Monday, December 28, 2009

On the Other Hand, Have a Nice Flight.

I can't tell you how happy I'd be to win the Lottery, just so I could buy this Sukhoi-27 Flanker.

It's for sale. All weaponry has been removed, of course.

Have a Nice Flight.

How can a Muslim student,
- whose name appears on a US law enforcement database of terrorists,
- whose father notified US law enforcement that he was "over the edge" and likely to become a violent Jihadi,
- who was denied re-admittance into the UK because he was too high a risk,
- who was traveling from Yemen, probably having trained with an al-Queda group,
- who had an explosive device sewn into his underwear yet still get past a number of security checks,
- and be granted a visa to travel to America?

There's also word that a fellow passenger was videotaping him for the entire flight. No one commented on this? "I'm taking a video of this other man doing nothing for 1.5 hours. Isn't that normal behavior for you, too?"

Instead of addressing the problem at hand and correcting the mistakes that were made, administration decided to head off on a tangent and make new rules for everyone: Folks who are not identified as terrorists can't visit the head for the first or last hour of the flight, can't have a laptop on the lap (or anything else), must strip off shoes and clothing at whim, and stand in lines for hours waiting for low-grade morons to stare woodenly at screens until their eyes defocus and they overlook everything.

That tactic worked so well this time, TSA are doing more of it.

Have we forgotten the cardinal rule of minimum-wage humans? They get bored easily. When you increase the size of the haystack, you won't find more needles so you can't improve your security by adding stupid procedures and paperwork. What's needed is to reduce the size of the haystack, to ignore the obviously innocuous and focus on those who are holding up signs declaring themselves dangerous.

Why does this remind me of a Highly Ineffective Principal?

Juxtaposition, Graphics, Lying Like a Rug

It's amazing what you can do with statistics. ("Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics.") Here's a sample:

Funny how the addition of a graph makes a point stronger, while not necessarily making anything clearer or more correct.

The problem with this graph is its simplicity - those are not the only pertinent bits of information at play.

Teachers often can be incredibly one-sided and have too much effect on students by asking questions that require agreement with a false premise before answering. I have heard variations of all of these questions as I have passed by open classroom doors ...
  • Did Clinton cause that improvement on his own or did the computer age have more of an effect on the economy?
  • Did Bush really destroy the economy or were these events out of his control?
  • Did Bush know that his failures, including "Mission Accomplished", would come back to haunt him and his legacy?
  • What should Bush have done differently in the last six months of his Presidency?
  • Why didn't Bush do something while the economy imploded?
  • Is it a coincidence that Democrats have grown the economy while Republicans have not?
  • Since Democrats grow the economy,as seen in the graph above, why shouldn't we pass Health Care reform and save the lives of those less fortunate?
Why is this okay? Is it just because too many people are innumerate (to use Paulos's word for it) that this kind of thing is promoted and passed on?

Just sayin'.

Manufacturing a Soccer Ball

So this used to be a truncated icosahedron. You could make one from scratch pretty easily, cut it out and Viola!, you had a ball.

Oh, how times have changed ...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas - my present to you

I hated Secret Santa at school. It's hardly any better at work. I can never seem to get the right balance in the group. Someone always is disappointed, someone invariably gives a too-expensive gift while someone else forgets or just doesn't bother. Tensions run high when it should be a good time. Then, you have the difficulty of getting a present for someone you don't know well. Everyone has trouble with this. The "funny" gift is received with a whince or a stone faced, "Thanks" and winds up in the trash can later.

We've solved that problem up here in the frozen north. Here is my present to everyone who needs a better way to get happy, have fun and give a gift to coworkers. It also works great when you have some folks who are less well off than others. You make a $15 limit. Since you are not buying for a specific person, this is MUCH easier.

Everyone buys a single gift for "themselves". Couples bring two. Surreptitiously, everyone places their wrapped gift in the middle of the circle.  The goal is to disassociate the giver from the gift.

Fortified with an appropriate libation, it's time for ...

A Yankee Swap

Numbered cards are picked from a basket to decide order of play. The players then arrange themselves in order around the circle. The Number cards should be kept visible near the player since they will be part of the game later.  You can use these or make your own.

In order, each chooses a gift from the pile.

Then, in order, each unwraps the gift. This gives everyone a first chance to see them and think about which they want to "play" for.

Three of the playing cards are dealt to each person. (These are seen on the next page.) The remainder are placed in a pile in the center.

In numerical order, players place a card face-up in the middle of the circle and picks up a replacement from the pile of extra tickets. The instructions on the face-up card are followed.

Swap cards, do-nothing cards and pass cards are played in turn.
Protection cards and EndGame cards are played at any time, in turn or out-of-turn.

  • We had a couple gifts that were double-wrapped so people played for them "blind." You may want to add a "unwrap any presents" card to the group below.
  • Some Yankee swaps say the swapping should happen once and BEFORE the gifts are opened. We felt that this made the whole exercise boring – how do you know if you want it if you don't know what it is?
  • Additional tickets available by answering trivia instead of having a pick-up pile in the center. This can be difficult if someone gets too many tickets and others have none.
  • All tickets can be dealt out at the beginning. I like it better when you play a card and get a replacement. It feels more like a game.
  • The "Swap with a birthday in January" cards were included because we happened to have a bunch of January birthdays in the group.
Fire up your word processor, make a table with cellspacing and borders or use these to the right:

PLAYING CARDS: (x2 indicates the number of copies of this card.)

The Swap Cards:
These cards are person-to-person swaps. Some are specific (person to the right or left) while others allow a choice on the card-holder's part (e.g., swap with an odd number – the choice is in which odd number of course)

  • Swap with Birthday not in January
  • Swap with Birthday in January
  • Swap with anyone wearing sneakers
  • Swap with anyone wearing socks without shoes
  • Swap with a prime number (x2)
  • Swap with a composite number (x2)
  • Swap with an odd number(x2)
  • Swap with an even number (x2)
  • Swap with anyone older than you (x2)
  • Swap with anyone younger than you (x2)
  • Swap with the person 2 to the right (x2)
  • Swap with the person to your right (x2)
  • Swap with the person to your left (x2)
  • Swap with the person 2 to the left (x2)

The Do-nothing Cards:
These cards keep the status quo ante. Play them to keep everything as it is.

  • Keep-sake ! swap with no one (x3)
  • This card was intentionally left blank. (x3)

The Passing Cards:
Everyone in the circle passes to the right or left.

  • All Pass - everyone pass to the left (x2)
  • All Pass - everyone pass to the right (x2)

The Protection Cards:
Unlike the other cards, which are played in turn, Protection cards are played out-of-turn when the holder wishes to undo or alter a swap or pass.

  • Safe! use this card to block someone from swapping with you. (x4) "Safe!" is played to block a swap that another player has called on you. The other player loses the swap and cannot choose another swap.
  • Skip me! any pass, left or right, skips over you. (x2) "Skip Me!" is played in response to another player's pass card. The pass "skips" to the next person around the circle.
  • Chocolate! temporarily leave the game to get chocolate.(x2) The Chocolate card allows the player to withdraw from the game and therefore not be subject to any swaps or passes. Return at any time. This game is supposed to be fun so the time of return is left up to the player.
  • Not So Fast ! This card will undo the last swap. Use at any time. (x2) "Not so Fast!" is played at any time to stop any swap or pass, whether it affects the holder personally or not. Typically, this is thrown when the player realizes that someone has become attached to a particular present and is forced to exchange. A player can even play a card in turn and then immediately follow it with "Not So Fast!" to undo it.

EndGame Cards:
  • Stop! (x4) These can be played at any time, in-turn or out-of-turn. When the four "Stop!" cards have been played, the game is over. Use these cards to end the game when the presents are "right" and further play would result in hurt feelings. Additionally, the last "Stop!" card can be played in such a way as to block an undesired card. For example, if the card being played is "Pass Left" then the final "Stop!" card can instantly end the game before the pass takes place or it can be held until just afterwards.

Please, enjoy the holidays. Have a Merry Christmas. Have a Happy Hannukah. Have a Happy New Year in 2010, 1432, the Year of the Tiger or a belated Rosh Hashanah 5771.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Politicians can't Do Math, or Risk Analysis

Based on absolutely no evidence other than a nagging feeling that there might be something in that whiny voter's complaint, a Maine senator wants force companies to put a warning sticker on the back of all cellphones, warning of radiation.

Let me summarize:
1) Some low-grade moron has a vague feeling that the tiny bit of radiation from the cellphone is dangerous because you held it to your head for 400 minutes a month (0.8% of the time for a radio transmission that MIGHT travel 3 miles) yet the radio transmissions from all those radio stations are okay (for signals that travel a couple hundred miles and are broadcasting 24/7/365 -- right through your head).
2) No one has been able to show causation in studies. In fact, most of them show that cellphone users have a LOWER brain cancer rate than non-users.
3) Handheld or not, the cellphone is as dangerous to use while driving as four shots of whiskey in a teenager. (DUI crash rates are on par with cellphone crash rates)
4) texting while driving is something like 25times as dangerous as driving with friends piled in the car, and 6-8 times as dangerous as DUI.
5) the sound levels on iPods and other MP3 players drastically reduce the attention and awareness of the teenage driver. Surprisingly, playing the radio does not have nearly the same effect.

Given all that, they want to warn about cancer.

Spare me.

reposted Yahoo article below the fold:

In the NFL, it's called taunting.

Joanne Jacobs has the story of an angry boy arrested for throwing a football.
When a 14-year-old boy “angrily” threw a football at another boy’s leg, middle school officials called the police, who arrested the boy for assault. The other boy was not injured. There was no real explanation as to why the incident was considered serious enough to involve police. The police report states that the unnamed juvenile suspect appeared “angry.”

What happened here is still unclear. At first blush, this administration (HIPsters obviously) over-reacted. Upon further reflection and some limited research, I've decided the administration over-reacted badly. I can see no instance or set of circumstances that would justify having this kid arrested.

The HIPPIE (Highly Ineffective Principal, Possibly Idiotic Even) reminds me of the police officer in D.C. who drew his gun when he car was hit by a snowball: Child has tantrum. Elder is offended. Elder instantly escalates to the extreme. Don't forget to make the "offense" sound really dark and evil by calling it "assault."

I'm also amused that "Crittenden Middle School Principal Karen Robinson did not respond to phone calls by press time." Seeing as this incident happened on Friday and the paper was the Monday edition, she certainly had time. Must be hiding something.

Should have dropped a penalty flag for "Unsportsmanlike conduct" and left it at that.

Lip-dub procedure.

Alexander Russo is curious how an extended shot lip-dub video might be made:
"One school [Shorecrest] made a video with kids lip-synching an Outkast song and challenged a rival school. Kids at the latter institution [Shorewood] not only produced a Hall & Oates lip-dub video but also did the song & video backwards." 
It's not quite the opening shot to Boogie Nights or the long single shot in the middle of Atonment, but there are some seriously complicated logistics here. I wonder if anyone's done a "how to" on pulling these things off.

Here's my thought:
1) play the song over the intercom system or speaker system.
2) walk a set path with a steady-cam. record students.
3) dub the same track to the video in premier or other editing software.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Simple Pleasures

From Rateyourstudents comes the Smestyer-End Simple Pleasures
  • The realization by a colleague that the two students I had such an awful time with last semester are indeed A#1 assholes
  • An email from an earnest C student saying that despite his low grade, he really enjoyed the class, feels that he learned a lot, and is recommending the class to everyone.
  • A holiday dessert in the departmental office that actually tastes good
  • Knowing that the colleague who finished grading all three classes by the last day of class and thus got to start his vacation one week early is now miserably stuck in a snow storm
  • Thank-you notes from 2 of the 17 students for whom I wrote letters of recommendation
  • Empty boxes by the department’s trash can that are the perfect size for mailing holiday gifts
  • No paper cuts
Feel free to add your own ....

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

Teacher Magnet School is Bad

h/t to Darren,

Students at the Teacher Training Magnet School don't understand math, or English for that matter?

Crenshaw Senior High 5010 11th Ave., Los Angeles, 90043
» Schoolwide Performance California Standards Test (STAR)
Students scoring proficient or above: English 18.9% Math 2.3%
# Students in advanced math: 15%

No Child Left Behind (AYP)
Fail: Missed 16 of 23 federal targets for 2009
Fail: Missed 25 of 25 federal targets for 2008
Fail: Missed 16 of 22 federal targets for 2007

SAT Reasoning Test Composite Average 1098
Math: 363 Verbal: 367 Writing: 368
Source: state data reported for 238 participants

How is this possible? An average of 363 means that some were higher and some were lower. The standard deviation for the SAT is about 100 points. Think about that. Then consider that these folks are in the teacher training program.

This is Crenshaw Teacher Training Magnet School.

LA's 141 Magnet Schools, Ranked in Ascending Order.
(percentages are percent proficient in Math, English
Dorsey Police Academy Magnet 0.0% 16.3%
Washington Communication Arts Magnet 0.0% 29.8%
Crenshaw Teacher Training Magnet 1.1% 28.6%
Washington Music Academy Magnet 1.2% 45.5%
Washington Math/Science/Technology Magnet 2.1% 36.5%
Fremont Math/Science/Technology Magnet 3.7% 39.8%
Dorsey Math/Science/Technology Magnet 4.4% 38.3%
Jordan Math/Science/Technology Magnet 4.9% 45.1%
Wilson Police Academy Magnet 5.0% 25.0%
Dorsey Law/Public Service Magnet 5.6% 36.6%
Manual Arts College Prep Magnet 7.0% 30.9%
Wilson Administrative Law Magnet 7.5% 44.9%
Teacher Training Magnet is one of the worst. Couldn't see that coming.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Scheduling's not rocket science but it sure seems that way.

Pissed Off Teacher has a student with a IEP: kid is doing math at a 3rd grade level and his IEP wants him to master math facts "and to be able to work with whole numbers, decimals and fractions." He is enrolled in Algebra.

Joanne Jacobs mentions that bilingual education didn't work ... "California’s bilingual education ban, which was supposed to lead to disaster, worked for Hispanic students ... Hispanic test scores on a range of subjects have risen since Prop. 227 became law."

What's the connection?

Students should master the basic material before moving on to more difficult material. If you shove them into a class they're not ready for and tell the teacher "Individualize the education", then you will ultimately fail.

Better to spend an entire year getting up to speed and then moving on than to struggle for years in half-assed placements.

And now for the Glorious Baa-studs

I am speechless.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


I was wandering the web and was reading about "Why we are not 'we' anymore" when I found an interesting sidebar. It was the list of most-viewed stories from the website, normally a fairly humdrum sort of thing:

Number two seems out of place somehow. Maybe Forbes could spice it up a little too.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Adaptation and Learning

Who says no one can use critical thinking anymore?


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Twitching and Twittering

Just musing on the state of the 21st Century Skills for a moment ... There's Live Journal, Twitter, a couple Blogs and comment applications, personal websites and class websites, a slew of email accounts, Google Office and Shared documents, edline, texting, telephone ... not to mention the other 98.34% of the communication on the web.

When I'm not using some talking head's particular favorite, why am I considered "techno-phobic"? Why do I need am account at all of these places just to communicate?

Closing Schools - Now what?

Pissed Off: Out Of The Mouth Of Babes says:
The kids were all abuzz about some of the borough's schools being closed. They were worried that these kids will now be coming to Packemin. They didn't understand why these schools were being eliminated. I told them about the school's poor academic records and their failure rates. The kids immediately piped up with "Bad kids are bad kids. So now they will all come here and bring our school down too. I bet we will be the next school closed."
Toles had it best:

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Percentage or Points?

This may seem like a minor point, but the implications are not. I have to give the people credit for using the phrase "12% drop" correctly but it doesn't excuse the conclusion.

Sandra Stotsky and Ze'ev Wurman say
"Yet, is it really the case that low-performing high school students would drop out if high school diploma requirements were ratcheted up? That doesn't seem to be the case in Massachusetts, which in 2008 reduced its dropout rate by 12% from the previous year."
You figure this to be an amazing drop worthy of Gates money. Then you follow the link and find that the dropout rate in Massachusetts went from 3.8% to 3.4%. Not only that, but this "proof" of their theory is further shaken by the clauses supplied -- a new way of counting who is which class, new definitions, new SIS system. This is another case of the random lucky bounce being taken as an incontrovertible law of nature that happens to be in your favor ... until the next unlucky bounce demands a new law of nature in your favor.

Did the ratcheting up cause the drop? Can't say. Correlation with two data points is not quite good enough to show cause.

Hallelujah Chorus ... Subtitled ??

Just watch:


Monday, December 7, 2009

Look Where a Charter got The Professor and MaryAnne and the Howells

"President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have made it clear that expanding charter schools is a critical part of successful education reform."

If the charter schools do such wonderful things because they are unchained from the rules, regulations and funding limitations of the public schools, why not just lift those chains from the public schools?

We keep talking about how some corporate entity is going to be SOOO much more responsible with public money but forget that they'll be responsible to their shareholders and management instead of to the public.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Consultants / Insultants

Q: What do you call a consultant at your inservice?
A: An insultant.

Original Here.

Cellphones and Teenagers.

Over at Joanne Jacobs, Sexting is Popular among teenagers:
More than a quarter: involved in sexting
One third sent or received explicit photos.
14 percent said they suspect the pictures were shared without permission
Seventeen percent of those who received naked pictures said they passed them along to someone else, often to more than just one person.
I'm not surprised. Cellphones (with their current abilities and prices) are so new that everyone has difficulty. Society hasn't set the rules yet. We're close, but it's gonna take time. It always takes time for society to figure itself out.

I recall going to an Everclear concert at a local club. They were playing loud and furious and an audience member held a camera high above his head to record the whole song. Everyone else was doing the same thing but this guy was close to the stage and the camera was right in front of Alex's face and the guy kept it aimed right at him. He stopped the song in the middle. "Dude, you're weirding me out."

We have the same situation in schools with texting during class and the constant NEED to have the phone on vibrate or "too high for teachers", the same situation with over-controlling boyfriends and their new way of keeping track, the same situation with impulsiveness and what the older group deems irresponsibility.

Give a kid unlimited candy and he will eat too much of it.
Give a kid unlimited hours in front of a tv, he will sit there and veg.
Give a kid a computer in his room and he'll spend all his time on it.
Give a kid unlimited use of a cellphone, he will misuse it.
The same with videogames.
The same with sports.
The same with books.
The same with sex.

The parents who give their kids unlimited and uncontrolled use of a toy unleash the limitless ability of the teenager to waste all his time with it and do something stupid or intelligent, wasteful or pretty cool, annoying, funny or thoughtless.

Adolescence is the time when controls are needed to establish boundaries and learn the appropriate use of everything. Limit choices.

Finally, a note to the parents of high-school students:
Please don't try to claim that the current cellphone with all of its bells and whistles is necessary - only the "call parents" option is necessary. Everything else on that phone will be misused.