Apr 29, 2009

special session coming; 3,000 to 5,000 layoffs possible

Governor Gregoire's going to call a special session to deal, among other things, with the prospect of massive education layoffs.
Gov. Chris Gregoire wants state lawmakers to return to Olympia for one day to pass bills they dropped when they adjourned in the wee hours Monday morning....

[Speaker of the House Frank] Chopp, a Seattle Democrat, said he’s open to a special session that gets loose ends tied up quickly. He indicated there are just a couple bills that need to be done, including one on deporting immigrant criminal offenders that could save $8 million a year and – more important – a bill on school levies....

The bill would let districts collect the full measure of school levies already approved by voters, but most districts cannot collect more than 24 percent of their operating revenue from levies.

The bill raises it to 28 percent temporarily, allowing $68.6 million more to be collected locally. Olympia would collect $3.3 million, North Thurston $2.1 million and Tumwater $890,000.
The bill's potential to stanch the bleeding has kept several districts from initiating their RIFs. And if the bill fails?
The state Superintendent of Public Instruction's office thinks 3,000 to 5,000 teachers could lose their jobs. The Washington Education Association (WEA), the state teachers union, predicts 6,000 in public schools and higher education could be notified of layoffs.

"It is going to be very tough," said WEA spokesman David Phelps, calling it the worst teacher cutback in the state in 30 years.
David Phelps, Undersecretary of Understatement.

Apr 28, 2009

North Thurston: let the voters decide

Although I teach in the Olympia School District, I live within the confines of North Thurston SD. This absolutely bewilders me:
[T]he governor claims that Seattle schools could collect nearly $14 million, Tacoma $1.7 million and North Thurston could bring in $2 million.

The North Thurston School District disputes the governor's estimate, but said even if the governor's math is right they would not plan on collecting the cash.

District spokeswoman Courtney Schrieve said taxpayers approved a levy expecting to pay a certain amount and taking more out of their pockets now isn't fair.

"We just don't feel like it's the right thing to do. Even though we're having to cut 65 staff positions," Schrieve said.
It isn't fair only if the voters don't approve of the increase--and when the last levy passed, we had no idea a $9 billion shortfall was in the works.

Why not commission a poll and find out what the voters want?

revised threat level diagram

From bottom to top, least threatening to most threatening. Use in case of swine flu, earthquakes, the apocalypse, terrorism, zombies, etc.

(And what an etcetera!)

"We will find the truth. We will fully investigate."

[via Ed Brayton]

Apr 27, 2009

Olympia School District RIF update: April 27

Due to the potential for changes coming in the anticipated extra legislative session, the RIF has been suspended. The latest email explains:
Passage of a state budget
The legislature passed the state budget on Saturday.  The District is currently reviewing the fiscal impact of that package.  Here’s what we know today:  The Senate budget, which was used to make initial budget projections, would have meant a reduction of $4.2 million in state funds to the Olympia School District.  The final budget appears to reduce state revenues to the Olympia School District by approximately $3 million.  The overall budget shortfall for the District looks closer to $2 million based on complex collections rules regarding local levy funding. 

Passage of a measure allowing districts to lift their local levy cap
The measure allowing school districts to lift their levy lid did not pass prior to the end of session.  This legislation would allow the Olympia School District to collect up to $1.5 million more in voter-approved funds for next school year.   It is possible a special session of the legislature will be called to consider this and other measures.  The OSD will closely monitor any decision to call a special session and the subsequent fiscal impact any new legislation would have.
We have until May 15th for a final RIF decision.

Added: The Bethel School District sent out 220 RIF notices. Ouch.

Apr 26, 2009

the case of Aaron Vargas

Recently, I had blogged about the National Forensic League's March/April resolution, "Vigilantism is justified when the government has failed to enforce the law." This weekend, a visitor to the blog sent me a story of her brother, Aaron Vargas, who will soon stand trial, accused of murdering Darrell McNeill of Fort Bragg, California.
My brother was recently arrested for killing the man who sexually and psychologically abused him for 20 years. Many others in our small community were abused. Victims, and a former wife of the abuser, went to the police but not investigation was done, only a report was filed. The abuser abused his own children. He was involved in Big Brothers and Boy Scouts. His "little brother" was a victim, abused for 5 years and then harassed. [The victim] killed himself three years ago. A second victim also killed himself. My brother was stalked and harassed by his abuser. The abuser would show up at his house and ask to see his baby and to babysit. My brother quit his job because he was stalked at work. I launched a website for my brother www.saveaaron.com. I'm trying to get the word out about his case and this issue of abuse and the system failing the victims.
According to the local paper, Vargas shot McNeill with a muzzle loader, and made no attempt to flee or resist when arrested a while later. The paper notes that McNeill was suffering from Parkinson's and had lost ownership of his home.

I can't vouch for all the claims in the story above, since they were sent to me by a total stranger. If true, they illustrate the pain of abuse compounded with injustice, the difference between vengeance and retribution, and the dilemma society faces when a victim feels forced to take the law into his own hands.

Put in Aaron Vargas's place, I wonder what I would do. Honestly--and fortunately--I can't say.

waiting for the pandemic

Swine flu.

It's now a "public health emergency," having sickened hundreds across North America, leading to roughly 86 deaths in Mexico. Events in affected regions have been postponed or canceled--schools, shops, churches, offices shuttered to keep exposure at a minimum. In our area, authorities are already considering their options, which seems wise, given that cases have been reported in neighboring British Columbia. (Sensible advice is found here. Panicking won't help, but it might be wise to make sure you have enough around the house so could stay home for a few days.)

A few years ago, when the avian version was in the news, I blogged about how it could precipitate a change in the way we do education.
I enjoy teaching in a traditional classroom, with all the advantages and difficulties of seat time and face-to-face instruction, and I'm sure those who are entrenched in that format aren't going to let it disappear without a fight. The technological capability is there, though, waiting for the right social and political context. (As a hypothetical, think how readily people would accept online instruction in the advent of an avian flu pandemic.) When it happens, will you be ready?
I am.

inside an information sweatshop

Rick Reilly of ESPN sees how much he can make answering questions for ChaCha.
They came as fast as I could answer. I began to sweat. I was Lucy working the chocolate-factory conveyor belt. Questions fell to the floor as my mouth filled with unchewed answers. In a three-fingered bowling ball, which fingers go in the holes? (Jeez, people!) What's the longest cricket game ever? (Couldn't find it.) More sweat. Anyone got a ShamWow? I hit "abort." Bad idea; black mark on my record. Five minutes, no dimes. $0/hour.

I hit "away" under the status bar so I could rest. Next to being Terrell Owens' publicist, there can be no more stressful way to earn a living.

I wasn't a very enthusiastic guide after that. I made $3.80 total and received a quality control rating of 70%. That's a C-minus.
Low hourly wages, no health insurance, high risk of work-related injury. Welcome to the sweatshops of the Information Economy.

WIAA approves shot clock for boys

Dribble dribble dribble outside the arc... gesture toward the key... dribble dribble, pass, dribble dribble dribble dribble... crossover... dribble dribble dribble... duck in, duck out, dribble dribble dribble... pass, post up, face the basket, pivot, pass... dribble dribble dribble dribble outside the arc... pass, pass, pass, penetrate, kick out, dribble dribble dribble back toward the halfcourt line... escape the trap, dribble dribble... pass, dribble dribble dribble around the arc... gesture toward the baseline... pass... turn away from the defender, wait... dribble toward the key... pass, pass, dribble dribble dribble...

Those days are over.
After shooting down measures at least twice in the past, the Representative Assembly of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association not only passed a shot-clock amendment, it did so overwhelmingly, by a vote of 42-11.

Starting next season, every high-school boys basketball game will have a 35-second shot clock. The clock will be reset when a shot hits the rim.
Via Dr. Pezz, who explains the change as a generation thing. We've come to expect speed in professional and college hoops, and now we'll get speed in the boys' preps game. (Girls were decades ahead on this one.)

Up-tempo, at long last.

Dribble dribble pass shoot miss tip tip rebound clear pass dribble dribble dribble lay-in score!

Apr 25, 2009

license to vegetate

James Hanley on teaching at the college level:
I keep trying to figure out why teaching is so exhausting, and I think I’ve finally figured it out.

1. The brain uses a tremendous amount of energy, approximately twenty percent of the body’s total. As a teacher/scholar you’re thinking nearly all the time, which explains why sometimes when I come home I can’t muster the energy to do anything but sit on the couch and watch Scrubs....

2. In teaching you are always “on.” This point was made by a local elementary teacher. And I think it’s true. In class (12 hours a week), I am always on stage, performing....

3. In teaching you have constant deadlines. 6 classes per week = 6 deadlines per week. Add on deadlines for a variety of other things, and it’s a bit wearing. Having one big project with an important deadline is, on the whole, not as draining as having non-stop small overlapping deadlines....

I’m not looking for sympathy, just trying to understand why this nice mostly desk job with flexible hours and summers “off” is, nevertheless, so utterly exhausting that all my colleagues look like zombies right now.
Agreed on all counts. As a high school teacher with five classes, in a normal week I spend about 23 hours on stage, and the rest of my free time, even when watching the Mariners on a Saturday night, thinking about teaching, like my mind is Windows and all my processing power is being sapped by programs running in the background.

I'm just waiting 'til the day I can upgrade my brain.

what is today's style?

Today's style is nerd chic.

Slender jeans, V-neck sweaters, collared shirts, sexy-but-smart (or smart-but-sexy) spectacles, electronic accessories of all stripes, dress-casual shoes. (A DNA tattoo? That's just taking it too far.)

It feels good to be a nerd.

[162nd in a series]

Apr 24, 2009

Olympia School District RIF update: April 24

Since yesterday's budget announcement, the situation on the ground appears to have changed, likely for the better. From another District RIF update email:
Earlier today the legislative leadership released a preliminary state budget proposal. Although it continues to contain significant cuts to K-12 education, in combination with other proposed legislation to be considered this weekend, the state budget proposal appears to be better than the worst case planning scenario.

As a result we will not be issuing RIF notices next week and there will be no 4:00 email containing a RIF number.

We will be watching the legislature closely as they complete their work on the state budget. Until the state budget is finalized, we are not certain as to what extent a reduction in force may be necessary. If needed, we will re-schedule the RIF meetings as indicated in our earlier communications.
Looks like the pre-RIF notice I received in today's mail is already obsolete.

Apr 23, 2009

close to the worst case

The Senate and House compromise budget is ready for debate in both houses.

Should it pass, and be signed by Governor Gregoire... well, let's just say it isn't the worst case scenario, but it's close.

According to Gregoire's proposed budget, last year the state spent 732.9 million on Initiative 728; The Olympian says the compromise budget slashes $600 million from "class size funding," which I presume to mean I-728.

82% gone.

In the Olympia School District, that would equate to roughly $3.25 million. The District had estimated that the worst case scenario, a $3.7 million cut, could require the elimination of 37.5 FTEs, or full time equivalencies--teaching positions. A little math, and the current estimate falls a bit to 33.

This is highly speculative and subject to change. I'm emailing Jim Crawford to find out if my estimates are based on correct assumptions. If I'm wrong, I'll be sure to correct this post.

I really hope I'm wrong.

hope for cinema

The Onion's heading to Cannes this May, and what a fantastic year it could be.
The competition features a murderer’s row of European provocateurs, including new films by Lars Von Trier (Antichrist), Gaspar Noé (Enter The Void), and Michael Haneke (The White Ribbon). Longtime Cannes favorites like Pedro Almodóvar (Broken Embraces), Alain Resnais (Les Herbes Folles), and Ken Loach (Looking For Eric) will also be competing, as well as a diverse selection of Asian masters like Park Chan-wook (Thirst), Tsai Ming-liang (Face), and Johnnie To (Vengeance). There are only two American films in competition, but they’re both doozies: Quentin Tarantino’s WWII epic Inglourious Basterds and Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock. And oh yeah, Jane Campion (Bright Star) and Elia Sulieman (The Time That Remains), too!
I'd put the italics back in, but I'm too dizzy with excitement.

Olympia School District RIF update: April 23

Pre-RIF notices are heading out to the yet-unknown number of Olympia teachers, starting today. Via the District's communication team, in email:
This afternoon, letters will be mailed home to teachers who have been identified to receive RIF notices. These letters are being mailed to homes in order to honor the intent of the collective bargaining language that notification not be made at school sites. We will also follow up with an email message to all teachers at 4:00 p.m. on Friday, April 24th. This email will indicate the total number of teachers from the seniority/experience list that will be receiving RIF notices. Actual RIF notices will be delivered to teachers beginning Monday, April 27th. [emphasis added]

All teachers who receive information that they will be affected by the RIF should plan on attending one of the following meetings:

Elementary School Teachers
Monday April 27th Knox Board Room 4:00-5:00

Secondary School Teachers
Tuesday April 28th Knox Board Room 3:00-4:00
As you may already know, in the pessimum outlook, 37.5 positions would be eliminated. The House and Senate have decided on a budget, but haven't released the details; regardless, Governor Gregoire will have the final vote on any education-gutting about to take place. (Reason for pessimism: the sales tax boost proposal went down in flames.)

If you know a young teacher in any district around Washington, give them a hug, now.

Apr 22, 2009

House, Senate agree on slashed budget

The House and Senate have reached budgetary accord.
Democratic leaders in the state House and Senate have reached agreement on deep cuts in funding for public schools, higher education, health care and other state services totaling nearly $4 billion.

The agreement was announced moments ago and details are still coming.
Details. We all know who lives there.

Update: As the article expands, we get this juicy quote:
"There are a lot of cuts that we made that rip the hearts out of all of us having to make them," said Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, vice chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
Write your own punchline.

mix it up

Last night the M's beat a pretty good Tampa Bay team behind spectacular pitching by Jarrod Washburn. How did that happen? USS Mariner's Dave Cameron explains:
He threw a 91 MPH fastball with hardly any movement at all (upper right corner), he threw an 89 MPH fastball that rivaled Brandon Webb’s sinker for movement, and he threw everything in between. There’s so much variation in velocity and movement that the pitch description algorithm kind of threw it’s hands up in the air and went on strike.

Just on his fastball, we’ve got a lot of four seamers, a few sinkers, a couple of cutters, a pair of splitters, and a few that are just generically labeled fastball because they don’t fit into any of the aforementioned categories. That doesn’t even include the change-up, some of which are probably actually sinkers, and move like his fastball just with less velocity.

Oh, and he also threw two distinctly different breaking balls, just for good measure
In other words, there was a party on Jarrod Washburn's mound, and every pitch type was invited.

Click through to see the pitch F/X chart that proves Cameron's point.

Apr 21, 2009

cinematic archaeology

Warner is beginning to release obscure films from its vault, Mark Harris reports.
The recent launch of the Warner Archive Collection could well portend a revolution; it's DVD on demand, a way for Warner (and, one hopes, for every other studio) to make movies available without spending the $75,000 to $100,000 it costs to release an old title into an ominously contracting marketplace. Here's how it works: Go to the archive and browse the titles. Click on the ones you want, and for $19.95 apiece, they'll burn a DVD-R and ship you the movie in a standard plastic case with cover art. There are no extras except the trailer, if it's available; there isn't even scene-by-scene chaptering. But you will get the film, shown in the correct aspect ratio and with a picture and soundtrack of mostly high quality. Virtually none of the movies in this collection has been available on DVD before. Many never even made it to VHS.
Along the way, Harris finds some gems, some bombs, and some revelations:
An Enemy of the People (filmed in 1976 but not released until 1981) is your only shot to see Steve McQueen interpret Ibsen. Having watched the movie, I now know why. Still, I wouldn't have missed a minute.
The archive seems like a marvelous way to imagine cinematic counterfactuals. Perhaps other studios will follow suit.

For a more critical take, read John Falcone's article for CNET.

Apr 20, 2009

Olympia officially initiates the RIF process

We'd been hearing about it for weeks, and even received an email from District higher-ups warning that it was about to happen. Still, the official call to inaugurate an exploration of the RIF process, Resolution #451, hadn't been passed by the Olympia School Board of Directors, nor had its follow-up, the actual official setting-of-the-process-in-motion, Resolution #452.

Tonight, both were passed unanimously by a Board hamstrung by a depleted economy and a state budget outlook that, in the nicest possible terms, disconcerts. This means that a good chunk of teachers in the Olympia School District--the upper bound is probably 100--will soon receive a letter notifying them that the RIF is in play, and it may include them.

This will not be a pink slip. It'll be a warning that the pink slip virus is contagious, a painful and frightening but legally necessary step. If a district fails to warn an employee that their position is at risk, the district can't make the cut.

In tonight's freshly-released worst case scenario, Assistant Superintendent Jim Crawford estimated that in 2009-2010, the District will have to eliminate 37.5 FTEs, or Full Time Equivalents. That's based on the Senate budget, which would completely eradicate I-728 funds.

Will we get the worst case? Only the legislature--and Governor Gregoire--can say for sure.

You might want to help them make up their minds.

Olympia School District I-728 Forum liveblog

Welcome to the annual I-728 Forum, in which the Olympia School District takes public comment on its prioritization of I-728 funds. Usually only 2-3 people show up; this year, despite the sunshine and pre-summer weather outside, about 17 are here. The reason: depending on the budget that ultimately comes down from the legislature, the District stands to lose anywhere from $940,000 to $3.7 million.

Most of that money pays for teaching positions.

The Pledge aside, Jim Crawford begins the meeting by discussing the basics of I-728--where it came from (the voters), what it's used for (smaller classes / more teachers, mostly) and where it's going (la mort, as the French would say).

Crawford runs down the state spending, which is pretty different from our own. Example: statewide, schools use about 19% of their I-728 funds for professional development. We use 6%-13% depending on the year.

A few more folks have trickled in. Crawford, taking a quick break from his summary, asks if anyone wants to comment during the forum. Nope. Guess everyone came to listen and learn, at least for now.

Crawford notes that "by itself, reducing class size is not sufficient to improve student outcomes to the desired level." Indeed. At the secondary level, the effect on learning is smaller--likely because students change classes throughout the day. However, I-728 money currently allows our area high schools to offer a wide variety of courses. If it's gone, so are many electives.

Crawford finished and the Board recessed for five minutes at 6:25 or so. Now the room is filling up, around fifty people in attendance. We'll have to see what's brought everybody here tonight.

Pledge #2. I'm banking it alongside my sick time.

It's not all bad news. Entertainment Explosion just presented the District's homeless program with a $2,000 check.

Jeff Carpenter, facilities guru for the District, is talking about allowing greater community use of Ingersoll Stadium. I don't have a cowpoke in this rodeo, so I'm checking out to grade papers for a few minutes, unless something crazy happens.

Public comment begins on the Ingersoll Stadium issue. The first speaker is doing a line-by-line rebuttal of the District's recommendation, so I'm going to duck back down and get more homework done.

To the woman who, when notified of her turn to speak, replied, I don't need to, everything's already been said: bless you.

Regarding the ongoing Ingersoll complaints, a citizen who couldn't attend, one Ray Dinwiddie, has his letter read by a neighbor. There's a brief question about his precise address, but really, no need. Dinwiddie's spoken before the Board the last time the stadium was a hot topic, back in 2003. From the archives:
He stated that the District’s credibility with respect to the management of the stadium is not good because of its unwillingness to take responsibility for its actions. He recalled complaining to the District about a revival event, a dog show, walk-a-thon, that they are upset about policies that are so wide open. He stated that the neighbors don’t trust you, that this is a very grave issue that must be addressed, that the stadium is not an asset, but a liability because of the problems it presents to the neighborhood.
Oh, and Dinwiddie invented a fireplace insert a while back. Amazing thing, Google.

After a brief break, we're back in action. By the way, this is a regularly scheduled Board meeting we're in, no longer the I-728 Forum in the title of the post. If you're still reading.

Bonnie Guyer-Graham asks the District to consider the differences between schools when apportioning funding. (She said about the same thing last budget go-round.) Ellen Rice (this Ellen Rice) asks the district to consider smarter ways of managing personnel, similar to the substance of the linked comment. Oh, and Ellen, a clarification: the District hasn't sent any RIF letters yet; they've merely set the process in motion. Last week I erred in saying they'd voted to do even that--it was expected, but the vote took place about fifteen minutes after Ellen spoke, and that after a vote to inaugurate the process of setting the process in motion. First--and last meeting--they had to hear the resolution to inaugurate the process of setting the process in motion. (I don't have a law degree, if it isn't obvious.)

Jim Crawford again, dishing out the bad news that we've all known in our guts for some time: we're going to have to make reductions and modifications at all levels and in all programs, certificated and classified. Ax or chainsaw, take your pick. And, of course, all of this depends on how vicious the legislature will be.

A moment of gallows humor. Frank Wilson tosses out the idea of squeezing the end fund balance even tighter, instead of making steep cuts. Wouldn't work, says Superintendent Lahmann, because it's not sustainable for more than a couple years.
Wilson, joking: "Except by that time, the state's going to fully fund education."
Barclift: "What's in your cup, Frank?"

Once the vote on Resolution 452--the one that really sets the RIF in motion--is done, I'm outta here. I'll update tomorrow, after I see how The Olympian's Venice Buhain covers the story.

With a heavy heart, Allen Miller moves, and Frank Wilson seconds. Motion passes unanimously. Welcome to the RIF, youngsters. (I'm 30 now. I can say that.)

Apr 19, 2009

"choice blindness" and post-hoc rationalization

NewScientist has a recent article about a phenomenon related to the halo effect called "choice blindness."
Rather than playing tricks with alternatives presented to participants, we surreptitiously altered the outcomes of their choices, and recorded how they react. For example, in an early study we showed our volunteers pairs of pictures of faces and asked them to choose the most attractive. In some trials, immediately after they made their choice, we asked people to explain the reasons behind their choices.

Unknown to them, we sometimes used a double-card magic trick to covertly exchange one face for the other so they ended up with the face they did not choose. Common sense dictates that all of us would notice such a big change in the outcome of a choice. But the result showed that in 75 per cent of the trials our participants were blind to the mismatch, even offering "reasons" for their "choice"....

Importantly, the effects of choice blindness go beyond snap judgements. Depending on what our volunteers say in response to the mismatched outcomes of choices (whether they give short or long explanations, give numerical rating or labelling, and so on) we found this interaction could change their future preferences to the extent that they come to prefer the previously rejected alternative. This gives us a rare glimpse into the complicated dynamics of self-feedback ("I chose this, I publicly said so, therefore I must like it"), which we suspect lies behind the formation of many everyday preferences.
Read the whole thing to learn the scope of "choice blindness," and how it points to an everyday sort of epiphenomenalism.

hippies and preppies, BFF

Thanks to Nature's Source cleaners. (Really. Scroll down to the video titled "A natural clean.")

please, SCOTUS, get the strip search decision right

No middle school authority figure anywhere should be given the legal authority to strip search a student when looking for prescription-strength ibuprofen. This should not be controversial.

Especially not...
  • When the suspect has already consented to have her backpack and outer garments searched.
  • When the only rationale for the search comes from a dubious informant.
  • When a parent is not previously informed of the search, or present during the proceedings.
It's going to take a Supreme Court decision to make legally plain the painfully obvious. If they get this one wrong...

Update: Orin Kerr thinks they'll get it right--for boring legal reasons.

Apr 18, 2009

random things that drunks ask

1. You gonna finish those fries?
2. Are you laughing as much as I'm laughing?
3. What happened to my goldfish food?
4. What's that smell?
5. Is that me?
6. Which way to the bathroom?
7. What's this genie doing in my beer bottle?
8. Who won the World Series tomorrow?
9. Why does this taste like grass?
10. Is Jesus in the phone book?
11. How much you want for those shoelaces?
12. Is this a split infinitive or a dangling modifier?
13. Whatever happened to Circuit City?
14. Really, man, which way to the bathroom?
15. Why does this toilet paper package have a puppy on it?
16. Did you see that?
17. Is it hot in here, or is... the thermostat... me... ... ?
18. What was the name of that one hot girl who sat behind me in choir class, you know, in high school?
19. ?!
20. Will Dr. Phil and Oprah ever get back together?
21. When did it stop raining?
22. Could you hold this while I try on a cape?
23. Have you seen my escargot?
24. Do you ever get the feeling that we're all like insects in some gigantic terrarium?
25. Who did your tiling?

[161st in a series]

Apr 17, 2009

I jinx Verlander; Mariners win

At 8:25 p.m. PST, with the Tigers up 3-0 and Felix looking shaky, Justin Verlander was unhittable. Perfect through the first four frames, he was slinging it at about 97 miles per hour, right on the corners, then dumping in sick breaking balls or changeups, totally baffling the Mariner lineup.

And then I jinxed him.

A reverse curse, voodoo as old as you can do, at least when it comes to sporting events. Within minutes, an inexplicable and precipitous collapse: Beltre doubled, Branyan singled, Lopez singled, Johnson sacrificed, Yuni reached on an error, Gutierrez bunt singled, Ichiro singled, Verlander hurled a wild pitch, and when the dust had settled, the Mariners had a 5-3 lead. Griffey would later score from first (!) on a Beltre double, dancing around a tag, and the M's bullpen would hold the Tigers in place.

Said Bill Krueger of the postgame show, "Something happened to him between the 4th and 5th inning, I'm not sure what."

I am.

non-working title

If I were making a film about the budget firestorm engulfing the Olympia School District, and the RIF process about to commence for the third time in seven years, I'd want that to film have a good tagline.

I think I've got one.

"They went to hell and back. Then they went to hell and back again. And now, they're going back to hell."

Now all I need is a title.

the secret life of Sluggy

Ah, Sluggy.

Pacific Northwesterners are united by an abiding love and respect for slugs in all forms. Today, Constance Casey's "Feeling Sluggish" has given me a new appreciation for the lowly, lovely gastropod.
On the backs of many slugs, under a Sherlock Holmes-like cape of skin called the mantle, you can see a slim vestigial shell. The slug probably lost the shell in order to maneuver into small spaces. (It may also give them some extra speed: Slugs move almost twice as fast as snails.) The drawback to ditching the hard outer covering is that slugs are highly vulnerable to dehydration, so they do their foraging at night or on cloudy days. On very hot days, slugs will often huddle together in the shade of a piece of wood or a rock, flank to flank. Scientists say it's to stay cool, not to socialize. (But how do they know?)
It gets much better. Read it all, and if you see a slug today, smile.

Apr 16, 2009

Tumwater proposes cuts; Olympia to follow

The Tumwater School District could lose as many as twelve teachers in the coming months, The Olympian reports.
Tumwater classrooms might have 3 percent fewer teachers next year as part of the district’s $1.7 million in cuts for 2009-10 to meet a projected budget shortfall.

That would be the equivalent of six full-time certificated staff members at the elementary school level and six at the middle and high school levels. It also would be the first time the district has responded to a budget shortfall with teacher layoffs in recent memory.
The pain is going to spread all over Thurston County. The Olympia School Board recently voted to send RIF notices to roughly 100 teachers by May 15. According to a union rep, in the worst-case scenario, as many as 55 positions might be eliminated.

Fifty-five. No way normal attrition covers that.

I have no idea what to expect for next year. I'm #97 on the RIF list, so even if I keep my job, I may not stay at my present location. No matter where I end up, it'll be a packed house.

Like many coaches, I could see a significant reduction in my supplemental contract, or its outright elimination. How this would affect the future of activities and athletics district-wide is an open question.

Makes this meeting pretty important:
The Olympia School District Board of Directors will hold a public hearing at 6:00 p.m. on Monday, April 20, 2009, at the Knox Center, 1113 Legion Way SE, Olympia, Washington 98501. The forum is being held to receive input from the community on the use of Initiative 728 funds for the 2009-2010 school year.

A regular meeting of the Olympia School District Board of Directors will follow at 6:30 p.m.
You might want to attend.

HB 2261 passes; WEA flips out

WEA president Mary Lindquist is outraged over the passage of ESHB 2261. Via email:
This bill is a travesty and an insult to the education profession. The groups behind it are vested interests masquerading as concerned citizens who care for children. Yet they’re denigrating and dismissing those of us who actually educate our state’s children!

Contrary to what you may hear or read, HB 2261 is a bogus education “reform” bill that blames educators instead of focusing on the REAL problem facing our schools: The nearly $2 billion in cuts to K-12 and higher education.
What's got Lindquist and the WEA so steamed?

Merit pay.

Quoth the bill:
27 CERTIFICATION. (1) By January 1, 2010, the professional educator standards board shall adopt a set of teacher knowledge, skill, and performance standards for effective teaching that are documented in high-quality research as being associated with improved student learning and articulated on a career continuum.

(2) By January 1, 2010, the professional educator standards board shall submit to the governor and the education and fiscal committees of the legislature:
(a) An update on the status of implementation of the professional certificate external and uniform assessment authorized in RCW 28A.410.210;
(b) A proposal for a valid and reliable classroom-based means of evaluating teacher effectiveness as a culminating measure for residency certification that involves multiple measures of teacher performance in classrooms and a role for state-trained evaluators;
(c) Estimated costs and statutory authority needed for further development and implementation of the assessments in this subsection (2); and
(d) Recommendations for other modifications to residency, professional, and ongoing professional certification that focus on demonstrated performance and professional growth rather than enrollment in certification programs or continuing education.

Apr 15, 2009

educators: see Sunday in the Park with George on the cheap

That should be enough prepositional phrases for you. The 5th Avenue Theater sends word of a great promotion for educators:
Sunday in the Park with George
at The 5th Avenue Theatre, April 21 – May 10, 2009

The 5th Avenue Theatre is offering a special $20.00 ticket price for educators.

This offer is good for best available seats for ANY performance, April 21 – 30!

The 5th Avenue Theatre presents Stephen Sondheim’s musical masterpiece in a production featuring the Olivier award-winning scenic effects that dazzled audiences and critics alike. Sondheim’s Pulitzer prize-winning musical explores what it means to be an artist — and what it takes to love one.

How do you get this great offer?

To order tickets you must purchase online at 5thavenue.org

· To start, please sign into your existing account (or create a new one if you have not purchased online before) - at this time, you will enter your promotion code: IMPRESSION

· On the seat selection page, if you have successfully signed in using the promotion code, discount prices will be displayed if the educators discount is applicable to that performance. You may purchase up to four tickets per educator.

Service fees do apply. Offer is only valid for educators. Offer is not valid on previously purchased tickets or in conjunction with any other offers. Offer not valid for Prime seating. Once purchased, tickets are nonrefundable. All sales are final.
Right now, some of the best seats available on those dates are going for $69, making this unique offer absolutely unbeatable. Tell an educator you know!

time for districts to slash health care costs

Insurance has one simple rule: the larger the risk pool, the lower the cost.

It's time for Washington's school districts to save millions of dollars for themselves and their employees by joining the state's health insurance system.

The same coverage for a fraction of the cost.

The downside, primarily, would be less flexibility for some. But the upside, the saved money and jobs, would be far, far greater.

If your district hasn't signed up, maybe it's time.

That's right, Olympia School District and Olympia Education Association. It's time.

the peril of sticking it to the census man

In perhaps my favorite exchange from O Brother Where Art Thou, the Hogwallop child, after ensuring that our vagrant heroes aren't "from the bank," or "servin' papers," notes, "I nicked the census man." Delmar O'Donnell responds, "Now there's a good boy."

It's that time of the decade again. Blogger and principled libertarian D.A. Ridgely recently told a census taker that he'd rather not answer any questions.
He was, I believe, genuinely puzzled. Who could object to anything so innocuous as a census?

I could. Sadly, he entered something or other in his hand held gizmo, for all I know scheduling a visit to my house from federal SWAT team soon, probably in the middle of the night.

“The law is the law,” he said. We exchanged somewhat strained pleasantries and he went on his way.

He seemed like a nice man. I’m sorry I made him feel uncomfortable.

The applicable provision of the U.S. Code, for my fellow prospective scofflaws, is as follows:

Title 13 U.S. Code § 221. Refusal or neglect to answer questions; false answers

(a) Whoever, being over eighteen years of age, refuses or willfully neglects, when requested by the Secretary, or by any other authorized officer or employee of the Department of Commerce or bureau or agency thereof acting under the instructions of the Secretary or authorized officer, to answer, to the best of his knowledge, any of the questions on any schedule submitted to him in connection with any census or survey provided for by subchapters I, II, IV, and V of chapter 5 of this title, applying to himself or to the family to which he belongs or is related, or to the farm or farms of which he or his family is the occupant, shall be fined not more than $100....
So there it is. A fine of not more than a hundred dollars for refusing and not more than $500 for lying. The law is the law.

Actually, I really don’t have any strong objections to the census. I do, however, object to being required to comply, even more so when it is being supervised by an ideological hack like Rahm Emanuel. But, hey, if Rahm knocks on the door personally, maybe I’ll reconsider.
As I noted a while ago, the penalty for refusing to answer the American Community Survey--a sort of pre-census--is pretty stiff. It maxes out at $5,000, actually--and, although I'm no lawyer, I have reason to believe the same is true of the regular-ol' census. According to the ACS website,
The American Community Survey is conducted under the authority of Title 13, United States Code, Sections 141 and 193, and response is mandatory. According to Section 221, persons who do not respond shall be fined not more than $100. Title 18 U.S.C. Section 3571 and Section 3559, in effect amends Title 13 U.S.C. Section 221 by changing the fine for anyone over 18 years old who refuses or willfully neglects to complete the questionnaire or answer questions posed by census takers from a fine of not more than $100 to not more than $5,000.
Title 18 U.S.C. Section 3571 reads, in part:
(a) In General.— A defendant who has been found guilty of an offense may be sentenced to pay a fine.
(b) Fines for Individuals.— Except as provided in subsection (e) of this section, an individual who has been found guilty of an offense may be fined not more than the greatest of
(1) the amount specified in the law setting forth the offense;
(2) the applicable amount under subsection (d) of this section;
(7) for an infraction, not more than $5,000.
[emphasis added]

The only exception in subsection (e) is for any law that "by specific reference, exempts the offense from the applicability of the fine otherwise applicable under this section." Sadly, Title 13 Section 221 doesn't make any specific reference and concomitant exemption.

At least it's not 1975, before the act was amended to remove the jail time penalty, up to 60 days for spurning the census man. Not sure how much you'd get for shooting him.

Apr 13, 2009

the report card, 167 years later

Last week, while visiting the Cabildo, a New Orleans museum chronicling the history of Louisiana, I chanced across a report card from 1842:
Monthly Account of George Leahy from Monday, March 7, to Saturday, April 8, 1842

Credit Marks for Correct Lessons, 67 --duty requires 96
Merit Marks for Correct Conduct, 17 --duty requires 21
Checks for Misconduct,
Absent, 6 days Tardy, times

The Parent or Guardian is requested to signify that he has examined this account, by signing it below the Teacher's name and returning it.
A few random thoughts.

1. I would love to see a report card coming from a contemporary public school that uses the word "duty" in any context.

2. Do public schools do "merit marks" these days? Mine sure doesn't.

3. As the Washington legislature plans to return education to 1842 funding levels, perhaps we oughtta return to 1842 pedagogy, too. Slates! Primers! Corporal punishment! (Double bonus: no more Dornian pseudo-WASL.)

two-party quandary

Which is worse: aggressively yet incompetently going after the wrong goals, or lacking the will to go after the right ones?

today's style links

1. Don't let Strunk and White cramp your style.

2. Simon Blackburn tries to pin down Hume's style of ironic skepticism.

3. CBS's Masters style grates Robert Weintraub.

4. But thank goodness for Shingo Katayama, the lone player there with a distinguishable style.

5. Can UW's Jake Locker turn into an NFL-style quarterback?

6. As more teachers retire, their "solo style" may retire with them.

Apr 11, 2009

New Orleans photos: museum time

This last week in New Orleans, we visited as many museums as we could cram into our schedule. Up first: the World War II Museum, which is quite impressive, considering it isn't as big as it's going to be.

Fans of the National Air and Space Museum or the Boeing Museum will appreciate the Suspended Aircraft Wing (see what I did there?) that greets visitors.

The exhibits are solid, although they might seem like old hat to history buffs. Most excellent are the various interviews with people involved on all sides and in all facets of the conflict. The coming expansion will hopefully take the institution from excellent to outstanding.

One of the more renowned exhibits: Eisenhower's never-needed apology letter, prepared in advance of potential defeat at Normandy (and, in the heat of things, wrongly dated).

Another essential New Orleans destination: the Cabildo, which recounts the ancient and not-so-ancient history of the city. Seen here is Pere Antoine. Those guilt-seeking eyes.

Napoleon's death mask.

A quill, from the good old days before Twitter.

A random pianoforte, or perhaps a pianomezzoforte.

The Presbytere, in the same block as the Cabildo and the St. Louis Cathedral, houses the state's Mardi Gras museum, with delightful exhibits, illuminating videos, and the most costume jewelry I've ever seen assembled in one place.

No comment.

Honey Island Swamp Tour photos

If you're staying in the Big Easy, but itching to get out of the city and see wildlife that isn't puking on a Bourbon Street sidewalk (or, worse, sidewalk vendor), then you'd do well to choose Dr. Wagner's Honey Island Swamp Tour. Just over $20 per person ($45 if you require transportation) gets you two hours of thrilling education in swamp flora and fauna, especially if you're lucky to have Captain Cousins as your guide. Like the fertile waters at floodstage, Cousins' mind is overflowing with facts, delivered with unforgettably deadpan enthusiasm.

Crawfish. This is the closest I got all trip.

An apparently non-dangerous snake.

Can you spot the invisible skink? Put your nose really, really close to the monitor--close enough to leave a grease spot--and you'll see it. And say "skink" as many times per day as you can. Make it your mantra. I have.

A yellow-crested what-have-you.

This crane would chase the boat as we barreled upriver.

How do you tell the girl alligators from the boy alligators?" a youngster asked. Cousins: "From a distance, there's no way. In the younger ones, even up close you can't really tell. It would require digital manipulation of the cloaca." Pause. "That ain't happenin'." (The curious--and not overly squeamish--can learn how here. Cousins could have written this line: "...crocodilians generally object to such demeaning behaviour." )

Hero in a half shell.

In the more sobering parts of the tour, we passed "camps" battered first by Katrina, then, later, Gustav.

New Orleans, adieu

Back from the Big Easy. More photos coming, with a few highlights and recommendations. According to one tour guide, the city would've made more sense if I'd seen The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Somehow I doubt it.

Apr 9, 2009

not yet acclimated

A question for anyone who lives in the French Quarter: how long does it take you to get used to the omnipresent odor of rotting trash and vomit? A week? A month? Or do you always notice it wafting over the aroma of beignets and daiquiris and perfume and jambalaya and chicory coffee and regret?

Apr 6, 2009

liveblogging the NCAA championship

8:09 p.m., April 6th, 2009
We're live from Pete's Pub at the bottom of the Intercontinental Hotel--Hotel Intercontinental?--Continent Interhotel?--surrounded by blue smoke and bluer language. (Comparative zeugma, free of charge.) Rumor is there's a basketball game afoot.

Since much of the game's banter is going to be drowned out by the rowdy gents behind us, I'll get to imagine what the announcers are saying. Right now, a pretty good approximation: "Everyone knows MSU has no chance in hell. Still, Tom Izzo gives a heck of pregame speech. Detroit is a ghost town. Tyler Hansbrough plays like a berserker raiding a neighboring village."

Let it be said that the hot wings at Pete's Pub are simply excellent. If I stop liveblogging for awhile, it's because I ran out of finger napkins.

And they're off. At least 50% of the blowhards, I mean. And the game has started, too.

Suton nails a three, and UNC answers. America prays that the game is competitive for at least one half.

The problem with trying to beat North Carolina is that you have to play a nearly perfect game against them. They're going to build a big lead and then weather your runs.

Ad: Rally caps positioned, GM is reinventing their company. (Starting with their government-mandated new CEO.)

A carrying call? Don't see that every day. This fifteen-point deficit might as well be Mount Olympus, and Roy Williams is Zeus, hurling thunderbolts... I tire of metaphor.

The wife has taken to calling Tyler Hansbrough "Captain Drama Queen."

The bartender observes, "Any time you get down by more than 22, you have to call a timeout." This game is about to get worse than reruns of the World Series of Poker.

John Corbett: from "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," sliding down to "My Big Fat Greasy Entree." Mmm, Applebee's.

Tell someone that all you have on tap is Bud Light, and they're bound to be disappointed.

The largest halftime lead in championship history; the biggest halftime score in championship history. Anyone still think MSU can come back? Put that hand down, Magic.

"I'm Greg Gumbel. Why are you still watching? Put your hand down, Magic."

The only sure-fire way to get the Employee Free Choice Act through Congress: tie it to the Cable A La Carte Free Choice Act.

If you're in Ed Brayton's neighborhood, give him a hug.

I don't say "awesome" either.

It's over. If you can't take advantage of North Carolina's mistakes--and MSU can't--and you can't get within ten, ever, then you're done, and it's over, and over and done, and this liveblog is done. Bobby Knight in his boxers. That is the image the television leaves me with, and I leave you with, and good night.

Apr 4, 2009

five obscure New Orleans customs

Apropos of a little trip coming up: five traditions Big Easy guidebooks won't tell you about. For true locals--Nawlinians--only.

1. The Muffuletta March
Grab a muffuletta at Central Grocery, then march aimlessly around the French Quarter, one bite per block until your sandwich is gone. First Tuesday of months beginning in 'A.'

2.Swamp Tipping
At a prearranged location, date, and time, five to seven "tourists" aboard a swamp tour boat stand up and start doing the electric slide until the boat tips over.

3. Alligator Massage
No explanation needed.

4. Lake Pontchartrain Drain
The Army Corps of Engineers installed a drain at the bottom of Lake Pontchartrain way back in 1947. It rusted shut over the decades, though, so to lower the water level these days, the Corps sends outs its greenest recruits with buckets and spoons, telling them to "hurry up and drain the thing." Savvy locals bring their own buckets full of water and dump them into the lake whenever they see the Corps a-comin'.

5. Beignet Slapping
No one will tell me what this is. But I aim to find out.

Apr 3, 2009

Mima Mounds: mystery solved?

Turns out they're not the gods' basketball "nubbins" after all. The Mima Mounds, grippy as they might make the earth around these parts, probably have a banal origin, if new laser-made maps are to be trusted.
The new maps clearly show that all of the mounds formed near the margins of retreating glaciers, supporting an idea first proposed nearly a century ago, said Robert Logan, chief of geological mapping for the Washington Department of Natural Resources....

As glacial lobes melted, Logan explained, dammed-up water occasionally burst free, gouging channels. The new maps show all of the mounded tracts are adjacent to outburst channels. The surging floodwaters would have carried gravel, which underlies the mounds. The topography also shows evidence that the meltwater pooled up, perhaps dammed by chunks of ice.

Cold winds blowing off the glacier would have frozen the ponded water, Logan said.

That's where the sun cups enter the picture. As anyone who's trekked across glaciers or snowfields in warm weather knows, these scalloped depressions form naturally.

Meanwhile, water would have continued to pour from the melting glaciers, washing across the sun cups and dropping sediment. When all the ice was gone, sediment collected in the sun cups could have been left behind, forming the mounds that remain today.
Those who promulgate the Pocket Gopher Theory aren't packing their tents just yet, though. Read the article to find out why.

Apr 2, 2009

why Coraline 3D gave me a headache

Coraline 3D gave me a horrible headache. I thought it was the glasses (worn over my glasses), but it turns out that the 3D cinema experience generally leads to dolorous cerebrums.
Something different happens when you're viewing three-dimensional motion projected onto a flat surface. When a helicopter flies off the screen in Monsters vs. Aliens, our eyeballs rotate inward to follow it, as they would in the real world. Reflexively, our eyes want to make a corresponding change in shape, to shift their plane of focus. If that happened, though, we'd be focusing our eyes somewhere in front of the screen, and the movie itself (which is, after all, projected on the screen) would go a little blurry. So we end up making one eye movement but not the other; the illusion forces our eyes to converge without accommodating. (In fact, our eye movements seem to oscillate between their natural inclination and the artificial state demanded by the film.) This inevitable decoupling, spread over 90 minutes in the theater, may well be the cause of 3-D eyestrain. There's nothing new about the idea—an article published in the Atlantic in 1953 refers to the breakdown of the accommodation-convergence ratio as a "difficulty [that] is inherent to the medium." And there's no reason to expect that newfangled RealD technology will solve this basic problem of biomechanics.

Apr 1, 2009


It took students until fifth period to decorate my door and windows with paper fish--poissons d'Avril--in bold colors and various shapes and sizes.

We were working in the computer lab. I was focused, in a zone, helping students craft a wiki on the novel we're reading, totally absorbed in the moment when a student said, "Hey Anderson, there's a tag on your back."

"A tag?"


"--or a... fish," someone else chimed in.

Yep. I got poissoned.