Thursday, June 30, 2011

Have something to Say

buzzzz buzzzz
Two long buzzes. That's the sound my phone makes when it gets a notification that someone has done something of significance on Facebook. I get three shorts for a work email, 2 shorts for an IM or text and 2 medium for an email from another account (I have several...I tried to corner the market on email accounts a few years back. Didn't work out). 5 short, repeating means the phone is ringing. It's like a system I have, only quieter.

So I'm out and about, being all I can be and then some and the phone buzzes two longs. I always wonder what the world of Facebook has to offer so I take out the phone and start pushing the magical buttons to unwrap the amusement.

And there it is. Someone I don't know has added a comment to a status update for someone's post -- a status update I commented on. Maybe that new person has something significant to add, or wants to comment about my statement. This should be fascinating.


That's it? Seriously? I stopped what I was doing, put others at risk as I checked my phone during surgery, placed the prime minister on hold so that I could see you contribute the word "sweet" to the discourse? Have some self-respect people. Don't put yourselves out there because you are lonely and just want to see your name in lights for a brief moment! Put a comment out there because you have something to add. cf Psycho Killer, people!

I believe we all share the responsibility not just to be, but to be interesting to others. Don't make me mock you in public for being insipid. The guy whose status it is should be waiting for affirmation via "Neat!" If he is, he's more pathetic than you, but I know he isn't because I found something of value to respond to. If it was just a stupid status update fishing for people to admire it, I wouldn't have posted anything (this argument does not hold when the status update elicits only mocking from me; in that case, while it is nice to see others get that I was mocking, lifeless comments simply cement the vapidity of the original status update and that reminds me of my superiority).

There are rules, people.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

World Wide Wrosen

I didn't start this blog lo those many years ago as an ego trip. I started it because I had things to say and couldn't afford a new shoe box and notebook every time I thought of something that made me giggle. So I started blogging. Bad jokes, off the cuff observations and maybe the longer, more serious bit. I knew that a few people, out of pity and the goodness of their hearts, occasionally looked at the page if, for no other reason, to know what kind of mood I was in month to month. Knowing this makes asking for money at the right time easier.

As facebook began intruding, I saved my one liners for it and focused here on my 2 line jokes. My extended rants are still sitting on my screeds page, elsewhere...go find it, but the blog has plodded on as a place for me to vent, think and stir up thinking. But really, with no advertising, and only the mildest word of mouth as my PR, I expected this to stay not just below the radar, but below the ground. But not quite underground. That would be too cool. I figured this for a relatively private place on the web.

So when an anonymous reader (I'm sure s/he has a name, so s/he isn't anonymous, but simply withheld the name) commented on my blog a couple of posts back, I was a bit shocked. Someone from outside my sphere found my page on the mighty sea of the internet and thought that what I had to say meritted response. This has happened only once before -- at the very start of my blog (when, I guess, the blogosphere was less cluttered and crap like mine floated to the top more readily) when someone complimented me on a joke I wrote. Now, I'm used to people reading what I write and responding to it. I have been active online for years (and years). BBS's from when I was 13, intranets during grad school, ask/answer boards, forums and chatrooms for the last 15 years. Maybe even an email or two along the way.

But a response to my blog? Wow. That seems cool. So, I went to the dashboard here at blogger and started to look at my statistics. First off, isn't it neat that I have statistics and they don't include anything by law enforcement? I looked at the number of page views I have had over the life of this version of my blog (remember, I migrated in and brought all my stuff from blog-city) and saw that I have had some 2500 page views! And that's excluding my own!

My pulse racing, I delved deeper. I was shocked when I saw that just this past month, I had a reader in Alaska. Cool, Alaska. But what was this? According to the stats, I had a reader from Iran this month! I'm international!

This blog isn't the kind of thing that comes up as the top result for any search other than for this blog. I am not the default page on any OS or browser. I'm just this guy, you know? How did someone from Iran find me? More importantly, why?

More digging. Here are the stats as of today (page views) from when I started in May of 2009:

United States 2,235
Israel 134
Germany 77
Russia 77
Luxembourg 61
Canada 41
Slovenia 38
Denmark 36
United Kingdom 36
Iran 29

Are you kidding me? That I have 2,200 page views in the US I can sort of understand. Over 2 years, that averages out to about 3 per day. If mom or dad or one other person keeps a tab open and restarts the computer once a day, I'll get a page view. Fine.

134 in Israel...well, some former students...maybe my sister. OK, I can deal with that.

Then we get freaky.77 in Germany and Russia? and 61 in Luxembourg? I did some research and found Luxemboug on a map. Did you know that there are 511,000 people in Luxembourg? That means that over 1 one hundredth of a percent of the population has gone to my page. Or one really obssessed Luxembourgian (Luxemborghini?) is refreshing his page over and over. Whatever. By comparison, the per capita view in the US is way lower. I'm very big in Europe, apparently.

41 in Canada? I can live with that. I know a guy in Canada. Could be.

38 in Slovenia? No offense to the 38 of you but I have to admit that I didn't know that Slovenia was a country. I had heard of Slovakia and I assumed you guys were a vaudeville team ("enjoy the wacky comedy stylings of Slovenia and Slovakia!"). Now I know. I must schedule a speaking arrangement in Ljubljana some time soon (thank you, Wikipedia...).

36 in Denmark (well, I always knew that they were enlightened) and 36 in the UK. Could happen. People often stop over at Heathrow when going to and from Israel so anyone glomming the wifi over there and booting up would show as a UK IP.

29 in Iran? Really? Am I going to get in trouble for this? I mean, really? 29? So not a single person in all of Bolivia has found me. All of South Africa ignores me. Heck, Iceland doesn't know I exist, but 29 page views in Iran? Shout out to Iran! woo-hoo.

So here's the bottom line. Please, post a response to this post if you aren't someone I would already know is reading this (like the two students reading over my shoulder as I type...get back to work, guys) let me know you were here and why you were here and where you were when you were here.

I won't let all this fame go to my head, trust me. I have kids to remind me how unimportant I am.

Monday, June 27, 2011

on college

A recent article ( here ) focused on the need for school systems to change their curricula to help students from the youngest ages start preparing for college. The authors stated the need for the college degree and the role of the lower grades in ensuring admission and success in college.

At the same time, I am aware of moves to show that college and its degree is not the end all and be all of education and lifelong success. Scholarships valuing thinking, not rote classroom learning ( like this ) are being offered. Articles like this one from Forbes and this from the National Association of Scholars (a pompous name that deserves its own angry blog post) seem to point to the idea that placing college at the top as the needed rank is not helpful.

And then there is this cartoon ( X ) which I hope loads -- I can't see it on my computer, and the Blowback from it [this site has it X and there are loads of blogs and websites arguing about it]

The bottom line, and here's where I say something controversial, is...

Not every student should go to college. Not every student should be getting a college degree.

Education is, on many levels, elitist. The current democratization of higher ed is cheapening the degrees through a market glut, reducing the standards for reaching the degree, and turning the goal of college not into an experience full of exploration and deeper thinking, but of passing the courses which will fulfill some silly set of requirements and allow the cap and gown.

Maybe I'm being unfair, and maybe this will come back to bite me when my own children can't get in to college, but I think that there is a place for the ivory tower apart from the experiential base of the everyman. Those people who have their paths clearly marked for themselves should be allowed to take non-college courses to further their education where it is needed. A series of life-skills classes, trade/vocational schools and extension courses would help people more than test-prep and grade inflation do. Some people simply know themselves and where they want to be. Others need a way to explore ideas and possibililities. Each has a valid path laid out.

Not everyone wants to sit around and discuss the philosophical implications of things, and not everyone is ready to work at age 18. The notion of a one size fits all educational process ignores that different people are ready to show their value in different ways, and demands that all earlier education be similarly superficial in doing nothing but keeping the goal of college at the forefront.

Yes, some people need college. Some get a lot out of it. Some can parlay it into a job. But others who don't need it may be equally as smart and/or capable. We have to stop pretending that a piece of paper with the letters BS on it is really anything more than that.

UPDATE: (July 14)
The masses have started to catch up with my way of thinking
“Live and Learn: Why We Have College” by Louis Menand in The New Yorker, June 6, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Safe driving

I got into the car this morning. Wore my glasses, checked my mirrors, reviewed the temp gauge, the odometer, the gas tank, the lights, looked to see if rain was coming down, checked my BAC. I did all the things I needed to do to be a safe drive. I used my blinker, I looked over my shoulder, I followed the speed limit. I even tried to move my entire foot when using the gas or brake and not just pivot on a single spot.

Then, I noticed a police car. The MAN was there and my spidey sense started tingling. I realized, I hadn't put on my seat belt. I hurriedly put it on so that I wouldn't be on the short end of "click it or ticket."

Now here's where I throw a question out to all of you.

Why is it a crime not to wear your seatbelt?

Speeding can endanger others. Phoning while driving, shooting up heroin while driving, or drafting the Constitution while driving can all impair the ability to focus on the road and thus put others in harm's way.

But if I make the decision about my own body and what I am willing to suffer through were I to get into an accident, then why should the state have the right to tell me that that is wrong? Has the medical insurance lobby made the case that their payouts go up if people get more hurt? Is this an extension of the law against suicide? I don't get it.

If you know the legal reasoning behind making it punishable by a fine if I don't wear my seat belt, please pass the info my way. Thanks.

Why I am so screwed up

It's a good question, really. I was just reading a fascionating article in the Atlantic ( ) about parenting, and I guess I was wondering if my parenting will screw up my kids, or my parents' parenting screwed me up.

I read through tharticle (ok, skimmed some parts...I'm a very busy man) and I have come to the conclusion that I am screwed up because of a combination of DNA, my experiences and life. The one thing absent from the blame game? My parents.

I'd like to introduce my parents for a moment. Both are highly intelligent, socially conscious, logical and rational (thouhg my mom, occasionally a bit hot tempered...sorry mom, just saying) people. Both treated me like a child when I was a child, and like an adult as I am an adult (ugh...what a realization). And called me on it when I was acting the wrong way. They were out in the evenings being good people, and yet we still had proper dinners and time on the weekends to take car rides or buy bagels. OK, pugs, but man, a pug with butter? Crazy. I never caught on with biyalis (did I spell that right?) but

No, I don't mean the dog. You can't put butter on a dog. That isn't kosher.

They were neither helicoptors nor absentee landlords, but they were parents. There for me but leaving enough room for me to grow into becoming me. And yet here I am with my poor sleep patterns, my yelling at my kids, my inability to enjoy my work. Man am I a basket case or what?

The bottom line is that we are all a little messed in the head. We are all thrown around by life unless we have some sort of charm that kept us from doing stupid things, or kept other people from doing stupid things to us. But I refuse, categorically, to say that anything troublesome other than my neuroses about being on time or overplanning or my tendency to distance myself emotionally and argue from a rational position come from my parents. They taught me (and still teach me) right from wrong, how to develop a world view and how to treat other people.

I worry that I'll never be the parent they are. But I worry that I'll mess up my kid because of what I am, not because of what they did.

So yes, I might end up in a therapist's office. And I might talk endlessly about my job, my family, my physical ailments or my religion. But I won't talk about my parents except to say "bravo."

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The gooder great

Sometimes I read the news. I read it even though I know it is one of the major sources of my anger. Apparently, knowing stuff bothers me but I can't break myself of the habit. I read the news today.

Oh boy.

It seems that Newsweek has released its list fo the top 500 high schools in the country. Hey, i figured, I work in a high school. maybe I'll know some of the words in that article! So off I went.

First, I read a summary and then I clicked through to the actual full rankings and may i just say...what a bunch of crap. I'll walk you through the stupidity and you can judge for yourself, as long as your judgment confirms mine.

Step one: Which schools? According to Newsweek, "NEWSWEEK reached out to administrators, principals, guidance counselors, and Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate coordinators at more than 10,000 public high schools across the country"

OK, let's start the problems.

To be good one must be a public school? Apparently this article, though it is called "America's Best High Schools" is "America's Best PUBLIC High Schools". Now I'm not complaining about public schools, but about misleading headlines. The article is not judging all high schools so the headline should not pretend that what is being decided is from the larger group.

Step two: How did you collect your data? According to Newsweek, this data was self reported by the schools. So lying, while not encouraged, is certainly possible. Of course, no one would fudge numbers in an attempt to be listed as a top school...right?

Step three: What data did you collect?

As reported by from Ohio, "graduation rate (25%), college matriculation rate (25%), AP tests taken per graduate (25%), average SAT/ACT scores (10%), average AP/IB/AICE scores (10%), and AP courses offered (5%)."

Ah, more junk statistics.

* Students who go early admission don't graduate in many schools.
* Students who study abroad for a year after high school don't matriculate at college (and why are we deciding that college matriculation is so desirable or necessary that it defines a good high school?).
* SAT/ACT scores are often the result of test prep classes and tutors and not the schools, and are not very good indicators of intelligence or performance anyway. And using averages ignores the diversity of a school's population -- a school which has remedial classes and does well by those students though they will still do poorly on a standardized test should not be considered "less top" because it is serving its population effectively!
* AP scores (I can't speak for IB programs) often reflect the school's policy of allowing students to take AP classes. The college board is constantly pushing to allow more students to take AP classes (though their agenda might be driven by the money they collect for every AP test taker). More students allows borderline learners to be exposed to "college level" material. But more students will lower average scores. So either you turn the AP into an elitist program to be a top school, or an open enrollment school to make the college board happy. Brilliant.
* The number of AP courses offered is a reflection on budget and student interest. To say that a school is less of a top school because only 2 students want to take the Music Theory course and it doesn't make sense to hire a skilled teacher to serve only 2, is a silly conclusion to draw. Should we encourage schools to offer more AP courses taught by unskilled teachers simply to bump of the rankings?

So I'm already annoyed because a magazine is trying to rate quality schools while not asking parents and students about their actual educational experience, but asking the school about its and its students participation in external standardized programs.

But then I take a look at some numbers. Of the 10,000 schools Newsweek "reached out" to, 1,100 responded. Suddenly the sample has shrunk. Did schools not respond because they self evaluated and found themselves to be "not top"? Or because the process was cumbersome and they are trying to run a school? Maybe it was because they didn't want to play the little game so they removed themselves, knowing that no news magazine has the ability to evaluate a complex set of curricula and instructors and compare it to that of another school dealing with a different popualtion and set of dynamic needs.

And how many made the "top" list out of the 1,100? 500.

Yes, almost half of the schools which took the time to respond got listed on the final list. I don't know whom I feel sorrieest for, the schools which worked hard to be placed on a not-very exclusive list, the schools which filled out the forms and found that they were not in the top 46%, or one of the almost 9,000 schools which didn't fill in the forms and, had they known that they only had to make the top 500 in order to get that PR bump, would have put in something.

A school's quality is hard to quanitfy. It changes from day to day, moment to moment and year to year. Lists like this are bad ideas, made worse by horrible methodology and execution.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Home page Home

I was on my own blog reading whatever it was I wrote months ago and really, really enjoying myself when I saw, at the bottom of the page, the word "Home."

I clicked it in the vain hope that somehow there would be picture of my house. All was, indeed, vanity. All that appeared was the starting page of my blog. I'm not putting down my blog -- it is one of the favoritest blogs I have, but I must object to the use of the word "Home."

And if that's what I'm angry about today, I hope you can tell just how boring things are these days.

The page where you start on your computer? Called "Home" page. But what about it is home-like? If I set my "home" page to be the google search page, am I saying something about the role of my home? What if my home page is about:blank? Am I homeless?

The internet has coopted many signs, symbols and words. One thing which we have not done is work backwards and see if the new uses reflect at all on the traditional uses. Do we simply let the technolexicographers take what they will and use it at their wont and we just buy into it?

Don't call your home page a home page. Don't call screens windows, pages or tabs. Don't hit "enter" when you aren't actually entering anything.

Fight the power button.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Text Arcana

So I know I did a post on texts. Go back, check on me, and read it. I'll wait.

See? I told you I did. Why you people doubt me has me completely at a loss.

But the word "text" has become fodder for so many extensions and quasi-puns that I feel I must wade in. Puns like this are what I'm all about and I have to say, I'm annoyed that no one has called me to discuss this.

So anyway, texting has begotten sexting. Wow. How innovative. I hope no one was impressed by that. It is ridiculously easy to come up with these?

What about sending questions to the IRS via taxting?
or confusing and angering someone via vexting?
Can I get my inoculation through injexting?
How about eating my breakfast by Chexting?
Does captain Kirk Star Trext?
If I send you these words via SMS, is that lexting?
I'll send out curses by hexting.
But I'll save you from curses by protexting you.

And there are many, many more.

What about saying that a politician made a huge es-em-mess with his recent text?

Are you all really that hard up for humor that simple word play has you guffawing? If so, why aren't you all sending me money?

A real idea

I just came up with this real idea for a reality show - no fooling. If you know anyone in the TV world, pass this along. All I want is a credit and maybe an honorarium of a few thousand bucks.

Working title "Mansters"

A reality show profiling men who abuse wives and/or kids. Elements of Intervention, Cops and newsmagazines, we learn about the guy, see forces step in, watch the legal and social consequences and profile how he and others deal with it. 6 and 12 month followup.

Brilliance, I promise.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Things I hate

Here is a list of things I hate. It is not an exhaustive list and should be used as a guideline for informational purposes only. Previous performance is no guarantee of future results.

Folding fitted sheets
Glass slivers
Musicals (with the limited exceptions of Singing in the Rain, The Muppet Movie and The Blues Brothers)

Feel free to use these to ensure a happy visit.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

true stories of the highway patrol

These really happened:

1. I was explaining to my students about writing the essay on their final. I told them to make sure to define their terms. A student asked (with no irony or sarcasm) "what do you mean by 'define'?"

2. the wife just asked daughter #2 to come help and pull out a gray hair. The child said "Which one? There are a whole bunch."

Tip toe through the tool IPs

I stumbled upon a blog recently. That happens when you don't look where URL going. It was a blog that had some random guy's musings about the world. What a waste. Doesn't he know I already have that angle covered?

Anyway, after reading the quote and watching the linked youtube video which played a scene from a movie this guy didn't write, direct, edit, or have anything to do with, i looked at the side of the page.

There it was. A statement that asked people to "keep the blog running" by sending money. On one hand I am impressed and amazed. But on the other hand, I am shocked and disgusted. On the third hand, I can't imagine how this guy gets his pants on considering that he has beitzim larger than Rhode Island (or even Delaware). The fourth hand was getting a sammich.

It is a blog. If you do it right (or at least, somewhat right) it is FREE. I put this crap out there once every sometimes and it only costs me my dignity. And this guy is asking for cash?

Someone in the food chain is an idiot and deserves to get mocked. I refuse to be that someone.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Sorry Mr. Sendak

When I was little, I got a copy of the Nutshell Library. I read it over and over, and really liked the Chicken Soup with Rice book. When my first was born, we started playing the "Really Rosie" songs and all four books really came to life. One which stuck with me was "A Alligators all Around."

Now, I'm older and have found need to update the list. True, it doesn't scan and I can't fit it into the tune, but here it is. Note -- this is not about me, but is simply a word game updating an old favorite.

A alcoholics all around
B Buzzed with bourbon
C Chugging Cardhu
D Drinking Dalwhinnie
E Even tried Everclear
F Frozen Daiquiris
G Gulping Gin
H Heaving Hangovers
I Imbibing India Pale Ale
J Just one Julep
K Keep pouring Kronenbourg
L Lapping Lagavulin
M More malt liquor
N Nipping Napoleon Brandy
O Ordering Oatmeal Stout
P Puking up Peppermint Schnapps
Q Quaffing Quarts of Ale
R Rustling up Rum
S Sadly Sober
T Tossing back Tequila
U Usually under the influence
V Voluminous Vermouth
W wetting the whistle
X Dos Equis vs. Molson XXX
Y Yakkety Yakking
Z Zima then ZZZZ

Please read responsibly.