Saturday, September 30, 2017

Water Troubles

Earlier this week, the problem was with my waterbed.  Even after draining the mattress, the fibrous "lumbar support" retains enough water such that maneuvering the mattress around (to get the heater out) was no easy task.  I was sore by the time I got that repair done.

And then yesterday my sink stopped draining.  Rather abruptly.  What could it be?  I'm the only one here, and it's not like lots of hair is going down my drain (see here for evidence).  I removed the trap--nothing in there.  I looked down the drain--nothing in there.  Dang, the stoppage is in the pipe in the wall.  That required a few hours' work today as well as two trips to Home Depot.  A snake got the stoppage--goop of some kind--cleaned out, and I replaced all the plumbing from the sink to the wall.  Sore from crawling under the sink so much.

Then I started work on the toilet.  Sometimes you have to jiggle the handle before the flapper settles; should be an easy fix, right?  Wrong.  I have some unique system in there, one that doesn't even use a "universal" flapper valve.  I figured out quickly why the thing sticks and needs to be jiggled, but fixing that dislodged what appears to be a jerry-rigged fix to keep the toilet from running.  Ugh!  To fix this, it looks like I'd have to--wait for it--remove the tank.  I'm gonna try to restore the jerry-rigged fix.  If that doesn't work, I might have to remove the tank to replace all the guts inside.

I'm tired of all these repairs!  I guess that's part of the cost of living in a house that's older than I am.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

A Problem From the 70's Rears Its Ugly Head

What was the biggest problem of the 70's?

Angel's Flight pants?  The American Embassy in Tehran?  Fondue?  Polyester plaid?  The AMC Pacer?  The Tenerife crash?  Terrorism in Europe and Central America?  Three Mile Island? 

None of these.  I'm living the problem.  My waterbed heater has gone out.

I've had a waterbed since 8th grade.  Obviously I didn't get to sleep in it at West Point, and for about 11 years I had a standard mattress in the frame.  But just over a year and a half ago I went back to the waterbed, and life was good.  I couldn't believe how after the first morning, I woke up and didn't feel any aches?

But I was penny wise and pound foolish.  I bought a new mattress but not a new heater.  How could a waterbed heater go out, I thought?  It had lasted for so long, how could it not last forever?  But it didn't.

So last night I had to drain the bed--not the easiest task, especially when you're doing this solo. And I had to sleep in the guest room!  After work today I was able to remove the old heater pad from under the almost empty mattress and replace it with the new heater.  Then I maneuvered the kinda-empty-but-still-very-heavy mattress into place and started refilling it.  That's not as easy as you might think, especially when I had to go outside to shut off the water, come back inside, make some adjustments, go outside to start the water again, etc. 

After a significant amount of time, and a significant amount of sweat (it's quite warm out today), I got the bed filled.  It should be adequately heated by tomorrow night.

And then I'll be able to enjoy a good night's rest again.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Another Black Mark Against My Alma Mater

On my first day at West Point, over 1400 of us New Cadets were brought into the Eisenhower Hall auditorium.  The only thing I remember from that speech was, “Look to your left.  Look to your right.  One of the three of you won’t be here 4 years from now.”  An attrition rate of 1/3 was expected.  Almost 4 years later, just over 1000 of us graduated.  Graduating over 70%, we beat the estimate.  Our 47 months at West Point was considered to be a winnowing process.  Sure, a couple bad eggs made it through, but overall, it was a good idea.

Some time between then and now, though, what some of us call “Harvard Syndrome” took over at West Point.  Rather than weeding out those who shouldn’t be officers, the view became “if they’re good enough to get into West Point, they’re good enough to graduate.”  Standards dropped.  Honor violations no longer necessarily merited expulsion, they merited “discretion” and another chance.  In so many cases, cadets got another chance.  And another.  Cadets weren’t kicked out, they were “helped” or “rehabilitated”.  The justification for such changes ranged from money (it costs so much to train cadets, only to boot them after a year or more) to moral (everyone deserves a second chance) to racial (you can imagine).

In such an environment, this is the kind of person who’s allowed to graduate.

What a disgrace.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

"Showing Vulnerability" After A Disaster

About an hour ago I got home from a meeting with other mentor teachers of student teachers from UC Davis.  I'm teaming up with another teacher at my school to mentor a UC Davis student; the other's teacher's two classes are the "primary placement", while my one class is the "secondary placement".  "Secondary placement" means that my student teacher will not take over actually teaching my one class until next semester, but will observe and assist until then.

The class in question is the class I've been writing about on this blog, most recently here.  We gave a test in there on Monday.  The results were disastrous.  Of the students present to take the test, a full 25% of them failed.  More than a couple had scores in the 30s and 40s--yes, percent.  Yes, there were several high grades as well, but that doesn't make those F's disappear.

At this meeting of mentor teachers this evening, the supervising teachers from UC Davis stated that a recent study of "what makes a good mentor teacher" showed that while good and bad teachers shared many commonalities, one difference stuck out:  good teachers showed "vulnerability" to their student teachers.  They, for lack of a better way to put it, let student teachers see the mentor teacher struggle and even fail, and didn't try to cover this up.  This shows the student teacher that things don't always go swimmingly, and that a "growth mindset" applies to teachers as well as to students.  A failed lesson isn't the end of the world.

I think those test results above qualify as "struggling" and "failing" to teach my students as well as I should have.

Because of a quirk in scheduling peculiar to my school, I have a 2-hr prep period tomorrow.  From 8 to 9 am, my student teacher and I are going to meet.  Since she's been observing my teaching, I'm going to solicit her thoughts on my instruction.  I'm going to listen to her observations of the class, and see if she has any suggestions for things we might work together on to improve student performance.  She'll be teaching the class herself in a few months, I'm sure she'll want them appropriately prepared, so it's in both our best interests to have a frank discussion about what we can do to provide better instruction.

I'm thinking that this constitutes "showing vulnerability".

Update, 9/27/17:  We had a good, productive discussion today.  We'll try a couple different things, most notably avoiding the textbook (awful) and me lecturing.  When practicing problems, we'll utilize the old stand-by of "I do, we do, you do"--which I always try to do, but time constraints in this course are bad, so I don't always get to.  Now I have to be more explicit in my personal expectations.

There are a couple other things we'll try as well.

Also, this class is full of students who haven't really had to work at math before.  It was easy, so they didn't develop study habits for math class.  Been there, done that!  I recognized that in the faces of some of my students today, and was able to address it with them.  Those things they've never had to do before--coming in before and after school, actually studying for tests and quizzes--they have to do them now, and they're not used to it.

Monday, September 25, 2017

If It's Raining On Tuesday...

...the "nn" combination makes the "fz" sound:
I'm starting to practice a little Icelandic so I can be a better visitor in February, one that doesn't automatically assume that everyone speaks English (even though everyone there does).  Like some more difficult languages (*cough* English! *cough*), Icelandic has many seemingly strange pronunciation rules--such as the one above.

By February I should be fine.  For right now, though, I sometimes exclaim in exasperation, "How can anyone remember all this crap?!  What kind of crazy language is this?!"  I'm sure no one ever says such things when learning English.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Makes You Wonder What She Was Thinking

From Fox News:
A veteran Vermont teacher was axed after she was caught instructing a class of third graders on how to give the Nazi salute.

The substitute teacher had the children perform the stiff-arm gesture as they were walking to the cafeteria Thursday at Georgia Elementary School, accoriding (sic) to a report.

"The children were standing with their arm out in front of them and the teacher was modeling the position," District Superintendent Ned Kirsch told parents, according to the Vermont publication Seven Days. "She then raised her arm slightly and said, 'And now we say, Heil Hitler.'"

I Give Them Credit For Being Honest

Now if they'll just ask people to stop throwing around that bogus 77-cents-on-a-dollar statistic:
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) has finally admitted that the “gender pay gap” is caused by women’s choices.

In a recent article on the gender pay gap, AAUW Senior Researcher Kevin Miller concedes that the pay disparity between women and men isn’t caused primarily by discrimination, but rather by the personal and professional choices that women make.

These choices include the tendency of women to work fewer hours to focus on “domestic work” and accept “reduced job tenure resulting from breaks in labor-force participation to raise children.”

Miller even notes that women tend to choose lower-paying jobs than do men, pointing out that dangerous jobs such as “construction, manufacturing, and transport” are predominantly done by men, while “most workers in health care and education occupations are women"...

Citing data from the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, though, he also confirms that not only are women more likely to work part-time, but also that “among full-time workers, men work longer hours on average than do women"...

The AAUW, which celebrates seven different equal pay days, has campaigned relentlessly over the past few years to argue that the gender pay gap is due to discrimination, but this appears to be the first article in which the organization takes a more nuanced approach to the issue...

“The gender pay gap is an estimate of the actual gap in pay between men and women, not an estimate of the effect of discrimination,” he explains....    link

Why I Support School Choice

This author likes school choice because it helps black kids, I like it because it helps all kids:
Here’s what I need to say to them, to the people of this nation, to people of color — I am involved in the school choice movement because the future of my life and your life depends upon it. Starting the state’s first charter school was one of the most significant accomplishments of my life. Because of our willingness to look beyond traditional divisions and leave beyond our tendency to only work with those with whom we are comfortable, our children of color are closing the achievement gap. African-American students in charter schools are scoring 4% higher on reading tests than those in traditional public schools and Florida charter school students are more likely to attend college. Hispanic students do 12% better than their peers at traditional public schools. These are but two of the many indicators that point to increased success for students of color because their families were empowered to find schools that better met the needs of their children.

Far too many people and organizations, like the NAACP, refuse to acknowledge this. Their recent recommendations to curb charter schools, reduce their numbers and their independence, are wrong, and they expect falsely that all people of color should follow their lead because the color of your skin should dictate who you believe. I have worked a lifetime to change this misperception, to help people see that good policies for our kids do not have a color. 
The author is the president of the Urban League of Greater Miami.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Sticking With It

All that weight I lost in 2010--I've gained it all back, with interest.

I'm going to lose it again.  Just has to be done.

I'm grossly out of shape.  I had no cardiovascular fitness at all last month.  So I set a goal for myself--each morning before work I'm going to get on my elliptical trainer and run.  That first week of school I did 12 min each morning.  I increased it 1 minute each week, so that this week I'm up to 18 min each morning.  I notice that already I'm not only "running" farther than I did when I started, but faster as well.  My goal is to get up to 20 min each morning, and from then on just work on speed and stamina.

I haven't missed a work morning yet!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

And Here In The 21st Century People's Paradise...

...our governor pushes a 19th Century mode of transportation.  Not all of us support this:
California's high speed rail line was sold to voters on the bold promise that it will someday whisk passengers between San Francisco and Los Angeles in under three hours. Nine years later, the project has turned into such a disaster that its biggest political champion is now suing to stop it.

An icon of California politics known as the "Great Dissenter," Quentin L. Kopp introduced the legislation that established the rail line, and became chairman of the High-Speed Rail Authority. He helped convince voters in 2008 to hand over $9 billion in bonds to the Rail Authority to get the project going. Since he left, Kopp says the agency mangled his plans.

"It is foolish, and it is almost a crime to sell bonds and encumber the taxpayers of California at a time when this is no longer high-speed rail," says Kopp. "And the litigation, which is pending, will result, I am confident, in the termination of the High-Speed Rail Authority's deceiving plan."
As Instapundit often opines, there are too many opportunities for graft here for this train to go away.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Starting School Later

Don't get me wrong--when I'm elected World Dictator, high school will go from 10am-5pm.  If, and it's a big if, there's still school sports, practices will be held before school.  Competitions will be held on the weekends. 

But that's just me.

I don't understand this push to start schools later.  I'm told that studies show that a later start time is better for teenagers, but I have questions that remain unanswered:

1)  Kids on farms get up early.
2)  Kids throughout history have gotten up early. 
3)  Do kids in other countries have this "late start time" issue, or is this strictly a US phenomenon?
4)  Has the problem gotten significantly worse in the age of handheld electronics?  In other words, is this partly a self-inflicted problem?

Is the problem such a major issue that it requires the intervention of the state legislature?
California lawmakers have rejected a bill to delay school start times, but the measure will likely resurface in January.
Here's an argument for local control:
The California School Boards Association, the leading opponent of the bill, argues that local school boards should be in control of start times and that a one-size-fits-all approach will not work for all 3,000 secondary schools in the state. The association says the bill will increase the need for supervision before school, create hardships for working families and wreak havoc on schools that purposely stagger start times to meet student demand for bus transportation. Rural districts could apply for a waiver to postpone implementation. 
Sacramento knows best.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Who's Number One?

Is it Berkeley?
Sacramento-area residents looking for a top public university to attend don’t have to go far, according to a national report.

University of California, Davis, ranks 12th on U.S. News & World Report’s recent survey of top public schools. It’s tied with University of Wisconsin-Madison on a list of 132 schools.

The top 10 public schools list includes five other UC campuses, including Berkeley at No. 1. 
Or is it West Point?
United States Military Academy is ranked #12 in National Liberal Arts Colleges. Schools are ranked according to their performance across a set of widely accepted indicators of excellence.
Inquiring minds want to know.

Things Aren't Perfect In Socialist Medicine Paradise? Huh. Go Figure.

For whatever reason, the Brits love their National Health Service.  They know the horror stories, they know and experience the long waits for treatment, but still they love it.  Stockholm Syndrome never had a finer example.

How can medical paradise need more doctors?
American physician assistants are being enticed over to the United Kingdom amid staffing shortages - with promises of long vacations in Europe.
What, no mention of pay?  How are those working conditions?
The National Health Service (NHS) is offering £1,000 ($1,350) to cover their relocation, 41 days paid vacation a year, and free flights home during holidays.

Ultimately, officials say the plan is to recruit up to 3,200 PAs to perform minor operations and monitor wards.
3200?  Why such a shortage? 

A couple paragraphs down we get to the pay:
According to recruitment materials, foreign PAs would earn £30,000 ($40,460) a year.
That doesn't strike me as much for someone who can cut into you, but I'm not really up on the pay of medical professionals.

The article never mentioned why there's such a shortage....

Monday, September 18, 2017

An Idiot With A Degree

A university professor who doesn't believe in free speech?  Color me shocked.

I admit that the concept isn't flawless, but I defy anyone to come up with a better one.  It's like democracy and capitalism--they're bad, except for everything else.

Anyway, you need to read the whole thing in order to plumb the depths of this particular professor's insanity.  Seriously, go read it.
The lecture, given by Prof. Carolyn Rouse, Chair of the Department of Anthropology and Director of the Program in African Studies, was entitled “F%*# Free Speech: An Anthropologist’s Take on Campus Speech Debates.”
Oh, a "studies" person.  Nice.

And here's where we learn that Professor Rouse doesn't know much history:
Towards the beginning of the lecture, Rouse noted that JMP (the James Madison Project) “censored” the lecture title by listing it by a different name on its website—omitting the vulgarity used in other publicity materials. Rouse made a point to “rub it in” that JMP made the edit “to be politically correct,” clarifying that “I use the term ‘politically correct’ deliberately, because ‘politically correct’ simply means ‘appropriate.’”
The origin of the phrase "politically correct" is Stalinist, and what might be "appropriate" if you want to stay alive in Stalin's Soviet Union doesn't quite approach anything that might be considered even marginally related to "truth", if Professor Rouse even believes in any "truth" other than what the marble that rolls around in her skull causes her to believe in at any given moment.

Propagating a Bad Statistic

No one truly believes that 1/5 of women will experience a sexual assault in college.  Such a rate would be worse than some of the most unsafe countries on the planet.  If anyone believed that 1-in-5 number, they wouldn't go to college, or send their daughters to college.

Yet here we have The Economist spreading the lie:
ANY sentence containing the phrases “Donald Trump” and “campus sexual assault” could reasonably be expected to conclude with the word “outrage”. Yet when Mr Trump’s secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, announced her intention to “revoke or rescind” directives to universities on handling sexual assault issued by the Obama administration, the move was quietly welcomed by plenty of colleges. The Obama administration’s determination to discourage campus sexual assault—which is suffered by as many as a fifth of women attending college—was well-intentioned, but poorly thought out.
One could argue that technically, The Economist is correct--they did say "as many as a fifth".  They'd be just as correct had they said "as many as 99%", too, so I don't accept the quibble.

The 1-in-5 number is a bad statistic that traveled around the world before the truth even got out of bed.

According to the Washington Post:
In the Winter of 2006, researchers used a Web-based survey to interview undergraduates at two large public universities, one in the Midwest and one in the South. A total of 5,446 undergraduate women, between the ages of 18-25, participated as part of a random sample. The survey was anonymous and took about 15 minutes to complete. (Participants received a $10 certificate for participating.)
My introductory statistics students can pick apart the problems presented in this paragraph; toss in a low response rate, and anyone who uses that information deserves to be mocked.

Politifact tells the same story, with this tidbit tossed in:
"This ‘one in five’ statistic shouldn’t just be taken with a grain of salt but the entire shaker," said James Fox, professor of criminology, law and public policy at Northeastern University.
The author of the Economist article should be ashamed of him/herself.   The Economist should do better.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

You'd Think This Would Be Max Male-hatred, But I'm Sure There's More (and sillier) To Come

There's no indication that this article is meant to be anything other than sober and sincere:
Some of you will think we’re daft. Some will wonder what kind of jobs we have if we have enough time on our hands to dream this kind of thing up. Some of you may even think we’re having you on. Our intentions, however, are honourable.

Playful urination practices – from seeing how high you can pee to games such as Peeball (where men compete using their urine to destroy a ball placed in a urinal) – may give boys an advantage over girls when it comes to physics. And we believe there’s something we can do about it.

No doubt you have some questions, the first is probably: what could possibly lead us to believe this?
Daft? That's the nicest I'll think of them.

I was expecting their solution to this "gender gap" to be that boys should be required to sit down when taking a pee.  Fortunately, their solution is slightly less foolish:
However, we can make a change: it’s not necessary for physics curricula to begin with projectile motion. Other topics, such as energy conservation, which is more central to physics, could be taught first instead...

Girls are already at a cultural disadvantage in a traditionally male-dominated subject: let’s not add an embodied disadvantage by unthinkingly sticking with traditional curriculum sequencing.
Serious question:  why does no one freak out about not enough men in women-dominated fields?

Saturday, September 16, 2017

A Rebuttal to Ta-Nehisi Coates

If you want to be a victim, you will be successful at it.  If you don't want to be one, you'll sound like this:
Dear Ta-Nehisi Coates:

I read your book Between the World and Me, an elegant and poetic elegy written to your son on “the question,” as you put it, “of how one should live within a black body, within a country lost in the [American] Dream.” In the book, you reflect on your revelatory experiences, from the fears you felt growing up in your neighborhood in Baltimore to attending Howard University to visiting the South Side of Chicago to your relentless study of African history to your reckoning with the meaning of the Civil War. Many of your readers will come to know the often lonely and exilic world in which you, as an individual black man, have lived for many years. But your book, while moving, reads primarily like an American horror story and, I’m sorry to say, a declaration of war against my adopted country.

My fear is that Between the World and Me aims to reach far beyond the scope of the reader’s moral imagination and into the actual lives of Americans, black or white, who share this thing you refer to as the Dream. My concern is that you and your book function as deputized stand-ins for the black male and the black experience in America, respectively. And I believe that as stand-ins, both fail.

Because I write as a black immigrant who chose to live in the United States, whose biggest hope as a child was to become an American citizen, and who chose to embrace the American Dream you condemn, please consider these words my Declaration of Independence—an independence that only my beloved America could have given to me.
America is still a beacon of freedom and opportunity in the world, and I want to keep it that way.

Diversity Hasn't Always Been Considered An Asset

A historical perspective can shed a little light on why nirvana has not been reached in our culturally-diverse society.  I've shamelessly lifted the following from Instapundit:
VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: Diversity Can Spell Trouble.

America is experiencing a diversity and inclusion conundrum—which, in historical terms, has not necessarily been a good thing. Communities are tearing themselves apart over the statues of long-dead Confederate generals. Controversy rages over which slogan—“Black Lives Matter” or “All Lives Matter”—is truly racist. Antifa street thugs clash with white supremacists in a major American city. Americans argue over whether the USC equine mascot “Traveler” is racist, given the resemblance of the horse’s name to Robert E. Lee’s mount “Traveller.” Amid all this turmoil, we forget that diversity was always considered a liability in the history of nations—not an asset.

Ancient Greece’s numerous enemies eventually overran the 1,500 city-states because the Greeks were never able to sublimate their parochial, tribal, and ethnic differences to unify under a common Hellenism. The Balkans were always a lethal powder keg due to the region’s vastly different religions and ethnicities where East and West traditionally collided—from Roman and Byzantine times through the Ottoman imperial period to the bloody twentieth century. Such diversity often caused destructive conflicts of ethnic and religious hatred. Europe for centuries did not celebrate the religiously diverse mosaic of Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians, but instead tore itself apart in a half-millennium of killing and warring that continued into the late twentieth century in places like Northern Ireland.

In multiracial, multiethnic, and multi-religious societies—such as contemporary India or the Middle East—violence is the rule in the absence of unity.

Well, luckily we have Social Justice types to remind everyone that they’re not supposed to get along.
Yes, lucky us.

Schools That Work

The philosophy behind Success Academy charter schools is what used to guide public schools, before bleeding hearts and litigious hustlers removed any sense of discipline:
In 2006, she founded Harlem Success Academy, which grew into the Success Academy charter-school network that today includes 46 schools across the city.

Success Academy breeds success: Its inner-city students outperformed every other school district in the state in the 2017 exams. And one big secret to that success has been the application of the kinds of tactics and strategies that helped bring the city back from the brink more than once — this time, applied to education.

Both “broken windows” policing and Success Academy schooling target minor infractions that create a culture of chaos.

Writing about dealing with disruptive students in 2006-07, Success Academy’s first year, Moskowitz notes that when teachers are unable to stop even one student’s incessant misbehavior, it “can have a domino effect . . . and soon the teacher is playing whack-a-mole rather than teaching.”
Almost every teacher in the country will tell you this is so. Many will also tell you that their hands are tied in the realm of discipline.  Suspension is seen as a bad thing--and even racist!  Standards of discipline are different for different racial groups or for special education students.  Student displays of open defiance or disrespect are not considered troublesome by administration; in fact, they're seen as indicative of a failing on the part of the teacher!  And schools didn't do this on their own--no, lawsuits and investigations by state and federal departments/offices of civil rights did this, assuming that problems and disparities lie with biased adults instead of with misbehaving children.

And while we're teaching students that they can disregard rules with impunity, how is their academic performance coming along?  Anyone think America's schools are the best in the world, or are even improving?

Moskowitz isn't onto some magical secret.  Her philosophy is one based in common sense, one that recognizes reality and rejects unicorn farts and fairy dust.

Update:  School safety is more important than racial balance in suspensions.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

I Figured Out Why One Of My Classes Has Me Down

My district switched to so-called integrated math a few years ago, and at my school we've added a new course each year.  We started with Integrated Math 1 two years ago, added Integrated Math 2 and 2+ last year (2+ is a fast track to calculus), and this year we added Integrated Math 3 and 3+ (students in 3+ will take calculus next year, by passing pre-calculus). 

Would I rather have stuck with Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2?  Heck yes!  And so would the vast majority of my district's math teachers.  That wasn't the input the district suits wanted, though....

Anyway, my department co-chair and I are teaching the two 3+ classes.  We've already planned out which lessons are to be covered each day for the entire school year so that we can cover the material needed to prepare students for calculus.  Not only is there no time for reteaching, there's not enough time for teaching in the first place.

I've been somewhat stressed lately, feeling like I'm not a very good teacher in that course.  These are exceptionally capable students, and I'm just shoveling information at them as fast as they can take it.  If they can take it, what's the matter, right?  Aren't I usually the person who says we should let students accelerate as fast as they can handle?  Yet here I am, in a super-accelerated class, and I feel like I'm not really teaching. Since I pride myself on my teaching, this class has me down.

Something's not right, and I couldn't quite put my finger on it--until yesterday.

As I said, I'm shoveling those students the information as fast as I can. The problem is that I'm not teaching.  I'm showing students how to solve problems, teaching them what they need to know how to do, but I'm not teaching them why what I'm teaching them works.  I'm not giving them the background information that explains an algorithm or amplifies a concept.  Here's the task, learn it, move on.

All that deep understanding, all the Common Core stuff?  That's what I'm not doing.  Believe me when I tell you that there isn't time to do so.  I've stated that I have these kids drinking from a fire hose, and that analogy isn't so extreme.  There isn't time in a 60 minute class to teach more.

That's what's been bothering me.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

We're #1! We're #1!

The major Sacramento newspaper tells the truth about the 6th (or 7th or 8th, depending on who you listen to) largest economy in the world:
One in five Californians lives in poverty, the highest rate in the country, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The “Supplemental Poverty Measure,” factors in cost of living and shows a stubbornly high share of Golden State residents in poverty even as the national rate has dropped slightly.

Read more here:

If It's Such A Great Idea....

Gotta give credit to this person for his creativity:
Republicans worry about vote fraud. Democrats claim that Republicans are just imagining things. But in testimony Tuesday before the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, I will suggest a simple solution that could make both parties happy: Apply the background check system for gun purchases to voting.

Democrats have long lauded background checks on gun purchases as simple, accurate and in complete harmony with the Second Amendment right to own guns. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has bragged that the checks “make our communities and neighborhoods safer without in any way abridging rights or threatening a legitimate part of the American heritage.”

If Democrats really believe that the National Instant Criminal Background Check System doesn’t interfere “in any way” with people’s constitutional rights to own a gun, doesn't it follow that the same system would not constitute an infringement on people’s right to vote? This would give Republicans a system for stopping vote fraud and Democrats a system that they have already vigorously endorsed.
Voting and owning firearms are both constitutional rights....

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Another Good Showing

My alma mater looks good in the US News rankings:
United States Military Academy is ranked #12 in National Liberal Arts Colleges. Schools are ranked according to their performance across a set of widely accepted indicators of excellence.
There's more detail:

Undergraduate data are based on the 2016 school year.

Monday, September 11, 2017

A Time Bomb Waiting To Blow

When I was in high school back in the 1980s, our school had a nurse.  I don't know if she was an LVN or an RN or something else, but she was most definitely a nurse--wore a white coat and cap and everything.  If you needed medication, she kept it and administered it to you.  If you had a headache, you went to her office and perhaps lied down on a bed for an hour or so; when your headache was gone you went back to class.

It was an eminently reasonable setup.

Fast-forward a few decades, and my school has a nurse--perhaps one day a week.  What good is that?  She has a small office--essentially a closet in our library, no room and no beds.  What good is that?  She does some paperwork.

You know who keeps and administers medication at our school?  The principal's secretary.  You know who's responsible for knowing what to do should any student with a known medical condition have an "issue"?  The classroom teacher.  Yes, we're sent a copy of the "student health plan".  One I recently received gave step-by-step instructions on what to do if this particular student--what, I don't even remember now.  Was it a bee sting?  Was it some other allergy?  I have 165 students a day, I'm supposed to memorize those for whom I've received a "health plan", and remember what's in it?  I remember that this most recent health plan I was given included detailed instructions for using an epipen.  There's no freakin' way.  I'm not a medical professional.  You can talk all day long about how a student's life may hang in the balance unless I act, but that's expecting too much of me.  I'm not going to stab a kid with an epipen.  I'm just not going to do it, Good Samaritan Law or no Good Samaritan Law.  I don't have training, I don't want training.  If I wanted that training I'd have majored in pre-med instead of math (not that West Point had a pre-med major, but that's not the point).

A few years ago there was concern about students who had seizures.  I don't recall if there was a specific student in mind or if this was just a general concern, but that year seizures were the big bad.  Apparently there is some medication, a gel that is inserted anally, that does something good for people having seizures.  Anyway, our administration asked for volunteers to attend training on how to administer this gel to a student having a seizure.  No one took them up on this generous offer.  No teacher wants to be responsible for that.  We accepted a job to teach, not to be a surrogate EMT.

Essentially, our district is being cheap and is trying to put this extra responsibility on us teachers instead of where it rightly belongs.  You want to point fingers at me for not wanting to be medically responsible for students?  Point fingers at my district for not putting a nurse at each school!  Nurses know what to do, and in many cases they know what to do without thinking about it.  During an emergency, I, on the other hand, would have to go to my file cabinet, determine if there's a health plan for a particular student, determine if the current emergency is the one mentioned in the student health plan, read step-by-step instructions, and then determine I'm not qualified (or not willing) to do some of the things in that plan.  Time would have been better spent having the nurse rush over.

Eventually this broken system will have to change.  Know when it will change?  After some kid gets hurt by it.  Some kid who should have had a nurse available will suffer, and only then will there be pressure on the district to do what's right.  But it'll be too late for that kid, hopefully not too late for that kid.

At school we have kids with severe allergies and other severe medical conditions.  If we're going to insist that those students be at a public school, we should staff that school appropriately.

Sunday, September 10, 2017


Is there a causal relationship here?  If so, which way does it go?
American high school students with poor grades are much more likely to have unhealthy behaviors -- including illegal drug use -- than teens at the top of the class, federal health officials say.

There's a strong link between teens' health habits and their academic achievement, according to a new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey.

"As our nation's children embark on another school year, it's important to remember that health and academic performance are not mutually exclusive," said the CDC's director, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald.
Read a little farther and my question is answered:
The study doesn't show a direct cause-and-effect relationship. Still, "these findings highlight the connection between student health and academic achievement. Schools, parents and communities can all work together to ensure a healthy and successful future for our children," Fitzgerald said in an agency news release.
Remember back during the Clinton and Bush 43 administrations, when people who had no business getting a bank loan were given loans for houses?  The thought was something like, "People who have their own homes make more money, are less involved in the criminal justice system, are more invested in their communities, and are in general more stable and are better citizens.  If we get more people to own homes, we'll have more people who make more money, are less involved in the criminal justice system, are more invested in their communities, and are in general more stable and are better citizens."  The problem is that home ownership didn't cause those things, it was a marker for certain bourgeois values that contribute to success in our society.  Owning a house doesn't confer those values, but acceptance of those values makes it more likely for a person to own a house.

The same is probably true in the article linked above.  Students whose families have certain values, mores, and behaviors--eat a good breakfast, delay some gratification, stay out of trouble--are probably more inclined to do better in school.  For example, I find that a large percentage of my upscale students live with both parents; anyone who tells you that that isn't a big checkmark in the student's favor is lying to you.  Everyone knows that it is, on the whole, better for kids.  It's a marker, an indication, of certain things (in the aggregate).

What I'm saying is this:  kids who do poorly don't necessarily do poorly because of drugs.  They might do poorly and use drugs because they do not live in a family or community with values, mores, and behaviors that promote doing well in school and staying away from drugs.

Culture matters.

The bleeding hearts will say I'm blaming the "victim".  My reply is that mine is the most obvious answer, even if it is an "inconvenient truth" for them.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

It's Booked

For my week off next February, here's what my friend and I came up with:

Option A:  Iceland.  Again.  Most expensive option, but also the most exciting.
Option B:  St. Maarten.  This was an option before the hurricane.  I assume that much will be repaired 5 months from now.  Our trip would be a valuable contribution to their economy.  Midling option.
Option C:  Mexican Riviera Cruise.  Cheapest and easiest option, also the least exotic.

After consultation today the decision has been made.  I've already booked the flight, and I've sent my friend 4 Airbnb options from which to choose.

Which option do you think we chose?  Here's a hint:

Friday, September 08, 2017

It's Only Nazi/Racist/Whatever When Republicans Say It

Not only do I remember when Democrats used to say they were against illegal immigration, I even wrote a blog post in which I linked video and party platforms and the like of prominent Democrats saying just that.

In this article is another video clip of Hillary Clinton--saying that the children of illegal immigrants need to be deported as well!  And the video is from 2014:
As Hillary Clinton begins a book tour to promote her 2016 campaign autopsy “What Happened,” video has begun to swirl online of a 2014 interview between her and CNN’s Christiane Amanpour to promote her previous book, “Hard Choices.”

During the exchange, Clinton had some tough words for the children of illegal immigrants, including waves of unaccompanied minors coming in 2014  — telling Amanpour that the United States was a nation of laws and that they probably had to go.

“We have to send a clear message, just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay,” said Clinton “So, we don’t want to send a message that is contrary to our laws or will encourage more children to make that dangerous journey.”

“So, you’re saying they should be sent back now?” Amanpour inquired.

“Well, they should be sent back as soon as it can be determined who responsible adults in their families are, because there are concerns whether all of them should be sent back,” said Clinton. “But I think all of them who can be should be reunited with their families.”

You can read the full exchange courtesy of CNN here.
But Donald Trump is a racist?  Dream(ers) on.

Thursday, September 07, 2017


A couple of years ago, after I complained about not being able to keep from being bored while on my elliptical trainer no matter what I tried (watching tv, listening to the radio, even reading Smithsonian magazine), a friend suggested I try audiobooks--and I've never looked back.

I started with history and biography and science and math and similarly deep and important topics, but for such topics I've found an audiobook isn't ideal.  I want to learn those topics, not just hear them once, and for that I need to highlight, review, write marginalia, etc.  These tasks require a dead tree book and a highlighter and pen.

So I switched over to fiction.  Just entertain me!  That works extremely well, and I've really been getting into science fiction.  I've gotten involved in several series, not just individual books.

One series I recently read (and by "read", I mean "listened to") is the Ship series by Jerry Aubin.  There was a cliffhanger at the end of Book 3--and there's no Book 4.  What the heck?!  Just a few days ago on Facebook I saw an advertisement for the series, and I thought I'd click on it and ask if there is to be a Book 4.  Turns out, Book 4 has been released in book form on Amazon and will be released on audiobook at the end of September.  The author also mentioned that Book 5 is due at the end of December, with the audiobook due a couple months after that.  I didn't know that this was to be a five-book series, and I'm very much looking forward to the next two books in the Ship series.

Another series I really got into was the Terran Fleet Command Saga by Tori L. Harris.  I was very happy with the 3 books in that series, but surprise surprise, there's a 4th one out on audiobook now!

But I have to wait, because I'm just downloading Book 3 in the Expeditionary Force series by Craig Alanson.  There's also a "Book 3.5", and I hope there will be more.  When I'm done with this series I'll have to decide which to download and listen to first, Book 4 of the Ship series or Book 4 of the Terran Fleet Command Saga.  First world problems, I know :-)

I don't listen to my audiobooks just while on the elliptical anymore.  Now I listen to them while eating breakfast and while driving home from work.  When the weather isn't furnace-y outside, I listen to them while walking the dog around the neighborhood.  I listen to them while on long drives on the weekends.  Sometimes on Sunday afternoons I just lie on the couch and turn on "my story".

I have a subscription to audible.  For $14.95 a month I get one book, no matter the dollar cost.  Depending on the length of the book that comes to about $1-$2 per hour of entertainment.  Not bad.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Because They Know They Can't Legally Justify What They Did?

More than 40 percent of colleges don’t challenge lawsuits filed by railroaded students

The Biggest Problem in Education

The first line of one of Joanne's posts today really set me off.  It's one of my pet peeves:
“All throughout high school, they made it sound like going to college was our only option,” says Derrick Roberson, a 17-year-old high school graduate in southern California. Vocational classes were seen as second-class.
As an educator I'm bothered by the view that every high school student should be planning for college.  For those that can't or don't want to go, we in education send this message:  If you don't go to college, one of the very first big decisions you'll make as an adult is a mistake.   And of course it is, right?  All of us teachers went to college and we turned out just fine, so college is the best and only way for you to turn out just fine, too.

When did high school become 100% academic?  Heck, my district is planning to increase graduation requirements in math so that students will have to pass 3 years of math to graduate.  On what planet does that make sense?

It makes sense if you have the mind set that everyone should go to college--or, if you're smart enough to realize that not everyone can or should go to college, you have the mind set that everyone could go to college if they wanted to.  We even have a phrase for this:  "college and career readiness".  As if those two are the same thing.

My letter carrier fulfills an important role in our society--but he doesn't need any college for that.  My UPS driver also fulfills an important role, but he/she doesn't need college, either.  The grocery store checkers don't need college.  The guy who installs stereos in cars at Best Buy doesn't need college.  Most people don't need college at all, and lead valuable, important, decent lives in America.

Don't intentionally misinterpret my words and say that I believe that people should stay where they are and not "move ahead" (if that's what college does) in life.  That's not what I'm saying at all.  I'm saying that it's silly to think that everyone wants or needs college, especially right out of high school.  Some people will "grow into" college over the years, they're just not ready at 18.  Some won't ever need it.

Everyone talks about "trade schools" but I'll bet if you asked high schoolers what a "trade school" is, a very large percentage can't tell you what one is.  They probably even see commercials on tv for some (truck driving school, medical/dental/vet assistant schools, computer schools, HVAC schools) but couldn't identify any by name, and wouldn't even recognize that those schools are, in fact, trade schools.  We give lip service to trade schools because they're not "real" college.

Derrick Roberson, quoted above, is calling us out on our "classist" views.  How many in education will listen to him?

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Bug Off, Eh?

One thing you can say for the Canadians, they've got chutzpah.  Among their bargaining chips at NAFTA renegotiations is the requirement for the US to dismantle the right-to-work laws that have been passed in a majority of states:
From The Globe and Mail:
One group of negotiators spent all day Sunday working on the labour file, according to a schedule of the talks obtained by The Globe and Mail. One source familiar with the discussions said Canada wants the United States to pass a federal law stopping state governments from enacting right-to-work legislation; the source said the United States has not agreed to such a request. Canada believes that lower labour standards in the United States and Mexico, including right to work, give those countries an unfair advantage in attracting jobs.

Jerry Dias, the leader of Canada's largest private-sector trade union, said Ottawa's negotiators are: pushing Mexico on its corporate-sanctioned unions, which are accused of negotiating collective agreements unfavourable to workers; agitating for both countries to offer a year of paid family leave, as Canada does; and targeting American right-to-work laws that allow workers in unionized shops to refuse to pay dues, draining money from unions.

"I'm very pleased with the position the Canadian government is taking on labour standards," Mr. Dias, president of Unifor, told reporters outside the talks. "Canada's got two problems: The low wage rates in Mexico and the right-to-work states in the United States."
There's audacious, there's egregious, and there is political extortion.

That a country with a population roughly equivalent to that of California is demanding the passage of a federal law in the United States is a bit...much. Worse yet, it is a law that shifts powers from the states to Washington, which is never a good idea.
Look, I love Canada and the Canadians--but let's face it, they're lefties.  They don't have a "small government" major political party up in Canada, despite the fact that one of them is called the Conservative Party.  Their government's position is that unions are a priori a good thing--yet one wonders why American workers and states keep passing on them!

If Canada wants to compete, perhaps they should get rid of their unions!  Perhaps they should lobby the Mexicans for a Canada-level minimum wage--oh, and good luck with that, Canucks.

Let's say they're actually serious about this, and not just grandstanding.  What happens if the US Supreme Court rules in a manner to my liking on the Janus and Yohn cases, assuming they make it that far?  This NAFTA treaty requirement would impose a clearly unconstitutional requirement, and would thus be null and void.

I've read that the Canadians were jealous that the US elected a flashy leftist in 2008, so now they've elected their own.  As far as I'm concerned, the Canadians can keep both of them.

It's Not As Bad As The Press (The Left) Wants You To Think

Rampant discrimination in this country?  Not so fast:
A new study conducted by a group of university professors found that most Americans actually report experiencing very little discrimination.

The study, led by Professor Brian Boutwell, consisted of reviewing response data from a survey of more than 14,000 Americans, finding that the vast majority claim to have “never” or “rarely” been a victim of discrimination.

The results, relatively consistent across racial lines, found that only 25 percent of Americans responded “yes” to ever experiencing discrimination.
I myself would answer "yes" to that question, having been a man involved in family court.
Although racial minorities did comparatively report facing more discrimination, racial disparities were not nearly as high as expected, with only 31 percent of blacks reporting experiencing discrimination “sometimes” or “often.”

Similarly, just 27 percent of Hispanics responded similarly, followed by 23 percent of whites, and 18 percent of Asians, according to the study.

While the findings suggest that discrimination is less prevalent that predicted, Boutwell cautioned against too much optimism.

"People have rightly pointed out that 25 percent of the population is a lot of people,” Boutwell told Campus Reform. “That’s still millions of people. That's far higher than what we'd like to see. Ideally, you want that number increasing towards the mythical zero point.”

He went on to say that “we always want to be striving for a lower percentage of folks that feel discriminated against. But even so, when you have three quarters of the sample saying ‘no,’ that's an interesting finding. And that was true across racial and ethnic groups."

Monday, September 04, 2017

Losing Money on Every Package

I'm periodically told that the US Postal Service doesn't cost any taxpayer money, that it's a self-functioning and self-supporting agency.  How much money must they have had squirreled away if they can have only one profitable quarter in 5 years?  Something tells me that some taxpayer dollars are at play here, and not just in retirement benefits:
The Postal Service has a legal monopoly to deliver first-class mail and non-urgent letters. It is the only entity that can put something into a mailbox or through a mail slot. It is legally obliged to provide the service at the same level and price nationwide. That means, even with mail volume down 40 percent since 2006, the Postal Service still must visit 155 million mailboxes every day.

Since 2007, the Postal Service has been required to allocate 5.5 percent of its fixed costs to package delivery and to incorporate that into its pricing. That figure made sense then, but today, 25 percent of the Postal Service's business is package delivery. And thanks to features of the Amazon deal – such as Sunday delivery, grocery delivery, even delivery from fish markets to local restaurants – the expenses have climbed.

In fact, they've climbed so much, according to a recent analysis by Citigroup, that the Postal Service should be charging Amazon $1.46 more per package than the $2 or so it does now. "Amazon now enjoys low rates unavailable to its competitors"...

There is no question the Postal Service must change to survive. What we need from it has changed. We now pay bills online. We email rather than write letters. We evite rather than send invitations. At the same time, we buy online and need the Postal Service to deliver.

But its finances are not in order. The Postal Service has had one profitable quarter in the last five years. Even with monopoly protection on its most valued service, it has fallen more than $120 billion behind in pension and retiree health expenses and has chewed through a $15 billion line of credit from the Treasury...

If you're in a deal where you lose money and your partner profits wildly, maybe deal-making is not for you.

This Doesn't Surprise Me

If you want to be rich, don't associate with these types of people:
Who you hang out with matters more than you may think.

In fact, your friendships could have a major impact on your net worth.

After researching the daily habits of wealthy people for five years, author Thomas C. Corley found that they avoid one type of person at all costs: pessimists.

Scale Is Out

Have to stop posting my weight for awhile.  In the past week my weight has fluctuated a total of 10 lbs--according to my scale.  While I wouldn't mind having lost 10 lbs, I just don't believe it.  My pants don't tell me the same story!

When I can step on the scale 3 times and get 3 wildly different weights, it's time not to believe that scale.  Maybe I'll get to a store today and get a new one.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

A View From A Few Decades Ago

Phil Donahue is one of my favorite leftie talk show hosts.

Oh, he's as rabid as they come.  My favorite clip is of him with Milton Friedman--classic Phil, and classic Milton!  What I like about Phil, and what contrasts him with so many of today's talk show hosts, is that he'll ask a question and then let his guest answer it.  In general, he doesn't talk over the guest and just get his point across, he genuinely let his guest get his/her point across as well.

The clip below of Ayn Rand is educational for many reasons.  For starters, listen to the companies that the audience were afraid of because of their monopoly power--ITT, Xerox, and General Motors!  (Note:  two decades ago people worried about Microsoft.  Today people worry about Google and Facebook, and perhaps Disney.)  Also, (the libertarian) Ms. Rand refuses to answer a question she considers asked in a rude manner, and (the leftie) Mr. Donahue tells her not to be so sensitive!

Don't get me wrong, I don't agree with hardcore libertarianism--it disregards human nature as much as liberalism does.  At 10:00 in the video Rand talks about a businessman who (without government help) establishes as monopoly but someone else will eventually come along and offer better service, a more competitive price, etc, and the monopoly won't stand; when that eventually happens, and it will eventually happen, it disregards the hardships imposed on the public by the monopolist prior to his/her competition's arrival on the scene.  Understanding human nature, I want a government that restricts the worst impulses of that nature.  That's why I'm such a fan of the US Constitution.

So my purpose in showing this Donahue/Rand video is not wave the banner of libertarianism, but to show how times have changed.

Pay Raise

It's hard to believe, but I have 4 weeks of work (19 days) behind me already, and 17 of those days were with students.  Because of this I'm glad that our district switched us from 10 paychecks per year to 11.  Used to be we worked a bit in August and then all of September before getting a paycheck, now we get one in August as well.  The only month in which I don't get a paycheck is July.

I finished my master's degree last May (you long time readers might recall reading something about that!) and I made a conservative guess as to where I'd be placed on the salary schedule--no, it's not patently obvious where I'd be on the scale given the many rules that govern it!  I assumed a worst-case scenario and given that, expected a couple hundred dollar a month raise.

The worst case scenario didn't happen, by a long shot.  My raise was almost twice what I was expecting!  That perks my spirits somewhat!

It doesn't fix the problems I identified in my last post, but once I leave school each afternoon my life is a bit better.