Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Planning For The Future

According to the Los Angeles Times, California might have been better able to respond to the coronavirus outbreak:
They were ready to roll whenever disaster struck California: three 200-bed mobile hospitals that could be deployed to the scene of a crisis on flatbed trucks and provide advanced medical care to the injured and sick within 72 hours.

Each hospital would be the size of a football field, with a surgery ward, intensive care unit and X-ray equipment. Medical response teams would also have access to a massive stockpile of emergency supplies: 50 million N95 respirators, 2,400 portable ventilators and kits to set up 21,000 additional patient beds wherever they were needed.

In 2006, citing the threat of avian flu, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced the state would invest hundreds of millions of dollars in a powerful set of medical weapons to deploy in the case of large-scale emergencies and natural disasters such as earthquakes, fires and pandemics.

“In light of the pandemic flu risk, it is absolutely a critical investment,” he told a news conference. “I’m not willing to gamble with the people’s safety."

The state, flush with tax revenue, soon sank more than $200 million into the mobile hospital program and a related Health Surge Capacity Initiative to stockpile medicines and medical gear for use in outbreaks of infectious disease, according to former emergency management officials and state budget records.

But the ambitious effort, which would have been vital as the state confronts the new coronavirus today, hit a wall: a brutal recession, a free fall in state revenues — and in 2011, the administration of a fiscally minded Democratic governor, Jerry Brown, who came into office facing a $26-billion deficit.

And so, that year, the state cut off the money to store and maintain the stockpile of supplies and the mobile hospitals. The hospitals were defunded before they’d ever been used.

Much of the medical equipment — including the ventilators, critical life-saving tools that are in short supply in the current pandemic — was given to local hospitals and health agencies, former health officials said. But the equipment was donated without any funding to maintain them. The respirators were allowed to expire without being replaced.
Short-sighted decisions with long-term costs.  Read the whole thing.

Update:  But wait, there's more:
Joe Biden has made pandemic preparedness a theme of his attacks on President Trump in recent weeks.

But, according to analysis from Gregg Re at Fox News, the Obama-Biden administration repeatedly sought to cut hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "seemingly undercutting former Vice President Joe Biden's repeated attacks on the Trump White House for its pandemic preparedness."

The budget requests are available online via the CDC website.

On many occasions, Democrats, including Biden, have falsely accused President Trump of slashing the CDC's budget. Biden has used these false claims to suggest that he would never even propose similar cuts, let alone make them. Fact checks from the Associated Press and FactCheck.org both proved the claims made by Biden and others to be wrong, because CDC funding actually increased during the Trump administration.
Do we chalk Joe's talking points up to hypocrisy, lying, or dementia?

Monday, March 30, 2020

Essential Oils

I have a very strong sense of smell.

I used to burn candles in my house.  When you have a big dog, especially one that spends a lot of time outside, you need something to freshen the house, especially in winter.  What do you do in the summer, though?  That was always the conundrum.  Having lived here almost 15 years, though, I can now see the accumulation of soot on the ceiling above where my candles are, and sometimes even darker areas on the walls near candles.  I like the smell and the ambiance but not the residue.

Then I got a diffuser with essential oils.  All the nice smells, none of the soot.

Despite my strong sense of smell, I'm not one of those people who believes that certain scents make you "happier", "calmer", or more "focused".  I don't believe that certain smells will help me go to sleep faster, will cause me to breathe easier, or will cure cancer.  When it comes to essential oils, I just like the smells.

I must have a good BS-detector (also, language warning for the excerpt below):
Now a new study shows that a tendency to mistake the meaningless for the profound is a good indicator a person may also put an overzealous amount of faith into essential oils...

A general tendency to be receptive to bullshit – so being more likely to be taken in by made-up or empty rhetoric – means people are more likely to go all in on the claims of essential oils, the researchers report. That has implications for how doctors might guide patients to more reliable treatments in the future.

"We found that receptivity to pseudo-profound fabricated statements and religiosity were the most consistent predictors of greater use of, perceived effectiveness of, and a willingness to spend more money on EOs," write the researchers in their study...

"Of all the personality and personal variables we looked at, being high in receptivity to bullshit was the most consistent predictor," psychologist and lead researcher William Chopik, from Michigan State University, told Eric W. Dolan at PsyPost.

"Bullshit receptivity reflects people's willingness to endorse meaningless statements as meaningful."

One of the sample statements in the experiment was "as you self-actualise, you will enter into infinite empathy that transcends understanding" – if you have a high bullshit receptivity, you're more likely to see that statement as profound rather than nonsense.

People less able to spot and recognise bullshit were more likely to think that EOs would improve friendships, boost spirituality and heal health issues, even if the oils weren't specifically marketed to cover those areas.
I fire up the diffuser almost daily.  I like the smells.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

True? Or Urban Myth?

If this is true, public shaming is in order:
A company in Austin, Texas is looking to dock pay from workers who receive government stimulus checks, according to an anonymous employee.

With the historic $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus deal signed, Americans can look forward to receiving some economic relief during the pandemic.

An unnamed company in Texas, though, appears to be looking to use the stimulus to relieve their payroll strain.

On Wednesday, the company sent out a form titled “Employee Acknowledgement of ‘Government Assistance’ Pay Reduction.”

The form was reported by an employee who wished to remain anonymous, but the employee spoke to local news KXAN about the situation.

“The form says they are preemptively deducting funds from our paychecks. That number is based on what they’re anticipating the government relief fund to be,” the worker told the outlet.

Friday, March 27, 2020

My First Foray Into Distance Learning

For the past several years at school, I've been the person who organizes 7th Period (happy hour) and sends out an email telling everyone at which local establishment we'll be meeting for food, drinks, and socializing. 

Starting April 13th I'll be expected to deliver instruction to students, and one of the ways I'm looking at doing that is via the online meeting platform Zoom.  This means that I'd better get good at setting up, and notifying people about, these online meetings.  So the first meeting I'll run on Zoom will be today's virtual 7th period.

Hope to see everyone at 4 :-)

Thursday, March 26, 2020


Assuming that the House will pass the Senate's version of the "stimulus" package--2 trillion dollars, in all--I decided to calculate how big a check Uncle Sam is going to send me.

As it stands now, single people without kids will get $1200 if they earned under $75,000, and $50 less for every $1000 over that.  Looks like they'll use 2018 pay (last year's taxes) and adjusted gross income.  I don't want to get last year's taxes out and look those up, and I don't know my AGI, but I estimate I'll get maybe half of that $1200.

I'm a saver.  Even when I was poor--and I was working poor, back in the day--I saved money.  It may not have been much, but I kept money put away for a rainy day.  I don't recall every borrowing money from friends or family.  I have paid cash for every vehicle I've ever owned, and only ever borrowed money to buy a house.  I'm not rich, but over the decades I've worked my way out of being poor and now consider myself firmly in the middle class.  And I still earn more than I spend each month.

I say that to show that my initial inclination upon receipt of that $600 or so would be to save it, but that's not the right thing to do.  I have been blessed in so many ways, including that I continue to receive my pay as I work from home, at least for the rest of the school year, it seems.  Yes, I could always sock that $600 away for the next rainy day, but in this situation I'll act for the better good.  I'll spend it.

I've tried to think of how best to spend it.  I don't need more stuff, more toys, so I don't really need to buy anything.  That leaves services.

Having been hermetically sealed in my house for the past several days, I decided to mask up and venture out tonight.  I had a hankerin', and went through the drive-thru window at Dairy Queen to get a banana split.  Wore my mask, even gooped sanitizer on my hands before touching my money, and boy did that banana split look good!  Saw my neighbor sitting in his garage as I drove by, so I stopped in the middle of the street and we yelled to each other for a couple minutes--the first person I'd really spoken to face to face in days.  The banana split didn't last long when I got home, and oh did I need that! 

That's how I'll spend whatever stimulus money I get.  I don't often eat out, but I'll start when the restaurants open for eat-in business.  Until then I'll consider take-out and even home delivery.  That's the best way I can think of to spend this money; if you have any better ideas, please share them in the comments.

And now for the down side.

I hope that the economic downturn after 9/11, in 2008/09, and now will convince more Americans to save more.  It's actually a little embarrassing when I read how little Americans have saved up, how we talk about being independent but so many people are complaining about not being able to afford being out of work for a couple weeks.  I'm not talking about the poor, I'm talking about the middle and upper classes.  More Americans need to save more.  We're all going to pay for this stimulus package, aren't we?

That $2 trillion has to come from somewhere, and no doubt it'll be added to the federal debt.  We'll all pay for this "stimulus" in interest on that debt if not in higher taxes.  It shouldn't be this way, not $2 trillion.  Individuals, families, corporations, government--we all should have rainy day funds.  It's not that hard.  Heck, two months ago we had the best economy this country had ever seen, and the lowest unemployment to boot--why couldn't people have been saving more?  Because they chose not to.  We Americans need to make better choices.

Will we have to pay back this $1200, or fraction thereof, that each of us is to get?  Is it just a loan?  Will it be considered income in this year that, even if we don't pay it back, we'll pay taxes on?  I don't know.  I'm going to spend it anyway and pay what I have to for it, because that's what this country needs.  I'll do my part in this one small way.

But I eagerly await the PSA's in the coming months and years reminding Americans to save more for a rainy day.  Because it does rain, you know, even in California.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Two Ways of Looking At A Supreme Court Decision

From Vox, which leans so far left it's about to fall over:
Yet even as the justices seek shelter from a pandemic, they still managed to hand down five opinions on Monday. One of them, in the case Comcast Corp. v. National Association of African American Media, is a blow for the civil rights community — and a potential harbinger for civil rights cases to come.

The case involves a dispute between the cable TV company Comcast and a business that alleged the telecommunications conglomerate refused to carry its channels because it disfavored “100% African American-owned media companies.” (Comcast Corporation, the defendant in this lawsuit, is an investor in Vox Media.)

The Comcast decision, according to NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson, “is a huge step backward in our march toward achieving equal opportunity for all.” He warned that the Court’s decision will “significantly restrict the ability of discrimination victims to prove their claims under one of our nation’s premier civil rights laws.”

Viewed through a narrow lens, Comcast is only an incremental loss for the civil rights community. It extends two prior decisions that made it harder for some plaintiffs to prevail in federal court. But the decision is significant not so much because of the particular holding handed down by the Court, but because of the widespread support for this result among the justices.

The decision was unanimous, which suggests that the Court’s liberal minority has given up on an important fight that was hotly contested just a few years ago. More broadly, the Court’s consensus in Comcast signals that the liberal justices may have shifted into triage mode, accepting that some incursions on civil rights are no longer worth resisting in a Court that’s lurched hard to the right...

What is surprising is that the Court’s decision in Comcast is unanimous (although Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a separate opinion warning that the Court should not make further incursions on the ban on contract discrimination). Comcast, in other words, appears to be a sign that the Court’s liberal minority has decided that their best response to a hardline conservative majority is to throw in the towel on some fights, in order to preserve their ability to raise the alarm in other ones.
That explanation makes no sense. I offer an alternative:  Maybe, when the ruling is 9-0, the liberal justices didn’t “[shift] into triage mode”.  Maybe your view is batcrap insane.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

After Spring Break...

It seems like everyone and his brother is using Zoom lately.  For awhile, at least, we can use it for classes, until they reimpose limits on time and number of people in a meeting.

Starting April 13th, after our Spring Break, we're supposed to be presenting new material.  My fellow math teachers and I have been coordinating what topics we're going to cut (after having missed 3 weeks of instructional time) in the rest of the semester, and how we might best deliver instruction, etc.  Will we use Zoom or something else?  How will we be trained?  It's all being done on the fly.  In the last couple school years I'd be ranting and raving about what a clustergaggle this is, how there's no real leadership from my district, how we teachers will have to pick up the ball and run with it after our district fumbles--and it would all be true.  This year I just accept that it's true and am making plans to pick up the ball and run.  It's a lot easier on my psyche that way!  As I say, "The problem isn't usually the problem, the problem is how you react to the problem."  This year I've not been reacting so negatively, and I'm in a much better place because of it.

I've long since graded all the tests and quizzes I brought home over a week ago, and today my vice principal and I came up with a way to get them returned to the students.  I brought home the materials I'd need to work from home for 3 weeks, which was the time we were told when we shut down; now that we're probably working from home for much longer than that, I need to go in and get some more equipment (electronic and otherwise).  I'll leave the papers on the desk closest to my classroom door; when the administrators go to work all day on April 1st (yes, I know!) they'll pick up the papers and distribute them to any students who come in for them.  Later this week I'll notify students about that April 1st pickup date.

In the meantime I continue to assign (voluntary) review videos from Khan Academy that cover topics from the couple weeks prior to the school's shutdown.  I honestly wonder how many students are watching them.  I hope I'd be pleasantly surprised!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Intersectionality: Coronavirus, so-called Environmentalism, and Compulsion From The Left

It's been making the rounds in libertarian and conservative circles for awhile now:  how's that plastic bag ban, mass transit, straw ban, crowded urban living thing working out?  Some of us think those things are just ways the left prepares us, frog-in-a-pot style, for their totalitarianism, and maybe this coronavirus will undo some of the damage that's already been done.  After all, the TSA-holes have already relaxed the 3-3-3 liquid limit at airports and are allowing people to bring more hand sanitizer aboard.  For the longest time they worried about medication and baby milk, but boy they sure changed the rules with a quickness for freakin' hand sanitizer.  That tells me right there that it has always been less about actual security and more about security theater, the illusion of security.  Will they go back to 3-3-3 after this coronavirus threat is over?

Here's a thought about plastic bag bans:
As we combat the coronavirus pandemic it’s important for Americans to note that many environmental initiatives that purport to “save the planet” not only restrict consumer choice and hurt the business sector— it also puts the public safety at risk.

Take the plastic bag bans here in Massachusetts and beyond.

In an effort to “go green” many states have banned disposable plastic bags at supermarkets and other retail locations causing a massive consumer shift to reusable shopping bags we’re now learning could contain the virus.

The coronravirus can live on surfaces for days, including on reusable shopping bags, which are notoriously filthy. Studies have shown that most people don’t clean their reusable bags.

For that reason, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu issued an emergency order over the weekend prohibiting reusable shopping bags and requiring that stores use disposable plastic or paper bags instead.

“Our grocery store workers are on the front lines of COVID-19, working around the clock to keep New Hampshire families fed,” Sununu said in a statement. “With identified community transmission, it is important that shoppers keep their reusable bags at home given the potential risk to baggers, grocers and customers.”
Read the whole thing.

Anyone Think This Will Last For Long?

Good on the SPI for following the law, now it's time for the Michigan legislature to change the law:
Students attending public schools online during the coronavirus shutdown won't be able to count it toward their required annual instructional hours, but private schools will.

The Michigan Department of Education said Friday in a memo to school leaders across the state that the online time wouldn't count.

"There is no mechanism to earn instructional time during a period of mandated school closure," Deputy State Superintendent Venessa Keesler wrote in a memo. "However, schools can and are encouraged to offer supplemental learning opportunities to students using distance learning methods as they see fit."

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer sounded surprised by the decision.

"I know that the Michigan Department of Education put out a statement today, I was dismayed to see that, frankly," Whitmer said. "We are going to work to make sure that kids are getting the instruction, or the equivalent of an instruction, as needed so that they can finish this year."

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael Rice said the department is bound by law.

“State law limits us in this situation — not for an individual child in an individual cyber school or an individual virtual course offering, but for children across the state, many of whom have no computers at home, no connectivity, and no adults to monitor their learning and/or technology,” Rice said in a statement issued late Friday. “The state legislature should change state law to permit days out of school for this public health emergency to be counted as instructional days."
The article hints at school during the summer.  I don't see that working very well at all.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Special Education in the Era of Coronavirus

The US Department of Education issued guidance about following Section 504 and the IDEA, and a couple days later issued a tepid clarification of the original guidance. I've posted on this over at Joanne's, where I'm still babysitting.

Building the Brand

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade:
Even though an annual choral festival in San Bernardino County, California was canceled this year because of coronavirus concerns, a group of high school choir singers wanted their community to hear their voice anyway...

That's when 19 Chino Hills High School chamber singers stepped up to record their individual parts to a song they'd practiced together for months, only this time, they had to sing alone and on camera. An editor working with the district took each student's part and spent 36 hours stringing together this performance.

In the video, the singers fill the screen to deliver their portion of the classic "Over the Rainbow," in the style of Israel Kamakawiwoʻole. After a quick countdown, in full harmony, the virtual performance begins.

Well done! Actually brought tears to my eyes.

Degrading the Brand

Harvard and Yale have nothing left but their longstanding reputations.  Their current crop of students is nothing to be proud of:
Students at Harvard and Yale are demanding a “universal pass” grading system for their online courses in the wake of coronavirus-induced campus evacuations.

A coalition of Yale students recommends students get credit for every class, receiving a “P” (“Pass”) grade instead of traditional letter grades. According to the Yale Daily News, the main reason for the appeal is “equity"...

Over at Harvard, The Crimson reports although “individual departments” have allowed students to take online courses pass/fail, some students have complained this system is “insufficiently equitable.”
In other words, "give me an A because slavery, or something."

Why go to an elite school if you don't want an elite education?  I guess the answer is "I just want the name on my diploma."  They want the credential without the achievement the credential signifies.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Distance Education

Yesterday we got word from our district that it's very unlikely that we will go back to school after spring break (April 13th was the plan).  They're planning some committees to try to get us to some form of virtual learning or distance education.  My school's administration is going in to work Monday to gather all our Chromebooks in one location, ostensibly so they can subsequently issue them to students who don't have computers.  Our district is looking into getting internet access for those students who don't already have it.

I've really enjoyed this article about distance learning (and how it is different from online learning).  There are plenty of "online meeting" software packages out there--yesterday we held a virtual happy hour on one of them!--and we teachers will no doubt have training available on how to use them.  That's probably the best that can be expected under the circumstances--after all, all of the planning and implementation will be done on the fly.

I have two concerns that need to be addressed.  First, do I need such training?  To be honest, I can talk all day, but if I can't simultaneously write and explain what I'm doing, no teaching is taking place.  There are plenty of math videos out there, many of them excellent, that people have already created.  I don't see how I'm going to improve upon that wheel!  I've already looked at the material I've planned to teach through the end of the year and Khan Academy covers it all.  One or two videos per topic, in addition to the online component of our textbooks, and that's really the best I can do.  After than, it's probably better for students just to ask me questions via email, Skype, or one of those meeting packages.

Second, there are ADA considerations.  A year or so ago all our district's teachers had to undergo training in making our web sites accessible to people with disabilities.  I don't know how blind people access the information on my web site, I'm trusting that my school district has taken care of that for me.  But what about videos I link to, are they closed-captioned for the hard-of-hearing?  Khan Academy is!

If you think I'm being silly, I assure you I'm not.  We underwent that training in response to lawsuits up and down California, so it's a real concern.  Until the ADA gets thrown out the window due to coronavirus considerations--and I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for that to happen--it's real.  In fact, just 4 days ago the US Department of Education published a press release pertaining to the civil rights of students under the ADA.

There are a lot of balls for my district administrators to juggle right now.

Friday, March 20, 2020

My Taxes Are Paying For This Idiot's Education

Where else but UC Davis--or, as I call it, Berkeley-lite:
In a “breaking news” article late Wednesday that must be seen to be believed (archived here in case it’s changed), reporter Alex Weinstein refers to a message criticizing the CCP – a government hated by many Chinese immigrants – as “xenophobic.”

On Tuesday morning a shipping container on the edge of campus “was grafitied [sic] with xenophobic rhetoric that read, ‘The Chinese Communist Party = a danger to society,’ accompanied by a crudely drawn photo of a man wearing a surgical mask,” Weinstein reported:
This graffiti is part of a rise in racist and xenophobic propaganda all over the world, taking place in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic thought to have originated in Wuhan, China. From the alleged assault of an Asian teenager on a Philadelphia subway to #ChineseDontComeToJapan trending on Japanese twitter ー these incidents seem to be increasing in frequency.
Weinstein never explains how criticizing a government that undeniably worsened the coronavirus outbreak by silencing those who discovered it – and letting Lunar New Year festivities continue in Wuhan, the source of the disease – indicates hostility toward people from other countries.
Do people like young Alex Weinstein even think?

West Point's Way of Dealing With Cadets Re: Coronavirus

The superintendent just sent out an email to all cadets, staff, and graduates, keeping everyone informed about what's going on at West Point.  I was particularly struck by these paragraphs:
Many of you have asked about when the Corps of Cadets will return to West Point. After a deliberate planning process, across the USMA enterprise, I decided that the Corps of Cadets will not return to West Point on 29 March as originally planned.

Keeping the Corps at home will better ensure the safety of the Corps, staff, faculty, and the West Point community. I do not know when the Corps will return at this point. Our deliberate and robust planning effort is focused on how to best continue our mission while fighting this virus - this process will identify the best time for the Corps to return.

My number one priority as Superintendent is the health, safety and security of every member of the Corps of Cadets and the West Point community. The decision to delay the return of the Corps was not made lightly - we are taking this action to ensure we continue to protect the force.

For the Corps of Cadets, I hope you had a productive first day of remote education. Your tactical officers, faculty members, and coaches will do everything possible to ensure your continued success. The Dean, the Commandant, the Athletic Director, and their teams have been fully engaged in setting you up for success as you continue the semester remotely. If you have any issues, please inform your TACs, TAC NCOs, faculty members, and coaches for assistance as needed. Your chain of command will communicate additional details and information in the days ahead as our course of action solidifies.

Corps ... let me also repeat what the Commandant said to you this week. This is not an extension of your spring break. I expect you to conduct yourselves as future professionals of the United States Army.
Well said.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

At The Grocery Store During Coronavirus Season

Who are the people in your neighborhood
In your neighborhood
In your neigh-bor-hood, oh
Who are the people in your neighborhood
The people that you meet each day

Around 9pm tonight I decided to make a grocery store run.  I thought perhaps fewer people would be there since the store would be conceivably cleaned out, and perhaps there were fewer people there than during the day, but there were more than I imagined there would be, especially for a store that closes at 10pm.

Yes, there were entire aisles that were empty.  Who is buying all this toilet paper?!  It just seems so funny to me.  I went there for fruits and vegetables, having none in the house, and even those had been picked over pretty well.  I bought a salad mix and some apples and some chunk pineapple (gonna make an Asian-style chicken wrap with the pineapple and cashews!) among other things.  My mother asked me to pick her up some hand sanitizer and wipes--no can do, all out.

But I'm not here after 10 at night to talk about what's in stock and not in stock at one grocery store in suburban Sacramento.  I'm here to talk about the people who were there.

After 50+ laps around the sun I've learned that some people just like to complain.  They complain to complain.  They'd complain about not being able to complain if they weren't able to complain!  I've gotten wrapped up in that before, but fortunately was able to see my way out of it.  No one wants to hear you complain.  It sucks that you had to wait in a long line at the checkout and, just as it was your turn, then they opened another checkout.  What do you expect the cashier to do with your complaint?  No, all those other people shouldn't be hoarding TP and hand sanitizer, but complaining about it alone isn't going to change the situation.

After 50+ laps around the sun I've learned that some people are just a-holes.  They're rude, they use foul language in public, they care only about themselves and have no interest in the people around them.  They can't imagine why things aren't exactly the way they think they should be, and they speak to everyone in general and no one in particular about how effed-up everything is.

There are others.

Some people cannot handle change.  They cannot handle uncertainty.  They cannot handle the slightest amount of stress.  I feel for them, but they should have a little more decency than to make everyone else deal with their particular issue.

On the other hand, some people just allow themselves to shine.   Like Matt, the cashier.

Matt's a kid who takes classes at the nearby community college.  He makes the California minimum wage as a cashier.  He's been working crazy hours lately, with no end in sight.  He has to put up with everyone's commentary.

And he has the most cheerful demeanor you could imagine.

Each new customer, he apologized for the line being so long--as if it were his fault.  He found something positive to talk about as he rang up every purchase.  He sympathized with his college instructors who are trying to find a way to deliver classes online given next to no notice or training.  I asked him if he ever thought his job would be considered "essential" to the state of California--no, he never thought his minimum wage job would be "essential"!  He smiled the entire time he rang up my purchases, and thanked me for being so friendly and positive!

Matt's what I like to call a "decent human".  He's got the right attitude.  It's people like Matt who are going to help the country get through this unprecedented trouble.

Update, 3/20/20:  Just did my good deed for the day.  I called and had a brief chat with the manager about Matt.  She was very pleased to hear the compliment and "can't wait to share it with the team." 

When it comes to comment cards and the like, I'm far more likely to leave a positive comment than a negative.  If something's really bad I can just go somewhere else, but if something is really good I want them to keep doing that.

The Definition of Conservatism

"Everyone is conservative about what he knows best."
--Robert Conquest

“The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution.”
--Hannah Arendt

Here's an example where they're both right:
A socialism-themed restaurant chain in Washington, D.C., run by a multimillionaire former mayoral candidate laid off hundreds of staffers this week due to the city's coronavirus restrictions, according to reports.

Andy Shallal, a restaurateur who unsuccessfully ran for D.C. mayor in 2014, said he was forced to let go hundreds of waiters and other employees at Busboys and Poets, his chain of six restaurants and bookstores across the city, according to DCist. Shallal, a longtime advocate for mandatory paid sick leave and minimum wage hikes, has hosted events at his restaurants for former convicted Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers, former U.S. Communist Party leader Angela Davis, and a Venezuelan government reception honoring the legacy of Hugo Chavez.
Socialism for thee, but not for me.

Perhaps The Most Surreal, Remarkable Thing I've Seen In A Very Long Time

I can't believe it's been almost 8 years since my last visit to Venice.  Without getting maudlin, I'd just say that if you've never been, you owe it to yourself to go.

Just prior to WW2, Venice had a population of about 150,000.  Today the permanent population is about 60,000, but daytrippers and cruise ship passengers and other tourists dramatically boost that number--at least during business hours.  It's remarkable how crowded Venice gets, even though the actual population is so relatively small.

Here's a video I took while on a vaporetto (water bus) ride up the Grand Canal.  Notice how many boats you see:

Here's Venice today:
As Italy quarantines over coronavirus, swans appear in Venice canals, dolphins swim up playfully

“Nature just hit the reset button” in the suddenly clear waters of Venice canals and off the coast of a locked-down Italy.
Check out the pictures. Notice the empty Grand Canal.

Media Coronavirus Lies

Breitbart has them compiled in one place.
Trump Told Governors to Get Their Own Goddamned Ventilators!
Trump Seeks Monopoly on Coronavirus Vaccine
Nationwide Curfew!
Trump Lied About the Google Website
Trump Shut Down the CDC’s Pandemic Department!
Trump Declared the Coronavirus a Hoax!
Calling the Wuhan Virus the ‘Wuhan Virus’ Is Racist
Trump Rejected WHO Coronavirus Test Kits
Trump Blocked Testing Because Lower Numbers are Good for His Reelection
It’s Trump Fault Coronavirus Testing Was Delayed
Trump Silenced Dr. Fauci
Trump Told Sick People to Got to Work
Links to the evidence are in the original Breitbart story.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Washing Machine

A while back my washing machine stopped doing its 2nd spin cycle.  It would wash, drain, and spin, but on the 2nd cycle, just wash and drain.  It would give an error message, and I'd have to set it to do a special "rinse and spin" cycle, which took another 15 min.  Got tired of it, so I called in a repairman.

He swapped out just about every component in that washer--even the control board--but nothing changed.  After 4 or 5 visits he decided just to refund my money.  He took the new control board back but left all the other parts in the machine, which I'll dispose of when we have one of our three-a-year community cleanups next month.

So I need a new washer.  Found one I really liked at SamsClub.com but all over the internet it had horrible reviews.  I don't want another problem washer, so I nixed that one.  A different repairman told me "Samsung for features/technology, Whirlpool for reliability", so I found a Whirlpool washer on both the Lowe's and Home Depot web sites.

According to Lowe's, it'll be delivered Friday.  (How are they staying open and able to do this under our current government pronouncements?)  I'm looking forward to my new toy.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

School Closure Day 1

As directed by my school district, I worked (at least) from 8:30-10:30 this morning and 12:30-2:30 this afternoon.  Mostly what I did was update my web site with contact information (including my Skype name, if students need assistance), change the due dates of all the assignments on my web site, submit grades, and "stand by" if anyone contacted me.  No students did.  Tomorrow I'll start posting review videos from Khan Academy so that students can keep current--we're going to hit the ground running when school opens back up.  Have I mentioned that we're not allowed to present new material or to require any assignment to be done while school is closed?  Given that, I don't want them to forget what we've recently learned!  I'm also planning on what topics I can cut from my courses since we'll have at least 3 fewer weeks of school than planned.

Today Sacramento County got even more serious:
New, aggressive directives from Sacramento County officials have been given out to residents to try and combat the spread of coronavirus.

Effective as of Tuesday, public health officials are urging everyone to stay home as much as possible.

Only trips to “essential” sites are excluded. Those sites include doctor’s offices, grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, banks, and businesses that provide food, shelter, social services and other necessities of life.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Coronavirus and Math

No one likes to "shelter in place", but it's gotta be preferable to a worldwide pandemic. And understanding the mathematics of the growth of coronavirus makes a shelter in place order seem a little more reasonable:
With the novel coronavirus spreading exponentially in the United States, “flattening the curve” could seem challenging. According to mathematicians, simple preventative measures may be more effective than you think.

“Over the past six weeks, the number of recorded cases of COVID-19 outside mainland China has increased approximately 15% per day, which means doubling every five days,” mathematician Grant Sanderson told ABC News.

Sanderson runs a program called 3Blue1Brown, which teaches complex math lessons using visual aids. His YouTube videos sometimes use real-world scenarios as examples, and his video explaining the exponential spread of COVID-19 just surpassed 3 million views.

Sanderson said the virus’ rate of spread has been consistent across several different countries, regardless of when the country’s outbreak began. At its current rate of exponential growth, the virus could spread to over a million people in the U.S. by the start of May, according to Sanderson.

That current rate, however, doesn’t account for human intervention, according to Sanderson and other experts in the field.
Update: I just finished watching the video on the spread of coronavirus and pronounce it an exceptional math video.

I've Done My Duty

My census obligation is complete, having taken me maybe 5 minutes online.

What? The Press and Liberal Politicians Have Been Lying About Firearms?

Lawyers are all criminals and shysters--until you need one.  Liberals hate firearms--until they get in a panic, and then screw their scruples.  That's when they learn that the propaganda they've been spewing is all wrong lies:
Here at Omaha Outdoors, we’ve been inundated with inquiries from out-of-state folks – many from California – asking if we can ship them a gun directly. The answer is, of course, no. Despite what politicians and many in popular media claim, you can’t buy a gun online and have it shipped to your house. Well, you could, if you were a federally licensed firearm dealer (or federally licensed curio and relic collector) and your home was your place of business. Other than that, no, you can’t buy a gun online and have it shipped, especially across state lines, to your home...

We’re not alone in noticing that usually anti-gun people are suddenly very interested in having guns. On Twitter, Robert Evans wrote, “The sheer number of normally anti-gun people who have reached out to me about buying a firearm in the last week is wild.”
You mean all those people living on top of each other in big cities--or living behind tall walls in gated communities--really do fear and despise their countrymen, but can afford to pretend they don't until the veneer of civilization drops just a quarter of an inch?  Color me shocked.  And now they want firearms to protect them from the great unwashed who might crash through their doors and steal toilet paper in a coronavirus-induced panic?  Reap what you sow.

This cudgel they've swung for so long, that anyone can buy firearms over the internet with ease, is shown to be a lie.  Maybe they knew that, maybe they didn't, but what they've been saying publicly is now proven to be demonstrably, verifiably, wrong.  I'll enjoy knowing that they have to live with their fears, the firearms laws they claim to have wanted for so long applying to them and not just to those crazies who live in the boondocks.

As I've seen on social media lately:  how does mass transportation, reusable grocery bags, pushing people into urban areas, open borders, and outsourcing our industry overseas seem now?  And you can add overly-burdensome firearms regulations to that list.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

The Very Definition of Federalism

If you need the federal government to tell you everything you should do as governor, then perhaps you shouldn't be governor:
You do what's right for your state.  What's appropriate in Illinois may not be appropriate in South Dakota.  We call this federalism, and conservatives have known about it for years.

So Now They Understand!

What they don't see with their taunts is that defending national borders is a good thing.  Good to see that they've finally come around to agreeing with the President about the need for a wall:
Mexicans taunt Trump over US coronavirus cases: ‘The wall is to protect Mexicans!’

Saturday, March 14, 2020

NP Doesn't Stand For "No Problem"

There are some types of math problems that are so easy to explain, but so difficult to solve, that our best supercomputers might not solve them before the universe dies out.  One class of these problems is NP, or "nondeterministic polynomial time".  I worked with "polynomial time" problems in my masters' Discrete Optimization course, and learned about NP problems in that same course.  Thus I read this article with interest:
Imagine you’re a thief robbing a museum exhibit of tantalizing jewelry, geodes and rare gems. You're new at this, so you only brought a single backpack. Your goal should be to get away with the most valuable objects without overloading your bag until it breaks or becomes too heavy to carry. How do you choose among the objects to maximize your loot? You could list all the artifacts and their weights to work out the answer by hand. But the more objects there are, the more taxing this calculation becomes for a person—or a computer.

This fictional dilemma, the “knapsack problem,” belongs to a class of mathematical problems famous for pushing the limits of computing. And the knapsack problem is more than a thought experiment. “A lot of problems we face in life, be it business, finance, including logistics, container ship loading, aircraft loading — these are all knapsack problems,” says Carsten Murawski, professor at the University of Melbourne in Australia. “From a practical perspective, the knapsack problem is ubiquitous in everyday life"...

“The problem the theoreticians started to look at was how efficiently a particular task can be carried out on a computer,” writes Keith Devlin in the book The Millennium Problems. For example: Given a list of 1 million museum artifacts with their weights and monetary values, and a backpack limited to 25 pounds, a computer would have to run through every possible combination to generate the single one with the most lucrative haul. Given an indefinite amount of time, a computer could use brute force to optimize large cases like this, but not on timescales that would be practical.

“We think you could cover the entire Earth with processors and run them until the heat death of the universe and still fail to solve relatively small instances of appropriate versions of these problems,” says Noah Stephens-Davidowitz, a Microsoft Research Fellow at the Simons Institute in Berkeley, California.

Some NP problems like the knapsack example have a special property: In the early 1970s, Stephen Cook and Richard Karp showed that a variety of NP problems could be converted into a single problem of formal logic. Therefore, if one could be solved and verified efficiently with an algorithm, they all could. This property is known as “NP completeness.”

One of the most stubborn questions in computer science and mathematics is whether these “NP” problems, including the knapsack problem, are truly different from “P” problems, those that can be solved in what is called polynomial time. If P=NP, then it’s possible to solve every problem whose solutions are easy to verify, says Stephens-Davidowitz. So, if this inequality persists, the general knapsack problem will always be hard.
Thus far, solutions elude us. Click on the link to read how these problems may relate to cryptography and may someday be solved by quantum computers.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Coronavirus Impacts Service Academies

West Point and the Air Force Academy cadets are relatively easy to isolate in their cadet areas; the Naval Academy, given its location, is less so.  On the other hand, if coronavirus were to get inside West Point or the AFA, it would be able to spread like wildfire.  So what's the right thing to do: get the cadets back at the Academies, test them for the virus, and try to keep them isolated from the outside world? or not risk the wildfire scenario, and keep them away?

West Point has made its decision:
Due to the significant changes regarding the health risks associated with COVID-19, the U.S. Military Academy will delay the return of the Corps of Cadets from spring break until March 29, 2020. We continue to encourage our cadets, staff and faculty to practice heightened hygiene measures. Some of the planned precautions include: 
  • Individual screening   
  • Isolation for those who have traveled to specific areas of concern  
  • Implementing social distancing measures   
  • Remote learning   
Cadets should remain in contact with their chain of command for instructions on returning to the academy and reporting of travel. Staff and faculty should contact their supervisors for the latest information regarding their work status.  If you do not feel well or are experiencing flu like symptoms, do not come to work.

The U.S. Military Academy will be temporarily closed to visitors beginning Friday evening, March 13, until further notice. 
Air Force has made its decision as well:
After much deliberation and discussion, we have made the conservative decision to begin an orderly dismissal cadet candidates at the prep school and four, three and two degrees (freshman, sophomores and juniors). The first class (seniors) cadets will remain on campus and continue their studies. The goal of this action is to maximize the chances of graduating our senior class on time for our Air and Space Forces while ensuring the best possible care for the entire base populace.

No cadet will be forced to leave our campus. Instead, we are providing our population the best possible opportunity to implement social distancing and the other preventative measures recommended by the CDC and our medical professionals here at USAFA. We intend for classes to begin on March 23, and have begun making preparations for remote instruction.

Ultimately, the deciding factor was recommendations from our public health officials and the inability to execute social distancing over 4,000 cadets on campus. We did not make this decision lightly; we consulted with our medical professionals, sister service academies and local civic leaders, among others.
Navy has also made a decision:
The U.S. Naval Academy is delaying the return of midshipmen from spring break through March 28.

The Annapolis-based service academy announced the extension Thursday amid continued concern over the spread of COVID-19, or novel coronavirus, and as Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan closed the state’s public school system beginning March 16 through March 27...

Midshipmen began their spring break March 7 and were expected to return Sunday. While they might not have to come back to campus for another 14 days, the Academy is prepping so that midshipmen will commence remote studies on March 20, Buck wrote.
I would classify this as unprecedented in modern times.

Sacramento County Schools Close For 3 Weeks, Plus Spring Break

Today is March 13th.  I don't go back to work until April 13th.  This is unprecedented in my 20+ years of teaching.

I'm guest-blogging over at Joanne's since she's in South Africa for a couple weeks.  Click here to read details of this school closure.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Hit and Miss

School shutdowns seem to be sort of random right now--some places have closed schools, other nearby places have schools still open.  My own district currently is not planning to close schools, but that will change if conditions change.  It has, however, stopped large-gathering events, including some sports competitions.  Will we hold Senior Awards Night and graduation?  Time will tell.

We have 3 weeks until Spring Break.  A nearby school district closed this week and said they were just going to swap this week for Spring Break.  You can imagine how that went over, with students/families as well as staff having plans.  They've reversed course on the Spring Break swap, just closing this week.

Have you heard that even Disneyland has closed due to coronavirus???

Here's the thing--if there isn't a strong push to get people to stay home and indoors, if we're just given time off, people will go somewhere and do something.  I may hitch up the trailer and go camping (which, all things considered, is probably safer than staying at home!).  Time off should be more than "social distancing", it should be more of a strongly encouraged but voluntary quarantine.  Otherwise, is it really doing much good?

Closings shouldn't be mandated at the state level.  They should be dictated by local conditions--no virus, no closings.  Several states have closed all schools in the state?  That's extreme.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The Joy of Spreadsheets

At tomorrow's staff meeting the Math Department will honor two "Students of the Month".  The student I am honoring took Integrated Math 1 last year for the 3rd time and finally passed it (and not with a D, either).  This year, needing a 2nd year of math to graduate, he signed up for Financial Math, which means I got him for the 2nd year in a row.

Earlier this semester in Financial Math we learned about budgeting, and today I introduced spreadsheets to the classes.  Several students had no idea what a spreadsheet was, how to use one, or what one could do for you.  We started at Square One.

We talked about text, numbers, and formulas (e.g., adding or counting), and how they look when entered into the spreadsheet.  We talked about left/center/right alignment, and when it makes sense to use each of them.  We learned how to sort entries alphabetically/numerically, and how to format cells to show percentages or currency.  I even showed them how to make certain cells stand out by putting a colored border around them.  Really basic stuff.

Most students were attentive if not interested--but the student mentioned above seemed thrilled.  I'd show the class how to do something, give them some time to do it, and I'd watch as that one student's face would light up and he'd say softly "cool!"  He seemed like he was having a ball.

He put so much effort into passing IM1 last year, and he's put so much effort into learning the material in Financial Math this year.  Except for not earning straight A's, he's a model student--and that's why he's being recognized in front of the entire staff tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

A Lack of Algebra Skills

My pre-calculus (trig/analysis) students finished a test Monday, and the results were positive only to manufacturers of red ink.  While over half of my students scored A's and B's, the most frequent grade was an F.  And some of those scores were such low F's that a better grade would be a G.

I guess I could take heart that many students, even when making a mistake in a problem, got the trigonometry correct.  They understood the use of sum and difference identities, half-angle formulas, and double-angle formulas.  No, too many of the errors are algebra errors, e.g.:
  • (cos x + sin x)^2 is not cos^2 x + sin^2 x, and similar errors
  • not knowing how to manipulate numbers under a radical sign
  • not correctly manipulating numbers, especially fractions within a fraction
  • not "seeing" simple substitutions that would lead to a solution
Four or five years ago my district switched from the so-called traditional Algebra 1-Geometry-Algebra 2 sequence to Integrated Math.  While I'm not fond of integrated math--I prefer focusing on a set of topics for a longer time for deeper understanding--I don't think it's the integrated math per se that's causing such a precipitous drop in Algebra skills.  I think it's the integrated math curriculum that our district has adopted.  While it's big on visualization of topics, it's weak on actual algebra.  There aren't large problem sets divided into easy, moderate, and difficult problems that a teacher can choose from and help differentiate for students of different abilities; no, there are only a small number of practice problems on each topic, and there's no differentiation for the teacher (or student) as they're pretty much all bland and of the same difficulty.

I guess our integrated math teachers could try to augment the curriculum, but teachers will recognize that that brings with it its own set of problems.  And honestly, our teachers aren't paid to create curriculum, they're paid to deliver the district-approved curriculum.  Our district recognizes that there's a problem but takes only half-measures in response, for example, adopting an "augmentation curriculum" for our Integrated Math 1 classes--after how many years?  and with only how many years left in this current adoption before we rush to buy a new round of crappy textbooks?

I try not to criticize my school or district on this blog, but when I see the obvious damage that's being done to students by the district, it bears pointing out.  Our textbook adoption process is broken because our district is broken.  There is no leadership at all; in fact, the response from the district is often "we're letting the schools experiment to see what works best"--and then, if something does work well at one school, the district won't mandate it, but rather will allow other schools to "try" it if they want to.

In the meantime, too many students are learning math at a superficial level and are not prepared for STEM majors after high school.  We've closed doors on them before they ever even knew the doors were there.

Update:  I've checked with other teachers who administered these chapter tests (in their many versions) and all are horrified by the algebra mistakes.

Monday, March 09, 2020

My Feet Are Cold

Gruesome Newsom said something positive about the Trump Administration.  And ABC reported it.  Both of those are unprecedented.
Hell must be freezing over.

Update, 3/10/20:  an October 2019 study stated that the United States was the best prepared nation in the world to handle a pandemic.  So far I have no reason to doubt that.  (The link to the report is here, if you don't want to trust someone on Twitter.)

Update #2, 3/13/20:  first it was Newsom, now it's Cuomo--thanking the president and vice president on the work they've done helping New York handle its coronavirus issue.

Do Dating Apps Promote Racism?

I saw the headline of this article and immediately sighed.  Sheesh, everything is raaaaaacist.  I'll admit that there are some interesting points made in the discussion, but in the end I'm going to come down on the side of
"But with a close personal matter, one has to wonder whether anyone else is in a position to tell someone else that they should not ‘want what they want.’”
I liked this point:
Comedian Dana Donnelly, who is Asian, recently addressed this apparent paradox in a tweet, writing, “White people who exclusively date white people? bad. white people who exclusively date non-white people? bad. white people who date a mix of white and non-white people? bad, but for reasons unrelated to their dating practices.”

Donnelly — who, again, is a comedian — is obviously joking (so please calm down). But she raises an interesting point: while I, as a white woman, am by no means here to rail against some imagined plight of white people on dating apps, there are certain ethical paradoxes at play that are worth interrogating.
Is it wrong to prefer people of only the same race? How about only of a different race? How about of the same religion, or same politics?  How about only people who are older?  Or younger?  Or richer?  If you'd "discriminate" in real life, is it wrong to do so on an app?

Academically these are interesting questions.  In the real world no one else has any business telling anyone else who to like, date, have sex with, or marry.  Mind your own beeswax.  If you filter out someone who, in reality, would have been a perfect match for you, well, no one will ever know, will they?

As someone who learned in college about John Stuart Mill's "utilitarianism" and Immanuel Kant's "categorical imperative", I found the penultimate paragraphs to be interesting:
“For the last hundred years, ethicists have been engaged in a furious debate between the ‘utilitarians’ — who claim that the ultimate goal of ethics is to maximize individual happiness — versus the Kantians — who believe that there are overriding questions of right and wrong,” McIntyre tells InsideHook.

“If ethics is just about maximizing happiness, then filtering — either in person or on an app — may not be a concern,” he says. “But if ethics is about enshrining a set of ‘absolute values’ — which may include judgments about whether we ‘should’ want what we what — this is a more troubling question.”

Either way, the question isn’t necessarily “Should we filter?” as much as it is “Should we want what we want?” And perhaps, why shouldn’t we?
Is anyone surprised that the author seems inclined to the "I'll filter however I want, but I might feel pangs of guilt for doing so" belief?  Me, either.

Sunday, March 08, 2020

Coronavirus and Probability

A practical application:

Closing Schools Over Coronavirus

A suburban Sacramento school district is closing schools this next week in what appears to be an overreaction to coronavirus:
The Elk Grove Unified School District announced Saturday it would be canceling classes and all student-related activities after a family from the district was quarantined after testing positive for COVID-19, the novel coronavirus.

The district is closing schools and canceling classes and activities that were scheduled from March 7 to March 13.

"We do have confirmed cases of family members, but no student and/or employee of Elk Grove Unified has tested positive," officials said in a press conference Saturday afternoon. 
Actually, what's happening is that the district, to avoid losing school days, is swapping Spring Break week (in a couple weeks) with this upcoming week. Oh, you had plans over Spring Break?  Tough noogies!  (Actually, I'm sure everyone will continue with their Spring Break plans and the district will lose funding because of all the student absences--and they'll struggle to find substitutes for all the teachers who will take off because of their plans.)

Is one week long enough?  How are those "family members" being isolated from district employees and students?

It's not that I'm not hoping for an extra week off myself (as long as we don't have to make it up in June!).  It's just that this seems to be a "we're doing something" reaction when they should actually be committed to a "we're doing something smart" action.

A Bipartisan Bill I Can Get Behind

I hate Daylight Savings Time.  Hate it.  I'm all for this:
This Sunday, 97 percent of Americans will be forced to change their clocks once again, “springing forward” an hour into daylight saving time (DST). The process of having to reset our clocks is an irritatingly outdated practice that we should ditch. We should instead embrace DST as a critically important way to realign daylight time to Americans’ most productive hours, while also improving public health and the American economy.

Thankfully, we have a solution. Our “Sunshine Protection Act” would shift the United States to permanent DST year-round, eliminating the need to worry about changing clocks in November and March. The bill, which has 12 bipartisan cosponsors, awaits action before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which has authority over the Uniform Time Act.
And if you can't tolerate the above link because it was written by a Republican for FoxNews, try this one from CNN:
Not surprisingly, then, politicians in Washington and Florida have now passed laws aimed at moving their states to DST year-round.

Congress should seize on this momentum to move the entire country to year-round DST. In other words, turn all clocks forward permanently. If it did so, I see five ways that Americans' lives would immediately improve.

We have a time zone, but we're only on it for 4 or 5 months.  Stick with it!  Actually, I don't care what time zone we adopt--adopt GMT if you want to.  But for the love of God stop changing the dang clocks twice a year.

Saturday, March 07, 2020

Kyoto Is Now On My List

For those of you who are into Myers-Briggs, I'm an ISTJ-T.  That makes me a "logistician", one of the most common personality types.  The extra T stands for "turbulent", whereas the other alternative is aggressive.  Reading the descriptions for both, I'd have thought I was an ISTJ-A, but the test says otherwise.

Anyway, I took that test (for the zillionth time in my life) because I ran across this article about where you should travel given your Myers-Briggs personality type.  I need to add Kyoto to my list:
If anyone lives by the book, it’s the ISTJ – which is why they thrive in the peaceful, orderly environment of Kyoto, Japan. The ancient city is replete with temples, museums, and shrines that pique the ISTJ’s intellectual senses as they pace through their spreadsheet of activities.

Hotel tailored to your type: At Villa Sanjo Muromachi Kyoto, a local, Kyoto-based publisher offers highly organized concierge services with “travel solutions” geared toward individual interests.
What's your type? Where should you go?

NOW I'm Inconvenienced

It's enough that my allergies, and the coughing therefrom, causes some people to freak out about coronavirus--so much so that I joke about my "corona-cough".  I can tolerate that.  This, though?  This is going a step too far:
Costco is suspending free samples over safety concerns with the spread of the coronavirus.

It was not immediately known if Costco has pulled samples from all stores in the U.S. or only in select areas or when the suspension would end.

Club Demonstration Services, which provides in-store marketing events for Costco, declined to comment late Friday and referred calls to Costco. Costco did not respond to USA TODAY's request for comment.

Costco stores in California, Washington state and Florida said they did not know when Costco would begin offering free food samples again.

When Knowing A Little Math Helps

I often joke that my non-AP statistics students are future "poets and journalists"; if they aspired to STEM majors they'd be taking calculus.  This week we saw another data point to support my claim:
If someone had simply stopped and double-checked some math, they might have saved MSNBC’s Brian Williams and New York Times editorial board member Mara Gay some embarrassment and an apology Thursday night.

Instead, both Williams and Gay marveled on air in reaction to a Twitter user’s post about Mike Bloomberg’s campaign spending.

Trouble is, the post had gotten the math all wrong – yet neither Williams nor Gay seemed to notice.

The Super Tuesday evening post, now deleted, said: “Bloomberg spent $500 million on ads. The U.S. population is 327 million. He could have given each American $1 million and still have money left over, I feel like a $1 million check would be life-changing for people. Yet he wasted it all on ads and STILL LOST.”
Only off by six orders of magnitude.

Thursday, March 05, 2020

Are the Democrats Right About Anything These Days?

They blah blah blah, but their sounds don't make sense.

Here are two points from Instapundit today, both at 2:15 pm (in case you go looking for them):
Bloomberg inadvertently slayed another myth as well: Mollie Hemingway: If Bloomberg Couldn’t Buy 2020, How Could Russia Buy 2016?
The Russkies spent a lot less than a million dollars on the 2016 election.  Are we to believe that they put Trump in the White House, but Bloomberg's half-a-billion-plus couldn't move the needle outside of freakin' Samoa?  Just more evidence that their so-called Russian collusion claim was pure, unadulterated, political BS.  Decent people would call it a lie.

Then there's this, which we'll file under "things that make you go hmm":
HOW COULD BLOOMBERG, STEYER HAVE MADE BILLIONS? Judging by the incompetence of their now-defunct presidential campaigns and their records of throwing millions at advocacy groups of doubtful smarts, Issues & Insights wonders how on earth these two guys made billions in the hyper-competitive businesses in which they succeeded.

And then there's Nancy Pelosi, who says Joe and Bernie are the last candidates left standing, and Warren is out, because of, wait for it, misogyny.  Way to slam your own party, given that it's only Democrats who are voting in these primaries.  All those sexist Democrats!  Of course, slamming your own party seems to be kind of a go-to tactic for Dems--remember, it was Hillary voters in the 2008 primaries whom Obama slammed as clinging to their guns and religion.

Remember, this party thinks it should run the country--and thinks the rest of us are "deplorable".

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

The World Needs Me

Yes, the world needs curmudgeons:
Rather, the curmudgeon is a pessimist, whose grumpy outlook is born of long experience, and of the realisation (sic) that what good there is in the world has been hard-won and is perpetually vulnerable to the hare-brained schemes of dreamers, utopians, and idiots of every stripe...

The curmudgeon (hence his or her unpopularity) really, honestly, doesn’t give two shits whether or not people like him: he’s too old for all that malarky and his knees hurt. He is not in the market for “virtue-signalling” or “energising his base”. And he doesn’t imagine he can change the world: he simply hopes to apply some brakes to the handcart in which it is going to hell...

Enthusiasts — “dawnists”, as the novelist and biographer Hugh Kingsmill called them — are the ones you want to watch out for. They’re the ones who do the damage, and you can find them on Left and Right alike, with their Five-Year Plans, their Cultural Revolutions, their Thousand-Year Reichs, their Ages of Aquarius. The curmudgeon, rather, takes the line in Melville’s short story “Bartleby, The Scrivener”: “I would prefer not to.”  (aside--which of those 4 are on the right?  I count none.)

This is not to say that we need only curmudgeons in our ranks.  A society composed entirely of curmudgeons would not advance or evolve at all. 
I'm not from Missouri but I epitomize their state motto:  Show me.  That sounds like the very basis of conservatism!

Monday, March 02, 2020


Seen today on Joanne's blog:
Teaching kids to read is one of schools’ fundamental jobs, yet it’s hard to raise money to support effective instruction, writes Rotherham. “Meanwhile, utter the phrase ‘social-emotional learning,’ and someone stands ready to cut you a check.”
Seen today on The Guardian (via RealClearEducation):
Instead of rote learning useless facts, children should be taught wellbeing...

Harari predicts that the key skills they need to survive and thrive in the 21st century will be emotional intelligence (it is still difficult to imagine a computer caring for a sick person or a child), and the ability to deal with change. If we can predict nothing else about the future, we know that it is going to involve a rapidly accelerating pace of change, from the growth of AI to a warming climate. Coping with this level of uncertainty will require adaptability and psychological resilience. These are best fostered by an education system that prioritises not traditional academic learning but rather “the four Cs”: critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.

Sunday, March 01, 2020

Anyone Remember When Reagan Fired Illegally-striking Air Traffic Controllers?

Given how strong labor protections are in California, I wonder if this is even legal (and if I as a taxpayer will be on the hook for the fallout).  I can't really fault the schools, though--do the job you're paid to do or lose your job:
Officials at the University of California at Santa Cruz said they were “left with no choice” but to fire the students, who say they need a cost-of-living adjustment in order to live nearby.
More details:
The University of California, Santa Cruz fired 54 teaching assistants (TAs) Friday after they went on strike for higher wages.

The graduate students began withholding final fall grades as part of a wildcat strike not approved by union leadership. Striking assistants said the wage increase was necessary to keep up with the cost of living.

"We are sympathetic to the high cost of housing in Santa Cruz and the pressure this puts on TAs, but a wildcat strike is not the way to get relief," university President Janet Napolitano said in a Feb. 14 letter to the striking students, CNN reported.

The students also said that in addition to the 54 fired students, 28 other TAs were sent notices that they would not be considered for such positions in the next semester.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) responded to the firings Friday, calling them “disgraceful” and asking Napolitano and the university to “stop this outrageous union busting and negotiate in good faith"...

The university has filed an unfair labor practice charge against the union for failing to stop the strike in keeping with its collective bargaining agreement. The union counterfiled its own charge, saying the school has refused to meet with the union to negotiate cost-of-living adjustments.
Those of you who want more government, who think government is always the solution against evil capitalist ways--this is government, this is the University of California system.

And if there are no risks to striking, you end up like France.  I hope no one wants that.