Thursday, November 30, 2006
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Monday, November 27, 2006
Money still buys happiness or at least a lot of Prozac and Lithium. Maybe some scotch and blow or some Cuban cigars hand rolled on the thighs of virgins.
Hooray for money! Only 28 shopping days until Christmas.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
50 Cent, Why Don't You Just Come Out And Say It
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
How Was Your Day Before Thanksgiving Dean?
I had 20 minutes of contact time with my students today. 20 minutes before dismissal for fall break. It was science pictionary. The taxpayers might not think they got their moneys worth from me today. I'd say they broke even. 27 thirteen year olds riled up for the big pep rally. It was all I could do to keep them from tearing the room apart. Did they learn anything in my class today? Probably not but I doubt they learned anything in any other class either.
The pep rally was fun.
And the students managed to slip a fast one past the administration. Painted on a banner 30 feet large was a hand showing "the shocker" with the phrase "Shock'em!" The students slipped a fast one past us. I thought it was hilarious.
I also found out today that I'm a Freemason now.
Monday, November 20, 2006
But what do the following Bond films have in common?
Casino Royale, On Her Majesty's Secret Service and License To Kill
It's not a white cat.
It's not a different actor as Bond.
It has nothing to do with any actor in the film.
It's not the gun he uses.
It's not the car he drives.
It's something Bond does in these 3 films that he doesn't do in the rest.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
It was straight to the mall for Lisa and me only to find the 6:45 show was sold out at 5:30. 7:45 was to be our fate. We killed time looking around the pet store. We saw crayfish making love and there were more doggies for me to wish I could take home. Also iguanas right now are the cheapest I've ever seen them. We played air hockey and watched kids in baggy pants play Dance Dance Revolution. We shared a cup of coffee. Then we saw the movie. It was a lovely date. Lisa and I don't go out enough. Especially since I haven't been able to make trivia night because of school.
Go see the movie. Go see the movie. GO SEE THE MOVIE! "Casino Royale" made me realize how much better the movies based on the original Ian Fleming novels are. They're definately better then when John Gardner wrote Bond. I want to go read the Flemming books again. Lisa, what box are they in?
It's rare for a movie to come out that makes me want to re-read the source material.
Lee I really think you'll like it.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
shut up or you'll be tazed too
It clearly is turture.
50 people against two with a non-lethal stun gun. No one had the balls to fight back. Listen to the torture. We really have lost our freedom. When peaceful revolution is impossible violent revolution is inevitable.
I stole this picture from my good friend Didi. Clockwise from the top is Nigel, then me, my cousin Marianne (Nigel's girlfriend) and Lisa. Two things strike me when I see this picture. The first is that I don't see my cousin enough anymore, I'm surprised to actually see us together at something other then a funeral. The other thing is finally someone who looks more sleepy eyed in pictures then I do.
(I had to steal the picture because when I tried to link to it I got the Flickr "spaceball.gif" which I believe is anathema to the concept of sharing which is what social networking sites are supposed to be about.)
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Way Better Then Bob's Beer Gas -n- Guns Or The Kiwanis
Penthouse Magazine sponsored an F1 racing team back in the late 70's. Playboy sponsors a CanAm circiut racing team now. Playboy publishes the works of Shel Silverstein who is also the most famous children's poetry author ever. (Really name one other, Dr Seuss doesn't count, those aren't poetry books.) Since there's a link between sports sponsorship, pornographic magazines and children's poetry how soon before Vivid Video sponsors PeeWee Football?
Monday, November 13, 2006
The Most Useless Thing I Now Know
For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about; The Kurz, Tom, AG, Kevin, Daren, Paul and Rickety. Carol is my friend Rachel's mother who also teaches English at the school where I teach Science. We looked up the rules of punctuation while in the teachers lounge today, in between margaritas and making up dirty limericks about students. I'm just kidding about the margaritas.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Wasn't There An Election Recently?
Good thing I'm a member.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Well, so I'm fuzzy and behind the times. But even as fuzzy as I am, I can see that here in California whatever qualifying tests being given still allow coaches with degrees in PE to teach algebra (done in my local school)... I don't remeber calling you fuzzy. Also you seem to have a great deal of animosity to teachers who expand out of their original content area. Have you investigated the curriculum that this Gym Teacher is covering? Have you seen the test for certification he (or she) passed? Are you even aware that teachers are required to go for continuing ed as part of the recertification process. Did this dumb jock spend a couple semesters worth of his (or her) free time at the local community college mastering the finer points of high school mathematics. Does the school system now formally recognize that this gym teacher has done exactly as you tell us what the widget makers must do. "If a decade later some new technology makes widgets obsolete, the widget engineers are canned unceremoniously, or are forced to go back to school to learn the latest new technology." With the national push to reduce gym class time and eliminate recess I believe this PE teacher has taken the steps to protect his (or her) job exactly as you describe.
As to firing incompetent tenured teachers, please don't make me laugh. HOW MANY TENURED PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS HAVE BEEN FIRED OVER THE LAST YEAR NATIONWIDE??? We're letting one go at the end of this year. I think that you will find it to be maybe one or two. Out of how many tens of thousands of tenured teachers? Read Chapter Five of John Stossel's recent book "Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity" to see what it takes to fire a teacher in New York--it takes a four page flowchart to outline all the steps. But it can in fact be done. It is not as you describe "virtually gauranteed for life". There is just a well defined procedure, it is described in a four page flow chart in a book that you've read. It seems that NYC is a statistical outlier. In reality it is so much easier then you imply.
I am not arguing that we should throw money at teachers--it is the contrary. I'm saying that to talk about paying them as much as we pay engineers is ridiculous, because they don't work under the same conditions. Engineers aren't facing 30 screaming children all day long. We're not being paid for our ability to erect a bridge we're being paid for our salesmanship. Teaching is nothing more then a sales job. The product sells itself when the buyer is motivated. Unlike other sales jobs we're not only expected to sell knowledge but see to it that the buyer keeps that knowledge long enough to pass a test, often several years later. Any fucking engineer can build a bridge that doesn't fall down. In fact, my 13 year old students are going to build a bridge out of spaghetti and hot glue that can hold up a 5 kilogram weight. (10 pounds)
And I am not saying strip them of tenure--just recognize that tenure is a juicy perk that engineers don't get. As to the public school system, I advocate vouchers--which would allow parents to choose schools where they feel teachers are good, and allow teachers to choose schools where the students and parents care. That is what we have on the college level. It's not a "juicy perk" it's a matter of protecting a working team from bad political decisions made by a possibly hostile and politically temporary school committee. Vouchers will only work if the selectivity goes both ways. If the school can't reject bad students then the classroom dynamic won't change. It would be great to have only a handful of motivated students. The reality is that schools aren't free to dismiss students who don't want to be there. Students who don't want to learn are not free to stay home. It is not a "free market" problem. You cannot apply free market solutions.
But I appreciate your feedback. Sincerely--Gary Jason Thank you. I've enjoyed our discussion.
Friday, November 10, 2006
How I Spent My Day Off
With regard to your assessment of public schools. There is something that I think is a little outdated and flawed with your logic. With most states requiring testing in the subject to be taught as a condition for licensure it is very rare for a teacher to be teaching content they are unprepared for. I can assure you the days of history teachers trying to stay one page ahead in the calculus book are over. The Praxis Test or the MTEL (used in Massachusetts) require a very intimate knowledge of the subject material. This would be knowledge that could only be gained through several years of careful study. I have recently attained certification in Massachusetts to teach chemistry and can attest to the depth and breadth of knowledge required to pass the subject test. It is not something that can be done with a 'Chemistry For Dummies' book studied over the weekend. If a teacher passes such a test for certification you can be confident they are qualified and know the material.
What the test cannot show is whether or not the individual possesses the instincts, patience or charm to connect with the students in the classroom. These are skills that cannot be taught in Ed Schools. There is only one test for those qualities. It begins with the first bell on the first day. It ends when the individual leaves teaching. How the individual leaves teaching is really what bothers many who don't understand the profession. Tenure is not a bullet proof suit of armor. Poorly performing teachers can lose their jobs. It just takes longer to remove them and must be carefully documented.
What tenure does protect is the teacher who has a bad year. The dynamic didn't fit. You can't force 30 students to get along. If they don't behave themselves no learning can take place. If the teacher can't fire the student who is a chronic disruption then the school can't blame low test scores on the teacher. If the town suddenly cuts the budget needed to teach certain courses is it the fault of the classroom teacher? In both cases tenure protects not only the individual teacher but the school system as well. Those intangible skills that lead to effective teaching like patience or charm that are honed over several years are not easy to replace. When students come in and see all new and very unseasoned teachers they will pull every stunt in the book to get out of doing the real work of learning. They will not respect the school or any teacher in it. When students see a school that functions as a cohesive and well practiced team the students respond positively and the teachers can spend their time educating.
Students are the only consumer group that demand less for their money. Throwing money at teachers would be nice but no amount of money can make up for a school system that is continually hiring unseasoned teachers because it has the reputation of having undisciplined students because the school has the habit of replacing teachers who had a bad year because there were so many new teachers the year before and the students took advantage of the many inexperienced teachers throughout the whole school system. (yes it's a run-on sentence) It's a cycle that can only be broken by giving the teacher the confidence that comes with job security. Tenure is the best path to that kind of security.
Blaming the teachers for poor students isn't entirely fair. If a student can't calculate the velocity of a cart rolling down a track, is that the fault of the 20 year veteran physics teacher or of the new algebra teacher the student had the year before? What if that new teacher was only attracted to the job for the money because the town was desperate for math teachers and was allowed to offer twice the salary that an english teacher would get? What if that new math teacher had a class that simply could not behave because the administration had no choice but put a pair of students who've fought each other since middle school into the classroom. Do we need to fire that physics teacher because he had a class of students who couldn't pass the science MCAS after he lost a month worth of the school year reviewing basic algebra instead of teaching physics? This is exactly what tenure protects against.
I don't doubt you're a fine educator at the university level where students are more motivated and personally invested in their education. I do respectfully question your familiarity with the behavior of children whose only motivation to come to school is that their parents drop them off there every morning. I wonder how you propose to correct poor behavior with a revolving door to the teachers entrance.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Don't forget to vote today. It's the first Tuesday after the first Monday.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Two In One Day
The gyst of the story is this... Helium is mined from just a small handful of pockets trapped under ground. Despite our fascination with frittering it away in party decorations and the most transient of childrens toys, helium is in fact a depleting resource. It is so rare and expensive in other parts of the world that in scientific research or medical diagnostics it's cheaper to bring the patient or sample to the US then it is to carry out facilities in Europe or Asia. There is no NMR Spectroscopy in Europe, at least not the way it is here. In research we use it to super cool certain items, an NMR magnet, a radio reciever for astronomy or microwave communications (it improves signal to noise ratios for very faint signals).
Why is helium so rare? It's so light and bouyant in the Earths atmosphere that it will eventually float off into space. Once it gets released into the air it's effectively gone. Trapped helium in deep helium wells are the only source.
Enjoy your balloons while you can. Eventually they'll be nothing more then a memory. OK maybe we'll use hydrogen. Damn won't that be fun.
Personally I think the way the scientific community deals with the depletion of the helium stock will be a pretty good meter for how the rest of the world will deal with 'Peak Oil'.
This Is Old News
Sure some of the kids who stay behind might find a decent job doing the things an aging population needs doing. They'll charge a fortune. Enough so that an aging population might consider selling the house and moving somewhere cheaper to live. It's just too bad that aging population took all the equity out of their house for a 30 year fixed to buy an H2, granite kitchens and send their kids to college.
They are how many years left on the note? You're upside down? You're not going anywhere. Here's my estimate for what it's going to cost to carry 40 packs of tar shingles up a 2 story ladder. Don't want to pay it? Good luck re-roofing yourself. I'm the only handyman with a 20 year old back in town.
Saturday, November 04, 2006
Margaret Was Never My Girlfriend
Thursday, November 02, 2006
She Bit Me Once
Rodney, you were ahead of your time with your tales of Lefthanded Lesbian Midget Albino Eskimo's.
I hated that album when it first came out. It was such a departure from the faster hardcore and punk from the early albums. How woefully wrong I was. I found myself just sitting down one day and really listening to it. The most obvious change is the quantum leap away from albums that sound like they're recorded in a frat house basement. The studio polish gives the album a twinge of the subversive. It's one thing to record a punk album, it's another thing to record one full of backwards masking and studio tricks. The often derided "Beige Sunshine" becomes a statement of how punk loses it's bite when heavily engineered. This becomes obvious as critics focus on the children singing failing to notice it's nothing The Clash didn't do during their reign with "Career Opportunities". Throw in some samples of Kate Pearsen from The B-52's on the next track "Do The Brown Nose". This song comes in so hot on the heels of the mainstream hit from Iggy Pop "Candy" that you have a formula so profound even the musicians themselves would have to admit is too subtle for even them to notice.
But the real meat to the album is the second recording on track 12. A bonus musical monologue about the appalling self segregation going on in America's increasingly stratified college campuses. Years before students began to re-demand segregated (black only) dorms, the Milkmen warned us about the dangers of student activity fees going to fund any fucked up idea someone decides to form a club around. But especially minority exclusionary clubs that the college considers as evidence of a successful "diversity" program. Which brings us back to Paul Nelson. His commercial ends with a statement that implies his opponent pays teenagers to have sex with prostitutes but not with soldiers. Personally, as a taxpayer, I'm upset that the raw data from the gay Eskimo study hasn't been shown on C-span. I'm tired of having to get all of my homoeskimo erotica from the Internet.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
It's No Wonder That Fritz Lang's "M" Is Being Shown On TV Lately
How many warnings do both sides need to give each other before all hell starts to break loose?