Nov 29, 2007


I think I'm finished cranking out all the letters of recommendation I've been asked to provide. I think I'm finished commenting on all the freshfolk stories I've assigned. ("These days, I long for nostalgia" is the best line of the batch.) I think I'm finished videotaping myself for National Board certification, if that whole class discussion holds up to scrutiny.

And now, I'm finished blogging.

For the moment.

old enough to die

Dennis Lindberg resisted a transfusion, even at the end. The 14-year-old Jehovah's Witness succumbed to leukemia last night, refusing the treatment necessary to extended his life. His decision, opposed by his biological parents but encouraged by his legal guardian, also met the approval of Skagit County Superior Court Judge John Meyer.
"I don't believe Dennis' decision is the result of any coercion. He is mature and understands the consequences of his decision," Meyer said during Wednesday's hearing. "I don't think Dennis is trying to commit suicide. This isn't something Dennis just came upon, and he believes with the transfusion he would be unclean and unworthy."
The Times writeup goes over some of the ethical implications:
Ethics experts and Jehovah's Witness officials said such a court case is unusual these days.

Most cases involving transfusions stem from surgical cases, and current policy at Children's is to inform parents that while the hospital will do everything it can to avoid transfusions, it will not let a child die for want of blood, said Dr. Doug Diekema, an ethics consultant there.

Years ago, courts routinely supported transfusions of children against the wishes of parents, Diekema said. While adults have the right to refuse any medical treatment, the courts ruled, that right doesn't extend to their children.

"The principle there is that parents can make martyrs of themselves, but they can't make martyrs of their children," Diekema said.

With an adolescent, the situation is much more complex, he said. "We all know that 14-year-olds change their minds; they become adults, and they have completely different belief systems. And that makes you nervous."
Wondering if the ruling would be part of the public record, I called the court's clerk this afternoon. "I'm sorry, but the records are sealed," she told me. "We can't discuss the case, even over the phone." The legal world is strange: the judge determined that, at 14, Lindberg was adult enough to make the ultimate decision, and yet the law still treats him as a minor, keeping the details of his case from full public scrutiny.

the death of the Nordstrom piano

When Nordstrom starts yanking the pianos out of its stores...
Nordstrom's store at Bellevue Square recently did away with its pianist, and the Alderwood mall store in Lynnwood will soon follow suit, said company spokeswoman Brooke White.

Apparently, some shoppers prefer popular tunes by the likes of Bob Dylan, Alicia Keys and Frank Sinatra to the jazz and Broadway standards that pianists have been performing in Nordstrom stores for 20 years.
...can the death of live music be far behind?

Nov 27, 2007

how the state coopted marriage

Stephanie Coontz, a local scholar, Evergreen prof, and perhaps the country's leading marriage (history) expert, explains:
WHY do people — gay or straight — need the state’s permission to marry? For most of Western history, they didn’t, because marriage was a private contract between two families. The parents’ agreement to the match, not the approval of church or state, was what confirmed its validity.

For 16 centuries, Christianity also defined the validity of a marriage on the basis of a couple’s wishes. If two people claimed they had exchanged marital vows — even out alone by the haystack — the Catholic Church accepted that they were validly married.

In 1215, the church decreed that a “licit” marriage must take place in church. But people who married illicitly had the same rights and obligations as a couple married in church: their children were legitimate; the wife had the same inheritance rights; the couple was subject to the same prohibitions against divorce.

Not until the 16th century did European states begin to require that marriages be performed under legal auspices.
The entire essay is a fascinating rundown of the social and political forces that conspired to turn marriage from a publicly recognized private contract to a state-sanctioned joint benefit agreement. All this is to argue:
Possession of a marriage license is no longer the chief determinant of which obligations a couple must keep, either to their children or to each other. But it still determines which obligations a couple can keep — who gets hospital visitation rights, family leave, health care and survivor’s benefits. This may serve the purpose of some moralists. But it doesn’t serve the public interest of helping individuals meet their care-giving commitments.
It's a point others have raised before. Gay marriage allows benefits to gay couples without cost to heterosexuals. It simply doesn't undermine traditional marriage, since traditional marriage is nothing like it used to be--and it's always been that way. Or, to borrow a phrase from one of the U.S.'s most astute cultural critics: "Modern marriage. It's been like that all down through the ages."

Update: My brother finds fault with Coontz's analysis and recommendations.

[via Jesse Walker]

a leftover tie

Two Thanksgiving meals with family. Two or three solid pounds of leftovers. So none of it goes bad, I'm eating as much as I can, every meal, every day this week.

I've started both school days with pie for breakfast. "When you eat pumpkin pie for breakfast," I tell my students, "anything is possible."

Truer than any other maxim I know.

(It's the second blog go-round for this Pilgrim-worthy tie, too.)

free analysis of the Constitution

A valuable--and free!--resource for the informed citizen or high school debater interested in all issues Constitutional, brought to you by the US Government Printing Office. Includes annotations pointing to major Supreme Court cases. Updated every now and then--last in 2006. Enjoy. (Adobe Acrobat Reader required.)

[via Eugene Volokh]

a Monday night of muck and mire

On the way to their most recent defeat, the Dolphins had to endure the worst nature could throw at them:
Lightning chased the players off the field during the pregame warmups, and the teams were given only nine minutes for additional warmups before the game started at 8:55 p.m., 25 minutes later than scheduled.

After five high school and college games were played at Heinz Field last weekend, crews hurriedly put down a new layer of sod atop the chewed-up turf for Monday night's game.

"It was like being on the beach in the sand on every play," said Miami linebacker Joey Porter, the former Steelers star playing against his old team for the first time.

The delayed start meant no national anthem or player introductions. The rain washed away nearly all the yard lines on a new grass field that had been in place less than 24 hours, and Heinz Field crews hurriedly put down new lines at halftime.

"It was nasty," Miami linebacker Channing Crowder said....

Late in the third quarter, Brandon Fields' punt from near the Miami goal line came straight down and plugged in the drenched turf like an arrow, burying itself several inches deep.
Reminds me of a now-infamous home game at Elma High School's old Davis Field, back before it was "improved." I was a senior in the marching band, first trumpet.

The field was bowed up in the middle, so far that when you stood on one sideline, you could see only the upper halves of the players on the other side. Drainage was atrocious. During the rainy season--all year, pretty much--the turf was reeking black mud several inches thick.

On a particularly rainy night late in the autumn, with an already nasty field chewed up beyond recognition, the marching band and drill team headed out at halftime to put on a show. I stood near the front as we slogged through the slab, trying to keep my shoes on as fellow band geeks lost theirs to the suction of the mire. We stood, shivering and soaking, as the drill team, God bless 'em, started their routine.

They went through the whole show, which ended in the row of about ten girls doing the splits in three inches of soggy, stinking ooze. To a standing ovation.

Olympia School District joins state lawsuit

It has approved a stopgap levy, too, but the news with statewide implications is that one of the state's leading districts has joined the legal fight to secure sufficient funding for education.
A coalition known as the Network for Excellence in Washington Schools sued the state in January, claiming that the state "has not upheld its constitutional obligation to fully fund public education for all children."

Monday's Olympia School Board vote means the Olympia district will spend $5,000 to join that lawsuit, and the Olympia Education Association — the local teachers' union — also will contribute $5,000.

"This is a potentially defining moment for education in the state of Washington," said OEA president David Johnston, who encouraged the school board to vote to join the lawsuit. "There is a fundamental crisis in education support."
This is the Board's first major action since the hotly contested election, and, hopefully, shows a glimpse of things to come: a focus on collaboration when tackling the upcoming budget crunch--and whatever else is headed our way.

Nov 26, 2007

biological warfare... of the ancients!

Tularemia, choice weapon of archaeoterrorists.
A decade later, the Hittites to the north attacked the weakened area around Simyra. "The Hittites were able to steal booty, including animals, and brought the animals home," along with the tularemia the livestock harboured, Trevisanato explains. Not too long after, the Hittites themselves apparently began to suffer from an epidemic of tularemia.

History seems to have repeated itself a few years afterwards when another ancient people, the Arzawans from western Anatolia, saw the weakened Hittites to their east and decided to strike. "They thought, if we attack now, we can push the border back to where we want," Trevisanato says.

But strangely, during this period of warfare between 1320 and 1318 BC, records indicate that rams mysteriously began appearing on roads in Arzawans.

The Arzawans took the sheep to their villages and used them for livestock breeding. Soon after, though, they began to suspect a link between the appearance of the animals and the terrible disease ravaging their communities.

"They started wondering 'Why do these rams start showing up on the road?'" says Trevisanato. He believes that among the Hittites, "somebody must have had the bright idea" to send diseased rams over to their Arzawan enemies.

Ultimately, the Arzawans were so weakened that their attempt to conquer the Hittites failed.
Bad pun, choice weapon of science writers:
Still, in order to consider the rams as a true biological weapon, evidence is needed to clearly prove that the Hittites understood the full ramifications of these animals towards their enemies, says Mark Wheelis, at the University of California, Davis.
The theory has a surfeit of charm to make up for its moderate level of plausibility. Still, it doesn't take the germ theory of disease to connect "sick ram makes us sick" to "sick ram will wipe out our enemies."

My favorite Bible story seems to square with the theory, too.
The LORD's hand was heavy upon the people of Ashdod and its vicinity; he brought devastation upon them and afflicted them with tumors. [a] 7 When the men of Ashdod saw what was happening, they said, "The ark of the god of Israel must not stay here with us, because his hand is heavy upon us and upon Dagon our god." 8 So they called together all the rulers of the Philistines and asked them, "What shall we do with the ark of the god of Israel?"
They answered, "Have the ark of the god of Israel moved to Gath." So they moved the ark of the God of Israel.

9 But after they had moved it, the LORD's hand was against that city, throwing it into a great panic. He afflicted the people of the city, both young and old, with an outbreak of tumors. [b]
Footnote [b] helpfully adds, "Or with tumors in the groin (see Septuagint)."

Nov 25, 2007

focus on the dropouts

The other day Ryan looked out nationwide dropout trends. What about here in the Evergreen State? David Marshak seconds what I've been saying for a couple years now:
If we take 84 percent — the passing rate — of the 72 percent of the students included in Bergeson's count, this means that only about 60 percent of the original members of the class of 2008 have passed the WASL.

When you have 40 percent of your kids failing, it's hard to see why Bergeson is claiming victory. Forty percent of our kids failing is very bad news indeed.

Bergeson's tactic of ignoring the entire class of 2008 — and focusing only on the 70 percent or so who made it to the 12th grade on time — unfortunately is typical of too many chief state school officers. Massachusetts claims a 95 percent passing rate on its graduation tests, even though 30 percent of its kids drop out. Texas has claimed 85 percent passing, even though its most recent school attrition rate is 34 percent.

Standards-and-testing — the Essential Academic Learning Requirements/WASL system — was supposed to deliver "world-class schooling" for all kids. That was the original promise. Then Bergeson amended it to only 80 percent of the kids. Now she's claiming victory even though only about 60 percent of the kids are likely to pass the WASL and graduate on time.

Is this really a great achievement after 14 years and who knows how many hundreds of millions of dollars spent on testing? And, are our schools not pretty much where we were in 1992 before we started with this unproven yet very expensive obsession with standards and high-stakes testing?
If we aren't helping more students graduate, then WASL reform is no reform at all.

virtue ethics and plea bargaining

Most of the cases I've seen for the current plea bargaining resolution use either a retributivist or utilitarian justification for punishment. Is there another way to think about the state's role in correcting criminal action?

In "A Virtuous State Would Not Assign Correctional Housing Based on Ability to Pay," Bradley W. Moore writes,
Virtue ethics, also referred to as Aretaic theory, offers a viable alternative to deterrence and retributivism that better accounts for both the practical and aspirational purposes of punishment. The essence of virtue ethics is that the moral value of an action depends neither on its conformity to categorical moral rules, as in deontological theory, nor on the overall happiness that the action causes, as in consequentialist theory. Rather, the morality of an action depends on both the action’s character and on the moral agent’s disposition while performing the action. The central purpose of virtue ethics is to answer the question, “How should I live?” instead of the question, “What is the right action?” Virtue ethics’ answer is that a person should live in a way that cultivates the virtues necessary for human flourishing. A moral agent exercises virtue through practical reasoning; knowing the proper action depends on wisdom, deliberation, and moral judgment. In other words, a virtuous agent acts not just rightly, but for the right reasons....

If criminal law’s function in society is to promote virtue, then punishment is justified only if it facilitates the development of practical reason: the tendency and motivation to do the right act because one values the proper reasons for acting rightly. When a criminal makes an unvirtuous choice, punishment plays an educative role. Punishment does not act, however, as a deterrent—a person should choose the right action out of a desire to do so, not out of fear of sanction. A criminal offense constitutes a failure of practical reason: the perpetrator acted through the wrong means or for the wrong ends. However, virtuous punishment habituates the offender to form a desire to act rightly for the right reasons.

Therefore, practical reason should guide the state in deciding what punishment to impose. Imposing either excessive or overly merciful punishment would not be virtuous if it inhibits rather than promotes the development of practical reason in the offender. The state should also impose punishment only for the right reasons—the cultivation of virtue and the promotion of human flourishing. The correctness of the punishment depends on the practical wisdom present in the justice system as a whole. Individual judges exercise practical wisdom when they determine fault and punishment. Likewise, the policies of the state should be evaluated based on the extent to which they reflect practical wisdom and instill virtue.
You might argue, on the Aff, that PBET, by turning justice into a song-and-dance between prosecutors and defendants, and by eliminating the judge's role, devalues the educative role of the justice system. Likewise, from the Neg, you might argue that PBET shows that the criminal is willing to help society as a start to the rehabilitative process.

Either way, a case based on virtue ethics might be a breath of fresh air in the stale second month, when everyone's already heard everything about plea bargaining in exchange for testimony.

cover me

The Gnarls Barkley cover of "Gone Daddy Gone" infuriated me. Not just that it didn't tread any new ground, either in rhythm or style or musicality, but that it also substituted drum machine polish and a soulless voice for the raspy angst of the original. (Go ahead, check out the cover if you must. It's YouTube "related." Don't be surprised when you're disappointed.)

Generally, though, I find the cover ethos defensible. Put your own spin on the work, in homage to the original; what comes out is good, a fresh way of seeing the original. Call it the Shakespearean aesthetic.

But where is the line between mimicry and imitation? The Romantics think they've found it:
Copyright isn't the issue for the Romantics. The band's attorneys said Activision properly secured permission to use the song What I Like About You, which allowed it to record a cover version. But by creating an imitation so much like the Romantics' original, they said, the company has infringed the group's right to its own image and likeness.

Guitar Hero representatives did not return calls for comment.

Artists such as Tom Waits and Bette Midler have won legal victories on similar grounds for sound-alike recordings used in TV commercials. In those cases, the imitation recordings were ruled to have infringed the artists' rights to publicity by leading consumers to associate the artist with the advertised product.

What I Like About You was recorded for the game by the San Francisco music firm Wavegroup Sound, also named in the suit.

"It's a very good imitation, and that's our objection," said Troy attorney William Horton. "Even the guys in the band said, 'Wow, that's not us, but it sure sounds like us.'"
The lawsuit threatens sales of Guitar Hero, itself a meta-cover experience.

[Via BoingBoing]

No Country For Old Men: best film of 2007

I avoided all the reviews, going in with as open a mind as I could muster, given that I'm a Coen aficionado.

This film combines the apocalyptic vision of Barton Fink or O Brother Where Art Thou? or Raising Arizona with the crime-gone-awry humor, pathos, and tension of Blood Simple and Fargo. Yet it is a darker work, largely because the villain, in one character's words, "Doesn't have a sense of humor."

This is the movie that A History of Violence tried to be, though it failed. Every element of mood, pacing, and cinematography that Cronenberg missed, the Coen brothers nail. Tommy Lee Jones' turn as a world-weary sheriff is particularly strong, his moral gravitas a necessary counterpart to Javier Bardem's methodical evil.

No Country For Old Men is the first genuine masterpiece of 2007.

A breathtaking film. I'm still gasping.

Hawks win too close for comfort

It wasn't pretty, but it was pretty exciting. Seattle's D held St. Louis to zero points in the second half, including a goal line stand in the final minute, as the Hawks scratched and bit their way to a 24-19 win over the Rams.

The game shouldn't have been close. The Hawks couldn't capitalize on key turnovers, Josh Brown missed a no-doubt field goal, and for a time, the Seattle O-line looked like it had never seen a blitz before. When Marc Bulger was knocked out with a concussion in the first half, it seemed like replacement Gus Frerotte could lead the team in his absence, as he hit 8 passes in a row, including a TD, giving the Rams a 19-7 halftime lead.

In the 3rd, though, Frerotte returned to form, missing passes, folding under pocket pressure, and throwing a crucial interception to Marcus Trufant that set up a Seattle comeback. Hasselbeck returned to form as well, throwing quick strikes or handing off to speedy Maurice Morris, who averaged over six per carry. Deion Branch's touchdown catch capped the drive, and the Hawks took the lead on a 4-yard Leonard Weaver TD run in the 4th.

But it wasn't done. Up 24-19 late, the Hawks tried to take an 8-point lead with a 52-yard field goal. Bad snap, and Brown missed again. The Rams took over on their own 45. The D seemed to be holding them, until a ticky-tack interference call put St. Louis on the 15 yard line with two minutes left.

This was ulcer time. On the road, this team has folded time and again, blowing late leads or late comebacks. But not today. On 4th and goal, Frerotte fumbled the snap. The Hawks took over, kneeled down, and escaped with a win.

Nov 24, 2007

Apple Cup prediction

Today marks one hundred years of Cascade Curtain rivalry. At 4:00, the Washington State University Cougars meet the University of Washington Huskies, at Husky Stadium, promising a healthy slice of nostalgia baked to a crisp.

Last Wednesday, a current Cougar student teacher asked me who I felt would win it. "UW," I said. "Locker's healthy, and WSU got stomped by Oregon State at home. Doesn't bode well for Cougs."

A glare cold as a Palouse blizzard. "Wrong answer, Anderson."

"Hey, I'm neutral," I said. (I somehow resisted saying "I don't have a dog in this fight.")

The glare iced over. "Even worse."

The Apple Cup: a century of bringing us together even as it tears us apart.

Huskies 31, Cougars 17.

Don't bet on sports.

Update: Don't bet on sports. Cougars 42, Huskies 35 in a wild one.

Nov 23, 2007

a portrait of the blogger as a young boy

From left to right:

1. The blogger
2. The father
3. The sprite
4. The mother
5. The brother
6. The sister

Taken in Hanna, Alberta, a long time ago. Guess who did all the family haircuts.

third time's a charm

For Arkansas, it took a pass on 4th-and-10 in the first overtime to keep the drive alive. But once they scored, you got the sense that deja vu was making a return appearance, as LSU failed on its two-point conversion in the third overtime, and the unranked Razorbacks knocked off #1. Second three-overtime loss of the year for the Tigers.

This is the year of upsets. This is the most exciting year in college football's last decade, by far.

(Texas A&M is looking to send home Texas, too. Not a bad football afternoon.)

Nov 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

My wife and I are spending Thursday with my side of the family, and then hosting her side on Saturday. Big hugs, big meals, big laughs so far, and plenty more to come. (Heard from the bro, too. Always a good thing.) Today, when I'm not sneaking glances at the football game on the TV, or looking up electric razors, or gnawing on turkey bones, I'm writing up National Board analyses and letters of recommendation.

With a belly full of pie and a heart full of love, I pause to thank you, gentle reader, for reading, lurking, or, better yet, sharing your insights and criticism. I'm a wiser man because of it.

Pie is calling again. Later when I'm fatter.

Nov 21, 2007

what I learned from the 2007 election

1. Sometimes, positive wins.
Our Board campaign started off innocuous enough, but turned into a slugfest--on the Olympian comment boards, and in a few vitriolic emails, especially--with a flurry of punches thrown at the Olympia Education Association, current board members, the candidates, a state representative, and anyone else within pugilizing distance.

For the most part, our side either stayed out of the fray or took a judicious, measured stance, avoiding a response in kind. In the end, it turned out that the loudest, most negative spectators were putting off more people than they were firing up.

2. I take these things a lot more personally than I let on.
In my private life and here on the blog, I'm calm, reasonable, dispassionate as a matter of course. I learned that I save my angst for the unconscious. I got to the point where I could monitor my stress level by the poor quality of my sleep--and the inverse, dream-wise.

3. You just never know.
The Simple Majority measure passed. On election night, it took a nosedive, but ended up nosing ahead. The nose knows, but I sure didn't. (For what it's worth, the nosehair-thin margin, in the end, is indicative that people won't mind funding schools, but they don't want districts to go levy-happy. Hmm... maybe it's time to fix our state's bizarro funding inequities?)

4. Politics can be fun.
But not as much as teaching.

to watch would be a crime

Quite possibly the worst "rap" in the history of "rap." In the War on Christmas, we are all casualties.

War on Christmas already won

In the 1600s, no less.
Between 1659 and 1681, Christmas celebrations were outlawed in the colony, and the law declared that anyone caught "observing, by abstinence from labor, feasting or any other way any such days as Christmas day, shall pay for every such offense five shillings." Finding no biblical authority for celebrating Jesus' birth on Dec. 25, the theocrats who ran Massachusetts regarded the holiday as a mere human invention, a remnant of a heathen past. They also disapproved of the rowdy celebrations that went along with it. "How few there are comparatively that spend those holidays … after an holy manner," the Rev. Increase Mather lamented in 1687. "But they are consumed in Compotations, in Interludes, in playing at Cards, in Revellings, in excess of Wine, in Mad Mirth."

After the English Restoration government reclaimed control of Massachusetts from the Puritans in the 1680s, one of the first acts of the newly appointed royal governor of the colony was to sponsor and attend Christmas religious services. Perhaps fearing a militant Puritan backlash, for the 1686 services he was flanked by redcoats. The Puritan disdain for the holiday endured: As late as 1869, public-school kids in Boston could be expelled for skipping class on Christmas Day.
Yet pockets of resistance would still spring up across the countryside for centuries to come, and the War on Christmas would dwarf the Hundred Years' War, the War for Independence, and the War With Grandpa both in scope and significance.

[Via Ed Brayton.]

Nov 20, 2007

in the spotlight

For one of my National Board entries, I have to videotape myself today, as I rove through class monitoring small group discussions.


I'll post today's good-luck tie, and an update, and some random links, later on.

The videotaping went well, all except for the fact that my 8-a.m. shadow is entirely too prominent. Homer Simpson ain't got nothin' on me. The sound quality checks out, and I have 15 minutes of uninterrupted certifiable instruction worthy of Board standards. I hope.

Now, for the 12-page writeup.

Oh, links: I almost forgot the links.

The tie is here. The Gilgamesh Epic is vindicated here. MySpace sucks here. The Sonics suck everywhere.

Nov 18, 2007

there is only shared culture

Low culture? High culture? Bah.

Brought to you by the Cal marching band. (Filmed, sadly, from the less fortunate side of the field--but you can still figure out what's going on. I love the ending, too, as Mario brings down the flag.)

[Via the AV Club.]

Nov 17, 2007

more upsets in an ulcerating season

Not Ohio State, which silenced Michigan. Not LSU, which wore down Mississippi. Not Kansas, which trounced Iowa State.

This week's collapses belong to Oklahoma and Oregon. (The latter, to be fair, came at the loss of a potential Heisman-winning QB, Dennis Dixon.) Added: I missed the fact that Oklahoma's loss came via a downed quarterback as well. Ouch.

Time to predict the BCS champion: Kansas. Why not.

Don't bet on sports.


In today's featured letter to the editor, the warrants don't necessarily link the evidence and the claims...
I am voting for the U.S. presidential candidate whom I believe will lead us out of the financial mess we are in.

He is former governor of the great state of Massachusetts, CEO of a very successful finance company and has started his own finance company. His net worth is $200 million to $250 million, which means he is a very intelligent and savvy businessman.

I think we need that type of person to run this country as president.

I am voting for Mitt Romney, who I think is the right man at the right time and I hope we can get him in the president’s office.
...but you have to respect a letter writer named "Frank D. Bates." Here's to more of 'em.

truancy for peace

I've been mostly too busy to comment on recent port protest nonsense, which has involved opportunistic rabble-rousing by anarchists and hooligans, disrupting what should have been a nonviolent--if starry-eyed and, in the grand scheme, useless--effort to block the return of war materiel to Fort Lewis.

Yesterday, several hundred high school and college students (and a smattering of Lincoln Elementary tykes, apparently) marched in Olympia in opposition to the war in Iraq. It was part of a larger, and entirely peaceful, effort, and a welcome change. I first heard about it from a returning student who apologized for missing class. "Don't be sorry," said a nearby teacher. "Just be ready for the consequences."

Exactly. I respect the decision of students who choose to walk out for a cause, but I still have to mark them absent unexcused. As Ben Folds once put it, "It's no fun to be The Man."

Update: Today's march was peaceful, too.
About 350 people marched through downtown Olympia this afternoon to protest the war in Iraq and show support for demonstrators who for 11 days protested and tried to prevent shipments of military equipment from the Port of Olympia.
Also: photos from Friday's march. Look closely for MT McLaughlin, who lurks in a couple shots. [via Anne Fischel]

Update II: Rob Richards notes that certain Olympian photos of the port protests put some of the police response in a pretty bad light. His words:
I wanted to post a few photos from the Olympian that depict what I feel to be overly aggressive actions by the police. I don't want to start a huge argument, I want this to be a conversation about alternative responses the police could use. I realize that we can't get the whole story from just the photos, but let's just try not to turn this into a speculation-fest.
Having heard and read multiple accounts, and having seen multiple videos and photos, I'd use "overly aggressive" to describe the OPD's tactics, too.

Nov 16, 2007

live, fast, die young

A guy tells you you're going to marry his son, but first, you have to give up eating for twelve days.

If you are most people, you laugh, take another bite out of your Twinkie, and apologize for spitting tiny chunks on the guy's shirt as you tell him to go fly a kite. (Ah, euphemism.)

Not if you're Gloria Hahn, though.
At 2 a.m. on July 21, Hahn was found on her back at the front door of her family's house in the 1700 block of Liberty Street. Paramedics were called, and she was taken to Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora, where she never recovered....

Hahn's official cause of death was pneumonia that had invaded the lungs in her malnourished 5-foot-5, 115-pound body.

After a long discussion, the coroner's jury ruled Hahn's death an accident.

But after Hahn died, a minister from Rush-Copley called the coroner's office. According to Gilbert, the hospital minister said the family was telling him information he thought might be relevant to the death investigation.

The hospital minister said about two years ago an Aurora pastor told Hahn that a prophecy declared she would marry his son but that she had to fast for two weeks, Gilbert testified. At the end of that two weeks, the pastor said marriage was not in the prophecy after all, Gilberts testified.

In 2006, Hahn left her alma mater and began worshiping at the International House of Prayer, a Kansas City, Mo., church she found online, according to her mother. The organization is known for a 24-hour prayer room, where hundreds sing, fast and study the Bible.

According to Gilbert, the family lost contact with Hahn during that time. Hahn told friends she often slept during the day so she could pray through the night.

At some point while she was in Kansas City, the Aurora pastor contacted Hahn again, Gilbert said. Again, the pastor -- who was not named at the inquest -- told Hahn a prophecy said she would marry his son, but she had to fast for two weeks.

During that fast, in which Hahn ingested only water, her family somehow became aware Hahn's health was failing, Gilbert said. Hahn's mother went to Kansas City and brought her back to Aurora. Hahn died a few days later.
What a tragic combination of religiosity, depression, manipulation, ardor, and naiveté.

Nov 15, 2007

to see oursels as ithers see us

Today I videotaped myself as part of a practice run for the National Board certification process. I'll begin official recording next week, for my small-group component.

Nothing is as excruciating as self-observation. There is a place in this world for autobiography, but largely as a form of self-serving fable-making. Auto-anthropology, though, is entirely masochistic.

I wore the tie pictured at right. The camera survived.

(Burns poem here.)

Nov 14, 2007

"blue ghost" spooks the stupid

I'm sorry, but this is just dumb.

It's a friggin' bug, crawling across a lens, out-of-focus and off-color. It moves like a bug, looks like a bug, and is bug-sized, at least relative to its distance from the camera. (Notice how the camera turns the red "news" "reporter's" jacket blue, too.) I don't have a whole lotta faith in the (anonymous? unknown?) witnesses who "saw" the blue glow outside the station, either. The guy walking by the car, when the ghost "lands" on the window, doesn't even bat an eye. You'd think he'd be freaking out.

If attendant Abuzahrieh had torn himself away from his monitor for even thirty seconds, and looked outside to see the bug on the camera, no story.

Is it just that time of year again?

conscience doth make cowards of us all

Since Josh is practically begging me to tell the tale, I suppose I shall describe what, in my dream life, passes for a slightly unusual occurrence. (In your dream life, it'd probably be worth a trip to a therapist.)

This is a dream. I repeat: this is a dream.

In a church-like building with a large glass window facing the street, I am sitting in a pew, beside fifty-odd people who cower in terror before Adolf Hitler and his henchmen. We have been rounded up for some unknown reason, and the not knowing only adds to the terror. Hitler stalks the rows, stopping to interrogate his prey, who splutter out answers, fearing for their very lives.

And then he comes to my row.

He sits down next to me. Two thoughts jostle in my brain: I should think of a way to get him off his game, and, From here, I could probably snap his neck over the back of the pew.

Trying desperately to sound calm, I ask, "So, Adolf, what was it like growing up in Austria? How do you think your upbringing influenced your later life?"

"Actually, I was born in England," Hitler replies. A wave of nostalgia crashes over him, and tears form in his eyes. I could just... I think. But the guards...

"Pardon me," Hitler says. He gets up, strides to the door, stands outside, where, even through the glass, it is obvious that he is shaken up.

A kid sitting next to me gasps. "You made Hitler cry!"

"Shut up!" I whisper. "If anyone finds out, we're all dead."

I made Hitler cry, it's true. But I didn't take the chance to kill him. My dream self is a coward.

[Tie featured here.]

Nov 13, 2007

simple majority passing by Gregoire-esque margin

As of 4:46, the Simple Majority measure has 50.2188% of the vote.

Maybe--just maybe--my initial pessimism was unwarranted. But Ryan had better start checking out asbestos underwear.

earning this

After our Veterans Day assembly, the student who coordinated much of the proceedings came to visit during class. With him came the father of a former student, a vet who served in Vietnam and who had been kind enough to share his experiences with my junior classes last year. I stepped out in the hall to chat, as freshfolks continued grinding out essays about their reading. He spoke briefly about his son, currently serving, who had once been a terror in my debate class. Said he was grown up now.

They left, and I shepherded the freshfolks through the rest of the exam.

Later that afternoon, during my prep period, I caught up with the student. I mentioned just how meaningful the assembly had been. He graciously accepted praise, but was quick to change the subject to the war-weary vet. The two had spent the afternoon walking around campus, talking about a soldier's life.

"He's done things... things you couldn't imagine," the student said. "But as he was walking around with me, seeing what we have here, he said to me, 'You know, this makes it all worthwhile.'"

After a weekend spent pondering the depth of that obligation, I return to teaching.

Nov 11, 2007

they call it Stormy Monday

So says the weather report, predicting high winds and higher anxiety. And so sings Eva Cassidy. (It's the sort of song you can get stuck in your head.)

plea bargaining arguments: good, bad, ugly

Here's a place to post arguments or case ideas on the plea bargaining resolution that you've encountered in rounds, whether effective, useless, or just plain awful. As appropriate, list the value/criterion combo. (I should also note, if you're looking for more, much more, in the way of analysis, click the link above.)

Sadly, I've watched so few rounds that I've yet to see something truly noteworthy.

"PBET is good because it helps preserve the right to a speedy trial." (Obvious comeback: sure, for one person. But only at the expense of another.)

"Justice is the administration of law. More administration of law = more justice."

"If a prosecutor isn't out to commit harm, then why are they prosecuting?"

How not to win a CX exchange:
"My value is justice, which is deeper than the law, and presupposes the law. My criterion is attaining a legitimate result."

"What does 'legitimate' mean?"

"In accordance with law."
Please: never describe self-contradiction as "debater hypocrisy."


Last time, it was disappointment with robots.

Now, disappointment with interactive technology. They say this is a photo of Microsoft employees collaborating in a "team room." So, what's with all the white boards and paper? Where are all the "smart boards" and multi-touch thingamabobs? C'mon, Microsoft. Catch up to the 21st century. The one you created.

Nov 8, 2007

discrimination and plea bargaining in exchange for testimony

Regarding the current resolution, the Aff might claim that racial, ethnic, gender, and even geographic differences in "downward departures" create an unjust disparity in the process of plea bargaining in exchange for testimony.

Studying the results of the US Sentencing Guidelines, particularly as they relate to "substantial assistance" pleas, Albert W Alschuler, in "Disparity: The Normative and Empirical Failure of the Federal Guidelines," in Stanford Law Review, Oct. 2005, writes,
The racial gap in federal sentences cannot entirely be explained by the 1-to-100 crack/powder ratio and other legally relevant variables... [P]rosecutors seek "substantial assistance" departures for blacks and Latinos less a often than for whites, and this disparity persists when researchers do their best to control for legally relevant variables. The disparity in substantial assistance departures may reflect the lesser ability of blacks and Latinos to provide information useful to prosecutors, the greater reluctance of blacks and Latinos to provide this information (because of their greater loyalty to co-offenders or their greater fear of reprisals), or the prosecutors' racial favoritism. When minority defendants do receive substantial assistance departures, the departures they receive are smaller than those received by whites....

A gender gap in federal sentences preceded the Guidelines. The time served by men in federal prisons before the Guidelines exceeded that served by women by about nine months or 50%. In the years since the Guidelines were implemented, the gender gap has grown. The time served by men increased 96% after the Guidelines while that served by women increased 75%. Men now serve 51 months on average and women 28.87 The previous nine-month gender gap has grown to 23 months.

Unlike the growing racial gap in federal sentences, the increasing gender gap cannot be largely explained by statutory innovations like the crack/powder disparity or other legally relevant variables. The Sentencing Commission reported that, after controlling for relevant variables, men were twice as likely to be imprisoned for drug crimes as women. Prison sentences in drug cases and other cases were twenty-five to thirty percent longer for men. Women received more substantial downward departures.
Furthermore, more generally, pleas vary across federal districts.
When a prosecutor seeks a substantial assistance departure, the bottom is the limit. No statute or guideline constrains the extent of the defendant's reward. Departures for substantial assistance occur in about 17% of all cases and other departures in about 18% more. Substantial assistance departures, however, are larger and account for twice as much variation in federal sentences (4.4% of all variation versus 2.2%).
The frequency of substantial assistance departures varies greatly from one district to the next. Jeffery T. Ulmer concurs. In "The Localized Uses of Federal Sentencing Guidelines in Four U.S. District Courts: Evidence of Processual Order," found in Symbolic Interaction, Vol. 28, Issue 2, 2005, he writes,
The size of substantial assistance departures varied between districts (as both the qualitative and quantitative data showed), and more interestingly, the definition of “substantial assistance to law enforcement” varied markedly between districts. Northland and Northeast Districts had relatively broad and liberal definitions of what constituted substantial assistance, and in both districts, the substantial assistance provision of the guidelines was used to both generate useful information for future prosecutions and ameliorate guideline sentences seen as too harsh. On the other hand, Western District had a much more restrictive definition of substantial assistance.
Are these differences unjust? That's for an Aff to argue--and for a Neg to rebut.

weird in the world

Our apartment complex has its resident resident-with-a-complex: a girl about 12 years old who talks to herself continually. Not to herself, really, but to someone else. Like she's conversing with an invisible friend, long past the age when such conversations are considered sane.

Sometimes I am baffled by her, other times amused. But sometimes I am afraid. Will she ever grow out of it? Will she survive in the wider world?

Or will she figure out someday that she can just slap on a BlueTooth headset and magically fit right in?

What would I know, anyway? I wear tacky ties.

(On the tie blog, a two-fer.)

Skeptics' Circle: a bevy of choices

Over at Holford Watch, the 73rd incarnation.

Wilson, Barclift win

With commanding leads in the early returns--and there just aren't that many more ballots to count--Frank Wilson, newcomer, and Carolyn Barclift, incumbent, have won seats on the Olympia School Board. (Incumbent Rich Nafziger, also up for re-election, was unopposed.)

At least the also-rans, Jeff Nejedly and Lucy Gentry-Meltzer, can take comfort in the fact that some of the toughest decisions the Board faces won't fall on their shoulders. I'm sure we'll hear from both in the future.

Now, let's get to work.

Nov 7, 2007

can't take the sting away--or can you?

Update 11/17
4204, if the results hold up, passes.


I mean, wow.

We might even avoid a machine recount.

I had hopes, but no expectations, for a turnaround. I called the initial result "apparent," in slim hopes that tallies would change as more votes came in.

And they did.

Co-blogger Ryan, who had been cautiously upbeat about HJR 4204's (Simple Majorities for Levies) chances, is pretty upset at its apparent failure:
[And] before anyone tries to tell me I don't get it, don't even start. I own my own home. My wife is self-employed, and we get absolutely reamed every April. I've got a special needs daughter who's eating up a lot of my discretionary income.

But I still believe that every vote should count 1-to-1. When your no vote is worth 50% more than my yes vote, that's giving you more power in a democracy than I have, and that's unfair. The people of Washington had a chance to fix that. Apparently, they prefer minority rules.

This can't be seen as anything other than a total repudiation of Washington students and teachers.
I'm a little less pessimistic. I blame...
  • Rising property values, combined with the timing on the property tax assessments, which in the annually measured counties occur so close to the election you can smell tax revolt in the alder-smoked autumn breeze. (The initial rise and fall of the other tax-related initiatives and resolutions supports this thesis.)
  • An ineffectual legislature that forces education proponents to rely on litigation and levies to raise cash in an inequitable system invented before I was born, and little changed since then, giving HJ 4204 opponents the ability to say, "Sure, I support education, but I want the legislature to get its rear in gear, even if troubled rural districts suffer in the meantime."
  • Education pundits--myself?--for thinking that a successful media campaign translates into sufficient votes.
  • The inequity itself. Voters who live in consistently supportive districts might not see the problem for what it is. Voters in troubled districts don't seem to mind.
Do all these add up to a "total repudiation?" I'm not sure.

Doesn't make it hurt less.

Update: The latest vote tally, statewide, claims there are about 490,000 ballots still out there. HJ 4204's "No" tally has slipped to a 30,000 vote lead, from about 60,000 earlier. Paper-thin hope?

Update: The results, as of 4:10 on November 11, are closer than ever--only about 2700 votes separate Approve and Reject. Maybe this one's gonna pull a Gregoire.

Nov 6, 2007

utilitarianism and the plea bargaining resolution

I like the definition of a utilitarian justification of punishment given in Kathleen Moore's Pardons: Justice, Mercy, and the Public Interest. (The book is a useful introduction to retributivist reasons for pardoning criminals, and has much relevant information regarding the current resolution.) Her definition:
1. The state has the duty to achieve a specified object.
2. Laws are the instruments by which the state is to reach its object.
3. Infractions of the law frustrate the achievement of the object.
4. The state has the right to punish infractions of the law so far as this is necessary to achieve its object and within the limits established by the nature of its object.
The primary goal of the utilitarian view, Moore argues, is deterrence. For this reason,
A penal system that hopes to deter crime cannot tolerate exceptions. Punishment deters crime not only in criminals themselves, by reforming or disabling them, but in others as well, by setting an example. The first sort of deterrence, specific deterrence, is important. But, because it affects the actions of so many more people, the second sort of deterrence is proportionally more important.
Now we're at an interesting juncture. Does a plea bargain in exchange for testimony conflict with the second kind of deterrence? If so, under utilitarianism, we vote Aff.

If not, because of other utilitarian considerations, we vote Neg.

Thurston County 2007 election results

Update 2/20: If you're looking for the most recent primary results from Feb. 19, 2008, click here.

Initial results are due after 8:00 tonight, when the polls close. Local elections are certified November 27, while the state takes until December 6. (At least no one's running for governor this year.)

I'll post updates as they come in.

The Olympian has Wilson leading Nejedly in early returns, 58-42 with about 10,000 votes cast, and Barclift leading Meltzer, 63-37. We'll see if it holds up.

Nothing more on the local races, but statewide, 960 is up, 4204 is down, and 8206 is up. This is a taxpayer revolt kind of year.

7:40 p.m., 11/7
Emmett O'Connell shares my basic bloggerly frustration with Thurston County's tardy updates.

9:25 p.m., 11/7
I'd say Barclift and Wilson are a lock at this point, with the latest batch of ballots leading to nearly identical results. Statewide, only about 30% turnout. That's what happens in the odd years, mail ballots or no.

I want my Danielle Steele

In today's non-news, library patrons have to wait a long time for "hot new titles." Meanwhile, in the photo at right,
Seattle Public Library employee Rick Battin operates the Automated Materials Handling System that sorts returned and reserved materials at the Central Library in downtown Seattle.
1. Why is a human doing a job a robot could do better?
2. It's not automated, then, is it?

TheScoop08: from dream to reality

The 21st-century campaign-tracking news website TheScoop08 has launched:
This launch is your launch. While a traditional publication might begin with pre-determined content, Scoop08 begins with a request: Get involved. Click "continue reading" to learn how — or jump right to it: Sign up to cover a personality, policy, big idea or geographical region on the left; Submit your opinion or story ideas on the right.
Our man Josh is one of the original crew, doing what he does best. (I don't know. Ask him.)

Nov 4, 2007

I miss the good old days

When Joe Jurevicius helped crush hopes for the Seahawks, instead of helping crush Seahawk hopes.

When Ray Allen was a Sonic. (This Durant kid is great, but he can't carry the load.)

When the Sonics were a Seattle team.

When you could watch TV for half an hour without seeing Peyton Manning pitch Peyton Manning.

When the Seattle Sports Report kept it current.

Those were the days.

CHS girls cross country takes 5th in state

Amanda Wright's 7th-place finish led the squad to a 5th-place finish in the 3A tournament at Pasco, The Olympian reports. (Her sister Brianne finished 46th.)
It's a well-deserved honor for the team and for the hard-running senior, coached by her father Kevin.
Having grown up watching their dad coach at Capital, Amanda and Brianne have had plenty of exposure to running. Wright, who was a distance runner in high school and qualified for nationals twice in college, had hopes that his daughters might share his love for the sport.
Worked pretty well this year, eh, Kevin?

Nov 3, 2007

Capital knocked out by hungry O'Dea squad

It was close through the first half. Capital trailed 3-12, having converted their opening drive for a field goal, and holding O'Dea to two touchdowns, no conversions. "We're behind," said a parent next to me, "but that'll give us extra motivation in the second half."

We all believed that until O'Dea's quarterback blew through the line in the first 30 seconds of the 3rd quarter, and a Capital fumble led to another quick strike. We still held out hope as Capital recovered, marching down the field to the 19. On 4th, though, instead of gambling on a long-yardage conversion, Capital attempted a field goal. Snap. Block. O'Dea touchdown. Reeling, the Cougars were unable to score again until the 4th quarter. When I left early to re-ready the rooter bus, we were down 46-9.

It was a tough loss against a tough opponent, and a disappointing way to exit the playoffs--especially after clawing our way back from a terrible start to the season. On the bright side, the Cougars improved their record this year, developing in talent and growing in maturity. Next year's gonna be our year.

Also, chaperoning the rooter bus is utter lunacy.

funding lawsuit clears next major hurdle

Big news out of King County Superior Court:
Judge Michael Heavey wrote in an opinion attached to his order granting summary judgment that uneven distribution of state money to school districts violates the state constitution because it is not general and uniform, and violates the equal-protection rights of Federal Way teachers, students and taxpayers.

The judge said he expects the case to be appealed to the Washington Supreme Court. The state has 30 days to file an appeal. A call to the state attorney general's office seeking comment was not immediately returned.

The school district's lawsuit was filed in November 2006 against the state, the governor, the superintendent of public instruction and other officials.

Heavey, a former state legislator, said he believes lawmakers had been making progress toward a more equitable distribution of school money, but there is still some work to do. For example, most school districts get $32,746 from the state per teacher, although a few get as much as $4,000 more.

The state distributes school money based on the number of students in each district. Under a formula, the money is split among teachers, administrators and other staff, with employees paid within a range for each category.

"Because of the 'ranges,' there are 258 different funding levels for the state's 296 school districts," Heavey wrote.

He called the formula "arbitrary and wholly irrelevant" and said it was left over from an old system.
This is a tentative but satisfying victory for not just the WEA,who has pressed the suit forward, but for all Washington educators. If the lawsuit is appealed to the Supreme Court, which seems all but certain, and, bigger if, it succeeds, it becomes a matter of legislative remedy. That'll be interesting.

Update: In my sleep-deprived mind, I connected this lawsuit with the other state funding lawsuit, which is still in the works.

Running Start: running out of funds?

Running Start, an enormously popular program that allows high school students to receive college and high school credit for taking community college courses, is low on funds.
A statewide program offered at South Puget Sound Community College that allows high school students to take college classes for free has grown 15-fold since the college piloted the program in the early 1990s.

But it turns out the program's popularity has created a $34.5 million budget shortfall at Washington's community and technical colleges. At SPSCC, the gap is about $1.5 million....

"It puts more of a squeeze on us to figure out how we're going to pay for things that cost us more," said Nancy McKinney, the college's vice president for administrative services.
The legislature will likely take up the funding issue this coming spring.

The comments to the article--all 80 and counting--are decidedly partisan. RS students (and their parents) praise the program, while current CC students blast "immature" high schoolers for "filling up" their classes. There's truth on both sides: almost 700 students now take advantage of South Puget Sound Community College's program, and are happy with the results--but that's 700 more students filling a finite space. The funding shortfall means that the colleges can't keep up with the amount of classrooms and professors and administrators needed.

Meanwhile, back at the high schools, Running Start accelerates ability grouping. Junior year, a divide between IB/AP and regular offerings becomes a three way split, leading to a perception that American Literature and senior electives are a less rigorous offering--leading more and more students to abandon them for IB/AP and RS, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And that doesn't even factor in the online / correspondence option, which is also growing in popularity.

It all adds up to the death of the traditional "comprehensive" high school, which seems to be approaching sooner and sooner every year.

Nov 2, 2007

important "substantial assistance" statistics

Under section 5K1 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines, a defendant can receive an unrestricted downward departure in exchange for useful, truthful, reliable, and timely testimony against another defendant.*

In "Prosecutorial Discretion: An Examination of Substantial Assistance Departures in Federal Crack-Cocaine and Powder-Cocaine Cases," in the September 2007 edition of Justice Quarterly, Richard Hartley, Sean Maddan, and Cassia Spohn provide essential statistics on prevalence of the "substantial assistance" plea, information highly relevant to the current resolution. They write:
Data provided by the United States Sentencing Commission reveal that approximately 20 percent of all offenders sentenced nationwide receive departures for substantial assistance; for fiscal year 2002, the departure rate was 17.4 percent (United States Sentencing Commission, 2004, p. 51). However, the districts vary widely in the percentage of cases receiving substantial assistance departures, from a high of 46.3 percent in the Middle District of Alabama to a low of 5.2 percent in the District of Rhode Island (United States Sentencing Commission, 2004: table 26). There also is considerable variation in the departure rates for different types of offenses: 27.4 percent of the offenders convicted of drug trafficking received a substantial assistance departure, compared to only 17.8 percent of the offenders convicted of fraud, 14.9 percent of the offenders convicted of robbery, and 12.2 percent of the offenders convicted of firearms offenses (United States Sentencing Commission, 2004: table 27). The mean percentage discount in the sentence as a result of a departure for substantial assistance also varied for these types of offenses. The mean discount was 46.7 percent for drug trafficking, 99.8 percent for fraud, 35.1 percent for robbery, and 48.9 percent for firearms offenses; the discount for all offenses was 50 percent (United States Sentencing Commission, 2004: table 30).

The fact that substantial assistance departures are common, coupled with the fact that offenders receive a significant sentence discount as a result of this type of departure, suggests that critics' concerns about the reappearance of disparity and discrimination under the federal sentencing guidelines are not unfounded. These highly discretionary and largely unreviewable decisions (Maxfield & Kramer, 1998), which shift the locus of decision-making from the judge to the prosecutor, may reflect the influence of legally irrelevant factors such as the offender's race/ethnicity, sex, or socioeconomic status. As Secunda (1997, p. 1269) notes, "the unsurprising effect of the accumulation of unguided discretion [in departures for substantial assistance] may be the defeat of the principal purpose of the Guidelines: increased fairness and uniform sentencing for similarly situated offenders."
There's much more in the article, which I'll analyze in due time. Suffice it to say that some hard-to-find statistics are now readily available to the interested LDer.

*There are other considerations, too. Read the guidelines here.

Hollywood Writers to Strike Monday

November 2, 2007

Hollywoodland, CA -- Armed mostly with attitude, television and film's elite writing corps encamped in hills surrounding Hollywood Friday night, preparing a Monday siege that, unless surrender terms are negotiated, threatens to destroy America's cultural capital.

Plans of the attack were leaked to blogs late Thursday night. Studio executives began securing the perimeter, throwing up hasty barricades on Yucca and Vine streets.

Meanwhile, diplomats called for a last-ditch effort to head off hostilities. The Alliance of Producers said the Sunday meeting will take place at a location to be determined, under cover of darkness.

The writers admitted Friday they planned to strike on Monday. But they also said they were willing to negotiate. "The studios would rather see Hollywood destroyed in a barrage of irony and vituperation than reach a fair and reasonable deal," said Patrick Boston, president of the Writers Brigade.

A posting on a brigade Web site said the shelling would begin at 3:01 a.m. EST. More details were promised over the weekend.

The first casualty of the strike will likely be late-night talk shows, which are dependent on current events to fuel monologues and other entertainment. "Hit the supply lines first," said Boston, poring over a Map of the Stars. "They'll fold within weeks, if not days."

The attack may not immediately have an impact on film or prime-time TV production. Most studios have stockpiled dozens of movie scripts, and TV shows have enough scripts or completed shows in hand to last until early next year.

"God willing, we shall survive this war-mongering madness," said veteran producer Angela Foster. "We shall fight on the avenues. We shall fight in the gift shops, we shall fight in the tourist traps, we shall fight on the studio lots."

Foster paused to fire a semiautomatic pistol in the air. "We shall never surrender."

Laurie Creighton: TIP's "Teacher of the Year"

An award for Olympia High's fitness teacher extraordinaire:
Laurie Creighton, a fitness teacher and volleyball coach at Olympia High, was recognized today with a “Teacher of the Year” award by the Connecticut-based Teachers’ Insurance Plan.
A sample comment from a former student:
I had Mrs. Creighton my sophomore year about 3 years ago. She was great, really friendly and is an excellent teacher. I still catch up with her once in a while whenever we bump into each other. Well deserved.
The award brings recognition for 30 years of service--and a nice $1,000 bonus. Bravo, Ms. Creighton!

closer and closer to the earliest life

More exciting origin-of-life research, focusing on adenine:
Many ex­pe­ri­ments have shown it: sim­ple mo­le­cules can com­bine chem­ic­ally—out­side of liv­ing things—to form the build­ing blocks of DNA, the key com­po­nent of life. But just how this com­bina­t­ion oc­curs is un­known. Sci­en­tists want to find out, since that might ex­plain how DNA orig­i­nat­ed.

Now, chem­ists have pro­posed what they call the first de­tailed, fea­si­ble ac­count of how one of DNA’s ma­jor build­ing blocks could have aris­en on an ear­ly, life­less Earth. The nec­es­sary in­gre­di­ents: five cy­a­nide molecules, they said.
The answers are tentative and raise further questions--but that's science.

Nov 1, 2007

running away with it

When is crossing the goal line 9 times in the first quarter... and getting the two-point conversion each time... not running up the score? Wayne Drehs tries to explain.

a matter of principle

Matt Valloni donated this offense against reason. Nauseated by its unbelievable disregard for all aesthetic rules, I almost couldn't bring myself to wear it.

But then, I have principles. And tackiness is one of them.

have students join the Wiki revolution

I am so, so in favor of this:
Wikipedia has been vilified as a petri dish for misinformation, and the variable accuracy of its articles is a point Groom readily concedes. Since the advent of the Web, she said, the quality of sources students cite has deteriorated.

For her students, the Wikipedia experiment was "transformative," and students' writing online proved better than the average undergrad research paper.

Knowing their work was headed for the Web, not just one harried professor's eyes, helped students reach higher - as did the standards set by the volunteer "Wikipedians" who police entries for accuracy and neutral tone, Groom said.
If you want your students to experience the Wiki Way, but aren't sure they're ready for the rough-and-tumble world of Wikipedia, then, instead of having them take notes on a book, introduce a tool like pbwiki so they can create their own "SparkNotes." Just make sure you have adequate technology, clear expectations, and more than a little tech savvy.