Saturday, February 29, 2020

California Democrats, Solving The Problems of Our Day

Fresh off of destroying jobs with AB5, California Democrats finally turn their attention to the needs of all those mothers shopping at Target:
A new California bill would require some retailers to have gender-neutral floor space inside their stores.

Assembly Bill 2826 (AB-2826), proposed by Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) – would apply to all retail department stores with 500 or more employees.

It would do away with “boys aisles” and “girls aisles” and require that children’s products be offered in a single, gender-neutral section.
Ignore for a moment whether or not this kind of micromanagement is even a legitimate function of government (hint: it's not).  Is it not convenient to have toys and clothes segregated by sex?  Maybe even age?

Victory Girls blog is on it:
(Assemblyman) Low would have you believe there’s been a particularly evil sham perpetuated upon the public by not having sparkly-pink dresses with unicorns hanging with the green dinosaur t-shirts...

Now, does Evan Low really believe that parents and grandparents are too stupid to be allowed to shop for their own offspring without his benevolent guidance? That they have been paralyzed by signs reading “Girls Clothing 5-8”?

“Oh Harry, Susie really wants a Star Wars t-shirt for her 9th birthday, but they are all out of them here in the Girls section. Do you think we will be allowed to see if there are any in the boys’ department? What will happen to us if we are caught?” cried no grandmother ever.

This bill doesn’t concern any issue of safety or fraud. This is a bill that micromanages the decisions of businesses on how they market and display their products in their own stores. This bill makes an ideological judgment that there is no legitimate reason to have dresses in the girls’ department and boxer briefs in the boys’ department.
Will sanity win out?  It's not a safe bet here in the People's Republik.

Supply vs Demand

As Instapundit often says, the demand for so-called hate crimes against lefties far exceeds the supply.

Update, 3/12/20Here's another one.

Update #2, 3/12/20:  And another.

Another Casualty of California Stupidity

AB5, the law that pretty much does away with independent contractors and makes everyone an employee, claims another victim:
“After 40+ years of classical music concerts offered outside with family and friends, the Lake Tahoe Music Festival will call a wrap to our summer festival with two performances in August 2020,” the Festival announced in an email that we received.

“New CA employment law AB-5 requirements add to the challenge of meeting our financial goals and create the final stressor on our small non-profit organization. For several years we have experienced the same slowly eroding philanthropic support of cultural life faced by other small arts organizations in our state.

“We now join many who also face uncertainty regarding increased employment costs and infrastructure needs associated with AB-5. So we will bring our festival to a close with pride in our long-time contribution to community life in North Tahoe and Truckee.
Good job, Democrats.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Coronavirus in Sacramento

Prior to today, there was one person in Sacramento County who had tested positive for coronavirus--and that person lives in a nearby county but is a patient at the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.  And then this happens:
Two students from two different Los Rios Community College District schools have been exposed to the coronavirus.

According to a press release from the school district, the two students attend American River College and Cosumnes River College and work as medical professionals. They were exposed to the virus by the individual who has tested positive for coronavirus [COVID-19] and is being treated in Sacramento County.

The exposure appears to have happened during the week of Feb. 17, 2020, while the students were working. Both students later returned to their respective campus after exposure.

"Sacramento County Public Health experts have directed both colleges to take no immediate actions and proceed with regular class and work schedules at this time," school officials said in a press release.
Close to half of each graduating class at my school attends American River College which, as the crow flies, is 3 miles from my house.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

I Don't Usually Read Dead-tree Novels...

...but when I do, they're usually written by Clive Cussler:

I guess I won't be doing that anymore:
Clive Cussler, the bestselling author and sea explorer, died on Monday, his family announced in a Facebook post.

He was 88...

In his lifetime, Cussler was known for his books about underwater shipwreck discoveries -- both fiction and nonfiction.

He published more than 50 during his career, two of which were later made into movies -- "Raise the Titanic," released in 1980, and "Sahara," in 2005. His books were published in more than 40 languages in over 100 countries, according to his website.
I always said he couldn't write a woman's role to save his soul, but I loved his books anyway.  They featured larger than life characters and were good, clean escapist fun.  I'll miss his Oregon Files series.  She was a great ship with a great crew.

First Time This Year

I haven't felt great for almost 2 weeks now, and that includes the time I was walking all over Panama City, Panama!  After two days back at work, yesterday I thought there was no way I'd make it through today.  I organized all of today's lessons, put in for a sub, and came home.

Got home around 5.  Laid down on the couch to watch some tv but didn't really feel up to getting the remote to turn it on, that's how exhausted I felt.  And then I was out.  Around 9:30 I got up and went to bed.

I'm trying to do absolutely nothing today, not even chores, in order to whip whatever is in my lungs.  I've got two more days of work this week, and I'm not going to miss them--or any others.  Taking one sick day a year is enough!

As I type this I got a text message from the teacher next door, letting me know which substitute teacher I got.  My classes are in good hands.

(For those of you who aren't teachers, you may not know that high school teachers hate missing class and having substitutes.  Often it's more work than if we'd been there ourselves, and often no actual teaching/learning takes place.  And who knows what the room will look like upon our return?  With my substitute, though--who was the jr high PE coach for some of my colleagues, which tells you how many times he's been around the block--everything will be fine.)

Monday, February 24, 2020

Another American Hero Passes Into the Great Beyond

Everyone knows that being black in the American South in the 1960s and before was a difficult experience.  One of the things I liked about the movie Hidden Figures, about black American women who worked for NASA in the 60s, was that it told the story without hitting you in the head with a 2x4 about the racism.  The story was plenty strong, not needing even subtle use of the "r word" while still getting the point across.

It was based on the true story of three black American women, one of whom died today:
(Katherine) Johnson, a pioneering mathematician who, along with a group of other brilliant black women, made US space travel possible, died this week. She was 101. 
NASA announced Johnson's death on Monday. 
Johnson was part of NASA's "Computer Pool," a group of mathematicians whose data powered NASA's first successful space missions. The group's success largely hinged on the accomplishments of its black women members.

Her work went largely unrecognized until the release of 2016's "Hidden Figures," a film portrayal of Johnson's accomplishments while the space agency was still largely segregated. 
I find it hard to feel sad for her.  She made it 101 years on this earth--that's a good, long life.  If I'm to feel sad, it's for those who continue life without her.

We've lost a good mathematician, a good American, and by all accounts a good person.  Godspeed.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Renaming Students

I'm sure this has been going on forever:
In Spanish class, Mary might be called Maria, and John might be known as Juan.

Renaming students is a common practice in foreign-language classes, but there has been a growing pushback among some educators, who say it can be culturally insensitive and put some students in an uncomfortable position. The debate has resurfaced after comments made this week by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who's running to be the Democratic nominee for president.

"My name is Amy, but when I was in 4th grade Spanish, they gave me the name Elena," Klobuchar said at the Culinary Union forum in Nevada.
When I took German in high school I was addressed as Darren, not as Wolfgang or Heinrich or Horst or even Adolf. And that is as it should be. Is there really anything to be gained by renaming a student?  To use a leftie argument here, is there any "cultural appropriation" occurring by giving students new names? 

I guess there's no harm done if students opt to participate in this, but there's something to this practice that doesn't pass the educational smell test with me.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Uvas, Sandía, y Piña

Grapes, watermelon, and pineapple.  Those are the first things on my plate for breakfast each morning here at the hotel.  There are other goodies to be sure, but I've got to have these.  They make me feel like I'm starting off healthy for the day.

That's important because I've been sick since before I got here.  I'm sure I have bronchitis and I'm so tired of coughing.  I don't think it's gotten worse since I've been here, so there's that.

But it's time to go.  I just have to brush my teeth, pack up a few remaining things, and call an Uber.  I'll get home around midnight tonight, have a day to rest (and maybe go to a clinic for some treatment!), and then it's back to work.

I'm looking forward to camping during Spring Break!!!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Yesterday's Canal Transit

I doubt anyone came to this blog to learn everything I know about the Panama Canal, but I learned a lot yesterday!    It's unfortunate I can't get any of the video to load right now, perhaps that will change when I get home to my full setup.

The French tried to dig a canal in the 1880s, but they wanted to dig ocean-to-ocean like they did with the Suez.  This wasn't going to work and they went broke.  In 1903 Panama was still part of Colombia, and the US sent a naval vessel to keep the Colombians away from a Panamanian insurrection; shortly after they were able to declare independence, they gave the US the canal zone "in perpetuity" (at least until Carter signed it back over).

The Americans, under a West Point graduate, dammed a river and created Gatun Lake--don't have to dig 50 miles anymore, you can sail across a lake a lot of the way!  The big cut is, I think, less than 10 miles long.  Also, the Americans wanted to go "up and over" Panama and not have to dig through it, so there are 3 sets of locks (some with more than one chamber) to raise ships the 89' needed to get over Panama and lower them back to sea level.

The tour bus picked me up at my hotel at 10am sharp.  I was the first to be picked up, and traffic was so horrible for the first hour or so of stops that our driver used his horn at least as much as the gas pedal.  When we were gathered up we were driven to a marina where I thought we would meet our boat:

At the marina we, along with others who were there before us, were loaded onto another bus and driven 60-90 minutes to the town of Gamboa, in the center of the country.

It was in Gamboa that we boarded our vessel and headed southeast towards the Pacific.

We passed through 2 of the 3 locks on the canal, which are very cool.  They're they same gates, and pretty much the same system, that was used when the Canal opened over 100 years ago in 1914.

There was a slightly larger boat in front of us.  Each time, they would enter the lock first and tie up, then we would tie up on their port side, and a sailboat would tie up on our port side.

And then they'd bring in that monster vessel right up behind us.  It did not motor into the lock; rather, it was secured to trains that pulled it into the lock and right on our tail.

We were up high, we needed to get down to sea level. 

The gates behind "Big Bertha" were closed, and then the water in the lock started draining.  We dropped about a meter a minute, and the draining took about 10 minutes.

When we were at the next level, the gates would swing open.  The sailboat would motor out first, then us, then the slightly larger vessel, then "Big Bertha".  The first lock had only 1 step and the second lock had 2 steps, so we went through this entering, tying up, draining, opening the gates, exiting in sequence drill 3 times.

The real estate wasn't very interesting as we traveled mostly through cut rock, perhaps the trip through Gatun Lake would be more scenic.  However, from a historical and engineering perspective, this was about as cool as it gets.

We motored out of the canal and back to the original marina, where we got on our respective buses and were returned to our hotels.

Some factoids:
-the canal fee for our 300-passenger boat was $4100.  There were 95 passengers on board, and I myself paid $150 for this trip.  Crew, the meal on board, the buses, marina fees--do the math.
-the largest fee ever paid for a single vessel was somewhat over $1 million.
-it is a felony to swim in the Panama Canal.
-since the US Navy must be able to operate in both the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans, the Panama Canal limited the size of our naval vessels for over 100 years!
-in 2016 new, larger locks were added.  Now 98% of the world's fleet can sail through the Canal.
-average waiting time to get a transit time/date through the Canal is 24-48 hours.  Of course you must pay your fees first, in cash or transfer, no credit!  In God We Trust, all others pay cash.
-cruise lines ensure their times are written in stone, they pay 6 months in advance!

A student of mine told me about his family's adventure transiting the Canal in a sailboat several years ago.  You can read their experiences here--and I recommend you do, it's very entertaining.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

I'll Take "Different Things" For 300, Alex

During my long walk I came up with 3 things that are different here from other places I've been, but since I'm old and Alzheimer-y I can only remember 2 of them right now.

First, the raptors.  Huge birds, over 5' in wingspan--when they got close they looked kinda like vultures--fly between and around the high-rises.  Lots of them.  And they ride the thermals, always keeping their eyes down, looking for prey. I walked a few miles from here today, and they were in that part of the city, too--even near the large jungle-y urban parks.  I haven't seen any rats at street level, and the raptors are probably why.  Best to keep your small dogs and cats indoors.

Another thing that's different is traffic cones and plastic street barriers.  These are used with wild abandon, and armies of men are employed to constantly change their locations--for reasons I've been unable to ascertain.  Government uses them, businesses use them, they're ubiquitous.  I watched so many men push plastic barriers down streets today, and move cones from here to there.  And for the life of me I can't figure out why.

If I eventually remember the third difference, I'll be sure to add an update.

Update:  Hah, I remember!

All the escalators I have seen either move deadly slow or do not move at all--until you step on them.  Then they speed up to normal escalator speed.  Safety feature?  Energy savings?

A Lot of Walking

I left my hotel around 6am and started walking to the meeting point for my walking tour up Ancon Hill (in my previous post, it's the hill with the huge Panamanian flag at the top).  My mapping app said the walk would be around 50 min, so I had about 20 min of standing around when I got there.

Then came the tour.  That hill is steep, and driving up it is not allowed.  (I recommend that the Panamanians invest in a cable car!)  From the top there were beautiful views of the Pacific side of the canal (a cruise ship was going through the first lock), the old part of the city, and the newer high-rise area.  When the tour was over I walked back, taking a few pictures and noting potential dinner locations.  By the time I got back to the hotel it was shortly after noon, and the bottoms of my feet feel like hamburger.  What does this afternoon hold?  I have no idea yet!  But I have my canal tour tomorrow, which I am very much looking forward to.

Here are a few of today's pictures:

 A view towards the high-rise part of town, where my hotel is.  Yes, I really walked all that way, both ways!  (But not barefoot in the snow.)

Ships waiting for their transit date/time through the canal.

 When you zoom, it doesn't look *so* far.

 The canal itself, with a cruise ship in the distance going through the first lock.

A sloth, in the wild!

A very obvious tourist!  The Bridge of the Americas in the the first picture, at the entrance to the canal, and a cruise ship going through the first lock is in the distance in the second.

Monday, February 17, 2020

An Inauspicious Start

By the time we landed yesterday, and I made my way through the jumble that is Tocumen International Airport, I thought for sure they'd throw me in quarantine--I felt more than a little coronavirus-y.  And I've never experienced my ears not popping before.  And the lengthy forms I had to fill out--does anyone even read them?--were entirely in Spanish.  I was so thankful to finally get to my hotel and to my room.

I had a walking tour scheduled for this afternoon but last night I postponed it until Friday.  My condition improved enough overnight that this morning I went for a short walk along the waterfront just to get outside.

Panama City is loud, it's crowded, it's dirty--like so many other cities in the world.  But there's beauty, too, if you look for it.  One of the things I like about tropical places is the color:

click to enlarge

There are glass-and-steel high-rises everywhere, so I'm especially looking forward to the Skyline tour.  If I remember correctly, we'll walk up that hill in the last picture--can you see the huge Panamanian flag at the top?--and look over the city and the Pacific side of the canal.

But for now, it's time for a rest.

30 Years Ago Today

Can you believe it's been that long?  And that Donald Trump has been a celebrity for that long?

Sunday, February 16, 2020

A Short Vacation

I've scheduled this post in advance, and in theory I'm landing about now:

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Don't School Administrators Have Anything More Important To Do Than To Police Snapchat Conversations?

I have a long record on this blog of stating categorically that schools have no business policing the out-of-school behaviors of their students.  Many schools do, though, claiming that the heart-boo-boo caused by someone off campus "impacts the learning environment", or some such nonsense.

And now a group of students is striking back:
The parents of four Saline, Michigan, high school students filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday over the students' suspension following alleged racist messages they posted on Snapchat.

Two of the unnamed students, all white, have returned to their classes while the others face expulsion for their Jan. 26 Snapchat texts where they reportedly used the N word and white supremacy statements, according to the students' attorney, David A. Kallman. Kallman contends their punishments violated their first amendment rights.

Although the suit acknowledged that the students’ Snapchat thread was inappropriate and immature, it argued that the school had no jurisdiction to discipline them since the texting took place outside of school grounds and the students were denied their due process rights...

Representatives for the Saline Area Schools didn’t immediately return messages asking for comment. Saline Area Schools Superintendent Scot Graden released a letter on Jan. 27 that the school investigated the texts after they were reported to administrators and determined "that the incident represents an act of racism that created harm to all of our students."
Stay tuned.

How Much Are You Willing To Sacrifice?

A classic case of lefties who want others to give something up--but not them, of course!  Make the other guy pay for their beliefs!
In late January, students occupied the campus’s courtyard in protest of the school’s £8 million investment in the fossil fuel industry. The school owns several shares in the oil companies, BP and Shell. The demonstrators refused to move unless the demands of divestment were met in the name of halting climate change, reported The Harvard Crimson.

Two students wrote to Bursar Andrew Parker, expressing their insistence that the college “declares a climate emergency and immediately divests from fossil fuels,” The Times of London reported. Parker’s response made international headlines.

“I am not able to arrange any divestment at short notice,” he wrote back to the students. “But, I can arrange for the gas central heating in college to be switched off with immediate effect. Please let me know if you support this proposal.”

Ankit Ranjan, a biomedicine undergraduate, replied by stating that he would put the offer up to the students, but that he suspected that the bursar was being sarcastic. “I think [the offer] will reflect poorly on the college,” he wrote back.

The bursar replied: “You are right that I am being provocative but I am provoking some clear thinking, I hope. It is all too easy to request others to do things that carry no personal cost to yourself. The question is whether you and others are prepared to make personal sacrifices to achieve the goals of environmental improvement (which I support as a goal.)”

Parker told The Times that his offer was “more of a rhetorical question” and that more could be done to help the environment “if everyone stops and thinks before emitting slogans.” But now, American Ivy League professors are speaking out against Parker and condemning his response that they say was filled with “self-righteousness” and “ignorance.”
It's the protesters who are filled with self-righteousness and ignorance, and they and their allies don't like being called out on it.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Damn Trees

It hasn't rained much, if at all, the past month or so, so the trees think it's spring.  Who has two thumbs and is highly allergic to tree pollen?  This guy.  Is my head in a vice, or is it going to explode?  I guess both could happen at once.

I'm leaving in less than 2 days.  Hopefully I'll feel better in the tropics than I do right now.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Why Can't Liberals Write Good Laws?

Remember how bad the Obamacare law was?  How Democrats begged Republicans to fix it rather than completely abandon it?  How pathetic do you have to be when you can write a law however you want, with no compromises from the other side, it's exactly the way you want it--and it still sucks?

Enter California and AB5, the anti-Gig Economy law:
AB5 took effect on January 1, and it’s already causing trouble. A limit on the number of articles that freelance writers could produce for one publication resulted in layoffs for some California journalists and a First Amendment lawsuit from others. Workers in more than 135 occupations claim that losing contractor status hurts them, while independent theater and arts groups are facing thousands of dollars in costs they can’t afford because they must now treat staff as employees. Lorena Gonzalez, the assemblywoman who wrote AB5, has introduced another law to remove the article cap for writers and address the status of musicians. A sign of poor legislation is the need to rewrite it immediately after it takes effect.

Uber is making changes to its app to avoid triggers that define “employment” under the law. If this workaround proves successful, then the industry that AB5 targeted will remain untouched, while other businesses will face its burdens—and other workers will lose opportunities. Trucking companies have gotten a restraining order on applying the law to their operations. The process of negotiating exemptions and modifications to the law is making progressive California a bastion of crony capitalism, with favored or powerful classes writing themselves in or out of regulation. Poorer workers and smaller companies and industries, without access to lawyers or lobbyists, will lose out. In this vein, Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and others are planning to spend more than $100 million on a ballot measure to overturn AB5—but only for app-based drivers, leaving everyone else, from translators to rehab assistants, out in the cold.
I wonder if any of our legislators ever took an economics course.

Update, 2/23/20Here's more, and from a CPA who admits to being a life-long Democrat:
It’s been 6 weeks since AB5 was signed and put into effect. We’ve now had 6 weeks to see some actual results. So, as a CPA with clients in the Independent Contractor world, and as a lifelong Democrat whose Assemblyperson and Governor actually voted for this shitshow that is AB5, I need to ask: What were you thinking?

After reading the actual law, listening to interviews, and taking numerous courses on AB5, I simply don’t know what the thought process was behind AB5. What was the goal? Because, if it was to “protect California workers”, you’ve done an abysmal job of that...

The laws were there. You just needed to enforce them. Instead, you took a single legal case, Dynamex (where one single company decided to break the rules and throw all their employees to IC status), and you brought the hammer down. On everyone. You have decided to ruin the livelihoods of 1-2 million true California independent contractors because someone somewhere screwed up on, what, 1,000 classifications? That’s some serious overreaction and, might I add, a rather large amount of California citizens to consider acceptable collateral damage...

In other words, AB5 will put these professionals out of business and they will close their LLCs, partnerships, and corporations. And it won’t be because of the expense of payroll taxes. It will be because they can no longer operate the businesses they previously legally established due to not receiving payment/income in the form necessary for proper tax reporting purposes.

It has turned their income tax and business worlds upside down. But I was naïve. AB5 has resulted in far worse than that.

Instead of switching ICs to employees, many hiring companies have simply cancelled contracts. Period. Done. Work gone. Needless to say, that sound you heard was 1 million independent contractors finding out they no longer have a source of income.

And who’s getting these jobs? OUT-OF-STATE employees, because, lo and behold, your little AB5 states that California companies who hire out-of-state ICs aren’t affected by AB5.
Heckuva job, Gavie.

Perfection Is The Enemy of the Good Enough

Not every teacher is awesome, and not every awesome teacher is awesome all the time.  Every student is entitled to a competent teacher, not to a Superteacher:
Public debates about teaching often raise some version of this question: How do we figure out what great teachers do differently and then get other teachers to do it?

The why-can’t-every-teacher-be-more-like-this refrain has long been popular. Media stories about the Next Big Edu-Thing begin by presenting the educator who embodies the new trend, whose rapt students lean forward in their seats, or chatter with purpose in self-directed, project-based learning groups, or interact glitchlessly with their school’s new blended-lesson tech tools. Focusing on great teachers seems to be a win for everyone — certainly, it’s less fraught than having to debate what makes a bad teacher...

Some days they’ll have moments of greatness. Every once in a while, like anyone at any job, they just won’t bring their best selves to work. But most of the time, they’ll be persistently, unremarkably good. Might that be enough?

...The focus on great teachers can also implicitly suggest that educators shouldn’t need luxuries like administrators who handle schoolwide discipline, or advance warning before major changes in policy or curriculum, or enough desks. This is not an expectation we bring to our assessment of other professions; we would never applaud the example of, say, a no-excuses firefighter who doesn’t need appropriate firefighting equipment. (Or starts a Go Fund Me page to buy that needed equipment.)

...My hope was to capture teachers not as heroes, but as what they are: a diverse group of sometimes heroic, often flawed, and occasionally hilarious humans doing a complex job that no one ever fully masters.

These are the teachers who make up the majority of our teaching workforce. They have commitments outside of school and bills to pay. They, and we, stand to benefit from making sure teaching is a sustainable career.
Hear hear.

This Kookiness Exists Even In Texas

I'm not sure whether to marvel at the lack of self-awareness or the brazenness with which some people in positions of authority enforce their blatant racism:
Students studying to become teachers at Texas State University who take the course “Public Education in a Multicultural Society” are required to complete a series of assignments on “whiteness.”

The class, Culture and Instruction 3310: Public Education in a Multicultural Society, is “designed to give students an overview of public schooling in America in terms of multicultural, historical, legal and political contexts,” according to the course description...

According to the course syllabus, the online class is taught by senior lecturer Julia Meritt and features three graded assignments centered on whiteness and privilege.

The College Fix obtained screenshots of two of the assignments, which instructs students to “analyze the construct of whiteness and its relationship to privilege and equity for students.”
The correct response is "bite me". I wonder how many prospective teachers are honest on these assignments.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

When Chris Matthews Is The Voice Of Reason on the Left...

In what kind of hellish Bizarro World does Chris Matthews start to make sense?  I ask, because that's where we are:
You wouldn’t think you’d hear right-leaning talking points from a died-in-the-wool Democrat television host like Chris Matthews, but that’s exactly what we got...

It gets better.

Matthews laid down the simple truth. He knows socialism is popular, but he’s seen its effets (sic) in various aspects, and it clearly doesn’t work.

In fact, in Matthews’s exact words, “it doesn’t frickin’ work.”
I guess Bernie doesn't give Chris a thrill up his leg.

When Lefties Have Lost The LA Times....


FEB. 11, 2020

We get it: California is at the forefront of the Trump Resistance, and no one is fighting harder to counter his destructive and mean-spirited policies than the state’s lawmakers.

But some of the proposals aimed at President Trump seem designed solely to score political points, not to improve the state in any real way. The 2019 law requiring presidential candidates to show their tax returns to be allowed on the state’s primary ballot was one example. That measure was obviously unconstitutional as well as partisan and pointless. Even if it hadn’t been struck down by the state Supreme Court last year, it wouldn’t have changed Trump’s behavior — he would have just skipped the primary.

Now, a bill by Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) follows that churlish example by prohibiting state employees and officials from being reimbursed for the cost of staying at a hotel or resort owned by Trump — or any president in the future. That might be meaningful if there were lots of state travel involving Trump’s hotels. There isn’t. According to reporting by the Sacramento Bee, only one state worker has stayed a Trump property in the last four years. link

How much of my tax money is being spent on such silliness? Answer: too much. But the justification for it: Resist we much.

Plastic Bag Bans Accomplish Nothing But Appealing To Certain People's Vanity and Need To "Do Something"

It's always difficult to do an episode like this, because we're pitting data-driven policy against the honest impulses of well-intentioned environmentalists; the fact is that some policy that sounds good turns out to be driven more by emotion or ideology than by science. High-profile public issues like ocean trash and global warming are emotionally charged (rightfully so), and many of us support policies which appear to be obvious remedies. But the fact is that banning plastic carryout bags hurts the causes it intends to help...

Myth #1: Plastic carryout bags contribute to ocean plastics...

Myth #2: Bans decrease the amount of disposable plastic leaving the supermarket...

Myth #3: Plastic bags are worse for the environment than other options...
Click here for the details.

Monday, February 10, 2020

This Is Me

You may think it odd that a teacher, someone who's around dozens of people all day, could be an introvert, but I absolutely am.  This author is describing me:
The most powerful self-revelation of my adult life occurred while I was eating a Cubano sandwich in a Florida strip mall. I was running some teaching workshops at a university in Fort Lauderdale and had an open slot for dinner. On the recommendation of my host, I walked from my hotel to a small Cuban restaurant nestled amid a random assortment of storefronts. As I usually do when I dine alone on the road, I brought a book.

Having ordered my sandwich, I opened up Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking and began reading. On page after page, I recognized myself with astonishment. For the first time in my life, I realized that personality traits about which I had always felt some degree of shame were shared by a significant minority of the human species.

I learned, for example, that people like me need solitary time to recharge our batteries — even if we enjoy socializing with others. I realized that I could stop feeling guilty for making quick escapes from parties or campus social events — even when I loved everyone in the room and was enjoying the conversations. I discovered that plenty of people find prolonged eye contact a little uncomfortable. I finally understood why I hate small talk and don’t relish meeting new people whom I am unlikely to ever see again...

Geeky Pedagogy raises the very good question of why introverts would decide to pursue a profession like teaching, since the highly social nature of the classroom would pose obvious challenges. Yet introverts chose to teach anyway, and we continue to make that choice every semester. We do that, Neuhaus argues, because we love our subject matter so much that our enthusiasm spills beyond our individual selves. We are led into the classroom by a desire to share our intellectual passion and inspire others to see in our subject the same wonders and mysteries as we do...

Most introverts aren’t the kind of "super teacher" who connects automatically and easily with students. We might not possess a natural instinct for teaching, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be effective. What it means, instead, is that we have to think hard about our teaching, really do our homework, and labor continuously at it.
As they say, read the whole thing.

(And yes, I know the title is grammatically incorrect, but a grammatically correct title would sound utterly ridiculous.)

Saturday, February 08, 2020


In general, I try to live by the maxim of not speaking ill of the dead (immediately after their deaths).  There are some for whom I ignore that rule--dictators, terrorists, mass murderers, scourges of humanity.  Heck, I emailed Laura Ingraham when a guest host on her show made some foul comments upon Ted Kennedy's death.  Political opponents shouldn't rise to level of "dictators, terrorists, mass murderers, scourges of humanity", and it's the decent thing to do to give those left behind some time to mourn without having to deal with other people's toxic/petty political celebrations.

Too often, though, people let their hatred overrule their humanity.  Reading the news this morning I came upon these two school employees that went public with their darkest thoughts.  First:
A Wisconsin teacher has been suspended after tweeting that he hoped conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh suffers a painful death from cancer.

Travis Sarandos, an English teacher at the Milwaukee High School of the Arts, posted the tweet on Monday and was suspended two days later.

"Rush Limbaugh absolutely should have to suffer from cancer," Sarandos wrote in the tweet. "It's awesome that he's dying, and hopefully it is as quick as it is painful."
The Washington state high school principal that was criticized for an online post following Kobe Bryant's death has resigned, the district superintendent said.

"Trust between a principal and a school is so critical, and it's become clear to me in my time here that that trust has been broken," Camas School District Superintendent Jeff Snell said in a video directed to students. "It's caused a disruption at the school that's demonstrated in many ways."
After the helicopter crash last month that killed the NBA legend, his 13-year-old daughter and the other seven people on board, Camas High School principal Liza Sejkora wrote on her personal Facebook page, "Not gonna lie. Seems to me that karma caught up with a rapist today," CNN affiliate KATU reported.
Not being a fan of basketball, Kobe Bryant meant as much to me as did any of the other people on that helicopter.  None of them impacted my life a scintilla.  That doesn't mean that I'm immune to their deaths; as a fellow human, I recognize that people are hurting over their deaths.

To the teacher and to the principal I say, "Where is your humanity?"

On the other hand, I cannot condone their respective suspension and firing.  Their speech, foul as it was, was their private speech, not conducted at school or directed at students.  And even if it had been, you just don't fire or suspend someone for expressing an opinion.  Yes, there are caveats to that declaration, but I don't see either of the referenced comments coming with miles of crossing the line.  I can see how people could disagree with those comments, and even be hurt or offended by them, but so what?  I'm hurt and offended all the time at work, I don't go around trying to get people fired.  Employers in general, and government employers in particular, have no business policing the speech of their off-duty employees.

The teacher, the principal, and their school districts all behaved poorly.  Great example for children.

Friday, February 07, 2020

Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

I already don't think highly of TSA-holes, and this story isn't going to change that:
A federal Transportation Security Administration agent tricked a traveler into twice showing him her breasts as she went through security at one of the world’s busiest airports, California’s attorney said.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Johnathon Lomeli, 22, was working at Los Angeles International Airport in June when he used fraud or deceit to falsely imprison the woman. Lomeli was arrested early Thursday at his home.

He first said he had to look inside her bra to make sure she wasn’t hiding anything, then had her hold her pants away from her waist so he could look inside, she told investigators.

He subsequently took her to what he said would be a private room for more security screening, according to an arrest affidavit. But once they were alone on an elevator, she said he told her he could do the screening right there.

Will Planting Trees Solve All Our Problems And Bring About The Return of the Messiah?

Maybe, maybe not:
Trees just got a big boost at The World Economic Forum this month, when the forum announced a new initiative aimed at planting 1 trillion trees around the globe within the decade to combat climate change. It’s got the backing of big names: Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff is contributing an undisclosed amount of his own cash to the effort, while his company has committed itself to planting 100 million trees. Even Donald Trump, who has thrown a wrench into US and global efforts to tackle climate change, said the US would sign onto the campaign, called

But the science behind the campaign, a study that claims 1 trillion trees can significantly reduce greenhouse gases, is disputed. “People are getting caught up in the wrong solution,” says Forrest Fleischman, who teaches natural resources policy at the University of Minnesota and has spent years studying the effects of tree planting in India. “Instead of that guy from Salesforce saying, ‘I’m going to put money into planting a trillion trees,’ I’d like him to go and say, ‘I’m going to put my money into helping indigenous people in the Amazon defend their lands,’” Fleischman says. “That’s going to have a bigger impact"...

“Headlines around the world declared tree planting to be the best solution to climate change,” lead author of the critique Joseph Veldman said in a statement at the time. “We now know those headlines were wrong.” Veldman argued that planting trees where they don’t belong can harm ecosystems, make wildfires worse, and even exacerbate global warming. His critique made the case that the amount of carbon the study said 1 trillion trees could sequester was about five times too large. The study also considered planting trees on savannas and grasslands, where planting non-native trees could cause problems for local species. Planting trees on snowy terrain that once reflected the sun could even turn those places into dark patches that actually absorb heat.  
If we can't even agree on whether or not planting freakin trees is the answer, then maybe we shouldn't jettison our modern way of life and turn everything over to Grumpy Greta and the global elites just yet.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Conservatives vs Liberals

Seen as the tagline of another blog:
Conservatives deal with facts and reach conclusions; liberals have conclusions and sell them as facts.

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Yay, I Can Be A Citizen!

Remember that TV show "Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader"?  To my way of thinking, there's really no winning in that show--if you don't know the answers, you're an adult who's not smarter than a 5th grader, and if you do know the answers, well, yay, you're an adult who's smarter than a 5th grader. 

That's kinda how I felt today when passing this citizenship test with a score of 24/24 (I admit, I wasn't 100% sure about the number of amendments to the Constitution).

California's Governor Is An Idiot

If you don't like cavities, don't go to the dentist--then you can't be told you have cavities.  If you don't want to know you have breast cancer, stop getting mammograms.

Silly, right?  Well, that's the so-called logic behind Gruesome Newsom's latest idea:
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to pause physical education tests for students for three years due to concerns over bullying and the test discriminating against disabled and non-binary students. The move also comes after annual test results show a growing percentage of students scoring not healthy.

H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the Department of Finance, said the state has received complaints that the current examination’s measurement of body mass index is discriminatory to non-binary students. A measurement calculated from weight and height, BMI screenings require students to select “male” or “female,” he said. 

Annual state reports of the fitness test since the 2014-2015 school year show a steady decline in the share of students scoring healthy, according to a review by The Associated Press.
Don't like the results?  Stop the testing!  Sounds exactly like universities and the ACT/SAT, doesn't it?

University of California's New Loyalty Oath--to "Diversity"

A couple months ago I wrote about the new "diversity loyalty oaths" required of applicants to University of California campuses.  Actually, I wrote about the UC Davis math professor who argued against them.  Time for an update:

What is UC Davis hiding about its use of diversity statements?
I was curious as to exactly how many aspiring scholars had been rejected on these bases, solely because their diversity statements were deemed inadequate. But UC Davis administrators have not responded to my repeated requests for further information on the effects of these policies.

However, other University of California schools have published this information. In one recent search at UC Berkeley employing substantially similar evaluation techniques to those that UC Davis used, there were 893 qualified applicants who submitted complete applications that met the basic job requirements. Of those applicants, 679 were eliminated solely because their diversity statements were deemed inadequate.

In other words, UC Berkeley rejected 76 percent of qualified applicants without even considering their teaching skills, their publication history, their potential for academic excellence or their ability to contribute to their field.
My friends (anonymous!) in the UC system report that the criteria are clear and the word is out: Don't try to be clever. Don't quote Martin Luther King, on judgement by content of character rather than color of skin. Don't write vibrant essays on the importance of ideological, political or religious diversity. Don't quote federal anti-discrimination law, the 14th Amendment, and the UC's own statements of non-discrimination in hiring. Don't write about class diversity, diverse experiences of immigrants, such as people born under communism in Eastern Europe or the amazingly diverse experience of the colleague you just hired who came from a small village in China. Don't write about the importance of freedom of speech, or anti-communist loyalty oaths in the 1950s. Are you thinking of writing about your hilbilly elegy background, your time in the military, your support for gun rights and Trump, and how this background and viewpoint would enrich a faculty and staff that likely has absolutely zero people like you? Don't bother. We all know what "diversity" means. And, heaven forbid, don't express distaste for the project. The staff are on to all these tricks, and each of these specifically will earn you a downgrade. For an example of what not to do, see UCLA Professor Stephen Bainbridge's (UCLA law) posted diversity statement. Let's see if he gets that raise.
UC Santa Cruz tosses qualified candidates in first stage of hiring: not diverse enough
The University of California-Santa Cruz and the UC Office of the President are giving The College Fix the runaround when it comes to answering questions about UCSC’s faculty diversity pilot program.

UCSC and UCOP each directed The Fix to the other, and when informed of the other’s response, they either refused to comment or didn’t respond.
Anyone see any problems? Or even the potential for problems, for abuse?


Video here.

Bottom line: the Democratic Party has gone insane.

Sunday, February 02, 2020

Good Thing They Have All Those Editors

What was the final score of the Super Bowl? NBC isn't quite sure, based on this screenshot I just took:

The Best Outcome From The Super Bowl

This idiot won't have to make a difficult decision:

49ers’ Richard Sherman on White House visit: ‘I doubt it’

The Role of the SAT

If colleges and universities aren't going to use the SAT for admissions or for merit-based scholarships, is there any use left for the test?
As schools like the University of California consider dropping the SAT as a requirement for admission due to concern that the test is biased, they run up against another question with a potentially bigger impact for students and their families: Should they continue to use SAT scores to award scholarships?

Colleges and universities give out about $30 billion a year in merit aid, which is often based on a student’s SAT or ACT. An additional $2 billion in merit aid distributed by states hinges on standardized test scores.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts stopped using the test for merit scholarships last year, said Andrew Palumbo, dean of admission. Instead, the school is weighing grades, community service and leadership. The school has made the SAT optional for applicants since 2007.
What standards would schools use, subjective high school grades and skin color?

An Orwelexicon for Bias and Dysfunction in Psychology and Academia

Joanne linked to this post--and I found it so illuminating that I just have to share my own favorites:
Adminomania: A delusion that increased administrative and bureaucratic intrusions into people’s lives will actually improve something, fueled primarily by a pervasive blindness to unintended negative side effects. See Title IX...

Bias bias: A bias for seeing biases, often manifesting as either claiming bias when none exists, exaggerating biases that do exist, or overgeneralizing to large swaths of life from studies finding bias in some narrow or specific context...

Chapeaurougeauphobia: Fear and loathing of Trump supporters...

Emotional imperialism: The strange belief that your feelings should dictate someone else’s behavior...

Equalitarianism: A dogmatic, quasi-religious belief that all groups are equal on all traits that matter, usually accompanied by the belief that the only credible source of group differences is discrimination and outrage at anyone who suggests otherwise. Often accompanied by the belief that women and minorities are inherently or essentially more virtuous...

Identity colonialism: The assumption that you have a better grasp of what’s harmful to a marginalized group than members of that group...

Kafkatrap: A rhetorical move whereby protesting your innocence is interpreted as proving your guilt. Example: If you deny that you are a racist, you are a racist...

Occam’s trumpet: Ignoring all possible alternatives to “bias” as explanations for inequality and triumphantly proclaiming that bias is pervasive...

Quackademic: A person in academia who should not be allowed around students...

Subjectiphilia: An infatuation with subjective experience as empirically triumphant, e.g., using “lived experience” as if it could end an argument.
As Instapundit would say, "Heh."

Why I'm Not One Of Those Teachers Who Lets Students Tune Out If They Want To

Paying attention is important:
Attention is essential, but it may result in a problem: if attention is misdirected, learning can get stuck. If I don’t pay attention to the Frisbee, this part of the image is wiped out: processing goes on as if it did not exist. Information about it is discarded early on, and it remains confined to the earliest sensory areas. Unattended objects cause only a modest activation that induces little or no learning. This is utterly different from the extraordinary amplification that occurs in our brain whenever we pay attention to an object and become aware of it. With conscious attention, the discharges of the sensory and conceptual neurons that code for an object are massively amplified and prolonged, and their messages propagate into the prefrontal cortex, where whole populations of neurons ignite and fire for a long time, well beyond the original duration of the image.

Such a strong surge of neural firing is exactly what synapses need in order to change their strength—what neuroscientists call “long-term potentiation.” When a pupil pays conscious attention to, say, a foreign-language word that the teacher has just introduced, she allows that word to deeply propagate into her cortical circuits, all the way into the prefrontal cortex. As a result, that word has a much better chance of being remembered. Unconscious or unattended words remain largely confined to the brain’s sensory circuits, never getting a chance to reach the deeper lexical and conceptual representations that support comprehension and semantic memory.

This is why every student should learn to pay attention—and also why teachers should pay more attention to attention! If students don’t attend to the right information, it is quite unlikely that they will learn anything. A teacher’s greatest talent consists of constantly channeling and capturing children’s attention in order to properly guide them.

Math In The News

It's wild that such problems are still out there--and that it still takes so much time to solve them!
Mathematicians have finally figured out the three cubed numbers that add up to 42. This has settled a problem that has been pondered for 65 years: namely, can each of the natural numbers below 100 be expressed as the sum of three cubes?

The problem, set in 1954, is exactly what it sounds like: x3+y3+z3=k. K is each of the numbers from 1 to 100; the question is, what are x, y and z?

Over the following decades, solutions were found for the easier numbers. In 2000, mathematician Noam Elkies of Harvard University published an algorithm to help find the harder ones.

By 2019, just the two most difficult ones remained: 33 and 42.
33 took 3 weeks on a supercomputer.  If you don't want to click on the link above to learn about 42, I'll cut to the chase here:
It took over a million hours of computing time, but the two mathematicians found their solution.
X = -80538738812075974
Y = 80435758145817515
Z = 12602123297335631
So, the full equation is (-80538738812075974)3 + 804357581458175153 + 126021232973356313 = 42.

Being A Priest(ess) In The Church of Global Warming Means Never Having To Say You're Sorry

Perhaps we should be thankful they're so open in their foolishness:
I was slightly surprised when Greta Thunberg announced at Davos that we had eight years left to save the planet. As long as that? Admittedly, that’s four years less than Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who put it at 12, although, come to think of it, that was last January, so presumably she now thinks we’ve got 11 years left. But some doomsayers have been much less optimistic. According to Peter Wadhams, a Cambridge professor interviewed in the Guardian in 2013, Arctic ice would disappear by 2015 if we didn’t mend our ways, while Gordon Brown announced in 2009 that we had just 50 days to save the Earth. Then again, playing the long game can also catch up with you. In 2004, Observer readers were told Britain would have a ‘Siberian’ climate in 16 years’ time. We’re supposed to be in the midst of that now.

On the face of it, we should be grateful that these gloomsters make such oddly precise predictions. It’s like putting a sell-by date on their credibility. After all, when the soothsayer in question is proved wrong, they just shuffle off with their tail between their legs, never to be heard from again, right? In eight years’ time, when the planet hasn’t disappeared in a cloud of toxic gas, presumably Greta will throw up her arms and say: ‘Sorry guys. Looked like I was wrong about you ruining my childhood. I’m now going to become a flight attendant.’

But, weirdly, that never happens. No matter how often these ‘experts’ are shown to be no better at forecasting than Paul the Octopus — worse, actually — they just carry on as if nothing has happened. Take Paul Ehrlich, author of the 1968 bestseller The Population Bomb. ‘We must realize that unless we are extremely lucky, everybody will disappear in a cloud of blue steam in 20 years,’ he told the New York Times in 1969. Ehrlich also predicted America would be subject to water rationing by 1974 and food rationing by 1980. Ehrlich’s ‘bomb’ failed to explode, but his career didn’t. On the contrary, he’s now the Bing Professor of Population Studies at Stanford and the president of Stanford’s Center for Conservation Biology. All I can say is, it’s lucky he didn’t become a bookmaker.

The fact that Ehrlich is still an eminent environmentalist — and Prince Charles can pose alongside Greta Thunberg in Davos in spite of claiming we had eight years left to save the planet 11 years ago — helps explain why these Mystic Megs have no hesitation about making these forecasts. It’s a great way of drawing attention to their cause and there’s literally no cost to getting it wrong. The panjandrums of the mainstream media forgive them for spinning these yarns because they know they’re doing it ‘for the right reasons’. They’re not peddling alarmist nonsense — no, they’re just exaggerating the risk. In any case, they might be right and doesn’t the ‘precautionary principle’ dictate that we should change our behavior just in case? Oddly, these same secular humanists don’t apply the logic of Pascal’s Wager to believing in God. That would be unscientific.

One Of The Wildest Things I Learned Last Week

I agree--how do these people think?
My day was completely ruined yesterday when I stumbled upon a fun fact that absolutely obliterated my mind. I saw this tweet yesterday that said that not everyone has an internal monologue in their head. All my life, I could hear my voice in my head and speak in full sentences as if I was talking out loud. I thought everyone experienced this, so I did not believe that it could be true at that time.

Literally the first person I asked was a classmate of mine who said that she can not “hear” her voice in her mind. I asked her if she could have a conversation with herself in her head and she looked at me funny like I was the weird one in this situation. So I began to become more intrigued. Most people I asked said that they have this internal monologue that is running rampant throughout the day. However, every once in a while, someone would say that they don’t experience this.

My life began to slowly spiral out of control with millions of questions. How do they get through the day? How do they read? How do they make decisions between choice A and choice B? My friend described it as “concept maps” that she sees in her brain. Another friend says that she literally sees the words in her head if she is trying to think about something. I was taking ibuprofen at this point in the day because my brain was literally unable to comprehend this revelation. How have I made it 25 years in life without realizing that people don’t think like me?
Don't they sing in their heads?

Blew me away!