Monday, December 24, 2012

Raise taxes on guns

As a start in addressing the gun status in this country, could we not initiate a hefty tax (at least the same percentage as on cigarettes now) and require full liability insurance (as we do on autos)?
Would this not be a start?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Something must be done

This country went out of its way to address second-hand smoke. Isn't it time to deal with second-hand bullets?

I know there are people who hide behind the Constitution's right to bear arms.  I do not believe weapons such as that used in Sandy Hook Elementary were even in existence when our Constitution was written.  What I do believe is that they are really and truly weapons of mass destruction.

We have invaded other countries to get rid of WMD. Maybe it is time we invaded our own country and eliminate our own WMD.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Hope AND Change? Hope WE Change?

Between these lines is a letter to the editor from the Albany Times Union of Friday, December 14, 2012.

I wanted to follow up on Bettina Stoller’s letter (“Capitalism mars Thanksgiving Day,” Nov. 28).

She is not alone in bemoaning businesses being open on Thanksgiving night. I, along with most senior citizens, remember when most stores closed at 5 p.m. on Saturdays and remained so until Monday. Business open on holidays, save St. Patrick’s Day, were unheard of.

If the general public would not patronize these stores on these days, they would not open. It makes me wonder: Who is the most greedy? Buyers or sellers?


The above letter does give credence to the concept that behind most of the things wrong with America stands the American people.

President Clinton, in his first inaugural address, said "Our democracy must be not only the envy of the world but the engine of our own renewal. There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America."

I place these two items together because they remind me that our country has the potential to be great, but that we are currently not tapping that potential.  By "our country" I mean us, the people, not the government. For the most part, our government(s) is just a reflection of its citizenry. When it is weak, it is because we are; its strength is our strength: right, wrong, or indifferent, it reflects us.

As we head towards the "fiscal cliff" (another Y2K?) I keep seeing reminders that our country has become a "blame" country. We spend all our time identifying what we don't like, complaining about it, and blaming some one or some group for it. Very rarely do we claim the wrong as our own, and take an active role in trying to correct it.

By active role, I don't mean sit-ins, walk-a-thons, or any kind of protest. I mean actually doing something constructive. Mr. Morrissey, whose letter I quote above, should not shop on days when he thinks stores should not sell. If he wishes to go beyond that, he should start by finding ways and means of educating the public as to how non-holiday and non-Sunday shopping is all we need. When people stop shopping on Sundays, stores will be closed on Sundays. He should not take a moral high ground and claim that stores should be closed because, well, because they should be closed.

At any rate, I see us Americans spending too much time and energy expecting, or even demanding, that others change their ways. The burden of solution is constantly place on the "other".  As President Clinton was inferring, our solutions have to come from within.

Speaking of 'within": US citizens should acknowledge that they are the ones who vote, not  big money. The only way that big money can influence your vote is if you let it, i.e., if you are gullible.  Gullibility has a cure, and that is education. As Thomas Jefferson put it in a letter of Sept. 28, 1820 in a letter to William Charles Jarvis " I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves ; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. " (see here).

In his notes on Virginia, Jefferson also stated the the object of primary educations was "To give to every citizen the information he needs for the transaction of his own business; to enable him to calculate for himself, and to express and preserve his ideas, his contracts and accounts in writing; to improve, by reading, his morals and faculties; to understand his duties to his neighbors and country, and to discharge with competence the functions confided to him by either; to know his rights; to exercise with order and justice those he retains, to choose with discretion the fiduciary of those he delegates; and to notice their conduct with diligence, with candor and judgment; and in general, to observe with intelligence and faithfulness all the social relations under which he shall be placed." (see here)  I would have to say that we, as a country, have a long way to go to live up to Jefferson's ideas. We have to shore up the education of our citizens, not to fulfill the wishes of big business, but to meet the needs of our democracy.  Our democracy must involve all its citizens, not just some politicos in Washington or elsewhere.  Right now, it doesn't. Too many citizens are too passive and too reactive. They need to be active citizens.
I hope that changes will occur in America soon regarding our discourse on society's ills. Constant complaining about one political party by another, or one social group by another, or one ethnic group by another, will get us nowhere. As Alexis de Tocqueville stated "Those that despise people will never get the best out of others and themselves." Perhaps its time that we started working together.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

How do you contact Microsoft when there is an error in their programming?

Today I tried helping my wife debug a an Excel problem. She was working with a Microsoft template, "Project issue tracker" .

When entering data she discovered that the chart was showing labels that were 1 more than what they should be: 1's were 2's, 4's were 5's, etc.  When I looked at it, and found the underlying data table, I detected that the label values were a decimal fraction higher than they should be (for that matter, they should have been counting numbers, not fractional values, as they allegedly resulted from counting.

No matter what I tried, I could not figure where the data was immediately coming from.  I did uncover a hidden worksheet in the file, but I also discovered that the chart data range is empty, with the statement  "The data range is too complex to be displayed. If a new range is selected, it will replace all of the series in the Series panel." I suspect something has to be fixed, but without knowing what is there, I cannot find a way to fix it.

If anyone out there wants to give it a stab, remember that the data table for the chart should be void of decimals.

Although the template is listed as for Excel 2013, the compatibility issues checker rules out Excel 2007 and earlier. It does not rule out 2010.

Please help!!!!


Tuesday, December 4, 2012


I am far from liberal, but I am getting the feeling that the GOP is holding America hostage for the benefit of its upper class elites.

Republicans should ask themselves if they really think they owe it to the upper crust.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Help Stop Math Avoidance!

Careers That Don't Involve Taking Any Math Classes in College

Read more: Careers That Don't Involve Taking Any Math Classes in College | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/info_8322974_careers-taking-math-classes-college.html#ixzz2DRLEVgmG

The article named above lists 4 areas where students can pursue careers without needing much math at all:
1) Legal Careers
2) Liberal Arts Writers, Researchers or Professors
3) Chiropractor
4) Law Enforcement

I guess the question is based on acceptance of a mediocre skill level. I don't want to hire a lawyer who is not a problem solver, nor a researcher who can't comprehend statistics, nor a chiropractor who can't deal with stresses and strains (yes, that is physical anatomy, but it's also math), nor a law enforcement officer who can't think better than his radar gun.

It's interesting that "ehow" seems to be "ehow not to" as well.

The mere idea that people accept math avoidance as a worthwhile goal that should be aided and abetted just nauseates me. 

Ehow.com also has a page claiming how lawyers need mathematical knowledge. (See http://www.ehow.com/how-does_4926151_lawyers-use-math.html)

I guess internal consistency is irrelevant. (Then again, "internal consistency" is a mathematical concept.)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Strange People in Strange Land

Please explain to me: after playing golf 2 to 4 times a week since the beginning of May, I go out yesterday with the cold-weather hackers, wear 4 layers of clothing including a fleece sweater and a fleece jacket, play in conditions worthy of Jack Frost, wait through a 2 hour frost delay, then shoot my best 18 hole score of the year.
Weird, huh?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Enough is enough

Will people ever stop dwelling on George Bush?
He hasn't been in for 4 years and he still gets blamed for everything.
Get on with life!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

It's Time...

After having watched the third "debate" between Gov. Romney and President Obama, I have come to the conclusion that the vote for President matters less than the elections of Senators and Congressmen.

The situation is simple: if members of Congress can seriously work together for the betterment of our country, either presidential candidate could be successful. If Congress remains disgustingly polarized, neither man would succeed in the oval office.

I really do believe that if our Congressmen were taking the best interests of the country to heart, they would be appalled at their behavior over the past 20 years.  In the words of Alexis deToqueville (as translated by Henry Reeve): "In the heat of the struggle each partisan is hurried beyond the limits of his opinions by the opinions and the excesses of his opponents, until he loses sight of the end of his exertions, and holds a language which disguises his real sentiments or secret instincts." He was referring at the time to France, but the description fits the good ol' USA now.
To put it simply: our politicians have gotten into the habit of taking positions merely because they oppose the other party's position. It seems to me to be a "groupie" kind of thing, where undecided or moderate politicians get sucked towards the positions of the more vocal extreme members of their party out of a need to "fit in." Woe be it to the Republican or Democrat who disagrees with the party line!!!

What each party needs is congressmen with strong opinions and strong speaking skills and a strong sense of self who are strong centrists. A political magnet must be put in the middle to draw others in and create a mood of civility. It is only when congressmen truly have a desire to work with ALL their colleagues that things will improve. They have to relearn how to talk WITH each other rather than AT each other.

If you, as a voter, expect to vote for a congressional or senatorial candidate because of what they can do for you,  your vote for president is irrelevant. If you intend to vote for a congressional or senatorial candidate because of what they can do for the country, maybe then your presidential vote will take on some meaning.

Friday, October 19, 2012


The Association of Mathematics Teachers of NYS has its annual conference at the Rye Town Hilton in Portchester, NY on November 8-10.

I highly recommend this conference for any and all who have anything to do with math education, whether in New York State or not.
More information at www.amtnys.org

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fairy tales

1st pitch in 9 minutes.
Fairy tale prediction: Rodriguez hits pinch hit game winning homerun.
Smack on the back of the head prediction: Tigers win World Series.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Poltical Ads

This year the political ads have been the biggest garbage I have seen.

I have yet to find a single ad where a candidate says anything of a positive nature. By positive, I mean something he/she would try to do or establish with the goal of fixing society's ills and making this world a better place. All I see are slams at an opponent, generally with fictitious stories or out-of-context comments or just general blather.  Dozens of ads about "gutting Medicare" that demonstrate a willingness to not communicate the truth in order to help slam an opponent.

If a candidate needs to lie to try to gain votes, they've lost mine.  I am no great fan of those in office, but I am no great fan of their opponents, either. Maybe someday someone will run somewhere in a manner I can commend on a platform I can support.

I am still waiting for a candidate for any office to acknowledge that their village, town, county, state, country all go together and are part of the big wide world and cannot be treated as disjoint. If we are to thrive in this world, we have to get our act together as a country, and fast.

When you vote this year, I suggest you strongly ask yourself how your voting choices, taken as a group, will help enable us to live and grow in the world as a whole.

As a matter of fact, before you vote this year, at least read Friedman's and Mandelbaum's That Used to be Us.  Although I for one don't agree with everything they are after, I strongly agree with the way they place everything in a global context.

The very first question you should ask yourself is this: will my candidate selections work together in a positive way? If you find that you select your choices because of single issues and without considering the overall context, then you are part of our polarizing politics, and have nobody to blame as we continue our downward spiral.  Remember: two people rowing in opposite directions will not move a rowboat no matter how strong they are. Yet, one will claim success because the current for a time will help move the boat in his/her direction.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A bit about Phoenix

I discovered last Sunday that, although I know about Frank Lloyd Wright, I knew nothing about his history and his Arizona connection. His establishment outside of Scottsdale he called Taliesen West, where we took a short tour. I must admit that most of the architectural talk leaves me cold, but the historical aspect was interesting.

We also took a drive that afternoon down to South Mountain, where we hoped to get some good vistas for photos of the Phoenix area with the sun behind us. Wouldn't you know: this was the one Sunday in September chosen for "Silent Sunday", when all roads in the park are closed to automobiles. Not interested in 100 degree hiking, we moved on. (This goes along with our trip through the Panama Canal a couple years ago, which got cancelled becasue the canal was closed for a day or two due to too much water. The first time that had ever happened)

Note that use of "two due to too". Ain't English great?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The best of times, the worst of times...

The Grand Canyon, both rims, have the most stupendous views imaginable. If you don't like the view, wait one minute. The sunlight ever changing, clouds filtering the sunshine at rare moments, the picture never stays the same. Sunset especially. We saw sunset from the Grand Canyon Lodge on the North Rim and Yavapai Point on the south rim. Both were spectacular.  I would have enjoyed even more were it not for my acrophobia. I get nervous when other people get near the edge. Strange place for me to go on a vacation. (But flying doesn't bother me.)

The key drawbacks to our visit to the north rim had to due with the human aspect of the place: the food was terrible, and the lodging was less than good. Dinner at the Lodge consisted of the lamest "prime rib" I have ever encountered. We chose it because it was recommended by the waiter. It actually made my last airplane meal seem gourmet.

In addition, I ordered what was allegedly a Lumberyard Hefeweizen beer. It came with the color and consistency of Coors Light. The waiter said that it was a special filtered beer. The Lumberyard web site specifically says its beer is unfiltered.

The other drawback was in our cabin: i was a good thing we delayed showers, because in the morning as the john was flushed the sewage came right up through the tub's drain.  Nasty.

Despite the dinner complaints and the sewage issue, nobody made an offer of a discount or partial refund. The apparent message was "situation normal". Evidently they confused that with SNAFU.

More later...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Morning in north Las Vegas

Flew out to Las Vegas yesterday on a Southwest nonstop from Albany NY. A 5 hour flight in which you received a couple small bags of junk food and a beverage or two. (Ah, but my bags flew for free!! My mother-in-law points out regularly "it's not free, its included".) For the first two hours it was mildly bumpy, so the crew had the "buckle up" signs lit. Visiting the loo was a treat because it normally took 4 trips out of your seat before you managed to beat the competition. Nobody could stand in line, so the race was from the starting blocks, I mean seats.

Since we're headed to the north rim of the Grand Canyon, we chose to stay for a night up by Nellis Air Force Base. Definitely not a vacation spot, but its a different perspective of the Vegas area, as previous trips have kept us on the "strip".  At any rate, it's got great coffee and its near interstate 15, so the two major needs were met.

The big debate this morning as to whether there will be either cell service, WiFi and/or TV at the north rim. Doesn't matter if you've got a good book for after dark.

More later. Maybe.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Talk About Stoopid!!!

New York City has now supposedly and allegedly passed a legal limit on portion size for sodas and other "sugary" beverages in food service establishments.  Talk about DUMB!!And DANGEROUS!!

First, Mayor Bloomberg claimes it is a step in the fight againest childhood obesity. Who is he kidding? He'd be better off, and more helpful, pushing for more physical activity among kids, both in and out of school. Limit expenditures on interscholastic athletics, and bring back intramurals, where all can participate. Get'em off their butts and away from computers, gameboys, TVs, etc.

Second, if  this isn't knocked down eventually by the US Supreme Court, the court might as well disband. For any government at any level to regulate portion size of a ginger ale is absolutely Big Brotherish. Not for the soda itself, but for the discovery of how easy it was to enact. What's next? Mandatory portion control at Ruth's Chris?

Get real Bloomberg. And get realistic and effective, too. And, while you are at it, fire your Board of Health for rubber-stamping your idea.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

New (Republic)?

For years I have been a subscriber to The New Republic. The thing I liked most about the magazine was that it didn't use glitz and glamour to lure people to its articles.With almost no photos or graphics and very few ads, TNR clearly tried to meet its fiscal needs by attracting readers using just the quality of its written word.
Three years ago I became a Kindle user. Skeptical at first, I slowly was hooked, and greatly hooked when I was recovering from eye surgery. (Find me a book in which you can change font size!)  I subscribe to the Kindle version of the  New York Times, which is just OK for its content, but great for its portability.

The TNR and Kindle: what a great match.
This week I received an email saying I could access TNR at no extra cost on an Ipad. Not a Kindle. Just an Ipad. Great.

A long time ago, when I learned that the Ipad, with no external ports or drives for media, was merely an umbilical cord to the Apple company, I vowed to purchase Apple no more. I guess I'll be stuck with the paper TNR.  For a while...

As it is, the new majority owner of TNR is one of the founders of Facebook, another digital entity I have vowed to stay away from. (When I think of Facebook I think of lemmings.)  He was quoted in the papers as saying that most TNR readers will be reading  digital versions in 5 to 10 years. I hope they expand beyond Ipad by then, or they will have lost a steady reader.

Unless, of course, the Facebook politics change TNR from what it has been for years: one of the best written publications on the planet.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Thank-you, Time Warner (Maybe?)

This is the opening week for NFL football. The Giants have already lost, but that game was extra early due to Obama's speech at the convention. The real deal begins this weekend.

The second week will begin next Thursday night. I am not sure who is playing (without checking the schedule) but I know I won't watch it on TV. The game is on the NFL Network, which does not appear on our Time-Warner cable network.

TWC has taken a stance with the NFL Network which I personally wish it had taken with about 300 (maybe 400 or more) other channels. TWC does not want NFL has part of its basic package, which I guess is where the NFL wants it. I suppose TWC is still trying to calculate the losses possible by people leaving for a carrier that carries the network, vs people who leave or do not join because of a higher rate. The one guarantee is that if and when TWC does carry the NFLN, people who receive it will see an increase in their cable bills.

I only wish TWC would poll its customers on the issue, and/or let them do the negotiating with the NFL Network.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Do facts matter?

In a discussion with some liberal-minded friends of mine, it was mentioned, by one of them that our 55 mph speed limit law had been brought into law in the Carter years and overturned in the Reagan years. The subject quickly changed when it was pointed out that the law had begun during the Nixon years and repealed in the Clinton years.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Easy Rawlins'

Just saw the 1995 movie "Devil in a Blue Dress", based on a book by Walter Moseley. Seemed to have more gratuitous violence than a typical Moseley book, but since I haven't read it, I'll have to know.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Hand Washing at the Track?

In the last two weeks I had the opportunity to make a few cash donations at the flat track in Saratoga (the August place to be, or maybe the august place to be, I forgot which).  Naturally, during the three and a half hour time it took to see and wager on 7 or so races, there were a couple of times when I had to wash my hands. That was when I wish I had three arms and hands.

The wash room on the upper level in the grandstand has sinks with the automatics water shut-offs. No hot water at all, but every time you turned the water on you had a guaranteed one-thirds of a second to get the job done. That's it.  The guidelines for hand washing generally specify 20 seconds minimum of vigorously washing with soap AND WATER.  These sinks turned off so fast that if they were in Vegas the water would evaporate before it hit the bottom of the sink.

I used to think the attendant sitting at a table collecting money for handing men paper towels that could have been obtained from the dispenser was the strangest thing about the restrooms at the track. No more. The strangest thing now is trying to wash your hands, or, even better, watching other guys try. Some are real cool, going through the motions then actually shaking their hands over the sink as if there was excess water on them. Others bend over and try to do an elbow hold on the faucet lever. (I wanted to video them, but I think someone would have gotten the wrong idea if I had taken my cell phone out at that time.) They don't realize at first how hard it is to have your hand in the flow of water while using the elbow from that arm to keep the water turned on. Some guys just curse. The sorriest thing is that many don't even try. (Make sure you never touch a men's room doorknob on your way out after washing your hands: the last 5 guys to touch it probably didn't wash their hands.)

There are about two weeks to go at the track. Go try the grandstand men's room sinks.

For a primer on hand washing, click here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Credit Recovery programs in Schools?

Recently there have been a number of articles, stories, and blogs in the media about the use of online credit recovery programs in public schools. Most report on the ease by which students can scam the system, and cheat their way to a credit.  In very few of them do I read much about what is perhaps the key ingredient in student performance: motivation.

Most would probably agree that motivation comes in two modes: intrinsic and extrinsic.  In the former, one is motivated to do something because they value the activity itself due to its being interesting or pleasurable.  Extrinsic motivation is when the spur to action is some outside goal or reward or other outcome. Quite often our motivations involve a blending of the two. Indeed, the level of motivation can vary: we may play a round of golf because we inherently find the game a fun challenge: the winning of the side bet just gives us a little extra "push".

After 30 years in high school classrooms, I can tell you that student motivations cover the whole spectrum. Most students who do well have strong motivations: some are motivated by a healthy interest in the subject itself, others by a desire to make the honor roll. Those last two motivating factors may seem to some people as having equal value. However, the student is motivated to make the honor roll is most likely after a high grade: the student who is truly interested in the subject may earn a high grade, but to him/her, that is secondary.

When a failing student suddenly "turns it around", it usually involves a change in motivation: either the student discovers a true interest in the subject or a new external motivator came into play. (Such as the student who is offered a car at the end of the year if they make honor roll.)

Credit recovery systems as described in the media have a big problem: they use a system that can be very successful with intrinsically motivated students, but apply it to a group that is largely unmotivated or motivated by external factors. When a student with no interest in a subject, but is motivated to raise a grade and get that credit, that student can fall into the cheating game quite easily. It's not that they are bad kids or dishonest students, it's just that they see an opportunity to take an action for which they are motivated. (Sort of an attractive nuisance).  Some articles report students actually googling the information thay need to pass a test or complete an assignment. We can condemn such actions if we wish, but most of us do not know how we would act should we be placed in the same situation.

I see the word "accountability" all over the place, but I think that misses the boat.  The key to improving education is a greater understanding of student motivations so we can strengthen the healthy ones and minimize the effects of the not-so-healthy motivations.  Motivations will never, and should never, disappear. They do need to be understood and that understanding needs to be utilized.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Such a Pleasure

Sunday afternoon on CBS an extremely refreshing and upbeat show was broadcast to the nation. By that I mean the PGA tour's Greenbriar Classic from West Virginia.

Earlier in this tournament both Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods were eliminated when they missed the cut together for the first time since 1972.  Gone as well were Furyk and other major winners as well. Even Stuart Appleby, who shot a 59 in this tournament while winning two years ago, was somewhere else on the weekend.

This time the pleasure was brought to us by Charles Beljan, Troy Kelly, and Ted Potter, Jr.  The joy they showed in playing well was infectious.  The poise they showed was amazing.

Potter, the eventual winner, had missed the cut in 5 straight events leading up to Greenbriar. Kelly's best career event was a tie for 37th at Mayakoba back in February of this year.  Beljan had made 49 Fedex Cup points in his 12 starts this year, but picked up 163 at Greenbriar.

If someone had told me on Thursday at the start that these three would be involved in a mad dash coming down the stretch, I would have ignored the comment.

In the end, they provided one of the best tournament finishes one could desire.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Facebook? Again?

Yesterday Parade Magazine, the little Sunday paper insert in which Marilyn vos Savant had a column that is now a paragraph or two, had a small article about the cancellation of TV shows. I went to their website to add a comment about "Harry's Law" and "The Firm".

In order to register my comment, I needed to "Click "Agree" to sign in to www.facebook.com using your Yahoo! ID and allow sharing of Yahoo! info."

Another invasion by Facebook! Needless to say my comments will not appear at Parade Magazine's website.

I add this to a number of instances whereby in order to do something one had to join Facebook.

It's beginning to seem like "Big Brother" is really here, and it ain't the government.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Way to go, NBC

I just discovered that NBC has cancelled “the Firm” and “Harry’s Law”.
The only two NBC shows I watched.
Both gone.
The dumbing down of America continues.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Keep Those Conversations Going

So the US Open for golf starts at Olympic Club tomorrow.  The last time it was played there was in 1998. Just as any return to any course, the USGA tweaked it a bit.

One big change is that the first hole, at 530 yards, will play as a par four, while the 17th hole, a par 5, will play as a par five. Definitely seems strange.

In the long run, par on a hole is irrelevant.  The players play 72 holes, could the strokes, and let the chips fall where they may.  But TV and the spectator cannot operate that way. There has to be a means of comparing performances of players at different holes in a round.  Hence the focus on under par, over par, etc.

THE US Open is supposed to be a challenge, and it wouldn’t look good if too many golfers did too well at any given time. By setting par of #1 at 4, it virtually guarantees that most golfers will start their  rounds “over par”. By raising #17 to be a par 5, USGA has upped the number of birdies on the hole, increasing the probability of golfers making an apparent jump up the board as they finish their rounds.

Keep in mind: it really means nothing insofar as the end result is concerned.  But, it means the world insofar as conversations about golf are concerned.   No golfer talks about golf without talking about birdies, pars, bogies, two-putts, three-putts, chip-ins, etc.  How boring it would be if we could only talk about our final score.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Facebook? What's a facebook?

Facebook stock is listed this morning at $27.72. FB hit the market at $38, soared to $41.68 a couple hours later, and then started falling.  What an investment!!!  Just like buying a car. Except that when you buy a car, you buy a tool that allows you to move about. What does Facebook allow you to do?

Facebook made 85% of its money in 2011 from advertising. It's main value is its ability to shove ads in the face of its users. Never having been on Facebook, I cannot speak for the obtrusiveness of the ads, but they must be pretty much in-your-face to generate that much income.

I have heard Facebook described as a "social networking service". Interesting. What is that?  Is it a fancy way to stay in touch without communicating?  I mean, a private conversation can take place in person or on a phone, written communications have the choice of email, snail mail, or texting. Some people still have the ability to talk face-to-face. Most of those are very fast. Exactly what is it that Facebook users claim to need? Is it that they think their lives are so interesting that they need to create an online ongoing biography? In case someone out there is watching?

From what I see around me, the younger people are so into texting that they rarely use phones for speaking, and they will sometimes avoid close contact so they can go home and get on Facebook.

Could it be that Facebook is really the best and latest version of a digital drug?

 At home here we have VOIP telephones, smart phones, 3 laptops, a desktop, a netbook, a Kindle, 2 ipods, an HD TV, a Blu-Ray player, a  home theater system. I might have forgotten something, but I think I can claim that we are not  technologically illiterate. Do I have some hidden need of which I am not aware?

Facebook starts scary. Go to http://www.facebook.com/. You will see a home page that says absolutely nothing about the web site. It does seem to require you to log in to see anything. Not for me. That is, unless you can convince me otherwise.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bloomberg and soda

In a New York Times article this morning (article here) I read that Mayor Bloomberg is proposing a plan to place limits on purchasing sodas in NYC.  What a guy: in one fell swoop he can give the impression that he is doing something about health (obesity), attempt to legislate intelligence (what it takes to eat smart), and show that he cares about the "little people" (who are more likely to eat fast food and visit movie theaters. 

Will Rogers once said "you can't legislate intelligence and common sense into people."  He knew that almost one hundred years ago, and still we have people who haven't figured it out.

Bloomberg is smart in one way: by placing the burden on the retailer, rather than the consumer who is making the choice what to drink, he makes enforcement easier, while at the same time making the law a non-factor regarding its alleged goal of reducing obesity: the consumer can buy 2 or more smaller sizes, and pour them into his own large container.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Letter on #17

My last post was my unedited letter to the Times Union. Here is the letter as published. The editor had me rewrite as nobody has since my college days. It was good to go through even though.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

TPC at Sawgrass #17

On Friday, May 11, I submitted a letter to the sports section of the Albany Times Union newspaper.in. An edited version appeared in today's TU.  I assume copyright laws may claim that they own the version in the paper.Here is my original version.

On Friday, May 11, Pete Dougherty wrote in his column a rave review of the infamous 17th hole at the TPC at Sawgrass, site of the PGA's Players Championship.
In the column he fails to mention a few key items regarding the hole, and water hazards in general in the game of golf.
First, one of the key ingredients in an enjoyable game of golf is the recovery shot: a bad shot to an awkward location followed by a shot that makes the golfer's game healthy again. A water hazard does not have that allure: the next shot is almost never taken from the location where the previous shot ended, and the true penalty to the average golfer is the amputation of another ball from his spherical entourage. Some of the greatest golf holes in the world involve water, if at all, in its natural state of a meandering creek crossing the course. Not as a manmade golf ball collection agency.
Second, when water does come into play, the Rules of Golf are very specific about what should be done when an errant ball finds the water. It does have a disclaimer sort of rule that courses can use if they have to, that specifies a drop area. In this case the drop area is generally nowhere near the flight of the ball. The standard rule would have the golfer drop his ball keeping the last point of entry into the hazard on a line between the dropping spot and the pin. In this case that would chew up the front of the tee area, which the PGA probably doesn't want. In some cases the drop might have to take place on the other side on the little lake, making for a time-consuming walk, which TV probably doesn't want.
Third, Bubba Watson. What had the golf world amazed, if not stunned, after this year's Master's, was the manner in which Watson won: by a RECOVERY shot from a place that would have most weekend golfer's biting their lips and shaking with dread. A recovery shot. Not a shot, after a penalty, taken from some place the ball hadn't been.
I believe the PGA had some misgivings about #17. For this year they raised the edge of the island so fewer balls that hit land would trickle off into golf disaster.
It's only a question, but do NASCAR fans watch only because of the risk of a crash? If not, why would people suspect that golf fans would?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Whose More Partisan?

I have heard a lot recently regarding the GOP being the nasty party-line guys voting constantly for partisan gain.  This morning I looked at The Washington Post, which had a database of party line voting (see here).  Below are the US Senators grouped by party and ranked according to the portion of their votes that follow their party's lead.

We can argue forever on the merits of their individual votes, and the good and bad of the items they voted on.  But I do think it is clear which party is more partisan in its voting. I won't tell which party.

Look at the data and decide for yourself.

My apologies for the format of the names. That is how it came from the Post, and I didn't bother to clean it up, since the names were not the issue.

The Republican side 

McConnellMitch McConnell KY 93.00%
AyotteKelly Ayotte NH 93.00%
ThuneJohn Thune SD 93.00%
CornynJohn Cornyn TX 93.00%
KylJon Kyl AZ 92.00%
CoatsDan Coats IN 92.00%
PortmanRob Portman OH 92.00%
BarrassoJohn Barrasso WY 92.00%
EnziMike Enzi WY 92.00%
McCainJohn McCain AZ 91.00%
BoozmanJohn Boozman AR 91.00%
ChamblissSaxby Chambliss GA 91.00%
IsaksonJohnny Isakson GA 91.00%
CorkerBob Corker TN 91.00%
SessionsJeff Sessions AL 90.00%
LugarRichard Lugar IN 90.00%
JohannsMike Johanns NE 90.00%
BurrRichard Burr NC 90.00%
HatchOrrin Hatch UT 90.00%
ShelbyRichard Shelby AL 89.00%
RobertsPat Roberts KS 89.00%
ToomeyPat Toomey PA 89.00%
JohnsonRon Johnson WI 89.00%
RubioMarco Rubio FL 88.00%
CrapoMike Crapo ID 88.00%
GrassleyChuck Grassley IA 88.00%
InhofeJames Inhofe OK 88.00%
AlexanderLamar Alexander TN 88.00%
HutchisonKay Bailey Hutchison TX 88.00%
KirkMark Kirk IL 87.00%
MoranJerry Moran KS 87.00%
WickerRoger Wicker MS 87.00%
GrahamLindsey Graham SC 87.00%
RischJames Risch ID 86.00%
EnsignJohn Ensign NV 86.00%
CoburnTom Coburn OK 86.00%
VitterDavid Vitter LA 84.00%
BluntRoy Blunt MO 84.00%
HoevenJohn Hoeven ND 84.00%
CochranThad Cochran MS 82.00%
MurkowskiLisa Murkowski AK 77.00%
DeMintJim DeMint SC 76.00%
LeeMike Lee UT 76.00%
PaulRand Paul KY 75.00%
SnoweOlympia Snowe ME 70.00%
BrownScott Brown MA 70.00%
CollinsSusan Collins ME 68.00%
HellerDean Heller NV 35.00%

The Democratic Side

SchumerChuck Schumer NY 98.00%
FeinsteinDianne Feinstein CA 97.00%
DurbinDick Durbin IL 97.00%
CardinBen Cardin MD 97.00%
KerryJohn Kerry MA 97.00%
UdallTom Udall NM 97.00%
WhitehouseSheldon Whitehouse RI 97.00%
JohnsonTim Johnson SD 97.00%
BoxerBarbara Boxer CA 96.00%
CoonsChristopher Coons DE 96.00%
InouyeDaniel Inouye HI 96.00%
FrankenAl Franken MN 96.00%
LautenbergFrank Lautenberg NJ 96.00%
MenéndezRobert Menéndez NJ 96.00%
BingamanJeff Bingaman NM 96.00%
GillibrandKirsten Gillibrand NY 96.00%
WydenRon Wyden OR 96.00%
ReedJack Reed RI 96.00%
RockefellerJay Rockefeller WV 96.00%
BlumenthalRichard Blumenthal CT 95.00%
AkakaDaniel Akaka HI 95.00%
MikulskiBarbara Mikulski MD 95.00%
ShaheenJeanne Shaheen NH 95.00%
BrownSherrod Brown OH 95.00%
LeahyPatrick Leahy VT 95.00%
MurrayPatty Murray WA 95.00%
KohlHerb Kohl WI 95.00%
BennetMichael Bennet CO 94.00%
ReidHarry Reid NV 94.00%
ConradKent Conrad ND 94.00%
UdallMark Udall CO 93.00%
CarperTom Carper DE 93.00%
NelsonBill Nelson FL 93.00%
HarkinTom Harkin IA 93.00%
LevinCarl Levin MI 93.00%
KlobucharAmy Klobuchar MN 93.00%
MerkleyJeff Merkley OR 93.00%
CaseyBob Casey PA 93.00%
CantwellMaria Cantwell WA 93.00%
LandrieuMary Landrieu LA 92.00%
StabenowDebbie Stabenow MI 92.00%
HaganKay Hagan NC 92.00%
WarnerMark Warner VA 92.00%
BaucusMax Baucus MT 91.00%
TesterJon Tester MT 91.00%
WebbJim Webb VA 91.00%
BegichMark Begich AK 90.00%
PryorMark Pryor AR 90.00%
McCaskillClaire McCaskill MO 86.00%
NelsonBen Nelson NE 83.00%
ManchinJoe Manchin WV 83.00%

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

New York Education Reform Commission

So yesterday our governor, Mr. Andrew Cuomo, created yet another commission with the alleged goal of improving NY public schools. He has placed Richard Parsons, former CEO of Citigroup, as commission chair. It is interesting that Mr. Cuomo claims poor graduation rates as one of his pet peeves, yet places at the chair of the commission an individual who fell short of graduating from the University of Hawaii after his 4 years there, but found a law school (Albany) that would admit him anyway.

Prior to his Citigroup years, Mr. Parsons was with Time Warner. Here is a quote from the NY Daily News from 2009: "It's no secret that Citigroup board Chairman Richard Parsons has been working for months to repair the financial giant. But, until now, even his closest associates didn't know he also was wrestling with a personal crisis - how to tell his wife and three children he has fathered a child with another woman. Parsons and model-philanthropist MacDella Cooper are the parents of a baby girl named Ella.The 61-year-old former Time Warner chairman said only: "This is a private matter and I prefer not to talk about it at this time." BY GEORGE RUSH, DAILY NEWS COLUMNIST, Thursday, May 21, 2009

I am hoping that news will come out to either verify the love-child story, or refute it.  I wouldn't want an individual with such skeletons in his closet to even partake in reforming anything to do with education.

Back to the commission.
I wonder how many people remember, or have knowledge of, the NYS "Regents Action Plan" from 1984?  This plan, together with a lot of ongoing politics, began the push in New York for all students to take and pass high school regents exams. Prior to that time it was acknowledged and accepted that the regents exam programs were designed to challenge the stronger students (generally the stronger half).  They must have been valued and respected, since masses of people both in and out of the education industry created a loud roar claiming that all students should be able to pass them.

Unfortunately, the smoke and mirror process then began. A good process would have been to investigate the factors that enabled the stronger students to actually be strong, and use the knowledge gained to attempt to strengthen the weaker students.  That, alas, could not happen, because it is based on the premise that there are stronger and weaker students.  Weak students? No!!  They are only underperforming because they have been underprepared!  They have suffered because less was expected of them!!  They are behind because of poverty!! They have been denied chances because of their minority status!!!

Basically, what happened is that the pride of success was granted to the student, but the onus of failure was placed on factors external to the student. The education system began a decades-long run based on the premise that advances could only be gained by systemic changes, absolving students of any role other than their on-going guinea pig status in the laboratory of NY education.

During this time the entire structure of the Regents Exams changed, along with massive changes in content.  The goal was not devising ways and means to strengthen weaker students so they could compete with the stronger students.  The goal was the creation of a system that would enable all students to pass the tests, while making it difficult for stronger students to "ace" them.  New Yorkers must not have been trusted to create such a system, as large parts of it have been farmed out to outside agents such as Pearson.

Watch this commission closely. Education need not be political, but public education will always be political. Watch closely.

I will, without a doubt, expand these thoughts over time.

Remember: you may need to think outside of the box, but the problem you were solving was inside the box.

"When solving problems, dig at the roots instead of just hacking at the
leaves. "Anthony J. D'Angelo, The College Blue Book