November 26, 2008

Beware the Swordsman

One term that I wish the media would stop using is "gunman". For instance, a recent headline from the New York Times online read:
"Gunman Kills One at a Church in New Jersey"

My issue with the term is that it implies that the GUN incites the if without a gun this "gunman" would be a mere "man" and all would be well with the world.

I would prefer if the title were reworded to read:
Violent domestic quarrel ends with one dead at New Jersey church

I mean, is HOW the person was killed the most important element to this story? Someone died...while at church. My edited title points to that information, but also includes information on WHY this person was killed.

The media tries way too hard to connect guns to crime. Most likely, the killer from the story above would have found another weapon to use, had a gun not been the person from the following headline off of the Los Angeles Times web site:
Scientology guard kills sword-wielding man

Two points...

1) Why didn't they call him a "swordsman"? This would have been consistent with how people with guns are labeled
..."Scientology guard kills swordsman".

2) Why isn't the gun credited for stopping the "swordsman"? ..."Scientology guard shoots, kills swordsman"

November 21, 2008

On Condition of Anonymity

I have read a few news items recently where the entire premise was based on information obtained from someone who has spoken on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

This seems to happen quite a bit and it makes me angry. If the person was not authorized to report to the media, doesn't it speak volumes about their integrity if they do so under a "condition of anonymity"?

Have we become a country of gossips, or is this a powerplay? Regardless, what does this trend say about our country when someone cannot trust people in their "inner circle"? It just baffles me that this could happen because I grew up instilled with the idea that a person's word and handshake should be rock solid.

I also can the media rely on the accuracy of information received from someone who refuses to put their name to it?

November 11, 2008

Thank You

To all veterans and their families, my appreciation is not limited to one day out of the year. I am thankful for your sacrifices every day. But this is YOUR's Veteran's Day. Many of you (like my father) do not want your heroics recognized, but please know that your courage is never forgotten.

Thank you

November 9, 2008

These Kids Today

My friends and I used to joke about how our elders would make statements that begin with "back in my day". We would joke about it, adding our own outrageous parts to the statements. For instance, "Back in my day, we had to walk to and from school...and it was uphill both ways. Also, we didn't have shoes, so we had to walk to school barefoot...and the road was covered with shards of broken glass...". It went on and on, and it was a running joke we had that always provided a good laugh.

It's absolutely true that our parents (and their parents) had it much rougher than we did when we were young. Many of them grew up on farms and put in hours of work before (and after) school. Others lived through the rough times of the Depression. When compared to that of my parents and their parents, my younger years were a piece of cake. Of course there were stresses that had to be dealt with, but it could have been a lot worse.

As a teacher, I am forced to notice just how lucky I was when I was growing up. This past week was a perfect reminder.

In just this last week I have found out that one student is being picked up after school by a parent, who is then trying to find a place for the student (and a brother) to stay for the night. Each night, it's someplace different.

A second student just found out their mother has cancer.

A third student is the oldest child in the family. The kids took their mother to the hospital because she had been acting weird. Turns out she had a stroke and a huge brain tumor. The mother has lost most of her memory and functional capabilities. My student is the oldest and there is no other family in the area, which now makes this student the primary caretaker of the other children.

These cases were all in the last week, and I'm sure there are more that were not brought to my attention. The original title of this post was going to be "things kids should never have to deal with". I backed off of that when I thought about the adversity many of our parents (and grandparents) had to overcome, and what great people they turned out to be.

Of course I wish these students were not living under these terrible circumstances. However, if these students show the same strength under adversity that our parents and grandparents displayed, I can picture them one day beginning their statements to their grandkids with "back in my day".

October 11, 2008

Barstool Economics

I was going through some old emails and thought the following one was worth a revisit, especially since we may be looking at a President who plans to put even more of the tax burden on the "rich" so that he can try to redistribute wealth (typical class warfare).
Bar Stool Economics

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.

The fifth would pay $1.

The sixth would pay $3.

The seventh would pay $7.

The eighth would pay $12.

The ninth would pay $18.

The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that's what they decided to do.

The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. "Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20." Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men - the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share'?

They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so:

The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).

The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings).

The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28%savings).

The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).

The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).

The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (17% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.

"I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man," but he got $10!"

"Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than I!"

"That's true!!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!"

"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

Author Unknown

For those who understand, no explanation is needed. For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible.
It's a dangerous way to treat the hard working people of America. Businesses will go elsewhere to escape the nonsense. Then we will be left trying to pay a tab we cannot afford. Just ask Californians.


This is a morbid topic, but this is my space to write down my thoughts, no matter how weird or random they may be.

I drove by a very large cemetery today, and it got me thinking...

Population is increasing exponentially, so deaths should also be increasing quite a bit (although, with advances in technology and medicine, the population is increasing faster than people are dying).

So I'm wondering, what happens when we run out of space to put people who have passed on? It has to happen eventually. What will happen with the bodies of the deceased (who wish to be buried) when there is no more space in the cemeteries?

October 10, 2008

Teacher Frustrations

I absolutely love being a teacher, but it is a difficult and stressful career. There are times I feel like the teacher in this cartoon (and I teach high school).

Cartoon by John Cole

October 5, 2008

Great Writing

I absolutely love noir-style books from (but not limited to) the 40's and 50's. I just started reading a new book and thought the first three paragraphs were so well-written that I wanted to share:
It was one of those nights when the sky came down and wrapped itself around the world. The rain clawed at the windows of the bar like an angry cat and tried to sneak in every time some drunk lurched in the door. The place reeked of stale beer and soggy men with enough cheap perfume thrown in to make you sick.

Two drunks with a nickel between them were arguing over what to play on the juke box until a tomato in a dress that was too tight a year ago pushed the key that started off something noisy and hot. One of the drunks wanted to dance and she gave him a shove. So he danced with the other drunk.

She saw me sitting there with my stool tipped back against the cigarette machine and change of a fin on the bar, decided I could afford a wet evening for two and walked over with her hips waving hello.
This is how Mickey Spillane begins the fifth book in his Mike Hammer series, The Big Kill (1951).

September 27, 2008

Rules That Should Be Learned in School

I saw this posted in a book store and thought it was excellent. I immediately looked it up when I got home.

Most of this comes from a speech Bill Gates gave to a graduating class at a high school in California. But it has been changed a little, added to and editorialized.

His speech was about rules students should learn in school. Mainly focusing on the fact that feel-good politically correct teachings and schools have created a generation of kids with no concept of reality. This has given the students a false set of expectations which has set them up for failure in the real world.

Again, this is not the original speech, as some additions have been made and editorializing has been done - some of it by other people and some of it by me (in italics).

Rule 1: Life is not fair - get used to it! Understand that the real world provides opportunities for everyone to succeed…whether you have prepared yourself to take advantage of that opportunity is up to you.

Rule 2: The world does not care about your self-esteem. The real world expects you to accomplish something before you are allowed to feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will not make $70,000 a year out of high school, and you will not be a vice-president with a company car, expense account and cell phone.

Rule 4: If you think your teachers are tough, wait till you get a boss! Walking in late? Deciding not to do your work? Falling asleep on the job? In the real world, F = Fired. (I cannot take credit for "F=Fired", but I changed the lead-in.)

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger-flipping, they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it's your own fault. Don’t blame your parents, school, or your boss! Stop whining about YOUR mistakes and start learning from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you are. So before you save the forest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This does not bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING IN REAL LIFE! (Well, unless you are a politician.)

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters or courses. You don't get summers off or spring breaks and very few employers are interested in helping you “find yourself”. Do that on your own time! Also understand, the real world does not give you grades only twice a year…you are constantly being graded.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. Television shows are supposed to suspend reality. In real world, smart mouth employees are not tolerated; they are terminated!

Rule 11: Hard workers have little or no tolerance for talkers and grinners. Bosses generally are the hard workers; that’s how they became bosses.

From other sources:

Rule 12: Robert Ingersoll - It is a thousand times better to have common sense without education than to have education without common sense.

Rule 13: Samuel Godwin - Ninety percent of the art of living is getting along with people one cannot stand. Keep your principles, but not every battle has to be fought – no less won! Your boss is not going to move you to a different location because you have decided you cannot sit near, or work with, someone else.

Rule 14: Winston Churchill - Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. God gave us more ears than mouths for a reason. (I reworded this) You will learn much more by listening -- not by talking, you know what you know; therefore your talking will not teach you anything new.

Rule 15: William Boetcker - If you want to be respected, be respectable. If you want to be liked, be likeable. If you want to be loved, be lovable. If you want to be employed, be employable.

Rule 16: Robert Half - When you arrive at your future, will you blame your past? Today's decisions may haunt all your tomorrows. But then again, making the right decisions today will lead you to the future you desire.

Rule 17: Benjamin Franklin - Trickery and treachery are the practices of fools that have not the wits enough to be honest. Eventually, people who live this way get what they deserve.

September 20, 2008

12-year-old Genius

Someone very nice encouraged me to have an optimistic weekend....this is a start.

A 12-year-old from Beaverton, OR has invented a solar cell much more effective than current technology.
Despite his age, William Yuan has already studied nuclear fusion and nanotechnology, and he is on his way to solving the energy crisis.

It all started with Legos - after he learned nanotechnology to make robots take off. The seventh grader then got an idea inspired by the sun.

"Solar it seems underused, and there are only a few problems with it," Yuan said.

Encouraged by his Meadow Park Middle School science teacher, the 12-year-old developed a 3D solar cell.

"Regular solar cells are only 2D and only allow light interaction once," he said.

And his cell can absorb both visible and UV light...

...If he is right, solar panels with his 3D cells would provide 500 times more light absorption than commercially-available solar cells and nine times more than cutting-edge 3D solar cells.

This is an absolutely remarkable discovery. Congratulations to William, and to his science teacher. Let's hope this becomes a huge story on two levels...the success of William's discovery, and the success of his science teacher in encouraging the discovery.

August 16, 2008

Lack of Integrity

Yesterday, a disappointing event occurred during the semifinal match in the men's Olympic tennis tournament. American James Blake was facing off against Chilean Fernando Gonzalez. The following happened at a critical time in the final set:
Blake powered a forehand toward Gonzalez, who was standing close to the net. The ball flew long but Blake immediately claimed it had brushed his opponent’s racket.

Television replays backed up his assertion.

But umpire Yan Kuszak saw nothing, and Gonzalez remained mute at the back of the court instead of calling a point against himself.
This was an important point in a match that would decide who would advance into the Gold Medal match (and be assured an Olympic medal since the loser would get the Silver). The loser would have to play for the Bronze Medal.

This was Blake's chance to get an Olympic medal, and he lost his opportunity because of unfair play by his opponent. Gonzalez should have admitted that the ball hit his racket (anyone who's played tennis understands that it's impossible not to know when the ball his your racket). But he didn't. He remained silent, and took the point (and eventually the match) away from Blake.

It is during important moments like this that a person's true characteristics come through. Gonzalez's integrity took a major hit because of this incident. He wanted to get into the gold medal match so badly that he did something dishonest. Blake did an excellent job explaining why Gonzalez should be ashamed:
“Playing in the Olympics, in what’s supposed to be considered a gentleman’s sport, that’s a time to call it on yourself,” said a fuming Blake in his post-match news conference. “Fernando looked me square in the eye and didn’t call it.

“If that happened the other way, I never would have finished the match because my father would have pulled me off the court if I had acted that way.”
We need more people in this world to be raised with the standards and integrity that Blake's parents instilled in him. It's a shame that he has lost out on this opportunity because of Gonzalez's dishonesty.

This is also a horrible situation because James Blake is considered one of the nicest players in professional tennis, who constantly exhibits excellent sportsmanship. Now, I wonder if he'll be a bit scarred by this. As he said in his post-match conference:
“We know when it (the ball) touches us,” said Blake. “So that’s where it comes into calling it on yourself because it’s the right thing to do.

“Should I expect him to do that? Maybe not. Maybe I shouldn’t expect people to hold themselves to high standards of sportsmanship. But yes, I did expect it a little more so in the Olympics when we’re all competing under the banner of this event being to promote sportsmanship and goodwill among countries.
Blake, who is so highly respected, now leaves the Beijing Olympics without a medal. He ended up losing in the Bronze Medal match. I am deeply heartbroken for him. I used to like Fernando Gonzalez, but his lack of integrity in this situation will forever mar him in my eyes.

August 9, 2008

Olympic Disgrace

Once again, an Iranian athlete has refused to compete against an Israeli. This time it is an Iranian swimmer, Mohammad Alirezaei, who refused to be in the pool at the same time as Tom Beeri, a swimmer representing Israel. It should be noted that they weren't even scheduled to swim next to each other - Alirezaei was in Lane 1 and Beeri was on the other side of the pool in Lane 7.

This pathetic display also happened during the 2004 Olympics in Athens:
"During the 2004 Athens Olympics, Iran's judo world champion Arash Miresmaeili, one of the country's prominent gold medal hopes, refused to compete against Ehud Vaks of Israel in the first round out of solidarity for the Palestinian cause."
This is an absolute disgrace (and I'll even call it cowardly). Instead of competing against (and wanting to prove yourself against) an athlete from a country in conflict with your own, these Iranians backed down. They are representative of the bullies in school who pick on other kids, challenging them to a fight...after school near the jungle gym (knowing full well that the other kid would be too afraid to show up). Yet, when arriving at the jungle gym to find the other kid ready to throw down, the bully remembers he's got to get home for chores.

Their actions (or inactions) are the antithesis of the bravery shown by many Olympic athletes in history. Think about the great athletes who were not afraid to step into that unwelcoming environment to prove themselves. Jesse Owens comes to mind.
"Jesse entered the 1936 Olympics, which to many are known as the "Hitler Olympics." These games were held in Nazi Germany, and Hitler was going to prove to the world that the German "Aryan" people were the dominant race. Jesse had different plans, however, and by the end of the games even German fans cheered for him."
Also frustrating is that there are many, many swimmers who didn't qualify for the Olympics who would have loved to be in that race. Instead, the race goes on with an empty lane.

Since this is a repeated offense (and looks to continue), I would like for the IOC to punish Iran by not allowing any of their athletes to compete (until they agree to participate in the spirit of the Games). Until then, they could give Alirezaei's spot (and spots of other Iranian cowards like him) to someone who would have cherished the moment and the opportunity to compete in the Olympics.

August 8, 2008

Waste of Space

This is a perfect example as to why I think the government is too large. We need less law makers and more law enforcement.

The 110th Congress has passed 74 laws that rename post offices. Really? This is where my tax money goes?

They have also passed...
"hundreds of resolutions, including one to recognize soil as an “essential resource” and another to congratulate the UC-Irvine volleyball team."
What a waste of time and resources. They should all be recalled.

July 25, 2008

So it begins

Let me start off by saying that I am not a great writer. I aspire to be a good writer someday, but I want to make sure you understand that this is not where you will find brilliant prose. I'm starting this blog because I want to have an outlet for my observations and thoughts. This could last a week, or maybe I will feel comfortable continuing for a while.

I am a California....and have on numerous occasions been a passive participant in conversations with colleagues or friends about issues where I have felt it necessary to keep my mouth shut. I don't feel comfortable speaking up because I am scared to death of being see, I'm not a liberal or a Democrat. I'm not a Republican either but, more times than not, I disagree with the liberal viewpoints. I am open-minded and appreciate hearing both sides of any story/issue, but I gravitate towards facts and common sense. I want to be able to make up my own mind about what I believe is right. It bothers me that I cannot freely speak my mind...that's why this blog was created.