Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

Halloween is not my favorite holiday. I dislike the focus on things disturbing, grotesque, and evil. I do not hate all things about Halloween, though.

I like the crisp coolness that brings back the memories of the few times I was allowed to have fun like other, normal children. I am bemused by the fact that Halloween is the one holiday that seems to be acceptable for young women to wear absolutely scandalous outfits with little censure. Hell, I'm all for freedom, and I'm a guy. If you feel the need to wear a tiny little outfit, you go, girl. I salute your right and ability to do so.

Phelps Gets it in The End

Anti-homosexual/military/American and general douchebag Fred Phelps of the "Westboro Baptist Church" (whose continual existence either proves that Americans at heart are peaceful and forgiving, or that we've become weanies: not sure which) has been ordered to pay $10.9 million in damages to the family of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who died in Iraq last March. Now if Phelps would just contract an incurable but slow case of flesh-eating bacteria...

This Will Not Be Pleasant

John R. Shirley
EDTD 6231
31 October 2007

“Classroom Discussion: Models for Leading Seminars and Deliberations”

Walter C. Parker, in his “Classroom Discussion” article immediately introduces the importance of free dialog for political purposes. Parker says that “dialogue is the basis of thinking”. Parker equates a lack of free dialog with “dumbing down” a population by an absence of expressiveness. Mr. Parker is concerned that when teachers talk about having a class discussion, this usually involves only “recitation” that the teacher effectively dominates.

According to Parker, there as several major obstacles to using effective discussion in class. He says lack of adequate time and large classes of students are more obvious obstacles, with a lack of effective models and “masked domination” being less obvious and even more challenging problems. He then goes on to give two statements, one from an African-American teacher, and another from a Euro-American “social scientist” to illustrate his point.

The problem with the statements Parker uses to prove his point is a high degree of bias. The first statement, from the teacher, generalizes about what “white people” do, in an offensive way that would not be accepted if it came from a Euro-American speaking of “black people”. What if that “white” teacher said of “black people”:

When you’re talking to black people, they still want it to be their way. You can try to talk to them, and give them examples, but they’re so headstrong...they just don’t listen well...

This quote, altered only by changing “white” to “black”, would be considered offensive and unfair if said about another group, but is somehow considered acceptable coming from the individual who made the statement, and being directed as it currently is? The second statement says that “power relations...are unjust.”

Generalizing what any “color” people do, based solely on the shade of their skin, is prejudicial and highly offensive, and should be well beneath serious consideration in this century. There are three obvious problems about the quote from the “social scientist”: the first, and most obvious, is that the term “social scientist” is an ambiguous term, and appears chosen to avoid giving the genuine academic and professional credentials of the individual in question. Is this person a sociologist? A psychologist? Perhaps this is an anthropologist who specializes in small-group learning environments. Any of these descriptions give academic credence to statements made by this individual, and works towards making statements made by this person academic evidence. Instead, the reader is given a misleading description of Elizabeth Ellsworth, an expert on pedagogical design (with a specialization in media).

The other problems with Dr. Ellsworth’s statement are related to logic. Ellsworth says that classroom dialog rules should assume that everyone has equal right to speak. It is amazing to me, as a relative academic fledgling, that someone with so poor a grasp of logic is allowed to have her own classroom, much less be considered an expert on teaching design. If everyone has equal right to speak, the teacher has no control over the class. If everyone has equal right to speak, there is no actual point in having a teacher, because everyone’s ideas are equally valid. The years of study and work the instructor has invested are without weight, despite his or her supposed expertise. This is blatantly ludicrous.

Dr. Ellsworth’s complete final quote in this article is “ this historical moment, power relations between raced, classed, and gendered students and teachers are unjust.” “At this historical moment” is essentially meaningless, and is a “throwaway phrase” to make this statement sound more scholarly. Dr. Ellsworth has already said that an equal voice in the classroom is impossible because of these “unjust power relations”. The problem with this intensely true-sounding sound bite from a pedagogical expert is a poor understanding of language.

“Power” means possession of controlling influence . Since Dr. Ellsworth believes that there should be no “controlling influence” in the classroom, it logically follows that there cannot be just power relations”. Parker has wasted the reader’s time and weakened his own argument with his would-be-authoritative quotes.

Parker goes on to describe the methods of two teachers. One uses seminar, while the other uses deliberation. Both methods, as used by the teachers in the article, appear valid and potentially helpful. Either method appears to offer ways to help students gain a deeper understanding of subjects, while also helping them develop critical thinking/”habits of mind” skills. It is a shame that Parker’s introduction of prejudicial and flawed statements early in the article prove so distracting to the reader.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

More Afghan News

The NY Times is reporting that the Taliban ranks in Afghanistan and Pakistan are being swelled with foreign fighters who have come to fight the Great Satan. Since this is similar to the intel we received when I was deployed, I don't find this surprising, though it is somewhat darkly ironic to hear these newer fighters described as "more radical" than the Afghan Taliban.

Monday, October 29, 2007


From Marko, we find the story of a Salem woman who was attacked by a scumbag, right next to an apartment building. Emo boy Keith Cole whines about someone being willing to take another's humanity, but evidently did absolutely nothing. A car with three young males and two females stopped and rendered assistance, in the form of calling the police while a royal ass-kicking was administered to 37-y/o Paul Landingham.

Mr. Cole, you're absolutely right, it's despicable that someone would do that to another. You know what's almost as bad? Whiny pansies that won't help someone desperately in need, but who have the gall to look pitiful for the tv cameras. Stop breathing my air.

Missed Opportunities

I applied for an assistantship at ASU Department of Educational Leadership. It wouldn't have paid much, but my tuition would have been waived. It seems all the assistantships have been filled, but if any more monies become available, I'm first on the list. Sigh.

The War at Home

Friend Oleg Volk's neighbor was killed in a robbery Friday night.

Throwing Stones

Friend Holly reports that Fred Phelps- "pastor" Phelps who torments grieving families with foolish and insensitive signs- is being sued by the father of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder. Phelps and his flock of buzzards had the audacity to be present with signs at Snyder's recent funeral.

If you'd like to assist Albert Snyder in his punitive lawsuit against these SOBs, you can find more information here. To Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, who died in a vehicle accident while on deployment doing his duty: I'm sorry, son. You deserved better.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Mexicans Missing the 'Merican Money

A NY Times article today reported that money sent from the US to Mexicans, mostly by illegal immigrants has fallen. Surprise! The US is already becoming more like Mexico.

I have nothing against anyone, from any country, coming LEGALLY to the US and working hard for what they have. I cheer and applaud such people when they succeed. What I hate is when people from other countries come to the US because the US is great, and then refuse to become integrated with our culture, and then try to turn the country into something resembling the country they just left. (Hello? If your country was so great, you wouldn't have left, would you?)

Even more than not doing simple things to integrate like, I don't know, learning the language, I despise folk who come here illegally, and then rake in money from social programs. Bleeding our economy without putting anything in. That really fries my bacon.

Be afraid. Very afraid.

And active, for that matter.

H.R. 1955 has passed the House and is now in Senate committee. This bill touts that it aims at combatting "radicalism", which sounds good until one reflects that this appears to be talking about our 1st Amendment rights. The bill description ends with this:

Prohibits the Department of Homeland Security's efforts to prevent ideologically-based violence and homegrown terrorism from violating the constitutional and civil rights, and civil liberties, of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. (emphasis mine)

Um...guys? You're admitting you're trying to sponsor a bill to allow terrorists to violate our rights? Either these politicians have folks who can't write working for them, or they're incredibly brazen. Probably both.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Larry Correia is taking orders for Monster Hunter International. At $26 shipped (including possibly the coolest patch ever), MHI won't be the cheapest book you've ever purchased- but it may be the most entertaining.

Circumstantial Evidence

The site of what Syrian officials claimed was a warehouse, bombed by the Israeli air force on 6 September 2007, has been swept clean, according to a NY Times article. The hurried cleanup lends credence to claims that the site actually housed a North Korean-designed nuclear reactor.

A New Blog

After deciding a few days ago to add more of-interest news, I realized I am mostly blogging Sino-American stuff. Since forecasting Asian threats is a major interest of mine, I will henceforth only blog incredible, major, "Read it now!" Asian news stories here.

All other Asian news stories will be blogged on my new blog. I give you States of Matter. Enjoy.

Heal the World

Make it a better place
For you and for me
And the entire human race

Ken Caldeira, in a NY Times opinion piece, says that the earth will continue warming for decades, even if greenhouse gas emissions stopped tomorrow. Caldeira suggests that high-altitude sulfate particles would reflect back some of the sun's rays, cooling the earth. It's for the polar bears, man.

Mr. Caldeira is affiliated with the Department of Global Ecology at the Carnegie Institution of Washington.


The mornings are finally, thankfully, cooler now. I love this, though the additional darkness and chill make it even harder to leave the warmth of my bed. Yesterday morning, I could hear birds chirping before I stepped out on the landing.

On the landing, as I looked around at the early fog, a small brown bird, like a sparrow, but sleeker, landed on the rail less than three feet away, and examined me.

"Good morning," I wished him. He scrutinized me, and flew on his way.

China Heads for the Moon

Chang'e 1, a Chinese satellite, lifted off Wednesday 24 October 2007 at 1805 local. The satellite is destined to orbit the moon for a year. A race of secondary world powers and developing nations seems to be happening, with Japan launching a lunar probe last month and India planning a lunar orbiter launch next year.

China alarmed potential higher-tech adversaries with a January test that destroyed Feng Yun, one of its own weather satellites. First reported by Aviation Week, the asat test was the first known live test to be conducted since Soviet and US tests in the mid-'80s.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Politics and Humor

What's funny about politics? Not too damn much. That's why I'm so impressed when someone can make a political point with humor, as this snip from buddy Larry Correia shows:

In Utah news, we’re having a vote on Referendum 1 next week. It is about whether we should have vouchers in school, which allows parents to take some of that education tax money per kid, and use it to send their kid to a school of their choosing. This of course freaks out the teacher’s unions, because you know, competition is great in every other facet of life in the friggin’ universe, but is BAD in education. I swear that I actually heard the following radio commercial from the teacher’s union.

Concerned Mother: I hear Referendum 1 will cause vouchers, and those will hurt Utah kids.

Concerned Father; Yes, because choice in education is BAD, and will hurt Utah kids. I feel this with my strong emotions.

Concerned Mother: Yes, because private, religious, and charter schools are allowed to beat Utah children with phonebooks. This will take money from public schools, which will cause outbreaks of hoof and mouth disease.

Concerned Father: And private schools teachers aren’t even required to be certified, or pay union dues! This means that Donald Rumsfeld will come to school and actually water board your children.

Concerned Mother: The governor is mad, insane, drunk with power, and must be stopped!

Concerned Child: Mommy… Donald Rumsfeld touched me inappropriately…

Concerned Mother: NOOOO!!!!

Concerned Announcer: Vote no on Referendum 1. Brought to you by the Utah Education Association, George Soros, and the Reptoids of the Hollow Earth.

A True Story

So, for background. At Fort Classified, we have an enormous Tesla coil, which radiates electrical energy outward. This is a historical and scientific curiosity, but is mostly used because it looks cool. Like several other displays on site, this is very dangerous, especially if someone gets very near the fence surrounding the coil. On to the story from, um, Dave.

since telling stories is the best thing to do when one is supposed to be studying...jilly comes to me yesterday with a huge box of florescent bulbs of all sizes. she says, "c'mon DAVE, i want you to help me with an experiment." i was the ONLY person on the top floor, guest or employee, but i didn't want to leave my post, just in case someone came up. so, i asked her what kind of experiment it was.

"well," she says, "i want to see if i can get these to light up if i hold it up towards the tesla coil."

"the big tesla coil?" i ask, a little apprehensively.

"Yep," she says, wide-eyed and nodding like a bobble-head, excited by the magnificence of her idea. "I was thinking that, if it worked, we could bring out this box each hour and let our guests hold the lightbulbs during the lightning storm."

"Umm..." i said, looking for something more polite than "bitch, are you crazy?" and settling for "i don't think that's such a good idea. you're gonna have to stand WAY too close. it's dangerous."

"No it's not," she says, still nodding and smiling. "C'mon, let's go," she says, turning to go.

follow, thinking, well, she's not taking no for an answer, maybe she'll chicken out before it gets too crazy. so, we get to the tesla coil and she pulls out a short bulb (what a 'tard) and holds it out over the rail. standing about two feet away from the rail, but extending the bulb over it.

"are you sure about this," i asked, pausing before unlocking the door. "we have our guests stand at least two feet from the rail for a reason--it's 600, 000 volts."

"it's okay," she said, getting a little uppity and agitated with my insubordination, "now go turn it on."

this is where it becomes morally compromising...everything i knew about the whole thing told me that it was a terrible and extremely dangerous idea...but she was so insistent, and so eager to be an idiot, that i felt like obliging her was just the thing to do. i flipped the switch and waited for the worst.

nothing happened. so, she got closer. i flipped the switch, nothing happened. she told me to leave it on, and she proceeded to get the longest bulb from the box and approached the railing until she was less than one foot from it, with the bulb extended about 2 feet shy of the neon bulbs hanging from the ceiling. i turned it off, i just couldn't watch anymore.

so, then she says, "i know why it didn't work," and goes scurrying off to the power station. meanwhile, i'm sitting on the box with the switches, with a bit of a cold sweat starting to form on my face. i'm realizing that i seriously could have been responsible for electrocuting her, but i didn't really feel all that bad about it. i wouldn't have felt personally guilty so much as complicitly guilty...but, still.

she came bounding out of the power station, with a plastic stool in hand. "i needed an insulator!" she exclaimed.

"i really don't think we should--" i said, but she cut me off.

"just flip the switch," she said, plopping the stool down about a foot from the railing and climbing onto it and sticking out the bulb.

flipped the switch. bulb lit up. she was happy. i was getting kind of sick.

"it worked!" she said, all proud of herself.

"it's a terrible idea," i said, trying not to be completely insulting. "i would not EVER ask a guest to do something so risky. it's ridiculous."

"yeah," she says, "i suppose you're right." then she left, carrying on in her merry, vacant way.

Life, Worth Living

Good cornbread may not, actually, be the only thing that makes it worthwhile to soldier through, but it surely does help. Buddy Matt G shares his recipe, guaranteeing that I will eventually wend my way back towards Texas to share some with him.

For any of you that will admit you add sugar to your cornbread: for shame.

More Chinese Energy Concerns

The Chinese are building more coal power plants, according to a NY Times article today. A lot more coal power plants.

In other recent news, the governments of China and Brazil sponsored a study that tells us something obvious- the Chinese are killing us. Specifically, the new coal power plant a week the Chinese are planning on opening for the next five years.

University of Tennessee officials are sucking up to our future Chinese overlords. I mean, gosh, why not share nuclear technology with them? Yes, it's true that nuclear power plants generate less waste than coal ones, but sharing nuclear tech with the nation probably most engaged in espionage against us seems kinda, I don't know, stupid.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Because You Suck. And We Hate You.

One of my favorite posters inspired by Larry Corriea.

Student Scores

Higher scores on standardized tests may be due to states manipulating data and making tests easier, according to an article yesterday in the Washington Post.

No Child Left Behind creates a frustrating problem for many educators, who find themselves "teaching to the test", instead of teaching material. This means that a large portion of teaching time will be spend specifically on learning how to pass a test. I wish I knew an easier/better way.

China's Energy Needs

China plans to build a 1500 KW wind power plant in Bohai Bay about 37 miles offshore of northern China. China has aggressively purchased oil recently, leading to concerns from the West.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Points of Light

Our Graduate Department of Education has emailed us that the lab requirements for observation in classrooms will be dialed back.

Thank Doug.

(This is Doug.)


I have often thought that the point of living, for humans, must be to live a good life and rear healthy children that enrich a society. Then again, that's basically saying our whole point of existence is to reproduce.

That seems almost pointless.

Just sayin'.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

This week in the news

I don't usually try to think about politics too much, because it depresses me. While we have had some positive changes for gun owners in particular during the last few years, we as Americans have actually lost more ground than we've gained. The Patriot Act, especially has encroached on our rights more than at any time since the McCarthy era of anti-commie hysteria.
McCarran Act
And, for the hell of it, here's a picture of Ronnie Reagan testifying before HUAC.

Larry Correia recaps our presidential choices here. If you want to laugh while you're crying, check it out.

Maybe statements like these- given over thirty years before he would become president- are why so many people feel Ronal Reagan was one of the greatest presidents ever:

"99 percent of us are pretty well aware of what is going on, and I think, within the bounds of our democratic rights and never once stepping over the rights given us by democracy, we have done a pretty good job in our business of keeping those people's activities curtailed. After all, we must recognize them at present as a political party. On that basis we have exposed their lies when we came across them, we have opposed their propaganda, and I can certainly testify that in the case of the Screen Actors Guild we have been eminently successful in preventing them from, with their usual tactics, trying to run a majority of an organization with a well organized minority. In opposing those people, the best thing to do is make democracy work."

In general, I think that's a good policy. Have something that works better than anything else.

MAT and Bureaucracy

We have just been advised that every education class in the MAT program now requires at least 15 lab hours in a middle or high school classroom. Those graduating from a MAT program after July 2008 will be forced to have 300 lab hours. This is due to Georgia State Certification requirements.

The problem with this idea- which might sound good at first- is that students in the MAT program will either have to be independently financially stable, or will have to be employed as a teacher to accumulate all these lab hours and still make enough money to survive. The problem is exacerbated by some counties claiming they will not hire current MAT students*, creating a Catch-22: students need to be teachers to get all the lab hours in, but will not be hired in some counties because they haven't finished the program yet. This is but another bureaucratic annoyance, in this case one that's a headache for the many students attempting to fill the vital need for teachers in this state.

*despite these students being able to work in schools according to GA law, if they have passed the GACE teacher cert

Monday, October 15, 2007

Confusion and Light

Jordy and I drove to UNCG. I think it would be fairly easy for me to get into their graduate program, but Jordy says they don't have the Master's program she's now planning on taking.

Our housewarming Saturday night was a great success. Almost everyone seemed to have a great time, nothing major was broken, and the police were not called. I'm going to give it a 4.5/5 stars.

Even more importantly than a good party- perhaps- Jordy rocked the GRE. And by rocked, I mean she beat my score by 80 points. Woo!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

An Overdue Addition

Hysterically funny and entertaining friend Larry Corriea has a blog that will henceforth be added to the links. Here is a classic post of his from THR. Read.

Dog Paddlin'

This weekend, I was the floor supervisor for the first time at Fort Classified. As I waited for my floor staff to arrive, I realized we had two birthdays, a special event in the movie theater, and we needed two people to help CEO Reginald Dumas at an event at a local school.
And I had five people. You do the math.

Since I didn't end up running the entire building by myself, I guess things must have worked out, mostly thanks to having coworkers that came through for me. Stressful, but if you can pull these things off, it certainly looks good.

I've been feeling like I'm drowning lately. I have lab hours of observation and participation I have to complete in a local high school, so I've been arriving at the school around 0715, sitting in a couple of classes, and then getting to work before 1000. I have two more classes beginning next Monday, and I'm already behind.

I reluctantly went to talk to Blue Leader today. He has been very willing to work with me on my hours, and I know I'm his Great White Hope. I hated to disappoint him by telling him I needed to reduce my hours, but he took it well. I'm dropping from five (or seven, this past week!) days a week down to three. I'll miss the money, of course, but I'm so relieved to know I'll have time to get all my work done.

Jordy and I leave Wednesday to meet with the Graduate Department at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. It's a nice area, and UNCG is our "safe school".

Monday, October 1, 2007

Chariots and Debt

Big Daddy and I spent most of two days this weekend looking at car lots. Jordy had to work, so when we finally ended getting geared up to buy a new Kia Spectra Saturday, she had to rush down to the dealership after leaving work.

The paperwork wasn't signed, but we took the car home. She was very happy. Sunday, Big Daddy said he wanted to look around at some other dealerships, to be sure we were getting the best deal possible. We drove a Toyota Yaris (a neat little ride) all the way down to Fort Classified, and Jordy came downstairs for a short test drive. The Yaris is a great vehicle, but she thought she liked the amenities of the Spectra better.

Jordy came down to the Toyota lot after leaving work, and I pointed out an 07 Chrysler Sebring with 20K miles. She liked its looks, and took it for a spin. Big Daddy, Ryan the Hungover Sales Guy, and I all knew how she felt about it when she started humming a few minutes into the drive!

We got a pretty decent price for the Sebring, but the horrible interest rate made the payments more than the low, low monthly payments for the Spectra, despite its higher sticker price. Still, Jordy loves the car and it should serve us well.