Thursday, April 30, 2020


Grades are not a commodity to be hoarded, or candy to be tossed to children.  They should be an indicator of achievement towards some set of objective standards.  Of course, to some people that's racist or elitist or sexist or some other sort of -ist when it should be the most reasonable and obvious belief there is.

The board narrowed down several ideas, like marking credit or no credit, keeping the letter grade as of March 10 only with an option to improve, or letting schools and teachers decide what to do.

“After looking at several options, we determined the 'A or Incomplete' policy is the best option to make sure the extended school building closure doesn’t harm any of our students, particularly those furthest from educational justice,” said Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Denise Juneau.

San Francisco:
The San Francisco school board abandoned a plan to give students automatic A’s on their transcripts this semester, instead adopting a credit/no credit grading policy on Tuesday evening...

The policy aligns with grading policies recommended by state universities to address the sudden switch to distance learning following coronavirus school closures in mid-March...

School board members initially supported giving all students straight A’s two weeks ago, saying it was unfair to hold them responsible for the difficulties related the learning during the pandemic, with many students not having access to computers or online coursework.
When you outdo San Francisco in insanity, you might want to reconsider your actions.

You Can't Have Fun Here, This Is A Beach!

I think some people like the exercise of raw power.  Generally these people become leftists:
California Gov. Gavin Newsom intends to order the closure of all state beaches and parks starting Friday, according to a copy of a memo provided to CNN by a senior law enforcement official.

"We wanted to give all of our members a heads up about this in order to provide time for you to plan for any situations you might expect as a result, knowing each community has its own dynamics," the memo says.

The closures are expected to be announced Thursday, and state park personnel will help in local efforts to close the sites, the memo said.

Newsom's office did not respond to CNN's request for comment.

The memo cited overcrowding of thousands of people at Southern California's beaches over the past weekend in the decision to announce closures.  link
Whether the lockdown "flattened the curve" or not, our hospitals haven't been inundated. Declare victory and end these lockdowns.  And ferchrissakess, leave the darn beaches and parks open.

Monday, April 27, 2020

This Doesn't Make Teachers Look Good

A teacher, above all others, should know that the first thing teenagers will do is get out their phones and start recording:
A New Jersey high school math teacher has been caught on video yelling at a group of teens playing football in a park that they should “die a long, painful death” from the coronavirus, according to a report...

“Parks closed! The whole area,” she says. “Get it through your thick head! You are the reason we are in this situation. You are the problem, not the solution. Go ahead, keep recording. Who are you going to show it to? Post me on social media!” she says.

“You’re the idiot doing the wrong thing. I’m just trying to save your ass and save your life. But die, OK. I hope both of you get the coronavirus. I hope you both die a long, painful death!”
OK, Karen.

Maybe, Just Maybe, Gruesome Newsom Will Do The Right Thing

I wouldn't hold my breath, as Newsom is one of the wokest of the woke and the progressivest of the progressive, but maybe, hopefully, he'll be swayed by reason and justice in this case:
AN OPEN LETTER TO GAVIN NEWSOM FROM ECONOMISTS AND POLITICAL SCIENTISTS IN CALIFORNIA, CALLING FOR HIM TO SUSPEND AB5, the anti-gig-work law. The signatories include Nobel Laureate Vernon Smith (Chapman U.), John Taylor (Stanford U.), Lee Ohanian (UCLA), David Teece (U.C. Berkeley) and others. Gist: “By prohibiting the use of independent contractor drivers, health care professionals, and workers in other critical areas, AB-5 is doing substantial, and avoidable, harm to the very people who now have the fewest resources and the worst alternatives available to them.”

A Mystery, Perhaps Forever

Dodecahedrons have been found all over Northern Europe in former Roman encampments, but today no one knows for sure what they were used for:
Historians have found no written documentation of the dodecahedrons in any historical sources. That void has encouraged dozens of competing, and sometimes colorful, theories about their purpose, from military banner ornaments to candleholders to props used in magic spells. The obvious craftsmanship that went into them—at a time when metal objects were expensive and difficult to make—has prompted many researchers to argue they were valuable, an idea that's supported by the fact that several have been found stashed away with Roman-era coins. But that still doesn't explain why they were made...

But unless someone also finds an instruction manual—and after more than 1500 years, that seems doubtful—the Roman dodecahedrons will continue to baffle, and fascinate, for many years to come. 

The Contradiction At the Heart of Identity Politics

Everyone knows this, but it's powerful to have it stated explicitly:
This contradiction—between urging majority groups to disown their identity and minorities to cling to theirs—lies at the heart of multiculturalism. It reflects a paternalistic white-majority elite perspective: guilt over unearned privilege combined with a desire to assert cultural superiority by adopting a more sophisticated outlook than one’s country cousins.
I will not be participating, thankyouverymuch.  By the by, there are many interesting points in the article.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

More Evidence About What A Wonderful Person I Am

A few decades ago, I was voted biggest gossip of my high school class.  To some, that's more an indictment than a compliment, but recent studies show gossip is good:
Despite gossip’s dodgy reputation, a surprisingly small share of it—as little as 3 to 4 percent—is actually malicious. [4] And even that portion can bring people together. Researchers at the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma found that if two people share negative feelings about a third person, they are likely to feel closer to each other than they would if they both felt positively about him or her. [5]

Gossip may even make us better people. A team of Dutch researchers reported that hearing gossip about others made research subjects more reflective; positive gossip inspired self-improvement efforts, and negative gossip made people prouder of themselves. [6] In another study, the worse participants felt upon hearing a piece of negative gossip, the more likely they were to say they had learned a lesson from it. [7] Negative gossip can also have a prosocial effect on those who are gossiped about. Researchers at Stanford and UC Berkeley found that once people were ostracized from a group due to reputed selfishness, they reformed their ways in an attempt to regain the approval of the people they had alienated. [8]
Maybe I should get back in the game.

Friday, April 24, 2020

They'll Visit At Least Once

I've had more than a couple students tell me they haven't visited my YouTube channel to watch my instructional videos.  Essentially, they aren't learning.

So I had to think of a way to get them to go take a look, pronto.  It came to me in a blinding flash, a way to use teenage psychology.  I told them that in addition to the instructional videos, I've put every TikTok video I've ever made on that channel as well.  You should have heard the enthusiasm!

I've never made a TikTok video, and never will.  You'll note, though, that my statement was completely honest :-)

Today Should Be a Day of Celebration, and With This Post It Kind Of Is

Mr. Popp (pronounced "pope") was my high school counselor, my mentor, and my friend.  He died a week ago, today would have been his 87th birthday.

Except for maybe running into him at the local Sam's Club, the last time I saw him was November 2017.  He'd had a heart scare, and I went to his house when he got out of the hospital.  I last spoke to him a week or two before his passing.  He sounded so different, I feared the end might be near.

Mr. Popp spent over 50 years in education, all in the same school district.  He started as a math teacher in the mid to late 1950s.  In fact, he and my high school principal were both math teachers, and when I started teaching they took me to Denny's one morning before school to give me the lay of the land.  By that time they'd been out of the math classroom for a couple decades, but the advice they gave was practical and from the heart.  I still follow it, 20+ years later.

Mr. Popp eventually became a counselor, and we in the Foothill High Class of 1983 were lucky to get him.  He was humble, he was cheerful, he was kind.  Not only have I ever heard him raise his voice, I've never heard that he ever raised his voice.  His calm demeanor, full of caring, was a steady hand that guided us through high school.  We always invited him to our reunions, and he always attended.  When he arrived he was mobbed like a rock star--"there's Mr. Popp!"  We love him.  In fact, when my son was born, Mr. Popp's house was one of the first I took him to outside of direct family.

Eventually it was time for Mr. Popp to cut back on work.  He started working at the district's alternative school, serving in the teacher/counselor role.  Students attend the alternative school one day a week, perhaps for an hour, and they do so for a variety of reasons--and Mr. Popp shepherded those students for many years.  In August 2013 he was given an award by the California Student Aid Commission for his decades of service to students.  He has a large extended family, and many of them were there.  So was I, and the high school principal he taught math with back in the 50s:

The following picture is from our 25th reunion.  I include it to point out one of those "it's a small world" moments.  Mr. Popp had been a math teacher, when the picture was taken I was a math teacher, and I currently teach the son of one of my classmates in the picture.  He's good at math, but I don't get the sense he wants to be a math teacher :-(
Yes, I'd just gotten out of the pool.  And the baby in the picture is now a teenager.

The last picture is from 2 1/2 years ago, the last time I went to his house:

My dad and his wife go to church with the Popps.  Members of the church are signing up to take meals over to Mrs. Popp, and my dad's wife signed up for Sunday.  She doesn't drive anymore, so guess who's delivering.

By the way, have you noticed that I still refer to him as "Mr. Popp"?  Decades ago he gave up trying to get me to address him by his first name.  I couldn't do it then, and I can't do it now.  I was offered a job at the alternative high school when he taught there--we'd have worked together had I taken it.  And I still would have addressed him as Mr. Popp.  Such respect was earned.

*sigh*  Mr. Popp was my counselor, my mentor, and my friend.  He played such an outsized role in my life.  I'm going to miss him tremendously.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Imitation Is The Sincerest Form of Flattery

A couple of the times I've eaten out in the last couple weeks I've had a bacon cheeseburger.  Eating two animals at once, it doesn't get better!

But I don't need to eat out every night, I have plenty of food in the frig.  A bacon cheeseburger sounds good, no?  Well, I don't have hamburger buns, trying to cut down on breads.  I do have flour tortillas, though.  And beef patties with the cheese "built in".  And salad mix.  And ketchup.  And, of course, bacon.

So I fried up a some bacon, as well as two beef-and-cheese patties--gonna make 2 "burgers".  Anyway, a patty, some bacon strips, some salad mix, and some ketchup, all on a tortilla, and then topped with another tortilla.  Wrap the sides around, eat it like a burrito!

So good, so easy, so what I wanted.

Plans for This Summer

My plans this summer have been for some time (I've already reserved and paid for campgrounds!) to go to Yellowstone, then head north to Vulcan, AB, then to Banff.  I may get to visit Yellowstone, at least:
National parks will be reopening soon after being closed for weeks to contain the spread of the coronavirus, President Donald Trump announced Wednesday.

"Thanks to our significant progress against the invisible enemy, I'm pleased to announce that in line with my administration’s guidelines for opening up America again, we will begin to reopen our national parks and public lands for the American people to enjoy,” Trump said during an Earth Day ceremony on the White House lawn. “That’s going to be very exciting; we have a lot of land to open up, too. People are going to be very happy.”

Trump's announcement comes as states begin to relax restrictions that forced the closures of parks and other businesses that were considered nonessential amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Open The Doors

I was on board with the stay-at-home orders when school closed over 5 weeks ago.  We thought we were looking at a real pandemic, one that would cut its way like a scythe through the population.  It made sense to try to limit such a catastrophic event.

Here we are 5 weeks later, and we know a lot more now.  We know it's a yucky illness, and we also know that it's not 1918-redux.  The whole point of a temporary shutdown was to "flatten the curve", to ensure that the peak of the illness did not overwhelm our medical facilities' ability to care for patients.  We've accomplished that.  It wasn't to save every single person from the coronavirus, it was to help the population as a whole.  Many medical facilities are going broke because they're not allowed to treat patients without coronavirus--such treatment isn't "critical".  How many patients are on board the Comfort and the Mercy, the naval ships sent to New York City and Southern California?  Do you recall hearing about the temporary hospital set up in a football stadium in Seattle (an early hot spot), that has already been removed because there weren't any patients?

Circumstances have changed since early March.  We should not get into fixed positions based on our politics--Republicans want to get back to life, Democrats want to stay locked up.  No, we should look at this objectively and recognize that conditions have changed, our knowledge of the virus has changed, and the events we feared so much in early March have not come to pass.  The disease isn't near as deadly as we thought it might be and, if a study from Santa Clara County is anywhere near accurate, many more people than we thought have been exposed to the virus (making the death rate even lower).  We should be making decisions based on the conditions, not on politics.

It's time to recognize that the medicine is now known to be worse than the disease.  What's true is that the country is quickly being split into two camps--those who are still getting a paycheck, and those who aren't.

I recognize that it's difficult, now that these draconian rules have been put in place, to back off on them.  If 2 people die after a stay-at-home order is lifted, people on the other side of the politics will scream, "See?  See?  We should still be at home!  Blood is on hands!"  It's kind of like the TSA--the moment they relax one of their stupid orders, people will scream for the head of the person who is now making them less safe!  Except for hand sanitizer, as the TSA has relaxed the 3 oz rule for liquid hand sanitizer, showing the 3 oz rule was never about safety anyway and was only about theater.  My point is that once you institute rules for "safety", any reduction in those rules comes with severe political risk.  And if there's one thing politicians don't like, it's political risk.

These stay-at-home orders weren't created to save just one life.  They were instituted to save huge numbers of lives.  I don't know if they did that, but we now know that we're not in danger of losing huge numbers of people.  The "just one life" argument has to give way to reality.

It's time to reopen America to commerce.

Update, 4/23/20:  Comfort is leaving New York.  Not needed.

Then there's this tweet, which aligns with my concerns:

Update #2, 4/23/20This doctor agrees:
The tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be entering the containment phase. Tens of thousands of Americans have died, and Americans are now desperate for sensible policymakers who have the courage to ignore the panic and rely on facts. Leaders must examine accumulated data to see what has actually happened, rather than keep emphasizing hypothetical projections; combine that empirical evidence with fundamental principles of biology established for decades; and then thoughtfully restore the country to function.

Five key facts are being ignored by those calling for continuing the near-total lockdown...
His conclusion is the same as mine.

Update #3, 4/26/20:  These California doctors agree:
Both doctors understand and support the initial reactions to the COVID-19 outbreak by the federal, state and local governments. It was a novel virus and there was very limited information. However, now they assert that the data is telling them that the disease pattern of COVID-19 is more like the flu. Dr. Erickson phrased it this way, “Millions of cases, a small number of deaths.” He specifically noted that the difference in the number of deaths between Sweden, with limited restrictions, and Norway, which locked down, is not statistically significant.

"Lockdown versus non-lockdown did not produce a statistically different number of deaths. That is the bottom line," said Erickson.

Throughout the briefing he emphasized that decision making going forward needs to be based on data, not predictive models. This echoes comments made by Dr. Anthony Fauci during press briefings. And we have all watched the predictive models be radically adjusted as actual data has been loaded into them.
Video at the link.

Update #4, 5/1/20:   SEEN ON FACEBOOK: “Corona is starting to feel like the Check Engine light. At first it freaks you out, but after a few weeks you’re like ‘Look, I gotta go to work.'”

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Early Birthday Present That Will Be Late

My birthday is this weekend, and both parents have asked what I'd like to do.  I'd like to have fun, maybe go out for a nice dinner, but that isn't going to happen right now, so I told both of them that I'd take a rain check.

I did, however, order myself a little present, and it will get here late next week.  It'll be a few days late, but I think it will be worth the wait!

Update, 4/26/20:  It arrived on my birthday, and I got it put together in just over an hour.  Very relaxing!

The Best Way To Make Home Confinement Tolerable

Did you know that you can order Girl Scout cookies online???  Take that, coronavirus!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Took My Ca$h, Kiss My A$$

I went in to school today to turn in a time card for tutoring before school shut down and to pick up some more teaching materials for my online lessons.  In keeping with my goal to spend my coronavirus stimulus money keeping local restaurants afloat, on the way home I stopped by Pizza Hut and picked up a small pizza for lunch.

It wasn't until I got home that I looked at the receipt, and that fired me up big time:
Look at the so-called service fee, and the justification for it.  "We don't want to raise our prices, so we're just going to tack on a fee to pay for these increases in the minimum wage that the California unicorns tout so much."  Increasing the price, which I see on the menu and online, would be honest.  Tacking on a fee that I don't know about until after I've paid for it is dishonest.

I will not be visiting Pizza Hut again.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Smart Kid Doing a Good Thing

I love stories of people doing good things, I especially love stories of teenagers doing good things:
On a crisp spring day, the Cessna touches down near a rural hospital in Virginia with a slightly awkward bounce. On board, desperately-needed medical supplies for a community hard-hit by the coronavirus. The plane didn't stay down very long. The pilot had to get home and finish his schoolwork.

At an age when most teens are pursuing a driver's license, TJ Kim is working towards a student pilot's certificate, and making a difference along the way.

Kim is a sophomore at the Landon School in Bethesda, Maryland. The pandemic forced his campus to close for the year. It ended his lacrosse season and put a crimp in his studies. But the school still expects students to do academic work at home, and also to do good works for others...

Kim calls his project "Operation SOS." It stands for "supplies over skies." Throughout the week, he stays in touch with the hospitals to see what they need. His father coordinates the donation of supplies: gloves, masks, gowns and other essential equipment like shoe covers and protective eyewear.

On delivery day, Kim loads up the plane and goes over his flight plan.
Go read the whole thing.

Saturday, April 18, 2020


When I read this article
California Public School Teacher Admits to Teaching Her Students That Trump is Fascist, Trashes Republican Students On Social Media
I thought about the time my principal received a complaint because I wore a MAGA hat (a gift from a student, by the way) to school one day.  On "Hat Day".

MASH and Coronavirus

Should These Students Get To Graduate?

For a decade and a half on this blog, I've been consistent in the belief that schools should not punish students for behavior that takes place off-campus or outside of school activities.  It doesn't matter to me how egregious the behavior is, it's not the school's place to police it.  There are enough problems at school to handle, don't bring on additional ones.

Not everyone agrees with that:
Two Carrollton High School seniors were expelled Friday and won’t be allowed to graduate after a racist video they posted online went viral.

In a statement, Carrollton City Schools Superintendent Mark Albertus said the students’ behavior was unacceptable and “not representative of the district’s respect for all people.”

“The racist behavior observed in the video easily violates this standard,” he said. “They are no longer students at Carrollton High School.”
Neither the students nor the district look good in this story. The adults, at least, should know better.

Friday, April 17, 2020

US National Debt

These two sites show somewhat different numbers, but neither of them provides a rosy long-term outlook:
US National Debt Clock
America's National Debt

The Fates Know About My Stimulus Check

This coronavirus shutdown has cost me a lot of money.  First, my washing machine went dunken-verschtunken and I had to get a new one.  And yesterday, after about 30 seconds, my lawnmower died and wouldn't fire up again.   Sounds like it's not getting fuel, but I'm tired of playing with it, getting it to work for a day or so, and then having it die again.  Yesterday I couldn't get it restarted, so I went to Lowe's and bought a new one.

Total cost of these two purchases?  Within a few dollars, it's the amount of my stimulus check!

(Yes, I still plan on blowing the stimulus money supporting local restaurants.)

Thursday, April 16, 2020

A Real-world, Current Events Application of Probability and Risk

At the intersection of coronavirus and probability comes some advice from Dr. Fauci about gettin' a little lovin' from a rando these days:
A confused Dr. Fauci was asked about hookups at the tail end of an interview with Snapchat’s “Good Luck America” news program and was forced to give advice on how to handle being particularly lonely — and unwilling to simply stay home — in the age of coronavirus.

“If you’re swiping on a dating app like Tinder, or Bumble or Grindr, and you match with someone that you think is hot, and you’re just kind of like, ‘Maybe it’s fine if this one stranger comes over.’ What do you say to that person?” the host asked Dr. Fauci, apparently channeling the burning questions of Snapchat’s users.

“You know, that’s tough,” Dr. Fauci answered, according to the New York Post. “Because that’s what’s called relative risk.”

He then tried to explain the concept of weighing the satisfaction of a coronavirus lockdown-defying hookup against the possibility of contracting the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19 — a disease that, while primarily problematic for the elderly, is plenty risky for those of the age to use social media dating applications.

“If you’re willing to take a risk — and you know, everybody has their own tolerance for risks — you could figure out if you want to meet somebody,” Dr. Fauci replied. “If you want to go a little bit more intimate, well, then that’s your choice regarding a risk"...

Dr. Fauci went on to remind Snapchat users that the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is particularly sneaky, and that around 40% of people who contract the virus show no symptoms. Hooking up with someone who appears to be feeling well is no guarantee that you’re hooking up with someone who isn’t a carrier for the virus...

So far, despite his interview with Snapchat, neither Dr. Fauci nor the federal government have made any official proclamations about sexual health in a pandemic.
There you have it!

The Teacher Becomes The Student

I was talking to a former student a couple days ago.  He was walking me through the process for adding a video to a playlist on YouTube.  "Under the video, left of SHARE, there are 3 horizontal lines with a plus sign.  Click that."  I did.  "Hey, it's grayed out, I can't click it."  So I had to continue with my old, convoluted way.

I don't know how I figured it out, but the problem was that I was identifying my videos as "made for children".  When I stopped doing that I was given a "no age restrictions" option, which I chose upon uploading, and that video didn't have the "3 lines and a plus sign" grayed out.  Now it was easy-peasy to add that to a playlist.

I don't know why it works that way, only that it does work that way.  I learned something.

I'm already over making videos at home and holding Zoom classes.  It was novel for the first day or two, now it seems like more work than actually going to school and teaching--for less educational effect to boot.

I saw an email from a teacher today that began with "Sarcasm Warning", so of course I had to read it.  The gist was that he is a better teacher online than he ever was in class--students who had 29% in class all of a sudden scored 90-105% on his online test!  He ended with (and I'll paraphrase here), "If you get these kids next year and they don't perform, it's all on you.  I worked miracles with them."

Just over 7 weeks left....

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Fighting Coronavirus With Coors

When I went to the doctor a few weeks ago, I was given a surgical mask to wear because of what people at work called my "coronacough".  As I've had it for years, it's certainly not due to coronavirus--more likely it's due to post-nasal drip from allergies.  But whenever I go out I've worn that surgical mask because it keeps people from giving me horrified looks whenever I cough.

A friend of mine sent a picture of him in a bandana.  I joked that I don't have a bandana--then it hit me.  I might!  So I dug through one of my drawers and found it.  I've had it for decades, so long that I have no idea where or why I got it.  It's certainly not something I'd have bought, it might have been given away as a promotion at a fair or something like that.  So now I can ditch that worthless surgical mask and step out in style:
I don't even drink beer.  Why on earth would I have this?  I don't know, but in my family we save everything because we might need it some day.  Who knew I'd need this for a pandemic!

I've Been Stimulated!

One of the benefits of having direct deposit is that I get my tax refunds faster than I would if I waited for a check.  And no one is going to steal my direct deposit out of my mailbox.

After hearing from my son last night, I checked my banking app this morning.  Sure enough, my coronavirus stimulus (or, "just add it to the federal debt" money) has been deposited in my account.

According to Snopes, I won't have to pay it back (except, of course, as added interest on the national debt):
While the above metric is fairly straightforward, the CARES Act’s use of the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) tax infrastructure to facilitate these payments has caused substantial confusion. That’s because legally the payment is considered a tax credit advanced to the recipient from the (future) 2020 tax return — that is, the return the recipient will file in 2021. This has led some to believe that the payment either needs to be paid back in full in 2020, or that the payment is considered taxable income, or that the payment counts against one’s 2020 tax refund. None of these conclusions, however, is true.

That’s because another provision written into the law dictates that recipients of the economic impact payment will be credited as if they had paid the government back. This makes the payment a non-taxable fund that does not affect future returns. “What’s technically happening is that the person is due a 2020 stimulus rebate ‘credit’ — but that’s reduced by what they received as an advance credit this year, so it exactly cancels out,” Chye-Ching Huang, senior director of economic policy at the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), told us via email. “That just prevents duplicate refunds — there’s no practical impact on their 2020 tax refund.”
Let the eating out begin! (Actually, I've eaten "out" 3 times in the 4+ weeks I've been essentially confined at home, so it would be more accurate to say, Let the eating out continue!)

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

It's More Difficult Than I Thought It Would Be

As I said in a previous post, all the plans I'd made for teaching starting this week were ixnayed by an email that came from our district late last week.  Weeks of planning and ideas, gone.

So I had to come up with a Plan B, and fast.  So I started making instructional videos and posting them on YouTube.  They're not going to win any Oscars for production value, but the math content is there.  So now I'm making videos and holding class time.  Making the videos and getting them posted to YouTube is a lengthy process, and then I have to add each video to a "playlist" so that all the videos from one course are together, and the videos from another course are together.  Then I need to update my web site with the video links, and do so in enough time for students to watch the videos before our allotted class time.

It's not difficult, there's just no room for error at all.  If I can't get the video uploaded, there's not much to be done.  If I put the video on YouTube but forget to update my web site, then the students don't know they're supposed to watch it. Adding a video to a playlist isn't an intuitive process.

I probably need to make a checklist and follow it religiously each day.

And I still haven't figured out how to give a high-quality assessment under the given circumstances.  Part of me says that no assessment is better than a crappy one that the kids can cheat on easily.  Still haven't figured out the assessment angle after 4 weeks--because we teachers are given a smorgasbord of options, none of them great, and told to pick the one that works best for us.  Well heck, I was supposed to figure out all these different software packages and evaluate them, in addition to planning instruction?  As with our Student Information System, shouldn't a school district pick one platform and then have everyone use it?  What they see as "empowering the teacher", I see as "passing off to the teacher the hard work of evaluating and making a decision".

It's clear my frustration is showing.  Think I'll go for a walk, listen to an audiobook, and relax a bit.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

A Nice Idea In Theory

The devil is in the details:

Key Points
  • In most schools, the end user of education products and programs—the teacher—has little or no control over what gets purchased; education products and programs are bought for teachers by school and district leaders.
  • This top-down purchasing system creates three hurdles to effective education procurement: (1) half-baked implementation of new programs and technologies, (2) underestimation of the teacher-time costs of implementing new education products, and (3) misplaced priority on using funds to reduce class size or hire more specialists.
  • One potential solution to these hurdles is to give individual teachers control of the funds currently spent on them. Such a move would help ensure that teachers receive products and services they actually want and need, significantly increasing the likelihood of effective implementation and maximizing return on investment.

I can't even imagine how such a program would be run, especially in high school.  How many books should my school buy for my classes--how many classes will I have each year?  How many students will I have?  What if one year I get significantly more?  It seems the school would have to have a larger supply of books to carry this plan out.

Might my class have different textbooks than the math class next door?  With all the emphasis lately on "equity" and "equitable educational experience"--meaning what gets taught and assessed in this class should be the same as what gets taught and assessed in that class--there would be a lot of teacher shopping and threats of lawsuits under such a plan.  Principals would not be happy.

Do you trust individual teachers to make the best choices for your child?  In theory you trust the school district to make good curricular choices, and in theory the school district gets a some input from a variety of people and then a committee of some form makes a decision.  But there are plenty of individual teachers out there with loopy views--whole language, fuzzy math, so-called discovery learning, learning styles, technology focus--do you want these teachers making such choices?  Of course, I would make the best choices for math curricula for my students, but I can't say the same for that teacher over there.  He/she is a cuckoo bird.

I'll grant that I'm not pleased with the books I am currently required to use for the 3 courses I teach.  I've used better books in the past--books that could actually fit in a student's backpack, too, unlike many of the books we use today.  But the solution offered above isn't one I'd want to see implemented across the country or state--or even across my district, which includes a few dozen elementary and K-8 schools, under a dozen middle schools, and about a dozen high schools.  It just seems inefficient from a budgeting perspective and potentially disastrous to students who get cuckoo bird teachers.

You Want To See Privilege? Here Is Privilege.

I don't believe so-called white privilege exists, it's not the 1950's anymore.  I do believe that wealth brings privilege, and what better example of wealth and privilege is there than Harvard Law School?  Are these students incapable of looking in the mirror to see how bad they look?  Can they not smell the stink of their own privilege when they whine like this?
Nearly 200 third-year Harvard Law School students signed a letter to Law School administrators Thursday asking for the school to publicly advocate for an emergency diploma privilege — a policy granting graduating students their law licenses without requiring the bar examination.

The letter asked the Law School to take four specific actions on behalf of its students. These requests include issuing a public statement supporting the emergency diploma privilege across the United States; sharing the students’ letter with other law schools; sending a statement supporting the privilege to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts; and hosting a virtual town hall for students to discuss their needs with the administration.
This would be shameful if they were able to experience shame.

The Federal Budget

Linked from here.

What will that chart look like after $2T in "stimulus" this year?  And what happens when interest rates go up, meaning we'll be spending more in interest on the debt?

Used to be that the Democrats didn't care about the deficit or debt, and Republicans at least pretended to.  Right now there doesn't seem to be anyone talking about either.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

50 Years Ago Today

Apollo 13 launched.

I've never seen the Hollywood movie, I prefer this 1994 documentary:

Friday, April 10, 2020

The Best-laid Plans

I had done so much planning.  I determined what material I would teach, and when I would teach it.  I notified parents and students of the information needed to log on to Zoom for my instruction.  I was all set to go.

Then I got an email from the district.  After 4 weeks of being off work, now they tell me.

First, they recognize the security flaws in Zoom but, with certain settings, we should feel free to use that platform.  Then there was the list of do's and don'ts.  Mostly don'ts.
  • Don't post any video (with students' faces in it) to the open web.  There goes my YouTube page--and it's a bit late for me to figure out Google Classroom now.
  • Don't have students' names visible on any video you post (Zoom shows participants' names).
  • Don't publicly post Zoom meeting login information.  There goes posting it on my web site.  Why does it matter, if I only let in participants from the "waiting room" whose names I recognize?
Bottom line:  I can't hold a regular class.

So my plan now is to make videos in advance, without any students to ask clarifying questions.  I'll post those just-me videos on my YouTube page.  I'll scrub my district web site of the meeting information and just mail it to students.  And what will I do during my scheduled meetings?  Answer questions, I guess--if anyone watches the videos in advance.

I'll keep adjusting....

Thursday, April 09, 2020


Being former military, I have a USAA credit card and have car and homeowner's insurance with USAA.  Here's an excerpt from an email I just received from them:
We know the COVID‐19 pandemic is having a financial impact, and we're taking action to ease the burden. Every member with an auto insurance policy in effect as of March 31, 2020, will receive a 20% credit on two months of premiums in the coming weeks. All told, we're returning about $520 million.

We're able to pass on those savings because your efforts to stay home during the pandemic have meant fewer drivers on the road, which means fewer accidents and claims.

You will receive a credit applied to your bill. There is no need to call or take any action.
Very cool, and indicative of why I do business with them.

Summer Travel Plans

This Saturday will mark 4 weeks for me being home, isolated.  We probably have at least 3 more weeks after that before some of our stay-at-home restrictions are eliminated.  Some people handle isolation better than others; as someone who lives alone, and is not a social butterfly, I'm probably better at it than others.  Even still, while I'm not bored, I am restless.

I want to get out and do something.

I usually do one "big" and one "small" trip each summer.  My small trip will be a family gathering in San Diego at the end of June.  I'm hoping things will be getting back to normal by then and that the gathering will still happen.

My big trip is a Road Trip Grande in July.  First stop, Yellowstone National Park.  Or is it?
Yellowstone National Park likely won't reopen until May or later, delaying the start of its traditional summer season for millions of tourists because of the coronavirus outbreak, a park official said...

Yellowstone’s west gate at West Yellowstone, Montana, was initially scheduled to open for the summer season April 17, followed by the east gate May 1 and the south gate May 8.

The coronavirus has complicated the usual pattern from late April to early June of plowing and then reopening gates, visitor centers, stores, restaurants and lodges for tourists who begin to converge on Yellowstone around Memorial Day weekend, the Cody Enterprise reported. 
I've already paid for my campground in West Yellowstone, in full.  Yes, I'm a planner.

After Yellowstone my plan is to head north to Vulcan, Alberta, a town I first visited 4 years ago.  I'm looking forward to Vul-Con 2020, probably the smallest but coolest Star Trek convention around!  This year's headliner is Tim Russ from Star Trek: Voyager.  The question is, will I be able to cross the border?
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday Canadians will need to stay at home and practice physical distancing for months as the first wave of COVID-19 cases in the country won’t end until the summer and Canada won’t return to normal until there is a vaccine — which could take a year and a half.
After Vulcan, the plan is to go to Banff for a few days.  I've already paid for my campground near Banff in full.  There's that planning again.

The dollar is very strong right now, it would be a good time to be an American tourist.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Either Education Is Important, Or It's Not

In the army I learned that "perfection is the enemy of the good enough."  President Reagan once remarked that someone who agrees with you 80% of the time is not your enemy, despite that 20% opposition, but your ally.  Life seldom gives problems where the solutions are black and white, choose your level of gray.

That is what came to my head as I read this story about not teaching.  We teachers like to chant the mantra that education is the solution to all of society's ills, but things are different in Berkeley:
In Berkeley, California’s most progressive city, they aren’t educating anyone online because of equity issues. Using Titanic-style logic (“Since we can’t save everyone on the Titanic, let’s make everyone stay on board and go down with the ship!”), district officials maintain that because not every student has a computer or access to the internet, no one should get educated. And this mentality has not only infected Berkeley. School districts in Kentucky, Washington state and elsewhere have succumbed to Titanic logic.
Education is the solution to all of society's ills until it conflicts with the political philosophy of "equity"; when that happens, toss education aside.  It's better to have no education at all than to have some education for some people, even if only temporarily.  Must. Have. Perfection.

Similarly, if Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos proposes something, it must be bad, right?
On the national level, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has suggested that Congress should consider microgrants to help teachers with online learning, especially for disadvantaged students. The proposal would target kids whose schools have been closed for at least 30 days and are either eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or are enrolled in a special education program.

A spokesperson for DeVos said the grants could be used “to fund materials needed for home-based learning, like computers or software, internet access, or instructional materials. They could also support educational services like therapies for students with disabilities, tuition and fees for a public or private online learning course or program, and educational services provided by a private or public school, or tutoring.”

Sounds reasonable, right? Well, not if you are a union boss. An unhinged National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García shot back, “Betsy DeVos is shamefully using this global crisis to push her privatization agenda.”

García also claimed that DeVos’ scheme “would use ‘microgrants’ to siphon scarce public funding to private programs. I say, if it looks like a voucher program, acts like a voucher program, and sounds like a voucher program, there’s only one thing it can be.”

García urged NEA members to contact Congress and tell them to “reject Betsy DeVos’s latest plot to undermine public education.” She added “Students, parents, and educators need real help, not another attempt to take funding away from the most vulnerable students.”
So, in Berkeley, there's no online teaching going on because some kids don't have computers.  Let's give grants so poor kids can get computers, says DeVos.  No way, that's bad because it might (somehow) lead to privatization!

Lefties, especially those in education, are deranged.  There's just no way around it.  Politics über alles, even über kids' education.

Update, 4/8/20:  A commenter noted that there is teaching going on in Berkeley.   Here is the Berkeley USD's lengthy distance learning plan.  I read it, the entire thing, and to be honest, it doesn't impress me.  I'm going to contact the author of the article I linked above and ask where he got his information about Berkeley.

Update, 4/10/20:  The article's author responded, and expressed horror that he'd failed to include his source link in his article.   The source was the Wall Street Journal:
The private school went online in two days with Zoom. I’m teaching all my law-school classes online. New York, the country’s biggest school system, is going online. Why not Berkeley? One teacher wrote a parent I know that Berkeley isn’t moving online “because of equity issues.” Ann Marie Callegari, the district’s supervisor of family engagement and equity, confirmed that in an email to me: “The answer to your question of course is Yes! There are existing inequities in our educational system and right here in Berkeley that will only be exacerbated by going fully online.”
Let me rephrase that: District officials feel that some students may not have computers to access online services, so they’d rather let everyone drown than save as many as possible and fulfill their educational mission. Starting next week Berkeley plans to post limited lesson plans online and offer students two 90-minute office-hour sessions a week...

The Berkeley district already had equity issues. It is one of the worst-performing in America in educating minority students. A Stanford study found it had the nation’s widest black-white achievement gap. But leaving all children behind will only make matters worse.

Sunday, April 05, 2020


I filed my taxes electronically on March 29th.  Using my bank's phone app I see that both my federal and state refunds are "pending transactions" with tomorrow's date.  Ain't technology grand?

I wonder how long it will take for me to get my "stimulus" payment.

Chronology of the US Coronavirus Response

A dispassionate view shows that President Trump comes out looking pretty good in response to coronavirus, considering that the actions he took early on (say, in January and February) were mocked as excessive, xenophobic, and/or racist.  Even more, he took action even when the CDC was downplaying the threat, which helped feed the "excessive" storyline.

Apparently, Zoom Isn't The End-All Be-All

With a large proportion of America's students now receiving their education via distance learning, many schools and teachers have settled on Zoom as the delivery method for video meetings.

I've seen many reports, from many different sources and news outlets, about the inherent security flaws built into Zoom.  Zoom is owned by an American company but its engineering team is in China, and there are fears that, either influenced by the Chinese government or not, some of the security flaws were intentional.  Also, Zoom is easily hacked by those who know how to do so, and there are reports of Zoom meetings being flooded with porn and other undesirable content.

As a result, New York City says no:
Teachers in public schools in New York City have been told not to use Zoom video conferencing technology for distance learning amid security and privacy concerns, according to media reports...

The Chalkbeat website reports that New York City’s Department of Education has received reports of issues impacting Zoom privacy and security. “Based on the DOE’s review of those documented concerns, the DOE will no longer permit the use of Zoom at this time,” it said, in a memo to principals obtained by Chalkbeat.

Instead, schools were advised to switch to Microsoft’s Microsoft Teams collaboration technology, according to Chalkbeat.
Update, 4/9/20: “Following two weeks of escalating privacy and security concerns about video conferencing platform Zoom, the U.S. Senate and Google have both banned its members and employees from using the software.” link

Common Core in the Age of Coronavirus

These folks have rewritten the Common Core standards for education during the coronavirus home isolation.  One of my favorites:
Domain 2: Screen Time


Grades 6-8

2-A. Students will learn that their parents do not want to know what a “TikTok” is, nor do they want to see your “TikTok,” but it had better be appropriate.
Does anybody besides another teenager really want to see your "TikTok"?

Two others:
Domain 4: Content


Grades 9-12

3-A. Students will learn that Romeo and Juliet had it easy, because they only had to contend with an inter-family feud, and not the cancellation of prom, or the indefinite postponement of “going to the next level,” which their significant other definitely gave affirmative consent for, via text, last week...

3-C. Students will learn exactly how irritating, boring, aggravating, and absurd it can be to live through history. They will also learn that attendance in History IRL is mandatory.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

I'm Required To Pay Extra For The Privilege of "Recycling"

I required to put cardboard, plastics, and glass into a blue-colored garbage can that gets picked up every two weeks.  Two garbage trucks make the routes, one for garbage (the brown container) and one for the blue recycling container.  I'm seeing articles like this one more and more frequently, and I wonder if I'm paying more just for the privilege of going through a useless ritual:
Baltimore County residents have had their perceptions about recycling shattered. In early February, news broke that for the last seven years, the county has been trashing the glass it collects as part of the county recycling program.

"There are numerous issues with glass recycling, including increased presence of shredded paper in recycling streams which contaminates materials and is difficult to separate from broken glass fragments, in addition to other limitations on providing quality material," a county spokesperson told The Baltimore Sun.

Glass recycling reportedly stopped in 2013, the same year the county opened a $23 million single-stream recycling facility, according to the Sun...

Many of the recyclables that are collected end up in landfills or incinerators.

That's exactly what's been happening to Baltimore County's glass. Yet county officials are still encouraging residents to recycle the stuff, fearful that people will fall out of the recycling habit. Ritual is apparently more important than reuse.

"The Hills North of San Francisco"

As a native Northern Californian, I bristled when I read this in a BBC story:
When James W Marshall discovered gold in the hills north of San Francisco in 1848, it sparked a migration of epic proportions.
If you don't know the area, how far would you say this distance is?  "Hills north of San Francisco" sounds to me to be "not far".  10 miles?  Maybe even 25 miles?  And what does "north" mean?

To a Northern Californian, "north of San Francisco" means Marin County--Sausalito, Mill Valley, San Rafael, maybe even as far north as Santa Rosa.  But that's not what the BBC author meant.

Sutter's Mill, located along the American River, was where Marshall first discovered gold in the tailrace of the mill.  The Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park is located in Coloma, California.  Here's its location relative to San Francisco, thanks to Google Earth:
Yes, Coloma is more northern than San Francisco, but would you describe it as "north" of San Francisco?  I guess it is in the same way that London is "north" of San Francisco.

And, as the crow flies, Coloma is over 100 miles from San Francisco.  Does "the hills north of San Francisco" seem at all accurate for describing the location of the Gold Discovery Site?

No, this mistake isn't earth-shattering.  And the location of Coloma has nothing to do with the BBC story, which was about San Francisco's sourdough bread.  But such an error is like fingernails on a chalkboard to people who know better.

Here are some pictures from Coloma:

Very pastoral.  When visitors come from out of state, I like to take them to Coloma.  It's maybe 45 min from home, peaceful, and interesting.  I'd say it's where modern California began.

Friday, April 03, 2020

Sad News

I live near Auburn Blvd, which in days past was US 40.  The stretch near my house has been Auburn Blvd my entire life, but I remember when it was a pastoral road out in the middle of nowhere.

As long as I can remember, the Ranch Motel and adjacent Ranch Cafe have been there.  Never knew much about the motel, but it looks like one of those tiny places you see in movies about the 50s.  The Ranch Cafe has always been a greasy spoon, but the food has always been good and the prices even better.

Several years ago the Ranch Cafe was sold and it became the Western Coffee Pot.  Later it was sold again to some east Indians whose restaurant about a mile away, Rosie's Country Kitchen, moved into the former Western Coffee Pot.

The Ranch Cafe/Western Coffee Pot decor didn't change.  The service and value didn't change.  The menu changed a little.  Sure, the omelets and chicken fried steak and waffles and burgers and hot and cold sandwiches remained on the menu, but some new meals were added:  Chicken Tikka Mughlai, Chicken Curry, Chana Masala, Vegetable Briyani.  You get the idea.

I'm fortunate to still have an income, as I'll continue receiving pay until the end of the school year in June.  When the best thing I can do to help the economy is to order out for dinner in order to keep a small business operating, that's not a huge sacrifice.  At all.  I've had a hankering for breakfast-for-dinner and would love their chicken fried steak meal, so I called.

They're closed for the foreseeable future.

Pearl House, a Chinese restaurant, is thankfully still open.  I have to go pick up my meal in about 10 minutes.

Pearl House, Rosie's, and a local Mongolian BBQ were the 3 local restaurants I've decided I need to support.  I'm too late for Rosie's so I'll add in a nearby Mexican restaurant.

I was going to spend my "stimulus" money on eating out, and eating out isn't something I do often at all.  But I'm not going to wait for the money to arrive--I still have income.  It's time I start eating restaurant meals more often.

Just Got The Call

Just got a robo-call from my district, schools are closed for the rest of the school year.  Here's what it says on the district web site:
Based on guidance from both state officials and local health officials, and in coordination with other local school districts, (the school district) is extending the closure of our school facilities through the end of the school year.

This does not mean the 2019-2020 academic year is finished. While we will continue to stay physically apart, teachers and staff are quickly working to shift to a new model for delivering instruction. After spring break, teachers and students will engage in new lessons via distance learning which can take many forms.

We recognize this difficult but necessary decision may cause disappointment and understand the hardship that distance learning creates for our students, families and staff. Superintendent (Name) will be assembling a group of students to generate and review ideas on how we can best celebrate our graduating seniors’ achievements and support their post-secondary goals. More information on these efforts will be shared as they become available.

There are still many questions that need to be answered. Please know that we are working hard to address your concerns and will be in touch as we have updates. In the meantime, please see below for details about distance learning and what to expect as we return from spring break.
My district hasn't done horribly in its planning, but to be honest, there's not much buy-in from students.  They've stopped just short of telling us to pass everyone, as "grades don't matter".  I still don't have a warm fuzzy about how to give *math* tests to assess student understanding in this time.  Not sure how that's gonna happen.

Guess I'll figure it out, or come close trying, like everyone else.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

The Luxury of Liberal Politics

Liberal policies don't make sense, but when times are good they can be enforced on people under many guises including "It's good for the environment" or "Orange man bad."  I'm sure San Francisco will revert to form after the coronavirus fears have waned, but in this case they're showing that their politics can actually harm people:
San Francisco has reversed its 13-year ban on plastic bags and will now prohibit the reusable bags city leaders once championed because of the coronavirus.

The liberal city announced the switch this week as part of its plan to curb the spread of coronavirus. Barring customers from bringing reusable bags, mugs and other household items into stores was adopted as a measure “to prevent unnecessary contact” among the public.

San Francisco is not the only place that has reversed its reusable bag policy, but it is certainly the most surprising. The city was at the forefront of eliminating single-use plastic bags in 2007.
If they're smart, they won't go back. Raise your hand if you think they're smart.

(Note:  yes, the first sentence at the link is written awkwardly. It should open with what are now its last four words.)

Stuff Like This Doesn't Make Teachers Look Good

For all the "I'm a professional, treat/pay me as one" talk we often hear from teachers and their unions, stunts like this give a strong counter-argument.  We're supposed to be well-educated, upstanding members of the community:
A middle school teacher in Rhode Island is under investigation for reportedly tweeting that she will pay people infected with the coronavirus to cough on President Trump.

The Woonsocket School Department is investigating an unidentified teacher’s tweet that read, “Somebody with Covid-19, I will pay you to cough on #Trump.” The account has since been deleted, but subsequent posts show the user identified herself as a teacher at Villanova Middle School, according to NBC 10 News.
The teacher has been identified by name but I have decided not to identify her here.

As we used to say in the army (cleaned up a little, of course), "One ah-crap gets rid of 10 attaboys."

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

How Could The Plaintiffs Not Win?

On what grounds could the universities expect to keep this money?
A class action lawsuit has been filed against the Arizona Board of Regents, the governing board for Arizona's three public universities, after the three schools refused to refund room, board and campus fees to students who were displaced because of coronavirus.

All three universities, Arizona State University, University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University, moved their classes to online only for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester to protect students and staff and prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Students who lived on-campus were either told to move out or encouraged to do so. The lawsuit says the Arizona Board of Regents has refused to offer refunds for the unused portion of their room and board and their campus fees. The lawsuit seeks payment of the prorated, unused amounts of room and board and fees that the class members paid but were unable to use.
And these aren't even those eeeeeeevil for-profit schools.

Union Shenanigans

Our first story discusses several SEIU cases:
Breaking the law once might be excusable, but breaking the same one a second time is clear evidence of contempt for authority.

So imagine what it says about government employee unions on the West Coast that the Freedom Foundation has identified at least 12 cases where someone in the union forged a worker’s name to authorize the union to deduct dues or political contributions from his or her paycheck.

In fact, the organization on Monday filed federal lawsuits on behalf of five separate public employees in Washington, Oregon and California alleging their union not only created false documents but cited those same documents to justify keeping the workers — and their dues dollars — in the union.
I like this part:
“When the Supreme Court in Janus affirmed the right of public employees to opt out of union participation, it didn’t mean they could only do so under strict guidelines drawn up by the union. And it certainly didn’t give the unions permission to engage in fraud to regain what Janus took away."
Our next story comes from Los Angeles and its execrable teachers union president:
Sadly, though, there are some who are using these trying times to advance their political agenda. And quite prominent in that ugly crowd is Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of United Teachers of Los Angeles.

In a classic case of “never-let-a-good-crisis-go-to-waste,” Caputo-Pearl ripped off a missive to Los Angeles Unified School District superintendent Austin Beutner and the L.A. school board on March 26th. Incoherently invoking the coronavirus, the union leader is demanding “a moratorium on the approval of any new charter schools” and “that LAUSD halt all new proposed charter co-locations for the 2020-21 school year.” At the very end of the harangue, he gets to his real point. “Los Angeles is already over-saturated with charter schools and loses over $600 million/year in resources to unregulated charter growth. It is time to stop the bleeding and ensure that our existing classrooms and students are appropriately funded and protected.”

Not surprisingly, California Charter Schools Association president Myrna Castrejón fumed at Caputo-Pearl’s epistle, and in a blistering rejoinder, accused him of demeaning charter families instead of showing compassion. “You demanded the eviction of charter students and teachers from the learning space provided to them by voter-approved law when they need your support. And, you resurrected your all-too-familiar demands for a charter school ban. You labeled charter students, families, and staff as unique hazards to public health, stoking perverse and unfounded division.” She went on to describe his tactics as shameful, dangerous, and dehumanizing, using COVID-19 to advance his political agenda.
Read the whole thing.