Thursday, May 31, 2007

ESPN, and it's new connection to the Ukiah area

If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm a long way from home.

Still, I found this interesting article on ESPN.com about the Potter Valley baseball playoff game against Leadership from San Francisco that was played recently. Potter Valley is a short 15 minute drive north in a small valley (duh) that is known for grapes, cattle, and a rodeo that just happened recently.

Nice to see Potter mentioned in an article from ESPN.

Why haven't I been posting? I'll give two hints:

Adams Morgan

Lidia Bastianich

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Go home whales!!!

Simply put, that is a really long way from the ocean for these magnificent creatures to be. Both are said to be seriously injured, and route back to the Pacific will take days, not hours. I'm afraid that this isn't going to end very well.
Hey, I remember good old Humphrey the Humpback whale, the one that headed out to Rio Vista for a month's vacation, and then was herded out to the ocean. Whales in the Sacramento Delta hold a special place in the heart of us Central Valley folk.

I really hope for a happy ending here too.

That's so rejected

The judge has thrown out the case that was brought about by the family of Rebekah Rice.

For those that need a refresher,Rebekah Rice was given a referral for using the "that's gay" statement in class. The parents sued the school district for civil rights violations and discrimination of religious beliefs. The case received an enormous amount of national attention, as the phrase "that's gay" is consistently used with negative connotations in American classrooms. Even my humble blog was visited by Elden Rice, father of Rebekah, and he made some comments that you may or may not agree with.

Now the case has appropriately been tossed out of a Sonoma County Court.

(Judge) Rushing rejected each claim, going so far as to suggest that the Rices had created a miserable situation for Rebekah by advertising their dissatisfaction with the school's handling of the incident during her freshman year.


This is a good ruling on many fronts, because the judge also told the officials from the school that they need to better enforce the idea that nobody should be harassed, including those that are hassled do to religious beliefs. It sends the message to the school to be more vigilant, while sternly telling parents that they should not waste time and money on cases that are brought upon schools to promote an agenda.

Now if we can get the other lame ass cases that parents get sue happy over; like these here, that one, or a couple of those, we can actually get to the task of educating kids.

Says John Mitchell, deputy director of the American Federation of Teachers, "Teachers are under incredible pressure right now from two places: from policymakers to raise standards and teach to those higher standards. Then on the other side you have parents giving pressure to teachers not to hold kids up to the high standards. Teachers are between a rock and a hard place ... It's an area ripe for lawsuits."
Salon.com done got it right.

Knock it off.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Honk if you've been canned

Something is fishy about this.
When the student asked the question about taking part in demonstrations, (Debbie) Mayer said, she replied that there were peace marches in Bloomington (Indiana), that she blew her horn whenever she saw a "Honk for Peace" sign, and that people should seek peaceful solutions before going to war.

A student complained to her father, who complained to the principal, who canceled the school's annual "Peace Month" observance and told Mayer never to discuss the war or her political views in class.

Mayer, who had been hired after the semester started and had received a good job evaluation before the incident, was dismissed at the end of the school year. The school said it was for poor performance, but the appeals court assumed that she had been fired for her comments and said the school had acted legally.

Hmmmmmm. I just don't see a teacher losing their job by simply saying "I honk for peace". Something tells me that the administration might have seen the potential for trouble down the road.

My main focus of interest was the issue of the protection of the 1st Amendment in the classroom. Obviously school is not a place to jump on your soapbox and try to create a little militia to go "Pinky and the Brain" on everyone. But according to the Federal Appeals courts, the teacher's right to free speech is "the commodity she sells to an employer in exchange for her salary." Although I understand that, we are employees by the way, when a kid asks the question, "Mr. Brown, are you against the war?", are you supposed to remain completely neutral on all opinions? Is saying "Yes" or "No" actual grounds for termination of employment, especially if we are trying to teach the next generation of critical thinkers?

"Teachers hire out their own speech and must provide the service for which employers are willing to pay," a three-judge panel of the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Jan. 24. "The Constitution does not entitle teachers to present personal views to captive audiences against the instructions of elected officials."

While I understand that statement that free speech doesn't mean that you can abuse the position as teacher, I think that last sentence creates a very slippery slope. At the very least it makes teacher's look over their shoulder yet again at every little thing that is said to kids. I'm not saying that I'm personally going to "live in fear" for the rest of my career (as CTA chief counsel Beverly Tucker stated), but what happens when the argument of "devil's advocate" comes up, or any other myriad of controversial issues. Is it wrong to say that the Bush Administration has mis-directed the war to a class that is learning about political issues? Evidence clearly shows that he has, and history shows that we let students know when these events occur (Reagan in Lebanon, Carter in Iran, Clinton in Somalia). Is this stating a political opinion, or presenting information?

I guess we'll just have to find out.

Thanks to the San Francisco Chronicle, which has a massive liberal bias and makes you wonder if Debbie Mayer would have been fired if she used an article out of the paper for discussion.

Wait! That means that I better never use Fox News as a source, as it has a massively conservative bias and it could get me fired if I use a report here in progressive Mendocino County.

*looks over shoulder*

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Could I be in love with Hewlett Packard?

I've been a Dell guy for quite a few years, until their service department gave me the constant run around and I quit dealing with them.

Enter HP.

In September, my wife bought my a sweet Hewlett Packard Pavilion Notebook, with a fat 2 GB of RAM, for $1,000 at Costco. It was an excellent deal and I've loved my computer to death. But on Tuesday, the computer booted up with a blank screen, even though I could hear the applications on the desktop through my nice Altec Lansing installed speaker system. After looking up the problem online, it seemed as if the video adapter on my motherboard was fried, which is something I'm not going to touch, especially if the computer is under warranty. But would I have the same problem with HP that I did with Dell?

As of right now, not at all, and I'm beginning to get impressed, which is not easy when dealing with computer companies.

My experience began at HP's website and the usual look into what could be wrong. I knew what was wrong, so I decided to go straight into an online chat with a tech person. I admit, I was not happy and I didn't want a run around. I wanted to be told that this computer was under warranty and that I was getting it fixed. Guess what........after telling him the serial number, and telling him that I couldn't plug in an external monitor, he told me that my computer was under warranty, and it was going to be fixed. Not only that, the man on the chat said that since it was a vital part of my job, I would be put on the priority list. He stated that he was sending a box for my laptop and we ended on good terms.

But talk is cheap, right? What about actions?

The chat was on Monday, April 30th in the late afternoon. The box was at my door on Wednesday. The box was well secured and padded, which gave me no worry about the transport. I sent it FedEx on Thursday. It arrived in Tennessee Friday morning and guess what?

IT LEFT ON FRIDAY AFTERNOON, COMPLETELY REPAIRED!!!

That's right! On Monday had my Hewlett Packard back in my hands, totally repaired under warranty with no hassle, quick service, and excellent customer satisfaction.

From now on, it's HP for me!

Education Carnival

I'm going to New York City in a few weeks.

In the meantime, I'll just check out NYC Educator and the Education Carnival!

You learn when you are here

It's that time of year. Projects are due, and that means that notes that you took early on now have double the importantce. Even something as simple as how to make a graph in Word.

Student A: Mr. Brown, can you tell me how to make a graph?

Me: Check your notes.

Student A: I don't have my notes with me.

Me: You didn't take notes.

Student A: Fine. Can you tell me how to make the graph?

Me: This stock report has been going on since March. Once a week we are in the lab graphing and charting stocks. Where have you been?

Student A: Not here much.

Me: Tell me about it.

Student A: Well, I need to know how to make the graph or I can't finish the project.

Me: Yes, you do.

Student A: And you're not going to tell me how to make the graph?

Me: Find the notes.

Student A: I DON'T HAVE THE NOTES!

Me: Then you have a problem.

At this point the student is looking around realizing that I'm not about to let him off the hook. Seriously, I don't get the point of going over things, having students not record the information, and then feeding it to them later as some kind of reward. Eventually the student notices that three or four other students are smirking with the knowledge that they already have in their possession, and then slink over to get a lesson in graphing from another students. It is humility for the laziness, and a wonderful sense of pride for those that have the necessary information.

Seem mean? I think handing out the information to a student that doesn't pay attention or show up is beyond mean, because you are setting that student up for the boss saying "You're fired!" down the road.

You might be thinking, "What happens if the student doesn't try to get help from others?"

If I notice that the student is being ever so obstinate, I give them a final out. The deal is that I'll give them a lesson, but it will be after school. Only one Senior in six years has taken that offer. Some don't figure it out and fail.

I give students the opportunity, they don't always take it.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Real shocker here (Updated)

On the front page of the Ukiah Daily Journal, in big letters above the fold:

Report: Many local youth abused and on drugs
You don't say.
I always get a laugh when the local media is years behind the party. I mean, I guess they ran out of community marijuana gardens to endorse, so they actually had to print the news.
Mendocino County has much higher rates of reported
child abuse and alcohol and drug use by youth than the state as a whole, according to Karin Wandrei, executive director of the Mendocino County Youth Project/Mendocino Family and Youth Services.
In 2005, for every 1,000 children in California, there were 50.1 child abuse reports made. That same year, for every 1,000 children in Mendocino County, there were 109.1 child abuse reports made, according to the University of California Center for Social Services Research. According to the California Department of Education's 2004-2006 California Healthy Kids Survey, Mendocino County also has a higher
rate of alcohol and drug use among young people. In Mendocino County, 85 percent of the students taking the survey reported they had used alcohol and/or drugs by the
eleventh grade, compared to 67 percent of students in the rest of the state.

Funny, but if you actually spend time at a high school, you find these things out really fast. When parents come to meetings high, or when kids come out and say that they don't need to go to college because they'll be growing weed, that's a pretty good sign that a community intervention is needed. This county has a huge proportion of Special Education students. It also has a massive drug culture. Think the two have no connection? Think again, and then go read the files on the students. Parents are pregnant doing drugs, parents are exposing kids to drugs at an early age, and the whole community turns its head.

"Our community needs to recognize that these are problems in our community and that it impacts on all of us and on our young people in this community. We all need to get our heads out of the sand and work together. ...
The first step is to acknowledge that these are serious problems. We can do a lot of things with people in these situations, but the better thing to do would be to have fewer young people coming to us for help (in the first place).
A lot of people don't necessarily want to respond if someone is abusing a child, and I think there is a lot of denial around substance abuse in our county. Abuse of alcohol and marijuana are both very much a part of the culture of this
county, for many people," Wandrei said.

Amen. Read the blog Karin, I'm doing what I can.



Updated 5/8:
Looks like the idiots at the Ukiah Daily Journal haven't learned yet. In response to the statistics, Managing fool K.C. Meadows stated:

The scary rate at which our young people use alcohol and drugs is no secret and those are facts we've heard before

.....and then she went on about how shocked and appalled she was at the child abuse in the county, making a clear effort to stay away from the fact that drugs and booze, and child abuse, have an evident connection. One day......ONE FREAKING DAY......earlier, Meadows was advocating the sale of wine and beer at a new establishment that was applying for a liqueur license ONLY 300 FEET FROM AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL!!!!

You gotta love when the primary source of information for the community hates schools and promotes drugs and alcohol.

Friday, May 04, 2007

The Sci-Fi 25 Movies and TV

Well, the geek in my that loves my science fiction would like to comment on the Entertainment Weekly article that rated the top 25 television series and movies. This is being conducted now because we tested this week, and I heard about some of the questions. All I can say is, names and laws. Wow, we wasted teaching time on this crap? Kids won't be able to write, but they'll sure know the dates of the Cuban and French Revolutions. Christ, what a joke.
By the way, Star Wars movies are often argued to be Fantasy, not sci-fi. While I find the arguement lame, I'm going to leave them out because they are in a class by themselves anyway. That includes Spaceballs.
I have not seen Children of Men.

Who got in and should be in:
-The Matrix (The best sci-fi on film since 1991)
-Battlestar Galactica (Hell, some of the best television period)
-Blade Runner (Classic sci-fi flim noir, and one of the best movies ever made)
-The X-Files (My favorite television series. Trust no one)
-Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn (The best Trek out there. Ricardo Montalban will forever be loved)
-Brazil: (Screw "V is for Vendetta" and "THX 1138". This "1984"esque masterpiece is supreme)
-ET: (Kids sci-fi that happens to be the best storytelling sci-fi films ever)
-Star Trek: The Next Generation (Simply outclassing the orginal is a feat. But the Borg episodes put it over the top. For the record, I really liked Q)
-Lost: (Excellent modern sci-fi that used the flashback to perfection)
-Back to the Future: (Fun time travelling flick that brings sci-fi into the mainstream)
-The Terminator/Terminator II: (Hell, both of these films should get their own spot.)
-Heroes: (A little early to call it, but the X-Men on television is a smash so far)
-Starship Troopers: (It's supposed to be campy. That's the point!)
-Star Wars Clone Wars: (Was better than two of the prequels, and one of the best cartoons ever)
-Quantum Leap: (I didn't dig the show, but it brough sci-fi mainstream very nicely)
-Doctor Who: (The granddaddy of sci-fi is still going strong. And Tom Baker was the best, screw what Entertainment Weekly says)
-Galaxy Quest: (Not a mockery, a hommage to Star Trek.....and damn funny)
-V: The Miniseries: (Huge television event that scared the hell out of me. Man, was Diana a lizard bitch or what.)
Who got in and shouldn't be in:
-Aliens: (A great film, but much more of a great action film. I don't see this as one of the best)
-The Thing: (Horror sci-fi that was bloody and all, but not really great)
-Firefly: (Cult sci-fi that didn't even have that big of following, not that it deserved one)
-Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: (I really love this move...and I really don't see it as sci-fi)
-Futurama: (Oh, and the Jetsons don't get in? I didn't find it funny)
-Total Recall: (Fun romp in the action/sci-fi realm, but not really excellent sci-fi)
Where in the hell are these guys??????
-Robotech
-Babylon 5
-Stargate
-Minority Report
-Dark City
-Twelve Monkeys
-Akira
-The Road Warrior
-Men in Black
-Jurassic Park
-The Abyss
-Aeon Flux (The MTV series)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Dennis gives us one of the greatest quotes of all time

"There is a great misunderstanding in the debate over education that takes place in America. It is a misunderstanding that you hear almost anytime education is discussed. That misunderstanding is that it is the job of schools to educate children. It is impossible for us to "educate" kids. We can only give them the opportunity for an education.

If education in America is ever going to significantly improve, the first
thing we need to do is to get more students to care more about their
education."

Knock, knock.......helloooooooo.........American society.......you listening?

Dennis Fermoyle is my hero for today.

Education Carnival

I'm really a bad, bad Carnival attender lately.

Dr. Homeslice has it going on this week.

Word.

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, stop the crap in our mailbox is what we want the most. Lord hear our prayer.

Teacher mailboxs are the perfect place to inject propaganda. It normally ranges from the usual union complaints to the rare off end comment. In my early years, I put up a sign that stated, "Let kids have their own opinions. Don't force ours at them" in regards to the war in Iraq. Some teachers were soapboxing the war with the kids, I was getting complaints from Seniors that felt like they couldn't speak up, one way or another. So I put up a note, which I wouldn't do any more. It's boorish and immature, announcing to the world via the hallway mailboxs that they are morally incorrect for doing one thing or another. Nope, instead I've learned that you make your statements in the background, with a sense of consistent fortitude, while the loud mouth takes the heat. Hey, part of growing up.

Obviously, someone at the school hasn't figured that part out yet, and decided to throw three pages worth of Bible passages in our boxes. Yes folks, one of the progressive centers of the Universe still has a very vocal religious tone that will often rear its head when not happy with matters that abound around town, or at the school. I've had only a few encounters, and they are usually brief and usually not really about religion, but about my usual, curt mode of dealing with things. I found out about the passages in the mailboxs from an e-mail that kindly reminded people that a public school was not the venue to preach a sermon. The passages don't really bother me personally. I mean, I'll give them a look see, grin at someones attempt at conversion, and then toss the scripture into the recycle bin. I just don't really care. Then comes the comment, "Shouldn't you ever try to read the Bible?".

Duh, I'm a history teacher. Your point?

Stop putting crap in my mailbox. I get enough junk from every text book vendor in the world, I don't need someone trying to lead me to the Lord. I have my own Bible in the classroom. If I need to repent, I'll use that.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

By the way, notice I didn't mention May Day

That's because my students didn't leave.

Kudos to those kids that realized that an education is a hell of a lot more important than dumb ass activitists that often know shit about real issues.

Part of the reason I got into teaching was to give students the tools to enact positive change. Get educated, and then do battle to make things better.

Well done!

Cool

I'm cynical and sarcastic by nature, which makes it seem like I often dislike my profession. As I often state, I love teaching.

Because of the hideous idiocy that is STAR testing, I was with one group of Seniors from 8:30 until 1 p.m. Some had me an hour longer because they also had me for International Studies. That's right, 32 Seniors for hours on end.

And it was great.

Marketing and Advertising was the subject matter, and the hours passed by very quickly as I mixed in different learning modalities with power points, lecture, commercials, and realia (there's a credential program term for ya). The kids were engaged, the problems were at nil, and in the end, the kids walked out talking about the commercials they thought were effective, not "I want to get the hell out of here".

Quite simply, it was a very good day.