Friday, August 31, 2007

The Fight For Victory Tour

I received the following email, and reprint it here as a service to good Americans in the Sacramento area:

Hi, my name is Danny Gonzalez

I'm writing to alert you to the fact that the historic pro-troop "Fight for Victory Tour" is coming to your neck of the woods.

With the commander of U.S. troops in Iraq required to submit the progress report on "the surge" of U.S. troops in Iraq on September 15th, Move America Forward (the nation's largest pro-troop organization) is organizing a massive public effort to show support for our troops and their missions in the war against Islamic jihadists.

Move America Forward will be holding 27 pro-troop rallies along the route of the patriotic, pro-troop caravan. We are holding a pro-troop rally in your city as part of the "Fight for Victory Tour."

This is the 4th such national pro-troop caravan Move America Forward has organized, and tens of thousands of Americans have turned out for these past events. This time we will also be collecting cards, letters and notes from your listeners and pro-troop Americans that we will be delivering to our troops at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington , D.C. - who are recovering from injuries they sustained in the war.

We will be in Sacramento on Sept 3 and holding our rally in the State Capitol Park (Intersection of 14th and N St. ) at 1:15 PM.

If you are a supporter please do whatever you can to make sure this event has the maximum turnout and get as much media attention as possible. We need to tell our friends who we know support the troops, alert local representatives who support the war on terror, post the details on our blogs and organizational calendars, contact local groups that are supportive such as VFW and other veterans organizations, and finally call our local media (tv, paper, radio) and make sure they do not brush this off as unimportant.

The people in this country who believe in our troops have been ignored far too long. The media needs to know that we do not buy this defeatist attitude that liberals everywhere have been shelling out. It is time that we expose the shameless manipulation of the hardship our troops are going through for the political gain of the far left!

If you would like to help please visit for more information or give us a call at

(916) 441 – 3734 ext. 223

Thank YOU!

99 Bottles of Beer on the Sideline

School officials said they have suspended four football coaches at Calhoun Falls High School after they were caught drinking on the field.

“What were they thinking out there?” said sophomore Justin Gilchrist. “They were making a bad decision.”

When a sophomore says you're making a bad decision, then you're probably making a bad decision.

A Mature Way To Ask For Help

(NOTE: I tried to make this post gender neutral, but it was just too clunky. I'm going to use the masculine gender in this post, but that doesn't imply that the student in question was male.)

I had a student come to me today during a break to ask for some assistance. This student said that he had test anxiety, and while he thinks he knows the material he just clams up during tests and quizzes.

Here's the good news. Instead of asking me to accommodate his fears, he asked how I thought he might overcome them.

I love it when students ask how they might improve, instead of how I might enable whatever condition they think they possess.

I gave him a couple of pointers. First, knowing the material well is the surest way to avoid such anxiety. He wouldn't stress over a test of the multiplication tables because he's expert; personally, I think test anxiety is more a crisis of self-confidence than anything else. Know the material, and there's no reason to be nervous.

Second, I told him that I don't believe in trick questions or problems that no one can solve. Yes, I'm capable of creating a test that everyone would fail, but that's not how I operate. I teach material, and then test what I teach. The fact that the quiz problems were from the chapter review from the textbook was further evidence of my being "above board" when it comes to fair assessments.

Lastly, I encouraged him to see me before and after school if he has questions on the material so that he can develop that mastery (and self-confidence) in the material. Additionally, he can ask me clarifying questions during a test or quiz.

Who would not want to help a student who asked for assistance the way this student did? Isn't that the type of question every teacher hopes for?

Interesting Teacher Website

I haven't quite digested what it all means or how to access it intelligently; perhaps a reader has more experience here than I do?

Keeping Your Dignity

Perhaps Cindy Sheehan could learn something from this gentleman (and I use that word purposely):

Jeff Hubbard, the retired California police officer who lost two sons in Iraq, spoke to reporters for the first time since the death of his son U.S. Army Cpl. Nathan Hubbard, who was killed last week in a Blackhawk helicopter crash.

Despite his family's devastating loss, Hubbard told reporters that his support for the country's campaign to combat global terror is undiminished. "We just want people to support the nation in what it's doing to make the world a better place," he said.

It's a good thing that people like the Hubbard family still exist in our society.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Whiners Are At It Already

It's the ninth day of school, and today the vice principal came in to talk to me about an anonymous parent complaint.

Apparently someone is now scared for his/her grade, because in a lesson about the difference between correlation and causation I briefly discussed global warming and the associated temperature and CO2 graphs. While someone might be afraid for his/her grade because they believe correlation=causation and I don't, it's not a legitimate fear that should be validated.

We're always told to "make it applicable", to find "real world examples" if possible. I find one, a good one, but someone whines because it doesn't fit their orthodoxy.

Yes, this really frosts me. The fact that some anonymous parent and/or student got offended because I didn't recite their exact belief--tough. Really, tough. Everyone gets offended sometimes. I can see that they might have a legitimate beef if, instead of covering correlation and causation, I was expounding on the great President Reagan instead, but to whine about a legitimate and applicable classroom example is beyond the pale. It frosts me just as much because my vice principal treated it as a complaint worthy of consideration. We encourage such whining when we give it more than the cursory attention it deserves.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Another Reason (Not) To Support Socialized Medicine

And this happened at University of California hospitals, already about as socialized as you can get--and they were stealing from the government taxpayers.

You think there'd be less of this when all health care is paid for by the government taxpayers?

Carnival of Education

This week's edition is posted here. My whiny post about having to teach geometry for the first time, out of a book we won't be using next year, is included.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

San Francisco Losing Blacks At An Alarming Rate

Who says so? USA Today and all the people they interviewed. OK, the statistics are pretty glaring, but I have to ask, so what? Is there something official going on here, or is the market at work?

Most disappointing of all the comments, though, was the one from the NAACP official.

The task force "ought to study what's wrong with the white power structure, why they can't be responsive to the African-American community," says Amos Brown, pastor of Third Baptist Church and president of the local NAACP chapter. "They didn't need us anymore."

Wow. This guy apparently is admitting that blacks have nothing to offer the City of San Francisco, that there's no contribution they can make except to support some entrenched "white power structure". If a white man had said that he'd have been called a racist. Mr. Brown says it and he's a victim.

Maybe, just maybe, blacks in San Francisco are just ahead of the power curve and have gotten a head start on all the other racial groups in leaving a city that I've previously described as "horrible, hateful, (and) disgusting".

Incidentally, the same reasons given for blacks' leaving are causing San Francisco to lose families with children, too. While it might be a good idea to seek to increase the numbers of both of those groups, I don't see USA Today writing a sob story piece about families.

I think this interviewee had it right:

Stopping black flight will be "an uphill battle," Blakely says. "If you're a middle-class African-American, one of your dreams was to move into a nice mixed neighborhood and send your kid to a decent school."

Today, African-Americans across the USA are "suburbanizing" at a rate slightly higher than whites, he says. "As their incomes go up, they move out."

The market at work.

Update: Thankfully I'm not the only one to see the idiocy of the article linked above.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Affirmative Action

Via John at Discriminations (see blogroll at left) I am pointed to an editorial from The Asian Pacific Post (an independent newspaper in British Columbia, Canada) that carries this perfect description of affirmative action:

Affirmative action, someone once said, is the attempt to deal with malignant racism by instituting benign racism.

Clarity is beautiful, isn't it?

The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations

A good man (yes, I know who it is!) once used that phrase in a speech, and it's a powerful phrase that I haven't forgotten. It says so much in so few words (a very bright man I once knew would describe that as "pithy").

If someday someone were to look that phrase up in a dictionary, this is the blog post that would serve as the description.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Wow, The Language!

I was just surfing during the commercials in the football game, and in less than 20 seconds on the local CW Network channel I heard the words ass and bastard.

Are those words now appropriate for use in public? If so, I totally missed that memo.

Update: I remember the very first cuss word I heard on tv. It was on M*A*S*H. Some of the doctors went north to pick up some wounded Americans that either the NoKos or the the Chinese couldn't care for. I think it was Frank Burns who pulled out a small cigarette lighter that looked like a pistol, and one of the communists said, "What the hell is that?"

At my tender age I couldn't believe they'd use such language on tv. I wish it were still so.

Spinning My Wheels

For reasons I won't go into, I'm teaching one geometry class this year. I've never really enjoyed geometry, but that's neither here nor there--I'm credentialed to teach it, the powers that be need me to teach the course, QED.

What bothers me, though, is that I'll spend a year teaching this course out of our old textbook, and next year we'll switch to a new textbook. And yes, there are legitimate reasons why I cannot pilot one of the new textbooks this year.

So I'll work and create lesson plans this year, lesson plans that I'll never be able to use again because we're getting new textbooks.

Why don't I just get lesson plans for others who have taught from this book? Because as near as I can determine, none of them has lesson plans. The closest I've come is a day-by-day listing of what sections of the book one teacher covered during a semester and what assignment was given--which isn't a bad start, I guess, and I'm glad to have it, but it's nowhere near as detailed as what I create for myself. And what I create for myself isn't near as detailed as a Madeleine Hunter lesson plan.

Sigh. They're obviously much more used to teaching the subject than I am.

Good News Is Really Bad News

Here's an AP story that laments low unemployment!

Record low unemployment across parts of the West has created tough working conditions for business owners, who in places are being forced to boost wages or be creative to fill their jobs.

No doubt it's President Bush's fault!

Saturday, August 25, 2007


I've been saying for years that the left drew all the wrong lessons from Vietnam, and it's about darned time the President called them on it.

Want to compare Iraq to Vietnam?

Bush's argument is uncharacteristically constrained. He acknowledged that Vietnam is a "complex and painful subject for many Americans." He conceded that the "tragedy of Vietnam is too large to be contained in one speech." He recognized that "there is a legitimate debate about how we got into the Vietnam War and how we left." Yet he also cautioned that "one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like 'boat people,' 'reeducation camps,' and 'killing fields.'"

Ooooh, don't want to bring those inconvenient topics up, do we? Heck, according to none other than war hero John Kerry, such things never even happened. But back to the Weekly Standard piece:

Another set of critics argued that it was impolitic of Bush to bring up Vietnam. This was a line often repeated in media reporting on the VFW speech. A Time magazine web article had the headline: "Bush's Risky Vietnam Gambit." The columnist Dan Froomkin said Bush had entered "risky rhetorical territory." The report in the print edition tut-tutted that Vietnam "remains a divisive, emotional issue for many Americans." Guest-hosting MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, Mike Barnicle asked, "What does the president have to gain by opening old wounds?" Senator John Kerry said "invoking the tragedy of Vietnam" was "irresponsible." And yet, during the entire debate over Iraq, opponents of intervention have brought up Vietnam frequently. When that happens, no one deems it "risky" or "irresponsible" of them to bring up this "divisive, emotional issue."

Imagine that.

The author saves his best statement for last:

Bush's opponents don't have a problem with Vietnam analogies. They have a problem with Vietnam analogies that undermine the case for American withdrawal. They see Vietnam as the exclusive property of the antiwar movement.

They're entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts. They can't wish away communist oppression, no matter how much they scream about being oppressed and supposedly losing their liberties to "George Bush's Patriot Act". Maybe a visit to a real reeducation camp might do them some good--but probably not.


Last night was the school Aloha Dance, at which I'm sure some students were dressed for the theme--and no, I hope that doesn't mean grass skirts and coconuts!

Throughout the the week, students were encouraged (via the daily announcements, read by students) to wear Hawaiian shirts on Friday. So far, so good.

Come Friday, the only people I saw in Hawaiian shirts were staff and faculty.

At my school we've elevated the status quo to an art form. This was the Aloha Dance because the first dance of the year has always been the Aloha Dance and it's always been at the end of the first week of school. It wouldn't occur to most people even to consider changing it.

Yet the vast majority of students didn't participate in the "dress up day".

The first rally of the year was also yesterday. It's the traditional "first rally of the year" rally and was conducted just like last year's "first rally of the year" rally, and the year before that, and the year before that.... Anyway, at this rally, students wear their class t-shirts, with each class having a distinctive color.

Now why would you exhort people to wear Hawaiian shirts on a day when they clearly need to wear their class t-shirts? Was anybody thinking about this?

Blacks Get First Dibs On Creating Dr. King's Statue?

People complained about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial's sculptor, too.

King promoted peace and understanding among all people. His primary fight, however, was to win particular opportunities for blacks in the United States by juxtaposing the plight of an oppressed people against a message of freedom and democracy.

A loose-knit but growing group of critics says a black artist — or at least an American — should have been chosen to create the King memorial between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials in the nation's capital. They have been joined by human rights advocates who say King would have abhorred the Chinese government's record on religious and civil liberty.

"They keep saying King was for everyone. I keep telling people, 'No, King wasn't for everyone. King was for fairness and justice,'" said Gilbert Young, a black painter from Atlanta who has started a Web site and a petition drive to try to change the project.

"I believe that black artists have the right to interpret ourselves first," Young said.

Do I need to point out the penny-ante nature of these statements, or can normal, decent people see them for themselves? Perhaps I need to toss in this information as well:

The memorial foundation directing the project seems surprised at the criticism. Ten of the 12 people on the committee that chose the sculptor, Lei Yixin, are black. Lei is working closely on the design with two black sculptors in the U.S., organizers said, and the overall project is being directed by a black-owned architecture firm.

Sad, and petty.

So was Dr. King black first, an American first, or does it even matter? From where comes this belief that blacks get "first right of refusal" to design a freakin' memorial for this great American? The people who are complaining, have they ever listened to Dr. King's words? From their arguments, I can only conclude that they have not.

Racism comes in many forms, and it usually involves judging people by the color of their skin. And that's what's going on in this instance.

Friday, August 24, 2007

He Was Against The War Before He Was For It

It amazes me the contortions some politicians will attempt in order to be one of the popular kids--or at least to be on the winning team.

The invasion of Iraq may be one of the worst foreign-policy mistakes in the history of our nation. As tragic and costly as that mistake has been, a precipitous or premature withdrawal of our forces now has the potential to turn the initial errors into an even greater problem just as success looks possible.

Yes, yes, state your liberal bona fides. Give yourself a fig leaf in the first sentence to cover yourself for what comes afterward.

As a Democrat who voted against the war from the outset and who has been frankly critical of the administration and the post-invasion strategy, I am convinced by the evidence that the situation has at long last begun to change substantially for the better. I believe Iraq could have a positive future. Our diplomatic and military leaders in Iraq, their current strategy, and most importantly, our troops and the Iraqi people themselves, deserve our continued support and more time to succeed.

It was a mistake to invade, apparently, but we can still win! How uncomfortable it must be to straddle that fence. Perhaps he has long legs.

Knowing all this, how can someone who opposed the war now call for continuing the new directions that have been taken in Iraq? The answer is that the people, strategies and facts on the ground have changed for the better and those changes justify changing our position on what should be done.

It was wrong then, but it's right now!!!

Progress is being made and there is real reason for hope. It would be a tragic waste and lasting strategic blunder to let the hard-fought and important gains slip away, leaving chaos behind to haunt us and our allies for many years to come.

As I said in this post, I'll welcome people who, absent ulterior motives, do the right thing. This man gets no cheer from me. He's too busy holding his finger to the wind.

Gray Davis, A Team Player

Gray Davis was the Democrat governor of California who was recalled in 2003 and replaced with Arnold Schwarzenegger. I didn't think he was a very good governor and I supported his recall.

However, since that time, I've only heard from him twice--and both times, he's shown himself to be a class act. While it no doubt comforts some to label me an ideologue, I'm not at all; I will give props to my political opponents when they do something I support.

Over a year ago I wrote this post, supporting the open letter by former governors Davis and Wilson in support of not watering down California's academic content standards. There are always folks in the legislature who practice the "soft bigotry of low expectations" and some of those fine individuals were putting pressure on Governor Schwarzenegger and the state Board of Education to do just that; the open letter from two previous governors, and the academics who supported that letter, went a long way towards helping to defeat the proposal.

I give Gray Davis credit for standing against some in his own party in that instance. Then again, former Governor Davis' legacy includes California's Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program, the standardized testing regime that is far more stringent than the No Child Left Behind Act requires. He went against many in his own party there, too, and no doubt butted heads with the California Teachers Association on the issue.

With regards to education Davis shows good sense and integrity, and I applaud him for it.

Davis was in the major Sacramento newspaper today. Again he appeared with former governer Pete Wilson, this time to meet with Governor Schwarzenegger to discuss congressional redistricting. California's legislative districts are currently so gerrymandered as to
1. be safe for whichever party "owns" that district,
2. give Democrats a permanent legislative majority, and
3. demonstrate more than a small hint of corruption.

That two former governors of different parties can meet with the current governor to discuss creating a more fair and honest redistricting plan is almost enough to give me some faint hope for California's government. That a recalled Democrat governor can work with two Republicans on this topic--like I said, Davis is clearly a team player.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Clear Thinking On Socialized Medicine

From Megan McArdle at The Atlantic:

But wholesale transfers to large classes, from large classes, are not good moral philosophy unless those classes are very well specified to the moral effect you are trying to achieve.

For example, we could take money from taxi drivers and give it to surfers. Some of the taxi drivers would be bad people who don't deserve their money; some of the surfers would be sterling chaps whom society has failed to justly reward. But still, we all2 recognize that this would be moronic, because virtue and vice are fairly randomly distributed within and between the two populations. There is no reason to think that on net, we would have enhanced social justice...

A gigantic single-payer system is a pretty blunt instrument; it transfers money from one group, the young and healthy, to another group, the old and sick. It does not distinguish much more finely than that between the deserving and undeserving within that class. This is why discussions of particularly deserving or undeserving people within the larger class, such as your fine old Uncle Bob who served his country in two wars before becoming a minister, are irrelevant; as with the surfers and taxi drivers, almost any class we can specify will contain some very worthy members who deserve more from society than they have gotten. What we need to know is whether the class of old and sick people as a whole are much more deserving than the class of young and healthy people; whether our transfers do more good than harm.

Single payer advocates seem to invariably assume that the answer is yes. This is a natural reaction; the old and sick inspire our sympathy. But I am not sure that, as a group, they should also summon our sense of social injustice...

There is indeed a very compelling moral argument to be made in favor of some sort of government sponsored health care finance, which is simply this: no one should die, or suffer unduly, because they don't have the money to pay for treatment. Some of my libertarian readers will say that this still doesn't give the government the right to take the fruits of our labor by force, but in fact, I find this argument fairly convincing.

However, that doesn't mean that I should therefore be in favor of a single payer system. The fact that some people cannot afford some good, even a really important and valuable good like food or healthcare, is not a good reason to nationalise the production of that good.

I agree with her.


John Allen Paulos coined the phrase in his 1988 book of the same title. On page 3 he defines innumeracy as "an inability to deal comfortably with the fundamental notions of number and chance". This condition is typified by the expressions "I was never very good at math" or "I'm a people person, not a numbers person."

ABC's John Stossel let's us know that not much has changed in the last 19 years.

To demonstrate that, "20/20" ran an experiment. We asked people to put on blindfolds and then to pick up a red jellybean from one of two plates that held a mixture of red and white jellybeans. We offered $1 to anyone who could pick up a red bean.

Here's the catch: While one plate held 20 jellybeans and the other 100, the plate with 20 beans had a higher percentage of red ones. We put up signs that told people this clearly: "10 percent red" of the small plate and just "7 percent red" of the big plate.

Surprisingly, even with the percentage signs in front of them, a third of the people picked the plate with 100 beans.

What people saw overwhelmed their ability to think abstractly about probability.

That's just painful to read.

Carnival of Education

Go here to see this week's Carnival of Education. My post about the University and College Union's boycott of Israeli universities is listed.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Lots Of Work Required To Get This School Year Off And Running

This year I'm teaching three courses: pre-calculus (trigonometry with some math analysis), geometry, and Algebra 1.

This is the fifth year in a row that I've taught pre-calc using the same textbook, so I can recycle lesson plans from past years. I've taught Algebra 1 before, but since I'm using a new textbook I have to create all new lesson plans; at least I have experience in how long to spend on certain topics. I haven't taught Geometry before, so I'll be creating those lesson plans from scratch while relying on my fellow teachers to help me determine how long to spend on topics or the best way to approach any given topic.

That's a lot of new work, coming out of the gate.

Stupid Conservatives Only Want Slogans

So says Patsy Schroeder, E-CO (that's embarrassment, from Colorado), former Congresswoman and current president of the American Association of Publishers.

"The Karl Roves of the world have built a generation that just wants a couple slogans: 'No, don't raise my taxes, no new taxes,'" Pat Schroeder, president of the American Association of Publishers, said in a recent interview. "It's pretty hard to write a book saying, 'No new taxes, no new taxes, no new taxes' on every page..."

She said liberals tend to be policy wonks who "can't say anything in less than paragraphs. We really want the whole picture, want to peel the onion."

Of course.

1. Bush lied, people died.
2. No blood for oil.
3. War is not the answer.
4. By Any Means Necessary.
5. Hey hey, ho ho, Bush and Cheney have to go.
6. Don't believe everything you think.
7. I hope for a day when schools have everything they need and the air force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.
8. Visualize world peace.
9. It's my body and I can do what I want with it.
10. It's for the children.

Deep thinkers, those lefties.

I agree with Mary Matalin's comment:

"As head of a book publishing association, she probably shouldn't malign any readers."
Thanks to reader Eric for passing the link on to me.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Great Peaceniks

From the City Journal:

Call it the Peace Racket.

We need to make two points about this movement at the outset. First, it’s opposed to every value that the West stands for—liberty, free markets, individualism—and it despises America, the supreme symbol and defender of those values. Second, we’re talking not about a bunch of naive Quakers but about a movement of savvy, ambitious professionals that is already comfortably ensconced at the United Nations, in the European Union, and in many nongovernmental organizations. It is also waging an aggressive, under-the-media-radar campaign for a cabinet-level Peace Department in the United States.

We already have one of those. It's called the State Department. But I digress.

Their founding father is a 77-year-old Norwegian professor, Johan Galtung, who established the International Peace Research Institute in 1959 and the Journal of Peace Research five years later. Invariably portrayed in the media as a charismatic and (these days) grandfatherly champion of decency, Galtung is in fact a lifelong enemy of freedom. In 1973, he thundered that “our time’s grotesque reality” was—no, not the Gulag or the Cultural Revolution, but rather the West’s “structural fascism.” He’s called America a “killer country,” accused it of “neo-fascist state terrorism,” and gleefully prophesied that it will soon follow Britain “into the graveyard of empires."

Though Galtung has opined that the annihilation of Washington, D.C., would be a fair punishment for America’s arrogant view of itself as “a model for everyone else,” he’s long held up certain countries as worthy of emulation—among them Stalin’s USSR, whose economy, he predicted in 1953, would soon overtake the West’s. He’s also a fan of Castro’s Cuba, which he praised in 1972 for “break[ing] free of imperialism’s iron grip.” At least you can’t accuse Galtung of hiding his prejudices. In 1973, explaining world politics in a children’s newspaper, he described the U.S. and Western Europe as “rich, Western, Christian countries” that make war to secure materials and markets: “Such an economic system is called capitalism, and when it’s spread in this way to other countries it’s called imperialism.” In 1974, he sneered at the West’s fixation on “persecuted elite personages” such as Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov. Thirty years later, he compared the U.S. to Nazi Germany for bombing Kosovo and invading Afghanistan and Iraq. For Galtung, a war that liberates is no better than one that enslaves.

There's plenty more, but you get the idea. How is it that communism still isn't discredited with the lefties?

Update, 9/2/07: The LA Times posts this. Doesn't look all that different.

A Real World Math Problem

Many teachers seem to confuse "criticism" with "critical thinking", even though each is almost the antithesis of the other. Mike of EIA applied some genuine "critical thinking" to a news story he saw, and needs some math to make sense of it. Check out #5 in this week's Communique.

It's Not My Fault, I Have A Virus.

This explains why I'm packing on the pound-skis lately. It actually has nothing to do with all the snacks I've been eating.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

School Starts Tomorrow

The first day of school is always a big day. I hope I can fall and stay asleep tonight!

Blog Fest West

Yesterday afternoon Mr. Chanman and I started off towards San Francisco to attend Blog Fest West. Traffic was horrible from West Sacramento, through Davis, and beyond. We couldn't understand why so many people were heading to the Bay Area on a Saturday afternoon. Yes, the A's were playing at home, but that didn't explain this much traffic.

What we didn't realize was that the Battle of the Bay was going on!

At Vallejo we left I-80 and headed towards Napa and Marin, and came into the city from the north over the Golden Gate Bridge. San Francisco is a horrible, hateful, disgusting place, but oh is it beautiful to look at (from a distance).

The drive from Sacramento to San Francisco usually takes about 90 minutes, and we allotted 3 hrs. We pulled into Fort Mason Center a full 3 hours after we'd left.

There was certainly an interesting, eclectic assortment of folks gathered at Blog Fest West. I'd dare say we were quite the diverse crowd! I was very happy to see and talk to Joanne Jacobs again, and to meet and talk to some fairly big names from the center-right blogosphere--Ed Driscoll, Roger L. Simon, and Mickey Kaus. I was disappointed, though, not to meet Coach Brown, who was on the guest list but didn't show.

To top it all off, I won a door prize--a book. Someone else (I can't remember who) won Glenn Reynolds' (Instapundit) An Army of Davids and remarked to me that he'd already read it, so I initiated a trade.

All in all, what a great way to spend an evening!

(And Chanman, thank you again for driving. I'd have gone nuts in that traffic.)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Military Automatons? Professors and the War on Terror

Marcus Griffin is not a soldier. But now that he cuts his hair "high and tight" like a drill sergeant's, he understands why he is being mistaken for one. Mr. Griffin is actually a professor of anthropology at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va. His austere grooming habits stem from his enrollment in a new Pentagon initiative, the Human Terrain System. It embeds social scientists with brigades in Afghanistan and Iraq, where they serve as cultural advisers to brigade commanders.

Mr. Griffin, a bespectacled 39-year-old who speaks in a methodical monotone, believes that by shedding some light on the local culture-- thereby diminishing the risk that U.S. forces unwittingly offend Iraqi sensibilities--he can improve Iraqi and American lives. On the phone from Fort Benning, two weeks shy of boarding a plane bound for Baghdad, he describes his mission as "using knowledge in the service of human freedom."

The Human Terrain System is part of a larger trend: Nearly six years into the war on terror, there is reason to believe that the Vietnam-era legacy of mistrust--even hostility--between academe and the military may be eroding.

This shift in the zeitgeist is embodied by Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the multinational forces in Iraq. Gen. Petraeus, who holds a doctorate from Princeton University in international relations, made a point of speaking on college campuses between his tours in Iraq because he believes it is critical that America "bridge the gap between those in uniform and those who, since the advent of the all-volunteer force, have had little contact with the military." In a recent essay in the American Interest, Gen. Petraeus reflects on his own academic journey and stresses how the skills he cultivated on campus help him operate on the fly in Iraq. As such, he is a staunch proponent of Army officers attending civilian graduate programs.

Over the past few years, Gen. Petraeus has been cultivating ties to the academic community, drawing on scholars for specialized knowledge and fresh thinking about the security challenges facing America. "What you are seeing is a willingness by military officers to learn from civilian academics," says Michael Desch, an expert on civilian-military relations at Texas A&M. "The war on terrorism has really accelerated this trend."

Apparently our military members are not the mindless killing automatons that so many on the left make them out to be. Who knew?!!!

Go read the whole thing.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Moral Idiocy, Redux

Kerplunk (see blogroll at left) has updated his post called 10 Signs That You're A Moral Idiot. I recommend you check it out.

Teachers Union Defends Teacher, Helps Him Get His Job Back

After you read this I'll bet you'll be thinking, "I'm glad I don't live in Quebec."

If the guy had molested a girl, I'll bet the union would claim that fact irrelevant if he were working in an all-boys school. Honestly, I don't see any real difference between the two situations.

Which Is More Important: A Union, or a Historic Landmark?

Apparently, it's the union.

And so a piece of history, the last riverboat recognizable to Mark Twain, a ship listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a vessel safe enough that the Secret Service permitted Jimmy Carter, when he was a sitting President, to board her, will cease operation because a powerful Senator is beholden to a union.

Backlash Against Hiring Only Liberal Professors?

Academic radicals have for years controlled campus debate by blackballing internal opponents, intimidating students and crying censorship whenever their views or actions were challenged.

They got away with such behavior for two principal reasons: A sympathetic media assured the nation that universities were in the front lines of the fight for liberty and justice, and there were few external organizations or individuals offering sustained critiques of politicized scholarship and teaching. These helped ensure that the public’s reservoir of good will toward universities remained full.

But times are changing.

Let's hope so.

Service Academies Score Well In Princeton Rankings

Sometimes they're counted, sometimes they're not, but this year they were--and they scored respectably, in the liberal arts category. Take that, lefties!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Cruises For Coming To Work?

I don't think we should reward students for doing what they're supposed to do, and I don't think we should do that for teachers, either.

This superintendent's "highly qualified and certified" teachers are obviously not very professional, if they're ditching school so much that they have to be bribed with cruises and cars just to come to work.

These People Are Sickos

And we have too many useful idiots in this country that support them.

BEIRUT, Lebanon (Reuters) -- Raid Israel to capture soldiers, battle tanks in the valleys of southern Lebanon and launch Katyusha rockets at Israeli towns -- a new Hezbollah computer game puts players on the frontline of war with the Jewish state...

"This game presents the culture of the resistance to children: that occupation must be resisted and that land and the nation must be guarded," Hezbollah media official Sheikh Ali Daher said.

But Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev responded by saying: ''It should come as a surprise to no one that Hezbollah teaches children that hatred and violence are positive attributes.''

more details

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Global Warming, circa 1922

D.C. resident John Lockwood was conducting research at the Library of Congress and came across an intriguing Page 2 headline in the Nov. 2, 1922 edition of The Washington Post: "Arctic Ocean Getting Warm; Seals Vanish and Icebergs Melt."

The 1922 article, obtained by Inside the Beltway, goes on to mention "great masses of ice have now been replaced by moraines of earth and stones," and "at many points well-known glaciers have entirely disappeared."

Well, duh. There had to be some type of run-up to 1934, which has now been identified as the hottest year on record.

Carnival of Education

This week's cotton candy can be found here. My post on arming teachers is included.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Contact With People Whose Views You Find Offensive

Read this short piece.

No, seriously, go read it. Focus on the closing question.

Have you read it yet?


Now ask yourself, would the lefties agree that Darren shouldn't have to have contact with unions?

No, I didn't think so, either.

Monday, August 13, 2007

We Are All Jews Now

I must admit that I'm happily surprised and impressed that American university administrators have stood up for what is right, taking the high road where the British University and College Union has opted for the gutter--which is boycotting Israeli universities.

Bollinger, who is now president of Columbia University, criticized the UCU's decision in a statement entitled, "Boycott Israeli Universities? Boycott Ours, Too!" that was featured in the full-page advertisement. The advertisement listed about 300 names of presidents of higher education institutions who support Bollinger's statement...

"If the British UCU is intent on pursuing its deeply misguided policy, then it should add Columbia to its boycott list, for we do not intend to draw distinctions between our mission and that of the universities you are seeking to punish," Bollinger's statement said.

When they do something right, you can count on me to let you know about it. You see, I have ideas and believe in ideals, and I'll excoriate anyone who acts against those ideals--and that usually includes Democrats and other leftists, as well as academics and other university types. When they stand for something that's right, absent some ulterior motive, I'll cheer them on.

Right now I'm cheering.

Update, 8/14/07: Where's Yale? And the part about Duke was a mistake, which has been retracted.

How Do You Rate A Teacher?

This editorial from the Chicago Tribune highlights why what would seem like a straightforward process isn't at all.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Arming Teachers

It was during the Columbine aftermath that I first heard the proposal to arm teachers. Back then I thought it was nuts, but I've since changed my mind. All the problems I saw with the proposal have been answered to my satisfaction in the following two links.

First: a Nevada proposal to allow teachers to attend a law enforcement academy and become reserve police officers in a school district police force.

To become reserve campus police officers, teachers would have to pass a physical and psychological evaluation, as well as a comprehensive background check. Those who make it through the selection process would have to pay about $1,190 for classes at the community college’s Law Enforcement Training Academy, including “Firearms I & II” “Defensive Tactics/Physical Training” and “Introduction to Juvenile Justice.” An additional $1,000 would be required for the academy uniforms and equipment.

After completing the training, teachers would be responsible for $1,500 in uniform and equipment costs, although their guns would be provided by the school police department. School districts would then have to pay the auxiliary officers $3,000 annually.

This is good. This makes sure that armed teachers would have the same training as police officers; I don't think we'd have to worry about a teacher's shooting a student who won't quit talking in class.

Additionally, these teachers would not have to announce that they're reserve officers with firearms, so there would be no concern about their being targeted either by students or other bad guys who show up on campus.

Second: there's the issue of where to keep the authorized firearm. Here's an excellent solution:

There is no potential danger to having firearms in the classroom that cannot be solved with a practical solution. The danger of a student wresting the firearm away from the teacher can be absolved by employing a lockbox with a quick-access keypad; keeping the weapon secure but still rapidly accessible.

The lockbox can be in a closet, out of sight but easily accessible.

The idea here isn't to have trigger-happy teachers go blazing into a gunfight with intruders. The idea is to have some weaponry and personnel available who can respond to a crisis immediately, and perhaps even stand down when regular law enforcement arrives. If nothing else, these teachers would be able to protect their students and themselves by keeping bad guys at bay.

As I said, I've changed my mind on this topic, as I have about firearms topics in general. The Nevada proposal seems reasonable to me, while still keeping our schools from being armed camps.

A silly proposal is this one: bulletproof backpacks. The backpack would have to stop every bullet, the attacker only has to draw blood once. Honestly, I'd rather have a few armed teachers.

Yes, I'd volunteer to undergo this training if it were ever to occur in California. Yeah, like that would ever happen anyway.

Just As The Swallows Return To Capistrano...

...the chickens are coming home to roost at San Francisco State.

This week’s Campus Alert also emphasizes the fact that the College Republicans’ suit challenges not only the investigation, but SFSU’s pernicious speech codes in total. As we point out, among other unconstitutional mandates, SFSU’s codes require students “‘to be civil’ to one another—a rule that can only be selectively enforced against dissenting opinions on a campus as polarized as SFSU.”

I can't believe the SFSU administration thought they could get away with their behavior in this case.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the SFSU College Republicans and two of the group’s members, undergraduates Leigh Wolf and Trent Downes. SFSU’s College Republicans were put on trial by a campus tribunal this past spring for stepping on makeshift Hamas and Hezbollah flags as part of an anti-terrorism rally they held in October, 2006. FIRE wrote twice to SFSU President Robert A. Corrigan to stress that no American public university can lawfully prosecute students for engaging in peaceful protest or for “desecrating” flags of any kind. The university ignored this warning, with a university spokesperson telling the San Francisco Chronicle that the issue was not flag desecration but rather “the desecration of Allah.” Despite having the power to dismiss the charges at any time, SFSU dragged the plaintiffs through a five-month investigation and hearing before ultimately clearing the group of “harassment” charges.

“The Supreme Court ruled long ago that the First Amendment protects the right to burn even an American flag in political protest. There are no special protections for Hamas and Hezbollah flags. SFSU knew this, and there is no excuse for putting these students through a five-month ordeal. We hope the lawsuit will stop the university from committing future abuses,” Lukianoff said.

I hope it does, too. I wonder how much this lawsuit is going to cost the California taxpayer, who funds San Francisco State.

This has been a travesty on many different levels.

The Bridge in Minneapolis

Everyone by now has heard about and seen pictures of the bridge collapse in Minneapolis--a genuine tragedy.

Here comes another tragedy--federal involvement, to include calls for a gas tax to raise money for bridge repairs. I have a few questions about this:

1. What's in those "highway bills" that get passed every year or two, anyway? And how much pork is in them?

2. Why should the federal government kick in a cent to repair this bridge specifically? I understand it was part of a US interstate, but I get the impression that the feds are involved only because it was a very visible event on TV. Had an interstate overpass collapsed somewhere non-notable with no loss of life, I doubt you'd see the feds crawling over themselves to spend our money on the repairs. The oft-told story about Congressman Davy Crockett and the widow comes to mind.

3. I've heard several times in the last week or so about bridge inspections that were "ordered" by Washington in the wake of this collapse. Our government is a federal (as opposed to a central) government, and the states are, or at least are supposed to be, sovereign. By what authority does the federal government "order" the states to do anything?

Such questions should be asked by conservatives everywhere, if we are to maintain our federal republic.

The Royal Road

There are two types of math people, algebraists and geometers, and seldom do these groups overlap.

I am an algebraist.

I had hoped to get through a career of teaching without ever having to teach geometry, a subject I don't enjoy at all, but such is not to be the case. I've got one section of geometry this coming school year, right after lunch.

The Nevada Trip, Part 2--Las Vegas

My dad met up with us in Las Vegas for two of our three days there, and took this picture. Of all the times I've been to Las Vegas, I'd never before been to this sign. Now I have.

One place we went was the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay. The aquarium was mucho coolisimo, but the "touch tank" was pretty nifty as well.

Yes, we went to Star Trek The Experience and did the Borg attraction twice and the Klingon attraction once. And yes, I bought stuff I didn't need at the Promenade Shops, and yes, we had a drink at Quark's Bar. And yes, I got a picture of my son with an Andorian. But no, we're not geeks or anything--a Star Trek Convention is taking place there as I type this, and we obviously aren't there, are we?!!

I've stayed at the Stratosphere several times. Because it's at the far north end of The Strip it's inexpensive when compared to other hotels. Didn't stay there this time, though.

With my dad we stayed at the Riviera. After he left, Luxor! Here's the view from our 1oth floor room. I made sure to get a room in the Pyramid so we could ride the Inclinators (elevators that move up the inside of the pyramid at an angle). Also, on the right edge you can see that the window is sloped inward because all rooms are on the outer edge of the inside of the pyramid.

Night shots of Luxor.

Here's a view of The Strip from atop the Stratosphere Tower. There's so much building going on--half the world's cranes must be in this city. Pretty soon there won't be any views; you'll look out your hotel (or condo) window and see another huge tower right next door.

There were so many changes in the three years since I've been there--condo towers were built or being built; there were additions at Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, Rio, and The Palms; Stardust and the Westward Ho were gone, and the Frontier was closed, all to make way for Echelon; the Wet N Wild water park was gone, with construction occurring at the site; the Holiday Inn/Boardwalk was gone to make way for some glass condo monstrosities; Wynn Las Vegas was finished, and work on the Encore tower was well along; the Palazzo was replacing the Sands; Planet Hollywood had taken over and was modifying the Alladin; and Trump had built a tower. I guess changes aren't permanent, but change is.

After Las Vegas we visited some friends of mine near Valencia, CA, and made the long drive home up I-5 yesterday.

I go back to work in 4 days. Ugh.

The Nevada Trip, Part 1--The Desert

I took 117 pictures on this trip, but will only post a representative sample here. For those of you who have never seen the American West--and by that I don't mean San Francisco or Los Angeles, but the wild West--you're in for a treat.

After I picked my son up at the airport Saturday night, we drove for 3 hours to Fallon, NV, the starting point for this trip. Sunday morning we headed east on Highway 50, the Loneliest Road In America, and stopped at Grimes Point.

click on pictures to enlarge them

Here's an extremely good-looking guy near one of the many engraved rocks. Grimes Point was a rocky peninsula in a lake a couple thousand years ago, and the natives would herd game there and trap them on the peninsula. There's not much sign left of any lake. Global warming, perhaps???

Continuing east we passed Sand Mountain. To get an idea how big it is, click on the picture and find the black dots in the sand. Those are people riding ATVs.

Shortly after passing Austin, NV, we started our trek on about 60 miles of dirt roads. This particular scene is of the Toiyabe National Forest in Central Nevada. Not quite what you'd expect of Nevada or of a National Forest, is it?

We had quite the adventure looking for the Toquima Cave, site of Native American cave painting, but we eventually found it. The area isn't marked but can be found on local maps.

A real treat was Diana's Punchbowl. Here's a view of it from about a mile away. Again, to get an idea of the size, click on the picture and find the pickup parked near the top.

To give you an idea of the size of the punchbowl, at the bottom of which is a 200 degree hot spring, that's my son standing on the far side at the top.

You can see that it's not shallow, either.

The end of the dirt road came at Belmont. It's billed as a ghost town, but since a few people live there today it's more of an "inhabited area with lots of ruins". Old mining town, of course.

And finally, our destination for the night, the thriving metropolis of Tonopah. The Mizpah, shown here, can be yours for only $1.65 million. In a previous post, commenters mentioned that the residents of this fine town are rude; fortunately I didn't encounter that.

I was buzzed by a Stealth fighter while driving down an empty US 395 in December, 1990. By then their existence near Tonopah had already been announced or at least was an open secret.

This sign was in a storefront window in Tonopah. Perhaps a meeting of Spellers Anonymous would be in order.

The next day involved another 20 or so miles of dirt roads in order to see this crater, among other sites. The walk around to the other side would be about a mile--and while the view from that peak would have made a great picture, I didn't go.

A desert denizen (coyote?) somewhere along US Highway 6 or Nevada State Highway 375.

There's no long and winding road here, just a long one. Sorry, Paul.

We heard a sonic boom (only the second I've ever heard) but saw no strange aircraft or other UFOs.

There are three roads which might be the one that goes from 375 to the Groom Lake/Area 51 facility, and this mailbox is at the middle one. It belongs to a nearby resident and is supposed to be the ideal spot from which to see UFOs. The owner claims never to have seen one, though.

And from here we drove to Las Vegas, which will be shown in a different post.

The Lines Have Started Already

Lefties here in this country tout the "free" health care programs of Canada and the United Kingdom but always conveniently forget to mention the long waits. Of course, an American universal health care plan would avoid lines and waits, it just would.

Or would it?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Just What I Need

Will I be required to support this union financially as well?

In a move that might make some people scratch their heads, a loosely formed coalition of left-leaning bloggers are trying to band together to form a labor union they hope will help them receive health insurance, conduct collective bargaining or even set professional standards.

Good gawd, we need this like we need a hole in the head.

Warrantless Surveillance

A quick search for FISA (use the search box at the top of this page) will bring up my blog posts regarding warrantless surveillance, which our friends on the left called "illegal wiretaps". Of course, they were not illegal at all--in fact, the Congress has recently voted to expand the program.

Here's a list of the tweaks to the old program.

You're A Racist If You Don't Support Voluntary Segregation At Colleges/Universities

In an editorial for a school newspaper, I criticized how the school's four ethnic theme dorms (African-American, American Indian, Asian and Latino) stereotyped minorities by categorizing individuals by race rather than considering broader personal experiences and values. The response: How dare I condemn the established multicultural institutions on campus! Didn't I know that I had no business commenting on the issue since, as one student stated on a campus forum, I was just a "white, libertarian girl from the O.C." Considering how often students refer to their right of free speech when they criticize the school or presidential administration, their reactions to my article were stunning.

I received so many caustic e-mails and messages the weekend after my article was published that my residential adviser actually asked me to inform him if I received any tangible threats. Luckily, these messages were just irrationally irate, not violent. Students accused me of being a racist and an ignoramus because no one they knew had ever objected to the houses. One black girl asked me to be her "Facebook friend," suggesting I didn't have any minority friends or else I wouldn't have written the article. Most students did not respond to my arguments, opting to personally slander me.

It's good that the left can behave in such a mature, intellectual manner (cough cough). Are you surprised at that? I'm not.

What Will The Church of Global Warming Followers Say Now?

Scroll down to the comments at the end of this post to see how they challenge this statement:

NASA has now silently released corrected figures, and the changes are truly astounding. The warmest year on record is now 1934. 1998 (long trumpeted by the media as record-breaking) moves to second place. 1921 takes third. In fact, 5 of the 10 warmest years on record now all occur before World War II.

I can't vouch for the accuracy, veracity, or track record of, from which the quote above was taken. But they have a link to the NASA information. If someone can show me that this information is demonstrably false, I'll obviously post an update with a retraction.

Update, 8/11/07: You knew Kerplunk would have something to say about this.

The Benefits of Diversity

Outstanding ethnic restaurants notwithstanding, a (liberal) scholar determines that diversity apparently isn't all it's cracked up to be.

But a massive new study, based on detailed interviews of nearly 30,000 people across America, has concluded just the opposite. Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam -- famous for "Bowling Alone," his 2000 book on declining civic engagement -- has found that the greater the diversity in a community, the fewer people vote and the less they volunteer, the less they give to charity and work on community projects. In the most diverse communities, neighbors trust one another about half as much as they do in the most homogenous settings. The study, the largest ever on civic engagement in America, found that virtually all measures of civic health are lower in more diverse settings.

"The extent of the effect is shocking," says Scott Page, a University of Michigan political scientist.

So can we finally quit genuflecting at the altar of diversity and get back to what really makes this country great--the freedoms it allows individuals?

Update, 8/16/07: This piece had a tasty morsel that the left won't like:

Here, too, Robert Putnam has a possible assimilation model. Hold onto your hat. It's Christian evangelical megachurches. "In many large evangelical congregations," he writes, "the participants constituted the largest thoroughly integrated gatherings we have ever witnessed." This, too, is an inconvenient truth. They do it with low entry barriers to the church and by offering lots of little groups to join inside the larger "shared identity" of the church. A Harvard prof finds good in evangelical megachurches. Send this man a suit of body armor!

Body armor, indeed!

Cowardly Academics

Rabbi Aryeh Spero is a radio talk show host, a pulpit rabbi, and president of Caucus For America.

So now we know a little bit about Rabbi Spero. Let's see what he has to say in FrontPage Magazine:

So-called intellectuals, as found in universities, have seldom been people of courage. They are only "brave" when it comes to speaking and writing against "devils" whom they know will never physically harm them. Richard Nixon and George Bush are not going to behead or send people to beat physically intellectuals and their familiy (sic) members even if they are the brunt of left-wing mouthings. In fact, intellectuals receive greater acclaim among their colleagues and students -- the only community they frequent and care about -- if they speak against America or western civilization. Their "speaking out" is really not an act of courage at all, rather an act of career-advancement, one causing adulation.

However, most school adminstrators (sic)-- be they at Pace or San Francisco State, Berkely (sic), or Columbia -- are indeed afraid of live, angry, chanting, in-your-face Moslem students, not to mention their legal representatives from CAIR and the ACLU ever ready to charge them with racism and the crime of "Islamophobia" if they do not bend to the will of Islamic demands on campus. Historically, intellectuals have always sided with the dictatorial bullies they fear -- they are afraid of those who will use their fists, since they are unwilling to use their own.

In contrast, when was the last time evangelicals brought a college to court on the charge of "Christophobia" ( indeed, the deans would consider that a badge of "enlightenment" ) and what administrator is afraid that the pro-Israel Jewish students are going to rough-up the staff and punch-out other students. Academics will never admit to the fear which forces them to be "sensitive" to every Islamic demand while deaf to the victimization from it toward peaceful everyday students. They have crafted new categories of justice and crimes on campus that mask their fear.

Nail. Hammer. Whack!

Diversity and Multiculturalism

The Colossus of Rhodey says it so well that I'll just cut and paste here, along with a big fat "yeah, what he said":

Liberal groups, as I've noted often before, just cannot get out of the way of their own circular logic when it comes to "diversity" and multiculturalism. Here we read, further in the DSEA newsletter, that the NEA brief in support of the defendants said in part,

Interactions among students of different races -- with different vantage points, skills(?), and values -- are of great consequence not only to the students' development as citizens in a multiracial, democratic society, but also to their intellectual development. The impact of encountering and dealing with racial diversity as part of their education is positively linked to growth in cognitive and academic skills of both racial minorities and white students. These educational benefits are realized not only while children are in school, but in their subsequent lives as well.

Yet these very same advocates stand behind the anachronism that are HBCs, separate dorms for minority students, separate freshman orientations, and even separate graduation ceremonies! Which, of course, begs the question that if diversity is SO all-important as the NEA (and others) profess, then why the constant invocation of separateness?

My God, it really is just too easy to cleave such "research" and "arguments" in half. But what can one expect from those who once championed color-blindness but now color-consciousness ... once championed individual rights but now group rights ... and once championed dismantling barriers to desegregation but now favor race mandates based on some pseudo-scientific notion of "diversity"?

Carnival of Education

I got home about an hour and a half ago--haven't had internet access since Tonopah! Still, I need to give props to Education In Texas, host of this week's Carnival of Education. My post about NEA homophobes was linked.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

This Town Is Dying

It's taken me over an hour to establish an internet connection here at the hotel, and it will possibly be the last time I'll be able to be online for the next few days--so here's what's been going on so far.

I picked my son up at the airport last night, and we were on the road before 9. Making great time, we pulled into Fallon, NV, shortly before midnight. That was the scheduled start of the trip.

This morning we headed east on Highway 50, The Loneliest Road In America. I didn't give it that name--they've got signs for it and everything! There are places where you can see miles in front of you and miles behind you, and there are no other cars in sight. Being manly men who do manly things, we took the opportunity to give the car a little test. Road: perfectly straight. Overdrive: on. Windows: up. Accelerator: down. Top speed: faster than I've ever driven before--by probably 20 mph or so. We did it again on another road several hours later, but that road wasn't near as good as US 50, so we didn't go above 110 mph that time. Note to MikeAT, a loyal blog reader and cop: since I'm admitting to it, can I still be busted, or does an officer have to catch me in the act?!!

We stopped first at a picnic area near the site of ancient Indian petroglyphs. I've always wanted to stop there before, and this trip is the ideal time. The carvings range from 500 to 7,000 years old (500-6,000 years old if you go to Liberty University). Turns out there used to be a huge lake there; by the time man came on the scene the lake had receded considerably, and the rock outcropping was a peninsula in the marshy part of a lake. There's certainly no lake anymore! We took several pictures, some of which will be posted when I have the capability to do so.

Our next stop was Austin, NV. Find it on a map, it's almost dead center of the state. Former mining town, county seat, etc. Population of probably only a few hundred. Currently it's known for outdoor recreation. Anyway, the only place I'd ever stopped there before was the Chevron station at the west end of town--it has the cleanest service station restroom I've even been in, and that's after having used it several times over the course of several years. This time we skipped the Chevron, walked the main road through town (US 50), had a milkshake, then headed east.

Not too far past Austin we got on a dirt road. Well, I guess it was kinda sorta gravel, and moderately well maintained, but there was no pavement of any kind. We took this road through some mountains, in search of Toquima Cave and its cave paintings. We found the picnic area, but no cave. It was rather forested there (in Nevada? yes! the Toiyabe National Forest) so we wandered through the woods, looking at every rock outcropping we could find, but to no avail. After probably 45 min of no luck, my son stayed at the car to get a snack as I headed to another rock outcropping. He read the description on the map, instead of just looking at the map itself: the cave is just a short 1/4 mile hike down an easy footpath from the picnic area! When I got back to the car he showed that to me--and from where we were parked, I could see a very small sign in the distance. It didn't even say it led to the cave, but I was sure that the footpath below it had to lead to our destination. It was more than 1/4 mile, that's for sure, but at the end we found the cave--fenced off by the Forest Service to preserve the drawings. These were painted, unlike the carved petroglyphs we saw earlier, and we were close enough to take pictures. Again, pics will posted when I'm able to!

Back to the dirt road, we headed east, then south through the Monitor Valley. When I saw the white, shallow-dome-shaped hill in the distance, I knew that was our next destination. Diana's Punchbowl was more interesting in person than I thought it would be, and that's saying a lot. Several dozen more miles down the dirt road brought us to Belmont, a half-ghost-town (a few people live there now), some cool ruins, and a paved road! Less than an hour later we were in Tonopah, our planned stop for the night.

And Tonopah is dying.

It was founded as a mining town (like just about every other place in Nevada) in 1900, but later made its way as a "military town" and as a crossroads town (US 6 and US 95, which leads to Las Vegas). I don't know what, yet, but something's happened here. Did the last mine stop operating? Did the military leave? Or what?

The two big, historic hotel/casinos in the center of town are closed. One is scheduled to reopen late in 2008, and the other is for sale for $1.65 million. Shops along Main Street (US 95) are closed. There's plenty of real estate for sale here, and it's all for sale by the same realtor. This town has the look and feel of a town that's losing jobs, people, and life itself. Somebody needs to turn this place around--perhaps market it as an outdoor mecca, as does Austin. If something doesn't happen, this town will just stop existing. I told my son to come back here in 20 years and see what it looks like. I won't predict the future, but right now I don't think putting money on Tonopah would be a wise bet. Sad--there's so much character here.

After what I hope will be just as interesting a day tomorrow, we should be in Las Vegas tomorrow night--and for the next few nights.