Saturday, January 31, 2015

Real Life "Safety Not Guaranteed"

Have you seen the movie Safety Not Guaranteed?  I'd never heard of it until I saw an ad for it on some other dvd I own, and it's a great movie.  I highly recommend it.  From IMDB:
Three magazine employees head out on an assignment to interview a guy who placed a classified ad seeking a companion for time travel.
The ad he placed read:
WANTED:  Someone to go back in time with me.  This is not a joke.  You'll get paid after we get back.  Must bring your own weapons.  I have only done this once before.  SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED
I thought of that movie as I saw this interesting ad in Smithsonian Magazine:
click to enlarge

Of course I popped over to the web site, and here's what it says:
Very few people have been taught post-1950s?  The theory of relativity has been disproven?

It's an entertaining, if laborious, site to read.  Perhaps I should offer a reward to anyone who can explain the following, from the Foreword page:
Gravity is not circling the planets around the sun's equator from the disproved quantum gravity hypothesis.
cuckoo bird photo: Animated Cookoo Clock clock_22.gif
Safety Not Guaranteed was much better.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Geniuses In The Socialist Utopia

Some people are idiots, even in the socialist utopia of Vermont:
An eighth-grade Vermont girl studying Latin thought it would be nice if her state had a Latin motto. She wrote to Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning, who introduced a bill proposing “Stella quarta decima fulgeat,” (“May the 14th star shine bright”) in addition to the state’s English motto, “Freedom and Unity,” writes John Walters in the Vermont Political Observer. Vermont was the 14th state to join the Union.

It seemed like a “nice, harmless” thing, writes Walter. Then, all hell broke loose.

Yes, This Is What We Need More Of In School

Let's celebrate cultures wherein women are second-class citizens!
Hijab Day happened at a taxpayer-funded charter school in the suburbs of Sacramento on Wednesday, Jan. 28. All female students — but only female students — were encouraged to wear Muslim headscarves...

(Principal) Rutten said that Hijab Day was part of a student’s senior project. The student wanted to teach other students how to wear Muslim headscarves properly.
1)   Learning how to wear a scarf?  What a stupid project, especially for a senior.
2)  That's a school where people are so "open minded" that their brains fall out.
3)  Maybe next they can celebrate Islamic State day and cut someone's head off.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

If They Can't Get It Right In Berkeley...

In this post I wrote about how poorly Berkeley schools teach minority students, and now we learn that UC Berkeley has discrepancies between the pay of white men professors and others:
The gaps aren’t large, nor are the causes clear. But the campus is already planning to act on new findings that average salaries for women and minority-group faculty at UC Berkeley lag behind those for white men in similar fields, and with comparable professional experience.
What do they do right in the liberal bastion of Berkeley?  And if they're so screwed up, why do they think I should listen to anything they say?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

More Than Just The Gym Is Full of Crap

How can anyone think this is an appropriate response?
A North Texas school district is investigating after about two dozen elementary students had to pull their pants down when feces were found on a gym floor.

A parent says the children in Gustine were forced to expose their underwear for inspection...

Superintendent Ken Baugh says he does not condone the search and that partially strip-searching students went too far. He says the district is investigating.
We have a law about this in California.  You have to wonder what exactly precipitated this being added to education code:
Section 49050: No school employee shall conduct a search that involves:
(a) Conducting a body cavity search of a pupil manually or with an instrument.
(b) Removing or arranging any or all of the clothing of a pupil to permit a visual inspection of the underclothing, breast, buttocks, or genitalia of the pupil.
(Added by Stats. 1988, Ch. 1102, Sec. 1.)

Did He Have A Big Booty?

I like big guns and I cannot lie...

Check out the pic here and read the article, very cool:
Archaeologists are excavating the vessel that served as the flagship of the pirate Blackbeard, and the medical equipment they have recovered from the shipwreck suggests the notorious buccaneer had to toil to keep his crew healthy.

Blackbeard is the most famous pirate who ever lived. His real name was Edward Teach (or possibly Thatch), and his flagship, the Queen Anne's Revenge, was formerly a French slave vessel named La Concorde de Nantesthat Blackbeard captured in November 1717. Blackbeard was able to capture this ship easily because much of its crew was either sick or dead due to disease.

A few months into 1718, the Queen Anne's Revenge ran aground on a sandbar at Topsail Inlet in North Carolina. Blackbeard abandoned much of his crew at that point, leaving the site with a select group of men and most of the plunder. He was killed in battle later that year.

The wreck of the Queen Anne's Revenge was rediscovered in 1996 and has been under excavation by the Queen Anne's Revenge Project. Archaeologists have recovered many artifacts, including a number of medical instruments. These artifacts, combined with historical records, paint a picture of a pirate captain who tried to keep his crew in fighting shape. 
OK, I admit it, the entire article is about medical equipment found on board and not about any pirate "booty".  Still, can you really talk about pirates without using the word "booty"?  I don't think it's allowed.

And should the link no longer be active some day, the picture is of a cannon being raised.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Will The Court Get This One Right?

I already pay taxes, which can count as a condition of my employment.  Should I also be required, as a condition of employment, to pay a union that doesn't represent me?

In about half the states, including California, the answer is yes.  The argument in these so-called Fair Share states is that the union is required to represent me so I should pay for their representation.  In the other half of the states, the Right To Work states, no one is compelled to pay a union as a condition of employment.

I'm not a union member; requiring union membership was ruled unconstitutional years ago, which means there's no such thing as a "closed shop" in this country.  I am, however, required to pay a union, even though I don't want or need their services.  The argument of the u-bots is this:  you get the advantage of everything the union negotiates for you but don't want to pay for it, you're a free rider.  My argument is this:  I'm not a free rider, I'm a forced rider, and you assume that, given the opportunity, I couldn't negotiate better for myself.  In a free market, do you really think a math teacher and a kindergarten teacher would be paid the same?  I'm not disparaging the work of kindergarten teachers, not at all, but the laws of supply and demand dictate that I'd be paid more.  Unions distort, or destroy, that reality.

One of the reasons I'm a Talker for Walker, a supporter of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker for President, was his reining in of public union excesses in Wisconsin, the "home of progressivism".  I've held out hope that if it could happen there, it could happen here in crazy California.  That's my dream, and that dream is coming one step closer to reality:

A group of public schoolteachers on Monday petitioned the Supreme Court to hear a challenge to laws allowing teachers unions to require dues from nonmembers who disagree with union positions and policies.

A decision in the teachers' favor could change how public employee unions operate nationwide.

The lawsuit, first filed in April 2013, takes aim at the 300,000-member California Teachers Association and the affiliated National Education Association. The plaintiffs – 10 California teachers and the Christian Educators Association International – claim California's "agency shop" law is unconstitutional and violates teachers' First Amendment rights by forcing them to pay union dues regardless of whether they support or are a member of the union. Twenty-six states currently have such laws in place...

The plaintiffs' intent, Pell says, isn't to take down unions or attack collective bargaining, but rather to protect the First Amendment rights of teachers.

"The issues here are inherently political issues, and the First Amendment protects the right of individuals to decide for themselves what side of those political questions they’re on," Pell says. "We think the court should give heightened scrutiny to these types of political disputes."
I hope the Court takes this case.

Worse Than "Rape Culture"

I've pointed out enough times on this blog that despite liberal fantasies to the contrary, "rape culture" doesn't exist.  What does exist, though, and is promulgated by the president himself, is the belief that men--most especially men in college, for some reason--who are accused of rape are entitled to less due process protection than just about anyone else in our society.  Universities are, under direction from the US Department of Education, supposed to ensure all sorts of rights and privacy for accusers but very little for the accused.  The justification for this, and for the extremely low "preponderance of evidence" standard, is that getting kicked out of school is not a court proceeding so court requirements need not be followed.

Men are starting to strike back, suing the schools that treated them unjustly:
Amherst College in Massachusetts is the latest school to reach a settlement with a student over claims that the school treated him unfairly in a campus sexual assault case.

“John Doe,” filed a lawsuit against the school in 2014, after a years-old informal complaint alleging he had sexually assaulted another student was revived — just two weeks before Doe was set to graduate. The terms of the settlement are confidential...

John Doe is among a growing number of young men receiving settlements after suing their universities over lack of due process and discrimination in sexual assault hearings.

A Voice for Male Students has compiled a list of 57 lawsuits against universities for such acts. By comparison, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating nearly 100 complaints filed by students claiming they were sexually assaulted and their allegations mishandled.
Here's the most (in)famous recent case, which included an invitation to the State of the Union Address for the liar/accuser!

Honestly, I would never have dreamed that such miscarriages of justice could be endemic in this country in the 21st Century.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Many Waze Cops Can Get You

As someone who's related to two cops and is friends with another, as someone who is usually on the side of cops, I'm going to disagree with them bigtime on this issue:
Sheriffs are campaigning to pressure Google Inc. to turn off a feature on its Wazetraffic software that warns drivers when police are nearby. They say one of the technology industry's most popular mobile apps could put officers' lives in danger from would-be police killers who can find where their targets are parked.

Waze, which Google purchased for $966 million in 2013, is a combination of GPS navigation and social networking. Fifty million users in 200 countries turn to the free service for real-time traffic guidance and warnings about nearby congestion, car accidents, speed traps or traffic cameras, construction zones, potholes, stalled vehicles or unsafe weather conditions.
I've already gotten into, and disengaged myself from, a "discussion" with my cousin on Facebook about this topic.  I understand the "people might use it to target cops" argument, but there are lots of things out there that do that.  Heck, firearms can be used to harm cops, but we can't just take those away.  It's not right to take away something from the public on the grounds that someone might misuse it.  And let's be blunt--someone who wants to shoot a cop for whatever reason doesn't need Waze to help them find a cop.

I'll just say it, though--the situation with cops is out of hand.  I was driving down the main thoroughfare of my small suburban city this weekend when I came upon a motorcycle officer pointing a radar/lidar gun at me.  Let's just admit that that's a little disconcerting, having someone who's dressed like a stormtrooper pointing the magic gun at you, and against which you have no defense.  And yes, a stormtrooper--knee-high boots, tight pants, big helmet, dark glasses.  They don't look like good men and women out "to protect and to serve", they look like people out to intimidate and harass you.  Pointing that radar/lidar gun at you, looking like "I'm gonna get you, motherf****er."

Yes, I know that some of the accoutrements can be explained away in the name of efficiency or officer safety.  But theirs, like mine, is a job wherein you live in a fishbowl with everyone watching what you do, and appearances count.  And when I see cops hiding in shadows hoping to bust someone for going over the speed limit--not like I've never seen a police car go over 40 mph on my local roads--it kind of ticks me off.

So what's wrong with Waze?  I've used it exactly once, to let me know if I should get off the freeway at the next exit or if the traffic would end soon.  But if people use it to report the location of speed traps, I'm ok with that.  Don't you want people to slow down?  Isn't that what you get if people know there's a speed trap ahead?  Or do you just want to bust somebody, and bring in some revenue for the government as a bonus?

Are you naive enough to think that that isn't one of the purposes of ticketing?  Perhaps you've heard about the recent strife between the NYPD and the NYC mayor; the officers have so little respect for the mayor that many turned their backs on him when he spoke at the funeral of an officer in December.  Well, there's been no making up, so the police started what unions would call a "work slowdown"--they're out defending the public, but they almost stopped writing citations:
It’s a slowdown showdown.

At precincts across the city, top brass are cracking the whip on summons activity and even barring many cops from taking vacation and sick days, The Post has learned.

Throughout the city, precincts are being ordered to hand up to borough commanders “activity sheets” indicating the number of arrests and summonses per shift, sources told The Post.

“Police officers around the city are now threatened with transfers, no vacation time and sick time unless they write summonses,” one union source said.

“This is the same practice that caused officers to be labeled racist and abusers of power.”

In at least one precinct, the brass backlash — which comes in the wake of Police Commissioner Bill Bratton ordering cops back on the job after The Post reported a 90 percent drop in ticket writing — is downright ­draconian.

“Everyone here is under orders — no time off” during the summons catch-up blitz, said one cop at the 105th Precinct in Queens.

“And the majority of [new] summonses written aren’t protecting the public in any way.

“But now they’re realizing how much revenue the city is losing and they’re enforcing their will upon us,” he said...

 No one was to return to the precinct or even take a meal break until two summonses were logged, the officer said.
They'll look for robbers and muggers and rapists, but they cut way back on writing tickets.  And they're being punished for that.

When politicians are too cowardly to raise taxes, they look to the police to help raise revenues.  The police are being used to shake down the public, and sometimes they don't seem to mind. I’m thinking that Waze serves to protect the public from over-zealous cops and their city-hall overlords who want to raise more money for city coffers.

If police are going to abuse the public, then passive resistance is the least they should expect.  I recall, but cannot find the case (does this ring a bell to anyone?) that a court (the Supreme Court?) upheld, on 1st Amendment grounds, the right of a person to hold up a sign saying "speed trap ahead".  Waze is just the technological version of that sign.

Teachers Unions And Their Democratic...Allies?

Being an American who believes in the freedom of association, I support the right of my fellow countrymen to join labor unions if they choose to.  I am against the compulsory unionism that is the law in a couple dozen so-called fair-share states.

Additionally, I believe that unions should act in the interests of, and be accountable to, their members.  It drives me to distraction when teachers unions hide behind children and claim to be acting in the interests of children when, in fact, the only people they should support is their members.  The children have plenty of people looking out for them:  the state department of education, the elected school board, and of course their own parents.  Teachers unions should be looking out for children, they should be looking out for teachers.  When the interests of those two groups conflict, the union should either support the teachers or, if the optics of supporting the teachers would be too bad, demur.  Al Shanker was right when he made his famous comment about students' not paying union dues.

I also believe that unions become more useless the further they get away from the worker; for example, local teachers unions may look out for specific teachers but the state and national unions are useless to the individual teacher, and are in fact nothing more than arms of the Democratic Party.  I want nothing to do with them.

Which is why this article in Reason Magazine is so interesting:
Cuomo referred to the teacher unions and the entrenched education establishment as an “industry” that is more interested in protecting the rights of its members than improving the system for the kids it is supposed to be serving.

“Somewhere along the way, I believe we flipped the purpose of this,” Cuomo said. “This was never a teacher employment program and this was never an industry to hire superintendents and teachers.
“This was a program to educate kids.” ...

He said he openly disagreed with a teacher union member who said he represents the students.

“No, you don’t,” Cuomo said he told the person. “You represent the teachers. Teacher salaries, teacher pensions, teacher tenure, teacher vacation rights. I respect that. But don’t say you represent the students.”
The fact that this fiery anti-union tirade passed the lips of a blue state Democrat tells you everything you need to know about just how thoroughly teaches union have alienated many of their natural political allies. And this isn't merely some quirk of New York politics, as the same thing has happened on a local scale in numerous cities such as Chicago, Detroit, and Los Angeles. Democratic politicians everywhere are more willing to take on teachers unions than ever before.

I suspect that's because they recognize the long-term unsustainability of this alliance. Teachers unions have continued to extort delusional concessions from lawmakers and taxpayers, even as their leaders' antics grow more distracting and hateful.
Cuomo's wrong in believing that teachers unions should be serving kids, but right when he points out that they don't (except when it's good for the Democratic Party).   It's not beyond teachers unions at all to hide behind children, for example when demanding more money for education, as if there's no conflict of interest in doing so.

I'm not as sanguine as the Reason author in seeing Cuomo's verbal jab as some bellwether of things to come, but it's certainly a good start.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The "How" Is Rooted In The "Why"

Here's a great post explaining, with a robot analogy--and who doesn't love robots?!--why it's important in math not just to memorize things, but to understand why the rules you're memorizing make sense:
Every rule – even the craziest, most arbitrary mandate – has a reason rooted in this essential purpose...

And so it is in math class. If you understand slope not as “that list of steps I’m supposed to follow” but as “a rate of change,” things start making more sense. (Why is it the ratio of the coefficients? Because, look what happens when x increases by 1!)

You get to work a lot less, and think a lot more.

Now, conceptual understanding alone isn’t enough, any more than procedures alone are enough. You must connect the two, tracing how the rules emerge from the concepts. Only then can you learn to apply procedures flexibly, and to anticipate exceptions. Only then will you get the pat on the back that every robot craves.

Being Anti-Common-Core Is Not Just A Conservative Position

Washington is known as a fairly liberal state, at least in its populated areas, so this was a bit of a surprise to me:
The Central Committee of the Washington State Democratic Party has passed a resolution that roundly condemns the Common Core standards. This is the first time a statewide Democratic Party committee has taken a public position against the Common Core, and it happened in the back yard of the Gates Foundation, which has provided the funding that made the national standards project possible. This could signal a sea-change for the beleaguered standards, because up until now, political opposition has been strongest in the Republican party.
Please go read the whole thing.

And when you're done, take note of the author.  Does that name ring a bell?  It did to me!  He was a speaker at this event, and commented on that post that I didn't quote anything he said. 

It's not that I believe that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend", but I do believe in finding common ground with people.  I support many of the objectives of Democrats for Education Reform, and I support Cody's dislike of the Common Core standards.  His reasons are certainly different from mine, but perhaps there's more common ground to be had between us.  Imagine, being against Common Core leads to common ground!

So Open-Minded, Their Brains Have Fallen Out

People don't naturally think like this, they're taught to think like this.  What possible good is there in teaching people to think this way, except perhaps as a warning to others?
Two students at the University of California, Berkeley are calling for students to “Occupy the syllabus,” or consider dropping a course if it only includes the works of white men as class material.

Students Rodrigo Kazuo and Margaret “Meg” Perret wrote an op-ed in The Daily Californian, the independent student newspaper, titled “Occupy the syllabus” where they called for a student-wide occupation of all social science and humanities classes after they found their upper-division course on classical social theory lacked the works of women, trans people, and people of color.

“The white male canon is not sufficient for theorizing the lives of marginalized people.”

“The course syllabus employed a standardized canon of theory that began with Plato and Aristotle, then jumped to modern philosophers: Hobbes, Locke, Hegel, Marx, Weber and Foucault, all of whom are white men,” wrote the students. “The syllabus did not include a single woman or person of color.”

The students espoused their concerns surrounding the white male dominated material and suggest that simply assigning these authors without the inclusion of minority thought is not acknowledging “the other 99 percent of humanity.”
And my tax dollars pay for this school. Lovely.

Any Of You Liberals Want To Justify This?

After telling people to save for their children's education, the government--in the person of President Obama himself--wants to start taxing those supposedly tax-free education savings accounts:
Earlier in the week, I discussed the Obama administration's proposal to tax earnings on so-called 529 college savings plans, part of a package of tax hikes that will pay for new programs such as his proposal to make the first two years of community college free. This has been touted as a plan to hike taxes on the rich to help the middle class, but in fact it's more of a plan to redistribute money from the upper middle class to the lower middle class.

As I noted then, this proposal is not going anywhere, not just because Republican congressmen will block it, but because it would be very unpopular with affluent blue-state voters who currently vote for Democrats. About the only people I saw defending this particular idea were blue-state singles who haven't yet confronted the monstrous expense of shepherding their progeny into the new mandarin class to which they belong.

Everyone else seems to be somewhere between confused and aghast. One comment in particular struck me, as I saw it several times on social media and in writings: "How would you feel if they did this to Roth IRAs?"

Why did I find that particular question a compelling topic for a column? Because it's a question we may have to ask ourselves.
I'm interested in hearing someone, especially a leftie, defend this proposal. There was a deal made with people when they set aside money for their kids' education using 529's, and this situation reminds me too much of this statement from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back:

Friday, January 23, 2015

CC's To Provide BA's? That's BS.

In all honesty I have yet to take a position on this new situation:
Bachelor’s degrees in mortuary work, ranch management and consumer technology design will soon be coming to California community colleges.

Under legislation signed last fall by Gov. Jerry Brown, the system’s governing board on Tuesday tentatively approved four-year degree programs at 15 community college campuses that will be introduced over the next three academic years.

“This is an historic day in our system,” California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice W. Harris said.

Changing technology and educational expectations have driven employers in fields such as dental hygiene, respiratory therapy and automotive technology – which once required only two-year associate degrees – to seek workers with a baccalaureate.
In general, whenever there's a big change I take the statistics approach to hypothesis testing:  assume the status quo and look for strong evidence that it is not "correct"; in other words, I want to be convinced beforehand that a major change is going to be beneficial.  For whatever reason, though, this isn't ticking me off, so I guess I'll take a "wait and see" approach to determine if this change is or isn't worthwhile.

My initial impression is that this is silly and not the way to go, but I don't know if that's me being right or me just being curmudgeonly :-)

Important Anniversaries

Tomorrow if the 50th anniversary of the death of one of the greatest men of the 20th century, Winston Churchill.

Today is the 10th anniversary of my first blog post, almost 10,000 posts ago.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Team Victory

During our scheduled and mandated "collaboration time" today our social sciences department organized a trivia challenge.  I missed last year's but was looking forward to this year's.

I got to the library early and one of our bright English teachers was there.  I offered to join up with her but was given the cold shoulder--we have our own pretty tight-knit group already, she said, since they'd won together last year.  And with that it was on.  I started assembling a team, calling ourselves Team Victory.

Thirty questions on a variety of topics, no multiple choice.  When the scores were tallied we didn't feel like we'd wrapped ourselves in glory, scoring only 19 questions right out of 30, but it was enough to take 1st Place.

I love the smell of ink on paper in the afternoon.  It smells like...victory  :-)

"Free" Community College

Joanne's post hits the nail on the head:
College is too late, writes New York Times columnist Frank Bruni in response to President Obama’s call for free community college in the State of the Union speech. Subsidizing tuition won’t help if students aren’t ready to do college-level work.
And Common Core isn't going to get students ready to do college-level math anyway:

"The speaker is Jason Zimba, one of the three drafters of the Common Core math standards. The questioner is Dr. Sandra Stotsky. This exchange took place at a meeting of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on March 23, 2010. As you will hear, Dr. Zimba admits not only that the CC math standards aren't designed to prepare students for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) studies, but also that they're not designed to get a student into any selective college, even in a non-STEM discipline."

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Why I Didn't Listen To The State of the Union Address

I've heard the guy speak enough times, I know what he's going to say before he even says it.  And I know how he's going to say it, too.  This blogger calls it pretty much as I predicted:
No, I did not watch Obama’s State Of The Union speech. I haven’t bothered with most of his SOTU campaign speeches, nor do I bother watching any of his speeches. They are a raft of campaign speeches, replete with lies, half truths, and insults aimed at those who disagree with him. He typically calls for bipartisanship, for working together, then goes on to taunt and denigrate Republicans. He did that again last night. The Weekly Standard refers to the speech as “defiant“. And four Associated Press writers had to sit through his speech and fact check it...
When a news service I've periodically referred to as al-AP points out that the president isn't entirely honest/accurate, well, that means he's a freakin' liar, and I'm not one to suffer liars.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Idiots Should Have Known Better--And Freedom Is Lucky Only To Have A Near Miss

Six weeks ago I wrote about how the Alabama legislature, run by Republicans, was planning on credentialing only the "institutional press" to cover their proceedings.  Defining who is and isn't a journalist is not a conservative concept and, well, they tried to do it anyway, and did a darn poor job of it:
Here's Alabama's proposed official press credential policy...

Notice how much emphasis is placed on being paid and working for incumbent media outlets. This wording gives incumbent media preference over upstarts and quite possibly means those whose platforms aren't instantly recognizable by legislators will be deemed "non-press" and denied access.

Also notice how much information journalists will need to provide in exchange for a press pass. If you want to cover the Alabama legislature, you'll need to prove that you're a salaried employee of one of the entities on the "approved" list. Maybe something on official letterhead will be good enough for the legislature. Or maybe it's suggesting you bring a pay stub or two with you and a portfolio of your work (... and financial statements verifying your employer has subscribers, still in business, etc...). And God forbid you hold a part-time job with any "person, firm, corporation or association" that "attempts to influence legislative issues," but still attempt to "certify" that you have no connection to myriad entities listed in the "forbidden connections" section. You can kiss your credentials goodbye. And this part of the list about forbidden connections -- "or political party" -- suggests journalists are better off not registering to vote.

Beyond that, there's the weird stipulation that those receiving press credentials will need to be "engaged primarily in reporting the sessions of the legislature. (And be able to prove it.)
Anyone see any potential problems, any possible ways to abuse such a system? Fortunately, the disinfecting powers of sunlight brought enough of those legislators from both parties to their senses, according to this leftie web site:
Update 1/14/2015: The Alabama Legislature "declined" to change the rules for journalists yesterday, with senators from both parties objecting & warning of possible unintended consequences. Amazing how the bright light of media attention helps to bring sanity to the chamber!
Freedom of the press dodged a bullet last week.  And I'll celebrate this win along with that crazy leftie blogger!

This blog?  This blog is the press spoken of in the Constitution, along with the institutional press.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Statuary Hall, Liberal First Amendment Concern, and Today's Holiday--And How They All Relate

Several years ago I got a tour of the US Capitol, and one of the highlights was Statuary Hall.  In the Hall each state contributes two statues of prominent people from that state; California's are Father Junipero Serra, who founded the California missions, and the Reverend Starr-King, a minister whom President Lincoln credited with helping keep California in the Union during the Civil War.

I was the first person my tour guide had ever encountered who know who Starr-King was, which explains why every once in awhile there's talk of replacing his statue with Ronald Reagan.  As long as California remains a dystopian "paradise", though, that will never happen.  But it's still interesting to see two men noted for their religions memorialized by California.

I read at Joanne's blog that Serra is soon to be canonized by the Pope:
Serra was no saint, writes my friend Elias Castillo in A Cross of Thorns: The Enslavement of California’s Indians by the Spanish Missions, will be published in a few weeks. “The missions were death camps where more than 60,000 Indian workers died, many as a result of whippings, disease, and malnutrition.”

“I”m astounded,” he told the San Jose Mercury News. “For the Vatican, which has apologized for how the Indians were treated, to now canonize one of their great monsters?”

It does seem rather odd, doesn't it?  Actually, it seems rather odd for both California (Statuary Hall) and for the Catholic Church.

7-1/2 years ago I was in an almost-ghost-town in California's Gold Country and came upon this:
(click to enlarge)

A year later I made my visit to Statuary Hall.  I didn't take pictures of California's statues, as no one on the planet would recognize Serra or Starr-King anyway.  And while I enjoyed Hawaii's King Kamehameha, I took a picture of only one statue in there:

Joanne has an author friend who wrote this book:

So that's how this post all comes together.

Have a great day.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Are You Kidding Me?

I just watched the 2nd lecture for my current (6th of 10) master's class, History of Math, and the instructor said that the textbook readings in the syllabus are not required.  They're great background information but...

Are you kidding me?  I paid over $100 on Amazon for a used copy of that book!  What the heck?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

What's Good For The Goose

I wonder if those liberals who today clamor for "self-censorship" in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo murders, who say that we in the West mustn't mock, criticize, or antagonize religions or their beliefs or adherents--and who seem to imply that the French paper "had it coming"--I wonder if those same people are criticizing these two for doing this:
Now Michael Sam, the first openly gay player to be drafted into the NFL, has taken another leap of confidence - and likely controversy - by proposing to his longtime love from what is renowned as one of the holiest Catholic sites.

Sam confirmed his engagement to college sweetheart Vito Cammisano on Twitter on Friday and posted a photo of himself getting on bended knee at St. Peters Basilica - one of the largest church's in the world - in Vatican City.
From the article:

Looks like the Vatican has raised the bars (literally!) since I went in 2012:

Friday, January 16, 2015

Smashing A Liberal Talking Point

Wait...Libs let illegal immigrants get a license, but say it's too hard to get one & oppressive for citizens to have one when they vote? OK

Good Idea, Or Not?

Arizona requires that graduating high school students pass a civics test of 100 questions with a passing score of 60.

I see a lot of good that could come out of this, but I also see a down side.  What do you think, good or bad?  And while we're on the subject, are high school exit exams good or bad?

Is this requirement a way to "compel" kids to learn something, or is it an admission of failure?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Trigger Warnings, Microaggression, and the Permanently Aggrieved

Joanne has it all in this post.  I'm reposting the entire text, click on the link to see the video she included.
Universities should issue a one-time “trigger warning,” says Jonathan Rauch, author of Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought. At any moment, you may be exposed to ideas you find shocking, offensive, obnoxious, absurd, racist, sexist, homophobic or generally obnoxious. It’s called “education,” he says.

Not “microaggression.”

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Gender Charts

Check out Professor Mark Perry's charts:
#1 US Rape Rate--It's been going down for 15 years.
#2 Rape/Sexual Assault of Young Females--First, 1 in 5 college women are not being raped or sexually assaulted.  Second, since the rate for students is less than the rate for non-students, why is the left talking making such an issue out of assaults on campus?
#3 1 in 52 College Women Have Been Victims of Sexual Assault or Rape--yes, that's more than it should be, but why inflate the number by a factor of 10?
#4 The 1-in-5 claim can't possibly be true, because...
#5 For the 1-in-5 claim to be true...
#6 Gender Pay Gap At The White House--maybe that is where Obama gets his facts and figures.
#7 Occupational Fatalities By Gender--talk about female privilege.
#8 2014 SAT Math Scores By Gender--maybe, just maybe, that 30 point difference is telling us something.
#9 2014 SAT Math, Male/Female Ratios By Test Score
#10 College Classes of 2014--many more women are getting degrees than men.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Are We Doing Special Ed Correctly? Maybe Not.

Are we perhaps doing a tremendous disservice to students?

Many years ago I worked at a middle school at which I worked very closely with one of the special education teachers.  One day she told me she was moving one of my math students from one period to another, and I asked why.  "He can't read.  His current social studies teacher goes thematically, bouncing all around in the book.  I'm moving him to this other teacher, who goes linearly through the book.  I have the book on tape; he can listen to the tape easily this way and learn."  I asked, "What are we going to do to teach him to read?"  Her response was she hadn't thought of that, she was just trying to solve the immediate social studies problem.  We were a middle school, we didn't teach reading!  Turns out we had a (very) remedial reading class on campus, part of a program for which this particular student was not a part.  After I posed the question, though, she put the student into that reading program.  I consider that one of my personal successes in teaching.

Fast-forward to today.  I've written before about the new "gold standard" in 504 Plans and IEP's, "anxiety".  If a student has a 504 Plan or an IEP I as the classroom teacher am supposed to "accommodate" their anxiety and do whatever I can to help them "access the curriculum" despite their anxiety--or any other disability (ADD, anyone?) they have.  I have so many students authorized to take their tests and quizzes in an alternate location that I don't see how that particular accommodation helps reduce anxiety anymore!  In fact, most students prefer just to stay in my room for tests and quizzes, rather than take advantage of the so-called accommodation to which they are authorized.

As I have for over 7 years now, since I wrote this post, I lean towards the theory that we should help students to function despite their diagnoses, and not to expect the rest of the world to accommodate them.  Outside of school, no one cares.  If you can't function you get fired.  DMV doesn't care if you get "anxiety", either pass the driving test or don't get your license.  The world isn't being harsh or cruel in such cases, it's merely putting responsibility where it rightly belongs.  It's a modern version of "we all have our crosses to bear".

So I look at what we do with so many of our special ed and 504 students and I ask:  are we accommodating their disabilities, or enabling them?

Monday, January 12, 2015

"Free" Community College?

The President has suggested that 2 years of community college should be "free" for students.  It's an easy thing to say--it buys him some support but doesn't cost him anything, especially since it has a 0% chance of ever being enacted into law.  But even the major Sacramento newspaper, reliably liberal, has questions about its usefulness in California:
It’s unclear what President Barack Obama’s free community college proposal would mean for students in California, which already boasts the lowest fees in the nation and waives costs for 40 percent of its students.
Just what we need, even more people taking classes that will never lead to a certification or degree.

Update, 1/13/15:  From Bloomberg via Instapundit:
“What if people in the policy elite stopped assuming that the ideal was to make everyone more like them, and started thinking about making society more hospitable to those who aren’t? . . . I would argue instead that what’s elitist is our current fixation on college. It starts from the supposition that being good at school is some sort of great personal virtue, so that any suggestion that many people aren’t good at school must mean that those people are not equal and valuable members of society. And that supposition is triple-distilled balderdash.”

Liberals and Their Faux Support For Freedom of Expression

I have no doubt that liberals, as they are still human, are genuinely sad that a dozen or so people were killed in the Paris attack last week.  But are they "all Charlie"?  Not quite:
The unanimity of outrage expressed on Twitter, the unthinking allegiance to the cause of the hour whatever that cause might be, the social positioning of writers struggling to be the most pure, the most righteous, the most moving in their indignation — all of these things remind me of other scandals, of other rages, in which the targets were not Islamic terrorists but men and women who disagree with elements of liberal dogma.

Do liberals actually believe in the right to offend? Their attitude seems to me to be ambivalent at best. And this equivocation was apparent within hours of the attack, when news outlets censored or refused to publish the images for which the Charlie Hebdo editors were killed. Classifying satire or opinion as “hate speech” subject to regulation is not an aberration. It is commonplace.

Indeed, the outpouring of support for free speech in the aftermath of the Paris attack coincides with, and partially obscures, the degradation of speech rights in the West. Commencement last year was marked by universities’ revoking of appearances by speakers Condoleezza Rice and Ayaan Hirsi Ali for no other reason than that mobs disagreed with the speakers’ points of view. I do not recall liberals rallying behind Condi and Hirsi Ali then.

Nor do I recall liberals standing up for the critics of global warming and evolutionary theory, of same-sex marriage and trans rights and women in combat, of riots in Ferguson and of Obama’s decision to amnesty millions of illegal immigrants. On the contrary: To dissent from the politically correct and conventional and fashionable is to invite rebuke, disdain, expulsion from polite society, to court the label of Islamophobe or denier or bigot or cisnormative or misogynist or racist or carrier of privilege and irredeemable micro-aggressor. For the right to offend to have any meaning, however, it cannot be limited to theistic religions. You must have the right to offend secular humanists, too.
Examples follow.

And remember, after every such attack it's liberals who are first to tell us that the attack might not have been carried out in the name of Islam--heck, it might have been carried out by Tea Party right-wing extremists!--and their first concern seems to be about the potential for a backlash against Muslims in general--backlashes that never happen.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

An Empirical "Justification" for Affirmative Action

Discrimination is ok as long as the results are "good", is that what I'm reading here?
In Texas, students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school class automatically have the right to attend any public Texas university, more or less. They still have to take the SAT or ACT, but the score doesn’t matter. This unusual situation meant that by studying this group of students, the researchers could measure how effective those tests are at forecasting future college performance without the muddling effects introduced by a typical college admissions system.

The most surprising result is that for black students, the SAT is a far more important predictor of college GPA than for white or Latino students. (This is after controlling for a host of factors including the choice of college major.)

For white students, scoring one-standard deviation higher on the SAT or ACT (that’s roughly a couple hundred points on the SAT) is associated with a college GPA that’s 0.347 points higher. For black students, higher standardized test performance is associated with an additional 0.152 point boost in college GPA. For Latino students, there was no additional boost.

Even though black students do worse on standardized tests on average, each additional point seems to be more valuable for them. “This speaks to the idea that affirmative action in admissions might empirically be a good idea,” Lincove said.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Relaxing Night

Not that I really needed to, but tonight I decided to have a fire in the fireplace.  The family room is almost too warm, and the rest of the house is fine.  I'm not complaining.

I'm watching the Seahawks/Panthers game--not because I'm a fan of either team, but because my son (a military policeman at nearby Joint Base Lewis-McChord) is working "alcohol enforcement" at that game.  Imagine, 18 years old and getting to go to an NFL home playoff game--and for the defending Super Bowl champions, no less!  I'd say that's pretty cool.

No, I'm quite sure I won't see him on TV, but I like seeing the game knowing he's there.

Friday, January 09, 2015

No, But Thank You Anyway

I'm coordinating our site's MAP testing, which our district is mandating (and paying handsomely for, I'm sure) for all 9th grade English and all Algebra 1 students.  One of our vice principals will be coordinating our Smarter Balanced (Common Core) testing, and she and I went to a training/meeting about that testing after school a few weeks ago.  I asked why she wanted me there, and she said it's always nice to have another person off whom to bounce ideas, notice impossibilities, etc.  I like to know what's going on at school, this one didn't cost me anything but a couple hours of personal time, so I went.

A lot of good information was put out in that first meeting.  What really stuck with me, though, was that we spent the majority of the time (or at least a very large plurality of it) discussing how to handle special education education students.  Obviously that's important, but why/how does that merit such a large segment of time?

Today the vice principal sent me an email asking if I'd attend the second meeting on the topic, in several weeks.  You know what?  I hate meetings.  Always have.  I'll attend them if I'm needed to and if the cost isn't too high, but other than that, well, I'm not very interested.  This next meeting, though, has a very high cost--it's all day, during school.

If you've never taught you probably don't understand how much most teachers despise missing school.  You have to work extra hard to prepare for a substitute, you worry the whole time someone else is in your classroom with your students, and then you have to go back and pick up whatever pieces need to be picked up.  And for a high school math teacher, the probability is very low that you'll get a substitute who's interested in or capable of teaching your subject; there just aren't a lot of math teachers sitting around on the substitute list waiting to be called.  I miss one day of school and then I have to juggle all the planning I've done and the bottom line is I'll then have to load the students up with a little extra work to get us back on schedule.  My students don't sit around watching Frozen in my class, they're too busy learning math.  It's not like I have "slack time".

So I don't want to go to that meeting.  I declined as delicately as I could.  I wouldn't mind knowing how this testing works and how it can be implemented, but I don't want to give up a day in the classroom to find that out.  Aren't there better ways of getting this information out nowadays?  I don't know, something to do with using all that technology (TM) we have for giving those tests?

Just a thought.

Thursday, January 08, 2015


Our school district has decided to switch over to integrated math, and here's the reasoning:  Common Core is going to require such a thorough rethinking about how we teach, that if we just changed standards, people would continue teaching the same way they always have; however, if we also change the courses we teach, then it will be easier to get people to change how they teach as well.

Whether or not you like the Common Core standards (and for math, I don't, since they're not as good as what California used to have), you have to admit that that's a pretty dumb reason to throw out our current progression of courses.

Today in our math department meeting we were talking about the Integrated Math books that we'll have only a few weeks to pilot this semester (and will thus make a decision that will impact us for the next decade or more).  There's not a lot of integrated concepts in them; rather, there's some algebra here, some geometry there, but nothing that really ties them together.  That's not "integrated", that's merely a "hodge-podge".

Then we talked about all the courses we'll need to offer.  It's more than Integrated 1, Integrated 2, Integrated 3, Pre-calculus, Stats, and Calculus.  See, according to the Common Core standards and guidelines, students are not supposed to be accelerated in middle school.  Get that?  The smart kids will be kept back with everyone else, because, fairness!  Our illustrious district will allow middle school students to accelerate one grade in middle school, meaning 8th graders will be allowed to take Integrated 1.  (Those would be the smart kids; under California's old standards, those would be the on-track kids.)  So if we want kids to be able to take AP Calculus AB and/or BC in high school, we need to accelerate them in high school.  This requires accelerated couses--so in addition to Integrated 2 and 3 we'll now have Integrated 2+ and Integrated 3+.  And if a student isn't quite ready for Integrated 3 we'll offer Transition to Integrated 3.  Of course that means we'll also have to offer Transition to Integrated 1 (which would in effect be an 8th grade math course, or the pre-algebra course we haven't been allowed to have in years) and a Transition to Integrated 2 course. 

And our board is considering making 3 years of math a graduation requirement instead of the state-mandated two years.  Because, higher standards, or something.  If we don't offer a Transition to Integrated 1 course we might offer an Integrated 1A and Integrated 1B.  How about Honors Integrated 2+?  What if the College Board goes on with its plan to offer an AP Algebra course, how will that jibe with integrated courses?

Does any of this sound like an improvement at all?  It reminds me of jobs in the Dept of Defense, like the Deputy Assistant Undersecretary of Defense for This, That, and the Other Thing.

It's all a hodge-podge.  There's no organization, planning is ad-hoc at best, and we'll be expected to turn out "life-long learners" who are "college and career ready".

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

One More Week of Freedom

My next master's class, History of Mathematics, starts in a week.  I have one more week during which I can come home without the dread of knowing I have a couple more hours of work to do!

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Racists In Tucson

From the Daily Caller:
On Friday, the Arizona Department of Education notified the Tucson Unified School District that its Mexican-American studies program runs afoul of a state law banning coursework promoting the overthrow of the United States government, racial resentment and ethnic solidarity.

State officials informed the Tucson school district that it must modify the coursework by March 4, 2015 or risk losing 10 percent of its state-provided education funding, the Arizona Daily Independent reports.
If you're a liberal, you're probably wondering about those white racists in Tucson who don't support the ethnic pride of Hispanics. But let's back the truck up a minute, as I was telling you about this years ago.

Here, almost 5 years ago, I told you about Governor Brewer's signing a law whose intent was to require changes in Tucson's program, making it illegal to teach racial resent or to advocate for the overthrow of the US government.

Here, three years ago, I wrote that an administrative law judge had agreed with the state public schools chief that the program was only not appropriate, but that it was against the law and must be changed.

Here, almost two years ago, I wrote that the 9th Circuit, widely recognized as the most liberal federal appeals court, ruled that Arizona's law was constitutional.

Yet the Tucson Unified School District continues with it's program.  Who are truly the racists in this story, as well as the lawbreakers?

The Myth of Learning Styles

The following is absolutely, unequivocably true (in my not so humble opinion!) regarding the myth of "learning styles" and Gardner's multiple "intelligences":
Is there any evidence to support the learning styles concept?

Yes there is a little, but experts on the topic like Harold Pashler and Doug Rohrer point out that most of this evidence is weak. Convincing evidence for learning styles would show that people of one preferred learning style learned better when taught material in their favored way, whereas a different group with a different preference learned the same material better when taught in their favored fashion. Yet surprisingly few studies of this format have produced supporting evidence for learning styles; far more evidence (such as this study) runs counter to the myth. What often happens is that both groups perform better when taught by one particular style. This makes sense because although each of us is unique, usually the most effective way for us to learn is based not on our individual preferences but on the nature of the material we’re being taught – just try learning French grammar pictorially, or learning geometry purely verbally. (boldface mine--Darren)
But wait, there's more:
So, should we completely give up on tailoring our teaching styles?

No. While people are often poor at judging which teaching methods are most effective for them, and while there is little strong evidence for the benefits of matching teaching style to preferred learning style, this does not mean there is no scope for tailoring teaching style to improve learning. For example, as Kirschner and Merrienboer point out, there is evidence that novices learn better from studying examples, whereas those with more expertise learn better by solving problems themselves. Other research shows how learning is improved (for most everyone) by combining different activities – such as drawing alongside more passive study.
This, again, rings entirely true to me.

Go read the entire article to learn even more.  It's very interesting, especially about how people are often wrong when assessing their strongest learning style or how the learning styles theory allows people to ignore their own weaknesses, which is the very antithesis of education!

So why do so many teachers believe this hokum?  I think the Instapundit is onto something here:  "Sometimes I think that the constant efforts to move away from old-fashioned teaching methods have more to do with boredom by teachers, and a desire for less rigor, than with any actual science."

Monday, January 05, 2015

Sweeter Than Saccharin

Gallup tells us that government is now the most important problem facing the US, up two places from two years ago and up one place from last year.  And some of the worst policies that that same government imposes on us come from around the Charles River, specifically Harvard.

So it's entertaining to watch Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences get their panties in a bunch over Obamacare, something most of them no doubt supported:
For years, Harvard’s experts on health economics and policy have advised presidents and Congress on how to provide health benefits to the nation at a reasonable cost. But those remedies will now be applied to the Harvard faculty, and the professors are in an uproar.

Members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the heart of the 378-year-old university, voted overwhelmingly in November to oppose changes that would require them and thousands of other Harvard employees to pay more for health care. The university says the increases are in part a result of the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, which many Harvard professors championed.

The faculty vote came too late to stop the cost increases from taking effect this month, and the anger on campus remains focused on questions that are agitating many workplaces: How should the burden of health costs be shared by employers and employees? If employees have to bear more of the cost, will they skimp on medically necessary care, curtail the use of less valuable services, or both?

“Harvard is a microcosm of what’s happening in health care in the country,” said David M. Cutler, a health economist at the university who was an adviser to President Obama’s 2008 campaign. But only up to a point: Professors at Harvard have until now generally avoided the higher expenses that other employers have been passing on to employees. That makes the outrage among the faculty remarkable, Mr. Cutler said, because “Harvard was and remains a very generous employer.”
Those "Cadillac health plans" sure are expensive.
Richard F. Thomas, a Harvard professor of classics and one of the world’s leading authorities on Virgil, called the changes “deplorable, deeply regressive, a sign of the corporatization of the university.”
I guess that's one way to look at it.  Another way is to consider  a radical concept called "reality".  Evidence:
Michael E. Chernew, a health economist and the chairman of the university benefits committee, which recommended the new approach, acknowledged that “with these changes, employees will often pay more for care at the point of service.” In part, he said, “that is intended because patient cost-sharing is proven to reduce overall spending.”

The president of Harvard, Drew Gilpin Faust, acknowledged in a letter to the faculty that the changes in health benefits — though based on recommendations from some of the university’s own health policy experts — were “causing distress” and had “generated anxiety” on campus. But she said the changes were necessary because Harvard’s health benefit costs were growing faster than operating revenues or staff salaries and were threatening the budget for other priorities like teaching, research and student aid.
Despite the increased costs, let's not think that these pour Harvard professors are going to have to rub elbows with mere mortals, looking to find groceries on sale in order to pay for health care:
Harvard’s new plan is far more generous than plans sold on public insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. Harvard says its plan pays 91 percent of the cost of services for the covered population, while the most popular plans on the exchanges, known as silver plans, pay 70 percent, on average, reflecting their "actuarial value.”
The hypocrisy on display here is too sweet even for me to enjoy in large servings, but I'm glad these snobs are being forced to live with the consequences of their snobbery.

This Can't Be Right. It Doesn't Advance The Liberal Narrative.

It's in the New York Times so you libs cannot disagree with it:
A few weeks ago, I wrote about China and India’s challenges with high particulate matter pollution — widely believed to be the most harmful form of air pollution. A chart comparing air pollution levels caught many eyes because it showed the severity of the problem in China, and even more in India.

It also showed that Europe is slightly more polluted than the United States. With the European Union’s climate leadership, including a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases, some might find this surprising.
That's right, boys and girls,the Land of Runaway Socialism is more polluted than is the US.  I hope you didn't hear it here first, but you probably did.

Finnish The Story

Because today was a teacher work day I allowed myself a very extended lunch with a former student who just returned from a semester in Finland.  I was eager to get his feel for the country in general, and Helsinki in particular, since the current plan is to spend several hours in Helsinki this summer.  I'm not going until June, though, so there's plenty of time for him to get me a list of "must see" things in the city center.  I'll compare his list to my Rick Steves guide and prioritize.  I sure loved hearing his stories, you can read some of them here.

One of the things I enjoy most about teaching is when students come back and visit and share with me what's going on in their lives.  Teachers always say they "want to make a difference", and for me, these types of visits are how you know when you've "made a difference" to someone.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Half and Half

Christmas break ends tonight; tomorrow morning I go back to work.  No students, though, as tomorrow is our "teacher work day" to grade all those finals we gave and to assign grades to students.  We're done with half of the school year.

When I started my master's program my plan was to take 2 courses a semester.  Had I stuck with that I'd be done now.  However, after only a couple days I was already drowning, and at the end of the first week I dropped one of my two courses (which I picked up the next semester) and have been doing one course a semester ever since.  I'm half done with my master's program.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Asians Are The New Jews

If we applied disparate impact theory to college applications, lawsuits would abound.  When Asians have to score hundreds of points higher on the SAT to get the same chance of getting into an elite university as do blacks and Hispanics, and 140 points higher than whites, I don't know how our liberal friends who push disparate impact theory can argue that it shouldn't be applied here.  Unless, of course, Asians don't matter.

When Asian enrollment is capped at the Ivies at a certain percentage, when people can talk openly, without any repercussions, about having "too many Asians", then yes, Asians are the new Jews of higher education.

Only a racist could support such policies.


Last night I started watching Roots, the 1977 miniseries I haven't seen since Jimmy Carter was president.

Yes, I know it's not true or historically accurate, as author Alex Haley claimed.  That he claimed it was is indeed a blot, but that lie was probably what caused the show to be such a success in the first place.  It's still a compelling story, though.

Roots comes from a time when movies and TV specials had an "all star cast".  LeVar Burton, of Star Trek and Reading Rainbow fame, is the star--in his first acting role.  One would expect Cicely Tyson in such a show from that time, but did anyone back then know who Maya Angelou was?  I laughed when Kunta Kinte (Burton) was running from OJ Simpson, all I could think was "he's not going to outrun a man who hurdles seats in an airport".  And if I give you the character names Fiddler and Chicken George, do you automatically remember who played them?  So many stars, and future stars, in that series.

I won't watch it as it aired, one episode each on consecutive nights, but will probably watch a couple episodes each Saturday until it's done.  Quality story-telling.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

A Day of Minor Tasks

I've needed to go to Home Depot or Lowe's for quite some time.  When the soap dispenser in my kitchen broke yesterday, the die was cast.

I moved into this house 9 1/2 years ago.  In that entire time there has never been a key to the door going from the garage into the house.  I can lock the door from the inside but cannot unlock it from the garage.  So I bought a new handle set and had it keyed to match my house key.  Installed!

Last summer one of my housesitters (somehow) broke the handle on my storm door to the back yard.  Replaced!

I have no idea how that dispenser broke, but when I pushed down for soap yesterday the soap holder actually broke off and fell to the bottom of the cupboard under the sink. Replaced!

I keep my Christmas decorations in a box I used to pack up my stuff when I moved from Colorado in 1990.   That packing tape along the seams is still holding well but I have no idea how much longer the cardboard itself will hold out.  Sometimes I think that I'll grab the box and it will disintegrate in my arms, leaving all my decorations to crash down on my feet.  Lowe's had plastic tubs on sale, 2 for $10.  Purchased!

I packed up all the decorations yesterday but the box is still in the living room.  I'll move things over to the totes and then get working on the tree.  That's all that's left of my Christmas decorations; I turned the lights off last night after midnight, having kept them lit nonstop since I put the tree up the weekend after Thanksgiving.  That'll be my work for tonight, capping off a good day of chores.

Update, 11:15 PM:  Done! (OK, not completely, but everything's boxed up in the living room and ready to be put into the garage--which I'll do during the day tomorrow, when it's not so cold!)