Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The First Call Home

I got texts from Phoenix Sky Harbor and St. Louis today, getting closer and closer to basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood, MO.  A couple of hours ago his mother got the one phone call, and I'm told it went something like this:  "I have safely arrived at Ft. Leonard Wood."  Click.

It's getting real now!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Let's Not Teach Calculus In High School Anymore

Yes, let's dumb down our curriculum so that everyone succeeds!

I love teaching statistics, and I agree with this author that statistics is more practical for most people than is calculus.  But can you spot the false dichotomy here?
Let’s get rid of high school calculus and start teaching young students the math skills they really need.
We can, and should, do both--teach kids the skills they need and teach calculus to those who are capable of learning it. 

And don't you love this comment?  Where does it not apply?  Let's just postpone every high-level class to college!
And those who do need it (calculus) – future engineers, physicists, and the like – can take it in college.
The same can be said for chemistry, biology, literature, sociology...

Let's just call a spade a spade here.  The author has written a stupid column.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Agency Fees Are In

The "impartial" arbitrator--why isn't this person an "arbiter"?--has spoken, and here are the chargeable fees for my union contribution:
local union and CTA:  71.9%
NEA:  36%

Note that that means that over 28% of my state and local union dues are not related to anything that the "impartial" arbitrator can justify making me pay for, and 64% of the national union dues are for non-chargeable activities (read, Democratic/progressive/liberal politics). 

Always remember--liberals love compulsion.  It's who they are, it's what they do.  They enjoy making me pay for a union I don't want to support.  So I get back the non-chargeable fees after jumping through their hoops, but I don't want to associate with them at all.  Force, compulsion, and groupthink--that's what you get with unions.

It's A Wonder Our Schools Are As Good As They Are

If you want to read about schools of education, and what they do and don't do, go here.  It's pretty sad.
Ed schools are big on reflection, but don’t teach prospective teachers how to teach, complains Peter Sipe, a Boston middle school teacher, in the Boston Herald.

While he went to ed school, his wife was in medical school. She learned how to be a doctor. He reflected...
Pilots aren’t trained by forming small groups to discuss the atmosphere. Cadets don’t become cops by writing weekly responses to Crime and Punishment.

. . . The logic was, I believe, that we would receive our practical training on the job. And I guess I did. But it was rather in the manner one would learn by being told to find the manual after the starboard engines quit.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

I'm Not The Only One Who Thinks So

From Community College Spotlight:
Group learning “is a waste of classroom time and an obstacle to student learning,” argues Bruce Gans, who taught English at City Colleges of Chicago...

Group projects are supposed to teach students to collaborate. Gans is dubious. “Groups are creatures of compromise, consensus, the intellectual mean, the mediocre.”

Having students evaluate each other’s writing doesn’t work if nobody’s a good writer, argues Troy Camplin, a lecturer in English at University of North Texas in Dallas.

A remedial writing student asked why we did peer review since, “I feel like I’m getting nothing but bad advice. I mean, they don’t know any more than I do.”
As a student I always hated group work.  Chances are that I had the best grades in the group, why should I have to negotiate and compromise with people who didn't get the grades I could get?  Every year the biggest complaint I get in my statistics classes is from students who had someone in their group who didn't pull their own weight.  Why are the rest of them responsible for that?  I am the one who required them to work in groups, and I do it just so I can tell my bosses that I periodically do so.

I'm sure that in certain situations and under certain situations, group work (or "collaborative learning") can be useful.  But in general you can count me as a skeptic.

If This Is All You've Got, Then The War Is Over. There's No More Racism. Go Home.

When ice cream truck music is racist, when that's all you have to complain about it, then it's over:
When you hear an ice cream truck play Turkey in the Straw, think about the racist lyrics written for the tune 100 years ago, writes Theodore R. Johnson III on NPR’s blog...

Demands for a “national conversation” on race will not transform the lives of black Americans, writes McWhorter. “Shouldn’t we focus on race as it exists in the only real world we will ever know—where there has never been a way to settle old scores perfectly, but in the end, what matters is getting over? Change happens, if slowly. As blacks in America move on, we can admit that sometimes, an ice cream jingle is just an ice cream jingle.”
And liberals say it's conservatives who perpetually live in the 50's.

"Here Men From Planet Earth..."

I remember, as a very young child, being awakened oh so early to watch "the rockets".  A decade or more later I'd get myself up at ungodly hours to watch the space shuttles take off.

But Apollo 11 was the biggie.  I sometimes wish I was older so that I could truly have experienced what it was like for mankind when Eagle touched down in the Sea of Tranquility.  It must have seemed like the end of an era, or perhaps the beginning of a new one.  Sadly, it turned out to be neither.  But that doesn't take away from what those three astronauts did on today's date in 1969.

Congratulations to Neil, Michael, and Buzz.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Last Full Day

Today is my son's last full day of freedom for a very long time.

Tomorrow his mother and I will take him to lunch and then take him to a hotel, where he and a bunch of other recruits will finish up paperwork and other routine tasks.  He'll be free again some time on Monday evening, when any friend and family member who wants to (or can make it on short notice) will meet up for dinner.

At zero-dark-thirty on Tuesday they board a plane and off they go for basic training.  I'm proud and nervous at the same time.

I realize that if I've done my job right, he'll be able to handle this.  On the other hand, this will be the first time ever where I'll be powerless to intervene to protect my son if he needs it.  Yes, I realize my apprehensions are more about me than they are about him, but that doesn't make me feel any more secure!

Update:  Everything's been pushed back a day now.   We're not sure if this is a change or if the NCO we spoke to the other day was incorrect.  Either way, he has one more day :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

It Was A Long Time Ago

Eighteen years ago today I became a dad:
Today at 1:00 we go to the recruiter's office to get the "this is what you parents can expect, this is what'll be going on" talk--since he leaves for basic training next week.

Holy crap.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


A friend of mine just left Venice for Budapest.  I'd forgotten that he'd asked where I stayed in Venice when I went two years ago, but he apparently did, and I apparently told him--because he stayed at the same place and enjoyed it as much as I did.

As he was checking out yesterday he and his travel companion were scrolling through the guest book looking for other visitors from California.  He found this in the book and sent it to me on Facebook:

School Meals For All

Yesterday on my drive to Oakland I was listening to a talk radio show and the subject of "free school lunches for all" came up.  A principal from a school that provides meals to all called in and I thought he did an exceptional job of explaining and defending the program.  Also, the talk radio hosts did a great job of challenging the program.  It was the kind of respectful, earnest discussion that I enjoy hearing about difficult problems, and it's why I listen to this particular show when I drive to work each day during the school year :-)

To summarize, if I may, the principal said that kids can't learn if they're hungry, and while this program should only be a stopgap measure, it's still necessary.  The radio hosts said that if parents don't have to feed their kids, why would they ever be motivated to buy food and provide for their kids? 

I don't want to provide any more information than this as I think you should hear the discussion firsthand, so I seriously encourage you to go here and listen to the principal's call (it starts at 33:45 and ends at about 38:30).  I hope you'll be as impressed as I was about how well both sides conducted themselves and presented their arguments.

Last year I wrote about my own school district's participation in the summer "we'll feed your kids at no cost to you" program here.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Funny Things Libs Argue About Amongst Themselves

You gotta admit, it's pretty funny:
When harmlessly confined to a secluded space where only a select few will hear them — like a show on CNN — their ideas really are a delightfully absurd parody of a delightfully absurd leftist being delightfully absurd. It’s like an infinite regress of comedy.

To wit:  here’s CNN’s Don Lemon — who once wondered aloud whether a black hole might have swallowed that missing Malaysian jetliner — moderating a debate between University of Mississippi senior Sierra Mannie and writer and comedian H. Alan Scott. Miss Mannie wrote an article for Time demanding that white gay people “stop stealing black female culture.”
I don’t care how well you can quote Madea, who told you that your booty was getting bigger than hers, how cute you think it is to call yourself a strong black woman, who taught you to twerk, how funny you think it is to call yourself Quita or Keisha or for which black male you’ve been bottoming — you are not a black woman, and you do not get to claim either blackness or womanhood. It is not yours. It is not for you…
Oh just go watch the video!

Efficiency and Exasperation

I don't know if the recruiters told my son and he didn't clue in until recently, or if they misinformed him, but we recently got word that when he reports in to enlist next week, he'll need an official copy of his birth certificate--his US passport isn't sufficient to prove his citizenship, even though we had to submit a birth certificate to get a passport!  But that's a different story.

I live in a suburb of the capital city; one would think it would be an easy thing to drive downtown to the state Department of Vital Statistics, request a copy of his birth certificate, and be done with it.  If only it were that easy!

See, the state doesn't have a walk-in, get-your-birth-certificate location.  No, if you want to order a birth certificate from the state, you submit a request and pay your fee and the certificate will be snail-mailed to you in a few weeks.  We don't have a few weeks, we have a few days.

I guess it's a good thing I'm not working right now.  The way to get a birth certificate while-you-wait is to go to the county of birth and get one there.

This morning I got up early and headed to Oakland, county seat of Alameda County.  It was 90+ minutes to Oakland, about 45 in the clerk-recorder's office, and 90+ minutes back.  I have a certified and embossed and pretty copy of his birth certificate now.

So what's my problem?  When I got to Oakland they said birth certificates were maintained digitally.  By the state.  No doubt on a server in Sacramento.  The clerk accessed the birth certificate online and printed it out on a laser printer a few feet away.

It was impossible for me to have this done in Sacramento County because my son wasn't born in Sacramento County.  If the records are maintained by the state, though, why does it matter in what county they're printed?

And there's my exasperation!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

"Fair Share" Supporters Are Just Thugs Who Want To Compel Others

The secretary-treasurer of the UAW is more correct than most u-bots, which is why he makes sense:
“This is something I’ve never understood, that people think right to work hurts unions,” Casteel said in February. “To me, it helps them. You don’t have to belong if you don’t want to. So if I go to an organizing drive, I can tell these workers, ‘If you don’t like this arrangement, you don’t have to belong.’ Versus, ‘If we get 50 percent of you, then all of you have to belong, whether you like to or not.’ I don’t even like the way that sounds.  Because [Right to Work is] a voluntary system, if you don’t think the system’s earning its keep, then you don’t have to pay.”
How many times have I said it? Part of the problem with fair-share compulsion is that, since unions are entitled to the money no matter what, they are not accountable to the membership.  Mr. Casteel seems to recognize this, and good on him for doing so.