Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Kids and Condoms

(Originally posted 6/24/10, now bumped and updated.)

I've been painfully consistent on this point--schools have no business concerning themselves with the off-campus (or non-school-function) activities of students. Those activities are rightly the responsibility of parents. If some parents make choices that "the school" deems inappropriate, such is freedom.

This school district, though, is spitting in the face of freedom, saying in effect, We'll do whatever we want and the parents be damned:

Students in Provincetown — from elementary school to high school — will be able to get free condoms at school under a recently approved policy that takes effect this fall. The rule also requires school officials to keep student requests secret, and ignore parents’ objections.

Student sexual activity, as long as it's taking place outside of school, is not the school's concern. Besides, is it too much to ask that students go to the store and buy condoms?

Mike at EIA pretty much nails it:

Here’s what Michele Couture, chairwoman of the town’s Board of Selectmen, had to say about it:

“I don’t know, you don’t want to take away a parent’s right to decide what’s right for their child. But it’s unrealistic to think that a parent saying no to condoms means the child’s going to say no to sex. They’re still going to have sex; they’re just not going to have a condom.”

This doesn’t have to cause such a huge fight. If Ms. Couture is convinced of what the kids are going to do, and is so certain of it that she will overrule their parents’ decisions, then she and the district should be perfectly willing to take the next logical step.

Adopt the kids.
Don't want to do that? Then let the parents raise their children as they see fit. Ms. Couture and her ilk can raise their children as they see fit.

Update, 6/30/10: Oh, what a Solomonic and magnanimous backtrack. Not.

The superintendent of a Provincetown, Mass., school district is apologizing to parents for what she calls a misunderstanding over a condom availability policy.

In an e-mailed letter sent out on Tuesday, Superintendent Beth Singer said that the district will clarify that elementary school-age students won't be able to get a condom if they request one from the school nurse.
Again I ask: why does the school need to give out condoms at all? Are they not available in the local grocery/drug stores? It's freakin' Provincetown.

Pledge Not Allowed

(Originally posted 6/29/10, now bumped and updated)

When Sean Harrington entered his freshman year at Arlington High School, he noticed something peculiar: There were no American flags in the classrooms, and no one recited the Pledge of Allegiance.

So Harrington enlisted the aid of his fellow students, and now, three years later, they have succeeded in getting flags installed in the classrooms. But the pledge still will not be recited.

The Arlington, Mass., school committee has rejected the 17-year-old's request to allow students to voluntarily recite the Pledge of Allegiance, because some educators are concerned that it would be hard to find teachers willing to recite it, according to a report in the Arlington Patch... (boldface mine--Darren)

"If we can't find one teacher who is willing to say the pledge, then the system we have is cracked," he told FOX News Radio, noting that a number of teachers signed his petition. link

That the pledge is voluntary was decided by the Supreme Court during World War II. That a school refuses to allow it to be said--Harrington is correct, the system is cracked.

Update, 6/30/10: Oh, what a Solomonic and magnanimous compromise. Not.

Student Sean Harrington appears to have won his fight to bring the Pledge of Allegiance back into his Massachusetts high school -- except the principal's proposed solution leaves the daily honor to the nation's flag literally hanging in the hall.

Charles Skidmore, principal of Arlington High School in Arlington, Mass., has offered to allow students to recite the pledge before school begins -- but in the school's foyer and not in the classrooms, as 17-year-old Harrington had hoped.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Scud clouds.

Today's question is:
What is the name of the minor league baseball team from Las Vegas, and with which major league team is it affiliated?

Is This A Bug, Or A Feature, Of Ubiquitous Technology In Education?

When you're done conducting your online class, you need to ensure the video feed is off before you go surfing for porn.

So, does ubiquitous technology require you to be significantly more careful (and worried) when seeking out your porn, or is it a good thing that it's so easy to get caught doing this?


The administration's stimulus program has failed. Growth is slow and unemployment remains high. The president, his friends and advisers talk endlessly about the circumstances they inherited as a way of avoiding responsibility for the 18 months for which they are responsible. link

Lefties also conveniently forget that Democrats have run both houses of Congress since 2006.

Now I've never been one to lay "responsibility" or "fault" for natural or cyclical crises at the fault of the president. The president doesn't have a panel of buttons that he can push to make the economy improve, gas prices go down, etc. How I judge our governmental leaders is their response to crises. Do they help, do they hinder, or do they prolong? On that scale, the president does not score well. At all.

But they want new stimulus measures—which is convincing evidence that they too recognize that the earlier measures failed.

Doing the same thing and expecting a different result? Hm. He may not be insane (although some of his ideas are), but he's certainly not the pragmatist that his fellow-travelers on the left try to make him out to be. He's the very definition of a partisan ideologue.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sacramento Today

My son and I will be taking a little trip starting next week. Unlike his dear ole dad, son is not much into taking pictures. I think that someday he'll regret not having pictures of his childhood (besides those that dad took), but such arguments fall on deaf teenage ears.

Next week, though, we're going to a pretty exciting place. I got a new pocket camera and gave my son my old one. He doesn't seem as averse to taking pictures on this upcoming trip, but to make sure, today we went downtown so we could "practice" using the camera as well as framing pictures.

I took a couple as well. It was in the low 90s while we were there, and as you can see, the sky couldn't get much bluer.

Here's a little life on the edge of the Sacramento River:
click on the pictures to enlarge

And as I said, the sky couldn't get much bluer:

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Jim Croce.

(Post updated 6/30/2010 to add the final clause to the question below)

Today's question is:
What type of detached cloud is often irregular or wispy in appearance, and found below cumulonimbus (thunderstorm) clouds, and whose name was popularized in 1990-1991?

The Rich Aren't Taxed Enough

The numbers don't lie. Only people do, when they try to spin the numbers and come up with the subject line.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
Who wrote and performed the 1973 hit song Bad, Bad Leroy Brown?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question, the last in Political Geography Week, is:
Six states (New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia) and two territories (the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory). Several islands are considered dependent areas.

Today's question is:
Prior to becoming president, Barack Obama worshiped for 20 years at the Trinity United Church of Christ, led by Reverend Wright. What is Reverend Wright's first name?

The Happy Songs CD

In this post I solicited suggested songs for a cd I want to make. What I had in mind was music that would make ideal background music for playing frisbee at the beach, and wow, did I get some great suggestions! Tentatively, here are the the ones I'm going with:

Shiny Happy People--REM
Steal My Sunshine--Len
Hey, Soul Sister--Train
I Got A Feeling--Black Eyed Peas
These Are Days--10,000 Maniacs
Mmm Bop--Hanson
The Loco-Motion--Little Eva
Here Comes The Sun--The Beatles
Walking On Sunshine--Katrina & The Waves
Club at the End of the Street--Elton John
Werewolves of London--Warren Zevon
A Little Less Conversation--Elvis vs. JXL
You Might Think--The Cars
Kodachrome--Simon and Garfunkel
Say Hey (I Love You)--Michael Franti and Spearhead
Linus & Lucy--David Benoit

There were several suggested that I hadn't heard before and really like but just didn't think they were right for the cd/playlist I'm creating--California by Phantom Planet being one--but I'm getting the music anyway :-)

Thanks to all who offered ideas.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Too Much Government

Many of our friends on the American Left like to point to Europe as the gold standard in government. They point out that if nothing else, at least the Europeans get "good" government (however they define it).

I have to ask, though: what possible good comes from this silly EU rule?

Until now, Britain has been exempt from EU regulations that forbid the selling of goods by number. But last week MEPs voted to end Britain’s deal despite objections from UK members.

The new rules will mean that instead of packaging telling shoppers a box contains six eggs, it will show the weight in grams of the eggs inside, for example 372g. Or that a bag of white rolls has 322g inside instead of half a dozen. The rules will not allow both the weight and the quantity to be displayed.

Government without limits can and will do stupid things--and eventually it will do scary things. Limited government is a universally good idea based on knowing human psychology.

Update: Here's an example from much closer to home, because it is home:

California would become the first state to ban grocery, liquor and drug stores from providing free paper or plastic bags under legislation pushed by Democrats and supported by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I've said it before, I'm old enough to remember when plastic replaced paper because paper was "killing trees"--so plastic was the environmental choice!

Do you really want a government that legislates down to this level?

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question, the last in Political Geography Week, is:
The Commonwealth of Australia is made up of how many states and territories?

Guantanamo Bay

“There is a lot of inertia” against closing the prison, “and the administration is not putting a lot of energy behind their position that I can see,” said Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and supports the Illinois plan. He added that “the odds are that it will still be open” by the next presidential inauguration.

I'm sure someone here will correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the president make a big production of ensuring his first official act as president was signing an ordering closing Guantanamo Bay?

As Glenn Reynolds often reminds, does anyone remember that fierce moral urgency of change back in November '08 and January '09?

This guy can't even close a military base, and he's the Commander in Chief. I wish it weren't so; I'd prefer to have a stronger president, if only for the safety of the country. But it's abundantly clear--this president is incompetent. And that makes him dangerous.

Jock U

I, along with hundreds of other people around the state, received an email at my school account from ASU. No, it's not the Pac-10 school, but American Sports University in lovely San Bernardino, CA.

All degrees offered are Bachelor of Science in Sports Education with the following concentrations available:
  • Sports Management, Marketing, and Recreation Management
  • Sports Coaching, Fitness, and Health
  • Sports Journalism and Broadcasting
  • Golf Management
I wonder if the students there receive a well-rounded liberal arts education. The school is not accredited by WASC (not that I have any love for WASC), and I cannot find any accreditation listed.

I have to say, it looks kinda shady to me.

No More Beat At Hip Hop High

Hip Hop High has closed. Look at all the fads they tried, including an online curriculum:

As she sat with several friends in the school's lobby, 11th-grader Ebony Epps said she plans on attending summer school to make up credits and continue working toward her diploma. She described her first semester taking online courses, saying she would probably never do it again.

"All the classes were online - even PE," she said. "And a computer can't teach us math."

There's nothing wrong with online courses in and of themselves, but they're certainly not a silver bullet. There's a right way and a wrong way to implement them, and this was definitely the wrong way.

I also note that WASC gave the school a 3 year accreditation. If that doesn't show the pedagogical/ideological bent of WASC, I don't know what can.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Meanwhile, Back At The Alma Mater...

This from today's Army Times:

WEST POINT, N.Y. — Prince Harry showed he knows his way around a rifle as he joined cadets in training at the storied military grounds Friday at the start of his three-day visit to New York.

Harry, third in line to the British throne, arrived by helicopter about 1:30 p.m., uniformed in camouflage. He hopped on the back of a Humvee, swapped his light blue beret for a helmet and headed out for live-fire exercises on the artillery range and field exercises in nearby woods...

Harry attended the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and is a lieutenant in the British Army. His service in Afghanistan as a battlefield air controller continued until a media leak cut his time short.

I've written before about my time at Sandhurt, and included pictures.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
What is the most populous city in China?

Almost 72 Hours Later...

...and my stomach has stopped churning. I now have every confidence that I'm going to live through this--although there were times when I wondered!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
Which nation lost its Red Sea coastline when Eritrea became an independent country in 1993?

Social Justice

I share these thoughts:

Once I hear a group of social "scientists" employing the term, it generally means that are looking for reasons to favor some groups (almost always Democratic constituents), while excluding others...

We all have our own idea of social justice. My form of social justice is a little different. I would have people keeping the money they earn without the force of a gun to their head with orders to turn larger and larger amounts of it over to the government as they become more successful. I would also call it socially just to have people pay for their own health care without mandating others by force to pay for them.

Is the current form of "social justice" with its emphasis on government force for some special interest groups but not for others really justice?

The answer to the rhetorical question is no.

Update: Art taught in schools, and the tie-in with social justice, is discussed here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I May Live

There are no guarantees, but 31 hours after being floored by either food poisoning or some type of stomach flu, I'm beginning to have hopes that I'll see the end of this. There's been moderate improvement in my condition.

I'm not dead yet! (although whatever it is has made a valiant effort)

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Arizona became the 48th state on February 14, 1912.

Today's question is:
Easter Island is a special territory of which country?

McChrystal Out, Petraeus In

I want the US to win our wars. I support actions that lead to that end state.

What a difference a president makes:

It is one of ironies of our present warped climate that Petraeus will face far less criticism from the media and politicians than during 2007–8 (there will be no more “General Betray Us” ads or “suspension of disbelief” ridicule), because his success this time will reflect well on Obama rather than George Bush. It is a further irony that Obama is surging with Petraeus despite not long ago declaring that such a strategy and such a commander were failures in Iraq. And it is an even further irony that he is now rightly calling for “common purpose” when — again not long ago, at a critical juncture in Iraq — Obama himself, for partisan purposes on the campaign trail, had no interest in the common purpose of military success in Iraq.

I've heard the president described as a pragmatist. I guess he could be considered so, if you consider it pragmatic to attack your political enemies and cover your own butt, the country be damned. I, however, don't consider that pragmatic--I consider it hyper-partisan and dangerous.

I hope General Petraeus can turn things around in Afghanistan. If that reflects well on President Obama, so be it--winning the war is more important that politics.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Did Anyone Get The License Plate Of That Bus That Hit Me?

I had jury duty today and got there in plenty of time. I even felt fine when I sat on a panel but was dismissed back to the jury pool when the anticipated length of the trial overlapped my scheduled Cancun trip in a couple weeks.

Let's cut to the chase and not be too crude here. I wasn't feeling so good when we were released at 11:30 for lunch and things only got worse from there. I think I got food poisoning or stomach flu. The ladies running the jury room showed a high level of compassion when they let me go home at 2:30.

Every muscle in my body aches. Violent convulsions have made me feel as weak and frail as if I were 85 years old.

I want this to be over. I hurt physically. And that's why I haven't been blogging today.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Newfoundland and Labrador, which joined the Confederation in 1949. Originally called Newfoundland, the Canadian constitution was amended in 2001 to effect the name change. (Nunavut is a territory, not a province.)

Today's question is:
Most Americans know that Alaska and Hawaii were the 49th and 50th states, joining the union in 1959. What was the 48th state, and when did it join?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Other DC Monuments

Jefferson Memorial
click on pictures to enlarge

Vietnam War
Korean War

Civil War

World War II Memorial

click on pictures to enlarge

Lincoln Memorial

click on pictures to enlarge

Washington Monument

click on pictures to enlarge

The Capitol

click on any picture to enlarge

Cool Business Names

I can't find my picture I took a couple years ago of Segs And The City, the small business that conducts Segway tours around the nation's capital, but here's another business in DC whose name I think is cute:

Any cool business names where you live?

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
What is Canada's newest province?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

New Principal To Clean Up School--Starting With The Walls, Then With Teacher Appearance

You've got to give the guy credit for trying to make an immediate impact:

Can deep-cleaning a school and adding a teacher dress code help students learn better?

That's the question of the moment at Hiram Johnson High School, where teachers this week found themselves tossing out posters, art projects and learning materials to meet a Monday deadline for clearing their classrooms.

It's all part of newly hired Principal Felisberto Cedros' plan to reverse the school's negative image. Task one: appearance. Task two: achievement...

"Is it about cleanliness, no," Cedros said. "It's a part of the package deal of setting a tone for the environment."

That package includes a stricter dress code for teachers – no jeans, shorts, tennis shoes or T-shirts – which he told staff he is "absolutely adamant about."

"So, do not go there with me, because you will lose," Cedros told a room full of teachers at a tense staff meeting on Thursday.

I have peers who come to school dressed, in my opinion, more appropriate for the beach than for school. Then again, even I wear jeans and tennis shoes on Fridays.

He's also tackling the school's block schedule; such schedules are not good academically, and I support his getting rid of it:

At the Thursday staff meeting, he asked teachers whether the school should revert to a traditional schedule instead of operating in two-hour blocks as it has for several years.

"The question I am posing to you, I already know the answer," Cedros said.

After a discussion at times confrontational, he asked teachers for proof that the current schedule works. However, he also said poor test scores are proof enough.

He's certainly not sparing anyone's feelings, is he?

There are a couple of ways of approaching this. He could either be the Joe Clark that the school needs, and knows how to get from here to there, or he can be nothing more than a bully who gets his jollies by imposing his will on others, whether or not the results are good or not.

I guess time will tell.

Song Suggestions?

I'm going to make a CD of "happy" songs, ones that sound so cheerful that your spirits can't helped but be raised when you hear them. I've only got 4 so far:

Shiny Happy People--REM
Steal My Sunshine--Len
Hey, Soul Sister--Train
I Got A Feeling--Black Eyed Peas

These Are Days--10,000 Maniacs
Mmm Bop--Hanson

Any other suggestions?

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
All In The Family, The Cosby Show, and American Idol.

Today's question, the first in Political Geography Week, is:
What is the capital city of Ukraine?

Computers At Home, and Kids

Maybe not the best idea:

You may want to stop and reconsider whether you think a home computer will help your child with reading and math.

A new Duke University study says North Carolina middle school students' test scores dropped after they got home computers, suggesting they spent more time playing "The Sims" than working practice math problems.

Read more:

Really? They're playing The Sims? That would not have been my first guess.

This line was also interesting:

The study by Jacob Vigdor and Helen Ladd at Duke's Sanford School of Public Policy challenges the accepted wisdom that children who don't have computers at home are at a disadvantage compared with their wired classmates.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Martin Van Buren, who was born 8 years after the Declaration of Independence. Coincidentally he was also the 8th US president, surely a fact of some cosmic significance.

Today's question is:
Identify any of the three American TV programs that have been #1 in the Nielsen ratings for five consecutive years. (Bonus points for more than one.)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
South Africa.

Today's question is:
Who was the first US president not born in an English colony?

Why Executive Experience Is Vital In A President

President Obama's inexperience in ever being in charge of anything before being handed the keys to the executive suite of the world's largest and most powerful organization is now on painful display in the Gulf of Mexico. I'm told he was and is a "smart" man, but he's not decisive and he's not a leader--two exceedingly important qualities in a president. We don't need a professor as much as we need a CEO (or a general, for that matter).

During Hurricane Katrina, the governor of Louisiana and the mayor of New Orleans were useless, but all the blame fell on President Bush because federal aid took, what, four days to get to New Orleans? We're two months into this oil spill, and let's see how decisive Professor Obama is:

Eight days ago, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal ordered barges to begin vacuuming crude oil out of his state's oil-soaked waters. Today, against the governor's wishes, those barges sat idle, even as more oil flowed toward the Louisiana shore...

"The Coast Guard came and shut them down," Jindal said. "You got men on the barges in the oil, and they have been told by the Coast Guard, 'Cease and desist. Stop sucking up that oil'"...

But the Coast Guard ordered the stoppage because of reasons that Jindal found frustrating. The Coast Guard needed to confirm that there were fire extinguishers and life vests on board, and then it had trouble contacting the people who built the barges.

Remember when we were told that the reason to vote for Obama was competence? Here's your counterexample--as if we needed yet another one. And the battered spouse environmentalists will still support him.

Update: Mort Zuckerman, no conservative, doesn't mince words:
World Sees Obama as Incompetent and Amateur
This is truly damning:
The reviews of Obama's performance have been disappointing. He has seemed uncomfortable in the role of leading other nations, and often seems to suggest there is nothing special about America's role in the world. The global community was puzzled over the pictures of Obama bowing to some of the world's leaders and surprised by his gratuitous criticisms of and apologies for America's foreign policy under the previous administration of George W. Bush. One Middle East authority, Fouad Ajami, pointed out that Obama seems unaware that it is bad form and even a great moral lapse to speak ill of one's own tribe while in the lands of others...

The end result is that a critical mass of influential people in world affairs who once held high hopes for the president have begun to wonder whether they misjudged the man. They are no longer dazzled by his rock star personality and there is a sense that there is something amateurish and even incompetent about how Obama is managing U.S. power...

America right now appears to be unreliable to traditional friends, compliant to rivals, and weak to enemies. One renowned Asian leader stated recently at a private dinner in the United States, "We in Asia are convinced that Obama is not strong enough to confront his opponents, but we fear that he is not strong enough to support his friends."

The president just doesn't understand, or is indifferent to, his role as President of the United States.

Parents of Teenagers

I can't believe it, but my son is starting high school in a couple months. Wow, where has the time gone?

Each week I receive an email from, for no other reason than I want to experience all the cruise deals, if only vicariously! This week's email included comments about cruising with teenagers, and ended with this wisdom:

Being the parent of a teenager is almost like nearing the end of a great cruise: I'm amazed at how fast it's gone by, not ready for it to be over, and thankful to have been along for the ride.
Yep, it's pretty much like that.

I Hope Never To Need Police With These Skills

I have a long-time friend who's a cop and is a frequent commenter here at RotLC. I hope never to need someone with the training he's just had. I'll call it Training For Columbine.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My 4th CEAFU Conference

This is the fourth year in a row that I've represented the California Teachers Empowerment Network at the Concerned Educators Against Forced Unionism conference in DC. There weren't as many attendees as there have been in years past--the economy might have something to do with that--but it was probably the best of the 4 I've been to.

I'm sure that our "friends" on the left will attempt to dismiss this conference as preaching to the choir. Why, of course only Republicans would attend such a thing! These friends might be surprised to learn, however, what a bipartisan conference it truly is.

One attendee talked about how proud he is to be a Democrat, and how he thinks President Obama is a pragmatist who would be able to get good things done for the nation if only obstructionist Republicans wouldn't get in his way. This attendee also supports the concept of voluntary, as opposed to compulsory, unionism.

One of our speakers was Joe Williams, the Executive Director for Democrats For Education Reform. He was cheerfully, admittedly partisan, and wants to focus his education reform efforts only on Democrats.

Mike Miles, a Colorado Springs superintendent who seemed pretty happy that his district is only about 25% unionized, admitted that he is a Democrat. He gave the closing presentation, on how his district has eliminated the step-and-column pay scale and is going purely to pay-for-performance.

On the other hand, Congressman Joe "You Lied!" Wilson spoke to us for a few minutes during a congressional reception.

It was a politically diverse group of people in those conference rooms these past few days. I enjoyed myself immensely and hope that I brought back enough information to CTEN to justify the cost of my travel.

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The North Sea.

Today's question is:
The Boer War was fought on land comprising which modern-day country?

An Alternate View Of Teachers Unions

Greg from Rhymes With Right sent me this link, which certainly gives a view of unions that you don't often read here on my site.

Now is as good a time as any to state, clearly, my view of unions. In principle I have no problems with unions. In fact, in principle I support them! Voluntary associations of people who band together in their common interests--what could be more American than that?

The problems I have with unions are forced unionism, like we have in California and other "fair share" states, and the "mission creep" of unions to where they attempt to wield political power far beyond their raison d'etre of employee pay, benefits, and working conditions.

I have stated before that I would, if I could, be a full member of my local (district) teachers union. However, due to the "unified structure" forced by the NEA, in order to be a member of the local I also have to be a member of the state and national unions. My local union works with teachers, for teachers, whereas the state and national unions are nothing more than an offshoot of and PAC for the Democratic Party. I want nothing to do with the state and national unions, so I'm forbidden to be a member of my local union. It's very third grade--I don't want to be friends with their friends, so I can't be friends with them.

We Are Everywhere

Before leaving on this trip, I put out a call on my West Point email list for anyone in the DC area who might be able to meet up for lunch. I ended up having my President Obama Burger with a member of the Class of '86.

The last speaker at our conference today is currently the superintendent of a Colorado Springs school district. Class of '78.

After the conference I got on the Metro and headed for Reagan National Airport. Just a couple seats away, facing me, was the wife of my sophomore year roommate and best friend, and two of her daughters--one of whom reports for her plebe summer at West Point in less than two weeks. Class of '14.

While chatting with my friend's family (my friend is in Denver right now, and I have a 60 minute layover in Denver) another cadet, who's interning this summer at the Pentagon, boarded the Metro. He looked resplendent in his uniform complete with Commandant's List wreath, Dean's List star, Recondo Badge, and Air Assault badge. (I remember being that young, thin, and good-looking!) Class of '12.

We West Pointers are everywhere.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The buffalo nickel, minted from 1913-1938.

Today's question is:
Into which body of water does the Rhine River empty?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The two-deck Airbus 380.

Today's question is:
The words “In God We Trust” were first put on US coinage in 1864, on the 2 cent piece. In 1866 the motto was put on most other US coins. Disregarding the 2007 presidential dollar error coins, what was the last circulating US coin not to carry that motto?

IPCC "Consensus" on Global Warming

This isn't much of a consensus in my book:

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change misled the press and public into believing that thousands of scientists backed its claims on manmade global warming, according to Mike Hulme, a prominent climate scientist and IPCC insider. The actual number of scientists who backed that claim was “only a few dozen experts,” he states in a paper for Progress in Physical Geography, co-authored with student Martin Mahony...

Hulme’s depiction of IPCC’s exaggeration of the number of scientists who backed its claim about man-made climate change can be found on pages 10 and 11 of his paper, found here.

Here are my questions to the Church Of Global Warming adherents:

Are you ready yet to accept that you were duped, that you allowed your emotions to get the best of you?

Are you ready to admit that there never was a "consensus" on global warming?

Are you ready yet to do what you yourselves said you were promoting all along--to let the science speak for itself?

Can you accept that your passion alone does not "settle" the science, and that the science in this case was faked?

Can you let it go yet, or are you too emotionally invested in being right to admit you're wrong?

The Uniform Here in Washington

Our hotel and the location of our conference are both in very close proximity to the Capitol South metro stop as well as both House Office Buildings, where the 435 members of the House of Representatives have their offices. I can tell whenever a train's just stopped at the Metro station, as a swarm of people come up from underground in true Eloi fashion. **see below

Ah, fashion.

There's a definite uniform, especially for men, here in DC. Dark suit, light shirt, flashy tie. You might think, that's the uniform everywhere, Darren, but it's not. Anyone who's not a tourist is wearing it here. I can walk down the streets of Sacramento and see plenty of men wearing suits, but it's not like this.

There are a lot of young guys here. Pages, interns, congressional staffers. All of them wear exactly the same clothing. It's more than a little Children Of The Corn to see these teenage boys attired so. Some may think they look good dressed that way. To me it looks like they're pretending--in the words of Holden Caulfield, they're phony.

I thought about it yesterday, as I was touring about wearing shorts and a Starfleet Academy t-shirt. All the good-looking young guys around here are dressed like middle-aged fat men, and I as a middle-aged fat man was dressed like a good-looking young guy.

DC can be a very strange place, when you think about it.

**Yes, it was the Morlocks who lived underground, but the Eloi lived above ground and had become frail through lack of physical work. The Eloi probably descended from people who wore dark suits, light shirts, and flashy ties.

Is An Apology Enough?

What has become of our lawmakers? They're arrogant enough today to call their constituents names, to accuse them of hurling racial epithets (with absolutely no proof)--and now we have one assaulting student reporter.

The kid is well-dressed, certainly not looking threatening, and, instead of "getting in his face", just asks the congressman if he completely supports the Obama agenda. Some Alinskiyite, this kid!

The Congressman's response is to grab the student, hold his wrist, repeatedly ask who the student is, grab his neck, and then release him. It's all on video.

Any of you liberals want to defend this? Perhaps say that Republicans do it, too, so it's OK?

CNN video

An apology is not enough. Good people in North Carolina know that this man shouldn't be representing them in Congress.

Hi, Arne!

Yesterday on my travels around the Mall I stopped in at the Air and Space Museum. I'm sure this will come as a tremendous surprise to my readers, since I never go to the A&S! (Yes, folks, that's sarcasm.) I just feel at home there. I mean, really, can anyone ever have too many pictures of a DC-3?

I did something new at the A&S, though--I walked out the back door instead of the front. And what did I see, just across the street?

(If I can ever get the picture of the US Dept of Education building to load, I'll insert it here)

Update, 6/17/10:

Monday, June 14, 2010

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The Argentinian cruiser General Belgrano, formerly the USS Phoenix, was sunk by the British nuclear submarine HMS Conqueror during the Falklands War.

Today's question is:
What is currently the world's largest passenger airliner?

Where's Darren?

My hotel's internet connection is pretty bad, but here are some pictures that tell the story of my last couple of days. Yesterday started very early in Sacramento...
(click on pictures to enlarge them)

...and the weather wasn't so great in Denver.

Now can you tell where Darren is?

If not, then this picture from this morning should give it away.
(Mmm! Brother needs a tan on those legs!)

Here's the menu of the place I just went to for lunch. Guess which burger I had! (Hint: cats and dogs, lying down together!) Just in case that link ever goes bad or even changes, I have a copy of their menu; I'll scan/post it when I get home.

In a little while will be the welcoming reception for the Concerned Educators Against Forced Unionism conference, the purpose of my visit to our nation's capital. This is the fourth year in a row I've attended, representing the California Teachers Empowerment Network.

Update, 6/17/10: Here's the menu. Yes, I had the Prez Obama Burger.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
What is currently the only ship in the world to have been sunk by a nuclear-powered submarine?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Cripple Creek.

Today's question is:
The Mayan feathered serpent god Kukulkan is closely related to which Aztec god?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Hu Jintao is President, and Wen Jiabao is Premier.

Today's question is:
What is the name of the Colorado gold mining town that was the subject of a 1970 song by The Band?

Jobs Americans Won't Do

Today, on the last day of school!, a former student came to visit me. He's perhaps the most talented musician I've ever known and attends a well-known music school in New York City. Among the many things we talked about was the fact that he'll be a resident assistant in his dorm next year. That means he won't have to pay to live in the dorms!

He also reminded me that his (current) citizenship is Canadian, although he's working through the system to get his American citizenship. (It would be great if his naturalization ceremony is here in Sacramento so I could attend).

During our talk it hit me--he's taking a job away from a good red, white, and blue-blooded American kid! Or is RA one of those jobs I keep hearing about that Americans won't do?

(Attention feverswamp liberals! The last paragraph is said in good humor, not in denigration. Please do not get your panties in a bunch over it.)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Liberals, Ethnicity, and Those of Indian Descent

Why has no Indian-American liberal risen as high in the Democratic ranks as Jindal and Haley have done in the GOP? Could it be that because Democrats put more of an emphasis on identity politics, an Indian-American Democrat would have to contend with other ethnic constituencies that might think that it’s ‘their turn’ first? And once you go down the ‘identity’ route, your success as a politician tends to rest more on the weight of numbers—the size of your ethnic constituency, or your racial voting bloc—than on the weight of your ideas. The most striking thing about Jindal and Haley’s success is not that they are Indian-American politicians who have triumphed in conservative Southern states, but that they are conservative Southern politicians who just happen to be Indian American. link

Those racist Southerners!


I got home from working graduation only about a half an hour ago. I hate the thought of doing it, but I always love doing it.

There's so much joy at a graduation....

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce tribe.

Today's question is:
Identify either the president or the premier of China.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

I Met With Our District Superintendent Today

As I wrote last week that I would, today I met with our district superintendent regarding illegal fees charged in our schools.

I'm notoriously bad at reading people, but she gave me every reason to believe that she took my concerns seriously and was sincere in her resolve to correct the issue. She told me that as an Associate Superintendent in another district she was involved in the same issue, and therefore was aware that the specifics I brought to her attention were real and needed correcting. What with summer vacation fast approaching this obviously isn't something about which she can gather information immediately, but committed to getting in touch with me in August to let me know her progress.

I came away from the meeting pleased, and am curious what her plan for overcoming decades of inertia will be.

BP and the President

This president is a disaster of BP proportions.

To all bar Tony Hayward, it is clear that BP is finished in America. A Macarthyite degree of opprobrium has been cast against the interloper. As Matthew Lynn notes, BP’s PR flunkies are grovelling across the networks, apologising in that singularly lachrymose British fashion. They should stop demeaning themselves and fight back. BP is to blame for the leak, but it is being demonised by an American President whose desperate populism and prejudice is masquerading as principled leadership; it is the latest British institution to be victimised by Barack Obama...

Barack Obama ignores these current and historical realities by unleashing banal rhetorical flourishes, such as: ‘BP is responsible, BP will pay.’ (Lawyers will debate that contention for years.) Next, disregarding BP’s loud remorse, he castigated the company’s directors for ‘trying to point the finger at everyone other than themselves.’ His coup de grace was to call a fatuous criminal investigation into BP. The indignant, fuming President then softened his image by posing with Diana-like despair on a sunlight beach, gazing into the middle distance above the blackened sea. None of which has stemmed the disaster. Powerless to act and unpopular, his arsenal's a bland granary of brimstone and photo-ops; the mid-terms must worry the visiers surrounding the king.

He's been likened to King Canute of "commanding the tides" fame (yes, I know that Canute himself was saying the opposite of the impression often attributed to him). Professor Obama doesn't know what to do when he commands the oil to recede, or commands BP to make it stop, and his command fails. Was it arrogance that caused him to turn down offered help from other countries? He wants to keep his boot on BP's neck, but doesn't know whose "ass to kick".

Really, America? You voted for this guy?

Are Teachers Unions Losing Their Luster?

Let's hope so.

Earlier this week Politico’s Ben Smith reported on how tough economic times are leading politicians from both parties to start attacking government unions...

But politicians are not the only ones questioning their old labor allies. Hollywood, who has long been ally of teachers unions (witness the 1998 Rob Reiner funded Proposition 10), is also beginning to notice. Over the past year, three new documentaries The Cartel, Waiting for Superman, and The Lottery have all taken critical looks at our nation’s public school system and produced damning indictments of teachers unions.

State and national level unions serve no one but their leadership. If people on the left are finally noticing this, they're a little late to the party but we're glad to see 'em.

Counting All The Costs

I've long heard about how California's colleges and universities can't be beat for value--even though tuition has risen faster than inflation for quite awhile now, the cost of a degree is still far cheaper than in most states.

Except that's not entirely accurate:

In-state fees at California's public universities may be lower than tuition at similar campuses in other states, but when living expenses are factored in, the total cost of going to college here is more, new research by the California Postsecondary Education Commission shows.

Undergraduate fees at UC Davis were $9,940 for the 2009-10 year – but the cost nearly tripled to $27,000 when meals, books and a dorm room were added in. At UC Berkeley, the report shows, the total cost for a student living on campus was even greater: $28,900.

Residents of Illinois and Michigan, by contrast, pay higher tuition at their top-flight schools, but less overall because their cost of living is lower. Undergraduate tuition, books, room and board at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, totaled $25,500 this year; it was $23,700 at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

At some point we need to take off the rose-colored glasses in this state and catch a fleeting glimpse of reality.

Wednesday Trivia

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

Today's question is:
Which Native American chief is said to have surrendered to the US Army with the words, “I will fight no more forever”?

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Final Exams

Based on the results of the final exams I've given, no senior will fail to graduate because of the grade received in one of my courses.

I got closer to that Armageddon this year than I ever have before and it's not pretty. I won't accept personal responsibility for someone's failure to graduate, but neither will I take glee in assigning a grade I know to be fair when that grade results in a student's not graduating.

It'll eventually happen. That day will come, but it is not this day.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Peugeot Citroen.

Today's question is:
Which river is generally accepted as the longest in the world?

Shaking Down Your Parents To Support Your Teacher

I used to put out a "Bahamas Bucket" two days a year--on the last day of school before Christmas Break, and on the last day of school. Students could toss change in it so that I could someday go to the Bahamas. It was all in good fun, and it was purely voluntary. It took me quite awhile to roll all those coins so that the bank would take them (what, no coin counter like every casino in Nevada has?), and no, I don't put out the Bahamas Bucket anymore. I went to the Bahamas last summer. I'd put out an Iceland Bucket, but since I want to go to Iceland next summer, there wouldn't be enough time to get enough change in it to make a difference in my travel budget.

That's a rather lengthy lead-in to this story, wherein students are required to get $20 from their parents and then give the money to the school in order to shore up the school's operating budget. No, I'm not kidding.

Her daughter came home from school with instructions to “accomplish chores around the house with the goal of being paid by me for those chores the sum of $20,” Wellington wrote on her blog. “She would then have to hand the full $20 over to the school to make up for the shortfall in their overall budget.”

Her daughter’s participation, according to the information the school sent home, was mandatory. So you’re supposed to shake mom down for $20 and give it all to the teachers - no questions asked?

You’ll be stunned to learn this happened at a school in New Jersey.

And isn’t it interesting that this school was sending its little Johnnies and Julies home to collect, not for a field trip or class pizza day, but for the actual operating budget of the school. As in teacher salaries and benefits. This puts even more pressure on the kids. After all, now it’s nice Mrs. Johnson’s paycheck at stake.
Hard to believe.

Who Will He Blame For His Making A Speech That Makes Him Look So Stupid?

Just when you think the president couldn't look any worse, he opens his mouth:

Don't point fingers. Don't make excuses. Don't pass the buck.

That was the advice President Obama gave to a graduating high school class in Michigan Monday night -- advice that sent off an irony alert among Republicans who accuse the president of having "spent his tenure" doing exactly that.

Obama offered his guidance during the commencement speech at Kalamazoo Central High School.

Here's a list of times when President Obama did exactly the opposite of what he's telling the students.

Update, 6/10/10: Here's more:
Obama says he's sick and tired of the Washington blame game, but still can't resist doling out piles of blame himself.

His compulsive, reflexive finger-pointing at Republicans, George W. Bush and vague villains on the right is not only unbecoming, it also reinforces the gathering public verdict that Obama is a weakling.

Victims do not make good leaders.

Update, 6/12/10: You can't campaign on the idea that government can and should do everything, and then blame someone else when your administration can't do anything right:

Anti-Bush furor, meanwhile, had the exact opposite effect on liberals and moderates. Instead of shrinking their faith in government’s capabilities, it significantly expanded it. The only reason the U.S. economy had gone south or that other nations weren’t fans of America was because George W. Bush was the president.

It was a surprisingly simplistic argument that, unfortunately for President Obama, has become a nihilistic genie who cannot be put back into a bottle. Having let forth the argument that the president is literally responsible for anything bad that happens during his administration, it’s a bit hard now for the public to be persuaded that it’s really not Obama’s fault that oil is spewing into the ocean off American shores.

Khan Academy

Mr. Khan's repertoire of free online course offerings is expanding:

Mr. Khan calls his collection of videos "Khan Academy," and he lists himself as founder and faculty. That means he teaches every subject, and he has produced 1,400 lectures since he started in 2006. Now he records one to five lectures per day.

He started with subject matter he knows best—math and engineering, which he studied as an undergraduate at MIT. But lately he has added history lectures about the French Revolution and biology lectures on "Embryonic Stem Cells" and "Introduction to Cellular Respiration."

His site is here.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Real Life Math

Sometimes, a couple of facts and a knowledge of elementary school arithmetic is enough to separate fact from hysteria. Case in point: the class size "explosion" to be caused nationwide by teacher layoffs.

One Too Many Battles For The Battle-ax

Veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas makes foul comments about Jews.

Helen Thomas' invitation to address a high school graduation in Bethesda, Maryland, is revoked.

Helen Thomas retires, effective immediately.

Don't let the door hit you in the keister on the way out, Helen. Good riddance.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Winston Churchill.

Today's question is:
Which is the largest car manufacturer in France?

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Why Blogging Has Been Light

Took a trip with a friend this weekend. Click on the pictures to enlarge them.


Mono Lake

Great trip, and it's just as great to be home.

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question, the last in Religions Week, is:
Hinduism and Islam.

Today's question is:
Who is the only British prime minister to receive a Nobel Prize in literature, and also the first person to be recognized as an Honorary Citizen of the United States?

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Riverside County, CA.

Today's question, the last in Religions Week, is:
What are the 2 most practiced religions in India?

Next School Year

Shortly before school got out yesterday, our principal sent an email to the staff: two of our three vice principals will be going to other schools next year, and two others will be coming to our school. One of our newbies worked for a year at our school two years ago, and is the only person I've ever even heard of who was consistently cheered at faculty meetings.

Additionally, we now know, barring any changes over the summer, our schedules for next year. I'm probably 80% happy with mine, and that's not bad. Our current statistics teacher is retiring so I'll be teaching a couple sections of stats; I'm looking forward to teaching something new.

It has the possibility to be a very good year for me. Here's to hoping!

Friday, June 04, 2010

Among My Favorite Traditions

I have a couple of traditions in my classroom, and one of them started up again today. Each year, after the seniors take their final exams in my class (and I won't see them again), I let them line up at the door ahead of the underclassmen. When the bell rings and they leave, it's time for "Hugs Or Handshakes".

Earlier this week I went to dinner with some of my current and former seniors as well as my French foreign exchange student. It's enjoyable to spend time with seniors outside of the classroom environment, to see them as up-and-coming-adults instead of as students.

Graduation season is among my favorite times of the year, and not just because I'll soon get 9 or 10 weeks off.

Guess What UPS Delivered Today

Go ahead, guess :)

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
John Paul I's reign lasted 33 calendar days (currently the 10th shortest reigning pope), and John Paul II's reign lasted 26 years, 5 months, 18 days (currently the 2nd longest of all popes).

Today's question is:
Where is the world headquarters for the Church of Scientology?

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Fixing California's Pension Timebomb

The Reason Foundation (libertarians) has issued a report outlining the dire circumstances in which the State of California finds itself regarding promised pension benefits. One of the recommendations of the report is:

Close the defined-benefit pension plans for state employees and enroll all new employees in defined-contribution plans for pensions and other post-employment benefits, such as retiree health care and dental benefits.

California voters turned down a proposition on exactly this suggestion just a few years ago. This state might be doomed.

Our Current Deficits and Debt

To say that the tea partiers are racist because they weren't protesting President Bush's deficits ignores the fact that while Bush's deficits were big, Obama's are 3 times as big.

Illegal Fees Charged In Schools

I have an appointment with my district superintendent next week, the purpose of which is to discuss the charging of illegal fees in our schools. Having tackled this issue for many years now I'm quite aware of what the legal requirements are, and I have no doubt that many of the fees we charge are unlawful.

Landing in my lap yesterday is a report from the San Diego County Grand Jury. Scroll down to Fact Set Seven, page 11/15, to get to the findings regarding certain fees charged in San Diego schools. The grand jury found that in every case the fees were illegal.

This report will certainly strengthen my claim that our district should probably stop this practice sooner rather than later.