Saturday, January 19, 2008

[Food Politics] Issue Manufacturing 101

I'm not coherent enough at the moment to comment on it, but this seemed pretty accurate:

The conundrum for the Republican party has always been that they speak for the actual interests of minority of Americans, but they need a majority vote to win. They need just enough of the people they intend to screw over to cross over and vote against their own interests to get that 51%. The winning strategy has been to drum up fears of The Other: racial minorities, gays, non-traditional women, immigrants, etc. Drumming up fear about urbanized habits (like eating ethnic, fusion, or nouveau foods) seems like a strange strategy on its surface, but it’s actually coldly rational. Rural states have disproportionate amounts of voting power on the federal level, so Republicans have to convince fewer people to cross over and vote against their own interests. How better than to manufacture a fake cultural conflict between those who eat of the balsamic and know of the city bus and those who don’t?

Go here for more context.

Friday, January 18, 2008

[meme] The Soundtrack of My Life, or How To Waste Friday Night While Your Friends Watch The Wire

I wasn't tagged, but I'll do this anyway - I have so much music I could do this dozens of times and not get a repeat, so I'm really curious to see what happens.

"This," of course, is a meme - set your preferred music player to shuffle and write down the song that shows up. Just go down the list.

I think memes are related to MASH, for those of you who remember that little gem. I think I played it once, under duress. (And to be clear, while my disagreement with it at the time was certainly sexist, my disagreement with it now is that it offers a very limited palette of possibility for human life.)

Found over at Uniquely Normal.

So, the songs..... format, of course, is song (artist) [commentary]. Clear?

Freak of the Week (Funkadelic)

Solitude (His Name is Alive) [At times, this is certainly true]

Taper Jean Girl (Kings of Leon)

Beer Bong (NOFX)

The Moisture Farm (John Williams - Star Wars: A New Hope Soundtrack) [This probably comes across as nastier than it is - we are talking about vaporators, after all. Maybe it's about hard work, but that seems equally unlikely]

Rave On (Real Kids) [I like Dionysius but not dancing - go figure]

Orchid (Black Sabbath)

Pothole in My Lawn (De La Soul) [Hey! I got a job!]

Imperfectly (Ani DiFranco) [This was too good - I'm not a perfectionist or a feedback junkie or anything, I swear....]

Not A Pretty Girl (Ani Difranco)

Emma Blowgun's Last Stand (Beulah) [Oddly appropriate, though I am annoyed it assumes there is only one]

The Magnificent Bird Will Rise (Deerhoof)

Killbot 2000 (Murder by Death) [Uh-oh]

Lonesome Town (Ricky Nelson - Pulp Fiction Soundtrack)

Pictures of Success (Rilo Kiley) [This is hypothetical, as there will be no wedding]

Fresh Shot (Kickass Martians) [An excellent choice, as the two people on the planet who've heard this song aside from me will attest]

The O Men (The Butthole Surfers) [??????????}

School Spirit Skit One (Kanye West) [Failing at school? Sure]

Pro Bowler Tachikoma (Yoko Kanno - Ghost in the Shell Soundtrack)

Movement (LCD Soundsystem) [I hate it when they move]

It Just Is (Rilo Kiley) [Very existentialist]

Sons of the Silent Age (David Bowie)

Cheap Reward (Elvis Costello & the Attractions)

.... I like this post title too much to name it Cheap Reward. Sorry.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

[BoingBoing] The Most Famous Person I Know

.... this is frackin' awesome:

Flickr user B_Zedan went on a six-week-long sculpture binge, which she's documented in her Flickr stream. One of her creations is this amazing "Saints of Steampunk": six tiny little saint figures in steampunk garb with clockwork halos. All six fit on a quarter.

Congrats, bz. I love the steampunk saints... and so does Cory Doctorow.

OK, enough fanboy crap.

Time for bed.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

[Social Networking Sites] Danah Boyd Is A Genius, Part 65,345

I want to steal her brain away and ask it questions forever, Futurama-and-Dead-Presidents-style.

I mean, how can you top this?

I'm not saying that social network sites have no value. Quite the contrary. But their value is about the kinds of informal social learning that is required for maturation - understanding your community, learning the communicate with others, working through status games, building and maintaining friendships, working through personal values, etc. All too often we underestimate these processes because, traditionally, they have happened so naturally. [They have also been understood to happen outside of school, in church or at home or in the pool hall; the fact that they are more prevalent in school now than ever before - and better understood as being within the purview of educators - is causing all sorts of tension and conflict. - Dennis] Yet, what's odd about today's youth culture is that we've systematically taken away the opportunities for socialization. And yet we wonder why our kids are so immature compared to kids from other cultures. Social network sites are popular because youth are trying to take back the right to be social, even if it has to happen in interstitial ways. We need to recognize that not all learning is about book learning - brains mature through experience, including social experiences.

Yes! Yes! A million times yes!

How cool could it be if someone nudged those interstitial spaces ever so slightly as to promote positive growth rather than the further following of mass media and commercial trends (which happen to promote a whole bunch of nasty stuff)?

Sigh. This is one of the reasons I felt like a space alien among teachers when subbing. I never saw this kind of thing articulated or even understood in regards to modern technologies like cell phones or social networking sites - or even chat programs.

[Apple] New MacBook Air

I've had to clean the drool off the computer twice before even getting Blogger open.... [kidding!]

Check this out:

No, that image is not doctored. Yes, it really is that thin.

Technical specs here; main Apple page on their newest invention here.

Monday, January 14, 2008

[Sex and Gender] Is This Subversive?

Found over at Feministing....

The comments at Feministing do a good job taking apart the ad campaign, but I think this ad could be put to good use fighting sexism.

Something along the lines of "Would you shame him if he came home looking like this?"

How about "Did he just commit himself to a future of diapers, or does that just apply to her?"

Eh, the second one's a little blunt, but you get the point.

I'm too tired to be posting....

[LCSD] IE Cherrypicks From the Report Card, I Get Annoyed, No One is Surprised

First thing's first: The 2006-2007 Report Card for the LCSD can be found online here.

IE had some comments on it, and they sounded pretty damning, so I wanted to see if I could find the Report Card myself and make an attempt to interpret it.

I hope you'll not find it surprising that I had issues with it. I have issues with everything else, right, so why not this?


IE notes that the LCSD does not meet the federal Adequate Yearly Progress Guidelines:

To quote both the 2006-7007 LHS School Report Card and the district's overall report card, "Federal Adequate Yearly Progress Rating: NOT MET."

This is true.

What's also true is that the AYP guidelines are utter crap - fail one section and no matter what the rest of your district's scores are, you fail the whole thing. In other words, Lebanon could have perfect attendance and perfect grades, but if too many students got in trouble in class, Lebanon would still be considered "failing." It's designed to promote the appearance of failure. Of course, since I am of the opinion that No Child Left Behind (which is where AYP comes from) is intended to hurt public education, not help it, I can't say I am surprised.

Come on - anything passed by the Bush Administration is not going to be genuinely designed to further the public interest. Seriously. Adding dozens of byzantine bureaucratic requirements and not funding them is a brilliant way to f*ck public schools, not a way to improve them. The fact that some of the metrics are useful is great political cover, but does not prevent districts and states from being swamped under a giant unfunded mandate. (To say nothing of the fact that the whole 'penalty' idea pushed under NCLB is stupid.)

Anyway, IE has lots of others things to say. For example:

I've seen the comments about how it's only fair to compare Lebanon's poor results with other districts of similar lower socio-economic status. I find those comments insulting and a cop-out by those who want to justify their belief we have effective administrative leadership in this district.

I'm not going to use such comments to prop up the district's administrative leadership.... but I am going to point out that for a comparison to be statistically valid at all, one has to be comparing like and like. One cannot compare apples and oranges - the results are useless. In this sense, it is necessary to compare Lebanon with districts that have a similar attributes (socioeconomic class, school and district size, etc). Comparing Lebanon to districts with significantly more resources (both in the schools and at home) is an exercise in bringing on a sense of depression and futility (or a great motivating tool, depending).

When resource-poor districts do achieve great things, such as outperforming rich districts, they make movies about it. That should be all the evidence you need for how common it is.

That's not saying that Lebanon shouldn't achieve great things (indeed, to aim for anything less is probably not a good idea) - just that we need to remember that it's an exceptional story for a reason.

Long story short: Dismissing very real resource gaps as a "cop-out" is implying that the people who acknowledge such gaps are aiming for failure.... and that's insulting.

More IE:

Now look at the Financial Data section and the dollars per student spent on: direct classroom expenses (below statewide average), classroom support (below statewide average), building support (below statewide average), central support (above statewide average).

So we are only above or equal to the statewide spending average when it comes to money spent on the district office/administrative support. Where are our priorities?

Implying that the LCSD's priorities are in the wrong place based on this is a tiny bit - and only a tiny bit - disingenuous. Rather, I would ask if the increased central support spending is justifiable when the money is so obviously needed in classrooms.

To answer that question, we would need to know what the district is funding with that money - and if the funded people and programs are effective. The State Report Card does not provide us with that information, and I'm not going to speculate at this point.

The second point to make about these numbers (found on the last page of the report) is that they are statewide averages. Without weighting, median numbers or comparison to districts with the same overall funding levels they are only of limited use anyway. After all, what good does it do us to know that Lebanon is poorer than the state average? I could have told you that without reading the state report card.

What the numbers do suggest(but not prove), of course, is that Lebanon spends more on central support relative to other categories. But we still need to know where that money goes to make any kind of evaluative statement.

I have no brilliant conclusion. You might want to draw your own.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

[LCSD] Warren Beeson's Lebanon Express Comments

I wasn't really going to post on this - it looks like a reprint of what he said at the most recent school board meeting - but IE posted on it, and, well, I felt compelled to respond.

First, a bit of Beeson:

Ladies and gentlemen, this school board is dysfunctional and currently lacking any credibility. The result is, there is no legitimacy attached to your decisions. Furthermore, your history of hasty, reckless, ill-considered decision-making has engendered unreasonable costs (both current and future) for our district; you have damaged our educational processes, and brought harm to the reputation and good name of our community.

This behavior is unacceptable. It cannot continue. It needs to change now, beginning tonight. The oath you took when you accepted this position requires that you uphold the law, follow due process, and respect the rights of all citizens. We the people expect prudent, sound judgment and decisions based on facts. If you follow that path, you can begin to repair your credibility, re-establish your legitimacy, and put our school district back on the path of preparing our young people for happy, successful lives as individuals and as citizens.

Next, IE's comments:

1. The Express showed it's true colors by deciding to make this into an article, and to headline it, "Board behavior is unacceptable," on the Opinion page. I challenge them to run a similar piece headlined, "Superintendent's behavior is unacceptable." Plenty of well-spoken and intelligent community members have made statements about the need for changes in Robinson's behaviors at school board meetings, but none have become a featured article in our weekly newspaper. The Express favors Robinson vs. the voices for change: Small-town politics at work.

2. If you read the statement and substitute the words "the superintendent," or "Jim Robinson" for each reference to the school board, the comments in the article ring true. Try it yourself.

What are the odds someone has written and submitted such a piece (criticizing Robinson) to the Lebanon Express? If no one tries, what is the Express going to print?

I only ask because all I hear from the anti-Robinson folks is the claim "the Express would never do it," which is a hypothetical (meaning it might happen, not that it will happen). I don't ever hear anyone claiming to have tried and been rejected.

The latter would constitute evidence of a point. The former is meaningless propaganda.

(Oh, and if someone has indeed been rejected, it would need to be established that the rejection was for reasons other than a pro-Robinson bias. I just wanted to pre-empt that criticism.)

Furthermore, it is entirely possible - plausible, even! - that Warren Beeson asked the Express to run his comments. That's one way to get free publicity - and folks with experience in public service would should know that.

As for IE's second point... I'd like some evidence. I've seen the evidence for Warren Beeson's comments - the suspension of Robinson comes to mind - but I have seen little to no evidence that Robinson makes ill-considered decisions. Decisions that people might disagree with (and sometimes for good reason), yes - but "hasty" or "reckless?" Really? Which ones?

[Higher Education] Oregon Increases Student Aid Money

This is a good thing:

For the first time, Oregon has so much grant money available for college students that it has mounted a TV, radio and Internet ad campaign to give it all away.

"Don't just dream about college . . . GO!" the ads say.

To help students get there, the state will hand out $72 million next fall -- twice as much money as students at Oregon's public and private colleges received this year.

And it's not all going to low-income students: Many middle-income families also qualify for the first time.

The income limit for a family of four will rise from $33,600 to $70,000, and the maximum award will go up from $1,752 to $3,200 a year for a public university. About 33,000 Oregon students are expected to qualify next school year. That's 6,000 more students than this year.

I have this feeling this is the direct result of the Democratic takeover of the State Legislature... now if they could just stop the corporatization of the Oregon University System I would be impressed.

[Cloned Food] Can We Talk About the Precautonary Principle, Please?


BRUSSELS, Belgium - Meat and milk from cloned animals is probably safe for humans, the European Union's food safety agency said in a preliminary report released Friday. The report, by the European Food Safety Authority, seems likely to fuel new debate over whether the EU should allow cloned animals to enter the food chain.

The 47-page draft cautioned, however, that there was "only limited data available" on animal cloning. It urged consultation with scientists and consumer groups, which have in the past objected to allowing such products onto the market.

Maybe this is a good time to apply the aforementioned principle:

The precautionary principle is a moral and political principle which states that if an action or policy might cause severe or irreversible harm to the public, in the absence of a scientific consensus that harm would not ensue, the burden of proof falls on those who would advocate taking the action.

Translation: Without proof that eating cloned meat would be perfectly safe, we should not be doing it. I find this eminently reasonable, personally.

This, of course, doesn't even address moral arguments against cloning (or meat).

[Bush Administration] Where Two Wrongs Again Fail to Make a Right

Found over at Americablog, I couldn't pass up commenting on this WaPo story:

"This is serious enough to get someone killed," said a State Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he feared retaliation. "The fire systems are the tip of the iceberg. That is the most visible. But no one has ever inspected the electrical system, the power plant" and other parts of the embassy complex, which will house more than 1,000 people and is vulnerable to mortar attacks.

This is an embassy that shouldn't exist in the first place. I'd be eternally amused if this disaster was some sort of passive-aggressive tactic on the part of mid-level bureaucrats to get the U.S. out of Iraq.

It's also the logical consequence of what is passes for a free-market system these days (but is really a crony-centered, accountability-free system).

I am reminded of the anger my more conservative relatives show when it comes to "wasting" the taxpayers' money.

Two things: 1) They are, unfortunately, referring to public education and not war; 2) Apparently "freedom" means that it's morally acceptable for private companies to waste as much money as they want.

[Social Justice] The Privilege Meme

Found over at Sisyphean Task; check out his post to get a better idea of what this is about:

(Bold indicates that they apply to me)

1. Father went to college
2. Father finished college
3. Mother went to college
4. Mother finished college
5. Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor
6. Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers
7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home
8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home
9. Were read children’s books by a parent
10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18
11. Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18
12. The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively
13. Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18
14. Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs
15. Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs
16. Went to a private high school
17. Went to summer camp (one week of church camp for three summers)
18. Had a private tutor before you turned 18
19. Family vacations involved staying at hotels
20. Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18
21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
22. There was original art in your house when you were a child
23. You and your family lived in a single-family house
24. Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home
25. You had your own room as a child
26. You had a phone in your room before you turned 18
27. Participated in a SAT/ACT prep course
28. Had your own TV in your room in high school
29. Owned a mutual fund or IRA in high school or college
30. Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16
31. Went on a cruise with your family.
32. Went on more than one cruise with your family.
33. Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up
34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family

Just over half apply to me - 18/34.

Developers of this meme: Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker and Stacy Ploskonka at Illinois State University.

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