Baseball, Books, and ... I need a third B

One guy's random thoughts on things of interest -- books, baseball, and whatever else catches my attention in today's hectic world.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

It's over

The elections are over and the (big) result wasn't a surpise. Barack Obama will be our next president. On the comment board, an old friend expressed her absolute joy in the outcome.

Well I voted for him too, but a little less enthusiastically than Ang. Though my candidate got knocked out in the previous round, I like Obama well enough. As with any president, I have some reservations, but I think he's smart; he's obviously committed to being president (something I began to doubt about McCain during the campaign); he has some good ideas; and he's surrounded himself with some very good people. But America is not going to become radically different at noon on January 20, 2009.

I'm not blind to the historic nature of this election, but I worry that some of his supporters are projecting messiah-like powers onto Obama. I watched his victory speech Tuesday night and I noticed the faces in the crowd before his speech began. It reminded me of film I've seen of when the Beatles came to America. I swear I saw people crying. Not his wife, close advisers, etc., but regular people. I think it's good that a politician has the power to inspire people again, but he's just a politician. Just as any other president, President Obama will have to deal with senators, representatives, judges, lobbyists, activists, etc. I do think he will implement some new policies (good and bad) that shift the country's direction, but January 21st will not find us living in the United States of Obama. I'm not sure everyone realizes that.

Bob Dylan, for instance, was quoted at a concert on election night as saying, "“I was born in 1941 -- Pearl Harbor. Things have been in darkness ever since. Things are going to change.” That pisses me off for two reasons. First, the idea that the country has been in darkness since 1941. C'mon, Bob, seriously. That's just stupid. Second, if you do believe the past 67 years have been all doom and gloom, then how can you believe that one man will magically bring the sunshine? It was a good soundbite and it expresses the belief that Obama is a new brand of politician, here to unite the country and save the day. I'm not sure.

I don't want to trot out the usual right-wing meme on his record, but Obama has shown up as a reliable liberal vote. Why would he suddenly become concillatory and reach out to others -- especially when he's going to have a big majority in Washington and the longest honeymoon period of any president since (at least) Reagan? Many people will not like his proposed changes and they'll do all they can to block them. Obama himself will "sell out" on some things he campaigned on (I'm hoping he does that on "card check" and free-trade issues). He'll also have to pander -- supporting policies he doesn't really believe in to repay electoral support (I'm hoping he does NOT do that on "card check" and free-trade issues).

In the end, I'm hoping that he can inspire some new confidence in America the Good and he can make some changes that will move us off some of the tracks we've been on the past 8 years. I believe he can. At worst, though; even if he turns out to be just another "tax the rich, expand the government" president, well the historic nature of his victory is something special and has value in its own right. So I'm sorry if I'm not excited enough about this event, but I really do look forward to seeing what the Obama administration can accomplish.

P.S. I have a post in me about that last point -- the "specialness" of his victory -- but I'll have to save that for another day. Just a teaser -- it involves Tee Martin and a relative of mine.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day

Yes today is the day (although one student missed my bonus question last week asking what event of national interest was going to occur today). I'm kind of excited by the idea of voting, though the choices this year don't inspire me. Regardless, I take voting seriously and, as is my custom, I'm wearing an ironed shirt and tie today. Needless to say, my students were freaking out. They assumed they were in trouble. I told them they weren't, though I think a little fear in the student population is not really a bad thing.

So anyway, today is voting day. I've made my decisions on the BIG race and most of the state and local races. I'm still not sure why we vote on the "license commissioner", but after my horrible experience registering my Jeep a couple of years ago there's no way I'm voting for the incumbent! The oddest contest, though, is the race to replace longtime U.S. Rep. Bud Cramer. I'm still suspicious of the way in which this opening arose. See Bud was one of those Congressional lifers, but then, all of a sudden, he up and decide NOT to run for reelection, just a week or so before the deadline for entering the race. Local conventional wisdom held that there was some scandal in Bud's closet and we all waited for it to pop out. Nothing has happened, though, so now I'm thinking it was all orchestrated so Bud could hand pick his successor. Given the short time, there was only one Democratic candidate who had the name recognition, the money, and the desire to get in.

Though there was only one Democrat, there was a well-connected Republican just waiting for his chance to take over from Bud. Now the race has turned NASTY! There are charges of intentional undertreatment of cancer patients, softness on terrorism, ties to big-money oil companies, etc. The funniest thing, though is that one of the candidates recently has steered away from the mudslinging, choosing to emphasize his own good points. He's conservative, independent, pro-life, and anti-tax. Did I mention, this is the DEMOCRATIC candidate? Strange world, huh? I'm just glad it only comes around every couple of years.

Peace out.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Aw, I missed it

Yesterday was World Zombie Day. And I missed it. Further cementing its reputation as a nerd/geek town, though, Huntsville had a strong showing:
On Sunday, as sort of a preview to the inevitable zombie takeover of the world, more than 100 people dressed up as the undead and took to the streets of downtown Huntsville for the second annual Zombie Walk.

Yes, there are 100+ people in Huntsville who not only are willing to be seen lurching down a public street, dressed in tattered clothing and smeared with fake blood and related goop, but they actually took the time and made the effort to do so. I guess I view potential zombies as being less "on the ball." When the zombie takeover does happen, I guess Huntsville will not be a good place to be.

Me, I spent World Zombie Day checking out some sketches by this guy. Silly me.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Small world

Every once in a while I'm reminded up just how small the world can be. What brought about this epiphany? Essentially it was Facebook. Some of you who know me well may be very surprised to learn that I have a Facebook account. In my defense, I feel that I was led to Facebook under false pretenses. I was told that ALL the Caffeine cousins use Facebook to keep in touch. Since I didn't have an account, well I was just missing out on much good family fun. Hence, I gave in and created an account. It turns out, though, that for the most part it's one cousin who spends a lot of time on Facebook. Now I love Cousin Sandee dearly so I don't mind the fact that I now am better able to keep up with her, but the whole Facebook thing has been pretty useless as far as I'm concerned.

Then weird things started to happen. An old college pal did track me down via FB and I thought that was kind of cool. Last week, though, I got a real blast from the past when I got a friend request from a name that stirred vague high school memories. Sure enough it was an old teammate from my high schol "nerd bowl" days. I finally got around to agreeing to be his "friend" and then I almost immediately got a request from another old high school friend who also went to Ole Miss with me. It turns out she works at a really small college in Louisville where I happen to know someone on the business faculty. Finally I had a FB message this morning from a girl (er, woman I guess now) that I sort of knew in high school, but never was friends with. She'd seen my TV appearance from a few weeks ago and just wanted to say "hey." I feel like I've moved back to Lawrenceburg.

Anyway, that's about it for today. I've got a bunch of tests to prepare for next week, so I'd best get to it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

An education rant

I'm quite tired of endless debates about how to improve our schools. Some issues seem hard to resolve, while other solutions appear fairly obvious. I am pretty darned sure, though, that the Dallas (TX) Independent School District does NOT have the answer. The Dallas ISB is upset that so many freshman (as high as 20%) fail to advance to 10th grade. The solution? Come up with some new rules. The highlights:

•Homework grades should be given only when the grades will "raise a student's average, not lower it."

•Teachers must accept overdue assignments, and their principal will decide whether students are to be penalized for missing deadlines.

•Students who flunk tests can retake the exam and keep the higher grade.

•Teachers cannot give a zero on an assignment unless they call parents and make "efforts to assist students in completing the work."

•High school teachers who fail more than 20 percent of their students will need to develop a professional improvement plan and will be monitored by their principals. For middle school the rate is 15 percent; for elementary it's 10 percent.

Also note, this is on top of last year's innovation that no student can be assigned a "six-weeks grade" lower than a 50.

I don't know just how to express my dismay. I did, though, enjoy some of the rationalizations offered up by ISD big wheels. One said, "We want to make sure that students are mastering the content [of their classes] and not just failing busy work." Well that's a noble goal, but according to the new rules, only 40% of a student's grade is determined by test grades and at least 20% must be determined by "class work." "Class work" sounds a lot like the dreaded "busy work" to me

I find the whole thing depressing, but
this is not really an unexpected outcome of the much ballyhooed goal of standardization that is sweeping the education industry these days. Think about it. When you standardize are you going to standardize "up" to a more difficult level that fewer students will master or "down" to give yourself improved, measurable outcomes? Looks like Dallas has decided.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Big Orange HA

In honor of The Vol Abroad, I give you a rather lame joke:

Have you heard President Bush is thinking of making Phil Fulmer (UT football coach, for the time being) the new director of FEMA?

No, why?

Because of how quickly he can evacuate over 100,000 people!

Yes, attendance is down at Vols games this year. Here's a story on the local business impact and here's one from the student perspective.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Football quote

Though I don't really pay attention to football until the World Series is over, I couldn't help but notice this quote from Vince Young in a story about how the media is making him out to be a bad guy. Says Vince:
"I'm a great guy, a great humble guy," Young told "I've done a whole lot in my career in just three years and for [the media] to do stuff like that to try to make me look bad for some reason -- I don't know why -- but they're just writing my legacy. (my emphasis)

I know extemporaneous speaking is tricky and quotes can be taken out of context, but ... Well I just don't know what to say.