Wednesday, July 25, 2018

After 3 Days At Sea...

Mostly what I have available to me in the short time before we leave port is video--not sure I even took a still picture of "the Rock" itself, as there's so much going on!  I put a picture or two on Instagram....

Here, at least, is a zoomed-in picture of my ship from somewhere up on the Rock...

Travel day tomorrow, then an island stop.

What a Neat Place!

Here for several hours!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Friday, July 20, 2018

A Few Pictures

Slept in and didn't try to crowd 100 things into today, and still had a great time.  Took a 2nd canal cruise today and still saw new things.  Here are a few pictures:

 If it says freedom, I'm there!  This is in the garden behind the Rijksmuseum.

 How many bridges can you see?

 No doubt I'm in Amsterdam.

The narrowest house in Amsterdam, only 2.5 meters wide at the bottom.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

A Day of Extras

Before I talk about today's activities, let me confirm a few stereotypes about Amsterdam and the Dutch.  Yes, they're very tall--I've encountered plenty of women at least as tall as I am, for example.  Yes, in general they're very attractive.  And yes, everywhere you go you will encounter the smell of colitas rising up through the air; I'm probably going to have a contact high for 4 days after I leave Amsterdam.

Now that that's out of the way, let's talk about today.

We took a half-day excursion that took us to the windmills at Zaanse Schans, the fishing village of Volendam, and the wooden shoe factory at Marken.  Zaanse Schans strikes me as the Colonial Williamsburg of the Netherlands; it was very picturesque and interesting but nothing extra happened there.

Our next stop was Volendam, where, among other things, we learned how Dutch cheese is made (the town of Edam is right down the road, and Gouda is a little further away).  Our cheese instructor demonstrated a cheese cutting tool, and after cutting a few slices and giving it away to a few in our tour I noticed that I was really hungry.  So when she asked who would like to help demonstrate a second tool, I jumped at the opportunity and volunteered.  She called me up, asked me to cup my hands, and then she demonstrated a hand-held cheese grater.  For each type of cheese she mentioned, she scraped across a wedge of gouda and added more grated cheese to my hands.  When she was done I had about a ton of cheese in my hands, and that certainly took the edge off my hunger!

After dinner we went to a bakery and learned how stroopwafels are made.  Our demonstrator called up another man to help her, and she walked him through the process of making one.  The last step in the process is to use a cookie cutter-type device to make the stroopwafels perfectly round, but that leaves some excess from around the edges.  When she asked who would like to try a taste, I was adamant that I would.  She joked that I looked so hungry so she gave me the entire excess!  Then, of course, she cut up the actual stroopwafel and passed out pieces for others in the group to try.

By this time I was getting a reputation amongst our group as the guy who gets everything!  Hey, you can't get something if you don't ask for it, right?

It was time to board a boat and go out to Marken to see the wooden shoes made.  Long story short, I was the last person accepted onto the boat.  The captain asked if I'd like to join him in the wheelhouse.  Imagine the look on everyone's faces, sitting in their sets up the upper deck of the boat, as I walked by all of them with the captain, entered the wheelhouse, and closed the door behind me!  I took video of our departure from Volendam and our docking in Marken, and I took it from within the wheelhouse itself!  He even let me drive the boat for a bit!

When we got to the wooden shoe factory, I made a point of telling our group that I would not volunteer to help make any wooden shoes!  Laughs all around, and I made sure to sit in the back so that I wouldn't be volunteered!  Our shoe maker didn't ask for any volunteers for assistance.

My day started well before 5 this morning (still not used to the time zone), as my first picture today is timestamped 5:13 am.  It's now 11:04.  I'm ready for some beauty sleep.

Update, 7/20/18:
 Zaanse Schans

A street in Volendam


Cheese being grated into my hands

Been a long time since anyone called me Captain Miller, but there you go.

A demonstration in the wooden shoe factory

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

California Time

I haven't found a setting that will set my blog posts to "local time", I have to choose a time zone.  Since most of my life is in the Pacific Time Zone, that's where I'll leave the blog.  Blog time = Pacific Time.

Which makes for some fun posting, sometimes.  Because right now it's 2:42 am on Thursday, making it dinner time back home!  I could manually change the blog to Greenwich+1, or whatever the setting is, but whatever.

The blog stays on California Time.  Because it seems I'm still on California time!

Made It!

Left San Francisco on time, but damage to the cargo bay made us over an hour late out of Toronto.  But the 787!  It's everything good you've heard about it, and then some!  Just one point, it's so nice to be able to look out the window without having to hunch over, it's that tall.  I was very impressed.  Growing up as I did in the 70s and 80s, and doing some flying in those decades, it still amazes me that a 2-engine aircraft can fly from North America to continental Europe.

We eventually made our way to the hotel, and after a change of clothes:

Monday, July 16, 2018

Blogging Will Be Lighter Than Usual For Awhile

Tomorrow, rather early, I'm off on my last trip of the summer, returning home only a few days before I have to go back to work.  But what a summer!  San Juan Island, the Yucatan, and now--I don't want to tell you just yet!  (Gotta give you a reason to come back here and check!)  I've scheduled a few posts to pop up periodically for the next many days, just to let you know where I anticipate being!  I will say that part of this trip is a cruise, and there will be at least one 3-day stint out in the water with no ports, which means no wifi at all, and thus no posting.  And when I get to the ports I'll probably want to explore these places I've never been before!  So again, blogging will be light.

However, the first couple days of the trip, and the last couple days, will be spent in large cities, and from there I'll be able to post pictures and updates.  In fact, I look forward to doing so!

So, a hint.  Tomorrow I leave on Air Canada.  Why Air Canada, and why a connection in Canada?   Because Air Canada flies Boeing 787's on the route from Canada to my first destination, and I want to fly on that aircraft!  (I hope they don't swap aircraft on me.)  Given the time zone changes and flight times, I probably won't post at all tomorrow.

Check back Wednesday!

(P.S.  Yes, my house is in good hands!)


Words and their definitions are important:
First of all, “privilege” is a misnomer. Privilege has to do with special treatment. If one group faces discrimination, it does not necessarily mean another receives a particular privilege. If Gingers get picked on, it doesn’t mean the rest of us enjoy non-gingered privilege. What we are talking about are relative advantages, which are indeed real. Overuse of the word “privilege” turns people off; they are then less likely to stop and listen.

Opponents of privilege discussions must recognize, generally speaking, that life is easier in this country if you are born white, male and heterosexual. Denying this is an over-reaction. We must acknowledge that not everyone begins life with the same resources and benefits. Many face unfair hardships along the way – some are linked to race, gender, and religion.

Admitting that certain folks have relative advantages over others, however, does not make you a Lefty. I can admit the realities of my own unearned advantages without self-flagellating, liberal, white guilt.

Liberals who talk the most about “privilege,” however, need to recognize that they do not go far enough. There are numerous potential advantages that affect one’s chances in life. It is not just race and gender identity. Consider the enormous and disparate impact of wealth, attractiveness and intelligence. A man’s height is statistically significant when considering his potential for professional success; a person’s posture and weight also play a role.

And consider one of the most powerful unearned “privileges” that only some children enjoy: a two-parent home.
If liberals weren't trying to bludgeon their political opponents into silence, they'd consider these facts. 

We'd all be better off if, instead of creating false "unearned privileges" in order to merely reverse the perceived power structure, liberals would work to help those they deem disadvantaged to overcome their disadvantages.  It seems to me that, given their language and actions, liberals would prefer a Harrison Bergeron world to one in which disadvantages were overcome.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Should Students Who Don't Attend High School Graduate From High School?

The mayor of DC is looking in the right direction:
The mayor of Washington, D.C., explained why she used her first veto to reject a bill that would have allowed chronically absent students from graduating (sic) on Thursday.

Democrat Mayor Muriel Bowser shot down an emergency bill passed almost unanimously by the D.C. Council in June, according to The Washington Post. The bill would have permitted students with more than 30 absences in a class to graduate or advance to the next grade...

“Ultimately, we believe that mastering the content through one of those alternatives (summer school, credit recovery or competency-based courses) will set students up for long-term success in college or career, and this legislation undercuts individualized graduation plans created for each student,” the mayor explained.

Free Universities

This article includes our service academies, which, while technically "free", aren't truly comparable to civilian universities.  In fact, in my day, we used to say that "West Point is a $180,000 education shoved up your *** a nickel at a time."  The rest of the schools listed, though, are tuition-free universities, although there are some catches.

The schools are:

Berea College
This small school in Kentucky has a singular mission: to attract underprivileged students committed to working hard.
College of the Ozarks
Dubbed Hard Work U, this is one of the hardest Midwestern schools to get in to, with an 8 percent acceptance rate.
Deep Springs College
This incredibly small all-male liberal arts college is in California's remote High Desert. Although obtaining a spot is highly competitive, every student is awarded a scholarship that covers tuition and room and board.
Webb Institute
Founded by the shipbuilder William Webb, this little engineering college in New York is tailor made for those who want to pursue a very specific career...There is only one academic major and one degree offered at this institution but as the school says, "if you can design a ship, you can design anything."

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Toxic Masculinity Femininity

It's absurd, and not very healthy, to believe that all men are evil. It's absurd, and not very healthy, to believe that all white people are evil. It's absurd, and not very healthy, to believe that a physical characteristic defines people as evil.

But if we're to be bombarded with talk of so-called toxic masculinity, we should also address its female counterpart, toxic femininity:
Yes, toxic masculinity exists. But the use of the term has been weaponized. It is being hurled without care at every man. When it emerged, its use seemed merely imprecise—in most groups of people, there’s some guy waiting for an opportunity to fondle a woman’s ass without her consent, put his hand where he shouldn’t, right? That’s who was being outed as toxic. Those men—and far, far worse—do exist. Obviously. But wait—does every human assemblage contain such men? It does not. This term, toxic masculinity, is being wielded indiscriminately, and with force. We are not talking imprecision now, we are talking thoroughgoing inaccuracy.

Most men are not toxic. Their maleness does not make them toxic, any more than one’s ‘whiteness’ makes one racist. Assume for the moment that we could agree on terms: Is maleness more highly correlated with toxic masculinity than is femaleness? Yes. Ipso facto—the term is about maleness, so men will display more of it than will women. The logical leap is then concluding that all men are toxic. The very communities where ‘toxic masculinity’ is being discussed most are the communities where the men are, in my experience, compassionate, egalitarian, and not at all toxic.

Calling good men toxic does everyone a deep disservice. Everyone except those who seek empowerment through victim narratives.

For the record: I am not suggesting that actual victims do not exist, nor that they do not deserve full emotional, physical, legal, medical, and other support. I also do not want to minimize the fact that most women, perhaps even all, have experienced unpleasantness from a subset of men. But not all women are victims. And even among those women who have truly suffered at the hands of men, many—most, I would hazard to guess—do not want their status in the world to be ‘victim.’

All of which leads us directly to a topic not much discussed: toxic femininity.

Sex and gender roles have been formed over hundreds of thousands of years in human evolution, indeed, over hundreds of millions of years in our animal lineage. Aspects of those roles are in rapid flux, but ancient truths still exist. Historical appetites and desires persist. Straight men will look at beautiful women, especially if those women are a) young and hot and b) actively displaying. Display invites attention.

Hotness-amplifying femininity puts on a full display, advertising fertility and urgent sexuality. It invites male attention by, for instance, revealing flesh, or by painting on signals of sexual receptivity. This, I would argue, is inviting trouble. No, I did not just say that she was asking for it. I did, however, just say that she was displaying herself, and of course she was going to get looked at.

The amplification of hotness is not, in and of itself, toxic, although personally, I don’t respect it, and never have. Hotness fades, wisdom grows— wise young women will invest accordingly. Femininity becomes toxic when it cries foul, chastising men for responding to a provocative display.

Where we set our boundaries is a question about which reasonable people might disagree, but two bright-lines are widely agreed upon: Every woman has the right not to be touched if she does not wish to be; and coercive quid pro quo, in which sexual favors are demanded for the possibility of career advancement, is unacceptable. But when women doll themselves up in clothes that highlight sexually-selected anatomy, and put on make-up that hints at impending orgasm, it is toxic—yes, toxic—to demand that men do not look, do not approach, do not query.

Young women have vast sexual power. Everyone who is being honest with themselves knows this: Women in their sexual prime who are anywhere near the beauty-norms for their culture have a kind of power that nobody else has. They are also all but certain to lack the wisdom to manage it. Toxic femininity is an abuse of that power, in which hotness is maximized, and victim status is then claimed when straight men don’t treat them as peers.

Creating hunger in men by actively inviting the male gaze, then demanding that men have no such hunger—that is toxic femininity. Subjugating men, emasculating them when they display strength—physical, intellectual, or other—that is toxic femininity. Insisting that men, simply by virtue of being men, are toxic, and then acting surprised as relationships between men and women become more strained—that is toxic femininity. It is a game, the benefits of which go to a few while the costs are shared by all of us.
That is a rather large excerpt, but it contains just a glimpse of the totality of the article.  How about this observation, near the end?
The movement that has popularized the term ‘toxic masculinity’ shares tools and conclusions with those who see signs of ‘white supremacy’ everywhere they look. Intersectionalists have in common with one another a particular rhetorical trick: Any claim made by a member of an historically oppressed group is unquestionably true. Questioning claims is, itself, an act of oppression.

This opens the door for anyone who is willing to lie to obtain power. If you cannot question claims, any claim can be made.
I found intellectual value in this article and recommend you read the whole thing.  I did, including the blurb about the author--who happens to be a former professor at The Evergreen State College, as leftie a school as can exist!  Perhaps the views expressed in the above article are an indication why she's a former professor there :-)

In general, men are physically stronger than women.  And men who use their physical strength to harm women--or anyone for that matter--are cretins.  Their behavior is abhorrent, and they deserve punishment.  But is only physical harm to be defined as evil?

What about emotional blackmail in relationships?  Can you come up with a male counterpart to these two common sayings?
Happy wife, happy life.
If momma ain't happy, ain't no one happy.
Is there (more than) a kernel of truth to those sayings?  And if there is, do they indicate the foundations of a healthy relationship?  I've heard women happily bandy these sayings around, reveling in the power they convey.  I've never heard a man brag about slapping his wife around.

Hopefully, neither physical nor emotional abuse is a defining factor of masculinity or femininity.  Perhaps, instead of focusing on the sex of the perpetrator, we should focus on the behavior and the individual who commits that behavior.

That is, if we truly want to live in a world of equals instead of victimhood.

Update:  I've just finished reading all the comments at the above link.  Get past the several about the author's choice of single phrase, and there's much wisdom in them.  Even some of the ones I didn't entirely agree with gave me some morsel to chew on.  Too many to quote here, although I especially liked the one that pointed out that too much of anything--even fresh water--can be toxic.

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Best News To Come Out Of Iran In Years

I hope this is true:
Chocolate milk boosts exercise recovery more than sports drinks, new research suggests.

The popular milkshake allows athletes to intensely exercise for around six minutes longer than sports drink without tiring, a study found.

The chocolaty drink also improves exercisers' heart rates and lactic-acid levels, which causes cramp, just as well as beverages marketed for post-activity recovery, the research adds.

Study author Dr Amin Salehi-Abargouei from Shahid Sadoughi University in Yazd, Iran, said: 'Chocolate milk contains carbohydrates, proteins, fats, flavonoids, electrolytes, and some vitamins which make this drink a good choice for recovery in athletes.

'The take-home message is that chocolate milk is a low-cost, delicious and palatable option for recovery and provides either similar or superior effects compared with commercial drinks.'
Of course, this news does me no good unless I, you know, exercise.

Some Brits Don't Like President Trump

I don't like their prime minister much, but I wouldn't do what they're doing if she were to come to Sacramento.

This video is pretty funny, though :)

Liberals are so predictable.

Good For Everyone But Socialist-Greenies

It's not the "democratic socialist" countries of Europe that are lowering CO2 emissions:
Once more, science provides bad news for global warming alarmists. U.S. CO2 levels again declined during 2017, despite overall global output again rising. Credit U.S. fracking and the natural gas boom. But don't worry: the hysteria won't end.

The new report, based on U.S. data, shows clearly the U.S. continuing downward trend.

"The U.S. emitted 15.6 metric tons of CO2 per person in 1950," wrote the Daily Caller. "After rising for decades, it's declined in recent years to 15.8 metric tons per person in 2017, the lowest measured levels in 67 years."

That's right. 67 years. Green groups and leftist climate extremists should be exulting. The U.S. has found a way to produce more GDP — making all of us better off — with less energy.

Meanwhile, Europe has imposed massive economy-deadening regulations on its economies in order to reduce CO2 output. How has that worked?

Last year, European output of CO2 rose 1.5%, while U.S. output fell 0.5%. For the record, the disaster predicted when President Trump left the Paris climate agreement and rejected draconian EPA restrictions on power plants hasn't materialized. On the contrary, the U.S. model has been shown to be superior...

The truth, and it's proven by the hard data, is that CO2 made in the USA will not choke the world to death or cause it to massively overheat. And you can thank capitalism for that.

Because capitalism, unlike socialism and its welfare-state kin, hates waste. So it does all it can to be efficient. That means using as little energy as possible to make things. And this predates any of the current CO2 hysteria.
Have you hugged a frakker today? Have you advocated for relatively clean, safe, plentiful nuclear energy today?

Political Theater

If you're going to propose stupid laws, you should be made a fool of:
Democrats who drafted a bill to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] suddenly announced Thursday night that they would vote against it if the legislation went to the floor, after House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Fox News he intended to call their bluff.

"We know Speaker [Paul] Ryan is not serious about passing our 'Establishing a Humane Immigration Enforcement System Act,' so members of Congress, advocacy groups, and impacted communities will not engage in this political stunt," Reps. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Adriano Espaillat of New York told The Hill and other news outlets. "If Speaker Ryan puts our bill on the floor, we plan to vote no and will instead use the opportunity to force an urgently needed and long-overdue conversation on the House floor."

Thursday, July 12, 2018

So-Called Free Riders

Back in the olden days of a couple weeks ago and more, when I was an agency fee payer as opposed to a union member, one of the union arguments in favor of required agency fees was that I should pay so as not to be a "free rider".  I always countered that I was a "forced rider", and neither side in the debate changed its opinion.  This article discusses the "four key points" made in the Janus decision, and here's the section about so-called free riders:
The Problem of Free Riders

Next, Alito turned to the problem of free riders, who shirk paying dues but can still count on unions to bargain for them and represent them in grievance hearings. Without being able to compel some form of payment, union backers say, bargaining units will be unwilling or unable to advance nonmembers’ interests — and it would be unfair to ask them to.

Alito rejected that reasoning, arguing that the representation of all workers in a given shop is the responsibility assumed by a union when its members vote it into existence.

Unions are obliged to fulfill that responsibility whether or not they are rewarded for it by nonmembers like plaintiff Mark Janus, he wrote, and the privileges they gain from being the sole designated force arguing on behalf of labor — most importantly, a seat at the table in negotiations with management — “greatly outweigh any extra burden imposed by the duty of providing fair representation for nonmembers.”

Interestingly, Alito did leave open the possibility of a kind of fee-for-service model, with unions imposing a specific charge on nonmembers for specific duties, like representing them in grievance hearings.

“Individual nonmembers could be required to pay for that service or could be denied union representation altogether,” he wrote. “Thus, agency fees cannot be sustained on the ground that unions would otherwise be unwilling to represent nonmembers.
Excellent reasoning.

Those Selfless Union Leaders

The Janus decision is going to take a bite out of union coffers, so what do they do?  Plan for budget cuts, of course.  Oh, and give union leaders a pay raise:
We reported exclusively in May that the National Education Association planned to cut $50 million from its budget, anticipating that it would lose 300,000 members in the wake of a Supreme Court decision ruling agency fees unconstitutional.

NEA’s national headquarters took in $385 million last year, and its proposed two-year budget will affect virtually every aspect of operations. Vacant staff positions will go unfilled, leading to a reduction of 16 percent of spending on compensation. No layoffs are planned.

Spending on travel will be cut 4 percent. Publication costs cut 27 percent. Office expenses cut 15 percent. And so on.

Even the national union’s largest and most important expense, cash grants to its state and local affiliates, will be cut by 9 percent.

But one line item in the budget will actually increase: salaries for the union’s executive officers.

The base salary for NEA president Lily Eskelsen GarcĂ­a will increase to $293,434. NEA’s vice president and secretary-treasurer will each receive $257,954. Additionally, all three executive officers receive cash allowances equal to 40 percent of their base salary — at least $103,182 each — to cover benefits and living expenses.

Thoughts on President Trump

This cartoonist speaks for me:
Over the years, my caricatures of Donald Trump have evolved but not as much as my opinion of him.

When Trump announced he was running for president, I admit that I didn't take this millionaire, hotel magnate, reality TV show celebrity as a serious candidate. I doubted his ability to do the job. So I drew him as a clown. In fact, my cartoons were as critical of him as many of my liberal cartoonist friends.

Then Trump started a war with the news media, tagging major news outlets as “fake news.” Ahem, I'm in the media.

And while Trump promised to pursue conservative policies, this conservative cartoonist doubted his sincerity. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that he was on the left.

In the crowded primary field, Trump got the most attention by being the loudest. His tweets could not be ignored by the media and resulted in Trump dominating news coverage.

I found his personal attacks sophomoric. I mean, calling his opponents "Low-energy Jeb," "Lyin’ Ted," "Little Marco," "Crazy Bernie" and "Crooked Hillary" was not presidential. It was childish, but it worked. He won and they lost...

In 1992, millionaire businessman Ross Perot said that the country needed to be run like a business. He was great at listing the country’s problems, but he didn’t communicate how he would fix them.

Trump identified the problems and fixes. His political promises were simple, repeated often and easily remembered — build the wall, repeal and replace Obamacare, cut taxes, destroy the Islamic State group, renegotiate better trade deals and make America great again.

So how in the world did Trump change my mind? He started keeping those promises.
At one point early in the campaign there were 14 Republicans in the field, and Donald Trump was my 14th choice.  At first I was a Talker For Walker, and when Scott Walker dropped out I became a Cruz Missile.  But when Trump became the nominee, I became a Trump supporter.  A suspicious supporter, yes, but a supporter nonetheless.  Felonia von Pantsuit (aka the Dowager Countess of Chappaqua) was not an option.

He's been on the job a year and a half.  He often doesn't come across as "mature" or "statesmanlike", but let's be honest--where has mature and statesmanlike gotten us in the last several decades?  Unlike those who supported our previous president, I'm not going for form over substance.  President Trump is making good progress and is governing like a conservative should, which both surprises and pleases me.  I may never be able to admit that a president could replace Ronald Reagan in my personal pantheon, but at this rate Donald Trump has the potential to cement himself in a very solid second place.

He's got 6 1/2 more years*  to do that, or not.

* :-)

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Economics Rears Its Ugly Head In That Most Unlikely of Places

The laws of economics hold, even in DC:
DC City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson announced Monday that he along with several other council members would introduce a bill during Tuesday's session to repel Initiative 77, the city's newly-passed $15 an hour minimum wage.

Council members Jack Evans, D-Ward 2, and Brandon Todd, D-Ward 4, announced they would back voiding the initiative, which DC voters approved by a 55 percent to 44 percent margin just last month.

"I don't believe the law that Initiative 77 would put into place is good for our city, good for our restaurant industry or good for our workers," Evans told a local ABC affiliate. Evans and others on the city council as well as Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser have long been critical of the initiative. The DC charter allows the council to overturn voter-passed initiatives by a simple majority vote, which the anti-Initiative 77 side appears to have.
Repealing the initiative makes good economic sense.  Whether or not overturning a bad (but entirely legal) law that the voters want makes for good democratic governance, that's an entirely different story.

Enemies of Free Speech

Surprise, surprise, the American Association of University Professors:
The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is urging its thousands of members to challenge campus free speech legislation, which it calls “problematic” and “unnecessary.”

The AAUP—by far the largest membership group of college professors in the United States, with more than 500 campus chapters—takes aim at the ongoing trend in its new campaign against “unnecessary ‘free-speech’ legislation,” which is part of a larger "One Faculty, One Resistance" effort through which the AAUP hopes to rally opposition to conservative initiatives in higher education.

While bills to support free speech vary by state, the AAUP worries that common features include forbidding the cancellation of controversial speakers and requiring schools to educate students on First Amendment rights during orientation...

Reached by Campus Reform, Joe Cohn of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) praised the AAUP for being one of FIRE’s most valued allies, but did express some concerns about the AAUP’s recent anti-free speech efforts.

A Sure Sign Of Losing

When your side has to harass people in restaurants and at their homes, and shoot people at softball games, it's a clear sign that you're not winning a debate on the merits.

I'm talking to you, liberals.

The Waste of Recycling

When you perform rituals based on faith, that's a religion.  Recycling is a religion:
Californians dutifully load up their recycling bins and feel good about themselves. They’re helping the environment and being good citizens.

But their glow might turn to gloom if they realized that much of the stuff is headed to a landfill.

That’s because there’s no longer a recycling market for a lot of the paper, cardboard, plastic and other junk that’s left curbside...

Moreover, what used to be California’s — and the world’s — largest overseas market for recyclables recently shut its door.

“China doesn’t want our garbage anymore,” says Steve Maviglio, a political strategist who is advising the recycling industry. “It’s time we cleaned up our own mess"...

Eric Potashner, a government relations official for Recology, a curbside hauler that sorts San Francisco Bay Area trash for recycling, says, “There’s no market for a lot of stuff in the blue bin. What we can’t recycle we take to a landfill.”
But what about bottles and cans?
There’s continuing struggle with the popular beverage container recycling program that originated with passage of California’s convoluted so-called Bottle Bill 32 years ago...

But the program itself needs recycling. It’s not generating enough money, in many cases, to make recycling pay. Scrap value has dropped — especially for plastic. When oil prices tumbled, it became cheaper to make plastic bottles from all-new material than recycled matter.

Nearly 1,000 recycling centers have closed in the last two years, about 40% of the total, leaving consumers in many communities with no local place to leave their bottles and redeem their nickels.

California’s once-proud recycling program “is teetering on the edge,” says state Sen. Steve Glazer (D-Orinda). It was hit hard in 2016 when the state cut back on fees it paid to recyclers. The old fees served as recycling incentives.
Fees to recyclers?  Incentives?  You mean, recycling didn't pay for itself, it needed taxpayer input?  Sigh.

You know what's funny?  The people who read this and want to chastise me for being a horrible human because recycling is important, no matter what the facts say, those same people probably buy and drink bottled water way more than I do (which is almost never).

My pet peeve about our recycling program is that if I buy bottles or cans, I have to pay the CRV (California Redemption Value) for them.  Yes, I could save them, find a recycler, and take them to the recycler and redeem my money.  OR I could put them in the blue recycling bin next to my garbage--a bin that, incidentally, I'm required to have, and for which I have to pay extra.  It all just seems like a scam to me.

Maybe the CRV is like the pre-Reformation Catholic practice of selling indulgences.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

School Discipline

A new paper is out that tells us what we teachers already know, that the Obama-era guidance on school discipline was a bad idea:
As the title suggests, the article makes two arguments: (1) The Obama Administration's aggressive application of disparate impact theory to school discipline, is a bad policy; and (2) It goes beyond the scope of the federal government's authority too...

The first half of the article examines both empirical evidence and opinions from teachers indicating that things are getting worse in schools as a result of the push to stop disparate impact in discipline. In addition, it discusses a poll showing that a healthy majority of teachers oppose the Obama Administration's school discipline policy.

Also in the first half, the article examines (and rejects) studies cited by the Department of Education for the proposition that disparate impact in discipline is the result of discrimination rather than differences in actual behavior. Instead it cites to better-designed studies leading to the opposite conclusion.
It remains to be seen if the Trump Administration will rescind those policies.

Monday, July 09, 2018

A Slow, Lingering, Painful Death

I remember the hoopla surrounding the opening of Sunrise Mall back in the early 70s.  Despite being a single story it was a large mall, and it was built out in the middle of fields in unincorporated Sacramento County.  People flocked to it, the area prospered, and today that mall anchors Sunrise Marketplace, a retail district in what is now the 21-year-old City of Citrus Heights.  No more fields are to be had!

About 15 years ago or so, a newer mall was built in the nearby city of Roseville, perhaps 20 minutes away.  At around the same time, the owners of Sunrise performed a $10 million upgrade and modernization.  Sunrise had seen better days, and the upgrade was seen as a way to keep shoppers there instead of at the new mall.  And little Citrus Heights had plans for a Walmart, Costco, and Sam's Club, all of which would compete with Sunrise.

But if that new mall wasn't the death knell for Sunrise, it certainly constituted a few of the early chimes.

When I was in high school, Sunrise was where you went.  It was a hangout, it was air conditioned (no small thing in the Sacramento Valley in the summer), it had Farrell's for ice cream, it had a movie theater.  It was a major transfer point for Regional Transit buses.

Today, not so much.  It still has air conditioning, and the theater is still there--I think the seats are the same ones I sat in over 35 years ago.  Of the 4 large department stores in the mall, two are Macy's, one is JC Penney, and one is a soon-to-be-closed 3-level Sears:

click to enlarge so you can get a better view of the situation
There are a few rows of clothing in there, and the rest is fixtures for sale (up to 80% off!).

Yes, I went on a Monday afternoon, but this is just sad:

There's no one in there.  And it's got to have a 25% vacancy rate; so many of the storefronts are closed up, serving as display windows for the few stores remaining.  Mrs. Field's cookies is closed down.  So is the children's portrait studio.  That's got to be a sign.

You know what else is a sign?  This:
This is what's left of the children's play area, and it's empty.  19 years ago I'd bring my son here to climb on and through the "toys", today there's not a single parent or child here.  There's not even a sleeping senior citizen on any of the couches.

I've got to believe Sunrise's days are numbered.  But what can you do with an empty mall?

There's always talk of building a university of some open land not too far from that new mall.  Could a shopping mall not be repurposed into an indoor university?  At least it's a thought.  I'm just trying to think outside of the box, because it seems to me that Sunrise Mall will soon be a new addition to this web site.

A Pareto Diagram Would Show This Quite Nicely

Back in a previous life, when I was a manufacturing manager, I taught Statistical Process Control (SPC) to my employees, and we charted our processes using SPC.  The idea is that when our charts started going haywire we'd know there was an issue brewing, oftentimes long before our products were out of spec and thus unsalvageable.

One of the charts we'd generate was called a Pareto Diagram, which allowed us to track errors by type and quantity.  The idea behind a Pareto Diagram is to identify your biggest source of errors and fix that problem first.  This gives you the biggest bang for your correcting buck.

We've all read about the large "islands" of plastic garbage circulating in the our oceans.  Perhaps our environmentalist warriors should have generated a Pareto Diagram before starting their jihad against plastic grocery bags and straws to fight that problem:
A shocking study has revealed 90 per cent of the world's plastic waste comes from just 10 rivers in Asia and Africa.

As governments around the world rush to address the global problem of plastic pollution in the oceans, researchers have now pinpointed the river systems that carry the majority of it out to sea.

About five trillion pounds is floating in the sea, and targeting the major sources - such as the Yangtze and the Ganges - could almost halve it, scientists claim.

Carried out by Germany's Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, it suggests that the most effective way of reducing the amount of plastic in the world's oceans is by addressing the sources of pollution along such waterways as these.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

"Embezzlement" Is Just A Fancy Word For Theft

Here's what the LA Times reports:
Five years ago, the Los Angeles Community College District won one of its biggest federal grants: $19.2 million to help students gain training and skills for the fast-growing healthcare industry.

Los Angeles Trade-Technical College was selected to lead the effort on behalf of the district’s nine community colleges and industry partners. Trade-Tech President Laurence Frank assigned two of his vice presidents, Leticia Barajas and Kaneesha Tarrant, to supervise development of the program.

Now an internal district investigation prompted by a whistle-blower has concluded that the two administrators failed to justify more than $157,000 in payments they received between 2014 and 2017 from the U.S. Department of Labor grant. The extra work they said they did for the grant, which they claimed merited the payments, was in fact part of their regular college duties, according to a memo written by Arnold Blanshard, the district’s internal audit director.

The logs the administrators filled out provided “very general” descriptions of the work they said they did, and the wording was repeated each semester, the investigation found. They also failed to obtain all of the required approvals for the special assignments. Tarrant continued to receive grant money while on maternity leave. Barajas’ compensation increased even after the district hired a director to do most of the work she said she was doing.

The women were the only two among all the vice presidents from the eight colleges in the district who participated in the program to receive extra pay, the memo said...

Barajas also was questioned in an internal investigation last year, which found that a pilot program in English and math she ran had falsified some grades.

The auditor found that 11 students who received credit for intermediate algebra had not passed the final exam. He said he could not determine the validity of five students’ English grades because Trade-Tech did not provide all information he requested. Barajas acknowledged at the time that she and her staff had made mistakes but said they subsequently corrected them....
There's no mention of jail time in the article, but there should be.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

This Shouldn't Be News, It Should Be Obvious

Why is San Francisco a cesspool?
By any standard, San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. So why has it suddenly become an unappealing place to visit and to live? As with so many U.S. cities, it suffers a host of urban maladies. Blame the far-left Blue Model of urban governance, which now afflicts most major American cities...

No, San Francisco hasn't collapsed. It's still a big city, filled with nice restaurants, extravagant hotels and wealthy residents, many made rich by the Silicon Valley tech boom. It's not poor, or even struggling. But despite the superficial trappings of its tech wealth, it is changing, and not for the better.

That gives it much in common with other major American cities.

Because San Francisco's superficial wealth masks a serious problem: As with so many other major cities, it has hollowed out. Middle-class families have fled, no longer able to afford to live there, or appalled at what the city has become. The cancelled medical convention was symbolic of that disenchantment.

One recent report shows why. It notes that the city had logged more than 16,000 complaints containing the word "feces" in just one week. Many of those reports linked a growing amount of fecal matter on streets and in alley to the near-ubiquitous encampments of homeless people and vagrants, who have flooded into the city due to its tolerant and even friendly policies. It's a serious problem.

San Francisco proudly calls itself a "progressive" city. It follows what writer and scholar Walter Russell Mead calls the progressive "Blue Model" of governance. Yet, the policies it follows — high taxes, inane regulations, petty nanny-state authoritarianism, tolerance for rising lawlessness and disorder on its streets in the name of "compassion" — are the very ones that have driven middle-class and working-class citizens out. Only the rich and the so-called homeless, who have been welcomed into the city and are a growing issue, can afford to live in the city...

We looked at the list and did a bit of research of our own. What we found was that virtually all of the top 10 cities on the list that had a net loss of population to other cities and states have been governed almost exclusively by liberal or far-left Democratic regimes since at least the 1960s. Their problems aren't accidental. They're systematic.

For years, these Blue Model politicians have taxed, spent and regulated on the people's behalf, with poor or even abysmal results. That's why the massive shift of population is taking place. It also accounts, perhaps, for the surprising rise and success of President Trump.
Yep.  The worst part is that it doesn't have to be that way.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Well-Meaning Pavestones On the Road To Hell

At first glance, this doesn't sound so bad--or does it?
If states want to make it easier for students to reach the middle class, they should follow Louisiana’s lead when it comes to the expectations for earning a high school diploma.

As a recent report by the Center for American Progress shows, Louisiana is one of just four states where the coursework requirements to graduate high school match the coursework required to for college eligibility. What’s more, Louisiana is one of only two states where the coursework requirements include high-level science and math, three years of study in social science, and two years of a single foreign language — the same coursework that most public universities require.

The implications are clear. States need to make two changes to their graduation requirements: strengthen them and ensure they meet what’s required for public university admissions.
What's clear, or at least what should be clear, is that not everyone needs to go to college, and no society on the planet will function the way it's envisioned when all members have a college degree.  Somebody has got to prepare that double-soy latte, and that person doesn't need a degree.  Someone has to stock the grocery store shelves, and that person doesn't need a degree.  Someone has to deliver your packages, and that person doesn't need a degree.  Someone has to work in the mall, and the vast majority of those people don't need a degree.

In other words, it's silly to push for everyone to have a degree.

But we're not saying everyone needs a degree, what we're saying is that everyone should have the option of getting one if they want one--that's the counter.  Of course, that argument is just as silly.  Do we really believe that everyone is capable of earning a university degree?  I don't.  And that's just fine.  Not everyone needs a degree to signify competence--when the guy at the shop tracks down and fixes the battery drain in my new trailer, I pay well for that.  And he doesn't have any student loans, either.

What this "higher graduation requirements" drive does is pressure teachers to lower standards so that students will pass.  It encourages "credit recovery" programs that allow a student to jump through a few hoops and "pass" a course in 2 weeks that they couldn't pass in 36.  It allows elected officials and school district personnel to pat themselves on the back for "improving standards" when they've in fact done just the opposite.

Do you really want to improve the quality of high school graduates?  Make high school less academic.  Bring back vocational education programs, and yes, even "home ec".  Bring back some of those courses that young adults now pay for and call "adulting" classes.  And quit trying to make home ec and voc ed square pegs fit into the round hole of "college". 

I come from California, which has a very extensive community college system.  Anyone who wants to can take CC courses, and they're reasonably priced.  But let's please stop pretending that everyone needs or should go to college.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

An Observation About Schools

From a commenter on Joanne's blog:
I’ve always said all a good teacher needs to teach is a stick and a patch of dirt… and I’m a techie.

Proper education requires the factors – a competent teacher, willing students, and a suitable curriculum.

Big policy makers like to focus on curriculum because that’s the only thing they have power over right now. They tried to improve teacher quality through certification and evaluation, but failed.

What they won’t do is truly look at student responsibility because doing so would violate cultural taboos in the education world. Sadly, though, like a stool, no matter how solid two legs are, without a third the stool will still fall.
I've said it for years--schools are a microcosm of our society, and we have some "issues" in our society.

There's A Reason It's the First Amendment

The 1st Amendment is a birthright of all Americans:
Should all of our fellow Americans enjoy the right to free speech?

Tomorrow, we as a nation will have 242 years under our belt, and I’m happy to report that after nearly a quarter of a millennium, most of us continue to answer “yes” to this important question. But this outcome was hardly inevitable. For much of the last century, political forces in our nation, most of them on the political right, fought to make sure they didn’t.

They repeatedly lost. Could Americans be forced to salute the flag? Kept from joining the Communist Party? Prohibited from protesting the Vietnam war in school? Denied the ability to use swear words, or to look at “indecent” publications? No, no, no, and no.

Yet despite this record of losses, an increasing number of thought leaders on today’s political left now appear to be talking themselves into launching their own long war against the very First Amendment principles that enabled them to argue for the societal changes they so value.

For example, a front-page article in Sunday’s New York Times was titled “How Conservatives Weaponized the First Amendment.” The story quotes a number of left-leaning figures, including feminist scholar Catharine MacKinnon and consumer advocate Ralph Nader, who signal their frustration with recent court cases protecting conservative speech.

Another academic cited in the article, Georgetown Law professor Louis Seidman, recently made waves in legal circles with a forthcoming law review article whose title asks, “Can free speech be progressive?” He asserts, “The answer is no,” lamenting that progressives “just can’t shake their mindless attraction to the bright flame of our free speech tradition.”

FIRE protects free speech on campus. The ACLU used to protect free speech in public, but no longer does.  Back to the article above:
The underlying assumption of the new First Amendment critics is that it is self-evident that progressive positions (whatever those may be) are correct. Therefore, if the application of free speech principles makes accomplishing their aims more difficult, it’s freedom of speech that is the problem. There can be little doubt that Anthony Comstock, Joseph McCarthy, and the myriad other right-leaning censors of the past felt the very same way when the ideals of free speech got in the way of their own plans to “improve” American society.

Censors of all stripes worry that without proper guidance and regulation, our society might make the “wrong” choices, as determined by, well, them.
I refuse to be silenced.  Have a great Independence Day.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

I Love A Story With A Happy Ending

Not that kind of happy ending, you pervert, this kind:
A Thai youth soccer team and its coach were found alive Monday in a vast, flooded cave complex where they disappeared more than a week ago, and a photo taken by rescuers showed the smiling faces of several survivors.

Video released early Tuesday by the Thai navy showed the boys in their soccer uniforms sitting on a dry area inside the cave above the water as a spotlight, apparently from a rescuer, illuminated their faces.

If You Want Me To "Stay Out Of Your Vagina", Don't Ask Me To Pay For It

You knew it had to come from California:
The California state legislature is pushing a bill through the assembly that would mandate college campuses to distribute abortions in the form of a pill. Senate Bill 320 passed the state senate in January, and was propelled through the Assembly’s Committee on Higher Education on Wednesday by a vote of 8-3.

Senate Bill 320 would force public universities and community colleges, funded by the state, to provide abortion drugs for students. Such drugs are to be taken for up to ten weeks into a pregnancy. The bill would also mandate that the colleges – funded by taxpayers – subsidize the cost of the abortions when student health insurance plans are used.

Of course, pro-abortion groups are praising this legislation as a victory for women’s rights, and not a violation of taxpayer protections.

He Says This Like It's A Bad Thing

If this guy wants me to feel bad about the Janus decision, this isn't the way to do it:
Mitch McConnell is a big winner today. His refusal to let the Senate consider Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court seat opened by Antonin Scalia’s death led to Neil Gorsuch’s accession to Scalia’s seat, which in turn led to the spate of reactionary decisions the Court has since delivered. But no decision has mattered more to McConnell than today’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, for this decision has a direct and immediate effect on the partisan balance of power.

By stripping public-sector unions of the right to collect the fees from non-members they are obligated to represent in bargaining and grievance procedures, the five Republicans on the high court have effectively compelled the unions, which constitute some of the largest and most effective election-time campaigners for progressive causes and candidates, to lose the resources that enable them to do what they do.

This Is Where Too Much Government Leads

The Chinese government already rates its citizens on trustworthiness (instead of the other way around).  Now technology has been deployed to track students' facial expressions in school:
When facial recognition cameras were installed at a century-old high school here in eastern China, students got in and out of campus, picked up lunch, borrowed books and even bought drinks from a vending machine just by peering into the cameras.

No more worrying about forgetting to carry your ID card.

But last March, the cameras appeared in some classrooms — and they did a lot more than just identify students and take attendance.

Using the latest artificial intelligence software, the devices tracked students’ behavior and read their facial expressions, grouping each face into one of seven emotions: anger, fear, disgust, surprise, happiness, sadness and what was labeled as neutral.

Think of it as a little glimpse of the future.

While American schools, as well as students and parents, are worrying about the increased emphasis on standardized tests — and the loss of classroom freedom that comes with “teaching to the test” — China has carried things to a whole new level.
Leftists are creepy. To steal a turn of phrase, 1984 was supposed to be a warning, not a how-to manual.

Truer Words Have Never Been Spoken

From Instapundit:
Socialism is the Axe Body Spray of political ideologies: It never does what it claims to do, but people too young to know better keep buying it anyway.

Monday, July 02, 2018

This Had To Hurt

I received this in the mail today:
Writing that had to hurt.

I appreciate the respectful tone, and hope against hope that they'll live up to their words. I am far less optimistic that they'll change anything in an effort to earn my money, and thus for the foreseeable future I'll be saving about $700 in agency fees.

You Want More Government? Not After *My* Day, You Don't!

For those of you who've read my posts from the last couple days, you know I sold one travel trailer and purchased another.  Here in the People's Republik, you have 10 days after purchase to register a vehicle.  A search at the DMV web site showed that all offices within 20 miles or more have no reservations available for 3 weeks or more--and even then, I'll be on a trip--I decided to go in.

I've written positively about DMV before.  I will not be doing so today.  I arrived before opening time.  Here are some texts I sent today:

7:57  I'm at DMV in Rocklin.  Parking lot is full, about a hundred people in front of me.
9:23  Still in line outside.  Haven't even gotten a number yet.
10:14  Just got a number.  Will be another hour or more before my number is called.
12:05  Still waiting.  Numbers being called are bouncing around.  No idea how long this will take.

(I left from about 1:00-1:40, and then resumed my wait.)

2:42 Number just called.

At 2:44 my work was complete, and I walked out the door.  Seriously, over 6 1/2 hours of waiting for 2 minutes of work.

I'm a former manufacturing manager.  Spotting inefficiencies is my superpower--not that you need a superpower to spot any today.  They could do such a better job, if they had any motivation to do so.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

What A Great Song

There's so much energy in this performance!  It's always enjoyable to watch people do what they like to do, and these two obviously like performing:

The Truth About Liberals

You don't have to like this, but your discomfort doesn't make it any less true:
I’ve been around politics for almost two decades now and one thing I have learned about liberals in politics is that they do not care about good or bad or right and wrong when it comes to people who don’t share their beliefs.

They universally feel comfortable lying about conservatives. They believe conservatives are evil and they diligently refuse to consider any explanation for beliefs on the Right that don’t support that premise. They put their liberalism above everything, including God.

Now, you may say, “My cousin is not like this,” or, “I know a great liberal I’ve been friends with since I was 12. He doesn’t think like this.” I acknowledge the truth of what you’re saying. Many liberals out in the wild are good and decent people, but that’s because liberalism is like a virus. In the early stages, you may be able to power your way through it. But the deeper you get into it and the more important it becomes to you, the more it infects your personality and turns your soul ugly.