Saturday, August 29, 2009

Silliness from email's depths.

After being interviewed by the school administration, the prospective teacher said:
Let me see if I've got this right. You want me to go into that room with all those kids, correct their disruptive behavior, observe them for signs of abuse, monitor their dress habits, censor their T-shirt messages, and instill in them a love for learning. You want me to check their backpacks for weapons, wage war on drugs and sexually transmitted diseases, and raise their sense of self esteem and personal pride. You want me to teach them patriotism and good citizenship, sportsmanship and fair play, and how to register to vote, balance a checkbook, and apply for a job. You want me to check their heads for lice, recognize signs of antisocial behavior, and make sure that they all pass the final exams. You also want me to provide them with an equal education regardless of their handicaps, and communicate regularly with their parents in English, Spanish or any other language, by letter, telephone, newsletter, and report card. You want me to do all this with a piece of chalk, a blackboard, a bulletin board, a few books, a big smile, and a starting salary that qualifies me for food stamps. You want me to do all this and then you tell me "I can't pray?"
Nope, you can't pray in front of the kids. We're offering you a job as a history teacher and we expect that that is what you'll do. You don't have to accept the job if you don't want to.
  • You can work in a Catholic School for half the money and none of the benefits. They'll let you pray.  You can try to find a private school.  I sure they'll be happy to let you try to indoctrinate the Protestant or Catholic scions of Boston with your special brand of faith.
  • You could ignore the request to teach them fair play and patriotism but then we'll point out that you've neglected part of what we pay you to do. We fire you. Seems fair to me.
  • You can refuse to communicate to the parents in whatever language you deem beneath you, but you won't get far.  Being a ignorant jerk doesn't exactly endear you to them or us.  After your termination, you can crawl back under your rock.
  • Yes, we ask you to provide an equal education for students.  Why would we ask otherwise?
  • You could tolerate disruptive behavior, ignore signs of abuse, or fail to recognize when their clothing is out-of-line, but why would you? You surely can't expect to teach much if you don't.
  • You could refuse the starting salary as beneath you.  I'm not sure why you applied for the job, though.  Knowing the starting salary and accepting the job anyway doesn't give any gravitas when you start bitching about how small that check is. If you can't figure that out then you probably wouldn't teach well, either.
  • No, Virginia, school is not a wonderful story-book setting of a happy smiling bunch of kids without any problems. It's reality with all its messiness, scars, and tears.  For a great many kids, the only joy, success and motivation comes from just one source: teachers.  If you're not willing to try, then go away.
But then, I've never suffered fools well.

It's about time. Laws against texting and Driving

The NY Times reports on legislation in Utah which harshly penalizes people who cause fatal car accidents while texting. Instead of merely facing a fine, offenders may now get up to 15 years in jail — the same as drunk drivers.
"In effect, a crash caused by such a multitasking motorist is no longer considered an 'accident' like one caused by a driver who, say, runs into another car because he nodded off at the wheel. Instead, such a crash would now be considered inherently reckless. 'It's a willful act,' said Lyle Hillyard, a Republican state senator and a big supporter of the new measure. 'If you choose to drink and drive or if you choose to text and drive, you're assuming the same risk.' The Utah law represents a concrete new response in an evolving debate among legislators around the country about how to reduce the widespread practice of multitasking behind the wheel — a topic to be discussed at a national conference about the dangers of distracted driving that is being organized by the Transportation Department for this fall."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Whitewashing the Regents Cut Scores

Bob Lowry in the EdVANTAGE Blog misses the point.

Diane Ravitch is explaining that NY tests are getting easier and ... "As evidence for her conclusion, Dr. Ravitch notes declines in the percentage of questions students must answer correctly to be deemed meeting state standards on the grades 3 through 8 assessments, or passing a Regents exam have fallen. For example, she notes that, (snipping here) 2006, students had to earn 60 percent ... 2009, it was just 44 percent."

Then Bob produces this gem which, while true in many cases, misses the point here:
"This analysis omits a critical step in the development of state assessments — the process of equating tests so that the same score on different administrations of a test can can be said to reflect the same level of student performance."
Really, now. A 16-point steady downward spiral is not "equating the scores" unless the test writers are continuously ramping up the difficulty. No, it's a state DOE desperately trying to pull its students' averages up by whatever means necessary (pun intended - it's early yet).

As was pointed out yesterday, a statistician (and frankly most teachers knew, too) noted that many students are passing these tests by guessing.

Want more proof? Try this sentence from that Post article.
The number of sixth-graders scoring the bottom Level 1 dropped from 10% in 2006, when twice as many points were required, to 0.2% this year.
If you have four levels and the bottom level contains 0.2% of the student population, then you are DEFINITELY playing fast and loose with your testing scores. The functionally illiterate, the number of kids who don't even speak the language, the number of in-school dopehead drop-out-wanna-bes, will all be far more than that.

But Officer, The House Jumped in Front of Me

Good Morning, Sunshine.
"Police say speed was a factor in a Route 103 crash where a Charlestown, N.H., man crashed his car into a house, according to state police. Criminal and civil charges are being considered in the crash ... drove his Subaru Forester into an unoccupied house at around 2 a.m. Monday, destroying the car and causing "significant" damage to the home."
Speed was a factor? Ummmm, wouldn't "stupidity" and "can't drive worth a lick" be more accurate?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Online Learning is in the News

Some people are linking to a new study and claiming that it says that a blend of online learning and face-to-face teaching is better than strictly face-to-face teaching. The study specifically warns against that. Take this post, for example. (Note: this is taken from a different site, which probably edited it somewhat. They might not have missed the caveats.)
Meta-Analysis Shows Online Learning Benefits
by ASCD Bloggers, Aug. 24, 2009
A recent meta-analysis of research comparing online learning with traditional classroom learning [pdf] showed that, on average, students performed better in online learning conditions as opposed to exclusively face-to-face instruction. Researchers found this effect was larger in situations that blended elements of online and face-to-face instruction with conditions taught entirely face-to-face.
So I went to that study, helpfully linked and found the caveats in the abstract: "the positive effects associated with blended learning should not be attributed to the media, per se." and "the results are derived for the most part from studies in other settings (e.g., medical training, higher education."

A glimpse at the executive summary shows: "The most unexpected finding was that an extensive initial search of the published literature from 1996 through 2006 found no experimental or controlled quasi-experimental studies that both compared the learning effectiveness of online and face-to-face instruction for K–12 students and provided sufficient data for inclusion in a meta-analysis. Extending the search through July 2008 identified just five published studies meeting meta-analysis criteria."

Well, that doesn't really fit the headline all that well, does it?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Math is Like Sports

As usual, we are making the mistake of supposing students are athletes, or raw materials in a factory, or adult workers in business. They're not. Analogies are useful tools but knowing when they no longer apply is one of the signs of intelligence.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said test scores alone should not decide a teacher's salary, "...but to somehow suggest we should not link student achievement to teacher effectiveness is like suggesting we judge sports teams without looking at the box score."
If I were to run a classroom in the same way you run a sports team,
  • I'd be allowed to run the team how I wanted,
  • I could recruit talented players from other schools,
  • I would not have to play everyone,
  • I could require them to practice,
  • and I can cut players who don't measure up.
Perhaps we should make the Education Secretary's salary dependent on the performance of the nation's school while he is in office. He could get a base salary of $10,000 per year. Every percentage point increase in the average SAT scores would give him a $50,000 raise. Every percentage drop would incur a $50,000 fine. Let him see how smart it is to base one's salary on the performance of other people.

And what about all those music and art and foreign language and history teachers whose material isn't directly measured by a test? Don't they deserve a change at these bonuses and incentives, too? Or are they all just dog meat here?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Another Obnoxious Leading Question?

Senator Barney Frank in a Town Hall:

Listed in Critical Thinking for a reason.

"No Question is a Bad Question" is proven wrong.

Wonkette got a follow-up email for about an article they had derided ...

Dear Wonkette editors,

I posted a very serious article recently in about witchcraft in the White House, and later realized that your website had made a farce out of it. I saw that your staff and readers made a lot of extremely cruel comments about me and my story. Why are you people so rude? Does anybody take anything seriously anymore?

Do you really, truly, seriously think it is OK for a president to use a forged birth certificate? Do you actually believe it is appropriate for a man who was raised a Muslim to pretend he is a Christian and go to a church for 20 years with an anti-American preacher? Do you really want a president who was brainwashed by communists since he was a child, up through university, to hate America to be our president? Do you think that it is fine if a family member of the president defiles the White House with voodoo? Don’t you know what fate could befall our nation as a result of allowing Satanic forces to gather over the White House?

After 8 years of a president sent by God to lead the American people and rescue us from the horrors of 911 and Islamo-fascists, it now boils down to this? How incredibly tragic. You folks don’t really seem to understand the extreme peril that our nation confronts. Stop making fun of me. Take off your blinders! Wake up!

Respectfully, Kristen

I agree with NYCEducator. You can't make this stuff up. I wish it had been a joke because then I could feel better about my fellow citizens.

Data and Improving teaching

Over on Right on the Left Coast, Darren spoke about his school's new program to track student scores and data.
Today we were introduced to the new software that's going to track every student's performance, on any number of tests (not just state standardized tests), for the 13 years they're in school. I can see how my last year's students did, or how my current students did on last spring's tests.

A response asked
"If there is some way to figure out how the students who are one grade above what you currently teach did on some of the math SUBtests (such as multiplying fractions, or dividing decimals or whatever), you may find a potential weak spot in your teaching of *this* year's students and head that off at the pass. Is the information that detailed?"

Information is rarely that detailed. They'll say "number operations" but you really don't know exactly what the question was. You're always left wondering how accurate the data is:

- was the kid tired, lazy, trying? did he care? (Scores don't count for the student up here - they don't have to pass or even take the test. They can just bubble in or fiddle.)

- was the question worded strangely or differently from what we do?

- What was the general trend/difficulty of the test/assessment? Up here in the frozen north, they don't release the whole test like the NY regents do and we often don't see the results until 5-6 months later. (Test in Nov, scores by April) It makes it difficult to tailor your next years teaching when you can't get a sense of the target.

If RoTLC can get more data from his program, it'd be neat. Ultimately, though, you can lose yourself in the data aggregation and disaggregation and forget that kids change and the data collection was suspect. The summer transitions often make those new 10th graders unrecognizable. Getting a job often turns 11th grade slackers into 12th grade students. Girlfriend issues make far more changes occur than Education Commisioners.

Data is wonderful, but students aren't data. All the data in the world might help you make some remedial work available, but four weeks later he 'gets it', now you don't need any of it.

RoTLC is going to hear a LOT about "Tracking" and "Don't let his past performance dictate his future." I suspect that he will also be up to his MilSpec eyeballs in outside concerns that skin color is affecting scores and placement, not ability. (With all the yellers forgetting that class is a much better indicator than skin color, but I digress)

Finally, I'd say to everyone: There's good teachers and bad teachers, teachers who connected with Johnny and those who didn't. Don't assume anything from his old scores until you know Johnny, and really not even then. The only really useful assessments are the ones you give out yourself.

It's kind of funny that we are assuming that past teaching was not good enough and we need to improve our teaching by poring over those same past results. We tend to dwell on those past scores as if they were generated by the best teachers in the world using the best teaching methods known to man. Seems like a disconnect to me.

I'm going to stick to teaching algebra, helping the weaker ones remediate, pushing the group to do their best. I'll test them for my purposes and when I'm done, I'll send them to the next teach with a good background. Any difficulties the kids had last year - well, that's what these inservice days are for, in my opinion - talking about students and what they need.

I know that my course is listed as "Algebra I," not "Topics as they occurred to me." My kids need to move on. They will need certain knowledge and skills. If they don't have either, then I can't let them move into "Algebra II."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I like this Grade - FD for Failure, Dishonest

In this article explaining the new policy, Simon Fraser University announced a new grade: FD, meaning "Failed for Academic Dishonesty" intended to curb the growing trend of plagiarism using the Internet. They've also created a central system for recording academic issues like these, which remind me of the infamous "permanent record" of years past. Multiple offenders face suspension and even degree revocation.

I'm going to think about this one. I still have a bit of time before school starts and I may add this to the syllabus in the section explaining the grading, grade codes, and relative percentages. Now that we're going to Internet grade reporting, this might be a real eye-opener. I'm just not sure for whom.

Here's the whole article, if you wish:

New FD grade a student’s record of shame
April 30, 2009 - By Stuart Colcleugh

Is there a grade worse than F? There is now at SFU: It’s called FD–failed for academic dishonesty–and it’s the last thing you would ever want on your transcript.

The new grade is one of several significant and extensive changes recently approved by senate and the board of governors to toughen the university’s policies on academic dishonesty and student misconduct. The changes are the result of a university-wide, three-year investigation by SCAISLE—the Senate Committee on Academic Integrity in Student Learning and Evaluation. SCAISLE was created in the fall of 2005 following the release of a report by a university task force on academic dishonesty and integrity issues, which was prompted by a series of incidents in different faculties involving academic dishonesty.

"The idea was to create a fair, consistent, and effective policy on academic integrity matters across the university that would be enthusiastically embraced by students, faculty and administrators alike and that mirrored a zero-tolerance approach both in theory and in practice," says SCAISLE chair Rob Gordon, who directs the School of Criminology. "And we believe the combination of policies, procedures and strategies we’ve come up with will do that."

"We now have a single student code of conduct that covers both academic integrity and good-conduct issues," says Gordon. "We also have a network of faculty-member academic integrity advisors across all academic units, and an academic integrity coordinator who is an assistant registrar. And we’ve created a reporting system with a central record keeping mechanism so we can better detect multiple offenders across campuses and departments.

"The FD grade will be available to department chairs who feel that a student’s behavior warrants a severe penalty, usually because they are repeat violators, A chair may also request the imposition of more severe penalties through the University Board on Student Discipline such as suspension and the rescinding of a degree."

Emperor Awards have been announced

The Sixteenth Annual Emperor Awards have been announced and, as usual, they've got quite a few well-chosen and oh-so-appropriate barbs. The Distinguished Priorities Cross is awarded to a man who might have worked in my district. Certainly he must have put in time in an inservice or two because all of our cherubs seem to be following his philosophy pretty closely.
Sixteenth annual Emperor Awards

By PETER BERGER - Published: August 20, 2009

Before embarking on the new school term, it's helpful to review the past year's magic education moments. The Emperor Awards annually commemorate the monarch of underwear fame and his devoted admirers so we can profit from their example.

With American math students trailing peers in many industrialized nations, including England, our first award, the Distinguished Priorities Cross, honors an Ivy League professor for his long-standing campaign to stamp out teaching fractions and for recently expanding his hit list to include multiplication and long division. When the American Mathematical Association blasted his approach as "absurd" and one reason American math achievement is "so abysmal," the professor refined his position, suggesting that teaching fractions at least be "delayed until it can be understood, perhaps after a student learns calculus." Apparently unaware that most people find calculus a lot more daunting than dividing a pie into six equal pieces, he also left unexplained how fraction-free students would be able to comprehend calculus, which involves very complicated fractions.
Not that SmartBoard is helping much with fractions.
His British co-honoree is magnanimously doing his bit to keep America competitive. Arguing that math must be more "democratic," he contends that "social responsibility" demands a "total rethink" of British math instruction. He claims students are discouraged by the reality that solutions are either "right or wrong" and proposes that math answers "allow for shades of opinion."

The 2008 Nathan Bedford Forrest Prize recognized a California district for holding segregated pep rallies to "inspire students" while "being honest" about ethnic groups' test scores. Forrest 2009 belongs to an Illinois state senator. Concerned about funding for poor school districts and committed to shrinking the achievement gap between white and minority students, he urged minority children to start the year on the right academic foot by boycotting school. His plan was endorsed by Al Sharpton, whose characteristic wisdom earns him an honorable mention.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Silver Star salutes researchers who concluded that kids who spend hours on MySpace aren't really "wasting a lot of time." Among the "contemporary" skills children are developing via laptop and cell phone, experts listed "how to manage a public identity" in a "full-time intimate community" of "friends" who frequently never meet and often don't use their real names. The study cited vital instant messaging exchanges, including the girl who posted, "hey…hm.wut to say? iono lol/well I left you a comment…u sud feel SPECIAL.haha," and the boy who replied, "hello there…umm I don't know what to say, but at least I wrote something."
Gee, Bill. Way to go. If you can't succeed at convincing people that your computers are changing their children's education for the better, simply change the definition of education. There are enough stupid people that a significant fraction will believe anything you say and descend on their schools with demands of "more technology" and let's get every kid in front of a computer. Maybe those flat-panel screens are what they meant by "death panels"?
In a related field, the Academy acknowledges Family Circle's invaluable assistance helping mothers manage household and "school commitments." The editors advise that instead of jotting down grocery lists on paper, moms should "create" the list via computer keyboard and then "send it to your cell phone by text," which you can then download at the supermarket. While this 21st century procedure requires several thousand dollars in equipment and reliable cell phone reception, Family Circle maintains that it simplifies shopping because there's "no notepad needed." For their support of paperless mothers everywhere, we award the June Cleaver Golden Bundt Pan with Silicon Clusters.
21st Century Skills - in a nutshell.
The 2009 Archimedes Eureka Honorarium spotlights Science magazine findings predicting that, despite No Child Left Behind's "universal proficiency" mandate, every American student won't be academically proficient by 2014. Equally breathtaking, researchers revealed that low-income students who don't speak English are less likely to succeed academically than middle-class kids who do speak English.

In a field trip touted to "expose students to French language and culture" and allow them to "use their skills in a real world situation," a New England French class traveled 150 miles to a "French" restaurant where the wait staff doesn't speak French, the menu isn't in French, and the bill of fare features such traditional Gallic favorites as grilled turkey BLT, Maine crab cakes, ravioli of the day, and beer batter fish and chips. School officials' flair for boldly fictional press releases earns them our Phineas T. Barnum Citation. Honorable mention goes to the Maryland principal who distributed 3,600 peppermint candies on testing day because she heard they "increase performance and raise grades."
Yup. I've heard that one, too. Although, to be fair, it was "kids who eat breakfast do better on tests than kids who don't" forgetting that kids who eat breakfast are also more likely to be the ones with a stable home life / caring parent / proper amount of sleep. The doughnut shoved in the face of the bleary-eyed tardy-boy once a year isn't going to do much for his overall achievement.
In the past when students showed up without lunch money, Albuquerque cafeterias served them on credit. However, when many parents of these students, who incidentally were not eligible for free lunch, refused to pay their tabs, the district faced a $300,000 deficit. Rather than bankrupting the lunch program or letting anyone go hungry, officials decided to give kids with unpaid tabs a less expensive cold plate consisting of a sandwich, fruit, and milk. Rather than paying their bills or expressing their gratitude that their children were being fed a nutritious lunch that they weren't paying for and to which they weren't entitled, irate parents chose to complain that their kids weren't getting the same meal as kids whose parents were paying. For their principled refusal to accept a free lunch, we bestow the inaugural Even Greater Generation Entitlement Trophy.
I'm equivocating on this one. I've long been an advocate of schools providing lunch for every kid. I know it's an expense, but a manageable one. Just a thought.
The Order of the Tempest in a Teacup is headed for the Big Apple, which had previously installed safety mats at all its playgrounds. Now advocates are complaining that the mats can get too hot and burn children's bare feet. Playgrounds already post signs advising users to wear shoes and caretakers to make sure their children comply, but protesters aren't satisfied. One advocate wants the city to "do more" to "ensure that the signs are helpful," presumably by dispatching caretakers to read to the caretakers. Another watchdog group demands that the city "pressure the manufacturers to come up with a solution." Since dimming the sun isn't an option, he's proposing the city install canopies over all playgrounds. Similar future projects could include requiring seaside communities to install beach sprinklers for when the sand gets hot.
Pay up, chump. Of course, they'll get hot feet when they walk home down the streets covered with really hot concrete and asphalt ... oh wait, they've got shoes on for that. Give me a minute to figure this out. Yes, this is a very deserving award.
As always competition for the George Orwell Creative Use of Language Award was fierce. Candidates included the new credential "certified lifestyle counselor," which apparently means someone who puts you on a diet and isn't Valerie Bertinelli, and researchers who determined that people with "grit are more likely to succeed in school" because they're "doing something [they] love" and want to do, a problem for anyone who cares about words since grit generally involves persevering at something you don't love or don't want to do. However, we present Orwell 2009 to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and their crusade to start calling fish "sea kittens" in the hope that people will stop eating them if the have a cuter, furrier name, a tactic that's worked wonders when it comes to saving lambs. As part of their campaign, PETA officials contacted the principal of Whitefish High School in Montana to urge him to rename his school Sea Kitten High. Though the principal inexplicably declined, the Academy wishes to honor PETA for its venture into Orwellian territory.

The Academy also wishes to remind us that everybody deserves at least one Emperor for something.

Even you and me.

Except that I'd probably get an Emperor from Poor Elijah for giving out too many awards just so that no felt left out by not receiving an Emperor Award. (Mobius alert.)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Thanks for Showing the World how nice we are, but Go Home

Political warning: I'm going there, and rambling.

Now, all you Second-Amendment hating folks who think that ready access to guns (as is the case up here) is a sure-fire way to have gunfire and irresponsibility, watch this story as it unfolds. As furious as this band of morons makes us, none of them will be shot. Really. (Though, the case might be made for it ...)

You can picket and protest gay marriages at the local public school (why? What a random idea.) and make an ass of yourself over something that doesn't apply, but you won't be forcibly removed and the local yokels won't shoot you. This is proper gun control. This is how it should be. You can walk down the street with your rifle over your shoulder and no one notices except the tourists. I suppose you could attend a protest with it. Funnily enough, though, I doubt anyone will. Folks up here understand nuance. They understand civil debate. They don't scream and hyperventilate over issues and then go running for their weapons to settle things.

As Howard Dean said many years ago while he was Governor, "If there had been an effective gun-control law, I'd have passed it. But there never was and none of the other Governors could show me one that worked in their states, either. So I dropped the issue." Of course, he wouldn't have been able to pass it, but the point was made.

Church hate group to visit Vt. on Sept. 1

MONTPELIER – A religious hate group from Kansas said this week it would travel to Vermont on Sept. 1 to protest the start of the state's new same-sex marriage law.

The Westboro Baptist Church – a small and controversial religious organization known for protesting the funerals of U.S. soldiers – said it would demonstrate outside of the Montpelier High School, the Statehouse and the city's clerk office, according to a news release.

The group – which made headlines for protesting outside of the funerals of United States soldiers killed overseas – said it objects to the "pervert-run Montpelier High School" and the "sodomite brothel masquerading as a Legislature."

"The stench of Vermont – as with Sodom – has reached the nostrils of an angry God," states the organization's press release, which is filled with offensive and derogatory terms for gays and lesbians.

Peter Evans, principal at Montpelier's high school, said he learned about the upcoming protest Tuesday morning after the church called the city's police department to inform them of their plans. Evans said he has no idea why they are targeting the school.
I know. The school nickname is "The Solons" because Montpelier's the state capital. I bet the church group just assumed that was one of those gay-lesbian "Code Words."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Speed Traps save lives.

Apparently some residents were tired of speeders ...
The group, Angry Neighbors With Paintball Guns, posted signs at strategic locations throughout the city, warning motorists to slow down or risk being shot at with a paintball gun.

The group does not say if the signs are meant to serve only as an attention-grabber or if it plans to shoot paintballs at vehicles.
I'm Conflicted. What if the speeders shoot back with a paintball gun of their own? Enjoy the mayhem or worry about the repercussions from the first angry Lexus owner with a Smith and Wesson?

Hell. I'm going with "Enjoy it."

Monday, August 17, 2009

More SmartBored Fun

Okay, now it's on to circles and sectors. I certainly hope that our fearless graphic artists have got their Ps dotted and their Qs crossed, and their Is and Ts minded.

Or whatever.

Drumroll ...

Here it is -- the circle of sevenths. Those seven pieces are supplied separately. I guess no one ever thought anyone would ever think of reconstructing the circle.

I know you can't read those numbers on the compass, so I'll do that.

In order from 0o North: 52o, 102o, 150o, 210o, 258o, 308o, 360o
Low 48o, High 60o

So my questions:
  1. At what point does being accurate matter in this 21st century?
  2. Is right vs wrong being supplanted by "Don't I get partial credit for making seven pieces that are sorta the right size?" I know that my copy of Fireworks can make a line, copy it and then rotate each one 51.40 - why can't these designers do the same?
  3. What happened in this country? We used to be ultra-precise about things. Is all software doomed to be forever "buggy" and "barely out of beta?"
  4. Why is the lack of true understanding on my students' part no longer a surprise to me? And why have I started to be resigned to it?

Welcome to the Next Rounds of Trivia - with a Twist.

It's a special day on the Curmudgeon's Compound in the woods. We've got Trivia as supplied by SmartBoard. Yes, that's Smart©Board. They've copyrighted it so you'll think they deserve the name.

It's a visual thing:

Use all the information available in the image: the location and size of the islands, the shape, anything that will help you scope out which country is pictured below. Identify this "drawing", direct from the Lesson Activity Toolkit #2.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Newspaper Items from Britain

Commenting on a complaint from a Mr. Arthur Purdey about a large gas bill, a spokesman for North West Gas said, 'We agree it was rather high for the time of year. It's possible Mr. Purdey has been charged for the gas used up during the explosion that destroyed his house.'
(The Daily Telegraph)

Police reveal that a woman arrested for shoplifting had a whole salami in her underwear. When asked why, she said it was because she was missing her Italian boyfriend.
(The Manchester Evening News)

Irish police are being handicapped in a search for a stolen van, because they cannot issue a description. It's a Special Branch vehicle and they don't want the public to know what it looks like.
(The Guardian)

A young girl who was blown out to sea on a set of inflatable teeth was rescued by a man on an inflatable lobster. A coast guard spokesman commented, 'This sort of thing is all too common'.
(The Times)

At the height of the gale, the harbourmaster radioed a coast guard and asked him to estimate the wind speed. He replied he was sorry, but he didn't have a gauge.
However, if it was any help, the wind had just blown his Land Rover off the cliff..
( Aberdeen Evening Express)

Mrs. Irene Graham of Thorpe Avenue , Boscombe,
delighted the audience with her reminiscence of the German prisoner of war who was sent each week to do her garden. He was repatriated at the end of 1945, she recalled -
'He'd always seemed a nice friendly chap, but when the crocuses came up in the middle of our lawn in February 1946, they spelt out 'Heil Hitler.''
( Bournemouth Evening Echo)

Thanks to Theo and Peter H

Online Schools not Created Equal

Sure, I know the school was set up and the guy answered all the questions and took whatever tests were required, but it's still funny. Reminds me of the time Suave shampoo had a tremendous deal to launch their product in the 1970s - basically the stuff was free after rebate AND you could get a silver dollar per bottle. Limit three per customer. So the three dogs in various incarnations, each member of the family in various middle name permutations all were a "customer". Mary Setté (the irish setter) was the best name, I thought. It must have taken us fifteen years to use all that shampoo. Anyway, the latest incarnation of the "pet fools the company bit":

Cat awarded online high school diploma

I can haz GED!

By Rik Myslewski in San Francisco

A cat belonging to a US and Canada Better Business Bureau exec has been granted a high school diploma. Yes, it's an online high school. According to a report by, the two-year-old feline graduated from Jefferson High School Online (JHSO), an institution so confident in its pedagogical perfection that it offers a money-back guarantee.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Passing it Along: Government can't do anything right.

From a bunch of places, but I'd like to nudge it again:

This morning I was awoken by my alarm clock powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the U.S. Department of Energy.

I then took a shower in the clean water provided by a municipal water utility.

After that, I turned on the TV to one of the FCC-regulated channels to see what the National Weather Service of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration determined the weather was going to be like, using satellites designed, built, and launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

I watched this while eating my breakfast of U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected food and taking the drugs which have been determined as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

At the appropriate time, as regulated by the U.S. Congress and kept accurate by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the U.S. Naval Observatory, I get into my National Highway Traffic Safety Administration-approved automobile and set out to work on the roads build by the local, state, and federal Departments of Transportation, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel of a quality level determined by the Environmental Protection Agency, using legal tender issued by the Federal Reserve Bank.

On the way out the door I deposit any mail I have to be sent out via the U.S. Postal Service and drop the kids off at the public school.

After spending another day not being maimed or killed at work thanks to the workplace regulations imposed by the Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health administration, enjoying another two meals which again do not kill me because of the USDA, I drive my NHTSA car back home on the DOT roads, to my house which has not burned down in my absence because of the state and local building codes and Fire Marshal's inspection, and which has not been plundered of all its valuables thanks to the local police department.

And then I log on to the internet -- which was developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration -- and post on and Fox News forums about how SOCIALISM in medicine is BAD because the government can't do anything right.