Monday, January 31, 2011

Two Things Wrong In This Story

While this story is from the online version of the Daily Mail, a British paper, it occurred in Colorado:

A teacher who advises colleagues on how to avoid affairs with students was caught having sex with a teenager in the back of her car.

Courtney Bowles was found by a police officer naked lying on top of the boy, who was also completely naked, from her school in Colorado.

A partly consumed bottle of vodka was also found in the car with the couple.

Her student lover initially said he was 20 years old - but later admitted he was 16.

Bowles,31,was employed at his school as a teacher's instructional coach. It was her job to trains teachers on how to maintain a professional distance from students.

OK, I'll go for the low-hanging fruit first: this woman should not be having sex with an underaged boy, whether or not he was a student at her school.

And while doing that is bad enough, everyone else who writes about that story will attack that angle. You--my readers--come here expecting more than that, and I hope not to disappoint. So now, the second problem I have with this story:

Why does this school have an "instructional coach" whose job it is "to train teachers on how to maintain a professional distance from students"? If there is such a problem at this school--besides this particular woman--why the heck isn't the school administration doing anything about it? And how did so many teachers become clueless about maintaining a professional distance; was that not covered in their credentialing classes?

There's a lot more wrong in this story than just a teacher's doing a 16-year-old.

From The "I Wish I Were Surprised, But I'm Not" File...

What could I possibly add to this Instapundit post?

IT’S AS IF ALL THAT “NEW CIVILITY” TALK WAS JUST A PLOY TO SHUT DOWN DEBATE: “Showing no concern for the new civility push that followed the Arizona massacre, a group of leftist activists from groups including Code Pink, Common Cause and jewel of liberal think tanks, the Center for American Progress, turned into a loud mob complete with Nazi imagery outside a conservative gathering in Rancho Mirage, California.”

UPDATE: Say, you think some enterprising reporter will ask Obama or a spokesman whether the President condemns this sort of behavior? No, me neither.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
1970 (May 4th).

Today's question is:
At what university was Allan Bakke denied admission, resulting in the famous 1978 reverse discrimination case before the US Supreme Court?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The University of Idaho. (Who da ho? I da ho!)

Today's question is:
In what year was the Kent State “massacre”?

What Set Off Tunisia?

Here is one view:

In sum, if you imagine Tunisia as a slightly better than average post-colonial tin-pot dictatorship, with a government that seems not to be totally economically incompetent, you won’t be far off.

So if it isn’t politics or economics, what is it that lead the people of Tunisia to rise up and overthrow their government?

Tunisia’s big problem is said to be unemployment. But unemployment there is running at somewhere between 13 percent and 14 percent, which isn’t really so bad. The real problem is that Tunisia cannot create suitable employment for the huge numbers of college graduates it creates every year.

That’s right: the education bubble popped in Tunisia.

Tunisia has a gigantic education apparatus that has earned it plaudits for years. Free university education is guaranteed to anyone who passes the government’s exams at the end of high school. As a result, an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 university graduates enter the job market every year. Fifty-seven percent of young Tunisians entering the labor market are college educated.

It turns out that creating a large class of college-educated workers is not necessarily a recipe for prosperity. Tunisia has discovered it can be a recipe for political unrest and mass unemployment. For Tunisia’s recent college graduates, the unemployment level reaches to at least 30 percent. If you count in various forms of under-employment, it’s safe to say that as many as half of Tunisia’s recent college graduates are losing out in the jobs market.

Tunisia has clearly over-invested in higher education.
I don't know how accurate that thesis is, but it's not wacky enough to be dismissed out of hand.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Why I Didn't Blog Today

Update, 1/30/11: Here is a larger, clearer version of the video.

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Mike Nifong.

Today's question is:
At what university did Sarah Palin earn her undergraduate degree?

Friday, January 28, 2011

DUI Court At School

As I mentioned in this post, today we had the Real DUI Court in Schools presentation. I was impressed, much more so than I've been with the Every 15 Minutes program.

As was stated in my previous post, it was a real judge with a real defendant with a real case and a real punishment. In other words, instead of taking our students downtown to the courthouse, the courthouse came to us.

It started with a 5-10 minute long video, a blood-and-guts dramatization of what happens in car accidents. It was shocking enough to get everyone's attention. Then a 24-year-old told his story of his grad night partying, and how he wrapped his car around an oak tree and killed his best friend. After him, the bailiff had everyone rise and the judge entered and off to the races we went. A young woman (21?) was the defendant, and she waived her right to trial and pleaded no contest, which the judge informed her would be treated as admitting guilt. With all establishment of facts out of the way, the judge pronounced sentence, right there in front of all of us. For a first time offender, there was 48 hrs in jail (the woman was taken away in handcuffs), a bunch of parole, requirement to attend DUI classes and pay for them, and thousands of dollars in a laundry list of fines, penalties, and fees--and this did not include her attorneys fees, the cost to get her car out of the impound lot, the increased cost of her insurance, etc. She did not lose her license. She did, however, address the students and told them how stupid she felt, how shamed she was, and how she'd affected not only herself but her friends and family. After she was escorted out, the judge addressed the students and had a Q and A session. I left shortly after the judge began speaking.

It was real, and that was important. I'd have liked for the young man's testimonial to have been shorter, and for the actual court case to have been longer--the judge seemed like she was speed-reading her way through it. Other than that, it was well done. Made for several good conversations throughout the rest of the day.

The defense attorney was the father of one of my students. I sent her home with a couple questions for her dad; if I get answers and remember to do so, I'll update this post on Monday with that additional information.

What's Up With The Himalayan Glaciers?

The Telegraph reports:

Researchers have discovered that contrary to popular belief half of the ice flows in the Karakoram range of the mountains are actually growing rather than shrinking.

The discovery adds a new twist to the row over whether global warming is causing the world's highest mountain range to lose its ice cover.

It further challenges claims made in a 2007 report by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that the glaciers would be gone by 2035.

Although the head of the panel Dr Rajendra Pachauri later admitted the claim was an error gleaned from unchecked research, he maintained that global warming was melting the glaciers at "a rapid rate", threatening floods throughout north India.

The new study by scientists at the Universities of California and Potsdam has found that half of the glaciers in the Karakoram range, in the northwestern Himlaya, are in fact advancing and that global warming is not the deciding factor in whether a glacier survives or melts.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Andrew Ridgeley.

Today's question is:
Who was the district attorney in Durham, North Carolina, who wrongly accused Duke University lacrosse players of raping a stripper, and eventually lost his job because of his misconduct on the case?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Translation Services Desperately Needed!

I'm told that we have an education crisis in this country, that education is truly a national security issue. With that in mind I want to do my part to help out in whatever way I can.

The following pictures were smuggled out of a top secret facility. I can't say where. There's no telling the dangers involved, or how many lives--good lives--were lost in bringing these pictures, and the information they hold, to light.

My informant tells me that the information contained in these pictures is the secret to high-quality education. If we could just get this information and implement it, the future of our nation would be secured. The information is not complete--some was lost--but there is hope that we could, given enough time, piece together the missing information to make a coherent whole, and in the process, save the nation.

Sadly, though, the information is encoded. The cryptological and linguistic skills needed to decipher the content in these pictures is beyond my poor abilities. So I turn to you, my readers, to see if any of you is capable of tackling for your country one of the most vexatious tasks possible--translating the following into English, and explaining how to put it into use.

Remember, education is vital to our national security. Uncle Sam needs you. Now. Don't let him down.

click to enlarge

Some Are More Equal Than Others

The US military is supposed to be the great meritocracy, where excellence is the standard and performance is the only criterion. Sadly, this isn't true at the Naval Academy, where there's a significantly lower set of standards for some minorities:

According to (USNA Professor) Fleming, the admissions system is two-tiered because minority candidates have lower test scores and grades than their counterparts. In short, Fleming says that the Academy is rejecting better qualified white applicants to admit minority candidates with less impressive credentials.

The most pernicious effect of affirmative action plays out in Annapolis:

The environment is particularly toxic for talented black midshipmen...because they are perceived by some classmates as less-qualified.

And why wouldn't they be perceived thusly? Affirmative action, as practiced today, is bad enough because it legally discriminates against people on the basis of their skin color, but when you add in the cost to those it's designed to help, it's even more indefensible.

Some Parents Do Care

From an ABC News story out of the Midwest:

An Ohio mother's attempt to provide her daughters with a better education has landed her behind bars.

Kelley Williams-Bolar was convicted of lying about her residency to get her daughters into a better school district.

I'm of two minds about this. I don't condone lying, but I can't fault a parent for trying to "do right" by her kids by getting them the best taxpayer-funded education she could.

Getting A Little Pissy With Your Colleagues

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

A California university professor has been charged with peeing on a colleague's campus office door...Investigators say a dispute between Petrov and another math professor was the motive.

The Los Angeles Times says Petrov was captured on videotape urinating on the door of another professor's office on the San Fernando Valley campus. School officials had rigged the camera after discovering puddles of what they thought was urine at the professor's door.

Say it with me: Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
George Michael was half of the duo Wham! Who was the other half?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Education Buzz

This week's Education Buzz is posted here and includes my post about the food pantry at a local University of California campus.

My Classes Were Quiet Today

At my school there are "ante-rooms" behind our classrooms; imagine a wing with 3 classrooms on each side with two large, narrow rooms between the pairs of 3, these rooms being accessible not only from the six classrooms (4 classrooms access one ante-room, two classrooms the other) but also from one end of the wings; each wing in our school is built this way. I understand that in days past, when education money flowed freely, each department had a secretary and supplies based in those rooms!

Since I've been at school, the ante-room behind my classroom has been a sort of minefield/storage room/junk room for the entire school. For reasons I won't go into in this post, I was able to convince the school administration (it didn't take much convincing) to allow me to turn that room into a math lab. We already had the (ancient and decrepit) laptops and chairs, so the only additional cost was a few computer tables. It now looks nice and is reasonably functional.

Yesterday our vice principals came to me to ask how we in the math department "sign up" for using the lab. I explained that we don't, it's very informal. If it ever becomes a problem, maybe then we'll hang a calendar or something up in there and teachers can sign up on the calendar, but for now only a couple of us use it. Then they asked if they could use it for a vice principals meeting; it seems that periodically our district's VP's meet, and each time it's at a different school site, and this month it was our school's turn to host. I told them, "It's not my lab to grant, it belongs to the school. However, I know of no one using the lab tomorrow, so feel free." I don't know why I enjoyed the looks on their faces when I said it wasn't my lab. Maybe because that's just not the answer you would usually give to such a question, it elicits odd looks from people, I don't know--but I admit I enjoyed their response.

So today I had a couple dozen vice principals right on the other side of the door from my classes. I told my classes to keep the volume down so that we wouldn't give them any reason to open that door. One student in first period asked if I'd tell the VP's to keep it down if they got too loud, and my response was, "of course I would". The nice thing was, though, that I didn't need to, a fact I pointed out to my later classes. "The vice principals know how to use 'inside voices'," I said. I do a fairly good job of keeping my classes "contained" and on task, but I'll grant that when I allow them to, they will get loud--especially my classes that are predominantly seniors.

Not wanting to attract any undue attention, the classes were relatively quiet today. Maybe I should ask the VP's to borrow "my" lab more often :-)

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Follow-up question: in what year did Disney World in Orlando open?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Why I Didn't Watch The State of the Union Speech

Roger Kimball says it fairly well:

Like Justice Scalia, I am planning to give tonight’s State of the Union Address a pass. I am not quite ready for the 2012 campaign yet, and clearly President Obama is dusting off his clich├ęs and contradictions for a big blow out tonight. “The economy’s in trouble, folks, but we need to spend more on EDUCATION. The United States must be more competitive, but we need to commit ourselves to green (i.e., economically ruinous) technology.” Etc. My personal stash of Dramamine just isn’t large enough. Besides, I think George Will is right: what the State of the Union is all about is the president, regardless of party, endeavoring to “stroke every erogenous zone in the electorate.” It’s a big country and the spectacle is bound to be unseemly.

State of the Union addresses have deteriorated into a parody. The president says something his people like and they all clap and cheer, he throws a bone to my people and they all stand and cheer. These speeches are like cheerleading sessions, partisan cheerleading sessions. The seating tonight is supposed to mitigate that somewhat--why does it take special seating for grown men and women to act like grown men and women? Good lord, is this the best we can come up with for a governing class?

And does anyone believe that the state of our union is sound? I'm tired of hearing that it is. What a load of crap. We're disunited, we're in deep doo-doo financially, and there are plenty of indications that we're a civilization in decline. The state of our union isn't sound, it's holding for now but in need of serious repair. If a president can't even tell the truth about what everyone knows, why should I believe anything else he has to say? It's Dante's ninth circle.

But it doesn't end when the speech is over. At least the Constitution provides some basis for the addresses themselves, cliche-filled claptrap that they've now become--but today, having lived through the hackery that is the State of the Union Address, we're also treated to the partisan response of the loyal opposition. The president gives his speech, and a member of the opposing political party (I guess it's a good thing we only have two parties) then tells the seven people in the country who are still watching TV why the president is wrong. It's almost like dignifying the SOTU speech by addressing its points!

So no, thank you. I've had enough of this for awhile.

Update, 1/27/11: Retired colonel and current US Representative from Florida Allen West gives his thoughts here. A snippet:

"I think what you saw last night was the president trying to live in two worlds. The one world is the one of reality that happened on the second of November, and you could see in his address points where he seemed more conservative than I am. But then there's the other world where he still has to appease and pacify his liberal, left base."

If I Don't Post Tomorrow, It's Because I Died.

This past Sunday was the last of my $300 worth of yoga classes, and while I enjoyed them tremendously, my weight loss has stalled and I have to try something else to lose those last 8 pounds before the end of the school year.

I tried a new class tonight, which was much better than the one I did last week. Last week's had too much "choreography" for me--I had to learn to do a bunch of things, and then do them in order, and then do that for an hour! I'd watch, and by the time I figured out somewhat what to do, it was on to something else. Way too fast for me, couldn't do it, so I left.

Tonight's class was more of an aerobic circuit-training kind of class. We jogged around the room for a few minutes, then did high knee running around the room, and then did "butt kicker" running around the room. Then we broke up into groups, each group doing something different, and rotated through each exercise. This group might be doing jumping jacks with hand weights, this group might be doing mountain-climbers, that group might be doing crunches, etc. That I could do.

For a little while.

I learned that 20 minutes of a leisurely pace on the elliptical trainer each morning when I wake up is not enough to gain or claim any cardiovascular fitness. There were a couple of times in that class tonight that I felt lightheaded enough to need to rest, that's how bad a shape I'm in. I thought it was a 30 minute class, but in reality it was 50 minutes--I left at the 27 minute mark, during a rest break. I'll know better when I go back next time, and will strive to make it 35 minutes.

This is definitely the class for me. But I can already tell I'm going to be paying for it tomorrow, mainly in the hamstrings and quadriceps. So if you don't see any posts from me tomorrow, you'll know why.

Direct Path to Citizenship Via the American Armed Forces?

I'll try to find out if such a program already exists or not, but here's an idea that Joanne Jacobs has put forth. It may not be entirely fleshed out, but it's good enough on its face to merit consideration and not just be rejected out of hand.

I think there’s a way to revive the Dream Act in 2011: Link citizenship only to military service, which Americans see as a sacrifice, dropping the link to college attendance, which most see as a subsidized benefit to the individual.

Two years of college enrollment, with no degree required, doesn’t guarantee a productive citizen. Anyone can enroll in community college, if only to take remedial classes. (Only 22 percent of full-time students earn a two-year degree in three years.) It’s much harder to qualify for the military.

As veterans, the newly legalized could use their GI benefits to pursue a college degree. I think most Americans would be happy to welcome them to citizenship.

For those who object to rewarding illegal behavior (and count me among them), this comment from Joanne strikes me as reasonable:

I’d argue that children brought here by their parents are not guilty of “criminal behavior.”

The ones who’d qualify for military service — high school graduates with clean records — will make good Americans.
What say you?

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Susanna Hoffs.

Today's question is:
In what year did Disneyland open?

Monday, January 24, 2011

What We're Doing At School This Friday

We have the Every 15 Minutes program at our school every four years. Here's what it entails:

Genuine car accident cars are brought out to the field, and the whole school goes out to watch as actual emergency response personnel act out the scenario of a drunk driving accident. Pre-trained students are also involved, and have make-up on to simulate the wounds of the accident. The "drunk driver" is checked out by the police as the firemen use the jaws of life on the car to get a student out. A lifeflight helicopter transports the "wounded" student to the hospital, where they are pronounced dead and taken to the actual morgue. Throughout the rest of the day, pre-chosen students are pulled out of class by the Grim Reaper (in the past, it was our principal in the garb) every 15 minutes--they are taken to a site where they discuss the program, write "good-bye" letters to their families as if they had really died, etc. All of this is filmed, of course, and the next day at the Every 15 Minutes Rally the whole school watches the video and the students involved, along with their parents, talk about what it was like to simulate this tragedy.

To me it's emotional abuse. If there were any evidence at all that the program saved lives, perhaps I'd be more inclined to support it, but there is none. Not one piece. To toy with the emotions of teenagers for no measurable benefit, and to take two school days to do so--well, I've already said I find it manipulative and abusive.

That's a very long lead-in to what's going on this Friday at school. I quote from the informational letter that was emailed to us today. It's from the Traffic Safety Awareness Program, and carries the logos of the County of Sacramento, the California Office of Traffic Safety, and the Sacramento Law Enforcement Chaplaincy:

Real DUI Court in Schools is an innovative strategy for helping reduce community alcohol problems and improve traffic safety. The program “Choices & Consequences: Know the Truth” informs high school students about the risks of driving under the influence through practical education. Altering the attitudes of teen drivers is fundamental to changing their behavior. To achieve this objective, a robust, multifaceted approach to solving the problem of driving under the influence is required.

Conducting Real DUI court proceedings in Sacramento County high schools provides students with the opportunity to directly witness the legal consequences of drinking and driving, such as the defendant’s arrest, detention, and imposed fines and penalties. Students will also learn about the role and decisions of the judicial branch of the government. Allowing students to witness actual DUI sentencing hearings that go through our legal system every day gives them a memorable experience they can keep with them as a practical reference for the future. The information provided will help students make informed decisions should they ever come face to face with this situation.

This self-contained program is approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes. We provide the lighting,stage, courtroom structure and props. The program begins with a dynamic video on the consequences of driving under the influence provided by the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) followed by a powerful presentation from a victim of a DUI or DUI offender. The transition is seamless as the court staff takes the stage and the bailiff calls the court to order. The residing judge will preside over a real case, with a real defendant, resulting in an actual sentence. (boldface mine--Darren)

Students have the opportunity to watch the defending and prosecuting attorneys deliberate over the DUI offender’s sentence, as well as hear the judge’s verdict. Once the verdict has been read the students are invited to ask any question they have about the subject and the hearing they just witnessed.

Real DUI Court in Schools, “Choices & Consequences” is a DUI prevention program funded by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic SafetyAdministration. It brings together the best resources of the Sacramento County Superior Court, Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office and the Law Enforcement Chaplaincy-Sacramento and MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving).

As this is real and not fake, and as it doesn't needlessly toy with kids' emotions, I'm inclined to be more receptive to it than I am to Every 15 Minutes. I don't know what, if any, track record this program has, but as E15M has no measurable effect on reducing DUI's at schools that host the program, this Real DUI Court In Schools program cannot do any worse.

All juniors and seniors at my school will witness/participate in this program on Friday. I'll be there for at least the first part of it, as my entire 1st period class is seniors.

Another Reason To Have A Professional Man-crush on Thomas Sowell

This interview is full of tidbits about the trade deficit, about manufacturing jobs, about debt--in other words, this interview itself is a great economics primer.

Ending Global Warming Cheaply

Assuming that global warming actually exists and is a bad thing for humanity, one (not disinterested) PhD has determined the following:

Conclusion: Saving the environment using nuclear power could be cheap and worth doing.

I'm all about nuclear power. So is Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Davenport (this is the only term for a sofa/couch that my nana ever used).

Today's question, for lovers of 80s music, is:
Who was the lead singer for The Bangles?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question, the last in OJ Simpson Week, is:
The Palace Station is on Sahara Avenue.

Today's question is:
What trademarked name (e.g., Kleenex, Xerox, or googling) became genericized to mean sofa; it's an old term most commonly used in the US Midwest and Northeast?

From the RotLC Archives, on this Blogiversary Day

From 16 months ago, Why I Don't Support A "Public Option" In Health Care. It's very light on the health care part, and heavier on the reasoning behind limited government.

Random Thoughts on Thinking vs. Feeling

From The Speculist comes this comment about the 1927 science fiction movie Metropolis:

Because it deals with a murderous robot and an upper class exploiting a working class, Metropolis is often viewed as a warning about technology or capitalism run amok. However, I think such characterizations have more to do with making the film fit into neat categories than they do with articulating the philosophical message at the heart of the story. That message, which is repeated throughout the film, is that the heart must be the mediator between the mind and the hand. When the heart does not act as a mediator, suffering is the result.

Then there's this Walter Williams commentary over at Wall Street Journal Online:

He earned his doctorate in 1972 from UCLA, which had one of the top economics departments in the country, and he says he "probably became a libertarian through exposure to tough-mined professors"—James Buchanan, Armen Alchian, Milton Friedman—"who encouraged me to think with my brain instead of my heart. I learned that you have to evaluate the effects of public policy as opposed to intentions."
Both brain and heart, in moderation. What's the correct balance in this circumstance?

"In 1794, Congress appropriated $15,000 to help some French refugees," he says. In objection, "James Madison stood on the House floor and said he could not take to lay his finger on that article in the Constitution that allows Congress to take the money of its constituents for the purposes of benevolence. Well, if you look at the federal budget today, two-thirds to three-quarters of it is for the purposes of benevolence."

I'm reminded of this Davy Crockett story, although there's debate as to whether it's true or apocryphal.

To bring this around to our current political system, conservatives are on the "thinking" side of the spectrum and liberals are on the "feeling" side of the spectrum--this helps explain why liberals go ballistic when you point out the flaws in their feel-good plans. Balance is what's needed, balance between thinking and feeling, between brain and heart.


Six years ago today, inspired by the writings of Joanne Jacobs and Erin O'Connor, I started this blog. Here's my first post; I hope I've lived up to it.

There are some regular readers and commenters here at RotLC, and I like to think we've got a nice little online community going here. Sometimes it gets a little rough and tumble, and that's OK, because sharing the passion of our convictions is what this forum is all about. For all you regular readers, and for those of you who drop in periodically, I want to thank you for doing so. No one wants to speak in an empty room, and I enjoy the tone and tenor of (the vast majority of) those who speak in this little room on the internet.

Thank you.

I have written over 6000 posts in the past six years--the math teacher in me says that's an average of about three posts a day. Every day. For six years. The last couple years I've cheated a bit by having a daily trivia question which counts as one of those three, but there's been no chorus to stop them. I'd say that perhaps I need a hobby, but it seems I already have one! Over these past six years I've been linked and quoted all over the internet--sometimes for good, sometimes for eeeeeeeevil--and have had not one, not two, but three Instalanches (thanks Glenn!). In my opinion, this is still among my best posts. Also, I've met several other bloggers and commenters in person, and that's always a treat.

Looking forward, there's no telling what's going to happen to RotLC. If the past is any guide, though, we've got at least another six years ahead. Let the debating continue!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Weight Loss Update

Actually, that title is misleading. It would be more accurate to call it "Weight Stabilization Update", as my weight has fluctuated within a 5-lb band for a few months now.

When I got out of the army, during Bush 41's presidency, I wore pants with a waist size of 29. Over the years that number slowly crept up, and last spring I bought some size 36 pants. By last summer those pants were getting a little snug.

At the end of July I started my weight loss regimen, and within 2-1/2 months had lost about 20 lbs. I now fluctuate between 20 and 25 pounds lost. Regular readers will know that part of my regimen includes hot yoga and now the gym; my last hot yoga class will be tomorrow, and I'll probably hit the gym a little tonight.

My goal was 30 pounds, and when I reached that point, I was going to try to go another 10--just to be on the safe side! In those heady days of early fall, when the weight was just flying off me, that seemed not only doable but inevitable. Three months of plateau, though, has cured me of a little of my exuberance.

Those size 36 pants now almost fall off me, and a few months ago I treated myself to some size 34's. Even those are now a tiny bit loose on me, so today I treated myself to a couple of pairs of 33's. I'm going to keep at this. My original goal was 30 pounds by the end of the school year, and that's still a mark that's within reach.

I Thought Gold Couldn't Tarnish, Part 2

Here is another indication of how bad it is. Can you imagine the squawking the CTA would be doing if a Republican said this?

(Governor) Brown has steadfastly refused to detail what should happen if voters reject those taxes. (Treasurer) Lockyer was not so shy, saying there would be no way to balance the books without shutting down the K-12 public school system at least six weeks of the school year. (boldface mine--Darren)

Lockyer said Brown has been reluctant to outline such grim possibilities for fear of alienating a skeptical public.

"You can't seem to be threatening voters," Lockyer said.

The governor wants to hold a special election in June, seeking approval from the voters to extend some taxes that are due to expire. If the election were held today, conventional wisdom seems to be that they would not pass. On the other hand, Brown hasn't even started selling it to the public yet. Even given the threat above, there's no way I'll vote for those tax increases/extensions absent some serious, long-term spending cuts.

I Thought Gold Couldn't Tarnish

How bad is it in California? The state might have to issue IOU's to its creditors. Again.

(Treasurer Bill) Lockyer, a Democrat, offered a clear prescription to avoid repeating that fiscal calamity: "Get a budget adopted that's honest, and make the cuts as soon as possible."

Brown, who took office less than three weeks ago, has called on the Legislature to enact by March 1 an austere spending plan that includes deep cutbacks to welfare, healthcare for the poor and the state's universities, among other programs.

"Get it done, the sooner the better," Lockyer said Saturday during his appearance at a conference sponsored by the Institute of Governmental Studies. If not, he said, "We will run out of money to pay the bills."

When they have a "D" after their name, the press doesn't stoke anyone into a frenzy. If they had an "R" after their name, unions and other assorted lefties, along with the editorial boards of major papers, would be screaming bloody murder.

The cuts have to be made, though. And if the only way they can be made is by elected officials with a "D" after their names, then so be it.

My entire retirement depends on the fiscal solvency of this state.

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Brian Jerard "Kato" Kaelin.

Today's question, the last in OJ Simpson week, is:
In September 2007, Simpson and others stormed into a Las Vegas hotel room to “liberate” some sports memorabilia that Simpson claimed was his. In what hotel did this take place? Bonus question: on what major street is this hotel located?


I've updated my post on the Tucson shootings.

Who Could Possibly Be As Good As Lynda Carter?

Back in the 70s, one of my favorite tv shows was Wonder Woman. I mean, let's face it, Lynda Carter is hot hot hot, and looked even hotter in the Wonder Woman costume. The first season, when Wonder Woman was fighting Nazis, was the best; when they moved her to "the present" in the next two seasons, in order to expand the number of possible storylines, the show honestly wasn't as good. But Carter? Hot hot hot!

A couple of seasons ago, NBC tried to recreate The Bionic Woman. I enjoyed the show, much more than I did the Bionic Woman of old (it wasn't near as good as The Six Million Dollar Man), but sadly it failed. Now NBC is going to reboot the Wonder Woman franchise.

Kelley’s take incorporated the superhero’s signature lasso, cuffs, and plane in the script, and insiders said it was a serious, non-campy take on the DC Comics character.

That's a good start. Now let's not make it too dark--Wonder Woman is supposed to be, I don't know, uplifting or something. I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Best Way To Study?

Take a test.

Taking a test is not just a passive mechanism for assessing how much people know, according to new research. It actually helps people learn, and it works better than a number of other studying techniques.

The research, published online Thursday in the journal Science, found that students who read a passage, then took a test asking them to recall what they had read, retained about 50 percent more of the information a week later than students who used two other methods.

One of those methods — repeatedly studying the material — is familiar to legions of students who cram before exams. The other — having students draw detailed diagrams documenting what they are learning — is prized by many teachers because it forces students to make connections among facts.

It's thought that perhaps the persistent recall is what actually helps the learning process.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Capricorn One. (Yes, I have it on dvd.)

Today's question is:
What was the name of OJ Simpson's “house guest” who testified against Simpson at both his murder and his civil trial?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Man Shoots Himself In The Middle of Harvard Campus

OK, this happened last September, did anyone here remember reading about this then? Because I sure don't.

A New York native shot himself to death in Harvard Yard last week -- after penning an epic 1,905-page suicide note.

Mitchell Heisman, 35, quoted Thomas Jefferson, Friedrich Nietzsche and Albert Einstein as he attempted to explain his motives in the rambling missive, which included a lengthy preface and 1,433 footnotes.

That's pretty intense.

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
In what movie did OJ Simpson star as an astronaut on a fake mission to Mars?

Has The Prison At Guantanamo Bay Closed Yet?

Two years ago today, within hours of being sworn in as president, President Obama signed an executive order, to great fanfare, ordering the closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison within one year.

Has it closed yet? No? Hm.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Good Idea, Bad Implementation

This county is right next door to Sacramento County:

PLACERVILLE, Calif. (CBS13)--Parents of Placer County students can now buy discounted drug tests from high schools, a tactic that county officials hope will help cut down on what appears to be a rising drug use rate.

The inventive anti-drug campaign comes on the heels of a recent survey from a Placer County high school that found “half of the students” use marijuana.

The Placer County Sheriff’s Department is making the $40 drug tests available for just $10 for parents in response to concerns over drugs in schools. The 10-panel urine test checks for methamphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy and other drugs, officials said.

Two points:
1. Placerville is in El Dorado County (which also borders Sacramento County). So does this program exist in Placer County or El Dorado County?
2. Who's eating that $30 difference between the $40 cost of the test and the $10 price to parents? If it's the taxpayers of the county, that's ridiculous. A parent who suspects their kid is using drugs shouldn't expect their neighbors to help fund the test to find out.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
He played for only two--the Buffalo Bills during his glory years, and finished with the San Francisco 49ers.

Today's question is:
For which car rental company was Simpson a spokesman, running through airports in commercials and hurdling over chairs?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Where Does Your NEA Dues Money Go?

EIA has sifted through the data and made it easy for us to be sickened--after all, as EIA points out, this was all dues money and not money from their PAC (which gets voluntary donations). Is this how you want your dues money spent? Is this doing anything to improve your pay, benefits, and working conditions? Here are just a few samples of NEA largesse:

AFL-CIO - $150,000

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity - $33,000

Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies - $5,000

Citizens Who Support Maine's Public Schools - $250,000

Coalition for Our Communities - $625,000

Coloradans for Responsible Reform - $400,000

Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. - $8,800

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute - $50,000

Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate - $200,000

Gay and Lesbian Leadership Institute - $10,000

Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network - $5,000

Health Care for America Now! - $450,000

HOPE (Yes on SQ 744) - $1,758,000

MediaMatters - $100,000

Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund - $25,000

National Association for the Education and Advancement of Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese Americans - $5,000

National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund - $12,500

National Council of La Raza - $26,500

Netroots Nation - $15,000

New Democratic Network - $25,000

People for the American Way - $64,538

Stop the Gag Law - $350,000

Washington, DC Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation - $166,666

Many of the largest donations from NEA headquarters went to state ballot initiative groups, but these do not constitute the sum total of the national union's spending on state political measures. In fiscal year 2009-10, NEA sent an additional $3 million to several state affiliates for the specific purpose of passing or defeating ballot initiatives or legislative measures...In some cases, this spending was augmented by funds raised within the state affiliates.

Why do these organizations need your dues money?

What Do You Get For A College Degree

McClatchy has two related articles today. In this first one we find that students may not be learning as much at college as we'd hope:

An unprecedented study that followed several thousand undergraduates through four years of college found that large numbers didn't learn the critical thinking, complex reasoning and written communication skills that are widely assumed to be at the core of a college education.

Many of the students graduated without knowing how to sift fact from opinion, make a clear written argument or objectively review conflicting reports of a situation or event, according to New York University sociologist Richard Arum, lead author of the study. The students, for example, couldn't determine the cause of an increase in neighborhood crime or how best to respond without being swayed by emotional testimony and political spin.

In the second article we are told that college degrees are so expensive that perhaps career-related certificates are the way to go:

Omid Khofasani wants to be a pharmacist — without taking on huge student loans.

So the 35-year-old is paying about $1,700 for a nine-month course at nearby Foothill College that leads to a pharmacy technician certificate and a chance to earn a solid middle-class wage of up to $60,000 a year as he works his way through pharmacy school.

"It's short, it's fast and it's cheap," says Khofasani, who earned an engineering degree in Iran but now works at a carpet store.

Labor economists and some educators believe career-driven degrees should become an increasingly common choice and are advising students to pursue skills-oriented fields of study they feel offer better job opportunities. Fueling the trend is the worst economic decline in more than 70 years and a slowly falling unemployment rate of 9.4 percent. Add to that the staggering total of $830 billion in student debt nationally.

Having received a high-quality liberal education myself, I'm not sold on the idea that it's better just to get job training. When done well (and correctly), there is much value to be gained from having a broad education. On the other hand, given the crap courses to which too many gravitate today (aggrieved victim studies, for example) which are entirely illiberal, perhaps a certificate that enables a middle-class career isn't such a bad thing.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The University of Southern California.

Today's question is:
For which NFL teams did OJ Simpson play?


This is what happens when Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit links to you:
click to enlarge

Update, 1/23/11: Things get back to normal pretty quickly :(

Monday, January 17, 2011

Some Are More Equal Than Others

Is this the kind of person you want in Congress?

A top House Democrat said the attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) should change how members of Congress are screened at airports.

“I really believe that that is the place where we feel the most ill at ease, is going through airports,” Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), who serves as assistant minority leader in the House, said on "Fox News Sunday."

Clyburn called for the Transportation Security Administration, which administers airport security checkpoints, to interact “a little better” with the Capitol Hill Police.

“We’ve had some incidents where TSA authorities think that congresspeople should be treated like everybody else,” he said. “Well, the fact of the matter is, we are held to a higher standard in so many other areas, and I think we need to take a hard look at exactly how the TSA interact with members of Congress.”

There's nothing I can say to make this buffoon appear any worse than he does by himself.

Everyone's Favorite Star Trek Story

Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura) and Dr. King
(Commenter 'Darren' on that post strikes me as a stand-up kinda guy, despite the structural error in his comment)

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
For which college team did Simpson play football?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
USS Yorktown.

Today's question, the first in the highly-anticipated OJ Simpson Week, is:
In what year did Simpson win the Heisman Trophy?

The Third Brown Era in California

I've been hanging onto this New Geography article for awhile, trying to think of how I should write about it. Instead of doing a full-blown piece, though, I'll just quote two paragraphs:

Pat Brown was a committed progressive who actually believed in both social and economic progress. He did not focus on re-distributing wealth or expanding bureaucratic controls; his priority was to use government to help generate greater opportunities for Californians...

Jerry Brown turned out to be of a very different political hue than his father. Sometimes he sounded more anti-government even than Reagan. He disdained his father’s traditional focus on infrastructure spending and instead preached about amore environmentally friendly “era of limits.” Brown cut the percentage of spending on such capital improvements from roughly 10% of state spending under Reagan to barely 5%, where it remains mired today.

Jerry's changed his mind on topics so many times that it's hard to predict where he'll go as governor this time. The article closes on a hopeful note.

Food Pantry at a Local University

Is it just me, or is there something untoward about a food pantry at a University of California campus?

College students are known to scrape by on meager meals like peanut butter sandwiches, cold cereal and ramen noodles. But as tuition skyrockets and family finances remain tight, some students are having trouble buying even such humble staples.

It's given rise to a small but growing trend: the campus food bank, where hungry students can get a free can of soup, box of oatmeal or package of spaghetti. A food pantry opens today at the University of California, Davis, following similar efforts at UCLA, Bakersfield College and Oregon State University.

"It's the most basic need of a student – to eat," said UC Davis student Ashley Thomas, who plans to use the pantry. "You can't study for a chemistry final if you're hungry."

I have no idea if young Ashley, or anyone else who plans to use the food pantry, is genuinely needy. I have no idea how much electronic equipment she owns, where she shops, or when the last time she visited Starbucks or Nugget Market (it's a nice one in Davis) was. I have no idea how much she herself pays for tuition, or if she lives in a dorm room or an apartment, or if she has a car. I have no idea if she has a job. But honestly, is a college student at a top California university truly so needy that he/she has to rely on charity just to eat?

A sign next to the service counter tells student volunteers how to help customers. Pantry volunteers must ask students seeking free food to show their student ID cards but don't record their names or ask about their finances. Students can visit the pantry as often as they like and can get enough food for three meals during each visit.

"We are a little concerned about people taking advantage," said Gold, 21. "But there's an inherent risk any time you start a new project, and there's so much overall benefit from this project that we're hoping it's worth the risk."

Who wouldn't go, just to save a few bucks that could be spent elsewhere?

Question this program, though, and you're a neoimperialist arrogant American. Who says so? Why, young Ashley herself, in one of the comments after the article. What are her exact words?

Ashley Thomas [Moderator] Today 11:17 AM
I am disappointed immensely with the callous judgments being free wheeled here. This project is aimed at the students who are skipping meals, and our 20 UC Davis students who are actually homeless. Our fees have been raised 43%, the economy sucks, and it gets harder and harder to "make it". I would like to run a fiscal evaluation on several of the commentators and wonder why they are all griping? Almost half the world lives on $2 a day, why don't you, instead of berating an altruistic effort, be inspired to look beyond your ultra-nourished, neoimperialist, arrogant US self and reach out to the rest of humanity.

Read that comment, and remember that I am helping pay for her education--if you can call it an education, based on her comments above.

Update, 1/17/10: Instalanche! Welcome, fellow Instapundit and NewsAlert readers! Please feel free to poke around the rest of my site (click on the blog title at the top of this post to do so). Whether you agree or disagree with what you see here, I hope it'll stimulate some thought and discussion.

Green Energy

It's a nice goal, but let's not make a religion out of it. And certainly we need to stop throwing taxpayer money at it (yes, I've changed my view on that).

The anti-energy lobby, surrogates for Big Wind and Big Solar, is now backed into a rhetorical corner in its effort to impose its agenda of protecting the world from the horrors of affordable, abundant energy. Remember, although they say their objective is to use policy to force invention of Flubber or pixie dust to satisfy our future energy abundance, this doesn’t square with their decades of saying that “If you ask me, it’d be a little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy because of what we would do with it” (green Energy guru Amory Lovins).

Or that it would be “like giving a machine gun to an idiot child” (green leader, Paul Ehrlich), that “It’s the worst thing that could happen to our planet” (Eco-writer Jeremy Rifkin). That’s what drives them. They want you limited to stuff that doesn’t and won’t work because it doesn’t and won’t work. But to get you there they swear it will. Despite saying for decades that would actually be their worst nightmare. link

Yes, clearly a biased article, but the quotes are real (and telling). I've said it before and I'll say it again, those people don't want an energy utopia, they want to end capitalism and civilization itself. They'll still get their creature comforts, though--it's good for the rest of us, though, to toil away on our small plots of land as our ancestors did centuries ago.

And let's not forget in this time of rising gas prices, it was Al Gore himself who advocated for higher gas prices in his book Earth In The Balance: "Higher taxes on fossil fuels. . . is one of the logical first steps in changing our policies in a manner consistent with a more responsible approach to the environment."

Why do these people hate you and your prosperity so much?

Doing Well On Testing--Good, or Bad?

The usual handwringing is occurring now that international test results have been released, and China comes out near the top and the US in the middle.

Here in the United States, we value creatiiiiiiiiiiiivity. That our kids don't do well on state, national, or international tests, well, we explain that away somehow. When the Chinese do well, we (and sometimes even they) claim that the Chinese system makes great test-takers but not great thinkers.

False dichotomy. Seriously. The two are not mutually-exclusive. In fact, we should strive for both.

And consider this: if you don't know the material well enough to do well on a test, you don't know it well enough to be "creative" with it. This parallels my beliefs about critical thinking: you can't think critically about something without first having a broad base of knowledge on which to draw. Making excuses for mediocre performance is just sour grapes, nothing more.

Update, 1/17/10: I've received the author's permission to post the following, which was sent to an emaillist to which I am subscribed:

From the article:

"Students rise at dawn, disappear into school until dinnertime and toil into the late night over homework in preparation for university entrance exams that can make or break their future."

Fortunately for our kids in the USA, college won't "make or break their future." (sarcasm)

more from article:

"They have huge vocabularies and they do math well. However, the level of their creativity and imagination is low."

They fill our STEM graduate programs in the USA. They account for a high percentage of IT startups in the USA. The percentage of USA patents filled by Chinese goes up every year. The percentage of scientific articles published in the world by Chinese goes up every year.

They are giving "failure" a bad name.

Local Boy Protests College Tuition

From the SF Chronicle:

While tuition increases in Britain prompted violent protests last month, rising college fees rarely elicit more than shrugs among most students in the United States.

But on Friday, a sophomore at the University of Colorado, Boulder, found a symbolic way to strike back.

The student, Nic Ramos, paid his entire spring semester tuition - all $14,309.51 of it - using dollar bills, a 50-cent piece and a penny...

According to a university spokesman, Bronson Hilliard, it took three people nearly an hour to count the money.

While tuition at the university has risen in recent years, it has not increased for Ramos. Being from Sacramento, he pays the out-of-state rate, which has remained the same for all four years.

Hat tip to NewsAlert.

Is College "Worth It"

There's been a meme lately in the edublogosphere that perhaps there's a "higher education bubble", meaning that college costs are rising so high and so fast, even when compared to inflation, that eventually they, like the dotcom bubble and the housing bubble and the tulip bulb bubble, will burst. Then what happens? If it's lower college costs and fewer people attending Club Med U and instead attending Reasonable State U, I'm all for it.

There's another meme going around that says that students are racking up so much debt (in these pre-bubble-bursting days), and high-paying jobs are so scarce, that a college education might not even be worth the cost anymore.

In general I've stayed away from those two topics. Here's a post, though, contra my second paragraph.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Complete and Total Idiot

Want to know what free speech means to a leftie? Read the rantings of this guy, a Brit--focus on his closing line. As one of the commenters said sarcastically, "we must destroy free speech in order to save it."

The idiot is right that freedom can only flourish in a climate of discipline, and our own Supreme Court has put some limits on freedom of speech. His gratuitous attacks on Fox News and Texas, though, are just the code words lefties need to hear to know exactly what he means--he means discipline for those views that he doesn't like. Lefties are all about authoritarianism, control, and censorship, all in the name of the common good. They, after all, know what's best for us.

Update: Ed Driscoll offers up his commentary on the same article.

Why Would A School District Own A Radio Station?

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

San Francisco's public schools will loan public radio's KALW up to $200,000 to keep the struggling station financially afloat even as the district faces its own financial woes and major cutbacks.

The school board voted unanimously this week to provide an unprecedented line of credit to the 70-year-old station, which operates independently, but is technically owned by the district.

The station has been losing money for three years and now sits about $120,000 in the hole, said KALW general manager Matt Martin. Its annual budget is about $1.4 million, most of which is donated by listeners.

"We have not taken cash (from the district) for nearly 20 years," he said. "That's not what we want here. We want a loan we can pay back with interest."

The district gave the station 18 months to repay the loan's principal and about 1.5 percent in interest.

The FM station first broadcast at the 1939 World's Fair on Treasure Island and was donated to San Francisco Unified in 1941 to train students in the then-emerging field of radio broadcasting.

But in 1992, the station cut financial ties with city schools and set out to survive on donations and grants alone. The district has continued to provide some accounting and other administrative services and a free place to broadcast at Burton High School. In total, the aid is worth about $236,000 annually, according to station financial statements.

Hat tip to NewsAlert.

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Angry and hungry.

Today's question is:
When Gene Roddenberry first pitched his Star Trek idea to MGM, what was the name of the starship?

And don't forget, tomorrow starts OJ Simpson Week for the RotLC trivia questions!

How To Plan For Next Year's School Budget

California school districts are in quite the pickle regarding planning for next year's budget:

How do you plan a school district budget if you have no idea how much money you will be getting from the state?

That's the dilemma public school budget planners face.

When Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled his budget proposal Monday, it looked as if public schools had escaped with a reprieve. Brown opted not to make additional cuts to schools serving kindergarten through 12th grade students.

But Brown's plan comes with a big if.

The proposal relies on California voters passing a June ballot measure to extend three tax increases that have been in effect since 2009. If they don't, K-12 and community colleges' share of the budget would be cut by at least $2.2 billion, said Ron Bennett, president of the consulting firm Schools Services of California Inc. Other experts peg the potential cut at double that amount.

The proposed budget also defers payment on $2.1 billion in state funding for schools and community colleges. That means the money, which is supposed to go to schools in the 2011-12 school year, would not actually be paid until the following school year.

In addition, schools traditionally expect cost-of-living increases each year to cover school operations. Brown's proposal eliminates that increase, estimated at about $100 per student.

Given the uncertainty surrounding the vote and the funding deferrals, the people who draw up school budgets face a bit of a quandary.

"Does a school district prepare for a flat budget or for a loss of $2.2 billion?" Bennett asked.

I think the answer is "yes". Sadly, they may have to plan for both scenarios. Back in the army, we'd say they should create a "decision support matrix"--you create an overall plan, which includes what to do if specific contingencies arise. Takes awhile, but once the battle starts, it's easier to have already thought things out.

There are some serious, and costly, drawbacks, though:

Districts won't know which plan to put in play until after the June vote, making it difficult to meet a state-required May 15 deadline to issue final pink slips to teachers and other staff. The likely result will be a slew of layoff notices that could be pulled back if voters approve the tax increase.

Every pink slip entails tons of work, including paperwork, to ensure that the correct (i.e., most junior) teachers get the pink slips. If one teacher who should have doesn't get a pink slip, every teacher senior to that one who did get a pink slip must have his/her pink slip revoked. Districts (and unions) spend a lot of time and paper to make sure this gets done correctly--and then there are the costs associated with substitute teachers when the pink-slipped teachers get to attend the layoff hearings and plead their cases before an administrative law judge. Such hearings take days.

Is there a better way for Governor Brown to handle this?

The Tucson Shootings

I've received a few emails asking when I was going to do a post on the Tucson shootings. I think all my regular readers probably know where I stand on the issue and those who asked probably just wanted to hear me say it (figuratively, of course, since I type here).

I'm not going to explain how the American Right, or Sarah Palin, or Glenn Beck, or the NRA, or any other unjustly accused person or organization was, in fact, unjustly accused of complicity in assassination and murder. We all know it was unjust, so I see no reason to expound on that.

No, I'm just going to point out the rampant hypocrisy of the American Left--the ones, like Eleanor Rodham Clift, whom I saw on The McLaughlin Group last night, who always say that whatever evil there is, the American Right is worse. In this post I'll just provide a compendium of the Left's evil and let it speak for itself.

Let's not forget that the press is complicit in this. The same press that cautioned restraint and not jumping to conclusions when a Moslem fired on unarmed soldiers at Fort Hood, in this case jumped on the Tea Party/Sarah Palin/Glenn Beck/NRA hatefest. And they did it with gusto, in the absence of any fact or evidence.

Let's not forget that the same people who pretended to be offended at the use of the term "blood libel", which is what they committed against Palin in particular, casually toss around the term "denier" to describe those of us who don't believe in anthropogenic global warming (see this eco-video if "denier" isn't harsh enough for you).

The Right is a bunch of evil, threatening, murderous thugs in this country? Who are you going to believe, the American Left or your own lying eyes?

Democrats have never used targets on pictures to get their point across? Who are you going to believe, the American Left or your own lying eyes?

Only Sarah Palin ever "targeted" Congresswoman Giffords? Who are you going to believe, the American Left or your own lying eyes?

President Obama has had to endure the worst attacks and threats of any president ever? Who are you going to believe, the American Left or your own lying eyes?

The American Right is hateful? Who are you going to believe, the American Left or your own lying eyes?

OK, maybe there are a few crazies on the Left, but certainly no one with any influence on the Left says such hateful things. Who are you going to believe, the American Left or your own lying eyes?

At this point, choosing to believe anything anyone on the Left says about the Right (or just about any other topic) almost requires a complete and total willingness to suspend reality.

Update, 1/16/11: One of the victims of last weekend's shooting has twisted off, threatening the head of Tucson's Tea Party, and has been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility. MSNBC loves the guy, though.

Update #2, 1/16/11: There's way too much truth in this witty fictional exchange posted on Instapundit a few days ago:

Lefty: Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement encourage hatred and violence!
Questioner: How do you know?
Lefty: Because whenever I think about them, I’m filled with hate and a desire to do harm!

Update #3, 1/16/11: The left’s definition of civil discourse is surreal.

Update #4, 1/22/11: You can take your "violent rhetoric" talk and bite me, Chris Matthews:

Chris Matthews on Thursday actually showed a graphic image of the Capitol building with a red target on it and crosshairs in the foreground.

This hypocritically occurred moments before a lengthy segment on "Hardball" about violent rhetoric wherein he complained about "over-the-top references to guns all the time by people like Sarah Palin" (video follows with transcript and commentary)....

The video shows an image of the Capitol with crosshairs on it, with the words "Fire On The Right". Another site sarcastically states:

This is clearly one of many warning signs that shouldn’t be ignored. We suspend first graders for drawing pictures of guns at school, so episodes like these deserve the same kind of caution.

What's good for the goose, Chris....

Friday, January 14, 2011

How Would Someone Figure This Out?

What would possess someone even to think of studying this, much less come up with Kaprekar's Constant?

6174 is known as Kaprekar's constant after the Indian mathematician D. R. Kaprekar. This number is notable for the following property:

1. Take any four-digit number, using at least two different digits. (Leading zeros are allowed.)
2. Arrange the digits in ascending and then in descending order to get two four-digit numbers, adding leading zeros if necessary.
3. Subtract the smaller number from the bigger number.
4. Go back to step 2.

The above process, known as Kaprekar's routine, will always reach 6174 in at most 7 iterations.[4] Once 6174 is reached, the process will continue yielding 7641 – 1467 = 6174. For example, choose 3524:

5432 – 2345 = 3087
8730 – 0378 = 8352
8532 – 2358 = 6174

Today's Teacher Workday

Final exams ended yesterday, and Dr. King's holiday is Monday, thus giving our students a nice 4-day weekend. We teachers, though, we had to toil.

And toil we did. As has been customary at our school for the 8 years I've worked there, on this "teacher workday after finals" our administrators make pancakes, bacon, and sausage, and serve it up to the staff first thing in the morning. It's an easy way to engender a lot of goodwill.

Then it was off to grading. I had already graded and recorded all the multiple-guess portions of the finals I gave, and today I had just a few dozen remaining short-answer portions of the finals. Had a "rigorous" visit to the gym last night and a few sore muscles told me that sitting hunched over my desk grading papers was not going to be a well-tolerated activity--so I put a note on my door, in case anyone showed up looking for me, and I retired to the nearby staff lounge (we have 3 on campus). I kicked off my shoes, stretched out on the couch, and started grading. It didn't take long before I was done.

Then we had a department meeting at our department chair's house--a working potluck lunch of lasagna, garlic bread, salads, and cheesecake. And yes, we did actually discuss work issues; it was a legitimate meeting. After lunch we headed back to school, I finalized all grades in our official software, and by then it was time to go home.

There are other things I could have done. I could have made new seating charts for my classes. I could have put the upcoming week's assignments on my web site. There are myriad minor administrative tasks I could have performed. They'll all be there this long weekend if I decide to head that way, and if not, I can take care of them on Tuesday.

Yes, This Is Happening In America

From YahooNews:

The National Labor Relations Board on Friday threatened to sue Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah over constitutional amendments guaranteeing workers the right to a secret ballot in union elections.

The agency's acting general counsel, Lafe Solomon, said the amendments conflict with federal law, which gives employers the option of recognizing a union if a majority of workers sign cards that support unionizing.

The secret ballot is too stringent a requirement.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Louise Brown.

Today's question is:
List all English-language words that end in -gry.

Listen up, campers, have we at Right on the Left Coast got a treat for you. We haven't had a theme week in a little while, so this Sunday we'll start a special trivia theme week. Our topic will be: OJ Simpson!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Fitness For Everyone?

Should business be able to discriminate against customers based on their sex, color, sexual orientation, etc? As a society we've kinda decided that no, they should not be able to do that, and hence we've forbidden it. I've discussed property rights for many years with a friend, and have come to the conclusion that sometimes, in narrow circumstances, we have to determine what kind of society we want to live in, and we've determined that we do not want to live in one wherein business can discriminate like that. That doesn't mean that "majority rules" always gets to dictate private property rights, but sometimes, in public issues, it does.

I cannot find a reference right now, but I seem to recall that some time in the last few years, a certain gym chain here in the Sacramento area had complaints about having "women only" equipment rooms. Why should guys, who pay full price, be excluded from certain workout rooms and equipment? My memory tells me that they were required, or decided, to get rid of such rooms. Again, fuzzy memory here, but I think that ended "ladies night" at the bars, too. (see update #2, below)

And I'm OK with this. If we've decided we want to live in a society in which people are not discriminated against based on their sex, then we need to live up to that ideal wherever possible. We can't say that equality is vitally important in our public lives but then keep carving out exceptions.

I get daily emails from one of those "deal a day" web sites, and given what I wrote above, you might imagine that I was more than a little offended to get this deal today:
What? This is for women only? I'm not cool with that at all.

Hey look! Their website says "fitness for everyone", but clearly that means "everyone except those with external plumbing".

So I figure, let's not send an email--everyone does that. Let's send an actual paper letter outlining the issue. But guess what! The only contact information I can find on this company's site is a phone number in Denver (303 area code):

I'm willing to shell out 44 cents for a stamp, but not the egregious long distance fees I would have to pay on my very inexpensive cell phone plan. Besides, I don't want to call; I'm much better at expressing myself in writing than I am verbally.

So I get an offer for a deal I can't participate in, from a company in Denver I can only call. I'm not going to plant my flag on this hill and fight to the death over this, but I'm disappointed at the double standard--that might not even be legal in this area. Darn my memory!

Update: One man's losing fight against ladies' night. That the US Supreme Court declines to hear his case does not necessarily mean that they find ladies' nights constitutional, just that they have bigger issues with which to deal.

Update #2, 3/2/11: I'd forgotten about this post.

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Lady Gaga. Seriously.

Today's question is:
Who was the world's first “test-tube baby”, born in Britain in 1978?

Who's the Bigot?

Am I surprised this is from NPR? No.

It's painfully ironic that a gay Latino man came to the aid of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the storm of gunfire. Daniel Hernandez, an intern with the congresswoman, ran to Rep. Giffords and helped to stop the bleeding. If a judge hadn't blocked provisions of Arizona's SB 1070 law, the intern's surname would have easily qualified him as a target for police under different circumstances on Saturday.

She conflates "immigrants" with "illegal immigrants", and says that only after she knew he wasn't Hispanic could she read the rest of the news stories on the shooting. Can you take seriously anything this woman says, with sloppiness and bigotry like that?

Americans Still Aren't Doing Great On International Tests


The news last week that Shanghai students achieved the top scores in math on the international PISA exam was for some of us not exactly a wake-up call (as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan characterized it) or a Sputnik moment (as President Obama called it).

We've seen this result before. We've seen the reactions and the theories and the excuses that purport to explain why the US does so poorly in math. In fact, there are three main variations used to explain why Chinese/Asian students do so well in international exams:

· Version 1: They are taught using rote learning and then regurgitate the results on exams that test how well they memorize the procedures of how to solve specific problems.

· Version 2: They are taught using the reform methods of a "problem based approach" that doesn't rely on drills, and instills critical thinking and higher order thinking skills

· Version 3: The teacher or the culture produces the proper conditions for learning

It’s hard to know where to start with these, so let’s take them in order.

I disagree with him somewhat on version 3, as some cultures do value education more than others. I don't think it's a stretch to say that the upper classes of our own society put more emphasis on education than do the lower classes, and it's not a stretch to say that some national cultures put more emphasis on education than do other national cultures.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Good Enough For Thee, But Not For Me

As I type this, the following is shown on the front page of CTA's web site:

California Gets a "C" Overall, Ranked 43rd in Per-Pupil Spending
January 2011
Education Week's 2011 Quality Counts Report gives California a "C" overall, while we continue to be at the bottom of the list in per-pupil spending. Says Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, "Average is not good enough. You wouldn’t want a “C” mechanic working on your car, a “C” attorney defending you in court, or a “C” surgeon operating on you in a hospital – and we can’t be satisfied with a “C” for California schools."

Yet, according to CTA, all of California's teachers get A's. All of us are the same, each of us "in union brotherhood" is paid on the same pay scale--talent, abilities, or student outcomes be damned.

Can you spell "hypocrisy"? I knew you could.

Higher Education Cuts On The Table In California

Schwarzenegger couldn't get away with something like this, but since Brown has a capital D after his name, suggestions like this are not only not challenged, they're considered either inevitable or even desirable:

While last budget season, California's public universities were the only major area of government to see an increase in state funding, higher education is now in line to take a big hit – 16 percent if Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal comes to pass.

Brown on Monday proposed cutting $500 million each from the University of California and the California State University systems and another $400 million from community colleges. The announcement came as no surprise to college leaders, who say the newly elected governor told them last month to brace for reductions.
Curious how the CTA reacts to this news? They ignore it:

David A. Sanchez, president of the 325,000-member California Teachers Association, released this statement about Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget:

“We commend the governor for taking a balanced approach to solving the state’s staggering budget deficit. Extending the current revenues is critical to trying to maintain any public education system in this state at all.

“We appreciate the governor trying to limit cuts to education. As he pointed out, K-12 education has ‘borne the brunt’ of the state's budget cuts, with more than $18 billion in cuts over the last three years, resulting in larger class sizes, program cuts and over 30,000 educator layoffs. Our schools are in a state of financial emergency and this budget does not restore any of that much-needed funding. In fact, the $2 billion deferral of K-12 funding and the cuts to higher education will impact students. CSU and UC students have seen triple-digit fee increases, pricing many students out of a college education.

“We look forward to examining the details of the budget proposal and working with the governor and the Legislature on a budget package that includes revenues to prevent further devastation to our students and schools. Without continuing existing revenues, public education would be looking at another $2.3 billion in cuts, according to the Department of Finance. That is not the future we want for our students. They deserve much better.”