Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Blog On!

My personal website http://georgeswebpage.comis going on 4 years old. I started it after taking a couple of web design courses. The original purpose is generally unchanged-provide an on going photo gallery of various things; provide a fun page where people can click on various links to fun pages; a humor page and, the last thing to be added, the Blog Spot. I was originally on the fence with the blog page because a lot of my friends and family either didn't know what they were or if they did, they didn't have any interest in them. Then a friend of mine decided to publish a blog of his own (KM3) and from there it began to grow. I now have links to 9 personal blogs, 3 columnists and 2 general blog sites making 14 links to blogs of one kind or another. Blogs are among the most visited sites on the internet. There are virtually tens of millions of them. I'm not sure how many visitors most of my blogs have because I don't have hit counters for a lot of them. Of those where I do have a hit counter, the trend has been that when the blogger first started posting pieces, the hits were very high but then over time they slacked off. Part of the problem is that of all the people who publish on my web site, I'm by far the most frequent contributor with a blog piece almost daily. Some people go weeks or months without sending me anything to post. I'm sure that if they posted more often, they would gather more followers. But that's OK. No pressure. Post when you want to. Blogs probably do more for the blogger than they do for the reader anyway. It's amazing how much better I feel when I've ranted and raved about some silly thing or current issue or when I write about things I do with my grand children. I've read articles where the authors contend that blogging is very therapeutic-kind of like keeping a diary except the whole world can read it if they want to. So I'll keep on blogging and I'll continue to post the blogs of anyone who wants to. If they're providing someone with their first-or only-chuckle for the day, then they're worth it! BLOG ON!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Who Needs Science?

A recent Harris Poll revealed the following:
53% of Americans polled know it takes the Earth one year to revolve around the Sun.
40% of Americans polled know that dinosaurs and humans did not live at the same time.
47% know that about 70% of the Earth's surface is covered by water.
Put another way, can it be possible that 60% of those polled think dinosaurs and humans coexisted?? I find that to be suspect. Nevertheless, I think these findings are pathetic! Pathetic, but, unfortunately, not surprising. Much of this dismal situation can be laid at the feet of parents. If they're not talking about science or at least showing interest in matters of a scientific nature, then certainly their children won't. Unfortunately, I find this attitude prevalent throughout American culture. All together too many Americans don't regard science as being very important unless it involves the profit motive in some way. For a very obvious example of this trend you needn't look further than the last administration. No one had more contempt for the field of science than Bush & Cheney. But parents and politicians are not totally to blame. The schools play their part too. I remember back in the day I was always struggling to find time to teach science. Other things seemed to take precedence, i.e. state mandated 'conflict resolution' discussion groups. When it wasn't the state getting in the way, it was an administration who did not value science education. It's a shame because children love science when taught correctly. I can see great interest in science in my grand children(see blogs dated Feb. 7th & 8th). Certainly they're not doing controlled experiments but experimenting they are. And they are extremely hungry for facts. You should hear my 5 year old grand daughter talk about dinosaurs, the human body, rocks and the planets to mention a few. Her parents and preschool experience are responsible for this. I hope it continues into elementary school and beyond. Then, maybe the dismal poll results cited above will improve.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Spring Has Sprung!

Ah, Spring. Sixty five degrees, sunny. Birds chirping, flowers poking their heads through. An altogether beautiful day to relax on the front porch, sip coffee and do some bird watching, right? WRONG! That wood pile won't split and stack itself in spite of a very generous offer on my part. And the leaves that old man winter redeposited in my yard won't clean up after themselves. And the windows aren't self washing nor is the power washer going to do my house. And the garden area isn't going to clean out and till itself. And the back porch certainly isn't going to clean and stain itself. All of which means I better get busy and I will-as soon as I take a little rest.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Monkey Business

Headline: Texas School Board Set to Vote on Challenge to Evolution
(Wall Street Journal; March 23, 2009)

It must be Spring because it’s that time when every level of government is putting together a budget. Ordinarily, I couldn’t possibly care less what they’re doing in Texas as long as W stays there. If they want to ignore the mountain of data supporting evolutionary science, it’s their loss. They can embrace what ever level of ignorance they want as long as they leave me alone. But the above headline caught my attention because it seems the Texas Board of Education is voting on a new biology curriculum that challenges the guiding principles of evolution. This affects the entire state because unlike some other states, Texas has a uniform curriculum. That means that every single kid in Texas who takes biology is going to have the same textbook. That’s a whole lot of kids-and a whole lot of books. That in turn means that publishers are waiting to see what happens in Texas before printing the tens of thousands of books they hope to sell there. Hence the connection to the budget. This whole thing gives Texas a pretty influential presence in the textbook market. I remember back in the day when I was putting together budgets, I was often left with choices of books that others had decided on. Publishers won’t produce books to appeal to every single curriculum. So the bottom line is what happens in Texas could happen elsewhere. Now before anyone panics (as if), let me assure you that there are certainly publishers out there who are going to provide texts that fit a variety of curricula. This is especially true when dealing with a controversial issue like evolution. But it’s not so certain when dealing with, say, a math curriculum. Very often in curriculum areas such as this, whatever California, New York and Texas decide are what your choices are going to be. The point is school districts are not as independent as perhaps they’d like to be. What others do can influence what you can do so pay attention, kids. Every once in a while, look around and see what’s going on.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Onward and Upward

Did you catch President Obama on 60 Minutes Sunday night? I did and I was duly impressed. Obama is a man of obvious intelligence, resolve and determination. But the thing that interested me more was what he chose NOT to say. He could have easily used 60 Minutes as a forum to reach millions of people and remind them that he was handed a number of problems that were 8 years in the making. He appropriately responded to Cheney’s recent criticism but he did so in an elegant, controlled manner. He even preserved Cheney’s dignity by referring to him as Vice President Cheney instead of the number 2 man (some would say number 1) in the most destructive administration in history. Instead, Obama took the high road throughout the entire discussion. He is a man of class and dignity that has been long absent from the American political scene. If you’ll recall, one of the other blogs on my website’s Blog Spot is entitled ‘Now Is The Time’ (http://nowisthetime-rae.blogspot.com/). In one of RAE’s recent pieces he notes the extremely angry reaction of the Catholic Church to some proposed legislation. A lesson one might take from that piece is that anger and hostility are never an effective means to promote one’s ideas no matter how valid. Obama knows this very well. Much of the Republican Party leadership along with many conservative political pundits do not. Their constant ranting, raving & whining are going a long way toward the deepening alienation of the public to their position. Consider the fact that Obama continues to maintain a very high approval rating among Americans even though there have been missteps. Obama will get us out of this mess. He’ll do it because he has a plan. He has people behind him who can get it done and he has the country’s confidence. Most of his opponents are selected groups on Wall Street, cable TV (i.e. The ‘Fix’ News station), and some republicans. No matter. The public sees right through them and they will continue to sink into either obscurity or disgrace. “Keep calm and carry on”

Friday, March 20, 2009

Physical (Phew!) Education

Today's subbing gig took me to the gym. I'm going to be there Monday too but fortunately they're going to be starting something new. Today was the last day of gymnastics skills. For an elementary school of Kindergarten to 4th grades, that involves the rings and a rope. Sounds like torture, doesn't it? It was-for me! My job was to be stationed at the rings. What the kids do is stand on a pile of 3 thick mats, grab the rings in both hands, kick their legs up, put their feet in the rings and hang there a couple of seconds. The second ring skill was to flip all the way over and back again. My job was to grasp the kids by their right wrist with my left hand and help them over with my other hand. This doesn't sound like a huge deal but think of doing it with several classes of 20 kids-over and over. Added to that is the fact that some of those kids weighed in at 80 pounds. The more athletic or agile kids did pretty well on their own but as you would expect the overweight kids needed a lot of help. By the end of the day, I had received a pretty good workout. Thank god we switch to basketball Monday. Now, what's a basketball again?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Newspaper Blues

The other day there was a piece on a local TV news station that reported on a number of newspapers who are being forced to reduce their content. Along with that, Andy Rooney spoke on 60 Minutes Sunday night of the decline of the daily newspaper. It seems advertising revenue and readership are down significantly. People (especially young people) these days are getting their news from TV and the internet. Even news magazines like Time and Newsweek have raised their subscription rates and taken a stronger position on their websites. Andy Rooney went on to lament this trend and I couldn't agree more. I really enjoy my daily newspaper and it's not even an especially good one. But I like taking the time to look at all the parts of it-international, national, local news, the classifieds, obituaries, police reports, the comics and advice sections-all of it. You can't get that stuff from TV or the internet. The paper I'd really like to get daily is The New York Times but it's expensive and delivery in my area is unreliable so I settle for two local papers-one daily and the other weekly. I think this trend away from printed matter is a shame. I've already written about that little gadget Amazon.com calls the Kindle. It's designed to replace books. This is another sad trend in my view. Maybe at some point in the future people will tire of staring at screens and using gadgets and return to the traditional ways of being entertained and getting information. One encouraging thing is the amount of reading of printed matter being done in schools. Let's hope this carries over to adulthood.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Top o’ the mornin’ to ya
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Not Today!

Headline: Cheney: Obama terrorism policies make U.S. vulnerable
Headline: AIG to pay out $165 Million in bonuses

In spite of that statement from, of all people, the most destructive vice president in history and in spite of AIG's latest unbelievable blunder, they can't ruin my day. I refuse to let it happen. The weather was good, I got to see some of the family, I worked on my website in preparation for the arrival of Spring, Becky is back safely from her trip and there's a good golf tournament on. Sorry, guys. You'll have to wait until tomorrow to feel my contempt for both of you. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Here We Go Again-Merit Pay!

Headline: “Obama calls for merit pay in education plan”.
Well, well, well. What a fine mess this is! It wasn’t all that long ago that Candidate McCain was calling for the same thing. That was in July and here’s my partial response (see blog dated July 20, 2008 in archive):

Having served in public education for over 30 years, I will be the first to say that in all of my years I have known my share of colleagues who were quite simply not getting it done and it annoyed me a lot that they were making as much as me who WAS getting it done. And yet, I can’t support McCain’s program for merit pay because the whole thing is tied to test scores. Here’s the theory the McCain & the Republicans love to put forward: Education is a business. As in all businesses, your compensation is based on your performance, right? Therefore it follows that if you perform satisfactorily (according to test scores), you’ll be justly compensated. Here’s the problem: The basic premise is wrong. That’s not at all how it works in the private sector. Think of all the people you know who were forced into retirement or who otherwise got shafted by their companies for reasons entirely different from performance-poor or otherwise. So let’s cut the bull and tell the truth. Second, the reason why merit pay won’t work is because there are certain significant segments of our society who simply do not value education. What’s a teacher supposed to do about that? Is that in his/her control? On top of that what about the significant number of students who don’t or barely speak English? Do you seriously expect them to be able to pass a test? Look, there’s no question there are people who simply do not belong in a classroom. Fine. Get rid of them. Fire them and let them work at McDonald’s. Then, those who are left can continue to do the fine job they’re doing for however much the pay scale they’re on dictates.

Nothing much has changed. The interesting part is that the teachers’ unions are so calm about this. Usually when someone (read: a Republican) brings this up, all hell breaks loose. But as one local NEA president said, “The devil’s in the details.” True enough. So what are the details, Mr. President? Here are some questions for you to ponder before turning this into reality:
1. Is your plan, in fact, tied to test scores?
2. If so, which ones? If not, then what?
3. Who’s funding this thing?
4. Who is going to oversee this plan: local administrators, state education officials, politicians at any level (local, state, federal), the federal government….who?
5. What about the teachers who aren’t getting it done? Is it good enough that they simply settle for less money or will there be some effort to retrain them or will they be dismissed or..what?
6. What about those parents/students who aren’t playing nice? Why should a teacher’s compensation be affected by factors beyond a teacher’s control? How do you plan to (delicately-or not) handle that?
7. Is this plan going to apply to every single public school in the country with the realization that there are many that are doing a great job? Would all those teachers at those schools get ‘merit’ pay?

You get the idea. Lots of sticky issues involved here so stay tuned. As details emerge, I’ll address them. I’m sure you can’t wait!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Surprise! Surprise!

Talk about 'shock and awe'. I just couldn't believe it. Leading off on the Today show is the stunning news that Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston have called it quits. My jaw is still dragging on the ground. I've been in a daze all day at this incredible news. Can you imagine what their parents are going through? How could anyone predict this? I wonder if they had at least some warning? I just can't get over it!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Recently two Connecticut legislators introduced a bill that would effectively remove control of finances from the leaders of the Catholic Church. I'm still not sure who would be controlling them under this legislation-the state or the parishioners. This was prompted largely by an incident whereby a priest was found to be using church money to finance a rather lavish life style. The church's reaction to this proposed law was of course quite extreme. In fact some would say 'over the top' or 'hysterical'. Here's the thing. I am not a Catholic. I'm not even particularly religious. I don't go to church except for weddings and funerals but I do feel strongly about this because I value greatly the Constitution of the United States. I don't want anyone, especially government, telling me how to worship-or not. This is a case of government interference in reverse. Why would state legislators even entertain such a notion? Well, apparently at least two of them think this will deter future incidents of theft of church funds. Of course, it won't. Besides there is already legislation in place to address issues like this. Why on earth create a state level constitutional crises, upset a lot of church leaders and their parishioners and generally create yet more government intrusion? It's bad enough we just got rid of a president who stomped all over the constitution. We don't need state law makers following suit.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Bored, Bored, Bored

News Flash! NBC30 nightly news just reported several teenagers were made to sweep broken glass and remove other debris from the streets of two area towns due to a vandalism spree. Some of the parents of the teens maintained that it was unfair and that the towns were at fault because their teens were bored and there wasn't enough for them to do. Can you believe it? I used to hear my kids complaining about where we lived all the time because it was booooorrrrrring! But they didn't go around breaking windows (I know this to be a fact because my kids told me everything. Really!). This has been a common refrain of teenagers since language was invented. In fact Neanderthal cave drawings were recently discovered to contain a primitive type script on their walls that, roughly translated, meant, "I'm so bored. There's never anything to do in this cave." (Remember, back then they didn't have MySpace or Facebook!) How absurd. Are they that stupid they can't find some constructive way to amuse themselves? Never mind making the kids sweep up. Put their irresponsible parents out there with them and then make all involved, parents included, work off the cost of the damage the little brats did! Thus endith my rant for the day:)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Pick Up Revisited

I need to add one more thing to that long list of stuff I've hauled in my pick ups over the years. Kids. Lots of kids. Back in the day when it was OK to transport people in the back of a truck I'd take my kids along with many of the neighborhood kids to the hill behind the football field at the high school. We would ride sleds and snow tubes down that very steep hill for a few hours and then head home for hot chocolate. People aren't allowed to go there anymore. Someone might get hurt. People aren't allowed to ride in the back of pick ups in CT anymore either. Someone might get hurt. Ahh..those were the days, my friends, we thought they'd never end, la, la, la, la, la...........

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Ode to a Pick Up

This is a picture of my truck. A 2008 Dodge Ram Big Horn 1500 with a 5.8 liter V8. Yes, it's lousy on gas but with my 5000 miles per year, I don't care. The reason I'm telling you this is because I've owned it for just about a year now. In fact I wrote a blog about it at that time. I was inspired to mention it again because first, as I said, its one year anniversary is coming up and second, the blog 'Now Is The Time' (georgeswebpage.com/blogspot) wrote a piece celebrating the value and worth of Chrysler products. I wrote a comment to that piece and now I find I need to say more. The truck pictured above is the 4th truck I've owned and the 3rd Dodge. My first truck was a 1977 Chevy short bed, step side, 2 wheel drive, 6 cylinder engine. It was as basic as you can get. The truck ran well but by 1985 the corrosion and rust had advanced to such a state that about all I had left was an engine and drive train on wheels. Plus there is nothing-I mean nothing-worse in snow than a 2 wheel drive pick up so in 1985 I bought my first Dodge 4 wheel drive. It was a 4 speed with the old Dodge slant six engine. That truck was an animal and it looked good. I kept that for 13 years at which time I bought a 1998 Dodge 4 wheel drive Laredo. I spoiled myself by getting for the first time A/C, automatic transmission, V8 engine and extended cab. Another great truck in spite of a bad rear axle and A/C condenser. Otherwise it was a fine vehicle until rust and corrosion got that one too. So in 2008 I bought the vehicle described at the start of this piece. Four door cab, satellite radio, remote start (which I don't use), step rails, and the other stuff already mentioned. Why drive a big, heavy, relatively expensive vehicle, you ask, instead of, say, a Toyota Prius? Here's why:
Firewood, garbage, furniture, yard mulch, dirt, sand, stones, outdoor play sets, over the years animals like chickens and goats, washers, dryers, refrigerators, hot tubs, garden tractors, snow throwers, tillers, mowers, chippers, lumber, windows, doors, more furniture, more garbage, more firewood, first children's then grand children's toys, bicycles, sporting equipment, etc. You name it. At one time or another I've hauled it. What amazes me is how home owners who live in the country get along without one (unless of course they're borrowing one!) I'll never be without a pickup. I should be a Teamster!

Friday, March 6, 2009

What I Learned At School Today

Whenever we had a substitute in one of my high school classes, we would do everything in our power to take advantage of the teacher. Very often it worked. I don’t recall any of my subs in elementary school but I’m positive we were on our best behavior. Things have changed-a lot. Now I’m the sub and every time I show up, I’m amazed at some of the stuff some kids try to pull-even the little ones-1st & 2nd grade for example. Take today. Throughout the course of the day I was in about 8 different 1st and 2nd grade classes-never for more than 30 minutes. Here are some of the things that happened:
1) When I told a particular student that it was OK for him to go further than p. 79 in his penmanship book and I was sure his teacher wouldn’t be upset with him if I told him to, he broke down in fits of hysterical sobbing screaming ‘but my teacher said not to go past p. 79!” The other students said he always did that. I let him read instead.
2) I called on some students out of their usual order for share time and a little girl screamed at me she was sick of so and so always going ahead of her. I managed to convince her to let the kid go first if I arranged for her to go first all of next week. I said I’d set it up with her teacher. She bought it but I forgot.
3) Along the lines of number 2, every time I did something slightly different or out of order, a chorus of voices corrected me-99% girls. I explained that I knew it was hard for them to believe but I do know what I’m doing. Didn’t matter. They weren’t buying it.
4) I asked a 2nd grade class if recess was 1:25 or 1:30. I was informed that it was supposed to be 1:15 and not to worry if no one else in 2nd grade was out there. That’s what always happened. I checked with the teacher next door. Recess was 1:30. I was then informed that since today was Friday, the schedule was different. It wasn’t.
5) In a particular 2nd grade class there was supposed to be a 10 minute period of quiet time. Two boys kept talking, I asked them what they didn’t understand about ‘quiet’. They said they knew what it meant, turned away from me and kept talking.
That’s probably the biggest difference in today’s students and those of my day. Most of them have no fear whatever. They’ll attempt to do what they want, when they want. Usually they lose-except for the kid who had the fit over the handwriting book. He won-today.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

You Can't Fix Stupid

At the risk of being politically INcorrect, I find myself agreeing with Blue Color comedian Ron White when he made a hilarious (and lucrative) routine out of the title of this piece. Just yesterday, two particular examples presented themselves. I know, I know. You're probably thinking "Just TWO"? Well, for what it's worth here they are.
1)You may have heard this one on the radio or TV. The woman who called 911-twice-because on the first call McDonald's didn't have chicken McNuggets. The second call was to complain that she didn't get an appropriate refund. The police of course arrested the idiot but not until after the 911 operator went to great lengths to give her suggestions on how to handle the situation with the McDonald's manager. How many people with real emergencies were on hold while this was going on? Let me know when you've figured out who the stupid ones were here.

2) The second 'you can't fix stupid' was discovered while I confess during a temporary moment of mindless boredom I watched The People's Court. The plaintiff was suing her boyfriend for not kicking in toward household expenses. It seems this woman had met this guy on Craig's List or some website along those lines and after a lengthy one week romance invited him to live with her. He accepted and proceeded to free-load off her for the next several months until the web-surfing moron finally figured things out. She lost the case! You Can't Fix Stupid.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

March Mathness

Happy Square Root Day and that's right, you read the title correctly-March Mathness, not Madness. Lying in bed waiting for the coffee to finish perking it occurred to me how mathematical the month of March is. For example today, as noted by the daily paper, is Square Root Day: 3/3/09 (3 X 3 = 9). Get it? A few days later we'll be celebrating Pi Day. No, not blueberry or American pie. Pi as in 3.14 or March 14th. Get it? It doesn't stop there. For example March 27th could be Cube Day (3X3X3=27) Further, consider how many multiples of 3 there are in March-3/3; 3/6; 3/9; 3/12, etc. During my teaching days I would spend practically the whole day exploring these connections-much to the consternation of the Language/Reading oriented principal but that's a story for another time! So have a happy Square Root Day and enjoy a 3rd (or 6th or 9th) cup of coffee.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Tis A Foul Wind That Blows

At the risk of beating this issue to death, I had to return to it just one more time. I promise to find other things to blog about from now on. On the Today Show this morning, Matt Lauer interviewed Rahm Emanuel, Obama's Chief of Staff and a question comes to mind. Why on earth do Emanuel, Obama and other Democratic leaders bother to respond to Rush Limbaugh? Don't they realize that to do so acknowledges his existence? Everyone knows he's an over paid, over stuffed, obnoxious gas bag. So what if the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) featured him as a headline speaker. That's simply a measure of their desperation. Why didn't they offer up someone with a proven record of conservatism who can put forth their ideas and principles without being hateful and hostile? Some people who come to mind are George Will, Mary Matalin or even Laura Ingraham. No, they had to go out and find 'distinguished' party leaders like completely disgraced Newt Gingrich, has-been Mitt Romney, wingnut Ron Paul and blowhard Limbaugh! No wonder the Republican Party is such mess. Look who they're offering up as their inspired leaders. But wait! As noted in the last blog, here comes their white knight-Bobby Jindal. Good luck with that!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Pity the Republican Party (or not)

The three pictures on this page say it all. They epitomize the current state of affairs in the Republican Party. I mean, look at them. Their anger jumps off the page at you. What can you say about a political party that embraces the likes of Rush Limbaugh!? Pathetic, that's what. But now, waiting in the wings, are a number of young, intelligent, and, interestingly, white men looking to reshape the image of the GOP. Take for example Bobby Jindal, recently the subject of a 60 Minutes piece. There's no question he's an improvement. He's young, a good speaker, looks OK, very religious and he can effectively articulate the principals of the conservative philosophy. But there's (at least) one big problem with him. Did you see him give the GOP response to Obama's recent speech. He was as stiff as a board. He, like all of his conservative/republican colleagues, has absolutely no sense of humor. They are the most boring group of people on earth. Now, Sarah Palin. That's another story. She was anything but boring. Unfortunately, she's a total airhead and the party knows it so that won't do, will it? Having a sense of humor might seem like a minor point but I think it's important. There's something suspect about people who can't laugh at, first, themselves and, second, at the world around them during trying times. Obama has one. Biden has one. Clinton as perverted as he is has one. The Dems know how to laugh it up. Yeah, yeah, they spend too much money but, hell, it's only money. You can't count Bush's stupid grin after everything he says because that's more like comparing him to a baby who has gas-not a sense of humor. So my advice to the Republican Party is lighten up. If you want to widen your appeal to the American people (who happen to be quite conservative), kick back a little. Believe me, you'll feel better and even become more likable. Those, by the way, are good things.