Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
DeFazio and Feeney, respectively.

Today's question is:
In what city is Blockbuster Video headquartered?

Only Trivia This Weekend

The housesitter is scheduled, the cabin is reserved, the car is packed--Yosemite, here we come!

It's funny--I've spent most of my life living in Northern California and I've never been to Yosemite. I've been to Venice, I've been on the Eiffel Tower, I've seen Buckingham Palace, I've cruised the Caribbean, I've seen NYC and The Mall in DC and the St. Louis Arch and the Grand Canyon, but I've never been to the national park that's just a couple hours away.

When this post hits the blog, that all changes.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Who's Boycotting Whom?

I've heard so much about that new Arizona illegal immigration law. Did you know that most of it was lifted directly from federal law? Did you know that it's been federal law for about 70 years that legal aliens have their green cards on their person at all times? Which president signed that law, and what party controlled the congress that passed that law?

But now we're supposed to all be angry at Arizona for making it a state crime to violate that specific federal law. Cry me a river. Wasn't everyone supposed to be boycotting California for passing Proposition 8?

Who's boycotting whom? Who's zoomin' who?

Update, 5/2/10: I didn't know about this video, wherein Senator Obama states that we're a nation of laws and people, including the illegal alien who's the subject of the story, should follow those laws. (BTW, she got deported.)

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The humuhumunukunukuapua'a. (humu humu nuku nuku apu a'a)

Today's question is:
On the TV show, what were Laverne and Shirley's last names?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Reykjavik, Iceland.

Today's question is:
What is Hawaii's state fish?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

This Teacher Has Too Much Hate

There's just too much psychological projection on the part of lefties. They preach and wail against hatred, but they sure harbor plenty of it:

The anti-Tea Party middle school teacher who is the focus of two investigations on allegations that include inciting hate speech, attempted orchestration of mass identity theft and misuse of school property is back teaching in his classroom.

Jason Levin was taken off administrative leave at Conestoga Middle School on Monday while the Beaverton, Ore., School District’s internal investigation continues, said district spokeswoman Maureen Wheeler.

“He is not a danger to students, and the District has not found evidence that he has been sharing his political viewpoints with students,” Wheeler said in an e-mail statement to

Last week, the Oregon Tea Party said it did not want Levin to lose his job and that they'd welcome him back if he underwent anger management therapy and they received an apology from him and the school district. But concerned parents and Tea Party members say they never heard back from the district, and now they're taking a harsher tone, demanding an explanation for Levin’s reinstatement.
You've got to love it when "anger management" or "sensitivity training" are thrown back at the lefties who created them to punish the right.

Dirtbag Can't Catch A Break

Old Pineappleface himself, Manuel Noriega, was just released from a Miami prison after 20 years--only to be extradited to France to face money laundering charges there. Could hardly happen to a nicer guy.

Make Your Point, Not Your PowerPoint

The bane of any staff meeting is the ubiquitous PowerPoint presentation. I curse Bill Gates and his Apple predecessors for ever creating such mind-numbing crap.

Oh, slideshows don't have to be crap. They really don't. But honestly, what is the point with this slide? And who among us hasn't sat in a staff meeting at school while someone droned on and on about something (say, standardized testing procedures) while those of us who are polite enough to pretend to care diligently tried to follow along on the handouts of each slide?

The root word of "briefing" is "brief". PowerPoint slides should not be a fancy way to present a paragraph of information in bullet form. The primary form of communication should be the speaker's voice, with the slides merely augmenting or highlighting what the speaker is saying. My take: if I can get all the information I need by getting a handout of the slides, then there's no reason to have to sit through the presentation--just give me the slide handout and respect my time.

Technology should be a tool, not the goal.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
What is the world's northernmost capital city?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Are Jews Safe At California Colleges and Universities?

There's a good argument that says they're not.

Those Who Want To Lead vs. Those Who Want To Rule

A week ago I wrote about the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy towards gays in the military and stated my belief that that the American Left uses that policy as a fig leaf to cover its general hatred of the military. I'm clearly not the only one who thinks so.

But today the Boston Globe carries a story claiming that elite university administrations are "softening their resistance" to ROTC.

This year, Harvard has 20 undergraduates enrolled in ROTC at MIT. But it does not credit their ROTC courses or share program costs. Instead, private funds from Harvard graduates cover the estimated $400,000 to provide the students with classroom space, instructor salaries, and other support, according to Mawn.

“We want to get official recognition and create a long Crimson line of ROTC graduates,’’ he said.

Some softening. How many hundreds of Harvardians, Yalies, Princetonians, etc., enlisted after Pearl Harbor? How many graduated from ROTC during World War 2?

Let's remember what Thucydides said: "A nation that draws too broad a difference between its scholars and its warriors has its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools." Our so-called elite schools should keep this in mind--it's been a valuable warning for millenia. Those schools, and their students, used to understand and heed the warning.

Save Are Teachers

EIA totally wins the best pun competition for this story.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
1983. They were introduced in Japan in late 1982.

Today's question is:
A pythagorean triple is a set of three whole numbers that form the sides of a right triangle, satisfying the equation a^2+b^2=c^2. For example, 3-4-5 is a pythagorean triple because 3^2+4^2=5^2. The next primitive (no common factors, unlike 6-8-10) pythagorean triple is 5-12-13. If we order the triples based on the smallest “a” value, what is the next pythagorean triple?

Socialist Shangri-La Is Right Around The Corner

From National Review Online on the recently-passed health care bill:

The administration’s own actuary reported on Thursday that millions of people could lose their health insurance, that health-care costs will rise faster than they would have if the law hadn’t passed, and that the overhaul will mean that people will have a harder and harder time finding physicians to see them.

The White House is trying to spin the new report from Medicare’s chief actuary Richard Foster as only half bad because it concludes that, while costs will increase, only 23 million people will remain uninsured (instead of 24 million previously estimated).

But looking at the details of Foster’s report shows the many, many danger signs for Obamacare and how many of its promises will be broken....

It was never about saving money, and anyone who thought it was, or even claimed it was, is a fool. It was never about providing health insurance to those without. It was only about expanding the power of government at any cost, and by any means necessary.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question, the last in Pro Football Head Coach Successors Week, is:
Jack Pardee.

Today's question is:
In what year were the compact disk and cd-player commercially introduced in the US?

Stuck in the 80s?

I'm periodically told how Republicans are for the rich and Democrats are for the working man. I'm told how corporations give so much money to Republicans, and Democrats can barely keep up. This is sometimes used as a justification for why unions should be entitled to my money, by law in California, so they can give it to political candidates--countering the corporate donations to Republicans.

People who try to feed others that crap have their heads stuck in another time (, didn't entirely resist the urge, did I?), as the list of contributors to President Obama's campaign makes abundantly clear.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Ray Handley.

Today's question, the last in Pro Football Head Coach Successors Week, is:
Who replaced Jerry Glanville as head coach of the Houston Oilers?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday Trivia

Wow, no one's gotten the last couple of questions. Note to self: no more NFL coaching theme weeks!

The answer to yesterday's question is:
John Bengtson.

Today's question is:
Who replaced Bill Parcells as head coach of the New York Giants?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

New Community College Blog

Joanne Jacobs has started another blog, this one focusing specifically on community college issues. Go check out Community College Spotlight to find out what's going on in the schools that "educate the top 100 percent of Americans."

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Wade Phillips.

Today's question is:
Who replaced Vince Lombardi as head coach of the Green Bay Packers?

Don't You Love Supreme Court Nominee Theater?

When Senate leaders went to the White House Wednesday morning to discuss the Supreme Court opening, the meeting was attended by President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman and ranking member Patrick Leahy and Jeff Sessions, and Senate majority and minority leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell.

There has been some talk of a possible Republican filibuster of Obama's choice, although Obama hasn't yet actually made the choice. Be that as it may, Republicans well remember that there was an attempted filibuster of the last Republican Supreme Court nominee, Samuel Alito, and 25 Democrats supported it. And among those 25 who voted to filibuster Alito were all the Democrats present at Wednesday's meeting -- Obama, Biden, Reid, and Leahy.

"It didn't go without being noticed that only two of the elected officials in the room had never filibustered a Supreme Court nominee," says one Republican Senate aide. Those two, of course, were McConnell and Sessions. So at the moment, the only lawmakers who are being criticized for even being open to the possibility of a filibuster are the ones who have never, in fact, taken part in one. "It's kind of challenging for Democrats now to make the case that Republicans ought to be helpful and speed things up when they not only tried to slow Alito down but voted against cloture," says the Senate aide. link


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My Retirement Is Safe

I received my (quarterly?) California State Teachers Retirement newsletter today, and what interesting tidbit did I find in it on pp 10-11?

Current retirement benefits--and the future benefits of those now working in the classroom--are protected by the California and U.S. Constitutions.

Really? I'd like to know exactly which section of the US Constitution has any relationship to my retirement benefits.

Let's skip a bit, though, and read more:

Your retirement, disability and survivor benefits are guaranteed. The State of California is the guarantor of the benefits payments...Your CalSTRS Defined Benefit does not change with the ups and downs of the economy. It is based on your age, final compensation and years of service credit at retirement.

Given California's current economic situation and outlook, I'm not sure I should rest so easy.

Maestro de Ingles

This summer I'll be returning to the Yucatan, this time with my son, for 2010's "marquee vacation". When I went 2 years ago I took a day trip from Cancun to Chichen Itza; unfortunately, given the travel distance and the 4 stops, we only got to spend 3 hrs at Chichen Itza. That is not enough time. For this trip I'm considering renting a car for a day and driving there, allowing us to keep our own schedule.

I'm tentatively planning a trip to Iceland in Summer 2011. Instead, though, I may seriously consider this opportunity--teaching English to schoolchildren and hotel employees for 2 weeks in exchange for free housing near Chichen Itza.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Dave Wannstedt.

Today's question is:
Who replaced Marv Levy as head coach of the Buffalo Bills?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Standardized Test Instructions

Today we started our state standardized testing at school. Part of the "testing theater" is to read the instructions to the students exactly as they are printed in the Directions For Administration.

Whoever writes these instructions is an idiot. I'm required to drone on for several sentences, telling students what to do, using extremely precise but incomprehensible words. I'll paraphrase from today's instructions:

Open your answer document to page 2 and find the words CST (California standards test) for Mathematics. At the top right corner of the page find the box for version number. Go to the front cover of your test booklet and find the word "version", followed by a 2-digit number. Bubble in the two-digit version number in the box on your answer sheet. To the left of the CST for Mathematics section, above the shaded box, find the box to bubble in the test you are taking....

I have to read all of this, verbatim, knowing full well that some of the kids are going to get lost and I could easily give them clear instructions:

Go here (point). Bubble in the version number here (point); that version number is on your test booklet here (point). Make sure you bubble in the right one or your test won't be scored correctly.

Of course, they do ask questions, and to answer them I say something similar to what I just wrote. It's so much simpler.

There are many more paragraphs I have to read, with instructions that are just as silly (i.e., long and confusing). Why can't someone write clear, concise instructions?

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Jimmy Johnson.

Today's question is:
Who replaced Mike Ditka as head coach of the Chicago Bears?

Monday, April 19, 2010

California's Alternative Teacher Education Programs

I had no idea that most of these programs existed until I saw a link at EIA (see blogroll).

How Big A Government Do We Want?

As he so often does, Robert Samuelson neatly packages the problem:

How big a government do we want -- and what can we afford? In closing deficits, what's the best mix between tax increases and spending cuts? What programs are outmoded, ineffective or unneeded? How much should we tax the young and middle-aged to support the elderly? Should wealthier retirees receive skimpier benefits? Should eligibility ages for benefits be raised?

I don't think anyone in government is asking these questions, much less answering.

Mark Your Calendars, Peter Beinart Says Something I Agree With

I'll admit, I found his opening paragraph extremely entertaining:

President Obama is about to nominate someone for the Supreme Court. On the day he or she is unveiled, conservatives will announce that they are approaching the selection with an open mind. Ten minutes later they will declare, more in sadness than anger, that the nominee has the judicial philosophy of Chairman Mao and the temperament of Dennis Rodman. Ten minutes after that, liberals will rise en masse to defend the nominee as wise, brilliant and humane, a person who restores our faith in humankind. And the kabuki theater will continue like that all summer long.

He then goes from entertaining to serious, as well as correct:

I can’t blame my fellow liberals for playing along; if the other side fires, we have to fire back. But there’s one exception. If Solicitor General Elana Kagan gets the nod, conservatives will beat the hell out of her for opposing military recruitment on campus when she was dean of Harvard Law School. And liberals should concede the point; the conservatives will be right.

I get tired of "Don't ask, don't tell" being used as a cudgel against the military. Our military is under civilian control, and that law was passed by Congress and signed by a Democratic president.

I think entirely too many lefties use DADT as a convenient excuse for their hatred of the military and all the good it stands for. If DADT went away tomorrow, they wouldn't immediately be pro-military. Let's look at a few of the comments on Beinart's piece:

I agree with Ms. Kagan, college campuses are no place for the military complex recruiting efforts. If any college student wants to join the military (I can't imagine why) then there are many opportunities for those students to speak to a recruiter off campus.


No military organisation should be permitted within the grounds of institutions of learning in any jurisdiction. Kagan's decision was a wise one


If they withhold approval of Ms Kagan because of this stand, they are just looking for someway to say NO to an appointee of President Obama's. Her judicial record is the important thing to consider, not something minor like this. ( I know, I know, the conservatives will yell that her stand on recruiting on campus was not minor. )


Why would the military seek intelligent, argumentative recruits anyway, what they need are brain-dead automatons that DON'T think.


Conservatives have a right to bash someone that was doing the right thing by upholding a generic non-discrimination policy?
That's a fairly representative sampling of the "anti" comments.

These people ignore that the military is an arm of the federal government they love so much, and is directly under the command of President Obama--who, incidentally, has done nothing to end "don't ask, don't tell" even though his political party has overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress. Clearly these pesky facts are irrelevant to the left.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
George Seifert.

Today's question is:
Who replaced Tom Landry as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

New Education Web Site

I don't have time to research it fully, but if Joanne Jacobs is participating, it must be OK! Go check it out:

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The laser.

The answer to yesterday's bonus question is:
April 17, 1970.

Today's question, the first in Pro Football Head Coach Successors Week, is:
Who replaced Bill Walsh as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers?

Trading The Bomb For The Lectern

Why not blast the doors open with a homemade bomb? That's what 60s radical William Ayers really wants to do anyway:

Bill Ayers and a University of Wyoming student are suing the school after it banned the former 1960s radical from speaking on campus.

Don't get me wrong, I don't believe in banning too many speakers. I just get mildly entertained when a guy like Ayers goes rushing to the very government he used to try to plant bombs against.

Another Question For The Socialists

Why, when we owe $12 trillion, would the Obama administration set out budgets that will ensure our collective debt climbs to $20 trillion? Why are we borrowing more money, when Medicare, Social Security, the Postal Service, Amtrak, etc. are all insolvent as it is? link

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
What invention, which turns 50 years old this year (2010), was described early on as “a solution in search of a problem”?

Totally unrelated bonus question: on what date did Apollo 13 return to earth?

If you like pro football, you'll love the upcoming Pro Football Head Coach Successors Week, starting tomorrow. I'll name the coach, you name the guy who replaced him!

A Simple Question For The Socialists

Given that we all agree that the 19th century practice of forcing one man to pick another man’s cotton was a great and terrible evil, why then does the left today think it is perfectly acceptable to force one man to pay another man’s doctor bills? link

These Are My People

"These are my people. Americans."

Friday, April 16, 2010

A Succinct Reason I'm Not A Fan of Calculators In Most Math Classes

From the Mathematics Framework for California Public Schools (2000 Revised Edition), pp 223-224:

The Mathematics Content Standards for California Public Schools was prepared with the belief that there is a body of mathematical knowledge—independent of technology—that every student in kindergarten through grade twelve ought to know and know well.

Ed School Bust

From Joanne:

It doesn’t get much more humiliating: A charter school run by Stanford ’s Education School was denied a renewal of its charter and dubbed a failure for low scores and “ineffective behavior management.” Stanford New School, a K-12, is on California’s list of lowest-achieving schools, despite spending $3,000 per student more than the state average.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
The world-famous and renowned Palancar Reef is located off which island?

This Sunday begins Pro Football Head Coach Successors Week. I'll name an NFL head coach, you name his successor.

Underfunded Teacher Pensions

To all the other fiscal travails facing this country’s states and largest cities, now add their pension obligations, which are far greater than they may realize or are willing to admit. This paper focuses on the crisis in funding teachers’ pensions, because education is often the largest program area in state budgets, making it an obvious target for cuts.

Although it is generally acknowledged that education is the foundation of every modern society’s future prosperity, schools unfortunately will have to compete with retirees for scarce dollars. This competition is uneven, because retirees have a legal claim on promised pension benefits that supersedes schools’ budgetary needs. Consequently, Americans can look forward to higher taxes and cuts in services, resulting in fewer teachers, bigger classes, and facilities that are allowed to deteriorate. In several states, these developments have already arrived.

The crux of the problem is the gap between assets and liabilities affecting the fifty-nine pension funds that cover most public school teachers in America. Some of these are general state-employee pension funds, while others cover only teachers. Among the findings of our study of these funds:
California, the most populous state, has the largest unfunded teacher pension liability: almost $100 billion...

Illinois, which has some of the country’s largest unfunded pension liabilities, saw its Moody’s general obligation bond rating downgraded from A1 to A2 last year. Only California has a lower rating.

From the Manhattan Institute.

I Want To Know What Love Is

I just heard that Foreigner song on the radio and was reminded of the time I saw them perform it. In 1985.

25 years ago.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
Which state produces most of the US's domestic roses?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Most Naive President In US History

I'm not saying it, a Brit is. I just happen to agree with much of it.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Marlon Perkins.

Today's question is:
Who was the Cisco Kid's sidekick?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
Who is most associated with hosting Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Who Are These People, And Why Do They Want To Give Me Stuff?

Several weeks ago I received a letter from my bank--with which I've done business, in one form or another, for over 30 years. Inside the envelope was an offer from a "separate entity not affiliated with" the bank, some travel-type agency. The deal was this: sign up for this travel service, get great deals on vacations, and pay only about $14/month for this service. Oh, and get a free portable DVD player! And if I cancel the service within 30 days there is no charge to me, but I get to keep the portable DVD player as my free gift.

You might imagine that I entered a reminder on my calendar, and called to cancel after about 27 days. A couple of weeks later UPS showed up at my door with a portable DVD player.

Today I received a letter from my bank--with which I've done business, in one form or another, for over 30 years. Inside the envelope was an offer from a "separate entity not affiliated with" the bank, some home improvement company. The deal was this: sign up for this service, get great deals on appliances or home repairs, and pay only about $14/month for this service. Oh, and get a free GPS! And if I cancel the service within 30 days there is no charge to me, but I get to keep the GPS as my free gift.

You can imagine what I'll be marking on my calendar.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
John Denver, who died in 1997, died 8 years before Bob Denver, who died in 2005.

Today's question is:
In what year did Hurricane Katrina occur?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

West Point On Top Of The Boxing World

Five West Point boxers win titles, and the team is the national champ. Boxing was, and still is, a required freshman PE class for all male cadets.

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question, the last in our second Movie Poster Tagline Week, is:
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982).

Today's question is:
Who died first, John Denver or Bob Denver? Bonus: by how many years?

Holding Students Accountable

Here's a letter to the editor in which a teacher laments that only schools and teachers are held accountable for student progress as measured by standardized tests, but students are not. While I don't disagree with the letter at all, there's a tendency for some teachers to take those same points somewhere I can't go. They'll claim that all other players have to be fixed first, and only then can teachers be held accountable. "Fix the society, fix the family, fix the bureaucratic screw-ups and burdens, and make the tests have some impact on the students; only then can you start to hold me accountable."

It doesn't work that way.

"Public Relations Disaster"

Even that term seems a bit light when the New Jersey Teachers Union is caught circulating a memo that includes a prayer wishing for the death of the governor.

Trying to blunt a public-relations disaster, NJEA President Barbara Keshishian condemned the inflammatory joke and apologized to Christie.

"Language such as that has no place in civil discourse. It was intended as humor, but it's not funny," Keshishian said in a statement.

Read more:
Way to set the example.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Wayne's World (1992).

Today's question, the last in our second Movie Poster Tagline Week, is:
Identify the movie that had the tagline, "It's awesome. Totally awesome."

Friday, April 09, 2010

Who Is The Professor?

Erin has a most interesting post:

One of the arguments against universities' growing reliance on part-time, non-tenure-track faculty is that it amounts to a form of false advertising: students enroll at Prestigious University X, and expect to receive an education from the world-class faculty employed there. Instead, they get taught by a cadre of grad students and adjunct faculty who work cheap, who are not the reason for the school's top reputation, and who are, arguably, functioning as part of a shell game played with students' tuition dollars. Today, according to the AAUP, 48 percent of faculty are not on the tenure track, and 68 percent of new hires are taking place off the tenure track.

Not Exactly "Homeless", But Still A Nice Story

A homeless high school senior from South L.A. is on his way to West Point thanks to some incredible help from complete strangers. Tyki Nelworth explained to Eyewitness News how he is inspiring such an overwhelming support.

George Washington Preparatory High School senior Tyki Nelworth is savoring the generosity of strangers. The 18-year-old has been accepted to the United States Military Academy at West Point, but up until Thursday, he didn't know how he would get there or how he would pay the deposit.

"Initially, I had to make a $2,000 deposit to West Point to enter and I was kind of uncertain on how I was going to get that together," said Tyki. "That's a lot of money."

When the school's alumni association heard the stand-out student needed help, former students paid the deposit, his plane ticket, his prom tickets and tuxedo rental...

Tyki has endured more challenges than most 18-year-olds. His father died when he was in the 7th grade. He and his mother were evicted from their home two years ago and his mom is currently behind bars. Tyki now lives with a cousin and his cousin's girlfriend.

"I don't use those as excuses to not do well. I tend to use those as reasons to do better and get my life together," said Tyki.

Despite one obstacle after another, Tyki has a 4.2 GPA. He's taken advanced-placement courses, is the captain of the football team, is on the baseball team and is student body president...

Tyki plans to play football at West Point and sharpen his leadership skills. link

I wish him well.

Using A Little Math To Fight A Ticket

When his wife received a ticket in the mail recently, the first thing she said was the yellow light was too short.

So Mike, who works with numbers all the time as a math tutor, put it to the test.

"I said, ‘If it's really short, then you got short-changed and you got a ticket illegally,'" said Mogil.

The speed limit on Collier Boulevard, where she was cited, is 45 mph. According to county guidelines, the yellow light should be 4.5 seconds.

Mogil said he tested it 15 times with an average of only 3.8 seconds.

"And I said, ‘We've got a problem,'" he said.

He challenged the ticket Monday and a special magistrate dropped it when the county conceded the yellow wasn't long enough.

"I think it was an oversight more than anything," said Gene Calvert of the Collier County Transportation Department. link

An oversight. Of course it was.

Proof By Blog

I probably should have foreseen this:

Blogging, as you might have heard, is changing the face of the media. It may also be changing the face of mathematical research. For the first time ever, a substantial mathematical problem has been solved via an accumulation of blog comments, all building on each other. Could this be the future of mathematical research?

When you can collaborate with most of the world, interesting things can happen.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Catch Me If You Can (2002).

Today's question is:
Identify the movie that had the tagline, "You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll hurl."

Rumor Confirmed?

I've heard tell that there's at least one teacher at our school who spends, uh, let's just say "an inordinate amount of time" doing Facebook, Twitter, and texting during class time. Yesterday at our staff meeting our principal told us all: there is to be no Facebook, Twitter, or texting during class time.

Perhaps the rumor was true.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Pleasantville (1998).

Today's question is:
Identify the movie that had the tagline, "The true story of a real fake."

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

There's No Money In Teaching, So....

So, the entrepreneurial instructor is going to make money writing textbooks:

No one likes rising textbook prices, but the bills may be even more painful to pay when it looks like a professor is cashing in on students. That's the sentiment at George Mason University, where students are grumbling about a professor who requires students to buy a book she helped to write. The case highlighting an ongoing debate about faculty profiting off their pupils.

Concerned about conflicts of interest, a number of universities now forbid professors from collecting royalties on textbooks they require their own students to purchase. But developers of some of these policies say they are admittedly tough to enforce, and there's no real consensus across higher education about the best way to protect students from exploitation while retaining the rights of faculty to assign preferred texts.

This is one area where I think the internet should be able to work wonders. Open source textbooks, published digitally.

Wendnesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Poltergeist (1982).

Today's question is:
Identify the movie that had the tagline, "Nothing is as simple as black and white."

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Show Me The Money

California has made some promises it's going to have a hard time keeping. If I were a good Democrat I'd suggest either taxing the rich or raising taxes on everyone in order to pay the debt that's owed to me:

The state of California's real unfunded pension debt clocks in at more than $500 billion, nearly eight times greater than officially reported.

That's the finding from a study released Monday by Stanford University's public policy program, confirming a recent report with similar, stunning findings from Northwestern University and the University of Chicago.

To put that number in perspective, it's almost seven times greater than all the outstanding voter-approved state general obligation bonds in California.

Why should Californians care? Because this year's unfunded pension liability is next year's budget cut to important programs. For a glimpse of California's budgetary future, look no further than the $5.5 billion diverted this year from higher education, transit, parks and other programs in order to pay just a tiny bit toward current unfunded pension and healthcare promises. That figure is set to triple within 10 years and -- absent reform -- to continue to grow, crowding out funding for many programs vital to the overwhelming majority of Californians.

Raising taxes isn't going to solve this alone. We *have* to cut government spending. That means cutting some government programs. I do not understand why liberals refuse to accept that.

What can we do about this? For the promises already made, nothing. They are contractual, and because that $500 billion of debt must be paid, retirement costs will rise dramatically no matter what we do. But we can reduce the sizes of promises made to new employees and require full and truthful disclosure so that pension debt can never again be hidden.

The governor tried that a few years ago, with a ballot initiative in a special election. The CTA clucked with glee when they fought that initiative and it lost. Good job, u-bots. Let's kill that goose and see if we can still get golden eggs.

Why Didn't California Get Race To The Top Funds?

I've got to admit, I was surprised to find that part of the answer is the CTA!

California stands to lose out on up to $700 million in federal education money because of two entrenched problems in the state's public schools: a contentious relationship with the teachers union and a weak data system for tracking student performance.

Reviewers cited those as significant factors in explaining why California didn't make the cut in the first round of the nationwide competition known as Race to the Top. States are being offered a second chance to compete for a share of nearly $4 billion in education grants from the Obama administration – but California's odds of winning anytime soon appear low.

State education leaders are now deciding whether California should even bother to reapply, given its monumental weaknesses in the first round.

Now let's keep in mind, this is a Democratic administration telling us this!

Mazenko Makes Sense!

Long time RotLC reader/commenter Michael Mazenko has yet another piece published in the Denver Post, and I don't find much to argue with in it:

For as long as I've been teaching, I've been frustrated by poor career advice handed out to young people. A non-academic student who wants to become a mechanic is hounded by counselors asking, "Wouldn't you rather own your own garage?" How many business owners do we need? If everyone owns his own shop, who is going to work there? Schools should let the market decide who becomes a manager.

There's nothing wrong or dishonorable about not going to college. There's plenty that's dishonorable about making a child think he's a failure unless he goes to college.

A Memorial To Dr. King

The Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial will be the first on the National Mall to recognize a person of color and a man of peace, not a president or a veteran of war. In 1996 Congress authorized the Memorial Foundation to raise funds to establish a national memorial to honor the legacy of Dr. King on the National Mall. The memorial’s very existence signifies that we as a people believe Dr. King and his legacy deserve this esteemed placement in what can be considered America’s “Hall of Fame.”

Read more here.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The Crying Game (1992).

Today's question is:
Identify the movie that had the tagline, "They're here."

Monday, April 05, 2010

It Wasn't Banned Already?

No, it wasn't, but now it is: Yale professors are not allowed to have sex with Yale undergrads.

After more than a quarter century of debate, Yale faculty members are now barred from sexual relationships with undergraduates—not just their own students, but any Yale undergrads...

Previously, the university had prohibited such relationships only when the faculty member had “direct pedagogical or supervisory responsibilities” over the student. That remains the rule for affairs between faculty and graduate or professional students, and between grad students and undergrads.

Just When You Dared Not Hope Any Longer...

This is tremendous news:

More than a week after their coal mine in northern China was flooded by a rush of underground water, 115 miners were pulled out alive Monday, China's state-run TV reported.

Rescuers worked to reach another 38 believed to be still trapped inside.

I remember when the Kursk sank. As a fellow human being you just wanted to believe the crew were all right, but days later we learned they weren't. This Chinese mine disaster gave me a similar feeling, and I'm glad the outcome is so different.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The Blues Brothers (1980).

Today's question is:
Identify the movie that had the tagline, "Play at your own risk."

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Montserrat and Antigua.

Today's question, the first in our second Movie Poster Tagline Week, is:
Identify the movie that had the tagline, "They'll never get caught. They're on a mission from God."

Happy Easter

Why does the date of Easter change each year? Because almost 1700 years ago an ecclesiastical council determined that Easter should be celebrated on the Sunday after the first full moon on or after the day of the vernal equinox.

Did you get that? :)

Wikipedia adds some math and probability to the situation:
Accordingly, Gregorian Easter can fall on 35 possible dates - between March 22 and April 25 inclusive.[48] It last fell on March 22 in 1818, and will not do so again until 2285. It fell on March 23 in 2008, but will not do so again until 2160. Easter last fell on the latest possible date, April 25, in 1943 and will next fall on that date in 2038. However, it will fall on April 24, just one day before this latest possible date, in 2011. The cycle of Easter dates repeats after exactly 5,700,000 years, with April 19 being the most common date, happening 220,400 times or 3.9%, compared to the median for all dates of 189,525 times or 3.3%.

I'd like to see the numbers for this, but not so badly that I'll try to generate them myself. Every 5.7 million years? That interests me.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Today's question is:
Which two Caribbean islands are named in the Jimmy Buffet song Fins?

Diane Ravitch Has Certainly Changed Her Tune

Whether you agreed with her then or now, she certainly makes for compelling reading:

I used to be a strong supporter of school accountability and choice. But in recent years, it became clear to me that these strategies were not working. The federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program enacted in 2002 did not produce large gains in reading and math. The gains in math were larger before the law was implemented, and the most recent national tests showed that eighth-grade students have made no improvement in reading since 1998. By mandating a utopian goal of 100 percent proficiency, the law encouraged states to lower their standards and make false claims of progress. Worse, the law stigmatized schools that could not meet its unrealistic expectation.

Choice, too, has been disappointing. We now know that choice is no panacea. The districts with the most choice for the longest period -- Cleveland and Milwaukee -- have seen no improvement in their public schools nor in their choice schools. Charter schools have been compared to regular public schools on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009, and have never outperformed them. Nationally, only 3 percent of public school students are enrolled in charters, and no one is giving much thought to improving the system that enrolls the other 97 percent.

It is time to change course.

From there she lists several "we needs", most of which reasonable people wouldn't disagree with. I'm not convinced that those "we needs" are in conflict with accountability and school choice, though, both of which I support.

One of her suggestions is for state-level "inspection teams that spend time in every low-performing school and diagnose its problems." That sounds great in theory, but honestly I can't see it working in practice. California used to have external evaluators as part of its Immediate Intervention/Underperforming Schools Program but they didn't identify too many silver bullets. Additionally, California reserves the privilege of taking over lousy school districts, and its record in Oakland isn't one of success and acclaim. Put simply, I don't have much confidence that teams can be assembled that would be able to have any significant impact on improving schools. Good lord, can you imagine the political machinations, fads, and general loopiness that would accompany such teams here in the Golden State? The mind boggles at what might occur.

But go take a look at her suggestions. What might we do? And how might we afford it?

Teamwork High

I'm not yet sold on the trend of working in groups as the primary pedagogical method in high schools, but this school seems to have bought into it:

This is Minarets High – the county's newest high school and a model for what public education might look like in the future.

Every student gets a laptop. Classes are focused on group projects instead of homework and lectures. After school, students and teachers text each other and use online tools to complete assignments. The library, called the media lounge, is furnished like a coffee shop with large windows and couches. The books are packed in a few rows of shelves in a corner.

In physical education class, students ride mountain bikes on nearby trails or jump over classmates in team-building exercises. When teachers go to conferences, they take students with them to help with presentations.

Read more:

I'm not convinced that students need so much to be taught how to collaborate, especially via technology. What they really need to learn, develop, and practice is focused, contemplative thought on a specific topic for more than a few minutes at a time.

While I recognize that out in the real world many jobs require people to work collaboratively, that assumes that each person has something to "bring to the table". Part of the purpose of high school is to allow students to learn so that they have something to bring to the table when they work with others. If they cannot perform specific tasks individually, what can they contribute to the group? And what about those jobs that require mostly individual work?

I also don't accept the dichotomy of "group projects" vs. "homework and lectures". There is a place for both, with "group projects" reinforcing what was learned in "homework and lectures". I'm of the belief that in education, the primary goal should be individual performance--that way, each person has something to contribute in a group project. Besides, there are plenty of opportunities at school to work collaboratively and build teamwork; not everything at school has to be taught in the classroom.

Yes, I'm talking about clubs, sports, and other programs.

Update, 4/4/10: A commenter says that the article is wrong about the "group work" focus. Be sure to read it to get an alternate perspective.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The Trouble With Tribbles. A 1996 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode that extended the storyline of that original show was called Trials And Tribble-ations.

Today's question is:
In what city is Cirque du Soleil based?

This coming Sunday afternoon will start the second Movie Poster Tagline Week. I'll give the tagline, you give the movie.

Cold War Repost

Two years ago today I first published my post called Freedom Is A Little Piece Of Broken Concrete, still one of the posts of which I am most proud. It is a series of vignettes designed to tell about my growing up in the Cold War and how that time impacted my understanding of freedom. I reposted it back in November to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and link to it again today so that new readers who might be interested can see a little bit of history through my eyes.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Rapid City, South Dakota.

Today's question is:
What was the alliterative title of the original series Star Trek episode that featured fuzzy little animals that cooed--except in the presence of Klingons, at which time they shrieked?

Garfield Honors Its Toughest Bulldog

A memorial service and tribute was recently held at Garfield High for Jaime Escalante, the AP Calculus teacher who put the school on the map back in the 70s and 80s.