Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"This word is new to us... hoh-mmm--worrrrk? Homework?"

Phi Beta Cons on National Review Online:
  • The 2006 High School Survey of Student Engagement found that 55 percent of high school students spent less than one hour per week "Reading/studying for class." Only 10 percent exceeded ten hours per week.
  • In 2004, the Horatio Alger Association found that 60 percent of teenagers logged five hours of homework per week or less.
Oh, where to even begin? The complete failure of professional pedagogy courses to emphasis homework anymore? The always-unwritten-but-ever-present administrational emphasis on passing the most students? The failure of many households to engage with the education process? The continual emphasis on rote learning of exams? (Oh hush, this was true even before NCLB.) The wrong-headed excuse that homework is "insensitive" to students who have to work to support their families? (Here's a thought: you're reinforcing the cycle when you do this!)

I could go long but I have a meeting in 15 minutes.

One Week!!!

This Saturday the Democratic Rules Committee will meet to make a final ruling on the MI and FL delegations. The remaining primaries will be done by June 3. Barring something Completely Unexpected, the 2008 campaign for Her Nibs will effectively end in one week. Oh sure, there will be shouting and whining and threats of convention theatrics. But everyone knows that this song is over. If there were a nuke left in the arsenal, it would have been deployed. (Actually, there may have been one, but it seems to have detonated against the wrong target.)

Mind you, I'm now going to lose my bet about Al Gore. I just don't see a groundswell of supers holding him out as Mr. Compromise.

Monday, May 26, 2008

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Two weeks ago I went to my hometown to take care of my parents' garden, as they were out of the country. As I was watering the tomatoes, up came this li'l ol' puppy dawg. Awwwww.... And then I remembered: my parents don't have a puppy dawg. They have the Wonder Schnauzer, but he's in the kennel right now. It was painfully obvious that Li'l Ol' Puppy Dawg was abandoned, incredibly hungry and thirsty, and eaten up with mange. I know it was abandoned because she had no fear, was at least semi-potty-trained (would only go pee on the grass), and was wearing a collar.

"Come, Li'l Ol' Puppy Dawg, I will take care of you. For lo, if I take you to the shelter with your mange and your ear mites and your undoubted parasitic worms, they will prescribe for you The Big Sleep without hesitation."

Four hundred dollars later (!), I now have a potential playmate for the Ginger-pup. (Special thanks to BB for her generous underwriting of the vet bill). She is an adorable cross between a Chihuahua and (we think) a Jack Russell Terrier. Full of energy, life, vigor --and fiercely defensive of her food dish. First Puppy Lesson: snarling at Daddy is the Worst Idea Imaginable, as he is much bigger than you and can cause pain by simply looking at you. Still, she got off one good snap on a knuckle before she was Educated.She's intelligent, for sure. She learned about the Astroturf not being real grass inside of a day. She goes off to do her business by herself, so I no longer leave her locked in her crate at night. She isn't allowed inside until her mange clears (Stinky Puppy!), but she enjoys running around the yard.

The effect on the rest of the household has been somewhat predictable. The Kaiser enjoys spying on her from his perch atop the BBQ pit but otherwise ignores her. Sweetikins is absolutely hissy-fit jealous and refuses to go into the backyard, and will actually stand at the patio glass door and growl at the puppy on the other side. She also hisses if I pick her up after being near the puppy. But at least she has ended her boycott of the house after three days. Ginger-pup has had the most interesting reaction. She is rather indifferent to the puppy most of the time, as she stays in while the puppy stays out (puppy hasn't figured out the dog-flap yet). Both have learned to respect each other's food dish (I no longer feed them at the same time). They do not snap at each other, although the puppy occasionally tries to "impress" the much-larger dog with her fierce yipping. But that lasts only as long as The Wee One isn't outside with us. Then, Ginger reverts to Ultra-Guard mode and visibly threatens this incredibly tiny puppy with bared teeth, raised hackles and a no-nonsense growl that would even put dearly-departed Roxie the Rottie to shame if she so much as approaches my daughter. That's devotion.

Unfortunately, my wife is probably allergic to this particular dog: her eyes started watering almost the day after she was brought home from the vet. The plan had been to nurse her back to health and put her up for adoption, with ourselves being the fallback option. That may not be viable if, indeed, Mrs. Mojo cannot even handle her. Not that any of that stopped her from asserting her rights under The Marriage Contract to name this little girl-puppy (since I had named Ginger-pup and Da Fuzz).

So now it's Ginger and....Nutmeg.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ahhhhh...

A fine time was had by all as Family Mojo retreated to the beach for an extended weekend. The fishing was no great shakes, but I managed to pull up a type of grouper that is only rarely seen inshore. (Yes, I took its picture.) We learned that not all instant-light charcoals are created equal. And the Wee One discovered that the sea is fun --so did the Ginger-pup.

Blogging may prove light for a while. I'm in that blessed downtime between semesters. It's not the same as Christmas, when there's shopping to be done and parties to attend and family to entertain. No, this is a time of largely hedonistic abandon. A few chores here and there and the rest of my time is my own (when not on Daddy Duty).

And today, at long last, I get my boat back.

Friday, May 9, 2008

My Ancient Enemy Returns At The Most Inopportune Moment

Gastroenteritis. Not a pleasant condition, and for some reason, I get this every three years or so. Yesterday afternoon I experienced a sudden onslaught of symptoms. I gave my last final from the couch in the lobby of my campus --how's that for dedication!

Even so, this completely ruined my plans. I'm now going to be late in turning in grade paperwork (although the actual grades will still be available on the computer). I'm going to have to devote today to grading when I had planned to do Garden Work. And on top of all that, I got the phone call I've been waiting six weeks to get: the boat is fixed and ready to go -only I can't go to get it because now I've got all this other work to do. One weekend of boating, shot to hell.

UPDATE: I feel better than I did yesterday, but with GE that's a deceptive sensation. It's clear liquids until this evening at the earliest.

UPDATE II: I felt so good on Saturday that I went back to doing everything normal. You'd think I'd know better by now. Total relapse Saturday night. Thank heavens my grades are done at Campus One. I'm not doing any work the next two days.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Higher Ed, Anointed Academes, and the Coming of the Free Market

On the sadness of higher education by Alan Charles Kors - The New Criterion:

"[T]he academics who dominate the humanities and social sciences on our campuses today would state that K-12 education essentially has been one long celebration of America and the West, as if our students were intimately familiar with the Federalist Papers and had never heard of slavery or empire. .... In their view, our K-12 students know all about Aristotle, John Milton, and Adam Smith, have studied for twelve years how America created bounty and integrated score after score of millions of immigrants, but have never heard of the Great Depression or segregation."
Yeah, I bet those self-same guardians of academe have never been in a public school system where everything comes to a grinding halt in February to celebrate African American History Month. ( --No, I'm not saying it's not worthy of observing; it is, but some districts go overboard --which is ironic considering how many of those districts are increasingly dominated by Hispanic students. For the record, Hispanic History Month is September, but most districts are too busy organizing football to pay attention --and Cinco de Mayo is not a holiday for non-Mexican Hispanics, so don't even go there.) Public school social science books are among the most politically correct works in existence today. You will never see criticism of FDR (except for mild disappointment over court-packing), JFK or Clinton --but you will see thinly-disguised contempt for Reagan and Bush 41.

"Academics, in their own minds, face an almost insoluble problem of time. How, in only four years, can they disabuse students of the notion that the capital, risk, productivity, and military sacrifice of others have contributed to human dignity and to the prospects of a decent society? How can they make them understand, with only four years to do so, that capitalism and individual- ism have created cultures that are cruel, inefficient, racist, sexist, and homophobic, with oppressive caste systems, mental and behavioral? How, in such a brief period, can they enlighten “minorities,” including women (the majority of students), about the “internalization” of their oppression (today’s equivalent of false consciousness)? How, in only eight semesters, might they use the classroom, curriculum, and university in loco parentis to create a radical leadership among what they see as the victim groups of our society, and to make the heirs of successful families uneasy in the moral right of their possessions and opportunities? Given those constraints, why in the world should they complicate their awesome task by hiring anyone who disagrees with them?"
And this is the world in which I work and revel? I must be a masochist.

Oh well. As online coursework availability explodes from places like the University of Phoenix and an increasing number of community and junior colleges, many of those Worthy Academics may find themselves with decreasing enrollment, as students switch their non-essential classes to situations where they may only have to encounter a professor once or twice a semester. I actually root for the day that happens: education may yet become a truly free market where students pick classes from wherever and whomever they wish. The big schools dare not complain. Phoenix's cash flow is growing comparable to some of the truly awesome endowed campuses' figures, and with that comes political/governmental Schwang. The day will come when no one is forced to take "History of How White Guys Ruined Everything For Everyone" unless they really want to; they can just go online and instead take "Mojo's History of How Stuff Happened And Why Folks Still Argue About It --With PowerPoints!"

Monday, May 5, 2008

Busy Busy Busy

Finals are the next two weeks for me (one week for each school). Students whining about grades ("Why didn't you ask me this before your final exam?"). Paperwork paperwork paperwork. Oh, and the house is getting new carpet this week and I have to see about moving the gun safe into storage (not so easy as it sounds, it's 350# and will take three grown men with good backs to move down the stairs). At least there is ample Garden Booty to harvest at day's end.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

TV Claims Poker's Firstborn Child As Payment For Services Rendered

World Series of Poker stretches out Main Event

Okay, I knew one day that TV, the great savior of poker, would someday ask for poker's firstborn child. And that day has come. Bowing to TV executives' demands, the WSOP has agreed to implementing a delay between the establishment of the final table participants in the "main" event (the $10K no-limit hold'em tournament) and the actual final table action. The delay will be approximately 117...days. This is not a typo. The final table will be played almost four months after the hand that eliminates the 10th-place finisher, so that it can be broadcast live after ESPN shows all the shows (with commentary) leading up to it.

This is an absolutely terrible idea. First, it completely eliminates momentum. Ask Jamie Gold about the value of momentum.

A) Player A, a projects mananger playing only his second tournament ever, makes a mad dash at the title and is in third at the final table. In the ensuing months, his job mandates that he move overseas and his boss refuses to give him time off to complete the tournament. Is he really going to quit his job and become a pro on the basis of this one-time fluke? Will he fly in for one day, go hog-wild ("I'm all -in!" on every hand, just to get eliminated) and go out in a blaze of glory in 9th place? Or will he stay overseas, keep his job, and let himself be blinded off with a guaranteed payday? [I'm sure that'll look just fine on ESPN.]

Second, it allows for coaching and review. While this has always been in the background since the popularization of the hole camera, it now takes on added "oomph". Like the New England Patriots, players can scout each other in depth, aided by the commentary of the helpful ESPN talking heads. And since you only need scout those players who are actually there, it's a much simpler task than before.

B) Player B knows that he will be playing against Phil Hellmuth and an unknown amateur. Player A watches extensive tapes of both Phil (easily done) and the Great Unknown (thank you, ESPN). The Talking Heads helpfully point out that Phil likes to isolate players like GU during the bottom half of the hour with crap hands. Player A sets a huge trap for Phil, thus generating the largest tantrum anyone has ever seen when he tells Phil how he pulled it off ("I'll NEVER play in the #@$%@#$@#$ World Series again! " *throws chairs*) [Actually that would be phenomenal for ratings...]

Third, and most glaringly obvious to anyone but a TV exec, it increases the chances of shenanigans and unexpected complications. Anyone who says that WSOP tournaments are always decided on the table is naive. Deals are struck in the bathroom a lot more than people think, although in most cases the play for the actual bracelets remains genuine. The pressure to make a deal to guarantee certain paydays will be heightened; remember that many pros have backers who must be compensated.

C) Player C, a well-known semi-pro, is at the final table and running well in the chips. Unfortunately, in September he doinks off $500K playing against Phil Ivey and Gus Hansen in Bobby's Room. He is also in debt to several other people, at least one of whom is backing another final table player. Player C is now under enormous pressure to make a deal to guarantee enough payout to erase his debts, and to enhance the backer's payout; or even to "play with certain things in mind." Player C then makes some very stupid bluffs and makes an obviously terrible call to go out in 7th place, giving most of his chips in the process to the player backed by one of his debt-holders.

Or even, God forbid,

D) Doyle Brunson is on-pace to win a record 12th bracelet, having gained his 11th by defeating Phil Hellmuth heads-up in the $50K H.O.R.S.E. event (thus denying Phil his own record-setter). He is massively ahead in chips, and insiders say that Doyle has never played any better in his life than in that glorious summer of 2008. But in September, while puttering around his Montana ranch, Doyle suffers a stroke and is hospitalized. While his eventual recovery is a dead-cert --the man did beat Stage IV cancer!-- he will be completely unable to play cards for at least a year.

For so many reasons: no no no no no.