Saturday, October 31, 2009

Gratuitous Post To Tick Off Apple Users

Verizon is releasing its newest Smart Phone, the Motorola Droid next Thursday. The Droid is based on the open-development ready Google Android 2.0 operating System, and Verizon is positioning the product to compete with the Apple iPhone, which has been an AT&T exclusive product for years now. The Consensus is that the new Motorola is not an "iPhone Killer", but what I found interesting is why people are saying that.

Essentially the iPhone is safe from the Droid because most iPhone users are liberals. They are people who WANT a Mommy and Daddy watching over them. iPhone developers must navigate a Byzantine approval process that is so bad, that some even stoop to using Microsoft's .NET to get things done. Apple tests and approves every application offered on the iPhone to make sure they all play nice together. This of course ensures the phone will deliver the beautiful and slick user experience Apple has decided its users will have. The iPhone is a good example of the "one-size-fits all" top-down mentality of liberals. If you want a different experience from what your masters thinks you SHOULD have and SHOULD want, you are just SOL. The lowercase "i" in iPhone doesn't occur by accident. The individual just isn't as important, and the "Phone" takes precedence. Many iPhone and Mac users come near to worshipping Apple and their products, going so far as to genuflect when they turn on a Apple device, ensure they face San Jose 3 times a day to give thanks for their iLife and to pray for the saving of the pagans who do not yet have one. link

Why? Because sometimes it's just fun to get a rise out of people--especially liberals :-)

Update, 11/1/09: I haven't posted a few of the more vile comments. It's always fun to poke at the Apple-philes, though, because they can get so emotional! It's almost like you're attacking their child, or their religion (!!!), or President Obama.

Look, folks, if you want to have an Apple product, I support that. I think it's great, have at it. Just don't expect me to think you're a genius or socially-conscious or whatever. To me, you're a person who has extra money to spend on electronics--and someone who takes those electronics a bit too seriously!

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Dr. King.

Today's question is:
Which river separated the Roman Empire from the barbarian Germanic tribes?

This...Is California

Reporting from Los Angeles and Sacramento - Starting Sunday, cash-strapped California will dig deeper into the pocketbooks of wage earners -- holding back 10% more than it already does in state income taxes just as the biggest shopping season of the year kicks into gear.

Technically, it's not a tax increase, even though it may feel like one when your next paycheck arrives. As part of a bundle of budget patches adopted in the summer, the state is taking more money now in withholding, even though workers' annual tax bills won't change.

Think of it as a forced, interest-free loan: You'll be repaid any extra withholding in April. Those who would receive a refund anyway will receive a larger one, and those who owe taxes will owe less. link

Soon, they just won't give it back, because liberals want to give more of my money away. And if this government health care law comes to fruition, the feds will take more of my money too.

Edward R. Murrow, in his "This is London" broadcasts, couldn't have been more concerned or frightened.

Do I Have To Take The Test Today?


The fact that you missed a day this week does not get you out of taking the test on Friday.

And asking me while I'm handing out the test is, well...not the the best time to get me to change my mind.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
Who was quoted in 1963 as saying, “We have guided missiles and misguided men”?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

1st Amendment Doesn't Allow Rulebreaking In Order To Report

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It's important to remember that "the press" didn't just mean "newspapers" in the days of the Founders. It also included pamphleteers; indeed, the 1st Amendment provides for the freedom of the "printing press", not just the "news press". Bloggers are the 21st century pamphleteers, and the government can no more censor me than it could any news outlet.

But this freedom isn't without limits.

I don't support shield laws. The press is allowed to report without a censorious government, but reporters should be treated no differently before the law. If a judge says "tell", you tell or pay the consequences--perhaps you shouldn't have promised your source anonymity. Shield laws create two classes of citizens--one which is immune to a judge's order, and one that is not. As a modern-day pamphleteer, I doubt I'm covered by any state's shield law. The 1st Amendment is thus perverted.

Government can and does do things that impede news organizations. For example, it taxes them! Their buildings must meet the same building codes as other buildings. One could argue that such restrictions "abridge" the freedom of the press, but that argument would be specious. It would be akin to arguing that the government should provide the ink--as without it, the printing press is useless!

So while my interpretation of the 1st Amendment is expansive, it doesn't tolerate flimsy arguments that merely serve to cheapen it.

So I question whether this is a 1st Amendment issue or not. Did the students violate school policy, or did they not? If they did, they get in trouble. It doesn't matter if the policy is stupid or not, or if we support it or not. If they violated the policy, they must suffer the consequences, unreasonable feints to the 1st Amendment notwithstanding.

Two student journalists at James Madison University face judicial charges at the school after entering a dorm to get comments for a news story.

Tim Chapman, 21, of Chantilly, the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper The Breeze, and reporter Katie Hibson, 19, of Loudoun County, were charged by JMU's Office of Judicial Affairs with trespassing, disorderly conduct and noncompliance with an official request...

Don Egle, the school's public affairs director, said it was not an issue of journalists' rights but of school policy.

"This has nothing to do with what reporters are allowed to do or are able to do or who they're able to speak with or what they want to print," he said. "They had the right to ask anybody any question outside of the building."

Egle said policy requires that nonresidents of the dorm be accompanied by a resident and added that the judicial hearing would decide whether all rules had been followed.

Being a journalist is not a free pass to do whatever one wants to "get a story". Clearly, though, there's more to this story than what's reported at the link above, and it will be interesting to learn what new facts surface.

Not Your Typical School Fight

NewsAlert pointed me to this story about two teachers involved in a fight. Two woman teachers.

CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. (MyFOX ATLANTA) - Two teachers in Clayton County were in hot water Wednesday night. The teachers are accused of fighting in front of students. The incident happened at Rex Mill Middle School Monday morning. The teachers are now facing charges.

According to police, the incident was prompted by an apparent love triangle that spilled onto the school grounds.

The "other woman" was discovered via Facebook. How stupid can someone be?

President Tries To Stifle Criticism of His Ixnaying of DC Voucher Program

I'm not feeling the hopenchange here:

President Obama isn’t taking kindly to a television ad that criticizes his opposition to a popular scholarship program for poor children, and his administration wants the ad pulled.

Former D.C. Councilmember Kevin Chavous of D.C. Children First said October 16 that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder had recently approached him and told him to kill the ad.

The 30-second ad, which has been airing on FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, and News Channel 8 to viewers in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, urges the president to reauthorize the federally-funded D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program that provides vouchers of up to $7,500 for D.C. students to attend private schools.

The Password Is: Dithering

I received the following on an email list of which I am a member, and received permission to post it here. To set the story, the discussion is about President Obama's lack of decision on what to do in Afghanistan, and one contributor stated that the President is taking time to make a methodical decision and not a kneejerk one as the previous President had done.

Here's the response:
This would be laugh out loud funny if it didn't come from an intelligent person. Where to begin...

When it was time to pass a huge stimulus package that couldn't wait for reading, it had to be NOW NOW NOW, and reading was not important.

When it was time to try to take over 1/6th of the economy with God only knows what consequences, it had to be NOW NOW NOW with no time for debate, not even for reading the bill, because there were people dying without health care. On a side note, of course, if they were dying, they would be dead before this thing took effect in 2013, but details smetails. It's gotta be NOW NOW NOW.

When it's brave soldiers dying because they are under staffed for the mission at hand, and the enemy smells weakness and is therefore emboldened by hesitation, it's time to wait, wait, wait, because if the right decision is made, the folks on the left just might get mad, and if we pull out now, the defeat gets assigned to the current WH occupant. Decisions, decisions.

The real funny thing here though is the comment that we don't have all of the data, so it's easy to criticize, etc etc... Yet, that is exactly what the current occupant did for his entire one or two days in the Senate when the decisions and responsibility were not his. As long as he could be a spectator and watch the adults trying to make the best decisions possible under difficult circumstances that he couldn't even have imagined, it was easy to second guess, critique, and hold forth on how he would be better, smarter, and focus on the *right* war. He had a plan, he would get Bin Laden, he would win the war, he would lower the temperature of the planet, lower the oceans, all before he had his first bowl of Wheaties. And here we are, into his 10th month, with his hand picked general asking for reinforcements to carry out *his* plan, and we get dithering and this pathetic excuse of *gee, this is hard, he's really trying, give him time*. No kidding! This is real work, not standing on the sidelines making campaign promises. That's what he gave us and now, we're getting the change we can believe in.

If it was someone else's country this would be funny. Since this is America we're talking about, it's just sad.

Yeah, what he said.

Languages Spoken At School

Today we had a couple of representatives from our district's English Language Learner (ELL) office come speak to us for professional development. I teach at a very high income, high performing school that isn't used to having "newcomers", or those with low English abilities, as students, but changes in how our district handles ELL's means we're getting more.

I learned two things of interest. The first is the list of languages spoken at our school. Have you heard of all of them? I hadn't even heard of one of them: Spanish, Indonesian, Korean, Arabic, Rumanian, Russian, Filipino, Turkish, Nepali, Ukrainian, Punjabi, Armenian, Gujarati, Tongan, and Farsi.

There's a language called "Filipino"? I thought the language was Tagalog. And I'd never before heard of Gujarati.

The second interesting point was that the families of some ELL's in our district are under federal protection. When they are identified as such they are automatically enrolled, they do not even have to provide proof of residency in our district borders.

Here's something else that should be patently obvious. The lower the level of the course, the more ELL students will be in that class. The speakers didn't say that, but they did pass out to each teacher a list of that teacher's ELL's. The disparity in the lengths of the lists was striking.

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Tim Curry.

Today's question is:
Fill in the blank to complete Lewis Mumford's 1934 quote: “The _____, not the steam engine, is the key-machine of the modern industrial age.”

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
Who played Dr. Frank N. Furter in the Rocky Horror Picture Show?

Merit Pay For Teachers

Merit pay is a touchy subject in education circles. This comment (to a post at Joanne's site) points out so many of the thorny issues besides simply "knowing" who's a good teacher and who isn't.

Carnival of Education

This week's is posted here, and includes my post about California's changing its education code to allow teachers to be evaluated based on the results of students' standardized tests.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Giving Money To The Alma Mater

This moderately superficial article is still a fun read. It discusses alumni giving and its relationship to both sports championships and children.

For men, it turns out, the past is still present. If your team was conference champion your sophomore year, you give about the same amount to the athletic program as the average athlete alum. If your team won your junior year, you give more. If your team took the prize your senior year, your lifetime giving is highest of all, about 8 percent higher per annum over decades than the giving of an athlete whose team didn’t get the prize in the last year at school.

That lucky fellow whose team was conference champion junior and senior years gives the most among athletes. This suggests a deep need to re-experience the triumphs of youth...

Giving by applicants’ parents peaks when the child turns 17, at which point parents are almost half again more likely to give than the childless. Those alumni whose teens never apply seem at peace: they just keep on giving steadily after their child goes elsewhere.

Not so households that experience the arrival of the dreaded thin envelope. After a first child is rejected, an alum parent gives substantially less often than before. And the disappointment builds. A few years out the parent’s giving drops all the way to that of a childless alum. Those whose last child has been turned down by Anon U actually give less and in smaller amounts than the average alum. Harvard, you are dead to me.

Hip-hop Way To Learn Physics

Hip-hop studies. Important?

Maybe you should struggle with physics. Think about it: If the physics teachers on their own had decided to meld hip-hop with their classroom presentation on the theory that it would make it more accessible to you, you would have — or should have — felt insulted and outraged. And yet you want to make them do it to you.

This comment entertained me:

Difficult material is racist.

Physics equations further white male hegemony.

What Einstein never realized was that E=mc(2) could be so much more if understood in a spoken rhyme set to a bass-heavy groove and expressed in a transiently popular dance move.

Hip-Hop Studies promises to deliver the kind of groundbreaking work done by Queer Studies and Vagina Conferences, which have almost freed us from the shackles of the white man's "science".

Four years of Hip-Hop Studies seems to me a magic key for the bearer when future employers see this on their resume'.
There are plenty of reasons not to entertain the concept of hip-hop studies. A class perhaps, but not a major:

[P]op culture permeates the world of young Americans. Why pursue even more of it in college? Learn new things.

How "Brain Science" Can Inform Our Teaching

Put simply, it can't.

What teachers among us have not had to sit through a professional development class on what scientists are learning about how the brain works, and how we can use that knowledge to better help students learn? Can I get a show of hands?

Gardner's "multiple intelligences" theory was supposed to improve our teaching, but we've since figured out that subjects are best taught in methods most amenable to the subject matter, not to the students. And that theory rested merely on something that sounded like it could be reasonable, not on so-called science.

Anyone who says that our current knowledge of brain science is useful for figuring out the best way to teach trigonometry is smoking the good stuff. Heck, I found a union source--not Fox News, so my leftie readers can take a look--that says as much.

So what prompted this post? This article, on the "Baby Einstein" craze.

Of course it was too good to be true.

The New York Times reported Thursday that Disney is offering a refund to buyers of its ubiquitous “Baby Einstein” videos, which did not, as promised, turn babies into wunderkinds. Apparently, all those puppets, bright colors, and songs were what we had feared all along—a mind-numbing way to occupy infants.

This news has rocked the parenting world, which had embraced the videos as a miraculous child-rearing staple...

Still, the idea that a caper this big could be pulled off (according to the Times, in “a 2003 study, a third of all American babies from 6 months to 2 years old had at least one 'Baby Einstein' video") is mind-boggling. Disney’s refund is about as close as we’re going to get to an actual admission that we were sold snake oil, and it casts a pall over the other "educational" toys out there.

When my son was born, among the items the hospital sent home with us was a CD of classical music. Not that there's anything wrong with a little Mozart, but let's not be too gullible here. I hope no one really believed this statement on the case (yes, I still have the CD): Classical music to help stimulate your baby's brain development.

It gets better--here's what's on the back of the case:

Music can enrich our lives and touch our emotions. But did you know it may also help our children think, reason, and create? Studies suggest that the complex rhythms and melodies of classical music may help stimulate brain activities associated with the development of spatial-temporal reasoning, which plays a major role in such activities as language, math, and science skills...

Play this CD, and your kid will be Ivy League caliber. :-)

Big Numbers

Here's what I learned today about IP addresses, the numbers behind the URLs that we take for granted when finding sites on the internet. The latest version of IP addresses is version 6:

Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) is the next-generation Internet Protocol version designated as the successor to IPv4, the first implementation used in the Internet and still in dominant use currently. It is an Internet Layer protocol for packet-switched internetworks. The main driving force for the redesign of Internet Protocol was the foreseeable IPv4 address exhaustion. IPv6 was defined in December 1998 by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) with the publication of an Internet standard specification, RFC 2460.

IPv6 has a vastly larger address space than IPv4. This results from the use of a 128-bit address, whereas IPv4 uses only 32 bits. The new address space thus supports 2128 (about 3.4×1038) addresses.

3.4 times 10 to the 38th power. Who can identify the American way to say that number?

Moving on now, I think we can all agree that that's a big number, but just how big?

The very large IPv6 address space supports a total of 2128 (about 3.4×1038) addresses—or approximately 5×1028 (roughly 295) addresses for each of the roughly 6.5 billion (6.5×109) people alive in 2006.[10] In a different perspective, this is 252 (about 4.5×1015) addresses for every observable star in the known universe.[11]
Very big.

Penn State Students Act "Cross"

My first thought when I read this was one of resignation--there are people who will complain about anything:

A blue, cross-like design emblazoned on T-shirts at Penn State University has some critics seeing red.

The shirts — intended to foster school spirit — sport a vertical blue line down the center with the words "Penn State White Out" emblazoned across the chest, forming a design that some say resembles a cross. The back of the shirt depicts the same blue line obscured by the words, "Don't be intimated … It's just me and 110,000 of my friends." Roughly 30,000 of the shirts have been sold.

Penn State says it has received six complaints about the shirt, including one from the Anti-Defamation League's Philadelphia branch, from people who say it connotes a Christian cross...

The shirts are typically worn at Penn State's annual "White Out" game, at which a crowd of 100,000 screaming Nittany Lions fans creates a virtual sea of white at Beaver Stadium.

OK, I looked at the picture of the shirt at the linked story, and it does resemble a cross. But read the article and you get this:

While Berns acknowledged the shirt's single blue stripe resembles the stripe on the team's football helmet....

So the design is supposed to mimic the football team's helmet and just resembles a Christian cross. The complainers are acting like ninnies (as opposed to Nittany Lions).

But then I thought, how would I like it if some design for my school inadvertently looked like a hammer and sickle, or like the President's "O" logo, or like a crescent? I'd be displeased. But why? Because I don't like what those symbols represent.

So now I understand what the students are complaining about. They don't like Christianity--not just the organized Christian religions and their earthly foibles, but Christianity itself. Love they neighbor, do unto others, turn the other cheek Christianity.

I get it now.

Here's my advice to those 6 complainers: if you don't like the shirt, don't buy one.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao.

Today's question is:
In what state is the US Naval Academy located?

Monday, October 26, 2009

How Much of Teaching Is Teaching?

It's not the most artfully worded question, but it's worth asking.

I never really thought about all the things I do in a school day. But now that I'm working with a student teacher, and having to help her prioritize her activities, I'm realizing how much there is to do that doesn't involve being in front of the class delivering instruction.

I utilize my "down time" at school. I don't relax, work on a puzzle in the staff lounge, read the newspaper, etc. No, I'm getting work done. I'm grading papers, inputting grades into the computer, communicating or meeting with parents, filling out disciplinary paperwork, writing tests or quizzes, planning lessons, taking roll, completing special education paperwork, checking up on students (because of grades, traumatic events, etc), making copies, meeting with vice principals, and myriad other tasks that don't directly involve my being directly in front of students.

What I've determined is that only about half the job of being a teacher is teaching. If it's a field you're considering, you can't focus solely on your presentation of material to students. There's much more to it than that.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Eureka College, in Eureka, Illinois.

Today's question is:
What Caribbean islands are sometimes referred to as the ABC Islands?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question, the last in Airports Week, is:
Benito Juarez, an extremely popular 19th century Mexican president.

Today's question is:
What was Ronald Reagan's alma mater?

Windows 7 Launch Shafts Some College Students

The very people who are most likely to switch over to a Mac:

College students who took advantage of a "deal too sweet to pass up" have run into a bit of trouble.

The $29 electronic version of Windows 7 Home Edition sold for Microsoft (MSFT) through Digital River (DRIV) doesn't seem to install properly on some 32-bit Vista machines.


Police Beat Handcuffed Math Major

I know being a cop is a tough job. One of my frequent commenters, a former army buddy of mine, is a cop, and I have a former student who's working to be a cop. I value and respect law enforcement. I know cops are only human.

But so was the kid these cops beat in San Jose.

A cell phone video shows San Jose police officers repeatedly using batons and a Taser gun on an unarmed San Jose State student, including at least one baton strike that appears to come after the man is handcuffed, as they took him into custody inside his home last month.

The video, made by one of the student's roommates without the knowledge of police, shows that force was used even though the suspect was on the ground, and apparently offering no physical threat to the officers. Several experts in police force said the video appears to document excessive — and possibly illegal — force by the officers. A police spokesman Friday said the department had opened a criminal investigation of the officers'
conduct, after police officials viewed a copy of the recording.

The confrontation arose as Phuong Ho, a 20-year-old math major from Ho Chi Minh City, was arrested on suspicion of assaulting another of his roommates. He faces pending misdemeanor charges of exhibiting a deadly weapon and resisting arrest. Ho admits picking up a knife as he argued with a roommate. He was not armed when police arrived.
How the heck can you expect a handcuffed, beaten person that several people are yelling at to follow instructions? It's just gross.

The video is harder to listen to than it is to watch.

Legally Fight For Justice, Have Prosecutors Subpoena Your Grades

(originally posted 10/21. updated and moved to the top)

If this isn't among the most blatant attempts by government officials to harrass and intimidate private citizens, I don't know what would be. Note that this occurs in Cook County, Illinois, wherein sits the city of Chicago.

After spending three years investigating the conviction of a Harvey man accused of killing a security guard with a shotgun blast in 1978, journalism students at Northwestern University say they have uncovered new evidence that proves his innocence.

Their efforts helped win a new day in court for Anthony McKinney, who has spent 31 years in prison for the slaying. But as they prepare for that crucial hearing, prosecutors seem to have focused on the students and teacher who led the investigation for the school's internationally acclaimed Medill Innocence Project.

The Cook County state's attorney subpoenaed the students' grades, notes and recordings of witness interviews, the class syllabus and even e-mails they sent to each other and to professor David Protess of the university's Medill School of Journalism.
A basic tenet of "social justice" would seem to me to be that innocent people should not languish in jails. It's a shame that some can't accept even that minimal standard.

Richard O'Brien, the lawyer representing the university, said it's an unwarranted fishing expedition that focuses on the messenger -- rather than on the possibility that an innocent man has spent more than three decades behind bars. Prosecutors, he said, "seem to be peeved" at the Innocence Project for uncovering a wrongful conviction...

Since the Innocence Project began in 1999, Protess and his students have uncovered evidence that helped free 11 innocent men, according to a class Web site.

I hope this does not deter them.

Update, 10/25/09: Read more here:

“Every time the government starts attacking the messenger as opposed to the message, it can have a chilling effect,” said Barry C. Scheck, a pioneer of the Innocence Project in New York, …”

Fox News, anyone?

Dream On, Dr. King

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

So spoke Dr. King over 46 years ago on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

I wasn't even born when he spoke those most powerful words; I've lived my entire life under their cooling shadow. I believe in them so much that they are, for me, part of what it means to be an American.

So how does this announcement mesh with Dr. King's words? The Coast Guard Academy isn't "diverse" enough, so the Congress is looking to change the way admissions are handled.

It's no secret in higher education that there are fewer than 1,000 super-qualified (academically) black high school graduates in the entire country each year, and every college and university fights for "their share" of that talent pool. Affirmative action and "diversity", though, force more elite schools to lower standards and admit lesser qualified black students. It's an ugly truth, but ignoring or not stating it doesn't make it less so.

The Coast Guard Academy itself isn't pleased with this new development, and not because its admissions people are racist:

The U.S. Coast Guard Academy says it is opposed to a proposal in Congress that would change the way the school admits students...

The other military service academies admit students by congressional nomination while the Coast Guard Academy has traditionally admitted students on the basis of academic merit, like civilian colleges and universities.

Merit, much of it based on academic performance in high school. Can't have that, can we?

Some day, Dr. King. Some day.

(P.S. Read this story about the Regimental Commander, the top-ranked cadet at the Coast Guard Academy, who is a black woman.)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Teacher Sacrificed On The Altar Of...What, Exactly?

Government officials sent this kid home, and to school, when the juvenile detention facility wouldn't take him back and he was considered too disturbed for reform school.

Days later, on the morning of Sept. 23, Todd Henry, who was 50, lay bleeding to death in classroom A23 of John Tyler High. In the hallway outside, a wraith of a boy named Byron was hustled away to face charges of stabbing his teacher in the heart with a butcher knife. A Texas Education Agency spokesman says it is the first teacher slaying in a Texas classroom that anyone in the agency can recall.

Law enforcement and the correctional system failed. The school system failed. Medical professionals failed. Liberal do-gooders who don't believe in institutionalism failed. There are failures at every level of government from the school district up to the state, and if the kid was in special education, the "full inclusion" lobby at the federal level failed, too.

This well-written article is just sad, sad, sad. I can find no silver lining in it anywhere.

Smart Diplomacy

America's standing in the world is better now?

Now who’s the go-it-alone cowboy? Obama has damaged relations with the UK, France, the Czech Republic, and Poland, which even Joe Biden was forced to admit yesterday. Instead, Obama has focused his friendlier attention on Russia and Iran. What has Obama and the US received in return? Laughter over Hillary Clinton’s amateurish “reset button” and zero cooperation on Iranian nuclear weapons. And this is “smart power”?

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Dallas, TX.

Today's question, finishing Airports Week, is:
Whom is Mexico City's airport named after?

Shut Up And Sing

These people exist in my world for one reason and one reason only--to entertain me. Why should I care what they have to say about anything political?

Rock bands including Pearl Jam and REM have joined a coalition of musicians to support the US president's efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay prison.

Just shut up and sing. I'll even give you this nice, crisp dollar if you do.

October 2009 Issue of California Educator Shows What A Bunch of Sad Sacks The CTA Is

They're legally entitled to the money I earn, and others willingly give their money, but the CTA is truly pathetic.

I'll start where I usually end--with the 7 "CTA-sponsored and co-sponsored legislation for 2009-10" items. I've said it plenty of times before, there's nothing in those 7 items that affects Darren's pay, benefits, or working conditions at all. So why am I required to give them my money as a condition of employment?

Now let's skip to another article (p. 20 of the print edition), wherein a sidebar gives us this interesting little factoid: the percentage of California union members who work in education is 26%. Why can't unions convince California workers to join? Since they obviously can't, they get their entitlement to my money enshrined in law.

On the preceding page we get this article, attempting to justify CTA's involvement in politics:

"People always ask: Why is CTA involved in politics?" says Doggett. "It's simple: We want to make things better for our schools and our students. And like it or not, we are greatly affected by the decisions made in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., as well as in local school boards. Unions exist because members can be stronger collectively than individually. Because of CTA, educators' voices can be heard."

And what business of CTA's is national health care, or the wars in the Middle East, or abortion, or even who becomes California Insurance Commissioner? CTA doesn't exist for its members, it exists to further the political goals of the lunatic fringe that runs the union.

And with that build-up, let's see how well CTA is doing in allowing our voices to be heard. I'll focus on the Race To The Top money, a law that will throw more federal money at schools if, among many other conditions, the state's teachers can be evaluated based on student standardized test scores. This has been expressly forbidden by California ed code.

Ole Si Se Puede himself says the following about Race To The Top:

Recently, we discovered that our members’ voices were heard regarding the federal government’s rush to push through Race to the Top, which seeks to significantly tie teacher evaluations with student test scores. Because of CTA’s actions and the voices of other educators across the country, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced that his office needs more time before issuing the final regulations that states would be required to follow to receive funds. That delay was a direct result of our union’s collective voice being heard.

Later in the issue we get to an almost-full-page article on Race To The Top:

California's voices were heard in Sacramento and in Washington, D.C., as the U.S. Department of Education has delayed the timeline for adopting final guidelines. The department was overwhelmed by the number of responses and needs more time for review. Teachers statewide continued to mobilize on this vital issue, while some testified at various legislative hearings.

Wow, CTA is really doing great things for us teachers, right? Let's read on.

CTA believes it is important to continue working with the administration and to ensure that the voices of educators are heard. There must be multiple options for evaluating students and teachers, and there must be flexibility for states and local school districts.

Whew. If I were worried about being evaluated based on student test scores--tests and scores which, by the way, have absolutely no impact on students--I might feel better knowing that CTA was fighting the good fight for me.

But wait a minute. What was it that I posted here on this blog 10 days ago? Quoting the major Sacramento newspaper, at a link that has probably already gone behind their subscription wall, we learn:

Sunday afternoon Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill that took away the biggest obstacle to the state winning a share of $4.35 billion in federal Race to the Top funds for education.

Senate Bill 19, authored by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, eliminates a statewide ban against tying student test scores to teacher evaluations.

Way to go, CTA.

Friday, October 23, 2009

We Can Still Make Part Of This Come True

Joanne links to a past vision of the future:

Computopia offers a Japanese view from 1969 about the high-tech world of 1989, including the classroom of the future. The teacher appears on a giant screen presenting a math problem while students work on their desktop computers. Students revise incorrect answers with a light pen until the computer says they’ve got it right.

Robots whack kids on the head if they're not paying attention. Heck, I wouldn't need a robot to do that!

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
He took off from Roosevelt Field on Long Island, New York, and landed at Le Bourget Field in Paris 33 ½ hrs later.

Today's question is:
Which American city has an airport called Love Field?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Here's One Way For Schools To Deal With Budget Cuts

This is the plan in Hawaii:

The state would close public schools for 17 Fridays this year and the next to save money, under a teachers' contract agreement.

The closings would mean that teachers would not be working 17 days in this year and in 2010, which translates into a 7.9 percent pay cut.

Not good for teachers or for students.

Home Visits By Teachers

Over two years ago I wrote about my thoughts regarding the practice of teachers who visit student homes. Today's Boston Globe has an article with a similar viewpoint.

Richardson is one of dozens of elementary, middle, and high school teachers in Boston and Springfield who are making house calls this year to visit their students’ families, a practice gaining popularity nationwide. The goal is to build stronger relationships between teachers and families in a quest to bolster parent volunteerism in school and involvement in their child’s education at home, as well as break down any misconceptions that parents and teachers might have about one another.

As long as the teachers go no further that what is written above, I'm OK with this practice. The moment this is used to "evaluate" a student's home life, or to justify lower expectations because of the teacher's perception of the home life, my support will vanish.

Workhorse Put Out To Pasture

Who doesn't like to hear that whop-whop-whop sound from the rotor slap? A few non-military Hueys still fly around Sacramento:

The UH-1 Iroquois helicopter was officially retired in a ceremony held here, by the Army National Guard, ending a service life of more than 50 years to the Army and close to 40 years in the Army Guard.

The helicopter, known to most simply as the Huey, was first manufactured in 1956 and fielded to the Army by 1959.

Thursday Trivia

Wow, not *one guess* for yesterday's question? I *know* that some of my readers have flown into London--what gives?

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, and London City.

Today's question is:
What were the starting and ending points of Charles Lindbergh's first solo transatlantic flight? (Give yourself partial credit if you get only one airfield correct.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Narita International Airport.

Today's question is:
What are the five international airports that serve the greater London (England) area?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Spot-On Quote About American Lefties

Listening to the contemporary American left’s views of the rest of us is increasingly like listening to a paranoid schizophrenic slip farther into delusions that they are surrounded by malevolent people. Just as we have to worry that the schizophrenic might act on their delusional beliefs and strike out violently against the evils they imagine, we have to be increasingly worried that leftists will strike out against the rest of us based on their delusional fantasies about what we non-leftists believe.

And make no mistake about it, leftists do harbor dark delusions about non-leftists. The fact that so many leftists fell completely for the Limbaugh quote hoax proves it.


Recent Tea Party

Zombie has yet another good one:

Since I had never before encountered an actual “Tea Party” (i.e. an anti-Obama protest by conservative, libertarian and/or right-wing voters), I was curious to see if the partiers lived up to their reputation as “extremists” (at least as portrayed by the media). But instead of scary extremism, what I found was a surprising and piercing sense of humor (something that had been mostly lacking from the angry protests of the Bush era).

Go check out his 20 Best Signs at the San Francisco Tea Party.

NEA Looks To Settle Annoying Lawsuit

Four and a half years ago, the NEA filed a lawsuit against the federal government claiming that No Child Left Behind was an "unfunded mandate". Now that the Democrats run both the executive and legislative branches of government, though, the NEA sees no advantage in continuing its lawsuit and is looking to settle.

Update, 10/20/09 (and bumped to the top): Here's why they were trying to settle. Their case ended up being dismissed. All those years and dollars, wasted. NEA members, are you glad they spent your money on this boondoggle?

Graduating, and Moving Back With The Parents

The job market is pretty tough:

They feel like failures. Disillusioned, like a runner who trips out of the starting gate.

But many college graduates who've been forced by the worst job market in decades to move back home with Mom and Dad say they also feel, to their surprise, fortunate.

"I've learned to be so grateful," said Genevieve Isola, a University of California graduate who's living in her childhood bedroom in San Ramon and working in a clothing boutique, just as she did in high school.
Read more:

The article goes on for awhile, introducing us to many such people. Did none of them consider serving their country in the armed forces?

California State University Applications Skyrocketing Off The Charts

Why do you think this is?

A total of 111,140 prospective California State University students submitted their applications through the system's application website,, between Thursday, Oct. 1, 2009 and Thursday, Oct. 15, 2009. Applications submitted last year, during in the same two week period, totaled 62,520.
Think a weak job market in California has anything to do with it?

Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others

If you think it would be any different in this country, you're either naive, a fool, or a hyper-partisan.

THE National Health Service has spent £1.5m paying for hundreds of its staff to have private health treatment so they can leapfrog their own waiting lists.

More than 3,000 staff, including doctors and nurses, have gone private at the taxpayers’ expense in the past three years because the queues at the clinics and hospitals where they work are too long. link

Socialism means waiting in line.

Schools Blowing Money

Do you remember that episode of Lou Grant (late 70's newspaper drama) wherein Lou and the gang wrote and published a story soliciting donations for a poor family at Christmastime, and the poor family blew the money on things they couldn't afford? For example, the teenage boy "bought" a car, even though the money barely covered the down payment. The family understood they'd have to give the car back, they just wanted the son to enjoy a Christmas. They blew the rest of the money, too, and shortly after Christmas they were right back where they'd started.

That's what I'm reminded of as I read this story about how some school districts are spending so-called stimulus money:

And according to a preliminary report on stimulus funding for schools by the Department of Education and the Domestic Policy Council, the stimulus plan has created jobs.

State governments have created and saved at least 250,000 education jobs -- and restored nearly all their projected education budget shortfalls for fiscal years 2009 and 2010 -- according to preliminary findings released Monday by the White House.

But some states that used the funds to fill existing budget gaps could face a crisis when the money runs out after 2010. And the Department of Education has chastised certain states for their stimulus funding programs and warned them that they risk their chances at getting other DOE grants down the road.
I'm not quite sure how spending on K-12 education counts as "stimulus" as generally defined, and that just makes this situation even scarier. These are the people (politicians) who want even more control over our lives, and more of our money.

What Happens To Kids When A Parent Is Missing?

Joanne (see blogroll) has two important, sad, telling posts today, which I'll juxtapose here. To highlight the thread of continuity, let's check out the opening 'graphs from each:

The racial achievement gap reflects a parenting gap, writes teacher Patrick Welsh in the Washington Post. Most of his black students — except for the immigrants — don’t have two parents at home pushing them to work hard. link

After 20 years as a lawyer for death-row prisoners, Tom Dunn is teaching middle school in Atlanta, reports the New York Times. He wants to keep his students from ending up like his former clients. link

Ponder the implications.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Leonardo da Vinci. You might think the IATA code would be LDV, or ROM, but instead it's FCO, for Fiumicino, the nearby town.

Today's question is:
What is the name of the primary airport in Tokyo?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. (Note that the question did ask for the full name!)

Today's question is:
After whom is Rome's airport named?

TV Commercial Parody

(Said in best Schwarzenegger/Terminator voice and paraphrase): Watch this--if you want to laugh.

Googling An Ex

Before you do this, stop and ask yourself: what is it that you think you'll find? What are you hoping to find? How will you deal with what you find?

Let me tell you what you're going to find. You're going to find loss, emptiness, pain, and sadness. And not on the part of the ex, either.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The El Rancho Vegas opened in 1941 on land that today sits between Circus Circus and Stratosphere. The hotel burned down in 1960 and the lot is still vacant almost 50 years later.

Welcome to another THEME WEEK! This week's theme is airports.

Today's question is:
What is the full name of the airport with IATA code of BWI?

When NPR Says The Kyoto Protocol Is Dead... must really be dead.

The landmark Kyoto climate treaty, a global warming pact negotiated 12 years ago, is unlikely to live on after its 2012 end date.

Diplomats are working on a new treaty, because, you know, the last one worked so well. I'm curious, how well did the signatories do at reaching their Kyoto goals? Here are two reports, 3 years apart, on Europe.

It Took A Rule Before People Act Appropriately?

As I posted yesterday, Morehouse College has felt it necessary to implement a dress code, which includes a ban on cross-dressing. Today I learn about another rule at another college that, well, just read:

Tufts might be the first college in the nation to make explicit what other schools have only hinted at: It is not cool to have sex in front of your roommate.

Such a rule may be necessary in a culture that believes that "you can't stop teenage sex so you may as well teach them how to use a condom", essentially buying into the "free love" storyline of the 60's. It may be necessary in an era of coed dorm rooms.

I posted on this same topic a few weeks ago.

Not Ready For College

I'm sure UNLV has the best of intentions here, and there's a chance that they might learn something of value by conducting this study, but I think most of us probably already know the answer, don't we?

UNLV is about to launch what may be its most important research project ever: Why are so many freshmen not ready for college even though their high school grades suggest they are?
The good news here is that they're not just going to try to figure out why, they're going to see if they can do anything about it while the kids are still in K-12:

Other public universities — notably in California — are addressing the problem of poorly prepared college freshmen, but Smatresk has a unique laboratory at his disposal: the Clark County School District, the pipeline for 80 percent of UNLV’s undergraduate population.

That will allow UNLV to mount what may be the most aggressive initiative in the nation to address the problem, Smatresk said.

The scope and reach of UNLV’s research — including evaluating every incoming freshman to reverse-engineer his academic upbringing — will create a new paradigm in studying student remediation, Smatresk said.
This can, of course, get some toes stepped on:

The possibility that the district will be able to identify clusters of underachieving students, and trace them to not only individual campuses but individual classrooms, has Clark County’s teachers union on edge.

The goal, they say, is to help, not blame. Sounds worthwhile to me.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Lola Is Not Welcome

Must be an interesting student body at Morehouse College in Atlanta:

An all-male college in Atlanta, Georgia, has banned the wearing of women's clothes, makeup, high heels and purses as part of a new crackdown on what the institution calls inappropriate attire...

The policy also bans wearing hats in buildings, pajamas in public, do-rags, sagging pants, sunglasses in class and walking barefoot on campus...

The dress-wearing ban is aimed at a small part of the private college's 2,700-member student body, said Dr. William Bynum, vice president for Student Services.

"We are talking about five students who are living a gay lifestyle that is leading them to dress a way we do not expect in Morehouse men," he said...

Those breaking the policy will not be allowed to go to class unless they change. Chronic dress-code offenders could be suspended from the college.

Why would someone want to go to Morehouse and not present himself as a "Morehouse man"? It's sad that adults need a rule like what is linked in the 2nd paragraph above, but good for the school for imposing it.

Race-based Scholarships in Post-Prop 209 California

How many lawsuits will it take before the law is obeyed?

Thirteen years after California amended the state constitution to bar the government from discriminating against or preferring individuals or groups in admissions, contracting, and hiring, on the basis of race and sex, courts still are eradicating discriminatory provisions from the code. Proposition 209 passed with 54 percent of the vote.

Earlier this week, Sacramento Superior Court ruled part of the state health professional scholarship program unconstitutional.

Socialized Medicine in Massachusetts

The LA Times reports:

Reporting from Washington and Boston - Three years ago, Massachusetts passed the most sweeping healthcare bill in the country, adopting a plan that closely resembles the proposals being considered by Congress. It is a plan that now offers powerful lessons for the whole nation.

The state's system, like the proposals moving toward votes in the House and Senate, focused on three goals: making medical insurance almost universal, fostering competition through a regulated insurance exchange, and helping low-income workers pay for coverage.

Today, Massachusetts leads the nation with 96% of its residents covered by insurance -- an even larger share than some of the plans before Congress would cover. The employer-based insurance system remains intact despite fears that the state's healthcare overhaul might cause companies to pull back.

And at least some Massachusetts residents who buy coverage are paying less.

But insurance premiums for most residents are going up, not down. Many middle-class people who had insurance before the overhaul see little change -- except that they're spending more. They're seeing little or no difference in the quality of their care.

And this, at the very minimum, is what is in store for the entire country.

How is TennCare working out?

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
1961 (August 4th).

Today's question is:

Three part question:
1.What was the first hotel/casino built on what would become the Las Vegas Strip?
2.When did it open?
3.When did it close?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The Symbionese Liberation Army.

Today's question is:
In what year was President Obama born?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Student Journalism

How can someone become a high school principal in California and not be aware of California law pertaining to student publications and the 1st Amendment?

Two leading authorities on the First Amendment rights of student journalists say that administrators at the Orange County High School of the Arts crossed a legal line when they halted publication of the school's newspaper this week.

Attorney Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Arlington, Va.-based Student Press Law Center advocacy group, and Rick Pullen, dean of Cal State Fullerton's communications school, told the Register that Principal Sue Vaughn appeared to have no legally justifiable reason to stop the newspaper's publication and should be ordered to receive training in First Amendment law.

You don't have to like it or agree with it, but it is the law.

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
53 1/3 yards (160 feet).

Today's question is:
What is the name of the terrorist organization that kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst from Berkeley in 1974?

Just so you know, this Sunday is going to start a new theme week! I know how excited everyone is.

How To Justify Racism In College Admissions

The Daily Princetonian reports:

According to the data, not all races are considered equal in the college admissions game. Of students applying to private colleges in 1997, African-American applicants with SAT scores of 1150 had the same chances of being accepted as white applicants with 1460s and Asian applicants with perfect 1600s.

The results of the study come three years after Jian Li, a rejected Princeton applicant, filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. He alleged in the complaint that he had been discriminated against based on his race when he was denied admission to the University.

Espenshade noted that he did not initially use the word “discrimination” when discussing the results of his study. Though he found a 140-point SAT score discrepancy between accepted white and Asian students, he did not have access to what he called “soft variables,” like extracurriculars and teacher recommendations.

The rest of the article discusses how the data is a decade old, how the lack of "soft variable" information means you can't prove racism, how Princeton doesn't discriminate on the basis of race, and how a discrimination complaint by an Asian applicant is beyond bogus.

Some people used the Bible to justify slavery.

(PS, the comments on linked article show that not everyone at Princeton is as stupid as the admission folks are.)

Update: Link added. Thanks for pointing that out!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Insanity of the Socialist Left

Let me be clear:

Honeywell Chief Executive David Cote, a Republican who supported Mr. Obama in the election, says he was taken aback by the president’s rhetoric on the tax issue. “You can’t love jobs and hate those who create them,” he says.

Cote is a fool who is just discovering the idiocy of those with whom he cast his lot.

Tracking Individual Students

California is trying to implement a system that will allow the state to track individual students throughout the education system. So far it's had a few bugs:

Known as CalPADS, the new system will track a range of data for students, including what classes they take, their grades and test scores, whether they graduate or drop out, and demographic information such as race, parent education and home address.

State officials acknowledge the system is "slow," saying the multiple servers required for the millions of records in the system (California has more than 6 million public school students this year) are failing to move information from one place to another when one of them gets overloaded.

"It's going as well as can be expected," said Keric Ashley, director of the data management division for the California Department of Education. He said everything should be straightened out this week.

I wonder what this information will tell us about the real dropout rate in the state.

CTA--How Are You Going To Explain This To Your Membership?

Honestly, I thought CTA had planted a standard on the hill and was prepared to die for this one: no teacher in California will be evaluated based on the standardized test scores of his/her students.

Either I was wrong, CTA changed its mind, or it was just steamrolled:

California is back in the race.

Sunday afternoon Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill that took away the biggest obstacle to the state winning a share of $4.35 billion in federal Race to the Top funds for education.

Senate Bill 19, authored by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, eliminates a statewide ban against tying student test scores to teacher evaluations.

I emailed my union rep today to ask how this could happen and we "rank and file" teachers hear nothing about it until it's in the paper. I haven't yet received a response.

Communism, Socialism, Freedom, and Capitalism

Some of the biggest supporters of freedom and capitalism are those who lived under the yoke of communist oppression--or still do:

Gorki Águila is blunt in his assessment of Fidel Castro's half century of revolution: "Communism is a failure. A total failure. Please, leftists of the world-improve your capitalism! Don't choose communism!" Águila, a Havana resident, wears homemade anti-government t-shirts, frequently denounces the Castro brothers as geriatric tyrants, and heads up perhaps Cuba's only explicitly political punk band, Porno Para Ricardo. And because of his stubborn belief in free speech, he is routinely arrested on charges of "social dangerousness." Tired of his anti-regime music, Cuban authorities made the rare decision to grant Águila a visa to travel abroad, perhaps hoping that he wouldn't return.

A sample of the comments on the linked post:

  • Someone please send it to Michael Moore and all the other Castro apologists.
  • This article is total bullshit (sic). Not only is Cuba more free than the United States, it also has a better healthcare system.
  • After all, as is said: Wherever a boot is trampling on a human face, there is a rich white liberal to explain that the face is literate and enjoys the right to free medical care....

Double Down on Idiot School Administrators

Just a couple days ago I wrote this post about the 6-year-old who was going to be suspended and sent to reform school for 45 days because he had the audacity to bring a cub scout eating utensil (which includes a knife) to school.

Today we learn about the Eagle Scout, who wants to attend West Point, who was suspended for 20 days because he had a pocket knife in his car on campus:

A 17-year-old Eagle Scout in upstate New York has been barred from stepping foot on school grounds for 20 days — for keeping a 2-inch pocketknife locked in a survival kit in his car.

Matthew Whalen, a senior at Lansingburgh Senior High School, says he follows the Boy Scout motto and is always prepared, stocking his car with a sleeping bag, water, a ready-to-eat meal — and the knife, which was given to him by his grandfather, a police chief in a nearby town...

He is concerned that the blot on his school record could kill his dream of attending West Point...

Whalen said he is not considering a lawsuit.

"I don't know what I could do, because technically ... I did break the rules, and I'll accept that punishment," he said.

"Perhaps I should have been more aware of the rules. However, I'm more upset about the additional 15 days.... That was entirely optional, and they decided to go through with that."

His positive attitude and acceptance that he broke the rules is clearly in line with what he'd learn at West Point.

According to the article, another student told the administrators that he had a knife on campus. When asked, he told the truth and showed it to them in his car.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Back to silents. (Although Allen's comment brings up something I hadn't heard before, but I don't currently have time to look it up. He could be right!)

Today's question is:
A US football field is 100 yards long (not including the end zones, of course). How wide is it?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pay Raise For University Administrators

California is drowning in debt, but its university administrators are clearly underpaid and need a raise:

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Sunday vetoed a bill that would have barred most salary increases and bonuses for executives at the University of California and California State University systems in bad budget years, such as this one.

I used to be pleased with the fact that I voted for Schwarzenegger. Now I have to content myself that he was the least worst of the options.

Apres Midnight, Le Deluge

We don't normally get strong storms in October here in the heart of California's Central Valley. Once in awhile we might get some cold breezes or light rains, but nothing like we had today.

When I woke up this morning, the heavens had already opened up. And they haven't closed up yet. I read that we're getting the tail end of some typhoon or cyclone or something from out in the Pacific.

It's not that cold outside. It's just wet. Water falling, water blowing, water pooling. Water everywhere.

The power went out probably a dozen times at school today. This is not good for the electronic equipment, and all of our attendance and grading is done online. Email was out. I discovered that even our phones were out, as they have to go through some central switch in the office. At one point I had lights but the sockets wouldn't work, meaning no computer or overhead--but the teacher next door had computer (no internet, though) and no lights. Most odd.

And the school supposedly suffered through a "modernization" several years ago.

Sometimes the power was off for seconds, other times it was off for up to 30 minutes. These distractions didn't help with student attention, either, when it's been a long time since they've seen the palm trees sway so much, or seen water fall from the sky.

One funny part was the announcements that were periodically made when the power was on. "If you don't have an emergency flashlight, send a dumpling to the office to pick one up" was one. I left the class in the capable hands of my student teacher and went myself, and was given one of those LED flashlights powered by a hand crank. It provides enough light to keep you from tripping over a backpack in the aisle, but not enough even to illuminate the whiteboards I was using when the power went out. The sky was dark with rain, so the classroom was fairly dark even with the curtains open. If I heard correctly, our principal left campus to go buy more flashlights.

It was a circus of a day. I came home to my 50-year-old house and the power hadn't even gone out once. No readjusting of clocks necessary.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
HMS Beagle.

Today's question is:
What is Clark Gable's epitaph?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Too Many School Officials Are Idiots

What else explains this?

Six-year-old Zachary Christie was so excited to become a Cub Scout that he brought his camping utensil to school. The tool serves as a spoon, a fork and a knife, and Zachary wanted to use it at lunch.

What Zachary didn't know was that the gizmo violated his school's zero-tolerance policy on weapons. And now the Christina School District in Newark, Del., has suspended the first grader and ordered him to attend the district's reform school for 45 days.

Security theater, emphasizing "theater" without the "security".

Update, 10/14/09: Today I read that the district had revisited its policy, and now kindergarteners and 1st graders will be suspended for only 3-5 days for such offenses, and no reform school. Ah, now they're magnanimous idiots.

Not A Good Way To Take Care of the Troops

The English didn't set out to create the horrendous National Health Service that they currently have, yet they have it just the same:

A leading UK hospital has defended its practice of using organs donated by smokers after the death of a soldier who received the cancerous lungs of a heavy smoker.

Corporal Matthew Millington, 31, died at his home in 2008, less than a year after receiving a transplant that was supposed to save his life at Papworth Hospital -- the UK's largest specialist cardiothoracic hospital, in Cambridgeshire, east England.

Papworth Hospital released a statement saying using donor lungs from smokers was not "unusual."

Save the DC School Voucher Program

Parents, teachers, and students vs. President Obama, Congressional Democrats, and teachers unions, in a fight over providing vouchers to (mostly black) students in the DC public schools so that they can go to a decent school and have a chance at an education.

Round 1 goes to opponents of school choice; the voucher program was ended, consigning students to some of the worst schools in the nation while Chancellor Michelle Rhee continues her slow work to clean the place up.

Will this rally have any effect? I'd like to think so, but I'm not holding my breath.

Fighting, Literally, For Civil Rights

The more I learn about the Civil Rights Era, and the struggles therein, the more impressed I am with our country. We truly have come so far. I've written enough on related topics that there's a "discrimination/race" link (well over 200 posts as I write this), but I've written specifically about the Civil Rights struggles in posts as diverse as this one mentioning the Woolworth's lunch counter, this one mentioning a protest in Wichita, this one discussing the Little Rock Nine, and several posts referencing Rosa Parks and Dr. King (two people I respect immensely).

I just learned of another event, and it's not a pretty one. The link is 7 years old, but the story will always be vibrant:

Forty years ago on that day, in the early morning, a force of nearly 30,000 American combat troops raced toward Oxford in a colossal armada of helicopters, transport planes, Jeeps and Army trucks.

Their mission was to save Oxford, the University of Mississippi and a small force of federal marshals from being destroyed by over 2,000 white civilians who were rioting after James Meredith, a black Air Force veteran, arrived to integrate the school...

The first troops to reach Oxford found over 100 wounded federal marshals at the center of campus, 27 of them hit by civilian gunfire. Packs of hundreds of rioters swarmed the city, some holding war dances around burning vehicles.

Snipers opened fire on the Army convoys and bricks struck the heads of American soldiers. Black G.I.'s in one convoy were ambushed by white civilians who tried to decapitate them in their open Jeeps with metal pipes...

The Army troops restored order to the school and the city, block by block. A girl watched a team of infantrymen under attack on the Oxford town square and, according to a reporter at the scene, wondered aloud, "When are they going to shoot back?" Except for a few warning shots, they never did...

What the troops did in Oxford was so courageous that their commanders nominated them for scores of medals. But an internal Army memo from May 1963 states: "The focus of additional attention on this incident would not be in the best interest of the US Army or the nation. . . . decorations should not be awarded for actions involving conflict between US Army units and other Americans." Memories of what the troops did then faded away.

Our American military on the scene showed excessive restraint and professionalism. Their mission was as difficult as it was important and righteous. It's good that the troops were commended, even if that commendation came 40 years late.

I think it's entirely too easy to say, "We've come a long way regarding civil rights, but we have so much farther to go." Perhaps, but there isn't much more that government can do to further those ends. The legal hurdles are gone. Any remaining steps are individual ones.

If you disagree, I ask: what more can government do to eliminate racism? How does your answer compare to what government did in Little Rock, or in Oxford?

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Arrangement in Grey and Black.

Today's question is:
On what ship did Charles Darwin sail on his voyage of scientific discovery?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Toucan Sam.

Today's question is:
What is the original name of the painting commonly known as Whistler's Mother?

Teachers Unions are "Census Partners"

ACORN has fallen from the census tree, but there are still plenty of other left-wing organizations that will be contributing to the census, including the NEA and the AFT.

In short, ACORN or not, the 2010 census will be an organizing tool for the American Left.

I'm curious if the Heritage Foundation was a "census partner" back in 1990 or 2000.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Consensus on Global Warming?

(updated and moved to the top)

But I thought the science was settled. There was consensus.

A noted geologist who coauthored the New York Times bestseller Sugar Busters has turned his attention to convincing Congress that carbon dioxide emissions are good for the Earth and don't cause global warming. Leighton Steward is on Capitol Hill this week armed with studies and his book Fire, Ice and Paradise in a bid to show senators working on the energy bill that the carbon dioxide cap-and-trade scheme could actually hurt the environment by reducing CO2 levels.

Perhaps Mr. Steward didn't get the memo.

Update, 10/10/09: The BBC asks, What Happened To Global Warming?

This headline may come as a bit of a surprise, so too might that fact that the warmest year recorded globally was not in 2008 or 2007, but in 1998.

But it is true. For the last 11 years we have not observed any increase in global temperatures.

And our climate models did not forecast it, even though man-made carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be responsible for warming our planet, has continued to rise.

So what on Earth is going on?

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, Mercury.

Today's question is:
What was the name of the bird who used to advertise Kellogg's Fruit Loops cereal?

Extra Time To Complete Assignments

Of all the accommodations we are told to make for certain students because of some specific or general learning disability, "extra time to complete assignments" is the dumbest one of all. I can understand "extra time to take a test" or "test in a solitary environment" or "break long-term assignments up into smaller bits" or even (sometimes) "preferential seating" or "periodically accept late work", but "extra time to complete assignments" doesn't even make logical sense. And here's why.

When I give an assignment, it's due the next day. So, if I have to allow "extra time to complete assignments", a student might have, say, two days to do an assignment. This causes severe problems for the student if they really take this extra time, because during the 2nd month of school they would still be working on assignments from the 1st month of school--and probably not doing well on tests and quizzes in the 2nd month, either, because they haven't done any of the assignments for the 2nd month's material. Fast forward to the end of the semester, and the student has only done the work for half the semester--yet the final exam date is firm, and the date the grades are due to the registrar is firm.

Someone didn't think this through. It doesn't help the student at all.

No, I wasn't asked to do this for a student--not any time recently, anyway. We were discussing accommodations and modifications in our department meeting yesterday, and the talk stirred a memory of this worthless accommodation from the dark recesses of my memory.

Friday, October 09, 2009

I Missed A Day, Do I Still Have To Take The Test?

Yes. Is that unreasonable?

Students who miss several days very near a test might get an extension. But missing one day, or even two, a few days before a test? Not so much.

I post my assignments online. Even if students can't tell we're getting near the end of a chapter, I post test dates over a week in advance--online and in class. Dates are not a surprise.

I don't see a benefit in running my class cafeteria-style, where students get to pick and choose on which dates they want to take tests and quizzes. We all take the same test on the same day--I'm very "one size fits all" that way. If a student is absent, they take the same test upon their return but are not eligible for a bonus question, which amounts to extra credit on the test. Taking the test late causes them to miss a lesson covering new material. I don't hand back a test until all students in all of my classes have taken it.

I kid you not, if I gave in to all the requests to take the test or quiz "tomorrow", I'd only have half my students taking the test or quiz on the day I schedule it.

At some point, a "due date" really is a "due date".

Nobel Peace Prize = Neville Chamberlain Award?

Some have asked me how I feel about the President's winning the Nobel Peace Prize. This comment pretty much sums it up:

I should stress that I by no means want to deny the President the Peace Prize. I think the decision reflects that the Peace Prize is a political statement, not an award for actual signal accomplishment on the path to peace; I much hope that President Obama can promote peace, and if he does I’ll applaud him for it (of course unless the peace is bought at too high a price), but it seems to me that his steps so far have been in the hope, intention, and planning phases and not in the actual accomplishment phase.

Sadly, though, the Nobel Committee has cheapened the prize so much in recent years that it's hard even to take it seriously anymore. Al Gore, who's done what for peace? Mohamed El Baradei, the most incompetent UN official ever? Jimmy Carter, who never met a dictator he didn't like? Yassar Arafat, no explanation needed? Rigoberta Menchu, whose book was exposed as lies? How these people got on a list with such greats as Lech Walesa, Mikhael Gorbachev, Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Dr. King, Mother Teresa, and Nelson Mandela, I cannot understand.

Know what American I would recommend for a peace prize? David Petraeus.

Update, 10/10/09: Here are some editorial cartoons on the subject. Some are funnier than others.

Update #2, 10/10/09: This from the LA Times, hardly a right-leaning paper:

For our part, we're fans of the president. We endorsed him for the job, and we greatly prefer him to his predecessor. But it's difficult to see why he deserves the peace prize so soon after taking office. The Nobel committee didn't just embarrass Obama, it diminished the credibility of the prize itself, which traditionally rotates among world leaders (Willy Brandt, Mikhail Gorbachev), charitable organizations (Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders) and humanitarians (Elie Wiesel, Mother Teresa)...

It's hard to escape the impression that Obama was honored because he isn't George W. Bush.

George W. Bush freed over 30 million human beings from the yoke of tyrannical governments.

Carnival of Education

This week's is posted here and includes my post about racy songleader routines at high school.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
Billy Batson says “Shazam!” to change into Captain Marvel, and back again. What does “Shazam” stand for?

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Titanic Memorial Cruise Is Kind Of Sick

Come on, did no one really think this through?

A trans-Atlantic cruise is being offered in 2012 to mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.

The Titanic Memorial Cruise will depart, as the original ship did, on April 8, from Southampton, England, and arrive at the spot in the North Atlantic where the Titanic sank on April 15.

A memorial service will be held onboard the cruise exactly 100 years after the Titanic hit the iceberg and sank, between 11:40 p.m., on April 14, 2012, and 2:20 a.m. on April 15.

Seems at the very least self-indulgent, at least to me.

You might ask why this bothers me so much, and that's a reasonable question, so let me answer it this way:

How about, on September 11, 2011, on the 10-year anniversary of the attacks, let's charter four planes out of New York and Boston. Let's fly two of them around lower Manhattan, having a memorial service on board at the times the planes smashed into the Twin Towers. Let's have another one fly over Pennsylvania, and another one over the Pentagon, offering memorial services at the appropriate times. Then the planes can continue on, symbolically finishing the flights that were ended so viciously 10 years before.

Sound sick? It does to me.

Had He Performed An Abortion, NOW Would Be Protesting To Get His Job Back

What is so out of bounds about conducting an exorcism at a Christian college? :-)

Dean of Students Debbie Heida said a school campus is an inappropriate place for an exorcism and removed him from his R.A. post.

You've just got to read the whole thing.

Obama Attracts Nemesis

I've heard Obama described many ways, but humble is never among the adjectives.

I have believed in the power of the goddess Nemesis (“dispenser of dues”) ever since I was introduced to the concept as a teenager studying classics, especially in the texts of Hesiod, Herodotus, and Sophocles.

Some of you know her also as a variant of eastern Karma, or the folk notion of ‘what comes around, goes around’, or the now common “ain’t payback a bitch”? We all agree on the symptoms: overweening success and surfeit (koris) lead to hubris (gratuitous arrogance), which in turn promotes destructive behavior (atê), that at last calls you to the attention of divine Nemesis—who ensures your ruin. At Rhamnous on the Attic coast there is a beautiful temple to the goddess, proof of her ubiquity and power.

That is how Victor Davis Hanson introduces us to President Obama's hubris--and he provides more than enough examples, given that the man has been president less than 9 months.

Teaching Economics From Iraq

Military and education in one post--I love it!

Where there’s a will — and a laptop — there’s a way to teach economics in North Dakota while serving in Iraq. Cheryl J. Wachenheim, an associate professor of agribusiness and applied economics at North Dakota State, is also a captain in the Minnesota Army National guard. When she was deployed last year as a medical logistics officer to a base known as Mortaritaville, she continued teaching courses in micro- and macroeconomics...

She used the base’s shortage of Diet Mountain Dew to teach students about supply and demand.

I'm sure she's just a mindless automaton, probably breaking down doors in the middle of the night and shooting babies--at least to lefties.

"Community" Not Invited To A Community Meeting About Youth Violence

The people in Washington know how to solve all problems.

Community leaders and parents outside Fenger are in disbelief that they are not at the breakfast table with Arne Duncan and Eric Holder.

Attorney General Holder and Secretary of Education Duncan are in town to speak, ostensibly, with the community about youth violence -- a blight on Chicago neighborhoods so vividly brought to national attention by the videotaped beating of Derrion Albert.

Parents want their kids to go to schools closer to their own neighborhoods.

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders. With two minutes to go, the Jets led the Raiders 32-29, and the game was preempted on tv so the movie Heidi could be shown. In those final minutes Oakland scored twice, winning 43-32.

Today's question is:
What was the name of the raft on which Thor Heyerdahl sailed across the Pacific in 1947?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Code Pink Backs Off On Its Afghanistan Pullout Stance

Code Pink, founded in 2002 to oppose the US invasion of Iraq, is one of the more high-profile women's antiwar groups being forced to rethink its position as Afghan women explain theirs: Without international troops, they say, armed groups could return with a vengeance – and that would leave women most vulnerable.

So says the Christian Science Monitor.

It's good that they can change their minds when presented with facts, but the situation remains that they must have been just shooting their mouths off during all of President Bush's term without knowing what they were talking about.

Hypocrites, extreme partisans, or just monstrously wrong? None speaks well for Code Pink.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Friendship 7.

Today's question is:
Which football teams played in the “Heidi Bowl” in 1968?

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Cash For Clunkers

(bumped to the top)

Here's a list of some of the vehicles turn in under the Cash For Clunkers program. Were these FFV's and CNG vehicles "clunkers" or "polluting"?

Why did you and I pay for people to unload these vehicles?

Breakdown by model:

Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD 4WD CNG - 5
Chevrolet Silverado 15 Hybrid 2WD - 1
Chevrolet Silverado 2500 2WD (Bifuel) - 1
Ram Van 2500 2WD CNG - 1
Ram Wagon 2500 2WD CNG - 2
Ford Crown Victoria CNG - 2
Ford Crown Victoria FFV - 1
Ford E250 CNG - 7
Ford E250 Econoline 2WD CNG - 82
Ford Explorer 2WD FFV - 74
Ford Explorer 4WD FFV - 114
Ford Explorer Sport FFV 2WD - 10
Ford Explorer Sport FFV 4WD - 24
Ford Explorer Sport Trac FFV 2WD - 4
Ford Explorer Sport Trac FFV 4WD - 4
Ford F150 CNG - 27
Ford F150 Dual-fuel 2WD (CNG) - 14
Ford F150 Dual-fuel 2WD (LPG) - 8
Ford F150 Dual-fuel 4WD (CNG) - 5
Ford F150 Dual-fuel 4WD (LPG) - 16
Ford F150 Pickup 2WD CNG - 27
Ford F150 Pickup FFV 2WD - 1
Ford F250 Pickup 2WD CNG - 59
Ford Ranger FFV 2WD - 1026
Ford Ranger FFV 4WD - 383
GM Sierra 2500 HD 4WD CNG - 1
GMC Sonoma 2WD (FFV) - 2
Mazda B3000 (FFV) Ethanol 2WD - 13
Mazda B3000 2WD FFV - 1
Mazda B3000 FFV 2WD - 2
Mazda B3000 FFV 4WD - 51
Mercury Grand Marquis FFV - 10
Mercury Mountaineer 2WD FFV - 18
Mercury Mountaineer 4WD FFV - 40

Update, 10/6/09: The Wall Street Journal reports that the program was a flop in other ways as well:

Some 700,000 cars were sold in the summer under the program as buyers received up to $4,500 to buy a new car they would probably have purchased anyway, so all the program seems to have done is steal those sales from the future. Exactly as critics predicted...

Burton Abrams and George Parsons of the University of Delaware added up the total benefits from reduced gas consumption, environmental improvements and the benefit to car buyers and companies, minus the overall cost of cash for clunkers, and found a net cost of roughly $2,000 per vehicle. Rather than stimulating the economy, the program made the nation as a whole $1.4 billion poorer.