May 31, 2007

the short happy life of a tacky tie

1. Born the son of Good Intentions and Bad Procrastination.

2. Worn, briefly, if at all.

3. Retired to the tie rack for at least one decade.

4. Dispatched to Goodwill in a pre-dawn excursion.

5. Shelved a minimum of three months.

6. Discovered by someone with a strong stomach and a stronger sense of irony.

7. Born again.

secret shopped: Federal Way investigation nets guns, drugs

Eight students and two adults were arrested today for selling drugs, and offering to sell guns, at schools in the Federal Way School District.
The arrests were part of a seven-month investigation conducted by police, the Federal Way School District, King County prosecutors and Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

None of the guns were sold on campus, but some drugs were, said Federal Way police spokeswoman Stacy Flores. The youths sold drugs that included cocaine, marijuana, Oxycodone and ecstasy.

Two Federal Way officers worked undercover inside Federal Way, Todd Beamer and Decatur high schools the past seven months, Flores said. The officers set up deals with students while on campus.
This raises all sorts of questions--not only about the availability of drugs, or the proper role of police in school, but about how they kept things quiet for seven months. Administrators knew about the investigation, but did teachers? Did they become suspicious of the surprisingly cogent essays, the two-o'clock shadows, the mature insights offered in class discussions? Or were the undercover officers a little more subtle, sitting near the back, iPod blaring, scribbling pot leaves on the desk?

a spelling bee in any other form

It's Spelling Bee time again, and Josh had to point me to a Slate piece on the various kinds of orthographic and grammatical contests the world over. (As every linguist knows, English is uniquely tough on spellers, what with all those undocumented nouns slipping over our unprotected border and into the language.)

Cheap irony points:
Correction, May 30, 2007: The caption on the photograph accompanying the piece originally misspelled the name of 2006 spelling bee champion Katharine Close.

May 30, 2007

the bonobo drank Starbucks

I'm trying to figure out what's the most frightening aspect of this story: that apes might have a rudimentary associative understanding of English phonemes, or that an ABCNews interviewer doesn't know how many a "dozen" is. (Click to watch the video to see what I'm on about.)

a new project: Washington Teachers

I am delighted to announce the beginning of a new blog project, a collaborative effort involving (for now) three other Washington state teachers. It's called, appropriately, Washington Teachers.

I have described the goals of the blog thusly:
To provide a platform for committed, passionate teachers sharing ideas about education, politics, life, and the universe.

To focus largely, but not exclusively, on Washington state education issues, providing a unique perspective not found in any think tank, union, media outlet, or government agency.

To become a go-to resource for citizens interested in what teachers in Washington state have to say.

To rock the world one mouse click at a time.
Obviously, each member of the blog will have their own perspective and purpose for joining, their own idiosyncrasies and areas of emphasis. That's what makes this so exciting: The Science Goddess, Jeff Nusser, and Ryan Grant, the first three to join me, are not only great teachers, but perceptive bloggers.

We'd like to expand, too. We're looking for articulate and intelligent and creative teachers from the Evergreen State. Though we each have our own affiliations and commitments, we invite all viewpoints, as long as they're expressed reasonably and in good faith.

If you live and teach in Washington, and are interested, please contact me at decorabilia AT hotmail DOT com.

a new project: Washington Teachers

I am delighted to announce the beginning of a new blog project, a collaborative effort involving (for now) three other Washington state teachers. It's called, appropriately, Washington Teachers.

I have described the goals of the blog thusly:
To provide a platform for committed, passionate teachers sharing ideas about education, politics, life, and the universe.

To focus largely, but not exclusively, on Washington state education issues, providing a unique perspective not found in any think tank, union, media outlet, or government agency.

To become a go-to resource for citizens interested in what teachers in Washington state have to say.

To rock the world one mouse click at a time.
Obviously, each member of the blog will have their own perspective and purpose for joining, their own idiosyncrasies and areas of emphasis. That's what makes this so exciting: The Science Goddess, Jeff Nusser, and Ryan Grant, the first three to join me, are not only great teachers, but perceptive bloggers.

We'd like to expand, too. We're looking for articulate and intelligent and creative teachers from the Evergreen State. Though we each have our own affiliations and commitments, we invite all viewpoints, as long as they're expressed reasonably and in good faith.

If you live and teach in Washington, and are interested, please contact me at decorabilia AT hotmail DOT com.

students breathe in, wait for WASL scores

Once again we near that magical moment in June when the sun burns away the slaggard clouds of spring, when rhododendrons burst into song, metaphorically speaking, and when a young student's fancy turns to thoughts of the WASL.

Between June 8th and June 15th, sophomores and other interested parties, freshfolks excepted, will learn their individual results in Reading, Writing, and Math. (Science, which from a student's perspective counts for nothing, won't come out until September.) Sure, the legislature might have passed a law or two making WASL success semi-optional, but who wants to retake the darn thing or take remedial classes or build a portfolio demonstrating achievement or some other ungodly alternative?

Bonus for interested teachers:
Also on June 8, the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction plans to publicly release preliminary statewide results showing how students in the classes of 2008 and 2009 performed on the reading, writing and math WASL tests. However, those statewide results won’t be finalized until late August.
What a strange year it's been for administrators and math teachers, who've had to convince students to try their best just in case their scores counted. As an English teacher, I didn't fret much: yanking Reading and Writing from the slate, when passage rates were already reaching 80% or higher, was never really an option for Governor Gregoire.

Added: Oh, and if you want to know what your options are if you didn't pass, here's the handy PDF chart.

photo of Governor Gregoire signing National Board bonus into law

I got my box in the mail, just a pit stop in the Paperwork 500 otherwise known as National Board certification. I'll be certifyin' with the best of them next year, videotaping myself and writing endless self-assessments, taking tests that prove my literary and pedagogical mettle. (If the TRP can do it, so can I.)

It's nice to know that the sense of satisfaction and pride I'll have once it's all done isn't all I have to work toward. Now that Governor Christine Gregoire has signed SSHB 2262 into law, I'll also receive a $5,000 annual bonus. That'll help with a house payment.

The folks in the photo, as identified by Jim Meadows of the WEA, who sent it along:

Rep. Ross Hunter
Sen. Rodney Tom
Lucinda Young, WEA Lobbyist
Jim Meadows, WEA
Governor Gregoire
Terese Emry, OSPI
Laura Koch, Seattle NBCT, and kids

May 29, 2007

purple haze

Nope. A tie clip would only ruin the effect.

Feierabend good, but good isn't good enough as M's lose

Gotta hand it to Ryan Feierabend, who looked positively Moyeresque at times tonight, getting the Angels to flail helplessly at sick circle changes. One wee mistake pitch to Shea Hillenbrand, though, put Los Angeles* up for good, as the M's offense mostly spun its wheels against Ervin Santana.

For a few minutes in the first, Santana looked like he was going to fizzle out, but a rocket up the middle by Johjima doinked off the mound and into a double play, leaving the bases full with only one run in. At that point my internal pessimist said, that's it, he'll settle down and the M's will suddenly go cold. I didn't want to be right.

The long reach of Julio Mateo from beyond the grave--you brought this on yourselves, Mariners.

*Of Anaheim

outlawing "murderabilia?"

No matter what you think about banning inmates' sales of their possessions to collectors and freaks, you have to agree that the word "murderabilia" just doesn't have the right ring to it.

[via Obscure Store]

a bright idea? starting high school later in the day

NewScientist updates the sleep research suggesting that high school should start around 11:00 a.m.:
It is comforting to think that teenagers are sleepwalking through their lives by choice, because at least that means we should be able to persuade them to lay down their games consoles and go to bed. But if that is the case, how come their peers in the developing world, in areas that lack basic electricity let alone PlayStations, still stay up late into the night? Is it possible that teenagers just cannot get to sleep earlier? Evidence is emerging to suggest that is indeed the case: teenagers are biologically incapable of going to bed at a sensible time....

Being a teenager is a tiring business. Though experts recommend that adolescents get at least 9 hours sleep a night, only 1 in 5 get that amount, with many saying that they have less than 7 hours on school nights. If late nights are bad for British and Australian teens who have to be in class at 9 am next morning, they have got to be worse for youth in the US, where schools start as early as 7 am, and in much of continental Europe where an 8 am start is the norm. No wonder the most recent survey, published by the US National Sleep Foundation in March, found that more than a quarter of 11 to 17-year-olds fall asleep in class at least once a week, and that over 50 per cent say they do not get enough sleep and feel tired during the day.

The situation is so bad in the US, says Mary Carskadon from Brown Medical School in Providence, Rhode Island, that around half of teenagers display symptoms of narcolepsy - a major sleep disorder caused by a defective signalling pathway in the brain. She recently took groups of teenagers into her lab to run "nap" tests on them. Normally, when people drop off they quickly progress into bout of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and then enter REM. When she tested adolescents in the mornings, many fell immediately into REM sleep. "It is exactly what patients with narcolepsy do, but these kids don't actually have narcolepsy," she says....

In December 2004, Till Roenneberg at Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, Germany, suggested that... our degree of morningness or eveningness changes with age.... [finding] that around the age of 20... people start sleeping at steadily earlier times. Women reach this turning point at an age of 19.5 years on average, while for men it comes at 20.9 years. "Most young children are morning-type people - they wake early and are at their most alert in the morning," he says. "Around the onset of puberty, there is an alteration in the body's clock so that teenagers are shifted forwards, becoming evening-type people." They perform better later in the day, in the afternoon or evening, and find it hard to sleep before 11 pm, midnight or even 1 am.
The article goes on to explain the potential biological explanations. It also gives a voice to skeptics:
Other researchers point out that the changes Carskadon found could simply be a consequence of staying up late. "Nobody knows why teenagers are so delayed, but there is no evidence for a biologically programmed delay in melatonin production," says Jo Arendt, a melatonin expert at the Surrey Sleep Research Centre in Guildford, UK. "It is probably a question of choice - the later they stay up the later they will naturally wake up."

Either way, the effects of sleep deprivation are all too real. David Goldstein, a psychologist at the University of Toronto in Canada, has found that a shift in the body clock can have profound effects on how people perform. He has shown, for example, that on average, people drop six or seven points on intelligence tests if they take them at the wrong time of day for their type. "Adolescents, who are usually evening types, perform very poorly in the morning, which is the time of day that they are usually assessed for examinations," he says. For teens who are on a knife edge between being accepted on a course, passing an exam or getting a job, that six-point handicap could make all the difference. "There are some kids whose teachers have simply never seen them at their best, and that is a terrible shame," Goldstein says.

I want my Pepsi-Cola

Our school district, bless their sensibilities, prohibits the sale of non-diet soda, any size, yet you can still purchase a 9.5-ounce Starbucks mocha Frappucino out of a machine. At a whopping 180 calories, Starbucks' bottled candy is actually worse for your waistline than a 12-ounce, 150-calorie liquid ambrosia Pepsi. (Do the math: a 12-ounce Frappucino would have 1.5 times the calories--227--and more than double the caffeine.)

So, to summarize. Sugar and caffeine in carbonated form: bad. Even more sugar and caffeine in coffee form: shrug. Something is amiss.*

I'd love to complain to the authorities, to point out the blatant inconsistency, but I'm afraid it would only backfire. The district would probably end up banning Starbucks, too, and maybe even shut down the Student Store, which mostly traffics in lattes and sweet, sweet cookies.

So I won't. I'll just keep bringing Pepsi from home. It's cheaper, anyway.

*There's no Caffeine Conspiracy; the inconsistency extends to Hawaiian Punch, too. Why? I have no idea.

if I give my body to be recycled

Kerry Howley, commenting on a planned Dutch reality TV show that would award a fresh kidney to the winner:
Organ-based reality TV is sad and grotesque precisely to the extent that it caricatures typical organ allotment systems; where sick people aren't allowed to pay for something they need, they must prove themselves worthy of a gift. Are Lisa's criteria for organ-worthiness any less valid than those of the United Network for Organ Sharing? Discuss.
I'm not going to discuss, other than to point to the story that got Kerry thinking, and a crucial detail she left out:
A spokeswoman for BNN said that could be no guarantees the donation would actually be made, "but the intention is" Lisa's donation would be carried out before she died.

That's because her wish to donate to a particular candidate "wouldn't be valid anymore after her death" under Dutch donation rules, Marieke Saly said. If Lisa does donate one kidney while living, the other kidney may still be awarded to someone else on a national donation waiting list under the country's organ allotment system.
Update: But wait. There's less.

Olympia School District to track students with database

The database was invented by one Charles Bachman, circa 1960. Only forty-seven years later, the Olympia School District decided to utilize database technology to track students on the brink.
“We think this will help us discover problems that students have sooner,” she said. “I think the sooner we can get to know our students academically, emotionally and socially, the better we can help them.”

High school counselors are expected to have the database as a resource starting this fall, McCauley said. He said the district also might consider expanding it to include incoming middle school students as they make the transition from elementary school.
What's frightening is that in upgrading to a database, our district is probably ahead of the curve.

May 28, 2007

now that's refreshing: M's take it, 12-5

Everyone--and that includes me--feared that the M's recent offensive explosion came from facing subpar pitching. Silence, doubters: these guys are still hot, pounding the Halos 12-5 in a marvelous change from last month's underachievement.

Beltre's four extra baggers, Ichiro's streak, and Richie Sexson's rediscovered power, along with solid pitching by Miguel Batista--who's quietly gone 5-2*--all came together at the right time for a sensational win. If the M's can keep hitting with confidence and get a few quality starts, they've got every chance to keep it close in the A.L. West.

I think. For now.

*Batista is 5-4; Bartolo Colon dropped to 5-2. I must've misheard the radio broadcast on the way home from band practice.

you shall know them by their decorabilia

My wife has another fascinating set of photos from her Spain trip. I've posted one here, too, because it's what this blog is all about.

I judge people by the quality of their decorabilia. The fake posters and knickknacks covering the walls of Red Robin, for example, merit scorn and contempt. A garlanded pig head, on the other hand, demands respect and admiration. Spaniards may love ham in excess, but it is a deep and abiding love.


My brother remembers Mickel Garrigus and Matthew Walrod, two Elma boys who gave their all in service to their country.

woo 'em with Wadsworth

Brilliant or bonkers?
Longfellow's epic poem, "The Song of Hiawatha," was written 152 years ago, but Michael Maglaras thinks the story can be as appealing to modern-day audiences as "Superman" or "Star Wars."

Like Clark Kent and Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Indian hero Hiawatha has human traits and super powers, while battling evil and doing right. Maglaras, the owner of a record company, is now producing a six-CD audio recording of the poem that he plans to complete in late summer.

It's fitting that the CDs are being recorded in a studio here in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's hometown in the year of the 200th anniversary of his birth. Maglaras hopes the project will stimulate interest in both Longfellow and the art of storytelling.
I doubt it. Although recent versions of Beowulf have helped spur a renaissance* of interest in ancient epics, "The Song of Hiawatha" doesn't qualify. At minimum, it would have to be adapted out of Longfellow's trochaic tetrameter before I, or anyone else, would want to listen to it through six (six!) CDs, no matter how vivid Maglaras makes the voices. (To hear a sample of Maglaras's talent, click here.)

Read the opening stanzas aloud to yourself, quietly if in a room where others might listen in and think you mad:
On the Mountains of the Prairie,
On the great Red Pipe-stone Quarry,
Gitche Manito, the mighty,
He the Master of Life, descending,
On the red crags of the quarry
Stood erect, and called the nations,
Called the tribes of men together.

From his footprints flowed a river,
Leaped into the light of morning,
O'er the precipice plunging downward
Gleamed like Ishkoodah, the comet.
And the Spirit, stooping earthward,
With his finger on the meadow
Traced a winding pathway for it,
Saying to it, "Run in this way!"
After reading Hiawatha
Through all twenty-two long chapters,
Twenty-two all in this meter,
You'll be ready for the nut hatch.

*Terrible anti-pun.

May 27, 2007


As I type, the ABCNews story about Rosie's exit from The View is nearing 4,000 comments.

mere heterodoxy

Over at Mere Orthodoxy, my brother has announced a new scheme. Other blogs invite oustide expert to post commentary, but, as he writes,
Here at Mere O, though, we’ve set the standard lower. The only qualifications we are looking for are:
  • that the author is a reader of Mere O

  • that the author agrees to take full responsibility for what he writes...

  • that the author won’t take money from us if we ever decide to put ads on Mere O, and their post brings in traffic from search engines.
Which means, of course, that over the course of this series we may be posting essays with which we vehemently disagree as authors of Mere O. All essays will carry the appropriate disclaimers, of course.
My brother is "ridiculously excited" for the new feature, and I have to say I'm equally enthused. After all, I'll be participating.

South Sound going development crazy

The Daily O. has a couple articles worth viewing if you're interested in the South Sound's bamboo-paced growth. The first focuses on Yelm:
It’s only going to get busier as more than 1,300 residential units and commercial development are built, including a Lowe’s and a grocery store at an urban village. Developers like the area’s schools, access to other roads and need for apartments and affordable housing.

Some traffic relief is expected in 2008 — plans call for widening Yelm Highway from four to five lanes from Henderson Boulevard to Rich Road — but slowdowns will get worse before they get better.

At least six large projects dot the Thurston County landscape from Henderson Boulevard in Olympia to the eastern reaches of Yelm Highway in Lacey.
The second is a lengthy list of building permits, including the identity of the retailer that will replace Mervyns in Lacey, which has been gutted for months now. Somehow I had missed the news that it's Kohl's, to the tune of $8.3 million and change. Watch construction via webcam here.

interpreting Ichiro

Larry LaRue and Geoff Baker both report Ichiro's latest koan (via Baker):
"My knee is still my knee," he said. "My knee is not my butt."

Hmmm. Interesting.

I'd ask for a translation, but we were already getting one from interpreter Ken Barron at that point. Barron took another run at the interpretation, asking Ichiro to clarify.

"I hit it against the wall, but it's not big like my butt," he said.
Pretty easy to figure out: your knee has no padding; your rump does. Smash into the wall while snagging a liner to deep center, and you'll appreciate that fact in a tangible and memorable way.

Don't question. Just revere.

May 26, 2007

two for the show

"Broadway has been very good to me. But then, I've been very good to Broadway."
--Ethel Merman

counterintuitive cryptography and comparative complexity

The technosecurity arms race will be won by the most technologically advanced combatant, right?

"This is a system that should be taken seriously," says security specialist Bruce Schneier, who founded network security firm BT Counterpane. He says he was seduced by the simplicity of the idea when it was first proposed by Kish, and now wants to see independent tests of the working model. "I desperately want someone to analyse it," he says. "Assuming it works, it's way better than quantum."
Click through to find out what "it" is.

Tangentially, PZ Myers discusses the various problems with ladders of biological complexity that put humans at the top rung.
The idea that complexity is a material and significant element in the genome, one that has a pattern of increase that has reached its pinnacle in humanity, is little more than one of the last vestiges of the mistaken notion of progress in evolution, and one that seems to be supported only by largely imaginary evidence. In particular, the often expressed idea that people, of all creatures, must be especially complex is like hearing someone with no knowledge of pianos explain that their favorite piano sonata is so wonderfully beautiful that it must have been played on an instrument with many more than 88 keys—and that Jerry Lee Lewis and Beethoven couldn't possibly have been composing on similar instruments.
Click through to find out why.

Covered in Bees and the mysterious guests

Last night, Covered in Bees improv did three crazy things.

1. Featured special guest Sara Rucker Thiessen of the Heartsparkle Players.
She had bid a boatload at a fundraising auction to win the right to come on stage--but it's not like she went up and goofed around like an amateur. Oh, no. Consummately professional and utterly fearless, Sara and her estrogen darn near stole the show.

2. Used a format for the entire show.
Jack and Suvir sat down to watch a DVD--"Cyberpunk"--which the cast members performed on the fly, including a looped menu, behind-the-scenes interviews, deleted scenes, an alternate ending, and sheer lunacy when Suvir crossed over into the television, culminating in the movie's revenge on reality. Breaching the fourth wall while within the confines of the fourth wall: how exceedingly meta.

3. Dragged me on stage.
It wasn't really dragging. I had sat in on the pre-show rundown, as Esa drew up the basic format, but wasn't ready when, two minutes before starting, Esa found me in my usual seat and said, "We need more people to make this work--and we need to make sure we have enough continuity. Mr. A., can you be in the show?"

I said yes, and the rest--Tess, the killer robot who loved too much--is improv history.

feel the heat

Reader, philosopher, and ironist Josh sends along the photo seen at right, wherein a particularly intrepid member of society has not only established her/his moral superiority through the purchase and use of an electric small-mobile, but has accented that superiority by dressing the small-mobile with tiny flames.

May 25, 2007

put on a happy face

Who says you have to be all busted up and beaten down when you pose for your mug shot? The Smoking Gun provides twenty-three championship-quality smiles. (There are twenty-five photos, but a couple aren't terribly convincing--and some of those eyes are pretty dewy.)

Best thing about America's criminals: they mostly have good teeth. Fluoridation may pollute our brains, but at least it brightens our grins.

busy today


1. Wrapping up the week in my classes.

2. Watching another improv show tonight.

3. Putting together a project based on my other blog.

4. Working on a short story.

5. Missing Melissa.

6. Preparing interview questions for School Board candidates.

7. Still gasping from the strangest apology I've ever received, which I can't talk about here, but suffice it to say it happens only maybe once in an educational career, if ever, and involves plagiarism.

8. Stressing.

May 24, 2007

Julio Mateo brings the bad

I fretted yesterday, and today my fretting's birthed a screaming baby of bad. Julio Mateo's return to active duty obviously caused Horacio Ramirez's shoulder tightness, Sean White's implosion, and the late-inning comeback that wasn't.

Oh, Mariners management. What have ye wrought?

The Olympian defends gainsharing

Taking on risk under false promises. That's what has happened, in essence, to the teachers under retirement Plan II who switched to Plan III, told by the state that the loss, a reduced guaranteed benefit, would be outweighed by the gains.

Look for yourself and compare. The "defined benefit" is halved, supplemented instead with employee contributions based on the whims of the market--with the potential, under gainsharing, to increase the payout in times of plenty. Now, with gainsharing gone, Plan II members can only hope that the stock market stays healthy.

Says The Olympian,
Teachers and public employees who had counted on those financial benefits in their retirement years are understandably upset.
I'll say.

May 23, 2007

Qwest Field chooses Jones Soda

Well, Josh, how am I supposed to handle this?
"We want to give the fans a really cool experience. Jones Soda is not Coca-Cola, and we will do things differently," van Stolk said in an interview. "The Seattle Seahawks are our football team. That's reality. I care about if they go to the playoffs. I care about what the score is."
I don't think I possess the requisite irony.

keep it clean

Yes, that was Mike Hargrove without the (hideous) goatee tonight in the Mariners' 5-1 victory over the hapless Devil Rays. Quoth the Skip:
"I screwed up this morning," Hargrove said before the game. "I was trying to trim it and took a huge gash right out of it."
Good riddance.

Other good news includes the return of Richie Sexson's bat, the return of a lively Sean Green, and the return of Julio Mateo. What? No. That's not good news. That's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad news.

The M's bullpen without Mateo is one of the best in the league. We don't need his bad vibrations.

120th Carnival of Education: head over

This morning my freshfolks were reviewing roots and vocabulary for an upcoming assessment. "Carn," one said. "I know 'carnivore,'" but what's another word using it?

"Carnival," I said.

"What in the world does a carnival have to do with meat?"

"It's not about meat, but the lack thereof," I replied. "Something to do with Lent, I'd imagine. A celebration of all things meaty before weeks of meatlessness."

Wanting to be certain, I headed for the dictionary, thumbed through A and B and settled on "Car - Carton." There it was, left column near the bottom. "I'm right," I said.

"You're always right," the freshfolk replied.

Happy 120th Carnival of Education, and big thanks to Ryan for the link.

where the rain mainly falls: not Seattle

Seattle, contrary to myth, is not the rainiest city in the Lower 48. That honor belongs to Mobile, Alabama. In fact, Olympia, where I live, beats out Seattle, coming in at #24 on the list of ombrophilous American cities.

Olympia, it should be noted, has the most days with rain on average; we don't get anywhere near Mobile's five feet per annum, though.

Covered in Bees improv--last shows of 2006-2007

Update: The show list has been changed to reflect changes in the show list.

The South Sound's finest improv group, Covered in Bees, has just a few shows left, all at 7:00 in CHS's auditorium.

Wednesday, May 23

Friday, May 25

Wednesday, May 30

Friday, June 8

Wednesday, June 13

Friday, June 15

Cost is always $3 at the door. It's the best deal in entertainment in Olympia. I can't promise that you'll laugh uncontrollably to the point where your kidneys malfunction, but I do guarantee that members of your preferred gender will find you irresistible for at least twenty minutes after the show--provided your kidneys didn't malfunction.

Since Esa Hakkarainen, Trevor Allen, Josh Hird, and Zach Schmidtbauer are graduating, you'd better go. Soon. Tonight, even.

May 22, 2007

Sonics get #2 in the draft

Let the rejoicing begin. The Sonics have the second pick, a chance to snag either Oden or Durant, and maybe a little dignity on the side.

Or maybe rejoicing is premature, and they're going to pull another weird stunt like last time, when they took this guy, all wingspan and zero proven talent.

Update: Bill Simmons was darn close.

Gregory Requa: free speech hero?

The video took a teacher's hygiene to task. On YouTube. As a result, Gregory Requa, a student accused of producing it, was given a Noahic sentence: suspended for 40 days. Now, he's suing for his speech rights.
Requa's lawyer, Jeannette Cohen, said the teen didn't produce the video -- taken in an English classroom at Kentridge. But even if he did, his suspension is a violation of the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech, she argued in court.

"What is at stake here is the school district message that if you post things we don't like," you will be punished, Cohen said.

Kent School District lawyer Charles Lind says the suspension had nothing to do with online criticism of the teacher. Rather, it was punishment for the disruption created by the students secreting a video camera into Joyce Mong's class and dancing in a mocking, disrespectful manner while her back was turned.

"It's quite clear that the district is talking about conduct in the classroom and not the videotape," Lind said.
Lind is on shaky ground. If the only crime of Gregory Requa--3rd place, Travel and Tourism, DECA!--was the on-camera dance and mockathon, it would hardly merit a 40-day suspension, unless this is the culmination of a parade of incidents.

Absent the video and the discipline record, this blogger will withhold final judgment. One question, though: how thick is your skin, O teacher? Better be thick enough for YouTube.

Update: The judge agreed with the school, and Requa's suspension stands. A forty day vacation: that'll teach 'im.

a reporter takes the WASL

The eighth grade math WASL, that is. The results: far from pretty.
Later that night, after downloading the entire 52 pages from the two sessions of the 8th grade math WASL, I hit my stride. I got a few right, mostly multiple choices, which only count for one point whereas the multi-parter counts for four. But, I even got three correct in a row!

Nevertheless, even with that success, I knew if I were in 8th grade and had to take this test for real, well, I'd probably be heading to summer school.
Our own David Johnston, who sent along the link, appears in the comments.

Some wags have called for our state's leaders to take the WASL and prove their mettle--and its. I'd be afraid, though, that it would only undermine confidence in our fragile democracy.

Anderson's anti-drug propaganda dictum

Users of the product should never be allowed to design commercials condemning use of the product.

different folks, different diets

This should surprise no one:
David Ludwig and his colleagues at Children's Hospital Boston put 73 obese young adults on either a low-fat or a low-glycaemic load (GL) diet, which limits intake of quickly digested carbohydrates, such as white bread and refined breakfast cereals, that rapidly raise blood sugar and insulin levels. Participants were encouraged to eat until satisfied without counting calories.

They found that people who naturally produce high levels of insulin - a hormone that encourages fat and liver cells to store energy - fared better on low-GL diets, where blood sugar levels rise more slowly than on low-fat diets. They lost an average of 5.8 kilograms over 18 months, compared to just 1.2 kg for people on the low-fat diet. They also lost significantly more of their body fat (The Journal of the American Medical Association, vol 297, p 92).
Everyone's dietary needs are different, and anyone who tells you differently is trying to sell you something. Probably a fad diet.

trying too hard, or not trying hard enough?

The Mariners lost another close one that really shouldn't have been.
"We left 10 men on base and we hit the ball well, but we just didn't get the big hit with people in scoring position," Hargrove said. "We had our chances."
In other words, we hit well, except when it really counted. Two runs en route to a 5-2 loss.

The biggest problem, though, if I'm going to second-guess the manager, which I suppose is my blogging obligation, was Hargrove's trust in Baek through the 7th. Baek served up two singles and walk--and Hargrove kept him in.

Baek's biggest problem thus far has been his weakness when facing a lineup a third time. Hargrove, watching him give up one single and then another, has to know this--yet doesn't seem to have anyone ready in the bullpen, so Baek faces a few more batters and serves up the game. When your squad is crapping out every time they have guys in scoring position, you can't go and cede two or three runs.

The Mariners sometimes appear to be trying too hard--willing themselves into failure by trying to pound everything, no matter how far out of the strike zone. Hargrove, though, doesn't seem to be trying hard enough.

I'd rather lose by eight runs than suffer last night's indignity. At least then I'd be sure we were incompetent to the core.

Added: Nuss explains how management has roasted the Golden Goose.

May 21, 2007

principal hard to find

Every comprehensive high school in Thurston County’s three largest districts has hired at least one principal since 1999, and some have hired two.

The job always has been complex and required long hours, local educators say. The workday can begin as early 6:30 a.m. and extend well into the evening with student functions, parent gatherings and school board meetings.

But Washington’s new high school graduation requirements and new federal accountability measures under the No Child Left Behind Act have tacked on additional pressures, officials say.

“You’re trying to balance the needs of students, the needs of parents and the needs of staff with all of the mandates coming down from the state and federal government,” said Jim Hainer, who has been principal at Black Hills High since fall 2005.

Jocelyn McCabe, the Association of Washington School Principals’ communications director, said turnover has increased the past five years, though the association doesn’t track statistics.

“I think it really has to do with the stress and responsibility of running a high school,” she said, adding that state and federal changes likely have played a role. “We’re seeing a lot more scrutiny of how students are performing.”

Upcoming changes

Three new principals are expected this fall in the county:

The Olympia School District will hire new principals at two of its three high schools — Avanti and Capital.

• At Avanti, the district’s alternative high school, interim Principal Darrell Johnston was brought on to serve one year in fall 2006 after former Principal Joy Walton became administrator of the Olympia Regional Academy.

• At Capital, Principal Teri Poff will become executive director for teaching and learning in the Franklin Pierce School District’s administration office in Tacoma.

• Plus, the Tumwater School District is searching for a new executive director at New Market Skills Center, which provides career, technical and vocational classes to high school students. John Aultman, New Market’s executive director since fall 2000, has accepted an administrative post in the Shelton School District.

Recruiting challenges

Though there were at least 20 candidates for both the Avanti and Capital positions, local educators say they don’t see as many applicants as five or 10 years ago.

“When you post a principal position, you’re not going to have a deep applicant pool,” said Brian Wharton, a former River Ridge High principal who was promoted to North Thurston Public Schools’ assistant superintendent of human resources in 2006.

That trend has emerged even though some local principals consider their jobs well-paying. According to the state salary survey for 2005-06, the average principal’s salary was $83,976.

The ranges for the open Olympia School District posts are higher:

• $89,469 to $97,781 at Avanti

• $96,843 to $105,334 at Capital

“This is a good-paying job, but if you’re doing it for the money, you’re not going to last a long time,” Hainer said. “You’ve got to find the job that fits you.”

Meanwhile, the Association of Washington School Principals expects to work with 248 principal interns — educators working toward an administrative credential — in 2007-08. McCabe said those numbers are encouraging but the association would like to see even more.

‘A great experience’

Neither Poff nor Wharton decided to leave because of job stress. Both had goals of becoming district-level administrators.

“My preference would have been to wait several years,” Wharton said. “It was one of those things where the opportunity fell into place.”

Poff said she highly recommends the Capital job but had always wanted to become a district-level executive director of teaching and learning.

“Whoever does step into the position will inherit a great school,” she said.

That said, Poff described the high school principal position as a stressful one that has grown more so in the past five years.

“There are increased expectations for you as an institutional leader and you also need to gather a lot of input from staff, students and parents,” she said.

Hainer said he tries to manage stress by creating balance with his personal life. He tries to get home at a decent hour even if it’s just to eat dinner before heading back out. He also exercises and has lost 40 pounds since January. And his wife sometimes joins him at after-school events.

“Part of it is deciding what things am I going to commit to being there,” Hainer said. “You’re never really off the clock.”

May 20, 2007

OOBEs, NDEs, and an interesting research proposal

Perhaps a clever study will put to rest claims that Near Death Experiences (NDEs), which sometimes include Out Of Body Experiences (OOBEs), are more than short-circuiting neural activity. World Science reports:
Par­nia has spent years stu­dying re­ports that some car­di­ac-ar­rest pa­tients keep hav­ing clear, dis­tinct thought pro­cesses af­ter they’re clin­ic­ally dead and de­tect­a­ble brain ac­ti­vity has ceased. Pa­tients com­monly re­count these men­tal ex­pe­ri­ences, which of­ten in­clude see­ing a light at the end of a tun­nel, af­ter be­ing re­vived.

Parnia and colleagues aim to put these re­ports to a test: spe­cif­ic sounds will be played to such pa­tients, and they’ll be asked to re­call the sounds af­ter re­viv­ing. If they do, it would con­firm the ac­counts of thoughts with­out brain ac­ti­vity—sup­port­ing the claims that “con­scious­ness is a sep­a­rate, yet un­disco­vered sci­en­tif­ic ent­ity” from the brain, Par­nia wrote in a pa­per in the the April 23 ad­vance on­line edi­tion of the re­search jour­nal Med­i­cal Hy­pothe­ses....

[When it comes to OOBEs], Par­nia is not test­ing wheth­er pa­tients gen­u­inely feel their minds have floated away. He wants to test wheth­er the minds ac­tu­ally do float away—a con­tro­ver­sial idea to say the least. His team plans to place pic­tures stra­te­gic­ally around pa­tients’ rooms where they’re vis­i­ble only from near the ceil­ing. Pa­tients would la­ter be asked about the im­ages. “Thus, the claims of con­scious awareness and out-of-body ex­pe­ri­ences will be tested in­de­pen­dent­ly,” he wrote in the pa­per.
Philosophically, World Science overstates the case: the research won't solve the "hard problem" of consciousness, but it might help straighten out one of the more pliant puzzles.

pronounce "portmanteau"

Easier seen than said.

Port. Man. Toe.

[143rd in a series]

Hot Fuzz: worthy of the buzz

Funniest movie I've seen since... Shaun of the Dead. What a coincidence.

Olympia schools expand online presence

While other online academies are currently putting expansion plans on hold, the Olympia Regional Academy is ready to grow. The Olympian has the story:
The district’s parent-­partnership program, which enrolls home-schooled students, is expected to grow to include high school students.

The high school classes will include core subjects such as science, math and writing, as well as foreign languages. Students will be able to earn a diploma through the program, said Joy Walton, the academy’s administrator.

The academy also is hiring four new teachers for its online high school program, which allows students to take classes via the Internet.

Previously, the online program purchased courses and instruction from Advanced Academics Inc. rather than use Olympia teachers.

District officials plan to limit online enrollment to 40 initially. Within about a month, more students should be able to enroll, Walton said.
I predict that this and similar programs will only increase in popularity at the secondary level--the flexibility and individualized pacing are just too attractive. Traditional brick-and-mortar schooling isn't yet out of style, but it's getting pushed further and further into the back of the closet.

May 19, 2007

Spider-Man 3: why?

Spoiler Alert: If you bring children to this film, they will be spoiled like milk.

1. In a not exactly crucial scene that owes its existence (and an apology) to Jerry Lewis in/as The Nutty Professor, Spider-Man plays the piano and dances. Why?

2. When evilifying, Spider-Man gets his hairs chopped like that one guy from My Chemical Romance. Why?

3. Kitty Litter Guy comes with superior clumping action, yet also preserves both original skin tones and clothing. Why?

4. Spider-Man gets beaten to a near-pulp by Kitty Litter Guy, yet neither bruises nor bleeds. Why?

5. Stan Lee has a shameless--as in Shyamalanesque--cameo, blithely noting that one person can make a difference. Why?

6. Reaction shots outnumber action shots. Why?

7. Spider-Man 3 has grossed millions in thousands of theaters in a few short weeks. Why?

pardon me for not blogging

Busy. This guy's visiting.

speech is a commodity. who's bidding for yours?

Actually, TRP, you did just fine.
While I don't think Mayer should have been fired, I think she made a mistake in stating her own views to her students. Why not respond with a question? When the students ask "Would you protest the war?" why not say, "would you?" I don't see how she helped kids' learning by answering the question. She could have dodged it. I do every time it comes up, and I even tell them why: "In this classroom, my opinions are irrelevant. Your opinions are critically important, and they are valuable insofar as they are backed by evidence."

To put it another way, my experience tells me that telling kids my personal views about something complex like the Iraq war is unneccessary: a teacher can play devil's advocate on all sides. In fact, stating one's opinion is often counterproductive to student learning. I therefore believe it should be avoided in almost all cases.

But a firable offense? No way. Mayer's firing was a sad and unfortunate decision, and the courts' support of it could lead to some yucky outcomes. Would the school board in Indiana have canned Mayer if she had brought in a "Support our Troops" bumper sticker? If she had asked her class to write a letter of thanks to soldiers? I highly doubt it. This means that, under the current decision, the school board would gain the de facto power to select the appropriate political perspective to teach, and fire any dissenters. That's no good either.
Here's the irony that goes unmentioned:
The incident occurred in January 2003, when Mayer was teaching a class of fourth- through sixth-graders at Clear Creek Elementary School. As Mayer recalled it later, the question about peace marches arose during a discussion of an article in the children's edition of Time magazine, part of the school-approved curriculum, about protests against U.S. preparations for war in Iraq.

When the student asked the question about taking part in demonstrations, Mayer said, she replied that there were peace marches in Bloomington, that she blew her horn whenever she saw a "Honk for Peace" sign, and that people should seek peaceful solutions before going to war.

A student complained to her father, who complained to the principal, who canceled the school's annual "Peace Month" observance and told Mayer never to discuss the war or her political views in class [emphasis added].
Mayer was clearly within the range of reasonableness by advocating peace in the classroom, and the school district's claim that she was fired for incompetence, not for her politics, is evidence. The Court, though, would deny a teacher any sort of moral authority. A while back, our school hosted an assembly decrying school violence--an emotional remembrance of the Columbine tragedy. If I were like Mayer, and had said, "You know, kids, we should always seek a peaceful solution to our personal conflicts before using violent measures," and a parent had complained, I would hope and pray that my administration would stand up for the message they were already promoting.

Oh, and I'm glad I teach in a district where I'm not a script-spouting robot--attorney Francisco Negrón's world.
"Teachers bring their creativity, their energy, their skill in teaching the curriculum, but ... a teacher in K-12 is really not at liberty to design a curriculum," said Negrón, who filed arguments with the court in Mayer's case supporting the Bloomington school district. "That's the function of the school board."
Except in the most planned-out, constricting, intellectually deadening environments, teachers make curricular choices--even "design curriculum"--every day. We do it within a framework of age appropriateness and educational standards, but in our own words, in our own style. That's where our "creativity... energy... [and] skill" come in to play.

May 17, 2007

futurism in polyester: two takes

For a sliver of the 80s, somehow a 30s sensibility took the world of ties by storm. Not that I'm complaining.

what is political oppression?

It's one of the prickliest questions of the national resolution for this year. If we're trying to justify violent revolution because of political oppression--or not--we have to be certain what it is.

That's not always easy.

I've hinted at some potential calling cards in a comment elsewhere: "...keeping people from voting, or forcing them to vote for a particular candidate, or prohibiting certain political parties..." But that's just a start.

For example, Amnesty International would include harassing or arresting dissidents.

Wikipedia's entry interprets its sister phrase ("political repression") broadly:
Political repression may be represented by discriminatory policies, surveillance abuse, police brutality, imprisonment, involunatry [sic] settlement, stripping of citizen's rights, and violent action such as the murder, summary executions, torture, forced disappearance and other extrajudicial punishment of political activists, dissidents, or general population.
Clearly, the affirmative is at an advantage with a broader definition, allied with a proportional or tit-for-tat definition of justice.

The Neg, then, could argue for the importance of the word "political," which implies a political purpose or focus of action, precluding actions against the "general population," which could include genocide and shift the debate too far toward the Aff. The resolution doesn't cover mere "oppression" (as it did the last time this topic was in play). A too-broad definition makes "political" meaningless.

do blogrolls matter?

Orin Kerr asks:
How much attention do blog readers give to blog rolls these days? It used to be that blog rolls (the list of linked blogs down the side of the page) were really important. I have the vague impression that they no longer matter as much as they used to. Do you agree? If there has been a change, why has it happened?
Several readers point out that the rolls serve a social function, alerting a reader to perspective, positively, or bias, negatively. However, as more readers use RSS, I'd have to think that one major purpose--widening readership--is decreasing. I know that I use iGoogle (dumb, dumb name) more than my own blogroll--but I also know that others come here because of the permalinks on others' blogs, so they're not obsolete. Though its growth has plateaued over time, I'm not junking mine anytime soon.

How about y'all?

one year of 5/17

One year ago I started this here blog, working with David Johnston to establish an unofficial online presence for the Olympia Education Association. Over 365 days it has evolved into a jogging commentary on educational issues both local and statewide, a small part of a growing community of edubloggers.

I emphasize "small," because I honestly haven't had time to make the blog everything it could be--family, teaching, and my other blogging obligation leave little space on the cafeteria tray. But the spirit is still willing, and the goal--thoughtful, honest opinionating--is still intact.

I'm optimistic that as more upcoming teachers are comfortable with Web 2.0, our influence in shaping the discourse can only increase. I haven't abandoned the idea of a collaborative effort, either. If you're interested in a Washington state-focused educational blog (I'm talking to you, Ryan, and TRP, and Jeff, and The Goddess, and whoever else is out there documenting the good fight), drop a comment here or send me an email. I might even be contacting you in the future, so watch out.

surrealism is alive and well

Here first, for the context. Scroll down to Gil Thorp.

After: this. It made me laugh almost to the point of tears.

I am way too sleep deprived.

O Mariners

What to say about last night's roundly disappointing loss to the Angels? Which was worse: the bullpen's uncharacteristic blowing of a tight contest, or the offense's humiliating choke with Halo hurler Lackey near to crumbling in the 6th?

I'll go with the offense. Guillen waved at ball 4, which would've forced in a run, halving the lead. But no. Lackey's slider, never near the strike zone, hit dirt--paydirt--as Guillen fanned, and Napoli somehow found the ball to put the force on Ichiro. That was it for the M's, who meekly surrendered nine more outs to the Angel bullpen.

The bright spot: Cha Seung Baek, again. The guy's tenacious.

I'm fairly sure our pen's effort was a hiccup--but our constant inconstancy, both from our offense and starting pitching, is intensely frustrating. We could handily be eight or nine games above .500, in first by a good margin.

May 16, 2007

"hot ice" proves that Shakespeare is divinely inspired

If "paths of the sea" is proof that the Bible is the Word of God, then certainly this...
Although the parent star is much cooler than the Sun, the planet orbits 13 times closer to the star than Mercury's orbit around the Sun. That means the surface must be a blazing hot 300° C or more, keeping water in its atmosphere in vapour form.

But the high pressures in the planet's interior would compress the water so much that it would stay solid even at hundreds of degrees Celsius – the expected temperatures inside the planet. There are a variety of exotic 'hot ice' states possible in such conditions, with names like 'Ice VII' and 'Ice X'.
...makes this...
That is hot ice and wondrous strange snow.
...obviously divine.

Seattle's middling architecture in photos

I love Witold Rybczynski's photo essay on Seattle's nascent architectural pizazz, not because it leaves out the most elegant po-mo industrial behemoth in the city, Safeco Field, but because it includes the Rainier Bank Building, which he describes as resembling "a giant hi-fi speaker." It has always reminded me of a fence post gnawed by beavers.

It's actually one of my strongest Seattle memories: back in 6th grade, all hundred-odd students in our class at Elma Middle School visited a Seattle theater company to see "The Wizard of Oz." I remember the performance for the annoying kindergarteners who sat in the front, shouting at Dorothy to watch out for the witch, and for the walk from the theater to the bus, where we passed underneath the Bank Building and prayed it would not topple.

They say Seattle is due for a 8.something earthquake one of these days. When the debris settles, I'd bet it's the only building still standing.

[hat tip: my brother]

photos from my visit to Spain

To see all twenty-three photos, click the title of the post or the timestamp.

May 15, 2007

Near Death Experiences and REM intrusion, again

A while back, I noted an intriguing hypothesis explaining the origin of Near Death Experiences. What was once a subscriber-only article is now available in its entirety.

free will, fruit flies, and philosophical flights of fancy

Combined in one short NewScientist piece:

To test whether behaviour can be truly random, Björn Brembs, a neurobiologist at the Free University of Berlin in Germany, put fruit flies into a sensory deprivation chamber: a drum with a white interior, that offers the flies no visual cues to orient themselves.
That description isn't entirely accurate, as a quick look at the video will demonstrate. The fly not only attempts to orient itself using T-patterns, but can also control colors using its angle of flight. Whoops, different study.

The results:
Brembs and colleagues analysed the resulting flight records using increasingly sophisticated models of random behaviour. Were the flies' decisions random, like the result of a coin flip? No. Did they fit a coin-flip model in which the probability of "heads" varied randomly? Again, no.

Nor could they be explained by a series of random inputs, or a series of random inputs combined in non-random ways.

Instead, the researchers found that the flies' behaviour bears the hallmark of chaos – a non-random process that is nevertheless unpredictable, like the weather. No one has yet been able to adequately explain how chaos arises.

Well, color me ignorant. Thanks to study author Björn Brembs for showing up and pointing out a link to the (different) study from the video I passed on above. That's what I get for posting without fact-checking.

grading the WEA's grading

I've been out of action for the past week, traveling to Spain to visit my wife, who's studying there. That doesn't mean that other quality bloggers have been resting their mice, though. Yesterday Ryan tackled the WEA's legislative report card. A sample:
Pensions/Gainsharing: D

Apparently we don’t believe in Fs, because if any one area deserved it this is the one. Lisa Brown might be an economist, but she’s certainly no friend of anyone who wants to retire from teaching.

And let’s be blunt—the WEA gets an F here, too. We went into the session trumpeting a true rule of 85; we’ve come out with the retirement age being lowered to 62 and not much else. New employees can now choose between TRS 2 and TRS 3, but those of us who didn’t get to choose and were placed in TRS3 automatically get nothing....
As they say, read the whole thing--and as for me, I'll be back in full blogging swing once I finish some grading of my own. Two seven-hour trans-Atlantic flights and two three-hour train trips through the south of Spain just weren't enough.

a gorgeous Ariston ad

Simple but exceedingly clever concept: the washing machine as an aquatic paradise.

[Via Slate.]

the short goodbye

I'm back, a bit hazy from jet lag, more than a little bummed about spending another three weeks without Melissa, recuperating for a day before returning to classes.

The visit was too, too brief, but quite lovely while it lasted. We dallied in Úbeda, Jaén, and Baeza, logging miles on foot and hours on autobuses. I'll post photos as soon as Melissa uploads them.

The way it ended Monday, though, was almost a cliché: the taxi driver, supposed to show at seis menos diez--six minus ten, or 5:50--had the time written down as "6-10," which meant we scrambled frenetically for twenty minutes, Melissa trying to find the number to the company while I stood nervously by the apartment looking for too infrequent headlights.

A frantic embrace and quick tearful kisses when the taxi finally arrived at 6:11, and I threw my luggage in the back seat, buckled up, and clutched the armrest as the taxi rocketed down Úbeda narrow, and thankfully empty, streets. We drove "como el viento" (the driver's words), passing everyone, screeching into the train station at Linares with five minutes to spare. I'm pretty sure I lost my cheap sunglasses in the process, the second pair in two weeks.

There's much more to tell, but I'll save it for when I'm a little more awake and have photos to spice up the narrative. Hasta pronto.

May 11, 2007

safely in Spain

It took only thirty hours to make it from Seattle to Ubeda--plane to subway to train to bus to hoofing it through the downtown to the tourist apartment. I crashed at 10 something in the p.m. and didn´t wake up until noon. After thirty hours of consciousness, I was ready for some time off.

The train ride from Madrid to Ubeda is worth the three hours, once. The landscape is reminiscent of the hillocks of Eastern Washington, only a little greener. Each train station is guarded by the local patriarch. Scammers are caught riding without a ticket only if they´re unlucky. People smoke surreptitiously in the bathroom, or at least they think they´re surreptitious. Graffiti covers every meter of spare brick and mortar lining the route.

Enough travelogue. The burden of posting photos to Snapfish has now fallen upon me, as Melissa finishes up her last lecture of the week. I´ll put some up on the blog whenever I get the chance--but that may not be too soon. Several centuries of history and culture are just minutes away.

May 9, 2007

green means go

Going green, I switched to compact fluorescents in the kitchen, which is now, as Shakespeare might phrase it, "Sicklied o'er with a pale cast of mint." Fried eggs, in particular, take on an almost radioactive glow. Such is the price we pay for offsetting Al Gore's emissions.

Or just our own. Green, as the title makes clear, is a symbol of movement. I'm traveling today.

Here is my destination:

Here is my purpose:

While I'm gone, click links liberally--all those quality blogs on the right are begging for your attention. I have a hefty archive, too. Plenty to keep you busy.

See you in a few days.

May 8, 2007

Federal Way considers cell phone,iPod ban

This from the district that tried to prohibit flip-flops.

This time it's those pesky electronic devices that are under the gun.
Board member Charlie Hoff said he's worried about students downloading inappropriate pictures, fighting over iPods and using them to cheat. "I think they shouldn't be there, period. They're just a plain distraction and every other week they become much more sophisticated."

But board member Evelyn Castellar said the district should teach students how to use iPods. "It would be a terrible thing to ban electronic technology," she said. "This is a learning tool — just like a calculator. They used to ban calculators and now you're required to bring them."
Seriously, if you can't handle this like any other distraction--we've been there with CD players, Walkmans (Walkmen?), transistor radios, carrier pigeons--then you've got problems beyond gizmos.

Hobbes and violent revolution in the face of political oppression

Regarding the current resolution, Josh has all the answers when it comes to Hobbes. Well, not all the answers, but some. And they're good answers. (Josh and I go back and forth on Hobbes here, too.)

May 7, 2007

is it okay to end a sentence with a verb?


Next question?

No, seriously, it's okay.

Poetic flavor it may provide.

Yoda-ish it will sound, especially if overmuch used.

But it really, truly can be okay.

Not always ideal, but okay.

I promise.

[142nd in a series]

how to remember the names of the twelve disciples

The easiest way to remember things is to create an acrostic. The colors of the rainbow are "ROY G. BIV." The notes on a staff go "Every Good Boy Does Fine." (Proponents of the "Deserves Fruit" acrostic sometimes protest, but to be quite honest, every good boy does not deserve fruit.)

Still, even an acrostic isn't enough. The essence of memory is repetition. You must repeat the acrostic at least seven times in order for it to stick.

Without further ado, then: how to remember the names of the twelve disciples.


Simply Put, As Jesus enJoys Peanut Butter, Thus Jesus' Throng Should Joyously.

Simon Peter
James Alphaeus
Simon the Cananean
Judas Iscariot

Be careful, though, since repetition is also the essence of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Remember what happened to Philip Glass?

[141st in a series]

May 6, 2007


I'm thrilled to get the chance to visit Melissa in just a couple days, but nervous as well. It's nothing to do with where I'm going, but with what I'm leaving behind.

Five days. Two subs.

Ask any teacher: planning for a sub is the most rigorous form of self-assessment, much harder than planning for yourself. Everything has to be exceedingly clear, every step laid out exactly in order. It's just like those make-a-peanut-butter-sandwich exercises, except with a hundred extra variables.

Not only that, but when you've cultivated five classes for the better part of a school year, you have rhythms set down, routines, ways of handling the smart alecks and the slackers, ways of dealing with the ebb and flow of drama. Mostly it involves movement: changing activities after fifteen or twenty minutes, circulating around the class, always ending things slightly before you think they should be finished.

I have two subs recommended by the office, since my usuals were unavailable. That's never a sure bet, though; I know of several who talk a good talk to the secretaries, but turn into tyrants in the classroom, or ramble on about whatever's on their mind instead of following the lesson, or bury themselves in the newspaper and hope the class holds together.

Subs have the hardest job in education, no question.


kids these days

Two Joshes, two targets of criticism: post-ironic retro sensibilities and Hannah Montana.

May 5, 2007

Wang misses perfect game; Weaver mediocre, an improvement

Wang very nearly had it, until Ben Broussard smacked a hanging breaking ball in the eighth, spoiling the perfect game, no-hitter, and shutout at once. Wasn't nearly enough for the anemic Mariners, who, without Beltre in the lineup, and with Buck-Twenty-Five Bloomquist in it, couldn't get much going.

For a while, Weaver hung in there, mixing in some wicked sliders with well-placed fastballs. When he finally folded, I was sure Hargrove was going to get him out early, put in someone like O'Flaherty or Sherrill, and try to stay in the game. Instead, Hargrove handed Weaver a shovel, and he promptly began digging a grave and burying himself in it. Apparently giving up, Hargrove replaced Weaver with Sean White, who threw on the last clumps of dirt.

Amazingly, despite giving up 6 runs in five and 2/3 frames, Weaver lowered his ERA.

Weaver isn't hopeless, but Hargrove just might be.

impact fee reduction: what's the impact?

The City Council has decided, with the Olympia School District's blessing, to cut "impact fees" in the downtown area by 60%, in order to attract developers to build more housing downtown.
Developers are charged impact fees to offset the burden that new residents have on city services. The council's move means developers will pay $343 per unit rather than $874, all money that's funneled to the school district.

Council members approved the change April 24 after meeting April 3 with Olympia School District officials, who said the change is fine with them.

City officials lowered the fee because they determined children were less likely to live downtown, said Keith Stahley, director of the city department of Community Planning and Development. A Thurston County Regional Planning Council survey of the 984 units downtown that don't have age restrictions found only 51 children.
That's probably because downtown housing costs have priced most middle class families out of the market. Over the past few years, Olympia's demographic has been shifting away from households with small children. The baby boom is elsewhere in the county: Lacey, Tumwater, Yelm. This latest move ensures that the trend will continue.

At the high school level, we should be fine, at least for a little while. Our facilities are operating at capacity, if not beyond.

Now, if the Council could only do something about the Ugly Building.

all things to all people

It suggests fish scales, pheasant feathers, origami birds, Toblerone chocolates, or blowfish spines. It is all those, and more.

[The collection grows apace.]

May 4, 2007

how do you pronounce "Shiite?"

One of the trickiest words imported into English, with a rare double vowel that is not a diphthong, followed by a silent "e." Readers are encouraged to find another word with a similar vowel pattern.

On to the pronunciation, then. Guess which one's correct.

a. Shee-it
b. Shit
c. Shee-ite
d. Shittee
e. Shytee
f. Shee-it
g. Sheeit-tay

The answer: h, "Sunni."

[140th in a series]

proud member of a "Dream Team"

Apparently the teachers who worked on revising Capital's 9th grade English curriculum are going to be recognized as a "Dream Team" at the next school board meeting. This past summer, I wrote:
I've learned that it's pretty darn tough to choose texts for a wide range of reading abilities, genres, styles, and backgrounds. I've had to read books I would never pick off a shelf--Slam!, Uglies, The Runner, Sabriel--and to re-examine every facet of my teaching in the light of research and my peers' expertise. Most important, though, I've learned the reward and intellectual satisfaction of collaborative curriculum construction.

Even in the summer.
It's paid off throughout the year. We have engaged, motivated students, mirroring the engagement and motivation of the professionals who have labored mightily to provide a rich and rigorous experience in the freshman year.

It's great to be recognized--and even greater to work with such amazing, committed people.

reperfusion and apoptosis: or, everything you know about CPR is wrong

Scientists are discovering that it's not lack of oxygen that kills heart cells; it's the return of oxygen into the cell that causes apoptosis. Newsweek explains the implications:
With this realization came another: that standard emergency-room procedure has it exactly backward. When someone collapses on the street of cardiac arrest, if he's lucky he will receive immediate CPR, maintaining circulation until he can be revived in the hospital. But the rest will have gone 10 or 15 minutes or more without a heartbeat by the time they reach the emergency department. And then what happens? "We give them oxygen," Becker says. "We jolt the heart with the paddles, we pump in epinephrine to force it to beat, so it's taking up more oxygen." Blood-starved heart muscle is suddenly flooded with oxygen, precisely the situation that leads to cell death. Instead, Becker says, we should aim to reduce oxygen uptake, slow metabolism and adjust the blood chemistry for gradual and safe reperfusion.

Researchers are still working out how best to do this. A study at four hospitals, published last year by the University of California, showed a remarkable rate of success in treating sudden cardiac arrest with an approach that involved, among other things, a "cardioplegic" blood infusion to keep the heart in a state of suspended animation. Patients were put on a heart-lung bypass machine to maintain circulation to the brain until the heart could be safely restarted. The study involved just 34 patients, but 80 percent of them were discharged from the hospital alive. In one study of traditional methods, the figure was about 15 percent.
It's also been discovered recently that mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is actually counterproductive. The linked article doesn't make the connection, but the new understanding of reperfusion might explain why chest compressions alone are better than traditional CPR.

Happy Friday!

May 3, 2007

better living through science

A little while back I linked to a Slate article asking neurologists and neuroscientists if and how understanding the brain has changed their lifestyle. Now, NewScientist offers advice for the adviceless, compliments of the latest research [sub. req.]. A sample:
Fessler and colleague Kevin Haley discovered that angry people were less generous in the ultimatum game - in which one person is given a sum of money and told to share it with an anonymous partner, who must accept the offer otherwise neither gets anything. A third study by Nitika Garg, Jeffrey Inman and Vikas Mittal from the University of Chicago found that angry consumers were more likely to opt for the first thing they were offered rather than considering other alternatives. It seems that anger can make us impetuous, selfish and risk-prone.
Sure, you've always known it, but now science proves it.

I guess she figured it was a COLA

Coat goes missing at an Oregon elementary school. Eerily similar coat appears for sale on eBay. Area teacher is caught selling the coat.
The mother alerted another bidder that the coat might be stolen, and the other bidder relayed the information to the seller, Logan. Police said Logan asked the other bidder to outbid the girl's mother.

Logan was put on leave a day after her arrest.
The teacher denies stealing it, claiming the oldest defense in the world: finders keepers, losers weepers.

the General Will justifies violent revolution

Affirmatives must justify violent revolution in the case of political oppression. To their aid comes William T. Vollman's masterful and idiosyncratic Rising Up and Rising Down, which analyzes the history and causes of violence, and attempts to provide consistent and coherent moral criteria for the uses of violence.

In Volume III, Justifications, in the section titled "Defense of Revolution," Vollman considers the French Revolution as a rebellion that originally could have been justified, but lost sight of its aims. The author establishes positive and negative criteria for a morally justified revolution, listed below.
Defense of the Revolution is Justified:
1. When the ends of the revolution are explicit and legitimate. Whenever those ends change, the legitimacy of defense of the revolution must be reevaluated.

2. When it is a defense of the General Will. [Vollman follows Rousseau; more below.]

Defense of the Revolution is Unjustified:
1. When the acts defined by the revolutionaries as treason are the same as the acts committed by them before they came to power.
2. When the revolution's immediate ends change but legitimacy fails to be reevaluated.
3. To the extent that it fails to explicitly and consensually define the grievances which it seeks to address.
Vollman, quoting Rousseau, declares that the General Will is not merely the sum of individual wills, but the "common interest." The revolution must "...balance liberty against equality... [with its] equals sign the Golden Rule." In other words, even violent revolutions must stay within moral limits, not using violence gratuitously.

The structure of an Aff using Roussau and Vollman as inspiration might have a value of governmental legitimacy with Vollman's dual criteria. (A value of liberty might work as well.)

For the Neg, Vollman's work offers cautions. Are self-styled revolutionaries likely to fall prey to the absolute corruption predicted by Lord Acton? In the majority of cases, do violent revolutions follow the General Will? Perhaps for every George Washington there are three Robespierres.

say hey, he's no Willie Mays

Manny Ramirez is probably the most entertaining left fielder in baseball. Not only can he pound the ball--473 career dingers--but he can't play defense to save his or anyone else's life. He's the only outfielder I've ever seen kick-slide a blooper and end up booting it out of reach of the center fielder.

So, after tonight's basket catch in the first (eat those five runs, Dice-K), I thought this Onion article was particularly appropriate:
The Red Sox have tentatively agreed to allow Ramirez to telecommute, claiming that although their offense may suffer without him at the ballpark, their defense in a vacant left field may substantially improve.
The M's may not beat Boston, but with Manny Ramirez, every game's a treat.

Update 6:25: Julio Mateo nurses a 7-7 tie in a wild one. (Dice-K has left the building.) After being tagged out in a double play, Big Papi gives Jose Lopez a friendly embrace.

Real men hug.

Update 7:30 We lose a game we had every chance to win. Boo-urns to Horacio Ramirez, who blew a 5-0 lead, and props to Manny, who smacked the game-winner, his second homer of the night. Two closer to Mays.