Thursday, November 30, 2006

Two Degrees of Separation

I have a friend whose longtime best friend (and Naval Academy roommate) will be on next week's shuttle flight. In fact, I think I met her (the astronaut) back in April of 1987, on a whirlwind weekend in Northern Virginia. I recall some dancing in a bar in a hotel in Alexandria, Billy Idol's version of Mony Mony was playing....


What's Going On With Bjorn Lomborg?

I mentioned Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, in at least three previous posts. Here's a short, recent conversation with Mr. Lomborg.

What Exactly Is A "Girl's Sport"?

Talk about a double standard.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A state appeals court on Thursday rejected a lawsuit by a boy who wanted to compete on his high school's girls' gymnastics team.

The District 4 Court of Appeals upheld a judge's dismissal of Keith Michael Bukowski's lawsuit against the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, which has a rule prohibiting boys from competing in girls' sports.

If we rename football "boys' football", does that mean girls can't play any longer?

Courts have previously ruled that letting boys compete on girls' teams jeopardizes opportunities for girls. But Bukowski, who had competed in gymnastics at a local YMCA, argued the case was similar to recent examples of girls who were allowed to compete on boys' teams in football and wrestling.

Like I said, a double standard.

Yet Another Case of Stifling Conservative Viewpoints on Campus

This time, in Boise, Idaho:

Senate Bill number 10, titled “Amendment to Article X ASBSU [Associated Students of Boise State University = the BSU Student Government] Senate Rules of Procedures,” was sent to the Internal Committee of Ways and Means. Sen. Cyndi Blue, Sen. Kayla Davis, Sen. Mark Getecha and Sen. Amy Ortmann sponsor it...

It states that “a senator of ASBSU may not work, intern, or be actively involved in organizations or student newspapers that create an atmosphere where students do not feel represented...”

For more context, see this Boise Weekly article. According to it, the bill's advocates seem to be particularly irate about student senator Jonathon Sawmiller, who heads the campus College Republicans chapter and writes for the Arbiter. He "first made waves in April, when he wrote an editorial ....

Why am I not surprised he's a Republican. Are there any universities left that value the free exchange of ideas?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Cool Articles Related To Science and History

Preserving the 460-year-old Mary Rose
Ancient star catalog found in plain sight
Archeologists find Brazilian Stonehenge
Greek shipwreck from 350 BC found
Parthenon not always bleached white
Scientists figure out how to operate ancient Greek astronomy machine
(click here if that last link no longer works)

Mob Rule on College Campuses

America's college campuses, once thought to be bastions of free speech, have become increasingly intolerant toward the practice. Visiting speakers whose views do not conform to the prevailing left-leaning political mind-set on most campuses are at particular risk of having their free speech rights infringed upon.

And this was published at, online home of the San Francisco Chronicle and SF Examiner.

Update, 12/5/06: Mr. Chanman has a post with a similar point of view.

It happens again and again: leftists talk about how mean-spirited and evil we conservatives are, yet when is the last time you heard of a liberal/leftist speaker on a college campus being pelted with pies (David Horowitz, Ann Coulter), pelted with salad dressing (Pat Buchanan), or being shouted down (Mike Adams) by conservative protestors? Having seen that throwing food doesn't produce the desired effect, these moronic student protestors who are 20 going on 12 have started pulling fire alarms.

I myself haven't heard of conservatives doing such things.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Teens Expelled For The Stupidest Reason On The Planet


Could any normal, reasonable person consider this a threat? I didn't think so, either.

US Paper Money Is "Unfair" To The Blind

Or so says a federal judge, noting that the blind can't tell US bills apart because they're all the same size and all feel the same.

On my first trip to Europe at age 9, I marveled at the Dutch guilder notes--they had raised bumps approximately a quarter-inch in diameter on them, one bump for the smallest bill (either 5 or 10 guilders) and an additional bump for each corresponding higher bill.

Over 30 years later, something like that is being suggested for US currency. I wonder, though--what's this judge going to do if the Treasure Department doesn't comply, lock up the Secretary? Somehow I just don't see it.

Queer Studies, Women's Studies, Fat Studies...

...Drunk Studies.

Maybe the next frontier in the academic battle against all varieties of oppression should be "drunk studies." Why not an academic program championing the idea that "alcohol abuse" is an artificial construct based on the mainstream culture's oppressive notions of what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate consumption of alcohol? "Drunk studies" could tell us that the stigmatization of drunkenness stems from the Western valorization of such dubious values as self-control, rationality, and obedience to social norms, and reflects a pernicious fear of rebellion against inhibitions and authority. Of course, it would also question conventional wisdom -- supposedly based on scientific evidence, but really rooted in anti-drunk bias -- about the deleterious health consequences of alcohol abuse and the dangers of drunk driving. After all, the goal of "drunk studies" would be to empower drunks!

Via Instapundit (see blogroll at left).

Monday, November 27, 2006

Interesting View of America's "Natural" Economic Allies

They're not the continental Europeans.

Parent Unhappy With Math Education

The parent who wrote this op-ed is in Pennsylvania, not California. If you want to understand why I'm such a proponent of California's K-12 math standards, read this parent's concerns about so-called reform math (and its relation to the math being taught at some schools in New Jersey).

If you're a student or parent in California, be thankful that California's standards are as clearly defined and measurable as they are rigorous. As the parent above says, our students deserve nothing less.

So What Exactly Would Be Wrong With Filling Our Universities With Asian-Americans?

I'm not Asian, so it's not like I'm standin' up for my homeboys (or whatever the slang of today would be). But still I ask, what would be wrong with having a university student body that's overwhelmingly Asian-American? The only answers I can come up with are all racist, so if anyone has one I haven't thought of, feel free to leave a comment.


Update, 11/28/06: More here. And check out the (racist) quote from Mr. Harvard:

“In the narrow view, some Asians are beneficiaries, and Latinos and blacks are losers; but really, everyone’s a loser,” said Gary Orfield, an education and social policy professor at Harvard. “There may be enough minorities to have one or two kids in a classroom, but not enough to have a rich relationship.”

Note his view of non-Asian minorities--they're there so that others can have the benefit of a "rich relationship" with them. They're there for someone else's benefit. Sound like anything you know of, maybe something that ended in the US in 1865?

Update #2, 11/28/06 9:11 pm: Here are some more thoughts on related issues.

There 's A Reason This Isn't What You Learned In Math

Go read this article out of New Jersey. Seriously, go read it.

Did you catch the superintendent's comment at the end?

"Obviously," she said after the presentation by the students, "the teaching and learning of mathematics have changed over time. This is not what I learned."

There's a reason for that. There's no math at all mentioned in the article. Using a GPS system to find points is not math. Those students are being done a terrible, insidious disservice.

Vaunted British "Single-Payer" Health Care

You can say that this isn't what would happen in the United States if we had a single-payer (read: socialist, government-controlled) health care system, but what would prevent it here? You think this is what the British had in mind when they created their system?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Regarding Grades, Some Students Get It and Some Students Don't

"How can I improve my grade?"

"By doing better on tests and quizzes."

"Is there any extra credit I can do?"


How often has that dialogue occurred in my class, and how often will it occur in future years?

There seems to be a disconnect between me and some students. They view a grade as the goal, the purpose of taking a class. On the other hand, I view content mastery, partially reflected by the grade, to be the purpose of taking a class. In the view of some of them, I should give as many opportunities as possible to get a higher grade.

They don't understand that tests and weekly quizzes are exactly the opportunities I provide, since those account for 80% of a student's grade in my class.

I don't understand the purpose of extra credit. Sure, I give bonus problems on tests and quizzes, but those relate directly to what I'm teaching. Extra credit--writing a paper about a famous mathematician, or something--exists only to boost a grade artifically.

"But if I have that B+ on my transcript, I won't get into Stanford!"

I guess they don't see that if I give them an unearned grade, I might be contributing to keeping someone else out of Stanford--someone who knew the material better.

And so it goes.

I started writing this after reading a post at Joanne's site (see blogroll at left) in which a high school English teacher has labelled the first three weeks of school in a manner reminiscent of the stages of grief:

The first week is Disbelief and Dismissal Week
The second week is called Haggling and Hating Week
In week 3, Resolution and Restoration....

Preaching in Class

I would say that this teacher definitely crossed a line. Anyone dispute that?

Queer Studies, Women's Studies...

...Fat Studies.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Thai Teachers Killed By Muslim "Insurgents"

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) -- Hundreds of schools in Thailand's restive south will shut their doors in response to increasingly vicious attacks by suspected Muslim insurgents against teachers and schools, an official said Saturday...

In one of the killings, attackers shot a school principal Friday, and then set his body on fire. The principal became the 59th teacher or school official killed in three years of violence, said Bunsom Thongsriprai, president of the Teachers' Association in Pattani...

Teachers have always been occasional targets, seen by insurgents as representatives of the government and easy targets. But recently, teachers and schools have been attacked on an almost daily basis...

Thailand's new military-installed government has pledged to make peace in the south a priority, and reverse the hardline policies of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a Sept. 19 coup.

Defense Minister Boonrawd Somtat said Friday that insurgents had stepped up violence to keep residents from accepting new peace overtures from the authorities.


More than 1,800 people have died from violence in Thailand's three southernmost, Muslim-majority provinces -- Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat -- since an Islamic insurgency flared in January 2004.

I think the Thai government should talk to these murderers--I mean, insurgents. Learn about their feeeeeeeelings. Get to the "root causes" of their anger. Try to understand them, perhaps even walk a mile in their shoes. You know, a group hug might be all that's called for here.

Via, with a hat tip to Little Green Footballs.

California's Gold Country

State Highway 49 runs along the western slope of the Sierra Nevada, and is so named because it runs through what's known as the Gold Country. All along this road are towns that were, or are, a part of California's Gold Rush history. It's called Highway 49 for a reason, you know....

A friend of mine and I decided to take a little drive today. We went first through Placerville (Hangtown, as it was known in the Gold Rush days), county seat of El Dorado County, to Apple Hill--had to get some snackies. Then we drove to Coloma, site of James Marshall's gold discovery in the tailrace of Sutter's Mill in 1848--the event that started the Gold Rush of '49. I didn't take pictures of the recreated mill or of the buildings along the main street; instead, I took some pictures showing the bucolic nature of this former boom town.

The American River

Site of the original mill

What's left of a jail

After leaving Coloma we continued on Highway 49, driving through Pilot Hill and Cool (only in California!) and down to the bottom of the American River canyon, easily crossed by the highest bridge in the state.

Shortly we reached Auburn, the Placer County seat. The courthouse, completed in 1898, sits atop a rather steep hill, and even today is an imposing presence.

After that we came home. It was a nice way to spend a Saturday.

Not Tolerating Mike Adams' Intolerance at UMass

I always find it interesting when protesters claim, while protesting someone's (usually a conservative's) appearance, that they're very tolerant people--but they can't tolerate this person's intolerance!

In other words, they're as hypocritical as one can get.

Sure, I support their right to protest. I support their right to disagree. But allow me to be blunt--when you disrupt events, when you shout down speakers with whom you disagree, when you act like a mob, you're going far beyond reasonable and reasoned action; rather, you're trying to prohibit someone else's free speech. You're hiding behind the very First Amendment you claim to support.

I'd say you're not acting like adults when you do that, but regrettably entirely too many adults do act that way today. Instead, I have to say you're not acting like reasonable, reasoned, polite Americans.

In fact, you're acting like the very fascists that you are.

Friday, November 24, 2006

DNA Testing

Every time I read about a DNA test that exonerates someone behind bars, I wonder how many people have been locked up for crimes they didn't commit. Sure, they may be bad guys anyway, but how many were locked up solely because they were bad guys and not because of pretty good evidence in the specific case before the jury?

I can't imagine how I'd react if I were unjustly locked up, convicted of a crime I didn't commit. As a teenager I'd sometimes lie to my mother, but I'd get furious when she called me a liar when I was telling the truth. Odd how she would believe my lies, but not believe me when I told the truth. But in those circumstances I had only to stew in my anger, not suffer the loss of my freedom for years on end.

Bad cops, overzealous prosecutors, plain bad luck--there's just too big a possibility that a person innocent of a particular crime (but not necessarily an innocent person, as I said above) could get convicted of that crime. How many people have been wrongly convicted? How many wrongly convicted people have been executed? I shudder just at the thought. DNA evidence should be used whenever it's possible to do so, unlike in the story linked above. And prisoners who have always professed their innocence, but were convicted in the pre-DNA days--I've read about some of them being released after recent DNA tests confirmed their innocence. It angers me, and I'm not even the one who was wronged. They never should have been locked up in the first place.

Freedom is just too important. We have to be sure. And I think DNA testing, when it can be used, is a good step to getting us there.

"I'm A Bad Test-taker"

Right Wing Nation has a fantastic post on the whole "bad test-taker" scenario. He sums up my attitude on the topic thusly:

I suspect that more than anything, the "good v. bad test taker" effect is an excuse, for students, parents, and bad teachers. But since I have collected and analyzed the data, from significant sample sizes semester after semester after semester, the burden of proof rests on the shoulders of anyone who claims that the "good v. bad test taker" effect is significant — particularly since no research exists to support it, one way or another.

He agrees that some people may be better test-takers than others (duh!), but that the effect is minimal. Here are some other points I think merit mention here (but you should go read the whole thing):

Think about it: Are some people better at certain types of tasks — like taking standardized tests — than others? Of course. However, I think the actual "good v. bad test taker" effect is exaggerated, and I have speculative, anecdotal, and empirical reasons to support my stance.


I suspect that if I had a magic wand and could wave it over my bad test taker student's head before he took the test, his score would not significantly improve, even though now, he is a good test taker.

The post merits a thorough reading.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Scholarship For Whites Only

To me, this is as valid a form of protest as is an affirmative action bake sale. Personally, I think it's pretty funny.

And the executive director of the Massachusetts Republican Party is a puss.

Update: John at Discriminations (see blogroll at left) has an interesting post on the topic.

Update #2, 11/24/06: EdTrust, via Joanne (see blogroll at left), reports that flagship universities are directing more financial aid to higher-income students and less to low- and middle-income students. I'm all for giving financial assistance to those who need it, regardless of their skin color.

No Harm, No Foul

From Florida:

Cops stood with guns and rifles drawn, Wednesday, as teenager after teenager filed out of a Kissimmee home. The kids, with no school and too much time on their hands, caused some tense moments in the neighborhood.

Kissimmee police said they got a 911 call from someone who saw a person being stuffed into the trunk of a grey car. Officers climbed rooftops and peered over fences to surround a home on Peridot Circle, before bringing almost a dozen teenagers out, one by one, at gunpoint...

It turned out, Rosa's 15-year-old son had invited a bunch of friends over. One thing led to another and one of the kids wound up in the trunk. It was a teenage prank witnessed by a passerby who called 911 and set the whole thing in motion.

Go read the whole thing. Hat tip: Edwonks (see blogroll at left).

One Heck Of A Science Project In The Basement

A Michigan teen becomes the 18th amateur in the world to create nuclear fusion.

What Journalists Have To Be Thankful For

From Michelle Malkin.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Seattle, San Francisco--Both Pretty, Crowded Cities By The Water

One school system gets rid of something wholesome, the other just sucks in general.


My former high school counselor and principal--both former math teachers--suggested to me several years ago that I needed to give either a test or a quiz each week. Since then I've done so, and apparently there's a good reason for doing so:

Testing improves recall of information, concludes a Washington University at St. Louis study. Scientific American quotes researcher Jason Chan: “Frequent testing, not restudying, is the key to long-term retention.”

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

US Secretary of Education to Play On 'Jeopardy'

"Something that sounds fun to do, until you realize that if you do poorly, you'll take way more abuse than is merited."

"What is, having the US Secretary of Education appear on Jeopardy?"

Update, 11/22/06: Apparently she got smoked like a cheap cigar--by Lenny from Laverne and Shirley. Let the jokes begin. I'm not strong enough to watch the video.

What Will "Queers For Palestine" Do Now?

The cognitive dissonance must be bursting veins in their little heads: gay marriages will now be recognized in Israel. That makes how many Middle Eastern countries now where homosexuality isn't illegal? Uh, probably one. And the Israelis probably aren't going to be toppling walls over onto the gays, or tossing them off tall buildings.

Fancy that.

Grade Inflation and College Admissions

There are a few journalists in the country who are pretty savvy when it comes to education issues--Debra Saunders, Linda Seebach, Jay Mathews, and one other woman whose name escapes me now. But they're good. The reporters who cover the education beat for the major Sacramento newspaper--not so much. Perhaps I expect too much.

So along comes this article, courtesy of the Associated Press, and this author is pretty dim. He can't even see his own inconsistencies.

It's not that they're bad. It's that so many of his classmates' are so good. Zalasky's GPA is nearly an A minus, and yet he ranks only about in the middle of his senior class of 543 at Edina High School outside Minneapolis...

"It's extremely difficult," he said. "I spent all summer writing my essay. We even hired a private tutor to make sure that essay was the best it can be. But even with that, it's like I'm just kind of leveling the playing field." Last year, he even considered transferring out of his highly competitive public school, to some place where his grades would look better...

Some call the phenomenon that Zalasky's fighting "grade inflation" -- implying the boost is undeserved. Others say students are truly earning their better marks. Regardless, it's a trend that's been building for years and may only be accelerating: Many students are getting very good grades.

The author's slant is--get this--that there's no such thing as grade inflation; that in fact, students are actually doing better than ever! Because that's what people have been saying about public education for years, that we're turning out a better and better product. Right.

But grade inflation doesn't exist, Mr. Author?

"We're seeing 30, 40 valedictorians at a high school because they don't want to create these distinctions between students," said Jess Lord, dean of admission and financial aid at Haverford College in Pennsylvania.

I'm sure that at every high school, 30 or 40 people qualify to be a valedictorian. Where and when I was in high school, there was exactly 1 valedictorian, and he had the highest GPA in the graduating class. We had no AP courses or any other GPA-boosters, either; you got what you got, and that was what you got. A 4.00 was as good as it got, too. There was no way to get anything higher.

But the author believes that students are doing so much better than they did before, despite the horrific percentages of students who get to universities (especially here in California) who have to take remedial math and/or English. I wonder how many of those students took AP courses in high school....

So with so much (non-existent) grade inflation occurring, colleges and universities are having to rely more heavily than ever on standardized test scores to make admissions decisions! Imagine the irony! In this day of the "standardized tests are evil" mantra, universities--many of whom would rather ignore such test scores so they can admit more underperforming minorities--are compelled to use such test scores to cut through all the clutter of perfect A's.

But lost in the developments is the fact that none of the most selective colleges have dropped the tests. In fact, a national survey shows overall reliance on test scores is higher in admissions than it was a decade ago.

Mr. Journalist, your first sentence there should read "none of the most selective colleges has dropped the tests." I'm just saying. And I digress.

About half-way through the article, our friendly author seems to change direction:

The average high school GPA increased from 2.68 to 2.94 between 1990 and 2000, according to a federal study. Almost 23 percent of college freshmen in 2005 reported their average grade in high school was an A or better, according to a national survey by UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute. In 1975, the percentage was about half that.

GPAs reported by students on surveys when they take the SAT and ACT exams have also risen -- and faster than their scores on those tests. That suggests their classroom grades aren't rising just because students are getting smarter. Not surprisingly, the test-owners say grade inflation shows why testing should be kept: It gives all students an equal chance to shine.
So which is it, Cronkite? Are these students as prepared academically as their grades would imply, or does grade inflation exist? I can't see how both can be true simultaneously.

The most interesting fact I found in the whole piece, though, was this one, which shows oh so clearly why we need some sort of standardized testing:

More than 70 percent of schools and districts analyzed by an education audit company called SchoolMatch had average GPAs significantly higher than they should have been based on their standardized test scores -- including the school systems in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Denver, San Bernardino, Calif., and Columbus, Ohio. That raises concerns about students graduating from those schools unprepared for college. (emphasis mine--Darren)

It turns out that the kids at the school mentioned at the beginning of the article have a fairly high average SAT score, probably not unlike the school at which I currently teach. However, the information immediately above shows that such schools are the exception, not the rule, and shows yet again why standardized (consider for a moment what that word means) tests are in fact so important.

A Military Draft?

I should really keep track of all the idiot things people say--that are recorded in print and online for posterity. Like, for example, the genius who was sure the President was going to order an attack on Iran before the end of the year. Well, I guess we still have another month on that one. Or how about all the scare-mongering (usually done in election years under President Bush) that a military draft is in the offing?

As I've said, the only person I know of who's gunning for a reinstatement of the draft is Charlie Rangel, and he has a 'D', not an 'R', after his name.

WASHINGTON – Americans would have to sign up for a new military draft after turning 18 under a bill the incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee says he will introduce next year.

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., said Sunday he sees his idea as a way to deter politicians from launching wars.

We'll see how that flies with Mr. and Mrs. America and the "it's all about me" entitlement crowd. Everyone joins the military so that Chuckles can make a political point.

You know what might be even better? Instead of serving in the military, everyone 18-26 would have to serve a year in Congress. See ya, Rangel.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Bostonian's View of the San Francisco JROTC Bigotry

I assume that Jeff Jacoby, who writes for the Boston Globe, is from the Boston area. Boston is certainly a "bluer than blue" area, but with its Minuteman history, perhaps its not as anti-military as other heavily liberal areas.

Or maybe Jacoby is just a beacon of light in the darkness. It wouldn't be the first time I've thought that after reading his work.

And the problem certainly isn't an absence of diversity. In a story on JROTC cadets at Galileo High School, Chronicle reporter Jill Tucker writes: "These students are 4-foot-10 to 6-foot-4. Athletic and disabled. College-bound and barely graduating. Gay and straight. White, black, and brown. Some leave school for large homes with ocean views. Others board buses for Bayview-Hunters Point." Several of the students come from immigrant families. At least one is autistic.

That's what some of us would call "diversity". Apparently they have differing views on that topic in San Francisco.

But then, facts tend not to matter to smug ideologues like (school board members) Schwartz and Kelly, who are free to parade their contempt for the military because they live in a nation that affords such freedom even to idiots and ingrates. It never seems to occur to them that the liberties and security they take for granted would vanish in a heartbeat if it weren't for the young men and women who do choose to wear the uniform, willingly risking life and limb in service to their country.

Gavin Newsome, described by some radio talk show hosts I listen to as "the prettiest man in politics", had this to say about the decision (over which he had no control):

To his credit, Mayor Gavin Newsom excoriated the school board last week for "disrespecting the sacrifice of men and women in uniform" and warned that killing JROTC would only accelerate the flight of city residents from the public schools. "You think this is going to help keep families in San Francisco?" he asked. "No. It's going to hurt."

Well, he was elected by the same people who elected the school board members. In a republic, you get the government you deserve--even in a People's Republic like San Francisco. But good job, school board, on doing something else to make your city less attractive to families.

P.S. No, I don't think Newsom's all that pretty.

Trends In Education

Late 80s-90s: "dumbing down" and "funning up"

Late 90s-today: standards and accountability

Think there's a "cause and effect" relationship there? I do.

I was in a meeting not too long ago, and one of my colleagues in that meeting said that the most important thing we teachers should do, more important than curriculum (he said that), is to look after the emotional well-being of our students. When I stated that that was the very reason we now have all these standardized testing programs that everyone complains about--because our profession took its eyes off the ball and tried to do everything except teach kids (think self-esteem, whole language, fuzzy math)--some people looked at me like I was crazy or something.

Never let the facts get in the way of your preconceived notions, I guess.

New Car

I'm looking for a new car.

I've had my Kia Rio for 3 years now. It's a very reliable car, very stingy on gas--and uncomfortable. It's definitely a young person's car; someone "mature" like me needs a little more padding on the seats to be able to tolerate those long drives to Canada or Colorado.

So I've been considering a Toyota Camry. Very reliable, very comfortable car. Found a nice used one, too, at a decent price when compared to Kelley Blue Book. I'm very impressed with Hybrids, though--I think it's the "nifty" factor--and test driving a brand new Ford Escape Hybrid yesterday made me swoon. It's been many moons, since I got rid of my Ranger pickup back in 97, since I've sat high enough to see in traffic. An Escape would be nice.

It's a lot of money, though. That's the big drawback for me. It's a lot of freakin' money. So I thought, if I'm even willing to pay that much for a new Escape Hybrid, I should look into the price of a Camry Hybrid. Holy crap, can you believe the Camry's MSRP is more than the Escape's? Eek!

No, I'm not going to consider a Prius or an Insight. Again, I need something a little more "cushy". I'm afraid to look into the cost of the Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Maybe I should just go get the used Camry, and let my *next* vehicle be a hybrid.

Decisions, decisions.

Religion On The British Campus

How very sad that it has gone this far:

A series of student unions have sought to regulate, restrict or simply ban what were previously recognised as official societies that practised Christianity.

Three cases have acquired prominence. Birmingham University Christian Union was banned from the list of accredited societies after it refused to amend its constitution to permit non-Christians to become executive committee members. The Exeter Univers-ity Christian Union has been ordered by its student union to rename itself the Evangelical Christian Union and has been suspended until it complies. At Edinburgh University, the Christian Union faces sanctions after it was accused of adopting a Bible-based programme on human relationships that deems homosexuality to be undesirable. These prohibitions mean that the organisations concerned are denied access to money, union facilities and a forum to publicise their activities...

Tolerance is, or rather should be, a street in which the traffic flows in two directions. Universities are establishments in which ideas are supposed to be incubated and exchanged, championed and challenged. A student union should be a forum in which that philosophical debate takes place and not a body that takes it upon itself to determine which arguments are acceptable or sufficiently “right” to be allowed an audience. A blinkered secularism is no better than theological dogmatism.

There must also be the legitimate suspicion that Christianity is regarded as a “soft target” by union activists. It is doubtful whether student bodies of other faiths would be informed that they had to accept those who did not wish to uphold their beliefs as executive committee members or have their termcards scrutinised for perceived slights against homosexuality.

The subtitle of the article? "A secular society that demands tolerance should also show tolerance."

Saturday, November 18, 2006

How I'll Spend My Thanksgiving Break

1. Grading quizzes and tests. Even though my students won't be doing any math over the break, I'll be grading their papers so that they can know the results of their work as soon as school starts up again. Then I have to record those grades.

2. Planning lessons. I have a student who will be on a family trip the week after vacation. As a result, I must do all the planning in detail this weekend so I can email him his specific assignments before he leaves.

3. College letters of recommendation for former students applying to college.

4. New seating charts. I change student seating every 6 weeks, and the students look mostly look forward to it. It's that time again.

No, I won't be doing any work during my break. You know, we teachers get all that time off....

Happier, and More Generous, Too

Watch the libs try to jump on this one, too.

And it's not just Bono, either. John F-bomb Kerry has, as a Massachusetts resident, the opportunity to pay a higher rate of taxes than what the law requires--just check a box on the tax return. He does not do so.

Talk At A Community College Campus

This was sent to me by a correspondent of mine. Names and such have been deleted to shield all involved.

He showed much more patience than I probably would have....

The talk.

Yes, well, this woman at {a certain university} asked me if I wanted to give a talk. My question was a talk about what, and her answer should have warned me. She wanted me to talk about, and I quote, "Oh, getting alternate funding like business schools do, and preparing students for life in the business world, combining academics and consulting, you know, things like that."

Think it sounds diffuse? So did I. But hey, why now, I figured, so I threw something together.

My second warning should have been that she couldn't, or wouldn't, give me any specifics, like oh, who I'd be talking to, or who this talk was for. When I found out that it was clear over at the other end of the county at a community college auditorium, that should have been my final clue that something weird was going on.

So after I burned the {tv show I send to someone} episode to DVD, I mailed it, then drove over to {a nearby town}, which would have been pleasant, had it not been a grey, cloudy, foggy day. I walked into the auditorium and set up my notebook or would have -- except that I couldn't find an outlet. In an auditorium. At a community college.

Well, there was one, fifty feet away. I secured an extension cord and plugged in the notebook and the projector.

Then, my audience started drifting in. There was an old woman with a walker -- call me ageist, but would you be teaching if you couldn't get around without a walker? She was a grumpy old thing, though, and provided lots of entertainment, but I'll get to that. There were four normal-looking professional types. Then the birkenstock crew started coming in. Denim skirts, dreadlocks, Che Guevara and Bush=Hitler! T-shirts some with no bras, neo-hippies in their 20s (you see very few of those around here -- now I know where they hide), a VW van full of them.

Given the diffuse topic, I'd decided to approach it from the angle of the relationship between education and business, both from the point of view of the institution and the student. And before I got the third sentence out, I was challenged by one of the Kucinich Kids.

"Business rapes the earth and has no place in education!"

I kid you not. You can't make this shit up. I believe my response was something like, "Uh-huh, moving right along ..." but I didn't get far before I got the next moonbatty challenge.

It was completely odd, like they were competing among themselves to see who could be the nuttiest. They weren't looking at me, or much paying attention to me: They were looking at each other, like it was some weird contest.

The old lady with the walker had had enough at about the tenth wacko statement, and told them they were ninnies. It was hard not to laugh, particularly taking into account the shocked looks on the VW crowd's faces. The old lady had sat close to me, presumably because of her hearing, and the four reasonable-looking people likewise moved toward my end of the table. So I went on, with these six as my audience, punctuated from time to time by some irrelevant leftist talking point from the moonbats.

It turns out they were teachers. Why they were there, I do not know, though I found out that some private foundation sponsors these talks and they get paid to go to them. Or something.

The point at which I had just had enough was when one of the wackos said something about businesses being racist because they didn't hire people who wore dreadlocks. I said no, racism had nothing to do with it, that such people, like people who went to interviews with multiple body piercings, send a clear message that they have no respect for convention, that they are insufferable narcissistic spoiled brats who think the world revolves around them and their pathetic self-expression, and that I wouldn't hire one even to clean the toilets.

Well, that did it. They were floored. They didn't know what to say, at least for a few minutes. So I pressed my advantage. I told them if they actually had something to contribute besides mindless, stupid, meaningless leftist talking points, they were welcome to stay, but otherwise, I preferred an audience of adults. And then the old lady and the four normal people lit into them.

Most stayed. And they did ask a couple of intelligent--though naive--questions. Like when talking about alternate funding, one asked if funding from the private sector didn't come with strings. I said you negotiate that before you accept the funding, then went on to give examples, like classes using case competitions with corporate sponsors who gave the competition winners internships. Or another asked why businesses would fund education, if they weren't getting anything out of it. I told her they were getting something out of it, even with no strings: publicity, PR, and potential employees. And the school got money. Everybody wins.

Anyway, they cut me my check and I left. It was bizarre. I don't think I'll do any more of those.

Like I said, he showed much more patience than I would have. But the comment about narcissism and "pathetic self-expression" was dead on.

Friday, November 17, 2006

An Example of Discovery-Based Learning

Read the first sentence--the first freakin' sentence--of this article, and see what's wrong. There's no math there. The answer given--is the wrong freakin' answer. Perhaps the reporter misinterpreted the problem, but as it's written, it's wrong wrong wrong. There is a correct answer here, and 40% isn't it. In fact, several minutes of instruction in combinatorics would give an answer well under half of what was reported.

Ugh! This was such a great book, and I read it back in the 80s. Sad that it's still so true.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Perspective on Age

I just stumbled upon this post I wrote almost a year and a half ago, and for whatever reason just thought it would be fun to post a link to it.

Troops To Teachers

I didn't go through this program, but I've heard nothing but good about it.

I've said many times that there are several close similarities between teaching and being in the military. Such a view is heresy to the liberals, who know nothing about the military but also know it's beneath them and nothing like education! I'd like to see more former military personnel teach--it would be good for everyone.


Interesting article about happiness, with these entertaining study results:

  • Married people are happier than singles.
  • College grads are happier than those without a college degree.
  • People who were religious are happier than those who aren't.
  • Sunbelt residents are happier than other U.S. residents.
  • Republicans are happier than Democrats -- but both are happier than independents.

  • Liberals do quite often seem like vicious, angry types :-)

    It's an interesting article--go take a read. It may make you happy.

    Wednesday, November 15, 2006

    Is This Your Favorite Education Blog?

    If so, let Jay Mathews of the Washington Post know!

    West Point, Seen From Manhattan

    Everyone entering the military academies now is a post-9/11 volunteer. They've seen the enemy, know who and what he is, and still choose to serve.

    The New York Sun has an interesting story about some of the attitudes of those who should know firsthand about that enemy, those who also live close enough to West Point to make a day trip out of it, those who think the military is so beneath them.

    It was assumed that, as his mother, I did not approve of the idea, and both my husband and I were sternly warned to avoid all things related to the military. We heard congratulatory words immediately followed by lectures about the evils of war. Mere mention of the words "military academy" brought forth criticism of American involvement in Iraq and the hate-Bush rhetoric that is so predictable in Manhattan. We received reminders that now is not the time to attend a military academy because (as if we didn't know) there is a war going on. Indignant parents reacted as if my husband and I had crossed a forbidden line by allowing our son to apply and go to West Point. Several adamantly declared that if their son or daughter ever got the idea to apply to a military academy, it would be, in these parents' own words, "over my dead body." And, one parent added angrily, only 17-year-olds are "stupid" enough to consider the military as an option.

    Antipathy toward the military is often found among people who claim to support our troops but not the war in Iraq. They are sometimes the same people who believe that it is possible to negotiate with terrorists. They are grown adults, friends, and neighbors of mine, who for the past six years have felt entitled to engage in schoolyard name-calling because President Bush challenges the ideology they espouse. They are the "enlightened" baby boomers, the ones who know better and more than anyone else. Along with my baby-boomer peers, I,too, protested the Vietnam War, frowned on patriotism, and scorned the military. But with age, experience, and children, I am beginning to learn that I have been miserably mistaken about some of my long-held beliefs, including my ideas about the military.

    I've known more than a few parents whose opinions about the military changed once their children went to West Point. Funny how that happens.

    Hollywood and the Environment

    Hollywood liberals hypocritical? Say it isn't so.

    Diversity at the University--As Long As You're Like Everyone Else

    Wisconsin passed a ban on same-sex marriage last week--bluest of the blue Wisconsin joins blue Oregon and dozens of other states to pass such bans, and I continue to wonder why gays are the only minority that votes Democrat as much as blacks do.

    Tuesday, November 14, 2006

    West Point Competes For Minority Applicants

    Interesting information from the Times Herald-Record, a local newspaper near West Point.

    The percentage of black cadets has dropped in recent years. In fact, there were only 600 qualified black candidates last year in the entire country.

    From a high of 113 black recruits entering in 1998, to a low of 63 in 2003, West Point has seen a drop in black students for nearly a decade. Three years ago, the minority group made up about 7 percent of the 4,000-cadet population. Today it's down to 6 percent.

    I remember that percentage being higher when I was there in the 80s, but I could be mistaken. Still, what's the problem?

    "While this is an Academy and Army problem, it's a national problem in a much bigger sense," (Director of Admissions Colonel Mike) Jones said. "We have failed a generation of African-American kids... in terms of the opportunities we've provided them, and the emphasis we've given them on education in high schools throughout this country.

    "It's a failure at the national level. And that's Jones speaking, not West Point. It's a travesty."

    It's our job, in K-12, to fix that, and we're not going to fix it with fuzzy math, whole language, group work, watered-down courses, course title inflation, accepting socio-economic status as destiny, blaming racism, or any other paternalistic endeavor that does anything except hold all students in general, and blacks in particular, to high academic, conduct, and integrity standards.

    There is some good news on the horizon, though.

    Like the Army, West Point has made significant strides in raising the numbers of another minority population: Hispanic cadets are among the fastest-growing group at the military academy, admission data show.

    The overall diversity of the corps has also climbed dramatically in the past decade, from 341 minorities in the Class of 1999 to 439 a decade later.

    Hear hear.

    What Do You Get For Your College Tuition?

    Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings believes in "transparency". Universities would prefer to keep you in the dark--because you're just a member of the proletariet, anyway.

    All she wants, Spellings says, is better information made available to families, taxpayers and policymakers so they can make better decisions about how they spend their money. And given how little is really known about how well students are served by higher education, she says, she doesn't see why anyone would find that unreasonable.

    No one but the keepers of the medieval guilds, that is.

    Using Gallaudet As A Guide

    In a post related to this one, today we learn from NewsAlert and the Chicago Sun-Times that black students at the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis are threatening their university administration:

    INDIANAPOLIS -- Black students at IUPUI have issued a new deadline for the university administration to answer requests for a campus center for them, an African-American studies program and $78,000 for black organizations.

    Black student leaders said at a town hall forum they want an answer from the university by 5 p.m. Wednesday or they will call for the resignation of certain officials at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

    Black students previously threatened to sue the school if officials did not meet the demands made earlier this month. The university pledged to improve communication and respect and increase funding for the student groups, but black student leaders rejected the response, calling it too vague.

    Black students did not comment on previous threats to sue the university.

    'It is unclear as to why the administration didn't adequately comply with the demands,'' said Jocellyn Ford, 21, one of three student panelists. ''IUPUI administrators, you did not listen, and this is your official public wake-up call.''

    As I said in my most recent Gallaudet post: When you reinfoce behavior, you get more of it. Even if it's bad behavior. Steve at NewsAlert had a fairly interesting point as well.

    This Is Why Some Schools Don't Succeed

    Yes, they may be in high minority, high poverty areas. But that alone doesn't explain why they don't succeed. Teacher Steebor's attitude, however, goes a long way toward explaining why they don't.

    Monday, November 13, 2006

    One Hope, One Fear, About Democrats

    First, the hope.

    The Democrats have never been known as a party of fiscal restraint. It speaks volumes about how far the Republican Party strayed from what used to be mantra that the Democrats can talk about fiscal responsibility and not be laughed off the dais.

    I'll grant, when compared to out-of-control entitlement spending, porkbarrel spending isn't a big deal at all. Still, if Nancy Pelosi is serious about this, then my hat's off to her.

    Now the fear.

    Pelosi has said that Iraq isn't a war to be won but a problem to be solved, or some such silliness. Cut and run didn't work in Vietnam--just ask those boat people, several of whom I used to work with, or any of the people who were "re-educated" in "camps"--and it won't work in Iraq. I fear the Democrats lack the ability not to repeat the history they keep bringing up. I fear they'll act rashly, as they've accused the President of acting.

    Representatives of the Best--Rebuffed

    The school at which I teach currently is a California Distinguished School and an NCLB National Blue Ribbon School. The latter award, announced very recently, included a visit to Washington by a member of our staff to receive the award. A fellow math teacher was chosen, and off she went last week to the nation's capital.

    She wasn't impressed with the reception, and deservedly so. When you invite representatives from so-called Blue Ribbon Schools to Washington to receive awards, at a minimum you would expect the Secretary of Education to be present--maybe even to present the awards! But no, apparently Ms. Spellings had more important things to do than to show respect for representatives of good schools from across the country. Instead, she sent a videotaped speech, and the keynote address was delivered by an undersecretary--who admitted giving the same speech twice before to different groups.

    My colleague wasn't impressed, and neither should she be.

    NEA Donates Teachers' Money To Dead Wacko

    From the November 13th Education Intelligence Agency (see blogroll at left) Communique:

    Your NEA PAC Dollars at Work: Lucian Wojciechowski for President. While researching the above story, EIA discovered a strange entry in the disclosure report of NEA's Fund for Children and Public Education, the union's political action committee. It appears NEA contributed to a U.S. Presidential candidate in the 2006 election cycle. If the contribution was odd, its recipient was even more so.

    NEA donated $5,000 to Lucian Wojciechowski's presidential campaign. Who the heck is Lucian Wojciechowski, you ask? Good question, because it took a lot of digging to turn up this little bit.

    Evidently, Wojciechowski was a fringe candidate in the 2004 U.S. Presidential campaign. He ran as a Democrat, along with other notables, such as Lyndon LaRouche and Vermin Supreme. According to the American RealPolitik web site, Wojciechowski finished last in the DC primary, picking up 38 votes. RealPolitik reported:

    "A phone call to Wojciechowski did not yield abundant information about his political views, though he did forcefully advocate the construction of 40-story buildings, each many miles long, to run up the California coastline from San Diego to Los Angeles.

    "He also mentioned a recent skirmish with the court system.

    "'I couldn't leave Imperial County for a while because two women accused me of doing something I didn't do, and I had to go to court, and I missed the debates. We're going to sue them for a billion dollars,' he said.

    "The accusation?

    "'Lewd conduct.'"

    Wojciechowski also made a short appearance in the January 14, 2004 issue of The Hotline, which highlighted his candidate statement in the DC Voters Guide. Wojciechowski stated his main objective was "to replace Alan Greenspan in the Treasure Dept., return the monies to investors in T notes, bonds, & bills, or certificates at banks and money markets at investment brokers that is due to them." He also mentions the lewd conduct charges, adding that he was convicted.

    A further examination of NEA's disclosure reports indicates the union's PAC made the $5,000 contribution on June 21, 2005, via the California Democratic National Committee. There were only a handful of other contributors.

    If all of this isn't oddball enough, it appears this same Lucian Wojciechowski was shot to death while sitting in a parked car in Palm Springs at 3:21 a.m. on March 16, 2005 – three months before NEA's presidential campaign contribution.

    EIA can only assume there is a bizarre clerical error behind this whole thing, but the long journey of a PAC contribution from the checkbooks of teachers to the committee of a dead fringe presidential candidate is worth asking about.

    You gotta love a story like that. Anyone think the NEA will explain itself?

    Is Physical Beauty Related To The Golden Ratio?

    See what the Washington Post says about it.

    Sunday, November 12, 2006

    First Amendment Victory For (Conservative) Social Work Student!

    Last week I posted about a social worker student who was disciplined because--well, just go read it again. If you love the First Amendment as much as I do, it'll get your blood boiling all over again.

    Well ain't today a happy day! Joanne (see blogroll at left) reports that not only did the student win her lawsuit, but the university completely and totally caved. As I said in a comment to that post, though--"Let's not celebrate too much. Diligence, it is said, is the price we must continually pay for our freedoms." Reading that again, I should probably have said continuously, but I'll chalk that mistake up, if it is in fact a mistake, to celebration over the verdict. Here's what's going to happen:

    The university agreed to pay Emily Brooker, a May 2006 graduate, $9,000. Officials also said she could attend Missouri State to pursue a master’s degree in social work free of charge for two years — equivalent to about $12,000. In addition, Brooker could receive $3,000 per year in living expenses for two years of graduate education.

    MSU also agreed to clear Brooker’s official record of a high-level grievance filed against her by the university’s School of Social Work...

    The university learned Oct. 30 about Brooker’s lawsuit and launched an eight-day investigation into her allegations that Frank G. Kauffman, assistant professor of social work for two of Brooker’s required classes, had violated the student’s rights...

    After the university’s investigation, Kauffman voluntarily gave up his post as director of the master of social work program and was reassigned to nonclassroom duties.

    So the School of Social Work held a kangaroo court for this student, she eventually filed suit, and within two weeks of finding out, the university settles. That in itself tells you how bad it was--and how the lefties in the School of Social Work thought they were free to run roughshod over a student because of her Christian beliefs. Remarkable.

    I'll bet that privately, the cockroaches are scurrying to cover up any other improprieties that may now be at risk of seeing the light of day.

    Former Islamic Radical Plays The Role of Cassandra

    You remember Cassandra from Greek mythology, right? Apollo cursed her such that she always told the truth, but no one would ever believe her.

    It would seem that Dr. Tawfik Hamid is a modern day Cassandra. Would that more people would heed his warning regarding Islamofascism:

    "Stop asking what you have done wrong. Stop it! They're slaughtering you like sheep and you still look within. You criticize your history, your institutions, your churches. Why can't you realize that it has nothing to do with what you have done but with what they want."

    I agree. Nothing justifies flying airplanes into buildings, or sawing off people's heads for internet entertainment. Osama has already told us what he wants--he wants us all to worship his Allah. Since nothing short of that will satisfy him or his followers, why try?

    Kill them. That's the only solution that preserves our civilization and culture.

    The 24 cent Wage Gap

    Women earn 76 cents for every dollar a man makes? What exactly does that mean? This Money Magazine/CNN article gives some welcome insight into that overquoted factoid.

    To the average person, that ratio gives the false impression that any woman working is at risk of being paid 24 cents less per dollar than a man in the same position.

    But all the wage-gap ratio reflects is a comparison of the median earnings of all working women and men who log at least 35 hours a week on the job, any job. That's it.

    It doesn't compare those with equal work, equal training, equal education or equal tenure. Nor does it take into account the hours of overtime worked.

    The article does state, however, that somewhere between 10-33% of the wage gap comes from discrimination, meaning outright discrimination accounts for only 2-and-a-half to 8 cents for a dollar. Not right or fair, but it's not 24 cents, either.

    "Sioux long!" To Indian Name Ban

    I'm sorry--that's the best title I could come up with.

    Apparently the NCAA is in the business of telling schools what they can and cannot have as mascots. And a judge apparently has the authority to tell the NCAA to stop telling schools what they can and cannot have as mascots.

    I know, I know, some will say that NCAA isn't telling schools what they can and cannot have as mascots; rather, they're telling them that if they have "undesirable" mascots, they won't be allowed to host postseason games.

    Which is worse: the NCAA's stupid rule, or a judge's involvement in this process?

    I don't understand why the NCAA is carrying water for an ultra-politically correct leftie cause here, but I'm not sure that what they're doing is against the law. Thoughts? (Note to anonymous troll: when I ask for thoughts, it's implied that I mean rational thoughts. Please endeavor to comply.)

    Strange Comments I Get To Deal With

    Here's a comment I received just today for this post, which was written over a year ago:

    What about the baby killers here at home in the US? Abortion!!!

    Darwood needs to put on a US Military uniform and put himself in direct contact with the enemy. Babies are not being killed in war just to be killed. But through Abortion, they are.
    There will be death in War, no matter how you look at it.
    I think this is just a simple cop-out for Dangwood, an insecure individual who has no concept of those who are sacrificing everything for his freedom of speech.
    Maybe Darwyn should try living in another country where he can't run his mouth so freely.
    God Bless the United States and Our American Heros where ever they may be.
    Say Dorwood, a Fallen US Soldier has given his life for you, yes you, once a baby who has a terrible and negative outlook on what is actual. Grow Up!
    Jealousy will get you no where.
    If you want attention, get on stage....the last one left 15 minutes ago.

    What kind of individual wrote this? Certainly not one who exists on a rational plane.

    I'd almost be willing to bet that my anonymous troll wrote this--it's about his caliber.

    Saturday, November 11, 2006

    German vs. US Higher Education

    I like this guy Fehrenbach, who apparently writes for the San Antonio Express-News. In this piece he discusses European universities, American universities, and elitism. I'm not sure it's "elitism" to say that one school is better, or more rigorous, than another, but go read anyway.

    The Constitution, and Roman Coins

    Anyone who collects Roman coins (I have a few) and can write eloquently about the Constitution is someone worth reading. I recommend you read this.

    New Zealand To Students: UR 2 DUM 2 NO Standard English

    I can't even comment on the stupidity of this. Go read it yourself.

    Chewing Gum In Class

    Interesting report out of Beijing:

    Chewing gum could stage a comeback in Chinese classrooms if authorities give green light to recommendations by the Chinese Psychological Society...“Chewing can help people improve their concentration span as it can boost the number of red blood cells in the brain by up to 28 per cent,” said Mei Jian, an expert with the society, citing research carried out at Kyushu University in Japan.

    If this is true--and one report from the Mumbai (Bombay, India) Mirror isn't enough to convince me--I would rethink my policy.

    Hat tip to the Education Wonks (see blogroll at left).

    Gates Changes Course: Small Schools Are *Not* The Silver Bullet

    Joanne (see blogroll at left) reports that the Gates Foundation, after determining that "small schools" are not the end-all-be-all of good education, is now focusing on instruction rather than school organization. Good for them.

    Update, 11/5/17:  Here I am, 11 years later, and needed the information in this post--but Joanne has revamped her site in the interim.  Here's the new link.

    Friday, November 10, 2006

    Internet Quizzes

    You probably can't read it, but I'm 80% Taurus.

    You are 80% Taurus

    You Are Super Spicy

    You're a little bit crazy, a little bit naughty, and a whole lot of sexy.
    You go beyond hot - you set people's senses on fire!

    Heck, and I answered those questions honestly, too!

    Your Aura is Violet

    Idealistic and thoughtful, you have the mind and ideas to change the world.
    And you have the charisma of a great leader, even if you don't always use it!

    The purpose of your life: saying truths that other people dare not say

    Famous purples include: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Susan B. Anthony

    Careers for you to try: Political Activist, Inventor, Life Coach

    You Are 70% "Average American"

    You are average because you don't think people should be jailed for using marijuana.

    You are not average since you would pay to go in space.

    Most Americans wouldn't pay to go into space? Are you kidding???

    You Are Royal Blue

    People find you difficult to understand. In fact, you often find it hard to understand yourself.
    You think so much that sometimes you get lost in your own thoughts!

    What Your Bathroom Habits Say About You

    You are very independent and self-centered. You don't solve other people's problems - and you don't expect them to solve yours.

    Your idea of fashion is jeans and a t-shirt. Clean, if you're lucky.

    You have the perfect blend of confidence and class. You're proud of who you are - but you don't broadcast it.

    In relationships, you are practical and realistic. You have a romantic side, but you only let it out when it's appropriate.

    I'm not proud of this one, but I answered the questions honestly:
    Your Inner European is French!

    Smart and sophisticated.
    You have the best of everything - at least, *you* think so.

    You Are 44% Evil

    You are evil, but you haven't yet mastered the dark side.
    Fear not though - you are on your way to world domination.

    You Belong in 1980

    If you scored...

    1950 - 1959: You're fun loving, romantic, and more than a little innocent. See you at the drive in!

    1960 - 1969: You are a free spirit with a huge heart. Love, peace, and happiness rule - oh, and drugs too.

    1970 - 1979: Bold and brash, you take life by the horns. Whether you're partying or protesting, you give it your all!

    1980 - 1989: Wild, over the top, and just a little bit cheesy. You're colorful at night - and successful during the day.

    1990 - 1999: With you anything goes! You're grunge one day, ghetto fabulous the next. It's all good!

    Your Personality Cluster is Extraverted Thinking

    You are:

    Organized and logical - a master at puzzles
    Competitive in almost any arena of life
    Objective when necessary, but passionate about what you truly love
    Intolerant of excuses and incompetence

    And lastly, for those ideologues who like to project their personal failings onto me:
    Your Vote Score: 65% Republican, 35% Democrat

    While you don't always agree with the Republican party, it's a pretty good match for you.
    Do be sure to research each candidate. A conservative Democrat or independent candidate might fit you better at times.

    Cool Story--And Another Myth Shattered


    WASHINGTON (AP) -- Science and art merge in a stunning new Smithsonian exhibition featuring planet Earth as seen from above.

    Some of the satellite images show the home planet as only astronauts can see it, others taken with special instruments show things even they can't see.

    There's a myth that the Great Wall of China is the only manmade object that can be seen from space, but that's not true, explains exhibit curator Andrew K. Johnston. And he proves it, pointing out satellite images of the Great Pyramids, downtown San Francisco, New Orleans while flooded by Hurricane Katrina, container ships in the harbor of Hamburg, Germany, and a nighttime view of the globe showing city lights. (boldface mine--Darren)

    Johnston, a geographer at the National Air and Space Museum, organized the exhibit, which opens Saturday. It will remain at the Air and Space Museum until January 7 and then begin a tour of cities around the country.

    Something I'd like to see.

    James Blunt Concert

    The author of this piece is correct--"You're Beautiful" and "Good-bye My Lover" have been all over the radio. In fact, I heard the first one just this morning. The man has beautiful songs, ones my 10-year-old son and I sing along with when we hear them in the car.

    When I heard he was coming to Sacramento I rushed online to find out the price of tickets.

    Let's get right to the point: James Blunt drew less than a half house at the Memorial Auditorium on Thursday night.

    Well, duh. Tickets were over $80 apiece. I'd pay that much (and a lot more) to see Elton John, but not James Blunt. He doesn't have a track record that justifies that much money.

    Some would chastise me for taking my son to see a performer whose #1 song has to have the phrase "f***ing high" replaced by "flying high" when it's played on the radio. Since my son hears so little foul language, I doubt he'd even notice; but if he did, I'm not convinced that that's enough reason to deprive him of what would be a fairly impressive experience for someone his age. $160, though? That's enough reason. $80 each is just an absurd amount of money for a relative newbie to charge for tickets, and the marketplace here in Sacramento spoke to that fact.

    Colorblindness at the University of Michigan

    On Tuesday, Michigan voters (to my surprise, actually) approved the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI), which, like Proposition 209 in California a decade ago, starts the state down the legal road to a truly colorblind society.

    And I'm not going to post comments about our racist society, etc. Take those to the Daily Kos or something.

    Anyway, John at Discriminations (see blogroll at left) has written two amazing posts about the UM President and her apparent desire to stand in the schoolhouse door a la George Wallace--the first post, and a follow-on post. I'm sure she'll have some help from the people in the University of Michigan Admissions Office.

    Some people will do and say anything to keep from having to treat all people fairly.

    Tuesday's Election Results

    I know my lib readers are dying to gloat over the results. They're sure I must be devastated, as I'm a right-wing fanatic or something.

    I'm not even sorry to disappoint :-)

    Check the archives--do you find any posts in which I myself advocate for total Republican power? No, but you do find posts in which I said that it might not be a bad thing for the Republicans if they lost the House of Representatives, because this Congress and President have been "spending money like a drunken sailor in a Southeast Asian port." Yes, I'm disappointed in the loss of the Senate, but I'm not going to mope about it. If I want to cry over the results of an election, I think back to 1992--I don't recall anyone I voted for then being elected! Just as the world didn't end in 1992, and it didn't end when the Republicans ran the show, it won't end now that the Democrats run the Congress.

    I'm very much the realist about this.

    This doesn't mean that I'll downplay my right-of-center beliefs--far from it! In fact, right now I'm going to attack the liberals. Oh come on, you knew I would!

    First I'll point out one of the differences between this election and the last three (going back to 2000). When Republicans lose, even close races (Montana and Virginia Senate seats come to mind), you don't hear any cries about disenfranchisement, stealing elections, etc. Unlike King County (Seattle), we don't "find" boxes of ballots for our candidate on the 2nd recount (3rd count total) and keep pulling shenanigans until we win. We don't have thugs running around saying that we'll win elections "by any means necessary". We don't have a "party machine" a la Chicago.

    Next I want to comment on "the American people". You remember those people, the NASCAR-loving conservatives in the South and in Flyover Country that the libs always denigrate? Those Jesus-freaks who are too stupid to know what's best for them, and always vote against their own economic interests? (Charlie Rangel example here) The ones that the libs have been calling names and mocking for the past 12 years or so? Well, I wonder if the libs are going to have a new-found respect for "the American people" now that those same people who were simpletons last week have put the Democrats in charge in Congress.

    And all this Bush=Hitler talk. Did Hitler let his enemies win elections? I don't think so! For an entertaining look at some of the crazy leftie ideas that went down in this election, I refer you to this post. The comments are pretty funny, too. Like this one:

    I am pretty surprised myself. I thought we were supposed to be running a highly efficient fascist regime here. And now, we can't even win an election? I mean, I've read all the research. What happened with suspending the electoral process? Why is constitution still in effect? What about our plans to declare martial law? Suspend Congress? We are doing none of it. And I was looking forward to coronation, too. :( Bummer.

    Oh yeah, where's that draft I've been hearing about? =)

    And on a more serious note, here's a great post about a few corruption problems the Democrats should clean up on their own side of the aisle--Nancy and Searchlight Harry could fix these before they ever take over the leadership positions, if they truly wanted to carry through on their anti-corruption plank.

    In all honesty, I think we went from bad to worse. It would be nice to be proven wrong, but I've learned that no matter who runs the Congress, you can't underestimate them enough.

    Update, 3:51 pm: Now that the party that has advocated cut-and-run is now in power, and now that Rumsfeld has resigned, it will be interesting to watch what happens to reenlistment rates for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. They've been setting record high numbers the last couple years.

    Veteran's Day

    Even though tomorrow is Veteran's Day in the United States, today is Veteran's Day (Observed). In other words, today is the day we get off work--not that I mind that last part, mind you.

    In honor of all the veterans who have fought for the Free World, I repost this link from last year. A Pittance of Time, indeed.

    And I'll repost this one, too, from earlier this year. It has pictures.

    Thursday, November 09, 2006

    An Unhappy College Professor

    I received the following email from a math professor at Johns Hopkins University:

    I had a new experience at Johns Hopkins University yesterday. I had a young woman in my office explaining why she had dropped my elementary Calculus I course.

    She found that she was completely unprepared for college level mathematics. She had been made completely calculator dependent. She said that at the beginning of the course she was shocked to see that certain things could be done without a calculator (sorry no details).

    Furthermore, she is in contact with her classmates around the country and they are all having the same experience. I encouraged her to organized them to give what I will politely call "feedback" to her high school and her community.

    We are, of course, seeing just the tip of the iceberg. Few students have hit college who have gone through reform math all the way K-12. The real crisis for students is still in the future.

    We have, in general, been protected at JHU from unprepared students but obviously there is something wrong here too. For one thing, I discovered yesterday that our placement test was voluntary! Duh.

    I worry that the College Board and its tests may well be headed in a direction that will hurt colleges. They have recently written math standards that are, well, not so good. They are trying to fix that up but you get comments like"we are getting conflicting advice". Of course they are. When they asked one of the authors of Core-Plus and a mathematician, they are bound to get conflicting advice. They want to reconcile that advice. That very desire is problematic.

    He followed that email up with another:

    Today I have something else to add. Had lunch with my usual Wednesday crowd and I was told by a physicist that he ran into a student in his physics class who couldn't divide .3 by .5 because they didn't have their calculator.

    I do believe this kind of thing is new to JHU and to hear two cases in two
    days suggests we need to do something about it here.

    W. Stephen Wilson
    Professor of Mathematics
    Department of Mathematics
    Johns Hopkins University

    And people wonder why I don't focus on calculator use in my math classes!

    Dr. Wilson gave permission to use his name/title to add whatever gravitas would be lacking from an anonymous complaint.

    Wednesday, November 08, 2006

    Yesterday's Election and Education

    Joanne (see blogroll at left) has the rundown on the impact yesterday's election should have on education. I'm encouraged by her first paragraph:

    House Democrats have promised to lower college costs, notes Education Week. Don't expect big changes on No Child Left Behind. Co-sponsor George Miller, who'll chair the education committee, helped write NCLB and has been a stand-up guy for standards and accountability. (boldface mine--Darren)