Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Stupid Should Hurt

Stupid should hurt, and you shouldn't be able to blame someone else when you do something stupid:

Kyle Dubois and his parents claim teacher Thomas Kelley did not warn Dubois and other students of the dangers of the electrical demonstration cords in their electrical trades class.

On March 11, Dubois attached an electrical clamp to one nipple while another student attached another clamp to the other. A third student plugged in the cord.

Dubois was critically injured.

The New Hampshire Union Leader says Dubois' suit contends he suffered permanent brain damage.

I don't think I'm going out on a limb here when I state that the brain damage was done long before the idiot connected an electrical clamp to his nipple.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Keith, Laurie, Danny, Tracie, and Chris.

Today's question is:
What nationality is performer/producer/philanthropist Shakira?

OK For Me, But Not For Thee

Can you imagine the hue and cry from the left and its friends in the media if Rod Paige or Margaret Spellings, or any other member of the Bush Administration, had done something like this?

President Obama's top education official urged government employees to attend a rally that the Rev. Al Sharpton organized to counter a larger conservative event on the Mall. (boldface mine--Darren)

"ED staff are invited to join Secretary Arne Duncan, the Reverend Al Sharpton, and other leaders on Saturday, Aug. 28, for the 'Reclaim the Dream' rally and march," began an internal e-mail sent to more than 4,000 employees of the Department of Education on Wednesday.

Sharpton created the event after Glenn Beck announced a massive Tea Party "Restoring Honor" rally at the Lincoln Memorial, where King spoke in 1963.

The Washington Examiner learned of the e-mail from a Department of Education employee who felt uncomfortable with Duncan's request.

Kudos to the Examiner for publishing this story. I notice that CNN doesn't have such a story as of the time I write this....

Monday, August 30, 2010

Go Home Freshmen

It's been customary, for all the years I've been at my current school, for the upperclasses to periodically shout "go home freshmen (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap)" at rallies. We have a very mild school--no freshman hazing--and most seemed to think it good, harmless fun. At most, it was a relatively painless rite of passage.

This year, though, our 2nd-year principal has decided that our rallies, and indeed our entire school, will be places where everyone can feel welcome. Before last Friday's Back To School Rally, he got on the PA system and reminded students that such chants weren't going to happen. Students had already been told that if such chants occurred, he'd stop the rally immediately, and the remainder of the time might involve sitting in the bleachers listening to him explain why that behavior is inappropriate at our school.

The rally went off without a hitch.

Today, however, some of my students, especially sophomores, mentioned how upset they were that the principal was taking away one of their "traditions". Sensing a teaching moment, I momentarily indulged their discussion.

Then I explained that it's ok to disagree with the boss' decision, but he's the guy in charge, and it's his decision to make. And if you really don't like the decision, is this a situation over which you're willing to fall on your sword? If it's not, just move on and accept it. No one thought this was sword-falling territory, like a school uniform would be, so the conversation dwindled quickly and we got back to math.

One crisis down.

The Kids May Not Be All Right

This intro is a bit extreme, but it's not too far from the truth:

Our kids have become cannon fodder for two rival ideologies battling to control America’s future.

In one camp are conservative Christians and their champion, the Texas State Board of Education; in the other are politically radical multiculturalists and their de facto champion, President Barack Obama. The two competing visions couldn’t be more different. And the stakes couldn’t be higher. Unfortunately, whichever side wins — your kid ends up losing.

That’s because this war is for the power to dictate what our children are taught — and, by extension, how future generations of Americans will view the world. Long gone are the days when classrooms were for learning: now each side sees the public school system as a vast indoctrination camp in which future culture-warriors are trained. The problem is, two diametrically opposed philosophies are struggling for supremacy, and neither is willing to give an inch, so the end result is extremism, no matter which side temporarily comes out on top.

Both visions are grotesque and unacceptable — and yet they are currently the only two choices on the national menu. Which shall it be, sir: Brainwashing Fricassee, or a Fried Ignorance Sandwich?

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Seals and Crofts.

Today's question is:
What were the names of the Partridge Family children?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question, the first in Music Week, is:
Who performed the 1972 soft rock hit Summer Breeze?

Soldiers Who Go To West Point

An interesting story about active duty soldiers who go to West Point:

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., is looking for a few good Soldiers.Soldier admissions officer Maj. Brian Easley has 85 slots for active-duty Soldiers and 85 slots for reserve-component Soldiers in every class. But he can't fill them-something he finds "heartbreaking," especially because he knows there are many young Soldiers who would excel at West Point and become great officers.

One of the hardest parts is convincing Soldiers, who must be single with no dependants and between 17 and 23 years old, that they might have a shot at getting in to a school that has educated presidents and four-star generals. Easley targets Soldiers who have high Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery and General Technical test scores, reasoning they would also do well on the SAT or ACT.

"It's a very challenging academic environment, so we wouldn't want to set any Soldier up for failure," he explained. "The challenge for me is to find Soldiers who could come here and be successful.... What you see from this small minority group within the corps-they only represent about 10 percent of their class-is that they tend to bubble to the top. My own theory is it's because of their maturity, their prior experience in the military, some of their leadership."

There are also so personal details:
Her first reaction when arriving at the academy, however, was that she wanted to return to Iraq, as West Point is a shock academically and socially, the prior-service cadets all agreed. Although basic training at West Point is run by cadets who are usually years younger with no real experience, it's harder than one might expect, and also quite humbling.

"You go from being an E-5 to being basically a nobody and it's tough. You have to exercise humility. You have to have the goal in mind of graduation. You have to be focused on that and understand that you're going to have to pay your dues just like everyone else," said 2nd Lt. Tyler Gordy, class of 2010, adding that it took about four months for him to adjust...

But it was also difficult to deal with combat memories while at West Point, he (another cadet) continued. No one from his unit was there to understand why he might be sad on a particular day, and combat veterans have the usual reintegration challenges in addition to schoolwork. Cook agreed; she doesn't sleep well and, thanks to several mortars and improvised-explosive devices, doesn't like loud noises. She said the counselors at West Point are more equipped to deal with college-student anxiety than combat veterans and that many of her fellow cadets simply don't understand. They can't.

"Because they haven't been there, they don't really understand combat," Cook, who is involved with the prior-service club, said. "They don't understand it really can affect people.... PTSD is always a joke.... It's always about how weak these people are. I just wish they could see some of the things that I've seen, or go to the places that I've been and know the people I know, and understand it's not a joke."

It's a different army and a different West Point than those I knew over 20 years ago.

The End of South Vietnam

I was up late last night, thinking, and this is where my thoughts led me...

I used to volunteer at the Western Aerospace Museum, now the Oakland Aviation Museum. We had a room devoted to World Airways, which was based in Oakland, and periodically a tall man would come in and "inspect" the room just to see how it was being maintained. I've long since forgotten his name, but he was introduced to me as the son-in-law of Ed Daly, World's founder.

Among the many artifacts in the room, we also had two videos--raw, riveting videos that I watched many, many times when I wasn't needed to give tours. Both of them documented Daly's and World's actions near the end of the Vietnam War, as the communists advanced on Saigon.

I've found the first one archived at cbs.com. It's a report on The Last Flight Out of Da Nang, a flight that was supposed to rescue women and children but was stormed by terrified soldiers instead. This broadcast may very well represent the pinnacle of television news reporting. For those of you not old enough to remember, imagine for a minute what it was like then, to watch this on tv and wonder what kind of world you lived in. Watch Ed Daly on the back stairs of a DC-8, hitting people with a pistol to get them off the stairs so that the plane could take off. Look at the panic on the ground, marvel at the professionalism and valor of the flight crew. Remember that the terror that's so apparent in the report is the arrival of communists.

The second video was about a flight sent to Saigon to rescue orphans, mostly Amer-asian children who would not be accepted in Vietnamese culture. I cannot find the video, but have found the following on World Airways' web site:

A week later, Daly directed a daring rescue of 57 Vietnamese orphans aboard a World DC-8 cargo aircraft, carrying them from Saigon to Oakland. The arrival was greeted with a sea of media, and President Gerald Ford immediately implemented "Operation Babylift," which utilized charter, scheduled airline and military aircraft to bring approximately 3,000 Vietnamese orphans to safety in the United States.

In the World video people rushed that plane too, handing up children, one even tossing a baby to get it on the flight. It was a cargo plane so there were no seats, the children were packed on the floor while only a couple of flight attendants tried in herculean fashion to tend to them all--and did so much better than anyone could possibly expect. Imagine how scared the children must have been, all the crying, yet the flight attendants kept on, doing so much more than just their jobs, as the plane flew across the Pacific and finally landed in Oakland.

Anyone who can watch those videos without getting choked up has a stronger disposition than I have. I'll keep looking online for the second video.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Hot Yoga

Oh. My. God.

I don't know why I do stupid things, but instead of the 60 minute intro class (not so hot, not so long), I signed up for the full-on 90 minute class for my very first one.

Who would have thought that yoga could take so much out of you? I mean, come on, scrawny people do yoga! Even so, my muscles are tired like I just finished a gym workout.

I think I'll go back tomorrow, but only for the 60 minute intro class at 11am--if I can get out of bed in time to make it.

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
2 bottles=1 magnum
4 magnums=1 Methuselah
8 magnums=1 Balthazar
10 magnums=1 Nebuchadnezzar

Today's question is:
What was the designation of the 2-engine German jet that flew at the end of World War II?

Don't forget, tomorrow starts another Theme Week, again on the subject of popular music.

Does This Not Make It Clear Enough?

West Campus High School proved again why it's one of the most sought-after schools in the Sacramento area after posting top scores on the California High School Exit Exam.

Just over a mile away, Hiram Johnson High School proved why it remains a top priority for Sacramento City Unified School District officials after posting among the worst results in the state.

Same district.

Similar neighborhood.

Different admissions policy.

West Campus is an open enrollment campus, where students must meet grade-point average requirements in order to apply. Among schools with more than 200 10th-graders taking the 2009-2010 exit exam, West Campus had the lowest percentage in California of sophomores failing, tying Orange County High School for the Arts, a charter that also has admissions requirements.

Culture matters. Whether it's the culture at home or the culture of the community or a symbiosis of the two, the importance placed on education in that culture matters. And being a native English speaker helps, too--there's a much higher percentage of English learners at Johnson than at West Campus, but only enough to contribute to the difference, not to explain it.

I Guess This Means We've Figured Out Who Owns EdFund

In this post from a month ago I pointed out that there was a disagreement between California and the feds as to who owns EdFund, a student loan guarantee agency. California wanted to sell the organization, but the feds said California didn't own it in the first place. Let's see how this has played out:

The U.S. Department of Education has tapped a Minnesota firm to take over California's student-loan guaranty business at the end of October, federal officials said Friday.

The decision officially ends the state's three-year saga of trying to sell EdFund, the nonprofit student-loan guaranty arm that had long generated cash for Cal Grants and tensions with its parent agency, the California Student Aid Commission...

Under the decision, Educational Credit Management Corp., based in Oakdale, Minn., will contract with EdFund for nine to 12 months to service a $38 billion portfolio of outstanding student loans. Thereafter, ECMC plans to hire 200 employees of its own to manage the portfolio, federal officials said...

California will retain more than $100 million to use in the 2010-11 state budget for Cal Grants, funds that lawmakers are already counting on. Most of that money was previously earned by EdFund and is in reserve. EdFund has raised more than $250 million total for Cal Grants in the past.

But the state will not be able to "sell" EdFund, as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state lawmakers told the Department of Finance to do in 2007 as a budget solution. When the governor originally proposed the idea, he suggested EdFund could sell for up to $1 billion. The failure of such transactions has contributed to the state's deficit woes.

The state formed EdFund in 1997 as a nonprofit public benefit corporation. The federal government's official guaranty relationship is with CSAC, which relies on EdFund to operate the student-loan portfolio. CSAC and EdFund feuded for many years, particularly over complaints that EdFund operated too much like a private firm by spending on bonuses and perks. CSAC officials were unavailable for comment Friday.

For years, the federal government used guarantors such as EdFund to spur private lending to college students. When students default, EdFund repays banks and gets reimbursed nearly in full by the federal government. EdFund earns most of its revenues by collecting from students in default.

The guaranty business is now destined to shrink because the federal government has eliminated private banks from its major student loan program, starting in July. Agencies like ECMC and EdFund no longer have a steady stream of new student loans to guarantee.

EdFund services roughly half the student loans previously taken out at California schools, including most of the California State University system. It serves schools in all 50 states; two-thirds of its borrowers are outside California.

He who pays the piper calls the tune.

Friday, August 27, 2010


click to enlarge
I received this in the mail yesterday.

Are ladies' nights at the bars next?

Chris Christie Fires NJ Education Commissioner

I'm sure there are plenty of people who don't like Chris Christie, but to conservatives he's a godsend. Take this example--would any Democrat do this?

Gov. Chris Christie fired state education commissioner Bret Schundler this morning after Schundler refused to resign in the wake of the controversy over the state's loss of up to $400 million in federal school funding.

"I was extremely disappointed to learn that the videotape of the Race to the Top presentation was not consistent with the information provided to me," Christie said in a press release. "As a result, I ordered an end to Bret Schundler’s service as New Jersey’s Education Commissioner and as a member of my administration"...

“As I have said before, I never promised the people of New Jersey that this would be a mistake-free administration," Christie said. "However, I did promise that the people serving in my administration would be held accountable for their actions.”

Christie asked Schundler to walk him through the details of the mistake before the governor came out to defend him earlier this week, according to a source.

But after Christie and other top officials on Thursday watched the video of Schundler and other officials' presentation to the U.S. Department of Education, and the video contradicted Schundler's explanation, the governor said, "He can't lie to me," the source said...

Schundler said today he asked to be fired rather than resign because he said he needed the unemployment benefits.

So far, I'm really liking Christie.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Black (followed by red, then gold).

Today's question is:
Name any of the measures of champagne bottle size larger than a “bottle”.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


It's not uncommon for teachers to lose their voices the first week of school. We do a lot of talking in our jobs, and many times we're not used to doing so much after summer vacation.

My voice feels fine, though, and I haven't heard anyone else complain about losing their voice. Most odd....

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Miss Mexico.

Today's question is:
What is the top color on the German flag?

The Disinfecting Quality of Sunlight

After being shamed into admitting that some teachers "add value" to students' educations and others are, to be charitable, not so good, LA Unified now wants to include a value-added approach in its teacher evaluations. The teachers union will, of course, enthusiastically endorse this plan.

Hat tip to Joanne Jacobs.

"Hard Landing" At Sacramento Int'l Today

A high school friend and his family, who will be crashing at my place tonight, were on the flight. He's the first passenger interviewed at this link.

Update, 8/27/10: My friend gave me these iPhone pictures that he took during the "incident".

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hell Hath No Fury Like A Teenage Girl Whose Cell Phone Is Yanked

From the New York Daily News:

A vengeful granddaughter ratted her out.

Investigators busted a Queens school secretary for spending more than $6,200 meant for city students on extravagances like seven ceiling fans, flowers, car service trips and a washer and dryer, a report released Tuesday shows.

Debbie Rizzo's own flesh-and-blood tipped off school officials after granny stopped paying the then-14-year-old girl's cell phone bill, investigators found.

Are there any good lessons to be drawn from this vignette?

Pushing The Limits Of Human Mental Endurance

Have you been following the Chilean mine collapse story?

The miners have been trapped for a total of 20 days with minimal food. A probe sent by rescuers found the men alive on Sunday, but it could be three to four months before a hole can be drilled that will reach the men, 2,300 feet below the earth's surface...

One thing that officials have not explicitly told the miners is how long they may be trapped before a rescue.

My gut reaction is not to tell them. It would be too easy to give up hope thinking that they might spend Christmas still trapped in that mine.

Is The Iraq War The Reason For Our Fiscal Insolvency?

In a word, no, but that won't stop Democrats from saying it is. Let's see what we can learn from the Washington Examiner:

Expect to hear a lot about how much the Iraq war cost in the days ahead from Democrats worried about voter wrath against their unprecedented spending excesses.

The meme is simple: The economy is in a shambles because of Bush's economic policies and his war in Iraq. As American Thinker's Randall Hoven points out, that's the message being peddled by lefties as diverse as former Clinton political strategist James Carville, economist Joseph Stiglitz, and The Nation's Washington editor, Christopher Hayes...

*Obama's stimulus, passed in his first month in office, will cost more than the entire Iraq War -- more than $100 billion (15%) more.

* Just the first two years of Obama's stimulus cost more than the entire cost of the Iraq War under President Bush, or six years of that war.

* Iraq War spending accounted for just 3.2% of all federal spending while it lasted.

* Iraq War spending was not even one quarter of what we spent on Medicare in the same time frame.

* Iraq War spending was not even 15% of the total deficit spending in that time frame. The cumulative deficit, 2003-2010, would have been four-point-something trillion dollars with or without the Iraq War.

* The Iraq War accounts for less than 8% of the federal debt held by the public at the end of 2010 ($9.031 trillion).

* During Bush's Iraq years, 2003-2008, the federal government spent more on education that it did on the Iraq War. (State and local governments spent about ten times more.)

This is not to say that the war was cheap or has no bearing on our federal debt, just that not all of our current problems can be laid at its doorstep.

Points of reference are wonderful, aren't they?

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Charlton Heston.

Today's question is:
Who won the Miss Universe 2010 competition, held in Las Vegas earlier this week?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

So We Screwed Up Our State Standards, Why, Again?

California adopted "national" standards, which in math are not as good as the standards we've had since 1999, in hopes of getting a little Race To The Top bone thrown to the state. How'd that work out?

State education officials are reacting this morning to news that California wasn't a winner in round two of the Race to the Top competition for federal education funding.

We now have worse math standards and no additional money. Good job, gang.

Putting The Best Spin On Mediocre News

Reported today on the web site of the major Sacramento newspaper:

More than four of every five 10th-graders passed the high school exit exam on their first try last year, according to results released Tuesday.

So why is this mediocre news?

The map below shows the percentage of local 10th-graders failing the exit exam last year by district.

It's a really cool graphic, by the way. But as the statement shows, only about 80% of sophomores passed the test. This is not worthy of fireworks and brass bands, though, because the test is written mostly at our 7th grade standards.

On the Road To Success

Last month I wrote this post, in which I officially and publicly announced my plans to lose 30 pounds this school year.

As of this morning, I'm 10 pounds closer to that goal :-) I wore long pants and had to cinch up the belt a bit more than I remember doing when school ended last June.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Ten. 3 parks each in California, New Jersey, and Texas; 2 each in Georgia and New York; and 1 each in Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Missouri.

Today's question is:
What actor's name at birth was John Charles Carter? (Hint: focus on the middle name.) Oh go on, take a guess!

Monday, August 23, 2010

First Day of School

At my school, we don't do anything that hasn't been done there before. It's ossified.

Could this perhaps be changing? Because today we did something entirely new. I thought it was going to be a cluster-gaggle, but for the most part it worked fairly well.

I'm so tired, though. I stayed up late last night, whether out of first-day jitters or not being used to going to bed so early or whatever. I was fine all day, but I'm crashing and burning now. I even called and bowed out of our Monday night trivia competition downtown.

I'll get plenty of sleep and be up and at 'em tomorrow. 20 minutes on the elliptical trainer each morning is really a good thing!

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Clark County.

Today's question is:
In how many US states does Six Flags operate amusement parks?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Taj Mahal High School

I don't really want to reinvent the wheel here, rewriting something I've written before. I need to get to bed so I can be fresh and ready to go for the first day of school tomorrow. So as a prelude to this story, please read this post from last March.

Go on, go read it. It's very important. Hundreds of millions of dollars a year, billions in toto.

Now that you're all depressed from reading about all that wasted money and those results, let's see what Los Angeles is doing:

Next month's opening of the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools will be auspicious for a reason other than its both storied and infamous history as the former Ambassador Hotel, where the Democratic presidential contender was assassinated in 1968.

With an eye-popping price tag of $578 million, it will mark the inauguration of the nation's most expensive public school ever.

The K-12 complex to house 4,200 students has raised eyebrows across the country as the creme de la creme of "Taj Mahal" schools, $100 million-plus campuses boasting both architectural panache and deluxe amenities.

"There's no more of the old, windowless cinderblock schools of the '70s where kids felt, 'Oh, back to jail,'" said Joe Agron, editor-in-chief of American School & University, a school construction journal. "Districts want a showpiece for the community, a really impressive environment for learning."

I don't fault anyone for wanting kids to have a nice school, but short of an entire graduating class' being Stanford-bound, I can't see how anyone can justify such an expense.

It's Over

Summer vacation is over. Tomorrow I go back to school and face students.

I've been going back the last couple weeks, here and there. We've had some personnel changes--one person I didn't think too highly of, one person who didn't think too highly of me--and I'm feeling really good about starting the new year.

Oh, there are going to be some challenges, all right. I don't want to list them here, in case any students stumble on this blog--don't want to be airing any dirty laundry to them!--but I think I can deal with the challenges. Actually, I guess I have no choice but to deal with them!

Early to bed tonight. I'll get up, record my weight, ride the elliptical trainer for 20 minutes, and get ready for school. 181 school days and counting!

Religious Schools Can't Have Police Departments?

That's what this ruling says:

It's not every day that First Amendment issues get raised in a drunk-driving case. But last week the Court of Appeals threw out a DWI case involving an arrest by a Davidson College police officer, agreeing with the defense that Davidson is a religious institution and giving police powers to the school is unconstitutional. "We hold that the delegation of police power to Davidson College ... is an unconstitutional delegation of ‘an important discretionary governmental power' to a religious institution in the context of the First Amendment," Judge James A. Wynn Jr. wrote in a unanimous opinion before his departure to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Allen Brotherton, who represented the defendant, said he thinks the opinion should have an impact on the way campus police departments on all church-affiliated schools in the state operate.

I'm not sure why, but I find that a very interesting ruling.

Update, 8/26/10: The North Carolina Supreme Court has stayed the ruling and is considering hearing the case.

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Sloane Peterson.

Today's question is:
In what county is Las Vegas, Nevada?

Loyalty Oaths

If my search tool is correct, it's been two years since I wrote about loyalty oaths. This is the last post I can find on the topic.

Somewhere whilst surfing the interwebs I got to this link, the latest person whining about having to sign a loyalty oath as a condition of taking a government job. The back-and-forth in the comments at the first link is, I think, an illuminating commentary on the issues involved.

Media Bias

Can Fox News Cover Democrats Fairly While Supporting Republicans?

I'm curious how Fox News "supports" Republicans. I guess that when you don't bash Republicans at every turn, that counts in some circles as supporting.

My first thought when I read the linked article was that people have quickly forgotten whom Rupert Murdoch supported (financially, and otherwise) in the 2008 presidential election. Fortunately, Ed Driscoll leaves a brilliant comment:

Can any of the myriad media outlets whose members were on the JournoList listserv cover Obama fairly after admitting that they were part of the self-described "Non-Official Campaign Staff" for Obama? Can the New York Times cover Republicans fairly after their ombudsman admitted in 2004 that "of course" the New York Times is a liberal newspaper?"

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington in 1963.

Today's question is:
What was the name of Ferris Bueller's girlfriend?

No Budget, No Cal Grants

The major Sacramento newspaper reports:

Some 335,500 students going to California colleges this fall have qualified for Cal Grants because their family incomes are so low. They need the grants to pay tuition, buy books or cover basic living expenses.

But without a budget for the 2010-11 year, the state is not sending out any Cal Grants.

You know what? I'm not even going to comment on that. Not yet, anyway.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Almost Sidetracked

In this post from a few weeks ago I kicked off my big weight-losing program. In the 3 weeks since then I've lost about 7 pounds! Part of my plan is to give up the internet in the mornings before school, and to replace it with 20 minutes on my elliptical trainer.

Last Saturday night, just as I was about to fall asleep in the USS Egg-terprise while camped at the scooter rally, I heard my phone beep and saw it light up. My housesitter was letting me know that a friend of his, another former student of mine, had broken my elliptical trainer.

It didn't really happen that way, of course. A steel bar had sheared off, and the culprit might weigh 150 pounds soaking wet. What happened is what's known as an "accident"; it was just time for that rod to break.

But what was I to do? My master plan was going to take a serious beating without the elliptical trainer!

I was discussing all of this during our in-service time earlier this week, and a fellow teacher said I could have his elliptical. Huh? Well, he didn't use it, and wants to reclaim the space in his garage. And he would give it to me!

It now sits where my old one did. It's nicer than my old one was, too. The broken one now sits in my driveway with a "free to good home" sign on it--all it needs is that bar welded.

But whatever. I'm back on track!

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The House of Burgesses.

Today's question is:
Where and when did Dr. King give his “I Have A Dream” speech?

Milan Kundera

I would not have known who Milan Kundera is had I not been encouraged to read The Unbearable Lightness of Being by someone for whom I carried a flamethrower, and for whom I still carry, after all these years, if not a torch, then at least a candle with many wicks.

But I digress.

Kundera was a Czech writer who lived under communism as a Party member, later supported a "reform" of Czech communism, and then gave up on that pipe dream and moved to France.

In The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, he articulates the dilemma that has ever afflicted the left. “Hell is already contained in the dream of paradise,” he contends. “Once the dream of paradise starts to turn into reality, however, here and there people begin to crop up who stand in its way, and so the rulers of paradise must build a little gulag on the side of Eden. In the course of time this gulag grows ever bigger … while the adjoining paradise gets ever smaller.” link

Later in life, Kundera finally and obviously understood.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Thursday Trivia

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

Today's question is:
Prior to and during the American Revolution, what was the name of the Virginia legislative assembly?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

No Charges In Laptop Spying Case

The hottest story on the education blogs today relates to this post I wrote way back in February, in which school-issued laptops had built-in cameras activated remotely--and the pictures were stored at the district. Students had these laptops in their bedrooms, and you can see where we're going with this one:

Federal prosecutors on Tuesday closed their investigation into Lower Merion School District's secret use of software to track student laptops, saying they found no evidence that anyone intentionally committed a crime.

The decision, announced by U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger, ended a six-month probe by the FBI into allegations that district employees might have spied on students through webcams on their school-issued laptops.

In a brief statement released by his office, Memeger didn't disclose details of the investigation, but said agents and prosecutors concluded that charges were unwarranted.

"For the government to prosecute a criminal case, it must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person charged acted with criminal intent," his statement said. "We have not found evidence that would establish beyond a reasonable doubt that anyone involved had criminal intent."

I understand the "criminal intent" idea, but what about the "ignorance of the law is no excuse" idea?

The civil suits remain.

Education Buzz #2

The current issue is posted here and includes my post about universities' being sued by the Justice Department for using Kindles.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
June 14th.

Today's question is:
Prior to the adoption of the euro, what was the currency of Austria?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

All High School Students Should Be Prepared For College?

Earlier this week, the California Department of Education released the results for last spring's standardized testing. Let's look at the results from Mission High in San Francisco, shall we?

English/Language Arts (9th/10th/11th grades)
% advanced: 14/6/6
% proficient: 28/13/11
% basic: 24/28/27
% below basic: 20/26/23
% far below basic: 14/27/34

Algebra I (9th/10th/11th/end of course)--a requirement for graduation in California
% advanced: 0/0/no score/0
% proficient: 17/0/no score/15
% basic: 20/5/no score/18
% below basic: 37/43/no score/38
% far below basic: 26/52/no score/29

Algebra II (9th/10th/11th/end of course)--a minimum requirement for acceptance to a 4-year university in California
% advanced: no score/12/2/5
% proficient: no score/14/0/5
% basic: no score/8/5/6
% below basic: no score/18/25/22
% far below basic: no score/47/68/61

So let's recap. At this one school, anywhere from about 58-84% of all tested students (seniors aren't tested) are less than proficient in English/Language Arts; in Algebra I, 85% of all tested students are less than proficient; and in Algebra II, 89% of all tested students are less than proficient.

Why do I bring this up? Because this particular school has decided that all students must meet the University of California/California State University entrance requirements upon graduating from high school:

But the new freshmen at San Francisco's Mission High School also had to face something else Monday: In the next four years, they will have to complete all college prep classes required for admission to the University of California and California State University systems to graduate.

Almost all of the district's 4,200 freshmen will have to pass 15 courses, including four years of English, three years of math - through advanced algebra - and two years of a foreign language to graduate.

The plan, based on what are commonly called A-G requirements after the seven-part itemized checklist of courses, was implemented by the school board in spring 2009 and is designed to increase the number of college-bound graduates coming out of San Francisco high schools. The class of 2014, which started high school Monday, will be the first that must complete the 15-course requirement.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/08/17/BAUL1EUPE2.DTL#ixzz0wuc8he6k
We don't need more college students, what we need is prospective college students who are ready to perform college-level work without the need for remedial classes. High school isn't supposed to be just a college preparatory academy, it's also supposed to prepare students to be able to function, with a wide variety of at least basic skills and knowledge, in the adult world.

Based on the standardized testing results I quoted above, and the full list of them available at the first link, Mission High shouldn't be trying to make its students college-ready. It might start setting the bar at getting more than just a few of them proficient at high-school academics.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
1634. The Passion Play is now performed at the end of each decade; this year's performances will end on October 3, 2010.

Today's question is:
On what date is Flag Day celebrated in the US?

California School District Spending

EIA has posted spending numbers for every district in California (and is working his way through all 50 states). Since 2002-03, my district has lost a greater percentage of teachers than students, but per-pupil spending has gone up over 19%. The state average is 28%.

Rate My Teacher--Officially

Via Joanne I learned about this:
How to improve high school teachers?

Ask students, perhaps.

Lawmakers this week sent Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger a bill to create the state's first formal system for soliciting opinions of high school students about their classes and teacher effectiveness.

Senate Bill 1422 would authorize student governments at each high school to appoint a committee of students and faculty to develop surveys for "fostering improved communication between pupils and teachers, and improving individual classes."

Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, told a legislative committee that no one knows better than students which teaching methods serve them best.

SB 1422, sponsored by the California Association of Student Councils, passed the Assembly and Senate by votes of 54-12 and 22-4, respectively. Legislative committee analyses listed no formal opposition.

High school teachers would decide whether to distribute such annual surveys to their students – whose responses would be confidential, would be seen only by the affected teacher, and would not become a part of any personnel record.

Put simply, lousy teachers could just say no.

Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2010/08/16/2960882/the-buzz-california-lawmakers.html#ixzz0wtCn0OAn

Why do we need a state law to do this? Couldn't schools do this anyway? Or is it that schools now cannot say "no" to student governments that want to do this?

I gave surveys my first couple years of teaching, and got about what you'd expect--some very insightful comments, some general comments, and a few crappy comments. "Too much homework" isn't a comment I'm going to take to heart; "You should teach everyone the way you teach me", along with some specifics that I hadn't even noticed, really opened my eyes to how I operated in class.

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Co-opt 'Em

RightWingNews is the first sponsor of HomoCon 2010, and Ann Coulter is a featured speaker. Oh, the heads are popping in San Francisco and West Hollywood! link

Get away from the "social conservatism", and real conservatism is a live-and-let-live philosophy.

The Mindset of the Class of 2014

I really enjoy this annual list put out by Beloit College.

Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List. It provides a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall. The creation of Beloit’s Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride and former Public Affairs Director Ron Nief, it was originally created as a reminder to faculty to be aware of dated references, and quickly became a catalog of the rapidly changing worldview of each new generation. The Mindset List website at www.beloit.edu/mindset, the Mediasite webcast and its Facebook page receive more than 400,000 hits annually.

A few choice selections:

Fergie is a pop singer, not a princess.
They never twisted the coiled handset wire aimlessly around their wrists while chatting on the phone.
Cross-burning has always been deemed protected speech.
Unless they found one in their grandparents’ closet, they have never seen a carousel of Kodachrome slides.
“Viewer Discretion” has always been an available warning on TV shows.
Once they got through security, going to the airport has always resembled going to the mall.
American companies have always done business in Vietnam.
Nirvana is on the classic oldies station.
Rock bands have always played at presidential inaugural parties.
They have never worried about a Russian missile strike on the U.S.

And my favorite little jab:
Whatever their parents may have thought about the year they were born, Queen Elizabeth declared it an “Annus Horribilis.”
Things for professors to keep in mind. And high school teachers? We can go back at most 5 or 10 years before our reference is ancient history to students.

And 9/11 was 9 years ago.

My Personality Type

I took a personality quiz at the LA Times. It's of no scientific value whatsoever, but it's easy and fun! Because there were a couple answers where I couldn't decide between a couple of choices, I went back and retook it and got the same results.

Click here to see the answers I chose (at least the first time), my personality type, and to take the quiz yourself:

You're a Dynamo

You believe in positive mental attitude. You're energetic and curious, with a love of life and an infectious enthusiasm for new adventures. Conscious of your place in the world, you like to stay informed about social and political issues and feel a duty to be environmentally responsible. You are inspired to make your mark and leave a positive legacy. You are energized by your vibrant network of friends and colleagues. Tech savvy and hungry for knowledge, you live life to the full, always seeking new adventures that broaden your horizons and take you out of your comfort zone.

You really value your friends and appreciate the buzz that you get when you spend time with them. You have a voracious appetite for fun. You like to throw yourself into new experiences and are open to the potential that exists to grow and develop as a person. Sometimes nothing is more appealing than the idea of truly getting away from it all to recharge your batteries and come back firing on all cylinders. Dynamo I believe in positive mental attitude. I'm energetic and curious, with a love of life and an infectious enthusiasm for new adventures.

Kinda sorta true, but what's nifty is they recommended some news articles based on my choices, and I really liked the articles!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The 4th of July.

Today's question is:
In what year (+ or – 25 years) did the town of Oberammergau, in present-day Germany, begin its decennial Passion Play, even today keeping a vow that town residents made to God if He would spare them the ravages of the bubonic plague?

(Oh come on, just guess!)

Identifying Good and Bad Teachers--By Name

Look what the LA Times has done:

A Times analysis, using data largely ignored by LAUSD, looks at which educators help students learn, and which hold them back...

Yet year after year, one fifth-grade class learns far more than the other down the hall. The difference has almost nothing to do with the size of the class, the students or their parents.

It's their teachers.

With Miguel Aguilar, students consistently have made striking gains on state standardized tests, many of them vaulting from the bottom third of students in Los Angeles schools to well above average, according to a Times analysis. John Smith's pupils next door have started out slightly ahead of Aguilar's but by the end of the year have been far behind...

The Times used a statistical approach known as value-added analysis, which rates teachers based on their students' progress on standardized tests from year to year. Each student's performance is compared with his or her own in past years, which largely controls for outside influences often blamed for academic failure: poverty, prior learning and other factors.

Though controversial among teachers and others, the method has been increasingly embraced by education leaders and policymakers across the country, including the Obama administration...

Many teachers and union leaders are skeptical of the value-added approach, saying standardized tests are flawed and do not capture the more intangible benefits of good instruction. Some also fear teachers will be fired based on the arcane calculations of statisticians who have never worked in a classroom.

The respected National Academy of Sciences weighed in last October, saying the approach was promising but should not be used in "high stakes" decisions — firing teachers, for instance — without more study.

No one suggests using value-added analysis as the sole measure of a teacher. Many experts recommend that it count for half or less of a teacher's overall evaluation.

I didn't know this was going on. Very interesting. So what did they find out?

On visits to the classrooms of more than 50 elementary school teachers in Los Angeles, Times reporters found that the most effective instructors differed widely in style and personality. Perhaps not surprisingly, they shared a tendency to be strict, maintain high standards and encourage critical thinking.

But the surest sign of a teacher's effectiveness was the engagement of his or her students — something that often was obvious from the expressions on their faces...

Aguilar, a stocky 33-year-old who grew up in the area, is no showman. Soft-spoken and often stern, he doles out praise sparingly. It only seems to make his students try harder.

"Once in a while we joke around, but they know what my expectations are," he said. "When we open a book, we're focused."

It seems to work: On average, his students started the year in the 34th percentile in math compared with all other district fifth-graders. They finished in the 61st. Those gains, along with strong results in English, made him one of the most effective elementary school teachers in the district...

It was only 11a.m., and already it had been a tough day: Three of Smith's students were sitting in the principal's office because of disruptive behavior. All were later transferred permanently to other classrooms.

In an interview days later, Smith acknowledged that he had struggled at times to control his class.

"Not every teacher works with every kid," said Smith, 63, who started teaching in 1996. "Sometimes there are personality conflicts."

On average, Smith's students slide under his instruction, losing 14 percentile points in math during the school year relative to their peers districtwide, The Times found. Overall, he ranked among the least effective of the district's elementary school teachers...

Even at Third Street Elementary in Hancock Park, one of the most well-regarded schools in the district, Karen Caruso stands out for her dedication and professional accomplishments.

A teacher since 1984, she was one of the first in the district to be certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. In her spare time, she attends professional development workshops and teaches future teachers at UCLA.

She leads her school's teacher reading circle. In her purse last spring, she carried a book called "Strategies for Effective Teaching."

Third Street Principal Suzie Oh described Caruso as one of her most effective teachers.

But seven years of student test scores suggest otherwise.

In the Times analysis, Caruso, who teaches third grade, ranked among the bottom 10% of elementary school teachers in boosting students' test scores. On average, her students started the year at a high level — above the 80th percentile — but by the end had sunk 11 percentile points in math and 5 points in English.
Calling teachers out this way, by name, is brutal. Oh, I'm not saying it isn't necessary or important, but publishing their names like this in the paper is brutal. Joanne says that "[t]he teachers named as ineffective — which had to be humilating — said they’ll look for ways to improve." Is humiliation really what it takes?

I've been on the value-added bandwagon for years. I hope it takes off and is used as a tool to help teachers hone their craft. Combined with what Superintendent Mike Miles is doing in Harrison District 2 in Colorado Springs, this is how you make teaching a profession, and this is how you give children the best opportunity to learn.

Anti-union Unions

It's always funny whenever the employees of a teachers union--you know, the people who answer the phones, do publicity, and keep the union itself running--want to go on strike. The arguments you hear from the union employees are exactly like those you hear from teachers during contract disputes, and the unions themselves act like the old union-busters of old. Sometimes they even lock their employees out, all the while whistling past the Hypocrisy Graveyard. EIA, the nation's repository of all teachers union information, frequently writes about such happenings.

Sometimes you might be tempted to wonder if a story is true, it's just so wild. And even when strikes aren't the issue, you might wonder if unions can be so stridently anti-union. Seriously, though, you can't make stuff like this up:

In a move of stunning hypocrisy, the United Federation of Teachers axed one of its longtime employees -- for trying to unionize the powerful labor organization's own workers, it was charged yesterday.

Jim Callaghan, a veteran writer for the teachers union, told The Post he was booted from his $100,000-a-year job just two months after he informed UFT President Michael Mulgrew that he was trying to unionize some of his co-workers...

"I told him I want to have the same rights that teachers have," said Callaghan, 63, of Staten Island. "He told me he didn't want that, that he wanted to be able to fire whoever he wanted to."

The UFT has long strenuously resisted city efforts to make it easier for school administrators to fire teachers.

Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/this_oughta_teach_him_rQamwIU0sNZxyrmyNBxz4L#ixzz0wnqFhIe5

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Walmart vs. Target

Just click on the Wal*Mart label at the end of this post to read what I've written about Wal*Mart; if not, I'll summarize here:

I shop at Wal*Mart because it's cheap. I don't hate Wal*Mart just because they're a successful corporation. I'm not "loyal" to Wal*Mart; if another store offered me similar prices with more convenience, or lower prices, I'd switch in a heartbeat. I don't understand the anti-Wal*Mart hysteria that's out there.

Having said that, I've spent significantly less at Walmart this year, since they implemented the "no bag" policy (I've covered that topic in other posts), and concurrently became reacquainted with the joy of Safeway for certain types of products.

So how should I react to this?

Everyday low prices just got a little higher. A JPMorgan Chase study of a Virginia Walmart (hey, it's a big store, you gotta just pick one to do a decent survey of its inventory) found that in the past six weeks the retailer raised prices on overage of 6%, but on some products, as high as 60%.

My liberal friends have a standard, Journolist-unison-style answer: Target! Well, how should we react to this?

Protesters have been rallying outside Target Corp. or its stores almost daily since the retailer angered gay rights supporters and progressives by giving money to help a conservative Republican gubernatorial candidate in Minnesota. Liberal groups are pushing to make an example of the company, hoping its woes will deter other businesses from putting their corporate funds into elections.

A national gay rights group is negotiating with Target officials, demanding that the firm balance the scale by making comparable donations to benefit candidates it favors. Meanwhile, the controversy is threatening to complicate Target's business plans in other urban markets. Several city officials in San Francisco, one of the cities where Target hopes to expand, have begun criticizing the company.

I'm serious when I ask this: must everything be political?

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Diane Chambers.

Today's question is:
What holiday was not celebrated in Vicksburg, Mississippi, for 81 years, from mid-Civil War until the near-end of World War II?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Arlington National Cemetery.

Today's question is:
What was Shelley Long's character's name on the sitcom Cheers?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
44 cents.

Today's question is:
Where is President Kennedy buried?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Blogging Will Be Nonexistent For A Couple Days....

My next-door neighbor is a member of a scooter club, and since I, too, have a scooter, I'm get early knowledge of all the club's major activities.

Last year's rally was at Lake Tahoe. This year's is in Sonoma County, with the big Saturday ride going out to see the redwoods and the coast. My bike is already at the campground, the USS Egg-terprise trailer is hitched to the car, and I'll be leaving late tomorrow morning.

Don't know if there's wi-fi at the campground or not; I'm not even taking the laptop. I'll be totally unplugged for over 48 hours. Help me!

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Explorer Kit Carson.

Today's question is:
What is the current US first class postage for a 1 oz letter?

It Isn't Racism, It's Culture

I'm going to quote quite a bit from this book review, but you owe it to yourself to read the whole thing:

This book is depressing because it is so persuasive. There is a school of thought in America which argues that the government must be the main force that provides help to the black community. This shibboleth is predicated upon another one: that such government efforts will make a serious difference in disparities between blacks and whites. Amy Wax not only argues that such efforts have failed, she also suggests that such efforts cannot bring equality, and therefore must be abandoned. Wax identifies the illusion that mars American thinking on this subject as the myth of reverse causation—that if racism was the cause of a problem, then eliminating racism will solve it. If only this were true. But it isn’t true: racism can set in motion cultural patterns that take on a life of their own.

Wax appeals to a parable in which a pedestrian is run over by a truck and must learn to walk again. The truck driver pays the pedestrian’s medical bills, but the only way the pedestrian will walk again is through his own efforts. The pedestrian may insist that the driver do more, that justice has not occurred until the driver has himself made the pedestrian learn to walk again. But the sad fact is that justice, under this analysis, is impossible. The legal theory about remedies, Wax points out, grapples with this inconvenience—and the history of the descendants of African slaves, no matter how horrific, cannot upend its implacable logic. As she puts it, “That blacks did not, in an important sense, cause their current predicament does not preclude charging them with alleviating it if nothing else will work.”

Wax is well aware that past discrimination created black-white disparities in education, wealth, and employment. Still, she argues that discrimination today is no longer the “brick wall” obstacle it once was, and that the main problems for poor and working-class blacks today are cultural ones that they alone can fix. Not that they alone should fix—Wax is making no moral argument—but that they alone can fix.

A typical take on race has no room for stories such as this one. In 1987, a rich philanthropist in Philadelphia “adopted” 112 inner-city sixth-graders, most of them from broken homes. He guaranteed them a fully-funded education through college if the kids would refrain from drugs, unwed parenthood, and crime. He even provided tutors, workshops, after-school programs, summer programs, and counselors when trouble arose. Forty-five of the kids never made it through high school. Thirteen years later, of the sixty-seven boys, nineteen were felons; the forty-five girls had sixty-three total children, and more than half had their babies before the age of eighteen. Crucially, this was not surprising: The reason was culture. These children had been nurtured in communities with different norms than those that reign in Scarsdale.

What this means, Wax points out, is that scrupulous recountings of the historical reasons for black problems are of no significant use in finding solutions.

It's important to note that The New Republic, from which the quote above is excerpted, is not a conservative magazine.

A Class Act


The look of surprise and excitement on the soldier's face tells you all you need to know about President Bush's respect in the military.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Paying Off Teachers and Their Unions

The Wall Street Journal reports on a vicious cycle that to Democrats is a feature, not a bug, in the system:

Keep in mind that this teacher bailout also amounts to a huge contribution by Democrats to their own election campaigns. The National Right to Work Committee estimates that two of every three teachers belong to unions. The average union dues payment varies, but a reasonable estimate is that between 1% and 1.5% of teacher salaries goes to dues. The National Education Association and other unions will thus get as much as $100 million in additional dues from this bill, much of which will flow immediately to endangered Democratic candidates in competitive House and Senate races this year.

So in the name of still another "stimulus," Democrats are rewarding their own political funders, putting the most fiscally responsible states into even greater distress, and postponing the day of reckoning for spendthrift states. Oh, and Mr. Obama rushed to sign the bill Tuesday, violating his campaign pledge to give the public five days to read legislation online. As we say, the only way for voters to stop such fiscal abuse is to run this crowd out of town.

This plundering of the public treasury is worthy of the Huns, or of Genghis Khan, or of pirates; it doesn't befit the government of this great nation.

Why The American Left Doesn't Make Any Sense

Simply put, they're not wed to reality--despite their self-given title of being the "reality-based community":

But the left has never cared much for reality. It is wedded to theory in the name of which a failed experiment, an invisible omelette, must constantly be refried. Leftist convictions are ultimately camouflage for political ritual, indifference to suffering, and rampant egotism. One can hide from oneself —
one’s resentments, failures, and surreptitious motives — behind so-called “progressive” thinking, a veritable hodgepodge of maxims that need not be mutually consistent: All “truths” are valid. All cultures are equal in value. Overpopulation is a curse on the planet. Global warming is a settled fact that demands the demolition of the West’s economy and the overturning of our way of life. There is no such thing as an ultimate purpose except to establish some future utopian harmony — Hitchens’ “teleological.” The family is no longer the primary social unit, its prerogatives having been usurped by group identity politics and the hegemony of the collective. Personal identity is “socially constructed.” History has been superseded by narrative. A nation does not compel allegiance or obligation; nevertheless, the state knows best.

Under such a proliferation of fashionable tenets posing as a philosophy of enlightenment, the individual need not commit to the labor of cultural continuity, the responsibilities of procreation and child nurture, or even the demands of personal intellectual development. Thus, by espousing a leftist mindset, the individual is emancipated from the rigors of independent thought, the preservation of the family, and the defense of the nation and its living tradition. In effect, the individual no longer has a past worth saving or a present worth defending, only a hypothetical future worth sacrificing for. Oddly enough, though, most of the sacrificing is done by others.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
1G, or the first generation of wireless phone technology, was analog; 2G, the second generation, was digital.

Today's question is:
After whom is the capital of Nevada named?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Taking a Rock-hard Stance Against District Cutbacks

What else can you do about this story but come up with sexual innuendo? (And yes, I devised a few more that I'm choosing not to post.)

The Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association has filed a civil suit claiming that MPS' exclusion of Viagra and other drugs that treat erectile dysfunction from its health insurance plans constitutes sexual discrimination against male employees.

Hat tip to the Education Intelligence Agency, which I proudly include in my blogroll.

California and the Greens

This article, outlining so much about what is wrong with California government, doesn't go easy on the green movement:

The second engine that could supposedly keep California humming was the so-called green economy. Michael Grunwald recently wrote in Time, for example, that venture capital, high tech, and, above all, “green” technology were already laying the foundation of a miraculous economic turnaround in California. Though there are certainly opportunities in new energy-saving technologies, this is an enthusiasm that requires some serious curbing. One recent study hailing the new industry found that California was creating some 10,000 green jobs annually before the recession. But that won’t heal a state that has lost 700,000 jobs since then.

At the same time, green promoters underestimate the impact of California’s draconian environmental rules on the economy as a whole. Take the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act, which will force any new development to meet standards for being “carbon-neutral.” It requires the state to reduce its carbon-emissions levels by 30 percent between 1990 and 2020, virtually assuring that California’s energy costs, already among the nation’s highest, will climb still higher. Aided by the nominally Republican governor, the legislation seems certain to slow any future recovery in the suffering housing, industrial, and warehousing sectors and to make California less competitive with other states. Costs of the act to small businesses alone, according to a report by California State University professors Sanjay Varshney and Dennis Tootelian, will likely cut gross state product by $182 billion over the next decade and cost some 1.1 million jobs.

It’s sad to consider the greens such an impediment to social and economic health. Historically, California did an enviable job in traditional approaches to conservation—protecting its coastline, preserving water and air resources, and turning large tracts of land into state parks. But much like the public-sector unions, California’s environmental movement has become so powerful that it feels free to push its agenda without regard for collateral damage done to the state’s economy and people. With productive industry in decline and the business community in disarray, even the harshest regulatory policies often meet little resistance in Sacramento.

In the Central Valley, for instance, regulations designed to save certain fish species have required 450,000 acres to go fallow. Unemployment is at 17 percent across the Valley; in some towns, like Mendota, it’s higher than 40 percent. Rick Wartzman, director of the Peter Drucker Institute, has described the vast agricultural region around Fresno as “California’s Detroit,” an area where workers and businesspeople “are fast becoming a more endangered species than Chinook salmon or delta smelt.” The fact that governments dominated by “progressives” are impoverishing whole regions isn’t merely an irony; it’s an abomination.

So much for the creative green economy.
I consider myself an environmentalist. I don't want to harm entire ecosystems or unnecessarily spoil land. But that's entirely different from being silly--the delta smelt example above being Exhibit A. I'll believe these greens are serious, as I am, when I see them support relatively clean, relatively inexpensive nuclear energy, and stop their opposition to the Yucca Mountain repository. Even Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, now supports nuclear energy.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The Flamingo Kid (1984) was the first film to receive the rating, but was not released until December 1984. The first film distributed with a PG-13 rating was Red Dawn (1984). Dreamscape and The Woman in Red were released on the same day the following week.

Today's question is:
On commercials for cell phone carriers we often hear reference to 3G and 4G technologies. Going back in time somewhat, what was the difference between 1G and 2G technologies?

If You're Thinking About What To Get Me For Christmas This Year...

As a teacher I can see why these might be nifty to have--"Your kid screws around in class too much, doesn't pay attention, etc. Here, watch."

I can also see the other side of that coin--"The teacher picks on me, puts me down, and yells too much. Here, watch."

I've been putting some thought into a topic lately: why do I support the legalized videotaping of police officers in the performance of their duties, but not the recording of teachers in the performance of their duties? It's easy to let teachers off the hook and say that we can't lock people up or cause them to be fined, but given the right parents we can certainly make a child's life none-too-pleasant. We're not armed, but we're an authority figure that's relatively respected in society. So what's the difference?

I'm also not willing to let teachers off the hook by claiming that most schools don't allow students to use that type of electronic equipment during school--imagine the cheating that could go on! That doesn't address the point of actually being recorded.

Is it really nothing more than "I might say something that I shouldn't, and I don't want it to be recorded?" Or is there some other principle that I know is there but on which I just can't put my finger?

Monday, August 09, 2010

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Utah and New Hampshire.

Today's question is:
What was the first movie to receive a PG-13 rating?

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Maryland, which flag uses the heraldic banner of George Calvert, the first Baron Baltimore.

Today's question, a bonus eighth and the last in US State Flags Week, is:
Which state flags contain a US flag as a design element?

Worst Paying College Degrees

From CBS Money Watch/Yahoo! Finance:

1. Child and Family Studies
2. Elementary Education
3. Social Work
4. Athletic Training
5. Culinary Arts
6. Horticulture
7. Paralegal Studies/Law
8. Theology
9. Recreation & Leisure
10. Special Education
11. Dietetics
12. Religious Studies
13. Art
14. Education
15. Interdisciplinary Studies
16. Interior Design
17. Nutrition
18. Graphic Design
19. Music
20. Art History
I absolutely love love love the closing sentence:

If you'd rather end up with one of the best-paying college degrees, you'll have to major in something that requires a lot of math classes.

These People Don't Think The Tea Party Is Racist

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Stevie Nicks

click to enlarge

Last night I attended my first Stevie Nicks concert. I saw her once before--in 1981, at a Tom Petty concert, she came onstage and did the two songs, one from her album and one from his, that they'd done together. It wasn't enough.

So last night, almost three decades later, I finally saw her in concert. Sadly, I was less than completely impressed.

Oh, there was plenty of classic Stevie all right. Some of the things you'd expect at one of her concerts--the voice, the shawl, the spinning--those were there, and much appreciated. It was mostly her playlist that sucked.

It was a bad omen when I didn't even know the first sang she sang. I knew the second song, Outside The Rain, but it was a very minor song of hers; in fact, I doubt it was ever even on the radio. Dreams was the first big song of hers that she sang.

We got Dreams. We got Rhiannon. We got Edge of Seventeen. We got Stand Back. And we got Landslide. But really, no Sara? No Seven Wonders? No Gypsy? No Rooms On Fire? No Silver Springs? She could do some song by Bob Seger that nobody's ever heard of, and do a Led Zeppelin song, but couldn't do one of those? Really? Compare the list of songs she did to the list of songs she didn't do--is the latter the lesser list? And to add to all that, it seemed a short concert--didn't have my watch so I couldn't tell for sure, but the warm-up act started well after 8, and we were in front of another casino asking for the time at quarter to 11.

Before the show started I was telling the friend I went with that I'd bet she'll have the two backup singers she's had on all her albums, Lori and Sharon. And I hoped against hope that she wouldn't have that nasty, grungy individual, Waddy Wachtel, as her guitarist.

As soon as everyone was on stage, I recognized Wachtel immediately. I don't like him, never have, never will. He may even be a good guitarist, but I don't like him as a person. I was disappointed that he was there.

I couldn't see one of the backup singers, but I could tell the other had dark hair. I asked my friend if the one I couldn't see had lighter hair, and he confirmed she did. Sharon and Lori. Nailed it.

Stevie's over 60 years old, but she still put on a good show. She didn't hit every high note in the songs--didn't even try--but it was still her voice that I heard. It sounded good. She sounded good. I felt good.

I'm not disappointed I went. I'm just disappointed that it could have been so much better.

The show was at the Harvey's outdoor amphitheater, very near to the lake itself. It was about 80 degrees during the day in Tahoe yesterday, which is about as close to perfect weather that you can get there. And even though by the end of the concert there was a slight chill in the air, it wasn't cold at all. For a summer concert series, it's a prime venue.

I had a much better view of Stevie with my eyes than I apparently did with my camera, and the sound was much better in person than what my instant camera recorded, but here are a few short clips:


If Anyone Falls



Guitar intro to Edge of Seventeen just won't load. Sorry.

Update, 8/12/10: Linked by the New York Times:

One Way To Spend A Summer

A former student of mine, an up-and-coming junior at the Naval Academy, sent me this link to a video of some of his training this summer.

Yes, folks, that's an F/A-18....

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Arkansas, Mississippi, Ohio, Hawaii, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming.

Today's question, the penultimate in US State Flags Week, is:
Which is the only US state flag based on British heraldry?

(Penultimate, you say? Why, yes I do! Sunday's question will be a bonus day on this topic!)

Friday, August 06, 2010

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Oklahoma and New Mexico.

Today's question is:
7 US state flags contain only red, white, and blue. Name as many of them as you can.

Why Blogging Will Be Light For The Next 24 Hrs Or So

When I was in high school a friend and I had tickets to see Fleetwood Mac in concert. Shortly before the concert date, Stevie Nicks caught a cold (that's the official story) and the tour had to be rescheduled. When it was, Sacramento was dropped from the list.

In 1984 Christine McVie, one of the 3 lead vocalists for Fleetwood Mac, was touring to promote her solo album. She performed at West Point in late spring. It was a good show.

Three years ago I wrote about seeing Lindsey Buckingham, guitarist and another lead vocalist for Fleetwood Mac, in concert at Tahoe.

28 years after that concert was canceled, I'll see the 3rd Fleetwood Mac vocalist in concert:

I've seen her once before, but only for two songs.

All of this is to explain why there will be no blogging for the next day or so!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question--and it surprises me that two people got it--is:
Montana's has the words “oro y plata”, meaning “gold and silver.” Several states have latin words on their flags.

Today's question is:
Which US state flags have a Native American design as their primary design element?

Born In The USA--Not Enough For Citizenship?

Birthright citizenship has always been part of the immigration debate, but rarely in the foreground. Arizona's legally challenged immigration law changed that dynamic. With its April passage, there followed a tactical testing of the waters.

First, prominent conservatives like presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and columnist George Will latched onto the idea. The day after a federal injunction neutered the Arizona law, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham teased that he might introduce legislation to repeal the 14th Amendment. Arizona's junior senator, John Kyl, endorsed it on Sunday's "Face the Nation." On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell threw his weight behind congressional hearings to review the issue.

The 14th Amendment was established in 1868 to prevent Southern states from denying citizenship to slaves. Its most renowned section includes the provisions known as the "due process clause" and the "equal protection clause," which guarantee basic freedoms that have been continuing focal points for the Supreme Court.

It's the opening clause that rankles: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2010/08/05/2937678/challenge-ahead-on-born-in-the.html#ixzz0vlZXfObN
There are times when calling the Republican Party the "Party of Stupid" is entirely appropriate, and this is one of those times. There should be very serious reasons for changing the Constitution, and so-called anchor babies is not a serious enough reason. Seriously.

We can handle this situation quite easily without changing the Constitution. First, let's enforce our borders (quite) a bit more than we're currently doing, thereby reducing the number of such babies. Second, we don't have to let non-citizens live here just because a citizen is here! So what if the baby is a citizen--if mom and dad aren't, and are not resident aliens, they must go back to their own country, and--shocker!--they can take their baby with them.

There is no validity whatsoever to the putrid argument of the Left that says that deporting illegals will split up families. They can take their child with them! No one is calling for splitting up the family unit, and the child will still maintain his or her US citizenship.

With proposals mentioned in the link above, Republicans risk looking like the anti-Hispanic racists they're so often accused of being. There's no need to throw fuel on those fires, especially when the solution is so simple.

Is Easy Access To Parents Hindering College Students' Growth And Independence?

Keeping in touch with parents was more expensive and time-consuming when she attended the University of Denver three decades ago. But as college students prepare to descend on campuses in the coming weeks, many will find that with the ease of cell phones, unlimited text message plans, e-mail, Facebook, and Skype, they can have near-constant access to mom and dad.

"It's changed the experience of being away at college," said James Boyle, president of College Parents of America, based in Arlington, Va. "A generation ago, when your parents said goodbye and drove away, many (students) didn't see their parents again until Thanksgiving."

But some experts fear this communication shift could hamper the independence of older teens at a time when they traditionally come into their own.

"Sometimes these students are not being as autonomous or self-sufficient as they should be," said Barbara Hofer, psychology professor at Middlebury College in Vermont and co-author of the book "The iConnected Parent"...

Hofer said problems arise when these electronic conversations enter "regulatory" territory: Parents reminding their student about assignments, making course schedule decisions, monitoring posts on Facebook or telling the child how to handle basic conundrums of life, from questions about washing machine settings to trouble with professors. link

Things are certainly different than when I went off to school, but I'm not yet sure the sky is falling just because people can call mommy and daddy. I'll need to see a bit of evidence before making a call (pun intended) on this one.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

"If Blind Students Couldn't Use The Device, Then Nobody Could"

Is this really what was envisioned when the Americans With Disabilities Act was passed?

Did you know the Justice Department threatened several universities with legal action because they took part in an experimental program to allow students to use the Amazon Kindle for textbooks?

Last year, the schools -- among them Princeton, Arizona State and Case Western Reserve -- wanted to know if e-book readers would be more convenient and less costly than traditional textbooks. The environmentally conscious educators also wanted to reduce the huge amount of paper students use to print files from their laptops.

It seemed like a promising idea until the universities got a letter from the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, now under an aggressive new chief, Thomas Perez, telling them they were under investigation for possible violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

From its introduction in 2007, the Kindle has drawn criticism from the National Federation of the Blind and other activist groups. While the Kindle's text-to-speech feature could read a book aloud, its menu functions required sight to operate. "If you could get a sighted person to fire up the device and start reading the book to you, that's fine," says Chris Danielsen, a spokesman for the federation. "But other than that, there was really no way to use it."

In May 2009, Amazon announced the pilot program, under which it would provide Kindle DX readers to a few universities. It wasn't a huge deal; Princeton's plan, for example, involved three courses and a total of 51 students, and only in the fall semester of that year. University spokeswoman Emily Aronson says the program was voluntary and students could opt out of using the Kindle. "There were no students with a visual impairment who had registered for the three classes," says Aronson.

Nevertheless, in June 2009, the federation filed a complaint with the Justice Department, accusing the schools of violating the ADA. Perez and his team went to work...

The Civil Rights Division informed the schools they were under investigation. In subsequent talks, the Justice Department demanded the universities stop distributing the Kindle; if blind students couldn't use the device, then nobody could. The Federation made the same demand in a separate lawsuit against Arizona State.

It's an approach that bothers some civil rights experts. "As a blind person, I would never want to be associated with any movement that punished sighted students, particularly for nothing they had ever done," says Russell Redenbaugh, a California investor who lost his sight in a childhood accident and later served for 15 years on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. "It's a gross injustice to disadvantage one group, and it's bad policy that breeds resentment, not compassion."

"Bad policy that breeds resentment, not compassion." Gee, you think? There's plenty more at the link. The author, Byron York, appears not to think too highly of Thomas Perez--and with good reason, if the information in the linked piece is at all accurate.