Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Mystery Of The Missing Dollar, Plus Monty's Doors.

Dean put up a perennial favorite of his, the puzzle of Monty's Doors. It one that seems to cause debate every time he posts it. Fortunately, I remembered it from last time, so this time I could enjoy it as an unconfused observer. Kind of more fun that way. However, this time, only one person disputed the correct answer, and that was because he misread the problem. Perhaps the bloom is off of the Monty's Doors rose. Which made me wonder about an old favorite from my youth. Has it held up? Does everyone see through it? You be the judge:

Three men go to a hotel. The clerk says the room is $30, and each man puts up $10. After they go upstairs, the clerk realizes he overcharged his guests, and the room actually only cost $25. Clerk calls Bellhop over, and tells him to take the $5 change up to the room and return it to the men. Bellhop decides it's too difficult to divide $5 among the three men, and his tips haven't been what they should be lately, so he keeps $2 for himself, and returns $1 each to the three men. $10 paid - $1 returned means each man has only paid $9 for the room. $9 x 3 men = $27. Bellhop kept $2. $27 + $2 = $29. What happened to the missing dollar?

Thanks again to Andrew for the help on the gleeking vs yanging question, and to any of you who might have chipped in on that one as well.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Benchmarks. I Hate Them.

We have a thing called benchmark testing. The idea is to test the kids four times a year, and we can see areas in which they are lacking, and areas in which they are successful. In the last post you got to hear me complain about how stupidly things are run around here.

Which reminds me, here is a young woman for whom I feel a great amount of sympathy. I actually found it hard to believe she wasn't in my district. She's a little burned out on blogging, but what she did manage to post is a good look at what goes on in many schools.

Back to the testing. Any educator can tell you that it's all about fads. Someone with power over you gets a bright idea somewhere, and implements it just long enough to move to a better job in some other district. When that happens, the new guy in charge puts his bright idea in place. No matter how stupid the idea is, a teacher dedicated to a district will easily outlive it. Testing is the next big thing.

You see, we take the test, get the results back within three or four days, and review the data with our students. That way, we all win. And this is what is actually in the mind of the guy with the bright idea. He just doesn't realize he's imagining an idealized world that doesn't exist. We took our first benchmark tests on November 16. So much for ideal number one: we were supposed to take the first test on September 21. So much for ideal number two: as of today, I have results for a little less than 25% of my students. It is unclear whether or not we will be getting results for the rest of them, or when.

Would you like more? You may or may not know that a class such as American Lit or U.S. History, typically taught at the 11th grade level, can contain a number of 12th grade students, and even some 10th grade students. When I get my testing booklets, they all say 11th grade. When I get the precoded scan sheets for my students, most of them say 11th grade, but there are also a few that say Billy the 12th grade student or Sally the 10th grade student. A prudent person such as myself might ask if this will be a problem. After all, I could imagine that when Billy's bar-coded answer sheet goes through the machine, the machine will be look for 12th grade answers, when Billy actually took the test that says 11th grade. The orders from on high say if the kid is in an 11th grade class, he takes the 11th grade test. Looking at the results, I can see that some kids who should have done better based on everything I know about them and the work they do for class ended up with scores indicating below basic. I'll have to get the numbers for you later.

Today was progress reports and I'm a little fried. Definitely more to come on this topic.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


Do You Gleek? Or Do You Yang? Thanksgiving Update!

(Bumped up from its original post date on Halloween.)

So way back when I was in school, there was a clever little trick I could never master. Which is probably good, because I would have been doing it all the time. It seems there is a certain way that you can sort of curl up your tongue, and make your saliva glands shoot out a little stream of drool. Just a few drops, but it might go a couple of feet. Like some kind of spitting cobra or something. And if you could explain to me how to do it, I would be ever so grateful. But here's the thing. At my school, if you did this trick, you were said to have yanged on someone. At Miss Tori's school, you gleeked on someone. So what did they call it at your school?

Los Gatos John informed me in the comments that it's gleeking for him too. Today I did an informal poll at Thanksgiving dinner with both sides of the family. I was very disappointed. Miss Nicky says gleek. Special K says gleek. Code Name Eagle says gleek. Over on the other side of the family, Cousin Mentor says gleek. Coyote Mel says gleek. No one says yang. I can't believe it. Are there any Wildcats out there who can confirm that I'm not hallucinating? Help me out here.

On a side note. This was the first chance for Miss Tori to meet the extended sides of both families. Seemed to go really well.

Actual Update: With able assistance kindly offered, the net on this question might be cast a little wider. Maybe you won't have to wait til Christmas for the next update!

Actual Update II: Done and done! Andrew Cory, who has his own blog, Punning Pundit, here, will be giving the readers at Dean's World a chance to weigh in on this. He guest posts over there. Working on two blogs, and I can barely run this half-baked blog here. Thanks Andrew!

Actual Update III: Dang! Andrew did it, but the results went against me. Gleeking seems to be the massive favorite. Read the post and comments here. Thanks again Andrew!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Enhanced Services Billing Inc.

. . . is a company involved in all kinds of crap. I was all energized when they screwed me over the first time. Figured I would slam them here where no one would see it. Did some research. Actually slammed them on a Citysearch page for San Antonio. Unfortunately, either they don't post the reviews, or I can't figure out how to access them, and I didn't save it. When I called, and they're only open during business hours, so I had to call them from work, they said they would correct the situation. It seemed somewhat acceptable, so I dropped the whole thing. You did know I'm a lazy bastard, right? But why was I so hot? What was the situation? Let me go back a little.

My phone bill comes every month. Since I hardly call anyone, it is always the same basic amount. Until October's bill. I noticed I was being charged $14.95 for a service called "Total Protection Plus Vmail Monthly Fee" and $.45 in Federal taxes on this service. As mentioned, when I called Enhanced Services Billing Inc, I got a message telling me they are only open during their business hours. Once I'm home from work, they're closed, and I leave before they're open. So I did the next best thing. Even though I knew I needed to call Enhanced Services Billing Inc, I went ahead and called Local Phone Corp to express my righteous indignation.

I was duly informed that I would in fact have to call Enhanced Services Billing Inc in order to have this situation resolved. My contention was that I had been a victim of what some have called cramming, in which services you don't order are charged to your phone bill by this or that unethical company. An unethical company such as Enhanced Services Billing Inc.

A careless bill payer might pay for this or that service without realizing it. If my bill hadn't happened to be the exact same amount for the last several months, I wouldn't have noticed it. It was the sudden extra fifteen bucks that caught my eye. What if I was in the habit of calling information a lot, and letting them dial it for me, making my bill fluctuate? This could have gone on for a while before I caught it. Fortunately, I did catch it.

Back to Local Phone Corp. Yes, I understood I would have to call Enhanced Services Billing Inc. Fair enough. My question for her was . . . well, let me dialogue it for you (you'll forgive the imprecision of recall, but this is extremely close):

Me: How can they attach this charge to my bill when I haven't ordered it?

Local Phone Corp: As a public utility, we are required to attach charges to my bill when requested to do do by companies such as Enhanced Services Billing Inc.

Me: So even though I had nothing to do with this process, you went ahead and decided to attach this to my bill?

LPC: We're a public utility, and we're required to accept charges regarding utilities when submitted to us.

Me: But don't you verify that a company, such as Enhanced Services Billing Inc, that submits the bill actually has a service contract with the person you are forwarding the bill to?

LPC: We don't have a process for that; we just attach the charges to the bill.

Me: So you're saying that anyone can just call you, say they have a bill for someone, and you'll pass it along, process the payment, and send the money back to them, and there's no confirmation anywhere in this process?

LPC: (Something about being a public utility and regulations, and blah blah blah) . . . yes.

This was not a conversation that elevated my confidence in Local Phone Corp or federal regulations. I'd just have to wait til the next day to call Enhanced Services Billing Inc.

And who are these guys? I did a little bit of research while I was stewing in my own juices, waiting for the next day to get here. I guess I have a couple of tidbits of info. For example, here's some company details from November 2002 listed in a sample contract form:

Enhanced Services Billing, Inc. (“ESBI” or “Company”), a Delaware corporation, whose principal address and telephone number are 7411 John Smith Drive, Suite 200, San Antonio, Texas 78229-4898, (210) 949-7000

The San Antonio Citysearch linked above (probably more recent) gives this info:

Enhanced Services Billing, Inc., 10500 Heritage Blvd Ste 200, San Antonio, TX 78216-3631, (210) 949-7000

Different street addresses, but same phone number, and coincidentally, the same suite number. Of course, this local number for Enhanced Services Billing Inc is not the same as the toll free number 1-888-298-3724 that is provided for customer service.

And I found this site about cramming to be helpful. It even led me to this pdf file here. While I was there, I could read all about Enhanced Services Billing Inc, and the settlement agreement they signed. More specifically, I might note that it was a "Stipulated Final Judgment and Order For Permanent Injunction and Other Equitable Relief." This enjoins the defendants (including Enhanced Services Billing Inc.) from "violating Section 5 of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. [some squiggly "S" looking symbol I can't type] 45(a)." Where all the relevant parties have signed, I can see that a man named Joseph W. Webb, at the "John Smith" address above, is the president of the company. The agreement was likely signed by him either May 9th or May 10th of 2001, a date which also seems to fit with the "John Smith" address. You'll see his signature on Page 34 of the pdf. So thanks, FTC, I feel my tax dollars were put to good use.

The FTC comes through again with this article, also from 2001, about how the scam works. Turns out Enhanced Services Billing Inc is a billing aggregator. I'll let the FTC tell you what that is:

ESBI and BCI each served as "billing aggregators." Billing aggregators open the gate to the telephone billing and collection system for vendors, and act as intermediaries between the vendors and the local phone companies, contracting with the local phone companies to have charges on behalf of their client vendors placed on consumers' telephone bills and to have the local telephone companies collect those charges from consumers. Once the charges are collected by the phone companies, the billing aggregators, after taking their fee, pass the revenues back to their client vendors.

Referencing the pdf noted above, to which Enhanced Services Billing Inc stipulated, the FTC asserts the following:

-that ESBI falsely represented that consumers were legally obligated to pay charges on their telephone bills for web sites and other items they had not ordered or authorized others to order for them;

-that ESBI unfairly attempted to collect - or arranged for local phone companies to collect - payment of charges from consumers for web sites and other items they had not ordered and that consumers were unable to prevent ESBI from causing such unauthorized charges to appear on their phone bills;

Sounds familiar. Of course, government can't bear all of the burden. We have roles as citizens as well. Just ask Dr. Leonard Saltzman, whose eight year odyssey against Enhanced Services Billing Inc ended with an October 2005 settlement agreement from the company. To summarize, the fraudulent billings began in 1997. Enhanced Services Billing Inc got a claim for restitution dropped in August 2000. In October 2001, summary judgment was granted in favor of the company, because "knowingly receiving benefits from someone else's fraud was not covered under section 2 of the Consumer Fraud Act." Dr Saltzman appealed, leading to a reversal in June 2004. A fairness hearing for the proposed settlement was held on October 21, 2005. This information is from an attorney/law firm involved in the proceedings. I didn't find any more recent information. I'll keep checking.

Well maybe that was more than a couple of tidbits, but I was fired up. I did manage to call Enhanced Services Billing Inc the next day. The woman I spoke to was happy to credit my phone bill for that charge, and the next charge that was likely to have gone through since the time of the previous bill and my call to her. I asked her the same question I put to Local Phone Corp. How could this happen if I didn't order the service? Well, she says the order is placed not by name, but by telephone number. Chuck Somebody, who actually had ordered the service, must have accidentally given my number. When Enhanced Services Billing Inc sent the charge to Local Phone Corp, they identified the account by telephone number. The faulty phone number Chuck gave them meant I got billed. I was highly tempted to call BS on this, but the lady was crediting my bill. And I thought the matter was over and pretty much forgotten.

Forgotten, that is, until I opened my phone bill tonight. And there it was, right there in black and white, both credits do appear on my bill, $14.95 twice. And ninety cents back from the feds. Unfortunately, two lines below that was another charge, $14.95, and 45 cents to the feds. They billed me AGAIN!!!!! Well you can be sure I'll be calling them, and you'll hear the results here. And no holiday weekend is going to keep me from following up on this, even if I am a lazy bastard.

Friday, November 18, 2005


House Vote On Vote On Troop Withdrawal

Representative Murtha urged yesterday that we immediately withdraw from Iraq. People say all kinds of things, and it's very easy to say things for effect that you really don't mean. Many Democrats hailed Murtha as a straight thinker who needs to be respected. Others on the left had a reaction that might be charaterized as "Take that, you lying, lying Republicans!"

I'm all for respect, and I respect Mr. Murtha's honestly held beliefs. Apparently, Republicans share my feelings of respect. They respected Mr. Murtha and other Democrats so much, that they scheduled a vote. They scheduled a vote that essentially said we should have a vote, tonight, about whether or not we should immediately withdraw. Mr. Murtha: Let's withdraw. House Republicans: Ok let's vote on it. That would seem to me to be the epitome of respect. Not "You're a crazy man, Murtha!" or "Go smoke your peace pipe, you hippie!" No. A respectful invitation to vote on the concerns of a member of the minority party in the House.

But how can this respectful gesture be seen as a negative? As a dirty trick by the Republicans? Because calling for a vote is another way of saying "Put your money where your mouth is." If Democrats really believe we shouldn't be there, as they constantly seem to complain, then they should vote to take our troops out. That would seem to be the only option, if their beliefs are honestly held. Again, I'm simply according them the respect they demand. I'm not questioning their patriotism. I am instead accepting that what they are saying is what they truthfully believe. And if they truthfully believe it, they should have no problem voting for it. They should have no problem voting for House Resolution 572. If they honestly believe our troops should be pulled out now, I can respect that belief. I don't agree with it, but I respect their right to have that belief. They should have no problem voting for HR 572 and by passing it, bringing a vote to the floor on whether or not we should withdraw our troops from Iraq.

Yet, when I look at the voting, I see that every voting Democrat, the independent, and five Republicans voted not to have a vote on the floor to remove the troops.

Actual Update: Whoops! I could have said the resolution passed, and the vote on bringing our troops home will happen later tonight.

Look at the roll call vote here.

More to come.

Actual Update: Murtha just said that it's easy to sit in Washington DC and vote to send our young people off to battle. If I was a member of the House or Senate I would be offended by that. How dare he say that it is some easy frolicsome decision to send troops to war? How dare he imply that my vote was something as casual as the decision to hit Burger King or Taco Bell for dinner tonight?

8:05 PM Pacific: Vote is called, roll call vote, House Resolution 571, it will be a 15 minute vote. This will be the vote to bring troops home immediately. Yea vote is to bring them home.

8:17 PM Back to the above point. If they honestly feel we should bring the troops home, which I take to be the case by their support of Murtha, who made the proposal, the Dems should have voted yea on HR 572, in order to bring this vote to the floor. Yet, all 196 Dems who voted, voted against bringing this vote to the floor. And now that the vote is actually here, HR 571, only two Dems have voted yea, bring the troops home, with 22 not voting so far. I cannot reconcile that with their honest support for bringing the troops home. I cannot understand why this should be the case. The only way it would make sense is if the Democrats say they want the troops home, but don't actually mean what they say. That they're just talking a game to look good, but actually won't put their money where their mouth is. Which doesn't reflect well on either their honesty, or their ability to stick to their convictions. It isn't even a binding resolution. They could give the yea vote and the troops still wouldn't come home.

8:30 PM Or will they say tomorrow that their vote not to bring the troops home is the lie? That they were tricked into it by that liar Bush or that evil genius Rove. But how much of a trick can it be if all the Republicans did is ask them to vote on the issue they all seemed to support? I don't question their patriotism.

HR 571 has utterly failed: 403 Nay to 3 Yea, with 6 Democrats voting Present.

Results of this roll call vote here. I don't question the Democrats' patriotism. I do question their opportunism.

Many thanks to Gateway Pundit, for coverage of this, and numerous other issues, including some of the most comprehensive reports on the French "Youth Antics" I found. Start at the top and just keep reading.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


Popular Science: Best Of What's New

Every year, Popular Science looks at the best of what's new. This year, they have so much good and new, they want you to vote and help them decide. Visit the site, look through the categories, and vote to your heart's content here.

Just to pique your interest, I picked four that I especially enjoyed, just as a little preview for you.

Chronic Pain? This may be an answer for you. If you've known someone who has suffered from chronic pain, you know how devastating it can be, not only physically, but emotionally. Here's a hint for the more fortunate: picture buying furniture based on which type of upholstery causes the least amount of pain against your skin. Not the happiest situation. Prialt works differently from opiates used to relieve pain, which work by boosting pleasure chemicals and can be addictive. Prialt is derived from a toxin of a Philippine cone snail. The paralyzing effect is delivered by spinal catheter and blocks transmission of pain signals to the brain. Visit the company website here. Vote for Prialt here.

Paging Dr. McCoy? With cellphones and assorted accessories bringing communications closer and closer to Star Trek: The Next Generation Comm Badges, medical science was getting jealous. Enter PowderMed's vaccine gun, PMED. The powdered vaccine is shot just below the surface of the skin, and just above nerve endings, so the shot is painless. Visit PowderMed, with some other cool pics, here. Vote for PowderMed here.

Bubble wrap protects items you send through the mail. BlastWrap protects you. From bombs. Probably everyone knows an abandoned backpack in a train station or airline terminal might be a bomb. One place to hide that abandoned backpack is in a convenient trash can. The material of the can itself becomes part of the weapon as the shrapnel blasts into poeple passing by. BlastWrap from the company BlastGard International dampens explosions. In a test, two pounds of dynamite tore a can to pieces, some of which were flung 200 feet away. The same can lined with BlastWrap survived a blast from twelve pounds of dynamite intact. Visit BlastGard International here. See the cool explosive test at the Fox News TV13 Tampa link here. Vote for BlastWrap here.

From bubble wrap to bubbles. Take a little wand. Blow some bubbles. Harmless fun. What could be new about that? Colors. The breakthrough after more than ten years of research? A dye that turns from "brightly colored to colorless in minutes or hours, depending on the surface the bubbles break on." What causes the change to colorless? Exposure to air. Or agitation as simple as rubbing your hands together after you're done playing. is under construction, but you can vote for Zubbles here.

Thanks go to Popular Science for putting all of this together, to Fox News TV13 in Tampa for the explosion video, Nik Schulz for the PowerMed illustration, Gregor Hallenda for the bubbles closeup pic, and John B. Carnett for the remainder of the pics.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Oh What A Good Boy Am I!

I shared my joy with you previously, and I did all my research and got you the goods. The show in question is Armstrong and Getty, a couple of local morning talk hosts heard in the central valley and the Bay Area.

As for the transcript, well, listen to the podcast for the whole thing. Here, I'll just reproduce their comments:

Mailbag begins 13:56 of hour 1 of the 11/14/05 show

Yours truly is mentioned at 18:47 by co-host Joe Getty. Jack Armstrong is the high pitched guy who chips in once in a while.
Joe Getty: Lord . . . somebody who calls himself Lord Floppington . . . huh huh heh heh . . . writes, from his padded room (blah blah insert portion of email here). However, writes Lord Floppington ah ha ha ha ha
Jack Armstrong: Heh heh . . . if that is his real name
Joe Getty: I, I'm seeing it as a cartoon rabbit, you know? With a monocle and a bow tie. Anyway (more email, ending with "Keep up the great work.) You too, Lord Floppington, sir!(dead air for four seconds, then bemused, slightly bewildered chuckle)

You'll have to listen to the podcast for the super secret detective work these guys do, but the whole bit is less than three minutes, so it's not a huge chunk of your life. I have to admit I was surprised at how quickly he zoomed in on it.

I must say in the original post, I had forgotten the monocle and bow tie part of it. It's practically an affront. I may have to send them here to learn the error of their ways.

Monday, November 14, 2005


Excitable Andy Moves To Time.Com

From the big cheese, we hear that Andrew Sullivan will be moving to in 2006. Everything else will be the same, the excitableness, the flip-floppishness, the pure foppishness, the regular blog you've come to know and have some sort of positive or negative opinion about, just at a new address.

Question: Would he dare to do another "Expensive Bandwidth" fundraiser now that someone else is hosting him?

Sub-question: Come to think of it, with Sullivan's blog being so expensive to maintain, how can Time afford it? Besides, doesn't AOL-Time-Warner ring a bell to anyone over there?

Question: How much will he be getting paid? A guy like Ace gets paid jack. It's all from the heart with him. It's why he always slices like a f'cking hammer. It's just. The f'cking. Way. It is.

Question: "He will maintain full control over the content of his blog." - Managing editor Jim Kelly. Really? This will be news to Sullivan watchers, who know he can't quite control himself now.

The Pride Of The Yankees . . . Err Floppingtons

I read several blogs. Mainly they're biggies, people who could give a rat's ass about some rinky dink schmuck like me. Which is fine. But I would always get a little thrill if I happened to see one of them on TV. I've never heard any of them on the radio. The feeling was always like some friend or family member was on TV.

I got to have a little joy myself today. Not on TV. No. The closest I ever got to being on TV was when my shirt was in the frame as Ron Lim did a quick sketch for me at Superman's funeral way back when. And I've met two local news anchors and had lunch with them. But today-ay-ay, I consider myself-self-self, the luckiest Lord Floppington-ton-ton, on the face of the Earth-Earth-Earth.

I refer you back to this post about some comments O'Reilly made about a couple of items on the ballot in San Francisco last Tuesday. It was a hot topic on a local radio show last Friday, and as I have occasionally done in the past, I fired off a little email to them. Even as I wrote it, I felt like it was capturing the sort of thing they like in emails they get, and I felt like I might have a halfway decent shot at making Monday's (today's) mailbag. They don't much go for pseudonyms, but what the heck, Lord Floppington's gotta have some standards. Fortune favors the bold and all that. Sure enough, this morning I heard something I never thought I'd hear. Lord Floppington, said on the air. And they mentioned the name three or four times! It was so way better than getting a letter published in Mad magazine. Super hardcore fans might try looking in the 260's or so, the one with The Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom cover.

I think I've got a line on a podcast to which I can direct you, and I'll make a transcript here, so I'll hold off on any other details until tomorrow, when I'll give you an update. Just to hold you over, comments about yours truly included "padded cell" and a suggestion I might be some sort of long eared cartoon rabbit! Which if you look at the picture is so obviously not true!

Cartoon rabbit indeed. Not that there's anything wrong with that!

Friday, November 11, 2005


Talk About Ungrateful

So San Francisco voted to keep military recruiters out of schools, and to ban handguns, ensuring that more citizens will die. And here was O'reilly's reaction:

"You know, if I'm the president of the United States, I walk right into Union Square, I set up my little presidential podium and I say, 'Listen, citizens of San Francisco, if you vote against military recruiting, you're not going to get another nickel in federal funds,' " O'Reilly said Tuesday on his radio show as San Franciscans were approving the two measures.

"Fine. You want to be your own country? Go right ahead," O'Reilly went on. "And if al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. We're going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead."

You can read the San Francisco Chronicle's article here. The article goes on to say O'Reilly is a goofball and not taken seriously, according to most of the people interviewed. One guy did say that O'Reilly was seriously encouraging the terrorists to, and hoping they actually would, attack America. He's from some radical group that obsessively records every minute of O'Reilly's show, looking for ways to be offended, I guess. You'll have to read the article to find out who that group is.

I felt it was generally an ok article, as far as it went. Except that, for an article about someone saying if you don't let the military in your schools, and make it official government policy to hate the military and insult your schools, then maybe you shouldn't have the benefit of military protection, you would expect the question itself to be addressed. Keep in mind that the Little Red Hen was the good guy in that story. And if you don't know it, go read it. So was O'Reilly wrong?


Side note: Picture the scene. A cop is on patrol, and over the little dashboard computer he gets a call. Witnesses are reporting that two homeless men are squared off in a knife fight. Proceeding to the scene, he sees the two men. The call has been a bit exaggerated; they aren't actually brandishing knives. The officer talks to them, getting a feel for the situation and what is going on. A woman comes out of a store nearby, walking over toward the scene.

Woman: Is everything okay? Are you all right?

Officer: Yes ma'am, I'm fine, everything's under control here, no problems.

Woman: I was talking to them (indicating the two homeless men).

If you guessed this took place in San Francisco, give yourself a gold star, or a gold box of Rice-a-Roni. Whichever.

Thank You To Our Veterans!

Not much more to say than that. Others will certainly say it better, longer, and more effectively than I ever could. Take a moment today to think of those who serve so we can live comfortably here at home. God bless them.

Monday, November 07, 2005


Mitch Informs Me That Herr Professor Is Approaching. What Movie?

Here's a nice letter that came to my inbox. You might guess that the red part is my reaction. I'm quite the complainer.

These dates mark the first administration of the CaHSEE for Juniors and Seniors who have yet to pass the test. As you will recall from our last faculty meeting presentations, student performance on standardized assessments is a key factor in determining the school's success at meeting expectations for AYP.

In addition to being the first administration of the CaHSEE, the tests are also our first opportunity as a faculty and staff to demonstrate to our students the importance of these exams. (I thought the importance of the exam was demonstrated by the fact that the students need to pass it to graduate. If they don't care about graduation, if graduation isn't important to them, what other importance, however strenuously we impart it to them, are they going to find relevant?) The CaHSEE is not simply another "burden" in an already burden-laden day. The CaHSEE is an absolutely crucial component of a student's efforts to obtain a high school diploma. (So why can't we just say you must pass this test to get a diploma? What more needs to be said? And is there any Junior or Senior - who has even the remotest chance of graduating - who does not know that passing the CaHSEE is a graduation requirement?)

Here are some general facts about this upcoming testing session.

We have approximately 300 students (Juniors and Seniors) that need to take the CaHSEE. Some of these students have failed one or both parts, and some students have never taken the test. This administration is particularly important for Seniors. It is the penultimate administration before graduation in May. (All facts, no "mission" - good paragraph.)

The test is divided into two sections, Math and ELA. The ELA portion includes two tests, for a total of 4.5 hours (which includes proctoring responsibilities). The ELA tests are administered on the first day of testing. The Math portion also includes two tests and must be conducted on the second day of testing. The two math exams total 4 hours of testing. (More facts, no "mission" - good paragraph.)

The test should be administered to groups of 20-25 students. This would require approximately 8-9 rooms and test proctors.

I am asking for your assistance to address a few of the important challenges ahead:

1. How can we provide students with an appropriate testing environment? (Here's an environment: reasonably comfortable seat, pencil, some table-like surface, Like in the cafeteria! Problem solved!) Herding cattle (aka students) into a cafeteria or gymnasium for a mass administration of the exam is simply not fair to our students. (Why, or how, is it "simply not fair" to have a mass administration of the exam. This is stated as if it is so clearly obvious that only a complete moron could not see the evils of having everyone in the same room to take the test. I'm sure this must be "research-based." Has this research been peer reviewed? Is it reproducible? Having people in a room, all of whom for which the sole focus is passing the test, would seem to create an environment that is, well, focused on passing the test. Which would seem to be the environment we would want if we want our students to, you know, pass the test. So, why again is it simply not fair?) We will need to explore an alternative bell schedule and testing students in their "regular" classes. (Oh, I see I was simply being impatient. Obviously, having several kids who need to take the test in a room with a bunch of other kids who have passed and are working on some sort of lesson, is a much better and less distracting environment. Since everyone knows that crowded classrooms are virtual cones of silence, in which one can hear literal pins drop, kids with multiple tasks in the same space is no problem, and by their very nature are far and away much better environments for testing than a specific area dedicated to the test, with people who are dedicated to passing the test. I need a check for understanding, cause I don't.) Impossible you say? No. Difficult, yes. Forcing us to think outside the box and really test our commitment to student success on standardized tests? Absolutely. (Should the students be committed to student success? Apparently not.)

2. How can we prepare students for the test both emotionally and academically? Answering questions correctly is a majority of the battle. (Funny, I never knew that a student who answered every question wrong, but with self-confidence, would pass the test. The only thing our students have an abundance of is a hugely overinflated sense of self worth. And it's research based! The research? The fact that a large number of kids at our school have no regard for any adult authority. 123 tardy detentions, for one period, of one day, ring a bell, anyone?) Understanding the importance of the test and having the self-confidence and determination to pass it is another part of the battle. (As you can surmise, this is served by telling the students, as noted above, that this test must be passed to get a diploma. Nothing else matters. And if graduating doesn't matter, neither will anything else. There's a reason why people say things like "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." They say it, and keep saying it, over years, decades, and even centuries, because there is a fundamental truth to it. If it never applied, and was true in no cases, people wouldn't keep repeating it.) As you can surmise, this is an issue of school culture.

3. What can we do as a staff to recognize our students for putting forth their best effort on the test? (Here's one way to recognize them: IF THEY PASS THE TEST, THEY CAN GET THEIR DIPLOMA! Awwww, you tried. Congratulations for trying. At least you made an effort. Maybe if we weren't so busy falling all over ourselves to praise failure just because they managed to put pencil to paper instead of staring at the ceiling the whole time, our kids wouldn't have such a screwed up sense of achievement. More research based examples: students who honestly think they should get a passing grade if they simply show up for a class, even if they do no work.)

Hopefully you are reading this brief diatribe and wondering, "How can I help?" Please consider one of the two following options:

1) Send your written thoughts and comments (directed toward solving our challenges with plausible solutions (which I think means no thoughts or comments on the ridiculousness of everything written so far in this letter)) to me via email or in my mailbox.

2) Join me in my office at 2:15pm after school for our first Testing Committee Meeting. We will meet to review input submitted to me via email/mailbox and discuss additional suggestions for meeting these testing challenges.

Remember, testing is a year-long responsibility for all faculty and staff. Let us meet these testing challenges and unequivocally demonstrate to our students that we will do what it takes for them to be successful. (Once again, the responsibility of faculty, the responsibility of staff, we will do what it takes for them to be successful. At this point the complete lack of necessity of any student effort or responsibility made me wonder if "we will do what it takes for them to be successful" meant some sort of "adjusting the answers" sort of thing. Which I know is not true, and this person would never suggest that; my brain was just so awhirl with the other ludicrous notions above that the thought just slipped in there. Since the author of this letter will accept only comments intended to solve the problems, said author would not be interested in reading this email.)

Blah Blah Blah

But don't pity me, pity this poor Ed student who's just beginning on the path to the glories of public school teaching.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


Bill Roggio Goes To Iraq!

If you're a reader of quality blogs, then you already know two things. First, you got here by mistake. Second, you read a lot of good news from Iraq that the MSM doesn't seem to have an interest in reporting on those same quality blogs. What you may not know is that blogger Bill Roggio of The Fourth Rail plans to go to Iraq and do some first hand reporting of his own. As you'll note at the second link, Bill will have expenses, not only to get there and back, but for equipment necessary for blogging, photography and video work, and personal protection and survival. He'll also need insurance, just in case, that will provide for his three small children should he not make it back. This is where you come in.

Also at that second link you'll see where to donate to help make this trip possible. You can use Paypal. You don't need a Paypal account either, just a credit card. In exchange for your money, you'll have the satisfaction of supporting honest reporting in a dangerous location that will provide valuable information to all of us. If you can't donate money, check out the list of equipment and see if there's something there you can donate. Even if you can't do that, you can still head over and say a kind word to a guy who's taking on a lot for the benefit of you and me. Good luck Bill.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Online Freedom Of Speech Act Fails To Pass House!

The Online Freedom Of Speech Act failed on a roll call vote tonight. Yeas were 225. Nays were 182. The bill requires 2/3 voting yea to pass. With 435 members of the House, that would seem to indicate 290 yea votes would be needed for passage. Why should you care? Observe the details of H.R. 1606:


This Act may be cited as the `Online Freedom of Speech Act'.


Paragraph (22) of section 301 of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (2 U.S.C. 431(22)) is amended by adding at the end the following new sentence: `Such term shall not include communications over the Internet.'.

In other words, the Federal Election Commission would not be allowed to regulate political speech on the internet. This regulation might be determined by a formula related to in-kind contributions. Promoting a candidate or proposition is normally paid for by this or that campaign, which we most frequently encounter as television commercials, radio ads, and disturbingly, pre-recorded phone calls to your home when you're enjoying dinner. The campaigns get their money from donations from people like you and me. You might also decide, on your own, with or without making a cash donation, to promote a candidate or cause on your blog. Since a blog entry isn't cash, how can they regulate you? That's where in-kind contributions come in.

The FEC might decide, based on your readership, your position in the Ecosystem or on Technorati, or some sort of arcane formula only found in government bureaucracy, and barely comprehended even there, that this or that post made by you is worth X number of dollars. Since there are limits to how much money can be donated to a campaign by any individual, this would create a limit to how much you could write. Who knows? A biggie like Instapundit or Powerline might find that ten posts put them to the limit, and they can't write any more about that issue or candidate. Or five posts puts them to the limit. Or one post. What if someone at the FEC (political appointees, all) decides Glenn is simply too big, and even one post is worth more than the donation limit. Could the FEC prevent him from commenting on all campaigns?

H.R. 1606 would have guaranteed Glenn's freedom of speech. It would have guaranteed that same freedom of speech for Powerline. It would have guaranteed that same freedom of speech for you. And it would have guaranteed that same freedom of speech for a nothing little blog like this. The fact that no one reads this blog doesn't mean I want the government telling me what and how much I can write. I can't believe I'm saying this, but it offends me as a citizen of this country.

Some tidbits of the vote for you now. For the yeas: 179 Republicans, 46 Democrats. For the Nays: 38 Republicans, 143 Democrats, 1 Independent. Not Voting: 13 each of Republicans and Democrats, not enough to tip the balance to passage, even if all 26 voted yea. I was rather disturbed to find my own Representative, Richard Pombo, was not among the Yeas. And I must admit it wasn't much consolation to see that he wasn't against; he just didn't vote on this one. How do you know how your Representative voted? Start here, with the Final Vote Results for Roll Call 559.

You might not be sure who your representative is. To find your Rep, look here, and they'll let you enter your nine digit zip code. Hit go, and you're all set. You know the first five digits, but not the last four? Go here, enter your address, and the post office will do the heavy lifting. Just click submit, and you're all set. Once you've found your zip and entered it, the name of your representative will pop up. Click it, and you'll go to that page. Somewhere at the top you should find a "Contact Me" or "Contact Info" link. That will give you local and Washington D.C. addresses, phone numbers, and an email address.

If you have a blog, even if you only read blogs, this issue should be very important to you. If your representative voted no, contact him and demand to know why your free speech rights aren't a priority or worthy of protection. Keep in mind courtesy and reason gets better results than screaming insults. Even if your representative voted for this bill, let him know you appreciate his vote for the protection of your rights. If you establish a relationship now, it may be more likely you'll be listened to, or at least heard, on future issues. Look at it this way, the next time you write, you'll be starting out on his good side. I'm writing Mr. Pombo, and I'll let you know what I hear from him. If you hear from your representative, feel free to pass it along.

Actual Update: Well I got a quick auto-response from Mr. Pombo, and a promise of an actual (but for all I know, still canned) response soon.

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