Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste

Last week on social media I encountered a former student of mine from three years ago.  I didn't remember him.

I keep PDF's of my grades, and have for about 5 years now.  Today I went through the lists of names of students in my classes from the last few years.  I can't believe how many of them whose faces I cannot bring to mind, and how many whose names I just don't remember.  I've never been very good at names, but this is ridiculous.

I have 12 more years to teach before I can afford to retire.  I worry that my mind won't make it that far.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Went to the DMV Today

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

I've written about the Department of Motor Vehicles before, at least here and here.  In the latter link I discussed my recent scheduling of today's DMV appointment.

The only time I could schedule an appointment that (probably) wouldn't conflict with work was today at 9:30--I had a 2-hr prep period (none yesterday) that ended at 10:00 but that was the best I could do.  I left school at 9:10 and arrived shortly before 9:30.

The line stretched out of the building and down through the parking lot.  Not at all remembering my experience outlined in the first link above, I went to the front of the line and sure enough, there was a very short line for those of us with appointments.  Walk-ins at this particular office are a nightmare.

I got to a window, checked in for my appointment, and was given a number--now I had to wait like everyone else.  However, my number was called before 9:35, so that wasn't bad at all.  The woman at the window I was sent to ignored me for about a minute and then graciously acknowledged my presence.

I had to renew my driver's license and get a new picture because my last picture was 15 years old; I figured while I was there I might as well renew my motorcycle registration, which I received a few days ago.  The lady took my registration paperwork and asked for a check for several dozen dollars.  I asked, "How much for the license renewal?  I can write just one check."  Her reply:  "It's got to be two checks--two different systems."  Of course there are.  I wrote a check and she handed me a new registration and license plate sticker.  Then she directed me to another window.

The lady at that window was waiting for me.  She gave me an eye test which I barely passed; I wear only one contact lens for "monovision", so my left eye is uncorrected.  Wearing one lens gives me 20/20 vision and depth perception, and allows me to see up close and at a distance without putting on reading glasses or the like.  I didn't realize that I needed at least 20/100 in both eyes individually in order to pass!  After spending a few moments focusing and such I was able to succeed.  If I remember in the future, I need to take my glasses with me to such appointments and not wear my contact!

Then I was sent to the line to get my new picture.  Got it, was given a temporary license, was told I'd receive my actual license in 5-7 working days, and off I went.

I got back to school at 10:00.  My class started at 10:05.  The teacher who had planned to cover for me in case I was late was just opening my classroom door.  All told I had been gone for 50 minutes.

Not bad.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Dodging a Bullet--Why This Presidential Election Is So Personally Important To Me

The teachers unions dodged a bullet today.  The Friedrichs case, widely believed on both sides of the political spectrum to be the death knell for forced unionism, was decided 4-4 today.  At best, the case can be reheard after a new president chooses a new justice.

My personal free association rights hang in the balance.  That is one reason why this presidential election is so important to me.

From CNN:
In an unexpected victory for union supporters, the Supreme Court said Tuesday it was evenly divided in a case concerning public sector unions, and therefore it affirmed the lower court decision in organized labor's favor.

The result leaves intact a nearly 40-year-old precedent and is most likely reflective of the impact that Justice Antonin Scalia's death had on pending cases.
At oral arguments, the high court seemed poised to deal a major blow to unions and overrule precedent, but with Scalia's death there were no longer five justices available to do so.
Fox News:
The Supreme Court split 4-4 Tuesday on a challenge brought by public school teachers who objected to paying union dues, delivering a big win for the unions – in the first major case where the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s vote would have proved decisive.

The California teachers in the case had challenged a state law requiring non-union workers to pay “fair share” fees into the public-employee unions to cover collective bargaining costs.

The court, with its split decision, left in place a lower court ruling favoring the unions.

The result is an unlikely victory for organized labor after it seemed almost certain the high court would rule 5-4 to overturn a system in place nearly 40 years. The court is operating with only eight justices after the death of Scalia, who had been expected to rule against the unions.

The one-sentence opinion Tuesday does not set a national precedent and does not identify how each justice voted. It simply upholds a decision from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that applies to California and eight other Western states.
Update: Forbes:
Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association was one of the highly anticipated cases of this Term. The Court was to decide whether public employee unions can garnish the wages of non-union members to support the unions’ collective bargaining and other political activities, without those workers’ consent. Rebecca Friedrichs and other teachers challenged California laws that granted the union special permission to garnish their wages as a violation of their First Amendment rights. PLF supported the teachers with an amicus brief. Oral arguments looked promising for the teachers, and the teachers’ unions began preparing for life without agency shop fees. Then Justice Scalia passed away and the landscape changed. As California teacher Darren Miller lamented, “Friedrichs is probably the last time in my life I’ll get a chance to be free of forced unionism as a teacher, and now that chance has suffered a body blow.”

Miller called it, at least for the time being. Today, the Supreme Court affirmed the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in favor of the unions, in a 4-4 tie.

Today’s decision allows the union to continue to trample individual teachers’ constitutional rights as they have been doing since 1977’s decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. The Abood case allows unions to garnish wages of non-union members to pay for collective bargaining, which, in the public sector, is rife with politics and lobbying. While Abood lives for today, the fact remains that the Court significantly weakened Abood in two recent union dues cases—Knox v. Service Employees International Union and Harris v. Quinn—both of which noted that the decision in Abood was based on faulty premises and an unrealistic view of public-employee unionism, with the resulting infringement on individual rights. For this reason, I offer Miller and other California teachers this hope: Resolution of this fight is delayed, but it is not over.
The author is a principal attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation.

Update #2, 3/31/16:
The California teacher challenging compulsory union dues will file a request for the Supreme Court to rehear her case after it deadlocked on her petition to overturn longstanding precedent.

“We are very patient people and we are definitely in this for the long haul,” veteran teacher Rebecca Friedrichs said in a Tuesday conference call with reporters. “In our view it simply delays the final outcome … I am very hopeful that the justices will let us reargue the case.”  link

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Definition of Counterproductive

Usually, teachers unions do everything they can, by fair means or foul, to get people into their union or at least to get them to pay dues.  The Chicago Teachers Union is giving teachers a get-out-of-the-union free card, if this story is to be believed:
Some Chicago Public Schools teachers who aren’t sold on their union’s decision to call a one-day strike will face consequences if they cross the picket line on April 1.

A South Side high school teacher who asked not to be identified told me that she learned her plan to show up to school on the so-called “Day of Action” would get her kicked out of the union.

“It was said to me as a matter of fact that the consequence of choosing to come to school is being kicked out of the union,” the teacher said. “I’m furious about the whole thing"...

CTU financial secretary Kristine Mayle said teachers considering showing up to work on April 1 have been informed of provisions in the union bylaws that relate to “strike breakers” that date back to at least 1971.

“We put out information in response to questions but we are not trying to threaten members. But if someone crosses the picket line they undermine the union. We have to do this together or it doesn’t work,” Mayle said.

“We are following the constitution. If you cross the picket line you are considered a strikebreaker. Once that is reported to the office … we have a series of meetings and the committee determines whether to revoke your union membership.”

A teacher excommunicated by CTU would still have to pay union fees because they receive the benefits of contract negotiations, but they lose other benefits including union-provided liability insurance, according to a memo sent to a member who crossed the picket line during the 2012 teachers strike obtained by DNAinfo Chicago.
Any organization that has to threaten you in order to keep you in line isn't worth your time, membership, or money.  Two words:  agency fee.

Hat tip:  Larry Sand, President of the California Teachers Empowerment Network.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

If you don't know, ask anyone who's taken a basic economics course:
California legislators and labor unions have reached an agreement that will take the state’s minimum wage from $10 to $15 an hour.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

When Schools Give In

I recently did a post on schools giving in on discipline with regards to special education students, and Joanne recently did one on schools that have seemingly given up on trying to discipline students.  These two are not the only such posts in existence, the problem is rampant across the country.  The problem was created the moment school administrators decided it was easier to give in than to do what's right.

I thought of that as I read this story from the New York Times about emergency room doctors who prescribe opioids to known addicts:
But, as one of my colleagues whom I greatly respect said to me in the emergency room recently: “Why wouldn’t I give patients a Percocet prescription? It makes their life easier and my life easier.” Another colleague overhead this and wholeheartedly agreed, speaking truth to the fact that the system is set up so that refusing these demands is much more difficult and time-consuming than it is to simply give in to them.
What is this doctor's solution to her problem (and to mine)?
But the truth is, a deep cultural shift within our health care system is needed. Physicians need to know that if they don’t prescribe a narcotic because it’s not clinically indicated, or worse yet, because the patient already has an addiction problem, that they have the backing of administrators at every level, from their own department to the head of the hospital all the way up to state officials. If patients are seeking narcotics and have a documented history of doing so — and become combative or refuse to leave after discharge — they may need to be escorted out of the emergency room by security and their treatment terminated to avoid interrupting the care of other patients.

What my patient said to me that Saturday morning is right: We health care providers created the problem. Now it’s up to us to take steps to try to solve it.
What makes absolute sense in medicine is the furthest thing from reality in education.  The words from West Point's Cadet Prayer come back to me: Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong.

Friday, March 25, 2016


I went to a coin show today, and in addition to some fine coins (including coins of both Caracalla and Geta, the Cain and Abel of ancient Rome) I picked up a new banknote.  It was only $1 so I could afford it.

In this post I posted pictures of some of my "inflationary notes".  I now have notes from three of the greatest hyperinflationary periods of the 20th Century.

Weimar Germany, 1923:
click to enlarge

The first note is a 1000 Mark note counterstamped to be worth 1 billion Marks.  It was cheaper and faster to release counterstamped notes than to produce new notes.  But they still produced new notes, and the second one is 5 billion Marks.  It's printed only on one side.  Wikipedia has details on the rate of inflation, which peaked at around 29,500% in one month.

Hungary, 1946, and Zimbabwe, 2008:
My new note is from Hungary, where the unit of currency at the start of 1946 was the pengo.  The first note above is 1 million milpengos, or 1 million million (1 trillion) pengos.  Milpengos were later replaced by b-pengos, or 1 trillion pengos, so my note above was clearly not at the end of the inflationary period.  Wikipedia has details on the rate of inflation, which peaked between 13 and 42 trillion percent in one month.  Hungary in 1946 still holds the Guiness Book record for highest inflation rate of all time.

Zimbabwe's is the most recent hyperinflation, taking place not even a decade ago.  Wikipedia has some details on the rate of inflation, but figures vary so much that it's hard to know which to trust.

A compilation of hyperinflation rates is available here.

Best of Enemies

A couple days ago I bought the documentary Best of Enemies, about the 1968 election discussions between William F. Buckley, Jr., and Gore Vidal.

I thought the "debates" would be better; instead, what I saw was two men (who clearly hated each other) trying to knock the other one down with verbal repartee.  While I agreed with Buckley I thought Vidal was the more "entertaining", having won the jabbing contest.  Perhaps viewers in 1968 were more sophisticated, not having had strong doses of reality- and low-attention-span TV.

One thing that Buckley said really sickened Vidal, but it seems to me to be a universal truth.  I cannot imagine how anyone can argue with it.  It was 3 simple words:  Freedom breeds inequality.  If it weren't true I'd be a fighter pilot.  Or an astronaut.  Or a San Francisco 49er.  Or a surfer.  And I'd be rich.

Of course I believe in freedom before the law, and of Equal Justice Under Law.  I also believe we're all equal in the eyes of God.  But we have different abilities, different desires, different beliefs, and our personal freedom gives us the ability to pursue for ourselves that which we can given our abilities, desires, and beliefs.  Forced equality of abilities, or of outcomes based on abilities and beliefs, truly brings us all down to the level of the least able.

That's why government shouldn't try to make everyone "equal"--as I wrote about in my previous post.

The End Of Education

Joanne has a post that says much more than she probably planned for it to:
Tracking in eighth grade — usually in math — correlates with higher scores on AP tests at the end of high school, concludes the 2016 Brown Center Report on American Education.
The quote at the end is the most telling:
San Francisco Unified middle schools no longer teach algebra, as part of the shift to Common Core standards, reported Ana Tintocalis for KQED last year.

For years, all eighth graders took algebra and many failed, said Lizzy Hull Barnes.  Now no one will take algebra till ninth grade.

This “is a social justice issue for SFUSD,” writes Tintocalis. “District officials say the controversial practice of tracking students — or separating them based on talent and ability — is simply wrong.”
No, what's "simply wrong" is what I identified in my comment on Joanne's post:
That, in a nutshell, is why we in education have lost all credibility. It’s clear that SFUSD doesn’t believe all children should reach their potential, and they’re willing to hold some kids back in order to make that belief a reality.

Fair Is Fair

I'm not saying this law is right, it's not. I'm not saying it was enforced the way laws should be, either.

However, such laws--and there are myriad laws that are primarily enforced against men--will only be gotten rid of when they're equally enforced against women. Or, in this case, girls:

Twelve-year-old Breana Evans was arrested after pinching a boy’s butt at an Orlando-area middle school and charged with misdemeanor battery for the cheeky attack.

“I regret it because I didn’t know it would lead to this,” Evans told WKMG. “I feel like it’s just stupid — just a stupid charge that shouldn’t have to happen.”

Her victim, a fellow classmate at Milwee Middle School, didn’t want to press charges, but his mother jumped in and told police he wanted the preteen prosecuted for battery.
Not that it matters legally, of course, but left unsaid in the article is whether or not the boy liked it.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

32 Years Ago Today

It was on this date that they met:
Five high school students, all different stereotypes, meet in detention, where they pour their hearts out to each other, and discover how they have a lot more in common than they thought. 
It's in the first few seconds:

Debasing The Coinage

A useful trick for "saving" money used to be debasing the coinage--putting less silver or gold in a coin than the face value stated.  When people discovered this was happening, inflation became rampant.

We've gotten rid of that today, we just don't put any precious metal in our coins.

In the 1990s, the heyday of Whole Language and Fuzzy Math, education took such a turn for the worse that taxpayers, those who fund education, had enough.  A high school diploma was no longer indicative even of an ability to read, and standardized testing in schools took on greater prominence with NCLB.  Jobs that used to require only a high school diploma started requiring college degrees, not because the jobs were more difficult, but because a degree meant some modicum of learning existed in the holder.

What's happening on college campuses today, where seemingly everything is important except actually learning something of value--and no, protesting about chalk writings is not of value--has devalued university degrees that outside testing of college students is now being discussed:
The New America Foundation is out with a new white paper, written by Fredrik DeBoer of Purdue University, on the prospects for a standardized or semi-standardized system of testing for college students...

The paper, while attentive to concerns about unreliability and unintended consequences, is cautiously optimistic about the impact such an assessment system would have on higher education quality. And it suggests that the results could help the federal government control tuition increases by steering subsidies away from low-performing schools.
Go ahead, college students of today, keep shooting yourselves in the foot.

Scratch that, it's time for the adults to assert themselves.  Shut up and get back to class.  We're tired of funding your hissy fits.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


Foolish consistency may be the hobgoblin of little minds, but inconsistency just makes you look like a partisan hack, an idiot, or worse.

Update:  if you can't see the picture (I can in the "create post" view but not in the website view), click here.

This Summer Vs. Next

Can a Star Trek fan go to Alberta, Canada, and not go to the town of Vulcan?  If if a Star Trek fan goes to Vulcan, can a Star Trek fan miss the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek Vul-Con?

A Star Trek fan cannot.

I'm going to hitch up my fiberglass camping trailer, the USS Egg-terprise, and head up there this summer.  Should be fun.

With Summer '16 confirmed, I'm looking ahead to Summer '17:

Have to find someone to go with, though.  I can't afford an extra $4700-$5500 to travel solo, and that's what it would be since the cabins are per person/double occupancy.

Anyway, that's my dream trip for 2017.  We'll see how that works out!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Hard To Believe

I filed my taxes on March 13th.  Today, while checking my account for something entirely different, I see that both my federal and state refunds were credited to me yesterday--just over a week later. 

Gotta love computers.

How I'm Spending Spring Break

We've had some rain, but the sky is clear today and the weather reports look clear into next week.  Perhaps I'll take a day trip to Reno or something :)

Until then, I've been working at home.  I usually don't bring work home with me to grade but needed to this week.  So far I've finished my two classes' worth of pre-calculus quizzes, and I'm working my way through my statistics projects at a rate of 5 per day (that takes me about an hour).

I've also committed to adding one paragraph each day to each of the papers I'm writing in my History of Educational Thought class.  That should allow me to have them finished well in advance of the April 10 due date for rough drafts.

I sure know how to have fun, don't I?!

Monday, March 21, 2016

A Decent Thing To Do

It's a crappy reason to get a scholarship named after you, though:
A new scholarship named in honor of Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management student Taylor Force will honor his contributions to both the university and to his country by supporting graduates of the U.S. military academies attending Owen. Force, 28, was killed in a terrorist attack March 8 in Tel Aviv, Israel. 

Force was a first-year MBA student and a 2009 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He was in Israel as part of an Owen trip to study global entrepreneurship. Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos announced the scholarship during the Vanderbilt memorial service held for Force on campus March 18...

The new scholarship will provide financial support to qualified Owen students with first preference given to graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point.  Second preference will be given to graduates of the United States Air Force Academy or the United States Naval Academy. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Coding In Schools

From the major Sacramento newspaper, which I noticed today is getting smaller and smaller:
California is home to Silicon Valley, a hub of technological innovation. The computer industry boasts hundreds of thousands of well-paying information technology jobs, with more on the way. IT departments are now a staple of corporate America.

Yet the large majority of California’s public high schools don’t offer dedicated computer science or computer programming courses, according to a Sacramento Bee review of teacher assignment data from the California Department of Education.
What do you think might be some of the reasons for this, hm?
There is a stark disconnect between those numbers and the amount of computer science education offered in California public high schools. More California high school students take ceramics courses than take dedicated computer programming courses, according to state data. Far more students take art, band, chorus, psychology or French courses than courses devoted to computer science. Students are almost 20 times as likely to take Advanced Placement English language or literature as they are to take AP computer science...

Keeshin is among several experts who pointed to a basic challenge schools face in trying to expand the computer curriculum: a lack of qualified teachers. Teaching positions in California tend to pay far less than what someone can make as a computer programmer or engineer. The median salary for a programmer in California is about $90,000. The median high school teacher’s salary is $70,000...

Prospective high school teachers generally obtain a single-subject credential in the discipline they plan to teach. But California does not offer computer science certification for teachers. Instead, teacher candidates interested in computer science usually get certified in math, business or industrial technology. Creating a new single-subject credential would require an act of the Legislature...

Educators point to other barriers as well: During the last decade, the federal No Child Left Behind standards focused attention on core academic subjects such as math and English. Schools faced penalties if their students failed to perform well on tests that measured proficiency in those core subjects. Computer programming was not among the skill sets emphasized.
I call BS on the NCLB excuse.  California's Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) System not only predated NCLB, but required more testing, more often than did NCLB.
Similarly, computer programming is not among the core admission requirements at California’s public universities. The University of California publishes a list of “A-G” subject requirements for students who want to attend one of the system’s colleges. Those requirements include history, English, mathematics, laboratory science, foreign language, and visual and performing arts. Computer science courses are considered one of multiple “college-preparatory electives.”
Nearby UC Davis has created "off the shelf" curricula for integrating computing, robotics, or both into high school math classes.  It's not like this can't be done.

Do you want to know why it isn't being done?  Because education isn't a priority in California.  "Surely you jest", some of you say, when you see how much of the state budget is taken up by education.  On the other hand, California has some of the largest class sizes in the country.  It has some of the lowest test scores in the country.  California's infrastructure, including schools, is crumbling--but we have money to blow on high-speed rail from Fresno to Bakersfield or some such, we have money to blow on social programs (California has less than 1/8 of the US population but has 1/3 of US welfare cases), we have money to blow on environmental rules that encourage businesses to relocate outside of California.  I don't know what California's priorities are, but I know what they aren't

Do you think my school district would pay to send us to UC Davis' training, or for the computers and other equipment needed to outfit our high schools for these classes?  No, because then we couldn't support assistant superintendents, like one for "labor relations", or our many directors, like our ones for "equity" or for "community relations".  We couldn't bring in Canadian motivational speakers.

In a few years I'll have to renew my teaching credential, at a cost of over $100.  Why?  What is the point of having me pay just to be issued a credential--that's not even on paper, but is just in a computer?  Why do I pay for the privilege of being a teacher?  Do cops, firefighters, legislators, mayors, office workers, CalTrans workers, etc, pay for their jobs, too?

California is screwed up.  That is why we don't teach programming in schools.

Freakin' DMV

For the first time in 15 years I have to renew my drivers license in person.  DMV recommends making an appointment, so make an appointment I did.  Or at least, I tried:
System Unavailable
The online Appointment System is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later. For further assistance, please call 1-800-777-0133 during normal business hours.
At 9:45 on a Sunday night.  Does anyone think the system is being overloaded at this time, or that scheduled maintenance is being performed?

In California, we pay some of the highest taxes and fees in the country for this.

Update, 3/21/16:  The system is working this morning.   Unfortunately, it's not what you might call user-friendly.  It can tell me the first available appointment time at the DMV office I want, but of course that time is during my working hours.  So I put in a later time and I get the following message:
Sorry, no appointment is available for the date and/or time entered. Please make another selection.
No, it won't show me what dates/times are available.  *sigh*

Saturday, March 19, 2016

What Kind Of Idiot Teacher Does This?

I've shown questionable videos in class before.  For example, yesterday--the last day of school before spring break--towards the end of one of my classes, we were done with instruction but I didn't want the class to start loitering near the door and get loud.  They respond to music, even my 80s music, and somehow we got on the topic of Billy Idol.  I showed a Billy Idol video--and part of it had Billy in the shower washing coloring off of his face.  Nothing below his chest was shown, but it was a little awkward when I'm projecting a large image of Billy in the shower.  Fortunately the bell rang rather soon after that.

I actually hadn't seen the video before, I just knew and liked the song, so mine was an unintentional mistake.  This teacher's mistake was intentional:
A Bronx middle-school teacher rattled her students — including one who was near tears — by showing an ISIS video of a terrorist beheading a journalist, documents show.

South Bronx Academy for Applied Media veteran Alexiss Nazario faced termination, but was let off with a $300 fine last summer after acknowledging she made a mistake by not previewing the clip or getting the principal’s permission...

The students testified that the video blacked out the actual beheading but showed its gruesome aftermath: the man’s severed head placed on top of his own chest.

So *This* Explains It!

Why smart people are better off with fewer friends

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The First Air Force One

Update, 3/26/16She flies again.

Textbook Adoption

Today I went to a 2-hr meeting after school to finalize which statistics textbooks, AP and non-AP, we recommend that our district purchase for next year's new adoption.

All of us agreed that of the three books we could choose from, none was as good as what we have now.  And different schools currently use different books.  I was so disgusted with all of the choices that I said I'd rather give up the textbook I use now for what's currently used at any of our other schools rather than accept any of these.  In the end, I'll end up getting the book I really didn't want, as that's the way the vote went.

Why do books have to be so big now?  Why do they have to be full of multi-color pictures that do nothing to help students learn the material, but do (in my opinion) cause ADD?  These new books are an assault on the senses.  I find older books, with fewer colors and fewer unnecessary pictures, to be much easier to read with presentation of the material at least as good.  And they don't weigh 8 lbs apiece, and aren't a burden to carry everywhere.

Is it really that hard to write a good textbook?  Ugh.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Secondo Lotto

Bella Italia.  I'd love to go back.

For the time being I'll have to settle on a dinner of lasagna (provided by students!) and some excellent memories.  If you'd like to see some of those memories, go to the Archives in the lower left portion of the screen and click on July 2012--happy scrolling!  Lots of pictures and a couple videos.

The day we arrived, we found a quiet restaurant along a canal in an off-the-tourist-track part of Venice (I'm thinking it was in Cannaregio).  Since it was our first day, the waiter gave us an on-the-house shot of limoncello.

A year later I had a hankerin', and after a brief internet search I found a great recipe for homemade limoncello.  A few months after that it was done, and wow was it delicious!  About a month and a half ago I got another hankerin', and even though I still have part of a bottle left of the first batch, I started preparing secondo lotto.  Now, halfway through the 90-day process, I've added the simple syrup.  In early May this batch will be ready to go!

I should probably finish off that first batch before then :-)

Monday, March 14, 2016

Is It Just Me, Or Is This School Year Just Flying Past?

I have to work this week.  I'm off next week for Spring Break.  The week after that marks the beginning of April.  Holy crap, it's already mid-March and I can already see the beginning of April from here, how cool is that?

Don't forget, though, that the stretch from Spring Break until Memorial Day is the longest no-holiday stretch we'll have had all year.  I, however, am taking a Monday off in May to attend a reunion of sorts, so I'll have that.

My current master's class, History of Educational Thought, is going swimmingly.  It's just reading and writing papers--and I may be the world's slowest reader, but I can read and write papers.  I'm learning quite a bit about educational theorists and their philosophies, and that gives me a whole new vocabulary with which to describe my own views.  A year and a half from now I'll have so much free time, as at that time I'll be done with this master's program.

I hope next year goes as smoothly, and as quickly, as this one has so far!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Last Night's School Dance

No major drama, lots of parent volunteers, and our PTSA had a free "candy table" where kids could come to get some snacks.  Great job all around, except for the excessive number of girls who wore skin-tight dresses (in February, when it was rainy and cold outside) that barely, and I do mean barely, covered their butts.  I do not find such dresses attractive, and find them even less so on teenage girls.  What are their parents thinking?

Several of my students, including two who had been chosen as Gala Princes, decided they'd rather spend their money on something besides the dance.  They split into two teams, and each team organized a scavenger hunt for the other.  I was given the clue that would, if deciphered, send one of the teams to the "base flag"; first team to return home with the other team's base flag would win.  Some time during the evening one of the teams showed up and I was called to the front door (no, I did not leave my post unguarded!) to give that last clue.  The previous clue had taken them to someone who was working at an Italian restaurant, and the team brought me a lasagna.  An entire, cooked, ohmigawd-this-smells-so-good lasagna.

I gave them the clue, and off they went--in the wrong direction!

I guess I'll find out tomorrow which team won.

How Governor Reagan Dealt With Berkeley Protesters in 1969

You cannot negotiate with a mob.  The money quote starts at 1:31 in the clip:

"All of it began the first time some of you who know better, and are old enough to know better, let young people think that they have the right to choose the laws they would obey as long as they were doing it in the name of social protest."

If you want to quote the Declaration of Independence in your protest, you'd better win. Ben Franklin said it best: We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.

I'm sure those college students thought they were right.  I do not.  And in many cases today I don't think college students are right, either.

Free Pizza on (Pizza) Pie Day

Are you good at math?  Try this:
To celebrate National Pi Day (3.14) on Monday, Pizza Hut is rolling out a special contest with the chance to win free food for a little over three years. Or 3.141592653… years to be more exact.

All you have to do is answer three questions.

The questions will go live on Pizza Hut’s blog at 8 a.m. ET on March 14, and people will have until midnight to solve them. The chain will inform winners if their answers are truly pi worthy at which point they’ll have just 24 hours to collect their tasty prize.

Saturday, March 12, 2016


During Homecoming in the fall, our school has a number of Homecoming princesses of whom one is elected Queen.  During the winter/basketball season we have Gala princes, one of whom is elected king.  During Homecoming a woman teacher is voted a titular honor, during Gala a man teacher is.

For 13 years I've asked, pleaded, cajoled my students into voting for me.  It's pretty sad, what lows I've been reduced to, but no winning.

Until yesterday.

I hadn't even planned on going to the rally.  I gave quizzes all morning and they weren't going to grade themselves.  They were relatively short quizzes, however, I was able to have them all graded before the rally began, and having nothing else that was screaming for my attention, I headed to the gym.

I don't usually like the Homecoming or Gala rallies, which in the past have been exceptionally risque.  I'm no prude but these were things that we shouldn't be promoting during school activities so I usually just choose not to go.  I don't really know why I went yesterday, given that I don't like watching those activities and I had no expectation of being crowed King.

But I went.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that the activities had been cleaned up--not a bit, a lot.  I understand there was a small bit of activity of which I wouldn't have approved had I seen it, but I didn't see it, and the big stuff was far more appropriate than it had been in the past.

It was great seeing several of my students chosen as princes--not all the uber-athletes, either, as was the case in my day.  It was especially gratifying seeing who won King--a very bright, decent kid, who most definitely was not the captain of the football team.  The students at my school are much more--I'm not quite sure what the word is, but they're better about such things than we were at my high school a few decades ago.

The MC's of the rally are students of mine, so it was with flourish that they announced my name as the teacher King.  I walked out onto the floor with dignity, waving regally to my subjects, as I knelt and accepted what had so long eluded me.  "Heavy is the head that wears the crown", they say, but I wore it.

And my students convinced me to wear it tonight when I chaperone the dance.

"Your Majesty."  It has a nice ring to it when it's directed at you.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Delicate Flowers

If you're so upset by a pro-life display that you need "mind spa services" conducted by the university's Women's Center, well...
During the “three days of demonstrations,” Students for Life at UC Davis set up shop in a common area on campus where members distributed pro-life materials and polled students on whether or not later terms abortions should remain legal in California.

But counter-protesters were quick to disrupt the demonstration, throwing pro-life materials to the ground and even harassing some participants for taking pictures of the protest.

In a video obtained by Campus Reform, members of UC Davis Students for Life appear to be talking to a counter-protester who in turn pushes a stack of pro-life flyers to the ground and proceeds to walk away.

“I’m not sorry, I’m not sorry!” she said to cheers from her fellow protesters.

Although a campus police officer was monitoring the protests, no action was taken against the student.

The WRRC (Women’s Resource and Research Center) also made counselors available to pro-choice students attending the rally to offer “empathetic listening, support, and access to mind spa services.”

Campus Reform reached out to the WRRC to ask for comment on its counter-protest but no response was received by press time.
Perhaps they also need fainting couches.  If that's the case they may as well go full Victorian and go back home, as such delicate flowers are clearly not mentally strong enough to be at a university.

In the real world, people will hold different views than you do.  You must learn to live with that.

Manifest *This*

Sometimes I wonder why I'm in this profession.

Today at our staff meeting one of our district people--one I've dealt with before, one who is so clueless he can't find his butt with both hands, one who's never been a teacher--came to be the "face of the district" as we received a mandated presentation about how to deal with certain special education issues.  It was mandated because our district had been determined to be "out of compliance" with certain requirements, and part of the corrective action was that every teacher and administrator had to sit through this presentation.

I'm periodically told, often by district weenies, how I'm supposed to teach.  Yet, when they want me to learn something, they do everything they tell me not to.  I don't mind a lecture format, if it's done correctly.  But this was the presentation:  screen after screen filled with words, accompanied by narration in which the narrator often trailed off to nothingness as if she herself had grown bored reading the boring script that we were supposed to lap up with vigor.

And then there's the content. 

It's not that I don't think special education services are necessary, but I get extremely frustrated when I'm told that essentially, special education students are the only students that matter, and screw everyone else.

A couple of the slides discussed "manifestations".  For those of you readers not in the education world, let me share with you a tad of what we have to live with in the schools.  In your day and mine, if you got in trouble at school you probably got in twice as much trouble when you got home.  This isn't the case today; no, today parents will come in lawyered up or at least accompanied by a professional "advocate" (or community organizer) and will fight any effort to require their angel to conform to even the most nominal standards of conduct.  Schools and districts don't fight this because it's "too expensive"; they give in because it's teachers and other students, not those who give in, who have to live with the repercussions.

This is especially so in special education, where students have Individual Education Plans (IEPs).  If a student receives special education services, a host of different and exciting laws kick in--no doubt they were well-intentioned, but many of them are asinine.  They just are.  Including the one that talks about "manifestations".

See, if a "regular ed" students does something stupid, they can be subject to school disciplinary procedures that could involve home suspension.  If a special education student does something stupid, though, something that would lead any other student to suspension, there are different rules.  If a special education student has over 10 days of suspension in a school year (which should be an indicator of something right there), a meeting with a large number of people must be held for each additional suspension to determine if the misbehavior is a "manifestation" of the student's disability.  If it's a manifestation, they cannot be suspended.

Keep in mind, I'm not suggesting that every time a kid screws up that he or she should be suspended.  I do think that if a kid is involved in a fight, or with drug issues, or blows up in a classroom--serious stuff--they should be suspended.  Vandalism?  What disability manifests itself via vandalism?

Look, I know there are disabilities out there that, for example, leave people unaware of social norms that the rest of us take for granted.  I'm not saying that if such a kid violates a social norm--for instances, pinches someone's butt once--that that kid should be suspended.  I'm saying that unless someone's disability is "a-holish-ness", they don't get off the hook for the things we're now required to let certain kids off the hook for (and yes, I'm deliberately leaving out a lot of specifics in order not to cross any lines).

What bothers me is that certain kids, merely by virtue of receiving special education services, can completely disrupt a classroom (or, in some cases, an entire school) and no punishment, short of having to attend yet another meeting, is accrued.  It seems that in the eyes of the law, that kid is the only kid that matters, and none of the other kids in the classroom or school--the ones whose education is being disrupted--does.  That's not just wrong, it's unjust.

Injustice ticks me off.  It's not American.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

When Even NPR Data Show Obamacare Is A Failure...

They can't brings themselves to admit it, but their own data are pretty clear:
A thorough repudiation of the (un-)Affordable Care Act comes from, of all places, state-run National Public Radio.  Timed to be buried by Super Tuesday coverage, NPR this week released a new study that indicates that Obamacare has failed on almost all levels.

The poll, by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, shows that three quarters of Americans think health care in their state has not improved under Obamacare.  The survey says more people think health care has gotten worse (26%) than better (15%).  Forty-nine percent of people think health care has stayed about the same.

And I hope you haven’t been making plans of what to do with that $2,500 a year you’ll be saving on premiums.  The NPR poll confirms that that was just another in Obama’s litany of lies.  Forty-five percent of respondents said their premiums had gone up, while 46% said their premiums had stayed about the same.  Only 4% said their premiums had actually gone down, as Obama promised they would.
Liars gonna lie.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

"I Really Love This Lesson!"

Every teacher loves hearing that phrase.  I heard it today--too bad it wasn't about my lesson!

Another teacher and I were taking our daily walk around the campus during our prep period when one of our vice principals, trailing a gaggle of students, asked for our assistance.  He gave me his phone and asked us to a "good lap" around campus; his phone was running an app which tracked distance, time, and calories burned.  Off we went.

When we got back it was obvious that he was filling in for our health teacher.  He noticed that the (modified) path we took burned about 60 calories; the students had snack food wrappers and he asked several of them how many such laps they'd have to walk to burn off one serving of their snack, be it Goldfish, Skittles, or whatever.  Numbers ranged from 1-1/2 to 4 laps.

We then led the students out the door and began a "spirited" pace along the route we'd just tracked.  The students gaggled behind us and the VP brought up the rear.  We hadn't gone too far when I heard a girl say to a friend, "I really love this lesson!"

I don't know if the health teacher planned it or if the VP pulled it out of thin air, but it seemed worthwhile to me and the kids got something out of it.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Voting Fraud

Even though the evidence is clear, lefties still try to spin their way out of it:
As voting rights advocates predicted loud and often, new voter ID laws seem to be hitting Democrats harder than Republicans.
Republican turnout is up while Democratic turnout is down.
Eight out of the 16 states that have held primaries or caucuses so far have implemented new voter ID or other restrictive voting laws since 2010. Democratic turnout has dropped 37 percent overall in those eight states, but just 13 percent in the states that didn't enact new voter restrictions. To put it another way, Democratic voter turnout was 285 percent worse in states with new voter ID laws...

There is also "mounting research" that shows voter ID laws "affect voter turnout and disproportionately affect certain types of voters," said Jennifer Clark, a lawyer for the Brennan Center's Democracy Program at New York University. African-Americans and Latinos are the most likely to be hurt by the new restrictions.

In other words, research suggests that voter ID laws suppress Democratic votes more than Republican ones. A recent study from the University of California, San Diego, looked at election behavior before and after states enacted stricter voter ID laws. It found that Democratic voter turnout dropped by 8.8 percent while Republican turnout fell by only 3.6 percent. The change was most apparent among minority voters.

I'm curious, how are these "African-Americans and Latinos" who are "hurt by the new restrictions" able to access Obamacare, get a drivers license, open a bank account, purchase prescription drugs or alcohol, etc., without the identification necessary to vote?

Let's be honest, the issue for lefties was never about disenfranchisement.   When you rely on the adage "vote early, vote often", and when you rely on the votes of dead people, then yes, voter ID laws are going to hamper your ability to cheat--and that's why the left in general and the Democratic Party in particular have been against voter ID laws for decades.

Let's (Not) Be More Like Europe

Professor Reynolds was on a roll today, providing me with the 2nd of his posts that I'll just cut/paste here in its entirety:
WELL, SOCIALISM DOES THAT TO YOU: If Sweden And Germany Became U.S. States, They Would Be Among The Poorest States.
Since Sweden is held up as a sort of promised land by American socialists, let’s compare it first. We find that, if it were to join the US as a state, Sweden would be poorer than all but 12 states, with a median income of $27,167.

Median residents in states like Colorado ($35,830), Massachusetts ($37,626), Virginia ($39,291), Washington ($36,343), and Utah ($36,036) have considerably higher incomes than Sweden. . . .

Germany, Europe’s economic powerhouse, has a median income ($25,528) level below all but 9 US states. Finland ranks with Germany in this regard ($25,730), and France’s median income ($24,233) is lower than both Germany and Finland. Denmark fares better and has a median income ($27,304) below all but 13 US states.

On the other hand, were Australia ($29,875), Austria ($28,735), and Canada (28,288) to join the US, they would be regarded as “middle-income states” with incomes similar to the US median of $30,616.
But wait, that doesn’t take cost of living, which is lower in the United States, into account. When you do, the disparity becomes much stronger:
Once purchasing power among the US states is taken into account, we find that Sweden’s median income ($27,167) is higher than only six states: Arkansas ($26,804), Louisiana ($25,643), Mississippi ($26,517), New Mexico ($26,762), New York ($26,152) and North Carolina ($26,819).

We find something similar when we look at Germany, but in Germany’s case, every single US state shows a higher median income than Germany. Germany’s median income is $25,528. Things look even worse for the United Kingdom which has a median income of $21,033, compared to $26,517 in Mississippi.
Ouch. But don’t get too full of yourselves, my fellow Americans, because if Bernie or Hillary win — and who knows what a President Trump would do? — we’ll be moving in their direction. Keep it up, and Mississippi might be as poor as Britain.

A New "Just Say No"?

This link at Instapundit, in addition to Insty's commentary, was so good I'll just reproduce the whole thing here:

A new policy brief derived from The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Survey of American Family Finances and the Panel Study of Income Dynamics shows exactly how much family really matters when it comes to helping kids out with important life events and transitions on the financial side. There’s really no surprise there.

But some of the detailed findings on the trouble single mother families face make for some bleak reading. . . .

A read through the whole report points to the unavoidable conclusion that a major goal of social policy has to be the formation of two-parent households.

This shouldn’t involve—as the occasional dorky pastor type or culture warrior might imagine—giving chastity and abstinence lessons to teens. Such lessons aren’t a bad thing necessarily; it’s just that over the centuries this kind of influence appears to be, well, limited.

And on the other side of the divide, this isn’t about birth control either. Short of lacing the tapwater with birth control drugs, we aren’t going to get anywhere on the single parent problem by focusing on this end of the equation.

In fact, as birth control (and abortion) became more available, the numbers of single parent households has more than doubled—from the sixties with the pill on up through Roe v. Wade in the 1970s. Availability of birth control to women who want or need it is important for other reasons, but an increase in birth control availability isn’t associated with any kind of decline in the illegitimacy rate.
The solution, naturally, is to put pressure on young men. Isn’t it always? But given men’s entire lack of reproductive rights in today’s America, why should they be targeted for increased responsibility? Maybe we should look at Sweden.

As for “over the centuries” — actually, when the “dorky pastor types” held sway, illegitimacy rates were much lower. Shaming works to control behavior, and lefties know it — just announce you don’t recycle at a faculty cocktail party if you don’t believe me. Lefties don’t mind shame as a tool for behavior control. They just oppose shaming when it’s not in support of their favored policies.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Brace Yourselves, I'm Going To Say Something Good About President Obama

This is a caring parent:
Obama said he'll stick around Washington for a couple of years after he leaves office in January so daughter Sasha can finish high school.

Sasha, 14, is sophomore at Sidwell Friends, an exclusive school in the nation's capital that for years has educated the children of Washington's elites. Her sister, Malia, 17, is a senior at Sidwell. She is expected to be settling in to college when her father's term ends...

He added: "Transferring someone in the middle of high school. Tough."

Saturday, March 05, 2016

It's Getting Harder To Be An Environmentalist

So many people who claim to support modern environmentalism are merely participating in liberal virtue-signaling.  That doesn't excuse their behavior, of course, it merely shows why they don't let the facts get in the way of their prejudices.

We've probably reached "peak environmentalism" in the West, as the new cause-de-jour seems to be "racism".  Here are two data points for my belief that environmentalism is on the way out:
Only a few years ago, global warming seemed like a sure winner to Yale’s then-president Richard C. Levin, when he announced in 2009 the establishment of the Yale Climate and Energy Institute and secured Rajendra K. Pachauri as its first head. Pachuari was the head of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the major force pushing global warming as a central battle to be fought to save humanity, and he was to serve both the U.N. and Yale at the same time, locking them together as leaders of the fight to rescue us all from doom.

That was then; this is now. The Yale Daily News announced three days ago:

After a University decision to cut all its funding, Yale’s Climate  Energy Institute will close by the end of June.
California will need to double down on support of the bullet train by digging deeper into the state's wallet and accepting a three-year delay in completing the project's initial leg, a new business plan for the 220-mph system shows. link
A train whose first leg would go from nowhere to nowhere, with no riders, can only happen in California--and even in California it's having difficulty.

Is there a wind farm somewhere the greenies can support?

If they truly cared about the environment as well as modernity (in other words, progress) they'd support relatively clean, safe, plentiful, reliable, inexpensive nuclear power.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Mixed Messages, or Why Education Is Such A Messed Up Business

Yesterday Joanne published a story about how some do-gooders think that since most people don't need "higher math" we should stop compelling kids to take algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus (as if the latter two are graduation requirements anywhere).  By the way, Algebra 1 isn't "higher math".  Pre-pubescent teens take Algebra 1.

In my school district, seeming home of the No Crappy Idea Goes Unimplemented Act, there is consideration of changing our graduation requirements from two years of high school math to three.  That means that every student would take Integrated Math 1, 2, and 3 (assuming they're at grade level), which is the functional equivalent of passing Algebra 2.  In other words, our graduation requirement in math will be the entry requirement for our state university system.  There's talk of making the panoply of state university entrance requirements our graduation requirements.

Does anyone out there think that all high school students are capable of university entrance standards?  Anyone?  Bueller?

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Punishment As Children? Or Do They Know Right From Wrong Enough To Be Charged As Adults?

These are some very disturbed people:
Four teenagers in Payette, Idaho, have been accused of burning down their principal's house in retaliation for a school suspension.

The four boys, including three high school students and one middle school student, are allegedly responsible for a blaze that destroyed the home of Payette High School Principal Mark Heleker in the early morning hours of Feb. 22, the Idaho Statesman reported...

Police investigators were led to the four boys through social media. Clark said the investigation began with a Snapchat message one teen reportedly posted, which bragged about starting the fire and contained a fire emoji...

The teens will be transported to Canyon County Juvenile Facility once they are arrested. All four will initially appear in adult court, although some may be transferred to juvenile court at a later date.
Words fail me.

This Is Good. Now Quit Griping About A Problem That Doesn't Exist.

Even though cash is a bigger motivator for men than for women, they’re getting equal pay for equal positions, education, and experience says tech job search firm Dice.

No salary gap exists between women and men in tech, says job search firm Dice, looking at its annual survey of 16,000 tech professionals, as long as you are comparing people with equal experience, education, and job titles.
Read the whole thing here.

Old School Computers

This 1953 Film Perfectly Explains How Mechanical Computers Worked Before We Had Microchips

How can gears do wildly complex math? Wonder no more.
Go read and watch.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

It's About Time Someone Has Noticed

Philosopher/political theorist Hannah Arendt once said, “The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution.”  The left was the proponent of the college Free Speech movement in the 1960s, and now that the left runs our universities they try to shut down free speech there, often under the guise of speech codes.  One congressman has finally noticed:
Critics of rising campus illiberalism have a new champion in Congress: Peter Roskam, the Illinois Republican who is chairman of the oversight subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee.

On Wednesday, Roskam stepped into the raging controversy over free speech on college campuses, warning in a subcommittee hearing that colleges are increasingly "shutting down the marketplace of ideas" by instituting free speech codes and requiring reporting of "micro-aggressions" — subtle or unintended slights toward minority groups that reinforce stereotypes.

Such free-speech infringements, Roskam said, could risk colleges' nonprofit status, making them a matter of concern for the tax-writing committee...

Even President Obama has weighed in on the controversy over campus illiberalism, saying last year that limiting politically incorrect speech is a "recipe for dogmatism."

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Ancient Rome

If you enjoy Rome and its history as much as I do, you'll want to watch this video:

Leap Day

Yesterday, February 29th, was Leap Day.  And we teachers are better off for it.

Leap day doesn't affect hourly employees at all.  There are 8 hrs in the day, and they work them.  No big deal.

Leap day sucks for most salaried employees.  They're paid a fixed amount no matter how many days are in the year.  Every fourth year they work an extra day because there's an extra day in the year.  Sucks to be them.

But teachers, well, instead of an extra day of work we teachers get an extra day of vacation!  Here's how:  Teachers are salaried, but unlike other salaried employees, our year is of fixed length.  I work 185 days no matter how many days are in the calendar year.  Every 4 years there's an extra day in the year but I don't have to work an extra day.  Therefore, that extra day is an extra day of vacation.

It's not much, but it's another small perk of being a teacher :-)