Apr 30, 2007

Gig Harbor students protest candid camera

This morning, students at the home of the Tides gathered to protest an illegitimate use of their school's security cameras.
One student reporting the demonstration for the school paper, Amber Critchley, said the protesters believe it was an improper use of the surveillance video, which is primarily a security feature.

Classes continued during the disruption, said Principal Greg Schellenberg. He said he congratulated the students on holding a peaceful demonstration. The protesters wore T-shirts that said "free love" and waved peace signs.
Good for them.

(Backstory here.)

new wine in old wineskins

Why do we value fresh translations of older texts in other languages, but don't care too much for modern versions of classics in our own language? I thought about this after writing an updated translation of Matthew 12:46-50, and after reading the piece about a major publisher's plan to abridge mammoths like Moby-Dick.

We justify the new translations in several ways, but I'm most interested in the claim that the new version better does justice to the original. What if the original doesn't do justice to itself? Is it wrong to suggest that someone could give Huck Finn a more realistic conclusion, or un-lag everything Henry James ever wrote?

Maybe it's just being inculcated in the remake-remix culture that makes heresy so attractive.

Update 5/4: I wonder if JRR Tolkien would approve of his son's creative appropriation of his legacy.

Apr 29, 2007

much love for Cha Seung Baek

In a vast improvement over his last outing, Baek took a no-no into the 6th before surrendering a single up the middle. He was yanked after giving up two bloopers and a double--the only really solid hit of the day--but Morrow, blistering again, made quick work of the remaining Royals to end the threat.

Right now, Morrow's throwing like Putz when Putz is in the zone. Untouchable fastballs followed by more untouchable fastballs. We're not even paying him $8 million. Yet.

Baek has to start surviving the third time through the order. So far he's lights-out through five or six, but gets hammered late. (It's been a pattern since last year.)

Oh, and let's hope Richie Sexson's RBI single was one of those "off the back, monkey" moments.

We'll wait to hear the TRP's flipperdoodle report.

which disciple was mean to Jesus?

[From Matthew 12:46-50, Recently Revised Version]

Jesus taught the multitude as his family waited outside, growing impatient as the minutes dragged on. Someone finally spoke up. "Hey Jesus," she said, "your mom and brothers are outside. They left a message and are wondering why you haven't called."

"Mom and brothers? Who are they?" Jesus replied. The joke was met with blank stares, so he tried a different tack. "There are my mom and brothers," he said, gesturing at his disciples, who were loitering in the corner of the room near the snacks. "Especially Peter. If he's not bugging me to clean my room, he's hogging the Wii and stealing my potato chips."

There was a small ripple of laughter. Peter shot Jesus a dirty look, and then, egged on by the other disciples, rushed the stage and tackled him, trying to pin his arm behind his back. Jesus wriggled free and tossed Peter into the audience, which crowdsurfed him out the door. Jesus shouted platitudes over the confusion.

Peter collapsed in the dust outside. "We'll see who gets the last laugh," he muttered, brushing himself off and spying Mary, James and Jude. Peter called over to them. "He pretended not to know you. He said something about his real mother and brothers being the people who do God's will."

"Oh, did he?" Mary said. "Well, no lasagna for dinner, then." She grabbed James and Jude by the elbow and the three marched away.

Peter smiled.

[139th in a series]

Apr 28, 2007

color commentary, part II

On another night of Jeff Weaver playing the M's eight million dollar pitching machine, I watched the debacle (fiasco? tragedy? embarrassment?) with my folks, once again enjoying the musings of an astute observer of the game: my mom. During the nine inning shellacking, she...
  • Referred to the catcher as "the shortstop."
  • Confused the pitcher for Ichiro. Again.
  • Theorized that Jeff Weaver was faring so poorly because his wife recently left him. (Weaver is single, and will be for a while if he doesn't get his head straight.)
  • Warned, "You'd better not blog this."

J.J. Redick Watch: April 28

Redick has held down the bench in the first three playoff games against the Pistons.

Orlando is 0-3.


saturation anxiety

I deliberated for two days before deciding I could show you the tie below. It took one year of ocular therapy to restore my full color vision after first seeing it, and three years of training at a Tibetan monastery to be able to withstand the color combination.

It's a little blurry, and not just for your safety. I tried several angles and distances before realizing that my poor old digital camera simply couldn't handle the shock.

I'm warning you: what you're about to see is potentially fatal to small children and the elderly. Avoid if you have a heart condition, are pregnant, or wish to enjoy the rainbow hues of life ever again.

Also, those really are hot dogs. Thank you, bro-in-law.

[cross-posted as a favor to humanity]

Apr 27, 2007

abridging the classics for the good of humanity

Moby-Dick in three hundred fifty pages? Genius.

If only someone could pare down In Search of Lost Time. Oh, wait--someone already has.

[via Arts and Letters Daily]


If you don't know how students can use iPods to cheat, you're so far behind the times that you won't even see their dust plume.
Some students use iPod-compatible voice recorders to record test answers in advance and them play them back, said 16-year-old Mountain View junior Damir Bazdar.

Others download crib notes onto the music players and hide them in the "lyrics" text files. Even an audio clip of the old "Schoolhouse Rock" take on how a bill makes it through Congress can come in handy during some American government exams.

Kelsey Nelson, a 17-year-old senior at the school, said she used to listen to music after completing her tests - something she can no longer do since the ban. Still, she said, the ban has not stopped some students from using the devices.

"You can just thread the earbud up your sleeve and then hold it to your ear like you're resting your head on your hand," Nelson said.
That's it. I'm banning resting, too.

"personhood networks"

Ron Bailey critiques a new way to determine personhood:
I believe that Dartmouth College philosopher Adina Roskies is right when she suggests "knowing that one part of our biological system for identifying persons is automatically entrained and subject to error should make us more cognizant of its operation and more skeptical of its output as we engage in the countless moral decisions we make each day." If Farah and Heberlein have correctly identified an innate personhood network in our brains, they will have helped free us from its mandates, just as other natural scientists freed us from our misconceptions about the sources of disease and rain. We are not just slaves to our brains' personhood networks -- we can use our rationality to figure out which entities count as persons and which do not. We will most likely conclude that personhood is a continuum, not an all or nothing property. Just where to draw moral lines along that continuum will be a long hard fought debate, but as Sagoff has pointed out moral progress can be made. In the end, Farah and Heberlein are wrong, persons are as real as mountains, diseases, weeds, pets and daylight.

Forrest Rice, Washington Scholar and a gentleman

Congratulations to Forrest Rice, also known as The Tree, the latest Capital student to achieve distinction as a Washington Scholar. Forrest is a scholar's scholar, a scholar among scholars, the scholarliest scholar who ever scholared.

Apr 26, 2007

McCain vs. McCain

Back when nation-building and "peacemaking" were anathema to Republicans, a younger John McCain warned that a drawn out engagement in Somalia was the only true danger to American prestige. No timetable, he argued: let's withdraw immediately.

Times change, eh?

stealing that IMDB movie meme

Since TRP's doing it, might as well, too. (He explains the rules so I don't have to.)

Name that film.

Update: I've added my own keywords to the ones that haven't been guessed yet.

Update Update: More keywords added. And more movie madness here.

No hints:
1. Tough Guy / Insulin / Diabetes [Memento - Josh]
2. No Opening Credits / Blood Splatter / Bloody Violence / Oranges / Unexpected Equine Visitor [The Godfather - TRP]
3. Tennessee Valley Authority / Railroad Hand Car / 1930s [O Brother Where Art Thou? - Ariel]
4. Overhead Camera Shot / Anti Hero / Murder Of Father [Kill Bill Vol. 1 - Josh and Ariel]
5. Silent Comedy / Bridge Collapse / Telegraph [The General - Matt]

All subtitles, all the time:
6. Argentina / Buenos Aires Argentina / Old Woman / Philately / Con Artists
7. Multiple Story Line / Ex Soldier / Extramarital Affair / Barking / Rats / Model
8. Daughter / Water / River / Anti-Americanism / Toxic Waste [The Host - Josh]
9. Expatriate / Jungle / Air Base / Nitroglycerine / Oil / Trucks
10. Bizarre / Crime / Art / Time [Run Lola Run - Cheater Josh]

Guess, and I'll let you know if you're right.

a kiss is just a kiss, except when it's caught on camera

It was very, very difficult to avoid some sort of punny title. The situation is practically begging for cheesy humor:
Restrictions on the use of security videotape have been tightened at a suburban Tacoma high school after images of two girls kissing were shown to the parents of one of the girls, officials say.

Keith Nelson, dean of students at Gig Harbor High School, said he saw the students kissing and holding hands in the school's busy commons, checked a surveillance camera and showed the parents the tape because they had asked him a few weeks earlier to alert them to any conduct by their daughter that was out of the ordinary.

They then transferred their daughter to a school outside the Peninsula School District, which lies northwest of Tacoma.

Both girls said their privacy was invaded and denied doing anything wrong. Neither was identified by name in an article published Thursday by The News Tribune of Tacoma.

The kiss amounted to a quick "peck," said the girl who remains at the school, a 17-year-old senior described as the daughter of a News Tribune employee.

"We weren't doing anything inappropriate, nothing anyone else wouldn't do," she said.

Nelson said students could not have any expectation of privacy in a crowded place and maintained that he would have taken the same action had the students kissing been a boy and a girl.
Quantifiable concerns: five. Count 'em.

1. That the whole thing smacks of Orwellianism.

2. That an administrator and parents consider a peck on the cheek "out of the ordinary."

3. That a quick peck is also a violation of school rules.

4. That the parents legitimized the whole thing by giving their daughter marching orders.

5. Most tellingly, that an administrator would value helicopter parenting above common sense:
"They're paying good money for us to make their kids good citizens," he said. "Whatever that means to the parents, I'll do it."

well versed: Skeptics' Circle #59

Matt made it metered.
Japanese poetry rocks;
Thinking is better.

controlling the message

Ryan laments:
1) Those who fought the battles of the '70s and '80s know how hard the profession had to fight to get collective bargaining and earn the gains we have. Many new teachers don't have that background--the association has always been there and always been powerful, to them--and as a result there's not the fire that you see from some of the experienced folks.

2) A side effect is that the WEA narrative becomes passe, because it's the only one they know. If a group like the EFF comes along and presents a good case, visually appealing, accessible through the technology that the new teachers use....we're setting ourselves up for a fall.

The WEA has the resources. They have the personality. During a legislative session like the one we just had I think it's criminal they don't do something like a weekly podcast to get the message out. Give us interviews with our elected WEA exec board, where they talk about the union and why we're still vital. Bring in the experts on ProCert, National Board, retirement, and all the other things that really matter.

Where is the voice of the WEA?
The WEA has people like Brooke Mattox and Rich Wood who have ramped up the union's web presence--but mostly for members, not for the general public. Rich in particular is hip to the new media, and his sentiments are shared by some in leadership, but Ryan is right: we're second-rate. Sure, bloggers like Ryan are beating the drum daily, and the "Take the Lead" concept is a step toward progress, but until the WEA starts aggregating blogs, starts getting bloggers signed on, and seriously develops an instant response team, it's going to keep getting pantsed by the more prolific.

Qwest makes me even crankier

Just when I've recovered from my latest outbreak of curmudgeonism, the DSL starts going in and out. A tech is coming out tomorrow afternoon to check the line, but that means another day of spotted and inconstant service.

Oh, and the district server has blocked Babelfish. What the.

Apr 25, 2007

grading the writing WASL

My freshfolks finished a sample prompt in just over an hour, then waited a few days as other teachers read their work, scoring it according to the WASL rubric. Before they got their essays back, they read and scored three samples, then discussed--make that debated--the scores in small groups. We reconvened as a whole class, continuing arguing about whether this or that essay was a 2 or a 3, and then, at long last, I revealed the scores provided by OSPI.

All I will say is this: students of Washington, you do not want my students assessing your essays. The WASL rubric is generic and generous in parts, open to interpretation, not terribly objective--what's the difference, quantitatively, between "consistently" and "generally" when counting up spelling errors? But my students were harsh, harsh, harsh.

When they saw the discrepancy, sometimes as much as a difference between a 1 and a 4*, the "real" score, they were shocked. It makes me happy to know they have such high standards.

The writing WASL doesn't measure excellence; it measures competence. Go ahead, quantify the difference. Defend your answer in a five-paragraph essay, and submit it to my class for assessment.

I dare you.

*Out of 6.

the more you know... about the brain

Slate, in its special Brain! issue, asks neuroscientists and other sundry students of the brain whether theory translates into personal practice. A sample:
Daniel Gilbert
Because it is so difficult to know whether a particular brain change will be invisible or catastrophic, I try to change mine as little as possible.

Joshua Greene
Knowing this helps me tolerate the contradictions in myself and others: Am I happy? Did she do that intentionally? Can people change? These questions never have single answers because we're not single things.

David Linden
This knowledge should prevent me from trying to get away with these behaviors, but it doesn't. Neurobiological insight just makes me feel like even more of an idiot afterward.
A common theme among many of those quoted: charity and empathy for others based on the recognition of the fallibility and fragility of normalcy. I second that emotion.

I am tired and cranky

Presenting this morning, preparing midterm grades, marking quizzes, arranging literature circles, and now sitting here whining. It's too much. I need food, and I need some comedy. I'll be back when I'm less grating.

Apr 24, 2007


Beneath the dishwasher the vinyl flooring has warped slightly from years of tiny leaks, the changes invisible in the moment but noticeable over time, the same mutability that Shelley described in his poem about the inevitability of cha--did I say flooring? This isn't flooring. It's a necktie. Had me fooled.

[cross-posted as always]

someone's had some kind of annual commemoration

The someone in question:

Two weeks and I'm jetting to Spain to see her. Two eternal weeks.

WIAA rules that districts have to approve extra coach pay

There go my plans to become the state's richest forensics coach.
At the Representative Assembly's annual meeting at Emerald Downs on Monday, an amendment that could potentially limit outside pay and gifts to high-school coaches passed by a 49-4 count.

Fair or not, Goncharoff, the football coach who has led Bellevue to five state championships in the past six years, became the face of Substitute Amendment 12, which states that "Coaching stipends and all gifts to a coach exceeding a total of $500 in a season must be approved by the school's board of directors."

A school-district investigation into the Bellevue football program last year revealed that boosters pay Goncharoff $55,000 in addition to his coaching stipend from the district of about $5,600. The district, unaware of the pay, last fall asked the WIAA to look into putting limits on booster clubs' ability to pay coaches.

The WIAA elected to put that decision in the hands of school boards.
No word on the proposed booing ban; that may mean it's a dead letter. I'll post an update if that changes.

M's bust out of funk

It was all mental. The Mariners' anemic early-inning offense and catastrophic starting pitching kept digging huge holes that we couldn't quite climb out of--until yesterday's visit to Texas, a middling effort by Cha Seung Baek and a solid relief performance by Brandon Morrow. (He certainly made a stronger case than Baek for a permanent spot in the rotation.) J.J. Putz finished with his first save, leaving only the Yankees as the AL's only saveless franchise.

In each game the Mariners have scored their first run earlier and earlier--the fifth on Sunday, and the fourth inning yesterday. At the current pace, by Friday they'll put up a run before even walking into the stadium.

Apr 23, 2007

limbo no longer in limbo

So saith the Vatican. Which means this is no longer necessary. But I'll repost it anyway.
Every little boy and girl
Stuck down in a limbo world
In between is gonna stay
'Til the Pope decides to say.
Every dude and every chick
Has to wait for Benedict.
All around the limbo clock
Hey, let's do the limbo rock.

Six, five, four now,
Three, two, one now,
How low will he go?

Is a fetus on the list?
How about a blastocyst?
What of embryos on ice?
Is there room in Paradise?
Foreign folks who never heard,
For nobody brought the Word?
I sure hope they meet the test,
'Cause my conscience needs some rest.

Zygote, embryo, fetus now,
Aborigine, autochthon now,
Please, Your Grace: is there space?

If you're under seventeen,
And your slate is pretty clean,
Keep on floating in your hope,
'Cause it's now up to the Pope.
If you want to go to heaven,
Gotta wait until '07.
So enjoy the edge of bliss
Stuck in a "hypothesis."

Pope please move that limbo bar,
You'll be a limbo star.
How low will you go?
This time, no apologies to anyone.

Radio Shack survives

Great Onion piece on the baffling longevity of Radio Shack:
One of Day's theories about RadioShack's continued solvency involves wedding DJs, emergency cord replacement, and off-brand wireless telephones. Another theory entails countless RadioShack gift cards that sit unredeemed in their recipients' wallets. Day has even conjectured that the store is "still coasting on" an enormous fortune made from remote-control toy cars in the mid-1970s.

Day admitted, however, that none of these theories seems particularly plausible.

"I once went into a RadioShack location incognito in order to gauge customer service," Day said. "It was about as inviting as a visit to the DMV. For the life of me, I couldn't see anything I wanted to buy. Finally, I figured I'd pick up some Enercell AA batteries, though truthfully they're not appreciably cheaper than the name brands."

"I know one thing," Day continued. "If Sony and JVC start including gold-tipped cable cords with their products, we're screwed."
I spent two summers working at a Radio Shack dealership (no, not a "company store") in Elma, running a one-hour photo lab on the side. We sold a lot of cell phones, a few transistors, a CB antenna now and then, some RC cars around Christmas. Some of my fondest memories:

  • The slightly drunk man who tried to compensate for his inebriation by chugging coffee and smoking cigarettes before coming in to buy a cell phone. He'd lean over the counter to ask a question, and I'd almost puke.
  • The (thankfully) rare times I had to shield my eyes from photos of local residents in the buff.
  • Learning to solder by fixing a guy's mono-to-stereo switch on his boombox, which was stuck on mono. I didn't even burn myself.
  • Replacing batteries on junky watches for the creepy old guys who'd score them at the swap meet. They could've gotten a better timepiece for the price of the battery, but it's always about the thrill of the deal.
  • At 17, being mistaken for the owner of the store by a government employee.
Ah, Radio Shack. May you exist in perpetuity.

math and science WASL delay approved, but watch out for a veto

Five more years to sweat it out: passing the WASL in math and science won't be a graduation requirement until at least 2013. That is, if Gregoire signs the bill passed just before this year's session ended.
Key Democrats wanted to delay the reading and writing portions of the test as well as math and science, but Gov. Christine Gregoire balked at that.

In the end, the governor won. Legislators passed a bill that delayed only the math and science portions of the test. Students in the class of 2008 would still have to pass the reading and writing portions.

Lawmakers also included other provisions, such as an expanded appeals process for students who fail one or more sections of the test.

Marty Brown, Gregoire's legislative liaison, said that although the governor supports the delay for the math and science requirement, it's not clear what other parts of the bill she might keep or veto.

Rep. Dave Quall, D-Mount Vernon, chairman of the House Education Committee, said he hopes the governor "will honor the majority of what's in the bill. I fully understand her veto pen might be there, but we would hope she'd honor the work that we've done."
Check out the rest of the article to get the rundown on the budget, all $33 billion of it.

Concerning a potential veto, The Olympian's story goes into a little more depth:
Gregoire's policy director, Marty Brown, said the governor would accept the delay to 2013, but would have to examine the rest of the measure before deciding whether to sign it all or veto sections, as state law allows.

"I think she was just glad that they're done; it was finally on paper," Brown said, adding that a lot of the measure "is sort of new stuff."
It also adds what I was expecting would be the eventual outcome: students would have to continue taking other math courses, so there's still an advantage to passing the darn thing and being done with it.

I'd scientifically and mathematically put a veto's chances at 30%. But don't ask me to show my work.

nice ass photos Spain

Although technically it's a burro.

More new Spain photos here and here.

[138th in a series]

Apr 22, 2007

after all, theft is the sincerest form of flattery

Jason Kuznicki is a brazen thief. My favorite part: the list of Shakespeare plays starting with M. "The Maiming of the Shrew." Classic.

(The title of this post is itself brazen thievery--where from, I just can't remember.)

Added: Oh, and then there's a run-in with grammar police.

Apr 21, 2007

comeback kidders

It's late in the Mariners game, and, as seems to be the pattern these days, we're slowly building up a late rally, down 7-2. Since our late rallies seem to consistently fall short, Dad keeps flipping back and forth between the contest and whatever schlock is playing on the Hallmark Channel--some sort of disaster movie night.

As the Mariners load up the bases, Dad checks back in with Luke and Tia, reunited again to save the world from burning plasma and insipid dialogue. "Come on," I say. "Enough with Supernova."

Dad shoots back, "The world is falling apart!"

"But so is the Angel bullpen!"

Two minutes later, Ben Broussard smacks the first pinch hit grand slam in Mariner history.

7-6, Anaheim. Real drama.

Update: We did it again, losing by that same score.

gainsharing probably dead--make that actually dead

Gainsharing, or gain sharing, or gain-sharing: by any other name, this rose is just as wilted.
The House voted to end a retirement benefit for some state workers Saturday, likely ensuring the end of “gain sharing.”

Democrats said the benefit, once thought to cost essentially nothing, will cost too much in the future. In exchange for ending the program, they plan to lower state workers’ retirement age by three years.
Republicans got to play the "a promise is a promise" card on this one, but lost. I'll take earlier retirement, though, if I can get it. To borrow a phrase from Delmar O'Donnell, "I'll only be 62."

We'll see how this all plays out. I'll post updates as soon as they're available.

Update: Yep, it's gone. If it's any consolation, though, plan II and III members can now exit three years earlier without penalty.

1984 is so 2007

Amusing and frightening video from the Beeb about a new use for CCTV:
"Talking" CCTV cameras that tell off people dropping litter or committing anti-social behaviour are to be extended to 20 areas across England.

They are already used in Middlesbrough where people seen misbehaving can be told to stop via a loudspeaker, controlled by control centre staff.

About £500,000 will be spent adding speaker facilities to existing cameras.
Not surprisingly, kids are being dragged in:
Competitions would also be held at schools in many of the areas for children to become the voice of the cameras, Mr Reid said.
This coming just a day after I introduced students to Orwell's novel / cliché. And I thought distributed snitching was creepy.

[via BoingBoing, via Instapundit]

Washington will soon have a poet laureate

We finally join the ranks of the civilized, as Governor Gregoire has made it official.
Gov. Christine Gregoire this week marked National Poetry Month by signing legislation that creates the new post of poet laureate....

The governor and state Arts Commission will appoint the honoree after getting recommendations from a special screening committee. The laureate must be a state resident and would hold a two-year appointment.

It's not a get-rich position, since the state budget provides only $30,000 in startup costs for the first two years, including a stipend and expense money for the poet-in-chief. Other states typically give an honorarium of between $2,000 and $5,000 a year. Future financing will come from private grants, donations and endowments, rather than the state budget....

The legislation, which passed after 12 years of efforts by sponsors, takes effect in 90 days. The choice for poet laureate could be announced this fall.
I humbly nominate myself.

a date with the bargaining team

Yesterday afternoon the Olympia EA hosted an informal gabfest over drinks and hors d'oeuvres at Mercato, to hear about pressing issues, but also to give members at least some sense of the complexities and compromises inherent in negotiation.

Before opening up a forum, the bargaining team shared strategy and its operating maxims. Though I won't list them here, I will say that, surprisingly, given some of the discussion, all of the maxims are framed negatively--"Don't do this," "Don't allow that." I tend to find positive goals more encouraging and less of a defensive stance, so I'd encourage the team to think about reworking them as positive statements.

I'll add more thoughts once I've thoroughly digested everything in my notes.

Oh, and word on the street is that I blog about local union activity, as well as a range of state and national educational concerns, offering pithy commentary and sage advice to the masses. But don't tell anyone.

Apr 20, 2007

the stories that make us

Stefán Snaevarr examines the narrativist philosophies of Alasdair MacIntyre and Paul Ricoeur:
What could explain this change in the intellectual climate? I think that one of the things which brought about this pro-narrativist change is the downfall of modernism in literature. Modernists such as French writer Alain Robbe-Grillet wanted to do away with ordinary storytelling. Ordinary stories were regarded as superficial and without any power to show the real nature of human life. Human life is simply not like a narrative, the modernists thought. This anti-narrativism had its heyday when Schapp was writing his books, so no wonder he was ignored. Then in the Sixties post-modernism arrived on the scene and telling stories in novels became all the rage again. Great storytellers like Gabriel Garcia Marquez were the darling of the literati. Believing in the redeeming quality of stories is now in vogue. Every day someone publishes a book telling you how you can become rich / famous / happy / popular by telling stories.

My aim in the remains of this article is more modest. I want to introduce to you the thought of two celebrated narrativists.
Though Snaevarr keeps his focus on the positive, we can also imagine the breakdown of identity as the dissolution of a coherent narrative, as is often the case in the work of Dr. Oliver Sacks.

Apr 19, 2007

a tacky tie for a doomed Attorney General

A close-up of the leadership chart at the Department of Justice.

why I'm against banning cell phones at school

Because of times like this:
Police say they have arrested 16-year-old student at Todd Beamer High School and found three loaded guns plus extra ammunition Thursday.

The emergency prompted a lockdown of the school during afternoon classes....

Diane Turner of the Federal Way School District says a student text messaged their parent that another student had brought a weapon to school.

The parent contacted the school. A resource officer pulled the boy out of class.

Stacy Flores of Federal Way Police [says] the guns were stolen this morning in a burglary in Pierce County. She says the student was planning to sell the guns, not to use them.

wikis: are you ready for the revolution?

Wikis are scary.

This year, my juniors are creating a wiki for the novel Song of Solomon--character descriptions, thematic analysis, quotable quotes, historical background. Peppered with links, and editable at any time by anyone in my classes.

It's a nice extension of habits we've already developed by blogging. Now, though, information and analysis are no longer the sole possession of individuals. They belong to the community, with all the attendant ethical obligations. That sort of power is, as Lord Acton observed, eminently corruptable, so I've laid down strict expectations about malfeasance and stupidism, and won't hesitate to ban anyone who practices either. I hope that the students can largely police themselves.

I'm using wikispaces because it's free and intuitive, with very few idiosyncracies. (One is a lack of drag-and-drop linkage.) For the teacher who's willing to take the pedagogical and technological risks, the rewards are ample: engagement, cooperation, and even fun.

Oldboy, Cho Seung Hui, and inspiration

The latest hypothesis in a long list is that Cho Seung Hui was "inspired" by Oldboy, a violent South Korean film. The connection: a hammer.
In the photo, the killer brandishes a hammer - the signature weapon of the protagonist in "Oldboy" - in a pose similar to one from the film.

The 2003 film, directed by Chan-wook Park, won the Gran Prix prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2004. The second of Park's "Vengeance Trilogy," the movie is about a man unjustly imprisoned for 15 years. After escaping, he goes on a rampage against his captor. In one scene, he dispatches over a dozen henchmen with the aid of a hammer.

The connection was spotted by Professor Paul Harris of Virginia Tech, who then alerted the authorities, according to London's Evening Standard.
Ironically, the film--and the trilogy--is about the ultimate futility of revenge. Of course, with all his references to Christ and crucifixion, it's equally plausible that Hui was "inspired" by The Passion of the Christ. Even more plausible, he saw Taxi Driver, and went the way of Travis Bickle--or some bizarre combination of the three.

I don't know what this proves about violence in cinema. It's not as if we blame late-night AM UFO talk shows for the babblings of street corner schizophrenics, though the two are sometimes indistinguishable. Cho Seung Hui was clearly mad, and madness is its own way of seeing.

Update: Grady Hendrix makes the connection in just the right way.
The "Vengeance Trilogy" is difficult, painful to watch, and obsessed with depicting revenge as the ultimate act of narcissism—a way to wallow in your problems and proclaim "Oh, poor me" with a hammer.

Apr 18, 2007

driving while thoroughly intoxicated

This is either atate record, or a statistical error. A woman recently arrested for DWI had a BAC of .47. According to the Wisconsin DOT, an average 100-pound woman drinking 10 shots in an hour will have a BAC of .445. That's "comatose" for you or me. Wikipedia notes,
Unless a person has developed a high tolerance, a BAC rating of 0.20 represents very serious intoxication (most first-time drinkers would be passed out by about 0.15), and 0.35 represents potentially fatal alcohol poisoning. 0.40 is the accepted LD50, or lethal dose for 50% of adult humans. For a long-time, heavy drinker, those numbers can at least double. In extreme cases, individuals have survived BAC ratings as high as 0.914.
I don't even want to know how to get a BAC that high.

shadow and substance

One day and three decades too late.

Apr 17, 2007

the imploding personality of the "question mark kid"

Via news reports, we're now learning about the tortured soul of the Virginia Tech shooter, Cho Seung-Hui.
A chilling picture emerged today of Cho Seung-Hui — a 23-year-old senior majoring in English — a day after the bloodbath that left 33 people dead, including Cho, who killed himself as police closed in.

News reports said that he may have been taking medication for depression and that he was becoming increasingly violent and erratic....

Professor Carolyn Rude, chairwoman of the university's English department, said Cho's writing was so disturbing that he had been referred to the university's counseling service.

"Sometimes, in creative writing, people reveal things and you never know if it's creative or if they're describing things, if they're imagining things or just how real it might be," Rude said. "But we're all alert to not ignore things like this...."

The Chicago Tribune reported on its Web site that the note railed against "rich kids," "debauchery" and "deceitful charlatans" on campus. ABC, citing law enforcement sources, said that the note, several pages long, explains Cho's actions and says, "You caused me to do this."

Citing unidentified sources, the Tribune also said Cho had recently set a fire in a dorm room and had stalked some women....

In a small department, Cho distinguished himself for being anonymous. "He didn't reach out to anyone. He never talked," Poole said.

"We just really knew him as the question mark kid," Poole said.
We may never know if Seung-Hui suffered from a brain tumor, along the lines of Charles Whitman, but all the signs of an imploding personality consistent with some kind of neurological malady showed before the shooting.

Neurological speculation aside, as an English teacher, I wrestle with the issue raised by Carolyn Rude. The writer with a twisted imagination is sometimes just that--we don't arrest Stephen King or Dean Koontz for attempted murder. But the signs were strong enough that teachers recognized something beyond twisted. I can only hope that, as I interact with students in class and on the page, I have the wisdom to distinguish dark fancy from despair.

Update: The story takes another bizarre turn.
NBC said that a time stamp on the package indicated the material was mailed in the two-hour window between the first burst of gunfire in a high-rise dormitory and the second fusillade, at a classroom building. Thirty-three people died in the rampage, including the gunman, 23-year-old student Cho Seung-Hui, who committed suicide.

The package included digital images of him holding weapons and a manifesto that "rants against rich people and warns that he wants to get even," according to a law enforcement official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the case.

MSNBC said that the package included a CD-ROM on which Cho read his manifesto.

principal hiring process inaugurated

Since Teri Poff will be leaving Capital at the end of the year, the district has already posted the position, which will close May 10th, with a new hire signed on by June 4th. The OSD hiring process is intense, including meetings for teacher, parent, and student input in late April, and then a rigorous interview process culminating in early June.

Some important dates:
  • Parent / Community Input Meeting, evening of April 26, probably in Pod A
  • Student Input Meeting, TBA
  • CHS Employee Input Meeting, April 23 after school; April 24 before
  • Application Deadline, May 10
  • Interviews, May 23-24
  • Final interview with Superintendent, June 1
  • School Board hires new principal, June 4, a special meeting

Update: The Olympian finally catches up.

is dignity relative?

Leon Kass:
In order to justify ongoing [human cloning] research, these intellectuals and others like them today are willing to shed not only traditional religious views but any view of human distinctiveness and special dignity, their own included. They fail to see that the scientific view of man they celebrate does more than insult our vanity. It undermines our self-conception as free, thoughtful, and responsible beings, worthy of respect because we alone among the animals have minds and hearts that aim far higher than the mere perpetuation of our genes. It undermines, as well, the beliefs that sustain our mores, practices, and institutions–including the practice of science. The problem lies not so much with the scientific findings themselves as with the shallow philosophy that recognizes no other truths but these and, and with the arrogant pronouncements of the bio-prophets.
Why does a proper respect for human dignity require “human exceptionalism,” and a bizarrely relative view of dignity? If we were to discover other creatures of similar intelligence in the universe, would that somehow invalidate the scientific enterprise because it would knock us off our anthropocentric perch? This is a grand non sequitur.
Wesley J. Smith:
You don’t believe there is a hierarchy of moral worth? You don’t think humans have moral duties no other species in the known universe has? You don’t think human beings are exceptional? Then why are we required, as we should be, to save endangered species but seals and elephants aren’t? Ah, it is because only we understand or care about the concept. Why? Because we are exceptional.

The self loathing of many is amazing to me. Thanks for writing, Jim.
Smith leaps to the assumption that I don't find humans exceptional, recapitulating the same non sequitur. I actually agree that, as far as we know, humans are unique in their moral and reasoning ability--whether in degree or in kind, I'm not certain. Call this "soft exceptionalism."

This doesn't require me to place humans at the top of a "moral hierarchy," though--at least not without a lot of explanation, which Smith presumes rather than provides. The moral pyramid might look more like a ziggurat.

Even if we assume that a true moral pyramid exists, we are not committed to "moral exceptionalism"-for even in the theistic view Kass espouses, humans are not greatest among rational and moral creatures. I wonder if Smith thinks the Biblical poet disparages human dignity when he writes, "For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour." Lower than another created being, yet still full of "glory and honour." Dignity, at least to David, isn't relative.

Again, my complaint isn't with the concept of human dignity, and even with that of human exceptionalism. For all we know, humans have unique moral duties. But raising someone else's stature doesn't require tearing down our own. Moral worth isn't zero-sum.

Apr 16, 2007

a world away

My wife keeps uploading photos of Úbeda and the surrounding countryside, so I keep dutifully posting them to her blog. The third set is now available.

Oh, and Melissa: I'm not as helpless in the kitchen as you thought--and not even as terrible as I expected. Enchiladas in under an hour, with only one minor burn.

Capital's principal accepts position in Tacoma

This afternoon our principal, Teri Poff, announced that she's departing at the end of the year, having been offered a curriculum position with the Franklin Pierce district. She expressed her regret at having to leave such an excellent school and committed staff, but also shared her excitement about the new opportunity.

It was a bit of a surprise: I know that no administrator stays forever, but since I began teaching the same year she started principaling, I had gotten quite comfortable with her leadership style and personality. It will be hard to adjust, but that's how it goes. I wish her well in her future endeavors.

Also, I totally scooped The Olympian. Again.

Virginia Tech shooting

I'm sure you've heard about it by now. Not much I can add to the outrage and sympathy already expressed more eloquently elsewhere, but to say that my heart is heavy and sad.

all my meals for free

Why buy one chipotle chicken sandwich for $3.99, when you can have two? Fast food retailers are crazy for coupons. It's not all good, say some:
Elisabeth Gilster De Velazquez, associate professor of marketing at Roanoke College in Salem, Va., says issuing coupons, whether they're for free burritos or buy-one-get-one-free French fries, hasn't been successful for chains on a regular basis.

"In the long run it's going to hurt them if they keep doing it," Velazquez says. "If you keep using them over time, your consumers are not going to want to pay full price again. They're going to get used to the reduced prices or the free stuff. You're conditioning your consumers to conceive that your product doesn't have the same value as it would at full price."
Indeed they are. I won't eat at Subway unless I like the $2.50 Daily Special. Arby's sees me once a month, the day after the coupon sheet arrives in the mail. Burger King? Are you joking?

Stupidness comes at the end, though:
The benefit for consumers is, obviously, the free food. But Velazquez says they should be aware of the restaurant's ulterior motive, which is to get customers in the door to redeem those free-food coupons and, hopefully, bring their friends or buy other items on the menu.

After all, she said, "People love free stuff."
Isn't an "ulterior" motive a hidden, sneaky sort of motive? Giving away coupons is more than a little transparent.

Apr 15, 2007

Adam Morrison and J.J. Redick Watch: April 15

Bothered by an injury, Redick sat as Orlando, relieved and a bit lucky, marched into the playoffs. Brian Schmitz of The Orlando Sentinel notes that J.J. feels he hasn't yet given the Magic his best:
This summer, he plans to hit the weight room -- he says his bench press is up from 185 to 230 pounds -- more than ever. Redick will play for the Magic's summer-league team and for Team USA "as long as my invitation is still good."

"I'm going to put pressure on myself this summer," he said. "I'm going to put in the work. I can't predict where I'll be, but I know I'll be a better player.

"I'd give myself a 'C' this year. Some say I've had a disappointing year. I say average. And I never want to be average."
That would make it disappointing, right?

In other news, yesterday Adam Morrison sat due to his own injury issues, while his partner in lengthy locks, Walter Herrmann, stepped it up and dropped 30 on the hapless Bucks.

cursive going the way of the quill

In what's becoming an annual quillblogging tradition, I direct the reader to another lament for the lost art of scrivenizing.
Cursive penmanship is becoming a casualty of the digital age. Last year, of the nearly 1.5 million high-school students who took the SAT, only 15 percent used cursive on the essay portion, according to the College Board.

Under pressure to meet testing standards, teachers are devoting less time to penmanship practice. A 2003 survey of primary teachers by Vanderbilt University found that the average classroom gets fewer than 10 minutes a day of penmanship instruction.

In Washington, state standards allow printing or cursive, as long as it is legible. Local districts start teaching cursive in the primary grades. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction also encourages districts to offer initial keyboarding instruction in the kindergarten through eighth grade.

Most students master basic keyboard skills, which students and educators nationwide say are increasingly taking precedence over pen and paper.

Three years ago, Grace Bratzel, a 15-year-old freshman at Christ's Household of Faith school in St. Paul, won a national cursive penmanship competition with 130,000 entrants. But today, she said, she mostly prints or uses a computer.

"Cursive is prettier and more artistic, but manuscript is more natural and instinctive," she said. "When it's really important, I write on the computer so the teachers don't judge the work on how it's presented."
Research shows that the students who wrote in cursive on the SAT scored slightly higher. No word on if it was because they were faster writers and better thinkers, or whether scorers were too lazy to decipher the scrawl, and decided it was probably by a smartypants anyway and thus worth a better score.

Apr 14, 2007

Hercules Unchained

The inimitable Steve Reeves holds his own against Thebans, amnesia, and Eddie Izzard, who appears at the :53 mark.

Best viewed in the MST3K version.

Joel: "I think we can probe deeper into the phenomenological basis for Hercules' experience."
Crow: "Discarding the classical dualistic view, of course."

reality will make sense if you just find the right topos

Goodbye, logic and all that. Hello, topoi. [sub. req.]
But there is a price to pay, and it is precisely what the Kochen-Specker theorem warned of: the demise of simple truth and falsity. For all its drawbacks, Boolean algebra does at least allow every statement about our universe to be either true or false. Yet this turns out to be the exception among all the different types of algebras - including the one underpinning quantum theory. The logic associated with quantum topoi encompasses true, false and many shades of grey in between.

Does that mean we must accept a universe that is real, but about which any question will receive myriad answers, all of them true? According to Isham and his colleagues, the answer - appropriately enough - is both yes and no. If we are content to view reality through the window of classical physics, then we can enjoy straightforward true/false answers to our questions - as long as we avoid the realm of atoms. But if we insist on making statements about atoms, we must use the logic of quantum topoi and accept the existence of a whole host of realities, all as valid as each other.

And that might just be the start; after all, there are more topoi than just the standard and quantum ones. In a series of papers unveiled last month, Isham proposes an even more mind-bending idea: there may be myriad ways of viewing reality, each based on its own topos. Together with Andreas Doering of Imperial, he has shown that every physical system - from an electron to the whole universe - has a unique mathematical identity that dictates how it will appear when viewed through the prism of a particular topos.

Seen via the topos of set theory, an atom takes on its classical appearance with nice, well-defined properties. Viewed through the topos associated with quantum theory, it becomes altogether fuzzier and strange.

We needn't stop there. Why not opt for another topos? It could lead to a view of reality even more astonishing and successful than quantum theory. "What we're hoping is that topos theory becomes the basis for a whole new way of constructing theories", says Isham.
Postmodern sciency mumbo-jumbo, or a radical revision of the way we understand--or is it construct--reality?


(Yes, that's an interrobang.)

ten more books for the autodidact

Since my brother asked.

If you've finished John Mark Reynolds' list, and plowed through Joe Carter's, you're doing well: you're classically and contemporarily wiser than most. But there are still ten books you should read to consider yourself truly educated. In no particular order:

1. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Dr. Oliver Sacks
Nothing is as delicate as normalcy.

2. The Death of Artemio Cruz, Carlos Fuentes
Narratively challenging, culturally penetrating, psychologically devastating.

3. Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes
The novel of novels. Postmodern before modern even existed.

4. Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman
"I am large, I contain multitudes." Quintessentially American poems by the quintessential American poet.

5. 1984, George Orwell
A book that still transcends its status as a cultural cliché.

6. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving
Dickensian in scope, pathos, and its sense of destiny.

7. and 8. The Sound on the Page, Ben Yagoda; On Writing Well, William Zinsser
Even better than The Elements of Style.

9. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey
Even better than the movie.

10. Black Boy, Richard Wright
There is no greater American autobiography, period.

Update: You might have noticed that Christina and Josh have also posted lists.

Apr 12, 2007

when ghostwriters plagiarize

While we're thinking about libraries:

Katie Couric has fired Melissa McNamara for copying parts of the commentaries McNamara ghostwrote for Couric to read on-air. As Timothy Noah points out, there's "deeper fakery" at work.
A counterfeit memory like "I still remember when I first got my library card" can easily be assigned to someone else. A real memory like my long-held prejudice against all librarians and the petty tyranny that led me to it cannot. This leads us to the deeper phoniness that hobbles the assembly-line anchorperson-commentary racket CBS News has been running for decades. If person A is going to express a personal memory or opinion on behalf of person B, and person B is not someone who identifies publicly with specific positions on matters of public debate—something network news anchors (outside of Fox, anyway) are discouraged from doing—then person A will hew carefully to anodyne sentiment. The result is commentary devoid of any substance or interest.
The antidote is a splash of cold blogging.

"A World in Three Aisles"

Gideon Lewis-Kraus writes up the Prelinger Library in this month's Harper's. The Georgia State University Library blog provides a couple excerpts, and, as a way to encourage you to seek out and read the article, and think about the way we store, organize, and access the information that threatens to bury us, I'll quote my favorite passage:
The promise of the Internet-as-Alexandria is more than the roiling plenitude of information. It's the ability of individuals to choreograph that information in idiosyncratic ways, the hope that individuals might feel invited by the gravitational pull of a broad and open commons to "rip, mix, and burn"--to curate. This new sort of curator, in effect, is one definition of a blogger: an amateur experimental librarian for the Internet... It's not that the Dewey decimal system isn't in some sense designed for associative browsability; it's that the Dewey decimal system is a helpful but ossified structure best suited to the bureaucratic centralization of thousands of different libraries.... Every Library of Alexandria on some broad boulevard needs Prelinger libraries tucked away in the alleys behind.

yes, I do prefer the Super Nintendo

Reason to feel old: this afternoon, I heard someone on the radio point out that the Dodgers haven't won a playoff game in 19 years. I was nine then.

Reason to feel young: Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball for the Super Nintendo is still the greatest baseball game ever made. I love it not only because of its outstanding gameplay, but because of its idiosyncracies and flaws. Some examples:
  • Try as you might, you cannot commit an error.
  • Pitchers all bat .200 by default.
  • Only pitchers can pitch.
  • The stats track batting average, home runs, and RBIs for batters; wins, losses, and ERA for pitchers--that's it.
  • Big sluggers sometimes break their bat when they strike out. Measly infielders either shake their fist in fury, or hang their head in humiliation.
  • Each game features a newspaper recap, with a random headline on the second page, something like "Ump caught playing GameBoy during 7th inning stretch."
Because Nintendo didn't pay for licensing rights, the players have bizarre, sometimes thematic names. The California Angels, for example, are movie stars, including one Greta Garbo. The Oakland A's are poets, Charles Bukowski among them. Jello Biafra pitches for the Dodgers. Cartoonist Peter Bagge replaces Greg Swindell for the Houston Astros.

Sneakily, the game has a workaround. My brother and I once spent a summer rearranging the names based on stats found on baseball cards. This was all before they were posted on the internet, so we had to arrange everything by hand.

You kids don't know how good you have it.

simple majority measure passes

At long last, two thirds of the Senate agree: It's now up to the electorate.
Washington voters will get the final say on a state constitutional amendment to allow simple majority approval of local property tax levies for public schools.

The state Senate passed the measure on a 33-16 vote today, just squeaking past the two-thirds vote needed.

"This is a long time in coming," said Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way. "I feel just as passionate today as I did in '93 about this piece of legislation. I'm a mom and I care about every single child in the state of Washington."

The House already passed the measure, so it now heads to voters who must approve it by a simple majority.

It currently takes a 60 percent supermajority to pass a school levy. To lower that to 50 percent requires a constitutional amendment.
Smaller, rural, struggling districts are primed to benefit most; if all goes well, 40% of voters won't get to decide their fate. We'll hold off celebrating, though, until the people have their say.

definitely Intelligently Designed

What is it with hideously customized Ford Escorts? PZ Myers points out a "creationist clown car." The CCC gets points for utter stupidity, but nothing will ever top the one I saw a year ago.

Where's a design filter when you need one?

Adam Morrison sings the classics

Clip here.

Apr 11, 2007

how to stop a bank robbery, or The Times reads my mind

Just yesterday I was mentioning to my mom that the best way to deal with a bank robber is psychological warfare--pointing out that the note is misspelled, asking to please see the weapon to make sure it is "within code," saying "I'm sorry, but we're out of cash today, and you'll have to go across the street." I argued that most robberies are committed by desperate, nervous people who are too jittery to think straight.

In a delightful coincidence, today's Times explains why my strategy works.
Scott Taffera sensed something was wrong when a man walked into the Ballard bank branch he manages wearing garden gloves, a hat and sunglasses.

But instead of following the nonconfrontational strategy used by most banks with suspicious people, Taffera approached the man with a hearty greeting and an offer to help. He invited him to remove his hat and sunglasses, and guided him to an equally bubbly teller.

In the end, the oddly dressed man requested a roll of quarters before slinking out the door....

By focusing attention in the guise of good customer service on all who enter a bank, [FBI Agent Larry] Carr says, bank employees can unnerve robbers, who generally try to remain as anonymous as possible when approaching a teller.

The ploy specifically targets so-called "note jobs," in which a robber passes a note demanding cash to a teller, Carr said. He estimates 90 percent of bank robberies in the Seattle area are note jobs.
So there you have it. If you can maintain your sang froid, most likely, the robber's own nerves will take care of the rest.

Well, not any more, now that the word is out, but it was a great strategy while it lasted.

math and science WASL delay heads for conference committee

That committee will iron out the differences between the House and Senate versions:
In an 81-17 vote, the House signaled its desire to replace math and science on the WASL with end-of-course exams in algebra, geometry and biology, as long as an independent third party agrees those exams would be superior to the WASL.

Senate Bill 6023 also calls for a five-year delay in the year that students must pass the math WASL to graduate — from 2008 to 2013. Students who fail, however, still would have to take additional math courses to earn their diplomas. Passing the science WASL also would not become a graduation requirement until 2013.
The one thing I like about end-of-course exams is that they fall at the end of a course, and can thus be directly tailored to the content, say, on the geometry or algebra curriculum--thus, "teaching to the test" just means teaching the class you should be teaching, not worrying about remediation and a generic curriculum.

They'd might even waste less time and fewer resources--and cause less trauma. At least, one can hope.

Felix Hernandez rules; Dice-Who?

One measly J.D. Drew single from a no-hitter, in Fenway, against the $100 million dollar arm, who pitched well enough but gave up three too many when his opponent was nearly perfect.

Oh, and speaking of East Coast / Big Money bias, how about the writeup, which features Dice-K with a little Dice-K on the side?

That's okay, Felix. We know who's the hottest pitcher in the American League, and it ain't Dice-K.

Update: Leave it Fox Sports to be fair and balanced. Masterful, indeed.

domestic partnerships for same-sex couples in Washington state

It took a year and some change after the last equal rights measure, but it's finally here. If Gregoire signs the bill, same sex couples will gain rights via domestic partnerships, one step closer to full marriage rights.
Substitute Senate Bill 5336 creates a registry in the Office of the Secretary of State, letting same-sex couples who share a residence share in some medical and end-of-life rights enjoyed by married heterosexuals — including visitation rights in health-care facilities, rights to get health-care information and to obtain rights to cemetery plots and interment.

The rights also would be open to unmarried heterosexual couples if one person is 62 or older.
Gay rights advocates are justifiably triumphant, while opposition groups are still beating the end-of-the-world drum.
“I think the Christian people are pretty much going to sleep and letting the culture collapse around them,” said Bob Higley, lobbyist for the Positive Christian Agenda. “I think the pastors are letting the churches ignore the political environment. They are not speaking up on social issues like they should.”
That's exactly why the opposition is doomed to fail:allowing gay couples to share in important end-of-life decisions or to have more stable relationships won't cause civilization to collapse. Such claims just aren't credible.

Apr 10, 2007

Adam Morrison and J.J. Redick Watch: April10

Not much new for J.J.--and really shouldn't be much new for Adam, who sat in the last game with a sprained knee. But all that seat time got him in $25,000 worth of trouble:
... Morrison was fined $25,000 by the NBA on Tuesday for making an obscene gesture to a fan during a game in Miami....

Morrison said he was being heckled throughout the game.

"I've got to learn to take it, I guess, but I think the guy went over the edge a little bit, calling me 'white trash' over and over again," said Morrison, who also sat out Tuesday's game against Miami. "I reacted naturally and I made a mistake. I hurt the organization and the team. I'm sorry about it and it will never happen again."
Sticks and stones, Mr. Morrison. Sticks and stones.

takes one to know one

One part of me wants to say, Yeah, Hitch, you're right. This "you" crap is just disguised narcissism. The more reasonable part of me, though, says that so is writing. Hitchens, of all people, should know that.

Sidebar: Ed Brayton is at least upfront about it.

when it comes to punctuation, nothing is easy

As an English teacher and sometime grammar blogger, I appreciate anyone's attempt to make grammar understandable in non-grammatical terms. Michael Leddy has created five simple rules for punctuation:
Nothing that follows is meant to substitute for the nuanced explanations of what’s usually called a writing handbook, the sort of book that college students purchase in a first-semester writing course. These five rules though have the virtue of being manageable, which is difficult to say of a 1,000-page book.
I leave it to the reader to find a home for the two missing commas.

[via Joe Carter]

Apr 9, 2007

Google, destroyer of worlds

First Google made it easier--but also much, much harder--to be original. Then Google wrecked people's feelings of uniqueness. Now Google is destroying dating normalcy.
The results can be enlightening, surprising - and sometimes, a little disturbing. So Laird's advice also comes with a warning: "Don't google what you can't handle."

Hers is the voice of experience. In her dating life, she regularly did online research on her dates and turned up, among other things, "bizarre" fetishes and a guy who was fascinated with vampires.

"Not my scene at all," Laird says, "and nothing I would've ever guessed over an initial meeting and beer."
No more fruitfully awkward moments, those train wreck date stories that you share with your friends and harbor in your nightmares for decades. Thanks, and no thanks, to Google.

deadline approaches; simple majorities on line

This Friday--the 13th, of course--is the last day a bill can pass the House or Senate, provided it's already passed in the other chamber. The WEA is embarking on one last push for the simple majority bill, SB 5028, which breezed through the House but stalled in the Senate.

This session may be the last, best chance. It's time to heed your constituents, senators, and let the people decide. If we want it, we'll vote for it.

slings and arrows

It started out as a discussion of an article about Bush's stem cell inconsistency. But then it turned into a haiku battle.

the law is an ass, part MCLXVI

Two legal phrases that addle the brain: Zero Tolerance Policy and Three Strikes, You're Out.

The latter on display here.
Hear about the guy who spent 71 days in jail for stealing two hot dogs from a Wichita QuikTrip?

Wait. He didn't steal the hot dogs, he just forgot to pay for them. Twelve people took two days off to serve jury duty last week, heard the evidence, and found the guy not guilty.

"It was stupid," said presiding juror Krysti Mason, 21.

This is no joke. The case of Thomas M. Wimberly, a 74-year-old veteran living on Social Security, highlights both inconsistencies in the law and the experiences of poor people in the criminal justice system.

Wimberly sat in jail unable to make bond, $100,000 at one point, charged with a crime that -- even if he'd been convicted -- brings no time behind bars, only probation.

The hot dogs cost $2.11, "with tax," assistant store manager Jeff Dalke testified.

A bill tied up in the state Legislature would clear up a law that leads to cases like Wimberly's and frustrates prosecutors.

Kansas law requires felony prosecution for crimes such as petty theft if the suspect has had two prior convictions.

When Wimberly walked out of the QuikTrip at Broadway and Murdock without paying for the hot dogs last July, he had two previous misdemeanor thefts on his record -- one more than a decade old.
Read the whole tragic tale.

[via Obscure Store]

we had to destroy the arts in order to save them

Venice Buhain reports that while the state is considering standards for the arts, no one's (yet) talking about an Arts WASL.
Sample tests, which are available online at the OSPI Web site, focus on skills students can learn in class and not on talent — how well a student can draw or sing, for example. The sample tests show that teachers score on specific criteria, such as whether a student understands arts vocabulary, develops skills important for creating the art, and processes feedback from a partner or the audience.

“It gives relevance to the arts,” Joseph said. “This is how you would be using it, the arts, in real life.”

Joseph said districts are eager to use the assessments.

“We can make sure that all kids are getting art like they’re supposed to,” she said, pointing out that the state and the federal government’s No Child Left Behind act consider the arts to be a core subject, just like math, reading or science.
You'd never know that by the way districts are gutting the arts to provide extra WASL prep classes. Maybe making the arts part of the WASL is the only way to save them.

Maybe. Or maybe we should step back, pause, hold on, breathe, and think before playing the next measure.

Apr 8, 2007

an inverse correlation

My brother-in-law, my dad, and I spent a good part of the afternoon descending into madness. It started when snow canceled the Mariners doubleheader, forcing us to watch the Lakers take on the Suns. Steve Nash was running circles around LA defenders, Raja Bell was simultaneously holding Kobe to under 50 and knocking down threes, so in the end Phoenix won handily.

That done, we started to get nervous. Wasn't much else on the sports schedule, at least on the basic cable lineup, so we flipped over to The Masters, where some guy beat Tiger Woods despite finishing a stroke over par. Riveting.

That led to a half hour of a rerun of this year's Seattle regional spelling bee, the one I won a number of years ago. (Spelling bees are pretty easy in retrospect. C'mon, can't spell "consortium?" Nerd.) Highlight: the pronouncer's first name was Feliks. How can they let you emcee if you can't even spell your own name?

When that drama was done, I left for a bathroom break, only to return to raucous laughter--the laughter of madmen. My dad and the bro-in-law were watching professional wrestling, where a half-contact battle royale had broken out in the ring. Dubbed in Spanish, grown men in spandex, faking kicks and punches, assaulting their dignity and not much else.

It was tragic. I almost couldn't watch.

When Dad suggested playing a round of Turbo Yahtzee, we meekly went along. I'd have plotted that level of desperation on the graph, but I ran out of room.

Adam Morrison and J.J. Redick Watch: April 8

It's been a while since I examined the fortunes of Morrison and Redick. In the interim, the Bobcats nearly crept back into the playoff picture, seven games behind the Magic, who cling to the eighth spot despite some tough recent losses.

Morrison dropped 9 in a loss to the Pacers, going 3-3 beyond the arc but missing six other field goal attempts. (He suffered a knee sprain, but should be back today.)

Meanwhile, Redick scored 6 in a win over cellar-dwelling Memphis, proud owners of the worst record in the NBA.

Now, the comparison. Morrison's averages actually are worse than Redick's, given that he's playing roughly double Redick's minutes. Redick's shooting percentage and 3-point percentage (.400 and .375) are better than Morrison's (.376 and .337). Redick, averaging 6 points per game, plays 15 minutes to Morrison's 30, while the Montana Monster scores 11.9 per contest.

The difference, though, is the quality of their playing time. Morrison has started 23 games, while Redick mostly gets the call during junk time. Morrison has also played 77 games to Redick's 38. I wouldn't be surprised to see Redick traded or back in the benchwarming role next year, while Morrison has a decent chance to become a consistent starter.

Update: Because of the sprain, Morrison didn't play, but the 'Cats won. The more I follow them, the more I think that next year, with the right draft choices and a lineup free of injuries, Charlotte could disrupt the balance of power in the Eastern Conference.

Apr 7, 2007

Is it okay to end a sentence with is?

From time to time I receive queries about grammar issues, and from time to time I answer them. Today's question represents a perfect distinction between competence and excellence.

In English, you won't always be thrown in the penalty box for ending a sentence with "is." However, to craft tighter sentences, avoid it. Let's see why.
George W. Bush is who the current president is.
This might sit well in casual conversation, but represents sloppy writing. "George W. Bush is the current president" works just fine.
Before considering a solution, we must first understand exactly what the origin of the problem is.
Ending with "is" often creates an awkward, deflated conclusion to a sentence--and an inflated word count. Compare:
Before considering a solution, we must first understand the exact origin of the problem.
Better, with the punch landing on "problem," but still trim-worthy:
Before considering a solution, we must understand the origin of the problem.
Bye-bye, "first." Bye-bye, "exact."

Literary genius? Not yet--but closer to a slim, rhythmic sentence that can dance. After all, that's what good writing is. I mean, that's good writing.

[136th in a series]

the first batch of photos from Spain

Since my wife doesn't get free internet in Úbeda, she's put me in charge of posting photos from Snapfish to her blog.

She's already making good use of our digital camera. Click through to see all seven, including an image that can be a bit shocking to an American ignorant of Spanish Catholicism.

the day middle school football died

As Superintendent Lahmann announced yesterday, middle school football is now kaput in the Olympia School District.
The district cited a declining turnout, rising costs for helmets and shoulder pads and a robust Thurston County Youth Football League as reasons for dropping football.

The controversial decision impacts Washington, Jefferson, Marshall and Reeves middle schools.

“It’s an unfortunate decision,” said Barry McKinnon, longtime football coach at Capital High School. “But I’m not surprised.”

Jeff Carpenter, athletic director for the Olympia School District, said other than Washington Middle School, the three other middle schools had a hard time fielding a team.
As an earlier Olympian article pointed out, principals see it as a major cost saver, while coaches lament the opportunity to establish a healthy high school program--especially when not all kids can join youth leagues.

Bill Beattie, coach at Olympia High, is particularly upset about the choice to add soccer instead. Making this a zero sum game, where soccer gains at football's expense, is going to anger a lot of parents, even if it's the popular choice.

We won't really see the results of this decision for another three or four years. High school football numbers may drop because fewer students are joining early, making it difficult for the two schools to maintain their traditions of excellence on the gridiron. Or maybe not, as coaches find ways to become more involved in the youth leagues. Either way, it's going to be a difficult task.

Apr 6, 2007

after all, lycopene is a gateway drug

Pullman's finest, acting on a drug tip, swooped in:
A Pullman landlord notified police about a grow lamp in a closet, and police got a search warrant for a drug raid.

Eight officers with guns drawn surprised three roommates in the apartment last weekend and discovered they were growing tomatoes.

Commander Chris Tennant says it's the department's duty to investigate all credible complaints regarding marijuana growing operations in Pullman.
Credible. Credible complaints. All credible complaints.

Worse, one grow lamp in a closet warrants eight officers with guns drawn?

Thankfully, this ended as farce, not tragedy.

Update: As Radley Balko notes, tragedy is too often the outcome.

Semana Santa

As my wife enjoys the marvel that is Holy Week as a non-Catholic American in Spain, I thought I'd pass along an article by Chloe Breyer, who explains just how much of the present celebration owes its origin to "...a little-known, naturally inquisitive fourth–century Spanish nun named Egeria."

a biological explanation for the Hatfields and the McCoys?

The most famous feud in American history might have been exacerbated by a rare condition.
Von Hippel-Lindau disease, which afflicts many family members, can cause tumors in the eyes, ears, pancreas, kidney, brain and spine. Roughly three-fourths of the affected McCoys have pheochromocytomas — tumors of the adrenal gland.

The bubbly-looking orange adrenal glands sit atop each kidney and make adrenaline and substances called catecholamines. Too much can cause high blood pressure, pounding headaches, heart palpitations, facial flushing, nausea and vomiting. There is no cure for the disease, but removing the tumors before they turn cancerous can improve survival.

Affected family members have long been known to be combative, even with their kin. Reynolds recalled her grandfather, "Smallwood" McCoy.

"When he would come to visit, everyone would run and hide. They acted like they were scared to death of him. He had a really bad temper," she said.

Her adopted daughter, another McCoy descendant, 11-year-old Winnter Reynolds, recently had an adrenal tumor removed at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital. Her teachers thought the girl had attention-deficit (hyperactivity) disorder. Now, Winnter says, "my parents are thinking it may be the tumor" that caused the behavior. "I've been feeling great since they took it out."
The wider implications, adding to a growing body of research linking particular ailments and abnormal behavior, are equally interesting. Perhaps there's some truth to the 19th century view of a "moral disease."

Apr 5, 2007

an inferno in the mind's eye

The poor lighting doesn't do justice to the blazing blue and yellow stripes, sparking the imagination of passersby, inflaming a bonfire of possibilities.

That's enough for that metaphor.

[crossposted thusly]

no, really, they ought to test cat ladies for Toxoplasma

I'm not kidding. These women--almost always women--are victims of biology. There's something strange, and probably parasitical, going on. If Toxoplasma makes rats abnormally fond of cats, who's to say it, or something like it, isn't to blame when someone hoards hundreds of cats?

Toxoplasma gondii, all you post-Docs looking for ideas. When you discover a cure and your Nobel Prize rolls in, I demand a cat. I mean a cut.

[via Obscure Store]

missing the Mrs.

For those of you who remember that my wife is currently enjoying la vida Española, you might want to check out her first blog post from Ubeda. Hopefully more, including photos, to follow soon.

Apr 4, 2007

follow the money

The Seattle P-I summarizes the competing budgets on one easily-digested page. Their biggest winner: education. No biggest loser, though. Budgets are due April 22.

Also, Ryan takes on a proposal to gut educational funding. A sample:
Marguerite, ma’am, when the hell am I supposed to have my lunch if we don’t have playground aides to cover? Is it really the best use of my time to be on potty duty or monitoring the lunchroom, or would you rather I be analyzing data and planning specific interventions for my kids? You know, the stuff that actually makes a difference towards student achievement?

For God’s sake, talk about squeezing a nickel until the buffalo poops. This can get ridiculous in a hurry: is there evidence that having school secretaries increases student learning? Is there evidence that having a principal increases student learning? Do they really need desks to learn, or can I sell those on Ebay? This is when it’s entirely obvious that someone from academia is talking, someone who doesn’t really understand what it’s like to teach.
Ah, but Ryan, they're objective observers. As in, they have an objective.

The Host: prepare for infection

If you enjoyed the bizarre blend of humor and horror in Shaun of the Dead, you'll probably like The Host, which is tough to find in theaters, but hopefully will be out on DVD within the year.

I'd write a full review, but since Scott Tobias already did the work, why bother?

Oh, and the score: simply fantastic. Get a taste in the clip above.

reverse engineering, the design inference, and geology

Despite what Ed Brayton may claim, Michael Egnor is right. The Design Inference--make that the design inference--is all over science. It's simple: you take a something in nature, figure out how it works by imagining and recreating how it's put together, and presto! Reverse engineering, the design inference.

Let's see how geologists use reverse engineering to demonstrate how volcanoes are designed.

This is a real volcano. It has hot, steaming red stuff coming out of the top. That's lava. What's lava made of? Where does it come from? What is it for? To find out, geologists employ reverse engineering.

These are geologists reverse engineering a volcano. As you can see, their work proves that when an intelligent agent, or designer, combines vinegar, red food coloring, and baking soda in a conical papier-mâché structure, lava boils over the top. (This is known as the Timmy-Hortensia theorem, after its original inventors, or discoverers.)

Since it takes a human designer to reverse engineer a volcano, obviously a volcano is designed. Q.E.D.

enforcing real laws in a virtual world

I have a friend who's busy writing a constitution for a group in Second Life. As a lawyer, he tries to bring his real-world experience to the virtual, establishing rights and duties in a just, secure framework.

After all, where there's life, there's crime. And where there's crime, there's the FBI.

FBI investigators have visited Second Life's internet casinos at the invitation of the virtual world's creator Linden Lab, but the US government has not yet decided on the legality of virtual gambling.

"We have invited the FBI several times to take a look around in Second Life and raise any concerns they would like, and we know of at least one instance that federal agents did look around in a virtual casino," said Ginsu Yoon, Linden Lab's vice president for business affairs.

Second Life is a popular online virtual world with millions of registered users and its own economy and currency, known as the Linden dollar, which can be exchanged for real US dollars. Yoon said the company was seeking guidance on virtual gambling activity in Second Life but had not yet received clear rules from US authorities. Hundreds of casinos offering poker, slot machines and blackjack can easily be found in Second Life.

While it is difficult to estimate the total size of the gambling economy in there, the three largest poker casinos are earning modest profits of $1500 each per month, according to casino owners and people familiar with the industry. The FBI and the US Attorney's Office for Northern California declined to comment.
They might have not decided on its legality yet, but you can be sure it's not going to be legal for long.

Second Life should declare itself a virtual state operating within whichever extant "real world" government is the friendliest, its citizens subject to their laws, yet semi-autonomous, as in a federal system. They'd probably have to move their servers, but freedom isn't free. (Doesn't necessarily have to cost blood, though.)

The real world isn't ready for virtual reality encroaching on real reality, is it?

Sidebar: And now the virtual world wants its users to have real-world names, for a price.

Update: And then there's the taxation issue. (Via Instapundit.)