Saturday, April 30, 2022

America At Its Best

That we still produce such young men is a tribute to our heritage.  I'll bet he bleeds red, white, and blue, too, although it is my fervent wish that we never have to find out in battle:

High school senior Noble Rasmussen intends to serve his country well — and all five U.S. military academies seem to agree.

The Nebraska teen joined "Fox & Friends" on Friday to celebrate his acceptance to all five academies.

He then announced on the program that he’ll be attending the United States Air Force Academy in June.

OK, so he picked the wrong school, but still.  And you've gotta love his first name.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

My New Book

I first learned about science historian James Burke when I saw his series The Day The Universe Changed on PBS back in the early 90s.  I liked the series so much that I bought the companion book, and later bought his Connections book.  Burke weaves the history of science like a tapestry, he's a wonderful storyteller.  Later, in a documentary I have about Apollo 13, I noticed him in some of the contemporary newscasts shown about that incident.

At school, our librarian is cleaning house.  Books that haven't been checked out in forever, she codes them out and puts them on a shelf for anyone to take.  Today I saw a book by James Burke on that shelf, Circles: 50 Round Trips Through History, Technology, Science, Culture.  I don't know when we got it in our library but it is copyrighted 2000, has never been checked out, and looks like it just came off the press.

I snapped that book up with a quickness, can't wait to read it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

One of Many Problems With Such Reparations

When have you paid enough in reparations?  When do the payments end and everyone agrees that the debt has been paid?  If the answer is "never", then why pay the reparations in the first place?

California residents who are members of federally recognized Native tribes will have their tuition and fees at University of California schools waived, according to a letter sent Friday.

In the letter, sent by system President Michael V. Drake to UC chancellors and also shared with CNN, Drake announced the waived tuition and fees specifically for "California residents who are members of federally recognized Native American, American Indian, and Alaska Native tribes." The move is a key part of the UC Native American Opportunity Plan, he said, aiming to make the university system more affordable and accessible for Native American students. The waived fees will apply to both undergraduate and graduate students.
"The University of California is committed to recognizing and acknowledging historical wrongs endured by Native Americans," Drake wrote. "I am hopeful that this new program will benefit our students and continue to position the University of California as the institution of choice for Native American students."
Let's not forget that unlike Germany's after World War I, these reparations will be paid by people who never committed the wrong that's supposedly being addressed.

Shocking, I Know

I don't want to hear any of you liberal California tree huggers complaining about this:

California lawmakers appear unlikely to pause the annual summer increase in the state's gasoline tax ahead of a May 1 deadline, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said on Monday...

California already has the nation's highest gas tax at 51 cents per gallon. The levy will rise to 53.9 cents per gallon at the beginning of July.

Nobody Acted Well In This Story

Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

No, I don't think this teacher did anything wrong.  Rather than saying that, though, he said something completely stupid, which I'll paraphrase here:  this is how we black people play basketball.  Gawd, are you kidding me?

A middle school teacher who cultivated programs for Black students in Twin Rivers Unified School District is fighting his dismissal, contending he’s being unfairly punished over a one-off after school incident with a student he tried to help make the basketball team.

Jordan McGowan, a history teacher and basketball coach at Rio Tierra junior high school, further says his dismissal fits a pattern he experienced at the school in which he felt administrators showed signs of cultural insensitivity in discussions on civil rights and police shootings.

Does that mean if you don't agree with the black man, you're "culturally insensitive"?    Must be convenient to be able to have the "privilege" of tossing around such incendiary accusations, but let's continue: 

As far as he knows, his dismissal stems from an after-school practice with a Black student in which he practiced a common street basketball move that involves bouncing a ball off another player’s head. “I am being fired for playing basketball in the ways in which Black people play basketball within our own community. I am being fired for playing basketball in a culturally appropriate way, when those in power have little-to-no cultural connection to our community,” said McGowan. “This is just a microcosm of what I and other Black People have experienced at Rio (Tierra) and the district at large"...

McGowan’s public characterization of questions he faced during an investigation suggests officials pressed him on whether he has used a racial slur when communicating with Black students.

It's not a slur I'd get away with using, I'll tell you that.  Go read if you can't imagine what it is.

Apparently, though, playing the race card worked

Twin Rivers Board members unanimously rejected a proposal to dismiss a middle school teacher and basketball coach who had been on paid administrative leave since December...

He is still awaiting to hear from the district to decide the next steps moving forward.

Bottom line:  the kid isn't a joy to be around, the teacher likes to use his black skin as a shield, and the district took 4 months to decide unanimously not to fire him.  Does anyone in this story come out smelling like a rose?  If so, I missed that person.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Extra Days

I must've cut out a couple days' worth of assignments here and there this semester, because when I planned out the rest of the semester for my pre-calculus classes today, I had 4 "extra" days of instruction that I haven't had in years.  And I know just how to spend those 4 days--logarithm boot camp!

I'll be lucky if I can recreate this LBC experience.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Can't Let My Efforts Go To Waste

Some time recently I stepped on the scale and and discovered that some of my efforts are paying off, that I'd lost 14 pounds since New Year's.  

Saturday I went to an afternoon party.  Boy, did I eat.

Sunday I ate a lot of cake, but at least I got my 10,000 steps in.

Today I ate of lot of cake at school, and then had a huge dinner.  I'm so full right now that I'm not even going to do my evening stretching routine, I'm going straight to bed.  5,000 steps today.

I think I need to get realistic with the eating and exercising again.  Three consecutive cheat days aren't the way to do it.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Standardized Testing

If you want to know if students are truly learning, you have to have an objective test, given and graded by objective people.  That just seems obvious to me:

Now, consider what has transpired over the past twenty years in the USA. We were headed in the direction of other countries’ testing system structures at the turn of the millennium, with state-led consequential achievement tests for students administered only every few grade levels.[1] Plus, we benefitted from two competing college admission tests, whose scores could be submitted for consideration simultaneously to thousands of universities worldwide. [2]

Then came three disruptions, each of which, I would argue, served to undermine the utility of US educational testing.

First came passage of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act (2001–2002), which imposed a federal mandate on all public schools (including charters). The NCLB insistence on annual administrations of tests across seven grade levels virtually guaranteed lax security: teachers administer tests in their own classrooms to their own students and principals manage the distribution and collection of test materials in their own schools. Then, we judge schools and teachers based on those NCLB test scores they themselves proctor.

Now, consider what has transpired over the past twenty years in the USA. We were headed in the direction of other countries’ testing system structures at the turn of the millennium, with state-led consequential achievement tests for students administered only every few grade levels.[1] Plus, we benefitted from two competing college admission tests, whose scores could be submitted for consideration simultaneously to thousands of universities worldwide. [2]

Then came three disruptions, each of which, I would argue, served to undermine the utility of US educational testing.

First came passage of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act (2001–2002), which imposed a federal mandate on all public schools (including charters). The NCLB insistence on annual administrations of tests across seven grade levels virtually guaranteed lax security: teachers administer tests in their own classrooms to their own students and principals manage the distribution and collection of test materials in their own schools. Then, we judge schools and teachers based on those NCLB test scores they themselves proctor.

Read the whole thing.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

The First Thing He's Done That I Can Agree With?

Long-time readers of this blog know I'm all in for nuclear power:

The Biden administration is launching a $6 billion effort to rescue nuclear power plants at risk of closing, citing the need to continue nuclear energy as a carbon-free source of power that helps to combat climate change.

A certification and bidding process opened Tuesday for a civil nuclear credit program that is intended to bail out financially distressed owners or operators of nuclear power reactors, the U.S. Department of Energy told The Associated Press exclusively, shortly before the official announcement. It's the largest federal investment in saving financially distressed nuclear reactors.

Owners or operators of nuclear power reactors that are expected to shut down for economic reasons can apply for funding to avoid closing prematurely. The first round of awards will prioritize reactors that have already announced plans to close.

Now let's build some new ones.  Remember, even Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, supports nuclear energy.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Legitimate Reason For Firing A Teacher?

If being present was the only reason, I say no:

A former teacher is suing the Sacramento City Unified School District alleging the district fired him because he attended the rally that preceded the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

You've gotta love the unbiased, sober, professional use of the word "storming".  Sheesh. Here's some storming for you, including the dude with Viking horns that we've all seen.  Now back to the story:

Dustin Watson, a physical education teacher at New Technology High School, acknowledges in the lawsuit that he attended the rally for supporters of former President Donald Trump.

He posted messages on Facebook that “described the events taking place as they were unfolding but he did not anticipate the events to take a violent turn,” read the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of California on Monday.

The lawsuit states that Watson left the area when the disruption began and did not enter the Capitol. Watson did not face charges in the incident and was not arrested.

Later, Watson was investigated by the FBI and was “relieved of any suspicion of domestic terrorism,” the lawsuit reads.

Watson is seeking relief and damages for loss of pay and denial of employment benefits. He was in the process of completing his teaching credential, and was unable to receive it since he was terminated.

With the barest of exceptions, we don't fire people just because their politics differ from ours.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations Meets The Real Bigotry of No Expectations

A new buzzword coming soon to a school near you--contract-grading:

Sadly, though, the idea of “contract-grading” is now gaining prevalence in disciplines of critical academic importance–not only in high schools, but in many prominent colleges and universities. This development is only the latest front in a larger war on intellectual excellence, where the focus has now moved from lowering standards to eliminating them...

In the face of these difficulties, many faculty are implementing some form of “contract-grading” (sometimes called “labor-based grading”). In the context of a writing course, it looks something like this: in the first week, each student elects a) how much writing they will do for the course, b) how much drafting and revision will be done for that writing, c) when the writing will be submitted, and d) how much “peer-review” of classmates’ writing he will do. Various choices on these bases correlate with different grades in the course. Assuming the student does the laps he promised, he will receive his preferred grade…regardless of the quality or competence of the writing.

Of course, there are glaring problems with such a method of assessment and evaluation. Is it true, for example, that producing a certain amount of writing entails the same degree of labor for all students? Surely, it is possible that some students could produce five typed pages in two hours, while another student might take seven hours to do the same task. In fact, this disparity is likely–especially at institutions that now admit students with widely-divergent levels of preparedness. Given these disparities, how can an instructor enact a system of “labor-based grading” when there is no reliable metric to indicate how much labor any particular student put into an assignment. Here, what matters is the trying. And trying is good. But when there is no possibility of trying and nevertheless failing, students have an incentive to try less hard. Needless to say, rewarding minimal effort is not a great way to cultivate any skill.

An advocate of contract-grading might say that their assessment doesn’t hinge on the amount of time the student spends. Rather, they may claim that the assignments are designed such that (if completed) the student’s writing will necessarily improve to some degree. The assumption here is that it’s not merely the trying that earns a reward–it is the improvement. Thus, as long as there is some improvement (never mind that there is a concerted effort to avoid both articulating a method for quantifying “improvement” and a minimum standard for such), the student will be deemed ready for more advanced courses and awarded a grade that reflects this (arbitrary) assessment. Further, improvement largely depends on the effort one puts forth–and as illustrated above, “contract-grading” disincentivizes effort.

None of this is to say anything regarding the effects of contract-grading on students with real aptitude. When the members of the varsity swim team receive their “A” in full knowledge that slower swimmers with poor form were awarded the same grade simply for getting across the pool, it is obvious that this might inhibit the further development of skills in those who might (with some encouragement and rewarding of their talent) refine them to a much greater degree. In short, contract-grading not only discourages striving for excellence; it refuses to even acknowledge any pre-existing aptitude.


Update, 4/28/22Called it:

Letter grades may be on the way out for some University of California departments and colleges, reports Michael Burke on EdSource.

UC Berkeley’s College of Chemistry and UC Davis’s Department of Mathematics are considering replacing A, B, C and D grades with pass/no-pass grades, he writes. Another option is to let students “choose which assignments get the most weight in determining their grade"...

At UC Davis, math professors are considering “contract grading,” reports Burke. For example, a student could choose to have the final calculus grade determined primarily by exams or by problem sets and class participation.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Getting Foreign Currency For A Trip

I’ve probably mentioned this once or twice (or a dozen times) before that I’m road-tripping to Cabo this summer.  I’m going to hitch up the trailer and drive!

Understand that I’m not a novice traveler.  My goal is to leave the country at least once a year, and while I don’t always meet that goal, I’ve left the country many times in my life.  I’m seasoned enough that I don’t fear going to new places, don’t fear not speaking the language (Google Translate is my friend), don’t fear trying new foods, don’t fear using different money--in fact, as a coin collector, using local money is one of the big joys of travel.  And I’m quite familiar with different ways of getting local currency.

Still, I like to stay current and I read plenty on the topic.  Many of the travel sites I’ve read recently said that one of the best and most inexpensive ways to get foreign currency is to get it from your bank before you travel.  Are they kidding???

It’s not that I haven’t used my bank for this before, but to say it’s a good/efficient/inexpensive way to get foreign currency, well, that’s not quite true.  Of course, it’s possible that my bank just tries to rip us customers off, but I’d find it hard to believe it’s the only one.  Since I’m heading to Mexico this summer, let’s look at the peso--today’s exchange rate is MXN$20 for USD$1.  Thus, 20,000 pesos should be 1,000 dollars, plus a fee.  What’s a reasonable fee, a few bucks?  Ten?  Twenty?  A couple percent?  Using the foreign exchange converter on my bank’s web site, 20,000 pesos would cost me $1061.70!!!  That’s a lousy exchange rate and a hefty fee, all rolled into one!

I went to another national bank's web site and tried to look up their rate, but you have to have an account and log in before they’ll tell you how much they’ll milk you for.  I cannot find the information quickly at my credit union’s site.  I can see the not-insignificant fees on the web site for another national bank, but not the crappy exchange rate they’d give me.

In other words, getting money from your bank is *not* necessarily the way to go!  The way to go, at least in Mexico, Europe, or the Caribbean (IOW, where I have traveled)  is to get money out of an ATM on your network and *not* to accept dynamic currency conversion rates.  The same people who write about getting money from your bank also mention the ATMs, so this isn’t an unknown method.  So why do those other authors say that getting money from your bank is inexpensive—do they write that crap because it makes them *sound* knowledgeable?  Have they ever compared their bank’s rates and fees to the official exchange rate?  Are they just copying the same bad information they read somewhere else without really knowing?

You can’t believe everything you read on the internet—except for this blog, of course.

Who's Surprised? Not Me.

I can tell you that my 'rona-shutdown math students didn't get anywhere near the education that my current students are getting, especially given the rampant cheating that took place:

Post-lockdowns, new college students struggle to pass basic college courses

Lefties Truly Don't Understand

You can call yourself whatever gender you want, you can use whatever pronouns you want, you can wear a mask if you want, you don’t have to eat meat—just quit trying to force the rest of us to do it, too.  That’s all the rest of us want, is to be left alone and not required to share in your insanity.

NYT columnist Paul Krugman predicts 'violence' towards mask wearers after mandate lift

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

The Very Definition of Injustice

I'm a big fan of the Innocence Project, which as of last year has helped overturn over 300 wrongful convictions via DNA evidence.  Wrongfully sending a person to prison is one of the worst human rights abuses that can occur.

Imagine, though, being wrongfully convicted, serving 21 years in prison, being exonerated, and still getting the shaft:

A Durham, North Carolina man who won a $6 million lawsuit after being wrongfully convicted on two murder charges will likely never see the money after the Durham City Council decided against paying him.

Darryl Anthony Howard, who was exonerated in 2016 and pardoned in 2021 by Gov. Roy Cooper after serving 21 years of an 80-year jail sentence, was awarded $6 million by a federal grand jury in December, according to The News & Observer...

The jury also found that Howard's wrongful convictions were a result of retired detective Darrell Dowdy fabricating evidence and performing an inadequate investigation, according to The News & Observer.

In a series closed-door session meetings between December and February, however, the Durham City Council voted against paying the judgment on Dowdy's behalf. The city also expects Howard to pay the legal fees of the two city employees who were dismissed from the case, according to legal documents.

Howard and his attorney found the city's decision concerning, especially after it paid more than $4 million defending Dowdy.

Former prosecutor Mike Nifong, who originally handled Howard's case, was disbarred for lying and misconduct in the case of rape accusations against Duke University lacrosse players who were later found innocent.

It's gut-wrenching even to read about it.

Update, 4/21/22:  Some clarification:

In a series of closed session meetings between December and February, however, the Durham City Council voted against indemnifying Dowdy and paying the judgment to Howard on behalf of the former city employee.

Rehberg pointed to a North Carolina statute that she said prohibits the city from paying judgments on behalf of individual employees if the city council finds that the employee or former employee "acted or failed to act because of actual fraud, corruption or actual malice on his part."

Monday, April 18, 2022

Movement Towards Reason

Where do you want to travel?  Go there!

After months of warning all travelers to avoid a long list of countries due to "very high" COVID-19 levels, the CDC has removed all countries from its "Do Not Travel" list.

The federal agency on Monday removed 89 countries from its "Do Not Travel" list. The highest Level 4 designation will now be reserved for "special circumstances" reflecting a dangerous spike in COVID cases, a new variant or health care infrastructure collapse.

While the Level 4 list had at one point included well over 100 destinations, there are currently no Level 4 countries.

Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 classifications continue to be based on a 28-day incidence or case counts.

Countries with a "high level of COVID-19" are considered Level 3. Travelers who are not fully vaccinated are still advised to "avoid travel" to these destinations, but the warning does not apply to fully vaccinated visitors. Travelers with weakened immune systems are urged to check with doctors before visiting.

Mexico was in Level 4 when I went there in February.  Then again, so was most of the United States at that time. 

This land you want to visit?  Fly there!

The federal government said Monday passengers traveling on airplanes and other forms of public transportation won't be required to wear a face mask for now after a federal judge in Florida voided the mandate.

The decision Monday by U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Tampa says the federal mask mandate exceeded the authority of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which failed to justify the order and didn't follow proper rulemaking procedures...

A Biden administration official said the ruling means that, for now, the mask mandate is not in effect. Federal agencies are reviewing the decision and assessing potential next steps, the official said, but the Transportation Security Administration will not enforce the mandate at this time...

United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines announced that masks would be optional on domestic flights and in airports, "effective immediately."

Meanwhile, a statement from Amtrak said its trains would continue to enforce the mask mandate.

"As we have seen with the vaccine mandates, these court decisions are subject to review on appeal. Pending further information from TSA and (the Federal Railroad Administration) about their mask mandate guidance, Amtrak’s mask mandate remains in place," the statement reads. 

And for those Chicken Littles who still insist the 'rona-sky is falling, well, they won't believe data anyway:

Over and over,  journalists and public officials have made fools of them proclaiming the success of mask mandates in some state or nation — whereupon Covid would promptly surge to unprecedented levels among the masked population. Some of these maskaholics will never learn, but they should at least be required to look at a graph prepared for City Journal by Ian Miller. It compares the  trajectory of  Covid throughout the pandemic in states with mask mandates versus the states without mandates — and shows that the masks made no difference. He also compares Germany, where almost everyone wore high-quality masks, with Sweden, where few citizens bothered to wear anything on their faces. Again, no difference in the Covid toll.

I've been showing such graphs for two years.

Update, 4/19/22:  Amtrak has backtracked, breathe free on the train.  No matter where you are, take in a deep breath so you have lots of air with which to laugh at these cuckoobirds:

The 5 Most Unhinged Responses to the End of the Travel Mask Mandate
Update #2, 4/20/22:   And then there are these cuckoobirds:
Biden administration will appeal ruling that lifted Covid mask mandate on travel

Whose Children?

Who is more likely to have a child's best interest at heart, a parent or a school employee?  Who is more likely to know and understand a child, a parent or a school employee?

Don't push your personal demons onto other people's children:

The fight against gender cult grooming is raging across the country and in Massachusetts, two sets of parents have filed a lawsuit alleging violations of religious freedom, privacy, and parental rights against public school officials who attempted to drive a wedge between them and their children using extreme gender ideology...

The same family discovered that the school officials were not only counseling their daughter in gender theology against their wishes but their son as well, giving him female pronouns and a female name without consulting the parents.

Vernadette Broyles, CEO and General Counsel of CPRC stated that “we are seeing this type of concerted effort by school officials across the country. School officials are making decisions about the lives of children that they are not qualified or authorized to make and doing it without telling, and often deceiving, parents. This is a clear violation of the parents’ rights to control the education, health, and upbringing of their children.” 

In a sane world, this wouldn't even need to be litigated.  The school employees would have been run out of town on a rail.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Screw Up, Move Up

Good work if you can get it:

A Queens principal accused of using fraudulent schemes to boost his school’s graduation rate can never again work with city students — but will get a $1.8 million desk job, The Post has learned.

Khurshid Abdul-Mutakabbir, who was removed as principal of Maspeth High School last July, won’t return to any city school as a principal, according to a settlement of misconduct charges. But he can stay on the Department of Education payroll for another seven years.

Under Abdul-Mutakabbir, Maspeth HS created fake classes, awarded credits to failing students, and fixed grades to push kids out the door, the Special Commissioner of Investigation for city schools found, confirming exposès by The Post.

Instead of trying to terminate Abdul-Mutakabbir, as city investigators recommended, the DOE settled the charges on Jan. 25 by fining him $12,000  – and barring him from working as a principal.

But under the sweetheart deal – which DOE officials kept hidden for months – the disgraced educator, now age 47, will sit in an office until he “irrevocably” retires on Nov. 30, 2029.

He will pocket his current $187,043 annual salary, and get all union-negotiated pay raises for principals. He will also enjoy paid vacations and holidays, plus full health and retirement benefits, which will cost at least $78,558 a year in addition. The total cost will come to more than $1.8 million.

Cushy desk job, none of the stress of running a school, and more than 2.5x my pay.  Must be nice.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

One Flew Off Of The Bucket List

When I was young I had a long list of things I was going to accomplish in life.  Some I've accomplished and some I've decided I no longer need or want to accomplish, and I've even done a few things that are important to me now but weren't on my radar when I was young.  Life changes you.

One item, though, is still on the list.  I've wanted to officiate at a wedding.  Well, it's on the list until later this evening, when I can cross it off.

Update, 4/17/22:  Went off without a hitch.  I wonder who was more nervous, the bride and groom or me!

Friday, April 15, 2022

Press and Tech People Are Flipping Out

Lefties.  I hope Elon Musk buys Twitter just so their heads will explode:

“Democracy Dies in Darkness” is the motto of the Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post. It may sound like a warning, but more and more it seems like a summary of the left’s aspirations to control debate and shut down any opposition.

A recent example of those aspirations appeared in a column by former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich on Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s big buy of Twitter stock. The original headline — changed after widespread mockery — was this: “Elon Musk’s vision for the Internet is dangerous nonsense: Musk has long advocated a libertarian vision of an ‘uncontrolled’ internet. That’s also the dream of every dictator, strongman and demagogue.”

Yeah.  Stalin, Mao, Xi, Castro, Kim--they all have supported the free exchange of ideas, right.  Reich is an idiot. 

In George Orwell’s “1984,” war is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength. To these Orwellian inversions, Reich would add another: Censorship is free speech. But it’s not, and claiming otherwise won’t make it so.

Sadly, though, Reich isn’t just one lone wacko writing in The Guardian. He is instead, as usual, parroting the establishment’s line.

The establishment doesn’t want free speech because if Americans can talk honestly about what elites are doing, people will understand just how rotten the establishment has become and will want to do something about it.

What he said.

Update, 4/16/22:

Thursday, April 14, 2022

This State Will Still Vote Overwhelmingly Democrat, Part 2

Why can't we teach kids to read?  Actually, the question is why don't we teach kids to read?  Why is there so much resistance to explicit phonics instruction?

According to a recent report, California now leads the country in illiteracy. In fact, 23.1 percent of Californians over age 15 cannot read this sentence.

While the problem has many causes, much of the blame falls on the state’s failing public schools. The 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress found that just 30 percent of California eighth-graders are proficient in reading. And those numbers reflect results gathered before the Covid-19 lockdowns.  link

California is a disaster.  A one-party-rule, utopian disaster.

This State Will Still Vote Overwhelmingly Democrat, Though

From RealClearInvestigations:

Laura Tyson, the longtime Democratic economist now at the University of California at Berkeley, praises the state for creating “the way forward” to a more enlightened “market capitalism.” Like-minded analysts tout Silicon Valley’s massive wealth generation as evidence of progressivism’s promise. The Los Angeles Times suggested approvingly that the Biden administration’s goal is to “make America California again.” And, despite dark prospects in November’s midterm elections, the President and his party still seem intent on proving it.

But most Californians, according to recent surveys, see things differently. They point to rising poverty and inequality, believe the state is in recession and that it is headed in the wrong direction. Parting with the state’s cheerleaders, the New York Times’ Ezra Klein, a reliable progressive and native Californian, says the Golden State’s failures are “making liberals squirm"...

California may conjure images of Rodeo Drive and Malibu mansions in the public imagination, but today the state suffers the highest cost-adjusted poverty rate in the U.S. The poor and near-poor constitute over one third – well over 10 million – of the state’s residents according to the Public Policy Institute of California. Los Angeles, by far the state’s largest metropolitan area, and once a magnet for middle class aspirations, has one of the highest poverty rates among major U.S. cities. A United Way of California analysis shows that over 30 percent of residents lack sufficient income to cover basic living costs even after accounting for public-assistance programs; this includes half of Latino and 40 percent of black residents. Some two-thirds of noncitizen Latinos live at or below the poverty line...

The state’s poverty and associated dysfunction are on full display in leading cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, where a large underclass now inhabits the streets – the once-iconic locales having become poster children for urban dysfunction. Beyond massive homeless camps, crime has become so bad that the LAPD has warned tourists it can no longer protect them. San Francisco, meanwhile, suffers the highest property crime rate in the country. Businesses like Walgreens have shut down numerous Bay Area locations due to “rampant burglaries.” Homelessness and crime increasingly dominate the state’s political discourse, particularly in these two deep blue bastions.

California also faces growing inequality. By the Gini index, a measure of the distribution of income across a population, California has the third-highest inequality behind New York and Louisiana, and has experienced the fifth largest expansion of inequality since 2010, according to American Community Survey data. California also suffers the widest gap between middle- and upper-middle-income earners of any state.

Enough of that, you get the idea. 

Here's the bottom line:  if you can't make the utopians' dream work here in California, where can it work?  (Hint:  the answer is in the etymology of "utopia".)

Update, 4/18/22:  They'll complain and then continue to vote Democrat:

California residents, who haven’t elected even a faux-Republican like Arnold Schwarzenegger to statewide office since 2006, say they’re sick of the high taxes they keep voting for…

According to the study, nearly two-thirds of Californians thought their taxes, state and federal, were too high…

Californians can fix the mess they made but only if they’re willing to do the unthinkable: Stop electing Democrats all the time.

Monday, April 11, 2022

A Pothole on the Road to Cabo

Last summer I made a 4,000 mile loop through the Western US, sleeping in my travel trailer most of the 30 nights I was gone.  The plan this summer is to drive down Mex 1 to Cabo San Lucas, and then return to the US via Mex 1 and Mex 5 through San Felipe, and then home via US 395 to I-80.

It was pretty hot last summer, but I always camped in campgrounds with electricity--and, thus, I always had air conditioning.  I've read enough about camping in Baja to know that the electricity isn't always reliable or "clean" (high and low voltages are common) and some of the best places to camp are right on a beach with no utilities at all.  Having been to Baja in the summer, I also know that it can be mercilessly hot there, and unless I want to sleep in my own sweat, air conditioning will be needed.

It's been 35+ years since I took any electrical engineering courses, but I remember two of the most basic formulas:  V=IR and P=IV=I-squaredR.  I comfirmed those in one of the few engineering books I didn't sell back:  Marks' Standard Handbook for Mechanical Engineers, 1979.  Armed with these formulas, I made some simple calculations.  

Voltage (V) is simple:  110 volts.  The owner's manual for my trailer air conditioner said it requires 12.5 Amps, so I=12.5.  Watts (P), then, equals 12.5(110)=1375 Watts.  And wouldn't you know it, the label on my generator says it puts out only 1200W.

Time for Plan B.

(Note:  the above is an excellent example of why a broad liberal arts education is so valuable!)

This Doesn't Surprise Me

I don't know the politics of the organization that did this study (they seem right-leaning), but if people are going to clutch their pearls over it, I'd insist they challenge the study's methodology and data rather than the political leanings of the authors:

New York, New Jersey and California failed in their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic because of stringent lockdowns and policies, while Florida was among the best-performing states in the country, a new study has found.

The study, published by the Committee To Unleash Prosperity, graded states by comparing COVID-19 outcomes based on the number of deaths, the economy and impact on education.

Overall, the bottom 10 on the study’s “report card” were dominated by states that had the most severe pandemic lockdowns and were among the last to finally reopen schools...

The study found that the states that locked down businesses, churches, schools and restaurants for lengthy periods did not have lower death rates than those that largely remained open...


The study was authored by University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan, Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation and Phil Kerpen from the Committee to Unleash Prosperity.

One Man's Garbage Is Another Man's Treasure

Three times a year, my city has a "neighborhood cleanup day".  On those 3 days, we can clean out all the crap we want to throw away (old furniture, broken stuff, etc) and place it out on the curb and it'll be picked up and tossed.  Very handy for spring cleaning, as my neighborhood's first one for the year is tomorrow.

Our city ordinance is very clear--just as it's illegal to go through someone's garbage cans, so it's illegal to go through the garbage people put out for neighborhood cleanup day.  The reasoning is sound in that you wouldn't want people to make a mess in the street and on the sidewalks while rummaging through stuff to be thrown out.  However, it's well known that there are two groups of people (roughly corresponding to ethnicity or national origin) who routinely go through such discard piles.  They drive up and down our streets, in pickups towing utility trailers, looking for anything to take which they might fix up and make a dollar from--usually bicycles, tools, lawn mowers, appliances, etc.  It's quite illegal, but as I've never seen them make a mess while doing it, I turn as much a blind eye to it as the city does.  You can bet I'd report it if I saw people going through piles and then not restacking them neatly when they were done, but in all my years of participating in these cleanup days I've not seen that happen.  I've heard the phrase "victimless crime" before, and this seems like a perfect example of one--as long as they straighten up the piles when they're done.

Yesterday I put out an old IBM Selectric typing table, several pots and pans that were taking up room in my garage, and some bicycle and motorcycle helmets.  I placed these next to the broken-up particle board desk my neighbors placed out, and then I took off for no more than two hours.  When I returned home, all that remained of what I'd put out was the bicycle helmets.

Saturday, April 09, 2022

A Thought Just Occurred To Me

Now that California's public universities no longer require ACT/SAT scores for admissions, will my school district still spend a crap-ton of money to administer the PSAT to every junior as we did for a few years before the 'rona?

The Price Of Gas

14 years ago, I wrote a post about how high gas prices were.  Go take a look at the prices I complained about!  They did eventually go down, but we're back at another high.

Government isn't usually a solution to problems, it often is the problem.  The president cannot control oil prices, but he could approve the Keystone XL pipeline, he could allow oil drilling on federal land, he could promote more frakking.  By not doing these things, the current president has contributed to our significantly higher gas prices.  I don't hold presidents responsible for events that occur during their administrations (unless they contributed to those events, of course), but I do hold them responsible for how they respond.  The feeble response of the current president--let's release a few drops from the strategic petroleum reserve!--merits mockery and derision.  (And it's good to point out that President Trump is the one who filled that reserve, and did so with relatively inexpensive oil.  What price will we pay to refill it?)  The fact that in less than 2 years we've gone from being a net petroleum exporter to being an importer again certainly deserves some attention.

The $3.40/gallon price in the link above sounds like it from the halcyon days of years gone by, and it was 14 years ago.  It's important to note, however, that I paid less than that just last summer, when I paid $2.89/gallon in Phoenix.  On my 4000 mile road trip last summer, the highest I paid was $4.40/gallon in the middle of nowhere on Interstate 5.

A quick calculation shows a 3.23% average increase each year from that $3.40 price to what I paid this week.  You might think that such "inflation" is minor, but don't forget that the $3.40 price was considered ridiculously high at the time.  And the 60% increase from what we paid last year is certainly not what anyone would consider minor.

A lot of that post from 2008 could have been written last week.

My Refund Is Waiting

I think it was only last weekend that I completed and filed my taxes.  I used to use one web site--used to rave about it on this blog!--but it's gotten ridiculously expensive recently, so I tried FreeTaxUSA.  It wasn't as "smooth" as the previous site, but it worked just fine for me and cost me only $14.

And as of today, both my federal and state refunds are sitting in my checking account.

Update:  And while we're talking about taxes, let's talk about tax burdens:

The right-leaning, nonpartisan Tax Foundation just ran the numbers to rank the states based on their average combined state and local tax burden. This does not include the many federal taxes all Americans must pay regardless of state residency. 

Here’s what analysts Erica York and Jared Walczak found: 

The 5 States With the Highest Tax Burdens 

New York: 15.9 percent 

Connecticut: 15.4 percent 

Hawaii: 14.1 percent 

Vermont: 13.6 percent 

California: 13.5 percent 

The 5 States With the Lowest Tax Burdens 

Alaska: 4.6 percent 

Wyoming: 7.5 percent 

Tennessee: 7.6 percent 

 South Dakota: 8.4 percent 

Michigan: 8.6 percent

Thursday, April 07, 2022

Spring Break Starts After School Tomorrow

I have nothing planned until next Friday, when I have rehearsal events for a wedding of which I am a part.  I don't have so much as a camping trip planned for this coming weekend or early in the week.

This evening I thought of going to Guadalajara (because I haven't been there before, except for the airport), to Reno, to Vegas, to Palm Springs.  None of them is jumping out at me.  Maybe I don't really want to go anywhere.  Maybe I just want to stay home and sleep in each day.

That doesn't much sound like me, but I guess it's possible.

Wednesday, April 06, 2022

Open House, Etc.

Not only was tonight Open House--what exactly is the point in high school, anyway?--but we have accreditation meetings tomorrow afternoon, followed by a staff meeting!

Can you say "ugh", boys and girls?  I knew you could.

Tuesday, April 05, 2022

Monday, April 04, 2022

Where's The Global Warming?

You want data?  Here's some data:

The new Pause has lengthened by another month. On the UAH satellite monthly global mean lower-troposphere temperature dataset, seven and a half years have passed since there was any trend in global warming at all. As always, if anyone has seen this surely not uninteresting fact mentioned in the Marxstream news media, let us know in comments. One of the best-kept secrets in what passes for “journalism” these days is that global temperature has not been rising steadily (or, since October 2014, at all). It has been rising in occasional spurts in response to natural events such as the great Pacific shift of 1976 and the subsequent strong el Niño events, rather than at the somewhat steadier rate that one might expect if our continuing – and continuous – sins of emission were the primary culprit.

Women vs. Transgenders

They nailed it on Instapundit this morning:

KEVIN DOWNEY JR: How Transgenders Will Bring Down the Lefty Marxists Who Want to Destroy America.  "Transgendered people are foolish for thinking the left cares about them. Women fell for the same thing. The Democrats claimed they were all about ‘women’s rights’ but tossed the babes under the bus when new victims, the transgenders, became the flavor of the day. Women now have no choice but to look at a ‘woman’s penis’ in a spa or locker room. Don’t complain, ladies, lest you be punished. Did your daughter get booted off the team or lose a sports scholarship to a dude in pigtails? Suck it up, Sunshine. There is a new victim in town."

It's silly to think you're a feminist and simultaneously believe that guys should compete in women's sports.  I doubt most lefties think they should, but the loudest voices right now sure do....

Sunday, April 03, 2022

This Morning

I woke up this morning to a text from a friend in Denver, asking me about the early morning shooting in downtown Sacramento.  He knew more about it than I did, as I learned about it from his text.

I honestly can't get exercised about this.  I don't know why, but some Trump supporter/NRA member firing his fully automatic AR-14 machine gun with a big clip just doesn't interest me.

And with reporting like that, I'm sure I'll be able to get a job at the major Sacramento newspaper.

As an aside, a teacher from my school who retired last year also texted me from another state.  We have a few young colleagues at school who like to "go out", and he told me he was worried about them.  I texted the two for whom I had numbers and asked them if they'd been shot, and they both replied they had not.  One of them also told me that the third person mentioned was similarly not involved.  This calmed the nerves of the retiree.

Saturday, April 02, 2022

Legalizing Marijuana

I have no dog in this fight so I don’t really care if pot is legalized or not, but if it’s not, then the feds should enforce federal law.  This “having a federal law that states openly flout” situation that we have now is no way to run a country:

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Friday to decriminalize possession of marijuana on the federal level.

The House heard a slew of proposed amendments for the bill, including measures to track and prevent impaired driving under the influence of marijuana, as well as carve-outs for law enforcement to restructure around the decriminalized substance.

The bill passed with a vote of 220 to 204. 

Three Republicans voted yes: Matt Gaetz of Florida, Tom McClintock of California and Brian Mast of Florida. Two Democrats voted no: Chris Pappas of New Hampshire and Henry Cuellar of Texas.

California Corporate Diversity Law Ruled Unconstitutional

A Los Angeles judge ruled Friday that California’s landmark law mandating that corporations diversify their boards with members from certain racial, ethnic or LGBT groups is unconstitutional.

The brief ruling granted summary judgment to Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group that sought a permanent injunction against the measure that was signed into law last year...

The measure requires corporate boards of publicly traded companies with a main executive office in California to have a member from an "underrepresented community," including LGBT, Black, Latino, Asian, Native American or Pacific Islander.

The lawsuit argued that violated the state’s constitutional equal protection clause...

However, in its court filings, the state argued that the measure didn’t "discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting."     link

Of course it's unconstitutional. And every legislator who voted for it, and the governor who signed it, knew so as well.  But they passed this law anyway, "to send a message" or something.  How much time and effort was spent on this law, and in overturning it, just so a bunch of California lefties could send an unconstitutional message?

A related Judicial Watch lawsuit in Los Angeles is challenging another state law requiring a woman director on corporate boards.

That three-year-old law was on shaky ground from the get-go with a legislative analysis saying it could be difficult to defend and then-Gov. Jerry Brown saying he was signing it despite the potential for it to be overturned by a court.
This is what you get when you have one-party leftie rule.

Friday, April 01, 2022

You Can't Win If You Don't Play

You can't learn if you don't attend:

Nearly half of Los Angeles Unified students — more than 200,000 children — have been chronically absent this school year, meaning they have missed at least 9% of the academic year, according to data provided to The Times by the district in response to a public records request. This more than twofold increase from pre-pandemic years reveals yet another hit to education with widespread learning disruptions even as campuses are open for in-person learning… 

Like almost all education hardships wrought by the pandemic, the impact of missed school is being borne most heavily by the most vulnerable student groups. For Black students the chronic absence rate is nearly 57%. For Latinos, it is 49%. For homeless students it is 68%.

Update, 4/4/22:  It's not just Los Angeles:

No readin’, no writin’, no ‘rithmatic for the hooky-loving students of New York City’s public schools.

A whopping 40% of the city’s 938,000 students are suffering, not from COVID, but from “chronic absenteeism,” according to figures seen by the New York Post.