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

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Anne's Website

The picture on my heading and others from time to time are works of Anne Littlewolf, my spiritual twin from college. She's unveiled her website and it's really nice. Click here and take a look.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Scott Horton at his No Comment Blog. Has a six question interview with Eric Metaxas who has a new biography on Deitrich Bonhoffer (picture) entitled Bonhoffer, Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy. Of all the theologians studied when I was at Wayland and later Seminary he was top of the list. When I was teaching on the unit of WWII I had my students choose a person from a long list and they had to do an oral report. Most of the students that chose the political leaders or generals went through the motions, but the ones who chose Bonhoffer were always affected and thanked me for having him on the list.
The first book of his I bought was a collection of his sermons No Rusty Swords. His thoughts resonate today as strongly as they did seventy and eighty years ago. Truly a worth man for a new biography and thanks to Horton and Metaxas for bring his name back into a generation that might have forgotten his thoughts and sacrifice in fighting against Hitler and the Nazi's. Other books by Bonhoffer: Cost of Discipleship and Letters From Prison.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

An experience

I promised 8 year old grandson here for a couple of weeks I'd take him to the golf course. 5 year old grandson wanted to go too. I thought we head out around ten this morning, but it was snowing. I took them to Mickey D's to play in the hamster tunnels and let them have happy meals. Around two in the afternoon the sun came out and it warmed up. So here I am with two kids, two putters and a bucket of balls trying to teach them how to putt. The older one got the hang of it and I let him out on the practice green. The younger one I stayed with on the taller grass just getting him to hit the ball.
Younger one wanted to see the ducks, actually they were around a hundred geese munching on the 1st and 10th tee boxes. We walked over until the geese started honking and walking away. We stood and watched them from a distance until grandson decided to growl at them and they flew off about a hundred yards. I walked them over to the pond by the clubhouse and they could see the actual ducks floating.
The sun was shining, but the wind was a little brisk. We didn't stay out long, but they had fun.
The picture is Paako Ridge golf course, which is closed this time of year.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Times Story

Hat tip to Bruce for alerting me to the article. I missed it.
It's not often a small Baptist college 40 miles from the nearest known sin merits an article in the New York Times. It concerns the girl's basketball team the Hutcherson Flying Queens. You have no idea the laughs have heard every time I mention that the team was known as the Flying Queens!
This article brought back many memories:
I attended WBC (now WBU) from 1972 till graduation in 1976. 1972 was Harley Reddin's last year to coach the Queens. Talk about a retirement send off. As the article mentions he coached the team to 131 consecutive victories. What it left out was his famous last timeout comments he gave to the team a few seconds before their defeat that ended their string. To paraphrase he told them that they had held their heads high while winning and to go out and hold their heads high in defeat. I'm glad to report that at 91 he's still alive and quoted in the Times piece.
Claude Hutchinson was the millionaire oil and ranch man who sponsored the team. He flew them to their games and just before I arrived built the gymnasium for the school. I ran many miles in that building on bad weather days over the three years I ran for the team and if you know that part of the country they have many bad weather days. It had a rubberized playing court supposedly intended to minimize shin splits. When I went back for my 20th reunion it had a wood floor and that didn't seem right.
My freshman year a few of us on the track team played a pick up game with some of the Queen Bees (JV team). We got waxed. Too bad there wasn't a three point line because the first thing I learned about women's basketball (Albuquerque didn't have this as it was before Title IX) is that they can swish from the mid-court line. There is no defending them! I never made that mistake again. One ego bruising was enough.
I dated a Queen and I can remember how happy she was to be playing by Men's rules at the college level. A few weeks later I joined a basketball official's squad and had to learn high school women's rules. Talk about stupid. Three girls on each side of the half court line, they couldn't cross over, only three dribbles before a shot or pass. The seasoned officials did warn us newby's about toss ups. Guys do a vertical jump, girls swing their arms out to get momentum before a jump and many a man stayed put too long after tossing the ball up and got a fist in the groin. I made sure to back out quick. I only officiated a few women's games and didn't like them. Mostly I did 7th and 8th grade boys games. The one thing I noticed was that 7th grade girls were better than 7th grade boys. 12-13 year old boys for the most part have a hard time with coordination. 8th grade boys and 8th grade girls were pretty even. In 9th grade girls were through puberty and plateaued. 9th grade boys were four to six inches taller than the girls and much much quicker and stronger.
My sophomore year the Queens held a tournament the week before school started. They had a Thanksgiving tournament and Christmas tournament. They hosted a spring break tournament, won the WAAU national championship and played an exhibition game against the Russian touring team the week after school let out. The Russians had a girl 6'8" poor Pearl Worrell was our tallest at 6'1". My junior year they had a whole new team and were never the same after that.
There were only three top notch women's teams in the country then. Wayland, Delta State and Immaculata. We had a joke which I've heard elsewhere: There are three things which should be done in the dark; Sex, kick the can and women's basketball. Most of the teams the Queens played were horrible. They'd win by sixty or more points. It was pitiful. The coach would leave the top players in for most of the game and ride them just as hard thirty or forty points up as if they were down in points. At the time I couldn't figure this out. One of the unofficial rules of sports is that you don't run up the score. When I saw them play the other top notch teams and lose it was usually in the last few minutes where they ran out of gas and it dawned on me that he had to ride them and let them play most of the game against lesser opponents to get them ready for the few teams that could challenge them.
I only met Claude Hutchinson once. My senior year I was working in sporting goods of a Howard's department store (this was pre-Wal-Mart). He came in to buy a hunting and fishing license. Looking at his driver's license to fill out the form raised my eyebrows just a bit, and since he was over 65 the cost was 25 cents. The richest man in all of West Texas and I rang up a sale of one quarter.
Marsha Sharp was a senior my freshman year. After graduation she became an assistant coach and eventually left to take over Texas Tech's women's team winning a national championship. In many of the trips into Texas over the years we've driven through Lubbock and Marsha Sharp Avenue always catches my eye. It's not often you actually know the person a street is named after.
The article mentions that while the women were flying the men's team was riding in a bus. My first two years the cross-country and track teams traveled in a faded blue 1960 Chevrolet Suburban. We called it the Blue Goose (my sophomore year they painted it white and it became the snow goose). In back it had two facing seats with enough room to put a suitcase in the middle and we could play cards to pass the time. The seat closest to the door had a jump seat that folded up to let everyone in. We called it the rocking chair and there was always a fight over who was forced to sit on it for the trip.
We did fly my sophomore and junior years in the Hutchinson Bonanza planes to Salina Kansas for the National Cross Country championships. When we were flying back the first time coming up to Amarillo. The caprock rises up from lower plains, and I could see the small clouds between us and rising cliffs. It was beautiful. The next year we waited three hours as they tried to get one of the planes to start. They spun the propeller and sprayed ether into the carburetor and finally it started. As we were getting in I wondered if I really wanted to fly in something that obviously didn't want to work. Made it home just fine.
Bill Hardage was the coach and he flew one of the planes both times. After he retired from coaching he piloted the University's plane. He flew to San Diego three years ago to pick up a new plane for WBU. He got caught in a storm and crashed.

Friday, December 17, 2010

What is this stuff?

It's cold and white and messing everything up.

First snow of the season for us down in the valley. It's so nice now I'm retired not to have to worry about getting out in the mess. Wife was off today so she didn't have to brave the idiot drivers first thing in the morning. We spent the morning watching the last eight episodes of season 3 of Star Trek Voyager. It's nice to have stuff like that to cuddle under a blanket and relax.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Family Time

I guess we'd better enjoy the calm while we have it. Eldest grandson coming in on Saturday. Bruce is possibly coming with wife, daughter, son-in-law and baby next week. I think we'll have to go to one of the hotel banquet rooms for Christmas dinner as our houses can't handle that many people at once.
While I was busy adding 3,000 words to my story yesterday wife and daughter-in-law did some shopping. The tree is now fully complimented with presents.
I have wife's present hidden. Can't find time to wrap it and put it under the tree when she's not there. Maybe tomorrow.

Saw where Iran is upset because our Navy's official designation for the body of water separating them from Arabia is "The Arabian Sea" instead of the "Persian Gulf." The navy naturally apologized. Can anything get any stupider? Arabian Sea is used so the Saudi's don't get upset, and by the way, they are our allies while Iran is anything but friendly towards us. Even governments need to get a life.

Krugman had a great quote today. Concerning how AEI and the Cato Institute keep rewriting their history to change unpopular names: As Brad DeLong says: "I'll stop calling these people Orwellian when they stop using Nineteen Eighty Four as an operations manual."

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hooray For Students

Remember Gomer Pyle USMC? His signature phrase: SURPRISE, SURPRISE, SURPRISE!

Someone with all those degrees after their names trying to figure out what works in the public schools had an original idea. Go to the horses mouth. Ask the students.
I've always been wary of evaluating individual teachers by the students. The most popular teachers are usually the ones that are the easiest graders and have the worst discipline. Hand it to Bill Gates and his foundation they seem to have rediscovered the wheel in education, something they could have found much easier if they had surveyed teachers instead of everyone wanting to blame the teachers and the unions for the mess. I've posted the entire article since it's not long. My next post will provide commentary.

What Works in the Classroom? Ask the Students

How useful are the views of public school students about their teachers?

Quite useful, according to preliminary results released on Friday from a $45 million research project that is intended to find new ways of distinguishing good teachers from bad.

Teachers whose students described them as skillful at maintaining classroom order, at focusing their instruction and at helping their charges learn from their mistakes are often the same teachers whose students learn the most in the course of a year, as measured by gains on standardized test scores, according to a progress report on the research.

Financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the two-year project involves scores of social scientists and some 3,000 teachers and their students in Charlotte, N.C.; Dallas; Denver; Hillsborough County, Fla., which includes Tampa; Memphis; New York; and Pittsburgh.

The research is part of the $335 million Gates Foundation effort to overhaul the personnel systems in those districts.

Statisticians began the effort last year by ranking all the teachers using a statistical method known as value-added modeling, which calculates how much each teacher has helped students learn based on changes in test scores from year to year.

Now researchers are looking for correlations between the value-added rankings and other measures of teacher effectiveness.

Research centering on surveys of students’ perceptions has produced some clear early results.

Thousands of students have filled out confidential questionnaires about the learning environment that their teachers create. After comparing the students’ ratings with teachers’ value-added scores, researchers have concluded that there is quite a bit of agreement.

Classrooms where a majority of students said they agreed with the statement, “Our class stays busy and doesn’t waste time,” tended to be led by teachers with high value-added scores, the report said.

The same was true for teachers whose students agreed with the statements, “In this class, we learn to correct our mistakes,” and, “My teacher has several good ways to explain each topic that we cover in this class.”

The questionnaires were developed by Ronald Ferguson, a Harvard researcher who has been refining student surveys for more than a decade.

Few of the nation’s 15,000 public school districts systematically question students about their classroom experiences, in contrast to American colleges, many of which collect annual student evaluations to improve instruction, Dr. Ferguson said.

“Kids know effective teaching when they experience it,” he said.

“As a nation, we’ve wasted what students know about their own classroom experiences instead of using that knowledge to inform school reform efforts.”

Until recently, teacher evaluations were little more than a formality in most school systems, with the vast majority of instructors getting top ratings, often based on a principal’s superficial impressions.

But now some 20 states are overhauling their evaluation systems, and many policymakers involved in those efforts have been asking the Gates Foundation for suggestions on what measures of teacher effectiveness to use, said Vicki L. Phillips, a director of education at the foundation.

One notable early finding, Ms. Phillips said, is that teachers who incessantly drill their students to prepare for standardized tests tend to have lower value-added learning gains than those who simply work their way methodically through the key concepts of literacy and mathematics.

Teachers whose students agreed with the statement, “We spend a lot of time in this class practicing for the state test,” tended to make smaller gains on those exams than other teachers.

“Teaching to the test makes your students do worse on the tests,” Ms. Phillips said. “It turns out all that ‘drill and kill’ isn’t helpful.”

Friday, December 10, 2010

Time Off

Wednesday worked on the book in the morning. Wife had afternoon off so we had a nice lunch with Russ from Private Buffoon. I asked him loads of questions about computers that predate 1980 as much of my story is in the 60's and 70's. All in all a pleasant conversation.
Took yesterday off to relax and recharge batteries.
Good thing I did. Today wife is off and she's been running me ragged. I need the weekend to recuperate.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Story Coming Along

  • The story's gelling. Still a lot of research and writing to go. No word from the publisher on HS.
  • I've said my piece about the tax deal over at the Captain.
  • Looking forward to eldest grandson coming in for a visit. We have plans doing the river of lights and other things while he's here. Wish we had more time with him.
  • Due respect to fellow New Mexican Don Meredith. He was QB of the Cowboys when I first started watching pro football. The Icebowl game is etched forever in my memory. He kept MNF lively for many years. I never met him, but have on occasion run into Don Perkins from those teams. He will be missed.
  • Due respect for Elizabeth Edwards. Too bad she didn't have a husband that would stand by his woman.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

What happens to the little people

Decreasing the surplus population.

From NY Times today

Arizona Strikes Again

Let us revisit the matter of pulling the plug on grandma.

You may remember the historic day in 2009 when Senator Chuck Grassley brought the issue to the fore at a town meeting in Iowa. “We should not have a government plan that will pull the plug on grandma,” he said to loud cheers...

Then all hell broke loose and the Republicans kept ranting about how “Obamacare” would put the federal government between you and your doctor and try to save money by prohibiting said doctor from using the best treatments and procedures.

All this came to mind when I was talking to Flor Felix, whose husband, Francisco, a 32-year-old truck driver with four kids, was denied a liver transplant because the Arizona Legislature had yanked funds for it out of a state Medicaid program.

As Marc Lacey reported in The Times this week, Francisco had been prepped for surgery after a friend whose wife was dying asked that he be given her liver.

“It was good news when we heard the liver matched,” Flor said. “The doctor said: ‘Everything’s going well. We’re going to proceed with the surgery.’ ”

But Francisco, who has hepatitis C, had lost his health insurance when he had to stop working and had gotten coverage under the state Medicaid program. And Gov. Jan Brewer had signed a law eliminating Medicaid coverage of certain kinds of transplants as a cost-cutting measure. Flor said the next words she got from the doctor were: “You need to bring $200,000 as a deposit for the hospital.”

Francisco was summarily discharged. The Arizona state government, which is totally controlled by Republicans, got between him and his doctor.

“The state only has so much money and we can only provide so many optional kinds of care. Those were one of the options that we had taken liberty to discard,” said Governor Brewer,

Felix was one of 98 people in the transplant pipeline when the law went into effect. Arizona claims cutting them off will save $4.5 million this year. Advocates have called on Governor Brewer to use some of the state’s $185 million in federal stimulus funds to restart the procedures. Brewer, who opposed the stimulus, says all the money is gravely needed for other projects. Which she will not name.

The best possible spin to put on all this is that it was a terrible mistake. The chairman of the Arizona House Appropriations Committee, John Kavanagh, says that the lawmakers got bad information from the state Medicaid experts, who said that the transplants weren’t effective. “Based on the information I’ve received, it looks like most of them should be reinstated and we hope to do that in January,” he said.

Ironically, trying to answer questions like this is one of the great goals of the Obama health care law. “What it promises to do is attack the vast reservoirs of ignorance about relative benefits of different ways of treating different diseases to see which is most effective,” said Henry Aaron of the Brookings Institution. Although, as Aaron carefully pointed out, the law steers clear of any mention of cost effectiveness. This is because Republicans in the House and Senate kept howling about death panels and plug-pulling.

But try to imagine what the Republicans would have said if someone in the Obama administration proposed cutting off liver transplants for Medicare recipients. We heard a lot from John McCain during the health care debate about how reform would restrict Medicare services. We have not heard a word yet on how McCain feels about the Arizona transplant issue. His office did not respond to inquiries about whether he approves his state’s pulling the plug on a 32-year-old father.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

123 per day

Reality Zone has a guest post that is sobering. 123 people die every day in this country that would have lived if they only had health coverage.
Our country is truly become the Tin Man. If we only had a heart.
Over 40,000 people have died this year (and it's not over yet) due to lack of health coverage. You've got yours Tea Party to hell with the little people.
Where's Jeb Bush? He spent millions in legal fees and medical costs professing the sanctity of life for a woman in a constant vegitative state. He held emergency legislative meetings to pass laws for keep her heart beating. Where's his sanctity of life for the others who had a chance at a meaningful life but were a dollar or two short?
Did all those seniors who lobbied against extending medicare for everyone (single payer system) not understand that when these 40,000 die, they stop working and don't pay anymore into the social security fund you're living on?
We are all connected here, no on is an island anymore. When people have their houses foreclosed on and lose their jobs it effects 99% of the population's standard of living. When this many people were dying from automobile accidents legislation was passed to make cars safer. Laws were passed to punish drunk drivers. Automobile accident victims had value. Why don't these 40,000? As the lady said in RZ's blog, they don't get mentioned on the news. Die in a car crash they have pictures of you car on the ten o'clock news. Die from an infected tooth because you couldn't afford to see a dentist, who cares.
Ebeneezer Scrooge is now in charge of all political parties. "Let them die and decrease the surplus population."

Nose to the grindstone

This week I've been back in the office of the lawfirm, but I'm working on my novel. My friend has graciously let me use it so I can get some work done. He has a trial coming up, but doesn't know when he'll be needing my help. Law moves slow and a trial date hasn't been set.
It's good to be out of the house and all its distrations. I'm getting thousands of words added every day. Still no word from the publisher I've sent the other novel to, so I might have to start looking for another one. I won't be using Publish America unless I absolutely have to.