Sep 30, 2008

you say you want a resolution

The new NFL Lincoln-Douglas and Public Forum resolutions arrive within hours, and, consequently, my life is about to be sucked into a vortex of nerditude. Here's a celebratory tacky tie to announce the official onset of the debate season.

Chris's vengeance is complete

Our "woeful husk of a team" ended up losing 101 games. The resurgent White Sox, though, are headed to the playoffs thanks to a masterful pitching performance by John Danks and a solo shot by future HOF-er Jim Thome. Jr. Griffey even got in on the action, making a great throw to nail Michael Cuddyer in the fifth inning.

Ultimately, Griffey was smart to stay miles away from the radioactive Mariners, even though a lot of fans wanted him back in a bad way. Now we're on the outside looking down. In? That's months, if not years, away.

Chris, congratulations. Enjoy the good times. I'm rooting for your guys now.

x-phi hogging the spotlight

Experimental philosophers continue to irk the armchairists.
Experimental philosophy has suggested, for example, that people from East Asian cultures may have different intuitions on very basic philosophical questions — reference (what nouns refer to in certain situations), morality, epistemology (what it means "to know" something) — than members of Western societies do. Experimental philosophers also draw on work by contemporary psychologists demonstrating just how malleable human cognition is, how easily redirected and reshaped it is by external cues, even as the conscious mind remains blissfully unaware. Opinions on crime and punishment, for instance, can be altered by placing people in a dirty room designed to trigger feelings of disgust: Subjects in such experiments respond more punitively when asked what should be done to certain hypothetical criminals.

"If we keep getting the same kind of results with the right kinds of controls and right kind of experiments," says Stich, "then there is a problem with the central method that philosophers have used throughout the 20th century, and for a long time before that": the reliance on armchair intuitions.

Understandably, such claims have met with resistance. "A philosophical problem is not an empirical problem," writes Judith Jarvis Thomson, the noted MIT moral philosopher, in an e-mail message to The Chronicle, "so I don't see how their empirical investigations can be thought to have any bearing on any philosophical problem — much less help anyone to solve a philosophical problem."
For an academic's take on the role of x-phi in the philosophy of morality, see here.

Homer the divine

To be divinely inspired, a book must be historically accurate; after fall, if its credibility cannot be established on the basis of known events, it certainly cannot be relied upon as an adequate guide in matters beyond our ability to check. On the other hand, if we can demonstrate that such a book is correct in historical matters, to an extent unknown among human writings, then we have strong evidence that the authors were inspired by Zeus. This is true of The Odyssey and The Iliad.
In his influential book, "Troy and Homer," German classicist Joachim Latacz argues that the identification of Hisarlik as the site of Homer's Troy is all but proven. Latacz's case is based not only on archeology, but also on fascinating reassessments of cuneiform tablets from the Hittite imperial archives. The tablets, which are dated to the period when the Late Bronze Age city at Hisarlik was destroyed, tell a story of a western people harassing a Hittite client state on the coast of Asia Minor. The Hittite name for the invading foreigners is very close to Homer's name for his Greeks - Achaians - and the Hittite names for their harassed ally are very close to "Troy" and "Ilios," Homer's names for the city.

"At the very core of the tale," Latacz argues, "Homer's 'Iliad' has shed the mantle of fiction commonly attributed to it."
Down through the centuries, enemies of these works have attacked its historical accuracy. Time after time, they have been thus questioned, only later to be shown correct by archaeology. Archaeology is a study of relics, monuments, tombs, artifacts, etc., of ancient civilizations. Peoples and events, known before only in Homer's accounts, have been brought to light by the excavations of ancient cities. Always, Homer has been proven right.

You got me: the above is parody. But barely.

lesser of two WASLs

The News-Tribune's Peter Callaghan explains why Randy Dorn isn't quite the candidate WASL foes hoped for. Which is no surprise, really; if Semler hadn't dropped out, Dorn wouldn't even be in the race. He was hardly anyone's first choice.

Sep 29, 2008

for a teacher dying young

I was going to post something tonight, but after reading what the TRP has written, instead, I'll merely link, without comment, to his memorial to both a colleague at his school and a friend at another, two untimely deaths in a painful week.

hall decorations for CHS homecoming, 2008

'Tis the season for hall decoration. First place will undoubtedly go to the Seniors for their magnificent "Jurassic Park" hallway in Pod A. The vines are just gorgeous.

One thing about the "Spirit Days" that makes me sad: Grunge Day, according to the students in charge, is a day to wear "grungy clothes." C'mon, people. Haven't you heard of Nirvana? Haven't you seen Singles?

Oh, and here's a set from two years ago.

From life at CHS

From life at CHS

From life at CHS

From life at CHS

From life at CHS

From life at CHS

Sep 28, 2008

49th Parallel

If, like me, you're an ex-Canadian who loves all things Canada, you're bound to love 49th Parallel, a propaganda film from World War II that, although hokey and full of stereotypes, presents the Nazi menace with urgency, charm, and sometimes shocking brutality.

Whenever my brother and I see our friend Ryan--a current Canadian--we joke about the general mightlessness of our northern neighbor's military forces. This movie, produced by Brits to educate Brits about their Canadian cousins, won't dispel any rumors of dogsled battalions hidden in igloo bunkers, and in the end, it takes Americans to round up the last fleeing Nazi. (I won't share my multitudinous quips; watch the film, and savor your own. There are plentiful opportunities.)

49th Parallel is a historical curiosity, more travelogue / tourism film than anything. Meet Eskimos, Quebecois, Hutterites, Indigenous Canadians, in-the-closet writers, and repentant pacificists as you jaunt across the unfrozen wasteland to the north, following a rag-tag band of Nazi submariners. If you don't love Canada by the time the movie's done, you're a hoser.

what's the lesson here?

Consider this year's Seattle Mariners, proud owners of this abysmal factoid:

First team with a $100 million payroll and 100 losses. With one bonus loss for good measure.

You make the inference.

Sep 27, 2008

Ranch House BBQ is moving back

Good news: Ranch House BBQ will move back to its (that's "its," dear advertiser) original location in 2009.


In December, that is.

Delayed hurrah!

Capital's offense rolling; Cougs down Olympic, 56-14

In their last two contests, the Capital Cougars (2-0 OWL) have racked up 113 points while giving away a mere 20. Olympic was the latest victim of the resurgent Riley twins; Reid with one TD, Riley with three, as CHS romped, 56-14, taking their second straight league victory.
Tim Allbee, Olympic's associate head coach and defensive coordinator, said Riley Wall was the "best kid we've faced. He never stops moving his feet. It takes more than one guy to take him down...."

"We're a lot younger even than we thought we'd be," Allbee said. "I thought our kids got intimidated early. The kids let (the Cougars) get in their heads early. Capital's very, very good."
Indeed. Last week I predicted we'd "plow through the WCC/OWL." For once, I just might have the right psychic frequency.

Sep 26, 2008

M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I: a McCain / Obama liveblog

5:54 PST
Weather: Sunny, with children.
Mood: Pensive.
CBS Website: up and running.
Backup plan: KPLU, ca. 88.5
Perspective: Seventh-year debate coach and English teacher analyzes election rhetoric, body language, argumentation, and--this is far too ambitious, I now realize.

Jim Lehrer notes that the debate will be divided up into 9-minute segments, with 2-minute primary responses. Lehrer has selected the questions personally, and will hand them on a platter to the candidates, served up with hot, steaming platitudes.

Lehrer quotes Eisenhower on the relationship between the economy and the military to kickstart things. Wasn't he the guy who coined the phrase "Military-industrial complex?"

First question to Obama. Wall Street / Main Street is a nice rhetorical dig; McCain probably wishes he could've gotten there first. 1:30 in, and Obama's already going after his presumed opponent, President Bush.

McCain cribs the "Wall Street / Main Street" line. Knew it was coming.

McCain is looking at Lehrer; Obama directly into the camera. Obama's playing better on the television so far. (Somebody get McCain a glass of water, too.)

McCain's use of the Eisenhower anecdote comes across as sincere and sharp. Here comes the split screen.

This "talking to each other" thing that Lehrer is "determined" to achieve: profoundly weird, at least to this debate coach. We train debaters to not look directly at their opponents.

Okay, guys. Enough with the "Main Street" metonymy.

McCain calls earmarks "evil." Studying bear DNA isn't just impractical, it's diabolical!

McCain strikes closest first, going after Obama's earmarking. Obama's response is a deflection: sure, I've earmarked, but in a saintly way==no special interests--and McCain's tax plan is $300 billion. (Next to the bailout, though, even that seems small.) McCain comes right back, saying that $18 billion "may not be that much to Obama," but Main Street--that's you and me, right?--want to elect a Sheriff.

"Let's be clear" is Obama's pet phrase, in the same way that McCain loves "My friends."

McCain touts Ireland as a development haven? And here comes "my friends."

McCain scores the best adjective: "festooned," when describing an energy bill. Try all you want, Senator Obama, but you're not going to beat "festooned."

We're going to have to start giving these guys their own internet connections so they can look up the things they're asking us to look up. FactCheck is going to have a heyday tonight.

"It's hard to reach across the aisle that far too the left." McCain reaches out to the base; Obama smiles.

Every time McCain or Obama cites a number smaller than $700 billion--16, 15, any -teen billion--it seems tiny. "A billion here, a billion there," someone once said.

A delightful mixed metaphor from Obama: "The problem with a spending freeze, is you're using a hatchet when you need a scalpel."

"...the way you rule the country..." Lehrer's phrasing, referring to the changes in leadership a massive bailout might bring to either candidate, reflects the current conception of the chief-executive-as-king.

Obama goes after McCain's purported penny-pinching; McCain responds with a second go at the "Miss Congeniality" line. Plus, one good "maverick" begets another: Palin, who, though unnamed, apparently fits the appellation.

The Iraq War enters the building.

Who was wronger? Obama on the surge, or McCain on the entire conflict? Ouch: "Senator Obama doesn't understand the difference between a tactic and a strategy."

Tough to say who's winning this debate, to be quite honest. Each is landing a punch or two, but no one has a knockout yet. Stylistically, Obama isn't stuttering as much as he did back against Hillary Clinton, and McCain seems perkier than he was in the GOP debates.

McCain, on public military threats: "You don't do that--you don't say that out loud. If you have to do things, you do things."

Who is McCain squinting at?

Obama brings up McCain's choice in mid-60s surfer rock.

The bracelet battle. Is this gravitas or severe tackiness? Honestly, I think I might be becoming too cynical.

It's also a battle of condescension. Obama keeps calling McCain "John," and McCain keeps listing things "Senator Obama doesn't understand."

Proof that McCain isn't Bush III: he lists the French as potential allies in a "league of democracies."

I've lost count of the times Obama has declared, "Senator McCain is absolutely right," before immediately dispatching another of McCain's suggestions.

"What Senator Obama doesn't seem to understand..." Obama needs to come right back with a classic: "There you go again..."

Actual Kissinger quote:
KISSINGER: Well, I am in favor of negotiating with Iran. And one utility of negotiation is to put before Iran our vision of a Middle East, of a stable Middle East, and our notion on nuclear proliferation at a high enough level so that they have to study it. And, therefore, I actually have preferred doing it at the secretary of state level so that we -- we know we're dealing with authentic...

SESNO: Put at a very high level right out of the box?

KISSINGER: Initially, yes. And I always believed that the best way to begin a negotiation is to tell the other side exactly what you have in mind and what you are -- what the outcome is that you're trying to achieve so that they have something that they can react to.
One more thing Obama, in his naivete, doesn't understand: that Putin wears KGB contact lenses.

Some say that Obama doesn't have to win this to win--he just has to hold his own. So far, nothing's really stumped him. McCain has shown some weirdness--squinting, crazy blinking, and an insistence on pet phrases--so in a relatively equal pitched battle of arguments, a draw is a loss.

Lehrer ends on an interesting question: what's the likelihood of another 9/11?

Which is just one more opportunity, ultimately, for McCain to talk about what Obama doesn't understand.

So, the debate boils down to this:
1. McCain: Obama is naive.
2. Obama: McCain, you're getting the facts wrong.

McCain closes with an appeal to veterans based on his experience; Obama closes with a call to a renewed global presence, America as a "beacon on a hill."

I'm calling this a tie, which, because of Obama's relative inexperience, counts as a win.

Bob Schieffer says exactly what I did, including the lack of a "knockout," and that "Obama held his own." Thanks for visiting, Bob.

And then there was Bob Barr.

Dave Weigel writes,
If your drinking game code words were "doesn't understand," please see a doctor.
I'm sure it's not the first, or last, time McCain's driving folks to drink.

The debate is barely over, and the factcheckers have already descended. McCain appears to be penalized the most for running out-of-bounds with the ball. Even the Eisenhower anecdote (which was delivered quite well) was a stretch.


bus-stop blogging

Maybe this will become a recurring feature, although I can't predict the frequency of its recurrence. Bus-stop blogging requires a combination of several factors:

1. Forgetting that the 45, sadly, has no 3:09 stop at CHS. (Note to Intercity Transit: if you want more teachers taking the bus, give them a stop immediately after the end of the contract day, 3:07.)

2. Dry, warm weather--at least, warm enough that my fingers can move.

3. No one else hanging out at the bus stop; even though I'm a natural introvert, these days, I find myself drawn into conversations, even with total strangers, because it's easier than silence. Today: no problem. Students all went home at 12:00.

4. No immediate desire to dig through the pile of essays I collected.

5. Decent blood sugar.

6. Idle curiosity / morbid fascination / mild boredom / writer's itch.

7. Functional wireless.

Sep 25, 2008

speaking off-the-cuff: the really "competitive, scary thing"

I'm not blogging this from a political perspective--I'm exhausted by this year's election marathon, and am saving my energy for more important things, like finishing up my $700 billion bailout plan that promises to put America's banks, lending houses, and realtors on steadier footing, and I'm not going to say too much about it, except that it involves Donald Trump, Bill O'Reilly, and a cross-country death race--so I'm approaching this purely from a speech coach's standpoint.

This is the worst impromptu speech I've ever heard.
Sure, it's more coherent than "U.S. Americans," but the potential importance of the source determines the ranking.

[Thanks to Jason Kuznicki]

Added: Christopher Beam's advice is quite good.

nifty science images

1. One of the winners from the International Science and Engineering Visualiz... too tired to finish. That's what links are for.

2. One of the runners-up.

Mariners reach 100

Losses, that is.

Congratulations to the Mariners for achieving the abyss for the fourth time in team history.

Nowhere to go but up, right?

Sep 24, 2008

sin comentarios, el Gnomovil

¿Quién necesita una razón?

green, yet not green

1. Green: riding the bus almost every day, except for yesterday, when I'm at school from dawn 'til post-dusk, Open House, which, despite arriving a season early, is actually the longest night of the year.

2. Not green: I've been teaching for 6.2 years, if you count the summer school stint that started it all, when I was fresh out of Evergreen's Master in Teaching program. I remember the first time I presented at Open House: I struggled to fill 10 minutes for each miniature class period. Now, I run out of time.

3. Green: yesterday's tie.

4. Not green: leaves, locally.

5. Green: If I'm not a rookie, why did I forget my lunch?

Sep 21, 2008

North Thurston shoves science aside

After tossing and turning all night in a Kennewick hotel--drunken neighbors, a concealed beeping cellphone, and snoring, all in conspiracy--I woke up at 7:17 this morning to browse the news. First up: The Olympian reports that, as a budget-saving measure, the North Thurston School District's high schools now start at 7:20, 35 minutes earlier than last year.

The initial comments are mostly uninformed and grumpy:
Wow, do you guys want some cheese with your whine? Get over it, kiddies (and parents). Go to bed 1/2 hour earlier instead of texting your friends. The world doesn't operate on a 9-5 schedule and the soon they learn that, the better.


Buck up!

(You too, OLYMPIAN. Got NEWS???)


Don't worry, little children. Once you get to college you'll only go to class for three to four hours a day and an early class is at 8:00 a.m.
More in that vein, but you get the point. Is it that simple? Kids shouldn't be coddled, adults have it tough, grow up and be a man, I walked uphill both ways in the snow naked and shoeless while memorizing Shakespeare just to improve my memory not because it was assigned?

No. If anything, this article understates the importance of sleep, for at least three reasons.

1. Continual sleep deprivation results not just in poor academic performance, but has been implicated in a range of mood disorders.

2. Sleep patterns aren't just based on when you go to bed and when you wake up. Circadian rhythms dictate ideal sleep times. Adolescents aren't just "night owls" because it's fun; their circadian rhythms are different from those of adults.

3. Adolescent brain development is a critical period, a massive reorganization of neural circuitry comparable in scale to the changes in infancy. Proper sleep is thus especially important for teens.

So, go ahead and call it whining, but realize that the facts aren't on your side. Or maybe you aren't getting enough sleep, crankypants?

Sep 20, 2008

baseball joins the 20th century

Instant replay, for the first time in baseball history, has overturned a call.
Pena's drive to right field off Boof Bonser appeared to be touched by a fan before bouncing off the top of the fence. First base umpire Mike DiMuro signaled fan interference, and Pena stopped at second base for a two-run double.

The umpires huddled immediately and decided to look at the video for the third test of the system since Aug. 28, when baseball allowed umpires to begin using it to determine boundary calls.

The crowd of 28,306 broke into cheers when the umpires returned to the field after a delay of 4 minutes, 10 seconds, and crew chief Gerry Davis signaled home run, giving Pena a three-run shot that made it 9-0.

"I was glad they went and checked ... and I think they got it right," Pena said. "I always thought it was a home run."

Twins right fielder Denard Span wasn't sure what happened, but said he definitely heard the ball deflect off skin.

"The whole thing is getting it right," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They got it right. That's all we care about."
Weep or rejoice as you must.

Capital runs all over Port Angeles

Riley Wall scored three touchdowns*, including an 85-yard kickoff return, as the Capital Cougars demolished Port Angeles 57-6 Friday night at Ingersoll Stadium.

I wasn't able to attend--I'm stuck in a hotel room in rainy Kennewick, five hours away--so you'll have to rely on The Olympian's report.
Wall's opening salvo represented Capital's only points of the first quarter. Then the floodgates opened. Cougars quarterback Kellen Camus scored from 13 yards out on a keeper with just 11 seconds ticked off the second-quarter clock. His touchdown was the first of four scored in a quarter that saw Capital (1-2, 1-0 OWL) tally 29 points.

Camus did most of the damage in the quarter himself, throwing touchdown passes of 65 and 30 yards in addition to his run. The junior signal caller finished the game completing 5-of-6 attempts for 130 yards.

"The big thing tonight is that we had to get our offense going," Capital coach J.D. Johnson said. "We had to get some consistency with our offense and get them to execute. I felt our kids were playing with great effort the last two weeks we just weren't executing on offense."

Whatever offensive issues Capital faced the first two weeks were gone by the third. The Cougars enjoyed a 36-0 halftime advantage and racked up 259 yards (129 on the ground, 130 through the air) of total offense through the first 24 minutes.
Once again, the Cougar defense was stifling. They're averaging 9 points surrendered per game.

Until yesterday's offensive explosion, Capital had scored only 13 points in its two previous contests, close non-league losses to powerhouses O'Dea and Olympia. The Cougars now appear set to plow through the WCC/OWL. That's what character-building will get you.

Up next: a road game against Olympic.

*The Olympian's headline says three, but their scoreboard say four, giving credit to Riley for a touchdown that twin brother Reid apparently scored. Which is it, guys?

Sep 18, 2008

power of polyester

I think I survived a bout with the common cold--congestion and nasal drip came and went in two days--even though my students have been dropping like catkins in a breeze, decimated by gastrointestinal bugs and strep throat.

Last time, I blamed the tie for cursing me. I was so, so wrong. The tie is the only thing keeping me on my feet.

Sep 17, 2008

this truly is a 21st century election

For a potential executive branch member, this has to be a first:
Hackers broke into the Yahoo! e-mail account that Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin used for official business as Alaska's governor, revealing as evidence a few inconsequential personal messages she has received since John McCain selected her as his running mate.

"This is a shocking invasion of the governor's privacy and a violation of law. The matter has been turned over to the appropriate authorities and we hope that anyone in possession of these e-mails will destroy them," the McCain campaign said in a statement.

The Secret Service contacted The Associated Press on Wednesday and asked for copies of the leaked e-mails, which circulated widely on the Internet. The AP did not comply.
I'm guessing they didn't really have to.

Sep 16, 2008

a cure for the common rhino

Today, illustrating how seemingly disparate words can be joined at the root, I employed "carat" and "rhinoceros." Each derives from the Greek keras, for "horn." "Rhino," I explained, means "nose." "For example, a rhinovirus is the common cold, right?"

Right, said students.

I'm not much for magical thinking, but I may have cursed myself.

Sep 15, 2008

enlightenment wins!

JZ Knight won her lawsuit. Hokum by any other name is still intellectual property.

a basic approach to the permissible killing resolution

If you're absolutely stuck, here's a way to begin.

1. Choose a system of morality. (This is probably your criterion, if your case is set up simply; make your value "life" or "justice" or whatever the point of that moral system really is.)

2. Determine why and how system of morality permits killing an innocent person to save others' innocent lives. (Or, if you're negating, why it doesn't.)

3. Explain why, in 2-3 main points. Use lively--and, if possible, real-world--examples to give your arguments color.

And when it comes to the other side...

4. Look closely at your opponent's moral system. Here are some questions to consider. (Adapted from Brad Hooker's article, "Ross Style Pluralism and Rule Consequentialism.")
a. Is it internally coherent?
b. Does it match with what we know about human nature, through psychology, economics, biology, etc?
c. Is it generalizable to all people everywhere? (If not, why not?)
d. Does it provide a clear standard for action?
e. Is it warranted (justified)?
f. Is it intuitive?

break it down

William Wissemann's essay for "This I Believe" goes along perfectly with everything I've been teaching my students at the start of the year: that effort, not intelligence, is key to academic success.

Wissemann describes the lesson's he's learned from the Rubik's Cube. The one that struck me most: how things can seem completely chaotic right before a solution emerges. That's definitely something I'll think about when faced with a seemingly insurmountable task.

It's five minutes long. Well worth a listen.

Sep 14, 2008

utilitarianism as a moral criterion

Utilitarianism seems simple at first, but when considered in depth, complicated issues arise. Here are a few thoughts on the subject.

If you're thinking of using a form of utilitarianism as your criterion for the Sept. / Oct. LD permissible killing resolution, or for any other resolution involving morality, consider these issues.

1. Utilitarianism offers a clear standard for what counts as moral--do what maximizes the good--but not what counts as good. In fact, for utilitarianism as a theory, no specific conception of the good is required. [After Daniel E. Palmer's "On the Viability of Rule Utilitarianism," found in the March 1999 edition of the Journal of Value Inquiry, pp. 31-42.]

2. Similarly, utilitarianism as a theory can tell us how we ought to make a decision, without giving a clear indication as to what decision we ought to make. In come the Rule Utilitarians, who ask us to consider our actions in the light of the rules we do--or should--follow. What consequences do those rules bring about?

3. But this is problematic as well. According to many critics, "[T]he set of rules that would bring about the best consequences if people actually did conform to them would consist of only one rule, the rule that states that we should act to produce the best consequences." In other words, Rule Utilitarianism is "extensionally equivalent" to Act Utilitarianism, and therefore suffers from the same shortcomings. [Palmer, op. cit., p. 33]

4. Thus, some Rule Utilitarians focus only on the rules that are normally and generally recognized by actual moral agents. Richard Brandt's "ideal moral code theory" and Brad Hooker's "distribution-sensitive rule consequentialism" are two such methods.

5. Brandt's version can be summed up, in his words, thusly:
[A]n act is right if and only if it would not be prohibited by the moral code ideal for the society.
[qtd. in Palmer] The ideal code is that which produces the best consequences when followed by the preponderance of society. An immediate question: how and why is the societal boundary drawn?

6. Hooker's formulation is slightly different, and combats some of the weaknesses in Brandt's:
An act is right if and only if it is forbidden by the code of rules whose internalization by the overwhelming majority of everyone everywhere in each new generation has maximum expected value in terms of well-being (with some priority to the worst off).
[Brad Hooker, Ideal Code, Real World, 2000, p. 32]

"Has maximum expected value" is another way to say "maximizes utility," but with an important distinction: the reasonable expectation of a payoff, rather than the post-hoc determination of a payoff, is sufficient to justify a rule. This is critical for anyone who attacks utilitarianism on epistemic grounds--in other words, by arguing that we can't know the precise consequences of our actions, so we are paralyzed in the face of a difficult choice. Hooker's rule avoids that objection.

If you have any good ideas about using utilitarianism in a round--in any variety--leave them in the comments.

Jim Anderson of Olympia responds

Blog-pal Emmett O'Connell links to the video embedded below, in which Jesse Thorn interviews intertube-renowned vlogger Ze Frank. Emmett writes, "I just thought of you when I listened to it this morning / last night."

Why? He's not sure.

I think it might have something to do with this. It's as Web-2.0 as I'm gonna get.

For the record, I don't really listen to podcasts. I know, lame.

Anyhow, check it out: the interview is funny and at times profound. It takes about a half hour.

Ze Frank on The Sound of Young America from Jesse Thorn on Vimeo.

Sep 13, 2008

lowest of the low

The lowest possible tally in a football game that doesn't end in a tie, and both teams score, is 3-2. Doesn't happen often. But it does happen:
Wes Byrum kicked a 36-yard field goal in the second quarter and that was all No. 9 Auburn needed to defeat Mississippi State 3-2 on Saturday night.

The Tigers (3-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) committed three turnovers, missed two field goals and handed the Bulldogs their only points with a safety.

But Auburn allowed only 116 yards to Mississippi State (1-2, 0-1).
Wonder if anyone in the stadium asked for a refund.

Sep 12, 2008

another tough CHS loss; Oly wins Spaghetti Bowl

This one was tougher to stomach than the last: by a 7-0 score, Olympia edged out a gutsy Capital crew, taking yet another bite from the Spaghetti Bowl.

The wife and I arrived late, missing the entire first quarter. We didn't miss any major action--I'm guessing--since it took over two minutes into the second quarter until the Bears crossed the goal line for the first and only time.

Though Olympia committed more turnovers, an interception and a fumble that killed threatening drives, the Cougars could never take advantage. Oly's speedier secondary never let Riley Wall completely evade their grasp, even after he blew through the D-line on more than one occasion.

Olympia missed its own opportunities, though, including a Cougar turnover on downs deep in CHS territory when going for it on 4th and inches. Capital's defense held, turning back the Bears' best chance to put the game out of reach.

In the end, Oly's size and speed advantages were just enough. In his second year as Capital's coach, John Johnson has nearly turned the tables on our crosstown rivals. Next year's matchup may finally be the one that puts the Cougars back on top.

Added: Congrats to Olympia coach Bill Beattie--who was at Elma High School when I attended--on his 100th Bear victory.

Update 9/13: The Olympian call us potentially "the best 0-2 team in the state." Also, learn that J.D. Johnson called for a punt when his team went for it on 4th-and-1 later in the game. Whoa.

I am a lying liar

"Are you going to the game tonight?"
"You going to the game?"
"Mr. Anderson, are you going to the Spaghetti Bowl?"


That's what I said, thinking I was headed to Seattle for a housewarming party. No, I said, sorry. I'd hate to miss it--especially when we have our best shot at winning it in the last four years--but family is family.

Turns out I was wrong: sick relative, party canceled.

So, to Mike, you won't have to cheer twice as hard. To Brett, I'm sorry I won't be sporting your jersey. Next time, promise. To everyone else, mea culpa, and Go Cougs!

Sep 11, 2008

piled higher, deeper

Three 11th-grade IB classes means 90-odd papers every time I craft an assignment for that prep.

Let's just say I'm thinking much, much more carefully about assessment. And, sadly, blogging much less than I'd like. Here's the week in neckwear.

moral agency and the permissible killing of an innocent

A reader writes,
I was wondering if I could pose a question that doesn't seem to be being talked about very much right now...

The resolution for September/October doesn't specify an agent, one who will be doing the killing of the innocent. From this, can you fiat anything concerning who the agent might be? Is there an agent or is this an absolute kind of deal? Because if it means anyone can kill in innocent to (in their eyes) save more innocents, then I see some serious problems for Aff. Is it possible to say that the government, or society, or something to that effect is the agent? Then that opens up several more VC options than just utilitarianism. If the government is the agent, you could use the harm principle, the veil of ignorance, those kinds of things...
I don't think either side can presume a specific agent of action. The verb phrase "to kill" is simply not agent-specific. However, since one isn't specified, the Neg can raise that particular fact, either in CX or in a Resolutional Analysis, and use it to launch several lines of attack.

1. One attack depends on what is known as "role morality." When a person adopts a specific role--doctor, soldier, lawyer--they also adopt a specific code of ethics. In certain situations, for example, lawyers are required to keep a client's secrets, even if that information could, say, convict someone else. (This is called "attorney-client privilege.") The Neg can attack by claiming that the resolution cannot be applied across all (or even most) roles, and the Aff is stuck conditionally affirming.

2. Governments, according to some theorists, act according to different moral rules--or are not beholden to moral rules at all. Since the resolution doesn't specify an agent, then the affirmative might be caught conditionally affirming if their V/C doesn't apply to a governmental entity. As an example, consider a situation like 9/11, where the president has ordered fighter jets scrambled to intercept an airliner full of innocents, an airliner about to be used as a weapon against (potentially) even more innocents. Should the president have the authority to order the plane shot down--to kill innocents to save more? Is the president's moral calculus different from any average citizen's? If not, why not? More generally, consider a program of inoculation against measles. If 1 in a billion people will die from the injection, but it will save 30,000 children from death, is the government permitted to make the vaccination mandatory?

3. One Neg argument could be based on a slippery slope scenario: if we affirm, we allow citizens or governments carte blanche when it comes to terrifying moral decisions. Even if the moral rules are the same for governments and regular folks, each also provides a means to avoid the slippery slope.

a. Governments codify rules in the form of laws, and (potentially) have a deliberative nature that mitigates a potential slippery slope. In fact, we usually expect a governmental check against individuals taking others' lives into their own hands.

b. On the other hand, individuals, unlike governments, feel the sting of guilt, which has its own preventive effect. Even if the Aff argues that killing an innocent to save others is morally permissible, the choice to act in that situation is no less difficult for the person making it--and will likely haunt that person for years to come. As a result, people will never make that decision willy-nilly. (If the Neg attempts to bring up a depraved sociopath, the Affirmative should gently remind all present that the Aff is required to affirm the resolution true as a "general principle," not to defend it against any conceivable exception. Beside, sociopaths aren't bound by moral rules anyhow, so they're a problem on either side of the resolution.)

4. So, what's an Aff to do? Like my reader suggests, it's important to consider whether your V/C truly can apply to all agents in the vast majority of situations where the resolution might be instantiated.

5. As an aside, rule utilitarianism is likely better at covering individuals and governments than act utilitarianism. I leave it to the reader to determine why that might be.

These are disjointed thoughts that could use refinement, or maybe a good bashing. Have at 'em in the comments.

Sep 8, 2008

Google to store copies of absolutely everything

September 8, 2008

Google, having run out of mainstream data to collect, now plans to store digital copies of your birthday cards, love letters, baby books, photo albums, refrigerator magnet poems, shopping lists, drunken apologies on hotel stationery, obsolete electronics manuals, luggage tags, and countless other artifacts.

The project announced Monday extends Google's crusade to make digital copies of content invented before the Internet's arrival, so the information can become more accessible and, ultimately, Google can profit from ads shown on its Web site.

"This is a radical, bold, exciting new step for the Information Goliath," said Jean-Paul Richter, editor of the Northern Arizona Restaurant Critic's Guide to Family-Style Restaurant Menus in Greater Flagstaff. "Niches can now open up to much larger... crevices."

Google is touting the program as a way to give people an easier way to find a rich vein of history. The initiative also is designed to provide a financial boost to independent publishers as they try to earn a little bread from the publications that once were considered too minor for the marketplace.

"Information should be free," said Larson Gerrymander, Chief Strategist of Google's Media Consolidation Division. "And it should also somehow make us money."

The data-vacuuming program, launched last month, has triggered a lawsuit from group that alleges it infringes on privacy - a charge that Google will fight in court, when it has finished uploading all of your old bank receipts.

enlightenment is copyrighted

No, really:
Trial is starting in Olympia in the lawsuit brought by the Ramtha School founder JZ Knight against another spiritual teacher called WhiteWind Weaver.

In the trial on today's calendar in Thurston County Superior Court, the Ramtha school in Yelm school accuses Weaver of using some of its teachings in her classes at Rainier.

Knight says she channels the spirit of an ancient warrior named Ramtha. Weaver attended a Ramtha seminar and signed a contract agreeing not to use the teachings for her own commercial purposes.
Weaver's defense: the teachings are either original to her, or in the "public domain."

I am looking forward to learning which principles of enlightenment are fully monetizable.

Olympia, late summer

A series of photos from a downtown jaunt. Taken by my wife, except one. Which one? Guess.

Sep 7, 2008

video voter's guide: Bergeson vs. Dorn

Watch Bergeson defend her record and tell of her plan to, among other things, reform education at the national level. Watch Dorn go into attack mode, especially when it comes to the WASL.

It takes 11 minutes of your time.

takin' it to the streets YouTube

While we're all Bellevue, all the time, might as well point out the unorthodox route the Bellevue teachers association has used to get its message out to the community:
The Bellevue School District teacher's strike just got more interesting as teachers started posting their side of the story on a popular video-hosting Web site.

And parents by the hundreds are taking notice of their online message as the strike enters its second week.

The Bellevue teachers union has posted at least three videos on, each with its own theme.
You can view all three videos at the link.

"Legacy media" used to define the message; whatever biases they held determined how much, how often, and how favorably you would hear or see unions in the news. No longer.

Sep 6, 2008

more election rhetoric

Slate's Juliet Lapidos points out that antimetabole, right now, is hot:
John McCain, in his Thursday convention address, deployed the technique in this admirably honest line: "We were elected to change Washington, and we let Washington change us." The audience roared. McCain's antimetabole echoed one used by his running mate, Sarah Palin, the night before: "In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers. And then there are those, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change." The inversion of change and career, forming a crisscross structure, gives the line a powerful one-two-punch feel. During his speech last week, Bill Clinton recycled an antimetabole he'd first used in the 1990s: "People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power." The turn of phrase pleased the delegates—they clapped and hooted—but a far less famous speaker can lay claim to the most successful rhetorical switcheroo of the Democratic Convention. Barney Smith, a regular guy from Indiana who lost his job to outsourcing in 2004, took the stage at Invesco field and produced this zinger: "We need a president who puts the Barney Smiths before the Smith Barneys."
It's nice to see rhetoric getting the attention it deserves during this election year. It probably stems from the fact that, for once, we have some halfway decent public speakers in the mix--Bush vs. Kerry was, rhetorically, a parched desert.

Added:Peter Wall makes his own observation.

this'd better not start a trend

A promise is a promise:
"I'm trying to avoid major freeways. I called a couple of bicycling groups in the area and asked for some route help so I'm driving on the least traffic highways," said Principal Mike Taylor, Columbia Burbank Middle School.

Taylor will leave tomorrow and when he arrives in Olympia 40 of his students will be greeting him there.
Why's he making the trip? Because all of his students improved their scores 4 out of 8 sections of the WASL. If it'd been 6 out of ten, Taylor would be wearing a pink suit as he crosses the Cascades.

Good luck, Mr. Taylor. You crazy, crazy man.

Sep 5, 2008

Capital Cougars can't seal the deal; lose to O'Dea

In a heartbreaking loss, the Capital Cougars, victims of a botched PAT and blocked field goal, fell tonight to visiting O'Dea, 14-13.

The Cougars, powered by Riley Wall's quick feet and an experienced O-line's excellent blocking, were able to keep pressure on the Fighting Irish's bigger, faster squad. O'Dea appeared unfocused and undisciplined; I lost count at 10 penalties, including successive illegal man downfield calls. The only thing that kept O'Dea from blowing it was a lack of turnovers.

The Cougars led 13-7 with 1:29 left in the 3rd quarter, but couldn't keep the Irish from striking back quickly, edging ahead on a long touchdown pass when a Cougar defender fell down. Capital's attempt to come back was stuffed, but the defense held O'Dea in check, handing the offense the ball with just over 3:00 left in the 4th.

The rally was short-lived, as the Cougars marched backward 18 yards on a series of misdirection plays that didn't fool anybody. After a turnover on downs, O'Dea was able to run out the clock.

Last time these teams faced, in last year's state playoffs, O'Dea plowed through Capital's defense, racking up 46 points. To see our guys come within a field goal try of winning was simultaneously refreshing and disappointing. So close.

Up next, the Cougars face their crosstown rival, the vaunted Olympia Bears in a Spaghetti Bowl that promises to be one of the most competitive yet. If the Cougars can keep playing with this kind of fire, they're going back to state. O'Dea, on the other hand, had better get its act together, or there won't be a potential rematch in the playoffs.

Update: The Olympian's recap is now available. Their take is similar to mine, although they don't mention O'Dea's sloppiness, the major reason their offense never got anywhere and their defense couldn't keep the Cougars in check.

Lincoln-Douglas open forum

Have a question about the current resolution or debating theory and practice? Want to rant or rave about certain facets of LD? Want to share your email address with spambots? Consider this the place.

If you have a specific question about the "morally permissible" resolution, and it's really good, I might dedicate a post to answering it. Now that school's started, I'm a much busier man, but I'll try to make some time to blog about it, even though my team always starts with the next resolution.

Sep 4, 2008

second day done

1. Once again, I was able to wear a tacky tie all throughout the day without so much as a peep from students. I am not afraid that they don't understand irony; I'm just frightened that they think I don't.

2. Having taken the bus to and from school each day, for the low, low price of $1.50 per diem, I have become a public transit evangelist. Today I convinced the Tech Guy to join the fray. That in exchange for the spare laptop power cord to temporarily replace the one I left at home. Without it, I'd have been cooked.

3. Comments on the new spectacles:
a. "They look great!"
b. "They make you look smart! I mean, you're already smart, but you know..."
c. "Are those real glasses?"

4. Seen from the bus:
The woman kicking her legs on the front stoop.
The man carrying the guitar amp into church.
The child staring at the glowing fluorescent bulb.
The biker twirling his handlebar mustache.
The mother dangling at the end of a thin licorice rope.

Sep 3, 2008

the truth is too true to be true

Since many of the novels we read in the 11th grade IB curriculum involve the issue of truth in narrative (and I won't explain why or how, in case one of my students is reading--no advance notice, sorry), I started this year with an activity I've tried before. I give students one of four cards, and tell them to keep it a secret. Each has a code: T for True, E for Embellished Truth, F for Fictional, and OF for Outrageously False. Their task is to (quickly) write a story that fits the description, whether from their experience or of their--imagination.

Students then partner up, sharing, getting some tips if their story is too obvious or unrealistic (the last category excepted). Afterward, I let a few share theirs with the whole class, and we vote, which leads into a discussion of... readerly empistemology. Among other things.

I usually go first, telling a story from my life. Today, in each of my three classes, I shared an unvarnished, utterly factual version of my "scared of the mountains" story.

Every class voted it Embellished.

I think I know why.

Sep 1, 2008

assisted self-plagiarism

Compliments of the Comics Curmudgeon, a look into the creative process.

April 4, 2008.

September 1, 2008.

You can't entirely blame the cartoonist, can you?

expletive McCain

Slate's Paul Collins dissects one of John McCain's preferred rhetorical devices: "my friends."
McCain falls neatly into line: Roughly every generation since FDR, a candidate resurrects "my friends." But while used in its first few decades by good or great orators, it's notable that in the last half-century it's been exclusively resorted to by the worst orators in our presidential races.
Three observations.

1. Collins notes that "my friends" carries a vague notion of a threat, but "friend" is more threatening than "my friends" when coming from a stranger. Greg Behrendt's comments here are spot-on.

2. The phrase "my friends" is perfect for a candidate who is a confessed computer illiterate, and therefore has no idea how the phrase has gained currency and lost power via "social networking." These days, "my friends" means everything and nothing.

3. Collins misses the perfect chance to load up his "MF'er" pun. The use of a brief intervening phrase is called "expletive."