Jun 30, 2009

Jun 29, 2009


During the past few weeks, two feline scrappers have been battling for control of our apartment complex. One, a skittish orange cat, skulks in the bushes near the doorway. Its rival, a charcoal stray, apparently bested it in combat this morning, by the color of the tufts remaining on our welcome mat.

I have been attempting to teach the cats nonviolent communication techniques, to limited effect.

an open letter to the Lacey Timberland Library

Dear Lacey Timberland Library,

This morning I was sad to see that you've taken away the biggest nerd-magnet in the library, the New Non-Fiction Shelf, and replaced it with... nothing. As a reference librarian somewhat wistfully explained to me, new nonfiction is now shelved among the old, and marked with a tiny orange sticker, so if you're wondering what's fresh in the Dewey decimals, you have to take a largely random stroll through countless stacks. That's inefficient, inelegant, and inconvenient.

But I'm not going to complain without offering a solution. If the old way is forever gone, at least offer an easy access point, in the library and on the website, to new materials. One easily found link--"What's New in Your Library!"--connected to data particularized for a preferred location, and, most important, on the front page, not buried three nonintuitive clicks in. (The RSS-enabled "new nonfiction" list is a step in the right direction, but isn't sortable by library.)

And how about a low-tech supplement: print a list of new books every month, and place it near the nonfiction shelves.

I'll stop there. Free advice is best given in small doses, right?

Your long-time, otherwise satisfied patron,


Truth loses; Kent wins

Another day, another educational--in both senses--opinion from the Supreme Court. This time, students who had sued Kentridge High School to allow a Bible club were turned down.
The court refused to hear an appeal from the high school students who wanted to form the Truth Bible Club at Kentridge High School in Washington state in 2001.

The school refused to let the group be chartered as a school club. They cited the group's name, the fact that students would have to pledge to Jesus Christ to vote in the club and that allowing the club in would bring religion into the school. The club's would-be founders then sued the Kent School District, claiming discrimination.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the district did not violate the students' First Amendment rights by requiring them to allow all students full membership in their club.
I don't see anything unconstitutional about allowing a Bible club on campus--but the club's requirement that members pledge loyalty to Jesus seems out of place in a school environment. School clubs should be open to all students, period. If students want to exclude others, they're free to form their own clubs on their own time--and own dime.

Jun 28, 2009

squid shreds

"The heart has reasons that reason cannot know." --Blaise Pascal

virtual reality gets really realistic

Nick Bostrom's "simulation argument" just got a little more plausible.
The computing power that is now available makes it feasible to simulate physical processes from the smallest scale upwards, rather than trying to approximate their overall effect.

For example, when computer scientist Jonathan Kaldor at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, wanted to create virtual fabrics better those that had gone before he did something unthinkable just a few years ago. "We decided to start from the [individual] yarns. It sounds crazy but it actually works."

Knitting garments like socks and scarves from virtual wool modelled on real-world yarn gives results that stretch and deform realistically no matter how close up the view. The results could also be used with a haptic interface to provide the feel of fabric.

To add further realism, the team now plans to simulate the fuzz on the surface of each piece of yarn that adds friction between threads.
Click through and watch the video to see the improved physics in action.

Jun 26, 2009

move over, oral critique

The digital era has finally arrived--for debate judges. Jeffrey Miller of Georgia Forensics throws down the gauntlet:
When Brandon & I started this website two years ago we had one main goal, we were set on building community and supporting free, open knowledge. I’m taking this one step farther by challenging the judging community across the nation, not just in Georgia, to become better teachers and more responsible judges.

I challenge judges to use some type of website (wikispace, wordpress, blogspot, etc) and post a DETAILED ballot of every round you judge.

The idea was inspired by Michael Antonucci, Lexington & Georgetown Univ. debate coach, last year. He began a blogspot to record all of his ballots & decisions.
So far, three other judges have signed on.

I have a full plate, and can only pack on so many more appetizers, intellectually speaking, but since I'm not only a coach of one team, but an instructor to hundreds of students all over the country, well, why not give it a go?

Though I can't formally promise that I'll type up every single round in detail, I'll take my laptop to every round and post as many as I can. (I'll ask permission of students before doing so, in case they're afraid of being "scouted" by the competition.)

It strikes me as a worthwhile venture, and I hope others will try it as well.

no more teachers' dirty looks

In about five minutes, the 45 will reach CHS, taking me downtown to Les Schwab, where the wife's Mazda is getting new tires and an alignment. Today I've spent four hours at the school, closing the book on spring '09, learning the last bits of trivia for my new job as Department Coordinator, and cleaning up the mountains of detritus in my classroom.

Summer is about three minutes from really, truly commencing.

Feels pretty good.

Update: Free wi-fi at the downtown Les Schwab. Car to be done at 3:30? Take your time, gents...

Jun 25, 2009

the case of the sixteen-year-old infant

Brooke Greenberg is sixteen years old. In a way. Due to a yet-unknown series of genetic (and maybe epigenetic) factors, she is an infant; her development is, in a word, "disorganized." Andy Coghlan of NewScientist explains:
When Walker and his colleagues sequenced Brooke's DNA, they found that the genes associated with the premature-ageing diseases were normal, unlike the mutated versions in patients with Werner's Syndrome and progeria. "That was the first thing we looked at," he said.

Nor does the analysis support the idea that Brooke is somehow "frozen-in-time", in perpetual infanthood. Instead, Walker and colleagues found that different parts of her body and anatomy are maturing at different rates.

"I think she has differential growth of her body," says Walker. "It's not growing like a unified organism, but in fragmented parts."

Her brain, for example, is scarcely more mature than that of a newborn infant. Although she can recognise her mother and make gestures and noises to articulate her wishes, she can't talk.

Yet her bones – although still abnormally short – are around 10 years old, as determined by the maturity of the cells and structures. And despite being a teenager, she still has her baby teeth, with an estimated developmental age of about eight years....

Walker thinks that Brooke is the first recorded case of what he describes as "developmental disorganization". His hypothesis is that the cause is disruption of an as-yet unidentified gene, or genes, that hold the key to ageing by orchestrating how an organism matures to adulthood, reproduces, then gradually ages and dies.
An incredible, existentially baffling case.

SCOTUS says no to strip search in school

Last April, when the Supreme Court was hearing oral argument about whether school officials could strip search a student suspected of carrying contraband ibuprofen, I wrote,
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.
Two months later, the Court has ruled--and they got it right.


The only unsettled question: whether Savana Redding, the student in question, can hold school officials individually liable. Though I'm no fan of excessive litigation, I hope Redding wins that argument in a lower court. Students keep their rights--and their dignity--when they enter the schoolhouse door.

Jun 24, 2009

Resolved: It is just for highly indebted poor countries to repudiate their debt.

First in a series of previews of the potential LD resolutions for 2009-2010.

One of the potential LD resolutions for 2009-2010 offers a good balance of ethics, history, and international relations.
Resolved: It is just for highly indebted poor countries to repudiate their debt.
What counts as a "highly indebted poor country?"* As the World Bank explains, an HIPC must face an
...unsustainable debt situation after the full application of the traditional debt relief mechanisms (such as the application of Naples terms under the Paris Club agreement). A country's debt level is considered unsustainable if debt-to-export levels are above a fixed ratio of 150 percent; or, where countries have very open economies where the exclusive reliance on external indicators may not adequately reflect the fiscal burden of external debt the debt-to-government revenues are above of 250 percent [sic].
(The Paris Club's website offers an alternative summary and history of the program.) "Repudiating" debt means refusing to pay it off; in the larger sense, the term includes a wider connotation of a failure to recognize the rightness or truth of a situation.
3 a: to refuse to accept ; especially : to reject as unauthorized or as having no binding force b: to reject as untrue or unjust 4: to refuse to acknowledge or pay
Thus, the resolution requires the affirmative to argue that refusing to pay off one's international creditors is, in fact, just.


There are several larger strategies the affirmative could adopt. One could be to argue that the international monetary system, either because of present or past injustices, has made victims out of HIPCs, and uses debt as a weapon to conform developing nations to multinational, corporate desires. (Consider this the "international predatory lending" argument.) This route is explored on websites like Odious Debts, for example. Another general strategy could be to justify debt repudiation on pragmatic grounds: for the country concerned, it eliminates the primary barrier to development at a comparatively minor cost to creditors. From any individual nation's perspective, its social contract is with its own citizens, who would gladly shake off the burden. (On a further note, when freed of the debt, the country is more likely to engage in constructive commerce with its neighbors, leading to net gains on all sides.) Another interesting strategy might be to take a position inspired by the late great libertarian Murray Rothbard, who, in arguing for the U.S.'s repudiation of its own national debt, provides grounds for HIPCs to repudiate their own:
It is precisely the drying up of future public credit that constitutes one of the main arguments for repudiation, for it means beneficially drying up a major channel for the wasteful destruction of the savings of the public. What we want is abundant savings and investment in private enterprises, and a lean, austere, low-budget, minimal government. The people and the economy can only wax fat and prosperous when their government is starved and puny.
What arguments for repudiation are you considering? And what's an appropriate response for the Negative? Get your summer LD fix in the comments.

*Note that the official designation is "Heavily Indebted Poor Country."

budget passes; Cispus gone, sports saved (for now)

Last night the Olympia School Board passed a budget for 2009-10. Venice Buhain reports:
The board restored about $162,500 in programs at its meeting Tuesday night, including the district-wide bus for the Lincoln Options program, a half-time counselor at Avanti High School, and high school gymnastics, drill team and boys swimming.

Cutting the music and physical education specialists for kindergarten through third grade to save $261,000 had been considered, but none of the board members brought it up as an amendment.

“It wasn’t necessary,” board president Carolyn Barclift told the other board members.

Superintendent Bill Lahmann’s original budget proposal had included about $1.9 million in cuts, and relies on spending about $815,000 from reserves, also known as the ending fund balance.

The board upheld the original budget proposal’s call for administrator furloughs and cutting the overnight trip to the Cispus Learning Center.
To save Cispus, the community would have to raise about $70,000.

The Board also voted to set up a committee to study sports funding. Unless a miracle occurs in the state economy and educational funding structure, we'll be talking about further cuts same time next year.

Update: Buhain's blog entry on who voted for what when is quite useful.

Jun 23, 2009

marriage is a sham

At least, the marriages allegedly arranged by a Northwest restaurateur.
The owner of a chain of popular Thai restaurants in the Seattle area has been indicted on charges she paid her workers tens of thousands of dollars to enter into sham marriages with her relatives, allowing them to stay in the U.S.

Varee Bradford, who operates five Thai Ginger restaurants in Seattle, Redmond, Issaquah and Bellevue, was arrested Tuesday on charges of immigration fraud conspiracy and three counts of immigration document fraud. She was released on personal recognizance Tuesday afternoon after making an initial appearance in U.S. District Court.
Gerard Depardieu, what hast thou wrought?

are you a hypochondriac?

Read this article to find out for sure.

[via Kenneth Anderson (no relation)]

(Actually, it's a trick: you will be by the time you finish reading it. Sorry.)

Jun 22, 2009

let the summer commence

Back from Birmingham.

My summer awash in a sea of possibilities, with a few firm plans, including a Mariners game with Dad (Gutierrez Bobblehead Night!), a wedding gig with the band, and a camping trip in Oregon.

Intellectually, I have some blog projects to start, some writing from last summer to revisit, some planning for next year's classes to finish, some educational books to read, some quality tweets to dream up.

But first, the all-important (and geographically delayed) classroom cleanup and checkout, which includes stacks of tests and self-evals to grade.

So let the summer commence, sometime later this week.

Jun 19, 2009

you, y'all, all y'all

Apropos of being in Alabama for one more day...

It starts with a discussion of the vagaries of standard English usage. It evolves into a thoroughgoing and sometimes contentious analysis of the greatest of all pronouns: "y'all."

NFL debate finals: taking the good with the bad

First, the really good: I have a lot more hope for Public Forum as an event. I think the 2-minute summary speech is a travesty, but the top two teams at NFL Finals today acquitted themselves well in a lively and very close round. I would have voted Con because the Pro team appeared to lose a little composure, dropping the ball on the Con's objection that the hardline regime would get most of the benefits of a financial influx. (Pro didn't extend the impacts of soft power, either, or fully rebut the charge that the Castro regime is inimical to any sort of cooperation with the U.S.)

Second, the good: the LD round, in which the right to life (or, as was ceded in cross-ex, autonomy) clashed with the balance of rights and responsibilities. (The resolution: military conscription is unjust.) It was a thought-provoking examination of the claims the state has--or doesn't--on the lives of its citizens. I was edging Aff, but without flowing, and since the round was so tight, I'm not sure who would've ended up with my vote.

Third, the surprising: not one speaker mentioned the importance of Birmingham to the civil rights struggle, either in a speech or an introduction.

Fourth, the surprisingly bad: the policy final was a huge letdown. My PuFo team wanted to see what the event was like, and I don't think they got the best representative round. There were lots of zingers, but the quantity of wit didn't match the quality of argumentation. The Negative's reliance on "political capital" insolvency and the standby nuke war disadvantage, as well as their apparent ignorance of some basic biological concepts, matched up with the Aff's underdefended salmon depletion claim and altogether too narrow approach to the benefits of "VIVACE" power, made for an unnecessarily murky round. I'd have voted Affirmative for not insulting my intelligence.

Coming soon: the results!

Update: Since the official word's not in yet, I'm going with Victory Briefs' reportage.

Policy: Damien HS's Hernandez and Quinn (on the Neg)
LD: Shivani Vohra - Hockaday (on the Neg)
PuFo: Robert Kindman & Josh Zoffer from Durham, NC (on the Neg--see a pattern?)

three rounds of debate in one glorious day

Today, my sophomore PuFo team and I will watch the final rounds of Policy, PuFo, and LD debate at the madhouse that is the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Center. (I figure if they're gluttons for Policy punishment, might as well show them the best.)

I'm mostly interested in the LD round, since I haven't gotten to watch any debates on the conscription topic, which I thought was a good one. The PuFo Cuba resolution, on the other hand, wore me out in the twelve flights I judged. I'm praying either team has a fresh approach--maybe that now's the time to normalize, because Fidel wants to join an over-fifty softball league in the DC area?

Jun 17, 2009

NFL 09-10 topic choices released

The good guys at Victory Briefs have the scoop: ten topic choices for coaches to vote on for the 09-10 season.

My initial top five:
Resolved: In the United States, the principle of jury nullification is a just check on government.

Resolved: A just government ought to guarantee adequate housing for all of its citizens.

Resolved: Public health concerns justify compulsory immunization.

Resolved: Governments have an obligation to pursue and disclose the truth regarding suspected crimes by previous administrations.

Resolved: Compulsory inclusion of non-felons’ DNA in any government database is unjust.
There's a good balance here of morality, law, science/health (we never get enough in LD) and history.

My least favorite:
Resolved: It is just for highly indebted poor countries to repudiate their debt.
What's "highly indebted?" What's "poor?" Those terms are too squishy for my liking. The Internet (via the comments below) sets me straight. Random fact: Tim Geithner was involved in the original setup of the American approach to HIPC; I'm betting he didn't think he'd be helming the economy of a HIRC a decade down the road.

Jun 16, 2009

six and done

My sophomore Public Forum team didn't break. I'm proud of them, though, for merely getting this far--especially for sophomores with fewer than 20 PuFo rounds between 'em, and despite having debated only five rounds together before Nationals. Next year they'll be back, more confident, better prepared, and better versed in the event. They've already seen ten times the competition that we have back home, and they're wiser for it.

Their tournament is done. As for me, I have judging obligations through Thursday's semifinal round. Which means that tomorrow, I'll...

1. Wake up at six, clean up, eat breakfast.
2. Drive over to Spain Park HS to judge the 8:00 PuFo round.
3. Pick up tickets to Alabama Adventures for some of the the Western WA crew.
4. Drive back to the hotel to deliver tickets, and then shuttle students to Alabama Adventures.
5. Leave students there, since my day of judging isn't done.
6. Drive back to Spain Park to judge the 2:00 round.
7. Drive back to the hotel.
8. Try not to be jealous.

Somewhere in that time, the Cuban embargo will have been lifted, diplomatic relations restored, the Cubans freed, and the Castro regime exiled in embarrassment.

Or vice versa.

Jun 15, 2009

a tie made out of cake

The last day of school--for me, at least, because of the trip to Birmingham--was Friday the 12th. To celebrate a crazy, wonderful year, one of the students in my 4th period class really wanted to bring in a dessert. Thursday she asked me if I enjoyed cake. "Of course," I said, having no idea that the cake was bound to bear my name and a likeness of my hallmark.

Twenty-eight slices of heaven: a tacky tie with raspberry filling.

[Cross-posted, of course, at the delectable tie blog.]

Jun 14, 2009

add a little storm to your life

Since the Residence Inn Birmingham Hoover's internet is slower than a drunken golfer*, I won't be photoblogging this trip to the National Forensic League speech and debate tournament. I'll have to paint pictures with words instead.

All my memories of the South came flooding back: the swamp water in the shower and the coffee, the stilted pines, the sweet, sticky scent of crushing humidity.

And the storms.

We drove into one this morning, two coaches and two students on the way to registration. Forks and sheets of lightning crashed all around. Blinding rain pelted the windshield, forcing me to slow down to about 30 on the freeway--and then I pulled over entirely when my passengers got a little antsy.

I pulled up to some kind of auto detailing place, figuring on parking until the deluge abated. The nearby intersection began to flood, cars crashing through red plumes of raging water. All of a sudden the other coach in the car said, "Jim, you might want to move the car." A river of swirling detritus was headed right at us--milk crates, cardboard boxes, PVC pipes hoping to block the nearest drain or swallow up the nearest rental car.

We made it out in time, though, and drove to higher ground, watching in awe as the storm raged away.

Ever since my undergraduate days in Texas, I've had at least one or two "storm dreams" each year.

It was nice to make it through a real one, for a change.

*Though this may be redundant.

Jun 12, 2009

Birmingham bound: for reals

Tomorrow I'm headed to Birmingham, Alabama for the "Stars Fell on Alabama" National Forensic League tournament. Two of Capital's stars, Vamsi Chunduru and Cameron Seib, will compete in Public Forum debate. They're sophomores, so I'm floored that they're even going. It's gonna be fun.

So far, it's been a crazy day of preparation. After a school day full of presentations, songs, tacky ties, and heartfelt goodbyes, I spent four hours prepping my sub plans and writing exams, interrupted by the news that one Western WA school had dropped, and messed up our hotel arrangements. It made for a rather frantic series of emails and phone calls--but at least it's fixed.

Right now I'm printing out itineraries and maps and boarding passes, and hoping for a relatively boring travel day.

See you in Birmingham.

Jun 11, 2009

Capital sends out the grads

Tonight's graduation ceremony was efficient--an hour and three quarters--and enjoyable. The band rolled through "Pomp and Circumstance" nine times as grads gave staff members high-fives while marching in. The choir warbled in English and Latin. The student speaker, Emily Milburn, recounted the good, crazy, and crazy good times of the unforgettably snowy year. The faculty speaker, CHS alum and math wizard Scott LaViollette, gave the graduates an equation for success. (Hint: it's not nearly as simple as Euler's identity--and it's on the test. Everything's on the test now.)

The class of '09 was the first class I saw go all the way through, evolving from peppy freshmen to wizened seniors. Tonight I got to say goodbye/goodluck to maybe a quarter of the students I knew, and bumped into the older siblings of another ten percent, former students crashing the community colleges, pounding out degrees in geology, or still trying to figure out the future.

All in all, a fantastic night, exciting and hopeful. I'm glad I could go.

Jun 10, 2009

is Mount Saint Helens a supervolcano?

It's a super volcano, we know. But is Washington's leading lava producer a supervolcano? NewScientist is on it:
Graham Hill of GNS Science, an earth and nuclear science institute in Wellington, New Zealand, led a team that set up magnetotelluric sensors around Mount St Helens in Washington state, which erupted with force in 1980. The measurements revealed a column of conductive material that extends downward from the volcano. About 15 kilometres below the surface, the relatively narrow column appears to connect to a much bigger zone of conductive material.

This larger zone was first identified in the 1980s by another magnetotelluric survey, and was found to extend all the way to beneath Mount Rainier 70 kilometres to the north-east, and Mount Adams 50 kilometres to the east. It was thought to be a zone of wet sediment, water being a good electrical conductor.

However, since the new measurements show an apparent conduit connecting this conductive zone to Mount St Helens - which was undergoing a minor eruption of semi-molten material at the time the measurements were made - Hill and his colleagues now think the conductive material is more likely to be a semi-molten mixture. Its conductivity is not high enough for it to be pure magma, Hill says, so it is more likely to be a mixture of solid and molten rock.
Before you start freaking out over a molten apocalypse devouring the west coast, and go do something foolish like canceling your summer vacation, consider the requisite skeptic:
Gary Egbert of Oregon State University in Corvallis, who is a magnetotellurics specialist but not a member of Hill's team, is cautious about the idea of a nascent supervolcano where Mount St Helens sits. "It seems likely that there's some partial melt down there," given that it is a volcanic area, he says. "But part of the conductivity is probably just water."
Let's hope so. It's bad enough having one supervolcano within world-ending distance of the Pacific Northwest. No need for two.

tweet like you mean it

Long-time blog-neighbor T/R/P is contemplating Twitter. Sort of. More accurately, he's contemplating blogger burnout, and leaving Twitter for the far-off future as a fallback plan.

How can a blogger avoid burnout? I see at least two routes to successful long-term blogging. First, continuous posting to build up a fanbase. This either takes financial independence or a team effort. Second, for the individual hobbyist, a slightly more random version of the same, with enough posts per week to people coming, but with enough unpredictability to keep things interesting. (Think "variable schedule reinforcement," the true joy of gambling.)

I used to write short posts on this blog, since it was the only place for 'em. Now I save my inner Hemingway for Twitter--which shows up on the blog sidebar, for your enjoyment--and save a little space between blog posts.

Blogging and Twitter don't have to be an either/or. Like man and fish, they can coexist peaceably.

Related: the two Slate pieces that got me thinking about how to Twitter better: the one about orphans and the one about blowhards.

Jun 9, 2009

a bruise that will not soon heal

On the way to giving (well-deserved) kudos to Olympia High School for its production of Bye Bye Birdie, Misha Berson of the Seattle Times slaps Capital High School in the face.
Capital High School (Tacoma), Eisenhower High School (Yakima), Edmonds Homeschool Resource Center and Kamiak High School (Mukilteo) received three awards each.
Worse, it's the "corrected version" of the story. The original "error":
Information in this article, published June 9, 2009, was corrected June 9, 2009. Capital High School was listed as being in Olympia, not Tacoma.

Jun 8, 2009

today's nerdy links

1. Why does a curveball appear to curve far more than it actually curves? This clever animation shows the illusion involved. (Via NewScientist.)

2. Exploring the religious roots and impulses of John Rawls' work.

3. A contrarian's take on the-internet-is-killing-us, from Benjamin Kunkel: "I'm eager to stick up for casual and often vulgar online writing and culture as long as I'm not forced to defend them in grandiose terms."

4. How to turn a guesstimate into an estimate, by crowdsourcing your own brain. [via Mark Frauenfelder]

5. Is Ross Ohlendorf the Greg Maddux of his generation?

Jun 7, 2009

Olympia School Board incumbents face no opposition in '09

Due to our ongoing budget crisis, this isn't at all surprising: not one of the incumbent Board appointees will face any opposition in this year's election. Allen Miller, Mark Campeau, and Eileen Thomson will each retain a seat on the Olympia School Board, barring the bizarre.*

Turns out that this year, the only race with any drama was the student representative election. Congratulations to Capital's Vamsi Chunduru, who won last week.

At least the City Council races are all competitive...

*Which we've seen, from time to time--after all, how else would you get three appointed members on an otherwise democratically elected Board?

Jun 6, 2009

too long for Twitter

1. If you tell a class full of skeptical students that MGM once produced a movie about killer rabbits, few will believe you. When you tell them it was titled "Night of the Lepus," no one will.

2. The hitter in the 4th spot should never, ever try to bunt for a base hit with no outs in any inning ever. Especially if that hitter is slow as a refund check. (And especially if that hitter has homered in a previous inning.)

3. I like Sprint's "What if film crews ran the world?" commercial. Favorite part: when the bride nixes the rain and the F/X guy says, sadly, "No rain, no rainbows..." It's the world's shortest theodicy.

4. If you wake up to a clock radio dialed into NPR's Morning Edition, don't be surprised if your dreams in the wee hours of the next morning are a social commentary on the problems of homelessness.

Jun 4, 2009

breaking: Capital HS to open on schedule this September

This just in, from Capital's principal, Nancy Faaren, via email:
June 5, 2009

Dear Capital High School Students, Staff and Families:

As you can imagine, all of us at Capital have been eager to hear the results of the tests on the roof trusses so that we can begin to move forward. Earlier this week, officials from the Olympia School District and I met with our structural engineer to hear their preliminary conclusions based on the tests they have performed thus far on the trusses. Here is what we know as of today:
  • Capital High School will operate as scheduled for the 2009-2010 school year. Our first day of school will be September 9th, the same as all the other schools in the District.
  • Contractors will work during the summer to finish repairs on the library and visual communications rooms. They will also complete the finish work throughout the school that was left over from the repairs this winter. At this point, we anticipate that all of this work will be completed before the first day of school.
  • Contractors will reinforce the gussets that support the roof trusses in several areas. The structural engineers have not definitively determined all of the factors that may have led to the roof collapse. Obviously, the extreme weight of the record heavy snowfall caused the failure. It also appears some of the trusses were not constructed as designed, hence the work this summer to reinforce some of the gussets. The posts that were built as part of the roof repair work this winter will remain in place as an additional precaution to provide extra support under the heaviest mechanical units.
  • Based on the test results, the Olympia School District will be working with the City of Olympia to amend the occupancy permit to allow Capital High School to remain open with a snow load of approximately 5 inches. This would bring us in line with the rest of the schools in the District as past practice has been to close schools when snow accumulations reach that level (or many times, less than 5 inches).
  • As an additional precaution, the Olympia School District is reviewing the feasibility of installing a snow melting system on the roof, similar to one that is used on buildings with flat roofs in the mountain passes. We will know more about this in the weeks ahead.
The long term plan for the roof is still under development. Tests on the remaining trusses will be completed this week. We expect to have a final report and recommendations from the structural engineers in the next couple of weeks. As soon as I receive that report, I will make sure it is posted to our Capital High School website for your review.

Once we have received the report and recommendations, we will work with District staff to evaluate the options for any remaining work that will need to take place to permanently fix the roof.
That we could be open on time, and on as normal a schedule as is roofly possible, is a relief.

Jun 3, 2009

critics of your baby can read

Critics of your baby can read.

In fact, they enjoy reading. You might call them avid readers, in the way your baby is an avid pooper.

They love to scour blog gossip about how your baby babbles like Yoda on a bender, or how your baby smells like Cheetos, or how your baby crawls wrong, or how your baby can't stand those mini Mozart CDs, preferring Iggy Pop (it's just a phase) or Ziggy Stardust (keep telling yourself it's just a phase). Critics of your baby are on MySpace and Facebook and Twitter, spreading malicious rumors about the tooth marks on the coffee table, or the spitup chunks on the wedding photos, or the drool stains on the Wii.

Yeah, they can read all right.

Some of the old-school critics still read the newspaper--you know, the thing with messy newsprint and letters to the editor and the Irascible Curmudgeon Column. Today, the Irascible Curmudgeon aims his ire at your baby's tendency to shriek at the airport television whenever the Irascible Curmudgeon is trying to watch Mad Money. Also, your baby ralphed on the in-flight magazine crossword, which was half solved.

Your baby's most dedicated critic--antiquities scholar F. Preston Venable III, of Drake University--has gone half-mad searching for the perfect Old English phrase with which to insult your baby. He can read in six languages, five of them extinct.

Critics of your baby can most definitely read.

But don't worry. Your baby can read critics, too. And as soon as she attains the motor skills needed to handle a keyboard, her critics will pay.

[163rd in a series]

Jun 1, 2009

filing week for elections

Today, filing week begins for all sorts of elections.
“Coming off 2008, it was such an exciting year, people were so energized. I think there is a little of that momentum and people starting to get interested in politics again,” Thurston County Auditor Kim Wyman said Friday.

“You also have a number of races on the ballot that have very low filing fees. I expect we’ll have a few wild cards next week that go under everyone’s radar,” she added.

Wyman said filing runs Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Online filing is accepted from 8 a.m. Monday until 3 p.m. Friday, but online filers also must bring their online printouts by 5 p.m. Friday.
All of the sitting Olympia School Board members who are up for election*--Mark Campeau, Allen Miller, and Eileen Thomson--plan to run, according to the paper. By Friday, we'll find out if they'll have any competition.

*Miller was appointed by ESD 113; Campeau and Thomson by the Board.