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That'll Teach Them

Posted by Ogged
on 01.31.14

School administrators are doing absolutely nothing to convince me that they're not the worst people in the world.
First, at a well-regarded charter school in expensive Boulder County.

stamping the hands of students whose lunch accounts are low or empty to alert parents is a common practice used in many schools. The practice had been in place at Peak to Peak for years, and was used in Boulder Valley's non-charter schools up until about five years ago.

And in Salt Lake City.

Up to 40 kids at Uintah Elementary in Salt Lake City picked up their lunches Tuesday, then watched as the meals were taken and thrown away because of outstanding balances on their accounts

The best commentary on this comes from another elementary school's home page.

There are two Uintah Elementary schools in Utah. We are located in South Ogden, not Salt Lake City. Our policy is to feed students no matter the situation and work out the deficit balances with the parents.

It must have taken a team of the world's greatest ethicists years to craft such a policy.


 

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You'll poke your eye out.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.31.14

X. Trapnel sends along this link, which would so never, ever happen in the US.

[T]he school took the experiment a step further by abandoning the rules completely, much to the horror of some teachers at the time, he said. When the university study wrapped up at the end of last year the school and researchers were amazed by the results. Mudslides, skateboarding, bullrush and tree climbing kept the children so occupied the school no longer needed a timeout area or as many teachers on patrol. Instead of a playground, children used their imagination to play in a "loose parts pit" which contained junk such as wood, tyres and an old fire hose.
"The kids were motivated, busy and engaged. In my experience, the time children get into trouble is when they are not busy, motivated and engaged. It's during that time they bully other kids, graffiti or wreck things around the school."

Seriously, our daycare doesn't even have swings.

(Also - we were told to please not bring in any baby food with some meat in it for Ace. "If it's pure meat, that's ok, or if it's just vegetables and fruit, that's fine, but nothing like "chicken and stars" flavor." Why? "Because we need to be able to write down how many ounces of meat she ate, and we can't tell if it's mixed up." Ok then. We probably won't send in pure meat product for her, though.)(I really do love our daycare and the baby room a whole lot, this notwithstanding.)


 

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Money Wasted

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.31.14

There's this thing that happens in tons of news reports, where they're reporting something industry-wide that wastes people's time and energy - an inefficiency of the medical billing system, or complications of the tax code, or whatever. Then they'll put a dollar amount to it and say "It is estimated that X billion dollars are wasted/lost/spent on this bad thing, annually".

I always over-think this kind of language in my head, as in, "Isn't that basically stimulus money, then? People did something and money changed hands, and it's not like if we reformed the practice that the money would have gone to the public schools."

It's entirely possible - nay, well-established - that I am not the deepest of thinkers. So just keep your eye out for the real post, in the first 40 comments.


 

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A Complete Education

Posted by Ogged
on 01.30.14

I was driving with my three-year-old, who was unusually subdued, when Black Sabbath's War Pigs came on the radio. Over the opening cords he declared, "Michael Jackson is dead."


 

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ATM: Ergonomics Edition

Posted by Tia
on 01.30.14

Dear Mineshaft,

I've all of a sudden developed a ton of pain from desk work. The mousing is the worst part -- the most severe pain is in my right neck, shoulder, and back. I've ordered a wireless Thinkpad keyboard with a nubbin and I'm waiting for that to come. But I think I really ought to be a lot higher with respect to my keyboard, too. I have some left shoulder pain too. My right -- radial nerve? -- something that runs along the inside of my wrist to my index finger doesn't feel so hot either.

I asked facilties here to install a keyboard tray, which they just did, and it is the worst and stupidest thing ever, because it has gears that are six inches wide and three inches deep below the keyboard tray so I can't actually sit underneath it and have the keyboard low relative to my shoulders. I'm frustrated and worried because careful introspection reveals that I hold shoulder tension even when I have my keyboard in my lap, which is how I'm typing now, and that's as low as I can get it. Sitting up very straight helps with the problem, but I sure don't have a chair that supports that right now. Even sitting up straight doesn't totally alleviate it, anyway. Really I feel like I want my keyboard even lower than my legs, but that's not possible. I'm worried I made the wrong choice of keyboard, too, because all of a sudden I've realized it hurts to angle my arms in, and maybe I should have bought one of the split keyboards with the touchpad. When I simulate it, it feels like maybe if I could have my lower arms parallel to my body and the outside of my wrists angled down I wouldn't need my keyboard quite so low. Maybe I could get a divided keyboard and put a touchpad in between the halves?

I'm employed by a very underfunded subunit of my larger institution, but there's some money to buy stuff for me so that I'm comfortable. I'm not sure how much would be pushing my luck, though. I have very little disposable income of my own to spend on this stuff. I could maybe do $200.

I'm kind of freaked out by how much pain I'm in. Does anyone have experience suddenly developing desk work pain and know how to alleviate it? Do you have products you'd like to recommend? Like keyboard trays you can sit underneath? Or ergonomic keyboards? Do you know where someone could go to try this kind of thing out? Do you have your own ergonomics questions you want to ask? We're all experts at sitting at desks.


 

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Common Core

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.30.14

A good overview of Common Core State Standards. It's not a topic I'm very well informed on, but I have it on record that this blogger is reputable.


 

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Lean In, The Movie

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.30.14

E. Messily sends along the script.

I laughed. Also, has anyone here actually read the book?


 

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I Don't Understand

Posted by Ogged
on 01.29.14

Birmingham is fairly hilly; I can see why snow without snow plows could be a problem, but my recollection of Atlanta is of a pretty flat city. If you drive slowly, you can get to where you're going, even in the snow. What the hell happened?

I can't, in good faith, discourage jokes about mouthbreathing Southerners, but I'm genuinely curious about the complete breakdown in car traffic.


 

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Things I Believe Generally About High-Density, Lowrise Or Midrise Neighborhoods, Without Reference To Specific Conditions In The Bay Area About Which I Only Know What I Read In The Papers, And Very Little Of That.

Posted by LizardBreath
on 01.29.14

(1) Lots of people want to live in densely built areas. Not everyone, certainly, and I'm easily convinced that they're desirable because I'm one of the people who likes them, but my personal tastes aren't leading me astray here -- you can tell that there's a lot of demand for housing in dense areas because that's generally where the rents are high.

(2) Densely built areas (by which I mean dense enough to be walkable -- the sort of area that's surprisingly high average density but still noplace to get to on foot isn't what I'm talking about) are generally socially and environmentally a good thing for all sorts of reasons -- they make public transportation practical, they encourage pedestrians (good for health and community building, and much more humane for anyone with a disability that makes driving difficult or impossible, mostly old people), for a given population they free up land for agriculture and wilderness. Doesn't mean that everyone has to live in one, but if you care about these sorts of issues, you should be rooting for dense development.

(3) What most people really, really want, though, is a single family home with a yard two blocks from public transportation and the sort of walkable retail that needs really dense development. I get it -- I want that too. There's one street in my neighborhood of these absurd little stone phony-Tudor (I think that's what you'd call them?) houses, and I covet one: all the neighborhood amenities, but a rosebush out front and no worries about annoying the downstairs neighbors. BUT YOU CAN'T HAVE THAT (unless you're either rich or lucky). If there are more than a very few blocks like that, density drops enough that the neighborhood doesn't work properly anymore. Oh, I'm overstating this a bit -- on small enough lots, you can have a perceptible percentage of single-family housing in a functionally dense neighborhood. But not everyone can live like that. And if you're trying to come up with a plan for a neighborhood with urban amenities but all or mostly singlefamily housing with yards, you're aiming at something like a four-sided triangle: it really, really isn't going to work, and shouldn't be a goal of public policy -- I can sympathize with your desires, but in the 'gently trying to talk you out of it' sense of sympathizing.

(4) Incumbent owners and local governments generally hate dense development, and are pretty successful in blocking it. And the country is full -- there is no place that isn't occupied by incumbent owners and local governments. Because of (1) through (3), in any particular discussion of development, I don't have a lot of sympathy for the interests of local landowners. Sure, they shouldn't be thoughtlessly abused, but they're in a very strong position and can protect themselves.

(5) Another political problem is that developers aren't generally champing at the bit to do the sort of low/midrise dense development I want to see more of. Largely, this is because of (4) -- local governments and incumbent owners are so well situated to block anything from happening, that it's not worth bulling through the opposition for anything less than incredibly expensive luxury housing. So cheering on "dense development" sounds like cheering on "assholes who want to rip down nice little neighborhoods to put up luxury towers full of hedge fund managers." (I do think there should be at least some places to put up luxury towers, but it's not what I'm thinking of generally when I'm thinking of dense development.) And that describes an awful lot of actually existing or planned development, which makes it difficult for someone who favors dense development to find specific development-related fights to take a stand on.

None of this comes out to a well-formed argument that goes to any conclusion, but after the prior conversation, it's all things that I found I wanted to say.


 

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"Looks like the backstroke, ma'am."

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.28.14

This is hilarious, and I'm a smidge sympathetic to the original author.

Via Tedra, elsewhere


 

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ATM: quick quiz

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.28.14

I'm teaching a math history segment, including the book Fermat's Enigma. What's the least painful sort of super quick quiz, to make sure that they're actually reading the book as we go?

I have other questions, including: I don't really know what it means to teach math history, aside from admiring the content. (I'm making it sound worse than it is. They have to do a project, etc. But I do find it hard to run a class discussion about a book.)


 

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ATM: Two-body problems

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.28.14

Dear Mineshaft,

I could use some advice about how and when to negotiate with a prospective employer. The difficulty is a two-body problem. I currently have a job I like a lot at a university in a pleasant city. My girlfriend has a similar job a few hundred miles to the west in a significantly colder and less pleasant city. I would be happy to stay where I am as long as possible, but she wants to move, and no job that suits her is available near me right now, so we might both have to relocate if we're going to stay together.

We both applied for a job at a place far away. They recently called and told me they want to interview me. So far she hasn't received a similar call, although it isn't clear quite yet if that means she won't. There is a chance that the hiring committee there knows about our two-body problem already, because a good friend of ours works there, but I'm not sure. The question is: should I tell them now that my main reason for applying is to solve this problem, to try to increase the odds that they will interview my girlfriend as well? Or should I wait and see if I get an offer, at which point I could try to secure a job for her as part of the negotiation? I'm not sure how to game out the odds. It's a competitive job and the other people I expect to be interviewed are very, very good, so it could very well all be moot.

Any words of wisdom from people who've been on the other side of the hiring process would be welcome.

Thanks,

All Too Thinly Disguised Commenter

Heebie's take: If I'm understanding you correctly, you will not take the job unless she also has an offer at this one school? (Ie there are no nearby schools that could also factor in.)

If so, I don't think the timing of when you tell them will affect their decision of whether or not you two as a pair are the best hire for them. Therefore I think you should tell them early, as a professional courtesy.

If there are other scenarios in which she gets hired at another nearby school, or has better odds in the new location if she tries again next year, then you do not need to tell them until you have an offer in hand.


 

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Getting Rid of that Person

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.28.14

Usually I agree that Mimi Smartypants has just the right sensibility, but she went off-course here:

[T]hat same chef revealed that one reason she doesn't talk to her parents is that she was a difficult teenager, with lots of acting out and minor criminal behaviors, and eventually they sent her to a reform school/boot camp place. This is one of my hot-button issues and it caused me to go on a mini-rant. I am sure it is horrendously difficult to live with a family member who is experiencing psychic distress and causing upheaval for everyone else, but for fuck's sake, the answer is not to GET RID OF THAT PERSON. Oh sure, let me hand my emotionally-wounded child over to nonprofessional, barely trained thugs in an unregulated environment. That is sure to go well.
Yeah, yeah, it's easy for me to say, since I haven't been there. But. There are ways to provide structure, boundaries, and compassion all at the same time, and I have no sympathy for parents who throw up their hands and decide to outsource all of that.

There are surely reform school/boot camps run by nonprofessional quasi-thugs, but it seems a massive overgeneralization to paint them all with the same brush. What is true for sure is that when a kid gets sent away, the home life has reached a point where everybody's situation is exceeding their coping skills and the situation is toxic. I can't blame a family for grasping at straws at that point. And there are some programs which are well-run, organized, and therapeutic, and in some cases serve the teenager really well. (I'm thinking of the Outward Bound type programs, but there's probably a huge range.)

Furthermore, there are plenty of situations where the parent is the source of the problems, and getting the kid away from the parent might best preserve the kid's otherwise healthy trajectory.


 

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The Kindness Of Strangers

Posted by Ogged
on 01.28.14

I've only been in Texas a few times, driving through the panhandle. It looks like this.

tejas.png

(I snapped that pic only after things had cleared up and it felt safe. A couple of minutes earlier, I couldn't see the car in front of me. In that situation, you:

--don't stop
--pray you're going straight
--pray everyone else is, too.

My mom really enjoyed that trip, let me tell you.)

I had a roof rack on the car, with a cargo box and two bikes attached to it. I drove about ten hours into sustained 40mph winds. The Prius, which typically gets about 44mpg, got 19. I stopped for the night in Oklahoma, tightened everything, and hit the road again in the morning. I hadn't been long on the interstate when I heard a whistling noise. Just as I turned to my mom and said "What's that?" the entire rack flew off the roof. I watched it in the rearview mirror, saying "Oh shit oh shit oh shit, " comprehending, but not believing, what was happening. It was a plain miracle that there was no one behind me, because it most definitely could have killed a bunch of people. As it happened, it landed right-side-up and slid, intact and elegantly, onto the shoulder.

I stopped and backed up onto the shoulder of an on ramp that I'd just passed, about a hundred yards from the rack, down an embankment. A man driving with his family had seen what happened and stopped. He helped me carry the rack down the embankment to my car. I called AAA, but they said, "Well, your car is running, so there's not much we can do," although they agreed to send someone. Meanwhile, someone else stopped, a middle-aged guy from Wichita, returning from a hunting trip. He had a pick-up, and after some brainstorming and phone calls, he helped me load the rack onto his truck, and drove with me about ten miles to a U-Haul office, where I put the rack in a truck, hitched the car, and was ready to continue. I got his name and address and we sent him a Christmas card, but never heard back. That's Kansans for you.


 

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Personal Responsibility

Posted by Ogged
on 01.27.14

Following up on the post below, two righteous rants from Josh Ellis about what techies could be doing for their communities, and against gentrification. Both short and worth reading.


 

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Guest Post - Google bus protests

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.27.14

President Googly writes: In the past month, the situation with the tech buses has gone from mildly annoying to slightly worrisome to bone-chilling. I've heard every side of this argument six different ways by now and I'm really quite hopeless that the root causes can ever adequately be addressed. Furthermore, I've never seen the DFH contingent so thoroughly stink up an issue (i.e., the housing shortage not the damn bus stops) that genuinely calls for a vigorous progressive response.

The most interesting part to me is how unhinged the whole debate is becoming and the weird interaction between a genuine public policy dilemma and a semi-professional Left that's piling on with all kinds of non-answers. This is probably old hat for Bay Area natives, but I'm a neoliberal from back East and I'm not accustomed to finding myself on the "conservative" side of an issue.

Also, if you click through to the details of the "protest" at a random Google employee's house in Berkeley, the details are really, really creepy and it is not at all unreasonable to fear for this guy's personal safety.

Heebie's take: I have no take! Why am I still writing instead of hitting post?


 

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Guest Post - The Gays are the WORST! No, it's still straight white men.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.27.14

Mr. Smearcase writes: This article irritates the fuck out of me. As I said to someone I was having a pointless internet argument with about this: Comes a point in a gay life when you feel alienated or undesired, theorize a gay hegemony that you stand outside of, intuit its rules from gay bars where you feel most alienated and undesired, and start telling everyone how much you're not like that.

whereas Nick S. sends in: This article about White Privilege is very smart and appropriately short tempered (there are some very funny lines which I won't spoil).

I have often had encounters with men who take something that's not theirs, and when they encounter no outright resistance -- there's no loud talking, no playground-style tussle -- they assume everything is fine.
It is not fine.
Sometimes, you take the best desk for yourself in the new office. Sometimes, you take credit for someone else's work or ideas. Sometimes, you're on a team, and someone from the client company assumes that you -- the tallest, whitest member -- are in charge, and you do not correct them. Sometimes, it's just that someone baked cookies to congratulate their team on a job well-done, and you're not on that team but you wanted a cookie, and no one seemed to mind.

Heebie's take: Nick's article is a response to this piece of trollery entitlement. Anyway, if I'm hearing Smearcase and Nick correctly, it's a great time to be female in America.


 

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I Was Cheated By Internet Fraudsters

Posted by LizardBreath
on 01.27.14

I have these window boxes in our bedroom that I'd like to have flowers in, but I'm not all that good at keeping plants alive. Buck's better, and every so often he puts in some annuals (marigolds, petunias), that look nice for a month or so and then they get scruffy, and then they die.

So a few months ago I thought "Geraniums. They're hardy, and perennial, and they bloom, and I've kept one alive in my office for half a decade now." But didn't get around to finding geranium plants to buy, and in a fit of pique bought a packet of seeds off Amazon and just sowed them in the boxes.

Things came up, and after a couple of weeks, I noticed that man, did they not look like geraniums. Their leavers were completely not that round-with-a-ruffled-edge geranium shape, they were elongated teardrops. I did some google image searches, to check if somehow very young geranium seedlings looked like what I've got, and no, they don't. So I checked back to the Amazon product page, and actually read the reviews, which I had omitted to do before. Three reviews: two saying that nothing came up, and one saying that the plants that had come up weren't geraniums.

I was cheated out of six bucks by an online con artist selling phony flower seeds. How is that even worth doing? Can that be a viable business model?


 

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EK

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.26.14

You saw it first here, folks. Except for Von Wafer. He saw it elsewhere and sent it to me.


 

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And The Hacks Shall Inherit The Earth

Posted by Ogged
on 01.26.14

Give her this, Amy Chua knows how to make a buck. "The Triple Package" reminds me of Niall Ferguson's "Six Killer Apps." We can probably blame TED talks for this, somehow. Anyway, if you want to read a marginally coherent op-ed preying on the economic insecurity of life in these United States, boy, have I got a link for you.


 

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North Carolina teachers

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.26.14

This is an amazingly bad idea:

"The NC 60/30/10 Plan, which "embraces high teacher turnover," would place teachers on one of three tracks: Apprentice, Master or Career.
"Sixty percent of all North Carolinian teachers would make $32,000/year in the Apprentice category and be allowed to teach for up to twenty years, at which time they must retire or move on to another industry.
"Thirty percent of teachers would be eligible for the Master category if they have been teaching for three years, have completed an online training program, and can demonstrate mastery of the teaching method based on "customer survey data." Master teachers would earn $52,000/year.
"Ten percent of teachers would become Career teachers, making $72,000 if they have an advanced degree and can innovate and lead.
"All teachers would be able to serve in North Carolina for no more than 20 years. If the plan were to be adopted, all teachers in North Carolina would be required to reapply for their jobs in 2015.

But at least it would save them lots of money.

Via delegar, elsewhere


 

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