Oct 31, 2006


I've just discovered the EFF's blog covering the WEA Supreme Court case (more here), and I have to admit: the graphics are great, but the content... leaves a little to be desired. Rebutting Charles Hasse's claim that the WEA "tries to be bi-partisan," Mike Reitz writes:
Yet just this year the WEA has worked to defeat a repeal of the estate tax. In the past two years approximately 95 percent of the group's partisan contributions have gone to a single party.
2006: 93%.

2004: 94%.

2002: 85%.

2000: 85% (this plus this).

Partisan, surely, yet not blindly partisan--and evolving over time. Why? Could it be that--gasp--Democratic legislators have supported the WEA's (insidious, truculent, omnivorous, cantankerous) policy agenda? Furthermore, why would the WEA push to repeal an estate tax that currently provides $100 million for smaller classes, scholarships, and WASL remediation?

The EFF believes the Hudson Packet process doesn't respect the rights of dissenting nonmembers, coercing them into supporting the WEA's aims--and at a rate of "millions" of dollars, presuming that all of the nonmembers in the class of about 4,000 are all dissenters (even though only 300 used the established process to reclaim their shop fees).

Makes me want to order a Hudson Packet for myself. Is it really that hard to decipher?

a tacky tie for Martin Luther's birthday

This is for you, Dr. Martin Batts.

Evergreen faculty organizes

("Unionize" is such a clunky verb.)
The union vote passed with 55 percent of the faculty who voted approving the union, said Laurie Meeker, a professor of film and one of the faculty organizers. About 82 percent of eligible faculty turned in a ballot, she said.
55% was enough? I'm surprised--I would have expected a supermajority for a vote that important.

elevating the discourse

The latest comments on the contentious issue of domestic violence and a victim's right to self-defense are peachy, and maybe even peachily keen:
Anonymous said...

If you had any intelegence in the world the answer woudl right there and then when your ead it explain to you that it depends. Why should there be a debate on a qustion already awnsered and put on paper and in the books. In my "opinion" this blog has no point and is taking up useful space on the web.

3:55 PM

Anonymous said...


3:56 PM
All I can say is, I sure hope they weren't my debaters.

Justice Susan Owens: "I don't take questions from bloggers."

Then be ready for carping and abuse from bloggers, Justice Smartypants.

Oct 30, 2006

a lawsuit to fully fund special education in Washington State

Twelve districts as parties, 70 others supporting. 'Tis the season for educational litigation.

on the philosophical nature of a basketball

Is it distressing to anyone else that the basic features of most sports--the length of the field or court, the height of the net or hoop, the time on the clock (if any), etc.--are entirely arbitrary?

my kingdom for a Hudson packet: agency shop fees and free speech rights

A work in progress. See here for the purpose.

By passing Initiative 134, Washington's electorate declared, among other things,
RCW 42.17.760 A labor organization may not use agency shop fees paid by an individual who is not a member of the organization to make contributions or expenditures to influence an election or to operate a political committee, unless affirmatively authorized by the individual.
Way back in 1997, nonmembers brought suit against the Washington Education Association, charging that the union's "opt-out" procedure--sending a "Hudson packet" in the mail twice annually to nonmembers--violated the "affirmative authorization" clause of sec.760.

After a legal battle lasting almost a decade, the Washington State Supreme Court finally ruled that sec.760 is unconstitutional, and that the WEA's "opt-out" procedure is therefore permissible under precedents established in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education and Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson.

First, the Court determined that no, the Hudson packet does not suffice to "affirmatively authorize" the use of agency shop fees--even though no one, not even the State, could determine what sort of affirmative authorization it would require. (Written authorization was out, since it was clearly not intended or codified.)

So it was clear to the Court that opting out didn't satisfy the statute--but that the statute also created a conflict of free speech rights. Did nonmembers' "affirmative authorization" muffle the voice of union members, or did the Hudson process coerce some nonmembers to support an opposing viewpoint?

The Court summarized the WEA's position thusly:
The WEA contends... that the statute is unconstitutional because its requirement of affirmative authorization amounts to an impermissible presumption that each nonmember objects to the union's use of his or her fees for political activities.
The Court agreed, and also continued,
The State argues that sec.760 has no impact on the First Amendment rights of members because sec.760 only requires the affirmative authorization of nonmembers. However, this argument denies the obvious, significant expense involved in complying with sec.760.
In other words, since the statute presumed that nonmembers wouldn't support union activities, and since the burden of achieving (vaguely defined) "affirmative authorization" upset the balance of rights between dissenting nonmembers and supportive nonmembers (never mind dissenting nonmembers and supportive members), the statute was unconstitutional.

More on the dissent later.

toilet papering tips for Halloween

Innocent ghouls and goblins roam the streets, schlepping sacks and flashlights, begging for charity candy. Meanwhile, their older siblings mischievize the neighborhood, forking lawns, tossing eggs at houses, knocking over mailboxes, frightening trick-or-treaters, and generally behaving like mill-run malcontents.

They're not terribly well researched, except for the true artists of anarchy: the toilet paperers. Here's a once-secret compendium of calamity, made public for the first time right here, right in time for All Saints' Eve.

1. Don't go cheap.
Purchase only the finest paper, Charmin Ultra-Strength Tree-Huggers, $29.99 per roll at most chain stores. Anything less, as Charles Barkley says, would be uncivilized.

2. Spritz first.
Dampen your roll with a light spray of water. Set your spray bottle to "mist," and go easy on the aqua.

3. If you don't have a plan, don't even bother.
Leonardo Da Vinci had a plan, and designed a magnificent toilet-papering machine that would have revolutionized the art, if he hadn't been crushed to death under its treads in early testing. But at least he had a plan.

4. Don't break any laws.
Call your local police department beforehand, just to be sure. Leave your name and phone number.

5. It's all fun and games until someone gets hurt feelings.
Then it's drama.

6. Watch out for animals.
In our neighborhood, that means raccoons. Where you live, that probably means drunken frat boys, which is probably redundant.

7. If you get shot, don't say you weren't warned.
Self-defense laws are interpreted generously depending on your location. You might argue that "self" doesn't include "trees in your yard," but it's tough to argue when you're dead.

[125th in a series]

angel eyes

Joe Carter, fresh off a long, exhausting conversation with my brother (been there, Joe), writes:
One of the questions we addressed was whether blind people could know the form of the color Green since they could not perceive it with their senses. Matt responded matter-of-factly that angels don't have eyes either and yet they can know the color green. (The ability to make such dogmatic, brilliant, and utterly absurd claims with a completely straight face is one of the many reasons I love the guy.) But Matt's claim goes even further. His position is not only that angels can see green but that the "form" green existed even before there were men or angels to perceive colors at all.
Ah, but can angels see grue--or, for that matter, bleen?

"where the Ice Age meets the Space Age"

In a cave discovered five years ago, when construction workers trying to make a road blasted open an entrance to the 800,000-to-1 million-year-old cavern.
"It's a unique combination of traces and the quality of preservation that makes it such a phenomenal site," McDonald said. "It's probably going to become a major reference site that will help us better understand the remains we have at other sites."

If research confirms that fossilized dung in the bear beds is from the short-faced bear, it would be a first and could provide real clues about what the bears ate, McDonald said.

The cave remains closed to the public to preserve its remains.

But with the help of the Springfield-Greene County library system and Ozarks Technical Community College, Forir installed a fiber-optic network that lets him broadcast pictures from the cave for school classes and the public.
It's called the Ozark Highlands Grotto.

Oct 29, 2006

the sweet scent of unionism

Required reading: Dr. Homeslice's Union Bouquet #6.

a logo for the Logos-less

As an English teacher, I suppose I have an obligation to be interested in symbolism (I even have a handy mnemonic device to remind students to look for symbols in literature). Of course, symbolism exists on multiple levels: we can use symbols to describe other symbols in a nested hierarchy, heading farther toward abstraction.

I'm immediately interested, then, in any attempt to create a symbol, if not ex nihilo, then the next closest thing. As an example, consider Norwegianity's call for a logo for freethinkers [scroll down], which has been echoed and amplified by PZ Myers.

Inventing a symbol is hard. It has to be unique but not unrecognizable, bold but not garish, simple but not obscure. PZ explains,
Anyway, the kind of thing I would be looking for is something simple, fairly abstract, easy to render, and that wouldn't antagonize deists, agnostics, or atheists. It should be positive: no crucifixes with a slash through them, for instance. It shouldn't be weird—no flying spaghetti monsters, please—it shouldn't be ugly, it shouldn't be in-your-face and gloating, it should be unobtrusive. It ought to be the kind of symbol that if it were done up as a piece of jewelry, it would be tasteful. Remember, even if you do come up with a nice logo, the hard part is going to be getting a critical mass of unbelievers to adopt it and build a recognizable association with it (and be warned, no matter how gorgeous and elegant and clever an idea you come up with, there will be a solid cadre of the godless who will resolutely refuse to have anything to do with it, on general principles and intrinsic cussedness…which is OK.)

why I teach high school

Mr. Rain narrates:
As I'm walking off I look to the ground and notice poo. Lots of it. Some clumped, some puddled, but all on the floor in the stall.

"B, honey, is that poo on the floor!?"


"Golly ned, kid, why are you using a stall with a dirty floor?"

(silence from him)

(dawning recognition from me)

"B...that's your poop, isn't it?"


how to pronounce "decorabilia"

I wasn't aware that my blog name is difficult to pronounce correctly, but apparently confusion exists.
“Deck-urabilia” or “Day-core-abilia”? I don’t know the correct way to type out the phonics, but you get the point. Can we get a ruling on this?
We certainly can.

Etymologically, the word is a portmanteau, as I explained when starting out.
The title: a word I've coined (at least, I think it's original to me--but one never knows, with memes). You know those chain restaurants--Red Robin, Chili's, Applebee's, whatever--that plaster their walls with fake old-timey posters, photos, and knickknacks? Decorative memorabilia. Decorabilia.
As such, it should be pronounced "deh-cor-a-bil-ee-uh," or, as an acceptable variant, "deh-cor-a-bil-yuh."

(As it turns out, the word wasn't original to me, even though I'd never heard of its use before I "invented" it. No attorneys have sent threatening letters, so it's my title and I'll use it in perpetuity.)

Pronounce in peace.

Update: A cousin, who will not be named unless self-identified, sends along these helpful phonetic renderings. (Helpful if you're an amateur linguist.)

There. No excuses.

Cantwell schmoozes at The Spar

Stopping by before cheering workers in a door-knocking campaign, apparently. I heard about it yesterday from one of my debaters, who was there when Cantwell arrived, and asked her what she thought of the first-term senator. "Sharp," she said. "Concise and articulate. Powerful."

Part of the reason she's got a fifteen point lead over McGavick, wildcards Guthrie and Dixon in attendance.

Oct 28, 2006

up and atom

Or, I should say, "Up and at them!" Simpsons fans, is it ever too early?

Solid rounds last night for our novice LDers; optimism from my StuCoers. Today, more debate and speech. For me, more time in the Tab Room, cleaning up yesterday's mistakes.

We get an extra hour to sleep tonight. I will cherish it.

P.S. Don't bet on sports.

Update: We're back, with superiors in Extemp and Impromptu, and 1st and 3rd in Student Congress. We survived a flat tire (ran over a razor blade in the parking lot) and Narrows Bridge traffic.

If you're interested, check out this piece on the transformative power of debate, and a call for donations to the Seattle Debate Foundation.

Oct 27, 2006

Gig Harbor beckons

Light blogging today and tomorrow, since the weekend brings the first debate tournament of the year: Gig Harbor, the novice and junior division warm-up hosted by The Tides, where you get cool wave trophies and burgeoning confidence and--most important--addicted to forensics.

Ken Schram on the Federal Way lawsuit

Lawsuit going down in Federal Way. Mr. Short paragraph has his say:
I'd like to know why EVERY school district in the state isn't in on this.

And I'd like to know why the Washington Education Association isn't stepping up.

Instead, the WEA says it wants to give the legislature one more chance.

Right. Because we all know that the 15th or 20th time is always the charm.

Federal Way has the right idea here.

Pragmatism, maybe? Litigation works, but it's unpopular politically. Could also be that the WEA's already involved in another lawsuit--fighting the EFF again, this time at SCOTUS--and is in the middle of an expensive ad campaign, trying to build up political pressure for a contentious election. The WEA has certainly cheer-led the effort, but left it to districts to decide. Ours, for one, said no.

Oct 26, 2006

cotton candy

Somewhere, someone is missing a bolt of sarong fabric.

Cross-posted at that globe-trotting gaffeteria, Mr. A's world of tacky ties.

vampire math and young earth creationism

Shockingly bad math proves that vampires aren't real:
Efthimiou sup­posed that the first vam­pire arose Jan. 1, 1600, around the be­gin­ning of a cen­tu­ry dur­ing which some of the first im­por­tant mod­ern writ­ings on vam­pires ap­peared. The re­search­ers es­ti­mat­ed the glob­al pop­u­la­tion at that time, based on his­tor­i­cal re­c­ords, as 537 mil­lion.

As­sum­ing that the vam­pire fed once a month and the vic­tim turned in­to a vam­pire, there would be two vam­pires on Feb. 1, four the next month, and eight the month af­ter that. All hu­mans would be vam­pires with­in 2½ years. “Hu­mans can­not sur­vive un­der these con­di­tions, even if our pop­u­la­tion were dou­bling each mon­th,” which is well be­y­ond hu­man ca­pa­ci­ties, Ef­thi­mi­ou said.
It's the same fallacy that presumes that if population growth is constant, then humans must have existed since only a few thousand years ago, a favorite argument of young earth creationists. The tidy calculation ignores the intervening variable: vampire hunters. They keep us safe--but not from bad assumptions.

internets, tubes, the Google, and now this

David Postman points us to the worst campaign websites of the upcoming election. Rep. Chris Smith of the New Jersey GOP offends thusly:
Anyone thinking of putting up a Web site that's devoid of actual content should skip the project instead on grounds of sheer embarrassment. (We took the accompanying screen snapshot last week. This week, the Web site has changed to become even less useful.)

Oct 25, 2006

no shortage of criticism here

While I'm on a skeptical bent, here's the 46th Skeptics' Circle, hosted by Kevin Leitch.

gender separation in the classroom

I don't have time or energy to go into the philosophical and empirical reasons monogendered classes aren't good educational policy. Rather, I'll regale you with a secondhand anecdote.

Back in the day, I attended LeTourneau University, one of a few English majors in a largely engineering school. One of my history profs, who had been there since the school had a history department (when it was called "LeTourneau College"), described what life was like before the school went co-ed.

"Guys would slouch, sleep, act pretty much like slobs, even belching and farting in class," he told us. "When the first girl came, it was magic. All of a sudden, the boys are men, not just men, but perfect gentlemen. They're holding doors, sitting up straight, quiet and attentive. Everyone's trying to impress that one girl."

(I once took a calculus class with seven other guys. We ended the school year with a footrace in the parking lot.)

No, I'm not trying to perpetuate gender stereotypes. In these days of post-feminism, girls are just as aggressive and squirrelly and likely to belch in class. But there's something about a classroom full of testosterone and sweat. Something scary.

Snohomish supersleuths of the paranormal

Boo-urns to the Seattle Times for their decidedly uncritical take on a ghosthunting couple that calls them "supersleuths." Sleuths who have trouble finding the right word:
"If it's a natural phenomena," Sandy explains, "the hardest part is to convince people that it's not a ghost and that they are not hearing or feeling these spirits."
Phenomenon, Sandy. Phenomenon. (Sandy later blithely contradicts herself, saying, "When someone is convinced their place is haunted, they'd rather us prove that it isn't.")

Their research method is loopy:
Once the on-site investigation wraps up, the crew goes back to the office to begin the second phase of the investigation: research. Investigators go through their recordings and footage looking and listening for abnormalities such as strange sounds or unfamiliar voices.

During the Oxford investigation, which took place upstairs from the bar in the early-morning hours after closing time, the audio recorder picked up distinctive — and thoroughly spooky — voices that sound like an adult man and a young boy.

On film, investigators watch for opaque orbs that float in one area of a frame. Footage from an investigation at the Twin Eagles Cafe in Snohomish shows what appears to be a man hunched in the corner of a frame taken below the restaurant.

These are emblematic of a ghost or apparition, investigators say.
What a surprise. Dig through a thousand photos, listen to a few hours of digital recording, and some sort of random something is bound to turn up. Obviously a ghoul, goblin, ghost, haint, etheric ectoplasm, somethingorother.

The couple calls their group "Friends of Ghosts," or FOG. How about "Sincere Though Unintelligent Paranormal-Investigating Disappointments?"

death in the afternoon

Someone left a hamster cage by the dumpster today, a tiny cubicle of mourning beside rusting steel and rusty leaves.

A symbol of death, yes, but like the leaves, a symbol of hope and rebirth as well. "Take this cage," the anonymous donor tells us, "and renew the circle of life."

To you, Spiffy, we bid good night and Godspeed.

Carnival of Education: 90th anniversary edition

Go forth and read.

Oct 24, 2006

don't trust a pundit

Which team did the sports pundits predict would dominate the Cardinals in the World Series, in an epic romp of embarrassing proportions?


Who's down 2-1, and has been outscored 13-5 in three games?


Which party do the political pundits predict will dominate the upcoming election?

The Democrats.

End of lesson.

facts are sensitive things

Not fit for a school newspaper?
There are few issues in American education as widely discussed as the achievement gap, the racial divide that separates the academic performance of white and minority students.

But not at Hillsborough High School, where the principal pulled an article detailing the school's achievement gap from the student newspaper.

Principal William Orr called the content inappropriate, even though it focused on data the federal government publicizes under the No Child Left Behind Act.

Instead of a story and chart, students found a gaping hole Monday in the Red & Black, the school newspaper.

"If it's something that has a potential to hurt students' self-esteem, then I have an obligation not to let that happen," he said. "I don't think it's the job of the school newspaper to embarrass the students."
I'd like to hear from the student journalists in the audience. (You know who you are.)

[Link via Obscure Store.]

Update: the T/R/P writes, "Hang in there, student journalists. Sounds like you did good work. Keep writing. Maybe someday we as a country will give a damn."

reaching out en español

Seen during the World Series:

Chevy's rerun of an old ad, mostly in Spanish, throws sand in the face of English Language Onlyists. "Subete," indeed.

Meanwhile, La Quinta Inns' lame slogan: "La Quinta. Spanish for 'more.'" Actually, "la quinta" is Spanish for "the villa." No puede ganar todo.

Ugly, ugly Dodge Nitro.

Horrible lipsynching by Jo Dee Messina.

Eragon looks to be pretty darn lame itself.

Okay, back to work.

Update: Add to that a fine pitching performance by Chris "That Spot on My Hand is a Bruise" Carpenter. Yowza.

image of an image of perfection

Explanation at that fandango of philosophizin', Mr. A's world of tacky ties.

a one-sentence summary of libertarian environmentalism

They're finding all sorts of crap in Oregon's irrigation canals, now that it's time to drain them before the rainy season. Mostly wrappers and tires, with the occasional murder weapon or car. Says Jerry Pyle:
"The more regulations they put on the dumps, the more stuff we find in our canals," he said.
Ronald Bailey would be proud.

no on I-920

For readers of The Olympian, yes, I'm that Jim Anderson.

in this morning's Olympian

First, Cantwell has opened up her lead against McGavick, if a poll of 625 Washingtonian "likely" voters is to be trusted. I'm still calling it much, much closer, just because a likely voter is an unhatched chicken.

Second, my editorial opposing I-920 has hit the stands. They didn't even edit it much.

Oct 23, 2006

one long drag toward the slippery slope: part III

In twenty years, cigarettes will be outlawed, and only denim-sporting badass outlaws will smoke cigarettes.

How do I know? This Zogby poll. Nearly half of Americans would be willing to ban 'em within five or ten years.

That noxious stench? That stale odor? That's liberty. It'll wash off.

Part I here. Part II here.

[link via Joe Carter]

[Update: Thanks to Jason Kuznicki for linking here.]

are you ready for the revolution? multi-touch interface technology

I don't link to a lot of YouTube clips, but this one has to be seen to be drooled over. Demonstrated is a multi-touch light table setup, a two-dimensional version of the interface seen in Minority Report. You use your hands to manipulate images. It's fully intuitive, seamless, and magical to behold--and if its spokesman, Jeff Han, is right, will "change the way we interact with machines."

Hat tip: my 5th period techno-geeks.

[cross-posted at my other blog]

Part I, online academies
Part II, the Google PC
Part III, homeschooling
Part IV, rapid growth
Part V, Olympia goes virtual
Part VI, Microsoft's "School of the Future"

ugly shoes with an identity crisis

Casual? Dress? Dress casual? Hip? Stodgy? Oxfords? Tennis shoes? Whatever they are, these Rockports are hideous. What's with the shoe-belted-to-a-tire-tread look, anyway?

multi-touch interface from Adobe TED

I don't link to a lot of YouTube clips, but this one has to be seen to be drooled over. Demonstrated is a multi-touch light table setup, a two-dimensional version of the interface seen in Minority Report. You use your hands to manipulate images. It's fully intuitive, seamless, and magical to behold--and if its spokesman, Jeff Han, is right, will "change the way we interact with machines."

Hat tip: my 5th period techno-geeks.

cryptic Bible joke

Jesus and Peter sat in Peter's 78 Olds Toronado outside Matthew's house, waiting for him to finish shaving. Peter impatiently revved the engine, and the car shuddered and shook. "Blessed are the auto makers," said Jesus, "for they will see the tunnel at the end of the light."

Peter turned, puzzled. "What's that?"

"Nothing," said Jesus. "Just thinking out loud."

(More Bible jokes here.)

[124th in a series]

experience is the best teacher

We're eating lunch, and a ballyhoo starts up in the hall outside Pod A, the history pod. Two groups of students are lined up opposite each other, yelling and hollering and throwing stuff. "They're re-enacting the Boston Massacre," someone reports.

Haven't our history teachers heard of the Stanford Prison Experiment?

Dodge brings the ugly

Dodge, which has brought us such turkeys as the Caliber, boldly sallies forth with the Nitro, which is both stupidly named and ineptly designed.

Worst feature? The way the grill wraps around the headlights. Yuck.

journaling is good, bad for you

Journaling, yea:
From there, Illing found that the writing process helped her cope with being single, living alone, her anger at her ex-husband, dating after age 50, loving her kids and missing her dad.

"Journaling helps you discover who you are," said Illing, 61.

Illing offers one of several area venues for people who find that writing out the bits and pieces of the day can be helpful in releasing emotion, expressing creativity, stimulating the brain or even healing spiritually.

"Journaling is a good therapeutic tool for our clients who have stabilized themselves in their recovery and who want to work on other issues in their lives around relationships and personal growth," said Carl Flowers, director of Behavioral Health Resources recovery services program in Tumwater.
Or nay:
Keeping a diary is bad for your health, say UK psychologists. They found that regular diarists were more likely than non-diarists to suffer from headaches, sleeplessness, digestive problems and social awkwardness.

Their finding challenges assumptions that people find it easier to get over a traumatic event if they write about it.

“We expected diary keepers to have some benefit, or be the same, but they were the worst off,” says Elaine Duncan of the Glasgow Caledonian University. “In fact, you’re probably much better off if you don’t write anything at all,” she adds.
What about blogging?

Oct 22, 2006

timeless book and movie reviews

Timeless as in "no time."

Thank You for Smoking

Muted satire with an after-school special vibe. Watch Election instead.

Batman and Robin
A garish, loud, unfunny in-joke. Two future governors for the price of one.

The Highest Tide

Poor man's magic realism in the South Sound. Learn the ins and outs of oceanic sex life.

The Catcher in the Rye

Holden Caulfield is a crazy goddam loon. I really mean it.

behold the power of connotation

Change the word "cloning" to the phrase "somatic cell nuclear transfer," and hey, presto! People are more likely to support it, in any context.
Kathy Hudson and her colleagues at the Genetics and Public Policy Center in Washington DC asked more than 2000 Americans whether they approved of deriving stem cells from embryos produced by cloning. For half of the sample they used the term "SCNT" instead of "cloning", and this raised approval ratings from 29 per cent to 46 per cent, Hudson told a meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics in New Orleans last week.
If they call it "Dr. Scientician's Magical Cure-All," approval shoots up to 86.2%.

kids these days

Over on my political blog, I try to divine the reason young folks largely avoid voting.

merit pay, WASL okay, GOP dismay

A trifecta.

First, Bush has a new plan to promote standardized testing: pay teachers for improved scores.
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings planned to announce the first of 16 grants, worth $42 million, including $5.5 million for Ohio, on Monday. The government has not announced the other grant winners.

Using the old-fashioned incentive of cash, President Bush's program encourages schools to set up pay scales that reward some teachers and principals more than others. Those rewards are to be based mainly on test scores, but also on classroom evaluations during the year.
Would they pay based on improvement, or sheer results? It'd make all the difference in the world. (It's also a bad sign for a late-term president when he asks for $500 million, and gets $99 mil from Congress.)

Second, state leaders want the math and science portions of the WASL to stay on timetable.
The failure of 49 percent of 10th-graders to pass the math section of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning last spring touched off widespread alarm. Those students, in the class of 2008, are the first who must pass math, reading and writing on the test to earn a high-school diploma. Passing the science portion of the test becomes a requirement in 2010.

In the past few weeks, the state PTA and an organization of school-board members have voted to push back the math requirement by three years and science by four.

But rather than delay the math and science requirements, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson said she'll ask the Legislature for an additional $199 million for the coming biennium to help this year's juniors pass the math, reading and writing portions of the WASL.
It's the inverse of the Notorious B.I.G. Mo problems, mo money.

Last, pundits are calling the upcoming for the Democrats, in a big way.
Two independent analysts predicted last week that the Democrats will pick up at least the 15 seats they need to seize the House for the first time since 1994.

"The broad national environment has improved for Democrats," said Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the Rothenberg Political Report. He forecasts Democratic gains of at least 15 seats and possibly as many as 25 to 30, up from his earlier range of 15 to 20.
I predict that the Dems will pick up a five-seat majority in the House, but won't get the Senate. Why? Because I can.

get out the youth vote

Why don't young people vote in greater numbers?
Young voters haven't exactly flocked to the polls since 18- to 20-year-olds became eligible to vote in 1972. For presidential elections, young voters bottomed out at 32 percent turnout in 1996, compared with about 60 percent of voters 25 and older.

But ... In the 2004 presidential election, about 47 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds cast a ballot, an increase of 11 percent from 2000, according U.S. Census Bureau data.
Here's why, in this humble pundit's speculation.

1. The failure of civic education.
We have failed to make voting relevant in our history classes, in our English classes, in our math classes, in our science classes. We may talk about democracy, but we don't practice it. I'm not saying teachers should cede control of their classrooms to an adolescent mob--but when was the last time a high school student held a real ballot and voter's guide in their hand, and learned how it works on a practical level?

2. Leadership that can't connect with youth.
In 2004, nearly half of young folks voted, for an obvious reason: the Iraq conflict. Candidates who focus on Social Security, "values," the economy, are aiming at a narrow voting target. It's common knowledge that young people don't think about--and certainly don't save enough--for the future. Candidates have to present-ize every issue, if they want youth to care. (Note that it's not about charisma--Bill Clinton's MTV persona didn't bring out the vote in 1996.)

3. Reluctant embrace of technology.
Voting machines are in, vote by mail is in, but we're not yet voting on the Internet. When that day arrives, watch the youth vote spike. 2004 also marked the rise of the political blogger and the New Media. Gen Y isn't reading the newspaper in print. Why should they pay for what they can read for free online?

4. College = rootlessness.
When I attended college in a faraway state, I never voted absentee. I couldn't get excited about an election over fifteen hundred miles away, and I simultaneously didn't connect to the issues right around me. My college bubble world had me completely insulated. Sixty percent is perhaps the best we can hope for.

Oct 21, 2006

inquiring minds want to know

The list of unanswered (unanswerable?) questions just keeps growing.

why can't Mike McGavick get a little love from the GOP?

The Olympian reports that Mike McGavick, described as the GOP's "hand-picked" candidate in the senate race against Maria Cantwell (and let's not forget Bruce Guthrie, Aaron Dixon, and that other person I can't remember), isn't going to receive any GOP love in the form of television commercials in the run-up to November 7.

Cantwell isn't getting any cash from the Dems, either, but she holds a commanding double-digit lead, and a healthy $1.4 million in her war chest. Remarkably, the GOP still sees Cantwell as "vulnerable," leading to speculation that...

1. The Republicans have given up on McGavick.


2. McGavick wants to extinguish any perception that he might be a GOP tool, and is willing to go it alone.


3. The GOP is just biding its time, a foolish strategy, since most people will mail off their ballots well before the 7th.

I'm calling this race for Cantwell, by at least 7 points. I'm not yet convinced that Cantwell, who performed rather blandly in last week's debates, is going to trounce McGavick, especially with wildcards like Guthrie and Dixon, who are bound to siphon off a few votes from the disgruntled on either side of the aisle. Still, Cantwell has the numbers and the advantage of incumbency. Cantwell 53, McGavick 47.

Oct 20, 2006

Friday linkage

Slow about getting to the Carnival of Education...

Just joined the edusphere, an edu-blogging portal...

Dr. Homeslice writes about the New Cold War between charter schools and unions...

And Elena Silva notes the good and bad news about high school sophomores' dreams of college.

Rumsfeld and God

A true story.

A couple years ago, Rumsfeld and God sat on the beach, bathed in the orange hues of an October sunrise. They were talking strategy.

"See," said God, "There's a whole lot you can't predict. Like whether the Iraqis are ready for self-rule. Shiite and Sunni internecine conflict has been suppressed by Hussein for so long, when you go in there and liberate the place, all hell is gonna bust loose."

"Uh-huh," said Rumsfeld.

"Most folks can't even tell a Sunni from a Shiite," God said. "Heck, I even get confused."

Rumsfeld fiddled with a stick, then asked, "They'll greet us as liberators, right? Small force, knockout blow, quick mop-up, and we're done?"

"Have you been listening to anything I've said?" God barked. "Look. You're gonna need a couple hundred thousand ground-pounders at least. You're gonna have to vet the Iraqi military, extirpate the Baath loyalists while keeping the good guys close, reconstruct shattered infrastructure, fend off the Iranians, establish a functional democracy, deal with the Kurds, keep costs down, keep troops out of harm's way, all while being careful not to inflame anti-American sentiment or diminish support on the home front--are you getting this down?"

Rumsfeld nodded. "Taking notes right here in the sand."

[123rd in a series]

Thursday's Tickle Me Tie

One day late due to circumstance.

Cross-posted at that madhouse of merriment, Mr. A's world of tacky ties.

hey, at least Capital's in the news

Not for our reduced dropout rate, but for a major freakout over "freak dancing." Scroll to the end for the inevitable Charleston comparison.

Oct 19, 2006


We're sorry, says Netflix, but our distribution center nearest to Olympia doesn't have a copy of Thank You For Smoking, and so we will deliver it as quickly as possible from a better-stocked warehouse in Portland.


Bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, two outs, an 0-2 count, a trip to the October Classic on the line, the fans whooping and hollering, the opposing pitcher sweating 7.62mm NATO standard rounds, millions watching over the airwaves, all waiting for the magical moment of greatness and eternal sporting glory, and you are Carlos Beltran and you strike out.


another quixotic candidate: Kevin Bonagofski

This election brings us yet another no-chance candidacy, this time from a guy who delivers pizza to pay for his college bills. Kevin Bonagofski is best known for admitting,
"Regardless of the money, my chance of winning is low, unless Sam Hunt does something stupid... I met him a couple of months ago at South Puget Sound Community College, and I don’t expect him to do something stupid."
Sam Hunt hasn't done anything stupid, so he gets The Olympian's endorsement, and will poll higher than 65%, I'm guessing.

how's the weather up there?

Oliver Curry is wrong.
Evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry of the London School of Economics expects a genetic upper class and a dim-witted underclass to emerge.

The human race would peak in the year 3000, he said - before a decline due to dependence on technology.

People would become choosier about their sexual partners, causing humanity to divide into sub-species, he added.

The descendants of the genetic upper class would be tall, slim, healthy, attractive, intelligent, and creative and a far cry from the "underclass" humans who would have evolved into dim-witted, ugly, squat goblin-like creatures.

But in the nearer future, humans will evolve in 1,000 years into giants between 6ft and 7ft tall, he predicts, while life-spans will have extended to 120 years, Dr Curry claims.
Hasn't Curry seen The Terminator Trilogy? The machines take over, nearly wipe us out, and only the resourceful, ugly grunts survive.

bacteria that feast on radiation's fruits

The search parameters for life on other planets just widened:
Uranium and other radioactive elements in the rock emit radiation that shatters water molecules, producing high-energy hydrogen gas that is able to cleave chemical bonds.

The bacteria exploit this hydrogen gas to turn sulphate (SO4) molecules from the rock into hydrogen sulphide (HS). It is the energy-trapping equivalent of photosynthesis. The energy of radiation, which makes hydrogen gas energetic enough to form these bonds, replaces the energy of the Sun.
The bacteria are probably descended from light-dependent strains, which means that certain initial conditions still apply. However, this means that planets that appear cold and dead, a billion light-years distant, may in fact teem with life.

so much for that

NewScientist's headline trumpets, "Working invisibility cloak created at last." The article, though, is a little more mundane:
To simplify the problem, Smith's cloak works in only two dimensions. It is about the size of a movie reel canister and consists of a series of concentric rings, each housing a set of simple electronic components that distort an electromagnetic field as it passes through....

"It's not perfect," says Leonhardt. "If you could see in the microwave region of the spectrum, the copper ring would not quite disappear. You'd see perhaps a shadow and some slight distortion where the copper ring ought to be."

The device has another important limitation – it works only at a single specific frequency of microwave. "How it might be possible to make a device that works over a range of frequencies is an open problem," says Leonhardt. But Smith now hopes to build a 3D structure that could hide an object completely from view.

So far, the technology works only in the microwave region of the spectrum. The problem with visible light is that it has a much smaller wavelength, meaning an optical metamaterial would have to be built on the nanoscale, which is beyond the limits of current nanotechnology. It, too, would only work at a specific frequency.
Boo-urns, NewScientist, for shattering our hopes and dashing our dreams.

Oct 18, 2006

hither and thither

In between writing an op-ed appearing soon in our local paper, managing Debate, planning lessons, grading journals, reading debate cases, commenting on essays, trudging through self-evaluations, practicing for this weekend's band gigs, preparing for political action committee meetings, and trying to be a good husband, I haven't had much time to blog, much less interact with my blogging neighbors, who deserve linkage but haven't gotten it from me.

Sorry. More when time returns.

your morning reading

Mary Jean Ryan says:
We hope Washington Learns will call for a revision in the way our state funds education. The funded components of the current definition of "basic education" have not fundamentally changed since 1977. It's time to overhaul the funding system so it aligns with our higher standards and performance goals. It's not realistic to expect a system to improve dramatically through efficiencies alone. Our education system needs more resources and a more results-oriented investment approach.
She won't say how we should reform the state's funding structure. Toilet paper tax? Toll classrooms? Bake sales?

I know she knows, but she's not saying. (Hint: think "progressive.")

Oct 17, 2006

CHS's dropout rate down

I hope it's more than a statistical artifact, but if it's real, it's encouraging: Capital's dropout rate, as reported by the OSPI, has fallen from 5.5% in 2002-2003 to 1.9% in 2004-2005, [pdf, scroll down to Olympia] the last year for which data are available.

In 2002-2003, we had 86 dropouts. Last year we had 27, including 9 who went to get their GED.

Aaron Dixon arrested for trying to crash the gates

Shut out of a debate among Cantwell, McGavick, and Bruce "I'm Serious, Maybe Too Serious" Guthrie, Aaron Dixon did what any self-respecting former Black Panther would: take direct action.
The Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate was arrested Tuesday afternoon after he tried to get into a campaign debate being taped at a Seattle television station.

Police arrested Aaron Dixon for investigation of trespassing at the KING-TV studios.
Who says you have to buy media attention?

Update: The Times has more.

show me the money tie

Cross-posted at that omnibus of opulence, Mr. A's world of tacky ties.

Spirit Week begins at Capital High School

The classes have decorated the halls in their various themes. I snapped a few photos during my prep period.

fair and balanced

A few days ago I reported that two Vietnam veterans, invited by another teacher to speak to our 11th-grade classes, took advantage of the bully pulpit, spending most of their time preaching against the war and against the military.

This distressed many of my students--and completely surprised me--so in their post-presentation discussion, they wondered if we could hear from a different perspective.

Yesterday they got it, when a retired major came to tell it like he saw it.

Today, my students reported that they felt much better informed, and that the initial discomfort from the first presentation had worn off.

One of the major's stories stuck with me. He told about a time when a fellow advisor became frustrated with his South Vietnamese contingent, who were having trouble understanding the American's mangled attempts at the local language. Eventually the sergeant blew up and stormed off.

"Well, who's the ignorant one here?" said one of the Vietnamese soldiers, in perfect English. The American sergeant, within earshot, came roaring back. "You can speak English?" he shouted. "I could kill you!"

The major, holding back the sergeant, asked the Vietnamese why they hadn't spoken English the whole time. "You wouldn't have listened to us," they replied. "You always think you're right."

Oct 16, 2006

I-920 pros and cons

The Olympian has the report this morning. An op-ed will follow shortly on its heels. (I know, 'cause I wrote it.) Props to one-time co-blogger David Johnston, quoted near the end:
"The class size initiative that was passed a few years ago at that time didn't have a dedicated funding source, but (Gov. Chris) Gregoire has tied it to this," said David Johnston, an English teacher at Capital High School in Olympia and president of the Olympia Education Association. The tax money "has had a huge effect in the Olympia School District, especially in the primary grades."

Teachers now get a half-dozen extra hours a year for staff development, training and collaborating, all part of what he called "coming up with a better mousetrap" for teaching. And extra teachers are hired when enrollment balloons, keeping class sizes more manageable, he said.

But if I-920 passes, Johnston said, the money would go away and lawmakers cannot be trusted to replace it from other sources.
Not very often.

good computer lab etiquette

Are you a teacher signing up for the computer lab? Then read this list of suggestions before you do. You'll make everyone else in the building happy.

1. Sign up in advance.
Don't just show up. We're already here. Sorry.

2. Don't sign up for two weeks at a time.
What kind of lesson plan requires ten straight days in the computer lab? Are you insane? Are your students that technologically inept? Are you?

3. Make sure your students log out when they leave.

If you don't, someone else will monkey with their desktop background. That someone will be me.

4. Clean up your crap.
First, there shouldn't be any food in the lab. Somehow it magically appears next to the keyboard, though, after your darlings have disappeared at the bell. Instead of standing there, dumbfounded, clean it up. If you weren't making sure they were responsible, then you're responsible. Deal with it.

5. Go for a trial run before your "real" lesson.
Make sure everyone can log on, knows what software to use, has all the passwords they need. This will save you grief. Trust me.

6. Call the tech person and warn him / her you're using the lab.
The tech might come down to help you out. If there's time. (No tech? Bad school district! Bad!)

7. If you sign up for a day, go.
Nothing irks me more than an empty lab that's been "reserved." I had to adjust my lessons because you had big computer eyes and a small computer stomach. Your reservation is a sacred oath.

Oct 15, 2006

news from the sporting world

Around here, it's been a weekend of celebrations--a 50th wedding anniversary, a 30-something birthday--and, concurrently, bizarre sporting events. Some highlights:

1. The unbelievable Miami-FIWho? brawl.
Nobody wants to be a role model. Nobody.

2. The BCS placing USC second.
Computers lie. USC is oh-ver-ray-ted. If you can't stomp Arizona State in your own house on national television, you're not even gonna beat Oregon, never mind streaking Cal. Sorry, Booty.

3. The Seahawks' last-second Josh Brown 54-yarder to win it in St. Louis.
With Shaun Alexander and Bobby Engram and Jerramy Stevens sidelined, with a secondary as porous as Bill O'Reilly's loofah, the Hawks looked like they were going to lose again in uproarious fashion. Somehow, though, Bulger's 360 (!) yards weren't enough, and a late Mo-Mo fumble didn't destroy the Seahawks' comeback.

4. The Mets steamrolling back in game 4.
Bad managing: bases loaded, left vs. right, no outs. Right happens to be Carlos Delgado, who has already homered. La Russa keeps in Hancock, who has already given up two singles and a walk to load 'em up. Delgado hits a ground-rule double, Hancock stays in to walk one more batter, and the rest is all Mets.

Bruce Guthrie: for reals

Over on my edumacational blog, Bruce "Don't Call Me a Quixotic Candidate" Guthrie shows up to defend his life savings loan to his campaign.

Oct 14, 2006

why, yes, I do have a blog

Slowly, surely, the old media is catching up with teachers using the new media to spark learning.
Teachers use blogs, or online journals, in different ways. Some post homework assignments and links to relevant Web sites; others describe key events of the day to keep parents in the loop. Most commonly, students post written responses to a teacher's query.

When students read each other's blogs and make comments, "the work becomes a conversation instead of a one-way delivery of information," said Warlick, a former teacher who wrote "Classroom Blogging: A Teacher's Guide to the Blogosphere."
Eventually, they'll catch up to blogging teacher-activists, too.

Oct 13, 2006

to infinity and back: Near-Death Experiences a function of "REM intrusion?"

This week's NewScientist includes a fascinating (subscriber-only) article on Near Death Experiences, or NDEs. Kevin Nelson, a Kentucky neurophysiologist, implicates "REM intrusion" in the bizarre hallucinations and ethereal oogly-googlies common to the event. Excerpts below:
A study in 1990 at the University of Virginia Health Sciences Center in Charlottesville of 58 people who had experienced NDEs found that half would have survived without medical care. Sometimes fainting can be enough to trigger NDE-like sensations.

Nelson says that that's because despite the name, NDE has little to do with actually being close to death. He argues that the experience stems from an acute bout of "REM intrusion" - a glitch in the brain's circuitry that, in times of extreme stress, may flip it into a mixed state of awareness where it is both in REM sleep and partially awake at the same time....

Could REM intrusion also explain NDE? "Elements of near-death experience bear uncanny similarity to the REM state," says Nelson. Falling and floating - common in dreams - also occur in NDEs. And although normal dreams fade quickly from memory, that quirky combination of dreaming and wakefulness causes people with narcolepsy to recall their hallucinations vividly. They may remember their NDEs in such clear detail for the same reason, says Nelson. Meanwhile, total paralysis - a hallmark of REM - might make a person believe they really are dead....

Watching from the ceiling as surgeons work on one's body can be especially convincing during an NDE. Olaf Blanke, a cognitive neurologist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, says these sensations happen when the brain fails to weave different threads of sensory information together. If tactile senses tell the body it is lying down, but a wobbly inner ear causes vision to be interpreted as though from a floating perspective, then a person may well "see" themselves from the ceiling. Blanke has caused people to see their disembodied legs from a floating perspective by electrically stimulating the angular gyrus, a brain area that integrates sensory information. A mixed REM state could disrupt the integration of sensory information in much the same way, says Blanke. The brain may be aware, but the transfer of sensory and motor information from the body is largely shut down....

To investigate the possible link between REM and near-death experiences, Nelson surveyed the frequency of REM intrusion among 55 people who had NDEs in a variety of circumstances, including fainting, heart attack, traffic accident, lightning strike and during surgery. He compared them with 55 healthy volunteers who were matched for age and gender. The results were striking. Around 60 per cent of the NDE group reported having experienced symptoms of REM intrusion, either before or after their NDE, compared with just 24 per cent of the control group. What's more, REM intrusions in the NDE group were more elaborate, including not just sleep paralysis but also hallucinations (Neurology, vol 66, p 1003). "This is good preliminary evidence," says Nelson.
As we all know, time dilates when we dream, so if NDEs are souped-up existential daydreams, Nelson's hypothesis accounts for flat brainwaves that largely accompany them.

Nelson hopes to continue researching the phenomenon, and figure out a way to artificially spur a Near Death Experience. Neuroscientists, two words:

Pop quiz.

how to cut-and-paste an ASCII file


happy Friday

Good news for a change: Intel's ponying up grants for area schools. (I won't mention why it's bittersweet.) And one area teacher loves Star Trek a bit too much.

in which I hit the big time

The Juneau Empire has published my letter to the editor asking them to please, please not name their new high school "Capital."

Apparently Juneaueans call themselves "Juneauites." Good to know.

Read the original here. It's weird to be edited.

Oct 12, 2006

New Law to Protect Life's Earliest Stages

October 12, 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, signing new legislation in front of smiling "snowflake fossils," President Bush banned federal funding for examining rock-encased embryos. The law had sailed through the House, and passed despite a record three week Senate filibuster.

True to his word, Bush kept his veto pen in its drawer. "Fossil life is sacred," Bush declared. "Our tiniest ancestors deserve nothing less than absolute protection. Or at least privately bankrolled research."

Conservative groups hailed the new legislation. "Some of those embryos are hundreds, if not thousands, of years old," said Duane "Galloping" Gish of the Institute for Creation Research. "God loves every little last one of 'em."

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who had maintained the marathon filibuster, was cautiously optimistic. "I hope the Supreme Court will strike down this statute," she said from a hospital bed in Bethesda, Maryland. "Fossil embryos aren't fossil people."

Experts note that the federal ban will likely matter little. California's governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has already pledged $4.2 billion for fossil embryo research.

Skeptics' Circle goes audio

#45 is a podcast. Thanks, Karl, for ratcheting up the creative pressure.

instant field sobriety test

Try not to stare too hard.

Cross-posted at that sanitarium of sobriety, Mr. A's world of tacky ties.

that's Dr. T: the appeal to authority

I have a perfect example now, thanks to that fool pitier, Mr. T.
“My show ain’t no Dr. Phil, where people sit around crying, ‘What’s wrong with me, Dr. Phil? What’s wrong with me, Dr. Phil?’ ” Mr. T said.

“You are a fool! That’s what’s wrong with you. ... My show is the Dr. Phil on wheels.”

“I ain’t no shrink,” Mr. T said, “but I don’t shrink from no challenge, neither.”
When I'm teaching my debaters about the Appeal to Authority and its abuses, I set it up like this:
Claim: I need to get real.
Evidence: Dr. Phil told me to.
Warrant: Dr. Phil knows what's best for me.
(Backing: After all, he has his own TV show.)
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mr. T, for the chance to make my example even more memorable.

Oct 11, 2006

sometimes I wish I were a scientician

Like, a geneticist or something. These news briefs from NewScientist--both about genetic analysis and evolution--spurred me to look up the ASHG, and glance over their Nawlins conference schedule.
  • Approaches to Identifying Genetic Causes of Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia
  • Challenges of Lysosomal Storage Disorders: Patient Outcomes Matter
  • Breakthrough Research in Tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) Therapy: Phenylketonuria (PKU) and BH4 Deficiency
  • Infectious Diseases as Agents of Natural Selection on the Human Genome
Exciting stuff!

a poorly disguised plea for sympathy

This is one of those posts where I tell you about my day, and you say, "Hmm," or "That's tough," or "Suck it up, nobody made you."


Doughnuts at 6:45. I dropped one box on the seat, losing one (and a pile of sugar) to the floor. Drive to the...

School at 7:05. Walk to the...

Copy room at 7:10. Run to the...

Staff meeting at 7:15. Safety, announcements, nothing new. Dash to the...

Debate meeting at 8:00. Ten new recruits, and the team stands at nearly fifty. Fifty! This is more than double last year's contingent. It's intimidating. Even with a little attrition, we could have forty debaters this year. Get ready for...

Class from 8:30 on. Case crafting in Debate, character and conflict in 9th, debate preparation in 11th. Plug in to...

Enter grades at 1:45. Cram in errands until...

Debate practice at 2:45. New events for new people, a trip to the library to find scripts. (Anyone with a fresh, winning idea for an HI, Dual Interp, or DI is encouraged to comment.) Life lesson: I don't impersonate Stitch for free. Jet to...

Home for dinner at 4:45. Chit-chat with my lovely wife, who is lying on our lovely sofa watching the end of Love Actually. Love Actually is a Christmas movie. Drive back to...

A parent meeting for Debate at 7:00. We--Melissa is my unofficial assistant coach--return home at 8:30 to finish some schoolwork and write this post.

Still, there's all the things I missed.

carnival watch

The 88th Carnival of Education is up at The Education Wonks. One entry which led this blogger to add that blogger to the blogroll: Dr. Homeslice's Union Bouquet #4, a mini-carnival of its own. All union, all the time.

local control, indeed

So the guy running for the school board homeschools his own kids. Is there a rule that homeschooling parents, or, for that matter, adults without children, should be barred from serving, or have no interest in public schooling?

(No, there isn't.)

Most of the commentators at Obscure Store, where I found the story, either carp about typical homeschool stereotypes (they're socially maladjusted Jesus freaks) or vilify those who do (generalities are never true). C'mon, people.

It's possible that Frederic, Wisconsin's public schools need an outsider's perspective. The mountain makes a better molehill:
The upset in Frederic is all the more unusual because another home-schooling parent served on the board a few years ago.... Four of the five seats, including Jensen's, will be on the ballot in April.
Those concerned about the democratic process--Jensen was appointed--can vote him out in the upcoming.

After all, how much damage can one guy do in six months?

(Don't answer that.)

Oct 10, 2006

linked by a goddess

Twice in one day, even. Once by Jacqueline Passey, who is divine to her largely libertarian readership, and once by The Science Goddess--and, by the latter, as permanently as blogging allows. Thanks!

Incidentally, The Science Goddess instructs,
Research indicates that career-long patterns get set by about 6 months into one's career. Better to ponder now...and with others in the same boat...before their ideas are completely cemented.
Note to all you activists out there: that's probably where their political involvement or lack thereof gets cemented, too.

For me, it was the massive march to the Capitol that gave me not only a sense of mission, but a sense of what's possible, practical, and realistic in education reform. Best part: I'm still an optimist.

an open letter to the Juneau School Board

Dear Alaskan Friends,

I recently read that you're considering two names for your new high school, and have parsed the arguments for both choices: "Thunder Mountain" is strong and cheer-worthy, while "Capital" sounds "regal and hopeful." As an outsider, I salute your commitment to respectful, reasoned debate, and will shelve my linguistic and analytic critiques, content to offer another perspective.

There are already way, way too many Capital High Schools in this country. Four, if Wikipedia is to be trusted. Choosing "Capital" will only augment confusion.

Consider my recurring experience. When I travel within Washington, and tell acquaintances that I teach English at Capital High School, they immediately ask, "Where's that?"

"In the capital city," I say, shrugging and sighing. "Olympia."

"Oh," they say, embarrassed.

I don't blame them. Capital High School is a generic name, about as generic as my own. Preserve your uniqueness, Juneaueans. Choose "Thunder Mountain." We don't need another CHS.



Jim Anderson
Capital High School
Olympia, Washington

Tacky Tie Tuesday two-fer

Cross-posted at that epitome of elegance, Mr. A's world of tacky ties.

hollow words

Here's why Bush's claim that "local schools remain under local control" is hogwash.
Washington Learns is set to make its recommendations for changes in the state's education system in November. The math curriculum suggestion is preliminary and would require legislative approval.

The state could decide on three or four suggested math curricula, though it's unclear what those curricula would be, steering committee members said Monday.

Schools or school districts with less than a certain percentage of students - possibly 85 percent - meeting state standards on the math WASL would be required to adopt one of the suggested options.

The curricula would need to teach standards that could be used to compare Washington students' performance with that of their peers across the country and across the globe, said Gov. Chris Gregoire, the steering committee's chairwoman. The move could mean changing Washington's graduation requirements in math to line up with the recommended curricula.
A local--truly local--teacher says it best.
"I'm not sure we've shown ourselves to be the best judge of curriculum," said Scott Rutledge, head of the Olympia High School math department, referring to the math standards tested on the WASL compared with those used in some other states. "I'd want to make sure all voices are heard."

thanks for sharing

I nominate this...
What ho -
my identity

Yes, this is my, Capt. Dylan Clifthorne's, haiku. I dedicate it to google. And God. Is that redundant? I don't know. Does god?...(Does Google?) Who are we kidding? Google knows everything. And for what out of everything they don't know, there's wiki"free"dia!

But really, I am interested in knowing why someone is interested in my letter, and why they disagree without disagreeing, and why Orwell is more than a socialist pig farmer, and why "Olympia in the know people", which I only circumstancially would identify myself as, should respond.

Mr. Backwards Abraxas
...as the most intriguing and delightful and unsettling comment ever commented, on this blog or any other.

minor milestone

One hundred posts, most of them by yours truly. It's no longer a baby blog. It's a toddler, ready to stumble around the living room and wreck the furniture.

Worst of all, it's still growing.

Oct 9, 2006

on their minds

Whenever you invite a guest speaker, you take a risk: he might be too honest, too opinionated, too frank. When you invite two guest speakers, and you've never met either one, but are taking it on faith from another teacher, your risk more than doubles.

Today's guests, both Vietnam veterans, came to my junior classes, since we're studying The Things They Carried. Their rambling, pointed, sharply personal observations matched well with the spirit and tone of the novel, catching students (and this teacher) a bit off-guard. Some of the quotes that capture what I'm talking about:
"To this day I don't understand why we were there."

"If you need a hole in your soul that you don't have yet, join the Army."

"The stuff they make you do makes you fear the wrath of a vengeful God. It starts dripping, drip, drip, as you remember the evil things you did."

"I hate it when people say 'Thank you for your service.' Might as well say 'Thank you for killing people.'"

"We did it because we didn't want to look like wimps."

"They used to hand out Bronze Stars like shoes."
I guess I just don't expect a certain level of preachiness in a presentation before strangers. My students, though, handled things maturely and respectfully, and were brave enough to challenge their guests on several points.

If I invite them back, next time I'll warn my students to brace themselves for unapologetic antiwar sentiments--and follow it up with an opposing perspective from a different person or group. No one gets a free pass in my classroom, not even me.

no shortage of opinions here

No independent in-depth analysis, and no link to the ruling. Apparently, if you want clarity, you have to get it somewhere else.
Sure, the WEA vs. EFF agency shop fees case is confusing. Someone has to figure it out.

why do they call it an opinion page, anyway?

Rather than attempt to plumb the legal depths of the Washington State Supreme Court's ruling that upheld the WEA's opt-out "Hudson packet," and declared the law that banned it unconstitutional, The Olympian skims the surface. On the opinion page, no less.
In a news release expressing confidence that the teachers' union will prevail in the nation's high court, Charles Hasse, union president, said the union does not use nonmembers' fees on political purposes.

The [Evergreen] freedom foundation fired back a news release of its own accusing the union of misleading the media. The foundation cites a court document where the union admitted using nonmembers' fees for political purposes.

Luckily for teachers and other Washington residents, this issue is not going to be decided via competing news releases.

The nine justices are going to look at Washington's law, look at how the union has operated under that law and decide who is right and who is wrong.

It will be good to put this festering issue behind us and - finally - get clarity on the use of union fees.
No independent in-depth analysis, and no link to the ruling. Apparently, if you want clarity, you have to get it somewhere else. (Not that I really blame the editors, since the issue is messy and complex enough to make it to the nation's highest court.)

How about at the source? The legally inclined are welcome to read the majority opinion and the dissent.

How about here? In coming days, I'll be parsing the ruling in my best amateur fashion. If I can't understand it, I certainly wouldn't expect you to.

Update: Better links found, and inserted. More forthcoming.

demise of the comic duo

North Korea has tested The Bomb (or have they?). Outside, fall rain falls like fallout. One question:

Whatever happened to comic duos? Abbott and Costello, Martin and Lewis, Burns and Allen: gone, and in some cases largely forgotten.

The question came to mind this Saturday night, when Melissa and I were watching "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (and The Wolfman and Dracula)" with my parents, who form a Burns-and-Allen of their own.

(Sample: I made a crack about Harry Potter's sibling "Larry," and it turned into a race to find the most rhymes and puns, like "Barry Potter and the Bucket of Steroids." My mother stopped at "Fiduciary Potter." My father's two most salient entries were "Quaternary Potter and the Field of Horses," and "Aquamarine Potter and the Temple of Granite." Do either of those make a lick of sense? No, they do not.)

Was it American individualism that eventually tore the comic duo apart? Was it the triumph of stand-up comedy? Was it the tragic disjunction of Martin and Lewis?

Post-Cold War, shells of comedic pairs like the Smothers Brothers and the Blues Brothers and Bob and Doug McKenzie tried to carry the flag--but they tripped and stumbled. The closest thing we have now is Car Talk.

I miss the comic duo.

Update: But not this much.

Oct 8, 2006

a matter of intent

Leave it to The Onion to get this close to understanding the tacky tie phenomenon...

The Onion's educational insight of the week

"Underfunded School Lacks Resources To Calculate Student-To-Teacher Ratio."

autumn leaves of red and gold

Taken outside a nearby gas station yesterday afternoon.

yeas, hmms, and nays in the 30th legislative district

The Federal Way Mirror has the full story. See here for other candidates' positions on education.

House, 30th District (Federal Way)

Hmm: Incumbent Mark Miloscia (D) and Anthony Kalchik (R)
Saith the Mirror: "Both candidates agreed that the WASL test should continue as a requirement for graduation, but they also said improvements are needed.

Kalchik recommended learning from more successful tests in other states. Miloscia said WASL as a graduation requirement needs to be delayed until improvements are made."

House, 30th District

Yea: Incumbent Tracey Eide (D) and Renee Maher (R)
Saith the Mirror:
"When asked to prioritize education, public safety, health and transportation, both candidates placed education at the top of their lists.

The candidates were asked whether they would support the Federal Way School District in a potential lawsuit against state for better funding.... "I am not a fan of litigation," Maher said. Suing the state, however, may be the only way for the district to get its fair share, she said. Eide said she would also support the district. "It is absolutely the state's paramount duty to fund education," she said.
Senate, 30th District

Nay: Incumbent Skip Priest (R)
Supports charter schools, which are of rather dubious efficacy.

Yea: Helen Stanwell (D)
Saith the Mirror: "Stanwell criticized current funding formulas as unfair to the Federal Way School District. 'That is an archaic system,' she said. 'It's helping the wealthiest of our school districts. To me this is discrimination and I think it should cease and desist.'"

coming clean: I am one source of the Discovery Institute's secret research

Steve Reuland doesn't think much of Bruce Chapman's claims that the Discovery Institute's research into Intelligent Design (ID) is going on in secret, for fear of censorship by the Darwinian Establishment.

Reuland, though, is wrong to dismiss Chapman as a paranoid "fool." You see, I am one of those secret scientists, testing the predictions of ID and writing papers, waiting for the right time to expose the fraud that is Darwinism.

I can no longer sit in silence while my colleagues are assailed for their assiduous efforts. Though I place my integrity and my career on the line, I'm no longer afraid. Today I stand up to be counted. Today I'm coming out of the ID closet.

My Setup
Thanks to a $500,000 grant from the Discovery Institute, I have set up a laboratory in my garage, complete with beakers, Bunsen burners, nifty multicolored chemical mixtures that explode when combined, plenty of sublimating dry ice for that bubbling mad scientist effect, a gently used supercomputer waiting for the right programmer, a gigantic periodic table, an authentic replica slide rule, and last, but not least, a comfy leather chair with matching ottoman.

The grant also pays for two assistants, one to perform the experiments, and the other to make coffee and massage my feet after a hard day of calculating Complex Specified Information (CSI).

My Research
Quite frankly, there isn't much to prove. Darwinism has been so thoroughly dismantled by my colleagues--Dembski, Behe, Davison--that it sometimes seems like a fool's errand to prove ID. But I have the grant, so I suppose I'm obliged to do something.

Without going into specifics, since I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise, here are some of the studies that will be published in coming months.
"Complex Specified Information, or Specified Informed Complexity? The Difference is Substantial."

"Still Waiting: Evolving Wings on Frogs Through Genetic Mutation and Recombination."

"Life Cycle of Escherichia Coli Points to Playful Designer."

"No 'There' There: Analysis of over 50,000 Evolutionary Experiments Reveals A Dearth of Evidence."

"Retroviral Insertions in Related Species Too Similar to be the Result of Chance, Surpassing the Universal Probability Bound and Thus Proving Design."

"Laughing All the Way: Irreducible Core Components of the World's Funniest Joke."
My Prediction
Darwinism is in a permanent vegetative state. Science will pull the plug within a decade.

all politics is local

Three quixotic candidates for the price of one:
The candidates talked about their views on foreign policy, international trade, immigration and the economy at a debate Saturday afternoon at First Christian Church.

Sen. Maria Cantwell and Republican Mike McGavick were invited but declined to attend.

The primary victors now face challenges by Green Party candidate Aaron Dixon, a former Black Panther and the current director of a program for at-risk youths in Seattle; Bruce Guthrie, chairman of Whatcom County's Libertarian Party; and Independent Robin Adair, who has a background volunteering for a number of organizations, including Planned Parenthood and Seattle Children's Hospital.
And, as it has in the past, The Olympian has segregated the political letters to the editor in the Sunday edition.


Oct 7, 2006

standardized testing on a Saturday afternoon

The math WASL stinks, say a bunch of angry professors. More standardized testing good, says the leader of the free world.

Bush's bully pulpit

When your party is reeling from scandal after scandal, when your two-front war effort is stalled, when your diplomacy stinks, when your public approval ratings are abysmal, what do you do? Change the subject, and focus on the one area where you still feel confident.

Today President Bush marked the recent school shooting tragedies by calling for a safety conference and... wait for it... promoting standardized testing.
President Bush on Saturday lamented recent "shocking acts of violence" in schools, and promised his administration will do what it can to keep centers of learning safe for students....

"Our goal is clear: Children and teachers should never fear for their safety when they enter a classroom," the president said in his weekly radio address....

"Laura and I are praying for the victims and their families, and we extend our sympathies to them and to the communities that have been devastated by these attacks," the president said.

Bush also pushed for reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind law, which he says needs some changes. Under the law, schools that get federal poverty aid and fall short of their yearly progress goals for two straight years must offer transfers to students. After three years of failure, schools must offer low-income parents a choice of tutors....

The president outlined a series of ways in which the law could be improved, such as by expanding testing in high schools, an idea he has pitched to Congress for two years. He also said he wants the federal government to pay for 28,000 low-income students across the country to transfer to private schools, and has asked for $100 million to pay for the initiative.
The transcript of the address is here.

One statement irks me most: "The federal government is asking for demonstrated results in exchange for the money we send from Washington." As if the act is fully funded [pdf]. Money quote: "The cumulative underfunding is now $27 billion since NCLB was signed." That was back in 2004--and it hasn't gotten any better.

where to plant a banana stand

In one of my favorite scenes from Arrested Development's third season, Michael Bluth has just allowed his brother GOB (pronounced "Job"*) to start his own frozen banana stand franchise. Where does he set up? Right across from the other Bluth banana stand. "Research shows that more bananas are sold in this location than anywhere in the O.C.," GOB proclaims.

Naturally, I thought of that when reading this study that attempts to mathematically model what store owners have known forever:
Physicist Pablo Jensen from the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Lyon, France, analysed location records for more than 8500 retail outlets in the city. He found that the shops formed clusters, with shops such as butchers and delicatessens in one group, for example, and laundromats and bookstores in another. Stores of the same group seemed to attract each other, while stores from different groups repelled each other.

Jensen then adapted a theory of magnetism to calculate a number, Q, for shops, based on the proximity of attractive and repellent businesses in the area....

Jensen calculated Q for all the bakeries in Lyon in 2003 and 2005. During that period 19 bakeries shut down, and Jensen found their average Q was significantly lower than the average for all bakeries.
Butchers and bakers seem to do well together. No word, though, on candlestick makers.

*Pronounced "Jobe."

who is Hugs, and why is he imprisoned?

Depressed by the clouds rolling over the Sound? By the thought of a USC blowout of the hot-but-hopeless Huskies? By the Oakland sweep? By the upcoming election?

This ought to brighten your day.

and I said it couldn't be done

I've been searching high and low for an old media article that acknowledges WASL's flaws, instead of minimizing them. Finally, I've found it.
Very harsh words about Washington state's math programs were voiced Friday from nationally renowned math experts.

The professors are in Seattle for a seminar on the math crisis. With nearly half of Washington’s 10th graders failing the math WASL, critics say the state's math standards get an "F" and should be completely scrapped. They say the WASL should be completely reworked....

National experts at a forum in Seattle say Washington state should scrap its math standards and start over. They suggest getting rid of calculators until at least the 6th grade, and focus on basic arithmetic.

"That’s one thing that has parents rightly upset -- their children are being denied arithmetic in a way its kind of intellectual child abuse," said Prof. David Kline at California State.

Also, they call Washington’s WASL math test appalling.

"The test has to be reworked, completely reworked," Prof. David Milgram at Stanford University. “And professional mathematicians have to go over the questions before they see the light of day."
I was with him until the "child abuse" part, which is indefensible hyperbole. Otherwise, it's good to see WASL skepticism in print.