Happy Halloween

No candy was being passed out at my house tonight. I had bought quite a bit, but then I was invited to a rally where John Edwards was going to speak. I also heard from someone who lives a couple of blocks from me that there wouldn't be many kids trick-or-treating in my neighborhood. So instead, I heard a speech from a local politician about how George Bush has tricked us when it comes to healthcare, jobs, making us safer, the environment, and on other issues. John Edwards gave a pretty good speech about what he and John Kerry will do when they are elected this week. Recently I have been worried about the outcome of the election, assuming the worst, that Bush will win, but polls in the past few days are giving John Kerry a slight edge in the electoral vote count. It's still anyone's race, but at least George Bush doesn't have it locked up yet.

Happy Belated Birthday to Me

Yesterday afternoon Homercles and I finally were able to get together to celebrate my birthday. For the past few years we have taken each other out to dinner for our respective birthdays. This time we added a movie beforehand. We went to see Team America: World Police, which I have already seen, but it's so funny that I wanted to see it again, besides, Homercles hadn't yet seen it. The tunes in the movie, while they may be offensive, are quite catchy and funny. I'll be buying the soundtrack CD when it is finally released Tuesday.

After the movie, we had dinner at Chili's. I do enjoy their food, but unfortunately we don't have a Chili's where I live, so I only get to go there when I'm out of town. We are really lacking some good chain restaurants in Waterloo. Sure we have several dining choices, but I'd really like to be able to go to Chili's, Outback, Bennigan's, or even T.G.I. Friday's without having to drive an hour or more. Of course this could all be remedied by moving! Well, we'll see about that next spring. I may still apply for a job in test development next spring, or maybe I'll even look for a teaching job elsewhere. Some of it depends on where my girlfriend decides to look for a job when she finished her masters degree in the spring.



This year's election has got to be the most divisive election that the United States has ever seen. Ok, I don't know that for a fact as I have only been alive since the election in which Nixon defeated McGovern to be reelected by a landslide. I was only a couple of weeks old then, so I don't really remember that however. The first presidential election that I have any firsthand recollection of would have to be the 1980 election, and I was only eight years old then, so I really don't remember much of that. But of recent elections, this one has got to be the nastiest. Even the 2000 election, with it's problems after the fact, don't compare with the current election as far as attacks on the candidates from their opponents. There are a lot of people who, I believe, genuinely hate the opponent of the candidate they support. I have read about numerous reports of violence and intimidation against supporters of opposition candidates. Admittedly, most of the acts of violence I have read about are against Republicans. That may be because most of the information I get about that type of thing comes from sources who support Republican candidates. Of course, I don't condone such acts against anyone. Everyone has a right to his or her opinion, and from the polls, it looks like supporters of both George Bush and John Kerry have plenty of company with the election being virtually a dead heat.

November 3, with any luck, we will know who will be occupying the Oval Office on January 20, 2005, and we will all have to get over our differences and learn to get along once again. It won't do any good to keep attacking the winner of this election, whoever that may be, he will be the President, and most likely will be for at least the next four years. I definitely have a preference about who I would like to win, but roughly half of the population will eventually have to accept the fact that their choice for president did not win. The best thing that could happen on Tuesday would be for one of the two candidates, and I don't care who, to win in a landslide. That would show that Americans are united in their choice for a leader. Now I know that won't happen, but it would be nice.

The divisiveness of this election has even worked its way into the school at which I work. We were reminded in a staff bulletin this week that we as school district employees are not to be endorsing or denigrating any political candidate or ballot measure during school hours or while representing the school district. It surprised me that we would have to be reminded of this. I find it hard to believe that a teacher would be doing such a thing during class. Now if it is related to the curriculum, I can see a teacher discussing, and having students discuss, the merits and negatives about both candidates, but otherwise I can't see this happening. A student of mine however, told me Thursday that a teacher of his has been criticizing John Kerry in class. I'm not saying that there aren't any grounds for criticizing him, but it really has no place in a science class. This same teacher has been wearing a Bush/Cheney lanyard for the past few weeks to hold his name badge. Another teacher had a Bush/Cheney campaign sign up in his classroom for a couple weeks until someone took it down overnight. I haven't seen any teachers promoting John Kerry in such ways. I did have a Kerry/Edwards button on my jacket, but when I got to my classroom, that would go straight into the closet.

I haven't made any secret about who I am supporting for president, but I don't make it a part of classroom discussion. Many of my students have asked. And if they ask during class, I don't answer. But never have I attacked George Bush as a candidate for president. I have a rather conservative student who frequently jokes with me about the whole election issue. He will sometimes hold up his planner with the Bush stickers on it just to see if he can get a reaction out of me. He doesn't get much except for my grinning and shaking my head back and forth. Last year, when I had him for a different class, he was flashing some Bush sign at me in class so I had him turn to a certain page of his textbook which happened to have a photo of Bill Clinton. This is all in fun.

We can joke about each others' preferences for president without it ruining our working relationship. This student is one of my better students. He's almost always on task and always gets his work done. This reminds me of a question that I was once asked during an interview for a teaching job. I was asked if I had ever had any students that I didn't like (now I'm not saying that I don't like this student, I do). Of course I've hate students I didn't like. It's human nature to not like everyone! If I had said "no," then they would have known I was lying, so of course I answered "yes." These students are usually the ones who are constantly misbehaving and causing problems in class. The follow-up question was about how I deal with these students. Naturally I treat them professionally, the same, within reason, as everyone else. If they need help, I'll help them. If they do well on their homework, tests, and quizzes, they'll get a good grade. I even try to figure out why they behave the way they do to try to reach out to them and get them to behave better. But I never let my personal feelings about someone affect how I treat them as a student.

Well, I've rambled on enough for now, so I suppose I will end here. I just can't wait until this election is over!


Bye Bye Herky

It's quite a shame. The Herky on Parade exhibit in the Iowa City area has ended, about one month earlier than planned. The reason for the statues being taken down was because of the recent incidents of vandalism to the artistic representations of the University of Iowa mascot. I just don't understand people who feel the need to destroy others' hard work. What satisfaction could anyone possibly get out of doing such a thing? It just boggles my mind. While I was living in the Iowa City area this summer, I had the chance to see many of the statues around town and it helped me develop some pride in the fact that I am a former student of the University of Iowa, even though I finished my undergraduate degree elsewhere.

In thinking about the vandalism of these pieces of art, I am also reminded about the senseless theft of computer parts at the school I teach at. In one of the computer labs, some mouse balls have been taken, as well as keys from keyboards! What the hell is someone going to do with those? Also, a student had stolen the stapler from my desk and rolls of tape from my tape dispenser. It's bad enough taking the tape, but he (and I am pretty sure who took those although I have no evidence) also took the part the roll of tape is fit on to. Now the dispensers are practically useless. I don't know if replacement parts are sold for tape dispensers, so I'll probably have to end up getting a new one altogether. At least the tax credit for teacher supplies (up to $250) has been reinstated for this tax year.


My Political Tendencies

Someone anonymously left a link to a political test on the Political Brew website. I took the test and the results say that: on non-fiscal issues, I rank as a Moderate Liberal (27) and on fiscal issues, I rank as a Moderate Liberal (33). The scores are on a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 being fully liberal and 100 being fully conservative.

This partially confirms what I have felt about myself, if I give this test any credence, that I am somewhat liberal on non-fiscal issues. I thought, however, that I'd be a bit more conservative when it came to fiscal issues. I am slightly less liberal than on non-fiscal issues, but I guess I'm still a liberal.

It's That Time of the Year

It's the time of the year that I start thinking that I'd rather live somewhere else than where I currently live. Among my choices of places to live are Cedar Rapids, where I grew up, or Iowa City, where I lived for three years a few years back. Both of these cities have the advantage of being a lot closer to more of my friends. However, they have the disadvantage of being very similar to Waterloo, where I live right now.

The one place that I keep thinking about moving to, which would be very different to where I live right now, is Las Vegas! I've written about this a couple of months ago, but I almost took a teaching job there for last school year, but I decided, for reasons that I'd rather not go into right now, that it would be best to stay around here. I have a few problems with moving there however. One is that I would be a long distance from my friends and family. I can deal with being far away from my family. I don't need to see them that often, but I would really miss hanging out with my friends, although I don't get to do that much now anyway. Also, I would probably end up teaching at an inner-city high school for the first few years I would be there. I don't know how successful I would be doing that. I would be worried that I would not be successful, although I probably would be if I worked hard enough at it. One last problem, which wouldn't be impossible to overcome, is that it would just be a real pain moving such a long distance.

If you've been reading my blog in the past couple of months, you may know that I have been contemplating leaving teaching to work in the exciting world of test development. However, I have been feeling a lot more positive about teaching lately and think that it is something that I would like to continue doing for a while. If I do continue to teach, I would rather not spend the rest of my career teaching where I am now. I wouldn't mind sticking around a few more years, but I can't see staying here until I retire. One reason to make a change sooner, rather than later, is that after this school year I will be at the maximum years of experience that the school district in Las Vegas would accept for placing me on their salary schedule. I don't know. I probably won't move. I am just not that much of a risk taker. Although, signing up for on a dating website and going out on a date with someone I met online was a bit of a risk that has turned out alright. I guess this is something that I will have to seriously think about.


A Political Observation

Perhaps it's just me , but it seems that when Republicans use the word liberal in campaign ads, speeches, editorial letters, and so forth, the implication is that it is an insult to be called a liberal. Maybe I am just a closet conservative who is ashamed of his liberal tendencies. Sure.

On another topic, I just finished watching today's episode of Jeopardy! (I tape it so I can see it when I get home from work) and for the first time in quite a while, Final Jeopardy was interesting in that either of the two challengers could have beaten Ken Jennings. Neither one did however, and he will return tomorrow having won a total of $2,065,301.

Well Dammit!

Today in my computer science class I was discussing blogs with a couple of my students and I let it slip out that I have a blog. With that information, and the photo that I had of myself on the blog, they were able to find it in a matter of minutes, despite my lies to keep them off track. I guess my "disguised" photo wasn't too unclear after all. Now I will probably feel that I need to censor myself. Fortunately, the students who found it are fairly trustworthy and said that they wouldn't share the address with others. Hopefully they meant it.

Good Morning!

I have been suffering from a cold for the past few days and I was very tired last night, so I went to bed at 8:30! Unfortunately, I was awoken by a phone call about an hour later from Ana, my friend in Las Vegas. I enjoy talking to her on the phone, but I was just so tired, and not completely awake, so I'll have to call her back tonight. It was tough getting through the day at work yesterday being sick, but I managed. I really don't get sick too often. I considered using a sick day, but it is such a pain to have lesson plans that a sub can follow and expect my AP Calculus students to actually be prepared for a test later this week if I am gone. Most substitute teachers are not qualified to teach that.

Anyway, I tried to post this last night, but Blogger didn't seem to be working. I found this test on Matt's blog (thanks for linking to me, by the way) which is intended to determine who I should support for president. Here are my results:

1. Your ideal theoretical candidate. (100%) Click here for info
2. Cobb, David - Green Party (87%) Click here for info
3. Nader, Ralph - Independent (87%) Click here for info
4. Kerry, Senator John, MA - Democrat (82%) Click here for info
5. Brown, Walt - Socialist Party (75%) Click here for info
6. Badnarik, Michael - Libertarian (32%) Click here for info
7. Bush, President George W. - Republican (12%) Click here for info
8. Peroutka, Michael - Constitution Party (10%) Click here for info

I was a little surprised that the Green Party candidate and Ralph Nader came up first on my list, but my choice for president came up right behind. Maybe I should have listened to Homercles and voted for Nader. :-)


One Year

It was one year ago today that my girlfriend and I had out first date. We had met online through the dating service Cupid.com. I had tried dating websites before, and had even had one date from one, and I am really glad I didn't give up. We went to Ground Round for dinner, which is where we met for our first date. Before meeting my girlfriend, I thought that I would likely spend the rest of my life alone, but now I don't see this as the cast. Hopefully, this is was first of many years that we will spend together.


F**k Yeah!

This afternoon, my girlfriend and I went to see what must be the first puppet movie that I have seen since The Muppet Movie. We saw Team America: World Police. It was f**king hilarious! There were several instances when the entire theater burst out into laughter, although there was one joke that I don't think anyone but myself understood. The movie had a message to it, that sometimes violence is necessary to rid the world of evil. The puppet sex scene was pretty risqué as it ended up in the movie. I wonder what exactly they cut out. I must say that when this movie comes out on DVD, it will definitely join my DVD collection.

Oh Homercles, I wouldn't mind seeing it again, so if you want to see it next weekend when we get together for dinner, that would be cool.


Must Be Hot in Miami

I found this photo on Yahoo! and I thought I should make it a public service to share it with everyone who happens by here. This photo is of Mexican recording artist Paulina Rubio after performing at the MTV Latin Video Music Awards in Miami. I guess is must be pretty hot down there to necessitate wearing so little clothes.

On a completely unrelated note, at least 18 people have stumbled on my blog in search for the Hardee's mechanical bull commercial. Also, someone found my blog looking for Panera seafood bisque.


How Hard Is It?

The last couple of days, I've read stories in the Des Moines Register about voters-rights groups complaining about voters possibly being disenfranchised because of alleged problems with Iowa voting rules. First, they were complaining about a box on the voter registration form that is to be checked to verify that one is a citizen. How hard is it to do that? Come on, if someone is filling out a form, then he or she really should read it carefully.

Their second problem is with people who show up at the wrong precinct to vote, although in the correct county. They want them to be able to vote using a provisional ballot. I don't see how this can work. Not all ballots in the same county, even in the same city, are not necessarily the same. Sure, for national offices they are the same, but for state and local offices, there may be some difference. The boundaries for state representative districts don't follow county lines. If I were to vote across town, I would be in the wrong representative district, and I therefore would be voting for someone who I didn't have a right to vote for. The voter registration card indicates where one is to vote. How about instead of giving a prospective voter a provisional ballot, the poll workers could give the voter instructions on how to get to his or her correct precinct. Apparently some people are just too dumb to figure out how to vote. Remember Florida in 2000?


Happy Birthday to Me!

Today is my 32nd birthday. Last night my parents, my girlfriend, and I went out to eat for my birthday. Since we had somewhere to be at 7:30 -- we went to the John Kerry rally at the Waterloo airport -- we went to a buffet since we wouldn't have to wait for the food. We tried out the New Century Buffet in Cedar Falls. It was pretty good, but from their sign outside I thought there would be a wider of variety of foods. Most of it was Chinese, not that it was bad; it was quite good. It wasn't as good as Cedar Rapids's Metro Buffet, but it was good.

I also got to open my presents from my parents last night. Among the gifts I received was the Star Destroyer Hallmark ornament and Jon Stewart's book America (The Book). I have been told that I need to read it quickly since my mom wants to borrow it when I finish and she has told my sister that she can borrow it too. It's nice of her to lend out my stuff like that.

Anyway, as I stated earlier, I went to see John Kerry last night. After seeing him speak in person, I am even more confident in my vote for him. I really, truly think that he will be better for the United States than George Bush. I'd like to write more on this right now, but I have to get to work.

To Homercles: We should figure out when we are going to dinner. Does next Saturday, October 30, work for you?


Election Signs and Smoking Crack

From the Rocky Mountain News:

A Lakewood Republican stealing campaign signs late one night got nabbed when he ran across a low- hanging driveway chain, fell face first onto a pilfered sign and the concrete and knocked himself unconscious.

If you plan on stealing election signs, you better watch out! They can fight back. And in other news, from the Indianapolis Star:

A Marion County judge on Monday sentenced an Indianapolis woman to 18 months in prison for helping her 5-year-old son smoke crack cocaine.

Andrea Wilkey, 40, held the lighter on Aug. 6 while her son inhaled from a homemade pipe, police say. Her son tested positive for cocaine the next day.

Oh my god! How could someone be so irresponsible! I don't get it! At the end of the article is a statement that she hopes to someday regain custody of her son, who is now in foster care. Heaven help the child if that ever happens. I think I now have a better understanding of the expression "Are you smoking crack?" that people may ask others when they do something stupid. Being on crack cocaine apparently severely impedes one's ability to make any judgments.


Bush Flip Flops Too

This week, during a campaign speech in Daytona Beach, President Bush announced "after standing on the stage, after the debates, i made it very plain: we will not have an all-volunteer army." After noting the not so positive reaction from the crowd, he changed positions stating "we will have an all-volunteer army."


More on the Hardee's Commercial

On Thursday, I wrote a post on the Hardee's commercial that has a woman riding a mechanical bull. I have now found the commercial online if you would like to see it.

Incidentally, someone found my blog while doing a search for "hardee's commercial mechanical bull." My blog entry from Thursday came up second on the list when I checked it out. From checking out the other listings, some people are apparently outraged by this commercial.



Last night my girlfriend and I were eating dinner out. The woman at the table behind us was complaining about her bill. Apparently her husband did not like his dinner so she felt that they shouldn't have to pay for it. From the conversation, it didn't sound like there was anything wrong with the dinner. It wasn't too hot, too cold, too spicy, incorrectly prepared, or different from the description on the menu. He just didn't care for it. My girlfriend and I both thought it was outrageous that she would expect to not have to pay for it simply because it wasn't something he liked. That's a risk people take when trying something new. I've ordered entrees at restaurants that I ended up not caring for, but the thought of asking to not pay for it never crossed my mind. It's not like the restaurant did anything wrong to ruin her experience. Anyway, she told the manager that she would not be returning to the restaurant, and she has dined there quite a bit. I would be willing to bet that with her attitude, they won't miss her business one bit!


That's One Juicy Burger!

I found an interesting question in the "Call the Courier" section of today's Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. "Call the Courier" is a daily column in the Courier which invites people to call the paper to ask questions. The paper will then research some of the questions and report on the answers. A lot of the questions simply serve to show people's stupidity, such as the question asking what number to call in order to temporarily stop delivery of the paper. How about checking the phone numbers inside the first page? Duh! Another large share of the questions are asked in such a way that they reveal the motives of their questioners. Anyway, there was one question in the paper that I found interesting. It wasn't so much that the question was interesting, but the editorial comment in the answer that made the item amusing.

Q: Who is the woman who plays on the Hardee's commercial riding the mechanical bull?

A: The actress in that commercial --- which, if Courier office opinion is any guide, women tend to hate and men tend to love --- is Cameron Richardson, according to a staff member at the Hardee's PR department.

In case you haven't seen the commercial, it features a rather attractive woman riding a mechanical bull while holding a Hardee's Western Bacon Thickburger. I have to say that I would definitely agree with the paper's office opinion poll. The commercial, while it has a burger in it, does not focus too much on it, but this seems to fit in with Hardee's latest advertising campaign which tends to target men. It must be working. I had one of these burgers last week, and I probably will have one again. I just can't eat them too often as each one has 876 calories. Add a small order of french fries (which was "medium" when I worked there years ago) to that and the meal has a whopping 1270 calories! That's over half of the calories that I allow myself to eat in a single day.


Dirty Politics

As reported by several media outlets, the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns 62 TV stations around the country has ordered each of its stations to air an Anti-Kerry film during prime time prior to the election. They claim that this film is news, however it is a blatant abuse of their use of public airwaves. This hour-long movie is simply a free commercial for the re-election of President Bush. I was watching Hannity & Colmes tonight on the Fox News Channel. Sean Hannity and the producer of the film that is to be shown were complaining about how "liberals" must be against free speech because they filed a complaint with the FCC about the impending airing of this film. However, if these same TV stations were to air Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 instead of the Anti-Kerry film, I would bet that they would be among the first to attack the stations planning on airing that.

Back in April, Sinclair Broadcast Group ordered its ABC affiliates not to air the episode of Nightline during which Ted Koppel read the names of American soldiers killed while serving in Iraq. They claimed that this was a political statement disguised as news. I really don't see how this film that they are now planning to air is a newsworthy event, as their vice president Mark Hyman claims, and not just a political statement disguised as news.


Feeling Good

I am really feeling good about myself. As I've said before, I have been watching what I have been eating since Memorial Day. Since then, I have lost 33 pounds. Until the last few weeks, I lost, on average, about two pounds per week. Now that has dropped off a bit. In the past three weeks, I only lost one pound. I hope to resume exercising again soon. I haven't been biking since mid-August. If I get back into exercising, I should be able to lose a little more weight. I would like to lose another ten pounds, then I would a bit happier. Anyway, I've had coworkers mention that I look good from losing the weight. Quite frankly, I don't really see the loss. I suppose that is because it was gradual to me, but until the school year began, my coworkers hadn't seen me since the first of June. Today, a student who I had for class last year asked me if I had lost weight. I am really happy that people are noticing my weight loss!

Another compliment I received today was from the teacher in charge of the ELL (English Language Learners) program at school. She told me that two people, one student and one associate who translates, told her that I do an excellent job explaining what I teach. She was told that of the math teachers that these two have worked with, each of them feel that I am the best at doing this at my school. Part of this is probably because I actually have a degree in the subject in which I teach. We have math teachers at my school who have degrees in other areas instead, but having completed a program in mathematics gives one a deeper understanding of the subject. With that understanding, it's a lot easier to explain why things are the way they are and to show how they are connected to other topics in math. After receiving this compliment, it makes it harder to decide if I am going to continue teaching when the year ends.


Last Night's Debate

First of all, I have to say that I only caught the very end of the presidential debate last night as I went to a high school football game instead of staying home to watch it. If I had not left after the band's half-time performance and instead stayed to watch the remainder of the game, which my team lost 37 to 0, I would have missed that as well. One question that I did see was the one in which John Kerry was asked about abortion. After Senator Kerry responded to the question, President Bush started out with a quip about how it was difficult to decipher what Kerry had said. It seemed pretty clear to me. Anyway, Bush mentioned that Kerry had voted against the ban on so-called "partial-birth" abortions. In his response, Kerry explained his reason for that vote in that it did not include an exception for cases in which the woman's life or health were at risk. George Bush then replied that one either has to be for or against partial-birth abortions, and since John Kerry voted against the ban, he must not be against it. It seems to me that either George Bush chooses to selectively listen to John Kerry's comments, only picking up on the points that make his point, which in this case was a small part of what Kerry said, or he just can't process and completely comprehend the comments of others. Right now I am wishing that I had recorded the debate so I could watch it today.



In last night's vice-presidential debate, Vice President Dick Cheney inadvertently directed people the website factcheck.com, which forwarded them to georgesoros.com, which contains information opposing the re-election of President Bush, including the quote, "President Bush is endangering our safety, hurting our vital interests, and undermining American values." He of course meant to refer people to factcheck.org, which is a non-partisan political fact checking website.

UPDATE (8:25 am, 10/9/04): factcheck.com is no longer forwarding to georgesoros.com.

Gays and Pregnant Single Women Need Not Apply

From CNN.com:

A U.S. Senate candidate who said recently that homosexuals should not be teaching in South Carolina's public schools has added another group to his list of poor role models for children -- pregnant women with live-in boyfriends.

So it's not okay for pregnant women with live-in boyfriends to teach in South Carolina public schools but it's perfectly fine for their live-in boyfriends to teach there? So it's just immoral for these non-married women to be pregnant, but it's fine if they are not? I suppose the distinction is made because a pregnant woman stands out more than people from the other groups I mentioned. Jim DeMint, the senatorial candidate who made this comment, has a problem with the moral decisions of pregnant women with live-in boyfriends. I guess they are not good role models, but how is a student going to distinguish these pregnant teachers from pregnant teachers who are married? I doubt that most pregnant teachers would make it a point to inform their students that they are unmarried and live with their boyfriends.

As to openly gay teachers, I don't understand why that is a problem either. I doubt that these teachers, while open about their sexuality, are going to discuss this aspect of their lives with their students either. I steer clear of that subject, and I'm not a homosexual. Why would they discuss it? I had one high school teacher who I know to be a homosexual. I didn't know she was at the time, but I don't think it was a secret to anyone. It just wasn't something that was a topic for conversation in class. It certainly didn't hurt my moral development any, oh wait, maybe it did as my girlfriend, who is not pregnant, is going to move in with me next week.



Today we began administering the Iowa Tests of Educational Development to juniors at the high school at which I teach. Now, my school district, for some reason, only gives this test to juniors. The only reason I can come up with for that is that it saves the school district money. That's really the only explanation that makes sense to me. Anyway, that's not the point of what I am writing about. This morning while driving to work I was thinking about the ITEDs. Much like Homercles, who wrote about the same topic this morning, I too feel that the ways in which this test are used do not make sense.

We, as teachers, are being held accountable for our students' progress, and we should be, to some extent. But, as Homercles asserts, if we are to be held accountable for how well our students do on these tests, they should actually be based on what the state expects us to teach. The problem with that however is that the state does not tell us what specifically is to be taught. Iowa doe not have any specific standards of this type. All under the label of "local control," each school district is left to write its own standards. This seems quite inefficient to me. If we had standards of what specific topics were to be taught, then the state could have a test created to assess these standards, which are after all, what we should be teaching!

Last year, I was part of a group of math teachers in my school district to develop the curriculum for pre-algebra in the school district. One of the tasks we had to undertake was to read through each level of math ITED test, and some of the ITBS levels, and determining which of our school district's standards each item assessed. Some of them didn't assess any of our standards. Quite frankly, the information these items covered don't seem too important. However, since we have to have all students perform at the 40th percentile or better on these tests, we had to add some additional topics to our classes leading up to the tests. Some of these topics make absolutely no sense to be taught in the classes in which they are now taught.

Now on to the topic of having all students scoring at the 40th percentile or better, which is of course IMPOSSIBLE, as a student scoring at the 40th percentile scores better than 40% of the students taking the test. As Homercles points out, 100% of the students taking the test can't do better than 40% of them. I believe however that what actually has to be done is to have all students score at the level which was the 40th percentile when the test was normed in a certain year -- I don't remember which year -- within a certain time period. Now this would be possible, until the test it normed again, but it seems like a goal that is not very realistic.

Another thing that my school district does with this test, which is something for which it was not intended, is to use it as a graduation requirement. Students have to score at a certain level on the math and reading portions of the test in order to graduate. I was told by one of my colleagues last year that we have not had anyone not graduate because of not scoring well enough on these tests, so I guess we must be doing something right. ;-)


On the radio this morning I heard the disk jockeys talking about the flag of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, my hometown. It recently was voted to be one of the worst city flags in the country in a survey conducted by the North American Vexillological Association. Out of 150 flags, it came in 142nd. Quite frankly, in all of the years that I lived in Cedar Rapids, I don't think I ever recall seeing this flag (shown below), but I have to agree that it is not a good flag. It's just too complicated to draw. Maybe a better flag design would include the city's five seasons logo somehow instead of a drawing of several buildings.

The flag of Des Moines (shown below), on the other hand, placed much better, coming in at number 14. In my opinion it is a much better design.


Fighting Misinformation with Misinformation

I guess you just can't believe what a politician says. Following a link to the George W. Bush re-election website I found an article titled "Embryonic Stem Cell Misinformation." This article attempts to point out how John Kerry is supposedly trying to mislead the public about Bush's stance on stem cell research, and I have to admit that the article does make some good points. However, while criticizing the misinformation that it asserts Kerry to have spread, it too contains misinformation. At one point in the article, the "facts" are stated. One of these facts says, "The President's announcement did not ban, limit or restrict stem cell research." That may be true, but it does limit the research that can be done with federal funding, as only those embryonic stem cell lines that were in existence on August 9, 2001, can be used. More stem cells are readily available, but federal funds can not be used to perform research with them. According to a Fox News story, only 21 to 23 strands are available for such research.

Under the Bush policy, no federal funds can be used to destroy human embryos. Advocates of more open research, including the Kerry campaign, argue that scientists should be able to use stem cells from fertility clinic embryos that are no longer wanted by parents, as long as parents give their consent. Otherwise, the embryos would be discarded anyway.

My point here, is not whether or not federal-funded embryonic stem cell research should be done, but that not being completely open about ones policies when accusing someone else of misleading, is misleading itself.


What would Jesus do? Or rather, who would He vote for? I found this news article online at herald-sun.com:

CARRBORO -- After watching the presidential debate Thursday night, two UNC students ended up slapping each other while fighting over who Jesus would vote for in the election.

According to a police report, the concept of "turning the other cheek" came up, and James Robert Austin, 19, of 1305 Granville Towers West in Chapel Hill, slapped Robert Brooks Rollins, 22, of 104 Brewer Lane in Carrboro, on the cheek at Rollins' house.

After that, Rollins slapped Austin, and Austin landed on the concrete patio, possibly striking his head, according to the report. Rollins called for an ambulance, which took Austin to UNC Hospitals to be examined.

Neither Rollins nor Austin wanted to pursue the matter further, the report said.

It's a rather silly thing to debate about anyway. Everyone know that Jesus would vote for Kerry. :-)


Let the Good Times Roll

I had a great time yesterday with my friends. Today is the birthday of one of my closest friends, Bill. We decided to go to the Meskwaki Casino in Tama, Iowa, yesterday for his birthday. My girlfriend and a friend of Bill's, Jason, came along. I had not been to Meskwaki since my girlfriend and I went the night of New Year's Eve and I had not been gambling at all since March when my girlfriend and I went to Las Vegas on vacation.

Going to the casino, I am hopeful for a big win, but I also am mindful that as long as I don't lose too much money, I did well. After all, they don't build casinos on winners. So, I set a budget for myself as to how much I was willing to lose, in this case it was fifty dollars. Things didn't start out too well, with my quickly losing ten dollars in a nickel slot machine. I then walked around a while, breaking my twenties into smaller bills -- so I wouldn't be tempted to spend them so fast -- then I found some two-cent slot machines. I realize of course that I am not going to win a boatload of money playing those, but the money does last longer, and it keeps me from losing it so fast. Well, after about an hour and a half at the casino, I was down thirty dollars.

I then tried to find Bill, but I didn't see him anywhere. It was then I decided to try roulette. There was a table where no one was playing. I figured that would be good, since I have never played any of the table games before. I got ten dollars in chips, and after some suggestions from the dealer (Is she called a dealer though since she doesn't deal cards? Well, the suggestions came from the person spinning the wheel.) I was betting on one-third of the numbers, which pays off two to one, just one dollar at a time. I was also putting a dollar chip on 20 since that is my birthday. Well, the one time I didn't bet on 20, it was the winning number. I played that number from then on, and it won twice. I ended up leaving the table with forty dollars, breaking even. I would have been even for the day, if I had not joined Bill at another roulette table a little later, where I lost five dollars. Overall it was a good time gambling as I only lost five dollars. Jason, Bill's friend, ended up $110 ahead!

When we got back to Cedar Rapids, we met our good friend Homercles for dinner at the Cedar River Brewing Company. It was a good dinner, but they were out of the entree that both Bill and I wanted, and they were out of the pasta that came with my girlfriend's dish. They were also out of tartar sauce, which Jason wanted for his fish, but overall dinner was quite good. I know I've said this before, but spending time with my friends in Cedar Rapids really, really, makes me want to move back there, or possibly the Iowa City area, where I could spend more time with my friends without making a whole day out of it. Hopefully when the school year is out I will be able to get a job with one of the two firms in Iowa City that I am looking into. And hopefully, my girlfriend can find a job in the area too.


The Heat is On

I actually fired up the furnace in my house for the first time this season last night. It just seems too early to be doing this, but the temperature in my house was around 65 degrees Fahrenheit and temperatures were supposed to drop to the mid 20s last night, so I decided to turn on the heat. Earlier this week, I contacted my utility company to sign up for their budget billing plan, so at least I won't be surprised by having to pay really high bills this winter. Of course, I will be paying for it months after my bills should have decreased. I guess it will all work out as paying $107 a month now, instead of around $160 in the winter will be easier on my checking account.

Captain Jerk

Ok, I am going to write, for the last time, about the whole William Shatner/Riverside issue. I wish I could take credit for the title of this entry, but I borrowed it from the Iowa City Press Citizen's editorial about Shatner's "prank" on the good folks of Riverside, Iowa. Now I usually come up with witty captions to the photos I post on my online photo albums, as Homercles can attest to, but I guess I was a little too upset to do so earlier in the week for my entry about Shatner, and now all the good ones are taken. Anyway, my initial blog entry on Wednesday was a lot more critical of Shatner, in fact I started out by calling him some vulgar names. It was after I watched the local news that night when I saw that the residents being interviewed weren't too upset, that I decided to tone down what I wrote. After all, they were actually there and will be the ones possibly looking like fools on the Spike TV program next year. The Press Citizen thinks that Shatner and Spike TV should apologize to the people of Riverside, and I agree, but didn't he apologize when he broke the news to them? I admit that I wasn't there, so I don't entirely know.

The Press Citizen is not the only one appalled by William Shatner's hoax. Writer/director Nicholas Meyer, a University of Iowa graduate and writer and director of multiple Star Trek movie including the best of all of the films, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, weighed in on the issue yesterday. He thought it was a dirty trick. While Shatner and the production company gave Riverside quite a bit of money to soften the blow, Meyer made a good point in saying, "I read they got some money so it's all right. Isn't that what you do to a hooker?"

There was a letter to the paper yesterday from someone who lives in Riverside pleased, that while there is no movie being filmed, the town got quite a bit of publicity. And after all, it was all fun, but it was a very dirty trick on otherwise trusting individuals. Now it's hard to be too upset at Shatner when I sit back and enjoy watching people be made fools of on the Spike TV "reality" show Joe Schmo, but it's different when I am the one who is being made the fool. Hopefully William Shatner meant what he said this week when he told the people of Riverside that he would be back. If he actually does return, perhaps during the town's Trek Fest festival, it might be worth it.