Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Surprise Announcement

Several years ago, I read a book--was it Chris Kyle's "American Sniper"?--and in a chapter about Navy SEAL training was this observation:  you could drop out if you wanted to, but if you decided it was a rash decision, they'd let you change your mind and stay in.  No one who changed their mind ever finished SEAL training; once that thought of quitting entered into your consciousness, it was impossible to shake.

I'm less than 20 blog posts short of 14,000, and I've been posting on this blog continuously since January 23, 2005.  This blog is 18 years and 7 months old today.  

On that first day I had no idea what this blog would turn into, and I never dreamed I'd keep at it as long as I have.  It has been a labor of love; it would be impossible to keep posting so long, averaging over 2 posts a day for over 18 years, if I didn't love doing it.  This blog had reached the age of majority; it can't drink, but it can sign contracts and join the Army!

This blog has been a priority for me, and with only a few exceptions I've tried to post every day.  I respect my readers enough to give them something new to read each day they come here.  And as I said, I've enjoyed doing it.

Over the years I've met several of my readers.  Some have made it a point to meet up with me when their travels brought them to the Sacramento area, and one has even opened her house to me, and taken me out to dinner with her family, when I passed through her area.  I have made friends among the readers of this blog.  Even some I've never met in person, I consider friends and would like to meet in person should the opportunity present itself.

Last week, though, the thought of quitting entered into my consciousness.  I thought no, I'll keep posting, but as in SEAL training, the thought is impossible to shake.

I've started some new activities, I need the time, and after almost 14,000 posts I'm ready to leave this blog in the ether and turn my time to these other pursuits.  I'm sure that, once in awhile, I might be moved to post something, but I probably shouldn't--I should let it go, ending on my own terms, on what I consider a high note.  I have some unfinished draft posts on some rather controversial topics that I'll leave unfinished.

I'm going to try new things.  When people leave they sometimes say "it's been a privilege" or "it's been an honor", and they don't mean it with any depth.  I've initiated a community here, and the regular readers and commenters have formed that community.  It has been a privilege, a great one, to be a part of that, and for that privilege I am truly thankful.

So to my readers--the lurkers, the newbies, and the long-timers--I give you an honest and hearty thank you for giving me the impetus to keep up this work for so long.  As Captain Kirk said just before he died in Star Trek: Generations, "It was fun."

The Beginning of the End of the 1st Amendment?

I have to hope that as people get older and wiser that they'll recognize the importance of the First Amendment:

Why are liberals fixated on criminalizing speech?  Whether it’s progressive politicians or hyper-sensitive college students, they all seem to be regurgitating the dogma of the day: speech that hurts or offends should be a crime.

Their goal is simple, if they can control how people speak, they can eventually control what they think.  Saul Alinsky, the author of Rules for Radicals, knew this well when he observed “Control the language and you control the masses.” 

Examples of the Left’s efforts to bastardized and control language are all around us.  The demand that we recognize and use a near infinite number of personal pronouns, the invention of the euphemism “gender-affirming care” as a cover for permanent, body mutilating surgery, or the replacement of “pregnant women” with the absurd term “pregnant people,” just to name a few.

Refuse to participate in the Left’s grammatical delusion and you may face consequences

Unfortunately, the Left’s efforts to control language is gaining traction, particularly among college students.   

In a recent survey conducted for Newsweek33% of Generation Z Americans believe using the wrong gender pronoun should be illegal...

The Left’s efforts to compel “acceptable” speech, while criminalizing “unacceptable” speech reflects an alarming level of constitutional illiteracy, which poses an unprecedented threat to our rights of free speech and expression, which cannot go unchallenged.

Why stop at pronouns?  My adjectives are hot/sexy/brilliant, and using any other adjectives to describe me is offensive and should be penalized greatly.

Math Instruction In San Francisco Schools

Siyamak sits down with Rex Ridgeway, President of PTA at Lincoln High School in San Francisco. Today he will explain how San Francisco inclusion policies are actually hurting the overall performance of students and why parents are leaving the public school system. 

"Kids in San Francisco can't get to calculus. They moved Algebra1 out from the 8th grade in a city, which mayor London Breed has recently said is the hub of AI. In the heart of Silicon Valley you don't let kids shine." link

Paying Off People With Public Money

Why should the state government take sides in a labor dispute?  

A group of California Democrats are expected to propose handing out unemployment benefits to striking workers.

Language expected to be released in the coming days or weeks to provide striking workers with benefits from California's unemployment insurance program that is $18 billion in debt. The move comes amid historic strikes by both screenwriters and actors, forcing many movies and TV shows to halt production.

"It would allow individuals on strike who are not looking for work and were not let go through no fault of their own to claim unemployment insurance as if they were truly unemployed," California Chamber of Commerce Policy Advocate Rob Moutrie, who opposes the legislation, told Fox News.

It would make just as much sense to compensate businesses for lost income due to strikes.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

If This Surprises You, Raise Your Hand


The richest 10 per cent of US households are responsible for 40 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, a new study reveals.

Rather than focusing on consumption - such as transport, food or energy use - the study looked at emissions linked to people’s income.

They found that wealthy US households reap the biggest benefit from emissions while being most responsible for them.

The study's authors argue that an income based carbon tax - particularly on investments - could help reduce climate inequality and fund much needed decarbonisation measures.

They were doing fine until that last sentence.

Using AI To Help Students Learn Math

I'll be very interested to see how this turns out:

Artificial intelligence often induces fear, awe or some panicked combination of both for its impressive ability to generate unique human-like text in seconds. But its implications for cheating in the classroom — and its sometimes comically wrong answers to basic questions — have left some in academia discouraging its use in school or outright banning AI tools like ChatGPT.

That may be the wrong approach.

More than 8,000 teachers and students will test education nonprofit Khan Academy’s artificial intelligence tutor in the classroom this upcoming school year, toying with its interactive features and funneling feedback to Khan Academy if the AI botches an answer.

The chatbot, Khanmigo, offers individualized guidance to students on math, science and humanities problems; a debate tool with suggested topics like student debt cancellation and AI’s impact on the job market; and a writing tutor that helps the student craft a story, among other features...

Khanmigo is most commonly used for math tutoring, according to DiCerbo. Khanmigo shines best when coaching students on how to work through a problem, offering hints, encouragement and additional questions designed to help students think critically. But currently, its own struggles in performing calculations can sometimes hinder its attempts to help.

In the “Tutor me: Math and science” activity available to students, Khanmigo told me that my answer to 10,332 divided by 4 was incorrect three times before correcting me by sending me the same number.

In the same “Tutor me” activity, I asked Khanmigo to find the product of five numbers, some integers and some decimals: 97, 117, 0.564322338, 0.855640047, and 0.557680043.

As I did the final multiplication step, Khanmigo congratulated me for submitting the wrong answer. It wrote: “When you multiply 5479.94173 by 0.557680043, you get approximately 33.0663. Well done!”

The correct answer is about 3,056. 

You might remember when I posted the results of my own playing with AI.  That was several months ago and I was not impressed.  AI looks like it might still have a ways to go, but I remain optimistic that it will improve.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Lowering Standards

When the Army can't enlist enough soldiers, what does it do?  It lowers standards:

The Pentagon is planning a change that will allow applicants to use calculators on the military's entrance exam -- a timed test that gauges academic aptitude and dictates what jobs in the military, if any, they are qualified for, three defense officials told

The change in the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, could help relieve an ongoing recruiting slump, which is attributed to many young Americans not scoring high enough to qualify for enlistment. It would also put the ASVAB on par with how test-taking has evolved in the past decade, with calculators being widely used in math classes and on college entrance exams such as the ACT and SAT.

"We are taking a systematic approach, which will assess the impact of calculator use, and we are developing a way forward for calculator inclusion," one Pentagon official told

The shortfalls are due to an amalgamation of issues -- but at the forefront is a shrinking pool of qualified young Americans, 17- to 24-year-olds, who are eligible to enlist. Many of those applicants are being turned away due to poor performance on the military's aptitude exam.

And criminal records.  And obesity. And drug use.  And...

Back in my day, back in the 80s, if the needed more soldiers, it just accepted a a couple more percentage points of "Category 4" enlistees.  Category 4:

Two principal Department of Defense (DOD) quality benchmarks apply to NPS recruits. The first quality benchmark is the percentage of NPS enlistees who are high school diploma graduates (HSDG). The second quality benchmark is the percentage of scores above average on the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT Categories I-IIIA).  Since FY1993, the DOD’s quality benchmarks for
recruit quality have stipulated that at least 90% of NPS enlistees must be high school diploma graduates, and at least 60% must score above average on the AFQT...DOD regulations require that no more than 4% of an annual enlistment cohort may be Category IV (10th-30th percentile on the AFQT).

The Army recognized they were Category 4, knowing it might take longer to get and keep them in shape.  It didn't lower the physical standards that categorized them.

But that seems like what the Dept of Defense is doing now, lowering the standard.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Air Force Football Helmets

Some lefties are so foul, you wonder how even their own kind can stomach them:

Leftists have gone on the attack against the U.S. Air Force Academy football team for honoring the WWII Doolittle Raid on Japan that occurred immediately after the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.

On Tuesday, Air Force Football revealed its new uniforms, which feature a tribute to the Doolittle Raid.

Left-wing trolls blasted the Air Force for celebrating the raid conducted by American heroes who showed Japan that the U.S. was not down for the count after taking such heavy losses at Pearl.

I just posted a comment on another post in which I had to quote John Stuart Mill, and that same quote applies in this case.  Maybe it's true of all lefties.  They are just like those milquetoast so-called men that Mill referred to, "a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."

Doolittle and his men qualify as better men than those who disparage them.

Friday, August 18, 2023

Changing The Mascot Will Lead To Improved Student Achievement, Of Course

These high schoolers don't know what a Minuteman is?  That's kind of pathetic:

In 2021, the Mt. Diablo Unified School District Governing Board updated their mascot policy, requiring schools to choose non-human mascots in the case that the current one is deemed offensive or insensitive. The school board said that a student committee was formed last year at Concord High School and that students chose to replace the school's mascot, which depicts a Revolutionary War militia member holding a musket, with a bear...

Student trustee Susanna Barrios said that many students she talked to did not even know what a minuteman was and given that the school is majority Latino, did not feel represented by the mascot.

"I want to change the mascot to something that they have pride in and trust in," said Barrios.

I recommend the Marshmallow, as that's what between the ears of almost everyone in this story. 

But not everyone:

"It’s disgusting to disrespect those who fought and sacrificed to defeat tyranny and ultimately found our great nation, and to add insult to injury, they’re replacing it with a meaningless and trite mascot that viciously murders small animals," reacted Matt Shupe, the Republican Party chairman of the Contra Costa County where the school is located.

I hope he's just jerking their chain with that last part, but this next part is true:

"These woke schools need to prioritize teaching math, reading, and writing to catch up from the educational losses during the pandemic rather than spitting on the memories of our veterans," he added.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Homelessness in San Francisco

So sayeth Willie Brown:

Still, San Francisco’s homeless advocates believe money is the answer, with organizations coaching new arrivals to say they’re “from San Francisco” while helping them navigate the system. The “nonprofits” themselves complete what has become a billion-dollar industry chasing its own tail, with 59 providers receiving $240.6 million in fiscal year 2019–20, according to the latest audit by the city’s budget and legislative analyst.

When Sidner sat down with former mayor Willie Brown to ask why he believed San Francisco couldn’t make a dent in its catastrophic homeless problem, Brown was succinct: “It is not designed to be solved. It is designed to be perpetuated. It is to treat the problem, not solve it.”

Whether Sidner edited the piece purposefully or not, it was apropos...

Pretty much.

When District Policy Might Violate State Law

What's a teacher to do?

Teachers working in California school districts with conservative school boards are increasingly finding themselves with a difficult decision: violate district policy and risk losing their job, or potentially disobey federal and state laws and policies and take a chance on ending up in court.

Last Monday was the first day of school at Chino Valley Unified campuses since the passage of a controversial board policy that would require teachers, counselors and administrators to notify parents if a child asks to be identified by a different gender or name, or to access a bathroom or take part in a program not aligned with the gender on their official records. 

After the Chino Valley Unified decision, California Attorney General Rob Bonta warned the school district that the parental notification policy could violate the state’s anti-discrimination laws and students’ rights to privacy guaranteed under the U.S. and California constitutions, as well as federal Title IX protections and the state education code. Bonta launched a civil rights investigation into the school district last week...

(Local teachers union president) Walker sent a memo to teachers last week advising them to follow the district’s new policy but to object to it if they think the policy is improper or unlawful. If a teacher feels uncomfortable talking to a parent about a child’s gender identification, they should ask one of their administrators to take on that task, the memo directed.

“Members are expected to comply with directives given by their administrators, and if a member or the association find that there has been a violation of the collective bargaining agreement, then a grievance can be filed,”  Walker said...

Guidance from the California Department of Education recommends that schools ask transgender students who, if anyone, they would like to be informed of their transgender status. The department says that rule should only be broken in rare circumstances when district officials feel there is a compelling need for parents to know the information and the student is given advance notice before parents are informed.

If you're keeping information from all parents because you think some might act in a way that you wouldn't agree with, well... 

It shouldn't be a teacher's place to keep information from parents.  What a horrible position to put teachers in.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Let's Be Honest And Just Say It Out Loud--She's A Cuckoo

We need to quit giving credence to these silly, faddish beliefs about sex and gender:

A California hospital executive and professor claimed children can identify as a mythology-inspired creature and claimed that this category of children love mermaids, according to a presentation reviewed by Fox News Digital...

Ehrensaft made what some may consider fringe claims about gender ideology, including that kids can identify as "gender hybrids" which include a mythology-inspired creature called a "gender Minotaur," and that kids can change their genders by season and can have different identities depending on their location. 

Stop.  Just stop.  We adults need to be adults, quit indulging childish fantasies, and get back to being realistic.  No, you're not a mermaid.  No, you'll never grow up to be a kitty.  No, you're not a freakin minotaur.  And no, your gender doesn't change, not even if the season or your location changes.

That people pretend to believe this stuff from Ehrensaft continues to be a source of wonder for me.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

A Weak Attack on Stevie Nicks For Her "Tone-Deaf Post on Twitter"

Stevie Nicks, whom I adored as a teenager and through much of my adult life, penned what is being criticized as a tone-deaf tweet (are they still called that on X?) in reference to the Maui fires.  Her post is here, and here's one of her critics:

In the tweet, she begins by reminding us that she has a house in the most magical place on earth, Lahaina. Her niece and her husband and their son were staying at the house and enjoyed one-and-a-half days of fun. That was before the fire, which would displace hundreds and kill at least 99 with the death toll expected to rise, broke out and ruined the fun. Oh, and lives, too, Ms. Nicks.

The family did escape and made it back to Los Angeles, where they are, and I quote, “totally freaked out.” I am glad that the family is safe, but “freaked out” cannot begin to describe the grief of the people who live there, who are mourning lost loved ones, worried sick over missing friends and family, and whose homes, unlike Ms. Nicks’, have been reduced to smoking debris. And also, unlike Ms. Nicks’ situation, most Hawaiians struggle with an incredibly high cost of living. They did not lose vacation homes. They lost their only homes.

Much of the tweet is an exercise in vapid, self-absorbed twaddle. Nicks seems to wallow in her personal situation while ignoring the desperate conditions on Maui.

Here's where I find fault with the article's author--he slams Stevie for being "vapid", "an old lib" who "manages to labor under the delusion that the world is desperate to hear their opinions and is fascinated with their lives", and then criticizes her for not writing a "thoughts and prayers"-type post about the fires.  What the author seems not to realize is that anyone reading Stevie Nicks' tweets probably is interested in her view and her personal situation, why else would someone read her tweets?  No doubt she probably could have added in more wailing and gnashing of teeth about some of the horrible results from the fire, but that wasn't the purpose of her tweet.  Just watch the news if you want to hear about how horrible the fire damage is.  That isn't what moved Stevie to write, she wrote to give a personal slant to the horror. 

The author seems to want to have it both ways, to insist that she write something deep while simultaneously slamming her as incapable of writing something deep.  I don't think you have to be a Stevie Nicks fan from way back to see the flaw in that logic.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Self-driving Taxis

Now that school's back in session I'm back to listening to "my guys" on the radio on the morning commute, and this morning they were talking about self-driving taxis in San Francisco:

On Thursday, California state regulators voted 3-1 in favor of allowing robotaxi services to begin paid, public 24/7 operations in San Francisco, effective immediately.

Concerns came to my mind instantly, and because great minds think alike, the radio guys made the same points. 

Taking a taxi now might not be horrible, as there's an actual human in the car to curb the passengers' worst excesses.  Without a human, I see such taxis becoming Las Vegas hotel elevators.

Imagine:  it's 2am, the bar's shut down, and two inebriated paramours alight across the street and into the nearest self-driving taxi.  Question:  would you want to be the next passenger in that taxi?  Ew.

Imagine: it's 2am, the bar's shut down, and a lone individual hops in one of those self-driving taxis.  Unlike so many other people in The City he/she chose not to pee on the sidewalk, but during his ride realizes that he/she will not make it home in time.  Question:  would you want to be the next passenger in that taxi?  Ew.

Those are the first two things that came to my mind, and given that we're talking about San Francisco here, are they at all unlikely?  Tell me you can't imagine them happening...

It's not the technology that concerns me, it's the humans.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

University Priorities

West Virginia University is facing a budget shortfall and is forced to make some cuts:

West Virginia University leaders have recommended discontinuing 32 of its majors at its Morgantown campus as the school is feverishly working to make up for a multi-million budget shortfall. 

The preliminary recommendations, released Friday afternoon, said 12 of those programs are undergraduate majors and 20 are graduate-level majors. Other programs were told to reduce their faculty size — 169 faculty jobs are on the line for cuts...

The Department of World Languages, Literatures and Linguistics, which includes Spanish, Russian and Chinese studies, was marked to be completely dissolved...

The university is also reviewing plans to eliminate the language requirement for all majors. “Eliminating language instruction will close avenues of opportunity, career advancement, and personal fulfillment for current and future WVU students,” she added.

The cuts, if approved, will affect 147 undergraduate and 287 graduate students, which the university noted was less than 2% of total student enrollment. 

In addition to the World Languages department, the following programs will be eliminated:

  • MA Higher Education Administration
  • MA Multicategorical Special Education 
  • PhD Higher Education
  • EdD Higher Education Administration
  • MM Collaborative Piano
  • MM Composition
  • MM Jazz Pedagogy
  • MFA Acting
  • PhD Occupational and Environmental Health Sciences
  • MLS Legal Studies
  • MPA Public Administration
  • MS Mathematics
  • PhD Mathematics
  • MFA Creative Writing
  • MS Energy Environments
  • PhD Resource Management
  • BSR Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Resources
  • BS Environmental and Community Planning
  • BSLA Landscape Architecture
  • MSLA Landscape Architecture
  • BA Agribusiness Management — This program will be discontinued and merged with the BS in Environmental and Natural Resource Economics resulting in a single new program and major.
  • BS Environmental and Energy Resource Management This program will be discontinued and merge with the BS in Energy Land Management resulting in a single new program and major. 
  • BS Environmental and Natural Resource Economics — This program will  be discontinued and merge with the BS in Agribusiness Management resulting in a single new program and major.

Additionally, several programs were marked for the development of a cooperative program, including:

  • BS Energy Land Management
  • BSF Forest Resource Management
  • BSF Wood Science and Technology
Not being touched are Women's and Gender Studies and other Aggrieved Victims Studies.  No doubt the high standards and perceived status of such programs make them extremely popular with students.

He Gave Them A Booboo On Their Heart

Sometimes the truth hurts, no matter the feeeeelz:

Three students from David Solomon's alma mater, Hamilton College, have taken aim at the Goldman Sachs CEO after he allegedly referred to the movement to divest in fossil fuel as "stupid"...

Solomon's comments, according to the letter, came during a "Senior Networking with Trustees" event that he took part in at the college in March, when the students challenged him about divestment from fossil fuels.

Solomon, the letter stated at the time, was speaking to "a group of six or so people" who "were all non-male, and at least half were people of color."

Back in the day, the correctness of a comment didn't depend on the sex or skin color of the people being spoken to. 

The executive's comments, according to the students, were in a "patronizing and disrespectful manner" and came from a "position of power."

Gawd, the whining.  It's too much to bear sometimes. 

When it came to fossil fuel divestment, the students claimed Solomon told them that it was a "stupid movement" and suggested that they should live in other regions in the world to see how things "really work."

"He also claimed he did not know what we were talking about in reference to ‘legacy private investments.’ Solomon then indicated that he thought [fossil] fuel divestment was a stupid movement. He called us hypocritical for advocating for divestment when we still use electricity and drive cars — and said that if we traveled to countries like China, India, and Cambodia we would see how the world 'really works,' and then see if we want to live like that," the students claimed.

I agree with him. 

I'm reminded of this quote from Governor Reagan in response to rioting in Berkeley, CA, in the late 60s:

All of it began the first time some of you who know better, and are old enough to know better, let young people think that they had the right to choose the laws they would obey as long as they were doing it in the name of social protest.

Maybe it's time to return to in loco parentis, because too many of these kids are out of control.

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Pay Back Your Student Loans

I can forgive the high school students a little bit.  Every teacher they've ever had has been a college graduate, and thus the mantra students hear from the first day of school is that they must go to college.  If they choose to do something else they're met with the consternation of screwing up the first adult decision they have to make.

College students, though?  They're supposed to be smart enough to figure this stuff out, and to be wise enough to look beyond just their nose:

According to Fidelity’s College Savings & Student Debt study, six in 10 high school students say they won’t be able to afford college without the help of student loans, and more than one-third (36%) don’t know how long it will take to pay them back.

Additionally, the study results reveal 65% of college students taking advantage of the current federal payment pause say they have no idea how they’re going to start repaying their loans once the emergency pause is lifted this fall.

"These findings are not as much a surprise as they are a concern," says Jesse Moore, head of student debt at Fidelity Investments. "This October will be the first time in over three years that most federal borrowers make a student loan payment, and a lot has changed in three years. These people have bought homes, started families, changed jobs and all have felt the impacts of inflation."

They bought homes without considering how they'd afford the homes in addition to their previous debts?  Are you serious?  I don't have a lot of sympathy for such people.

I applied to 4 universities back in the '82-'83 school year.  Two were military academies, two were public universities.  I got accepted into one of the military academies and both of the public universities, but couldn't afford UCLA or Purdue.  Before I got the acceptance documents from West Point, and being financially responsible even at that young age, I considered postponing college for a few years; the plan was to join the military, then get a degree using the GI Bill.  

Some might say that the GI Bill route and West Point both required someone else to pay for my schooling, and that would be correct.  It would also be irrelevant.  In both cases I agreed to work for the government in order to get my education.  There was an agreement, not an abdication of my own responsibility.  I worked within the system, I didn't expect the system to accommodate my whims as those mentioned above have done.

As for the high school students, I encounter too many for whom a community college is beneath them.  It costs a lot to be housed and fed--just ask any parent!--so yes, going off to college is going to be an expensive proposition.  I'm forced to ask:  what are you doing to mitigate this cost?  Anything?

Having a sense of personal responsibility can be a heavy burden in today's society, as we look in awe at those who have no such sense and wonder how they can be so shameless in their sense of entitlement.

Friday, August 11, 2023

We Can't Teach Them If They Don't Come To School

"Chronic absenteeism" means a student has missed more than 10% of the school days in a year.  This chart shows chronic absenteeism rates of several districts in the Sacramento area:

This data is a year old now.  I'd love to know if there's been any "recovery" in the years since the 'rona, but still, it amazes me that in almost half of those districts, a full third of students are chronically absent.

Update, 8/16/23It's not just the Sacramento area, or course:

Students across the U.S. have been chronically absent in record-high numbers after the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study from Stanford Research shows. 

More than 25% of students were classified as chronically absent in the 2021-22 school year because they had missed at least 10% of the school year. Comparatively, before the pandemic, only 15% of students had such high levels of absenteeism, the study noted.

Is the veneer of civilization so thin that the school shutdowns of 2-3 years ago continue to wreak so much damage?  It would seem so.

Maybe Getting Old?

My 40-year high school reunion is tomorrow night.  

I'm quite sure I'm older than many of the teachers I had in high school, whom I thought were ancient and had one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel.  I don't feel that old, but the numbers don't lie!

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Believe It Or Not...

Every toilet but one was installed before the work crews left last night.

The parking lot expansion isn't done, but as lot of kids haven't gotten their licenses yet so early in the school year, it didn't affect us.  It's supposed to be done next week.

We still don't have books.  Well, we have books, but there stacked floor to ceiling in our book room until we get someone in there to put them into our system and check them out to students.  Most of my classes' textbooks are available online after students complete a signup process, maybe I'll just start classes normally on Monday and just expect them to look up the books on the web site until we can get them issued.

My students who are dual-enrolled in a local community college class are largely clueless about what to do, they haven't heard from the college at all.  Even our counselors can't get through to the dual-enrollment office at the college, it seems they're a little behind schedule in enrolling our students.  Fortunately the college classes don't begin until a week from Monday, so there's still some time.

As is always the case on the first day of school, my students were friendly and respectful.  I'll do my part to keep them that way as long as possible!

I warned all of them, though:  do not mess with the freshmen.  The freshmen are a protected class, I am looking out for them.  After all, we have something in common--when they graduate, I graduate.  Only 4 years left for me!

Today was the first day of school for students.  Tomorrow is our first dance and first football game!  Only supposed to get to the low 90s tomorrow, but into the 100s starting Monday.  School should not start this early in August.

Wednesday, August 09, 2023

Ready Or Not, Here I Come

Students show up tomorrow.

Will the toilets be installed?  Will the parking lot resurfacing be completed?  When will we have a clerk to issue textbooks? (Our book room is currently floor to ceiling with boxes of new textbooks.)

Only The Shadow knows!

I was awake at 4am today and couldn't go back to sleep so I got to work extra early.  I'm exhausted now, hopefully I'll get a good night's sleep in order to face the day on a most positive note.

Tuesday, August 08, 2023

Start of the School Year

Can you believe that I've already been back to work, and our students start on Thursday?  It's so early!

It's already turning out to be an "interesting" start to the new year.  Students haven't been able to pick up textbooks yet, and there are as yet no teacher books for some of our newly-adopted math books.  By far the wildest challenge, though, is our lack of bathrooms.  Specifically, toilets.

Last spring our school got all new matching furniture.  Over the summer, among other projects, every classroom was to get carpeting, and other areas (staff lounges, cafeteria, restrooms) got new flooring.  To put in new flooring, though, toilets had to be removed.  As of today the vast majority of them had not been replaced--and as I said, almost 2000 students show up Thursday.

You can see why the sentiment "may you live in interesting times" was intended to be a curse.

Monday, August 07, 2023


Human memory is a curious thing.  

It seems like every day now I struggle at least once to find a word that's on the tip of my tongue.  Then there are these two anecdotes:

Last Saturday night I saw Styx in concert.  That got me to thinking about the Styx album I won from a local now-defunct radio station, and one of the songs on that album that I played so often that the grooves in the record probably simulated the Grand Canyon.  Anyway, it took me awhile to recall even the title of that song, which was not a big hit, and I couldn't remember the lyrics.  So, I headed over to YouTube and was almost immediately found that song.  It had been over 40 years since I heard that song, but at the first note I started singing along, recalling the words as if I'd read them over breakfast.  (Aside: I wonder what ever happened to all my records from high school?  I have so few remaining.)

Today was my first day back at work since school got out in June.  Over the weekend I tried but couldn't remember the combination to the lock I use to secure the storage closet in my classroom.  How would I get in there?  As soon as I walked up to the closet, though, and held the lock in my hand, I just started spinning the dial to the right numbers without even thinking about it.

Human memory is a curious thing.

Sunday, August 06, 2023

M/V Columbus

In the summer of 2018 I sailed on the M/V Columbus, of the British line Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV).  It was a beautiful ship, here are some pictures of her in those happier days:

As I said, a beautiful ship in her prime.  It was an enjoyable cruise from Amsterdam to Gibraltar to the Canaries to Madeira to Lisbon to London.  Two weeks, as I recall.

Well, she's not so beautiful these days.  Here's what she's looked like more recently, after being sent to a scrap yard in India after CMV went under because of the 'rona:

 Ship and aircraft boneyards seem like such a waste to me.

Friday, August 04, 2023

After You've Taken One Objective, Advance To The Next

From Students For Fair Admissions, the group that brought the end of affirmative action in higher education:

Were you rejected from West Point?
Or the Naval Academy or the Air Force Academy?

It may be because you’re the wrong race.

Or are you a high school senior and plan to apply to any of these service academies?

Gaining admission to West Point is tough. Not only must an applicant have superior academic accomplishments, one must be in excellent physical shape, and receive an appointment from most often a U.S. senator or member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

But West Point, as well as the Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy, uses an applicant’s race and ethnicity as a factor in admissions. That’s unfair and unconstitutional.

We are Students for Fair Admissions—the membership group that recently won a major Supreme Court victory in our lawsuits against Harvard and the University of North Carolina. You can read our press release about the Supreme Court opinion here.

We are committed to ending these practices at America’s military service academies.  link

The Harvard/UNC ruling specifically exempts the military academies from the prohibition against affirmative action.

There's Hope In Math

I never thought the "woke" crap would hit the hard sciences, and boy was I naive.  At least there's a little bit of pushback:

Faculty members in the University of California (UC) system have begun to speak out against their campuses’ adoption of lower math standards in order to bolster diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

The controversy surrounds a policy enacted by a UC committee in 2020, which changed the admissions requirements for high school applicants in order "to expand course offerings beyond the traditional sequence of math courses that may lead students into the ‘race to calculus,’ to be more inclusive of new and innovative advanced math courses (e.g., data science), and to address equity issues.” 

UC faculty have initiated “staging a behind-the-scenes protest” over the data science classes now being permitted, claiming that they do not prepare students for the rigor of STEM fields, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. 

“Giving high-school students the idea that it is OK to skimp on their math education is very dangerous,” read a letter from the UC Santa Barbara physics department earlier this year. “Such students will have their career choices severely curtailed, at an early age, and perhaps without even realizing it.”

Hear hear.

Thursday, August 03, 2023


I've encountered this term a lot recently.  Some people do it it save money on a flight, but for reasons I can't quite understand the airlines hate it.  Part of the reason it doesn't sit right with me is because it seems to violate a principle of mathematics:

Skiplagging, also known as "hidden city" ticketing , involves booking a one-stop flight with the intention of "skipping" the second leg and getting off in the layover city. Simply, it's booking a flight from Airport A to Airport C and getting off at a layover at Airport B.

People can save hundreds of dollars doing this because a nonstop flight is more expensive than booking one with a layover in the intended-destination city.

However, airlines have been trying to cut down on this travel hack and haven't shied away from punishing passengers who get caught , including canceling the return flights of those who skiplagged on their outbound journeys.

And it's only possible because airfares don't follow one of the most intuitive rules in math.

One of the most basic laws of geometry is called the "triangle inequality." If you're trying to measure the distance between points , one of the basic rules is that the distance between two points has to be less than or equal to the distance from your first point to some other point and then back to your original second point.

The inequality gets its name from how triangles work in classic plane geometry. If you have a triangle, the sum of the length of any two sides of that triangle is bigger than the length of the third side.

We might expect airline fares to more or less follow this rule and act as a distance metric between cities. Between fuel, maintenance, and crew pay, it should cost more to fly a plane from New York to Amsterdam, followed by a leg from Amsterdam to London, than it would to fly the plane from New York to Amsterdam. That cost difference should be reflected in the price of tickets between the three cities.

But that's clearly not always the case, and that violation of the triangle inequality is what makes skiplagging possible.

Why do airlines do this? 

The math and science writer Brian Hayes came up with a possible explanation for this triangle-inequality-violating phenomenon in a 2013 blog post. He wrote that the discrepancy could come from the direct flight being in much higher demand than the layover flight, which he said could lead airlines to charge more for the nonstop. And the price of New York to Amsterdam to London is competing with the price of New York to London direct, not New York to Amsterdam. 

That still doesn't explain it sufficiently in my eyes. 

For the most part I don't travel without a checked bag, so skiplagging isn't something that would work for me anyway and thus I won't be doing it.  However, I'd really like to have someone truly in the know, someone who prices flights for me, explain why it's a problem worth penalizing.

Wednesday, August 02, 2023

The Library

I went to my local public library today.  It had been many years since I've been there, and things were quite different.

It's a small thing that the location of the circulation desk had moved.  What really surprised me was the lack of books!  When I went to that library as a teenager, it was crammed with books and reference materials and newspapers and the like.  Now there are very few books on the shelves, and not one but two apps that can be used to download ebooks or audiobooks.  I noticed they have "my series" in one of the apps, and since I've already bought the first 8 of the 20-book series, I think I'll save the rest of my money.

So it seems that the library is now a place for "information" rather than for "books", and that's ok.  What really shocked me was the other things you could borrow from the library.  Power tools and a weed eater?  Really?  That's an odd library to me!

I should probably go there more often.  Not only was it sort of fun learning what a 2020's library is and does, I can probably save a few dollars on things I'd otherwise buy.

Tuesday, August 01, 2023

Who Should See Dept of Education Data?

They wouldn't have such gag clauses, and wouldn't sue people for violating such gag clauses, if they weren't trying to hide something:

The California Department of Education has threatened to sue two prominent Stanford University education professors to prevent them from testifying in a lawsuit against the department -- actions the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California calls an attempt to muzzle them.

The ACLU, in turn, is threatening a lawsuit of its own -- against CDE for infringing their and other researchers' First Amendment rights.

Observers say the dispute has the potential to limit who conducts education research in California and what they are able to study because CDE controls the sharing of data that is not available to the public.

At issue is a restriction that CDE requires researchers to sign as a condition for their gaining access to nonpublic K-12 data. The clause, which CDE is interpreting broadly, prohibits the researcher from participating in any litigation against the department, even in cases unrelated to the research they were doing through CDE.

"It keeps education researchers from weighing in on the side of parties who are adverse to the California Department of Education. So it's really skewing the information and expertise that can come into courts," said Alyssa Morones, an ACLU attorney involved with the case. "Individuals and students seeking to vindicate their rights no longer will have access to these education experts, and the court can no longer hear what they have to say"...

"What are state officials afraid of?" (Attorney) Jacobs said. "That their performance in running the school system during the pandemic in fact aggravated the achievement gap? That notwithstanding their protestations, they haven't done enough to address that problem?"

CDE declined to comment on the need for the litigation ban in data contracts or its threats and actions against Dee or Reardon. Researchers told EdSource they were unaware of similar prohibitions in other states, but EdSource could not verify that.

I have to believe that such a lawsuit against the CDE would be a slam dunk; at least, it would be in probably any other state.

Why Students Don't Perform Well

You can poor millions into a school, provide all sorts of services, but if you're not changing what happens at home, it's probably for naught (with a few unique exceptions here and there around the country):

The inaugural class of third graders at the LeBron James-supported I Promise School in Akron will soon start eighth grade, and, for each of the last three school years, none of those students have scored “proficient” in Ohio’s math proficiency test.

That fact was alarming to some Akron Board of Education members who listened to an update during their meeting Monday on the school’s progress.

Meanwhile, the school — which, by design, only takes students who are two or more years behind grade level — was placed on a state academic watchlist for schools flagged for “Additional Targeted Support and Improvement (ATSI)." To be added to the watchlist, at least one of the schools' student subgroup’s performance must be in the lowest 5% of schools in the state. At I Promise, Black students and students with disabilities meet that criteria.

The school is 60% Black and 28% of the 554 students have disabilities.

No doubt they took some very difficult students, and on some measures the students have shown improvement: 

Stephanie Davis, who became principal in June, struck a hopeful tone in a statement provided by the LeBron James Family Foundation. She pointed to students’ “i-Ready” scores, which show students’ mastery of topics separate from tests.

“Our students have not yet met the grade-level mastery mark but they are demonstrating growth based on (i-Ready) scores,” she said. “Of our incoming 8th graders, 32% met their annual typical growth in reading while 11% met their stretch goal for the year. Despite not mastering the grade-level standards, 42% of students demonstrated growth in i-Ready math across their 7th-grade school year.

“When working with students who are achieving below grade level, growth is as important as a measure of progress as proficiency. And the type of growth that is important to us is not made overnight," she concluded. "It takes time.”

Growth is good, but how much time do you need?  And why did less than half grow sufficiently?  Extra millions have been sunk into these students over the past 5 years without appropriate growth and achievement. 

So who are the lefties gonna blame here?  Racist teachers?  Not enough money?  Republicans?  Not enough support?  Read the article for how much extra support was provided by LeBron James and his foundation.

Here's how you know the school isn't going to improve much this year:

He added that next steps include more professional development and training for teachers, along with a deeper focus on analyzing data and what best teaching practices might be.

Absent evidence that the teachers absolutely suck, focusing on teachers as a whole is not going to give you any bang for the buck.  Sure, get rid of those everyone knows suck, but then what?  Until you can change what goes on at home, most of your efforts will fail.  It's so obvious, but no one wants to admit it for two reasons:

  1. because it eliminates the possibility of a silver bullet to fix everything, and
  2. because it takes the focus away from the easy target of teachers and puts it on the unpopular backs of the parents.

Too many of those students are doomed to academic distress, and there's no political or social will to fix the problem.  Sad.

Update:  Remember what happened in Kansas City?

School reformers rejoiced when Federal District Judge Russell Clark took control of the district in ’85. He ruled it was unconstitutionally segregated, with dilapidated facilities and students who performed poorly.

To bring the district into compliance. the judge ordered it and the state over the next 12 years to spend nearly $2 billion to build more schools, renovate old ones, integrate classrooms and bring student test scores up to national norms.

But when the judge finally took himself off the case last year (1997), there was little to show academically for all that money. Although the district’s 37,000 mostly minority students enjoyed some of the best‐​funded school facilities in the country, student performance hadn’t improved.

It was a major embarrassment and an ideological setback for backers of vastly increased funding for public schools...

For decades, critics of excess spending for public schools had said, “You can’t solve educational problems by throwing money at them.” To which educators and public school advocates replied, “No one’s ever tried.”

Kansas City settles the argument. Judge Clark invited the district to “dream.” Forget about cost, he said. He urged administrators to let their imaginations soar and assemble a list of everything they might possibly need to boost the achievement of inner‐​city blacks. Using the extraordinary powers granted judges in desegregation cases, Clark said he would find a way to pay for it...

For more than a decade, the Kansas City district got more money per pupil than any other of the 280 major school districts in the country. Yet in spite of having perhaps the finest facilities of any school district its size in the country, nothing changed. Test scores stayed put, the three‐​grade‐​level achievement gap between blacks and whites did not change, and the dropout rate went up, not down...

Of course, the district’s biggest problems weren’t just administrative. The ideological biases of local educators, politicians and Judge Clark against accountability made them reject solutions that might have worked — merit pay for teachers, penalties for failure or vouchers for private schools.

Schools can only do so much in 6-7 hours a day; if what happens outside of school doesn't change, what happens inside of school won't change.  Sure, there are Joe Clark and Jaime Escalante and Bob Moses superheroes, who can have an impact here and there, but if you expect every public school teacher to be a superhero, you're not being realistic about the problem or the solution. And you can continue to throw money at the schools--I love it when I get a pay raise--but if you think that by itself is going to improve student achievement, I will politely ask to see your supporting data.

Monday, July 31, 2023

Music Trivia: R

All of these songs have one-word titles that begin with the letter R.  How many can you get?

1.  This late-70s Styx hit was written by Tommy Shaw, but fellow guitarist JY played the guitar solo on it.

2.  This mid-70s Fleetwood Mac song cemented Stevie Nicks' witchy persona.

3.  This late-70s Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers hit reached #15 on the Billboard charts and, according to Wikipedia, "is widely regarded as one of Petty's best songs."

4.  This late-90s Collective Soul hit was from their platinum-certified 4th album. 

5.  This early-90s Black Crowes hit is said to be about the war on drugs.

Is Diversity Good For Higher Education Students, Or Not?


Sunday, July 30, 2023

How I Spent My Evening With Friends


This was after breakfast, an escape room, and axe-throwing with them.  Great day!

Friday, July 28, 2023

Higher Education Priority

Seen on Instagram today:

Controversial thesis:  If the highest paid person in your university or college is the basketball coach or the football coach, then it is not a university, it is a sporting franchise with a side hustle in tertiary education.

Not a controversial thesis here at RotLC.  As I've said plenty of times, let the NFL and NBA fund their own farm teams.


One of the worst injustices that currently happens in Western jurisprudence is wrongly convicting someone of a crime and locking them up.  That's why I'm such a fan of The Innocence Project.

Yes, this story happened in Britain, but is it so far-fetched that you cannot see it happening in the USA?

A British man who spent 17 years behind bars after being wrongly convicted of rape may owe the U.K. Prison Service thousands of pounds for "board and lodging," the Manchester Evening News reported.

Andy Malkinson, 57, was found guilty in 2003 of raping a woman in Salford, England. This week, a Court of Appeal exonerated him and ruled that DNA evidence proved another man was responsible.

Malkinson is set to receive financial compensation for his wrongful conviction, but the Ministry of Justice can take out a portion of the money and give it to the Prison Service because it provided food and shelter during his stay.

Malkinson said the government implemented the archaic rule after the Prison Service lobbied for the change in the early 2000s.

"The result is that even if you fight tooth and nail and gain compensation, you then have to pay the prison service a large chunk of that for so-called 'board and lodgings', which is so abhorrent to me," Malkinson told BBC 4. "I am sickened by it."

As well he should be.  

The article continues by stating that such payments are determined on a case-by-case basis and he may well pay nothing, but such a law is still an abomination.  When society locks up a person, that person is in "custody"--which means "care", which means society pays for room and board incurred by the incarceration.  What possible legitimate reason could there by for the stupid law that's rubbing salt in Mr. Malkinson's 17-year-old open wound?

Thursday, July 27, 2023

How To Teach Math?

Over at Joanne's blog are two posts about teaching math.  First:

There's no evidence that "trauma-deformed pedagogy" (oops, "informed") helps students learn more, writes Max Eden, an American Enterprise Institute fellow, on Real Clear Education. Yet it's cited in support of California's controversial new math guidelines, which are full of dubious claims

"Trauma informed" means educators take into account the fact that some students have led very difficult lives. But how does that affect teaching math...

The study includes no evidence students learned any math -- or that they "healed," writes Eden.

The examples cited would be a good social studies exercise, but they're crappy math.  Let's continue:

Under the California framework, math teachers are supposed to train students to be change agents, writes Bill Evers of the Independent Institute. "The teacher is supposed to highlight 'connections' between math and 'environmental and social justice,'" perhaps by writing an “opinion piece” or “explanatory text.”

As the previous post explains, research shows that's not an effective way to teach math. We don't want kids to learn math, don't we?

If they can't give you good government, they'll give you "woke" government.  If they can't give you good education, they'll give you "woke" education.

An excerpt from the second post:

"Students who spent more time in class solving practice problems on their own and taking quizzes and tests tended to have higher scores in math," the study found. In English, "teachers who allocated more class time to discussions and group work ended up with higher scorers in that subject."

Teachers in both subjects spent little time lecturing. 

Lifting weights is how you get stronger.  Writing is how you become a better writer.  Speaking a language is how you become better at a foreign language.  Playing an instrument is how you get better at playing an instrument.  It's funny that only in math do we throw such principles out, and we do it in the name of a "social justice" that accomplishes exactly the opposite of what its proponents claim they want.

Cynical Planned Obsolesence?

My school has hundreds upon hundreds of Chromebooks:

Thousands of Chromebooks used in schools are being sent to the recycling bin due to built-in software "death dates." These inexpensive computers, which became popular during the pandemic for digital learning, have a software expiration date set three to six years after their release.

Despite functioning hardware, expired Chromebooks no longer receive necessary software updates, rendering them useless for basic web browsing and applications. The California Public Interest Research Group reported that global Chromebook sales were nearly 300% higher in 2020 compared to the previous year. However, thousands of these laptops have already expired, with more reaching their death dates each year.

School districts are left with the burden of disposing of these devices and purchasing new ones. Google claims that the expiration dates are necessary because older devices cannot support the required software updates for security and stability. However, critics argue that the practice is wasteful and costly. CALPIRG estimates that doubling the life of Chromebooks sold in California in 2020 alone could save the state's schools $225 million.

Textbooks don't expire after 3 years. 

Incidentally, I have a very old personal Windows laptop that I'd like to repurpose as a Chromebook; the hardware is fine but it's running on Windows Vista (!), and a new streamlined OS would make this laptop useful again.  I looked into the Cloudready software but my generic laptop was not on the list of compatible devices.  Chrome OS Flex needs more RAM than this laptop has, so this laptop will continue to sit in the closet until I can find a way to breath some life into it.

Update:  I've tried Zorin OS, but despite my best efforts in the BIOS, I cannot get the laptop to boot from the flash drive that was created and from which I would install Zorin OS.  Grrr.

Another Way To Thwart The Will Of The Voters

I have a friend who seems to be the lone conservative voice on a school board.  How easy it would be for the others to get rid of her if such a law were to go into effect:

A newly proposed measure facing the California Senate would bar school boards from adopting any policy that "contradicts any existing law requiring a school district to have inclusive policies, practices, and curriculum" and would allow for the removal of a school board member who either helps adopt such policies or who "prevents the governing board from conducting its business."

Under the measure, the governing board of a school district could censure or remove a member found to have violated one of these two rules by a two-thirds vote of the board in which the individual who is subject to the vote would not be allowed to vote in. 

I have no doubt that disagreeing about any measure would be considered preventing "the governing board from conducting its business." 

Assemblymember Bill Essayli, R–Woodcrest, who wrote AB 1314, the bill on which the Chino Valley policy was modeled and is hoping to replicate the Chino Valley policy across the state, said, "The board already cannot violate existing laws. This is an intimidation tactic to prevent board members from taking positions the opposition might attack as discriminatory."

Essayli, a former federal prosecutor, also noted the state Constitution already has a process for removing elected officials – the recall – and that the legislature cannot override the state constitution. 

Under one-party rule here in the DPRK, no deviation from the approved orthodoxy is tolerated.