Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Came across a rather well done comic, The Adventures Of The S-Team. All characters and sets are comprised of Legos. Well worth a moment of your time.

This really cool, sorry, Wicked cool, site sells lasers. Not laser pointers, but lasers! Wicked Lasers aren't cheap but they are capable of doing things like popping balloons, igniting matches, lighting cigarettes, and melt or etch plastic. Fun stuff.

I found a news article about celebrities lending their weight to a program called Global Cool. The premise is that we only have ten years left before we reach a point where the global climate will be irreversibly changed. Of course, this is all crap, but they give some ideas on how to reduce your "carbon footprint" which is the exact same thing as saving you money. I think conservation and saving money are both good things but not because I think we are headed for global doom. Well, not due to the environment anyways. And one of the ideas in the news article wasn't too bad. They suggest taking a shower with your "mate." Sounds good to me (well, that is, if I had a mate anyways!)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Ed Brown

Quest For A Fair Trial In Concord, N.H.

Ed Brown and his wife have been asking the IRS for the law that makes them liable for an income tax for ten years now. Ten years, and no answer. The IRS took them to court alleging a tax bill of $625,000 and charged them with violating the penalty statute. The one that says if you are liable for a tax and don't pay it then you are subject to these penalties. Well, it isn't possible to violate a penalty statute. One must violate a different law which would then invoke a penalty statute. Still, the IRS continues in this vain, and of course the corrupt courts are allowing them to.

Prior to and during the trial Ed Brown filed various legal motions and attempts to get information from his prosecutors, including the law that he violated, which is every man's Right to know. If one is not allowed to know the law that he broke he cannot hope to defend himself.* The judge denied all but two of the motions, and those two were procedural and not substantive to the trial and his defense.

Mr. Brown did not finish the trial, though his wife continued to go through and was predictably convicted unlawfully. Mr. Brown has barricaded himself in his home with several supporters and is apparently awaiting the Gov's efforts to apprehend him. Brown has declared that he will forcibly resist any attempt to take him.

Already the Gov is referring to Brown's home as a "compound" so I think it is safe to say they will raid his home, similar to their attacks on the Branch Davidians and the family on Ruby Ridge. The feds loaded the Davidian complex with tear gas in amounts known to be flammable which set the place ablaze. And according to satellite photos of the events they were firing into the building as it went up so that any attempts to make it out alive were unsuccessful. In all, 82 were killed which included 27 children. Similar events played out at Ruby Ridge, where the bastards killed a woman who was holding her 10-month old child.

A summary of all the events with Brown, including the trial and events leading up to it can be found at We The People

* The US Gov is now open about having secret laws. Laws that they say cannot be revealed as it would compromise security, yet citizens can be charged with breaking these laws. For the entirety of this country, and even before, a law had to be published publicly that one might have a reasonable opportunity to know what is illegal. Even the US Supreme Court has ruled this. Yet, somehow, this country that is supposedly run by laws gets away with such things.

Monday, January 29, 2007


A remedy worse than the problem?

Ethanol has been much in the news lately. Many are calling for ethanol production to reduce our dependency upon foreign oil, others believe it is better for the environment. Regardless, the FedGov is making a push for more ethanol and some 200 ethanol plants are going to be springing up shortly all around the country.

As ethanol is created from corn, its creation is going to place a huge demand on the market for that corn. In fact, it already is making a huge impact on the market. Bloomberg is reporting a 10 year high price for corn and the US is projecting the lowest global supplies of corn in 29 years. Keep in mind that those 200+ plants are not yet built. When they are built they will create further demand which will outstrip the ability of the market to supply.

What does this mean for the consumer? It means that as corn prices have risen, so have other, similar, crops. Wheat and soybean in particular. These two crops are going to be used to replace some of what corn is currently providing to our food supply. One can imagine that this might affect potatoes as well but to a lesser extent.

Corn is one of the staples of our diet. Its increased cost is going to be felt by every person on the planet. Already the cost of tortillas in Mexico have risen some 400% due to the reduced supply. Tortillas have always been a staple of the mexican diet, especially amongst the poor so this hits them the hardest. But corn isnt just for tortillas. Corn syrup is used in jams, jellies, syrups, and colas. It is used as a sweetener in teas, popsicles, candies and various baked goods. Various parts of corn, such as corn starch, are used in most every processed food known to mankind from the freezer aisle to the canned goods aisle to the cereal aisle. Even some yogurts. Very importantly, corn is also used as feed for cattle. Any increase in corn will also cause an increase to beef, chicken and eggs. Even tho you might continue to work as hard as you do now, you will be bring home less bacon. (bad pun intended)

Those previously mentioned higher prices for wheat and soybeans will cause the remainder of the foods to go up. Wheat is usually pretty obvious. Pastas, breads, baked anything but again, processed foods often contain wheat as well (I know, I had to go on a wheat free diet for two weeks and it was awful! Couldnt even eat french fries!) Soy shows up in everything. Read the label, its on there. If it isnt in the food, the food is cooked in it.

So we are going to pay higher food costs, but isn't it worth it to save the environment/reduce oil dependency? Well if it did that, than it just might be worth the higher costs. But we aren't going to see either benefit. Corn strips the land of nutrients and requires a large amount of fertilizer. This fertilizer ends up in the streams and causes the algae blooms in both the Gulf of Mexico an in the Pacific, as well as the Salton Sea. Algae blooms, as the algae dies, consumes all of the oxygen in the water and this causes mass die offs of the fish in the region.

The other environmental aspect to ethanol is its energy output versus the energy it takes to create it. At best, ethanol is a break even game when one considers the required energy input, from the initial tilling of the land to irrigation to harvesting, trucking, and processing. And once that is all done we get a product that doesnt have the energy output of gasoline. Ethanol gives us 26.8 megajoules per kilogram whereas gasoline gives us 45. This means that when we finally get it into the gas tanks of the SUVs they are moving less distance per gallon and must simply stop more to fill up. No net environmental gain.

This brings us to oil dependency. As above, there is less power in each gallon of ethanol than in oil making it an undesirable option at best. And supply is limited. It is estimated that if all the corn in America was used in ethanol production the most impact it could have is to replace 15% of our daily oil usage. Assuming we did utilize our entire supply for oil replacement, we must ask ourselves, how much are we willing to pay for it? How many people must be impoverished? How many ranchers are we going to put out of business? And just how much of our limited water supply are we willing to waste on corn?

Ethanol is not a cornucopia, it is more akin to a pandoran box.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


Dont have a title, cant type. saw this and thought it funny and somewhat descriptive of me.

And after 4 shots of whiskey I think I am finally ready for bed. t'weren't for Firefox 2.0 I'd have typos all thru here.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

What File Extension Are You?

You are ".pdf" No matter where you go you look the same. You are an acrobat. Nothing is more important to you than the printed word.
Which File Extension are You?

US Coins

Due to continued inflation (which is, of course, Fed policy) we see our dollars and coins worth less and less. How much less? Check out to see just what our coins are worth. Current base metal composition can be found here.

Over the years the Fed has reformulated the various coins to make them of cheaper materials because inflation had eaten away their value making the value of the metal plus cost to produce more than the value of the coin. Well, even with that reformulation the Fed's continuous policy of inflation has made both nickels and pennies worth more as their base metals than their purchasing power. How does the Gov respond to this? Do they stop inflation? Shore up our economy? Nope. They make it illegal to take more than $5.00 of coins out of the country. Can't have you taking that stuff out of the country cuz if you did you might melt them down and turn them into something more valuable.

Coin facts:
  • There are 154 copper pennies in a pound.
  • Dimes, Quarters and Half Dollars were 90% silver until 1964
  • Half Dollars were then 40% silver from 65 to 1970.
  • 1971-1976 Dollars were 40% Silver
  • Nickels during WWII (1942-45) were 35% silver.
  • Also during WWII pennies were made of steel, but there are 40 known copper pennies made during that year. One sold recently for $82,500.
  • The ridges (or reeds) on coins was originally developed to discourage people from shaving coins. Due to them being made of actual gold and silver, unscrupulous people would shave a little bit off every coin they could making the coins worth less.
  • The 1792 law that established the Mint made coin defacement, counterfeiting, and embezzlement by Mint employees punishable by death.
  • Blogroll

    Minor changes to the blog roll. Added: Farmer Tom, Taylor and Mitzibel. Removed, Andrea's old blog, a dead blog and the dead blog of the woman I love(d). Also added was a link to my other blog at the top of the list.

    Friday, January 26, 2007

    $155 Million Home

    Okay, so everyone has heard of this ridiculous home going for $155 MILLION. This home is going to be 53,000 square feet with only 10 rooms and 160 acres, but it will have its own ski lift apparently. So I am wondering, what else could be bought for that much money?

    I found this lovely little property in Montanta for only $7.9 Million. It comes with a house, some 700 head of cattle and 29,170 acres to graze them on. Thats about 47 square miles.

    With what is left over you could purchase this 363 acre island, Rudder Cut Cay for $12.5 Million. It even has its own airstrip. And if that isn't big enough for you, purchase 500 acre Dog Island instead. Oh what the heck. Buy 'em both. Dog Island is only $5.9 Million so you'd still have plenty of money left over.

    And then, with the money left over, the crown jewel! Wee Cumbrae. Wee Cumbrae is 684 acres off the coast of Scotland (part of my ancestry!) that comes with numerous relics, including a lighthouse built in 1757, remains of a 7th century church, and tons of history. And you could be living here... with two cannons just in case the neighbors get too rowdy! (Except, seeing as it would be your island you wouldnt have to worry about it. And this place will set you back about $5 Million.

    Thursday, January 25, 2007

    Space Telescopes

    I asked the question over at Astro's as to when the next space based telescope would be going up. Well, I didn't want to wait so I looked it up for myself. Turns out that one is planned for launch this year.

    The Herschel Space Observatory is scheduled for 2007 and is a cooperative effort between 10 countries, including the US. Herschel will be able to scan the heavens for infrared light, which is very difficult to do from earth due to the atmosphere.

    In 2009 WISE, or Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, is expected to launch. WISE's mission will be to map the sky in infrared light searching for the closest and coolest stars, the origin of stellar and planetary systems, and the most luminous galaxies in the Universe. Apparently the design was just approved and is going to final design and construction.


    Someone recently found my blog by googling for "discharge hole underwear"

    Umm okay, but at least I am not in the top ten on that. Apparently I am #40, but the fact that my blog can be found with that search string disturbs me somehow.

    Wednesday, January 24, 2007

    Unintended Consequences

    It looks like the Law of Unintended Consequences is in full affect with Colorado's latest Constitutional Amendment. Amendment 41 was approved by voters last fall and severely limits contributions to government employees. The intent of the bill was to keep lobbyists from "buying" politicians.

    The Amendment does that, but it also does much more. 41 encompasses ALL state employees, and bars them from receiving gifts from basically everyone. From an Op/Ed piece in the local Gazette If the Rotary Club (or the Boettcher Foundation, for that matter) sponsors a scholarship for high school students, children of police officers need not apply. If a city block is wiped out by a tornado or a fire, the families of city workers can’t receive assistance from groups such as the Red Cross. This was, no doubt, not the intention of the group championing this Amendment.

    So LUC is in affect. Is there any good that is coming from it? YES! There are currently 40 million government jobs in this country. Nearly one for every two real jobs in America today. This, on top of deficits and debts and taxation and social security, is a huge drain upon the economy. Anything and everything that reduces this drain is a good thing. If this gives state employees reason to get out of the gov, then it will have done good, even if unintentional.

    Saturday, January 20, 2007

    Airline Security

    I think Scott Adams is onto something with this

    Certainly it would do as much good as the harassment masquerading as security in our airports today but would have the added bonus of saving us time.

    Friday, January 19, 2007

    Cute Photographer

    I got out today and took some pics of the Castle West fire. The destruction there was absolutely massive! almost the entire building was gutted and areas are so unstable that a crane is being used to lift crews to the upper levels.

    While there I spoke with two guys from the insurance company, Andy the son of the pastor of the church right next door which housed people overnight for two nights or so and is now an open door to the firemen and paramedics that have worked this scene. I met a reporter from the Gazette, Perry, and spoke with him for a bit. His job was to speak with the various people coming by and try to eke together another story. He was hoping for someone who had lived there or perhaps was connected in some way. After all, the only story left is the human story, the fire and damage are largely played out.

    One interesting thing was that the Coroner had arrived so there was speculation that the two bodies that had been found might be getting removed. We weren't sure about them being removed or how they might be as they are encased in ice from the large amounts of water and extremely cold weather. I didn't stay to see.

    I spoke with the photographer from the Gazette and I asked her about cameras and the one she recommended (Nikon D80) is fairly affordable at $550. Her name is Briann (not sure of the spelling but pronounced Bre-An, one word) and she is the cute photographer mentioned in the title of this post. Very cute. (sigh)

    As I was heading back to the van I overheard some of the contractors talking with the insurance guys that the Colorado Springs Fire Department used over 6 Million gallons of water fighting this fire. That is equivalent to what some 35-40 homes would use in an entire year for both indoor and outdoor water needs.

    The other highlight (Not the photographer, the other one) was personally getting to thank some of the firemen and paramedics. These men are truly heroes. They were on the scene only 3 minutes after the fire was reported and have been on scene ever since, even on their days off according to Andy who has been speaking with and serving these men. Again, thank you CSFD.

    I will post some photos here and on the other blog, but Blogspot, with its tiny pics, isn't going to do justice to the chaos on the scene and the detail that is needed to truly understand the devastation. I will try to pick a few selections from the 80+ pics I took.

    Wednesday, January 17, 2007

    New Blog

    I have an exciting new blog Y'all! Its incredible! It's stupendous! It's ... hmm yeah.

    It's my new blog.

    Dont worry about this one as it isnt going anywhere. I simply wanted to start one for photography and so I did. is now active.

    More Pics

    I said I would post more pics soon, and I do have some altho they arent quite the pics promised.

    I wanted to give some perspective of just how big Garden Of The Gods is.
    The first and second photos are of the Kissing Camels formation. In the second photo the two fir trees in the center are about 5-6 feet tall. In the last photo, which is the north side of the rock that contains Kissing Camels. For reference the fir tree on the lower left is probably about 5 feet tall. (You will have to click on the pic to make out that fir tree.)


    If you haven't heard, a 135 unit apartment building was set on fire early Tuesday morning, at approximately 12:45AM. The building burned so intensely that it was still burning into Wednesday morning.

    Not all of the occupants have been accounted for yet and two deaths have been confirmed at this point. Firefighters are conducting a room by room search of the apartment building as they are able but it is slow going as the building is no longer stable.

    At this point one person has been arrested in connection with the suspected arson and they are looking for additional accomplices.

    I also want to publicly say "THANK YOU" to our firefighters, of which more than 100 were on scene for this 5 Alarm fire. Their response to this tragedy, including immediately calling for more engines as the first team rolled up to the scene, to focusing on rescuing people trapped inside rather than simply fighting the fire kept the injuries to a minimum and the deaths very low (altho we still dont know the final body count as of this writing.) Firefighters and Paramedics are the true day to day heroes in any community, and I would say it is very fortunate for us that we don't have more opportunities to thank them!

    The Gazette has compiled a slideshow of firefighters attempting to put out the blaze. I hate the human tragedy but I am impressed with the photography. An interesting contrast knowing this fire was so intense, yet the temperature is so cold that everything is covered in ice from the hoses.

    They Say...

    They say time heals all wounds, so why wont it heal this one? Why does every day hurt as much as the one before? Why do I still feel like I have just been sucker punched? Why is it that the only one that could stop this pain is the one that is giving it to me?

    Monday, January 15, 2007

    Yesterday In History

    January 15th

    Molasses floods Boston streets

    Fiery hot molasses flooded the streets of Boston on this day in
    1919, killing 21 people and injuring scores of others. The
    molasses burst from a huge tank at the United States Industrial
    Alcohol Company building in the heart of the city.

    The United States Industrial Alcohol building was located on
    Commercial Street near North End Park in Boston. It was close to
    lunch time on January 15 and Boston was experiencing some
    unseasonably warm weather as workers were loading freight-train
    cars within the large building. Next to the workers was a
    58-foot-high tank filled with 2.5 million gallons of crude

    Suddenly, the bolts holding the bottom of the tank exploded,
    shooting out like bullets, and the hot molasses rushed out. An
    eight-foot-high wave of molasses swept away the freight cars and
    caved in the building’s doors and windows. The few workers in
    the building’s cellar had no chance as the liquid poured down
    and overwhelmed them.

    The huge quantity of molasses then flowed into the street
    outside. It literally knocked over the local firehouse and then
    pushed over the support beams for the elevated train line. The
    hot and sticky substance then drowned and burned five workers at
    the Public Works Department. In all, 21 people and dozens of
    horses were killed in the flood. It took weeks to clean the
    molasses from the streets of Boston.

    This disaster also produced an epic court battle, as more than
    100 lawsuits were filed against the United States Industrial
    Alcohol Company. After a six-month investigation that involved
    3,000 witnesses and 45,000 pages of testimony, a special auditor
    finally determined that the company was at fault because the
    tank used had not been strong enough to hold the molasses.
    Nearly $1 million was paid in settlement of the claims.

    MLK Day

    In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. I highly recommend that you read one of his works, Letter from a Birmingham jail. The following are excerpts from this letter.

    We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant 'Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

    The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust... One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all"
    Interestingly the United States Supreme Court believes the same thing. SCOTUS has ruled that a law that is unConstitutional was unConstitutional from the moment it was enacted and therefore was never a law at all.

    Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.

    We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country's antireligious laws.

    So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent and often even vocal sanction of things as they are.

    But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.

    Sunday, January 14, 2007

    Random Disgusting Food

    I was deleting spam from my GMAil account and it always has links at the top. Sometimes they are interesting so I flipped through a couple and I come to this!
    Categories: Main dish
    Yield: 8 servings

    1 pk Frozen french fry potatoes,
    -thawed (20 oz)
    2 c Shredded Cheddar cheese
    2 c Sour cream
    1 cn Condensed cream of chicken
    -soup (10 3/4 oz)
    1 cn SPAM Luncheon Meat, cubed
    -(12 oz)
    1/2 c Chopped red bell pepper
    1/2 c Chopped green onion
    1/2 c Finely crushed corn flakes

    Heat oven to 350'F. In large bowl, combine potatoes, cheese, sour
    cream, and soup. Stir in SPAM, bell pepper, and green onion. Spoon
    into 13x9" baking dish. Sprinkle with crushed flakes. Bake 30-40
    minutes or until thoroughly heated.
    As if spam wasn't bad enough, but french fries, some sour cream and a bit of corn flakes to top it off? If that doesn't start your diet off, nothing will!

    Saturday, January 13, 2007

    Reason To Homeschool

    Reason #6: Violence.

    In this latest headline making example we have a 44y/old woman driving her already suspended daughter to the school so she could fight another girl. From the article "At one point, the melee involved all four girls, both mothers and a teacher, according to police." That would be a total of 7, including two unnamed 13 y/old girls whose mothers did not participate.

    I dont know if I would have attempted to break that fight up or filmed it to get my 15 minutes of youtube fame.

    Jeesh, its cold!

    It is currently -1 Degree Fahrenheit right now with a wind chill of -15. Thats -18 and -26 to you Celsius guys.

    Just thought I would share that with you all.

    Monday, January 08, 2007

    Minimum Wage And Inflation

    Colorado recently joined the ranks of the few States with a higher minimum wage than the Federal minimum. Colorado passed a Constitutional Amendment that grants an immediate increase and ties a yearly increase to the official rate of inflation.

    Much has been said on both sides of this issue. One side says that the poor cannot live on $5.15 an hour. The other says that it will cause a loss of jobs and that those jobs are largely entry level, also that it will cause inflation. In reality, both have some truth to them. I thought I would add some sense of the economic to this issue.

    In real terms, the minimum wage has never been lower. That is, in purchasing power, when indexed for inflation at 2006 levels, the minimum wage is lower than it was in the late 1950's when it was a nominal rate of only $1/hr. This is illustrated by the accompanying chart (taken from Irregular Times)

    Also, minimum wage workers are certainly not the majority and so the effects of raising the minimum would be lower due to this. The question is, just how much would that effect be? To look at that we need to determine how many people would be effected. Currently that number is about 7.3 million. Those workers are generally part time workers so I feel it is safe to work with an average 30 hour work week. That then puts those workers at making a combined total of approx $1.13 Billion a week. If we were then to add a 50% raise to those workers it would increase $564 million a week, or a total of $29.3 Billion a year. **

    Now to put this in comparison we need to take note of the largest cause of inflation. The Federal Reserve. The Fed (NOT a part of the Federal Government) creates excess money at a varying rate on a weekly basis, but rarely is that number anywhere less that $10 Billion. Last week, as reported by the Mogambo Guru, "Total Fed Credit exploded by another $6.8 billion, another $8 billion of actual cash was released... Enough money was created to allow Total Commercial Paper to jump by $23.7 billion! All in one week!"

    So in one week, nearly the entire inflationary effect of a years worth of raise for the minimum wage worker was created by the Fed. What this tells me is that the entire economic downside to an increase in the federal minimum wage could be offset by simply stopping the Fed from increasing the money supply for two weeks, three weeks tops.

    ** I realize that raising the wage for the minimum wage worker would also sweep up others who are slightly above the minimum and so the numbers would need to be reworked but I simply do not have the numbers or the time available to quantify that. If anyone has more info on that please let me know as I would gladly take a further look at this issue.

    Sunday, January 07, 2007

    Education Reform

    Here is the promised post
    Romanoff favors adopting landmark education overhaul
    By Jennifer Brown
    Denver Post Staff Writer

    Colorado should take the lead in major education reform, borrowing from a landmark national report that calls for high school exit exams and dramatic increases in teacher pay, state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff said Thursday.

    The report, heard by a bipartisan panel of lawmakers and educators in Washington, D.C., says America is failing to prepare its students to compete in a global economy.

    It calls for ending high school for most students after 10th grade, when they would take "rigorous state board exams." Those who pass could choose to go directly to technical colleges, and the best students could stay in high school to prepare for entrance into elite universities.

    The change would save nearly $60 billion nationwide, a third of which would pay for preschool for all 4-year-olds and low-income 3-year-olds, the report says.

    The savings also would go toward training and deploying teachers recruited from the top third of high school students going to college.

    The report, from The New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, also calls for a complete revamping of education funding.

    Independent contractors, operating under contracts managed by local school districts, would run public schools.

    Romanoff, D-Denver, a panel member, said he plans to set up a task force of educators and parents to develop a Colorado version of the plan, which would require constitutional and legislative changes.

    Sen. Peter Groff, D-Denver, said he would push for an audit of the state's public-school system and propose plans to address the national report.
    The report can be downloaded as a PDF here.

    While our international counterparts are increasingly getting more education, their young people are getting a better education as well. American students and young adults place anywhere from the middle to the bottom of the pack in all three continuing comparative studies of achievement in mathematics, science and general literacy in the advanced industrial nations.

    A swiftly rising number of American workers at every level are in direct competition with workers in every corner of the globe. So it matters very much that, increasingly, it is easier and easier for employers everywhere to get workers who are better skilled at lower cost than American workers.

    In this environment, it makes sense to ask how American workers can possibly maintain, to say nothing of improve their current standard of living. Today, Indian engineers make $7,500 a year against $45,000 for an American engineer with the same qualifications. If we succeed in matching the very high levels of mastery of mathematics and science of these Indian engineers - an enormous challenge for this country - why would the world's employers pas us more than they have to pay the Indians to do their work? They would be willing to do that only if we could offer something that the Chinese and Indians, and others, cannot.

    If we continue on our current course, and the number of nations outpacing us in the education race continues to grow at its current rate, the American standard of living will steadily fall relative to those nations, rich and poor, that are doing a better job. If the gap gets to a certain - but unknowable - point, the world's investors will conclude that they can get a better return on their funds elsewhere, and it will be almost impossible to reverse course. Although it is possible to construct a scenario for improving our standard of living, the clear and present danger is that it will fall for most Americans.

    The above is excepted from the document linked to above. I have not had the time to get thru the entire work but I recommend reading it. These are NOT the typical recommendations that are given by the usual suspects (teachers unions etc.) These are in essence an entire overhaul of the education system. Included in the report is the need to start recruiting from the top 3rd of college students, rather than the bottom 3rd where we get them now. As enticement to those students they recommend increasing pay by lowering the retirement benefits to that which is offered by the large firms and taking that money and giving it as pay instead.

    Good stuff and I will write more on it later. (Education seems to be becoming the topic of this least for now)

    Friday, January 05, 2007

    Of Gays and "Blatherings"

    Lauren from Twinsburg, Ohio wonders "What the heck? Why am I getting ANTI-GAY blatherings in my gay/lesbian news feed?, I'm totally insulted.

    It is a shame that she feels "totally insulted." Especially when one considers that I wasn't writing anything that was "ANTI-GAY" altho I will have to cop to the "blatherings" accusation. I seem to remember writing that the love of G-d is not for just one kind of person, not just for the already "perfect" but for sinful man, in all varieties and in whatever manner it is that we are sinning. Indeed the Christ said that as a doctor comes for those who are sick, so came He. For if we were perfect then the sacrifice of the Son would have been unnecessary.

    Blathering perhaps, but not even remotely anti-gay. Lauren, next time you visit my blog, please read it to comprehend. You will get much more out of it that way.

    Thursday, January 04, 2007

    "Education" Spending

    On my previous post on school spending there was a commenter that gave almost verbatim the various talking points in defense of the poor beleaguered schools. Apparently he was upset that I was simply throwing around budget numbers "out of context can bring you to any conclusion you want." He also defended the expenditures by saying how included in that cost ($8,618) was the need to educate the special-ed kids, some of whom, he says, "are provided with full-time aides."
    Also many other factors need to be considered when you are trying to tear down public education. Public education is required to provide handicapped students with extra support. Some handicapped students in my child's school are provided with full-time aides. That is one full-time aide per student. Colleges do not provide this support. Obviously that is another cost.

    There are a number of factors to consider when criticizing the cost of public education. Merely throwing out numbers out of context can bring you to any conclusion you want. Whatever your feelings are concerning public education or college are fine by me. You are allowed your opinions. But at least put those arguments into the proper context.

    Ronald RayGun | 12.30.06 - 10:45 am | #
    I did not initially respond to this simply as I didn't have the time and I knew I would need some numbers. Having actually worked at a school district I know very well that there is extra money in the budget for special-ed kids. In fact there is even money on top of that for busing them. So today I have some numbers, albeit a titch older than the #s I was using.

    From the NEA website (again, this is a bit older)
    Ever since its initial enactment, the federal law has included a commitment to pay 40 percent of the average per student cost for every special education student. The current average per student cost is $7,552 and the average cost per special education student is an additional $9,369 per student, or $16,921. Yet, in 2004, the federal government is providing local school districts with just under 20 percent of its commitment rather than the 40 percent specified by the law, creating a $10.6 billion shortfall for states and local school districts.
    So there is an ADDITIONAL $10,000 for each student that can be designated as "special-ed." I say designated as because I have seen some things that make me believe the designation is pushed on several of these students. (Again that was from working at a school district.)

    So we are looking at essentially $18,000 for special ed kids and "only" $8,618 for the regular students. And we are STILL pushing children thru the system that cannot read the diplomas they are given at graduation. Still! And it IS happening at a school near you.

    I was one of those that thought that such stupidity only happened in other places, maybe the really big cities with the slums and ghettos. Nope. When I was in my 11th grade year I was attending night school and one of the teachers called upon a student to read one of the sections. That student said "no" and let me tell you that teacher wasn't too happy about that. But being the type of person he was he wanted to find out a bit more about that answer and it came out in class that despite the fact he had made it to the 11th grade he did not know how to read. 11th grade! And not one of his teachers had ever tried to work with him on it. This particular teacher (much to his credit as teacher and man) took it upon himself to teach that student to read, including spending time off the clock to do so.

    Up to that point the student had received (roughly adjusted for inflation) $86,000 spent on educating him. After over $86,000 he was still not able to do that which is almost necessary in society. It was something that should have been caught by the third grade through the use of rigorous teaching methods but took another $69,000 and one chance question.

    In 2006 dollars a 12 year education costs us $103,000 per student, or $216,000 if designated as a special-ed student. Am I wrong in asking for some accountability for such large outlays of money? Am I wrong in pointing out that this isn't the best way? Am I wrong in pointing out that there are better ways? I am going to post soon about some ways the Colorado Legislature is considering. Some of the changes are quite radical and completely unexpected from a Democratic Congress. I already posted some changes that Florida has put into place.

    Tuesday, January 02, 2007

    300 The Movie

    Regulars know I previously posted on a movie called 300 Spartans a few weeks back. I was highly impressed with the story of King Leonidas and his bravery in leading 300 of his personal retainer against more than a million men intent upon destroying Greece. I was not overly impressed with the movie itself as it was old and not very well written or acted.

    I logged into MySpace today and lo and behold, I see a new version of this same true story. This one titled simply "300." Hollywood being what it is today, 300 has plenty of special effects and what looks like some unnecessary additions and what appears to be a few monstrosities. Not quite orcs, but not exactly human either.

    It looks like Hollywood in its efforts to outdue itself may well have gone too far astray (yeah, imagine that) from a story line that is already incredibly heroic and cannot really be made more-so. What the producers/directors/writers don't quite comprehend is that sometimes you simply cannot tell a more stirring story than a true one from history. These tales often do not need embellishment. Hollywood, please stop trying! Tell the tale faithfully and let the deeds of the men and women who have shaped this world stir our blood.

    Some examples of movies that stayed faithful to the tale (Yes some things have to be changed, no one except Dune fans want to see the hours of nothing)
    The Patriot.
    Black Hawk Down.
    We Were Soldiers.
    The Great Raid.
    The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Fantasy, yes. But faithful to the tale.

    Brave tales simply tell themselves. No need to add to it. 300 comes out in March so I will have to wait until then to see how good or bad it is.

    Monday, January 01, 2007

    Whiny Judges

    Okay, so it isnt just teachers whining over pay. Now it is Chief Justice John Roberts. Apparently we aren't paying federal judges enough. As a matter of fact, Chief Justice Roberts says that the issue of pay "has now reached the level of a constitutional crisis."

    Wow. Not only are they able to find rights to abortion in penumbras, but they are also able to find a constitutional right to higher pay. It is truly amazing how good Chief Justice Roberts is. I mean, the Constitution has been around for over 200 years and just now the right to higher pay has been discovered. Truly amazing that someone hadn't found it earlier.

    So how much do they make? Federal district court judges are paid $165,200 annually; appeals court judges make $175,100; associate justices of the Supreme Court earn $203,000; the chief justice gets $212,100. I don't know about you, but I know that I couldn't live off of just 165K a year. I mean, that is practically poverty level!

    They do make a point about those working as deans and whatnot making more but the issue is this. Government is a SERVANT. It is a PUBLIC SERVICE job, not a lifetime-take-care-of-everything job. Or at least it shouldn't be. Those serving in Gov are supposed to be there because of a sense altruism, of doing what is right, not to be taken care of.

    Thank You Chief Justice John Roberts. You are truly an inspiration. I am going to pull out my copy of the Constitution and find my right to a Ferrari and a mansion overlooking the ocean. It must be in there. Someone just has to find it.

    Education Reform

    Poor Graduation Rates Leads to a Major Offensive

    Florida will be the first state in the nation to require high school students to pick a college-style major, which is being questioned by parents, but educators believe it will help boost graduation rates. The state announced a list of 400 majors on Monday to prepare for freshman registration.

    Local school districts will decide which majors to offer and post them online for eighth-graders to select as early as next month. Majors range from motorcycle repair to pre-med, from fashion design to anthropology, and the list even includes the study of eurythmics, a method of interpreting music through free-style dance and exercise.

    The majors program, part of the wider-ranging A-Plus-Plus law designed to increase the rigor as well as relevance of middle and high school, will be phased in over four years.

    How cool is that? Actually allowing kids to determine what it is that they want to learn? If they believe that the classes they are taking will actually help them in the future they see themselves in I can almost guarantee more will graduate. There might even be less discipline issues in the school as the students wont be quite so bored.


    Women may soon be banned or restricted from donating plasma. This is due to an antibody created during pregnancy that can cause a rare but potentially deadly lung condition. If women are banned or even restricted from donating plasma there could be a severe shortage, as women currently donate 41% of the supply (I thought it was actually higher from my own experiences)

    A new polymer coating may be able to kill bacteria and viruses. it accomplishes this by creating microscopic "spikes" with polymer, which can then be "painted" onto a surface. As the viruses or bacteria come into contact with the spikes they are burst open. It has yet to be fully determined if this is actually the case or if it is a different chemical-type reaction but it is a promising technology.