October 31, 2009

Happy Holloweenie, intrepid readers

October 30, 2009

Themes with words

By no means can I claim to have put together a definitive list of the greatest television themes.  That's been done fairly well already, and I used it as a crib sheet in putting together these next few Friday posts.

We'll start with some wordy themes...

October 29, 2009

Pardon our ramblings: Sped

Special education is a tough topic to tackle.

It's tough for me, in particular, because special education is something that I largely see from the outside.  My classes - honors and advanced placement chemistry - tend not to be heavily populated with special needs students.  Add that to the fact that I'm a school success story - National Merit, good tester, smart kinda guy - who never had an inkling of needing special services.  All in all, every single thing that I'm about to say could be dismissed with a hearty "well, yeah, but you wouldn't understand."

And that would entirely correct.

Yet, I head once more into the breech, dear friends, once more.

I've been saying for years that special education will be the death of public education in this country.

I work in - and we (American students, at least) were each educated in - a system of mass production.  Raw materials enter my classroom twenty or thirty at a time.  I apply a fairly standard curiculuum to each blob of developing brain matter, hoping to impart the same knowledge to all twenty or so of them at the the same time and in the same way.  At the end of the year, my classroom pops out twenty quasi-identical widgets ready for the next step in the processing line (their junior year, senior year, freshman year in college).

It's a method designed for maximum efficiency - one person making twenty widgets in a single go.  No need or time to really differentiate anything, no real incentive to adjust anything other than what I'm doing from time to time as the line boss directs.  Sure, there will be a certain amount of raw material waste as not every widget comes off the line stamped and educated to perfection, but even the most off-blueprint widgets have a home somewhere out in the world.

Then, along comes the special education movement, the idea that some of the brain blobs need to be treated differently, that they can achieve the same level of widget perfection, but that they are just a further into the raw state of things when they come to me.  This means I have to invest a little more time, have to adjust my teaching a little more, have to monitor these certain brain blobs a little more closely. 

And this doesn't fit well in the mass production model of education.  No longer am I able to successfully widgetify twenty or so brain blobs as once because this one takes a little more time than the others.  No longer am I able to be as efficient - producing the maximum number of working widgets with the minimum time and money invested - because some of the brain blobs take more of my time.

A factory education model runs entirely antithetical to a special education society.  If our educational system had been a little more woodwright's shop and a little less Henry Ford, then things might be a little different.

Why do we have special education?

My general understanding - and I'll admit that I've never seen this written anywhere, it's entirely my conjecture - is that somehow we're saying that certain people come to school behind and need a little help in catching up.  Some of the reasons for that catching up need seem entirely reasonable to me - blindness, head trauma, radioactive spider bite - but some of the reasons for special education just seem like poor home training.

The boy who won't do his homework...the girl who doesn't seem able to control her mouth...the boy who throws tantrums at the age of fifteen...the student who was never trained to appreciate education so won't do the work needed to see the rewards.  How are those justifications for employing a new person to do nothing more than do the home training that never got done at home?

I will admit that I struggle sometimes seeing the necessity for special education services when the disability is not readily visible.  The blind student, the epileptic student, these are disabilities that I can see, that I simply cannot doubt.

The student with anxiety, depression, ADHD, disorganization are students that I often find myself wondering why they need services.  I don't mean to doubt the veracity of these conditions - at least not the veracity of the existance of these conditions within the population - merely to state that I often find myself wondering whether these conditions really exist within the students that I see.

I know that there are people with far more expertise than I - psychologists, counselors, special education specialists, medical doctors - who are able to diagnose these conditions, but I wonder how many of the conditions are excuses for a lack of training that these young people received in their very young, most early formative stages.

ADHD?  Maybe you just weren't given tasks that occupied you.  Maybe you spent too much time in front of hyperactive, jump-cut-filled television programs as a wee bairn.

Disorganization?  Don't ask me the proper, clinical term - I just know that I have had students whose primary symtoms came out to me simply as disorganization.  He would do assignments - according to parents and counselors, anyway - only to never turn the assignments in, having simply lost or forgotten them.  Are we really saying that this student is somehow crippled?  Disabled?  Because he was messy?  Because he was forgetful?

I admit freely that I find myself wondering whether many of these conditions couldn't have been more effectively dealt with by the parents at a younger age.  Wondering whether these diagnoses aren't simply admissions of poor parenting.

I had a student once whose condition was "weak wrists."

The student was allowed to see another student's notes from class.  He wasn't to be penalized for his poor penmanship.  He was allowed to have his parents scribe his assignments from home.

I'll admit that I haven't a clue as to how you measure the strength of wrists, but I always did wonder how this "weak wristed" student could manage to be a starting pitcher on our school baseball team in spite of his 'disability'.

I know I'm probably of a very old school mindset here, but I so often wish that I could simply stand up at some of these meetings and say "Your kid isn't good at science."  or "Your kid isn't very smart."  or even just "Your kid isn't honors smart."

"Lots of people aren't, and they're doing just fine.  They end up as store managers, solid workers, hell, teachers in this building."

"Just because your kid isn't going to get a National Merit Scholarship or isn't going to be the valedictorian doesn't frickin' matter."

"Let him find his way in the world and offer him help where he needs it, but get him the heck out of the honors science class because he's drowning.  There's no shame in being really good at some things and not so good at others.  This is the way of the world."

"Few of us can be outstanding at everything.  Maybe your kid's skills are in playing soccer, singing, making music, throwing a baseball.  It doesn't mean he's disabled just because his science skills don't his skills in other areas."

I had a girl in class whose disability was that she was really smart in all areas but one.

Her tested ability levels in math and science were outstanding, 99th percentile kind of stuff.

Her tested ability levels in English - particularly in the writing part of the game - was in the 70th percentile, above average but not phenomenally so.

She was on an IEP (individualized education plan) because he writing skills weren't the equal of her math and science skills.

So what?

So she didn't write so well.  Why does that mean she should get twice the time on tests as the kid who is just average - hell, slightly above average - across the board?

I remember her counselor telling me - us, probably, there were seven teachers at the meeting - saying that the qualification for special services came about because one of her ability levels was drastically below her other ones, that no matter that he one was still in the 'above average' category, that skill being below her other skills made her a special education student.

To me, a spike in one ability doesn't mean special education, it means gifted...just in one area.

Why does talent in one area have to mean disability in the other areas?

I could never do the job of the special education professionals in our building.

I especially could never do the job of the special education folks working with the severely handicapped, the mentally retarded (I apologize for not knowing the correct current term), the non-verbal, the wheelchair bound students.

I love my job, love working almost exclusively with the smart kids, the good kids, the ones with whom I have to worry about cheating and SATs and APs and calling home because they aren't doing their homework.

I never have to worry about taking one of them into the shower to clean them up after they've soiled themselves.  I never have to worry about guiding them by hand through the hallway during the bells because otherwise they will grab onto any person who passes by.  I never have to wait patiently for them to construct a sentence using a word board, one picture at a time before the computer will enunciate their words for them.

I also never have to worry about the murderous, the violent, the unstable, the abusive and the abused.  These are all taken care of far from my door.  For good or for ill, I simply never see those folks except as they pass by my door on the way to lunch or to Mr O's room,

I know that special education is too expensive for us.

In the past decade, the special education population at Princeton High School has sky rocketed from 4% to nearly 20% this year.  That mean one in five of our students are somehow deemed as unable to perform without assistance.

That means in my typical class of 20 or 25, there should be 4 or 5 students who are legally entitled to more of my time, more of our school's money than are the other fifteen or twenty.

It's a problem financially, a big problem financially, because it means that 20% of our population is taking up a far bigger proportion of our resources than 20%.  There are separate federal funds to support this extra outlay, but it's not like that money comes out of thin air.  Somewhere along the line, it's coming from the same pie.

And when people look at schools and say that we're paid too much, the we spend too much, that our building are too opulent, we need to point out that we are doing exactly what we're told to do from above, from the government, from the people who vote for the government.

And that government says that the moment a student is labeled as needing an IEP or a 504 plan, they are entitled to more services which are more expensive, and we don't have a lick of choice in the matter.

Not that I'm sure we should.

With all that being said, with my very solid dose of skepticism, I can't imagine how it must feel as a parent to realize that your child is not - and maybe cannot - be ready to be independent in the world, to think that the only way my child could ever succeed is with drastic help beyond that which most people get.

Especially, if that knowledge made me confront the fact that perhaps I made a poor choice of mates (nature) or that I had done a poor job of raising my child (nurture).

October 28, 2009

Happy 44th

Happy 44th birthday to the Gateway Arch!

Update: Big weekend bible burning

The Amazing Grace Baptist Church has updated their book burning webpage to now include links explaining their hatred of each type of music and many of their to-be-burned bibles.

The page has a new, darker background on which the red type just sears into your eyeballs.

Oh, and in sad news, apparently it's now a Members Only! event, so make sure to wear your jacket.

Thanks to Jacob...K for the update and the photo.

Surprising dispatches from the homeland

I had no idea...none what so ever.

I assume that the family all knew about this since The Pater Familias teaches at New Albany High School and my sister - an occasional commenter here - teaches and is involved in the dram program at the middle school feeding into Floyd Central High School.

Kinda looking forward to seeing the program, however, especially since I just got finished seeing PHS's significantly lower budget production of Zombie Prom this past weekend.

Feel free to check out a review, the trailer (as above), the sketchy imdb page, or a gushing personal account.

I'm going to see if I can hunt down a copy of the flick.

October 27, 2009

I am immenently useless

I write my own crap around here.

Sure, it's not always the highest quality detritus, but it clearly has my stamp on every word, image, and link.

You couldn't just replace me with a computer program.

Now, a baseball writer, on the other hand, should be worrying a bit because it seems that Northwestern University has found a way to write news stories about baseball games without a baseball writer.

For example, compare this recap from the New York Times on the Angels' 7-6 rally over the Red Sox...
In the hopes of channeling one of their most famous postseason moments, Boston reached back 23 years on Sunday and had Dave Henderson throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

It was Henderson’s home run that rallied the Red Sox when they were down to their last strike against the Angels in the 1986 American League Championship Series. Now with the Red Sox facing elimination by the Angels again, here was Henderson, proof that no game, no series, is over until the final out is secure.
But this time, all these years later, it was the Angels who made that point. Down to their final strike three times in the ninth inning — just as Henderson was in 1986 — Los Angeles scored three runs off Boston’s dominant closer Jonathan Papelbon, to win the game, 7-6, and eliminate the Red Sox from the postseason....
...to a recap written by the robot writers...
Things looked bleak for the Angels when they trailed by two runs in the ninth inning, but Los Angeles recovered thanks to a key single from Vladimir Guerrero to pull out a 7-6 victory over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Sunday. Guerrero drove in two Angels runners. He went 2-4 at the plate.

“When it comes down to honoring Nick Adenhart, and what happened in April in Anaheim, yes, it probably was the biggest hit (of my career),” Guerrero said. “Because I’m dedicating that to a former teammate, a guy that passed away.”
I'll admit that I'm not sure I could tell the difference.
Of course, nobody's going to replace Hal McCoy any time soon.

October 26, 2009

Bit of a problem

We have a bit of a problem here, folks.

I apparently have a detractor who is enjoying his or her freedom of speech a bit too much.

Until this person gets bored, I'll be moderating all comments.

At long last Rumpke...and a lesson on publicity

So, Mount Rumpke is bursting at the seams.

They've been running bus tours for a while now on top of what appears to be some kind of underground fire smoldering. Heck, they've been looking into expanding the mountain of trash for a few years now.

Mount Rumpke, in case you weren't aware, is our local landfill, a giant monstrosity of a pile of trash begun by a local family that started out taking in trash to feed to their pigs and eventually worked their way into being one of the largest sanitation corporations around, taking in trash and recyclables, renting out port-a-lets, funding a softball team, and even inspiring a local bluegrass band.

That's not the story here, though.

The story here is a little change in their recycling collection business locally. They're been doing curbside recycling for a number of years, charging us eight or so bucks a month to haul away PETE (#1) and HDPE (#2) plastics, glass bottles, paper, and cardboard - as long as it was broken down. In that time, I've gotten increasingly frustrated with friends in other markets who are able to throw all of their plastics into their bins while I have an increasing pile of polypropylene (#5) plastic - yogurt tubs, deli tubs, whatever.

But, this past week we got a revelation.

On Thursday I heard a news story on NPR that Rumpke and the City of Cincinnati were announcing a big increase in the products that Rumpke's curbside recycling would be accepting, adding in all plastic bottles (but not butter tubs) and pizza boxes as they had improved their recycling processing plant. More materials into the recycling bin mean less into my trash can and less into the every-growing Mount Rumpke.

I saw the same story on two different six o'clock local news programs, but I didn't get all the details in either quick little news blurb, so the next morning I headed onto the web to get the full story.

Nothing on channel 5's website...nothing on the Enquirer's website...nothing on channels 19 or 12...heck, the only two blurbs I could find were one on channel 9's website saying that there would be an announcement coming Thursday afternoon and a four-sentence story on the NPR website without any more details than I heard knew before. That last site directed me to the City of Cincinnati's website to find the full list of recyclables - which hadn't been updated since 2007.

From there, onward to the Rumple Recycling website because they must have the new list posted. I mean, the news had just given Rumpke as much positive press in that one day as they'll likely get in the full year.

At least when I called them, they'd know all the details, right? Nope. They just directed me to their website where I actually pointed out to them that the updated list wasn't there.

They wouldn't dare not have all their ducks in a row, right?

Nope, they dropped the ball in every way possible.

They didn't make sure they had updated their website.

They didn't make sure the news websites had any information about the coverage.

They didn't make sure the City of Cincinnati had the info front and center.

They didn't make sure their employees had the new list.

C'mon folks, if you know your company is making an announcement, you have the website already updated - or at least ready to be updated at the touch of a button the moment the announcement is made.

You make sure every front line employee knows the details and is ready to field all calls about the announcement.

You certainly don't drop every possible ball when you get finally some good publicity.

PS - The only thing I can get out of the Rumpke folks is that they're now taking all plastic bottles but not butter tubs. The phone folks couldn't tell me what numbers or specific plastics they were going to be taking, just that they wouldn't take butter tubs.

They are also taking in pizza boxes, too.

Of course, none of this helps me get rid of those deli containers and yogurt tubs. They're neither plastic bottles nor butter tubs. It also doesn't help me get rid of the clamshell packages that I keep finding stupidly used.

October 24, 2009


October 22, 2009

YouTwo in concert

Sunday night at 8:30 pacific...Youtube.com/u2...

A question for my readers

I stumbled upon this website listing 20 free web apps for the 2.0 student and am only vaguely familiar with even a couple of these. I know ChaCha and have heard of Diigo, but I haven't heard of a single one of the other web apps that the post lists.

Are any of them - Diigo, even - worth me checking out?

October 21, 2009

Tech for the sake of tech

I have two fans in my classroom.  One's a big, cyclone fan, the kind of box fan that's not actually in a square housing and that tilts back and forth, the blades sitting just above the floor.  The other one's a very standard, very square, old-school box fan.

I use the two fans whenever the lack of ventilation drives the students' complaints to a level that I can't tolerate or when our giant ice-making machine doesn't hit the high efficiencies that it must've hit before the school was expanded well beyond its capacity.

The fans push air, and that's all I've ever asked for from them.  And I've never noticed that my fans did anything other than spin a few blades, push some air, and make it impossible for my students to hear anything that I'm saying or that they're discussing.  The only real change I've ever wanted in fan design is a significant drop in noise level.

So with demands like mine being placed on the emerging fan industry, Dyson has introduced the Air Multiplier, a fan without blades.

Yeah, without blades.  The fan doesn't have any blades to spin and push the air, to create what the Dyson website calls - and shows via video - choppy airflow.  Their new magic machine provides smooth airflow.

Thank heaven they've finally solved the problem of choppy airflow.  Heaven only knows that I've been tired of the choppy airflow coming out of my fans.  How it chops and buffets my students.  They're always complaining about the choppiness and buffeting.

The online reviews I've found suggest that the Air Multiplier doesn't solve the actual problem that I've had with fans - the noise level - saying that it "actually sounded more like a Dyson vacuum cleaner."  Plus it costs like ten times as much as those old box fans that I have in my classroom - $300 for the 10" model or $330 for the 12" model.

I will say that the science involved in making a fan without blades is pretty cool (in spite of the fact that it actually has blades in its base to really move the air.)  It pushes the air through the big hoop and out a small opening - big amount, small opening = more speed - dragging even more air along for the party.  It's some kind of Bernoulli's Principle thing.

Cool, yes.

Expensive, yes.

Something I desperately want to see in person, hell yes.

Something I'm going to buy, not a frickin' chance.

October 19, 2009

Lambuel and Mr Gruff

Let's balance the wackiness of last week's religious post - wonder if their website is still down - with something entirely on the opposite end of the spectrum: Objective Ministries 4Kidz.

Check out the world's easiest maze.

Help Ruby the Lioness match biblical husbands to wives.

Learn why Habu is confused.

Find out what to do if you run into a Gruff atheist.

Learn what T-Rexes actually eat.

Play Lambuel dress up.

And guess why Levi the Leviathan was smiling during the flood.

Holy crap this site is just so over the top that I almost want to throw the flag on it. Can it really be real - with its plan for a giant, flying space cross? With its Halloween Reclamation project? With Milton the Spiritual Warrior cat? With its Creation Science Fair?

I can find a few sites that swear that Objective: Ministries is a spoof, but none of them ever actually show any proof other than saying "look at this crazy webpage" - which doesn't convince me that it's not real.

My most telling detail is that nowhere can I find a contact address/phone number.

Your thoughts, folks?

October 16, 2009

Still looking

The second season of Look Around You was vastly different in style than the first.

In all honesty, I think the first season is funnier.

Which doesn't mean that I won't spend a day showing you the second season.

October 15, 2009

A gag that never gets old

It's pathetic how frequently I search for this post. I'm going to make my life a little easier by including the phrase "batman's dead parents".

October 14, 2009

If you're bored on Halloween

If you haven't already solidified your Halloween plans, I found a little something that may interest you.

It's a Halloween book burning.

It's down in Canton, NC at the Amazing Grace Baptist Church, just a bit down the road from Pigeon Forge, TN, really.

But it's not just any book burning, no. It's a bible burning. To quote their news and events page...
Come celebrate Halloween by burning Satan's bibles like the NIV, RSV, NKJV, TLB, NASB, NEV, NRSV, ASV, NWT, Good News for Modern Man, The Evidence Bible, The Message Bible, The Green Bible, ect[sic]. These are perversions of God's Word the King James Bible.

We will also be burning Satan's music such as country, rap, rock, pop, heavy metal, western, soft and easy, southern gospel, contempory[sic] Christian, jazz, soul, oldies but goldies[sic], etc.

We will also be burning Satan's popular books written by heretics like Billy Graham, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, John McArthur, James Dobson, Charles Swindoll, John Piper, Chuck Colson, Tony Evans, Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swagart, Mark Driskol, Franklin Graham, Bill Bright, Tim Lahaye, Paula White, T.D. Jakes, Benny Hinn, Joyce Myers, Brian McLaren, Robert Schuller, Mother Teresa, The Pope, Rob Bell, Erwin McManus, Donald Miller, Shane Claiborne, Brennan Manning, William Young,etc

We will be serving Bar-b-Que Chicken, fried chicken, and all the sides.

So, they're burning all of Satan's works - any bible translation other than King James, plus books by popular pastors like Billy Graham and the Pope - and all of Satan's music - which is pretty much anything but classical music, as far as I can tell.

Satan is gonna be pissed.

Me, I love fried chicken, so I'll be there.

October 13, 2009

Visual Representation of Awesome Things

Sometimes, the coolness of math intersects perfectly with the coolness of baseball.

Today's initial example of this comes from the website Beyond the Box Score and is a little something they're calling DiamondView Composite Player Evaluation.

In this one, each player is graded in four skill sets - on base, power, fielding, and base running. The players are then graphed in each of the four quadrants as to how they compare to the league average and league best. The four points are then connected and shaded to produce awesome results like the Adam Dunn graph to the left in which you can see at a quick glance that he's a horrible fielder (-27% compared to the league) and a poor base runner but has a lot of value tied up in his power and on base skills.

Click on through to check out graphs of Carlos Pena, Albert Pujols, Ben Zobrist, and a few other fun examples. I can't find anywhere that has graphs for all the MLB players, but I'd love to see them. I'm also cool with the fact that some people have continued the discussion on other sites.

Beyond the Box Score also had a recent column about the Wins Above Replacement levels for the various members of the Big Red Machine exploring why it was that they peaked so brilliantly in the early/mid-1970's.

Then there's the United Countries of Baseball which tries to divvy up the US (and Canadia) based on where the allegiances to various MLB teams lies. Head on over and cast your vote.

October 12, 2009

Milkquarious Monday

In case you missed the announcement or the freakish early music video, I just wanted to point out that the California Milk Processor Board has a new ad campaign to bring the appeal of milk to tennagers.

So, check out The Battle for Milkquarious.

'Cause cheesy rock operas are the way to the heart of the youth.

I know because I'm always hearing my students talk about Tommy and Hedwig and Flash Gordon.

I wonder if the Milk Board will be sponsoring a roller derby team next...or trying to get White Gold to perform at 54.

I will admit, however, that I dig the guy's shell toes.

October 11, 2009

Saturday links a day late

October 9, 2009

Look Around You

Today's excitement comes from the educational BBC programme Look Around You, a series of episodes presenting information on a variety of subjects.

The series of programmes was created in 2002 and 2005 but has a bit of a 1980s feel to it.

Do enjoy and be sure to have your copy books at hand as you are about to learn about...



Calcium (part 1)

Calcium (part 2)

Water (which I had already posted)






There will be a test shortly. Please have your copy books at hand.

October 8, 2009

Where's the 7-11?

How is there not a 7-11 within 100 miles of me? (I'm zip 45069, in case you were wondering.)

I'm only asking because I kinda want to go to a 7-11 and check out their domokun-themed merchandise now that Super Punch pointed them out.

October 7, 2009

A long-distance dedication for you today, folks

Thanks to Casey Kasem for today's inspiration...

And to Bob Dylan for "Seven Curses"...

October 6, 2009

Playing with the Vike

From the original Viking...

I edited out the face and replaced it with...

A soccer ball...

A baseball...

Well, replaced the horns with a pair of wings...for cross country and track...

A golf ball...

A water polo ball...

A basketball...

A tennis ball...

I've got football and volleyball left. Can anybody think of other sports?

Oh, and if you're curious as to why I did these, yeah, I am, too.

Just in case they come in handy somewhere down the road, I guess.

October 5, 2009

Today's time-waster is a little dice game.

Simple, yatzee-ish, kinda fun.

It's called Zilch.

One of the things that I like best about it is the fact that there are a series of 120 awards to win, many of which don't require skill or even luck so much as a willingness to actually play the game a few times.

Awards are given for big loses, big wins, little losses, little wins, sheer number of losses, reading the rules, all sorts of stuff. It's a nice reward system and totally works on me.

October 4, 2009

Today's wholesome cry

If you're wondering how a story of a family and a sunflower could bring me to sniffling, you should check out the story for yourself.

And I wasn't crying...I just had something in my eye...I petted the cat and have allergies...there was a breeze.

October 1, 2009

Kevin Van Awesome

It just doesn't get any cooler than the work of Kevin Van Aelst.

He describes his own work thusly...
My color photographs consist of common artifacts and scenes from everyday life, which have been rearranged, assembled, and constructed into various forms, patterns, and illustrations. The images aim to examine the distance between the ‘big picture’ and the ‘little things’ in life—the banalities of our daily lives, and the sublime notions of identity and existance. While the depictions of information -- such as an EKG, fingerprint, map or anatomical model--are unconventional, the truth and accuracy to the illustrations are just as valid as more traditional depictions. This work is about creating order where we expect to find randomness, and also hints that the minutiae all around us is capable of communicating much larger ideas.