Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Some school administrators are more equal than others

Last week, I told you about the parental and community hysteria that occurred when a white elementary school principal in Sacramento, Jana Fields, had a talk with her black students about what they could do to raise their state test scores.

In that post, I told you that Mrs. Fields is by no means the first administrator to address students by race in regard to their test scores. In fact, just today, the San Jose Mercury News ran a story about the principal at Milpitas High School in the Bay Area town of Milpitas, California. Every six weeks, the principal, Chuck Gary, actually sends a personally signed letter to every one of his black students - regardless of their academic performance - that lets the student know how he or she is doing grade-wise, what the student's GPA is, and so on. There has been no parental or student outrage, and little to no commotion from the community as well. What's the difference? Easy: Chuck Gary is black. The article even states:
At Milpitas High, the reaction has largely been positive, partly because African-American parents and a black principal are at the heart of the effort.... (my emphasis).
Even though he is doing the same exact thing as Jana Fields - trying to raise state test scores by focusing on a certain race of students, no matter their academic performance - Gary receives accolades, while Fields is excoriated.

There was something else of note in this Mercury News article besides the noted double standard between Fields and Gary. I believe that without even realizing it, the article's human interest stories revealed a treasure trove of reasons for why there is an "achievement gap" among black students in the first place.

"Acting White": Many black students don't try as hard as they should for fear of being ostracized by their fears for the crime of "acting white." Here is the story of Milpitas student Inthia White, as mentioned in the article:
Inthia White used to be the class clown. When she talked back to teachers, her disruptions would trigger laughter. The peer pressure to be "cool" rather than smart was hard to overcome.

When she changed her ways, her new focus on schoolwork surprised her classmates. Some said, "What's up with you?"

Peer pressure is just one challenge facing African-American students, White said....
Single Parents: Today, almost 70% of black children are born to a single parent household, usually run by a mother. Here is what Inthia White has to say:
...White thinks all African-American students should have their own academic adviser.

"You need somebody," said White, the fourth of five children raised by a single mom. "Not all African-American moms can take the time off of their busy schedules to help. We see them trying so hard, so we don't want to bother them with questions about school...."
Parent Participation: If you are a teacher, then you know the drill - have you ever noticed that the overwhelming majority of parents who show up to Back to School Nights and Open House are the parents of your best behaved and best performing students? Do you think there might be a connection between the parents' involvement and the students' success? Here is what one Milpitas mother has to say:
When Demetress Morris' oldest son got a bad report card, she had a talk with Gary. He told her his biggest challenge was getting black parents to attend school events.

"I started going to the PTA meetings, and I was shocked. It was all mostly white moms," said Morris, who saw her son's schoolwork improve as she spent more time on campus. "A lot of parents want to help their children but they don't know how...."
Reliance on "Relationships": I have been to more than one teacher in-service day where I and my fellow teachers have been told that black students will not academically perform for a teacher unless they have forged some sort of "bond" or "relationship" with the teacher. Hmmm, when I was in high school, I enjoyed some teachers more than others, but there was never a case where I would shut down because the teacher didn't want to be my friend. The Mercury News says:
Those connections are crucial. A recent report from the California Dropout Research Project stressed that teacher-student relationships are the strongest influence on students' decisions to stay in school. Students need a hook that reels them in and keeps them on the line: a favorite class, a teacher who cares, a sports team, a club.

As long as your personal success relies on the benevolence of others, you are going to have a tough row to hoe. Individual responsibility is a crucial aspect of making something of yourself, and as long as studies tell us that black students are going to eschew that necessary component of success, then how is any attempt to close this "achievement gap" ever going to bear any fruit?

I haven't checked lately to see if the situation with Jana Fields has blown over, or if parents are still calling for her head. If her termination is still a possibility, and her district hasn't abandoned her, I truly hope that Mrs. Fields will hold a copy of this Mercury News article high and proud in the air, and tell her detractors to get back to her when their outrage is applied equally. We wouldn't want to think that those angry parents are singling out Mrs. Fields because of her race... now would we?

Good Day to You, Sir

Newest addition to my classroom wall

After two years of lobbying for the funds, my perseverance has turned a dream into a reality. I finally got my wall map:

This world map is 13 feet wide by 8 feet tall. When teaching history, I find it very important to try to always make sure my students not only know when we are talking about, but also where we are talking about. I have always been bothered trying to point out locations on some piddly 3X4 foot map. That will no longer be a problem. I figure we can also clear the desks aside every once in a while, and my class can play some fun map games.

Good Day to You, Sir

Reconquista right under my nose

It's been there the whole time? Although it is on the opposite side of campus from where my classroom is located, in the four years I have worked at my school, I have had dozens of opportunities to walk by this mural:

In all those dozens of times I have walked by, I never took the time to really look it over until just the other day. What I found disgusted me. Do you see it? If you don't, take a closer look:

Ah, Aztlan! That mythical land that the U.S. robbed from the poor, pitiful Mexicans. While I freely admit that the United States did not obtain land formerly owned by Mexico in a totally "good faith" manner, you must also remember that what the United States did in 1848 was not some diplomatic anomaly. The Mexicans had taken the land from the Spanish, the Spanish had taken the land from the Indians, and the Indians had taken the land from each other. Life sucks, and land gets taken. If you can resist the invasion, more power to you. If you lose however, then as the generations pass, life goes on.

By the way, what are those trails of red drips? Is that blood?

Good Day to You, Sir

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A great quote from today.

And I mean today; this is the ending sentence from Thomas Sowell's latest column:

Everything seems new to those too young to remember the old and too ignorant of history to have heard about it.
Sowell writes this in describing Barack Obama's notion of "Change" - that word the Obamessiah loves to use so much. Obama's economic polices are not new; they are straight out of the 1960's. His foreign policies are not new; they are straight out of the 1930s. In both cases, these policies were unmitigated disasters.

Good Day to You, Sir

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Revagogue makes the KKK proud

Spoken like a true Klansman! The Reverend Jeremiah Wright talked about all kinds of bizarre subjects during his speech to the NAACP in Detroit the other night. As a teacher, the brain-to-mouth dump that caught my attention most was Wright's theories about differences in learning. This extended quote from Wright's speech is taken verbatim from a transcript of the speech that was posted by CNN. All parenthetical statements and emphasis on the wackiness are mine:
...It was in Dr. Hale's first book, "Black Children their Roots, Culture and Learning Style." Is Dr. Hale here tonight? We owe her a debt of gratitude. Dr. Hale showed us that in comparing African-American children and European-American children in the field of education, we were comparing apples and rocks. (The E-A children are rocks?)

And in so doing, we kept coming up with meaningless labels like EMH, educable mentally handicapped, TMH, trainable mentally handicapped, ADD, attention deficit disorder.

And we were coming up with more meaningless solutions like reading, writing and Ritalin. Dr. Hale's research led her to stop comparing African-American children with European-American children and she started comparing the pedagogical methodologies of African-American children to African children and European-American children to European children. And bingo, she discovered that the two different worlds have two different ways of learning. European and European-American children have a left brained cognitive object oriented learning style and the entire educational learning system in the United States of America. Back in the early '70s, when Dr. Hale did her research was based on left brained cognitive object oriented learning style. Let me help you with fifty cent words.

Left brain is logical and analytical. Object oriented means the student learns from an object. From the solitude of the cradle with objects being hung over his or her head to help them determine colors and shape to the solitude in a carol in a PhD program stuffed off somewhere in a corner in absolute quietness to absorb from the object. From a block to a book, an object. That is one way of learning, but it is only one way of learning.

African and African-American children have a different way of learning.

They are right brained, subject oriented in their learning style. Right brain that means creative and intuitive. Subject oriented means they learn from a subject, not an object. They learn from a person. Some of you are old enough, I see your hair color, to remember when the NAACP won that tremendous desegregation case back in 1954 and when the schools were desegregated. They were never integrated. When they were desegregated in Philadelphia, several of the white teachers in my school freaked out. Why? Because black kids wouldn't stay in their place. Over there behind the desk, black kids climbed up all on them.... (Lord forbid that the black kids are held to the same standard of behavior as the white kids)
Next, I expected the good Reverend to get out a slide rule and begin measuring noses like some German Nazi elementary schoolteacher in 1935. Haven't white commentators been fired for pointing out differences in blacks and whites? Wasn't author Charles Murray demonized for saying very similar utterances in his book, The Bell Curve? When Wright says the same thing, he is ooohed and aaaahed by the adoring, mostly black, crowd, and then given multiple ovations. In what kind of looking glass world are we living?

So to review. I believe that what the Revagogue is trying to say is that we white people are cold, calculating, and logical, while black people are warm, and feeling, and emotional. This reminds me of that kook professor Leonard Jefferies and his theory about blacks being "Sun People" and whites being "Ice People." Same crap, different package.

Keep on talking Reverend Wright; you mire Obama's candidacy with every word that leaves your profane tongue.

Good Day to You, Sir

To-Do List Overload

I don't even think I have made this officially clear, but the saga of the selling of our house is almost over. My wife and I have a buyer, and we ourselves have become buyers as well. Now we have begun the delicate dance of sweating two escrows while we prepare to vacate one house and move into another. At the same time, my wife and I have had to humble ourselves with home and pest inspections, where some guy with a clipboard and a digital camera walks around our abode and tells us (and our buyer) everything that is wrong with it. In the wake of the inspections by these diligent dictators, I had some repairs to do, and I spent this past weekend doing them. This would explain why I have been such a bad blogger. Here is just a partial list of some of the items that I - not exactly the world's greatest handyman - have done:

I spent this weekend patching a few holes in our rain gutter with galvanized sheeting that I had to snip, shape, and cement into place; I replaced a leaky sprinkler valve (actually, my father accomplished that one task) and two leaky outside hose faucets; I fixed a gap in our laminate floor in the kitchen; I put metal covers on a few exposed power outlets in the garage; I measured and cut a piece of sheetrock to fit into an open outlet to the attic that is located in our garage; I fixed a faulty drain in the master bathroom sink; and somewhere in all that, I mowed the lawn. By the end of the weekend, I felt pretty darned manly! I mentioned to my wife that it is accomplishing stuff like that that raises self-esteem, and not some authority figure tell you what a wonderful person you are, like what happens in our schools. I felt so proud of myself when I accomplished these tasks. It makes me want to take on more challenging and complex tasks once we move into our "new" house that was built in 1966. Isn't building the confidence to take on new tasks what building self-esteem is all about?

Good Day to You, Sir

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Great Quotes

I'll be busy doing inspection fixes on my house so we can begin packing up in order to move to the new house. In the meantime, here are some more great quotes from history; these addressing the issue of religion in our government and society:
"... liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith."
--Alexis De Tocqueville (Democracy in America, Vol. I)

"Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle." --George Washington

"We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. --John Adams
Good Day to You, Sir

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

You have no idea what "availability" means

Tough times in Chicago lately. In the last six months, 20 public school students have been killed in various shootings, 9 people were shot and killed last weekend in various shootings, and now 5 people have been found killed in a house. I will go ahead and speculate that those 5 people were shot as well.

I always smirk when I hear a common argument that anti-gun types use to explain all this, and that argument is "the availability of guns." The Brady Center and the Violence Policy Center make it seem as if guns are just lying in the streets, and you can pick one up at your leisure. If you are a law-abiding citizen, do you know how difficult it is to purchase a gun nowadays? Let me tell you how it was in the old days.

I always remember an anecdote my father once told me, and Dad, I know you read this blog, so if I have totally flubbed this up, feel free to write in and set me straight. My father, who was born in 1941, spent his childhood in Oklahoma; he moved to California in time to start junior high. He once told me of a hardware store in his little hometown that had a barrel full of 1911A .45 caliber pistols - surplus from World War II. You could just dip your little ol' hand into that barrel, grab a pistol, and take it up to the counter: no background check, no forms to fill out, just go on your merry way with your new hand cannon. Miraculously, there were no murder sprees or spates of wanton killing taking place during that time. What changed? I don't have the time or the energy to go into the sociological, pharmaceutical, and psychological reasons for the increase in our country's murder rate (and crime rate for that matter) since the days of my father's childhood. However, I can assure you that one factor that doesn't play a role is the "availability of guns." Contrary to what the anti-gun nuts want you to believe, guns are not nearly as available as they used to be. It is the willingness to use the guns for illicit purposes that has gone up enormously, and the increased unavailability of guns for law-abiding citizens to use in order to defend themselves from our nation's predators.

Good Day to You, Sir

Protest planned against the racist genocide of Planned Parenthood

The history of Planned Parenthood is an ugly one. The organization's founder, Margaret Sanger, was a proponent of Eugenics, which is the theory of strengthening a race of people through selective breeding. Sanger believed that a certain "spawning class of human beings," blacks included, shouldn't reproduce, and she spent her life trying to make her beliefs a reality. Seeing as how a hugely disproportionate number of abortions are of black babies, it seems that Sanger's dream has largely become a reality.

Planned Parenthood is often associated with the political left - you know, the denizens of love and tolerance? Last year however, an undercover investigation by a pro-life group showed how far Planned Parenthood hasn't come in separating itself from Margaret Sanger's ultimate goal. The pro-life group called Planned Parenthood offices and asked to make a donation for the specific purpose of aborting a black baby. The callers didn't sugarcoat it either; they said purposefully inflammatory statements about not wanting more blacks in the world. Planned Parenthood still took the money, often enthusiastically. The following is an example. There will be a short phone call and opening credit montage, and then listen to the primary phone call that will carry through to the end. This made my blood boil:

According to WorldNetDaily, a protest by black pastors and other anti-abortion activists will be held this Thursday in Washington, D.C. The protesters will be demanding that the federal government stop giving financial grants to Planned Parenthood. John and Jane Q. Taxpayer gave Planned Parenthood a cool $336 million dollars last year. I guess that's not enough money, because Planned Parenthood will gladly take private donations in order to target black babies for destruction. And life just keeps getting cheaper.

Good Day to You, Sir

Carnival of Education

The EdWonks host this week, and they have kindly included my post about the travesty of an elementary school principal being excoriated for doing exactly what our state and federal government do.

Good Day to You, Sir

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Life under our government in 1900

Imagine how free we were just over 100 years ago. Here are but two examples:
Federal spending. In 1900 federal spending was $0.5B. In 2000 it was $1,789B . Those amounts translated to 2.5% of GDP in 1900 and 21% in 2000. Government spending at all levels in the U.S. was 36.5% of GDP in 2006. That 2.5% of GDP that could sustain the entire federal government in 1900 is not even enough to cover the Medicare program today.

The Medicare program, by the way, did not exist in 1900; it was established in 1965.

Federal taxes. A federal income tax did not exist in 1900; it was unconstitutional, and would remain that way until the 16th Amendment was ratified in 1913. The first 1040 form included one page of instructions, and appeared to apply to both individuals and businesses. Today's 1040 instructions for individuals runs 155 pages, with no guarantee that you won't have to fill out other forms and consult other instructions.
For more nuggets of nostalgia, read the rest of the article here.

Good Day to You, Sir

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sacto high rise update

Every once in a while, I take my two kids on a little field trip to downtown Sacramento to check progress on two high rises going up on Capitol Mall, which is a divided street that runs between the State Capitol building and the Sacramento River. I wrote a post last year about all the construction either in progress or planned for downtown Sacramento. One of the buildings that was but a steel skeleton at the time was the U.S. Bank Tower. The envisioned rendition looked like this:

This building's exterior has now been completed, the sky crane has been taken down, and now the completion of the interior and outside landscaping are currently underway. Here is the actual building as seen through my lens:

Further down the street, 500 Capitol Mall is in the skeleton stage. When it is completed, it will look like this:
Right now, the building is looking rather unfinished, but the skeleton seems to be more and more visible on the city skyline with each passing day:

I took this photo on the last day of March. That skeleton is undoubtedly several stories higher by now. These buildings are great, but all is not well downtown. The most impressive projects of all that I talked about in last May's post have fallen through for various reasons and will most likely never be built. These building include the Capital Towers:

The Epic:

And the Aura:

A lot of the building cancellations have to do with the real estate downturn, but you could just as easily blame our dysfunctional city government. In the meantime, I will definitely keep an eye on the sky.

Good Day to You, Sir

Sunday, April 20, 2008

So what will you do this summer?

How about teaching English in Ethiopia? That is what a friend of mine, Mike Nevin, will be doing during a good portion of his summer vacation. Mike is a high school history teacher in the Sacramento area, and felt a calling to take on this selfless adventure when he learned about the opportunity at his church. I say "selfless" because Mike will be leaving behind his wife and three young children to spend a month in a very unstable continent, and the country of Ethiopia - along with its neighbors - aren't exactly stable either.

Mike has started a blog in order to document the events leading up to his departure, and he will also apparently be able to blog from Ethiopia as well, as there will be internet access available where he will be working. Mike is a great writer and teacher, and I look forward to reading about his experiences teaching English a half a world away to people who live in conditions few of us can fathom. You can click to his blog from the link provided, but I will also be adding it to my blogroll in the Education section.

Godspeed Mike Nevin!

Good Day to You, Sir

Saturday, April 19, 2008

When NCLB and PC collide

Once upon a time, a school's Academic Performance Index (API) score was determined by the collective scores of the entire student body of a particular school. If one sub-group was performing badly (usually black and Hispanic students), the superior scores of another sub-group (usually white and Asian students) could cover up the deficiency.

One of the consequences of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, passed in 2002, was that in addition to a school's overall API score, the API scores of each subgroup had to be calculated and published as well. Look at the School Accountability Report Card (SARC) of any school in California, and you will see a detailed breakdown of these API scores. In addition to ethnic groups, there are also breakdowns for low socioeconomic students and English learners. This has prompted school teachers and administrators to begin focusing their attention on raising the scores of these low-performing sub-groups. One strategy that has been tried in the past is for an administrator or teacher to pull aside all the students of a certain low-performing sub-group and talk to them about their scores and what can be done to raise them. Every time this has been done, controversy has followed because the diversity crowd objects to students of a certain race being singled out. The ridiculous part about all this is that these parents' children are singled out by race every day.

This has happened once again, this time in the Sacramento area. In the Rio Linda Union School District, Madison Elementary principal, Jana Fields, spoke to all the black students of her school in an effort to stress to them the importance of doing well on the upcoming STAR testing. Mrs. Fields was also planning to have a similar meeting with the school's Hispanic students as well. That second meeting never happened, because soon after Mrs. Fields met with her school's black students, all hell broke loose.

Black parents complained, and the local fishwrap and T.V. news stations picked up on the story. You must register to read articles from the Sacramento Bee, so I have pasted the AP wire story in its short entirety:
RIO LINDA, Calif. -- A Sacramento area school official has issued an apology after an elementary school principal summoned black students to a meeting to urge them to improve their test scores.

Gloria Hernandez, educational services director for the Rio Linda School District, said Friday that the district offered "sincere apologies to all students and families who were offended" by principal Jana Fields' decision to convene a meeting of fourth, fifth and sixth grade black students to discuss their test scores.

One parent, Marie Townsend, says Fields should have met with all students, regardless of race, who were performing poorly on state tests rather than singling out blacks.

A meeting that Fields planned to have with Hispanic students to discuss their test scores has been canceled.
Very sanctimonious of you Ms. Townsend, but the scores are not broken down according to who is performing badly on the exams, the scores are broken down by race. I fail to see how there is anything wrong with the principal dealing with students' test scores based on race, especially since under NCLB, that is exactly what the state of California, and the federal government both require schools and school districts to do when they compile and report their test scores. A quick review of the state scores for the last several years on the SARC for Madison Elementary confirms the necessity of Mrs. Fields' meeting with her black students, along with her canceled meeting that was planned for her Hispanic students (click to enlarge):

I sincerely hope that the principal, Mrs. Fields, is not made a sacrifice at the altar of political correctness. I also hope that in the future, school districts and their mealy-mouthed spokescritters cease making pathetic mea culpas for doing what they should be doing all the time, and that is to acknowledge the elephant in the room. Lord knows they already keep enough statistics on the elephant - letting the elephant know about it is probably a good idea.

Good Day to You, Sir

Friday, April 18, 2008

The future will be funkdified

Sorry for the dearth of posts since Tuesday. I have been working like a dog getting our house ready for the pest/dry rot inspection and the big inspection which both happened yesterday. There are few dry rot areas I have to fix; other than that, the inspections went very well. This morning, my wife and I signed the offer on the house we want, so if everything goes right, we will be residing in a new domicile by mid-May!

In all the melee, I did take enough time to watch a rather amusing movie. In the wake of the death of Charleton Heston, I kept hearing reference to a sci-fi movie he starred in, called Soylent Green. The movie was also the final performance by tough-guy actor Edward G. Robinson.

So I watched Soylent Green, and it was quite unintentionally humorous. This humor was mostly due to the the year 2022 looking like 1972, when the movie was made. The scenes were awash with shaggy sideburns, poofy afros, and groovy digs. Most fashion of the 1970s seems to have been based on a dare, and I am amazed that people actually dressed that way and looked at it as normal.

When we are living in a time when so many movies from my childhood predicted what life would be like in the early 2000's, it is interesting to compare their vision with my reality. Just think of some of the movies that fit the bill, along with the year they portray:

2001: A Space Odyssey
2010: The Year We Make Contact
2013: The Postman
2015: Back to the Future, Part II
2017: Blade Runner
2022: Soylent Green

Did I miss any?

Good Day to You, Sir

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Do you pay your fair share, Senator Kennedy?

Jason Mattera of Young America's Foundation strikes again! This time, he corners that socialist blowhard Ted Kennedy (Dumbass-MA), and questions Kennedy about his enthusiastic support for the estate tax, even thought the Kennedy family dodges the estate tax through the extensive use of trust funds. Check it out:

Hat tip to Hot Air (see blogroll) for this little gem.

Good Day to You, Sir

Damned if you do, damned if you don't

In response to my recent post on quotes about the importance of learning history, good friend, regular reader, and high school history teacher, George, commented with an interesting anecdote that I think deserves more visibility than just being a blurb in the comments section. The situation he describes cuts right to the heart of matters that concern us educators, including reasons for the so-called achievement gap, distrust between teachers and students, disrespect for authority, and a myriad of other issues. Here is George's comment in full:
We were reviewing the American Revolution today and I used a PPP slide of the Boston Massacre in my High School world history class. It was a print of the death of Crispus Attucks (the first casualty in the American Revolution). One of the ways our school is trying to close the achievement gap has been by incorporating African-American history where ever possible in the curriculum.

Some of my African-American students questioned excitedly as to why I showed a black man being killed. They verbally protested that, " . . . of course you gotta show a black man gettin' killed . . ." To which I answered with " This is Crispus Attucks . . .", they still complained. When I retorted with " . . . you all argue that I should do more African-American history. . . " , they still replied that what I was doing was not good enough. I then replied with, "Damned if I do and damned if I don't then?" To which they said, "Yup, pretty much." I then moved onto the next slide discouraged, not having the time to argue with them about their position.

I think this illustrates the difficulty that teachers face (whether they are African-American or not) when trying to teach European history to most African-American students. I have taught for many years and have encountered this resistance to European history repeatedly from African-American students. Even though many of my African-American students share the same political values as their Western-European counterparts they fail to see connections. There is a tendency to separate themselves based upon race, expressing that only white people do this or that. It is a frustrating experience as the state standards for World History have nothing to do with African-American history.

Oh, and by the way, this resistance was encountered while teaching a group work based review lesson. In fact, the resistance has happened all semester as the students have continually labeled the course content as "racist" and "only about white people"(even though its mostly about concepts like the militarism, etc.) Here again some of my students see those "isms" as only things white people do.

I wish I was not bound so much to the state curriculum. With all these Sophomores loaded with "piss and vinegar", I'd like to be able to challenge more of their assumptions about the world.

But, alas, I am bound by the calendar and the state standards and the seemingly endless drive to close the achievement gap.

In my view, some African-American students are in the gap because of their unwillingness to suspend their views about the history of Europeans and their ethnic group. Would you listen and learn if you thought that everything you were being taught was lies? In other words, their sense of history is that it does not belong to their group; it is not theirs.

Funny thing though is that I do not experience this type of resistance from any other ethnic group on campus (of which there are 35).

I think this is connected to Chanman's previous post on being easily duped.

Thanks for reading,
And thank you, George, for your insight and honesty.

Good Day to You, Sir

Tag, I'm it!

Polski3 (see blogroll) has seen fit to drag me into a Meme (I forgive you Polski ;), and what the hell, I have a minute.

The rules are:

1. Pick up the nearest book
2. Open to page 123
3. Find the fifth sentence
4. Post the next three sentences
5. Tag five people and acknowledge who tagged you.

Here goes:

Nearest book to me: 1776 by David McCullough (paperback edition).

And sentences 6,7, and 8 on page 123 say:

King's College, west of the Commons, one of the largest, handsomest buildings in town, had been taken over as an army hospital, once the library books were removed, lest the soldiers burn them for fuel. For the troops from New England a roof overhead of any kind seemed the height of luxury, and New York, however changed, a center of wonders. Joseph Hodgkins decided, "This city York exceeds all places that ever I saw," though he found the living "excessive dear."

I see nothing has changed in New York in over 200 years!

I suck at tagging, so I tag any blogger who loves to read!

Good Day to You, Sir

This is why our First Amendment is a good thing

In France, you're not safe from The Man, even if you are Brigitte Bardot.

Brigitte Bardot on trial for Muslim slur:
French former film star Brigitte Bardot went on trial on Tuesday for insulting Muslims, the fifth time she has faced the charge of "inciting racial hatred" over her controversial remarks about Islam and its followers...

France is home to 5 million Muslims, Europe's largest Muslim community, making up 8 percent of France's population.

"I am fed up with being under the thumb of this population which is destroying us, destroying our country and imposing its acts," the star of 'And God created woman' and 'Contempt' said....
Actions like what the French government is doing to Ms. Bardot are why Europe's days as a non-Islam-dominated continent are numbered.

Good Day to You, Sir

The Carnival of Education

Click yonder, and check out this week's edition. My post about my dressing down of my class for mocking a new student is included among many other fine entries.

Good Day to You, Sir

Forget April 15th

The day with which you should be concerning yourself is: Tax Freedom Day - April 23, 2008. In order to pay for all the taxes you will owe for calendar year 2008, you must work from January 1st to April 23 in order to satisfy that tab. Starting on April 23rd, which just a week from now, you begin earning the money that will pay for your rent/mortgage, food, clothes, bills, and everything else you buy through the end of the year.

According to the Tax Foundation, you must work for 74 days this year just to pay for your income taxes. That's mid-March, so your income taxes are paid for. Right now, you are working within the 39 days needed to pay for your state and local taxes, so you are almost done being a serf to Uncle Sam.

Take heart my fellow taxpayers. Tax Freedom Day actually came early this year. In 2007, that revered day did not arrive until April 26. That means that this year, you actually get an additional three days to earn money for yourself!

Remember, work hard! Millions of people on welfare are depending on you.

Good Day to You, Sir

Your tax dollars at work

Seeing as how this is Tax Day, I thought you would get a kick out of this application that was one of a stack put in every teacher's mailbox the other day. Remember to click on it if you need to look at the smaller details:

If you read the fine print at the bottom, you will see that this program is funded by foundations and the state of California, and no federal funding is involved. At least there is that. Nevertheless, this does involve tax money collected by our state government, and it is going toward "free" health care. No, it's not free. When government pays for something, it is never free, because the government has no money of its own. Any money the government has was first taken from someone else - by force - and then handed to another person in an often wasteful and cavalier manner.

The biggest kicker of all is the disclaimer at the top of the application. Did you miss it? It says, Citizenship is not required for all programs. That would explain why this thing is also written in Spanish. How many illegal aliens are receiving free health care on the taxpayer's dime from this program?

It is very easy to demagogue this by emphasizing that it's "for the children." I'm getting a little sick of this exploitation of "the children" as a further justification for breaking the laws of this country. If you are here illegally, there is nothing stopping you from taking your child back with you to your home country. If the child is a U.S. citizen, then when he is old enough to live on his own, he can come back to this country if he so chooses.

I object to being made an accessory to all this by being expected to hand out these applications to my students.

Good Day to You, Sir

Monday, April 14, 2008

Why should we study history?

Let's hear what the experts have to say:

"History is to the nation ... as memory is to the individual. An individual deprived of memory becomes disoriented and lost, not knowing where he has been or where he is going, so a nation denied a conception of its past will be disabled in dealing with its present and future."
--Arthur M. Schlesinger

"I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging the future but by the past..."
--Patrick Henry (Speech on the Stamp Act
Virginia Convention, March 23, 1775)

"The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib assumptions, which seem to us novel and plausible, have been tested before, not once but many times and in innumerable guises; and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false." --Paul Johnson

"No individual and no generation has had enough personal experience to ignore the vast experience of the human race that is called history. Yet most of our schools and colleges today pay little attention to history. And many of our current policies repeat mistakes that were made, time and again, in the past with disastrous results." --Thomas Sowell

"History, by apprising [citizens] of the past will enable them
to judge of the future; it will avail them of the experience of
other times and other nations; it will qualify them as judges
of the actions and designs of men; it will enable them to know
ambition under every disguise it may assume; and knowing it,
to defeat its views." --Thomas Jefferson

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
-- George Santayana

Good Day to You, Sir

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Blacks are that easy to manipulate?

You've heard the conspiracy theories that emanate from the black community:

1.) The government created the AIDS virus in order to wage genocide on blacks. Even Revagogue Jeremiah Wright has publicly stated that little gem. Of course, even if this theory was true, does the government also force blacks to engage in copious amounts of unprotected promiscuous sex and intravenous drug use? Those are still the two primary ways by which AIDS is spread.

2.) The government brought crack cocaine and other hard drugs into the black community in order to wage genocide on blacks. Hey folks, the only way the drugs will do their intended purpose is if people ingest or inhale them. Just say, NO!

3.) Alcoholic beverage companies target blacks by selling malt liquor in black neighborhoods. Again folks, just say, NO!

4.) All you see in the 'hood are liquor stores and gun shops. It's called supply and demand. Businesses wouldn't think those kinds of stores were profitable unless there was such a demand for them.

Am I missing any? Apparently I am, because I left gangsta rap off the list. Grammy winning singer/songwriter Alicia Keys can fill us in on that one:
The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter tells Blender magazine: "'Gangsta rap' was a ploy to convince black people to kill each other. 'Gangsta rap' didn't exist."
But that's not all:
Another of her theories: The bicoastal feud between slain rappers Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. was fueled "by the government and the media, to stop another great black leader from existing."
Hey don't knock her theories! Alicia Keys knows of what she speaks because:
Keys, 27, said she's read several Black Panther autobiographies and wears a gold AK-47 pendant around her neck "to symbolize strength, power and killing 'em dead," according to an interview in the magazine's May issue, on newsstands Tuesday. (Killing who dead? --Chanman)
Yeah, I know: who cares what Alicia Keys thinks? I certainly don't. The problem is that the utes who listen to her music care a lot - and they are the ones who think whitey is coming to get 'em, and that popping a cap in someone with an AK is "keepin' it real".

I love some of Alicia Keys' music, but her politics are simply bizarre. Shut up and sing, honey.

How insulting is it to yourself and "your people" to basically admit that you have no control over yourselves and can be manipulated into doing anything with the greatest of ease? All the government or big business has to do is introduce it - AIDS, crack, malt liquor, guns, gangsta rap - and blacks will snap it all right up. Hey, don't look at me! I'm not saying this; they are!

Good Day to You, Sir

Observations from our school's Cultural Festival

I spent almost an entire workday at my school Saturday as I helped with our annual cultural festival where all the cultures of the students at our school are showcased. Hey, I don't have a problem with that. There was fascinating information and artifacts on display, wonderful dancing and singing performances, and delicious food from around the world. As long as we acknowledge that we are Americans first, there is nothing wrong with celebrating our ethnic and cultural heritage.

However, you cannot have an activity like this one without the tyranny of multiculturalism rearing its ugly head. Here are some examples of some of the absurdities I saw and heard throughout the day:
  • A student was walking around wearing a t-shirt that said the following: Indians are not mascots! End racist stereotypes in public schools. Support AB 13 - California Racial Mascots Act. California Assembly Bill (AB) 13 is the brainchild of Assemblycritter Jackie Goldberg of Los Angeles. I have never been able to decide if this woman is evil or just crazier than a bedbug. In either case, she is just the pride of our state government... can you sense the sarcasm? Ya know, the mascot for my high school was the Indians. Much of the student body was of Indian descent, and they loved the mascot just fine. They would be war-whooping it up with the rest of us during football and basketball games.
  • In a fit of feel-goodism, one of my fellow social studies teacher - the one who has a Che Guevara poster hanging on his classroom wall - expressed to me how great it was that all these cultures were coexisting in the same building, in the same school, in the same country. He acknowledged that this doesn't happen in most other places in the world. Then he floored me by saying, "I know I talk a lot of smack about this country, but I realize what could happen to me in other countries if I criticized them the way I criticize the U.S." That is when I wanted to scream at him about his Che poster. Does he realize what Che would have done to him in, say, 1962 if he had lived in Cuba and criticized the Castro regime?
  • A professor from one of our local institutions of higher learning played some Mexican songs on his guitar. He apparently teaches bilingual/multicultural studies or something along those lines. Before he got started, he gave a spiel about the bravery of the common folk and speaking truth to power - the standard leftist bilge. And then he yelled "Viva Cesar Chavez!" And the Hispanics in the vicinity yelled, "Viva!" Then he yelled "Viva Dolores Huerta*!" And again, the peanut gallery yelled, "Viva!" Then he yelled, "Viva May-hee-co!" And once again, the sycophants yelled, "Viva!" For a "multicultural" event, I didn't feel too welcome at that moment.
*Dolores Huerta is a radical activist who started the United Farm Workers (UFW) with Cesar Chavez. She has been a sitting board member of the Democratic Socialists of America, and is a Marxist through and through. She is also a big-time supporter of illegal immigration; of course, she doesn't see it as being illegal. During a commencement speech a couple years back at a high school in Tucson, Arizona, she railed against immigration laws, and told the students that, "Republicans hate Latinos."
  • As we were cleaning up after the conclusion of the day's festivities, another one of our teachers who is a radical Chicano activist and MEChA member was showing some other teachers a poster board display that her students had made. She had requested that they do a poster board about the United States. The display had been decorated with hand-drawn images like a flag, a simple map of our country, and famous landmarks like the St. Louis Arch. There was also a drawing of a soldier and an Air Force jet with missiles on the wings. This teacher was expressing her displeasure about the images of the soldier and the jet because - and I am quoting her - "I hate the military." As my wife pointed out when I told her about this: isn't the military a culture? Shouldn't we be tolerant to them too? I wanted to walk up to this teacher and tell her that it's a good thing we have a military that protects her right to say in public that she hates the military.
I often kick myself when I think of the things I would like to say to these people - like the kid with the mascot t-shirt, and the teacher who hates the military - but in the interest of keeping the atmosphere civil, I hold my tongue. But on the other hand, these people surely are not holding their tongues; they are laying it all out there and essentially daring people like me to call them on it. Again, I pose a question to my readers: If they are willing to put their position out there in public like that, is it proper for me to rain on their self-congratulatory parade?

What do you think? How do you handle situations like that? As always, any input is appreciated.

Good Day to You, Sir

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A "Uniformly" stupid piece of writing

I have a feeling that the clueless writer of this useless LA Times column has never served in the military.

The very first paragraph of the piece sets the tone. If I ever had the chance to meet this "writer", I would have to fight with every fiber of my being the urge to hock a loogie in his face:
Gen. David H. Petraeus may be as impressive a military professional as the United States has developed in recent years, but he could use some strategic advice on how to manage his sartorial PR. Witness his congressional testimony on the state of the war in Iraq. There he sits in elaborate Army regalia, four stars glistening on each shoulder, nine rows of colorful ribbons on his left breast, and various other medallions, brooches and patches scattered across the rest of the available real estate on his uniform. He even wears his name tag, a lone and incongruous hunk of cheap plastic in a region of pristine gilt, just in case the politicians aren't sure who he is....
Why yes, General Petraeus even wears a "hunk of cheap plastic" name tag. You know why, you twit? Because according to Army Regulation (AR) 670-1 para. 15-10b(16) and 28-24c., he has to! Trust me - I was a Sergeant in the Army with 12 years of service; it was my job to know these little details.

Read the rest of the column if you like, but it just made me even more angry. This clueless columnist is actually taking the General to task for wearing his required uniform. Unbelievable!

I know I worked hard for every single piece of my "peacockery" as the twit calls it, and I am more than proud to show it off:

Good Day to You, Sir

It must have been the trees!

And just like that... only ten days after planting the six cypress trees in our front yard in an attempt to distract from and screen out our neighbors' disgusting RV, we got not one, but two offers on our house!

Right now it is down to who can submit the paperwork the fastest, and whoever does it first will be the ones who get our house. I won't breathe a final sigh of relief until escrow closes about a month from now, but I think it is safe to say that our saga may finally be coming to an end.

Assuming the offer goes through with no problems, then comes the fun part of finding a new house and moving into it within the next several weeks, all during the last month or so of the school year. In November, my wife and I hoped that it would work out so we could move during Christmas Break. It looked as if that would happen when we got an offer in the first week of December. But then that offer fell through. When Spring Break approached, we talked of how cool it would be if we could move during that time window, but then Spring Break came and went. Now that we have an offer in April, there is no way we can wait until Summer Vacation to move, so we are going to have to do this like normal people (non-teachers), and take a couple days off in conjunction with a weekend.

We already have a house in mind for our replacement, and unless some offer comes out of nowhere, there is a good chance we could get it if we want it. Nevertheless, my wife and I are going to go around with our agent this weekend and look at a bunch of houses just to make sure that the one we think is the one, really is the one.

Our fingers are crossed!

Good Day to You, Sir

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

I am now a true believer in cosmic justice!

A cabbie in Los Angeles picks up two teenage girls. The girls' boyfriends then approach the cabbie with the intention of robbing him. The cabbie speeds away, and the girls begin slashing his face with boxcutters. This violence causes the cabbie to crash. Click the link to find out the rest... of the story.

Good Day to You, Sir

Welcome to the middle school snakepit

I lost my temper with a class today. I didn't curse or throw desks or anything, but I gave this class a tongue lashing with a level of emotion that they rarely, if ever, see from me.

A few minutes after the beginning of 4th period, a brand new student walked in, class schedule in hand. She was tall, pleasant-looking enough, and morbidly obese. Within a few seconds of her entrance through the classroom door - she was still standing in front of it - the murmur of male voices began: "Whoooah" "Daaaaamn" "Hee Hee Hee Hee" "No Waaaaay" "Beeeep Beeep Beeep". That last sound effect is supposed to be a large vehicle backing up. I was livid. My jaw clenched, and I had to fight the urge to dress down the class right then and there. However, I thought that to do that would just embarrass the new student even more. Instead, I ushered her into the side computer lab that is attached to my classroom through a door; as much to give me a chance to cool down as it was to have the opportunity to talk to the new student about class procedures and expectations. To make matters worse, she told me she was home-schooled, so I really felt like she was being tossed into a snakepit.

I assigned her a seat, and we went on with the day's lesson. At the end of the period, after the students had packed up, cleaned up, and straightened up, I waited until about ten seconds before the bell was to ring and then I told the class I had some information about one of their assignments that I forgot to mention. I told the new girl that since she wasn't here for that assignment, she could go ahead and head out to her next class. After she left, I told the entire class to sit back down in their chairs. I can't remember exactly what I said to them, verbatim, but I will try:
Ladies and Gentlemen - and I stress the gentlemen part, because I only heard male voices - I have to tell you that I am ashamed, embarrassed, and shocked at what happened when that new student walked through the door. What in God's name were you idiots thinking? "Daaaamn!" "Whooooah!" I take it you were trying to let everyone know that she is OVERWEIGHT? That was stupid, stupid, stupid! And I am so ashamed that you would treat anyone that way, let alone a brand new student who hadn't been in the classroom more than five frickin' seconds! I hate to break this to you all, but none of you are frickin' perfect either! Now get out of my classroom - go!
The students got up, and for the first time I can remember, a entire class of students departed from my room without saying a word. They were in total silence. Maybe it was shock at my uncharacteristic outburst, or embarrassment at being a part of the misbehavior or for laughing at it. After having a few hours to reflect back, I am sure that I could have controlled my temper more and used some more mature words to express my displeasure (at least I didn't drop any full-blown cuss bombs even though I wanted to) - however, I hope that the severity of my rebuke will establish an understanding among those students that further mocking of this girl will not be tolerated.

During my lunch, I sent out the following email to the administration and the other teachers who are on this new student's schedule:
Hi All,

I got a new student today at the beginning of 4th period named ******* ******. She is noticeably overweight, and that caused an issue in my class of which I wanted to make you all aware.

The second she walked in the door, some of the boys in the classroom began uttering things under their breath: "Whoaaa" "Daaaaaamn"

I was mortified, I'm sure ******* heard it, and I was embarrassed for the class and for the school. To make matters worse, ******* told me she is a homeschooled student, so she is basically being thrown to the wolves here.

I ushered ******* into the side computer lab to brief her on my class procedures and ask her some get-to-know-you questions, and also to give myself a chance to cool off before I said something to the class I could regret.

At the end of the period, I came up with a ruse about having to speak to the class about a previous assignment and I dismissed *******, while keeping the rest of the class there.

In my ensuing speech, I kept my language PG, but I definitely was barely keeping my temper under control. I was talking to the class as a whole, but I was directing my comments at the students (all boys as far as I can tell) who found it necessary to mock ******* like they did. Like I said, I didn't curse, but the class knew I was extremely angry and upset because I rarely if ever get that emotional when talking to my students. The students then filed out of the classroom without saying a word.

Based on what I witnessed in my class today, I wanted to make you aware of possible problems that ******* might face on this campus in dealing with other students who have apparently never been taught to keep their rude thoughts to themselves.


Mr. Chanman
So fellow teachers/readers, how did I do? What would you have done if that had happened in your classroom? Was I out of line? Did I overreact? Could I or should I have done something differently? Any input - positive or negative - is appreciated.

Good Day to You, Sir

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Obama continues to defend his wacko church/pastor

In a late-March interview with Philadelphia talk radio host Mike Smerconish, Barack Obama made an ass of himself - again - by continuing to defend the indefensible: The hate-filled racist comments of Revagogue Emeritus Jeremiah Wright, and Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.

Obama had this to say about TUCC:
"This is not a crackpot church," the Democratic presidential candidate said of Trinity United Church of Christ. ". . . This is a pillar of the community, and if you go there on Easter, this Easter Sunday, and you sat down there in the pew, you would think this is just like any other church."
Now that Wright is gone, I would certainly hope things have improved, but don't count on it. Wright's replacement, the good Reverend Otis Moss III, is already stepping in it. Recently, Moss defended Wright from the pulpit and pointed out the error of the ways of people like me by quoting/paraphrasing rap artist Ice Cube by saying that critics had picked the "The wrong folk to mess with." I say "paraphrasing" because Ice Cube certainly did say it a little differently, and here is a supposed pastor in a church using a gangsta rapper as a reference. Watch Moss in action as he channels Mr. Cube (extremely naughty language alert!):

After telling Smerconish's listeners how wholesome TUCC is, Obama went on to try to explain away Wright's disgusting comments:
"The [comments] that are most offensive are ones that I never knew about until they were reported on," he said during the interview, which was taped Friday night and played back at 7:30 a.m. today. ". . . I don't want to suggest that somehow, the loops you have been seeing typified services all the time. But that is the danger of the YouTube era. It doesn't excuse what he said. But it does give it some perspective."
Once again, Obama tries the whole "I wasn't there when he said that stuff" defense. It is just pathetic. For the sake of argument, let's say that Obama wasn't there for any of the comments that have been videotaped (and put on the Wright's Greatest Hits DVD available in the church store). Is Barack Obama really asking me to believe that in twenty years of attending Wright's sermons, Wright never said anything as equally offensive as what we have seen on these "loops" on YouTube?

Let's talk about this "loops" business. Obama used that word with Smerconish, and he also used it in an interview with Chris Matthews on MSNBC. Obama is trying to diminish the impact of Wright's comments by painting them as some few-and-far-between aberrations that only sound bad when you hear them all "looped" together at once like you do on YouTube. At my Presbyterian church, I have been listening to the same minister's sermons since 2001. Sure, I have missed a couple of Sundays, but considering the countless Sundays my family and I have attended, I have never heard ANYTHING from the mouth of my minister that was uttered even one time by the good Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Radio host Mike Gallagher explained it best when he comically announced on his show, "I have a thing for German Shepherds... Hey I only said it once! I only admitted to bestiality one time! It shouldn't be held against me!" Obama is trying to excuse Wrights comments as things that were not said as often as is made out to be, apparently not realizing that the comments should never have been made at all! Obama is either very dense, very cynical, or very sheltered.

Let's put YouTube to good use again. Here is a video that has quickly made the rounds and has left Obama supporters and Lefties in general with their nylons in a wad:


Good Day to You, Sir

Monday, April 07, 2008

Absolut's ludicrous apology

It seems the pressure worked... to a point. Massive outcry about the "Reconquista" ad for Absolut Vodka has convinced Absolut to back down and apologize for their ad. The problem is that their apology is no such thing. It is one of those "We are sorry if you are offended" type of apologies where they explain why we shouldn't be mad about anything:

"In no way was it meant to offend or disparage, nor does it advocate an altering of borders, nor does it lend support to any anti-American sentiment, nor does it reflect immigration issues,"
Actually, the ad precisely advocates an altering of borders, it does lend support to anti-American sentiment, and it does reflect immigration issues. Way to take responsibility for your error Absolut.

Good Day to You, Sir

Friday, April 04, 2008

How do you convince Mexicans to give up their Tequila and start drinking Vodka?

By appealing to their wishes for "Reconquista." Absolut Vodka - a Swedish company by the way - has a new ad that is running in Mexico and was created by an ad agency in Mexico City that shows an "Absolut world" in which Mexico has reconquered the land that the United States won from them after the American-Mexican War of 1846-1848.

I rarely drink hard alcohol - I'm a German import/microbrew beer lover - but if I am ever offered something with Vodka in it, I will check first to see if the Vodka is Absolut. If it is, I'll ask for something else. If I can stop shopping at JC Penney, I can stop drinking Absolut Vodka.

Good Day to You, Sir

Suburban slowburn heats up

Do you own an RV? If you do, is it parked on your property, or do you keep it in storage? If it is parked on your property, please keep in mind that you have neighbors. Yes, I know that it is your property and you can what you like, but if you live in a suburban neighborhood, you must realize that the RV parked on your driveway might as well also be parked in your neighbor's driveway as well. Here is an example:

It took that photo last November from my driveway, looking toward my neighbor's house. This piece of sh** RV has been parked like that since September of 2007. I previously blogged about my displeasure with this situation.

At the time I took that photo, we had just put our house on the market, and I was voicing my worries that this stupid RV could have an impact on our attempt to sell our house. Well, it is now April and our house is still on the market. During that time, can we prove that the RV had a negative effect? Probably not. But think about all the traffic that has driven by during those months. Think about all those people who saw our For Sale sign and then saw the big piece of crap shoved up against our property line, and said to themselves, "Thanks, but no thanks."

And then, last week it happened. A nice old lady came with her agent to look at our house. Usually, my family and I exit and go run errands or something while our house is being toured. This time, we just hung out in the backyard. We briefly talked to the prospective buyer, and we could tell she was pretty impressed with the house.

A couple days later, our agent called us and told us that the lady loved our house and would make an offer right now but for one major issue: GUESS?!!! I was so livid, I wanted to go next door and take a frickin' sledgehammer to that hulking hunk of metal.

So what can be done about this situation? A little, but not much. According to the zoning code for Sacramento County, you can park your RV on your property. In the city itself, you cannot; you have to store it. Unfortunately, we don't live in what is considered the city limits, so it is the county code that applies. After poring over the code, I did find something though. You can't see it in the photo, but the RV is parked in this dirt side strip that lies alongside the neighbor's paved driveway. According to the zoning code, you cannot park any vehicle - RV or otherwise - on dirt; you must park your vehicles on pavement. The neighbor's paved driveway is already jammed with four other cars, so the only place to put the RV is on that dirt strip. Additionally, the mother-in-law has been living with these neighbors since last summer, and began sleeping in the RV at night as soon as it was parked on the property. A power cord and a TV cable have been hooked up to the RV that whole time. Hooking power up to, and sleeping in the RV are major no-no's according to the County Code.

Armed with this information and highlighted copies of the relevant pages of the code, I went next door two weeks ago - this was before the prospective buyer voiced her reservations about the RV - and talked to the neighbor wife, who was home at the time. I told the wife that we had been unsuccessful selling our house, and we had a terrible feeling that the RV had something to do with it. The wife crossed her arms and immediately became very defensive. She said - get this - "We can't store the RV, my mom is sleeping in it at night." This gave me the perfect opportunity to pull out the zoning code. I said, "That brings us to the next issue: according to the county zoning code, no one can sleep in the RV while its parked on the property." I then also informed her about the parking situation, and how it needed to be parked on pavement. The wife got even more defensive and said, "We ain't moving the RV. We can't afford storage." I told her, "According to the zoning code, you can park the RV on your property, but it has to be parked on pavement. Where it is currently parked, you are violating the zoning code." She then said, "Well, we are going to have to pave that area then, because we ain't moving the RV."

So that pretty much wrapped up our conversation. I reminded her one more time that the RV was illegally parked, and then I tapped the copies of the zoning code and told her she could keep those. I got up and walked back to my house, picked up the phone, and entered a complaint with County Code Enforcement; that was on March 24th. I have called the County back for an update, and here is bureaucracy at work: Code Enforcement mailed a letter to my neighbors March 27th. The neighbors have 15 days to reply, taking into account mailing time and weekends. If the county doesn't receive word from the neighbors after that period, they call me or my wife and ask us if there is still a problem. Seeing as how the RV hasn't moved this whole time, then yeah, there still is a problem: It is still parked in the dirt and it is still hooked up with power and cable cords. Once I confirm to the county that the problem still exists, then they send someone out to - what? - issue a citation? Tow the thing away? I'm not exactly sure. All I know is that we are trying to sell our house, and there is a humongous, ugly-ass RV practically parked on our property.

After the negative feedback from the prospective buyer the other day, my wife and I got proactive. We went to Home Depot bought six Italian Cypress trees (cupresses sempervirens), and I spent the better part of yesterday planting them. I took this photo about an hour ago:

These immature trees by no means block out the RV, and we could easily plant another five or six of them to really put up a wall of green. But for a prospective buyer, he or she would hopefully get the idea of our intentions by planting those trees, which will eventually double or triple in width, and grow to a height that dwarfs the RV.

I shudder to think how much time and money our neighbors have cost us. Aside from the $300 dollars we spent on those trees, we have had to drop the price of our house by about $30,000. We will never know if the house could have sold at the original price without the RV being parked there, but my gut feeling is that the RV is what necessitated the drop in price. Think about it: why buy this house with the piece of crap parked next door, when there are any number of other houses for sale in my neighborhood that have no such visual blights outside?

Once again, Dear Readers, if you have an RV parked on your property, please look at it with fresh eyes, and put yourself in the place of the people who live around you. My family and I are living proof of the impact on lives that a parked RV can have.

Good Day to You, Sir

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Appealing to the lowest common denominator

Kids don't wanna read? Let's have them listen to books on their MP3 players instead. That is the strategy of a middle school in New Jersey. They have partnered with a company who has handed out free MP3 players to the students, who then download the book they need from a subscription website provided through the school.

I have a huge problem with this. While I am happy that perhaps some students will be exposed to literature they might never have been otherwise, at the same time you must be aware that what is going on here is not reading. It is listening. Listening is an important skill, but its not enough. What do the studies always say? Children whose parents read to them will more likely grow up to be readers. Of course, an important step is for the child to actually learn to read. Instead of a parent, now we have an MP3 player filling that role, while at the same time, the student is not reading the book himself. This is like never teaching a kid how to do math, but handing him a free calculator. You can't always have a calculator with you. In the same vein, there is no audio version of a newspaper, or a periodical magazine. What will the now-grown-up kid do then? Crutches are nice to have, but they only work if you first learned to walk.

There is one blurb from this article that really bothered me, because it is something I often see at my school:
It was probably no coincidence the company chose to launch AudibleKids at the North Star Academy, a charter school where 90 percent of the kids receive free or reduced lunches, according to principal James Verrilli. Some downloads will be free of charge, and other titles can cost as little as $1.99, Fitzgerald said, adding that company research has shown more than half of third-graders own their own MP3 players....
So let me get this straight: these parents apparently can barely afford to feed their own children, but somehow they can find the money to buy their kid an MP3 player? I can't say I am surprised. I still remember a student last year who was received free/reduced lunch and never brought paper/pen to class because "we too po'", yet he was bragging to his buddies one day about his Red Monkey jeans he was wearing. Red Monkey jeans sell for hundreds of dollars. I also marvel at the students bringing their 80GB iPods to school (violating school rules by doing so) that retail for around $350 dollars. I have a 4GB MP3 player that I bought on sale for $110. Life is all about priorities, and unfortunately, I see a lot of bad financial choices being made by the so-called poor that live in this country.

One thing that will help keep you poor and unsuccessful is an inability to read. Giving a kid an audio book when he is below reading level does him no favors.

Good Day to You, Sir

Obama's paranoia in plain sight

Have you read Barack Obama's autobiographical piece of literary indulgence called Dreams From My Father? Neither have I. I have had the opportunity to hear bits and pieces from the audio book version on Hugh Hewitt's radio show, and my first impression was that Obama spent page after page talking about not very much.

One theme that does run throughout Dreams From My Father is Obama's racial chip on his shoulder. He tries to hide it, but he just can't help himself - from the books that he writes, to the speeches he makes, to the church he attends, to the pastors he befriends.

Ann Coulter has done us all a favor by doing the dirty work of reading Dreams From My Father, and what Obama has to say about race isn't pretty. After reading his meanderings, it is little wonder that he tucked himself under the wing of a lunatic racist like the good Revagogue Jeremiah Wright. Considering that Barack Obama is half white, this excerpt from Coulter's column is particularly troubling:
In college, Obama explains to a girl why he was reading Joseph Conrad's 1902 classic, "Heart of Darkness": "I read the book to help me understand just what it is that makes white people so afraid. Their demons. The way ideas get twisted around. I helps me understand how people learn to hate."

By contrast, Malcolm X's autobiography "spoke" to Obama. One line in particular "stayed with me," he says. "He spoke of a wish he'd once had, the wish that the white blood that ran through him, there by an act of violence, might somehow be expunged."
I picture Obama as some sort of racially charged Lady MacBeth. Instead of trying to get rid of the "damned spot" of blood, he is trying to rid himself of his whiteness. The more we get to know Barack Obama, the more confused and bitter he seems to be. Must be from that half-million dollar salary and Harvard Law Degree he has. Damn this racist country!

Good Day to You, Sir

Tornado Time!

It's that time of year again! Cold fronts from Canada collide over the Great Plains with warm fronts from the Gulf of Mexico. Result: Tornadoes and otherwise wicked weather systems. I have always loved thunderstorms and such, and these pictures illustrate why. I have included my favorite to get you started:

You can just see the twisting of the cloud formation!

Good Day to You, Sir

A "New Deal" for stopping the foreclosure crisis?

I am going to give Holman Jenkins of the Wall Street Journal the benefit of the doubt. I am going to assume that his column is a Johnny-come-lately attempt at April Fool's Day humor, or some sort of Swiftian farce.

In his column, Mr. Jenkins suggests that a way to get us out of this housing slump is destroy a good number of the vacant homes that have suffered foreclosure - to decrease supply in an attempt to increase demand, and thereby stop the free-fall of the prices of houses for sale.

If he is truly serious, then Holman Jenkins is a frickin' moron. If he thinks his idea is original, then he best go back to the drawing board. Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal "brain trust" tried the same thing during the Great Depression. In an attempt to help farmers by raising the price of food, the U.S. government - our government - dumped thousands of gallons of milk down the drain; slaughtered thousands of pigs, cows, and other livestock; and allowed grain to rot in the silos. It was thought that destroying this supply of food would raise demand, and therefore raise prices. Perhaps in the short run, getting more money for what they had left to sell might help the farmers, but what about the consumers? If people are hurting financially, what sense does it make to make food even more expensive? The same can be said for housing.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Medal of Honor for SEAL in Iraq

Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Monsoor, a Navy SEAL from southern California, has been awarded the Medal of Honor (Posthumous) for performing what I consider to be one of the ultimate heroic acts: he dove upon and smothered with his own body an enemy hand grenade, thereby saving several of his fellow soldiers with his selfless act. This actually the second Medal of Honor to be awarded in the War on Islamic Terrorism for smothering an enemy hand grenade. Marine Corporal Jason Dunham died doing the same thing in 2004.

I always associate diving on a hand grenade with the Battle of Iwo Jima, where several Marines were awarded the Medal of Honor for doing something that I don't even want to imagine ever having to do.

This generation of young Americans often get a bad rap for being lazy, selfish, and spoiled - Lord knows I've done my share of bashing on this blog - but the young men and women serving in this war never cease to humble me with their selfless acts of sacrifice. God Bless each and every one of them.

For the Medal of Honor citations for recipients from the War in Afghanistan, click here. For the Medal of Honor citations for the recipients from the War in Iraq, click here.

Good Day to You, Sir

Mugabe choosing to go peacefully?

Seeing the probability of stealing this election as being somewhere between nil and nada, reports are surfacing that Robert Mugabe, the dictator of Zimbabwe for the last 28 years, will be stepping down. He has read the mood of the masses, and the masses ain't happy. When that is the situation, the smart thing to do is to step aside.

I can't say I blame Mugabe. He didn't want to end up like this guy:

Nicolae Ceausescu was the long-time dictator of Romania until the collapse of eastern European communism in 1989. Ceausescu refused to give up his grip on power, so he and his wife were put up against a wall and shot. Images like that and these are probably running through Mugabe's mind while he mulls the possibility of vacating his seat of power.

The only question now is will he be required to remain in Zimbabwe so that he and his sycophants will be held to answer for their crimes, or will he run for it and live the rest of his life in luxurious exile in some rogue country that is willing to aid and abet him, ala Idi Amin kicking it in Saudi Arabia?

With the departure or demise of Robert Mugabe now (hopefully) imminent, I can only pray that the people of the beautiful country of Zimbabwe can recover quickly. My word of advice to the incoming government is: for the love of all that is good and holy, adopt free market reforms, reject strongman socialism that you just voted out, and don't lay down the heavy tariffs upon which - to their detriment - so many African countries rely.

Good Day to You, Sir

Dear Saudi Arabia: Suck it!

Who knew? Apparently, there is somewhere between 200 billion and 400 billion barrels of oil located underneath the state of North Dakota and surrounding environs. Compare that to the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) - which I still think we should drill - that would give us 16 billion barrels of oil.

Until a workable alternative energy system can be produced as inexpensively and efficiently as oil and its byproducts, then oil it shall be. Wouldn't it be lovely to exploit oil finds like the one in North Dakota so that our dependence on these OPEC nations would become a moot issue? We already get most of our oil from Canada anyway; let's keep our oil drilling going in the plains of the great white north!

Good Day to You, Sir