Saturday, February 26, 2011

the new 'killer' phones keep coming

Macaroni Mac with an original BlackBerry Storm
For the first time in five years I don't have the annual itch to spring for a new mobile. I had no consumer desire to buy when I saw a post on engadget about a new HTC Incredible. Maybe I'm growing up. Maybe the phone urge has been replaced with the desire to buy a new car (just paid one off). Or maybe I'm just overloaded with mobile technology.

I'm underwhelmed by the wife's iPad. YouTubes are slow and it just does not fit my Internet style. I'm not a passive browser; I'm interactive which requires typing. And typing on a tablet is awful.

But mobile technology just keeps coming. It feels like dozens of handsets, mobile apps and operating systems appear every month. I'm very impressed by the new Motorola Xoom but not its $800 price tag. I also like the Barnes & Noble Nook, but I want a little more than just a reader. (At this point I'm thinking that a tablet for me will just be a reader and simple browser.)

I also know, deep down inside, that these devices are built by third world laborers in less than environmentally-neutral conditions. They are rarely recycled and may be scrambling our brain cells.

From Reuters, "Chinese workers at a factory making touch screens on contract for Apple have urged the U.S. company to help address their grievances over a chemical poisoning they said could still harm their health...'This is a killer, a killer that strikes invisibly,' said a Chinese-language copy of the letter meant for Apple CEO Steve Jobs that workers showed Reuters...'From when hexyl hydride was used, monthly profits at Apple and Wintek have gone up by tens of millions every month, the accumulated outcome of workers' lives and health,' said the letter, signed by five workers claiming to represent employees."

But they are soooo cool....

Friday, February 25, 2011

defunding health services for the poor

Rappahannock Republic thinks he's funny this afternoon with his posting of a great Planned Parenthood attack-ad on YouTube.

Wow, if it's on YouTube it must be true. Let's open Planned Parenthood's books and see...

Yeap, there it is in red and dark red, millions of our tax dollars being spent on...women's healthcare. Maybe House Republicans should follow Virginia's lead and just mandate that all Planned Parenthood facilities follow the same rules as hospitals. I can't wait until all services for reproductive health are gone then we can have poor pregnant women and babies all over the place. I'm sure the funding will be there to help them get a leg-up on their situation. Oh, wait

don't work in the public center? be happy you don't.

Why? Because if you did, you'd most likely be making less than your market value. Tax payers get a deal and they don't know it. From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, some things you might not know about public employees:

  • Outside of education, the public workforce has shrunk as a share of the population over the last three decades.
  • Public-sector workers earn less than their private-sector counterparts.
  • Public-sector workers also earn less than their private-sector counterparts when one counts both wages and benefits.
Chart anyone?

Just think about the President's cabinet. How many took pay-cuts to do what they do? Think about Congressman and Senators. Do their salaries go up or down when the retire and join the private sector? So what exactly are they fighting about in Wisconsin again?

NBA goes world cup with flop

Chris Bosh tries out for the Italian national team with a world class flop. Fool please.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

getting the news through a filter

As a professionally trained communicator, I can't stand the reporting of only bad news. I can still remember a college professor tagging me over my bland headlines. "Use your action words," she used to shout. And how many times on the news do we hear, "We would like to warn you that the following contains graphic imagery." Ain't no one turning the channel after that is said.

I bit my tongue this week win this headline came down the pike: "U.S. District Judge Tosses Religious Challenge to Health Care Law" Go ahead and Google it. It will not appear high on ANY of the major news outlets. Why? Because it is not controversial. It's not bad news. It's a ruling in favor of Obamacare. Who cares, right?

How about a visual:

The Washington Monthly breaks it down with some stats.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

sometimes it bigger than the 2nd ammendment

From The Miami Herald:

"Sen. Greg Evers this morning postponed discussion of a controversial gun bill (SB 234) that, among other things, would allow people to carry weapons onto college campuses after the father of a killed Florida State University student showed up to oppose the bill at a Senate committee hearing.

Ashley Cowie, a 20-year-old sophomore studying interior design, was killed January 9, 2011 at a fraternity party when another student accidentally discharged a rifle, according to police. Dr. Robert Cowie described the incident during emotional testimony, telling the Senate Criminal Justice Committee that a bullet from an AK-74 went through his daughter's chest and struck a second student. He held back tears as he said how Ashley's identical twin sister Amy tried to perform CPR at the party to keep her alive. Amy was 'looking at the whole in her sister's chest with blood gushing from her mouth and she knew she was already dead,' Cowie said. 'But she felt compelled to do something.'

Alcohol was found in the system of the shooter, 20-year-old Evan Wilhelm, police said.

'Allowing guns in an atmosphere of college parties puts everyone involved at increased and undue risk,' Cowie told senators. 'Would you feel more or less at risk today if I were carrying a gun?'

The bill would also allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry their guns openly and take their guns into career centers, college or university campuses, and nonpublic elementary and secondary school facilities."

america needs some visuals

We have had a few indicators about the condition of our country recently: a foreclosure crisis, Great Recession, Democrats gain control over Congress, Democrats control of Congress lost, ten percent-ish unemployment, and now public union protests over budget cuts. For me this is a lot of information and  I need visuals damit - where is Ross Perot when you need him?

Well thankfully Mother Jones published some charts for me today that help pull everything together with color-coded legends.

Here are my personal favorites:

I'd love to take this above chart and overlay national union membership. You'd see a pattern.

This graph screams for a better public school system. We don't even know as a nation what we look like.

Corporations have fought tooth and nail to obtain all the rights and privileges of individuals - except they don't seem to want responsibility's of an individual. 

I am seeing a country that is out of balance when it comes to revenue sharing. Individuals are paying the largest portion of the taxes. The benefits of those taxes are going to a very small percentage of the population including industry. We need a rebalance which means taxes go up for business and the wealthy and services to everyone are slimmed. If you think that will cause problems for the nation as a whole then you did not look at the graphs above. It is already the way you think it should be and it is not working.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

do teachers need collective bargaining?

It has been a two week long fight in Madison between the Governor and the state's teachers. It seems that the Governor's initial insistance that he needed teacher concessions to balance the budget was a smoke screen. The main fighting point is over the Governor's desire to end the right teachers have to certain collective bargaining agreements. (A great site to review concerning all this mess is PolitiFact Wisconsin. It appears at first glance that no one is being completely honest in this debate.)

It may be an indisputable fact that unions helped build the middle class in this country and their slow decine over the past few decades have helped wages flatline. It can also probably be proven that many of the problems our nation's schools have today are in large part helped by teacher unions. Such things as teacher tenure after only two to five years of classroom experience are laughable not to mention some of the ridiculous hoops that have to be cleared to fire bad teachers.

I'd just ask everyone to stop maligning union workers, such as teachers, because you think they have it better than you. Incidentally, in this case, Wisconsin workers do not have it better.

From WEAC statistics,

"As rising health insurance costs have eaten up most of the 3.8% total compensation target, teacher salaries in Wisconsin have stagnated and even declined. As a result, Wisconsin teacher salaries fell 6.8% from 1997-98 to 2007-08, when adjusted for inflation. For 2007-08, Wisconsin's teacher salaries ranked 21th in the nation at $49,051, down from 20th the year before, and below the national average of $52,308."

The same goes for attacking Wall Street traders or corporate CEOs. We need to stop thumbing our noses at everyone else's deals. If you had the chance to negotiate a better deal concerning your job, what would you do? Increase your wages? Make it harder to terminate your employment? Purchase a better prescription drug plan? Obtain a tele-working schedule? Increase the employer-match for your 401(k)?

Think about it as if we are all in the NBA. If I'm a point-guard that averages 20 points per game and I sign a new deal for $34 million over three years. My deal affects the contracts of all the other guards with similar statistics. If your deal is not as good as mine then when your contract comes up for renewal fight for a better contract.

Historically union employees get a little more than non-union employees in either wages or benefits, but rarely both. We need to think of these deals with a glass half-full mentality and strive to get ALL working class people excellent wages and benefits. Such things benefit everyone - even businesses.

Plus, teacher collective bargaining agreements are not only filled with stuff for teachers. These contracts are also filled with positive things for students - such as limits on class sizes and length of schools days/years.

detroit gives up on public schools

Detroit's economy is a mess - and for many reasons. But seeing this report should make us all sad.

From the WSJ,

"The state of Michigan approved a plan for Detroit to close about half of its public schools and increase the average size of high-school classrooms to 60 students over the next four years to eliminate a $327 million deficit."

Sixty students per class? There will be absolutely no learning going on in those classrooms. It appears that a whole generation is going to be lost in Michigan. This will not help our automobile industry either. The American car companies in the region will loose the ability to hire from an educated workforce.

What's the answer?

It will take a lot - closing schools and cutting spending is not the right direction. New systems have to be created from new revenue sources. It won't be cheap.

Local television here.

loch ness monster moves to england

Watch out prehistoric monsters - with all of today's technology it is just a matter of time before we get you on 60 Minutes for an exclusive.

Monday, February 21, 2011

going through de-pax

No it is not what you think, but so far it is turning out to be just as painful as detoxing.

The PAX Tire System is little gift created by Honda and Michelin for Honda Odyssey mini-vans. The system includes a special wheel and tire that are designed to work together. There is also a support ring that fits around the center of the rim and supports the tire when it is deflated so that the vehicle can be driven. Tires are normally held on the rim with air pressure, but with the PAX System, the tire fits into a special groove in the rim and is locked in place by the shape of the bead, which keeps it secure even when air pressure is lost.

The result is a good idea. You can drive your vehicle, in this case a mini-van with children aboard, a good distance without the tire deflating. But like any first generation system it has a few issues. One is that the tire shop has to use special equipment to replace the tires. In my case, there is only one tire shop, outside of the dealership, that can repair or replace the tires within 50 miles.

The second issue is the more problematic of the two - the 36,000 mile tires created by Michelin are only lasting 20,000 miles. The kicker - the tires cost $215 each and often with an additional $100 fee to install.

This is America so issue two, of course, sparked a lawsuit. Getting some money back, however, does not solve the problem that the tires are proving to be overly expensive. So American consumers, being who they are, have created their own solution - de-paxing.

De-paxing involves purchasing new rims and tires from a lesser model Odyssey and installing them on your vehicle. BUT Honda is not authorizing their dealerships to do so because of safety concerns.

Honda money quote, "American Honda strongly recommends that you replace the original PAX tires only with new PAX tires of the same size and speed rating. Using any non-PAX tire/wheel assemblies on a vehicle originally designed for PAX tires poses significant safety concerns and is not recommended or approved by American Honda."

I'm not sure if this sounds like "we have a contractual agreement with Michelin and can't authorize our dealers to do anything but put PAX tires on vehicles currently using them."

All this comes down to a cost benefit analysis. Do you spend upwards of $2,000 for new rims and tires that are not under liability of Honda or continue to fight with both Michelin and Honda over tires every 16 months?

Special Note: A Cleveland dealership has done an outstanding job using this issue to create business. Capitalism at work.

Friday, February 18, 2011

DOD now funding hummingbirds

Since these days are all about tightening our belts and pinching federal pennies, I have a sugestion of a DARPA project that can be defunded.

From engadget,

"We've seen plenty of tiny UAVs (or NAVs -- Nano Aerial Vehicles -- as they're also known), but none quite like the robo-hummingbird that's been in development at DARPA-contractor AeroVironment for the past couple of years. While we haven't heard much about it during that time, the company recently completed its most advanced prototype to date, dubbed Mercury, and it's taken advantage of the opportunity to show off all the progress it has made...the bot is able to fly about and hover in place by mimicking the wing movement of a real hummingbird and, of course, be controlled completely untethered. What's more, the firm says that the final version will actually look like a real hummingbird as well, and be able to be controlled from up to a kilometer away -- even inside buildings, where a hummingbird won't look at all out of place."

Cool, but cooler than helping the poor keep warm in the winter? I think not.

abortion, it ain't easy

This week House Republicans began their assault on federal spending by defunding their favorite programs to run against - so begins the Potomac Two-step. Planned Parenthood received a left hook today  and the rhetoric surround this fight took an unplanned turn when Congresswoman Jackie Speier shared her own abortion story.

It is harder for any side of the discussion to demonize the position of the opposition once realities are attached - not just political or religious talking points.

This whole scene reminds me of some tearful stories gathered by Andrew Sullivan two years ago during a discussion on his blog about late-term abortions.

One reader's story began,

"My wife and I had our lives forever changed by an unexpected pregnancy that began one year ago, almost to the day. It was to be our first child, Zoey, and we were both very scared in the beginning. Everything had gone perfectly, when nearly four months into the pregnancy, we paid a routine visit to the hospital for an ultrasound session. The doctor's face all of a sudden became grave, and he told us that not all was well.

(more after the break)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

giles county needs more than prayer

I'll try to be calm. I've already been reprimanded by a friend from Giles County to not make sweeping statements about its residents. And he is right - we should never throw the baby out with the bath water. And to tell you the truth that is some damn pretty country and some damn nice people down there. So I bite my tongue tonight as I read this little gem in The Washington Post about Giles's continuing fight to keep the Ten Commandments on its school walls.

Money quote, "The turning point was a raucous school board meeting attended by more than 100 Giles County residents. Hanging the commandments is 'a right' and 'a blessing' and 'a moral obligation,' residents said in the public forum.

'We are not Montgomery County, Maryland,' resident Judy Lawson said in the crowded room. 'We are not Northern Virginia.'"

Don't be surprised my fellow NOVA residents. I went to college south of Giles and some residents of those small rural communities look down their noses at anything that is not home grown. It might be expected of a community that numbers barely 17,000 and has fewer than 300 non-white residents. But it is not expected of a community that claims to be so Christian that they have the laws of Moses hanging on the school house door.

I would personally like Giles County to focus on more important things and not Maryland or Northern Virginia - like their test scores. Giles's SOL scores are below the rest of the state in EVERY category except one. They do kick ass in World History. There must be a very good history teacher at the high school. The average class size is only 15. They should be learning like gang busters.

Oh, and incase you are wondering, Montgomery County ranks above the state average in EVERY category.

online transparency

To be who you are or not to be who you are. That may be the real question of our day. On Tuesday, I linked to a story about a local reporter who had the great fun of tracking down an anonymous post from an Internet website about a local hospital.

Now today I've come across an open letter from one blogger to her readership. Kivi Miller has a great blog about nonprofit marketing. It seems that she may have revealed, not that she is hiding it, that she is pro-choice. This revaluation to some of her pro-life readers and customers has caused a little ripple in her relationships with them. It should not.

I push for complete transparency online and in life. The Internet age has made doing this much more effective. You really can't hide who you are even if you try. Internet optimization and search history show a pretty clear picture of who you are. (Yes sports fans Google and Facebook keep a record of everything you do online.) So why try to, in vain, to hide it.

People who use handles or anonymous names when interacting online seem to indicate by their actions that they would not say or do what they are doing if they had to attach their identity to it. What a sinful and cowardly way to live.

Kivi takes it a step further into her professional life. I like her position. I, like Kivi, work in the nonprofit sector where identity is a bit more out in the open. If you are the VP of fundraising for Planned Parenthood, everyone pretty much knows where you stand. Not so much if you are a VP at IBM.

And it goes still further. I have found that people like Kivi who live out in the open are more accepting of those on the opposite side of any issue. In my experience those who are the most intolerant are those who have no obvious stance on an issue - whether is be abortion, free agency or wearing white after Labor Day.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

some essential mac applications

Mark Frauenfelder has a pretty good list going.

teachers take a day to protest in madison

The Governor of Wisconsin has stirred up a hornet's nest. I hope the teachers take time to communicate to their students that they are fighting for their futures. Good luck...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

internet accuracy and accountability

Jim Hall posts a great opinion on Internet posting and commenting.

"Sometimes I really dislike this new world that I live and work in. I dislike that accuracy no longer matters. I dislike that no one is accountable for their actions.

I say this because of the blog I did here yesterday and the story that appeared in the newspaper this morning. Both were about Facebook postings from last week that said that three people had died of sepsis at Stafford Hospital in the last month. The postings that I saw were on two people’s individual Facebook pages. The postings were identical, an all-caps, cut-and-paste job, warning people to avoid Stafford Hospital."

I agree with Hall. I love to participate in some forums and comment sections, (remember chat rooms?) but these areas of the Internet show us exactly how far our civilization has to go. It seems that because a person is not right in front of another that they will say the most hurtful and rude things possible. Try spending five minutes on Sarah Palin's Facebook page, it is an awful example of civility. But then go to a professional teacher's forum and you will fine ideas and concerns being shared in an enlightened way.

Hopefully all the negative is just growth that requires maturity as our use of this new medium expands. It is a waste otherwise.

'my head hurts' article of the day

From Mother Jones:

"A law under consideration in South Dakota would expand the definition of 'justifiable homicide' to include killings that are intended to prevent harm to a fetus—a move that could make it legal to kill doctors who perform abortions. The Republican-backed legislation, House Bill 1171, has passed out of committee on a nine-to-three party-line vote, and is expected to face a floor vote in the state's GOP-dominated House of Representatives soon.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Phil Jensen, a committed foe of abortion rights, alters the state's legal definition of justifiable homicide by adding language stating that a homicide is permissible if committed by a person 'while resisting an attempt to harm' that person's unborn child or the unborn child of that person's spouse, partner, parent, or child. If the bill passes, it could in theory allow a woman's father, mother, son, daughter, or husband to kill anyone who tried to provide that woman an abortion—even if she wanted one."

This appears to be a case of splitting the baby.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

spotsy school board may get scorned on The View

This is going to be fun.

From Pamela Gould,

"Producers with the ABC-TV program, 'The View,' have expressed interest in having expelled Spotsylvania High School freshman Andrew Mikel II appear on the program, Nisha Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute just told me.

Details aren’t yet finalized but the Spotsylvania County teen could appear on Tuesday (Feb. 15)."


Is it just me that believes this whole "spit-ball" thing should have been a non-issue? We can't handle things like civilized people? We can't call the kid's dad into the office; show him what his idiot son did in class; remind everyone that he could have put a proverbial eye out; and give the fool a week's worth of detention then call it a day.

But no, instead we call the police, kick the kid out of school, don't communicate with his folks effectively enough and let it all become a public FUBAR. Now we may get to listen to Whoopi and Joy comment on the whole thing. Oh joy...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

no more nfl until 2012?

The National Football League has an annual revenue of $9 billion. However, the league's collective bargaining agreement ends on March 3 because the players and owners cannot agree on how much of that pie each side deserves. Unless there is a new deal before then, owners are threatening to lock out the players.

What do the two sides of millionaires want?

The owners want a bigger percentage of league revenue, a rookie wage scale and to increase the regular season by two games to 18. The players don't want the extra games and don't want to give back any percentage of the revenue pool.

It appears to be as stupid a conversation as it sounds. The owners want more money? There hasn't been a league started stadium project in more than five years. Tonight's Super Bowl is being played in Arlington, Texas home of the Dallas Cowboys.

Cowboys Stadium cost $1.15 billion, making it one of the most expensive sports venues ever built. To aid Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones who payed the construction costs of the new stadium, Arlington voters approved the increase of the city's sales tax by 0.5 percent, the hotel occupancy tax by 2 percent, and car rental tax by 5 percent. The City of Arlington provided over $325 million (including interest) in bonds as funding, and Jones covered any cost overruns. Also, the NFL provided the Cowboys with an additional $150 million loan, as per their policy for facilitating financing for the construction of new stadiums.

Try passing a tax increase and bond in any county in the nation for a school or road project. Good luck. Just a clear demonstration of our priorities.

The positive side of a lock out? My 2011 golf season will extend deep into October.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

gassy america

Caught myself watching Gasland again this afternoon on HBO. If you have not seen it, you should set aside time to watch it. The documentary will make you want to go out and by a windmill and Prius.

This Sundance Film Festival award winning production is about the journey of Josh Fox. Fox is asked to lease his land for drilling through a process called fracking. He embarks on a cross-country odyssey uncovering a trail of ugly government lies and oil industry contamination. In one portion of the film he visits a Pennsylvania town because of reports that residents are able to light their drinking water on fire.

Friday, February 4, 2011

stupid christians watch

From Fox Nation:

"President Obama misquoted a familiar Bible verse during a faith-based address at the National Prayer Breakfast.

'Those who wait on the Lord will soar on wings like eagles, and they will run and not be weary, and they will walk and not faint,' the president said during a speech to several thousand people at the breakfast.

But the actual passage, from Isaiah 40:31, states: 'But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.'"

How right they are...if you are quoting from the King James version of the Holy Bible. Obama is reading from the New International Version.

This is actually a very sad mistake by Fox, because Obama's speech at the prayer breakfast was pretty good.

Like Reagan said, doveryai, no proveryai.

Hat-tip Media Matters

born to run - without nikes

I've heard this all before and it makes perfect sense. We, humans, are designed to get around without shoes. From Science Daily:

"Scientists have found that those who run barefoot, or in minimal footwear, tend to avoid "heel-striking," and instead land on the ball of the foot or the middle of the foot. In so doing, these runners use the architecture of the foot and leg and some clever Newtonian physics to avoid hurtful and potentially damaging impacts, equivalent to two to three times body weight, that shod heel-strikers repeatedly experience."

I've never much paid attention to the idea until recently. I was an avid runner as a teenager. I was a quarter-miler. The quarter mile sprint to the mile run are insane distances, because you are running wide open. There is no steady pace. It is balls-out for 45 seconds to four minutes. How does it feel when you are done? Have some excellent sex then have your partner sucker-punch you in the stomach - that rush of adrenaline and pain are exactly how it feels after finishing a quarter mile sprint.

But running any distance with no sneakers? That is radical for Kenyans...I thought.

Christopher McDougall in this book "Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen" dives into the theory that running is what makes us human and has allowed us to survive for two millions of years. Think about it, what allowed us to survive in nature without a tough hide, fangs or large size? Our brain size, right?

The usual theory is that we were able to use our vast smarts to make weapons and formulate lifestyles that protected us. But there is a hole in that theory, the earliest humans were around for hundreds of thousands of years before the first edged weapons were developed. So how did we survive? Well it seems that we may have been a civilization of Forrest Gumps.

McDougall gives the sort version of the new theory during a recent TED Talk.

So you ready to toss out the Nikes and get back to using your legs the way Nature designed them too?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

what do you look at when at the gym?

I love watching people watch people at the gym. Here is an example: an attractive and healthy young lady walks through the free weights and gets the slobbering guy stare from six dudes. This is actually one of my least favorites. I have two young daughters and the first time I catch any dude looking at them that way will prompt me to call my Mississippi relatives to come North for a quick hit job.

I've spent the past week making a good mental list of gym stares:

  • The chubby middle aged lady that is finally trying to lose those 25 pounds her third child gave her. She is really trying hard and being dedicated, but she has low self-esteem and doesn't want to be seen. She's shy. She constantly glances around to make sure no one is looking at her.
  • The 28-inch waisted, gym rat who constantly keeps an eye out while lifting to see if anyone is noticing how in shape and hot he is.
  • The 225-pound meathead who gets red faced in the free weights area. He, like the gym rat, wants to see if anyone is looking at his big muscles. But meatheads workout in pairs. It is the duty of the wing-meathead (wingman) to keep lookout for possible attention while his partner is lifting to much weight and using the wrong breathing technique. 
  • The cheerleader works out for 60 minutes, never breaks a sweat and talks to a dozen different people. She wears one of those "lift" sports bras because she is worried more about appearance than her heart rate. She stares at the 28-inch waist guy with a smile and at the meathead with disgust or vice-versa. 
  • Fifty percent of the male gym population stares at the cheerleader.
  • The new guy, or gal, who constantly keeps watch over the gym rats so they can mimic their reps, sets and technique.
  • The middle aged gym rat, or muskrat as I call them. They look over all the young gym rats knowing that none of their efforts are going to keep their asses tight after 40.
I'm sure there are more, but this is all that I can remember tonight. If you know of others, please share. I'll see if I can spot them the next time I head to the gym.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

there's a gay fight going on in Iowa

In Iowa there is movement toward amending the state's constitution so that it specifically bans marriage between two men or two women. Some are objecting.

shooting plastic at spotsy schools

Wow. How much more press can the Spotsylvania School Board get?

From The Washington Post:

"Andrew Mikel II admits it was a stupid thing to do. In December, bored and craving attention, the 14-year-old used a plastic tube to blow small plastic pellets at fellow students in Spotsylvania High School. In one lunch period, he scored three hits...School officials expelled him for possession and use of a weapon, and they called a deputy sheriff to the scene...[Mikel] was charged with three counts of misdemeanor assault."

I'm going to ignore the discussion about why this escalated to the Sheriff's Department. I'm not going to get into my opinion that the teacher could have handled this without additional fuss. My concern is why does there, again, appear to be conflict with in the school system. And why did the parent of the student in question have to file a Freedom of Information Act request!?

"Spotsylvania school officials declined to comment on the incident, citing student confidentiality rules. But documents that the school produced when Mikel's father filed a Freedom of Information Act request show internal division over the matter.

'We have an obligation to protect the students in our building from others who pose a threat to the over-all safe learning environment,' Russell Davis, principal of Spotsylvania High, wrote to other school officials in one e-mail.

But the school's hearing officer, John Lynn, wrote to administrators that he was "not at all comfortable expelling or suspending this student for the remainder of the year," according to the documents. School officials insisted. When Mikel's father appealed the case, the school board's three-member disciplinary committee upheld the ruling."

The system is supposed to work together with the parents to get these kids educated. What they have now done is toss out a student that needs to be in school...and caused more fuss.

Where are the adults?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

to tablet or not to tablet

Susan Carter Morgan is in the middle of a dilema that we will all face some time in the near future. How do we balance our computer, mobile phone, tablet and life?

"Here’s my dilemma: I own a nearly 3-year-old Macbook. I also own an iPhone (contract expires this June), but I find it hard to read and communicate on, though I do my best. (Bad eyes?) I want to have something (not just a Kindle) that is lighter and smaller (with more than wifi). The Macbook is actually fine, though it doesn’t have much memory and the fan races when I try to watch any videos.

Soooo, I am pondering [the] choices.

county schools in flux

Spotsylvania County's School Board has been filling up the column inches of The Free Lance-Star for the past month. Dr. Jerry Hill's retirement package, pending exitbudget and other hot items have gotten the attention of county residents.

I was proud of the level of knowledge displayed by county residents at Monday night's public meeting. Those that did get to speak displayed not only passion for the health of the school system, but a healthy understanding of the past actions and future decisions of the board. Hopefully, we can find the money and inspiration necessary to appropriately fund the system - including providing competitive salaries for the teachers.

The board could also see at least one new face in the very near future. It appears that board member Don Holmes (Salem District) will be leaving to try and grab an open County Supervisors' seat. The county GOP has already begun to try and shape the debate around these openings. We can only hope that new faces will bring a diversity of opinion and experience to both boards.