Sunday, August 17, 2014

Dodge sucks.

My 23 month old $45,000 Dodge Challenger is still broken, even after three visits to the dealer for repair. They told me it would be done by Saturday, but no dice.

I am not happy.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Common Core

So there are people who claim that Common Core is anti-American. I posted on this once before, and it was pointed out that the complaints are all about math and American History. To clear up any confusion, here are the required Common Core benchmarks for 8th grade American history. Here are just a few of the 112 benchmarks that are required for the course:

SS.8.A.3.3:  Recognize the contributions of the Founding Fathers (John Adams, Sam Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Mason, George Washington) during American Revolutionary efforts. Examples may also include, but are not limited to, Thomas Paine, John Jay, Peter Salem.

 SS.8.A.3.9:  Evaluate the structure, strengths, and weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation and its aspects that led to the Constitutional Convention.

 SS.8.A.3.11: Analyze support and opposition (Federalists, Federalist Papers, AntiFederalists, Bill of Rights) to ratification of the U.S. Constitution.

 SS.8.A.3.12: Examine the influences of George Washington's presidency in the formation of the new nation.

 SS.8.A.3.13: Explain major domestic and international economic, military, political, and socio-cultural events of John Adams's presidency.

 SS.8.A.3.14: Explain major domestic and international economic, military, political, and socio-cultural events of Thomas Jefferson's presidency.

The Common Core, at least as adopted here, doesn't tell teachers HOW to teach, but merely what the children should be able to do at the end of the course.

I think that people are making a big deal out of nothing. Here is a link to the Florida version of common core. Get the facts for yourself, don't fall for politically spun hyperbole and urban legends.

Still having car problems

My car broke down two weeks ago. It is caused by a faulty sensor in the door latch. The faulty sensor causes the car's computer to think that someone is attempting to open the driver's side door, so it rolls the window down by half an inch. Continuously. Until the battery dies. To keep the battery from being drained, I had to disconnect the battery every time I parked it.

I called Dodge, and they told me that even though this a problem that they know about, my car is out of warranty, and they would not cover the repair. A big "screw you" from the manufacturer, it makes me feel like they are scamming people by hiding defects in the car.

After contacting three different repair shops, I was told by all three that the only place that the car can be repaired is the dealer. Nice racket, huh?

So, I brought the car to the dealer's service department, and told the mechanic what I thought the problem was, and even provided a copy of a technical service bulletin that was issued by Dodge, describing the issue. He didn't believe me, and had to investigate it himself. I sat at the dealer for 3 hours, after which he told me that he fixed the problem, and didn't even charge me.

Only he didn't fix the problem. As soon as I came near the car, the window rolled down and back up. I went and got the tech, and showed him the problem. He said that he would have to keep the car all day in order to troubleshoot. I again explained what I thought the problem was. He told me that he would call Dodge.

A week later, he still has the car. Dodge has confirmed what I was telling the mechanic all along: the sensor in the door latch is bad. It is supposed to be fixed today, at a cost of $330. My car has been out of commission for two weeks now. Two weeks of getting rides to work from others.

This is the last Dodge, and probably the last American car I will ever buy. I am going to trade this thing is before I have more problems. It is obvious to me that Dodge is practicing planned obsolescence by designing cars that barely make it through the warranty period. I cannot have an unreliable $45,000 car. I think I am going to begin shopping for an SUV. One with a long warranty, and not an American model.

Sorry, American car makers: You make shitty cars. Until you make a quality product at an affordable price, I will NOT be buying American.

(The problem is that you are paying forklift drivers $100,000 a year. All of the money spent on your cars is going to labor, and not into making a quality product.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Violence

I had a female friend of mine (who is a LEO) post the following picture on Facebook:


I replied with "Domestic Violence is always wrong." Her answer? "Spoken like a typical man. You all want to cheat and get away with it."

Being that I have been falsely accused by women of domestic violence twice in the past, I am sensitive to this. The first time was in 2004. The reason that I was accused was that the woman was angry that when we broke up, I stopped paying for the cell phone service that I had been providing. The judge agreed, and said that this was a form of "financial violence," in that I was using the fact that I had money, and she did not, to control her. The problem with that bit of judicial activism is that Florida has a pretty specific definition of what constitutes domestic violence, and that ain't it. The decision was overturned on appeal. It cost me a LOT of money to make that go away.

Then there was earlier this year. In this case, all I did was return property that she left at my house that was labelled "Property of XXX Hospital," to the hospital, which was her employer. They fired her for stealing the property. In return, she accused me of domestic violence, by saying that I was stalking her and threatening her. The case was dismissed after three weeks and two hearings.

It disturbs me that a POLICE OFFICER will support a woman beating up her husband because he cheated on her, while the same legal system supports wasting people's time and ruining the lives of men who have done nothing, because a woman is angry that she got caught stealing.

I'm guessing that any man who beats up his wife for cheating will not get the same cheerleaders.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Common Core

A big deal has been made about common core. Florida has adopted them as the standard. I must admit that I knew little about them before I began my teaching job a couple of weeks ago. Teaching biology, here is a listing of my common core benchmarks for the first unit, that is the things my students should be able to do when they pass my course:

 N.1.1: Define a problem based on a specific body of knowledge, for example: biology, chemistry, physics, and earth/space science, and do the following: 
1. Pose questions about the natural world, (Articulate the purpose of the investigation and identify the relevant scientific concepts). 
2. Conduct systematic observations, (Write procedures that are clear and replicable. Identify observables and examine relationships between test (independent) variable and outcome (dependent) variable. Employ appropriate methods for accurate and consistent observations; conduct and record measurements at appropriate levels of precision. Follow safety guidelines).
 3. Examine books and other sources of information to see what is already known, 
4. Review what is known in light of empirical evidence, (Examine whether available empirical evidence can be interpreted in terms of existing knowledge and models, and if not, modify or develop new models). 
5. Plan investigations, (Design and evaluate a scientific investigation). 
6. Use tools to gather, analyze, and interpret data (this includes the use of measurement in metric and other systems, and also the generation and interpretation of graphical representations of data, including data tables and graphs), (Collect data or evidence in an organized way. Properly use instruments, equipment, and materials (e.g., scales, probeware, meter sticks, microscopes, computers) including set-up, calibration, technique, maintenance, and storage). 
7. Pose answers, explanations, or descriptions of events, 
 8. Generate explanations that explicate or describe natural phenomena (inferences), 
9. Use appropriate evidence and reasoning to justify these explanations to others, 
10. Communicate results of scientific investigations, and 
11. Evaluate the merits of the explanations produced by others. 

N.1.3: Recognize that the strength or usefulness of a scientific claim is evaluated through scientific argumentation, which depends on critical and logical thinking, and the active consideration of alternative scientific explanations to explain the data presented. 

N.1.4: Identify sources of information and assess their reliability according to the strict standards of scientific investigation. 

N.1.6: Describe how scientific inferences are drawn from scientific observations and provide examples from the content being studied. Collect data/evidence and use tables/graphs to draw conclusions and make inferences based on patterns or trends in the data. 

N.2.1: Identify what is science, what clearly is not science, and what superficially resembles science (but fails to meet the criteria for science). Science is the systematic and organized inquiry that is derived from observations and experimentation that can be verified or tested by further investigation to explain natural phenomena (e.g. Science is testable, pseudo-science is not science seeks falsifications, pseudo-science seeks confirmations.) 

N.2.2: Identify which questions can be answered through science and which questions are outside the boundaries of scientific investigation, such as questions addressed by other ways of knowing, such as art, philosophy, and religion. Identify scientific questions that can be disproved by experimentation/testing. Recognize that pseudoscience is a claim, belief, or practice which is presented as scientific, but does not adhere to strict standards of science 

N.3.1: Explain that a scientific theory is the culmination of many scientific investigations drawing together all the current evidence concerning a substantial range of phenomena; thus, a scientific theory represents the most powerful explanation scientists have to offer. Explain that a scientific theory is a well-tested hypothesis supported by a preponderance of empirical evidence. 

N.3.4: Recognize that theories do not become laws, nor do laws become theories; theories are well supported explanations and laws are well supported descriptions. Recognize that theories do not become laws, theories explain laws. Recognize that not all scientific laws have accompanying explanatory theories. 

L.14.1: Describe the scientific theory of cells (cell theory) and relate the history of its discovery to the process of science. Describe how continuous investigations and/or new scientific information influenced the development of the cell theory. Recognize the contributions of scientists in the development of the cell theory. 

RST.1.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts, attending to the precise details of explanations or descriptions. 

 RST.1.3 Follow precisely a complex multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks attending to special cases or exceptions defined in the text. 

RST.3.7 Translate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text into visual form (e.g., a table or chart) and translate information expressed visually or mathematically (e.g., in an equation) into words. 

WHST.1.2 Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes. 

WHST.3.9 Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research. 


I just don't see what the big deal is. These are all things that kids finishing a high school science course should know.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Verizon

So I had a Verizon phone. I had served out my two year contract, and wanted a new phone. The company told me that I was not eligible for a new phone. I pointed out to them that if I wanted a new phone, I was free to take my business elsewhere, since my contract had run out. They told me that I could get a new phone, but I would get a new phone number. That's what I did.

Well, six months later, I am contacted by a collection agency, and I am told that there was a balance on the old account. Apparently, the customer service guy didn't shut off the old phone when he opened the new one.

Verizon refuses to remove the resulting collection from my credit report, even though it was their mistake. My credit will bear this negative mark for seven years.

I am sick of companies screwing their customers just because it is legal to do so. That is why I have no problem using the law whenever I can, to screw them right back.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

New York

One of the places that we went while on our road trip was New York City. This was my first time there, and it was interesting. We spent three days there. For now, I want to touch on the attitudes of the people who live there. From my own observations, I can say that New York City residents are of the opinion that the entire world revolves around them, and that the rest of the country is a vast wasteland filled with hicks and people who wished that they could live there.

 For example, while I was there, the discussion turned to 9/11. The opinion that I expressed was that the US response of creating the TSA and all of the laws that followed the event were far out of proportion to what actually happened: To put things in perspective, a few buildings were damaged, and there were fewer people killed in the attacks than are killed in auto accidents each year. In response to this, I have to take off my shoes everywhere I go so that I can be searched, the TSA is performing checkpoints on the highways, the NSA reads all of my emails, every other government agency gets to know what books I read, movies I rent, and everywhere I go via cell phone tracking. To find those responsible, we sent our military on missions that have killed far more than the number we lost that day. We effectively became a police state, and it was for nothing, because a 9/11 attack could never work again for one simple reason: Passengers will never again sit placidly in their seats as a terrorist flies their plane into a building. They WILL fight back.

The response that I got was twofold:
1 "It doesn't matter that the terrorists were outnumbered by 10 or 20 to one. Aircraft are too cramped for effective resistance." Even when it was pointed out that the 44 people aboard flight 77 were able to fight back and foil the terror plot to attack Washington, DC, they would not budge on this one.

2 "You weren't the one who had to walk across the Brooklyn bridge to get home from work." This one surprised me. What this statement boils down to, is that the inconvenience of having to walk home once outweighs the entire nation having to be inconvenienced with the Patriot Act, the TSA, the NSA, and all of the other post 9/11 power grabs. This, more than anything else, showed me how egocentric New Yorkers actually are.

Since I was a guest, I let the conversation die at that point.


Monday, August 4, 2014

Big Brother

New York City. One of the things that struck me was just how much of a police state it is there. It starts with the cameras. There are cameras that take photos of the license plates of every vehicle that enters the city.  Your vehicle's toll transponder is read as you drive the city, even in locations where there is no toll. There are cameras all over the place.



The authorities use the feeds from private cameras, and from police cameras all over the city, to watch over everyone. Cameras on police cars, and mounted on poles all over the city. Thousands of them. This one was on Times Square:



On top of this, there were police EVERYWHERE. When you enter a subway station, there are a couple there. They ride many of the subway cars. They are on the corners, walking the streets, riding in patrol cars, on horseback, and standing at every landmark. You never see them alone. They were always in pairs, and sometimes I saw as many as ten of them in one spot.

The entire security scheme made the atmosphere of the city feel oppressive. I felt watched everywhere I went, and I probably was. 

All of this didn't even manage to stop pranksters from changing the flags on the Brooklyn Bridge. Catching them after the fact does nothing but prove that this security is useless to prevent a suicide style terrorist attack. No, this has nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism. This is entirely about power. Absolute power over the people.

“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.” ― Samuel Adams

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Screw you, says Dodge

To complicate my already hectic week further, my car would not start yesterday. The battery appeared dead, so I took it to the auto parts store to have it checked. They said it was fine, just completely discharged.  I took it home and put it on the charger.

While I was doing this, I found the problem. The Challenger has a feature called "Smart Window" that cracks the window in each door as you grab the door handle. The feature in my car is constantly opening and closing the windows and killing the battery. This is an issue that is common in the Challenger, and Dodge was aware of for a full year before I bought the car. At least one service bulletin was issued on the problem.

The dealer has told me that since my car is 3,000 miles outside of the warranty period, they will not repair it under warranty, even though this is a defect that they knew of when they sold me the car, and did not disclose.

How is this NOT fraud?

The car is not even two years old, and has 39,000 miles on it. It needs tires, brakes, and now needs the door handles replaced because of a manufacturing defect. I have taken it in to be repaired under warranty three times already. The total repairs that are needed at this point are close to $3,000. This is my last, and I mean last, American car. I have never spent so much to keep a new car running.

No wonder you domestic car makers need bailouts, your cars are rubbish. I am going to trade your piece of crap in on a Nissan or Toyota within the next three months. In the meantime, I will have to keep the car in the garage with the windows down.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Hectic

This year has been one of absolute turmoil, and of change. I went on my sabbatical by taking a 6 week, 7,200 mile road trip that took me to  15 states, one territory, four foreign countries, and returned last weekend. When I arrived home, I had a call from a school that wanted to interview me in connection with my newest career change. I had that interview on Wednesday.

They called me Wednesday night at 7 p.m. and offered me a job. The catch? The job started the following morning at 7:30 a.m.. The job was 85 miles away from my house. Students start class in less than a week. In that time, I have to complete new hire training, attend all of the staff meetings, write all of my lesson plans, the syllabus, make all of my teaching aids for at least the first couple of weeks, and attend the new student orientation to meet my new students and their parents. All while trying to relocate to a house 80 miles from my old one. I barely have time for eating and sleeping.

As I am sure that you can understand, blogging has taken a back burner. Even during the road trip, blogging was problematic because I was in an area of backwoods Maine for several weeks, where there were no cell phone towers and, in many cases, the places where I was staying were completely off the grid. No power, no phone, no television, and certainly no internet. There are some interesting stories to tell, and just as soon as I get the time, they will be told.