Sunday, June 30, 2019

Babysitting Joanne's Blog

Joanne's off traveling again and gave me the keys to her blog.  I'll try not to put any scratches on it.

Here's yesterday's post about Target teacher discounts on school supplies, similar to the one I posted here on my own site.

Here's today's post about the Janus decision of a year ago.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Citizenship Question On Census Affects School Funding

Read about LA Unified, which somehow feared a loss of $20 million, here.

By the way, LA Unified's annual budget is over $8 billion.  $20 million would be a rounding error, 1/4 of 1%.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Democrats Never Change

It started up again with someone throwing a milkshake at a British politician, and then some leftie thought she was perfectly justified in throwing a drink at a US Congressman.  Such assaults cannot be allowed to stand:
Rep. Matt Gaetz will press charges against the woman who allegedly hurled a drink cup at him, the Florida congressman said Thursday.

“I am going to press charges ... I think it’s really important to send a message that we as conservatives have a right to our views, just like anybody else has a right to their views,” Gaetz said in an interview on Fox news the night before.

“If there are no consequences, maybe it’s me getting hit with a drink one time, but what if it's a member of my staff? And what if instead of a drink it’s acid, or urine?"...

Hitting Gaetz with the projectile in Pensacola comes as British protesters capture headlines for drenching rightwing political figures — including Brexit leader Nigel Farage — in milkshakes.

Police have charged Amanda Kondrat’yev, 25, with misdemeanor battery, the Pensacola News Journal reported
It seems that Democrats have a history of dumping food and drink on people with views they don't like:
How dare that black woman sit at a Woolworth's counter!

Her name was Anne Moody, and you can read more about her and this particularly ugly incident here, here, and here.

Assaulting people in this manner was wrong in 1963 and it's wrong today.  Democrats still haven't learned that, 56 years later.

UpdateIn related news, kudos to Lori Lightfoot, the mayor of Chicago:
News that a waitress at Chicago’s Aviary spat on the president’s son has drawn everything from ire to support from everyone, from social media commenters to, now, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot...

Many commenters, including Lightfoot, were pressing for The Aviary’s owners to take action against the employee.

Lightfoot said she spoke to Eric Trump after he reported being spit on by the waitress in what Lightfoot said was a “repugnant” incident, and she called on the restaurant’s owners to “take appropriate action” against the employee.

“I spoke to Eric Trump and checked in with him about what had happened,” Lightfoot said Thursday at an unrelated event. “Look, I think this: Civility matters, and we may not agree, and in my case I don’t agree with a lot of things President Trump stands for. Our values are different. But you cross the line when you assault someone. ... No one deserves that.
It was wrong in 1957 Little Rock, and it's wrong today.

Hate Crimes Hoaxes

We're probably living in what are the least hate-crimey times in the least hate-crimey country in the world, but some people's lives just don't have meaning unless there are so-called hate crimes occurring with rabid frequency, and since they're not occurring with rabid frequency, they make them up:
Mr. Reilly is a professor of political science at Kentucky State University, and his interest in hate crimes dates to his graduate-school days, when he became aware of several widely reported incidents in the vicinity of his hometown that turned out to be fake...

Mr. Reilly eventually compiled a database of 346 hate-crime allegations and determined that less than a third were genuine. Turning his attention to the hoaxes, he put together a data set of more than 400 confirmed cases of fake allegations that were reported to authorities between 2010 and 2017. He allows that the exact number of false reports is probably unknowable, but what can be said “with absolute confidence is that the actual number of hate crime hoaxes is indisputably large,” he writes. “We are not speaking here of just a few bad apples.”
I'm not a big fan of the "hate crime" designation--someone who is attacked or harmed is a victim, and should be no more or less so because of the attitude of the culprit.  But if we're going to make some attacks more "important" than others, which is what the hate crime designation does, we need to accept the logical and entirely predictable consequences--that if you "subsidize" something, you get more of it.  Given this fact, it makes perfect sense that Reilly would find significantly more fake than real crimes.

Update, 7/21/19:  What should be celebrated as a great achievement is instead subverted and perverted:
As racial and sexual bigotry continues to recede in the United States, the strange alchemy of egalitarian despotism takes over. This was something that Tocqueville noticed about democratic regimes. The more equal society became, the more trifling differences among people would be seized upon and held up as evidence of iniquity. Similarly, the less real racial bigotry and anti-homosexual animus there is in the United States, the more must be manufactured in order to keep the Fraternal Order of Victims afloat.


Are they really healthier and happier than the rest of us?  Perhaps not:
Vegetarians are less healthy than meat-eaters, a controversial study has concluded, despite drinking less, smoking less and being more physically active than their carnivorous counterparts.

A study conducted by the Medical University of Graz in Austria found that the vegetarian diet, as characterised by a low consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol, due to a higher intake of fruits, vegetables and whole-grain products, appeared to carry elevated risks of cancer, allergies and mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

The study used data from the Austrian Health Interview Survey to examine the dietary habits and lifestyle differences between meat-eaters and vegetarians.
I know I'm happy after a burger....

Heinlein's Crazy Years

I read two articles this morning and put them together in my head.  How did we get so crazy so fast?


How do you know if you're living in a free society? Here's a quick test: Are you allowed to say obviously true things in public? Or are you forced to lie? As George Orwell put it in "1984": "Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows." But what if that freedom isn't granted? What if you're required to repeat things that you know aren't true? What if everyone who hears you knows perfectly well that you're lying, but they can't say so out loud? What if everyone is required to nod along in mock sincerity as if it's all completely real? That's what a pep rally in a police state looks like: "Thanks to the dear leader for a bountiful potato harvest!" they chant, even as they starve to death.

So what aren't we allowed to say?  That men are men and women are women, whether you pretend otherwise or not:
WOMEN who identify as male are not being offered vital routine breast screenings and cervical cancer checks in case it offends them.

But men identifying as women will be invited for cervical smear tests – even though they don’t have a cervix.

The advice comes from a 24-page booklet published by Public Health England called “Information for trans people”.
Biology doesn't care how you "identify".

Do you really want your health care subject to the whims of politics? Because this is what you get when you put government and its politics in charge of health care, and your government is run by lefties.

Your Feel-Good Policies Are An Ineffective Inconvenience (and are probably causing even bigger problems)

Bjorn Lomborg on plastic bag bans:
Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a plan to reduce plastic pollution, which will include a ban on single-use plastics as early as 2021. This is laudable: plastics clog drains and cause floods, litter nature and kill animals and birds.

Of course, plastic also makes our lives better in a myriad of ways. In just four decades, plastic packaging has become ubiquitous because it keeps everything from cereals to juice fresher and reduces transportation losses, while one-use plastics in the medical sector have made syringes, pill bottles and diagnostic equipment more safe.

Going without disposable plastic entirely would leave us worse off, so we need to tackle the problems without losing all of the benefits...

But we need to be honest about how much consumers can achieve. As with other environmental issues, instead of tackling the big-picture problems to actually reduce the plastic load going into oceans, we focus on relatively minor changes involving consumers, meaning we only ever tinker at the margins...

But even if every country banned plastic bags it would not make much of a difference, since plastic bags make up less than 0.8 per cent of the mass of plastic currently afloat on the world’s oceans.

Rather than trying to save the oceans with such bans in rich countries, we need to focus on tackling the inferior waste management and poor environmental policies in developing regions.

Research from 2015 shows that less than 5 per cent of land-based plastic waste going into the ocean comes from OECD countries, with half coming from just four countries: China, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam. While China already in 2008 banned thin plastic bags and put a tax on thicker ones, it is estimated to contribute more than 27 per cent of all marine plastic pollution originating from land.

Moreover, banning plastic bags can have unexpected, inconvenient results. A new study shows California’s ban eliminates 40 million pounds of plastic annually. However, many banned bags would have been reused for trash, so consumption of trash bags went up by 12 million pounds, reducing the benefit. It also increased consumption of paper bags by twice the saved amount of plastic – 83 million pounds. This will lead to much larger emissions of CO₂...

We also need to consider the wider environmental impact of our bag choices. A 2018 study by the Danish Ministry of Environment and Food looked not just at plastic waste, but also at climate-change damage, ozone depletion, human toxicity and other indicators. It found you must reuse an organic cotton shopping bag 20,000 times before it will have less environmental damage than a plastic bag.

If we use the same shopping bag every single time we go to the store, twice every week, it will still take 191 years before the overall environmental effect of using the cotton bag is less than if we had just used plastic.

Even a simple paper bag requires 43 reuses to be better for the environment – far beyond the point at which the bag will be fit for the purpose.

The study clearly shows that a simple plastic bag, reused as a trash bag, has the smallest environmental impact of any of the choices.
That knowledge doesn't make the lefties feeeeeeel any better about themselves, though, and it certainly doesn't give them reason to exercise compulsion over the rest of us, so it must be ignored.

This is a crisis made — and growing worse — throughout developing Asia.
Just eight countries in the region are responsible for about 63 percent of total plastic waste flowing into the oceans. Little of that junk has been exported by rich economies. Instead, it’s almost solely generated by Asia’s newly minted consumer classes, the vast majority of whom lack access to garbage collection, modern landfills and incineration. Any progress in reducing ocean plastic will have to start with them.
Bans on plastic straws in America are just a power move by local greens, not a serious response.
Update #2, 7/27/19:

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Who Thought This Was A Good Marketing Ploy?

I received this in the mail today:
Well, that's odd.  I'm not a CTA member, and haven't been for many years.  They held out an offer of a $25 gas card, so I let my curiosity get the better of me.  I opened the mislabeled envelope.

Yawn.  It was an ad for car insurance:
OK, not interested. 

But here's what's on the back page:
This company sent me something, and then tells me I'm not allowed to read it?  If you don't want me to read something, don't send it to me.  But for them to say something intentionally offensive like that?  Screw you, California Casualty.  And I defy you to beat USAA's prices for comparable insurance.

Why This Is Irrelevant To me

Target is offering expanded discounts for teachers one week next month:
Target wants to help teachers stretch their back-to-school dollars on more than just supplies for their classrooms.

For the second year, the Minneapolis-based retailer will offer teachers a weeklong 15% discount on select items starting July 13, officials shared exclusively with USA TODAY Wednesday...

This year, in addition to school supplies and essentials, which include disinfecting wipes and food storage bags, adult clothing and accessories, Pillowfort furniture and Bullseye’s Playground items also are included...

According to the National Center of Education Statistics, 94% of teachers report spending their own money on supplies. Here are some stores that offer savings throughout the year.
No way will I be participating in this. Yes, I'm part of the 94% of teachers who spend some of my own money for my work, but I'm not going to plan on it.

Here's the problem.  At least here in California, and probably in a good many other states, public education is supposed to be entirely free.  In fact, California education code even requires school districts to supply paper and pencils to students--how many comply with that?  (Ans:  zero, most likely).  School districts skirt the law because parents and teachers pick up the slack.   California teachers who post "school supplies lists"?  Not in accordance with the law!  The school district is supposed to provide those supplies.

So while I might pick up some ink for my personal (old) printer that I've taken to school because I want to have a printer at my desk rather than one per building of 7-8 classrooms, I'm not going to buy notebooks and pencils and such for my students.  I have 165 students, that's just too many.  And besides, if I were to be doing that, I'd be enabling the school district to continue to flout the law.

The old joke is that teaching is the only profession in which you steal office supplies from home and take them to work.  I've taken 2 desk chairs, a monitor (I can barely read a laptop display!), a printer, an upright fan, and who knows what else to work for my use--but I can always bring them home, sell them on Craigslist, or whatever.  But I'm not going to pay to outfit my class with stuff my district should pay for.  And neither am I going to ask for so-called donations, either--and I'm certainly not going to give academic points to students who bring in a box of Kleenex!

Either public education is public, or it's not.  As individuals we need to stop trying to subsidize it.

Mark Janus Day

A year ago today, the Supreme Court ruled in the Janus case that I no longer had to give money to a branch of the Democratic Party union.  What a great day it was!

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Made It Home

I was supposed to check out yesterday and head for home, but I just wasn't feeling it.  It takes me about an hour to set up and/or break down the trailer for travel--I didn't want to rig for travel the day after setting up!  So yesterday I extended my visit another day, and I came home today.

My first order of business is to go back over the last 12 days' worth of blog posts and add pics as appropriate, so please, go back and take a look at the recent posts!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Yesterday and Today

After a large breakfast and a cheerful farewell yesterday, the 10 of us (mostly cousins) who had met in Vegas departed and went our separate ways.  I had a plan for  day's drive and the seeing of cool places and things.  With the exception of a few old buildings in Goldfield, nothing I'd hoped for materialized.  I ended up boondocking in a rest area somewhere on US 395!

Today I was going to look for a place to stay in Carson City--why not?--but it just didn't work out.  So instead I made it to Reno and checked into the RV park at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino.  Yes, I got hit with the damned "resort fee" here, too--well, it *is* a resort, right?  At least I get to use the newly refurbished pool, and it's quite nice.

If they'll let me stay another day, great.  If not, I'll head home tomorrow.

Update, 6/26/19:

Update #2, 6/27/19:
They let me stay the extra day.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Still In Las Vegas

More cousins have arrived, I'm enjoying spending time with everyone.  I wish I could remember more of the time we spent yesterday, but if the videos are any indication, we had a great time!

Going to go see a comedian/magician at Stratosphere in a couple hours.  Need a little power nap first.

Update, 6/26/19:

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Schools Should Focus On What Goes On AT SCHOOL

Too often school administrators will take action regarding events that happened outside of school (or school activities) using the extremely vague principle that such an event "impacts" the school environment.

I'll be blunt:  If Mean Girl 1 says something snippy about Delicate Flower 2 on Twitter over the weekend, the school has no reason to get involved absent some action at school on the part of MG1.  The law that allowed a Minnesota student to be convicted for online harassment has been declared overly broad and unconstitutional:
A Minnesota stalking law used to convict a high school student for insulting another teen on Twitter is overly broad and violates the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of free speech, the state Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday...

The case follows efforts by the federal government and U.S. states to prevent cyber bullying, which has been linked to depression in youths.

But a number of court decisions in the last three years have limited the powers of prosecutors to charge people for cyber bullying. For instance, the North Carolina Supreme Court in 2016 overturned the cyber-bullying conviction of a man stemming from his online activity as a high school student. The court ruled the statute violated the First Amendment.
Disclaimer for those idiots who cannot see any nuance: I don't support what the student in question did, far from it. The particular law under which that student was convicted was unjust.  It's not the school's place to punish even execrable behavior unless that behavior occurred at school.  The legislature needs to do a better job writing laws.

Great Basin and Bryce Canyon Were Nice, But...

...I've just checked into my room in Las Vegas.  I'm in Sin City, let the sinning begin!

(Actually, I'm here to meet up with several cousins I haven't seen in a very long time, but that doesn't mean I can't do a little sinning when they're not around!)

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Bryce Canyon

I'm camping perhaps 30 mi from Bryce Canyon.  It's a pretty drive.

When I arrived I was both cheap and a good steward of the environment.  To take your vehicle into the park, the entrance fee is $35.  To take yourself into the park, it's only $20.  So I parked at the shuttle stop outside the park and took the hop-on-hop-off park shuttle in--and my entrance fee is still good for a week.  That's good, because I'm going back tomorrow.

The shuttles make a big loop through the park (and at a couple stops outside the park for us $20 payers), and in the park they stop at 4 scenic overlooks in the north part of the park.  The first stop is the southernmost, Bryce Point.  It's there that most people experience their first "ooooooooh" moment at Bryce.  I've got to admit, the hoodoos are pretty cool.

I was going to get on the next shuttle and go to the next overlook, but I saw a sign saying that it was only 1.3 mi along the Rim Trail to Inspiration Point.  I can walk 1.3 mi, right?  So I did, and I'm glad I did.  The beauty is infinite; even when looking at the same scene, seeing it from even a slightly different angle changes everything.  Another picture!

Of course I took more pictures from Inspiration Point.  I could've gotten on the shuttle there, but the Rim Trail to Sunset Point was just .7 mi.  Heck, that's barely half of what I just walked, so I continued on.  Same story regarding the views.

From Sunset Point it was only a fraction of a mile to Sunrise Point so I continued on.  It was at Sunrise Point that I caught the shuttle back to the Visitor's Center to buy a t-shirt, and from there caught another shuttle back to my truck.

No entrance fee is needed to drive out to Fairyland Point, so that was my 5th overlook of the day.  Then I drove several miles to Tropic, a town down below Bryce Canyon, to see if I could get any pictures looking "up" instead of down, but alas, the views from down there were not spectacular.

I mentioned earlier that the shuttles go only to the 4 overlooks in the northern part of the park.  What about the southern part?  Well, for that you need either your own vehicle or you can take a special shuttle.  That one runs only twice a day (morning and afternoon) and is about a 3 1/2 hour roundtrip.  And you need reservations.  So I have a reservation for tomorrow afternoon!  At the end of the road is Rainbow Point, where there is a short hike through a bristlecone pine grove.  I hope I have time to take that hike.

Update, 6/26/19:

 I wonder if these pictures will look different on my TV, rather than on my phone or computer screen, because what seems to be missing is just how huge the amphitheater of hoodoos (2nd picture) is!

Monday, June 17, 2019


Panguitch is a small town straddling US 89 (which becomes Main Street as you enter civilization).  Main Street is sided with old brick buildings, just as you'd imagine in any small town, and the businesses are exactly those which you'd expect--even if they aren't "old school" businesses.  Panguitch is mostly a tourist town, a sort-of gateway to Bryce Canyon, and it provides just what the locals as well as the tourists require.

The town is laid out on a grid, as are many places in Utah (including Salt Lake City).  The primary north-south thoroughfare is Main Street, and the primary east-west thoroughfare is Center Street.  All the other streets are named in relation to these.  100 East is the north-south street 1 block east of Main.  The section of 100 East that is north of Center Street is called N 100 East, and the section south of Center is called S 100 East.  All the streets are thus named.  Once you learn the system, it's easy to find any location in habited Utah!

Many of the houses are built of (locally made) bricks.  Others are manufactured houses, some are bungalows.  Some hint at a bit of wealth, others are more modest, but they all display pride of ownership.  The "new" high school is very nice looking, one of the largest buildings in the town.  I've seen three churches, one of course Mormon.

All the history of the town is tied to the Mormons, and the town doesn't shy away from that at all.  They are unabashedly unashamed of their Mormon history, and the signs, plaques, statues, and other monuments make that perfectly clear.  Being from California I'm unused to seeing such open displays of religion--especially in civic places--but upon reflection, you cannot separate the religion from the history.  They are interwoven in the tightest tapestry.

If just passing through this must seem like any of thousands of small towns spread across our country.  It's important to remember, however, that however much they have in common, each is unique, each is special, each is American.

As forecast, it rained like heck this afternoon.  By the time I got back to my truck I was quite wet, and then the hail started coming down in force.  Many years ago I lived in Colorado Springs so I know what mountain weather can be like, especially in the afternoon.  I came back to my trailer and began reading What I Saw In California, essentially the journal writings of an emigrant who left Missouri for California in spring 1846.  It's well written, an easy read, and the time races by as I turn the pages.  The author admitted that he did not embellish, that he gave an honest appraisal of what he saw, but that doesn't diminish the impact of his story.  The rain beat down on my roof as I read the book, a space heater keeping the trailer warm against the cold air.  This is marked contrast to the conditions of the author, who often was soaked to the bone!

It's supposed to rain again tomorrow afternoon.  I intend to leave early and make my way to Bryce Canyon, and hopefully I'll see a lot of the touristy sights without any view-obscuring rain.  My plan is to pay my park admission and then ride the shuttle through the park.  I'll also see if I can make a reservation for Wednesday on a special bus that goes all the way to the end of the park road so I can see the view from there as well.

The American West is a vast place, so full of beauty.  If you haven't experienced it, consider this a strong recommendation that you do so.

Update, 6/26/19:  Panguitch, Utah.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Trip So Far

School ended Wednesday, and by Wednesday evening I had new tires and an electric tongue jack put on my trailer.  My scheduled departure time was 10am Thursday, and I met that.

There are only 2 RV parks that I could find in Ely, NV, and neither had a single spot open, so I spent Thursday night boondocking (dry camping, no hookups) in the parking lot of a Love's truck stop.

I got to Baker, NV, before noon on Friday and got my trailer set up.  I visited both the Great Basin NP Visitor's Center and the Lehman Caves Visitor Center; a short hike near the Lehman Caves Visitor Center was the extent of my visit for the day.

I brought my son's telescope along, as I'd read that it's been a long time since viewing Jupiter was this good, and GBNP is known as a "dark sky" park.  Afternoon clouds cleared out a bit and I could see our moon as well as Jupiter and the 4 "Galilean" moons.  Even with the telescope, though, Jupiter was just a bright dot with 4 tiny pinprick dots nearby.

Saturday (yesterday) I drove into the park again.  I visited the campgrounds in case I'd like to stay there some time (Upper Lehman Campground spots 10 and 11 are ideal for two rigs--who wants to go?!), stopped at some of the overlooks, and hiked a couple small trails.  For such a small park (at least, where you can drive), there are such diverse regions!  At the park boundary, in the Snake Valley just outside Baker, is desert ranchland.  Go up in altitude a little bit, though, and short trees appear.  Keep getting higher and you enter a dreamlike forest of grasses, meadows, dense trees (including aspen), and flowers.  Higher still, where the roads are currently closed due to winter snow, are bristlecone pines, whose species are the oldest living beings on earth.

Last night, at the Lehman Caves Visitor's Center, was an astronomy program--had to go to that!  Perhaps the talk and the slideshow could have been a little more interesting or relevant, but it's hard not to like the 3 big telescopes they had there!  Cloud cover prevented seeing just about anything interesting except for the moon and Jupiter, which I saw on my own the night before, but these telescopes were significantly larger than what I brought along, and the views were significantly more stunning.  In fact, Jupiter was big enough that I could see its equatorial bands!  It's 4 moons, though, were still pinpricks of light, even with these much larger telescopes.

It's been years, probably decades, since I've seen the Milky Way, and one of the volunteers staffing one of the telescopes told me that if I got up at 2:30 am and looked straight up, I'd be able to see it in all it's glory.  My alarm went off at 2:30, I wrapped a blanket around myself, went outside and looked up--and saw only clouds.  Not a single open spot in the entire sky.  That was truly disappointing.  Perhaps I'll be able to see the Milky Way from Utah.

I'd have enjoyed staying another day, but was told the RV Park (highly recommend Whispering Elms, btw!) was fully booked, so I made my way to Panguitch, UT, where I sit outside typing this post.  I'm about 30 min from Bryce Canyon, which I'll visit over the next few days.  This particular park (Paradise RV Park) seems nice if only a little worn down, and it's my own fault I picked a spot so close to Highway 89, where road noise might bother some.  But at $19/night with full hookups, I refuse to complain!

When I arrived and was setting up, I determined that there was either artillery practice or tremendous thunder in Bryce.  It's died off now, and it's possible the sky could be clearing.  Weather reports show vicious rain tomorrow, clearing Tuesday and Wednesday, so those two days are when I'll go into the park.  Perhaps tomorrow I'll reconnoiter, visit some of the local area, etc.

Truck, trailer, and driver are all doing great.  Again, I apologize for not being able to post pictures here; check out my Instagram (mrmillermathteacher) and prepare to be amazed!

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Great Basin National Park

I made to to the thriving metropolis of Baker, NV, population 64, the gateway to Great Basin National Park. I hope you'll forgive the technical difficulties that prevent me from posting pictures.  You wouldn't believe the differences in landscape and biomes present here, and in such a relatively small area, too!  You'll have to trust me for awhile until I get home and can post some pictures.

In the meantime, my Instagram account (mrmillermathteacher) has many pictures.

If you think Nevada is all desert, think again.  And put GBNP on your radar!

Update, 6/26/19:

 Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that's Nevada!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

T - 2:00:00

It took all night, but the trailer refrigerator is now quite cold.  Maintaining the cold in there will be much easier than getting it cold, that's for sure.  Triple digit temperatures will do that.

The plan today is to have lunch with my aunt in Reno and then to make it to Eureka, NV, by nightfall.  That should get me to Great Basin at a reasonable hour tomorrow and give me plenty of time to set up.

I've waited so long for this trip....

All that's left is to pack clothes and stock the frig/freezer.  T - 1:55:00

Update, 6/26/19:

Wednesday, June 12, 2019


Most of my checkout process had been completed yesterday.  This morning I locked up my classroom electronics, cleared off my desk, and called it a day.


I turned in my key and was checked off by the principal.  Contractually I was obligated to work until 3pm, but I didn't.  I doubt if anyone did.

I was done well before 10:30, but needed to attend a 504 meeting at 10:30.  That lasted longer than they usually do, but I still got out before I expected to.

I hitched up my trailer to my pickup last night and towed it to work.  After my meeting I got all new tires on the trailer.  And as I'd screwed up the tongue jack last night, after the tire store I drove over to the RV repair shop.  Bah, trying to fix the tongue jack wouldn't be worth it, it would be easier just to replace the whole jack.  How about electric?  Sure!

No more repairs!  None!  That's it!  I'm taking off on a little trip tomorrow.  Blogging will be light (who knows how wifi connectivity will be) but I'll try to post some pictures.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Science Means Never Having To Be Consistent

It must be convenient to have a belief structure in which anything that happens, even opposite events, supports your view--and then to call that belief structure "science":
Lake Erie and Lake Superior — two of the five that make up the Great Lakes — broke records for water levels this May. Lakes Michigan and Huron could follow suit.

Naturally, climate change is getting the blame. “We are undoubtedly observing the effects of a warming climate in the Great Lakes,” says Richard Rood, a University of Michigan climate scientist.

But just a few years ago, climate scientists were insisting that a warming climate would cause water levels to decline.

In 2008, Science Daily reported on a study that attributed the decline in Great Lakes water levels to global warming. The researchers who conducted the study said that the drop “raised concern because the declines are consistent with many climate change predictions.”

In 2009, Columbia University’s Earth Institute informed us that “most climate models suggest that we may see declines in lake levels over the next 100 years; one suggests that we may see declines of up to 8.2 feet.”

In 2011, the Union of Concern Scientists said that “scientists expect water levels in the Great Lakes to drop in both summer and winter, with the greatest declines occurring in Lakes Huron and Michigan.”

In 2013, the Natural Resources Defense Council said that “it’s no secret that, partially due to climate change, the water levels in the Great Lakes are getting very low.”

That same year, Think Progress reported that “Several different climate models for the Great Lakes region all predict that lake levels will decline over the next century.”

Since the Great Lakes account for 21% of the world’s surface fresh water, these stories were all wrapped in doom-and-gloom scenarios about the impact on drinking water, shipping, recreation, and so on.

The very next year, however, water levels started rising.

So what are scientists saying now? Simple. They’re now claiming that the fall and rise of Great Lakes’ water levels are due to climate change.

“Climate change is driving rapid shifts between high and low water levels on the Great Lakes,” is the new “consensus.” 

The truth, of course, is that water levels in the Great Lakes vary over time. And, as a matter of fact, they varied far more in the past than they do now. A U.S. Geological Survey notes that “prehistoric levels exceed modern-day fluctuations.”
Talk about being blinded by science....

Free Speech = Racism

Yes, people can use free speech to spout racist philosophies, but that doesn't make the idea of free speech a racist idea.  This (not so) subtlety is lost on at least one legislator:
Alabama Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed legislation Thursday banning free speech zones on publicly-funded state campuses.

House Bill 498, sponsored by Republican Rep. Matt Fridy, requires that outdoor areas of publicly-funded Alabama campuses are public forums, effectively eliminating their “free speech zones.”

“The institution shall not create free speech zones or other designated outdoor areas of campus in order to limit or prohibit protected expressive activities,” the bill states. In addition to banning free speech zones, the bill also states that any public college or university in the state cannot deny benefits to student organizations based on their “sincerely held beliefs.”

The bill does not protect speech that “substantially disrupts” the institution or “materially and substantially disrupt[s] the rights of others to engage in or listen to expressive activity.”

Joe Cohn, legislative and policy director for the free speech nonprofit Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), told Campus Reform that this legislation does a good job of describing the difference between protected speech and speech that disrupts others’ rights.

Cohn said that the bill is “a positive development for all of those who believe that students’ ability to speak their minds is of utmost concern on college campuses.”

Other parts of the bill, however, proved to be controversial when discussed in the legislature.

Democrat state Rep. Juandalynn Givan took issue with a portion of the bill, which stated that student groups could invite any speaker to campus. According to the Alabama Political Reporter, Rep. Givan said that the only speakers to be denied a chance to speak were alt-right.

Rep. Givan contended that, by sponsoring this legislation, Fridy has been exposed as a “white supremacist,” according to the report.

"I believe in my heart of hearts that this bill is designed to protect individuals that are racist," Givan said, according to the Associated Press. "Racist, racist, racist, racist, racist, racist, racist. That is all this is.”
Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid. That is all she is.

Monday, June 10, 2019

My 2nd Pro Football Game

Back in the 90s, a friend took me to a pre-season Raiders game at Stanford Stadium.  It was the Raiders' first season back in Oakland, and I enjoyed myself immensely at that game.

Now, about 25 years later, I'm going to my second pro football game.

I'm going to be in Canada in about a month, and I just bought tickets to see the hometown BC Lions!  Two tickets (plus blood for Ticketmaster) set me back a whopping CDN$56, around US$45.  For two tickets to see a professional football game!

Last Friday night's pre-season game against the (hated) Calgary Stampeders was posted in HD on YouTube, so I watched it yesterday.  I refamiliarized myself with some of the CFL rules, having first learned them when Sacramento had a CFL team during the league's ill-fated expansion into the US market in the 90s, and I learned the coach's name and that of the 3 quarterbacks and top receiver.

I'm ready to go be BC's biggest fan.  Let's go Li-ons!

Update, 6/12/19:  I was not thinking when I wrote that post.   Sacramento had a team in the World League of American Football--they even won the World Bowl!--and when the WLAF folded, that team (including the coach!) morphed into Sacramento's CFL team when that league temporarily expanded into the US market.  I attended both WLAF and CFL games, so this will most certainly not be only my 2nd professional football game.  But it will be the first one since the Clinton administration!

Triple Digits Today

When I got home from Europe last summer, my air conditioning didn't work.  It was plenty hot out, and it was plenty hot in.

The a/c never did a stellar job.  It couldn't keep up with the Sacramento heat.  I'd leave the house open all night (you can do that with a pitbull!), and then close the doors and windows and turn on the a/c around 9am.  On those triple digit days the a/c would run all day long, never shutting off, and by night it would be 85 degrees in the house.  And that's when it was working!

When it didn't work, it was miserable.  So last summer I had my HVAC system completely replaced.  It was quite expensive, at least by my standards (almost 5 digits!), but I want to be comfortable in my house.  Part of the problem was determined to be the size of the air intake, which now is about twice the size it had been since the house was built (in the Kennedy administration).

Today the temperature topped 100 degrees, and when I got home from work I turned on the air conditioning.  It didn't take extraordinarily long to cool the house down to 75 degrees--and then the a/c turned off.  A little while later it came on again, returned the house to 75 degrees, and turned off.  Ah, I thought, this is how it's supposed to work!

I do prefer to be comfortable in my own house.  It's so comfortable in the house that I took a 3-4 hour nap after work today.  I'll probably be up half the night watching Netflix or something, but I'll be comfortable!

Last Final Exams Today

I think too many of my students don't know how to study.  Either that, or they don't care.

You might think I'm being a bit flippant with that last comment, but I wonder.  I had two students turn in their finals today with nothing written on them; one didn't even put his name on his.  And it's not like they couldn't pass the class no matter what, because if you score a 70% on the final then you're guaranteed at least a D- in the course.

Today's final had no tricks or surprises on it.  All the topics on the final have been posted on my web site all school year.  The problems are of the same type students previously saw on tests, quizzes, and homework, and I allow students a note sheet since I'm not fond of requiring students to memorize formulas just for the sake of memorizing.

So far I've had one student score slightly over 100% on the final (I always have a few bonus points on tests so students can demonstrate above-and-beyond knowledge), but too many others scored less than 50%.  To emphasize, they scored less than 50% on a test for which
  • all the tested topics had been identified and published
  • all the problems were of the type previously seen on tests and quizzes
  • students were allowed a note sheet
I'll finish grading them tomorrow, which is our last day with students.  Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised, but my cursory glancings tell me I won't be.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Money Money Money

I'm going to be taking off for a couple weeks after school is out, and when I travel I like to have some cash on me.  You never know when it will come in handy.

So I went to the bank today, and en route I remembered that in less than a month I'll be in Canada.  Anyone who's traveled much knows that the way to get cash in a foreign country is to use the ATMs, but I figured if I'm going to the bank anyway....

I had a few dozen Canadian dollars stashed away from my last trip up north, and now I have an additional week's worth on hand.  I can go to an ATM if I need more.

(Why not use my credit card?  Well, I can, but to me, part of the fun of travel is using the local currency.)

The Woke Joke

True words here:
But then, as Freddie deBoer warned a few years ago, “The woke world is a world of snitches, informants, rats. Go to any space concerned with social justice and what will you find? Endless surveillance. Everybody is to be judged. Everyone is under suspicion. Everything you say is to be scoured, picked over, analyzed for any possible offense. Everyone’s a detective in the Division of Problematics, and they walk the beat 24/7. You search and search for someone Bad doing Bad Things, finding ways to indict writers and artists and ordinary people for something, anything. That movie that got popular? Give me a few hours and 800 words. I’ll get you your indictments. That’s what liberalism is, now — the search for baddies doing bad things, like little offense archaeologists, digging deeper and deeper to find out who’s Good and who’s Bad. I wonder why people run away from establishment progressivism in droves.”

I don’t think the German filmmakers who helmed The Lives of Others in 2006 intended it to be a how-to guide for the coming woke era.

Friday, June 07, 2019

Final Exams

Yesterday was undergrad final exams for 1st and 2nd period.  My first period was all seniors except for 1 junior, and my prep period is 2nd period.  That one junior showed up but, having taken his finals with the rest of the class, he went to the band room all period to rehearse for the graduation exercises performance.

So I had no students yesterday.

Today was 3rd and 4th period finals.  My 3rd period had two juniors in it and neither of them showed up, having taken their finals with the rest of the class.  My 4th period is freshmen/sophomores, but I have a student teacher that period!  (Yes, I stayed with the class 4th period to answer questions, proctor the final, etc, as two sets of eyes are better than one).

So far, all of my finals are graded and semester grades are calculated.  Monday is 5th and 6th periods, and the two juniors in 5th period have already taken their final exam.  So I'm just waiting for 6th period pre-calculus--and that is not a multiple choice final! 

Just a few more days, then I get new tires on my trailer and head out to visit a couple national parks!

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

The Rainy Day Folder

I just haven't been feeling it lately.

I enjoy teaching.  I enjoy working with teenagers.  But lately I'm not sure if I want to be a teacher anymore, at least not in the US.

A friend of mine is packing up her stuff, selling her house, and moving to Taiwan to work at an international school there.  I considered that prospect last year, but the financial hit to my retirement was just too big.  But given the soul-sucking nature of my job, I'm considering it again.

I got one of those notes from a student today, one of those personal "thank you for..." notes that make you smile both inside and out.  I decided to put it in my rainy day folder, and as I was doing so decided to read everything in there.


I have a couple in there going back to my first year of teaching, 1997-98.  A lot were from around 5 years ago.  Just the one from this year.  Oh, I got a few notes this year, but only the one made it into the folder.

There's a reason it's called the "rainy day folder".  It's there to remind me of the good I've done, to remind me of the sunshine when all I can see is the rain.  What I read in there reminded me that I'm good at what I do.  In many cases I teach kids what they didn't think they could learn.  I really wish that were all that mattered.  If it were, I wouldn't be in this quandary.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Remembering What Totalitarianism Is Truly Like

So many people want to scream that President Trump wants to be a dictator, that he's destroying democratic norms, that he hurts their feelings, etc.  When President Trump comes anywhere close to this, you let me know:
I was on a rotation to the National Training Center, outside of Barstow, CA, when we got the news. There had been rallies and protests in Beijing since April, but by early June the Communist leadership had had enough. The Chinese sent troops into Tienanman Square to end the protest once and for all.

We were very isolated out in the desert, not even having non-military radios. The only news we got was from the observer-controllers who were evaluating us. All we knew was that the Chicoms had sent the army into Beijing. They began shooting. We heard reports, later proven to be inaccurate, that some military units were firing on others in defense of the protesters. We wondered about a civil war in a nuclear power.

Those reports were wrong. No military units mutinied. It was a massacre. Only weeks later, when we finally returned home to Fort Carson, did we see the iconic picture of White Shirt Guy standing in front of a tank. Tanks are very effective anti-personnel weapons. But one man, a man craving liberty, can be brave enough to stop a line of tanks.

For a little while.
It was 30 years ago today.

Monday, June 03, 2019

Final Exams Start Tomorrow

Because we have to get the seniors graduated, "senior finals" start tomorrow.  Seniors will have up to 3 final exams tomorrow.

Then end is getting so close we can almost taste it.  But there's a lot of work to be done between now and then.

Update, 6/4/19:  No one failed my statistics classes!  I have one senior left to take a final exam tomorrow, and there's no way she can fail the course she's taking.

I do not expect such rosy results from my freshman/sophomore Integrated Math 1 class, which will have their final exam next week Friday.

Sunday, June 02, 2019

School Outcomes Too Good To Be True--Because They Weren't

The New York Times tells us about the racist lies that made one Louisiana school seem like it was doing extremely well educating black students:
Some of the fraud at the heart of our T.M. Landry investigation is not so different from the schemes employed in other college admissions scandals. This was certainly not the first time, or the last, that we had seen people lie to get their children into college.

But race sets T.M. Landry apart from more recent cases of education fraud, as was evident in the school’s appeal to prospective students and in how it got them into college...

The Landrys explicitly vowed to get black students into top universities; to level a vastly uneven playing field; to put into reach a college education that many teenagers and their parents worried was outside their grasp...

But the Landrys could not have attracted students without also delivering results. Transcripts were littered with inflated grades, nonexistent extracurricular activities and fictitious classes. In recommendation letters, they fabricated and exaggerated stories of hardship that played on negative racial stereotypes. And they encouraged students to do the same.

In this way, the Landrys painted their students in the “most stereotypical light that they possibly could be in to try and gain some white sympathy to get them into school,” Mr. Smith said.

Or as Eddie Glaude, a professor of African-American studies at Princeton, told MSNBC: Mike Landry was “playing on a kind of soft bigotry, where the idea of educating African-American children is often thought of as a philanthropic enterprise, as a charitable gift.”

This was perhaps the grimmest indictment of the college admissions process, because it seemed to work.
And the SAT's "adversity score" will play into the same stereotypes.
Black families were desperate to believe that the Landrys would help them in a world where no other institutions seemed to care. White, elite institutions were blind to how stereotypes had twisted their ability to assess what it means to be a qualified black candidate.  (boldface mine--Darren)
It seems like the underlying assumption is that black students cannot excel academically.  It must be impossible to change behaviors or community norms--the only way to get ahead is to cheat.  Integrity means nothing, the ends justify the means.  Doing what's right is too hard, it's easier just to cheat.

How have the school's graduates done at their elite schools?  Results are mixed:
Some alumni, especially those who spent only a short time at T.M. Landry, have been successful. Bryson Sassau did well in his classes at St. John’s, although he had to quit some advanced science and math courses. Mr. Smith also did well, but with debts mounting had to drop out after his freshman year. Another Landry graduate said he feels at home at Brown in his junior year, has maintained good grades and was recently accepted into a program that prepares students to pursue a doctoral degree. 

The student in the most viral video, who spent only a short time at Landry, is in his first semester at Harvard. Other Landry students have been admitted to Harvard over the past three years, but the university declined to provide information on their status.

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Electoral College

A couple weeks ago I posted some thought-provoking questions about the electoral college, an institution I wholeheartedly support.  In addition to the brilliance demonstrated by the Founders, and the interesting questions posted above, here's a visual about why the electoral college is so important:
You either believe we live in a federal republic, or you want a democracy.  It's really that simple.

And I agree with the Founders about the dangers of direct democracies.