helped this change along, or do I already know?

Piano and Keyboard

Let's have some fun identifying (pop) songs with absolutely beautiful keyboard or piano components.  I hereby offer these:
Music Box Dancer
Love Theme from St. Elmo's Fire
I'm Seventeen (you can hear an obvious Bruce Hornsby)

What about Fireflies?

Which Elton John song(s) should make the list?

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Dutch and the Deutsch

Of the few foreign films I have, it seems a plurality are Dutch films about World War II.  In fact, I have three of them.

The first is actually an English film from 1941 called One Of Our Aircraft Is Missing.  It's about an RAF crew that is smuggled out of the Netherlands thanks to the efforts of the Dutch Underground.  A note at the beginning of the movie tells us:
Produced with the full co-operation of the Royal Air Force and the Air Ministry and, above all, of the Royal Netherlands Government, London.
The next two are in Dutch with English subtitles.  The first is the Paul Verhoeven film Black Book.  The dvd case reads:
In the darkest days of World War II, Jewish fugitives attempt to escape occupied Holland--only to face a Nazi ambush.  Rachel Stein alone survives the attack and joins the Dutch Resistance to avenge her family.  She soon confronts the ultimate test: she must infiltrate German headquarters by tempting Captain Ludwig Muentze.  In the heat of passion, he uncovers her duplicity...but keeps her secret.  Then Rachel's espionage reveals that a murderous traitor lurks within Resistance rangks.  Unable to fully trust anyone, Rachel navigates a minefield of deception and becomes an enemy to both sides.  Epic, passionate, and breathtaking, Black Book relates an untold story of World War II where the distinctions between good and evil become blurred by the complexities of human nature.
The opening of the film tells us the story is "inspired by true events".

The third movie I bought just yesterday on blu-ray, the 2008 movie Winter In Wartime.  The case tells us it's the winner of the 2009 Golden Calf at the Netherlands Film Festival, as well as the plot:
Nazi-occupied Holland, 1945.  In a snow-covered village, thirteen-year-old Michiel is drawn into the Resistance when he aids a wounded British paratrooper.  Michiel's boyish sense of defiance and adventure soon turns to danger and desperation, as Michiel is forced to act without knowing whom to trust among the adults and townspeople around him.  Wartime's harsh reality encroaches on childhood innocence as Michiel confronts good and evil, courage and duplicity, and his own burden of responsibility. 
All three of these films tell eternal stories of heroism in the face of the darkest evil.  The latter two show humanity in individual Germans, the duality creating conflict for the viewer.

These are great stories.

Update:  You know what I find interesting about listening to spoken Dutch?  It sounds to me like pidgin German.


Last night I started down the 90-day road to making limoncello--inspired to do so, of course, by last summer's trip to Italy.  I needed only the "zest" of the lemons, so what to do with the rest of 17 lemons?


When The Grim Reaper Calls....

A pregnant Maine woman and her friend visiting from Pennsylvania got lost hiking and were rescued but died later that evening, authorities said, when they accidentally drove their car into the ocean in the nighttime fog.  link
Isn't it ironic, don't you think?

NEA Members, Where Does Your Dues Money Go?

Over $1 million was given to the AFL-CIO.
$70,000 was given to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.
$55,000 was given to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.
$30,000 was given to Daily Kos.
$125,000 was given to Health Care For America Now!
$150,000 was given to the Ohio Democratic Party.
$250,000 was given to the University of Colorado Boulder Sponsored Project.
Over $4.5 million was given to We Are Ohio.

And there are so many more listed here.

Private organizations can give their money to whomever they want.  But since I'm legally required to give money to this organization, they should be equally required to spend it only on work related directly to teacher pay, benefits, and working conditions.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Getting My Master's Degree

I've been very up front about saying that the only reason I'm pursuing a master's degree is because I'm "topped out on my pay scale" and won't see another pay raise until I get one.  I chose to get one in math education (8 math classes, 2 education classes) through the University of Idaho Engineering Outreach Program instead of at a diploma mill, though, because I want to learn something that will make me a better classroom teacher.  This has already occurred--some things I learned in my Statistical Analysis class will make me a better statistics teacher.

I'd reconsider spending all this money, though, if I lived in North Carolina:
North Carolina took the first step to change their education system and make it better for the children. Governor Pat McCrory (R) signed a bill that eliminates teacher tenure and eliminates automatic pay increases for any teacher who earns a master’s degree.
I'm sure those on the left will say, "See, Darren?  Is this what you want when Republicans are in charge?"  Of course I would not like to see this, although some reining in of bogus master's degrees should take place.  My response, though, is "What do you expect Republicans to do, treat teachers like their best friends?"  Perhaps teachers and their unions should stop putting all their eggs in the Democratic basket.

True, But...

I'll say up front that Anthony Weiner is all the bad things people say he is.  I certainly wouldn't want him in government because he's a horrible person, but I would not bar him from government except by my vote.  That's one difference between being a politician and being a teacher:
At least one Staten Island resident doesn't agree with Anthony Weiner's assertion his mayoral bid is representative of the middle class in spite of the new sexting revelations.

Weiner was confronted by the voter right after telling reporters he would likely soon stop answering questions about his previous online relationships.

Identifying herself as a Democrat and retired New York City Department of Education employee, Peg Brunda told Weiner she spent 21 years as a teacher and then nine as an assistant principal. As a city employee, "had I conducted myself in the manner in which you conducted yours, my job would have been gone," Brunda said.

Brunda continued, "I don't quite understand how you would feel you have the moral authority as the head administrator in the city to oversee employees when your standard of conduct is so much lower than the standard of conduct that's expected of us."
Why would such personal and completely-legal behavior, that has nothing to do with kids at school, result in a teacher's being fired?  Would a teacher be fired if he/she were caught smoking marijuana (if so, one of those mythical teacher shortages you hear about every year or two would definitely take place)?  The teacher probably would not be.

For the 8 zillionth time, I assert that what teachers do on their own time is no one's business but their own (unless, of course, it relates to kids or school somehow).  Ms. Brunda is correct that she'd be fired, but she shouldn't be.

So Does This Fall Under Waste, Fraud, or Abuse?

From the major Sacramento newspaper:
Community college student Ernesto Fajardo was looking for a seasonal job two years ago when a friend told him about an opening at a federally subsidized tutoring company.

After passing a background check, Fajardo, then 20, began helping struggling Sacramento students who qualified for free tutoring under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

He said he quickly realized something was amiss with the company, which struggled financially and ultimately stopped paying him.

"They didn't give us any training," said Fajardo, who lives in Elk Grove. "They called to make sure we would turn in our paperwork. Other than that, they didn't care."

Yet this was a company that charged California school districts millions of dollars as part of a federally funded tutoring mandate called Supplemental Educational Services. Proponents of the SES program, which awards about $1,500 in tutoring to students at low- performing schools, call the service an educational lifeline.

Read more here:

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Bahamas Celebration

More than a few years ago I took a week-long vacation with a friend who booked the trip through Ramada (note:  I'll never stay at a Ramada again).  The only good part of the entire trip that Ramada had any control over was the 2-night cruise from Florida to Nassau on board the Bahamas Celebration, a converted European ferry.  Here's a phototour of that ship from USAToday.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Who Makes Up Our Military

This article provides some interesting information:

1.  Enlisted recruits and officers are more likely to come from middle- and upper-class neighborhoods.  Can you imagine why?  I certainly can.

2.  Racial minorities are not "overrepresented" in the military.

3.  In general, Democratic-voting states are "underrepresented" in the military while Republican-voting states are "overrepresented".

The charts at the link are fairly interesting.

Redneck Day--What's The Problem?

Was display of the Confederate flag the issue?  If so, how could anyone seriously conceive of Redneck Day and not the that flag would be involved?

Was the day insensitive to rednecks?

Do people need to put on their big girl panties (to paraphrase Margaret Spellings) and quit worrying about such stupidity?

The correct answers are yes, they're stupid, yes, and yes.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Stand Your Ground, and Statistics!

Former stats students, what can we say about the conclusion drawn from this post regarding "stand your ground" prosecutions?
White defenders: 12 of 21 were exonerated, a rate of 57%.

Black defenders: 8 of 11 were exonerated, a rate of 72%

Hispanic defenders: 2 or 2 were exonerated, a rate of 100%

So in the end, no retreat or stand your ground laws actually benefit minorities more than they do whites!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Very Strange First Amendment Case

I kinda lean toward FIRE's stance here, but the dude's still a creep.  I'm not sure psychological counseling and 3 semesters of expulsion are appropriate at all:
A Michigan college student who was suspended for writing an essay called "Hot For Teacher" had no First Amendment right to express his sexual attraction to his creative writing professor, a federal judge ruled. 

The lawsuit filed by the student, Joseph Corlett, 57, against Oakland University was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Patrick Duggan on Tuesday...

Corlett, a licensed residential builder, decided to pursue a college degree full-time in 2011 due to the economic downturn, according to the federal complaint.

He said he was under the impression that there were no restrictions on what he could write about in his journal for his creative writing class.

Corlett turned in the journal, containing the essay, in November 2011, and was shortly thereafter called into the dean's office for a meeting.

In January 2012, after a campus hearing, the university, located in Rochester, Mich., found Corlett guilty of intimidation. Another charge, for sexual harassment, was dropped. Corlett was suspended for three semesters, banned from stepping foot on campus and required to seek out psychological counseling before he could be eligible to re-enroll, according to his federal complaint.

You Can Bet That California Will Be The *Last* State To Jump Ship

Why?  Because this state is run by idiots, that's why:
President Barack Obama’s goal of holding all students across the U.S. to the same high academic standards may be on the verge of unraveling as states take a hard look at the more rigorous tests under development — and balk.

Backed by $360 million in federal grants, some 40-plus states have spent the past three years working with testing companies to develop math and language arts exams tied to the academic standards known as Common Core. They’re minimizing the dreary fill-in-the-bubble multiple choice in favor of more challenging tasks. Kids as young as third grade, for instance, will be asked to write essays synthesizing information from multiple nonfiction texts and to explain their reasoning on math problems.

Yet now that the new tests are almost ready, state officials are complaining that they’re too long and too costly and require too much computer technology. They’re also beginning to push back against the exams as an unwanted federal intrusion on local policy, echoing a groundswell of opposition from tea party critics of Common Core.

Georgia dropped out of the testing collaboration on Monday, saying it would create its own exams instead. Pennsylvania, Alabama, Oklahoma and Utah have already withdrawn. There are strong indications that Florida and Indiana will be next. Other populous states are also teetering. The Michigan Legislature has effectively nixed the new tests by blocking spending on them, though the ban may be revisited next fall. New York is officially undecided but it’s already spending heavily on alternatives. Texas and Virginia never signed on in the first place.

And analysts expect more defections to come.

Debt Clock

Holy crap!  Just comparing 2008 to today is enough to make you cry.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"Band Camp"

There are too many sickos in the world:
Fort Bend ISD says Kenyan Rodgers, 42, was arrested July 16 on charges of indecency with a child and aggravated sexual assault of a child.

Texas Southern University police arrested Rodgers following an alleged sexual assault investigation involving a 13-year-old girl who was on the university campus for band camp on July 15. Neither the child or the teacher are affiliated with the university.

"Right" Or "Good" Or Not, This Is The Very Definition Of A Nanny State

Certainly there are more important national issues with which to deal:
Saying that "the darkest corners of the Internet" pose a real threat to children, British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday rolled out a plan that would, by default, block pornography on most computers, smartphones and tablets.

British wireless and Internet providers have agreed to put adult-content filters on phones, public Wi-Fi networks and home computers in the coming months. By the end of the year, the filters will become the default setting for anyone setting up broadband Internet service at home, Cameron said.

"I'm not making this speech because I want to (moralize) or scare-monger, but because I feel profoundly as a politician, and as a father, that the time for action has come," Cameron said. "This is, quite simply, about how we protect our children and their innocence."

All of those filters could be deactivated by those who can "prove" they are 18 or older, Cameron said.
Parents are clearly not capable of doing what Nanny Dave wants done, so now government will decide who can watch what kind of porn.

So the darkest corners of the Internet pose a real threat to children?  Is that threat as strong as the threat posed by an all-encompassing Big Brother?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Using Software To Assist In Police Work

As glamorized on the TV series Numb3rs, math can be a terrific asset in the field of law enforcement.  Software can certainly be a part of that.  There are some potential pitfalls, though:  law enforcement can get too reliant on software and forget how to do actual police work, law enforcement and the public can put too much faith in the abilities of the software, and the potential for privacy abuse is significant.

I'm reminded of this post I wrote almost 7 years ago about going to the National Training Center with older equipment vs. newer equipment:
One of the NTC evaluators once said to us that brigades from the 4th Division often performed better than brigades with M1's and Bradleys. The reason, he said, was because units so equipped expected their superior equipment to win the battles for them, whereas units from the 4th, because our equipment was not noticeably superior to the faux Soviet equipment (except in night operations), relied on our tactics and battle plans to win the day.
It's certainly easy to fall into that trap, though, and while I worry about that, the privacy concerns obviously loom larger.

The Economist has a lengthy article on the subject, which I'll excerpt here:
Criminal offences, like infectious disease, form patterns in time and space. A burglary in a placid neighbourhood represents a heightened risk to surrounding properties; the threat shrinks swiftly if no further offences take place. These patterns have spawned a handful of predictive products which seem to offer real insight. During a four-month trial in Kent, 8.5% of all street crime occurred within PredPol’s pink boxes, with plenty more next door to them; predictions from police analysts scored only 5%. An earlier trial in Los Angeles saw the machine score 6% compared with human analysts’ 3%.

Intelligent policing can convert these modest gains into significant reductions in crime. Cops working with predictive systems respond to call-outs as usual, but when they are free they return to the spots which the computer suggests. Officers may talk to locals or report problems, like broken lights or unsecured properties, that could encourage crime. Within six months of introducing predictive techniques in the Foothill area of Los Angeles, in late 2011, property crimes had fallen 12% compared with the previous year; in neighbouring districts they rose 0.5% (see chart). Police in Trafford, a suburb of Manchester in north-west England, say relatively simple and sometimes cost-free techniques, including routing police driving instructors through high-risk areas, helped them cut burglaries 26.6% in the year to May 2011, compared with a decline of 9.8% in the rest of the city...

Predicting and forestalling crime does not solve its root causes. Positioning police in hotspots discourages opportunistic wrongdoing, but may encourage other criminals to move to less likely areas. And while data-crunching may make it easier to identify high-risk offenders—about half of American states use some form of statistical analysis to decide when to parole prisoners—there is little that it can do to change their motivation.

Misuse and overuse of data can amplify biases. It matters, for example, whether software crunches reports of crimes or arrests; if the latter, police activity risks creating a vicious circle. And report-based systems may favour rich neighbourhoods which turn to the police more readily rather than poor ones where crime is rife. Crimes such as burglary and car theft are more consistently reported than drug dealing or gang-related violence.
It's vital that the software itself, and the uses to which law enforcement puts such software, be absolutely transparent.  "Black box" solutions don't do anyone any good in math class, and I don't see how they'll provide any better solution in law enforcement.
But mathematical models might make policing more equitable by curbing prejudice. A suspicious individual’s presence in a “high-crime area” is among the criteria American police may use to determine whether a search is acceptable: a more rigorous definition of those locations will stop that justification being abused. Detailed analysis of a convict’s personal history may be a fairer reason to refuse parole than similarity to a stereotype.
Can the police use what you put on social media without a warrant?  Yes, it's public, and you made it public, but they can't tail you in public without a warrant--but they can listen to your conversations if you speak loudly enough.  Which example is the correct one with social media?
The legal limits on using social media to fish out likely wrongdoers, or create files on them, are contested. Most laws governing police investigations pre-date social networking, and some forces assert that all information posted to public forums is fair game. But Jamie Bartlett of Demos, a British think-tank, says citizens and police forces need clearer guidance about how to map physical-world privacy rights onto online spaces. He thinks gathering information about how someone behaves on social sites ought to require the same clearance needed to monitor them doggedly in public places. Officers who register anonymously or pseudonymously to read content, or send web crawlers to trawl sites against their owner’s wishes, would require yet more supervision.
Very vexing issues, which I'm sure will keep the next generation of  lawyers well-paid and the next generation of law enforcement, lawmakers, and the judicial system very busy.

Not Even Subtle

Normally I wouldn't mind, but given recent events, this is disconcerting. 
"Ve are vatching you."

Excuse me, there's a knock at the door....

30th High School Reunion

This weekend was my 30th reunion, with events scheduled each day.  I went to the mixer on Friday night at a house not too far from mine, as well as to the family picnic yesterday.  I skipped the dinner/dance on Saturday, that's just not my thing.

Here are a couple pics from yesterday:
 The last few of us who couldn't leave just yet.

Joellen and I have known each other since 3rd grade.  She also went to grad school with a classmate of mine from West Point!

Me relaxing.

As with 5 years ago, and every 5 years before that, our class' counselor was feted like a rock star.  He first started teaching in 1959!  I don't have a pic of him here but he looks the same :-)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Remember This Old Song?

You might be thinking, where have I seen Suzi Quatro before?  I know that name.... Well, the source of all knowledge remembers better than any of us:
Quatro is known in the United States for her role as female bass player Leather Tuscadero on the television show Happy Days. Show producer Garry Marshall offered the role without an audition after seeing a picture of her on his daughter's bedroom wall. Leather was the younger sister of Fonzie's girlfriend, hot-rod driver Pinky Tuscadero. Leather fronted a rock band joined by principal character Joanie Cunningham. The character returned in other cameo roles, including once for a date to a fraternity formal with Ralph Malph. Marshall offered Quatro a Leather Tuscadero spin-off, but she refused, saying she did not want to be typecast.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Advanced Placement Classes and Tests

I teach statistics.  Not AP statistics, just regular ole statistics.  Mine is one of the few schools I know of where a non-AP statistics class is taught.

I teach the AP statistics content, however.  If I were to teach ordinary stats content as defined under California's 1997 math standards (I've seen too many versions of Common Core standards to know yet what I'm supposed to teach!), the course wouldn't take a semester.  In fact, under California's standardized testing regime, most of the non-AP standards are assessed on Algebra 2 students--even though this statistics material isn't part of the Algebra 2 standards!

It's a very goofed-up system.

As I said, I teach the AP content.  No, I don't teach it to the detail or rigor required of an AP course, but I teach the content (and then some).  I've had students email me from college and tell me they didn't learn anything in their college stats classes because they'd learned all the material in my class.  It's rewarding to hear that.

I tell my students that if they're doing well in class, and if they're willing to put in a little bit of additional effort, they could do well on the AP test.  I don't recall how many students I had who took the AP Stats test this year, but I could remember 3 by name.  I haven't heard from one of them but the other two both scored 4's.  I'm fairly pleased.

That's a long introduction to this story in the major Sacramento newspaper:
Performance on AP tests has improved locally even as more students take them. About 62 percent of AP tests in the region featured scores high enough to earn college credit last year, up from 60 percent in 2010 and 56 percent in 2005, state figures show...

Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education, recently conducted a review into the value of AP classes. She said the rise in students taking the classes may not be as positive as many parents and administrators hope.

"There is really not clear research on what you get out of an AP course," she said. "Will you do better in college, save money or get out of certain classes and perform better in classes? There is not good data"...

While many universities grant college credit to students who score at least a 3 out of 5, top private schools have stricter criteria and typically require a 4 or 5 depending on the subject.

Charles Cole, senior associate director of admissions and outreach at California State University, Sacramento, said students who come into college with AP credits have a clear advantage. About 1,500 of the school's 3,100 freshmen had AP credit upon admission last year, up 17 percent from 2011, he said.
This ties in tangentially with this post of mine from 2 1/2 years ago.

Read more here:

Friday, July 19, 2013

They're Looking At The Wrong Thing

Let's get right into our story:
In January, San Jose State University made a big announcement: It had reached a deal with the startup Udacity to offer college classes for credit online, for a modest fee, not only to its own students but to anyone who wanted to take them. The move was touted as a major step in online learning’s Clay Christensen-approved march toward the ultimate disruption of higher education.

It seems, however, that there are a few more kinks to work out before we all toss out the books and the buildings for good. Inside Higher Ed reported on Thursday that San Jose State is suspending the Udacity partnership just six months after it launched. The problem: More than half the students in the first batch of online courses failed their final exams.
If you're concerned about the quality of education, and about high standards, a high failure rate isn't a priori a bad thing; what you really want to know is to what standard was the course taught, how were the students assessed, and are the assessment results a valid representation of what the students learned.  None of that was mentioned in this story, only the failure rate was--which leads me to wonder if San Jose State is dropping this partnership for no other reason than it made them look bad.

Tracking Students

I've never been one to believe that minors have exactly the same rights as adults do, but this is Orwellian even if it is legal:
San Antonio School District Will Track Students With RFID

Some parents, though, are not happy:
Protesters say the RFID chips infringe on civil liberties, privacy rights and religious freedoms and children don't need to be "tracked."
Personally I don't see any violation of religious freedom here, and to argue such is patently silly.  Doesn't mean the RFID chips are OK, just that that's not a good argument against them.  The other arguments, though...
After a drawn-out battle waged in court and within the community, school officials with the Northside Independent School District have announced their decision to stop using a student tracking program that relied on RFID tracking badges containing tiny chips that produce a radio signal, enabling school officials to track students’ location on school property.
If we teach kids to accept to accept such surveillance, how can we expect them to think like free citizens as adults?  For that same reason I deplore so much of what is taught in schools....


A friend of mine and I often used to joke about how none of the events in Alanis Morissette's song Ironic is, in fact, ironic, and it turns out we're not the only ones who noticed.  These two girls modified the lyrics so that the song matches the title, and it's pretty entertaining!

Of course, if you're one of those who thinks that the irony is that none of the events described is ironic, well, you probably won't appreciate this new version.

For A Guy Who Never Met A Dictator He Didn't Like....

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter is so concerned about the NSA spying scandal that he thinks it has essentially resulted in a suspension of American democracy.
“America does not at the moment have a functioning democracy,” he said at an event in Atlanta on Tuesday sponsored by the Atlantik Bruecke, a private nonprofit association working to further the German-U.S. relationship. The association’s name is German for “Atlantic bridge.”
Link here.

Why No Blogging Yesterday

A friend from Las Vegas has been here the last couple of days, and since he's never been to Northern California before....

click to enlarge

What you're seeing here is some of the best Northern California has to offer--Sacramento, the gold discovery site at Coloma, and Lake Tahoe.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Why California's University Costs Are Rising So Much

I don't want to kick in one more cent of tax money until this is addressed:
Yet UC’s annual spending exceeds that of most state governments, amounting to roughly $100,000 for each of its students. Much of this is unrelated to instructional function. The university’s bureaucracy is famously monumental, centralized and costly: Aside from a full cohort of administrators and support staff at each of the 10 campuses, the central office in Oakland employs more than 2,000 workers, a staggering number (2,358 full-time employees, according to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System). There are 10 “divisions” in the Office of the President, for example. Its “external relations” division lists more than 55 managerial-type employees on organizational charts, and that number doesn’t include support personnel.

The “business operations” and “academic affairs” divisions are much larger. One senior non-UC university president said to me once that the central office could be reduced by more than half and the university wouldn’t suffer.

The university took some budgetary hits from the state in recent years but offset them with huge tuition increases. No serious attempt was made to vastly cut costs. How many senior faculty at, say, Berkeley teach more than 200 hours a year? How much of the so-called research by these professors is read or cited? I suspect a lot of it has little impact. How many buildings lie largely dormant for months each year?

What Does This Have To Do With My Pay, Benefits, and Working Conditions?

Crap like this is exactly why I'm not a member of a teachers union:
The National Education Association and the Federation of Teachers, which together represent some 4.5 million teachers and others, both are urging the Department of Justice to investigate George Zimmerman, who was acquitted by a jury of second-degree murder in the Florida killing of teenager Trayvon Martin.
When the unions I'm required to support will focus (only) on my pay, benefits, and working conditions,  I'll gladly pay, be a member, and stop resisting them.  Until then they can kiss my ...

Update:  Why do I support this guy?  I don't.  I don't think he's an angel, but I don't think he needs to be sacrificed just because the kid he killed was black.  This grievance-industrial complex must come to an end.

Here's some more information about Zimmerman, though, that doesn't fit the narrative:
Zimmerman Was a Democrat, Voted For Obama, Tutored Black Kids (Video). Not quite your white Republican racist stereotype, is he, lefties?

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Brief History of Jurisprudence Regarding Teachers Unions

Larry Sand, president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network (full disclosure: I'm on the board of directors of CTEN), has published yet another fantastic article in City Journal.  While we hope against hope for a reasonable ruling in the CEAI case, Larry provides some information on court rulings regarding union membership:
Some background: in 1977, in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the Court ruled that compulsory dues are unconstitutional and that unions could collect only those fees necessary for collective bargaining and sundry other representational activities. (The justices extended their ruling to private unions 11 years later, in Communication Workers of America v. Beck.) In 1986, in Teachers v. Hudson, the Court set out specific requirements that unions must meet to collect fees from nonmembers without violating their First Amendment rights. But nonmembers blanched as unions took a more expansive interpretation of the Court’s decisions. And so the justices last year issued a somewhat sterner rebuke in Knox v. Service Employees International Union, Local 1000. In that case, brought by the National Right to Work Foundation, the justices ruled 7–2 that the SEIU could not force its nonmembers to pay the portion of union dues spent on political activities—even if the union believed it was for the workers’ own good. In 2005 and 2006, as part of its campaign to defeat Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and a pair of ballot initiatives that would reduce union power and reform pensions, the SEIU imposed a temporary, 25 percent across-the-board dues hike on its dues-paying members and some 28,000 fee-paying nonmembers alike. The union argued that campaigning against the initiatives would benefit all workers. Had this view prevailed, it would have eradicated the legal distinction between politics and collective bargaining. But even liberal justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg saw through it and voted with the majority. 
Now you know.   And if you're a California teacher and want out of the union, check out CTEN's web site (here specifically).

Common Core Math

If true at all, one wonders why people would celebrate adoption of these standards:
The notion that Common Core’s college and career readiness standards are “rigorous” needs to be publicly put to bed by Arne Duncan, his erstwhile friends at the Fordham Institute, and the media. Two of Common Core’s own mathematics standards writers have publicly stated how weak Common Core’s college readiness mathematics standards are. At a public meeting of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in March 2010, physics professor Jason Zimba said: “the concept of college readiness is minimal and focuses on non-selective colleges.” Mathematics professor William McCallum told a group of mathematicians: “the overall standards would not be too high, certainly not in comparison [to] other nations, including East Asia, where math education excels.” What words don’t Duncan, Finn, Petrilli, and the media understand? Why keep on pretending that Fordham Institute’s A- for Common Core’s math standards was an honest grade.

Stumbled Upon Two Oldies But Goodies

These deserve a reprise:
Useless New Math Credential
Using Sports To Teach Stats

Are You Surprised By These Results? I'm Not....

It's been a long time since I've taken an internet political quiz--well, it had been a long time up till a few minutes ago!

I side with Republicans on most political issues.

Parties you side with...

on social, economic, environmental, domestic policy, immigration, and science issues

on domestic policy and economic issues

no major issues

Green Party
Green Party 
no major issues

no major issues 

Parties you side with by issue...

More important to me
I side with Republicans  on most immigration issues.
More important to me
Domestic Policy
I side with Republicans  on most domestic policy issues.
More important to me
I side with Democrats  and Libertarians  on most healthcare issues.
More important to me
I side with Republicans  on most social issues.
More important to me
the Environment
I side with Republicans  on most environmental issues.
More important to me
Foreign Policy
I side with Libertarians , Green Party , and Republicans  on most foreign policy issues.
More important to me
the Economy
I side with Republicans  on most economic issues.
Somewhat important to me
I side with Republicans  on most science issues.
The quiz itself is at

Where Does This Motivation Come From?

I put up the patio cover/gazebo.  Bought new patio furniture.  Assembled the picnic table.  Today I stained the underside of the picnic table and disassembled the hot tub enclosure.

Tomorrow I'll stain the top side of the picnic table, and use the picket fencing from the hot tub enclosure to make a new gate to keep Boomer in the back yard.

Still need to repair the patio concrete, but the supplies are already purchased and ready to go.

What the heck?  I'm supposed to be lounging with a Kindle in one hand and an iced tea in the other.  Where is all this motivation to work coming from???

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Old Grad

Almost a year ago I posted, erroneously, that I was in the older half of all living graduates of West Point.  I just checked the web site of the Association of Graduates and the midpoint of all living graduates is now from early in the Class of '88.


Racially Integrating Our Schools

That people still talk of this brings back memories of busing nightmares in the early 1970s:
School segregation remains a reality: “74 percent of African Americans still attend majority nonwhite schools, compared to just over 76 percent in the late 1960s,” writes The Nation‘s Greg Kauffman.

But there’s a demographic reality to consider, responds Matthew Yglesias in Slate. U.S. schools are running low on white kids.

Non-Hispanic whites were 54 percent of the under-18 population in 2010, compared to 74 percent in 1980, according to the Census Bureau. Furthermore, among kids under the age of 5, non-Hispanic whites are a minority...

We can’t integrate our way to better school performance, agrees Sara Mead. That includes socio-economic integration, the dream of “smart liberal school reformers in recent years.” Like whites, middle-class students from two-parent families are in short supply and not evenly distributed.

The challenge is to design schools to meet the needs of low-income, minority students.
I have no doubt that this design includes modifying culture to one that values education.

Playing Games With Taxes

Why should tanning booths be taxed more to pay for Obamacare?
Why should phone service be taxed more to pay for Common Core?
The Obama administration may raise taxes on everyone’s phone lines by about $5 per year to increase K-12 tech subsidies because most schools cannot administer the computerized Common Core tests coming out in 2015.

President Obama announced the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will likely overhaul the schools and libraries universal service support program, commonly known as E-Rate. He also asked the U.S. Department of Education to use federal funding to give teachers more training in using technology.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Physics At Princeton

The problem is societal, and schools will not be able to fix what society has broken.  We need a societal shift, one that values education and doesn't give out trophies for mere participation, or the problem continues:
I also worry that Princeton, and presumably other like universities, are not addressing the current generational shift. About five years ago, a working committee on which I served decided to jettison three weeks of course material in order to concentrate on the remainder. Otherwise we teach physics at Princeton much as it was taught fifty years ago. To this day corridor arguments persist between old-timers who believe we are engaged in a race to the bottom and those who believe that we must adapt or die. I am of two minds. None of us embraces a dumbed-down course, but at the same time it seems to me that the typical faculty response, “Freshman physics hasn’t changed in fifty years, why should we?” is a recipe for slow suicide. Unfortunately the “advanced” methods of professional science educators—each of whom seems to feel he or she is in possession of the magic bullet—leave the majority of active physicists, including myself, cold. I do know that in the long run the students will win, but if winning means teaching the students currently being produced by our high schools, then either high schools must wake up to the demands and to the competition, or universities must be prepared for a drawn-out Pyrrhic victory.
The prognosis is gloomy.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Among All The Crappy Things Going On In The Country Lately...

Here's some good news:
Wal-Mart is rolling out the first batch of new Twinkies in 1,600 stores on Friday. And by Sunday, Twinkies will be available in 3,000 Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500) stores, according to company spokeswoman Veronica Marshall.

Wal-Mart is selling Twinkies in an exclusive collectible box that says "First Batch" on the packaging and has the new Twinkies tagline: "The Sweetest Comeback in the History of Ever." They cost $2.98 for a box of 10.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


I buy DVD's/blu-rays all the time, but the last CD I can remember buying was about 8 years ago; usually I just buy individual songs from iTunes or Amazon.  I stopped by Best Buy today, though, to check out movies and saw this 2-CD Journey set for only $10 and had to buy it.  Check out the songs!
Disc 1

"Only the Young" – 4:05, from the soundtrack to the 1985 film Vision Quest
"Don't Stop Believin'" – 4:09, from the 1981 album Escape
"Wheel in the Sky" – 4:13, from the 1978 album Infinity
"Faithfully" – 4:26, from the 1983 album Frontiers
"Any Way You Want It" – 3:22, from the 1980 album Departure
"Ask the Lonely" – 3:54, from the soundtrack to the 1983 film Two of a Kind
"Who's Crying Now" – 5:01, from the 1981 album Escape
"Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)" – 5:26, from the 1983 album Frontiers
"Lights" – 3:10, from the 1978 album Infinity
"Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'" – 3:54, from the 1979 album Evolution
"Open Arms" – 3:19, from the 1981 album Escape
"Girl Can't Help It" – 3:50, from the 1986 album Raised on Radio
"Send Her My Love" – 3:55, from the 1983 album Frontiers
"When You Love a Woman" – 4:08, from the 1996 album Trial By Fire
"I'll Be Alright Without You" – 4:34, from the 1986 album Raised on Radio
"After the Fall" – 5:01, from the 1983 album Frontiers

Disc 2

"Chain Reaction" – 4:20, from the 1983 album Frontiers
"Message of Love" – 5:34, from the 1996 album Trial By Fire
"Somethin' to Hide" – 3:30, from the 1978 album Infinity
"Line of Fire" – 3:18, from the 1981 live album Captured
"Anytime" – 3:28, from the 1978 album Infinity
"Stone in Love" – 4:25, from the 1981 album Escape
"Patiently" – 3:22, from the 1978 album Infinity
"Good Morning Girl" – 1:44, from the 1980 album Departure
"The Eyes of a Woman" – 4:33, from the 1986 album Raised on Radio
"Be Good to Yourself" – 3:52, from the 1986 album Raised on Radio
"Still They Ride" – 3:49, from the 1981 album Escape
"Baby I'm a Leavin' You" – 2:47, from the 1996 album Trial by Fire
"Mother, Father" – 5:28, from the 1981 album Escape
"Just the Same Way" – 3:18, from the 1979 album Evolution
"Escape" – 5:17, from the 1981 album Escape
"The Party's Over (Hopelessly in Love)" – 3:41, from the 1981 live album Captured
I'm essentially reliving high school right now, which is pretty cool with my 30th reunion in a week!

Racial Hatred

To add to this post and this post I offer a quote from Thomas Sowell:
I am so old that I can remember when most of the people promoting race hate were white...

The time is long overdue to stop looking for progress through racial or ethnic leaders. Such leaders have too many incentives to promote polarizing attitudes and actions that are counterproductive for minorities and disastrous for the country.

New Patio Furniture To Complement The Patio Cover

The few people who have seen the completed patio cover in person have all had the same remark--I need a new patio table.  The plastic one is about 15 years old, it's warped, and it's ugly. 

I went to a few different places today and settled on an ordinary wood picnic table--as well as two molded plastic Adirondack chairs :-)  I pick them up tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

George Zimmerman's Trial

Instapundit did a great job here:
RACIAL HATEMONGERING ON THE TAXPAYER’S DIME: Newly Released Documents Detail the Department of Justice’s Role in Organizing Trayvon Martin Protests. “Judicial Watch announced today that it has obtained documents proving that the Department of Justice played a major behind-the-scenes role in organizing protests against George Zimmerman. Zimmerman is on trial for second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in February 2012.”

So not only did we have a public statement by the President that might have tainted the jury pool, but now we find the Department of Justice was involved in, basically, organizing a lynch mob?

Related: Disorder: Judge Recesses Zimmerman Trial, Excludes Damning Evidence. “Trayvon Martin’s phone had hundreds of messages discussing criminal behavior, including trafficking black-market firearms.” So maybe the folks at DOJ felt they had something in common with him . . . .

UPDATE: “The Zimmerman trial says a lot about race in America — just not what the mainstream media want the story to be.”

Look at the residents of this ‘gated community’ who lived just in that one spot. It is more diverse than a Democrat photo-op. This neighborhood had young and old, Asians and blacks and whites and Hispanics all living next to each other in peace, but needing gates and a neighborhood watch to protect themselves from outsiders.
Without the race-baiters — now almost exclusively to be found in the Democratic Party and its media wing — Americans get along pretty well. And it’s certainly a more diverse crowd than at Obama Campaign HQ.
Posted at 12:57 pm by Glenn Reynolds
CNN is still referring to Zimmerman as a "white Hispanic", apparently the only example of such in the entire history of the news service:
Florida authorities have a message as the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial looms: raise your voice, not your hands.

Anticipating that the outcome of the very public, and racially-tinged, case is likely to disappoint one swath of the population or another, law enforcement agencies have set up a response plan.

Part of it is a public service announcement that the Broward County Sheriff's Office released this week.

In it, a black teenage boy and a Hispanic girl urge viewers to "stand together as one. No cuffs, no guns."

 Zimmerman is a white Hispanic who is on trial for last year's shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a black teen, in Sanford city. Sanford is in Seminole County.
The effective lynching of that man, what he's had to suffer, it staggers the mind.

Update, 7/14/13:  The trial's over and there's plenty of good stuff on the internet, like this:
“So a Hispanic shoots a black and is acquitted by women, but it’s still white men’s fault.”

Why Does It Have To Be This Difficult?

For the past several years I've purchased a savings bond and some stock for my son for his birthday and for Christmas.

Perhaps a year ago the Bureau of the Public Debt stopped issuing paper savings bonds; new bonds are now just electrons on a computer somewhere.  I decided to stop purchasing bonds and put that additional money towards stocks.

I bank with Major California Bank.  It used to be that I could go online, transfer money from my account to my son's savings account, and then transfer that same sum from his savings account to his brokerage account, from which I would purchase stock.  Then, a couple years ago, they put a new hitch in the process--I couldn't transfer the money from his savings to his brokerage account online, I had to call them and they would conduct that transfer.  Odd and inefficient, but not exceedingly difficult.

My son's birthday is coming up so yesterday I called MCB to transfer the money to his brokerage account.  They said they couldn't do that, the accounts aren't the "right type".  After much discussion, I was able to understand their bottom line--due to types of accounts my son's accounts are, as well as the types mine are, there is no possible way at this time to put money into his brokerage account.  At all.  It would take both of us going into a branch and filling out a form in order to turn his savings account into the type that would then allow us to transfer money from there into his brokerage account.

MCB was kind enough to email me this form in response to my complaint, but they didn't answer my question:  what has changed, and why?  Why can I no longer do what I used to be able to do?  Why is there no way to put money into his brokerage account today?

So now it's no savings bonds or stock.  Silver prices have plummeted recently, I think I'll go spend that money on silver bullion.

Update, 7/11/13:  After a couple emails with the bank I've learned that it *isn't* a new law mandating this, it's the bank's own "compliance department".   Attorneys sit around just thinking up crap like this.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Common Core Has Caused the Math Wars To Heat Up Again

The "standards of mathematical practice", how we're supposed to teach, embedded in the Common Core is NCTM's wet dream. Their standards didn't work in the 90s and there's no reason to think they're going to work now. The Math Cold War looks to be getting hot again:
The New York Times recently published a piece called “The Faulty Logic of the Math Wars” by W. Stephen Wilson (a math professor at Johns Hopkins University) and Alice Crary. It focuses on the beliefs and practices of those known as math reformers. For over twenty years, there has been a battle between two philosophies of how best to teach math in the K-12 arena. The differences of opinion have resulted in what has come to be known as the “math wars”.

While the article itself is worth reading, I found the reaction of the readers to be equally fascinating. They revealed the ideological divide that defines this “war”. I was reminded of Tom Wolfe’s famous description of the reaction of the New Yorker literati to his 1965 article in the New York Herald Tribune that criticized the culture of The New Yorker magazine: “They screamed like weenies over a wood fire.”

Many of those who commented on the Times article about math agreed with the premise of the article and expressed their appreciation for viewpoint that supported the teaching of standard algorithms such as adding and multiplying multi-digit numbers. Others accused the authors of casting the situation as one of either/or, and that their claims that the teaching of standard algorithms in the early grades is avoided is an exaggeration.
This is the part of what we're being force-fed at my school that drives me nuts:
Which brings us to what is actually meant by “understanding”. What the reform camp means by understanding is different than from what many mathematicians and those in the more traditional camp mean. The reform approach to “understanding” is teaching small children never to trust the math, unless you can visualize why it works. If you can’t “visualize” it, you can’t explain it. And if you can’t explain it, then you don’t “understand” it. According to Robert Craigen, math professor at University of Manitoba, “Forcing students to use inefficient procedures that require ham-handed handling of place value so that they articulate “meaning” out loud in every stage is the arithmetic equivalent of forcing a reader to keep his finger on the page and to sound out every word, every time, with no progression of reading skill.”
I like evidence. I definitely like this suggestion:
Why don’t those arguing for better math education look at what those students are doing who are succeeding in pursuing majors in science, engineering or math? It is likely that you will see students learning standard algorithms and practicing many drills and problems (deemed dull, tedious and “mind numbing”) and other techniques viewed by reformers as not resulting in true, deep understanding. But such an outcome based investigation is not occurring.
The article closes thusly:
And in answer to the statement that we’re all saying the same thing: No. We’re not saying the same thing at all.
No, we most assuredly are not.

Patio Cover, Day 9: Mission Accomplished!

I worked more than an hour a day.

I knew what to do when I started because I'd already helped assemble my mother's.

Had some assistance the last few days.

Now it's time to enjoy!

They Keep Telling Me There's No Such Thing As Media Bias....

Take a look here, then tell me with a straight face there's no such thing as media bias.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Patio Cover, Day 8

Thanks to some assistance my month-long project has perhaps 1 day left:

Personal Views and Public Accommodation

This post, which I copy in its entirety, highlights a situation that can pull me in two different directions:
The Ugliness of Reverse Animus

by Stephen H. Miller on July 6, 2013

The 68-year-old proprietress of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington, is the target of a lawsuit by Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson because she refused to provide wedding flowers for a customer who was marrying his partner. Washington state legalized same-sex marriage in December.

According to CNN’s Belief Blog, Barronelle Stutzman, an evangelical, “said she agonized over the decision but couldn’t support a wedding that her faith forbids. ‘I was not discriminating at all,’ she said. ‘I never told him he couldn’t get married. I gave him recommendations for other flower shops.’”

Not surprisingly, “Among conservative Christians, Stutzman has become a byword—part cautionary tale and part cause celebre.”

Must progressivism decree that the power of the state be so absolute that there be no exemption from its dictate for religious conviction, not to speak of individual liberty? Apparently so, given Obamacare’s model of requiring private business owners to pay for their employees contraception, including abortifacient drugs, despite their religious convictions. In both cases, the state is not stopping one party from harming another; its forcing what it sees as positive behavior upon those who have a different view.

The pagans persecuted the Christians, and then the Christians came to power and persecuted the pagans. Similarly, there’s more here of animus against those who deviate from the one-true correct political line than anything else. It’s not only mean and vulgar, it’s politically counterproductive. But I’m sure using the power of the state to crush those who don’t toe the line makes those who can now persecute feel smugly empowered.
Of course I agree with the last two paragraphs, but that's not what I want to focus on.  I want to focus on telling people you don't want their business.

Yes, we have free speech and religious rights, and I defend them quite vigorously on this blog.  As an entrepreneur, though, you're engaged as part of society in commerce, and we as a society are not going to allow such apartheid.  We're not going back to "no coloreds allowed" businesses.  We're just not.

I will support the pharmacist who doesn't want to sell RU-486 in his personal pharmacy; no one should be compelled to sell anything they don't want to sell in their own business.  However, business owners cannot turn customers away in our society; they cannot refuse to sell to certain people.  To the florist above:  you're not supporting gay marriage, you're selling flowers.  Would you refuse to sell flowers to someone of a different religion, or a different political party?  As a society we've decided that you cannot.  And I'm OK with that decision.

Krugman Finally Gets A Clue

From the New York Times:
Friday’s employment report wasn’t bad. But given how depressed our economy remains, we really should be adding more than 300,000 jobs a month, not fewer than 200,000. As the Economic Policy Institute points out, we would need more than five years of job growth at this rate to get back to the level of unemployment that prevailed before the Great Recession. Full recovery still looks a very long way off. And I’m beginning to worry that it may never happen. 
Really, Paul?  Not a "full recovery"?  Why do you think that is?   Could it have anything to do with that socialist in the White House, and all the social legislation that you've cheered for so long?  You think maybe?

Of course you don't.  You stopped thinking a long time ago.

Echo Chamber Liberals

No one really believes that liberals are open-minded, but they still try to tell us they are.  My latest data point that they live in echo chambers is this information from Gallup, reported in the Washington Post.  Note the percentages shown in the graphic from that link:

About 4x the percentage of Republicans watch Fox over CNN, but over 15x the percentage of Democrats watch CNN over Fox.  Throw in "leaners" and the ratios change to 3.6x and 21x, respectively.

Conservatives watch Fox over CNN by a ratio of 3.76:1, moderates watch CNN over Fox by a ratio of 3:1, but liberals watch CNN over Fox by a ration of 13:1.

Which party and ideology seems more willing to listen to the other side?

7 Education Myths

Absolutely correct:

Her seven myths:
1 – Facts prevent understanding
2 – Teacher-led instruction is passive
3 – The 21st century fundamentally changes everything
4 – You can always just look it up
5 – We should teach transferable skills
6 – Projects and activities are the best way to learn
7 – Teaching knowledge is indoctrination
No Child Left Behind failed because “American educators, dutifully following the seven myths, regard reading as a skill that could be employed without relevant knowledge,” writes Hirsch. They wasted time on “strategies” for test taking.

Hirsch fears Common Core State Standards, which he supports, will fail too if teachers are “compelled to engage in the same superficial, content-indifferent activities, given new labels like ‘text complexity’ and ‘reading strategies’.”
Numbers 1 and 2 are big for me; I marvel that anyone is ignorant enough to believe them.  Number 6 just drives me nuts.

Learning Algebra In 42 Minutes

I'm skeptical--not because I'm some sort of math purist or anything, but because my own experience with manipulatives and apps and "let's make learning fun by turning it into a game" informs me that the hype is much greater than the reality (Gettysburg aside).

From Forbes:
On average, it took 41 minutes and 44 seconds for students to master Algebra skills during the Washington State Algebra Challenge using the DragonBox App.

The Challenge, co-sponsored by Washington University’s Center for Game Science and the Technology Alliance included 4,192 K-12 students. Together, they solved 390,935 equations over the course of 5 days in early June. According to the Challenge’s calculations, that’s 6 months, 28 days, and 2 hours worth of algebra work.

What’s even more impressive, “of those students who played at least 1.5 hours, 92.9% achieved mastery. Of those students who played at least 1 hour, 83.8% achieved mastery. Of those students who played at least 45 minutes, 73.4% achieved mastery.”
How was this mastery evaluated? That's not mentioned in the story.
I downloaded the app and was astonished to see how quickly my son (then 7) learned to do complex algebraic equations.
Does anyone believe that a normal 1st grader can really do algebra?  It drives me nuts when non-math people show off something some young child is doing and say "this is algebra!"  Uh, the vast majority of the time it's not.  If it were, we wouldn't still be struggling to get some 12th graders to pass algebra.

Unless you think that this app is the silver bullet we've been missing all along.  My experience is that there is often a huge gap between the game or manipulative and the transference of what's learned there to actual algebra.

Yes, I'm skeptical.  Show me.

Update, 7/9/13Linked by Joanne :-)

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Patio Cover, Day 7

Much progress today:
The roof panels go up tomorrow.

My son and 3 of his friends, along with grandpa and our two new neighbors, helped me lift that roof and put the pedestals under it.  Went smooth as silk with that many people lifting!  (It's heavy--that's not aluminum, but sheet metal.)

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall, Who's The Most Racist Of Them All?

From the Wall Street Journal Online, commenting on a Rasmussen poll:
But the results for blacks are a big surprise. Blacks are more likely (by 7 percentage points) to think most blacks are racist than to think most whites are. Moreover, they are 11 points likelier than liberals (regardless of race) to think most blacks are racist, and 9 points likelier than Democrats. And blacks are 3 points less likely than liberals to think most whites are racist.

All of which suggests that the people likeliest to believe most whites are racist and most blacks are not are those who are both liberal and white. Which reinforces a point we've made often in this column: that a lot of what drives the futile debate over race in America is white liberals' psychological need to feel morally superior to other whites.  (boldface mine--Darren)

Patio Cover, Day 6

As I said, I'm trying to do the "slow and steady wins the race" approach to getting this cover assembled, spending about an hour a day and hoping to be done by the end of July.  I've been working in the evenings lately, but my son is a lifeguard at a local water park and he's taking me on the slides when his shift is done today; therefore, I had to work early.  Here's today's progress:

Friday, July 05, 2013

Patio Cover, Day 5

Decided to watch a movie with my son tonight, so all I accomplished today was staging material for tomorrow:

No Longer The Highest View of the Internet

From the New York Times:
AltaVista, once the most advanced and comprehensive search engine on the Web, is just days away from its last breath...

Readers who are 18 years old and younger will probably ask, “What’s an AltaVista?” In short, it was one of the first and most successful search engines. It was founded in 1995 by Digital Equipment Corporation.

Happy Songs 2

In this post from three years ago I listed the songs I put on a mix CD.  It's time to follow up and make a new CD.

Suggestions?  Following the criteria I laid out then, this song has to be on it.  I don't care if others don't like who sings it, it's upbeat and cheerful!

Race, Discrimination, and the Left

Jonah Goldberg nails it in this essay.  Here are a few snippets:
Of course there are important differences between an incestuous or a polygamous marriage and a loving committed relationship between two homosexuals. Indeed, it’s instructive that many gay-rights activists take offense whenever opponents say that legalizing gay marriage will lead to polygamy, incest or bestiality. They insist such comparisons are ridiculous. And they’re right! But it’s also ridiculous to equate Jim Crow prohibitions on interracial marriage to prohibitions on gay marriage.

If you can’t see the problem, it’s this: The whole point of the civil-rights movement is that skin color is superficial. Sex — i.e., male, female — is actually a real and deep biological difference. You could look it up...

When Republicans tried to filibuster the Affordable Care Act (a k a ObamaCare), Sen. Harry Reid lamented, “When this body was on the verge of guaranteeing equal civil rights to everyone regardless of the color of their skin, some senators resorted to the same filibuster threats that we hear today.”

That’s true! But . . . so what? How, exactly is opposition to an ever-more disastrous health-care reform bill akin to denying the humanity of African-American citizens? Is any filibuster threat now tainted by Dixiecrat opposition to civil rights?
Let's remember which party those Dixiecrats represented...and now back to our snippets:
The Washington Post reported this week that civil-rights activists in Florida are dismayed that the George Zimmerman murder trial in Florida isn’t racially divisive enough. “It makes you feel kind of angry and kind of bad that race is not a part of this,” the Rev. Harrold C. Daniels, told the Post. “It’s a missed opportunity"...

When the Supreme Court recently ruled that the Voting Rights Act needed to take into account that blacks now vote more than whites in jurisdictions that are presumed to be racist, many responded as if the Supreme Court reinstated Jim Crow. MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry cried out on Twitter, “Damn, that citizenship thing was so great for awhile.”
The article's denouement is powerful.  The thesis?  Times have changed, and liberals haven't.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Patio Cover, Day 4

You Don't See This Very Often....

From the Army Times:
There are brothers in arms and bands of brothers, and now there are Noah, Sumner and Cole Ogrydziak, three Texas brothers who began their cadet training together at West Point this week.

For one of the few times in its long history, the U.S. Military Academy accepted three siblings into the same class. Twins Sumner and Cole, who just turned 18, and their 19-year-old brother, Noah, of Nederland in southeast Texas, have each signed on for four years of academics and military training. If all three make it through the rigorous program, they will simultaneously toss their caps into the air as newly commissioned second lieutenants in the Army in 2017.
Very cool.  I wish them well.

Patio Cover, Days 1, 2, and 3

Day 1 (actually Night 1) I did nothing but take this picture of the assembly area:

On Day 2 I did nothing.  On Day 3 I started opening the two boxes and setting the hundreds of parts around my garage.  My plan was to work on this at night, but the mere 25 degree temperature savings isn't enough--it's still uncomfortably warm out--and I can't see what I'm doing with just the small patio light on, so I'm going to have to bear down and work during the day.  Step 1 in the instructions is to assemble the outer frame of the roof, and it requires 4 parts per side plus some nuts, bolts, and washers; I found the appropriate parts and staged them in the assembly area:

The instructions have the gazebo being built in 6 major operations with the parts labeled by operation: Parts 1A through 1D are for Step 1, 2A-2Z (or whatever) are for Step 2, etc.  Tomorrow I want to identify each of the parts in my garage, group them by step number, and if I'm not dying of the heat by that time, start Step 1.

Again, I plan to post my progress each day as a motivating tool for myself.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Smart Diplomacy

How hard and long do you have to think before you can come up with something in the foreign policy/smart diplomacy arena wherein the US is better off today than it was in November 2008?

US foreign policy is failing worldwide.

The EU:
The document explicitly called the EU a "target".

A spokesman for the Office of the U.S. Director of National Intelligence had no comment on the Der Spiegel story.

Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, said that if the report was correct, it would have a "severe impact" on relations between the EU and the United States.
Barack Obama seeks to limit EU fallout over US spying claims

Activists criticize U.S. Amb. Anne Patterson, Obama for supporting Muslim Brotherhood
Morsi's out

Snowden Watch: Why Putin is Loving It
The Russian leader loves to humiliate Washington, and he now has the ultimate tool.

Grim Milestone: Over Twice as Many U.S. Soldiers Have Died in Afghanistan Under Obama In 3 1/2 Years Than Did Under Bush in 8 Years
Of course, more have died in the 14 months since that was published.

Increased drone strikes, especially against brown-skinned people:
Study: US drone strikes more likely to kill civilians than US jet fire

Bottom line:  is there any component of US foreign policy wherein the US is in better shape now than when Obama took office, through actions of the president or his Secretary of State?

Update, July 5, 2013:   Foreign Policy doesn't pull any punches:
U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration has achieved the hat trick of alienating all factions in Egypt.

Update #2, July 5, 2013: Granted, I couldn't care less what the Bolivian government thinks of us, but I thought the world was supposed to love us once we got rid of that half-cocked cowboy and got us a gen-u-ine Nobel Peace Prize winner for president:
The president, who expelled the U.S. ambassador in 2008, said he wouldn't hesitate to boot the embassy, too.

"Without the United States," he said, "we are better politically and democratically."