Monday, August 31, 2020

Black Voices For Trump

We need more good Americans like this:

A contingent of the Black Voices for Trump coalition joined forces with Scott Presler to clean up Milwaukee and Kenosha, ravaged by destructive riots.

The coalition, whose mission is to encourage Black Americans to support the President, worked with Presler in Milwaukee for most of the day on Saturday.

And this:

Conservative activist Candace Owens says she wants to “free” black voters from the decades-long grip of the Democratic Party – and is urging them to support a new movement she’s calling “Blexit.”

“Blexit is a Renaissance,” Owens told Fox News, giving the backstory behind the campaign she launched over the weekend. “Blexit is the black exit from the Democratic Party. It’s the black exit from permanent victimhood, the black exit from the false idea that we are somehow separate from the rest of America.”

When your heart is full of patriotism, there is no room for hate.

Should I Be Worried About The Rona? Should You?

From the CDC, for as much as you're willing to trust them:

Table 3 shows the types of health conditions and contributing causes mentioned in conjunction with deaths involving coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). For 6% of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned. For deaths with conditions or causes in addition to COVID-19, on average, there were 2.6 additional conditions or causes per death. The number of deaths with each condition or cause is shown for all deaths and by age groups.

Coronavirus maybe killed 6% of the people who got it without any known comorbidities.  That means that 94% of the people who died had other health problems, an average of 2.6 additional health conditions.

Table 1 shows that not even 350 Americans under age 24 have died, yet we're shutting down schools across the country.  People my age and younger make up well under 25% of all US 'rona deaths.  And for this we've shut down commerce across the country.

This is insane.

John Muir

If you can't honor anyone who ever said anything against today's "protected groups", well, I guess we'll soon have no one to honor.  Perhaps that's the plan.

Michael Brune, the Sierra Club’s executive director, tells members that “it’s time to take down some of our own monuments.” Brune says members must now “reexamine our past and our substantial role in perpetuating white supremacy.”

It turns out that, as a young immigrant from Scotland, John Muir made “derogatory comments about Black people and Indigenous peoples that drew on deeply harmful racist stereotypes, though his views evolved later in his life,” Brune wrote in a statement on the Sierra Club’s website. “As the most iconic figure in Sierra Club history, Muir’s words and actions carry an especially heavy weight. They continue to hurt and alienate Indigenous people and people of color who come into contact with the Sierra Club.”

Do people's accomplishments mean nothing anymore?  Are black Americans truly harmed by John Muir's existence?  Does California have to denounce its own State Quarter?

This is foolishness not worthy of serious adults, which tells you all you need to know.

So Much Craziness

I can't even decide what to write about.  Even if I limit myself to just California and just education, "the crazy is strong here".  I'm a bit overwhelmed with the insanity.

1)  Schools can retroactively award diplomas to students who failed "because of the coronavirus shutdown".  How do we determine that?  Is "I didn't take it seriously because I knew the rules were being made up on the spot" count as "because of the coronavirus"?

2)  Ethnic studies may soon be a graduation requirement in California.

3)  Maybe the state will let some kids back in schools, but only if they stay together in "cohorts" all day and especially if they're special needs/special education, English learners, etc.  (How would this work in high school?)

4)  What the heck is going on with the Los Angeles teachers union?

I know what let's do.  Let's kill that goose that lays the golden eggs!  We can open it up and get all the eggs right now!

Phones Make It Harder For Kids To Learn

 This should be intuitively obvious to the most casual observer:

Are smartphones making kids less intelligent, or at least making it tougher for them to actually master the material they are studying?  

That might well be the case, according to a study conducted at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.

The reason: When completing homework and other assignments, students are apt to look things up on their phones, rather than learn and internalize the answer. That works for getting a quick correct answer, but it makes it a lot harder to recall the information when test time rolls around, the researchers found.  

Students who received higher homework grades, but lower exam scores—by as much as half to a full letter grade—were more likely to have Googled (or otherwise searched) their way to the homework answers rather than coming up with them themselves.

Students who look up answers tend to rapidly forget both the answer and the question itself, said Arnold Glass, the lead author and a professor of psychology at Rutgers. That means homework becomes a "meaningless ritual" rather than a learning opportunity—and the exam results show it.

I marvel at the stupidity of teachers who say kids shouldn't have to learn much can they can look up anything they need on their phones.  Makes you wonder about the teachers' critical thinking skills, no?

Sunday, August 30, 2020

I Went Downtown Today

A friend from out of town was visiting today, and since he'd never been downtown or to Old Sacramento, that's where I took him.  I am livid at what criminals were allowed to do to my hometown:

Saturday night the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department stepped in and protected the Sacramento County District Attorney’s offices from rioters and vandals after Sacramento Police Department was apparently given a stand down order. The Sheriff’s offices and District Attorney’s office were vandalized Thursday night by Antifa, and the DA’s office set on fire.

Sacramento Police Department covered City Hall.

These are not peaceful protests as politicians and many in the media claim...

The property damage in Sacramento is significant, and largely because law enforcement was prevented from doing what they are trained to do and stopping the violence and vandalism.

Great job, sheriffs.  We may be on the West Coast, but Sacramento is not Portland or Seattle.  We should not let it become so.  But the mayor seems to be following in Mayor Wheeler of Portland's footsteps.

Driving downtown, block after block was blighted by boarded-up windows and vandalism.  ACAB?  No, AR(ioters)AB.  BLM?  Not if they're damaging property, and it's not just white people who think so.  Block after f***ing block.

Then I got to Old Town.  Even there, boarded up windows were de rigueur:


Fanny Ann's was boarded up.  Fat City was boarded up.  The Wells Fargo mini-museum was sealed tight.  Written on at least one building was "POC owned".  When business owners have to beg rioters to spare their property, something is wrong with the local government.

I agree with this sentiment from Instapundit today:

NOPE: Apparently, I “Owe” a “Debt” “to African-Americans.” Can’t say I buy that.

I feel like there’s going to be a big backlash to the post-George Floyd overreach. But, you know, the “activists” don’t want progress. They want to make demands, and feel powerful. That they’ve managed to divide and paralyze a country that, right after George Floyd’s death, was horrified and ready to take action doesn’t bother them; a cynic might suggest that this was the goal all along.

To his credit, as I’ve noted, Trump isn’t playing tit-for-tat here, but is transcending the hate by stressing inclusion. As he said in his inaugural address, when your heart is full of patriotism, there’s no room for hate. Which may explain why there’s so much room for hate on the left.

Yeah, what he said.


Saturday, August 29, 2020

Back To School Night

 Which makes more sense to you regarding Back To School Night?

1)  The online version of what we've always done.  We'll have 10-minute "class periods" in Zoom in the evening, with 5 minutes in between classes, and parents will show up online to hear our spiels.

2)  Record some kind of video presentation for parents that they can watch whenever.  These will be collected and the links put in one place so they can be found.  

I honestly don't see how anyone could prefer method 1, but that's what's being gently pushed; option 2 will be allowed.  I didn't even mention some of the "catches" for option 1, catches that will make that process even more difficult for parents.

I understand our administration's desire for parents to see a real person instead of a video, but given only 10 minutes per class, with people trickling in, and having connectivity problems--or having 2 kids at the same school and thus not being able to see both kids' 1st period teachers, for example--I have to believe that accessing a video, on their own time, would be preferable for most parents.  My plan is to make a video for each of the 3 courses I teach.  My primary goal during normal BTS Night is to convince the parents that their kids are in good hands when they're in my class, and that will be my goal here as well.  And if such a video takes more than 10 minutes, then so be it--I won't be shoehorned into that 10 minutes.

What do you think?  As a parent would you rather see option 1 or option 2 at your child's school?

Update, 9/1/20:  I am posting videos, one for each course I teach.  If you'd like to see them, they're on my YouTube page.  As of the moment of this update I still have to make one for the 3rd course.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Race and Rioting

Representative Deberry is a Democrat, is black, and is old enough that he actually participated in what we today call the Civil Rights Movement.  Just for that last part the country owes him a debt of eternal gratitude.

Listen to his words.  This video is probably the most powerful thing you'll watch today, even if you watch highlights of this week's Republican convention.  Listen to his words.  The video is only 7 minutes long, I assure you it will be time well-spent.


One of my favorite descriptions in this video, in reference to the nonviolent protests that were the hallmark of the Civil Rights Movement, is "They did it by standing like men and women of integrity and class and common sense and values."  Amen.

Deberry mentioned that rioting was not what he was there for, not what his father was there for, not what Dr. King was there for.  Here is Dr. King in his own words:


Rioting isn't going to work in America.  Dr. King was right then and right today when he said that riots are ultimately self-defeating.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

It Almost Smelled Like Air Today

For several days the air quality was so bad here--we were getting smoke from fires in Napa 90 minutes away--and the temperatures were well over 100 degrees to boot.

Yesterday we got a breeze that started clearing out the gray filth in the skies, and at lunchtime today the temperature was probably about 90 degrees.  Several of us were picnicking under the big tree at lunch time today.  

During in-person school we only get 35 min for lunch; I sure do enjoy my hour lunch during online school!

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Calculus Class

My calculus class started yesterday.  The instructor held a 2-hour Zoom class and recorded it, I watched it after work.

Let's just say I wasn't impressed.  I'm sure part of it was the instructor's lack of familiarity with the technological tools he was trying to use (probably from home, as there was a fake background behind him), but some of it was just poor teaching.

As I reminded someone today, there's a difference between a "professor" and a "teacher".

I'm hoping it gets better from here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Lockdowns Are Probably Permanent Because Politicians Have Painted Themselves Into A Corner and Don't Know What Else To Do

 Gee, ya think?

There wasn’t time to gather that sort of evidence: Faced with a poorly understood and rapidly spreading pathogen, they prioritized saving lives.

Five months later, the evidence suggests lockdowns were an overly blunt and economically costly tool. They are politically difficult to keep in place for long enough to stamp out the virus. The evidence also points to alternative strategies that could slow the spread of the epidemic at much less cost. As cases flare up throughout the U.S., some experts are urging policy makers to pursue these more targeted restrictions and interventions rather than another crippling round of lockdowns...

Yet at the outset, their goals were unclear, a confusion aggravated by the multitude of terms used. Officials sometimes said their goal was “bending” or “flattening the curve,” which originally meant spreading infections over time so the daily peak never overwhelmed hospitals. At other times they described their aims as “mitigation” or “containment” or “suppression,” often interchangeably.

“There have been few attempts to truly define the goal, and partly it’s because policy makers and epidemiologists haven’t thought well enough about the vocabulary to define what they mean or want,” said Dr. Mina, the Harvard epidemiologist.

We've long since left the reality of science! and are operating purely in the realm of politics and "doing something".  The lockdowns have been "overly blunt and costly".

Were the unintended but entirely predictable consequences of lockdowns justified?

When policymakers across the country decided to “lock down” in response to the March outbreak of the novel coronavirus, they took a leap into the unknown. Not only did we know little about COVID-19 itself at that time, but we knew almost nothing about how shutting down nearly all of society would affect people.

Policymakers focused on their models predicting how lockdowns could help limit the spread of COVID-19; an important factor, to be sure. So, too, many acknowledged the negative economic ramifications of lockdowns. But in the months since, we’ve seen many other dire consequences stem from the unprecedented shutdown of society.

Future public health policy should take these four life-threatening unintended consequences of COVID-19 lockdowns into account.

If the press were ever truly interested in government mistakes, they need not look far for the biggest story of the century thus far.   Some might argue that the biggest mistake of the century so far was the belief in WMD in Iraq, but I've addressed that enough in the early years of this blog that I don't need to rehash it here.  Bottom line:  worldwide government responses to the 'rona were hamhanded, flawed, and not scientifically justified.  Freedom, including that to live your life and make a living, has been seriously curtailed around the world.  Do we live to do what government wants, or is government supposed to do what we want?

If, in trying to excuse the damage that's been done, someone were at least to admit that "mistakes were made", my response would be "No feces, detective."

Now fix the mistakes.  But they can't, because to do so they'd have to admit that they made mistakes.  Politicians don't do that.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Amended Army Football Schedule

 8 home games out of 11?  We might have a winning season! 

I've never even heard of Mercer.  And in my day we used to play a school called Colgate!

Running the Numbers

I'm always running numbers of some kind in my head.

For example, when I travel, I constantly try to estimate my arrival time--to the minute.  Yes, I update my predictions based on changes in conditions, like encountering unexpected lane closures or accidents or something, but that should be allowed.  I enjoy the game of seeing how close I can get, and if my prediction is more accurate than my GPS's.

I also like to estimate how much gas I'll need to fill up the Battlestar.  It's got a 26-gallon tank, and the analog dial gas gauge isn't as precise as I'd like it to be.  Given those two conditions, I give myself an admittedly generous +/- 1/2 gallon for my guesstimate, and I almost always choose a whole number figure.  On those rare occasions when I don't choose a whole number, it's because I can't choose between two numbers so I choose the half-gallon in the middle.

Today when I rolled up to the gas pump I estimated 18 gallons.  I put the nozzle in, started pumping, and flipped the tab on the nozzle so that it would automatically shut off when filled.

17.999 gallons.  

Should've bought a lottery ticket.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Educating Kids During The Rona

 This is funny in part because it's so cliche; I could almost believe this is a verbatim transcript!


Hilarious NPR, last week’s edition. They had an hour-long segment on learning pods. Participants: Host (white woman), Black Woman Activist, Asian Woman Parent, School-System Man.

Slightly editorialized (but true!) recollections below.

Host: In wealthy areas, parents get together and organize learning pods. What do we make of it?

School-System Man: Inequitable! Inappropriate! Bad! We do not support it!

Asian Woman Parent: Equity requires that we form these pods to educate our own children! Otherwise, only the rich can get education! Rich bad!

Host: Rich bad.

School-System Man: Rich horrible! They withdraw kids from public schools during the pandemic, so schools have less money!

Asian Woman Parent: We have no choice. You are not teaching.

Host: But what are you doing for the equity?

Asian Woman Parent: Why are the parents supposed to be doing something for the equity? That’s why we pay taxes, so professionals do something!

School-System Man: We cannot fix equity if you are clandestinely educating your own children, but not everyone else’s children!

Asian Woman Parent: The proper solution would have been to end the pandemic. But Trump did not end the pandemic. So, we must do learning pods. As soon as the pandemic is over, we’ll get back to normal, and everyone will catch up.

Everyone [with great relief]: Trump bad. Bad.

Black Woman Activist: No, wait a minute. This sounds as though in a regular school year, black children get good education. And they are getting terrible education! Unacceptable!

Host: Bad Trump!

Black Woman Activist: Foggeraboutit! It’s not Trump! It’s always been terrible! Black children are dumped into horrible public schools, where nobody is teaching them! So, my organization is now helping organize these learning pods for minority kids everywhere.

School-System Man [cautiously]: This is only helping Trump…

Black Woman Activist: Forget Trump! Don’t tell me black kids get no education because things are not normal now. When things were normal, their education was just as bad!

School-System Man: Whut??? How dare you! Our public schools are the best thing that ever happened to black children.

Asian Woman Parent: I’ll second that. Public schools in my neighborhood are just svelte.

Black Woman Activist: That’s the point! You live in a rich suburb, and your kids get a great public school! Black kids don’t!

Asian Woman Parent: If Trump managed the pandemic properly, we would not be having this conversation.

Host: Bad Trump!

Everyone: Bad Trump!

The end.


I truly don't understand how people can take NPR seriously.

(It's so good I cut/paste the entire Instapundit post.)

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Return on Investment at US Colleges and Universities

While our service academies were not included in this report (we didn't pay tuition in dollars, but in time and youth), I notice that schools with "maritime" in their names fare very well in "net present value" rankings.  Toss in the US Merchant Marine Academy as well.

CSU Maritime is less than 90 minutes from me.  Students can easily leave there making about what I do.

"Reid" What The Founders Read, And See How Far We've Fallen

Is common sense no longer so common at our universities and colleges?

The core idea of common sense realism is that there are self-evident truths and that self-evident truths are known to be true by means of common sense; common sense enables us to know what is self-evidently true.  Read the Founders, and you will find them constantly referring to self-evident truths.  They got their understanding of self-evidence from Reid.  Because the Founders' thinking relied on Reid's conception of self-evident truth, what Harvard and Princeton and the others were aiming at in those days was teaching American college students how to think like an American.

We have heard the words "We hold these Truths to be self-evident ..." all our lives.  To approach the Founders' understanding of self-evident truth is to approach the heart of the American founding.  Jefferson and the other Founders held that "all men are created equal" is self-evidently true.  According to Lincoln, it is "an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times."  For more than a hundred years, American colleges dedicated themselves to teaching the philosophy the Founders and Lincoln were relying on in making that declaration.

Things have changed at Harvard, Princeton, and the other ones, too...

American higher education was once dedicated to teaching young Americans to think like an American.  Today, students are taught anti-Americanism.  That is the explanation for all those fabulously privileged Americans, many of whom are graduates of America's most prestigious universities, demonstrating their violent rejection of the American way of life by rioting in the streets and attacking statues of Jefferson and Washington.  They could not possibly make their anti-Americanism any clearer — and, for the most part, they were taught their anti-Americanism in American schools and universities. 

We can, and should, do better.  It's just common sense.


 The Facebook comment mentioned in this post is sadly true:

MASS INDOCTRINATION: EXCLUSIVE: A look inside a mandatory ‘anti-racism’ course. As a friend on Facebook noted, “anti-racism” is like “anti-fascism” and anti-matter — just the same thing with the charges reversed.

Friday, August 21, 2020

After The First Full Week

I got through the first full week of school.

A small number of us are working on campus rather than from home.  It's nice to get out of the house, not have to cart my materials home, not have to give up my kitchen table, and get to each lunch with other adults.  We were picnicking under a large shade tree, now that we have a full hour for lunch, but the 100+ degree heat and the raining ash from fires 75 miles away have forced us into a classroom to eat.

It's was just the first week of school, and a number of us still anticipate a dropoff in a few weeks, but in-person attendance has been surprisingly high.  That's good, because the instructions for attendance that we've been given seem a little shady to me--if a student logs into Zoom, present.  If a student contacts us about missing a class, present.  If a student does neither of those but completes the assignment for that class period, present.

In one class today I got some interesting feedback.  I record lectures, give plenty of class time for my students to watch them, then we discuss, work problems, ask and answer questions, etc.  I don't believe in giving students lecture notes, I insist that they write them--but today's video was just the handwritten slides I'd use for instruction with very little amplification.  It was an 8 minute video, I gave 20 min to watch and copy down all the slides (it was necessary for students to pause the video, a lot, in order to copy all those notes), and we spent the rest of the period discussing.  When I asked which method they preferred, it was 2 or 3 to 1 in favor of the short video with lots of in-class instruction rather than having an entire lecture recorded.  Perhaps I'll try that method for another week with that same class and see if they still like it; if they do, I'll try it with my classes in another subject and see what they think.

None of us math teachers really has a way to give tests that have even a modicum of cheating prevention, so while I know what I'm going to do, I'm not happy about it.  

I have a student teacher.  His credential program is preparing him and his classmates for distance teaching, but he said they aren't learning much about in-person teaching.  Today I drew his attention to a couple verbal management strategies that I learned 20+ years ago and still use effectively, he seems to appreciate such practical lessons.  Oh, you want to know one of those verbal strategies?  I can still quote my own instructor verbatim:  "Simultaneously tell students what you want them to do, and what you don't want them to do, using concrete, kinesthetic language."  Example:  "Please raise your hand in Zoom without calling out when you have an answer."  (Bonus technique: the word "without" is very powerful.)  In class, you might say something like, "Please take out your homework without talking."  That's very clear.  "Be quiet" isn't clear--is whispering allowed?  It's not "concrete".  Things like that.  You non-teachers may not think these are a big deal, but with teenagers, especially?  Oh yeah, big deal.

Anyway, Student Teacher's roommate was exposed to someone with the rona, so Student Teacher is isolating at home until test results come back (perhaps a week).  His credential courses are all online already, so no schooling lost!  And as for our classes, he's still in the "watch and learn" phase.  If he were in the "teaching" phase I could email him anything that I'd normally give him in class.  So, all good.

I'm learning how to use Google Classroom.  It's not my ideal tool, for sure, but perhaps it'll be more useful to me as I learn more of its functionality.  Given that so many of my school's teachers have been using it for a couple of years now, I'm surprised at the several seniors I have who don't know how to do simple things (e.g., attach their homework to submit it).  I guess we'll learn it together.

This distance teaching deal is more work than in-class teaching, and I start a 4-unit math class at the local community college this upcoming week.  Joy.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Who Bears The Lion's Share Of The Blame For The Lack Of Civility In Government Today?

Remember this quote?

“You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about. That’s why I believe, if we are fortunate enough to win back the House and or the Senate, that’s when civility can start again. But until then, the only thing that the Republicans seem to recognize and respect is strength.”

That was from Hillary Clinton.  Can you imagine if Republicans said something like this?  Or said Democrats ran the car into the ditch and, while they might stand on the side of the road drinking Slurpees, they shouldn't get in the way of the people getting the car out of the ditch?  That was Barack Obama, arguably the worst president in US history--making Jimmy Carter happy, indeed.

Democrats are the ones cheering on rioting and looting in the country.

Democrats are the ones running most of the cities and many of the states that are having rioting and looting problems.

Democrats are the ones that call anyone who doesn't agree with them a "racist" or a "bigot" or a "hater".

Democrats are the ones who had a show-trial impeachment that they knew was baseless.

The Democrats are the ones who engage in conspiracy-theories worthy of Art Bell--Russian collusion, destroying the post office, the president won't leave office if he's not reelected, etc.

The Democrats are the ones who outright lie about the president, as they do when they intentionally misconstrue the president's remarks about the Charlottesville race issue and Confederate statues, and as the NYT did recently when making it appear that an FBI agent was being arrested because he was involved in Russian collusion when in fact he was arrested for faking warrants to further the fake Russian collusion narrative.

I could go on and on, but you get the point.

When you see the depth of their dishonesty and the cravenness of their tactics, maybe it's time to start believing Hillary.  Maybe we can't make peace with the other side.  And since problems and bad news seldom get better over time, maybe we should have the coming civil war now rather than later, so there will be less damage.

What Are They Afraid Of?

I don't consent to being recorded by others.  I can't imagine any good that could come from such recordings.  Besides, If I do something I shouldn't, there are 30+ witnesses in a class!

Parents and other visitors are always welcome in my class, in-person or virtual.  I want my administrators to come in and see the work that my students and I do!  I'm confident enough in the work I do that I don't ask them to schedule a time, they're welcome to come in any time.

We in education often encourage parents to monitor their children's internet usage, so how can we turn around and explicitly tell them they shouldn't monitor their children's Zoom classes?  What are the teachers and administrators in Rutherford County, Tennessee, afraid of?

Parents of students who attend Rutherford County Schools (RCS) must agree not to monitor their child’s online classroom sessions.

Officials at all county schools are asking parents to sign forms agreeing not to watch these virtual classes.

The Tennessee Star received a copy of such a form this week.

“RCS strives to present these opportunities in a secure format that protects student privacy to the greatest extent possible, however because these meetings will occur virtually RCS is limited in its ability to fully control certain factors such as non-student observers that may be present in the home of a student participating in the virtual meeting,” according to the form.

“RCS strongly discourages non student observation of online meetings due to the potential of confidential information about a student being revealed.”

The form asks parents for their signature and warns that “violation of this agreement may result in RCS removing my child from the virtual meeting"...

“We are aware of the concern that has been raised about this distance-learning letter that was sent to parents. The intent was not to prevent parents from being involved with their children during distance learning, but it was intended to protect the academic privacy of other students in the classroom who are visible during certain virtual class sessions,” (district spokesman) Evans said.

I call bovine doo-doo on their reasoning.  What "confidential" information is revealed in class that's OK for other students to hear but not ok for adults to hear?  And remember, as for seeing and hearing the students in a Zoom class, we're not talking about some generic stalker-y member of the public watching schoolchildren, we're talking about people in the home watching the class that their child or sibling is enrolled in.  You'd think teachers and administrators would welcome such involvement and concern.

I'll pause for a moment and remind everyone that elementary school teachers and high school teachers see many things differently.  Sometimes when I interact with a "teacher" on the internet, I don't think about that difference.  For example, I recently saw an Instagram post in which a teacher said that she doesn't care if a student is in bed, is wrapped in a blanket, is eating a bowl of cereal, isn't entirely dressed, she's just glad they made it to Zoom class.  I replied that she should have some standards, that having a class of students looking at a peer in bed might be awkward for some (it would be for me!), and that I require students at least to have a shirt on.  It didn't occur to me until later that perhaps she was an elementary teacher, and if that's the case I can see where her "just glad they made it" might be different from my "let's be somewhat mature" belief.

Would the district policy be reasonable if it's an elementary school district?  I still say no, but the point is moot--the district has elementary, middle, and high schools, and the letter went to everyone.

I have to believe there will be enough blowback that they'll retreat on that policy.  It's a bad policy, and looks even worse.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Are These People Idiots, or Liars, or What?

I've been wondering about this for a long time, and came across in print the encapsulation of what's been knocking around in my head:

All such institutional self-accusations by college presidents leave out the specifics. Which faculty members do not treat black students fairly? If that unjust treatment is so obvious, why weren’t those professors already removed? What is wrong with an admissions process that lets in thousands of student bigots? In other moments, college presidents brag about the quality of their student body and faculty. Are they lying? Shouldn’t they have disclosed to black applicants that they will face “racist acts” and “systems of inequality” should they attend?

Of course, the college presidents were not lying the first time around. American campuses today are the most tolerant organizations in human history (at least toward official victim groups). The claim that colleges are hotbeds of discrimination is a fantasy. Every university twists itself into knots to admit, hire, and promote as many black students and faculty as it possibly can, in light of the fierce bidding war among colleges for underrepresented minorities.

It has been taboo to hint at the reason that the millions of dollars already expended on campus diversity initiatives have yet to engineer exact proportional representation of blacks in the student body and on the faculty: the vast academic skills gap. Now this truth will be even more professionally lethal to anyone who dares mention it. The highest reaches of the university have declared as a matter of self-evident fact that systemic racism is the defining feature of American society, one that explains every inequality. Fighting against that racism has now officially become colleges’ reason for being.

All these college presidents--and corporate CEO's, too, and even my own district superintendent--what do they think they're accomplishing by saying this crap?  Are they even thinking?

Systemic racism is a lie, unless you want to look at affirmative action.

Modern Pompeii

AD 79.  Pompeii, a city just a couple miles from Mt. Vesuvius.  Ash and pumice rained down on the city until a pyroclastic flow finished off the city.

AD 2020.  Sacramento, the capital of California.  Lightning strikes are the probable cause of several wildfires in the area such that ash fell from the sky like snow much of today.  The sun is orange, and the sky gray.

Throw in that decades of Democrat control in the state (read green! energy) means that when the wind doesn't blow or the sun doesn't shine, many are at risk of planned "rolling" blackouts.  If the sun shines too much and it gets too hot, PG&E, he utility that powers most of Northern California, worries about its poorly-maintained lines will spark wildfires, and they shut down the power.  If the wind blows too much, they shut off the power so as not to stoke wind-fed wildfires.  California's previous governor, in his usual sneering way, says the way to "get through" this is to just conserve energy by turning up the temperature on your darned air conditioner.  It's a modern-day "malaise speech".

The reality is that green! energy ideals and poor government management have reduced California to 3rd world energy expectations.  Good job, California liberals.

The Pompeiians didn't expect to have electricity, but they also weren't raised to consider reliable electricity as being a prerequisite for modernity.  There was a time when California's people weren't as crazy and its government not as incompetent.  Those days have passed.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Dress Code

I asked my students to follow two reasonable rules for Zoom class meetings:  1)  don't be in bed (on is ok, under the covers can be awkward) and 2) wear a shirt. What was this teacher thinking?

An East Side Union High School District teacher is on administrative leave after he appeared on camera bare-chested during a distance-learning class Friday.

Elizabeth Avila said her daughter, a freshman at Silver Creek High School in San Jose, signed on for her second math class of the academic year only to find her teacher shirtless, in violation of the dress code he himself had outlined just days earlier.

“She started feeling uncomfortable,” Avila said in a phone interview. “She couldn’t concentrate on the topic because all she was seeing was this old man on camera in her bedroom.”

The girl snapped a picture of the teacher and called her mother, who immediately contacted the school. Avila said she was told later that the teacher had been placed on administrative leave.

It was close to 107 degrees while I was at school today in the Sacramento area.  I was hit by a blast of heat when I opened my garage door at 7:00 this morning!  San Jose had a high of 103 degrees Friday, but that high would have occurred after school got out.  Let's stipulate that it was pretty warm in San Jose today.  It doesn't matter how hot the teacher was, he should know enough to wear a shirt.

“I was just glad that my daughter realized, ‘Hey, this isn’t right’ and said something,” Avila said.

“This should be one of those zero tolerance-type of things,” she continued. “He needs to be out. If he thinks this is OK, what more is going to happen later if we let it slide?”

Avila acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the education system – scores of children like hers are now learning remotely – but some things are “common sense.”

“Be professional,” she said. “Put a shirt on.”

Common sense...isn't, always.


Sunday, August 16, 2020

Panic at the Post Office

The author of this article is no fan of President Trump, and even he says that you shouldn't believe the conspiracy theories.  He lays out some pertinent facts in a clear, readable, objective fashion.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

They Live

If you haven't ever seen the best B-movie of the 1980s, then you won't understand why this is so hilarious:

The Latest Stupidity

 The whole "2+2=4 is racist" thing is, to me, like mudwrestling with the proverbial pig:  you just get muddy, and the pig loves it.  

Have you seen this one yet?  A "proof" that 2+2=5?  It took me a matter of seconds to find the mistake, but people are out there pushing this as, what, proof that white people are bad, or something?

Let's save math for the people who know what they're doing.  The rest of you can go do your Aggrieved Victims Studies and wonder why the best job you can get is at Starbucks.

Do People Really Think This Way?

Or do they just write crap like this in hopes of riling other people up?  Seriously, you're supposed to feel bad about doing right by your child because other people can't do as much for theirs?  That's some serious insanity, there:

I saw a Tesla with #BlackLivesMatter written on the rear windshield the other day. It appeared to be a parent picking up their kid from a “pandemic pod,” which, if you’re not familiar, is a small cluster of families who pool resources to hire a private tutor, who may be a parent. These pods are very popular among my neighbors in the Bay Area of California. Nearby I could see a YMCA, which provides child care and after-school programming. It shut down due to COVID-19.

I’m not the first to point out that pods are emblematic of educational inequity in the United States. It’s a winner-take-all approach, with privileged, often mostly white students hoarding academic and social gains and further segregating our K-12 systems. This hypocrisy is why pod parents make me so angry. If Black lives matter, doesn’t that include Black children? What about Black futures?

Black lives matter, but I'm not responsible for raising every black child.  How is that difficult to understand?

Friday, August 14, 2020

When Teachers Try To Brainwash Your Kid

I can understand giving students alternate viewpoints to consider, but this teacher goes well beyond merely giving alternate viewpoints:

Matthew R. Kay is a teacher at Philadelphia’s Science Leadership Academy. He also does teacher training and advocacy around “antiracism.” (I put it in quotes, because the term has specific ideological meaning.) In a 2019 interview, he said:

To teachers who “see” race and feel no need or desire to bring it into their lessons, I earnestly ask, “Why don’t you?” There are a few viable reasons why one would not wish to insert race into any particular classroom conversation.

You have to not only be willing to bring race into almost any classroom discussion, but you also have to agree with his particular woke interpretation of how to discuss race. And if you don’t? Kay recently wrote that “sometimes, you’ve just gotta step over them” — this, referring to those who disagree with his opinions about race and racism. He doesn’t want to change his opponent’s minds, but plow right over them. Such is the Social Justice Warrior mindset. There can be no good-faith opposition to their views.

Kay writes about “the intractability of individual colleagues’ racism” — which, if true, would be awful. But everything in his column leads one to suspect that all you have to do to prove yourself an intractable racist is to disagree with Matthew Kay. The point here is that Kay does not believe that dissenters deserve respect...

This approach destroys the kind of trust that has to exist between teachers and parents for the school to be successful.

Part of the reason I have no interest in teaching my district's "social justice standards" is because I have enough math standards to focus on. 

Thursday, August 13, 2020

It Didn't Start Well

If you'd seen it in a tv show you'd say it was so cliche as to be unbelievable:  this morning, as 10s of thousands of students and teachers logged into my district's various "portals" on the first day of school, the portals crashed.  And classes were online today.

Most of us, given a dozen minutes of notice, were able to find quick work-arounds, email students, and at least get them into our Zoom meetings.  Things were fixed in less than 90 minutes.

Then I learned that one of my online curriculum providers (no textbook, the curriculum is entirely online) changed the rules over the summer, didn't let me know, and then kept dropping the ball as my emails to them this week got more and more frantic--school is starting, I need access to the curriculum.  As of this minute I don't even have access, and I'll have to enter a bunch of information for each student so they can all access the curriculum.  This does not please me.  Had I known earlier in the week I could have gotten this done, it's now Thursday night and I cannot even get into their site to get anything done--I need the curriculum on Monday.

Today could have gone more smoothly.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

School Starts Tomorrow (Online)

 I can get through tomorrow and Friday.  I'll probably work a lot over the weekend, though.

You might ask why I didn't work last week or so, rather than try to rush everything through at the last minute.  Well, I didn't want to plan on stuff and then have my district change things at the last minute.  At least once school starts, things are a little more written in stone.

Incidentally, our district hasn't really figured out how they want us to take attendance yet.  It's crazy.

One thing that's nice, though, is that my classroom doesn't have to be "student-friendly" since no students will be there.  My 60" tv isn't positioned where students can see it, it stands right behind my laptop.  It was so nice not to have to squint to read the laptop screen today!  And I could see everyone in our Zoom department meeting!

I have a student teacher.  He seems level-headed, meaning he hasn't soaked up all the edubabble Kool-Aid from his credential program (yet).  One thing he's rightly concerned about is that his credential program is teaching how to be a good distance learning teacher, which is very different from a good classroom teacher.  We'll find a way to work on skills in both of those domains.

Today was the first day I'd left my house since last Friday.  It'll be nice (for awhile) to get up, shower, get dressed, and go to work each day.  It'll be over 100 degrees out for the foreseeable future, so several of us are going to bring picnic blankets and hang out under the trees during our now-hour-long lunch!

Back to the grind.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

I Must Be A Horrible Human

Today I had to sit through 3 hours of "hate the white man" indoctrination from my school district.  It wasn't even subtle.  The standards the district adopted over the summer are much further left-leaning, on the whole, than I would have expected from my suburban school district.  The meeting/training/struggle session was via Zoom, so while I did pay attention to what was said, I shut my own camera off so I could simultaneously enjoy a significant amount of time in my massage chair without everyone seeing the pleasure on my face.

Maybe I'm really not a *-ist (insert whichever attack you prefer).  Maybe I'm just misinterpreting this training.  Well, you might think that, until you remember that I took a nice camping trip to Yellowstone this summer:

The Los Angeles Times reported that recreational camping has a “complicated” past when it comes to racism and the cost of camping gear is a “barrier” preventing minorities from enjoying the hobby.

“Camping is often called America’s favorite outdoor activity,” the Los Angeles Times posted on its Twitter account, along with an article titled, “Want more diversity in camping? Start with the gear."

"But camping and national parks have a complicated past when it comes to racial equality and equal access for all. One modern barrier to entry: the cost of camping gear," the tweet continued. 

I should just embrace my inner *-ist.  They're going to try to force me to anyway.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Back To Work Tomorrow

Tomorrow is our "meetings and professional development day". I'm not looking forward to 6 hours of Zoom. Perhaps I should prop the laptop up on my belly as I sit in the massage chair.... 

Wednesday is our teacher "work day", and I intend to go into school and prepare to teach from there.  I also will be meeting my student teacher that day--should be an interesting experience mentoring a student teacher whilst conducting online teaching.

I don't yet have access to my Financial Math curriculum, which is entirely online.  No reply yet from the provider of the curriculum.

Our district tells us we must take attendance every day but they don't yet have a policy on how to do that.  We might have to wait a couple of weeks for that.  If I were snarky I'd note that they can't come up with a plan on how (and under what conditions) I should take attendance, but they can adopt radical left-wing "social justice" standards.  Good thing I'm not snarky.

I'm sure a lot of other tripwires will be discussed in our meetings/training tomorrow.  It's always so fun to start the school year, and this year especially so!

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Video: The Truth About Critical Methods | James Lindsay

It's already taken over the universities, and it's coming soon to a public school near you:
Dr. James Lindsay in his talk, “The Truth About Critical Methods,” makes very clear that Critical Social Justice is not the same thing as social justice. He argues that the branding of social justice, which is how Critical Social Justice promotes itself, misleads people about the nature of that movement.

After All These Months We Finally Get A Little Science!

 So do masks work, or not?  And if so, how much?

The answer is:  it depends:

[A] group of researchers at Duke University created a simple technique to analyze the effectiveness of various types of masks which have become a critical component in stopping the spread of the virus.

The quest began when a professor at Duke's School of Medicine was assisting a local group buy masks in bulk to distribute to community members in need. The professor wanted to make sure the group purchased masks that were actually effective. 
In the study published Friday, researchers with Duke's physics department demonstrated the use of a simple method that uses a laser beam and cell phone to evaluate the efficiency of masks by studying the transmission of respiratory droplets during regular speech.
Imagine, having some curiosity and trying to learn something rather than having preconceived notions about what should be right! 
Public health experts have spent months emphasizing that masks are one of the most effective tools to help fight the pandemic, and many US states have now introduced some kind of mask requirement. 
But when testing their effectiveness, researchers discovered that some masks are quite literally useless.
Ruh roh, Shaggy.   
Neck fleeces, also called gaiter masks and often used by runners, were the least effective. In fact, wearing a fleece mask resulted in a higher number of respiratory droplets because the material seemed to break down larger droplets into smaller particles that are more easily carried away with air.
Folded bandanas and knitted masks also performed poorly and did not offer much protection.
"We were extremely surprised to find that the number of particles measured with the fleece actually exceeded the number of particles measured without wearing any mask," Fischer said. "We want to emphasize that we really encourage people to wear masks, but we want them to wear masks that actually work."
So what worked well?
The most effective mask was the fitted N95. Three-layer surgical masks and cotton masks, which many people have been making at home, also performed well.
We would expect N95 masks to work "well", but what does "well" mean?  And are there many three-layer homemade cotton masks out there, or did "three-layer" apply only to surgical masks?  What fraction of corona-cooties are stopped by these masks?
Do we even know yet if corona-cooties require water vapor in order to be transported?

This is shoddy journalism, probably written by someone whose mind doesn't think in the realm of science.  Let's look at the actual report.

Here are the 14 masks they studied, and here are their descriptions.  Could you pick up a mask at random and identify which of those 14 categories it fit into?  I can't.

And again, do corona-cooties even require water vapor to spread?
And is there evidence that having the entire population, over 99% of which do not have corona, wear masks, is a good idea?  Or should mask wearing be confined to people who actually have corona-cooties?  Because it doesn't matter how much water vapor your mask stops if there are no corona-cooties in it anyway.

If nothing else, this study shows us the (relative) vapor spread stopping power of these different masks.  At least that's a start.

Friday, August 07, 2020

European Health Officials Question the Efficacy of Masks In Protecting From Respiratory Viruses

A few days ago I wrote about Iceland and the Netherlands.  Let's expand the story to other European countries, all of which have socialized medicine and have what we in the US would consider left-leaning politics:

“All these countries recommending face masks haven’t made their decisions based on new studies,” said Henning Bundgaard, chief physician at Denmark’s Rigshospitale, according to Bloomberg News. (Denmark has since updated its guidelines to encourage, but not require, the use of masks on public transit where social distancing may not be possible.)  

Denmark is not alone.

Despite a global stampede of mask-wearing, data show that 80-90 percent of people in Finland and Holland say they “never” wear masks when they go out, a sharp contrast to the 80-90 percent of people in Spain and Italy who say they “always” wear masks when they go out.

Dutch public health officials recently explained why they’re not recommending masks.

"From a medical point of view, there is no evidence of a medical effect of wearing face masks, so we decided not to impose a national obligation," said Medical Care Minister Tamara van Ark...

“Face masks in public places are not necessary, based on all the current evidence,” said Coen Berends, spokesman for the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment. “There is no benefit and there may even be negative impact.”

In Sweden, where COVID-19 deaths have slowed to a crawl, public health officials say they see “no point” in requiring individuals to wear masks.

“With numbers diminishing very quickly in Sweden, we see no point in wearing a face mask in Sweden, not even on public transport,” said Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s top infectious disease expert...

Masks are the new symbol of form over substance, of "doing something", of virtue signaling:

The truth is masks have become the new wedge issue, the latest phase of the culture war. Mask opponents tend to see mask wearers as “fraidy cats” or virtue-signalling “sheeple” who willfully ignore basic science. Mask supporters, on the other hand, often see people who refuse to wear masks as selfish Trumpkins … who willfully ignore basic science...

Whether one is pro-mask or anti-mask, the fact of the matter is that face coverings have become politicized to an unhealthy degree, which stands to only further pollute the science...

There is a similar principle in the realm of public health: the Principle of Effectiveness.

Public health officials say the idea makes it clear that public health organizations have a responsibility to not harm the people they are assigned to protect.

“If a community is at risk, the government may have a duty to recommend interventions, as long as those interventions will cause no harm, or are the least harmful option,” wrote Claire J. Horwell Professor of Geohealth at Durham University and Fiona McDonald, Co-Director of the Australian Centre for Health Law Research at Queensland University of Technology. “If an agency follows the principle of effectiveness, it will only recommend an intervention that they know to be effective.”

The problem with mask mandates is that public health officials are not merely recommending a precaution that may or may not be effective.

They are using force to make people submit to a state order that could ultimately make individuals or entire populations sicker, according to world-leading public health officials.

That is not just a violation of the Effectiveness Principle. It’s a violation of a basic personal freedom...

Instead of ordering people to “mask-up” under penalty of fines or jail time, scientists and public health officials should get back to playing their most important role: developing sound research on which people can freely make informed decisions.

To reiterate:  there are no studies which show benefits from large-scale wearing of masks in a mostly healthy population.

Thursday, August 06, 2020

Important News of the World

As an avid tea drinker I'll give this some consideration:

If you've ever had a furious debate about the ungodly act of microwaving your cup of tea and how "it's the same" as boiling the kettle, you're about to lose — not only to Britain but to science.

Researchers have explained the process your zapped cuppa goes through in a new study published in the American Institute of Physics' peer-reviewed online journal AIP Advances, and why you might not be getting the best results from making it this way over the traditional kettle/stove method.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, looked at how heating liquid works in a microwave, and how the electric field that acts as a warming source causes the liquid to end up different temperatures at the top and bottom of the cup. A good cup of tea is all about getting uniform temperature throughout your water and, though many scholars have studied uniformity and how to solve it within the microwave itself, these researchers have offered up a different possible solution (more on that later)...

But if you're throwing your cup of water in the microwave for 90 seconds, like the researchers did, the device's electric field heats it from all angles, not just from below, so while the top part of the cup's water may be sitting at boiling point, the bottom may not. "Because the entire glass itself is also warming up, the convection process does not occur, and the liquid at the top of the container ends up being much hotter than the liquid at the bottom," reads the study. 

So, your microwaved cup of tea is hotter at the top than the bottom. Let's take a 30-second mournful-staring-at-the-floor break...

Notably, the Academy wrote that teas steeped in cold or iced water release fewer of their bitter ingredients and more of the sweet, so it doesn't always have to be hot stuff. But whatever tea you're making, all of this inevitably gets thrown off balance when your cup of water is not the same temperature all the way through, say, if you warm the water in the microwave and dunk a teabag in it as opposed to pouring kettle-boiled water over the tea in a pot or bag. You've got a small window for perfect brewing temperature, whether you're making green tea (70°C), oolong tea (90°C) or black tea (95-98°C). So if the water goes from hot to less hot levels in the cup, it will brew differently — and when you start jiggling the teabag around the temperature can change too, so it might be less warm than you need it to be. ..

Look, microwavers, I get it, it's quicker. And if you want something to come back at your opinionated, traditionally-made tea drinker pals, a food scientist from the University of Newcastle in Australia reckons microwaving your cup of tea is the key to getting more health benefits from the beverage (note: health, not taste, benefits). 

I'll be sticking to my kettle method, but you do you.

Just know Britain is judging you.

I guess stirring the microwaved water isn't sufficient to "distribute" the hot water, so hmmm.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Cowering In Fear Before The Mighty Army Football Team

The Army West Point Athletics Department recognizes the Big 12 Conference's decision to disallow nonconference away games. Given the decision, Army Football's scheduled contest against Oklahoma at Michie Stadium on Sept. 26 has been canceled for this fall.

"We are disappointed to lose Oklahoma from our schedule this season, however we respect the Big 12's difficult decision," Army Director of Athletics Mike Buddie said. "I am saddened for our players, coaches, alumni and fans to miss out on what has been such a highly anticipated contest since it was first announced. Given the rapidly changing environment in college athletics, we've been working on numerous contingency plans in the event of decisions like this, and have already begun the process of finding a future date to host the Sooners."
It took until double overtime this past season before Michigan finally got its first lead of the game--and won.  The Sooners are afeared.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

I Guess I'm A Whore Because I'm Only Doing It For The Money

As I type this I'm taking a mental health break during several hours of online training from my school district.  I'll earn a couple hundred dollars from completing this 6 hours of training, so I try to care and take it seriously.

But honestly, sometimes we in education like to create new terms just so someone can have something new to write in their EdD thesis.  I mean seriously, what is the difference between a "content standard", an "essential standard", a "power standard", and a "building-block standard"?  Am I a terrible teacher because I cannot differentiate between those?  How bad is it that I don't even care to know the differences?

I get easily overwhelmed in training like this because I'll be asked to do something and think, "That's the stupidest thing on the planet."  Or the buzzwords will be so thick in some training that I'll be asked to do something and I'll think, "I have no idea what I'm supposed to do here."

What bothers me is that this is supposed to be training but instead it's hoop-jumping.

Monday, August 03, 2020

Free, High Quality Pictures

If you need pictures, don't go to Shutterstock--go to Unsplash.  Their license states:

Unsplash grants you an irrevocable, nonexclusive, worldwide copyright license to download, copy, modify, distribute, perform, and use photos from Unsplash for free, including for commercial purposes, without permission from or attributing the photographer or Unsplash. This license does not include the right to compile photos from Unsplash to replicate a similar or competing service.

Questions? Read our FAQ.

But they encourage you to attibute the photographer, of course!

The few pictures I've uploaded there can be found here.

Have Lockdowns Protected Us From the 'Rona?

A large quantity of data in the form of graphs is here.  Here's what we get regarding the United States:

Based on the data, there seems to be no relationship between lockdowns and lives saved. That’s remarkable, given that we know for sure that lockdowns have destroyed economies the world over. 

Every epidemic model being flung around in March built in the assumption that lockdowns would control the virus. In the early days, it was about preserving hospital capacity. Later it became a general principle: slow the spread. The methods were the same in nearly every country. Ban large gatherings. Close schools. Shutter businesses. Enforce stay-home orders. Mandate human separation. Masks. Travel restrictions. 

Nothing like this has been tried in the whole history of humanity, certainly not on this scale. You might suppose, then, there was absolute certainty that there would be a causal relationship between lockdowns and the trajectory of the virus. Just as the FDA doesn’t approve a drug unless it is proven to be safe and effective, one might suppose the same would be true for a policy that shattered every routine and trampled human rights in the name of disease mitigation.

Surely! It turns out that this is not the case. It was pure speculation that lockdowns would suppress this virus, and that speculation was based on a hubristic presumption of the awesome power and intelligence of government managers...

You can do the comparison within the United States, thanks to this excellent study by five economists. The results are the same: whether you lock down or stay open shows no predictable pattern in deaths. If lockdowns saved lives, the curve should slant downwards to the right. It doesn’t slant at all. It’s seemingly random. 

Once again, it’s almost as if the virus doesn’t care.

Source: Wallethub

Now, you can take apart this data on grounds that it is too aggregated, that there are too many variables based on demographics (average age of death the world over is 82 with comorbidities, nearly half in nursing homes), and so on.

At some point, we are going to have to throw in the towel. Whether a country locks down or stays open has as much predictive power over deaths per million as whether it rains today is related to the color of my socks. Or whether hurricanes are controlled by literacy rates. 

In other words, the claim that lockdowns control viruses is pseudoscience or magical thinking of a deeply dangerous sort; it wrecks economies and lives...

To be sure, there are plenty of studies claiming that lockdowns saved lives but the high-profile ones are model-based extrapolations that presume the existence of a relationship that the facts do not seem to back up. If there is a broad-based research study using real data that demonstrates something life-saving about destroying rights and liberties in the name of virus control, I’ve yet to see it. (A disagreeing reader sends me this paper, which you are free to read and consider.)

Lockdowns are ordered based on political reasons, not health reasons.


When I left California to go to Yellowstone, there was a sizeable minority of people in stores not wearing masks.  When I returned 9 or 10 days later, that minority had shrunk to pretty much me--and the people wearing their masks under their noses.

I have heard lots of doctors and health officials tout the benefits of wearing masks, but where's the evidence?  Where are the studies?  Where is the data?  Where is the science?

I've also heard plenty of people say there's no evidence that having a mostly healthy population wearing masks does any good (including the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Fauci, and the World Health Organization).  They're not wearing them in Iceland as of mid-June:
The bars and restaurants are full. People are out enjoying themselves. Spectacular geological attractions are wide open to tourists. Anyone visiting Iceland right now could be forgiven for thinking they've arrived in a parallel universe where the coronavirus never happened.

It's a tantalizing prospect. For people arriving from countries still under lockdown, the sheer normality of eating lunch in a bustling Reykjavik cafe is almost as thrilling as peering over the thundering abyss of Iceland's mighty Gullfoss waterfall.

There's an added bonus for anyone who does make the trip here at the moment. Usually crowded with travelers at this time of year, the country is empty. Visitors will more or less have attractions like Gullfoss or the explosive hot springs of Geysir to themselves.

This isn't because Iceland has been immune to Covid-19. In its early stages, the infection wreaked havoc among the island's relatively small population. But thanks to a rigorous regime of tracking and tracing, it has more or less been eliminated, giving the country confidence to reopen borders on June 15...

There's no complacency though. Before entering Iceland, travelers must wear a mask on flights and within the arrival halls of Keflavik Airport. On landing, they join a new queue for nose and throat swabs to filter out anyone who might be carrying Covid-19...

From July 1, when Iceland opens up to countries beyond Europe's Schengen Zone, visitors will have to pay $114 for this process.

Results come by text message several hours later. If positive, visitors must enter quarantine for 14 days regardless of any plans they might have for their visit. There's also the option of forgoing the test and going straight to quarantine.
If the test is negative, visitors are free to enjoy Iceland with no restrictions. As of this coming weekend, they could head straight from the airport to the steaming waters of the Blue Lagoon, just a few miles down the road.

Ultimately, Iceland's screening and contact tracing system has been so efficient that it can boast one of the lowest virus death rates in the world: three per 100,000 people compared to 440 per 100,000 in the UK.
I have friends in the Netherlands who, back in March, told me that things were very bad there, much worse that was being portrayed in the news.  Here's Amsterdam this weekend:

As I walked around the sun-dappled streets of Amsterdam, something felt strange in this world swept by fear and pandemic. There was laughter coming from barges sliding along the famous canals, clusters of cyclists clogged the streets, shoppers dipped into chic boutiques, the barber shops seemed busy and cafes served couples chatting over coffee.

I heard many voices of tourists in bars and restaurants, while even the seedier sides of this celebrated Dutch city had people strolling through them. It took me a moment to realise what was so weird. Then it struck me. It felt like I had stepped back in time, returning to the pre-pandemic normality of a bustling city filled with human beings whose faces were not covered by cloth.

For while 120 countries in the world, including much of Europe, have ordered citizens to wear masks in public places to prevent the spread of Covid-19, the Dutch are doing things differently.

The thesis:

The nation's top scientists, having examined key data and research, have declared there is no firm evidence to back the use of face coverings. Indeed, they argue that wearing the wretched things may actually hamper the fight against disease.

Holland's position is based on assessments by the Outbreak Management Team, a group of experts advising the government. It first ruled against masks in May and has re-evaluated the evidence several times, including again last week.

It believes they detract from a clear three-pronged message that has kept deaths from coronavirus down to less than half the rate in Britain: wash hands regularly, maintain social distancing of 1.5 metres and stay at home if suffering any symptoms...

'The evidence for them is contradictory. In general, we think you must be careful with face masks because they can give a false sense of security. People think they're immune from disease or stop social distancing. That is very negative'...

The World Health Organisation has also been sceptical, warning that 'widespread use of masks by healthy people in the community setting is not yet supported by high-quality or direct scientific evidence'.

I continue to believe that mask wearing is a feel-good, "we're doing something" activity.


Orwell must have had a crystal ball.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

If Everyone Has Privilege, No One Does

A truism of leadership is if you want people to work together, you focus on what they have in common rather than on their differences.  It's the whole teamwork thing.

This is not the way to go about things:

Arizona State University has published on its official website a "checklist" to address "Black Male Privilege."

ASU's “Project Humanities” initiative "facilitates critical conversations among diverse communities through talking, listening, and connecting" by exploring "shared ideas and experiences." The initiative lists several "initiatives," including one called "Privilege and Bias"...

The initiative lists several "checklists" for various races, sexual orientations, genders, and socioeconomic statuses. 

Examples of “Black Male Privilege” include the following...

If everyone has some form of privilege, what's the point of talking about it?  (Not that it isn't a silly concept in the first place....)

The Project Humanities page provides the following definitions of privilege

“Privilege is not: About you. Privilege is not your fault. Privilege is not anything you've done, or thought, or said. It may have allowed you to do, or think, or say things, but it's not those things, and it's not because of those things. Privilege is not about taking advantage, or cheating, although privilege may make this easier. Privilege is not negated. I can't balance my white privilege against my female disadvantage and come out neutral. Privilege is not something you can be exempt from by having had a difficult life. Privilege is not inherently bad. Privilege is: About how society accommodates you. It's about advantages you have that you think are normal. It's about you being normal, and others being the deviation from normal.”

Although the website says that “privilege is not inherently bad,” the same page goes on to state, “How privilege is bad for the privileged: Privilege makes you blind. Privilege is a big bag of stuff you're not forced to think about.”

“Almost everyone who is reading this had some form of privilege,” the website states. “If you’re a member of three marginalized groups, in ill health, and poor, you're still able to access and use the internet, both demonstrating and conferring privilege.”

Again, if everyone has privilege, then no one does.  Let's move on.