Jun 30, 2011

survey says: fast food stinks

A recent fast food survey reveals nothing new: the food stinks, and the service isn't much better. Nobody orders healthy fare. Sbarro is the worst restaurant in America, if not the world.

I'd like to see a followup, ranking fast food joints with added geographical nuance. For instance, which fast food restaurants are most likely to abuse your palate?

1. Standalone
2. Shopping mall food court
3. Airport
4. Tourist trap
5. Grocery store-attached
6. Freeway overpass / rest stop

America needs to know!

Jun 25, 2011

summertime blogging blues

With summer commencing, if not weatherly, at least calendrically and vocationally, I was ready to write a series of blog posts on some tidbits I'd gathered from around the Web and stored in my Chrome bookmarks. Then, without warning, Chrome's "sync" feature devoured them all, and apparently has regurgitated them into a parallel universe.

So, more blogging to come, just not quite yet.

While I'm on the subject of summer: it's summer, so I have a series of backburner projects that are moving to the front burner. I won't say too much because I don't want to jinx myself, but it'll be great to have a couple months of serious writing time.

Creative chickens. That's all I'll say for now.

Jun 21, 2011

nobody likes a whiner

Whining is more annoying than a buzz saw, says a recent study...
In raw numbers, people made more mistakes per math problems completed when listening to the whines than any of the other speech patterns or noises (though the only statistically significant differences were between whining, the table saw and motherese).

And people completed fewer subtraction problems when listening to the whining, crying and baby talk than when it was completely quiet.
...that will soon be posted on refrigerators and in teacher's lounges all across the country.

Jun 20, 2011

you are not your genes

You aren't.  (And yet you are.)

But you aren't.

LD topics for 2011-2012

Whitman U's Jim Hanson sends along word that the NFL has released its slate of potential topics for 2011-12:
1. Resolved: The United States ought to extend to non-citizens accused of terrorism the same constitutional due process protections it grants to citizens.

2. Resolved: It is morally permissible for victims to use deadly force as a deliberate response to repeated domestic violence.

3. Resolved: In the United States, possession of handguns ought not be an individual right.

4. Resolved: The use of eminent domain for private economic development is just.

5. Resolved: Estate taxes are just.

6. Resolved: A government has the obligation to lessen the economic gap between its rich and poor citizens.

7. Resolved: A just society ought to prioritize environmental concerns over the production of energy.

8. Resolved: In the United States, law enforcement ought to be required to have probable cause to search data an individual has stored on remote servers.

9. Resolved: Targeted killing is a morally permissible foreign policy tool.

10. Resolved: Individuals have a moral obligation to assist people in need.
The "targeted killing" resolution is my initial favorite, not only because of its timeliness, but because it's focused without seeming too specific. (#8, for instance, seems too narrow for my tastes.)

What's your favorite?

Jun 18, 2011

the GPS had murder on its mind

This wasn't the first time, and it won't be the last:
Three women from out of the country drove their car into Mercer Slough in Bellevue early Wednesday while trying to follow directions from their GPS.

The women, from Mexico, told police they had been following the device about midnight but obviously took a wrong turn.

The women went into the water with the rental car but were able to get out safely, said Carla Iafrate, spokeswoman for the Bellevue Police Department.

Jun 16, 2011

OEA ratifies contract; RIF defunct

The Olympia School District will be able to return all its RIFed teachers this year, thanks to the new contract overwhelmingly ratified by the Olympia Education Association last night.

Some of the major changes for the next contract year include...

* A reduction from 30 staff development (optional training) building, District, and teacher-directed hours to 12 teacher-directed hours.

* Reduction to 177 student days; 3 days out of the 180 in the school year are now non-student training days.

* A cap on overload payments at $866,0760

* 3 additional "optional day" hours (to mitigate a portion of the pay cut)

* School's out June 15, 2012, absent any snow days

The three non-student days are at least a little closer to the furlough the state didn't provide.

All in all, this is good news. Not great news--cuts are cuts--but good news.

Jun 14, 2011

a fond farewell to CHS's graduating debaters

Last Saturday marked the end-of-the-year celebration for CHS's Speech and Debate team. It's a celebration I've come to relish. We find a park if the weather's good, or a team member's home if it's not, and potluck it. Games, conversation, food, and, of course, speeches to recount triumphs, visions of the future, and, for the seniors, parting wisdom.

And gifts.

A few years ago, the team started a tradition of cobbling together some mementoes for the coach. This year's soon-to-be-graduates led the charge , and I have to say, the swag pile is pretty impressive, with reading material (Catch-22, The Encyclopedia of Useless Information), folk music, Guatemalan worry dolls, hair gel (gorilla snot? really?), a puzzle book, and a leopard-print Snuggie, which I will never, ever wear. Grace's handmade collection of Mr. Anderson Quotes (that have never made Twitter) was a delightful surprise, too. (Sample: "Well, let's just make a shot that will keep people from becoming Satanists, because that's a public health concern." I swear, it was valid in context.)

Their generosity and good humor should surprise no one, for this year's seniors are a special group. Sure, they've shone competitively, including a 2nd-place finish at the State I.E. tournament, but more important, they've always valued truth over trophies, and have always competed with character and class. As often as I have coached them, I have merely stood out of their way, and watched them triumph through their own effort and persistence.

They're good people made better by their experiences in forensics, leaders in the classroom and in the community.  They're writers, scientists, actors, scholars, artists, doctors, politicians, and whatever else they can imagine. They are tireless, and their possibilities are limitless.  It's humbling to see how much they've grown in four years, and more than a little sad to see them leave. They leave behind a history of accomplishments and a legacy of leadership, already inspiring their younger teammates to greatness.

So, to Jackson, Grace, Cameron, Matthew, Vamsi, Josie, Jesse, Layne, Shira, and Aaron: thanks for everything. I'll be so proud to see you walk across the stage tonight, out of CHS and into the wider world, bold representatives of a new generation.

The scaffolding is complete. The rest of the future is yours to build.

Jun 12, 2011

(re)defining violent felonies

A while back, while blogging about the juvenile justice resolution, I tried to find a solid definition of the phrase "violent felonies," looking to the Armed Career Criminal Act of 1984.

A recent Supreme Court ruling hinges on an ambiguity I hadn't explored: section 924, (B) (ii):
(ii) is burglary, arson, or extortion, involves use of explosives, or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another[emphasis added]
In a 6-3 decision, SCOTUS found that fleeing from police in a vehicle constitutes a violent felony under this definition.
Mr. Sykes’s flight was dangerous, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority. “Sykes wove through traffic, drove on the wrong side of the road and through yards containing bystanders, passed through a fence and struck the rear of a house,” Justice Kennedy wrote.

But, Justice Kennedy went on, the issue was not whether Mr. Sykes’s actual conduct had been violent. Rather, it was whether the crime he had been convicted of was as a general matter a crime of violence.

As a matter of both common experience and statistics, Justice Kennedy wrote, the answer was yes. Fleeing from the police in a car, he wrote, “is a provocative and dangerous act that dares, and in a typical case requires, the officer to give chase.”
Scalia penned the strongest dissent:
Justice Antonin Scalia, writing only for himself, issued a vigorous dissent. He said the provision of the federal law under review (“involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another”) was a hopelessly vague Congressional “drafting failure” and that “today’s tutti-frutti opinion” produces “a fourth ad hoc judgment that will sow further confusion.”
The phrase "otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another" may be broad, but the context--as part of a "crime" or "act of juvenile delinquency"--limits the scope, which is probably why six justices lined up in favor of the broad reading.

As an aside, what is a "potential risk?" Isn't any risk inherently "potential?" Lawyer friends, help me out here.



[via Glenn Reynolds]

Jun 6, 2011

decriminalization no longer a fringe movement

A mix of former global political figures and business executives are calling for an end, of sorts, to the War on Drugs. The Guardian's Jamie Doward reports:
Former presidents, prime ministers, eminent economists and leading members of the business community will unite behind a call for a shift in global drug policy. The Global Commission on Drug Policy will host a press conference at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York to launch a report that describes the drug war as a failure and calls for a "paradigm shift" in approaching the issue.

Those backing the call include Ernesto Zedillo, former president of Mexico; George Papandreou, former prime minister of Greece; C├ęsar Gaviria, former president of Colombia; Kofi Annan, former UN secretary general; Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former president of Brazil; George Shultz, former US secretary of state; Javier Solana, former EU high representative; Virgin tycoon Richard Branson; and Paul Volcker, former chairman of the US Federal Reserve.

The commission will call for drug policy to move from being focused on criminal justice towards a public health approach. The global advocacy organisation Avaaz, which has nine million members, will present a petition in support of the commission's recommendations to UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon.
But don't expect an armistice--or even a truce--any time soon. Jacob Sullum explains:
As the report makes clear, the commission, whether for ideological or tactical reasons, is not prepared to renounce the use of force to stop people from consuming politically incorrect intoxicants. It wants to lighten up on users and low-level suppliers while cracking down on "violent criminal organizations...in ways that undermine their power and reach while prioritizing the reduction of violence and intimidation." But it is prohibition that enriches and empowers such organizations while encouraging them to be violent. As the Mexican government has vividly demonstrated since 2006, fighting drug cartels escalates the violence associated with the black market, which will persist as long as supplying people with the drugs they want remains illegal. The commission knows this: It quotes a study concluding that "drug-related violence and high homicide rates are likely a natural consequence of drug prohibition" and that "increasingly sophisticated and well-resourced methods of disrupting drug distribution networks may unintentionally increase violence."
Violence that continues apace.

Jun 4, 2011

you, too, can be a championship speller

In a neat little article, Slate's Nina Shen Rastogi asks, "How Would You Do at the National Spelling Bee?" She gives you 14 prize-winning words, pronounced properly, with parts of speech, definitions, sample sentences, and language of origin. You can use as many or as few hints as you need.

How'd this former National Spelling Bee loser fare?

10 out of 14. (I missed #s 1, 3, 4, and 13.)