Thursday, November 30, 2017

Can't Believe It's December Already

We started school the 2nd week of August.  Seriously.

We got a random Friday off in October.  From what I understand, some genius in our district administration determined that October is when teachers start taking 3 day weekends, so the district decided to give us a 3 day weekend so we wouldn't just take a Friday off (substitutes can get very scarce on Fridays); I heard that plenty of teachers across the district just took that Thursday off and made it a 4 day weekend instead!

Our semester ends the Thursday before Christmas, instead of Friday.  Nice.

We get another "please just take this Friday off instead of requiring a substitute" Friday off in April, and school ends early in the week in June instead of the end of the week.  By my reckoning that accounts for the 5 days early we started this year, as we would usually start a week later in August.

There are 4 school weeks (minus that last Friday) between Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks.  After tomorrow we'll have one week down, three to go.  Two of those weeks will be "regular" weeks, and the last one will be final exams week.

In 2 of the 3 courses I teach, I excuse students from the final exam if they have a 97% course average going into the final.  I'm not known as an easy grader--fair, but not easy--but I have several students each year that don't have to take my final exam.  Reward for them for a job well done, slack for me because that's fewer finals I have to grade.  And no, I don't do Scantron tests.  There are things that can be learned from the results of a Scantron test, but not enough in math for me to justify giving them.  I give bona fide tests, and I grade each one.

We teachers go back to work the Monday after New Year's, but our students don't show up until Tuesday.  That Monday is a work day for us; we grade our finals, enter grades, and take a long, leisurely lunch that day.

And a week or so later is the Dr. King (birthday) Holiday.  And less than a month after that is our February President's (nee, Ski) Week holiday.

I don't mind teaching in the cold months so much.  Lots of time off!  Last week I had a week off, and in 3 more weeks I'll have another 2 weeks off. I can't believe it's December already!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

When Taken Together, It's Not A Very Consistent Belief System

This post doesn't need commentary from me:
The problem is that the Left's arguments are often so convoluted, absurd, and self-defeating that I couldn't take them seriously if I tried. And I have tried. But when I follow one of their philosophical threads to its logical conclusion, I discover that the thread has no conclusion. It suddenly splits in another direction, and another, and another, and when I step back all I see is a tangled web of contradictions. What choice do I have but to be dismissive? All that one can do with nonsense, in the end, is dismiss it.

Allow me to illustrate...

Step One. We are told that "all men must be regarded as potential monsters to be feared." It's not that all men are actively dangerous, but that "rape culture" and patriarchy ingrains in all men the latent possibility of "violence and harm"...

Step Two. This does follow logically from the first. We're told we must elect women and hire women and put women in positions of power and whatever we do just focus on elevating women at all costs. Women are better. We may even see the end of war and suffering if women ran things. Go women! Girl power!...

Step Three. We're told that we should let men in the women's bathroom and the women's locker room.

But wait. What about Step One?...

Step Four. We're told that we should let men compete in women's sports. And we should cheer when a man beats a woman half to death in an MMA match.

But wait. What about Step Two?...

Step Five. We're told that all of this is OK because men can actually be women.

But wait. What about Steps One and Two?...

Step Six. We're told that women shouldn't carry guns because guns won't make anyone safer.

But wait. Go back to Step One again...

Step Seven. We're told that we don't need guns because police have them. Only police should have guns.

OK, Six and Seven seem to work together pretty well.

But wait.

-Step Eight. We're told that cops are part of a "culture of racism" which motivates them to target minorities for arrest and execution...

But wait. What about Step Seven?...

A rational person cannot possibly believe all eight of these points simultaneously.  
A rational person doesn't have to accept any of those points simultaneously, or individually.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Nerds Of The World, Unite!

I'm not the only Star Trek fan at school.  One of our other teachers, in his spare time, makes Star Trek models.  He even has a couple in his classroom, and they're way cool.

Today he showed up with one for me:  a 1:350 scale model of a Constitution-class starship.  It's not a Federation, ship, however.  Look at the insignia.

That's right, it's a Mirror Universe starship!  And how appropriate that today, for the first time in forever, I wore a goatee.  Mirror Universe Spock!  For the Empire!

You can't tell from the pictures, but this model is about 30" long.  So many tiny lights that light up!  This is a true work of craftsmanship.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Taking On Student Debt Is A Choice

In this post I wrote yesterday I said that going to a UC school is a choice that some people make, and my implication was that for some people it's a bad choice.  And no, I don't believe that everyone is entitled to a UC education and diploma.  People who are academically and financially capable of earning a diploma should get one, others should go elsewhere.  Yes, I know that our UC's cost a lot of money, but my taxes are helping foot the bill.  Wanting something really bad doesn't entitle you to have it.

Let me take you back to my senior year in high school.

There was no Common Application then, and there was no internet.  Every school had its own application form to be filled out on paper, and many had application fees. Unlike today, we didn't apply to 20 or 30 schools and have "reach" schools and "safety net" schools, we applied to schools we wanted to get into and had a reasonable chance of getting into.

I applied to 4 schools:  the Air Force Academy, UCLA, Purdue, and West Point.  I couldn't afford college, though.  I was living with my grandparents, estranged from my mother (not that she had any money anyway), and with a dad who worked very hard to support the rest of his family.  Everyone had always assumed I'd go to college but there was no thought given, ever, to how it would be financed.  While I qualified for Cal Grants and Pell Grants, I found no scholarships for a bright white kid (from the poor part of town) who just couldn't afford college.  While I had an uncle who had attended college, no one in my family had graduated college.  I had no guidance, no money, no real hope.  I did, however, have a sense of my own awesomeness.

I admit I was arrogant.  It was clear to me that things would work out for me because I needed them to.  I'd always succeeded in academic environments, how could this one, even though it involved finances, be any different?  I didn't fill out the paperwork when I was a National Merit Semifinalist--because I knew I'd get into the Air Force Academy, and someone else would need that National Merit scholarship money that I was sure to win.  Neither did I apply for ROTC scholarships; I was too good for ROTC, I was going to go to the Academy.  And if I didn't, I'd get a great education at Purdue or UCLA anyway.

The arrogance, the arrogance.  Oh, the things I'd say to my younger self if I could....

I wanted to go to UCLA or Purdue.  I really did.  I was accepted to both. But there was no money.  I didn't see how I could work and go to school and earn the grades I knew I was capable of.  I decided that the best plan for me would be to enlist in the army, earn GI Bill benefits, and go to college at some later date.  That was the economic choice I made.  Then, one day in 4th period class, finally, late in my senior year, a note came from the office.  "Call home.  Large envelope from West Point."  I didn't really want to go to West Point, but I didn't get a nomination to the Air Force Academy.  West Point was the only school I was accepted to that I could afford to attend--because, as a military academy, I didn't have to pay any tuition, and what costs there were, I was able to come up with the money.  So that's where I went.

It's clear, looking back, that I made a lot of mistakes.  Things turned out ok in the end, but it was a difficult time.  A very dark, difficult time in my life.  You'll notice, though, that the choices I made all had financial consequences, some good and some bad.  At no time, though, did I decide to take on debt that I didn't think I could reasonably handle.  At least I didn't screw that up.

Not everyone thinks that way, though.  As I wrote yesterday, there are students at our UC campuses who are living on food stamps.  They chose an expensive school, one they clearly can't afford, and thus chose penury.  Perhaps they think their sheepskin will allow them to make enough money to make it all worthwhile; some people can accept that sort of risk, I don't live that way.

Today I came across this story from the Boston Globe, lamenting how college debt is even worse for black students than for whites:
Recent research and data from the US Department of Education indicate that African-American students, like Reyes, are taking a greater financial risk than other groups in going to college, even as a degree has grown increasingly vital for workers hoping to survive in the modern economy. They typically start with a smaller economic cushion, are more likely to borrow, and, on average, earn less upon graduation. 
Reyes, the protagonist in the story, chose to go to a private college in downtown Boston.  She chose to take on debt.  Combine those, and to me you get a bad series of choices.
As a result, instead of bridging the racial equity gap by opening the prospect of well-paying jobs, getting a degree can actually widen the gulf in wealth between black and white adults.

African-American students who started college in 2003-04 typically owed 113 percent of their student loan 12 years later, according to the most recent data from the US Department of Education analyzed by the Center for American Progress.

By contrast, white borrowers had paid down their debt and owed only 65 percent of the original amount, and Hispanic borrowers had knocked down their debt to 83 percent of the initial loan.

College costs have exploded for everyone, and as a result, the amount of student loan debt Americans are carrying has approached $1.4 trillion. Black students, though, are more likely to take out federal loans to earn a degree, with nearly 80 percent going into debt to attend college, compared to 60 percent of students overall. Then they struggle to repay those loans, weighed down by increasing interest and default fees.

Limited family resources, a higher likelihood of dropping out of college, dampened earnings even with a degree, and a greater chance of attending predatory, for-profit institutions all contribute to the more burdensome experience of African-American student loan borrowers, experts say. 
Another person in the story made worse choices than Reyes:
Allison, a single mother of three who lives in the western Boston suburbs and asked that her last name not be used to protect her privacy, said that after spending most of her young adulthood working in fast-food restaurants and warehouses, she decided to go to college. She went to MassBay Community College and then to Lesley University to earn her degree. She finished in 2013 with about $10,000 in debt.

But even with her bachelor’s degree, Allison, 46, said she has had to work a full-time job and two part-time gigs on the weekends to earn the $65,000 she needs each year to pay her bills.

“I was spending more time out of home, away from my kids,” she said. “When I was home, I was tired. I was catnapping here and there.”

So she returned to school at Bridgewater State University to get her master’s degree in social work, in the hopes of finding a higher-paying position, with a leadership role. But there are fewer grants and scholarship options for graduate students, and by the time she finishes her program next May, she anticipates owing $70,000 in student loans.

“I am disappointed that there aren’t more options,” she said.
$65,000 in bills?  Holy crap.  Until this school year I didn't even make $65,000, much less have that much in annual expenses!  What is she doing to rack up $65,000 in bills each year?  And am I reading the story right that she's assuming an additional $70,000 in student loan debt to get a degree in social work, a field not known for high pay?  I don't think Allison is making good choices.

The article closes thusly:
“Having less debt opens you to so much more freedom when you get out of college,” she said.
One way of having less debt is not to assume so much in the first place.

When I've written on this topic in the past, the lefties will jump on my back and say that I want to keep the poor and the black from getting college educations.  Let me just head that off at the pass right now--no, that's not my intent at all; and in fact, for you to believe that betrays, at an absolute minimum, a lack of reading comprehension, common sense, and understanding of personal responsibility.  I don't believe that people should have things just because they want them, and I do believe that people are entitled to no more than they can pay for.  Making bad decisions does not entitle someone to the exalted (on the left, anyway) status of victim, and wishing things were different doesn't mean that you're entitled to have them that way.

I think we in education do a disservice to kids.  We make it clear, both subtly and overtly, that going to college is the only "right" choice to make out of high school, and that anyone who doesn't go to college has essentially failed the first test of adulthood.  The Boston Globe story was clear that, on average, black families in this country have far fewer financial resources on which to draw than white families do; combine that with the unrealistic expectation that everyone should go to college, and it's no wonder that black students and families make riskier financial decisions in order to fund higher education.

How would I handle this situation, for everyone?  I'd get rid of two views:  first, the idea that everyone can and should attend college, and second, the entitlement mentality that says you should have whatever you want simply because you want it.  I'd have people focus on reasonable, achievable, affordable goals--subsidized community colleges do a great job of meeting general ed requirements at a relatively affordable price.

Then we could start looking at why higher education costs have risen so rapidly in recent years, see if a little sunlight will help.  But the first step is personal responsibility.  People need to make good choices.

The World Hasn't Ended Yet

I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who are sincere in their belief that global warming is a threat to...someone or something.  I'm forced to wonder, though, why those same people, who claim to believe in science, instead believe their passions when apocalyptic predictions keep turning out to be absolutely, undeniably, factually, disproven:
For at least three decades scientists and environmental activists have been warning that the world is on the verge of a global warming “apocalypse” that will flood coastal cities, tear up roads and bridges with mega-storms and bring widespread famine and misery to much of the world.

The only solution, they say, is to rid the world of fossil fuels — coal, natural gas and oil — that serve as the pillars of modern society. Only quick, decisive global action can avert the worst effects of manmade climate change, warn international bodies like the United Nations, who say we only have decades left — or even less!

Of course, human civilization has not collapsed, despite decades of predictions that we only have years left to avert disaster. Ten years ago, the U.N. predicted we only had “as little as eight years left to avoid a dangerous global average rise of 2C or more.”

This failed prediction, however, has not stopped the U.N. and others from issuing more apocalyptic statements.

To celebrate nearly three decades of dire predictions, The Daily Caller News Foundation put together this list of some of the most severe doomsday prophecies made by scientists, activists and politicians...
Yes, I know that there actually was a wolf the last time the boy cried wolf in the story--but he hadn't been crying wolf for 30 years.

What A Scam!

The daughter of a friend of mine is having her 1st birthday party next weekend, so I was out looking for suitable presents for a one-year-old.  It's been a long time since I've shopped for one-year-olds.

Not knowing what to buy, I started at Barnes and Noble.  A book never goes out of style, right?  Well, they also have a selection of items other than books, and I moseyed on over to the infant/toddler section.  Holy crap!  Talk about ridiculously inflated prices!  A plastic "bathtub book" with only a couple of "pages" of colorful duckies or something, $15!  Everything seemed like it was 3-5x the price it should have been.  I guess they know people will always spend money on young'ins.  In economics they'd say that the demand for such items is inelastic, and thus stores can charge whatever they want.

When my own son was born, the hospital sent us home with a bag of goodies--including a Baby Mozart CD.  Do you remember that idea, that our children would grow up to be geniuses if we only exposed them to classical music?  It's a relatively harmless fiction, and I enjoyed a couple of the songs, so I played it once in awhile.  I still have it and just checked the label, and it was compiled and published by a baby milk/formula company.

At least I didn't have to pay for that.  Who on God's green earth would pay for these?

Saturday, November 25, 2017

It's Kind Of Like He Supports The First Amendment Or Something

I'm usually not a big fan of Erwin Chemerinsky.  When Hugh Hewitt had an afternoon radio show, I'd listen to it on my drive home from work, and Chemerinsky was a weekly guest on constitutional law issues.  I always found his arguments weak, not well formed, and decidedly leftie.  I couldn't imagine how, with such poor reasoning skills, the man became a law school dean.  Seriously.

But on this issue he is absolutely right:
A law professor from the University of California – Berkeley’s law school recently urged students to “protect all speech,” including speech they find offensive and hateful.

“All ideas and views can be expressed on a college campus. Period,” Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the university’s law school, told students at Cornell University, according to The Cornell Daily Sun. “It’s very important to make the distinction between discussing what the current law is as opposed to discussing what we think the law should be.”

While allowing that there are exceptions to free speech—including ” inciteful language, fighting words and words that present a true threat”—Chermerinsky nevertheless told students that “hateful speech is protected by the First Amendment,” and that universities—public and private alike—“should allow the same level of free speech as their public counterparts.”

The dean suggested that students should “shift away from the common rhetoric of the term ‘hate speech’.”

“It’s important to separate the colloquial use of the term from the legal test that’s going to decide it,” he added.
Had I not listened to him for years on Hewitt's show,  I'd perhaps be a bigger fan after reading this.

College Students and Charity

Almost 7 years ago I wrote about a food pantry for poor students at a local University of California campus.  That post generated 27 comments, a few in favor and several questioning why students in economic straits would choose to attend a University of California campus.  Before reading on, perhaps you'd go read that post, and even the comments, to get a fuller view of what I'm writing here.

Welcome back :-)  As the old saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. This past Thursday, the conglomeration of San Francisco newspapers published a story about UC Berkeley students' going on welfare and to food pantries:
More than 500 UC Berkeley students have applied for food stamps since January, up from 111 in all of 2016, and just 41 the year before, said Michael Altfest, spokesman for the Alameda County Community Food Bank, which helps students fill out the forms. Last year, food bank representatives showed up once a month to help the students. Now they have to come every week to meet the need.
Not all applicants qualify. This year, the acceptance rate is 73 percent, up from 62 percent in 2015, Altfest said.

Three years ago, state lawmakers passed AB1930 to make it easier for students to prove eligibility for food stamps. But it’s taken a few years for the ripple effect to hit.

A University of California survey of 9,000 students across all 10 campuses shed light on the need in 2015: Nearly 1 in 5 students, 19 percent, said they had too little to eat “due to limited resources.” Another 23 percent routinely ate substandard food with little variation.

Suddenly, the phrase “food insecurity” — from poor nutrition to outright hunger — became a campus buzz word, and not just on UC campuses.

Aware that some low-income students are stuck on campus during school vacations, Stanford University will keep a dining hall open during spring break for the first time next semester. California State University is working to get each of its 23 campuses equipped with the technology to accept food stamps, which have been provided electronically using debit cards since 2004.

Community college students are especially challenged by soaring housing prices — the two-year schools typically offer no student housing — so on Nov. 9, City College of San Francisco trustees voted unanimously to begin developing a program to help students who are chronically homeless and hungry.

At UC, President Janet Napolitano announced in 2016 that she would spend $302,000 over two years at each of the 10 campuses to expand food pantries and register more students for food stamps through CalFresh.
Going hungry isn't a choice.  However, attending a UC or even Stanford is.  We have great, relatively inexpensive community colleges here in California....

While I consider it untoward for some of the most privileged people on the planet--students who attend UC schools, who do so partly on my dime--to cry poverty and go to food pantries, if the food pantries are charitable, I have no actual complaint.  I might question or ridicule, but I won't complain or fight.  When I have to pay for it, however...wait, isn't that what I'm doing with food stamps?  So I'm paying for their "elite" education as well as their food?    Are these people even adults?

If she wanted to ensure that UC students can afford to eat, perhaps Napolitano should find ways to cut the cost of a UC education rather than turning students into beggars.

I have many quotes on the wall of my classroom.  One of them says "A sense of entitlement and one of gratitude cannot occupy the same space."  I think it applies in this situation.

Nope, No Media Bias Here

DEMOCRAT NEWS NETWORK: CNN Fails To Report These 24 Democrat Sex Scandals
To be fair, it is worth noting that CNN has reported on a couple of the big Democrat sex scandals currently receiving major media attention on other news networks, specifically the scandals involving Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI).

When CNN is not busy giving President Donald Trump 93% negative coverage, covering for Islamic terrorists, botching gun reports, or being sued by over 200 African-Americans for racial discrimination, they are busy covering for Democrats across the United States by not reporting on scandals.

Below are 24 recent Democratic sex scandals that CNN has failed to report on their website (documentation showing CNN did not cover the scandals is provided at the bottom of this report).

Friday, November 24, 2017

Laptops Inhibit Learning

As someone who spent 5 years in an online master's degree program, I can tell you that having access to the internet while you're supposed to be learning is distracting.  And I say that as someone who's reasonably bright, motivated to learn, and more focused and disciplined than the average bear.  Thus, I have no doubt that the following is true:
But a growing body of evidence shows that over all, college students learn less when they use computers or tablets during lectures. They also tend to earn worse grades. The research is unequivocal: Laptops distract from learning, both for users and for those around them. It’s not much of a leap to expect that electronics also undermine learning in high school classrooms or that they hurt productivity in meetings in all kinds of workplaces...

The researchers hypothesized that, because students can type faster than they can write, the lecturer’s words flowed right to the students’ typing fingers without stopping in their brains for substantive processing. Students writing by hand had to process and condense the spoken material simply to enable their pens to keep up with the lecture. Indeed, the notes of the laptop users more closely resembled transcripts than lecture summaries. The handwritten versions were more succinct but included the salient issues discussed in the lecture...

At the United States Military Academy, a team of professors studied laptop use in an introductory economics class. The course was taught in small sections, which the researchers randomly assigned to one of three conditions: electronics allowed, electronics banned and tablets allowed but only if laid flat on desks, where professors could monitor their use. By the end of the semester, students in the classrooms with laptops or tablets had performed substantially worse than those in the sections where electronics were banned.
Can't pass up a shout-out to my alma mater!

Anyway, go read the whole thing.

Guilty Pleasure

I don't buy many "dead tree" books anymore.  Mostly I listen to audiobooks.

But one of my guilty pleasures in life is Clive Cussler novels.  I said so almost a year and a half ago, so there's no need to recreate the post here.  A couple of days ago I was at Sam's Club and guess what I saw on the shelf:
I might have to read this book in conjunction with listening to my latest audiobook.  Perhaps I'll go back to listening to my audiobooks only when I drive, and reading this when I'm at home.

Thanksgiving and Global Warming

Shamelessly lifted from Instapundit:
DO YOUR PART AND FRY MORE FOODS: The Telegraph (UK) is good at finding “scientists” who will say anything. Here, finally, they find some scientists who have useful information:
“In large cities like London, cooking fat is known to be responsible for 10 per cent of small particles in the air, so researchers believe frying food could have a noticeable impact on cloud formation and rainy weather. In fact, the effect is so large it could even have a cooling effect on the planet, and potentially slow down global warming.”
I, for one, am waiting for the government to offer tax incentives on deep fryers, because, you know, global warming. I’m willing to make that sacrifice if it helps Mother Gaia.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

My Plan For The Day

I can't believe that Thanksgiving break is already almost half over.  Where the heck has the time gone?!

I'm staying on track with grading quizzes; in fact, I've even upped the numbers.  My plan is now to grade 10 stats quizzes a day and 5 pre-calculus quizzes a day; this will ensure that all quizzes are graded before I get back to work next week.

Last night, after going to dinner with my mother for her birthday, I watched Gods and Generals.  Tonight, after going to dinner with my niece, I'll watch Gettysburg.    Maybe early this afternoon I'll go to the theater and see Justice League.  I've heard that movies are less expensive on Tuesday.  I don't know this for sure, though, as I don't go to the movies much at all.  In fact, I think this will be only the 3rd movie I'll have seen in a theater this year, after Dunkirk and Wonder Woman.

That's pretty much my plan for the day!

A Camille Paglia Feminist

I'm a Camille Paglia feminist in that I believe that women are the intellectual, moral, and legal equals of men.  I believe that women earn respect the same way that any human does--by accomplishing things of value.

They don't earn respect by "demanding" it or by being harpies--or worse.  In this way I agree with the author of this post:
I made a huge mistake today. I pulled up something on Tumblr called “Power Femme Posts.” I wish I could say hilarity ensued, but it was more like vomit. Lots and lots of vomit...

This feed is filled with nothing but third-wave feminist garbage – the kind of trash true feminists like Camille Paglia view like they would something smelly on the bottom of their shoe...

The problem with these third-wave feminist shrews is that they don’t want equality. They don’t want to be acknowledged for their skills, prowess, and accomplishments. They merely want to wield power over men – nothing more.

Surfing through this Femme Power forest of inadequacy, I saw nothing about intellectual pursuits, nothing about actual accomplishments (other than the vagina between their legs), and nothing about hard work or paying your dues.

What I saw was a metaphorical daisy chain of mediocrities, stroking one another’s egos and delusions of grandeur, while putting down their male counterparts and fantasizing about the day they take over.

As a woman, I’m sickened by this...

Here’s what these women just don’t get.

You don’t become strong by hobbling those who are stronger than you. You’re still an inadequate weakling, but now you’re a despicable one as well, because you’ve destroyed another merely to build yourself up – not by your accomplishments, but by brute force.

You don’t become any less of a pathetic mediocrity by crippling those around you who aren’t. It’s an illusion that will eventually blow up in your face, when you realize that you still don’t have the skills necessary to create, build, and improve the world around you, but you have driven away those who do.

You don’t become a provider by subjugating your significant other, nor do you become a protector by forcing that naked, groveling amoeba into submission. (She's referring to a picture from Tumblr, see link above).

And if you’re a man, who is so scared to lose a woman that you would allow it to happen, you don’t deserve your place in the household, other than at the feet of an obese, rainbow-haired, overly-pierced non-entity, whose only “accomplishment” is to shame you into burying your self esteem, hating your own intelligence and skills, and loathing your own masculinity.
These observations apply not just to third-wave feminists, but equally well to any group that wants to elevate its own tribe just for the sake of "being on top".

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Yes, Please Focus On This Instead

Small schools and Common Core?  Thank Bill Gates.

Quit screwing with other people's kids, Bill.

I'm probably doomed to get Alzheimer's.  Both my grandmothers had it, and...  So, I'm doomed.

I don't know if Bill's money would direct research into dead ends or if it would open up new roads, but I know that I'm probably going to get Alzheimer's either way.

So, after screwing up education, would Bill and his money be a benefit in Alzheimer's research, or a hindrance?  I'm willing to give him a shot.  After all, those with a predilection for Alzheimer's are already screwed, unlike the children on whom Common Core was thrust.  They were only screwed after Common Core.

Polar Ice

Oh no!  The polar ice sheets are shrinking!  Glaciers are retreating!

Oh, wait....

How Do People Think This Way?

I was reading this story about income inequality in California and was floored to read the following:
“Every day, people are on the road for an hour, two hours, each way. We’re wasting so much talent and skill and the disparity in income is just ridiculous,” said Clark. “The government’s job is defense, and building roads and schools. But another part of the government’s job is income distribution and too much of it has gone to the super-wealthy.”
No, Mr. Clark, part of the government's job is not income distribution.  But people like you who think that way sure screw things up.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Scoring School Accountability

California ditched its numerical school accountability system a couple years ago and is going to a "dashboard" system:
Another prominent education research and advocacy organization that disapproves of California’s approach to school accountability has ranked California’s new system at the bottom nationwide in a report released Tuesday.

The low score by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute reflects a core disagreement over how best to identify and work with schools needing help. California education leaders are unapologetic about the route they’ve chosen, and they say the Fordham analysis contains a key error.

Like Bellwether Education Partners, which harshly criticized the state’s approach in an August analysis, Washington, D.C.- and Ohio-based Fordham gives high grades to states that will rank schools with an A-F letter grade or a similar method that’s understandable at a glance. States will use rankings to select the lowest-performing schools, as required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

California’s color-coded school dashboard does not give a summary school ranking. Each measure of performance, whether test scores, graduation rates or student suspension rates, gets a separate color rating. Gov. Jerry Brown and the State Board of Education say that this approach focuses attention on specific areas that need work. While this is more complex — and, some critics say, confusing — advocates say it is more helpful in diagnosing problems.
Confusion never helps anyone--except those with something to hide. And if the system is supposed to help diagnose problems, then it's for the schools themselves and not the public. Who should the results of an accountability system be geared towards?

Update:  Joanne has a brief post on the topic.

The Start of Thanksgiving Break

I was so tired yesterday that I came home and took a nap.  When I woke up from the nap over an hour later I realized I was still tired, so I went to bed.  I woke up around 3 am after 8 hours of sleep, checked the blogs and the news, and went back to sleep until after 7 am. 

I'm starting to feel awake :)

I've been procrastinating lately, so I have plenty of bills to pay and other such domestic administrivia to keep me busy.  I also gave quizzes in 4 of my 5 classes yesterday, so I have those to grade.  My plan is to grade 10 quizzes a day over the break; that should take so little time as to allow me to feel that I'm not spending any time at all, but doing so will allow me to have the vast majority of the quizzes graded before I return to school.  I'll probably get them all done, but I'm willing to cut myself a little slack on that.

I've got a couple of family birthdays to celebrate this week, and I'm going to a friend's house for Thanksgiving.

We've had some light rain recently, and a few more drops are forecast for Monday.  Other than that it should be a nice week with highs in the 60s.

Should be a nice week off.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


First, white male privilege:
Many of my peers of color and their progressive allies said I had no right to offer my opinion because I am a male with white skin, so according to them I don’t know what it’s like to face challenges. I should just shut up and support them.

Yes, I do enjoy privilege — as an American. I live in the greatest country in the world with the most opportunity and fairness.

But my critics incorrectly assumed that my male whiteness gave me some special attributes that made my argument meaningless. I was just another dissenter whose critics racially condemned me without knowing anything about me.

My alleged privilege does not mean money grows on trees in my family. They have no idea that I worked part-time at a sandwich shop during high school to save money for college. This is in addition to taking mostly AP classes — prompting three-plus hours of homework a night. I also managed to squeeze in playing a varsity sport.

My alleged privilege did not allow me to skate through high school. My nights, weekends and nearly all of my spare time was spent either writing essays for AP classes, asking a customer if she’d like her sandwich “Mike’s Way,” or spending another four hours of my day on the golf course (with clubs I paid for myself after using my grandfather’s old hand-me-down set).

My alleged privilege did not make it any easier for me to get into a college after high school. Like my Asian-American peers, if you’re white, it’s well understood that your ACT or SAT scores must be much higher than peers of color. So I spent roughly 10 hours a week for over a month preparing for the ACT in addition to everything else I had going on.

My alleged privilege still wasn’t enough for me to afford to attend Chapman all four years. It simply was not financially feasible for my family and me, despite the fact that I was admitted as a freshman and had been offered a very generous, partial academic scholarship. Unlike my privileged critics at Chapman University, I was not able to attend the same school as them for all four years and live on campus.

So with my alleged privilege, I started at a community college my freshman year to save money...
Go read the whole thing.

I, too, didn't start out with much in life. Growing up I didn't do without as far as food, clothing, or shelter (although, for several years, 5 and then 6 of us lived in a 3BR, 1BA, 925 sf house), but I had some other disadvantages.  I guess they don't count, either, because I lack melanin?

But on to female privilege:
The way the news is these days: In the middle of a storm of disgusting national stories about male sexual predators, we get our own local countercase — a fired Dallas County assistant district attorney, sobbing on camera, offering every conceivable excuse in the book for her terrible behavior with a young Uber driver.

District Attorney Faith Johnson fired Jody Warner, 32, an experienced assistant prosecutor, on Monday after Johnson reviewed an audio recording of Warner drunkenly threatening and abusing 26-year-old Uber driver Shaun Platt over the weekend. In a press conference Tuesday, Warner set some kind of new world record for the least apologetic apology since Donald Trump did Access Hollywood...

And here’s the thing: The guy even gave you a break for being totally sloshed. Platt, the driver, told reporters he was sure you were a nice person when you were not drunk. Well, guess what. He was wrong.

You’re a worse person when you’re sober. Sober, you are mean-spirited and brutally callous, willing to slime a young man’s name by suggesting he’s a predator and doing it just to give yourself some wiggle room that you richly do not deserve...

I listened to the recording. In that state, I don’t know I would trust you to know the difference between a sexual predator and a stop sign. Isn’t that what we’re really talking about? Hey, maybe you saw a stop sign, and you thought it was coming on to you. I can’t know what was in your heart because your heart was pickled in alcohol.

But I do know this: A man in your position would not get away with your behavior at the press conference. He would not be able to stand in front of the cameras, wipe away tears and make all kinds of simpering little-boy-lost sexual suggestions about the woman he had just drunkenly and verbally abused on tape.

You abused your office that night, and it got way worse later when you did your press conference after you got canned. You exploited your status as a woman in a way that I suspect was cynical and calculated.

Hey, how many dozens and dozens of times have you stood up in court and appealed for somebody to get sent up the river while his loved ones sobbed in the pews? I bet you never shed a tear then. But when you were appealing your own plight, you couldn’t turn off the waterworks for five seconds? 
She only tried it because she thought it would work--and it probably would have, were it not for the audio recording.

Racial Pandering

This is one of the worst, most transparent, examples of racial pandering I've ever seen:
The net result would likely be a major penalty for those who choose to go to college, and an even greater one for those who pursue advanced degrees. Asian-Americans would be devastated by this change as the group with the highest rate of college and graduate school attendance in the nation: More than half of Asians in the United States 25 and older have at least a bachelor's degree, compared with about 28% of Americans in general, and 21% have advanced degrees, versus 10% of all Americans.
I'm waiting for someone to point out that since Asians do so much better academically than blacks and Hispanics do in this country, that this tax proposal is actually some form of "equity".

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Not A Fan of Communism

I spent the first several years of my adult life training to go to war against communists.  Communism is a foul philosophy directly responsible for the lives of over 100 million people in the last century; by contrast, the Nazis and their relatively paltry 6 million Jews seem like pikers compared to Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and the gang.

Honestly, I think there are a few reasons communism appeals to certain people, and not just the stupid.  Even in theory, communism just can't work, as it doesn't comport with human nature.  In practice, though--in practice, it works even worse than it does in theory.  People who claim to support communism remind me vaguely of a quote attributed to George Orwell, "The notion that you can somehow defeat violence by submitting to it is simply a flight from fact. As I have said, it is only possible to people who have money and guns between themselves and reality."  Liking communism in theory is a lot different from having to live under it.  I've never met a person who lived under communism who didn't say it was horrible, who didn't think our system was obviously superior in every way. Here's one:
A recent poll found that fifty percent of millennials say they would rather live in a communist or socialist country than in a capitalist democracy. These numbers can’t be laughed off -- they should frighten you. Maybe they don’t know what communism means.

I do. I lived in Communist Poland.

Perhaps those fifty percent of millennials were not properly taught about communism in school. That’s too bad, and dangerous. So here are some examples for those misguided millennials to ponder, all of which I experienced in communist Poland.
Go read the whole thing.  And add secret police to the story.

Too Stupid To Be In College

This story encapsulates so much of what's wrong with lefties: rabid hatred.  Shameless stupidity.  Total lack of personal responsibility.  And since this is California, there is a non-zero chance that this lawsuit will actually not be thrown out of court.
Exactly one year after a car struck Revelle sophomore Mariana Flores as she entered Interstate-5 during the election night protests, Flores’ attorney filed a personal injury and property damage lawsuit against UC San Diego and several other entities. According to the complaint submitted to the San Diego Superior Court last Wednesday, Flores suffered wage loss, loss of earning capacity, hospital and medical expenses, general damage, property damage, and loss of personal property as a result of the incident.

The protests during which Flores was injured began shortly after Donald Trump was announced the projected winner of the 2016 election. Students living in all six colleges gathered on Library Walk and spread throughout campus, chanting criticisms of the president-elect as they moved. The protest then spilled off-campus near the freeway, where demonstrators walked onto the interstate.

As an emergency vehicle was attempting to shut down Interstate-5 by driving in an “S” formation across the southbound lanes, the driver hit Flores, crushing her pelvis, fracturing her leg, and causing other serious injuries.

Flores’ attorney Gene Sullivan informed the UCSD Guardian that due to the nature of her injuries, Flores’ medical bills over the course of her life will be in the millions of dollars, so he and his client hope that the university will offer assistance in covering the costs.   

The lawsuit, which also names the UC Board of Regents, the City and County of San Diego, the State of California, and the driver of the vehicle as defendants, states that the protest was organized by the university and that UCSD is responsible for failing to end the demonstration. 

“Plaintiff was participating in a citizen protest that had been organized by the University of California, San Diego and/or the University of California Regents,” the complaint reads. “The protest continued all over campus for hours and was never stopped, controlled, or refrained by the County of San Diego, City of San Diego, State of California, University of California Regents or the University of California, San Diego.”   

Sullivan explained that there are a number of people culpable for the accident, including Flores herself, but because the university is partially responsible, it is also partially responsible for the harms and damages...
She wants me, a taxpayer, to give her money because of her own stupidity.  It's someone else's responsibility to keep her from doing something that any 4 year old, not to mention a university student, knows to be unsafe?  To steal from Hall & Oates, "I can't go for that, no can do."

Because I'm such a bright and cheerful guy, one who always looks on the bright side of things, I can of course see a silver lining.  If her suit survives, goes to trial, and she actually wins, perhaps our universities will be less likely in the future to tolerate these kinds of activities.

Stupid should hurt.  I wonder if this is the first time in her life Flores is learning that lesson.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Double Entendre

So this pervert got a few thousand of his fellow Utahans to agree that the plural of the new school mascot, the Phoenix, sounds too much like male genitalia.  The school's spokesman didn't help matters with his double entendre:
Fraughton then proposed that students, who chose a phoenix as their mascot, be allowed to vote a second time so the Davis County School District doesn’t “bear the responsibility of our children being bullied.”

Chris Williams, a rep for the school district told Fox 13 Now, "We don’t see anything about the plural version of phoenix having anything to do what’s going to be happening at the school or on the football field."

"We think students are going to rise to the occasion," Williams said. 

A Reasonably Pleasant Day--With Yahtzee!

I didn't have a prep period today--three 2-hr classes!

Usually such days are murder.  No one, not even a math teacher, likes being in a math class for 2 solid hours.  But today I was able to take a little of the edge off.

I taught some new material.  We took a brief recess.  And then I taught my students to play Yahtzee.

Huh?  Wha?  You want to know where Yahtzee is in the Common Core math standards?  I'll admit that it's not explicitly called out, but there are plenty of standards relating to probability.  And that's how I used Yahtzee.

It used to be fairly common on probability tests to ask questions related to the probability of drawing such-and-such a card from a deck, or the probability of getting this card followed by that card if you don't replace the first card, etc.  The problem is that so many of today's young people don't know what constitutes a deck of cards!  What used to be common knowledge isn't so common anymore.  So rather than continue to ask questions about a deck of cards, I taught my students how to play Yahtzee and in the process of doing so, asked probability questions. 

For example, I might have rolled 2 3's, 2 4's, and a 5 on my first roll.  What's the probability of getting a full house?  If I roll a 2-2-3-4-5 on the first roll, what's the probability of getting a large straight?  (BTW, both of those answers are the same.)  If I get a 1-2-3-4-6 on the first roll, what's the probability of getting a large straight?

I admit that a large reason for playing this was for fun, and make no mistake, there was lots of hooting and hollering and flexing when great things happened!  Still, though, I was able to make the lesson almost as much about math as it was about having fun. 

It was much more enjoyable, and much easier, to teach Yahtzee than to teach any number of card games (along with their associated probabilities).  And when I ask questions about probabilities in Yahtzee on the test, I won't have to explain what I mean by "large straight" or "full house", etc.

Several of my students said they were going to download Yahtzee onto their phones :-)

Monday, November 13, 2017

Mote, Meet Beam.

The Wisconsin College Democrats Vice Chair lashed out against “white men” last week, tweeting that she feels emphatic hatred toward the demographic.

According to the images obtained by Campus Reform, Sarah Semrad, a junior at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, allegedly wrote that “I f***ing hate white men” in a tweet on Thursday...

Semrad’s recent tweet is not the only controversial statement made by the Wisconsin College Democrats Vice Chair in recent weeks. Another image of her Twitter profile obtained by Campus Reform appears to show Semrad admitting to “tearing down all the pro life Christian pregnancy resource center fliers” that were posted on campus...

“I believe everyone, regardless of race, age, religion, or gender deserves the equal opportunity to [achieve] anything they put their mind to,” she adds, noting that she also believes in strong labor unions and the right of individuals to “marry the person they love.”  link
If you don't know the titular reference, see Matthew 7:3 in the King James Version of the New Testament.

Update, 11/16/17She's resigned.
A Wisconsin College Democrats leader -- who had interned on Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign -- resigned Tuesday after tweeting “I f---ing hate white men.”

Sarah Semrad, a student at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse resigned from her state-wide College Democrat leadership position, Campus Reform reported.

How's That Global Warming Coming Along?

NASA’s top climate expert, James Hansen, predicted that by 2018 the Arctic would be ice-free, and Lower Manhattan would be underwater. Democrats call him a “climate prophet.” Only six weeks left to go!
Link is here.

Funding? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Funding!

Here’s how we fund college classes in California:
Weeks after Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 19, which waives fees for first-time freshmen at California community colleges, officials in the Los Rios Community College District are wondering where the money will come to pay for the tuition breaks…

Implementation of the program is still contingent, however, on securing funds – one of the reasons that Gov. Brown’s own Department of Finance opposed AB 19.

In its August analysis of AB 19, the finance department said the bill “creates significant new and ongoing Proposition 98 General Fund costs that are not included in the Governor's Budget plan.” The Department estimated that this strain, coupled with the loss of student fee revenues, could reduce funding for community college districts by anywhere from $30 to $50 million.

Proponents are hopeful that the governor’s 2018-19 budget will include funding to cover the cost.

Los Rios supported the bill, but spokesman Gabe Ross recently expressed concern that money could wind up being diverted from the district’s general operating funds. (italics mine—Darren)
Unicorn farts. That's how we'll pay for it.  Unicorn farts and fairy dust.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Report: IRS Investigating the NEA

No details yet, but the report is here.  The linked source is credible to me, I obviously cannot evaluate his unnamed sources.

The Myth of Teacher Losses

“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”
― Winston S. Churchill

That thought came to mind as I read that teachers don't leave the profession any more so than in any other profession, despite the breathless paranoia surrounding the potential teacher shortage that has been "just around the corner" since I started teaching 20 years ago:
Teacher Turnover Is High — Except When Compared With Other Professions. “They came on in the same old way,” the Duke of Wellington said of the French attacks at Waterloo, “and we saw them off in the same old way.”

I was reminded of this line after reading yet another report by the Learning Policy Institute to frighten us into thinking the U.S. has high teacher turnover rates. Their foray into this territory last year was rebuffed by the elementary methods of a) looking at the numbers; and b) comparing them with those of all other professions. Lo and behold, public education employees quit their jobs at a lower rate than virtually any other profession in the United States.
Read the whole thing.

Good Suggestions For Everyone, Not Just Millenials

The law professor author of this piece laments that he has to "uneducate" his current students from the illiberal illogic our society and their education has given them and teach them to use their brains and not their feelz:
First, except when describing an ideology, you are not to use a word that ends in “ism.” Communism, socialism, Nazism, and capitalism are established concepts in history and the social sciences, and those terms can often be used fruitfully to gain knowledge and promote understanding. “Classism,” “sexism,” “materialism,” “cisgenderism,” and (yes) even racism are generally not used as meaningful or productive terms, at least as you have been taught to use them. Most of the time, they do not promote understanding.

In fact, “isms” prevent you from learning. You have been taught to slap an “ism” on things that you do not understand, or that make you feel uncomfortable, or that make you uncomfortable because you do not understand them. But slapping a label on the box without first opening the box and examining its contents is a form of cheating. Worse, it prevents you from discovering the treasures hidden inside the box. For example, when we discussed the Code of Hammurabi, some of you wanted to slap labels on what you read which enabled you to convince yourself that you had nothing to learn from ancient Babylonians. But when we peeled off the labels and looked carefully inside the box, we discovered several surprising truths. In fact, we discovered that Hammurabi still has a lot to teach us today.

One of the falsehoods that has been stuffed into your brain and pounded into place is that moral knowledge progresses inevitably, such that later generations are morally and intellectually superior to earlier generations, and that the older the source the more morally suspect that source is. There is a term for that. It is called chronological snobbery. Or, to use a term that you might understand more easily, “ageism."

Second, you have been taught to resort to two moral values above all others, diversity and equality. These are important values if properly understood. But the way most of you have been taught to understand them makes you irrational, unreasoning...
So he's made a few rules to amplify his explanations:
1.  The only “ism” I ever want to come out your mouth is a syllogism. If I catch you using an “ism” or its analogous “ist” — racist, classist, etc. — then you will not be permitted to continue speaking until you have first identified which “ism” you are guilty of at that very moment. You are not allowed to fault others for being biased or privileged until you have first identified and examined your own biases and privileges.
2.  If I catch you this semester using the words “fair,” “diversity,” or “equality,” or a variation on those terms, and you do not stop immediately to explain what you mean, you will lose your privilege to express any further opinions in class until you first demonstrate that you understand three things about the view that you are criticizing.
3.  If you ever begin a statement with the words “I feel,” before continuing you must cluck like a chicken or make some other suitable animal sound. 
I wish more people thought this way.

Are We So Desperate For Soldiers?

Combat experience can create mental health issues for soldiers, and we have a hard enough time as an army and a society trying to help those soldiers.  How bad off must recruitment be if we're willing to accept into the army people with a known history of mental illness?
People with a history of “self-mutilation,” bipolar disorder, depression and drug and alcohol abuse can now seek waivers to join the Army under an unannounced policy enacted in August, according to documents obtained by USA TODAY.

The decision to open Army recruiting to those with mental health conditions comes as the service faces the challenging goal of recruiting 80,000 new soldiers through September 2018. To meet last year's goal of 69,000, the Army accepted more recruits who fared poorly on aptitude tests, increased the number of waivers granted for marijuana use and offered hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses.
The fact that democracies won't stomach war for so long, combined with a rapidly improving economy after 8 years of stale growth, no doubt are influences.  Still, there have to be better ways of handling the situation than this.

Update, 11/16/17Not so fast:
USA Today reported the decision to open Army recruiting to those with mental health conditions comes as the service faces the challenging goal of recruiting 80,000 new soldiers through September 2018.

To meet last year's goal of 69,000, the Army accepted more recruits who fared poorly on aptitude tests, increased the number of waivers granted for marijuana use, and offered hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses, the outlet reported.

The Army, however, said it made a "simple, administrative change" to how waiver requests are approved, Seamands said.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Biggest Con

I'm just going to lift this entire post from Instapundit:
FOR THE SAME REASON PONZI SCHEMES WON’T STOP: IT’S AN EFFECTIVE CON THAT ZEROES IN ON HUMAN WEAKNESSES. Why Won’t The Nightmare Dream Of Communism Die? A century of Communism achieved four main results: poverty, oppression, war, and mass death. So why does anybody still think collectivism is ‘idealistic’?
Ponzi schemes capitalize on greed. Communism capitalizes on envy, which is why it’s largely sustained by intellectuals, in whose personalities envy tends to be a particularly powerful component.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

They Need A Workshop For This?

Maybe Harvard student aren't bright enough to figure out sex on their own.
Harvard Just Hosted an Anal Sex Workshop Called 'What What in the Butt'
Harvard University Offers ‘What What In The Butt: Anal Sex 101’
Best and brightest my...well, you get the point.  But I won't say where.

I guess anal sex jokes are easy--kinda like people who...oh, never mind.  :-)

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Keyboards, Then and Now

I heard this song from Booker T and the MG's this weekend:

Listen to the sound of the keyboard.  Doesn't it sound a lot like the keyboard in this Doors classic, Light My Fire?

To me they share a very distinct sound.  Now compare that sound to the (stereotypical) keyboard sound of this 80's song, Who's Zoomin' Who:

A very different kind of keyboard!

A General Grant Moment

When some of President Lincoln’s people trashed General Grant as a drunk, Lincoln said, “Find out what he’s drinking, and send some to my other generals.”

Find out what Sac City’s union is drinking, and send some to the union that(supposedly)negotiates my contract.
The Sacramento City Unified School District and its teachers union reached an agreement Monday on a new contract that gives teachers up to an 11 percent raise over the three-year deal and averts a strike for the 43,000-student district.

The deal was finalized after being brokered over the weekend by Mayor Darrell Steinberg, school district Superintendent Jorge Aguilar and the Sacramento City Teachers Association. The parties met for hours on both Saturday and Sunday, hammering out the details at the mayor’s Greenhaven home over soda and kettle corn, according to Steinberg.

“This brings relief from some very anxious moments for many, many parents and students,” Aguilar said.

The agreement, announced at City Hall, ended more than a year of bitter contract negotiations and rhetoric between the district and the teachers union. The deal came just two days before the union’s 2,800 members planned to strike.
Our union cheered itself for securing a 2% raise last year.

Read more here:

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Uncle Joe Stalin and Free Speech

"It’s not how people vote that counts, but who counts the votes."

That's one of many versions of a quote that's attributed to Joseph Stalin.  Let's extend that thought a little bit:  "What matters is not the free speech you have, it’s the free speech those in charge say you have."

What's the point here?  This:
Officials behind the University of Arkansas’ proposed tenure policy understood that the new revisions would be “controversial” and greatly limit free speech of faculty, new documents show.

The policy, which has been criticized for weakening tenure by making it possible to fire professors for “unwillingness to work productively with colleagues,” also includes a provision that drastically limits the scope of faculty free expression...

Although seemingly subtle, the changes to the provision have an enormous effect on free expression of tenured professors by limiting the protected speech to two specific categories, Silverstein maintained.

“The statement also shows that the attorneys recognize precisely why their changes are controversial,” the professor argued, “because the proposal in fact critically limits the scope of academic freedom, one of the core tenets that define universities as places of higher education.”
Somehow I don't believe that free speech limitations would apply to left-leaning professors as much as to right-leaning professors.  Just sayin'.

Wouldn't matter if it were the other way around.  Free speech is too important to give up, especially to petty bureaucrats and school administrators.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Two Different Ways of Looking At The Situation

Shafting the blue states, or unshafting the red states?
That’s what Kevin Drum says at Mother Jones. Leftists are up in arms at the idea of taking away the federal tax deduction for state and local taxes and capping the home interest deduction at $500,000. Drum points out that this will hurt residents of blue states:
The Republican tax plan caps the mortgage interest deduction at $500,000. The Washington Post today has a lovely chart showing which states this hits most heavily...
Drum sees this only in political terms:
Has there ever been a tax proposal in recent history so obviously aimed at punishing voters of a particular political party? I sure don’t remember one.
But he is wrong in asserting that the Republican plan “screws” Democratic voters. Rather, current tax law is unfair to people who live in red, low-tax states. Why should they subsidize the excessive taxes that are imposed by the governments of blue states? Why should residents of South Dakota underwrite California’s state and local tax burden? The GOP plan doesn’t create unfairness, it corrects unfairness.
Lies, damned lies, and statistics :)

H.L. Mencken is credited with having said, "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." Tax-loving people shouldn't object to paying more taxes.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Journalists on the Shooting In Texas Earlier Today

I'm not interested in participating in the pro- vs anti-firearm debate that is no doubt flourishing in the wake of today's church shooting in Texas.  I will merely point out that as an airman with a dishonorable discharge, it was already illegal for the shooter to own a firearm.  A friend of mine texted me, "I'd bet the shooter was a leftist who hates Christians.  As soon as his Bernie shrine gets revealed we won't hear about this again from media."  My friend, who voted for Barack Obama twice and then Donald Trump, is probably correct.

My purpose in writing this post was to show what I considered an interesting screenshot I took today of a British newspaper's reporting about the shooting:
Perhaps a zealous reporter is responsible for the obvious inconsistency shown.  Have you found it?
"At least 27 people were shot..."
"Victims were transported to  a local hospital and it's unclear if any are deceased"
"At least 27 people have been killed..."

As they say, don't believe anything you hear in the first 24 hours of reporting on a tragedy.  Let the facts get sifted through for a bit, then learn what really happened.

Update, 11/6/17:  The shooter received a bad conduct discharge, not a dishonorable discharge.  This by itself need not have limited his right to own a firearm.  I violated my own rule of not paying attention to information within the first 24 hours of reporting on a tragedy!

On the other hand, however, the shooter had been convicted of beating his wife and stepchild, and the air force failed to report this to the FBI.  Such a domestic violence conviction, if reported, would have legally prevented the shooter from buying firearms.


Yesterday's big day of action for Antifa was more like a whisper than a bang.  Instead of thousands becoming millions, dozens became hundreds--across the country:
Perhaps even the most anti-Trump resisters balk at the thought of marching under a communist flag with masked commies and anarchists.

Sure, the communist front group was able to muster dozens or even hundreds of protesters in some of the locations on its list of 20 deep blue cities, but we were promised a sea of humanity --"thousands becoming hundreds of thousands, and then millions" -- in opposition to the "hate and bigotry of the Trump/Pence fascist regime."

What we got were the usual marching and chanting gaggles of far-left malcontents and crackpots, squawking at times through bullhorns and trying very hard to be on their best behavior -- because organizers promised "peaceful protests."

There were a few confrontations with Trump supporters and instances of violence, but much fewer than expected. Only a few people were arrested -- in L.A. and NYC -- where the biggest crowds were. And as is always the case with left-wing protests, there was plenty of rough language and a need for "language warnings" in media posts about the protests that came with videos. (I don't remember such a need when the tea party was in full swing -- although there was perhaps a language warning needed for the occasional reporters who couldn't resist calling the conservative protesters "teabaggers.")
I know there are plenty of people in the country who don't like President Trump, and it's heartening to know that the vast majority of them aren't so insane as to support communism over him. Either that, or perhaps they've figured out that he's not the devil incarnate, and is just a president with whom they disagree. Perhaps they see that eventually, the pendulum will eventually swing back their way [in about 7 years :-) ] and the sun will continue to rise every day until then.

I genuinely enjoyed these comments from the link above:
A Socialist is a Communist is a Fascist is a Nazi. There is no moral difference between the four, and what differences exist are not crucial.
100% correct.
Dems traded their white hoods and masks for black hoodies and ski masks....nothing much has changed in their oppression and terrorism of other political parties
Not all Dems do this--so few showed up to the rallies--but I understand the sentiment.

It's Ok To Be White

Yes, it's ok to be white, but when reminded of that at Harvard, some students (and administrators) reacted less than well:
More than a dozen handmade stickers reading “It’s okay to be white” surfaced around Harvard Square Wednesday, prompting Cambridge officials to remove them and a Harvard Law School Dean to denounce the signs as “provocations intended to divide us.”

The stickers appeared to be part of a campaign started on the forum website 4chan, which called upon followers to put up posters with the message in their area on Halloween night. The author of the original post on the site wrote that they hoped the “credibility of far left campuses and media gets nuked” as a result of the incident, adding that they could help achieve a “massive victory for the right in the culture war.”
From the comments here:
It’s brilliant. You simply can’t oppose the message without appearing as a complete racist.

These idiot “educators” are trying to claim they are against division but they are literally saying it’s not OK to be white.

A Refresher On What's Wrong With Common Core

I was searching my old posts for one I'd written about the Gates Foundation's failure in the small schools movement, and thus I was looking through posts that contain the word "Gates".  I came across this "Some Of What's Wrong With Common Core" post from 3 1/2 years ago, and link to it here so you can read it again.  The criticisms are still as fresh today as they were then.

Updatethe 100-year-old lady in this video is right.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

The "Mindfulness" Fad

Fads come and go, and one that is lately taking a lot of money from one group of people and transferring it to another group of people is "mindfulness":
Mindfulness involves a conscious focus on and awareness of your present state of mind and surroundings, without judgment or reaction. Mindfulness is rooted in Buddhism and was developed in the 1970’s as a therapeutic intervention for stress in adults by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Over the past several decades, the practice of mindfulness has evolved into a booming billion dollar industry, with growing claims that mindfulness is a panacea for host of maladies including stress, depression, failures of attention, eating disorders, substance abuse, weight gain, and pain.
Separating people from their money is a time-honored practice; in fact, in our language we have several phrases related to doing so, including "shark oil salesman".  When the supposed treatment lives up to the Hippocratic Oath of doing no harm, "caveat emptor" is the rule of the day.  I'm not saying it's ok to defraud people, I'm saying that at least no physical harm is done. 

But what if physical harm is done?
In an effort to address these limitations, Catherine Johnson, Christine Burke, Sally Brickman, and Tracey Wade conducted a large-scale study including a randomized control group to assess the benefits of mindfulness training in teens.

They evaluated the efficacy of mindfulness training in 308 middle and high school students (average age 13.6 yrs) from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. The students were enrolled in 17 different classes across 5 different schools. Students opted in to the study, and were randomly assigned to the control group or the mindfulness training group. Students in the control group received no mindfulness training but instead participated in community projects or received lessons in pastoral care. Students in the mindfulness group completed 8 weeks of training in the .b (“Dot be”) Mindfulness in Schools curriculum, which is based on the “gold standard” Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) intervention for adults. The training sessions varied in length from 35 to 60 min and were administered once a week. All mindfulness training was conducted by the same certified instructor. Beyond the weekly training sessions, teens in the mindfulness group were encouraged to practice mindfulness techniques at home and were given manuals to assist in this practice.

All participants were assessed at three different time points: a baseline taken one week before the intervention, a post-test measure taken a week after the sessions were over, and a follow-up assessment administered about 3 months later. The study included measures of anxiety and depression, weight and shape concerns, well-being, emotional dysregulation, self-compassion, and mindfulness. Participants were also asked to report their compliance with home practice, and to provide an evaluation of the intervention. Attrition rates were low (just 16 percent at follow up) and comparable for both groups.

Despite the numerous outcome measures employed in the study, there was no evidence of any benefit for the mindfulness group at either the immediate post-test or the follow up. In fact, anxiety was higher at the follow up for males in the mindfulness group relative to males in the control group. The same was true for participants with low baseline depression and low baseline weight concerns; mindfulness training led to an increase in anxiety in these individuals over time.

The careful design and implementation of this study addressed a number of shortcomings from previous studies, as the authors used a large and diverse multi-site sample, a randomized control group, an age-appropriate mindfulness curriculum, a certified trainer, and a plethora of outcome measures. The fact that this carefully-controlled investigation showed no benefits of mindfulness for any measure, and furthermore indicated an adverse effect for some participants, indicates that mindfulness training is not a universal solution for addressing anxiety or depression in teens, nor does it qualify as a replacement for more traditional psychotherapy or psychopharmacology, at least not as implemented in this school-based paradigm.
I know it's shocking to consider that I might be getting cynical in my old age,  but I don't think "mindfulness" is going away any time soon.  It's got too much going for it--a Far Eastern origin, a lack of "Big Pharma", cures for all the big issues of the day, and it just "makes sense".  The problem is that those who support mindfulness practice in teenagers forget the axiom attributed to Sherlock Holmes, "When the facts contradict your expectations, believe the facts."  Mindfulness belongs in schools about as much as EST does.

Friday, November 03, 2017


The school at which I teach is built in the ranch style, like so many houses in California.  We have a dozen buildings or more, spread out over quite a large area.  We have three staff lounges on campus--one at the north end of campus, one in the center near the main office, and one at the south end.

In the lounge I've frequented over the past 14+ years, we have a good group.  Our lounge is a friendly, upbeat place.  Today we had a "try mine", a potluck.  What a feast!

No matter what I bring, it usually doesn't go over well.  It's not that people don't like whatever I bring, it's that mine gets drowned by the awesomeness of what everyone else brings.

This morning I loaded up what I'd need and got to school early.  In the staff lounge I sliced and cut into chunks a dozen or so apples.  Apples and cinnamon, that's all I put in the crock pot.  I took the crock pot to my classroom, plugged it in, and turned it on high.  After the apples got soft and mushy, I started stirring and mashing the apples a couple times per period.  Students would walk into class and remark how good the room smelled--and how could it not smell awesome?  Apples and cinnamon permeated the air!

My applesauce was a hit in the lounge today.  In fact, this was the first time I can recall that the food I brought was completely eaten, I got to bring a clean crock pot home.

Add that to the fact that I finished grading some tests and entering the grades into the computer, and I'll call it a good day.

Thursday, November 02, 2017


In this 2009 post on inflation I wrote, "...any time you're dealing with that many zeroes on a note, there are economic problems".  Today, Instapundit echoes those sentiments:
LATE-STAGE SOCIALISM: New 100,000-Bolivar Note Worth $2.42 (Now) Coming to Venezuela.

The one thing centrally planned economies never run short of is zeros.

Sports and Academics

Joanne has a great post today on why sports and academics are treated so differently by students and parents in our society.  You'll want to read the whole thing, but here is my favorite part:
Robert Pondiscio, whose daughter was a competitive athlete, defends sports as the last remaining place where children are held accountable for their performance.
If you are of a certain age, it’s a fair bet that your parents held you—and you alone—accountable for your grades in school. Over the past several decades, we have eroded student accountability, assigning it as a matter of public policy to schools and teachers.
In competitive sports, Pondiscio writes, “You show up, work hard and perform, or else you sit.”
In school, we create the illusion of success when it’s not entirely warranted, particularly when it serves adult interests to be less than candid with kids about where they actually stand (emphasis mine--Darren).  The stopwatch and the scoreboard are the most honest report cards some kids will ever get.
My belief: it's easier to believe that your kid can excel athletically than academically. It's easier, and more fun for everyone, to push the athletics. If academics is hard, it's the teacher's fault.  That view is echoed in one of the comments on the above post:
Sports and the fine/performing arts are honest and the academic side of school is not. Sports and the arts know, and freely acknowledge, that people differ widely in talent and motivation; effort, self-control, persistence, the ability to delay gratification etc. Plenty of talented people fail to reach the level their talent could reach, because they are unwilling to put in the effort, and no amount of effort can reach beyond the level of their talent. Schools do the opposite and pretend that neither academic talent (IQ, g) nor intrinsic motivation matters. Staff can improve motivation, to a point, in those willing to accept instruction, but the idea that “all” can reach a meaningful academic proficiency level beyond the basic is a fantasy.
Yeah, what she said.