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Family and Friends is my everyday journal. Captain's Log is where I pontificate on religion and politics.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Feeling better

Blood pressure's down, vein at the top of my head not throbbing, rant is over. Nothing rankles me more than all the arguments about public school. I'm sure other professions (police, firefighters) feel the same way: everyone wants to change the system but they won't talk to the people in the trenches.
Sometimes things boil up and you have to let off steam.
Looks like we're going to have a nice weekend. Grinnygranny even mentioned going out to golf again yesterday. Suddenly it's a wonderful world.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


I usually do my ranting over at the Captain, but this issue hits close to home. This is a continuation of a comment I left at Michael Prescott's blog.

President Obama in his speech last night brought up performance pay for teachers. In the 27 years I've been teaching this issue always comes up. Most of those years it was called merit pay. It sounds good, but that doesn't mean it makes sense. Both the NEA and AFT oppose merit pay because it assesses students in order to determine if teachers are successful. The reasoning is that students are our product and therefore their performance should be a measure of our ability.
What is wrong with this reasoning:
1. A human being is not a widget. Inanimate objects, even animals can be manipulated to perform a verifiable function. Humans have free will.
If we followed through on this reasoning we'd be imprisoning every parent of every criminal saying that they didn't raise their kids right. Sometimes the best of parents can be disappointed by a child that chooses to turn to drugs, crime, suicide and another child becomes President (think Jimmy and Billy Carter) and a great humanitarian.
2. It's my job to teach. What I and every teacher is hired to do is teach the subject(s). Critics of educations always want to bring up good teachers and bad teachers. A) who determines this? B) what's the standard?
In my opinion a bad teacher is the teacher who doesn't cover the material. That is their job. If you're a math teacher teach math, so on and so forth. You'd be surprised how many teachers spend their time on other issues or extra-curricular duties and never cover the subject. Not only are they bad teachers, they're frauds. Critics focus on the presentation, inspiration, motivation good teachers bring to the classroom. Guess what as important as this is, not every student in their class is impressed with the presentation, or inspired or motivated. No matter how much of a song and dance you do there's always going to be the kid you says, "This is boring."
Over the years I've known truly great teachers that have accomplished Herculean feats year in and year out walk into the teachers' lounge shaking their heads complaining there's one class they can't get to do anything.
3. It's the students job to learn. When all is said and done it's not the schools, it's not the parents, it's not the teachers, it's the students who must want to learn. Until and unless they want to get the grade; until and unless they want learn; nothing anyone else does will work.
Schools, parents and teachers can provide incentives or consequences to guide the student in the direction we want them, but Free Will still has the upper hand.
4. There is no great mystery about what it takes to better educate our children and help them to succeed. Study after study has proven it: LOWER CLASS SIZES. What this country since 1980 has lost the will to do is provide the necessary funds to build the number of classrooms and hire the number of teachers to do it. Students need more attention from their teachers, to know they care, get more help. In large groups it's too easy for them to give up or hide even with the best of teachers.
 Merit pay is just a band-aid thrown to fix an amputated arm.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Weight lifted

Last week I had six weeks grades due, next step (parent conferences), and pre-registration. When I turned everything in Friday it was like 900 pounds fell off my shoulders. The walk home that day was like I was floating on air. I felt so good in fact that I played 18 holes of golf on Saturday and Grinnygranny and I did nine holes on Sunday. The fact that it was in the 60's with clear skies also helped. This week so far has been much more pleasant. Stress is a funny thing, sometimes you don't know how much you're under until it's lifted.
By Thursday of last week I was starting to say to myself that this wasn't fun anymore and maybe it's time to retire. I'm glad this was only one week long and I now have a better perspective.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


This years Academy Awards are really hard to watch. I won't dwell on the mediocre movies, lousy songs etc.
It's the part of it where they show clips of those who've passed away. This was truly a sad year for entertainment. The passing of Charleton Heston alone would make it a dark year, but to also lose Paul Newman and Sydney Pollack. Giants are now gone that will never be replaced.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Paul Krugman asks the question today in his NYT op/ed: Who'll stop the pain?
He's an economist and the article was in my mind more reassuring than pessimistic about the current melt down we're facing. He does equate financial problems with pain, though. It seems our culture and for their political lives our elected officials feel that money is happiness.
Make no mistake lack of money is hardship, but comfort is not happiness. Sometimes hardship is its own reward and happiness comes more in the bad times than in the good.
Ask any couple married for many years who now have a nice home, comfortable retirement and good health when they were the closest and most loving and they will remember fondly the first struggling years when they worked the hardest and needed to rely on each other the most to survive.
Parents are at their wits end with three o'clock feedings, changing diapers and constantly crying babies, but after they've grown up and (for some lucky ones) leave home; that's the time they remember fondly. Maybe it's nostalgia kicking in, but by and large it takes a full year of practice and a grueling schedule to win a championship for that fleeting moment of euphoria. Ten years later it's not always that winning moment that is remembered as fondly as the struggle it took to do it.
Maybe we've had it too easy for too long and we've gotten complacent and bored. It takes a shakeup like this to help us focus on the important things in life.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Long Day

Stress is piling up with no end in sight and that has me a little bummed out. It was nice to have an extra day to rest this week but it wasn't nearly enough. 

John Thayer, fellow teacher in my portable, his wife had a baby Friday. She was in labor 44 hours and six hours of pushing. He was back at school yesterday and today for pre-registration and six weeks grades. As we were leaving he was going home to get some sleep. Good luck.
That poor kid is never going to hear the end of it. I've mentioned him earlier, but not by name. He has three CD's on Itunes and more on his website. For my few faithful readers, check him out. If you like his folk songs download a few. He could use a little extra right now.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New blog find

My blog friend in Steamboat Springs alerted me to Anything Adirondack.

I love this post of his (Anything Adirondack):

Politics is alot like driving a car. If you want to go backwards you put in "R" and when you want to go forward you put it "D".

Sunday, February 15, 2009

President's Day

Yahoo was running a list historians came up with ranking the presidents. The came up with Lincoln, and surprisingly had W ahead of Millard Fillmore. I think Fillmore has never lived down his first name. In keeping here's my list and reasoning of the best presidents.

10) James K. Polk: He did it by picking a fight, but the Southwest part of the country was added under his tenure. What would the history of the U.S. been without the gold found in California?

9) John Tyler: He set the precedent for the vice president succeeding and filling out the rest of a dead president's turn. The constitution was rather vague on this. Tyler's insistence that he finish out Harrison's term became the model followed ever since.

8) Theodore Roosevelt: Do we ever need a trust buster like him today, and the first president to try and preserve our natural treasures for future generations. He was a good century ahead of his time.

7) Thomas Jefferson: There were many problems in his tenure, mostly beyond his control, but doubling the size of the country with the Louisiana Purchase created manifest destiny. 

6) James Madison: Father of the Constitution, but his presidency is remembered more for his wife than for him. Dolly Madison created the office of the First Lady.

5) John F. Kennedy: No president before or since went to the brink of total planetary destruction. His finding a way to defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis makes his thousand days very important.

4) George Washington: He set the stage for the office for centuries. His impatience with congress set the precedent for making the office take the lead in legislation, his warning of avoiding entangling foreign alliances held until WWII, and stepping down after two terms. All other countries that have adopted our style of constitution have had the first president destroy the document and become a dictator. He's the one who made our experiment work.

3) Abraham Lincoln: Here's where I disagree with the other historians. He saved the union, but he didn't free the slaves. The emancipation proclamation only freed the one in the states in rebellion. The thirteenth amendment passed after his death ended slavery.

2) Harry S. Truman: Years after leaving office he was asked if he ever second guessed his decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan. He answered he'd been told that using this weapon would save one million American lives. He signed the order, ate dinner, went to sleep and never missed a wink the rest of his life. Perhaps the most fateful decision any president ever made. Agree or not he made it, and the war ended.

1) Franklin D. Roosevelt: The Republicans never miss a chance to slime the opposition. There is much made today about how the New Deal failed. Really! The elderly today aren't living on Social Security? It may not be much, but it's better than starving to death. Bank investors count on the FDIC to guarantee their deposits. Many of the other aspects of the New Deal have been gutted since Reagan, and now it is coming clear just how important those regulatory agencies were and need to be restored. The New Deal made the post WWII boom possible and our prosperity depends on an SEC that does it's job. An FDA that does it's job. We don't need a new New Deal, we just need to restore it for consumer confidence to be restored. We need to know that the con men aren't running Wall Street and our banks anymore.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Three Day Weekend

Not often you get three notable things in one weekend, but there's Friday the 13th (today), Valentine's day (tomorrow) and President's day (Monday). Grinnygranny has to work Monday which makes her a little jealous of my teaching days off. I'm hoping the weathers good and I can spoil a nice walk with a little white ball.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Movie Suggestions

With Valentines coming up I've come across a number of sites suggesting the best movies for a romantic evening. Not to be outdone, here's mine. Keep in mind I'm a history teacher. Still what people forget about in studying history is that all the people mentioned had the same human emotions as we do today. They loved and were happy or they loved and were doomed by it.

This is not a chicks flicks list, or a guy flicks list. This is a list that compromises action, epic and romance on a grand scale. Something both can enjoy.

10) The Lion in Winter: And you thought your family was dysfunctional? With all the scheming and plotting at the core what comes through is that Henry and Eleanor really do love each other, they just love power more.

9) Taras Bulba: The son of a Cossack who falls in love with a Polish Princess and betrays his people. If that isn't love what is?

8) Shogun (2 1/2 hour version): During the summer I like to watch the whole mini-series, but the shorter version centers on the love between Blackthorne and Mariko.

7) The Egyptian: Story of an Egyptian physician who loses everything to a courtesan while overlooking the woman who loves him and then redeems himself.

6) Cleopatra: history's eternal doomed lovers. You don't get any better than Antony's and Cleopatra's death scenes.

5) Spartacus: Hey the whole rebellion was over a girl.

4. Stealing Heaven: This is a little known film without big name actors concerning the story of Abelard and Heloise. A truly touching story.

3. Dangerous Beauty: A wonderful story about courtesans in medieval Venice and the love of a wealthy Senator for the most famous one in history.

2. Friendly Persuasion: A family of Quakers trying to stay true to their faith during the Civil War is funny, touching, heart warming and just down delightful. Jess and Eliza's disagreement over bringing a musical instrument into the house ( and its resolution) is a true classic.

1. Gone With The Wind: The greatest romantic epic ever written and filmed.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Goodbye George

George Terrell, a Marine Corps veteran of World War II and a 1951 graduate of Northeastern University with a B.S. degree in Mathematics and Physics, has spent his working lifetime in various technological and scientific undertakings. After 45 years living in Foxboro, MA he now resides in Socorro, NM. After 10 years spent in preparation, he has adopted the writing of fiction as a post retirement career.

Biography provided by the author, October 2002

When I first went to a meeting of Southwest Writer's Workshop one of the first people I met was George Terrell. If you're a member and have books you can place them on the sellers table and he was the one who came up with the idea of letting us sell books. He was always right by the table. He had numerous books placed there. He wrote science fiction, historical fiction, plays, screen plays. An overall great guy. I bought one of his books, I'll Never Leave You, about women pilots that ferried planes from the U.S. to England during WWII. He knew a number of these women and was extremely proud of this story. I gave the book to Mom and Dad. It was one of the last books Dad read and they loved it.
Today his spot at the table was empty. He passed away Jan 20.
Maybe not a loss to the literary world as John Updike, but quite a loss to all the writers around here.

Thursday, February 05, 2009


I was talking to the teacher that shares the portable. I have one of his CD's and we were talking. He has 6 CD's on Itunes. A student told me he found my novel in a store in the local mall. I wasn't aware any bookstores had copies of Optimus. I'm going to check it out this weekend. I'm hoping it's a new copy and not a used one.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


Today I started the French Revolution in my World History classes. We have a saying around our school. "Never piss off the history teachers: we teach about revolutions!"

Does anyone else consider it so stupid that if you show a woman's bare breast in paint (in reference to Lady Liberte'), it's art and somehow okay, if it's a picture of a pygmy in Africa in the National Geographic or Smithsonian, it's education, if it's in a magazine that revels in and glorifies the beauty of the feminine physique it's pornography and evil. There seems to be a disconnect here.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Some Really Good Friends

Here are a number of bloggers I read. For those who come by without leaving comments, maybe you can check them out too.

Though she doesn't blog the painting above is an Anne Littlewolf.

Michael Manning: He used to have a Friday Movie night and might start it again. He does interviews and the last two were very informative. One was with the former CEO of Continental Airlines and the last one was with Barbara Leigh, actress. He also posts about kids with cancer. The man has a huge heart and was gracious enough to leave comments on Penni's caringbridge site.

Russ at privatebuffoon: Is a retired statistician, who lives here and we met last year for a golf match. He used to post under a different blog, but now that W is out of office he's changed the name. He usually ends all his posts with "stop the madness"

Irina Tsukerman: A law student that comments on every subject under the sun. Very refreshing. We had a small little debate on my Captain's Log over closing Guantanamo.

Out of the Cornfield: From Colorado, he's a little more blunt in his opinions than most, but he has good things to say.

Thurman Hart: At expatriated Texan. I wrote a post some time ago entitled The Philosophy of the Sociopath. I've noticed that many viewers that drop by come in on that post via his site.

Scott Horton's No Comment Blog: Not a day goes by without me reading this site. He posts art, poetry, quotes and analyzes them. As well as keen insights on legal issues of the day. He always seems to connect the art with politics of the day. There is a reason why it's called no comment.

Michael Prescott (no relation): Is a mystery writer and I've read of few of his books. He tosses up a topic and the comments from his readers are very deep and insightful. He focuses a lot on the paranormal, but other topics come up as well.

Bian at anaudienceof1: He used to be a prolific poster, and if you check out my Optimus blog I've posted his review of my novel. It was nice of him and extremely appreciated. He fell in love, got married and now posts only sporadically, but he's still worth a look, even if he is on the dark side of education as an administrator.

Paul Krugman: The pulitzer prize winning economist that is an absolute must read in the New York Times opinion section also has this blog. He is a little heavy on charts and graphs, but his explanation of our economy is always top notch. He was the only voice of sanity for eight long years of insanity.

Yikes: Is a lobbyist in DC. She is very insightful politically and I have mentioned her on numerous occasions, usually as a hat tip for something on her site.  

Stop by, try them you'll like them.