Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Civil Rights Struggle Is Over And Won

It's hard to disagree with Walter Williams here--because he's right.  An excerpt:
Now, the civil rights struggle is over, and it is won. Now, I’m not saying that every vestige of discrimination has been eliminated, but the civil rights struggle is over and won. At one time, black Americans did not have the constitutional guarantees of everybody else. Now we do. The fact that the civil rights struggle is over and won does not mean that there are not major problems that black Americans face, but they’re not civil rights problems. And if we view them as civil rights problems, the solutions will be elusive forever.
Go read (or watch the video of) the whole thing.

"No Longer" A Planetary Emergency?

When was it ever?
World Federation of Scientists changes its policy: “Climate change in itself is not a planetary emergency.”
Update, 9/1/13: Link fixed now. Sorry!

Update #2, 9/1/13:  You've got to love stories like this, a knock-off of the Gore Effect:
If you want to tempt fate, organize an expedition to one of the polar regions to call attention to the perils of global warming. The outcome is foreordained....

Friday, August 30, 2013

Education Myths

I don't think I disagree with a thing this man said either about K-12 education or higher education.


The Freakonomics authors posited that the reason crime rates went down in the 90's and beyond was Roe vs. Wade--fewer unwanted, poorer children (the ones most likely to commit crimes when they got older) were born.  Nice theory, but a better one is that the availability of porn and violent video games has provided somewhat of an outlet (and time-occupier) for crime-aged men.  There's some evidence to back that up.  Isn't it convenient that the world wide web went active in 1989, 16 years after Roe?

I've heard it argued recently (by lefties, of course) that since crime rates are lower now than they've been in decades, we shouldn't be locking so many people up.  How can it not occur to them that part of the reason crime rates are down is that we're locking up bad guys for longer periods (thank you, 3 strikes law)?  Of course I know the answer to my question:  they feel, they don't think.  Anyway, crime rates may turn around here in California:
It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way, was it? In 2011, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Plata that California must reduce overcrowding in the state’s prisons, overcrowding so severe that the Court — or five members of it, anyway — found that it constituted cruel and unusual punishment and thus violated the Eighth Amendment. The “Brown” of the case is California Governor Jerry Brown, who when faced with the predictably grim prospects demanded by the decision, saw through the legislation and implementation of what has been labeled “Public Safety Realignment.” This innocuous term is of course government-speak for “realigning” people out of prison where they belong and onto the streets of California’s cities, with the greatest share of them coming to roost in and around Los Angeles.

It’s impolite to say “I told you so,” but sometimes good manners must give way to good sense. I’ve visited this topic on three previous occasions here on PJ Media, in each case referring to the predictable consequences of failing to punish people for proscribed conduct. Today, fewer felons are in California’s prisons, perhaps making life a bit more tolerable for those who are so confined, but making life all the more intolerable for the rest of us. In 2011, 50,678 people were sent to state prison in California. The following year, after all that “realignment” started happening, the number fell to 33,990.

Though Governor Brown and the lesser lights of California politics have sought to put a glad face on what has happened since, the inescapable truth is that crime in California, after years of decline, is on the rise once again.

Wonder Woman

The author got this story completely wrong, and I don't need as much space to get it right as he did to get it wrong.

The correct reason we can't have a Wonder Woman movie is simple: no one can hold a candle to Lynda Carter. She was the epitome of Wonder Woman. Anyone else would be a mere shadow. 

Who would look as good as Lynda Carter, but be humble enough not to show that she looked that good?  Who is athletic enough to play the role?  Who has the perfect mix of toughness and humanity and compassion to pull off that role as well as Lynda Carter?  Answer:  no one.

Revenge Porn

When I saw this headline I had only a one-word response:  really?  (said in the most sardonic voice possible)

In case the story ever goes away...
California weighs making 'revenge porn' illegal

In the aftermath of a failed relationship, jilted lovers have been known to lash out by posting sexually explicit photos or videos of their exes online.

Called "revenge porn," or the less-salacious "cyber revenge," the trend has been around for years, spawning entire websites that profit off these images. But now, state laws could make this illegal.

This week, the California Legislature is debating a new bill that would make it a misdemeanor for people to distribute sexually explicit photos or videos they'd shot in order to cause others humiliation or distress. It has already passed the state Senate.
Is there nothing more important the California legislature could be working on?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

It's Been Awhile Since I've Applauded The ACLU...

And it's been for good reason that it's been awhile, but I now have something positive I can say about them:
Here’s how phone metadata can reveal your affairs, abortions, and other secrets

The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the National Security Agency’s dragnet surveillance of Americans’ phone calling records. On Monday, the ACLU asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction halting the program while its legality is litigated.

The program only collects metadata about Americans’ phone calls—who they call, when, and how long the calls last. In defending the program, the government has cited a controversial 1979 Supreme Court decision that held that phone records are not protected by the Fourth Amendment because consumers do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their calling records.

But Ed Felten, a professor of computer science at Princeton University (and, full disclosure, my former graduate school advisor) argues that this intuition is wrong. In a legal brief supporting the ACLU’s request, Felten argues that the distinction between call “contents” and “metadata” isn’t always clear. Sometimes, the mere fact that someone called a particular number reveals extremely sensitive personal information.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Let's Attack Syria

This little tidbit is being dredged up from the memory rabbit hole; it's a response given to the Boston Globe by Candidate Obama during the Bush presidency.  You can accept or deny the prologue, but you can't pretend Senator/Candidate Obama didn't say what he said?
I will simply never understand the view that the Constitution allows the President unilaterally to commit the nation to prolonged military conflict in another country — especially in non-emergency matters having little to do with self-defense — but just consider what candidate Barack Obama said about this matter when — during the campaign — he responded in writing to a series of questions regarding executive power from Charlie Savage, then of The Boston Globe:
Q. In what circumstances, if any, would the president have constitutional authority to bomb Iran without seeking a use-of-force authorization from Congress? (Specifically, what about the strategic bombing of suspected nuclear sites — a situation that does not involve stopping an IMMINENT threat?)
OBAMA:  The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.
As Commander-in-Chief, the President does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent.
So is the War Powers Act now officially dead?

And how about what he said as a senator about raising the debt limit, and how that's now entirely opposite of his view as president?

The Germans Are Coming!

And it's about time.

The couple of foreign exchange students I've had in the past have been French speakers, one from Normandy and the other from Switzerland.

Today I was helping administer a testing debacle at school, and periodically could get away and go check up on my own classes.  I walked into one class and started explaining a topic, then stopped and looked at a student I didn't recognize.

"Who the heck are you?" 

"I'm a new student.  I'm foreign exchange, from Germany."

My face must have lit up. We exchanged a few sentences in German, the language I last studied in high school in 1982. His face lit up, especially when I said that I would rely on him to help me relearn and practice my German.


Even though I'm sure that what little German I speak is heavily accented, I also know that it's comforting to hear one's own language when completely surrounded by another.  I hope he enjoys the experience as much as I will.

It's Only Weather Until The Global Warmers Want It To Be Climate...

...and this doesn't fit their narrative:
This summer, the US has experienced the fewest number of 100 degree readings in a century. The five hottest summers (1936, 1934, 1954, 1980 and 1930) all occurred with CO2 below 350 PPM.

CO2 went over 400 PPM this year...

Black Students and American Education

Drudge-like, Joanne Jacobs has two consecutive posts today that truly amplify each other:

Williams:  "Corrupt" leaders ignore bad schools
“Corrupted” by teachers union money, black leaders who spoke at Saturday’s March on Washington failed to speak out against bad schools, charged Fox News contributor Juan Williams on “The O’Reilly Factor.” The march commemorated the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

A black graduate asks, why do so few make it?
Jamaal Abdul-alim earned a journalism degree at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Jamaal Abdul-AlimHe returned, writing for the Washington Monthly, to ask why only 19 percent of black students complete a degree in six years, half the rate for the university as a whole. Why did he make it when so many fail?

Testing, The Horror

Our district has implemented a benchmark testing program.  We've purchased a program that adapts subsequent questions based on student responses to prior questions; obviously, it's computer-based.

And the company's server had problems today, so testing at schools all across the country was screwed up.  It was a nightmare.

Apparently yesterday's testing was as smooth as a baby's bottom, but today's was a bumpy as a 15-year-old acne-sufferer's face after eating a pound of chocolate.

You know what always works?  A paper and pencil.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Now This Is Upholding Some Standards!

Holy crap, I wonder if they'll stick to their guns:
Not a single new student will be admitted into the University of Liberia this year after nearly 25,000 candidates failed the school’s admission exam.

A university official said students who took the $25 exam did not have a basic understanding of English, the BBC reports, and it was the first time that all entrants failed.

Liberia’s President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has said the country’s education system is still “in a mess” following a civil war that ended a decade ago.

Education Minister Etmonia David-Tarpeh will meet with university officials to discuss the 100 percent failure rate, the BBC reports.

Cheerleading Outfits

Several Florida high schools are restricting or even banning their own cheerleading uniforms -- saying the skimpy skirts violate dress codes.

High schools in Pinellas County are not allowing cheerleaders to wear their uniforms during the school day because of the outfits' short skirt and sleeveless top, reported. For generations, cheerleaders have donned their gear during the school day for pep rallies before Friday night football games.

"If it's an approved school uniform -- which it was approved, by the administration, years ago -- why is it out of dress code?" Christine Johnson, whose daughter is a junior on Countryside's varsity squad, told "And why can they wear it in front of thousands of people at a football field if they can't wear it on game day at school?"
What a stupid argument. A wrestling singlet is an approved uniform, for a sport—for that matter, so is a Speedo—but it’s not necessarily appropriate in public or in class.

You Know What Convinces Me That Genuine Racism Against Blacks Is So Rare?

It's all the racism hoaxes people have to perpetrate in order to convince others that racism still exists!

If I were at my most charitable I might be willing to allow that the people committing the hoaxes had--oh, heck, there's no way I'm that charitable.  They're lying, they're committing fraud, and they're framing others.  How much worse is it to personally gain from such a despicable act?
The black St. Peter’s Prep student who purportedly received racist text messages warning him to drop out of the Jersey City high school's student government election sent the texts to himself, a school official confirmed last week...

Neither the father nor son could be reached for comment. No one answered at the family's Armstrong Avenue house on Friday.
I hope he experiences the needed amount of shame and contrition.

Worst Community Colleges

Why, if you can come up with a reason, would it be that some of the worst JC's in the country are in the San Francisco area?
Walk a few blocks northeast from Twitter’s headquarters, and you’ll find the City College of San Francisco’s downtown center—one of a dozen or so campuses scattered across the city. Earlier on the same afternoon of my visit, the regional accrediting commission announced its decision to strip the seventy-eight-year-old institution of its accreditation next year, citing broken governance and fiscal mismanagement. Protests erupted almost immediately and the college announced it would appeal the decision, but as it stands now, City College is scheduled to close its doors, or be co-opted by another institution, next July...

Using federal data sets tracking the percentage of students who graduate or transfer within three years and the total degrees awarded per 100 students—the same metrics used by the well-respected Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence—the Washington Monthly ranked 1,011 community colleges in the country and found that nearly all the schools in the Bay Area are bottom-feeders.

San Francisco City College ranked 842. In the East Bay, Laney College slid in at 882. The College of Alameda was an abysmal 971 and nearby Berkeley City College was, astoundingly, even worse, at 982—just twenty-nine spots away from last place.

In the region just south of San Francisco—the cities that Facebookers and Googlers pass every day on their morning commutes from the city—the picture was equally grim. San Bruno’s Skyline College scored a relatively sparkling 772, but neighboring College of San Mateo, where a director of information technology was recently charged for selling the school’s computer equipment and embezzling the cash, ranked 845. Cañada (sic) College ranked a pitiful 979.

North of the city, the College of Marin, where the community college foundation board dissolved last fall and are now involved in a lawsuit over “spending improprieties,” ranked 839. 
I don't have an answer, but I'd love to hear the guesses/excuses of so-called education professionals from the area.

Hat tip to Joanne Jacobs.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Educating Boys

This post really struck a chord with me:
Well, childhood-development geniuses, it’s 40 years into your project to turn boys into girls. How’s that working out for you?

“Great! Let’s double down!” reply self-proclaimed “experts” like Rosalind Wiseman, the vapid creator of the “Mean Girls” meme (in her 2002 book “Queen Bees and Wannabes”) who has turned her guns (sorry, her magical glowing beams of understanding and love) on boys in her new follow-up “Masterminds & Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World.”

A better title would have been “Batman in Love,” because that’s a great example from the book of the absurd nature of Wiseman’s determination to reconceptualize boyhood to make it less alien to her, i.e., less masculine.
If girls were on the trajectory that boys are, there'd be Title IX and similar programs mandated all over the place.

College For All

The latest educational mantra is "college- and career-ready", but we all know that what's really meant is "college-ready".  Here in California some school districts are requiring that all students meet "a through g" requirements as a condition of graduation--for those of you outside California, "a-g" are the academic requirements to get into our state universities.  You don't see too many school districts mandating courses in "basic hand tools", "leadership and team-building", "basic accounting", or "using desktop productivity software".  When I start seeing required classes like those, alongside "watch your language" and "get where you're supposed to be, on time" and "follow the boss' directions", I'll believe that we're serious about "career-ready" preparation.

Joanne has an interesting post about "college for all" today, and I truly liked this quote:
“College for all” isn’t a smart state or national education policy, but can make sense as the mission of a single school, responds Michael Goldstein, founder of MATCH, a high-performing charter school in Boston.
Problem is, most public schools need to teach everybody, not just the college crowd.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Shroud of Turin

I participate in Bikram-style hot yoga, a unique practice conducted in a 106 degree room.  Yes, we sweat a lot--so much so that that, after enough savasanas between postures, I can clearly make out the shape of my head, shoulders, torso, and arms in the sweat on my mat towel.

I'd laugh each time if I weren't so exhausted.

The Dollar Theater

OK, so those probably don't even exist anymore--but near me there's a United Artists theater inside a (struggling) mall wherein all movies, at all times, are $4.  Usually this theater has a couple OK movies and some flops, but today the lineup was solid:

After Earth
Iron Man 3
Man of Steel
Now You See Me
Star Trek: Into Darkness

If it's still playing next weekend, perhaps I'll go see Iron Man 3.

He's "Executing" The Laws All Right, Along With The Constitution

According to that outdated document crafted by dead white men, one of the principal responsibilities of the US president is to "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed".  What should be done with a president who does not follow the law?
And that is not all. When President Obama announced his unilateral lawless delay of Obamacare’s employer mandate, it comepletely (sic) undermined every border security promise in the Schumer-Rubio bill. As I wrote at the time:

...Conservatives who do not trust Obama to enforce perfectly good law – whether it is No Child Left Behind, the War Powers Act, our current immigration laws, etc. – should not trust him to enforce whatever security measures are part of any immigration deal. There is no reason to believe that amnesty would not be every bit the train wreck that Obamacare already is.
Liberals complained of a mythical "imperial presidency" under President Bush.  The current president's actions are closer to l'etat c'est moi than President Bush ever could have imagined or wanted.  Why no outcry from the left?

To ask the question is pretty much to answer it.

Update:  More here:
The increasing lawlessness with which President Barack Obama has been acting in his second term is not going unnoticed.

In fact, in a strong rebuke last week to the unilateral actions being taken by the Obama administration, a federal appeals court came down hard on the administration’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission by ruling that delaying a decision on a proposed nuclear waste storage facility was in violation of federal law. In the majority opinion, the judges declared that the administration was “simply flouting the law,” and that President Obama “may not decline to follow a statute or prohibition simply because of policy objections.”

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Hate Crime Hoaxes

Someone really has to be sick to create a fake "hate crime" in order to "draw attention to" something that is so rare that they have to make one up!  This comment summed things up for me:
I've known many on the Left. Every single one of them espoused the soft racism of affirmative action. All of them divided the world up by race, gender, and class. Not right vs. wrong. Not good vs. evil. But race, gender, class. That's why someone like Meg Lanker-Simons can do what she did without understanding it was wrong. They don't see wrong, they see race, they see gender, they see class.
Liberals to a T.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

This Kid Carries Himself Really Well

He interviews quite well and just exudes confidence.  That's fun to watch.

Reposting a Random Old Blog Post

Who Could Have Possibly Foreseen This???

Anyone not blinded by partisan ideology, that's who:
The University of Virginia said Wednesday that it will stop offering health insurance to some employees' spouses because of rising costs under ObamaCare.

The university said the Affordable Care Act will add $7.3 million to its healthcare costs next year. It indicated that it could face additional costs in the future because of the law's tax on especially generous insurance policies.
Only people who snort pixie dust believe that you can insure millions of new people and not raise costs.

Trust and the Civil Society

I thought this post on trust, and how it relates to law and civil society, was among the best I've read in a very long time.  A teaser:
Trust is far more important than law.

Think of it: how many times have you sued somebody, or been sued? Have you ever been arrested? Each of us interacts with many others in numerous ways every day, and recourse to the law is exceptionally rare. Our actions may be constrained by certain laws; but usually they are far more limited by the expectations of those with whom we are dealing.

If you were unwilling to trust others, it would be next to impossible to accomplish anything. Once, when I was a young banker, I was asked to hand deliver a package containing $10 million in fully negotiable securities to a major corporate customer. Had I been of a mind to do so, I could have fled to some country that didn’t have an extradition treaty with the US, cashed in the securities and been quite wealthy. There were no safeguards, save my local ties and sense of honor.
Our society is remarkably law-abiding.

This generally law-abiding, or at least respectful-of-persons-and-property behavior, is not something to be taken for granted. We do not live in a police state, and the reality is that if those who are less well off routinely took advantage of their numbers to simply take what they don’t have, our lives would be very different. Under those circumstances we would certainly live in a police state, and we would all be much the poorer – both personally and financially – for the ways in which we would have to deal with each other...

Voluntary law-abiding behavior is, in a sense, the ultimate expression of the consent of the governed. Historically, the American view has been that We the People are sovereign, and the government works for us, so why wouldn’t we comply with the laws that we ourselves had made? My fear is that as the web of our laws and regulations becomes ever-more complex and overbearing – to the point where anybody could be convicted of crimes, and nobody can be sure where he or she stands, respect for and an instinctive obedience to the law is fading from our culture.
Go read the whole thing.  If you disagree with something in that article, please mention the disagreement in the comments. 

Just Weird, Or Crazy?

I'm leaning towards labeling this principal a psycho.  Did none of the teachers or staff tell him this was more than just a little sick?
A supposed safety measure mandating students at a California elementary school kneel before administrators in order to be dismissed will be stopped, school district officials said this week...

It was not immediately clear how the kneeling of students related to campus safety or the instillation of positive behavior in the elementary school students.
After that teaser you know you want to go read the whole thing!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

I *Like* This Guy!

Watch LA State Senator Completely Destroy Liberalism in This Incredible Appeal to Black Americans

The Secret of Happiness

Hugh Hewitt just had a guest on his radio show who said that his research shows that if you want to be happy, focus on four areas of life. I instantly thought of the final episode of Family Ties, in which Mallory identifies the meaning of life to Alex:
The meaning of life? That's simple. Try to be happy, try not to hurt other people, and hope to fall in love. 
Hewitt's guest said that his research shows that these areas point the way to a happy life:
That's a pretty good list! And tied in with Mallory's observation, I'd say we have a winner here.

Monday, August 19, 2013

I'm Having A Rough Time Tonight

An hour or so ago an email hit my inbox from the West Point mail list of which I am a member.  That email linked to a blog post about a woman who said she left West Point because she had been raped.

At West Point, cadets are divided into 36 companies--Companies A through I each for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th regiments.  Each company had over 100 cadets, with approximately an equal number of each class (freshman through senior) in each company, minus attrition.  My class "scrambled" companies after our freshman year and spent our last three years at West Point in the same company.  You develop strong ties to people when you live and spend that much time with them.

The author of the blog post mentioned above was my classmate.  In my company.  I remember her well, and I remember when she left at the end of our junior year.

There are a couple things bothering me.  The first is that she called out her accused rapist by name.  Another classmate, but not one in our company.  That seems to cross a line to me.  A second problem I'm having is that there are some serious inaccuracies in her story.  Not different experiences or opinions, but actual incorrect statements.  I know them to be incorrect.  Yes, they're relatively minor, but why would someone need to lie to make a rape story worse?  Isn't the fact that it's rape bad enough?

When I read stories with known misstatements of fact in them, I question the entire piece.  I can't say she wasn't raped--how the heck would I know?--but I'm bothered by the inaccuracies in her story.

Now don't think for a moment that I have some rose-colored view of West Point.  I know that sexual assaults, and other forms of sexual misconduct, occurred during my time there.  I can think of two classmates who were forced to leave because of misconduct (short of rape).  And obviously I never heard of a rape there!

And I'm sure that two people can have very different experiences, but nothing in her story relates at all to the West Point I knew.  And then the inaccuracies--isn't rape bad enough?  Why make the rest of the story worse?

As I said, I knew the author.  She was my classmate, in my company.  The closest civilian counterpart would be, she was my "teammate" for two years until she resigned.  Her blog post bothers me deeply.  That's why I'm not posting anything else.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Short History of Labor and Right-To-Work

"Right to work" laws, existing in 24 states, mean that employees do not have to join a labor union.  I support RTW laws, as the voluntary nature of the employee-union relationship requires that the union actually represent the employee or risk losing that employee's dues money.

I detest so-called "fair share" laws, like those in California, that require a union to represent me and hence require me to pay a union as a condition of employment.  One might think there's a "freedom of association" issue there, but under current law there isn't.  It's despicable.

Here's an extremely short exposition on labor and right-to-work history.

Aside:  California teachers, if CTA/CFT doesn't represent your beliefs, check out the web site of the California Teachers Empowerment Network(Full disclosure:  I'm on the Board of Directors.)

I Could Use A Few Extra Shekels, But I'm Not A Whore, which bills itself as “the #1 online dating website for sugar babies and generous men,” is now boasting that some 40,000 public school teachers of a certain moral caliber have joined the website in an attempt to sell sexual services seek wealthy, older men for “mutually beneficial relationships.”

In a press release, SeekingArrangement’s CEO suggests that teachers on the website are responding conventionally to diminished budgets, overcrowded classrooms and, of course, the perpetual need for school supplies.

“You can’t expect a teacher to accept less pay for more work than their peers, and then reach into their pockets to fund your child’s classroom,” declared Brandon Wade, the website’s founder and CEO. “But that’s what’s happening. If those are the expectations and pressures we are putting on our teachers in America, than they can’t possibly be judged for whatever extracurricular activities they choose to pursue to stay afloat.”

According to SeekingArrangement, the top five school districts in the country for sugar-baby teachers are (in order): the School District of Philadelphia, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Los Angeles Unified School District, the Clark County School District (in the Las Vegas area) and the New York City public schools.
On the other hand, I don't have a problem with legalizing prostitution. Let's just be clear what we're talking about, though.

Diane Ravitch--Sound-byte, Red-meat Politics Without Logic

A year and a half ago I wrote about my evening listening to keynote speaker Diane Ravitch here in Sacramento.  Joanne has a new post up about Ravitch, whose modus operandi hasn't changed at all:
Ravitch presents her new book, Reign of Error, as “an overture to dialogue with opponents, but her subtitle suggests otherwise: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools,” writes Mosle...

Her tour of the research is littered with bumper-sticker slogans—she indicts, for example, the “Walmartization of American education”—likely to put off the unconverted. The book reads like a campaign manual against “corporate reformers.”
Read my post, then Joanne's, and you'll note that Ravitch can only play one chord, and that chord is anger.  You want logic?  You want reason?  You want common ground?  You won't find any of those with Ravitch.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Once In A Blue Moon

I have long believed what here is identified as the incorrect explanation:
Back in the July 1943 issue of "Sky & Telescope magazine, in a question and answer column written by Lawrence J. Lafleur, there was a reference made to the term "Blue Moon." Lafleur cited the unusual term from a copy of the 1937 edition of the now-defunct Maine Farmers’ Almanac (NOT to be confused with The Farmers' Almanac which is still published in Lewiston, Maine).

On the Maine Farmers' almanac page for August 1937, the calendar definition of the Blue Moon explained that occasionally "one of the four seasons would contain four full moons instead of the usual three."

"There are seven Blue Moons in a Lunar Cycle of nineteen years," continued the Almanac, ending on the comment: "In olden times the almanac makers had much difficulty calculating the occurrence of the Blue Moon and this uncertainty gave rise to the expression 'Once in a Blue Moon.'"

Unfortunate astronomical oversight

While LaFleur quoted the Almanac's account, he made one important omission: He never specified any date for the Blue Moon. And as it turned out, in 1937 it occurred on Aug. 21. That was the third full moon in the summer of 1937, a summer season that would see a total of four full moons.

Names were assigned to each moon in a season: For example, the first moon of summer was called the early summer moon, the second was the midsummer moon, and the last was called the late summer moon. But when a particular season has four moons the third was apparently called a Blue Moon so that the fourth and final one can continue to be called the late moon.

So where did we get the "two full moons in a month is a Blue Moon rule" that is so popular today?

Pruett's Mistake

Once again, we must turn to the pages of Sky & Telescope. This time to page 3 of the March 1946 issue.

In that issue, author James Hugh Pruett wrote the article "Once in a Blue Moon" in which he made a reference to the term "Blue Moon" and referenced LaFleur's S&T article from July 1943. But because Pruett had no specific dates to fall back on, his interpretation of the ruling given by the Maine Farmers' Almanac was highly subjective. Pruett ultimately came to this conclusion:

"Seven times in 19 years there were — and still are — 13 full moons in a year. This gives 11 months with one full moon each and one with two. This second in a month, so I interpret it, was called Blue Moon."

How unfortunate that Pruett did not have a copy of that 1937 almanac at hand, or else he would have almost certainly noticed that his "two full moons in a single month assumption" would have been wrong. For the Blue Moon date of Aug. 21 was most definitely not the second full moon that month!

Remember When We Were Told That The Muslim Brotherhood Was 'Mostly Secular'?

Ok, lefties, then how do you explain this?
Christians all around Egypt are cleaning up in the aftermath of a spate of attacks, which came on the country's deadliest day since the 2011 revolution that overthrew longtime President Hosni Mubarak.

Bishop Angaelos, the Cairo-born head of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, said he was told by colleagues in Egypt that 52 churches were attacked in a 24-hour span that started Wednesday, as well as numerous Christians' homes and businesses.

Ishak Ibrahim, a researcher with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, told CNN he had confirmed attacks on at least 30 churches so far, in addition to the targeting of church-related facilities, including schools and cultural centers...

This and other attacks have been blamed by some on supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement which backs recently deposed President Mohamed Morsy.
Gotta love that last statement.  CNN wants to put as much room as they can between the Muslim Brotherhood and President Obama's support for them.  Making such a large miscalculation is what's known as "smart diplomacy".

The BBC gives a little more detail:
Witnesses described the attackers as shouting slogans in support of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

Let The Kids Go Blind

Vandals (probably activists) destroyed a trial of Golden Rice in the Philippines.  Golden Rice is rice that has been genetically modified to have more Vitamin A.  Since rice is prevalent in the diets of so many of the world's poor and malnourished, the distribution of Golden Rice, with its Vitamin A, could prevent blindness in hundreds of thousands of innocent children in the world each year.  To some people, though, its provenance is all the excuse they need consign those children to darkness.  Facts don't matter to crazies:
Since their introduction into commercial production over 17 years ago, GM crops have become the most rapidly adopted agricultural technology in the history of mankind, precisely because they provide large benefits to consumers, farmers and the environment. These crops have an exemplary safety record, making them the safest agricultural technology ever deployed. They have already helped to ameliorate many of the kinds of damage caused by traditional agriculture and reduce contamination of corn with fungal toxins. Not a single one of the many claims of negative health or environmental effects uniquely made against GM crops has withstood scientific scrutiny.

Regulatory systems around the world mandate the thorough testing of new GM crops to ensure that there are no unintended, harmful effects either from their cultivation or their consumption. These are the kinds of controlled tests that IRRI and the Philippine Department of Agriculture are conducting with Golden Rice. A few days ago, a field test was maliciously destroyed.

New technologies often evoke fears that they are dangerous. Destroying a new technology based on such fears without testing its safety and efficacy can deprive humanity of a very valuable and much-needed advance. In this case, many more millions will needlessly suffer blindness and death because Golden Rice was not available to them. No group, regardless of its intentions, has the right to condemn a technology without evidence. It is an unconscionable criminal act to destroy a field trial conducted in accordance to international safety norms.
The best thing you can call those who destroyed this trial is "luddite". I myself wouldn't use that best term.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Lessons In How Not To Teach Math

Fortunately I didn't attend a traditional university program for obtaining my teaching credential, I went through an alternative route.  That route didn't have any "teaching methods" classes, for which I am eternally grateful.  This author, though, did have such a methods class:
According to the establishment, students should be “led” to their discovery of the answers. Providing explicit instruction is considered to be “handing it to the student” and prevents them from “constructing their own knowledge.”

“Discovery learning” isn’t bad. Most teachers use some discovery learning and group work in their classes. Also, staging problems so that they vary slightly from the worked example—so that the students are essentially applying prior knowledge in a new situation (called scaffolding)—has the “look and feel” of discovery. The problem is that the reigning education theory focuses mostly on discovery, with only a nod to direct instruction. That’s mistaken.

The worst class I took in education school was on “math teaching methods"...

Educators who promote “authentic learning” mistakenly believe that novices learn the same way that experts do. They believe that students construct their own knowledge by being forced to make connections with skills and concepts that they may not have mastered. The theory is that they learn what is needed in a “just in time” manner, thus providing the motivation for learning, which they assume would otherwise be a tedious and soul killing exercise...

The ed school approach to teaching math seeks to minimize “inauthentic” learning by replacing it with so called “authentic” exercises. But presenting students with a steady diet of challenging problems that neither connect immediately with their prior knowledge, lessons and instruction, nor develop any transferrable skills results in poor learning.

It is like children playing “dress up” in their parents’ clothing. The education establishment may believe they are producing “little mathematicians"....
This style of pedagogy is being foisted upon us under the guise of Common Core.

Update:  Check out this post of mine from 5 years ago on teaching calculus as described above.  The more things change....

Thursday, August 15, 2013

First Day of School

Some time over the summer the student information system software we teachers use to take roll and enter grades, and which our counselors and administrators and secretarial staff use to do all the things they do, changed.

That's right, it's completely different, and we weren't even told.

It still has the same functionality, but it has an entirely different look and interface.  We're still learning to find all the capabilities that we used to know by heart.  And over 1600 kids showed up today.

From my end the day went rather smoothly.  I know there's some work to do, though, because I'm over my contract limit in 2 classes.  For those of you outside of California, please sit down before you read this--but that means I have over 36 students in each of those two classes.

Yes, our administration is working to level out classes within a very tight scheduling ability as the district staffed us at a bare bones level.

After school I got to meet with two other teachers and one of our vice principals, the same group that had training last week on this new computerized test our district wants us to do three times a year.  We had some very lousy training last week and now we're supposed to train members of our staff who will actually give the tests this year (that would be teachers of all-freshman courses).  Keep in mind, those of us at the lousy training last week went through this process exactly once and there's no "dummy database" of students we can use to walk people through the process.  We watched a video.

If you think we feel unprepared to teach this, and were quite frustrated today as we met to try to plan this training, I understand the district people, who know that this is being done half-assed, are at least frustrated and as worried as we are.

After all this you might be thinking, "Dang, Darren, tech things sure seem screwed up in your district!"  And you'd be correct.  We're going to have to "brute force and ignorance" our way through these difficulties, then we'll know what we're doing and it'll be smooth.  Until then, though...

But there is some good news.  Have you heard of the new 4K tv's, which are supposed to leave 1080p hi-def tv's in the dust as far as picture resolution goes?  Well, I've been asking for a flat screen for my classroom for a couple years now to replace my LED projector, and some new company is selling 4K tv's at a price about 10-20% of what Sony sells them for.   Our district has a few and I get to pilot one; the only condition of getting it is that I have to give period reports on its functionality and ease of use to our district tech director.

I think I can live with that requirement!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

How Might This Apply To All The Obamacare Delays?

In a rebuke to the Obama administration, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been violating federal law by delaying a decision on a proposed nuclear waste dump in Nevada...

"The president may not decline to follow a statutory mandate or prohibition simply because of policy objections," Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh wrote in a majority opinion, which was joined Judge A. Raymond Randolph. Chief Judge Merrick B. Garland dissented.

The appeals court said the case has important implications for the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government.

"It is no overstatement to say that our constitutional system of separation of powers would be significantly altered if we were to allow executive and independent agencies to disregard federal law in the manner asserted in this case by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission," Kavanaugh wrote. "The commission is simply defying a law enacted by Congress ... without any legal basis."
The full story is here.

And People Laughed at Nancy's "Just Say No", Which Worked

Without commentary:
This is not a joke. First Lady Michelle Obama is releasing a rap album — but she doesn’t sing in it. The album, called “Songs for a Healthier America”, is the latest initiative for her Let’s Move! campaign to fight childhood obesity. It will feature songs from rap/hip-hop artists, including Jordin Sparks, Ashanti, Run DMC, Doug E. Fresh and Monifah (Am I supposed to know who this is?). Mrs. Obama will have cameos in the music videos of several of the songs.

Not that I’m surprised, but news of the album is getting mixed reviews. The Daily Beast called the lineup of artists “kind of embarrassing”, and others have scoffed at the playlist, which features songs like “Veggie Luv” and “Hip Hop LEAN”. link

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

You Can Tell School Is Starting Up Again...

Many of the hits on the Statcounter today are for my 6-year-old post about allowing students to leave class to use the restroom.

If Only

From a British climate scientist:
As a climate scientist, I'm under pressure to be a political advocate. This comes mainly from environmentalists. Dan Cass, wind-farm director and solar advocate, preferred me not to waste my time debating "denialist morons" but to use political advocacy to "prevent climate catastrophe".

Jeremy Grantham, environmental philanthropist, urged climate scientists to sound a "more desperate note … Be arrested if necessary." A concerned member of the public judged my efforts at public engagement successful only if they showed "evidence of persuasion".

Others ask "what should we do?" At my Cheltenham Science Festival event Can we trust climate models? one of the audience asked what we thought of carbon taxes. I refused to answer, despite the chair's repeated requests and joke (patronisingly; his aim was to entertain) that I "shouldn't be embarrassed at my lack of knowledge".

Even some of my colleagues think I should be clearer about my political beliefs. In a Twitter debate last month Gavin Schmidt, climate scientist and blogger, argued we should state our preferences to avoid accusations of having a hidden agenda.

I believe advocacy by climate scientists has damaged trust in the science. We risk our credibility, our reputation for objectivity, if we are not absolutely neutral. At the very least, it leaves us open to criticism. I find much climate scepticism is driven by a belief that environmental activism has influenced how scientists gather and interpret evidence. So I've found my hardline approach successful in taking the politics and therefore – pun intended – the heat out of climate science discussions.

They call me an "honest broker", asking for "more Dr Edwards and fewer zealous advocates". Crucially, they say this even though my scientific views are absolutely mainstream.

Does Anyone Else See Any Potential Problems Here?

Do the perceived benefits justify the potential problems?
California students will soon be able to use the bathrooms and join the teams that best match their gender identity, as Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed a bill enshrining rights for transgender youth.

The legislation, authored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, advanced from both houses of the Legislature on largely party-line votes. Supporters said the bill protects young people who often endure intolerance and bullying as they travel a twisting road toward self-awareness.

Although California law already shields transgender students from discrimination, Ammiano argued his bill would guarantee uniform treatment across the state's hundreds of school districts. It clarifies that individual districts cannot bar students from a single-sex setting like a men's basketball team or a women's locker room. 
If you say I don't act or dress like a girl when I want to pop into the other locker room or join the other sports team, I'll just point out that you're demonstrating ignorance and bias with your stereotypes and are therefore oppressing me.

Read more here:

20 Most Divisive Democrat Qutoes of the Obama Era

Monday, August 12, 2013

An Interesting Story About IQ

I've heard people relate much of the incorrect "lay wisdom" mentioned in this article:
For people who have studied mental ability, what’s truly frustrating is the déjà vu they feel each time a media firestorm like this one erupts. Attempts by experts in the field to defend the embattled messenger inevitably fall on deaf ears. When the firestorm is over, the media’s mindset always resets to a state of comfortable ignorance, ready to be shocked all over again when the next messenger comes along.

At stake here, incidentally, is not just knowledge for the sake of knowledge, but also how science informs public policy. The U.S. education system, for example, is suffused with mental testing, yet few in the political classes understand cognitive ability research. Angry and repeated condemnations of the science will not help.

What scholars of mental ability know, but have never successfully gotten the media to understand, is that a scientific consensus, based on an extensive and consistent literature, has long been reached on many of the questions that still seem controversial to journalists.

For example, virtually all psychologists believe there is a general mental ability factor (referred to colloquially as “intelligence”) that explains much of an individual’s performance on cognitive tests. IQ tests approximately measure this general factor. Psychologists recognize that a person’s IQ score, which is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors, usually remains stable upon reaching adolescence. And they know that IQ scores are correlated with educational attainment, income, and many other socioeconomic outcomes.

In terms of group differences, people of northeast Asian descent have higher average IQ scores than people of European lineage, who in turn have higher average scores than people of sub-Saharan African descent. The average score for Hispanic Americans falls somewhere between the white and black American averages. Psychologists have tested and long rejected the notion that score differences can be explained simply by biased test questions. It is possible that genetic factors could influence IQ differences among ethnic groups, but many scientists are withholding judgment until DNA studies are able to link specific gene combinations with IQ.

How can I be sure all of this reflects mainstream thinking? Because, over the years, psychologists have put together statements, reports, and even books aimed at synthesizing expert opinion on IQ. Many of these efforts were made in explicit response to the periodic media firestorms that engulfed people who spoke publicly about cognitive science. It’s worth reviewing some of those incidents and detailing the scholarly responses — responses that are invariably forgotten before the next furor begins. I’ll place my own experience in that context...

The American Psychological Association (APA) tried to set the record straight in 1996 with a report written by a committee of experts. Among the specific conclusions drawn by the APA were that IQ tests reliably measure a real human trait, that ethnic differences in average IQ exist, that good tests of IQ are not culturally biased against minority groups, and that IQ is a product of both genetic inheritance and early childhood environment. Another report signed by 52 experts, entitled “Mainstream Science on Intelligence,” stated similar facts and was printed in the Wall Street Journal.
Obviously this impacts us in the education field.

Is This Really A Chinese Proverb?

Seen on Facebook:
"Teachers open the door; you must enter by yourself" -Chinese Proverb


This picture shows 2 former math teachers, both of whom are 80 years old, and one current math teacher, who isn't quite 80 years old but hopes he looks as good at 80 as they do!

On the far left is my former high school counselor, who was receiving an award for his decades of service as a teacher and counselor.  He started teaching math in 1957 and still works at the independent learning high school.

In the center is my former high school principal.

When I started teaching--16 years ago!--they took me to breakfast one morning and gave me lots of advice.  One thing Mr. Nelson, the principal, told me was that I should give a quiz each week so students know where they stand in their understanding of the material.  So if you're a former student of mine and hated having quizzes each Friday, blame it on some excellent advice I was given by someone who knew what he was talking about.

It's Different When The Shoe's On The Other Foot

Remember that the people squealing like a stuck pig here in this case are the same ones who cheered on the Bush assassination movie:
Liberals are so upset about Obama the Clown that they forgot to protest the mistreatment of animals at the rodeo where the clown appeared.

As for misuse of taxpayer dollars, is he serious? Clowning is a performance art and the last I looked, free expression was still part of the Constitution. After all, the taxpayers funded "Piss Christ" some years ago and I don't recall the argument being in widespread use on the left that Robert Maplethorpe's execrable piece of "art" shouldn't have been protected just because the taxpayers footed the bill.

One can argue if the performance of the clown was in good taste. It wasn't. It was horrible. But I find it laughable that liberals are complaining about how Obama is portrayed as a clown when his predecessor was often depicted with clown make-up (a few examples here).

And no, it wasn't "borderline illegal" either. That's nonsense. Any criticism of Obama could give the mentally unstable ideas. Jay Leno gives nuts ideas of harming the president. Should he be arrested too?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Media Bias? What Media Bias?

Oh, that one, at NPR:
There is much, much more, but you get the drift. I don’t believe I have ever seen a representative of a media outlet take apart his own outlet’s story with the care and thoroughness displayed by Mr. Schumacher-Matos. The one thing he doesn’t do is address the motivations of those who reported and produced the false and misleading series, but it is easy to fill in that blank. The reporter and editors spoke from the liberal perspective that is taken for granted by pretty much everyone at NPR. They had a narrative that they wanted to push for political reasons.

And they are sticking by their story, even though it has been thoroughly demolished, by me and by Mr. Schumacher-Matos. In a brief statement, Kinsey Wilson, NPR’s Executive Vice-President and Chief Content Officer, and Margaret Low Smith, NPR’s Senior Vice President for News, say that “NPR stands by the stories.” Which means that at NPR, commitment to leftist ideology trumps any fealty to the facts.

Statistics In The Real World

This sounds interesting:
"Using a cellphone while driving may be distracting, but it does not lead to higher crash risk in the setting we examined," said Saurabh Bhargava, assistant professor of social and decision sciences in CMU's Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. "While our findings may strike many as counterintuitive, our results are precise enough to statistically call into question the effects typically found in the academic literature. Our study differs from most prior work in that it leverages a naturally occurring experiment in a real-world context."

For the study, Bhargava and the London School of Economics and Political Science's Vikram S. Pathania examined calling and crash data from 2002 to 2005, a period when most cellphone carriers offered pricing plans with free calls on weekdays after 9 p.m. Identifying drivers as those whose cellphone calls were routed through multiple cellular towers, they first showed that drivers increased call volume by more than 7 percent at 9 p.m. They then compared the relative crash rate before and after 9 p.m. using data on approximately 8 million crashes across nine states and all fatal crashes across the nation. They found that the increased cellphone use by drivers at 9 p.m. had no corresponding effect on crash rates.

Additionally, the researchers analyzed the effects of legislation banning cellphone use, enacted in several states, and similarly found that the legislation had no effect on the crash rate.

The Compulsion of Common Core

I started teaching in 1997, just as California's pre-Common Core standards were being published.  I remember being given the standards and being told to teach to the standards, and that students would be tested to the standards.

That's a lot different from how Common Core is being pushed.  How it's being presented to this teacher isn't so different from how it's being presented at my school:
My first meeting during our three beginning-of-year teacher days was a meeting on CCSS. It reminded me of a time-share sales pitch. I was told that I had freedom in my classroom. I was told that my classroom was my “car” and that I “have the keys to my car.” I was told that CCSS would not require extra time or preparation. I was told numerous times that if students did not excel, it was that I was failing the student.

I was also told more than once, “We are going to do this,” the unspoken message being, “Don’t even think of objecting.”

I was told that students would learn if only I would provide the opportunity.
I thought of the numerous students last year who told me, “I’ll just take the zero” on the periodic grading of their semester-long research project until they reached the point that they had to complete the work in order to earn a C or D.

I was told that I need to challenge students by bringing them to their “frustration level”– that doing so would challenge them to work and that they would rise to the occasion.

I envisioned students throwing up their hands in resignation and transforming into behavior problems.

I have been told that CCSS will make students “college and career ready.”

I remembered that CCSS had not been pilot tested.

In a second meeting on CCSS, I was told that we would focus on literacy across the subject areas. In order to do so, we were expected to regularly do an activity called a “close read.” In the two-hour meeting, I learned that the close read activity had a number of components and that it would take hours of class time to complete.

The activity was not suggested. It was decided, and I was “told.”

I imagined my classroom “car” to which I “had the keys” as being without wheels, on blocks.
I was also told that we would be regularly be expected to write ”text-dependent” assignments using a template provided by a company called Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC). I was told that PARCC has a lot of text-dependent questions, so I needed to use this template to create a text-dependent writing assignment for students as often as (the unofficial expectation) once a week...

I understand that this is the nature of top-down “leadership.” The only one with the freedom is the one at the very top. All others have some consequence, the outcome of which they seek to determine by controlling the actions of those lower than them in the chain. So I understand why my district is so prescriptive in telling me as an English teacher the specific literature I am to use and why my school administration is telling me not only what to teach but how to teach it, down to the exact lesson template. They are grasping for control.
At my school it's not as bad as that last paragraph--yet--but it's coming.  There is an effort to get us to use our math books as nothing more than problem sets, ignoring the sequential presentation in the book (which we chose, in theory, because it presented good material in an orderdly, logical, and sound way) and skipping around to present material in a different order.

To quote that underrated 70's musician Boz Scaggs, "Danger, there's a breakdown dead ahead."


Shortly after I graduated from West Point, while still on graduation leave, I spent a week as a counselor at Sly Park at a Space Camp for high school students.  It was my 3rd time at Sly Park--first as a student in 6th grade for a week, next as a 12th grade counselor for 6th graders for a week, and lastly at the Space Camp.  Boys' cabins there are named after animals and girls cabins are named after trees.  I stayed in Porcupine all three times, I am a firm believer in Pork Power.

One night at Space Camp several of the instructors brought out telescopes, and it was then, for the first time, I saw Saturn and its rings.  What an amazing sight!  Was I any less excited than Galileo when he first saw them?  Absolutely beautiful.

That was in 1987. 

A couple years ago I showed them to my son in his telescope, but he never developed the passion for looking in his telescope that I had as a kid looking in mine at the moon.  His telescope just takes up space in his room.

A few nights ago I was out for a walk and wondered what that bright star, obviously a planet, was, so I broke out the phone and fired up Google Sky Map (I wish Star Walk was available for Android) and learned it was Saturn. Last night I took the telescope out and aimed it. 

I don't think the excitement of seeing the rings of Saturn diminishes with repeated experience.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

How's The Racial Achievement Gap Done Under The Current Administration, Race to the Top, Common Core Implementation, etc?

I think you can guess merely from my title and the title of this linked piece:

Racial/ethnic achievement gaps were narrowing, till the Obama administration waived and weakened No Child Left Behind, writes Paul Peterson, who directs Harvard’s program on Education Policy and Governance, in a Wall Street Journal commentary.

3D Pictures

I don't think there's any place left on the planet that will develop the 3D pictures I took a couple years ago, so now I'm left with using an ordinary camera and cheesy software to produce off-color 3D pictures.  If you have red/blue glasses, check these out:
click to enlarge

The next 3D picture was an attempt made from just a single shot:

Friday, August 09, 2013

Calculator Dependence

There are plenty of people--math teachers among them--who think that calculators are so ubiquitous that we should teach students only minimal computation abilities and focus instead on helping them gain some "deeper understanding" of how to solve a particular problem.  It's "critical thinking" dogma for math.

Those of us who believe that students should use calculators only after understanding the calculations themselves have to fight that well-worn battle of "let the calculator do the drudgery, teach the kids to interpret what the calculator is telling them."  There are many levels of rebuttal to that silliness, the weakest being, "What do you do when the batteries die/the power goes out?"  No one, not even the person raising that argument, really thinks it's a good one.  There are plenty, though, for whom the concept of the necessity of "numeracy" is so clear and obvious that they've never thought through a clear and obvious rebuttal to the siren song of universal calculator usage.

I'm currently skimming through my personally-annotated copy of Sherman Stein's amazing book Strength In Numbers and came upon this beautifully-worded, succinct reasoning:
There is also the risk that a computer may play the role of the autocratic teacher who says, "Don't ask why.  Just do it the way I say."  It is then a mysterious black box, and using it places the pupils in a position of dependency.  This circumstance is most unfortunate in mathematics, where pupils should develop self-confidence and accept nothing on faith.  Several teachers have told me that "the capacity to reason seems to get lost when you start pressing keys too early."
I refer to calculators in class as "devil boxes", and I talk to my students about "black box numbers".  It seems I'd absorbed Stein's lessons well, even though I'd forgotten this particular passage from a book I last read several years ago.

By the by, I've met Professor Stein.  He's signed two books for me (Strength In Numbers and How The Other Half Thinks) and gave me an algebra book he co-authored in 1969.  His "popular audience" books are extremely interesting and well written, and the algebra book is among the best I've ever seen, certainly better than any book adopted in California in the sixteen years I've been teaching.

I used to recommend John Allen Paulos' book Innumeracy to people who ask me to recommend one "popular audience" math book; now, if I can recommend only one it's Strength In Numbers.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

To Fly

Just for fun, here are 3 flying videos that I've made:
Las Vegas Strip helicopter tour
Float plane in the San Juan Islands
Glider ride

Colors That Pop

While uploading all the pics from my Las Vegas trip to my computer, I got the idea to post just a few pictures I have that I think are nice because of the vivid colors. 

Click to enlarge (seriously, do it! they look better that way!)

Valley of Fire State Park, about an hour's drive out of Las Vegas

I couldn't decide between these next two pictures, taken a couple weeks ago at Lake Tahoe

Pigeons in St. Mark's Square, Venice

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

I don't think one is a hypocrite just because one does one thing not in accordance with one's beliefs--for example, an honest person who tells a lie is a liar but not necessarily a hypocrite.  Hypocrisy, at least to me, requires that someone violate something that they loudly and/or often advocate; it's not enough to violate your own personal code of ethics to be hypocritical, you must violate something preached loudly and strongly.  An example would be if I were to secretly have a side job working as a TSA officer.

I've always thought it interesting that teachers unions throw all their weight behind Democratic candidates, who then send their kids to private schools!  I don't blame the Clintons and the Obamas for sending their kids to Sidwell Friends, I blame the teachers unions for giving money to someone who doesn't value or trust public schools enough to send their own kids to them--you know, "good enough for thee but not for me".  And from what I've read, good parents probably wouldn't send their kids to DC's public schools.  I completely support school choice, and parents' right to choose where their kids go to school.  The teachers unions, however, are being hypocritical.

So is Matt Damon, who has loudly (and foul-mouthedly) supported public schools but sends his own kids to private schools:
Actor Matt Damon is a strong supporter of America's public schools. Just two years ago, the star spoke passionately about the importance of public schools at a Washington DC "Save our Schools" rally. In fact, the actor is so impressed with public school teachers that he has demanded they receive a pay raise. That passion and conviction, however, does not apply to Damon's own children, who will not be enrolled into the Los Angeles public school system.

In an interview with the Guardian published Saturday, Damon revealed that he had just moved to Los Angeles from New York, but that he didn't "have a choice" when it came to putting his four daughters into private schools. The multi-millionaire did say that it was "a major moral dilemma" and then made the bizarre excuse that the public schools aren't "progressive" enough.
I thought this tie-in to his most recent movie was pretty good, too:
According to early reviews, (the movie) is a big-budget action film that condemns a future Los Angeles where the super-rich use their wealth and privilege to separate themselves and their families from the city's poor.  
This, ladies and gentlemen, is hypocrisy.

Update, 8/9/13:  So is this:
Hypocrite In Chief: 5 Limits On NSA Spying That Senator Obama Supported But President Obama Opposes

Want Some Poison Darts Thrown At You?

Merely bring up the idea that it might be time to reevaluate the effectiveness of mainstreaming certain special education students.  The comments at the link give you an idea about why such a discussion might be necessary.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Just A Few Pictures From My Las Vegas Trip

Valley of Fire State Park
 click to embiggen

Out and about Las Vegas

Penn & Teller Show at the Rio

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

I Don't Get It

With the start of school right around the corner (I go to some training this Friday), I thought this article would be an entertaining way to start off the new year:
New study links arming teachers with more polite students
I think IDB put the wrong headline on that story, because the URL and the story itself match--it's a bunch of Obama's Birthday jokes.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

My Trip To Visit The Grimaldis Started Most Inauspiciously

Sacramento International, 10:16 am
Freakin' TSA-holes. Minimum wage-caliber employees given the full power of the US government to be stupid. I went through the scanner and, as will happen the rest of my life, a dot showed up on my left knee; long-time readers of this blog might remember that there's a screw in that knee due to a skiing injury over 2 years ago. Anyway, I'm wearing shorts that go down just about to my knee, and the only thing showing up on the scanner output is a small dot on my knee. The government employee genius deems it necessary to grope both of my legs to ensure I'm not going to blow the plane up.

Shortly after arriving at the gate I'm called by name up to the counter. Seems that my flight is running late and I'll miss my connection. I've been put on a direct flight in 4 hours—lovely place to spend 4 hours, this airport is—but here's the kicker. I'm flying Southwest, and when I checked in I got an early boarding group number. On this flight 4 hrs later, though, I'm in a late boarding group. I'm surprised Southwest can't do better than this.

Yes, I admit these are First World problems, but by definition they're still problems. In the grand scheme of things they aren't horrific, but neither is an itchy mosquito bite—but no one likes those, either.

If I were really visiting the Grimaldis instead of merely staying at a hotel named after their principality, I'd see what they can do for me. Instead, I make do for the next 4 hours.

Las Vegas, 4:24 pm
There was a direct flight to Las Vegas an hour and a half after my original flight, but it was so full they thought it would be oversold.  Instead there were 3 seats open, so I got on that flight as the last person to board.  Still, there was room in the overhead for my bag and I got an emergency row seat, albeit a middle one.  Additionally, I got to Las Vegas within 10 minutes of when my original flight was supposed to arrive.  No problems checking in--and internet access is included in my mandatory "resort fee" so I'm darn sure going to use it!

Valley of Fire State Park tomorrow.  I'm looking forward to it :-)

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Only A So-called Academic Could Think This

What can I say, except that I shouldn't be surprised?
Traditional classes in English language are a “bit unnecessary” at a time when pupils have so much access to state-of-the-art technology, it is claimed.
Sugata Mitra, professor of educational technology at Newcastle University, said good spelling and grammar was necessary “maybe a hundred years ago” but "not right now".
He insisted that children should be encouraged to express themselves in a number of different ways – including using mobile phone text messaging – rather than relying on established linguistic rules. 
The good news is that this idiot is a professor of "educational technology", a field just about as silly as that of education itself.

Hat tip to reader MikeAT.

Smart People Jokes

The geeky highbrow jokes in this article are pretty funny.  Examples:
The barman says: “We don’t serve faster-than-light particles here.” A tachyon enters a bar.

Did you hear about the jurisprudence fetishist? He got off on a technicality.

Did you hear about the man who got cooled to absolute zero? He’s 0K now.

What does the “B” in Benoit B Mandelbrot stand for? Answer: Benoit B Mandelbrot.

A programmer’s wife tells him: “Run to the store and pick up a loaf of bread. If they have eggs, get a dozen.” The programmer comes home with 12 loaves of bread.