Sunday, December 31, 2017

I Thought Liberals Liked Undercover Operations

Almost everybody likes watching someone get a well-deserved come-uppance.  60 Minutes, which has been on TV since I was a toddler, is an example of a tv show well known for ambushing people with questions they'd rather not answer.  Do something wrong, pay a penalty.  In the past, liberals seemed to believe in this view (they especially like leaks from the Trump White House).

But not with Project Veritas.  James O'Keefe and his crew expose things about liberal organizations that they'd rather no one else know, and liberals try every trick in the book to stop him.  This time they succeeded, but only temporarily:
A federal judge in Detroit on Wednesday lifted the temporary restraining order a major teachers union won against the conservative group Project Veritas and denied a request for a preliminary injunction.

A Wayne County circuit judge in September blocked Project Veritas, a group run by provocateur James O’Keefe, from disclosing videos of other information it obtained in an undercover operation carried out against the American Federation of Teachers chapter in Detroit.

AFT Michigan alleged that Project Veritas operative Marisa Jorge used the name Marissa Perez and posed as a University of Michigan student to gain access to the chapter as an intern. The group claimed Jorge “unlawfully accessed and transmitted proprietary and confidential information and engaged in unlawful and unauthorized surveillance of” employees.

AFT Michigan had sought an injunction citing a strong likelihood of success with respect to violations of the Michigan Uniform Trade Secrets Act, the Michigan Eavesdropping Act and Jorge’s breach of fiduciary duty, all of which failed to hold up in court.

U.S. District Court Judge Linda Parker ruled that the AFT failed to meet the proper criteria for issuance of a preliminary injunction.
WHAT?  She used a fake name?  The horror!
The court did concede that AFT Michigan had a likelihood to succeed on the merits of its breach of duty of loyalty claim, though. But it also found that a preliminary injunction would raise First Amendment concerns, cautioning that the course of action would “most certainly … infringe upon Defendants’ First Amendment right.”
Much like in every other human endeavor, if you're doing something you want to keep secret because you think it will make you look bad if people found out about it, Option 1 might be to stop doing it.  While that advice doesn't work 100% of the time, it works often enough to be considered.
Weingarten and Hecker slammed what they called O’Keefe’s war on teachers, students and families, as well as his reliance on “secret infiltration and lies, heavily edited videos and spurious claims” to advance a political agenda.
Randi, Randi, Randi.  You know what?  That one's too fun to comment on; I'll just let it sit here in the sun so everyone can relish the rampant hypocrisy.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Sacramento Yesterday

2nd Chance In A Lifetime

After Justice Scalia died and the Friedrichs case was decided by a 4-4 vote of the remaining Supreme Court justices, I lamented that "Friedrichs is probably the last time in my life I'll get a chance to be free of forced unionism as a teacher, and now that chance has suffered a body blow."  I was quite invested in Friedrichs, being a signatory to not one but two amicus briefs in that case.

I'm glad to have been mistaken; in February the Supreme Court will hear another case, Janus, that many believe will end forced unionism in this country.  And, as with Friedrichs, I'm a signatory to an amicus brief.

Social studies lesson:  there are many ways you can influence our government, students.  You can vote.  You can write letters to the editor of the paper, you can write your congressman and senator.  You can start an organization or a non-profit.  You can also try to influence the Supreme Court.  All that stuff you learn in civics/government class?  It's real.

Larry Sand, president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network, wrote:
Two months from today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the Janus v AFSCME case, with a decision scheduled to be announced in June. If successful, it would free public employees in 22 states from having to pay any money to a union as a condition of employment.

Many union leaders are beside themselves with the thought that their days of collecting forced dues payments may well be numbered. And in an attempt to convince anyone who will listen to them, the lies and whines are flowing like raw sewage. Perhaps Numero Uno on the BS meter is Mr. Eric Heins, president of the California Teachers Association. In the current issue of California Educator, the union’s magazine, Heins spews some whoppers that would make Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton blush.
Larry isn't one to pull any punches, go read the whole thing if you're so inclined.

And in what can only be described as a major turnaround for the US government, the US Justice Department now opposes forced unionism and its associated agency fee payments to unions:
The Department of Justice is recommending that the Supreme Court rule that public sector employees cannot be forced to contribute dues to unions, even when they're not members.

The decision to submit an amicus brief supporting the employee in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31 reverses the Justice Department's previous position under President Barack Obama.
Second time in my life.  Two months from today.  This is for all the marbles.

Liberals: Lying About Racial Attacks Doesn't Help Your Cause

Daisy Lundy's story goes way back, so here are some 2017 examples of racial hoaxes:
Over the last year, it seems as if more campus hate crimes turned out to be hoaxes than legitimate acts of hate. Schools tended to be fertile ground for overzealous students looking to prove there is hate where none exists. These 17 examples show 2017 continued to be a year in which hate-crime hoaxes are an epidemic with no end in sight.

Some anecdotes are fallout from post-election antics spawned in late November 2016 in the wake of the Donald Trump presidency. The rest originated in apparent desperate attempts to push a progressive narrative.
If you have to make stories up in order to "bring awareness" to an issue, perhaps it's your perception of this issue that is at odds with reality, and you need to take stock of your own beliefs and biases.

How sad that a web site like this even needs to exist.

And I see where that last sentence is headed: some liberal is going to point to the Megan's Law web site or any crime database and say it's sad that those exist, too, as if we live in a world of unicorns and rainbows.  And while I agree that it's sad that people commit crimes and harm others, it's somehow worse in my mind not to be a victim while lying to get others in trouble while you wear the mantle of victim.  It's the lying.

Christmas Is Over For Me

My son just left, he's got to get back to Washington and start his outprocessing so he can report to his new duty station on Oahu.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Another Christmas Present

It Must Be Miserable To Hate This Much

I don't see how a person, especially an educated person, can think this way.  I just can't:
A professor recently encouraged students to break the law in order to “destroy” the system of “white democracy,” saying the American flag doesn’t even represent about half of them.

Video footage obtained by The Red Elephants purports to show Diablo Valley College professor Albert Ponce lecturing on “white supremacy in the USA,” at one point suggesting that not all students should get up for the Pledge of Allegiance...

Ponce argued that Americans “exist in a white supremacist, patriarchal, heteronormative, capitalist system,” and that citizens should be violating laws that they believe perpetuate those conditions.
I wonder how Ponce would feel about those who want to violate laws that allow haters like him to spout their venom without fear of physical retribution from normal people.  You've gotta think stuff like this through, Ponce.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Champion, Not A Genius

When I saw "If you can get 12/12 on this you're a vocabulary GENIUS", I had to give it a try.

The result?

Not horrible, I guess.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Whatever Happened To...

...all that 2009 porkulus package money, about $800 billion worth, that was spent on "shovel-ready" projects?  Am I supposed to forget that it was all squandered, but trust government to have mended its ways by now and to have an excellent plan for not wasting taxpayer money today?
The Trump administration is expected to unveil an infrastructure package in the new year, after putting the issue on the sidelines amid other GOP priorities in 2017.

The White House is working to release a roughly 70-page infrastructure proposal sometime in January for members of Congress to use as a cornerstone for drafting the legislation in 2018...

Although the administration is working to address the nation’s infrastructure, several major question marks hang over the plan, such as funding.

“The cost is going to be an issue, that’s going to be a large topic of debate,” a senior committee aide told the Washington Examiner.

This spring, the administration called for using $200 billion in direct federal spending over the next 10 years. This was intended to spur $800 billion in spending by states, localities and private investors.

“I think the biggest sticking point will be funding, paying for the plan,” said Michael Sargent, transportation and infrastructure policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation. “Where does this $200 billion come from?”
Where, indeed.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Saturday, December 23, 2017

What A Great Season For Army Football

Two weeks ago Army football pulled out a win in a nailbiter against Navy, 14-13.  I think Navy was favored by 3, and they wouldn't have covered the spread even if they had made that last second field goal.

Today Army played San Diego State in the Armed Forces Bowl.  SDSU was favored by 6 1/2 and came in with a record of 10-2, Army came in with a record of 9-3 but I saw only one prediction that Army might win.  Both teams are running teams--in fact, Army's offense, SDSU's special teams (which returned a kickoff for a touchdown), and halftime kept SDSU's offense off the field for over 45 minutes of real time.  Army received the kickoff to open the 3rd quarter and kept the ball for over 11 minutes, coming away with no points.  SDSU had a player ejected in the first quarter for unsportsmanlike conduct, a call that was made against them at least 2 more times in the game.  Combined, there were only 14 passes attempted, and no punts or field goals.  Both teams were stingy with turnovers--until the last seconds of the game.

Until the last seconds, Army had only led once in the game, going up 21-14 with :18 left in the half.  However, with :05 left, SDSU tied it up with a kickoff return for touchdown.  Late in the 4th, Army was down 35-28, but with less than 2 dozen seconds left in regulation, scored.  35-34.  Will the nation's top rushing team tie it up, or go for 2?  With seconds left in the game, Army led 36-35.

But the game wasn't over yet!  Having to go the length of the field with 5 seconds left, SDSU tried some razzle-dazzle, 1982 Cal-Stanford style.  The  running and lateral-ing continued until the clock ran out, but the ball was still in play.  In a last gasp to avoid being tackled, an SDSU player threw the ball across the field--where it was intercepted by an Army player, who ran it in for a touchdown!  Army wins 42-35!  I don't know how long ESPN will keep the video up, but to see that last play, click here, and scroll across to the video labeled Army Spoils SDSU's Last-gasp Play With Insane TD.  That play is going to make the post-season highlight reel for sure, maybe the entire NCAA football 2017 season highlight reel.  (And if you want to see another defensive play that will make the season highlight reels, scroll to :35 in the video labeled Army Beats San Diego State In Wild Ending.)  Both teams ended the season 10-3.

You know what I really liked about this game?  Seeing the players from both teams help each other up at the end of a play.  That's class, and it was shown by both sides.  I like that.

It was a great season.  I'm glad to see Army play well again, 20 years is too long!

I'm Happy The Fish Are Enjoying Themselves

Good thing we have all these scientists studying the important things on our planet:
A species of Mexican fish amasses in reproductive orgies so loud they can deafen other sea animals, awed scientists have said, calling for preservation of the “spectacle” threatened by overfishing.

An individual spawning Gulf corvina, say the researchers, utters a mating call resembling “a really loud machine gun” with multiple rapid sound pulses.

And when hundreds of thousands of fish get together to spawn once a year “the collective chorus sounds like a crowd cheering at a stadium or perhaps a really loud beehive”, said study co-author Timothy Rowell from the University of San Diego.

“The sound levels generated by chorusing is loud enough to cause at least temporary if not permanent hearing loss in marine mammals that were observed preying on the fish.

People Don't Want To Work At The EPA Anymore?

They report this like it's a bad thing:
More than 700 people have left the Environmental Protection Agency since President Trump took office, a wave of departures that puts the administration nearly a quarter of the way toward its goal of shrinking the agency to levels last seen during the Reagan administration.

Of the employees who have quit, retired or taken a buyout package since the beginning of the year, more than 200 are scientists. An additional 96 are environmental protection specialists, a broad category that includes scientists as well as others experienced in investigating and analyzing pollution levels. Nine department directors have departed the agency as well as dozens of attorneys and program managers. Most of the employees who have left are not being replaced.

The departures reflect poor morale and a sense of grievance at the agency, which has been criticized by President Trump and top Republicans in Congress as bloated and guilty of regulatory overreach. That unease is likely to deepen following revelations that Republican campaign operatives were using the Freedom of Information Act to request copies of emails from E.P.A. officials suspected of opposing Mr. Trump and his agenda.
That last paragraph says it all.  If you want to act like the opposition, be prepared to be treated like the opposition.  Duh.
“To me it’s not necessarily a sign of catastrophe,” said David M. Kreutzer, a senior researcher at the Heritage Foundation who advised Mr. Trump on the E.P.A. during the transition. He said the agency under President Obama was engaged in “phenomenal overreach” and that the Trump administration’s efforts were aimed at correcting that.
Something like that, yes.
(EPA Administrator) Mr. Pruitt’s office has described the current buyout process as a continuation of Obama administration efforts to ensure that payroll expenses do not overtake funding for environmental programs. 
If President Obama did it, it must be good.  So doing more of what Obama did is bad?  Hm...  Consistency has never been a strong suit of lefties.

This Is Almost The Right Way To Handle This

Students staged a 2-month sit-in in the administrative offices of Reed College in Portland, Oregon (where else).  They didn't get what they wanted:
Student protesters at Reed College spent weeks occupying its administrative building, demanding the school cut its tie with Wells Fargo. Their activism wasn’t enough.

The college’s Investment Committee announced Tuesday it would reject the request from Reedies Against Racism to divest from the financial services giant...

In a flyer hung up on campus and posted on Facebook, protesters allege Reed College President John Kroger told two of the activists that they should transfer out of the college if they find it “so morally reprehensible.”
I hope he did. In fact, he should go further and kick them out of school.

All of them.

College students of today need to learn the right and the wrong ways to protest.  They should also learn that there are consequences to acting inappropriately.
“As long as their demonstrations do not interrupt college business, including classes and lectures, or run afoul of college policies it will be allowed. Dissent is a form of free speech and we are believers in academic freedom and free speech,” he said.
That is entirely the right way to handle things.  What's important is to follow through on the requirement about "run(ning) afoul of college policies".

College is a place to learn?  Learn the right way and the wrong way to challenge authority.  If you're going to do it the wrong way, you'd better win--or else face the penalties associated with misbehavior.

Another Math App

First there was Wolfram Alpha, now there's this app:
Based on the promo clip, PhotoMath, dubbed a “smart camera calculator,” appears to use smartphone cameras to scan a photo of a math equation in a textbook and display the answer instantly — similar to apps that scan barcodes and takes users to a link in a web browser. It looks like the app can also show step-by-step instructions for solving the problem.

Update: it solved a 3x3 system of equations in less than 2 seconds. That's faster than I can do it :-)  I clicked on "Steps" and learned that it solved the system using Cramer's Rule.  It also solved trigonometric equations.

Feel-Good Story of the Day

The one question I have that wasn't answered in the video:  what happened to his sister?
A high school football coach invited a homeless player to live with him and his family. CNN's Dianne Gallagher reports.

Friday, December 22, 2017

1st Day of Break

I didn't stay up too late last night; sure, I was up later than I would have been if I had had to work today, but not unreasonably late.  And I woke up at my usual time, but got to stay in bed and enjoy the quiet and relaxation for a couple hours. 

Haven't graded any of the final exams I brought home from my last class, but I have plenty of time to grade them.  I can spend several minutes a day over the course of several days grading them--do all the first pages one day, do all the second pages another day, and before long I'll have them all graded and it won't feel like I spent any time at all on them.

My Christmas shopping has been complete for quite some time, but I think I'm still going to go out today, just because.  I don't think I'm going to hit the day after Christmas sales, as I can't think of anything that I just have to have.  If I learn of something, though....

It's nice to be able to relax and unwind.  Two weeks off at Christmastime is absolutely one of the perks of being a teacher.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

It's A Christmas Miracle!

Today was the last day of final exams--I don't have to go back to school until after New Year's!  And I go back that Monday, my students get an extra day off while I enter grades, make copies, and do the million other things that occupy a teacher's time when we're not actually teaching.

I gave finals in each of my two classes scheduled for today, and got little Christmas miracles in each one.

In the first class, one of my students has already received a scholarship to college.  He's put money down on housing, he's ready to go.  All he has to do is maintain his GPA during his senior year.  Can you see where this story is going?  Of course you can!  He let his grade drop to a C going into the final, and he needs a B in the course to maintain his GPA.  Also, he calculated that he needed 94% on the final exam to get his grade back into the B range.  As a little encouragement, I told him I'd award him a B- if he earned 90% or more on the final.  I'm not giving away much; after all, what's the probability that he'd score 90-93%?  Actually, since the final was worth 50 points and I don't award half-points, he'd get the B- if he scored a 90% or a 92%, and he'd earn a B- outright if he scored 94% or above.

45, 46, or 47+ points.

He studied, I know he did.  He asked clarifying questions during the final exam today.  I'm told he spent over $100 on tutors in the last week or so.

I grade tests a class at a time, a page at a time.  So once I've graded everyone's Page 1, I turn the paper over and grade everyone's Page 2.  This has some powerful advantages, including significant consistency in the awarding of partial credit as well as my not knowing whose paper I'm grading (after the first page).  After everyone had turned in his/her test, I started correcting.

I correct papers very quickly, I have a system.  With over two hours in which to give the final exam, I had plenty of time to grade the papers after the last had been turned in.

After I'd graded everybody's Page 4, it was time to add up the scores.  I start from the back page and work my way forward, adding up missed points along the way, until I get to the front page, the one with the name on it, and that's when I write the score.

47 points.  94%.  He earned the grade on his own.  Perhaps he now understands the sentiment behind the motivational statement I've had written on the board all week:

In my next class, one of my students gave me a gag gift.  Attached to it was a note:
I've learned more in this 1 semester than in my prior 2 years of math.  Thanks for the knowledge.
I think the note was the real gift.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Third Time's A Charm

My son is home on leave and came to see me at school a couple days ago.  He couldn't remember which room was mine, felt a bit conspicuous at school, and didn't want to go to the office to ask!

Yesterday, armed with the location of my classroom, he tried again.  On the way there his tire died (actually, cracked rim caused the tire to deflate almost immediately).  He didn't make it.

Today he made it.  We had a staff potluck after finals today, so he came in and ate with us while proud dad got to show him off a little.  One of our teachers had him as a student back in 7th grade--he's a bit taller now, and the teacher didn't even recognize him.  Then again, it's been, what, 8 1/2 years or so?

Nice way for me to spend some time with him.

My massage chair here at home finally got repaired today.  He's in it right now, enjoying life.  I'm enjoying having him here.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

How Much Am I Willing To Pay For A Life Change?

Holy crap.

I just went to the CalSTRS retirement calendar and ran two different calculations; the first involved my monthly retirement check if I "retire" in 2020 and go teach in an international school, and the second was my monthly retirement check if I actually wait until 2028 to retire (and forego the international school route).  In the first place my monthly retirement pay would be about $2000/month, in the second place it was $5000/month.

Granted, in theory I could put that entire $2000/month into an IRA and not draw on it until I actually retire in 2028 or so, but dang, I'm gambling with 60% of my retirement.

What to do?

Slow But Steady Progress

What's the word that means slow but unstoppable?  I'll know it when I hear it.  Anyway, that word seems to apply here:
A new survey of 461 colleges and universities around the country found that roughly one in three schools still maintain policies that drastically limit free speech on campus.

According to an annual study conducted by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), 32.3 percent of colleges and universities surveyed “received FIRE’s lowest, red light rating for maintaining speech codes that clearly and substantially restrict freedom of speech.”

The “Spotlight on Speech Codes” report, however, notes that the percentage of red light institutions has been consistently shrinking throughout the last decade, pointing out that “This year’s figure is seven percentage points lower than last year and almost 42 percentage points lower than in FIRE’s 2009 report.”

Monday, December 18, 2017

I Wonder Why This Is

From the major Sacramento newspaper:
Sacramento County students have the worst chronic absentee rate in the region and a higher rate than all but two of the other 20 largest counties in California – Sonoma and San Joaquin.

According to new state data, 14.8 percent of Sacramento County students missed one-tenth of their classes last school year. By comparison, 10.8 percent of students statewide missed that many classes.
A chart accompanying the article showed that the worst district attendance-wise at 20.1% of its students miss at least 10% of their classes last school year.  The smallest percentage shown was an elementary school district with only 5.8% of its students missing 10% or more of their classes; with the exception of that one elementary district, the 9 other districts on the chart were either unified or high school districts.

My Christmas Present

Last night around midnight my son woke me up--to let me know he made it home.  He'd been driving all day from Washington.

And since my elliptical trainer is in his room, I don't have to get up early this week to run on it.  Merry Christmas to me!  :-)

Sunday, December 17, 2017

This Is Why It's Hard To Take The Press Seriously Anymore

Does anyone genuinely honestly truly think this is anti-Semitic?
CNN political commentator Hilary Rosen accused a Georgetown student of anti-semitism and bigotry because he wore a bacon-themed onesie to a basketball game.

“Look at the guy in the ‘bacon suit,'” Rosen tweeted with a photo of the Georgetown student section. “This is a Georgetown #Hoyas fans anti-Semitic smear to the Syracuse team.”
Jews have a religious objection to eating bacon (although I knew a Jew whose favorite food was pepperoni pizza!), not to the existence of pigs and bacon.  And who are the Jews the Georgetown student was targeting?  Is the Syracuse team made up of Jews?  And even if they were, is wearing a bacon suit truly anti-Semitic?  Since Muslims also don't eat bacon, couldn't one just as easily say this was an anti-Muslim, and hence pro-Jew, commentary?  Sheesh.

Rosen is clearly an idiot.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Power Nap Class?

Throughout my undergraduate years I tried to live by the motto, "Well rested, well tested."  It seemed to work for me.

I didn't need a class to figure that out, though, and neither did I need mama West Point to hang hammocks around the cadet area--although, if she had, I have no doubt we'd have used them!
UC Davis wants its students to sleep at school.

University staff have hung hammocks, handed out eye masks and even started a power nap class to disrupt a student culture that prioritizes study over sleep.

“For some reason, there is a culture on campus that, in order to be academically successful, our wellness needs to go out the door,” said Brian Luu, who teaches the Power Nap class.

Lack of sleep is one of the top three negative impacts on academic performance for college students nationally, said Emilia Aguirre, a mental health specialist at the university. 
We weren't allowed to sleep during class.  If we got tired, we stood behind our chair.  On the other hand, we weren't given as much free rein as students at Davis are.  While we could stay up past taps and study, at least there was taps and the associated sleeping time from 11:30 pm to early morning, which after my plebe year was usually 6:30 or 6:45 or so.

Read more here:

Making Me Proud

In a few hours I'll be going to a party--not a Christmas party, but a graduation party.  One of my former students is graduating from a local university with a degree in math.


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Just A Reminder That The Test Is Flawed

If you're in education and you haven't encountered this yet, you soon will.  Arm yourself with knowledge:
The concept of “implicit bias,” where individuals experience and act upon unconscious feelings of prejudice, has become a ubiquitous part of popular culture. But the basis for the theory of “implicit bias”—a test that purported to prove to people that they were unknowingly prejudiced toward certain groups—has recently had its validity called into serious question.

At The New Yorker earlier this year, Jesse Singal exposed the serious shortcomings and flaws with the Implicit Association Test, a testing mechanism created from professors from Harvard and the University of Washington. And again at The New Yorker last week, Singal offered up more evidence that the test does not deliver on its promises, citing a report from Olivia Goldhill at Quartz.
Don't let them cow you by telling you the test "was created at Harvard". If it's flawed, it's flawed--no matter where it was made.

I wrote about this last April, too.

Double Standard

If a man said what this woman Democrat said, he’d be accused of blaming the victim:
PERHAPS, GIVEN OUR NEW SENSITIVITY TO “TRIGGERING,” REVEALING ATTIRE IS SEXUAL HARASSMENT, OF MEN: Dem congresswoman says revealing clothing invites sexual harassment. “Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), the longest-serving woman in the House, said Wednesday that some congresswomen and staffers dress so inappropriately that their clothing is ‘an invitation’ to sexual harassment. . . . Kaptur also said she thinks the Hill should have a stricter dress code for females.”

If you want a prim, sexless workplace, it probably involves prim, sexless attire.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Crack In the Math/Science/Engineering Wall

Should idiocy like this take hold, higher education will fall apart.  Real, normal people will not agree to fund such nonsense with their tax dollars:
The leader of Purdue University’s School of Engineering Education recently declared that academic “rigor” reinforces “white male heterosexual privilege.”

Donna Riley, who previously taught engineering at Smith College for 13 years, published an article in the most recent issue of the journal Engineering Education, arguing that academic rigor is a “dirty deed” that upholds “white male heterosexual privilege.

Defining rigor as “the aspirational quality academics apply to disciplinary standards of quality,” Riley asserts that “rigor is used to maintain disciplinary boundaries, with exclusionary implications for marginalized groups and marginalized ways of knowing.”
Note that the author previously taught at Smith College. 'Nuf said.

They Can't Be Too Worried About Global Warming

Pay attention not to what they say, but what they do:
This weekend, 25,000 Earth, Sun, and planetary scientists from across the US and abroad flew to New Orleans for the annual American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting. These scientists study the impact global warming is having on Earth. Unfortunately, their air travel to and from the meeting will contribute to that warming by emitting around 30,000 tonnes of CO2.

As an Earth scientist and AGU member myself, I know the importance of their work. Still, there’s something wrong with this picture. As scientists, our work informs us – with dreadful clarity and urgency – that burning fossil fuel is destroying the life support systems on our planet. There’s already more than enough science to know we need to stop. Yet most scientists burn more than the average American, simply because they fly more.

Milton Friedman Discusses Hayek's Road To Serfdom

Here's The Road to Serfdom in 5 minutes.

Heard On The Radio On The Way To Work This Morning

An accident was causing a traffic backup, an accident between a car and--a mountain lion.

Yes, boys and girls, we still have mountain lions here in California.

My school abuts a greenbelt along a river.  It's well known that mountain lions--which almost never attack humans--live, breed, and hunt in that greenbelt.  It's wild to think that such animals live in our urban and suburban areas, but they do. 

The accident this morning occurred in a semi-rural area, one of those areas that used to be rural but has been developed in the last decade or so to have neighborhoods of large houses for the well-to-do.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Liveblogging Today's Army-Navy Game

There appears to be a dusting of snow on the ground in Philadelphia.  I don't recall being at an Army-Navy game with snow, but that would just add to the fun, no?  OK, probably not for the people in the stands, but for two option teams, I'm wondering if the ball will be slippery enough not to risk even the few passes both teams might attempt.

Of course I'm rooting for Army to win.  Everything I've read gives Army the slightest advantage.  But anything can happen in this game, and often does.  I want a good game--and I want an Army victory.  I want many opportunities to jump up and yell my two favorite words, TOUCHDOWN ARMY!

I'll periodically update this throughout the game.  I haven't been to a game in many years, and this is as close as I'll get for awhile.  At least I'll get to enjoy it in the temperate environment of Northern California as opposed to the cold of the eastern seaboard.  Bring it on, and BEAT NAVY!

(all times PST)
12:00  What an awesome invocation!

12:03  Good job on the national anthem by the combined glee clubs.  Snow's falling lightly but steadily.  The announcers say it's supposed to get worse as the game progresses.

12:12  I think Navy wins with uniform battle.  Heck, you can't even see the army team on the field, what with the snow and Army's ghost-white 10th Mountain Division uniforms!

12:17  Whew, Army gets a 1st down on their first possession.  And then a long run down the right sideline!

12:21  4th and 1 on the 5, first and goal!!!


12:29  Navy quarterback keeps getting good yardage on his runs from scrimmage.

12:33  Navy converts on 4th and 1.

12:35  4th down again, about 2 yards to go, inside the red zone.  What will Navy do?  Timeout....

12:38  With less than a minute left in the 1st quarter, Army leads 7-3.  There hasn't been a penalty yet on either side.

12:44  I brought up the penalty issue, then the announcers did--and then a Navy defender held, which gave Army a first down.

12:51  Navy defense holds, the punt is short, Navy takes over on about their own 25.

12:56  Damn, Navy quarterback runs 68 yards for a touchdown.

1:04  Navy held again, good punt, Navy's ball.

1:12  Too gimicky a play, Navy punts and downs it at the Army 37-yard line.

1:16  The long overcoats on the cadets in the stands look soaked.  They're going to smell like wet sheep for awhile.

1:18  3rd and 6, the Army quarterback slips and falls for a loss.  Gotta punt again.

1:19  5:22 left in the half, Navy 1st and 10 on the 20.

1:22 Army defense holds, bringing up 4th and 2.  And damn, Army gets its first penalty--giving Navy a 1st down.  As the president would say, YUGE.

1:24  Army defense brings up 4th down again.  Navy tried to draw Army offsides, but that isn't gonna work twice.  Navy takes it's last timeout with just over a dozen seconds left in the half.  Remember, though, that Navy receives the kickoff in the 2nd half.

1:27  Navy punt almost dies at the 1, but it's a touchback.  9 seconds remaining.

1:29  An 8-yard run by Army ends the half.  Navy leads 10-7.


1:52  Navy starts off the half with good runs, just like the last half.

1:54  Another long run for Navy, looks like 1st and goal at the 10.

1:57  4th and 6, defense holds, field goal is good from 24.  Navy 13-7.

2:00  Army kickoff returner runs into a brick wall at the 20.  1st and 10.

2:06  Holy crap, Army completes a pass for a 1st down!

2:07  Good long run by the Army quarterback, 1st and 10 on the 35.  FB then runs for 9 more.  Showing some spark for the first time since the 1st quarter.

2:11  Army is just being tough up front.  1st and 10 at the 11.

2:13  Damn.  False start, 3rd and 13.  Really bad time for a penalty.

2:14  Timeout in place of another penalty.  Geez.  Choking here, Army!  Recover during this timeout, come back and score.  It's been too long since I've gotten to yell my two favorite words

2:17  End around loses yards, gonna try for the field goal.

2:17  Third quarter ends with Navy leading 13-7.

2:22  35 or so yard field goal is about a yard to the right.  What a letdown after such a strong drive.

2:26  It's not much, but I'll take a false start on Navy's first possession of the 4th quarter.  Then it was the Navy runner's turn to run into a brick wall!

2:28  Defense does a good job.  4th and long, Navy will punt.

2:29  Army tried to block the punt so there was no return, 1st and 10 Army from about their own 30.

2:33  Army offense is showing toughness up front again.

2:34  4 plays, 3 first downs.  Not bad.

2:36  Army back in the red zone!

2:38  First and goal!

2:39  Darn near the first option play for Army, almost dropped for a loss, down at the 1!!!

2:42  After a lengthy review, the ball is placed at the 1/2 yard line.  3rd and goal.

2:43  Took a long time for the officials to undo the pile, but when they did, TOUCHDOWN ARMY!  And with the PAT, army leads 14-13 with 5:10 left in the game.

2:46  It's still commercials, ugh.  I'm glad I don't have a blood pressure problem, because if I did, this game would cause my heart to explode!

2:48  Bad kick goes out of bounds, 1st and 10 at the 35.

2:52  There hasn't been a turnover yet in this game.  In snow.  That's pretty impressive.  And geez, the announcer just made the same comment about turnovers!

2:53  Almost just had the first one.  Navy center snaps the ball to no one, quick thinking by the quarterback (?) resulted in a loss of only 2 yards.

2:56  In one play, Navy got a 1st down.  Sheesh.

2:57  3rd and 4.  Come on, defense, HOLD!

2:58  Excellent tackle! 4th and a few, this could be for all the marbles.  If Army gets the ball back here, they might could run the clock out.

3:00  Army takes a timeout.  Both teams are now down to 1 timeout apiece.  Still 4th and 3.

3:02  Holy crap.  QB bobbled the ball, the play breaks down--and he still gets a 1st down.  1st and 10 at the 25.

3:04  Two false starts for Navy now has them at 3rd and 16.  Would be a long field goal....

3:06  The clock showed over 20 minutes left in the 4th quarter, now it's fixed at only 20 seconds left.  Army held, Navy will kick a field goal with 3 seconds left.


3:14  Time for Army's Alma Mater, and then, for the first time in over 20 years, Army will receive the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy.

3:15  Good lord, different groups of cadets were singing on their own cadence.  The words weren't matching the music.  How embarrassing.

3:17  Are these guys going to get to visit President Trump to receive the trophy?  So much better than seeing his predecessor!!!

3:21  When did this "sing second" become a thing?  While I'm sure the winning team probably sang second back in my day, I don't remember it being "a thing".  We just sang when the band played our Alma Mater.

What a great game.  I'm starting to get my breath back.  So many text messages coming in.  Whew, total nailbiter!  Great game.

How Long Have I Been Warning About This?

From the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board:
Republican plans to slash the state-and-local tax deduction are already reaping benefits in high-tax states. Democrats in the Northeast say they’re having second thoughts about raising taxes. And lo and behold, California Gov. Jerry Brown is arguing that public pensions aren’t ironclad...

Republicans in high-tax states say that abolishing the state-and-local tax deduction is unfair since lawmakers are legally barred from reducing government pensions and thus have no choice but to raise taxes to pay for them. But nearly every state court faced with the issue has upheld modifications.

The real problem is political, not legal. Democrats don’t want to renege on promises to their union friends and financiers. Mr. Brown isn’t running for re-election, so he may feel liberated. But perhaps other Democrats will be more motivated if their wealthy denizens raise a ruckus and leave their states.  (boldface mine--Darren)
If more teachers understood this, perhaps they wouldn't be so reflexively socialist, would celebrate the stock market, and would want businesses to do well--because our retirement is invested in the stock market.  Click here to read many of the posts I've written about California's Teacher Retirement System.

If you don't want to sign in at the WSJ to read the editorial excerpted above, read the whole thing here.

This Will Not Be On My Amazon Wish List

You've got to be kidding me:
According to one U.K. company, your Christmas decorations just aren't complete without an "angel" at the top of your Christmas tree — and why settle for a regular blessed harbinger of the Word of God when you can have....Hillary Clinton?

The company, Women To Look Up To, considers itself a brand that "shines a light on modern female role models,” and to that extent, they've developed a line of "She-Ro" tree toppers, so that you can literally look up to a handful of "badass women" that they think deserve to sit at the top of your Christmas tree more than the Holy chorus that announced the birth of the Christ child.

The line already included tennis pro Serena Williams and pop icon Beyonce, but a contest for the next edition, held earlier this year, produced the Clinton angel, which is available from Women To Look Up To for around fifty bucks.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

They Will Keep Asking The Question Until We Give The Answer They Want Us To Give

A few years ago, after California adopted the Common Core standards, our district suits pondered whether we should keep our traditional algebra-geometry-algebra pathway or change to an integrated math pathway.  Actually, they didn't ponder at all, the decision was made as soon as someone came up with the idea, but I'll come back to that.  Anyway, a meeting was held at the district office, and dozens of math teachers from our middle and high schools came.  Only three teachers voted to change to the integrated pathway--two from our lowest performing school, saying, "Our kids are so low we're willing to try anything", and one who liked the old CPM program and wanted to return to it.  The rest of us were adamant:  NO.

The rationale given for the "potential" change was this:  "If we switch to Common Core but keep the traditional pathway, our teachers won't change the way they teach.  If we make this major switch, they might be more willing to change how they teach."

Right there, that's two slaps in the face for the math teachers in our district.  Everything's the teachers' fault.

Last year there was a "listening circle" in which students in Integrated Math 1 were brought in to discuss what might be done to improve the program.  The students were clear, they wanted a real textbook, as opposed to the paperback fill-in-the-blank monstrosities we issue them.  That comment, the most common comment from students, was conveniently left out of the listening circle's summary report.

Another slap in the face.

This week all the math teachers in my district got an email from a district suit.  We were told that our district is contracting with an organization that will help determine what is wrong with the math program in our district, and we need to click on a link and take a survey from this vendor.  Did they ask the math teachers what would help improve things?  When I was a manufacturing manager, if we had quality problems on a particular line, I'd ask the operator what the problem was.  They could usually tell me, and as often as not would provide a solution. But my district didn't ask the math teachers what can be done, they went straight to a consultant.

That's a fourth slap in the face.

The survey itself was a treat.  The questions included gems like, "What professional development do you need in order to do a better job?" and "Do you feel competent to teach ?"

At the end was the perfunctory "Please put in any additional comments here" box, and boy, did I.  The problem is that no one will read it, and no one will care.  My comments are not wanted or needed, because whatever they're going to do, the decision has already been made.  My district has made me cynical enough to believe that whatever it is they're doing, it's only window dressing so they can say they're "doing something".

Our integrated math program is a shambles, but I don't think it's because our district's math teachers are bad teachers.  Partly it's because integrated math makes about as much sense as integrated science or integrated foreign language, part of is because our textbook adoption process is an abomination, partly it's because the rules imposed on us (e.g., all Integrated 1, 2, and 3 books must come from the same publisher) force us to buy lousy books, and partly it's because the math isn't as "integrated" as it is "hodge-podge".

They've told me to dig a hole, but only gave me a screwdriver with which to do it.  Now they're asking what professional development I need in order to do a better job at digging holes with screwdrivers.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Will A Lawsuit Change Anything?

I don't know enough about California's ELA standards which, if they're like the math standards, are Common Core standards with extra California goodies grafted onto them.  Neither do I know what the problem is, why so many California students can't read:
A group of prominent lawyers representing teachers and students from poor performing schools sued California on Tuesday, arguing that the state has done nothing about a high number of schoolchildren who do not know how to read.

The advocacy law firm, Public Counsel, filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court to demand the California Department of Education address its "literacy crisis." The state has not followed suggestions from its own report on the problem five years ago, the lawsuit said.

"When it comes to literacy and the delivery of basic education, California is dragging down the nation," said Public Counsel lawyer Mark Rosenbaum, who sued along with the law firm Morrison & Foerster.

Assessments found less than half of California students from third grade to fifth grade have met statewide literacy standards since 2015. Both traditional and charter schools are failing, Rosenbaum said.

Of the 26 lowest-performing districts in the nation, 11 are in California, according to the lawsuit. Texas, the largest state after California, has only one district among the 26.
Of course, this lack of knowledge won't prevent me from offering up a few ideas!  While the problem clearly starts in elementary school, our high school teachers don't get a pass on it.  I remember learning grammar all the way through high school, but grammar isn't sexy enough today.  No, we need to keep reading and writing, not doing the grunt work of actually teaching the construction of our language. 

Don't forget that California went whole hog into "whole language" in the 1990s; how many of our teachers, school and district administrators, and state level education workers still buy into that discredited philosophy?

Is teaching to the state standards a requirement or is it merely strongly encouraged?

Do too many teachers see themselves as social workers first and teachers second?

How many teachers practice "the soft bigotry of low expectations", especially for minority and/or poor students?

So that's a lot of digs at my own profession.  How about a few ideas regarding tying our hands behind our backs?

I wrote recently about suspending, or rather not suspending, misbehaving students.  How big a role does lack of discipline in schools have in a lack of education?

How big a problem is not having "newcomer" classes for recent immigrants?  Just like you couldn't plop me down in a school in Uzbekistan and expect me to do well--no matter how much "realia" the instructor used, or no matter how much vocabulary the instructor "previewed"--it's not reasonable to put newcomers into classes (especially in high school!) and somehow, magically, expect the student's hard work and the teacher's charisma to somehow generate effective education!  Sorry, but Google Translate isn't a good option here.  Give the kids a fighting chance, teach them some English before you put them in classes (again, especially in high school).

Are we being compelled to use techniques besides direct instruction to teach reading?

It's darned embarrassing that California has several of the lowest performing districts in the nation, far more than our fair share.  Something is wrong, but correcting it would require someone to admit a political mistake, and good luck with that ever happening.  (Gerund rule?  Sounds too stilted.)

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Leftie Tolerance

No one who's paid attention is surprised by this.  Heck, I'm not even surprised she said it publicly:
Isn't it funny how top Democrats love to talk about "tolerance" and "compassion" when they are, in fact, the least tolerant and least compassionate people out there? Take this tweet from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for instance:
It's always wonderful to see liberals talk about the people as if they were some kind of collective with shared interests. That's nonsense, of course. Some people benefit from this policy, others from that one. The belief that "the people" are somehow one — and united — has caused major suffering worldwide. Just think about North Korea. The Soviet Union. Mao's China. "Modern" Venezuela. And Cuba. In every single one of those countries, leaders talk about "the people" constantly, while expanding their own personal power. One of their favorite tools? Sending opponents off to the gulag/prison/concentration camps.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that Pelosi tells California Republicans who dare support President Trump's tax bill to leave the state. Stalin, Mao, Castro, Kim, and Chavez would have agreed. Send them off to the gulag!

On Many Campuses, Anti-racism = Racism

From a "student of color and the gay son of refugee immigrants":
Even though the event was billed as a day of anti-racism, what I witnessed was, quite frankly, racism. Until that day, I’d never seen people overtly dehumanized and treated as racialized objects – amplified through the use of words like “bodies” to refer to people of color. I left the event wondering if the sum of my worth was on an identity I was born into.

Since continuing my education, I’ve come to quickly learn that on campuses today, racism no longer means what I understood it to be all my life. According to critical race theorists, who permeate academe and its administration, racism is not ethnic prejudice and discrimination but rather prejudice and institutional power. Because whites have institutionalized privilege, they say it is impossible for them to be victims of racism. In this worldview, I should be alarmed when prejudicial sentiment is hurled at some, but not all, of my peers.

I demurred...

As I’ve witnessed in 2015 and have seen repeated countless times since then, the lack of any ideological counterpoise has created a vacuum where ideas have no mechanism or incentive for moderation.
No one who's paid attention is surprised by this.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Dual Credit Classes

Sacramento State University has a dual credit program called ACE--Accelerated College Entrance.  If a high school can get a course ACE approved, then enrolled students who pass that course can get units at Sac State.

I'm told that Sac State's math department has never approved a course for ACE.  I'm also told that part of the reason is their belief that if a student gets college credit, he/she should be taught by a college-eligible teacher.  In other words, an ACE approved math class should be taught by a teacher with a master's degree--and not one in education, either.

Last May I finished a Master of Arts in Teaching Math program through the University of Idaho.  It consisted of 8 math classes and 2 education classes (I chose testing/assessment and educational philosophy, both of which were exceptional courses).  I absolutely meet the requirements to teach math in our local community college district, but I'm not sure if my M.A.T. Math degree qualifies me to teach at Sac State.

I submitted my statistics course for ACE approval.  I'm still waiting to hear back, but I'm told that if anyone in my district stands a chance at getting a math class ACE approved, it's me.  Cross your fingers for me!

That was a rather lengthy lead-in to an Education Week article called Four Ways to Build a Good Program for College Credit in High School, lifted here in its entirety:
Programs that offer high school students the chance to earn college credit should be designed with four key principles in mind to ensure high quality, according to a report released Thursday.

The popularity of dual-enrollment courses and other programs that confer college credit has soared in recent years. But as their popularity has grown, so has awareness of their problems. Weak courses that don't measure up to college standards. A patchwork of varying requirements for teachers who teach them. Disappointment when promised credits don't transfer.

These are among the concerns that led the College Board to convene a "College Credit in High School Working Group" to study the field and come up with nuts-and-bolts advice to help program designers avoid potential problems. The group, which includes some powerhouse names in education policy, issued its report today.

Its guidance falls into four categories of questions that can be used to shape programs:
  • Rigor and accountability. Programs should be able to demonstrate that students who earn college credit in high school have indeed mastered college-level work. This means showing that a student who got college credit in English can perform as well as a college student in an equivalent course. Data about those outcomes should be shared with the public. Programs also must ensure that teachers are qualified to teach college-level courses.
  • Value for time and money invested. To ensure a sound investment, policymakers should study outcomes to see whether dual-credit students are progressing through college and participating in the workforce. To fulfill a promise that dual-credit programs can save students money, states should examine course-credit transfer policies.
  • Equity and access. Programs should ensure equal access by all students. Recent studies have found that low-income and racial minority students, and boys, don't take advantage of dual-enrollment programs as often as other students do. Programs must do a better job of informing notifying students and parents of the opportunity, the College Board paper says.
  • Transparency about credit transfer. Students "should be clearly informed ahead of time" about whether their credits will transfer to the college they plan to attend, and whether those credits will be applied to their chosen course of study. High schools, employers, and higher education must collaborate to design dual-enrollment programs, so the "content and skills that high school students learn are aligned with what colleges and employers expect and that credits transfer appropriately."
Those seem like reasonable enough criteria.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Suspending Students

I believe this article is full of crap.  I don't hear teachers at other schools talking about "preventing" student misbehavior, I only hear about students' getting away with (figurative) murder because they know there are no consequences:
Local public schools suspended and expelled far fewer students last year as they continued to shift away from punishment and toward prevention and positive reinforcement, according to the latest figures from the California Department of Education...

Similar stories have played out across the region. Each of the 10 largest districts suspend a lower proportion of students today than five years ago.
There's a simple reason for this.  We're told we can't suspend students; if we do, we run this risk of being investigated by the Office of Civil Rights, having a drumhead trial, being found guilty--and the penalties for district and school administrators can be extreme.

And students, especially students who cause trouble, know this.

The Left's Drive For Power

Is America undergoing a great awakening in light of the deluge of sex scandals that are now coming to light? Are we seeing a revival of that old-time religion of chastity, purity, and self-control? One would think so as liberals, who once laughed at sexual improprieties, clapped as sinners danced in the streets, and pointed fingers at accusers on national television, are now offering mea culpas and purging all ranks with the fervor of medieval inquisitors.

It certainly looks like a change for good. But don’t be fooled. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Whether it's stripping Matt Lauer of his former glory or firing up the torches in the Roy Moore election, the goal of the Left is not purity, but power. This fact does not negate the reality of transgressions or the possibilities of criminality in individual cases, but anyone who values both goodness and freedom in this country needs to be wise as serpents. We’re not seeing a revival of virtue in America. We’re seeing a resistance to it.

For true national repentance, there needs to be recognition of objective standards that allow for any of these judgments to be made in the first place. There’s not. We’re not seeing careful consideration of how we got to this point — the abandonment of God as the source of all moral authority or, at the very least, a common recognition of natural law and traditional social norms.

Instead, we are seeing navel-gazing about how to rethink sex, what to do about the brutality of masculinity, and how to delegitimize conservatives who have been accused of abandoning character for political expediency.

Leftists aren’t embracing morality; they’re looking for a way to reclaim the moral authority they lost after past decades of materialism, creeping totalitarianism, and moral bankruptcy. Like fools drunk from their own power, they slipped out of their self-appointed divine seat as arbiters of morals and truth, and they’re now reclaiming it by whatever means necessary. They’re not humbling themselves before the true Moral Authority. They’re replacing it with their own.
I have nothing to add to that except for "read the whole thing" and "Amen".

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Bad Christmas Songs

I was reading an article about Christmas songs that should be buried forever, and this one was on the list.

I remember New Kids on the Block, but I didn't listen to their music. Was all of it this bad?  Ohmigawd, this is painful!

There is a radio station here in the Sacramento area that, starting Thanksgiving, plays nonstop Christmas music until New Year's.  Since there isn't a lot of new Christmas music coming out, this station plays the same songs over and over and over and over again.  I've pretty much decided which songs I can't stand, here are some of them:

Christmas Shoes.  Seriously, it's a song about a kid's mom dying, and that's somehow supposed to be a Christmas song?

Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.  I just don't get redneck humor, I guess.  And if the tune is catchy, it's only catchy like an alligator's mouth.

Feliz Navidad.  Again.  And again. And again.  It's in Spanish, I get it.  And again.

Do you have any non-favorites?  List them in the comments!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Can't Believe It's December Already

We started school the 2nd week of August.  Seriously.

We got a random Friday off in October.  From what I understand, some genius in our district administration determined that October is when teachers start taking 3 day weekends, so the district decided to give us a 3 day weekend so we wouldn't just take a Friday off (substitutes can get very scarce on Fridays); I heard that plenty of teachers across the district just took that Thursday off and made it a 4 day weekend instead!

Our semester ends the Thursday before Christmas, instead of Friday.  Nice.

We get another "please just take this Friday off instead of requiring a substitute" Friday off in April, and school ends early in the week in June instead of the end of the week.  By my reckoning that accounts for the 5 days early we started this year, as we would usually start a week later in August.

There are 4 school weeks (minus that last Friday) between Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks.  After tomorrow we'll have one week down, three to go.  Two of those weeks will be "regular" weeks, and the last one will be final exams week.

In 2 of the 3 courses I teach, I excuse students from the final exam if they have a 97% course average going into the final.  I'm not known as an easy grader--fair, but not easy--but I have several students each year that don't have to take my final exam.  Reward for them for a job well done, slack for me because that's fewer finals I have to grade.  And no, I don't do Scantron tests.  There are things that can be learned from the results of a Scantron test, but not enough in math for me to justify giving them.  I give bona fide tests, and I grade each one.

We teachers go back to work the Monday after New Year's, but our students don't show up until Tuesday.  That Monday is a work day for us; we grade our finals, enter grades, and take a long, leisurely lunch that day.

And a week or so later is the Dr. King (birthday) Holiday.  And less than a month after that is our February President's (nee, Ski) Week holiday.

I don't mind teaching in the cold months so much.  Lots of time off!  Last week I had a week off, and in 3 more weeks I'll have another 2 weeks off. I can't believe it's December already!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

When Taken Together, It's Not A Very Consistent Belief System

This post doesn't need commentary from me:
The problem is that the Left's arguments are often so convoluted, absurd, and self-defeating that I couldn't take them seriously if I tried. And I have tried. But when I follow one of their philosophical threads to its logical conclusion, I discover that the thread has no conclusion. It suddenly splits in another direction, and another, and another, and when I step back all I see is a tangled web of contradictions. What choice do I have but to be dismissive? All that one can do with nonsense, in the end, is dismiss it.

Allow me to illustrate...

Step One. We are told that "all men must be regarded as potential monsters to be feared." It's not that all men are actively dangerous, but that "rape culture" and patriarchy ingrains in all men the latent possibility of "violence and harm"...

Step Two. This does follow logically from the first. We're told we must elect women and hire women and put women in positions of power and whatever we do just focus on elevating women at all costs. Women are better. We may even see the end of war and suffering if women ran things. Go women! Girl power!...

Step Three. We're told that we should let men in the women's bathroom and the women's locker room.

But wait. What about Step One?...

Step Four. We're told that we should let men compete in women's sports. And we should cheer when a man beats a woman half to death in an MMA match.

But wait. What about Step Two?...

Step Five. We're told that all of this is OK because men can actually be women.

But wait. What about Steps One and Two?...

Step Six. We're told that women shouldn't carry guns because guns won't make anyone safer.

But wait. Go back to Step One again...

Step Seven. We're told that we don't need guns because police have them. Only police should have guns.

OK, Six and Seven seem to work together pretty well.

But wait.

-Step Eight. We're told that cops are part of a "culture of racism" which motivates them to target minorities for arrest and execution...

But wait. What about Step Seven?...

A rational person cannot possibly believe all eight of these points simultaneously.  
A rational person doesn't have to accept any of those points simultaneously, or individually.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Nerds Of The World, Unite!

I'm not the only Star Trek fan at school.  One of our other teachers, in his spare time, makes Star Trek models.  He even has a couple in his classroom, and they're way cool.

Today he showed up with one for me:  a 1:350 scale model of a Constitution-class starship.  It's not a Federation, ship, however.  Look at the insignia.

That's right, it's a Mirror Universe starship!  And how appropriate that today, for the first time in forever, I wore a goatee.  Mirror Universe Spock!  For the Empire!

You can't tell from the pictures, but this model is about 30" long.  So many tiny lights that light up!  This is a true work of craftsmanship.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Taking On Student Debt Is A Choice

In this post I wrote yesterday I said that going to a UC school is a choice that some people make, and my implication was that for some people it's a bad choice.  And no, I don't believe that everyone is entitled to a UC education and diploma.  People who are academically and financially capable of earning a diploma should get one, others should go elsewhere.  Yes, I know that our UC's cost a lot of money, but my taxes are helping foot the bill.  Wanting something really bad doesn't entitle you to have it.

Let me take you back to my senior year in high school.

There was no Common Application then, and there was no internet.  Every school had its own application form to be filled out on paper, and many had application fees. Unlike today, we didn't apply to 20 or 30 schools and have "reach" schools and "safety net" schools, we applied to schools we wanted to get into and had a reasonable chance of getting into.

I applied to 4 schools:  the Air Force Academy, UCLA, Purdue, and West Point.  I couldn't afford college, though.  I was living with my grandparents, estranged from my mother (not that she had any money anyway), and with a dad who worked very hard to support the rest of his family.  Everyone had always assumed I'd go to college but there was no thought given, ever, to how it would be financed.  While I qualified for Cal Grants and Pell Grants, I found no scholarships for a bright white kid (from the poor part of town) who just couldn't afford college.  While I had an uncle who had attended college, no one in my family had graduated college.  I had no guidance, no money, no real hope.  I did, however, have a sense of my own awesomeness.

I admit I was arrogant.  It was clear to me that things would work out for me because I needed them to.  I'd always succeeded in academic environments, how could this one, even though it involved finances, be any different?  I didn't fill out the paperwork when I was a National Merit Semifinalist--because I knew I'd get into the Air Force Academy, and someone else would need that National Merit scholarship money that I was sure to win.  Neither did I apply for ROTC scholarships; I was too good for ROTC, I was going to go to the Academy.  And if I didn't, I'd get a great education at Purdue or UCLA anyway.

The arrogance, the arrogance.  Oh, the things I'd say to my younger self if I could....

I wanted to go to UCLA or Purdue.  I really did.  I was accepted to both. But there was no money.  I didn't see how I could work and go to school and earn the grades I knew I was capable of.  I decided that the best plan for me would be to enlist in the army, earn GI Bill benefits, and go to college at some later date.  That was the economic choice I made.  Then, one day in 4th period class, finally, late in my senior year, a note came from the office.  "Call home.  Large envelope from West Point."  I didn't really want to go to West Point, but I didn't get a nomination to the Air Force Academy.  West Point was the only school I was accepted to that I could afford to attend--because, as a military academy, I didn't have to pay any tuition, and what costs there were, I was able to come up with the money.  So that's where I went.

It's clear, looking back, that I made a lot of mistakes.  Things turned out ok in the end, but it was a difficult time.  A very dark, difficult time in my life.  You'll notice, though, that the choices I made all had financial consequences, some good and some bad.  At no time, though, did I decide to take on debt that I didn't think I could reasonably handle.  At least I didn't screw that up.

Not everyone thinks that way, though.  As I wrote yesterday, there are students at our UC campuses who are living on food stamps.  They chose an expensive school, one they clearly can't afford, and thus chose penury.  Perhaps they think their sheepskin will allow them to make enough money to make it all worthwhile; some people can accept that sort of risk, I don't live that way.

Today I came across this story from the Boston Globe, lamenting how college debt is even worse for black students than for whites:
Recent research and data from the US Department of Education indicate that African-American students, like Reyes, are taking a greater financial risk than other groups in going to college, even as a degree has grown increasingly vital for workers hoping to survive in the modern economy. They typically start with a smaller economic cushion, are more likely to borrow, and, on average, earn less upon graduation. 
Reyes, the protagonist in the story, chose to go to a private college in downtown Boston.  She chose to take on debt.  Combine those, and to me you get a bad series of choices.
As a result, instead of bridging the racial equity gap by opening the prospect of well-paying jobs, getting a degree can actually widen the gulf in wealth between black and white adults.

African-American students who started college in 2003-04 typically owed 113 percent of their student loan 12 years later, according to the most recent data from the US Department of Education analyzed by the Center for American Progress.

By contrast, white borrowers had paid down their debt and owed only 65 percent of the original amount, and Hispanic borrowers had knocked down their debt to 83 percent of the initial loan.

College costs have exploded for everyone, and as a result, the amount of student loan debt Americans are carrying has approached $1.4 trillion. Black students, though, are more likely to take out federal loans to earn a degree, with nearly 80 percent going into debt to attend college, compared to 60 percent of students overall. Then they struggle to repay those loans, weighed down by increasing interest and default fees.

Limited family resources, a higher likelihood of dropping out of college, dampened earnings even with a degree, and a greater chance of attending predatory, for-profit institutions all contribute to the more burdensome experience of African-American student loan borrowers, experts say. 
Another person in the story made worse choices than Reyes:
Allison, a single mother of three who lives in the western Boston suburbs and asked that her last name not be used to protect her privacy, said that after spending most of her young adulthood working in fast-food restaurants and warehouses, she decided to go to college. She went to MassBay Community College and then to Lesley University to earn her degree. She finished in 2013 with about $10,000 in debt.

But even with her bachelor’s degree, Allison, 46, said she has had to work a full-time job and two part-time gigs on the weekends to earn the $65,000 she needs each year to pay her bills.

“I was spending more time out of home, away from my kids,” she said. “When I was home, I was tired. I was catnapping here and there.”

So she returned to school at Bridgewater State University to get her master’s degree in social work, in the hopes of finding a higher-paying position, with a leadership role. But there are fewer grants and scholarship options for graduate students, and by the time she finishes her program next May, she anticipates owing $70,000 in student loans.

“I am disappointed that there aren’t more options,” she said.
$65,000 in bills?  Holy crap.  Until this school year I didn't even make $65,000, much less have that much in annual expenses!  What is she doing to rack up $65,000 in bills each year?  And am I reading the story right that she's assuming an additional $70,000 in student loan debt to get a degree in social work, a field not known for high pay?  I don't think Allison is making good choices.

The article closes thusly:
“Having less debt opens you to so much more freedom when you get out of college,” she said.
One way of having less debt is not to assume so much in the first place.

When I've written on this topic in the past, the lefties will jump on my and say that I want to keep the poor and the black from getting college educations.  Let me just head that off at the pass right now--no, that's not my intent at all; and in fact, for you to believe that betrays, at an absolute minimum, a lack of reading comprehension, common sense, and understanding of personal responsibility.  I don't believe that people should have things just because they want them, and I do believe that people are entitled to no more than they can pay for.  Making bad decisions does not entitle someone to the exalted (on the left, anyway) status of victim, and wishing things were different doesn't mean that you're entitled to have them that way.

I think we in education do a disservice to kids.  We make it clear, both subtly and overtly, that going to college is the only "right" choice to make out of high school, and that anyone who doesn't go to college has essentially failed the first test of adulthood.  The Boston Globe story was clear that, on average, black families in this country have far fewer financial resources on which to draw than white families do; combine that with the unrealistic expectation that everyone should go to college, and it's no wonder that black students and families make riskier financial decisions in order to fund higher education.

How would I handle this situation, for everyone?  I'd get rid of two views:  first, the idea that everyone can and should attend college, and second, the entitlement mentality that says you should have whatever you want simply because you want it.  I'd have people focus on reasonable, achievable, affordable goals--subsidized community colleges do a great job of meeting general ed requirements at a relatively affordable price.

Then we could start looking at why higher education costs have risen so rapidly in recent years, see if a little sunlight will help.  But the first step is personal responsibility.  People need to make good choices.

The World Hasn't Ended Yet

I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who are sincere in their belief that global warming is a threat to...someone or something.  I'm forced to wonder, though, why those same people, who claim to believe in science, instead believe their passions when apocalyptic predictions keep turning out to be absolutely, undeniably, factually, disproven:
For at least three decades scientists and environmental activists have been warning that the world is on the verge of a global warming “apocalypse” that will flood coastal cities, tear up roads and bridges with mega-storms and bring widespread famine and misery to much of the world.

The only solution, they say, is to rid the world of fossil fuels — coal, natural gas and oil — that serve as the pillars of modern society. Only quick, decisive global action can avert the worst effects of manmade climate change, warn international bodies like the United Nations, who say we only have decades left — or even less!

Of course, human civilization has not collapsed, despite decades of predictions that we only have years left to avert disaster. Ten years ago, the U.N. predicted we only had “as little as eight years left to avoid a dangerous global average rise of 2C or more.”

This failed prediction, however, has not stopped the U.N. and others from issuing more apocalyptic statements.

To celebrate nearly three decades of dire predictions, The Daily Caller News Foundation put together this list of some of the most severe doomsday prophecies made by scientists, activists and politicians...
Yes, I know that there actually was a wolf the last time the boy cried wolf in the story--but he hadn't been crying wolf for 30 years.

What A Scam!

The daughter of a friend of mine is having her 1st birthday party next weekend, so I was out looking for suitable presents for a one-year-old.  It's been a long time since I've shopped for one-year-olds.

Not knowing what to buy, I started at Barnes and Noble.  A book never goes out of style, right?  Well, they also have a selection of items other than books, and I moseyed on over to the infant/toddler section.  Holy crap!  Talk about ridiculously inflated prices!  A plastic "bathtub book" with only a couple of "pages" of colorful duckies or something, $15!  Everything seemed like it was 3-5x the price it should have been.  I guess they know people will always spend money on young'ins.  In economics they'd say that the demand for such items is inelastic, and thus stores can charge whatever they want.

When my own son was born, the hospital sent us home with a bag of goodies--including a Baby Mozart CD.  Do you remember that idea, that our children would grow up to be geniuses if we only exposed them to classical music?  It's a relatively harmless fiction, and I enjoyed a couple of the songs, so I played it once in awhile.  I still have it and just checked the label, and it was compiled and published by a baby milk/formula company.

At least I didn't have to pay for that.  Who on God's green earth would pay for these?