Archive for May, 2009

Florida, the Sunshine State, Needs to Be Changed to Florida, the State of Emergency

I called SwampMan on the way home from work.

“Hey, you gonna come home on time tonight?” As the school year wraps up, SwampMan is busy helping kids finish projects, grading, etc. Sometimes he doesn’t make it home until sevenish.

“Any particular reason why I need to come home on time?” he asked cautiously, as though he were afraid that I was going to announce that I’d decided to change careers, and I needed to practice Brazilian waxing on him. And maybe paint his toenails pink. But only if he was home early.

“All of my books were due on May 20. It is May 22. I’d like to turn them in before the Jacksonville library puts a lien on the house, and I thought you might like to ride along.”

“Yeah, I’ll be home in about half an hour”, he said, relief evident in his voice. “I want to stop by Home Depot anyway so we can get some wire to enclose your damn chickens.”

Great! That gave me just enough time to hide my latest livestock purchases, some newly hatched Aracauna chicks, in plain sight in a brooder. He can’t tell the difference between my mongrel chicks hatching out of the incubator in a rainbow of colors and sizes and the purebred chicks I buy that are of uniform size and color. As a matter of fact, he doesn’t look at ANY of my livestock. He MIGHT notice if I acquired something like ostriches, but only if they pooped on his truck. While squatting on the hood.

So, the nearest library being on the northside, we stopped to drop off books and pay fines, went to Home Depot, found the wire wasn’t where we expected and, in that particular store, was on the opposite side. We looked at each other and simultaneously decided that the wire could wait for another day.

On the way out, I wanted to stop at the Walmart across the street for a bicycle tire, but police were blocking the entrance to the parking lot, and a crowd of people were lined up across the street looking over in Walmart’s direction. They had name tags on, so I suppose they were probably Walmart employees. Guess that bicycle tire could wait for another day, too.

We listened to the news on the way home to find out why the Walmart parking lot entrance was blocked by police with flashing lights. Nothing. We checked the news websites. Nada damn thing. Must be a Homeland Security operation. Maybe Walmart has acquired nuclear weapons in order to ensure that their suppliers keep their prices low.

I DID learn that we are currently in a state of emergency due to flooding, and old farts can get free sandbags in my county. (If you are old enough to qualify for free sandbags, are you going to be strong enough to build a dike?) Anyway, my area of Florida has gotten between 12″ and 18″ since Sunday, with more on the way. Bunnell has received 26.7″ of rain since Sunday (with more falling).

I’m glad that we finally got some rain, but I really would like our rain to be scattered a bit more so that we get an inch or three every week, instead of having all our water delivered in 2 or 3 giant deluges. However, if mother nature insists, we’ll take the water however we can get it.

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LA Times Tells Us Why California Has Budget Problems – It’s The Voters’ Fault!

I’m glad that the LA times has been able to assign fault for the massive budget crisis in California.

Never mind that California politicians have massively increased taxes, driven business out of California by repressive regulation, and have an insane green agenda–it is the voters’ fault for being angry about an insane taxing policy!

Per the LA Times:

Californians are well known for periodic voter revolts, but on Tuesday they did more than just lash out at Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature over the state’s fiscal debacle.

By rejecting five budget measures, Californians also brought into stark relief the fact that they, too, share blame for the political dysfunction that has brought California to the brink of insolvency.

DAMN YOU, California voters! How dare you have a taxpayer revolt? Don’t you understand that that is the STATE’S money that you earn and they want it all back?

Come to think of it, I say “Damn you, California” whenever I have to listen to your political whores representation in Congress. What the HELL were you thinking when you foisted those particular idiots on the rest of the nation?

Well, perhaps the California government will be able to trim the budget by getting rid of some of the politicians’ pet projects? Nah. The politicians’ FIRST priority will be to fire teachers, firemen, and policemen. The voters must be PUNISHED.

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Online Classes for K-12 Will Save Schools Money

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — New research at the University of Florida predicts more public school students in kindergarten through 12th grade will take classes online, have longer school days and more of them in the next decade. Academic performance should improve and schools could save money.

While distance education over the Internet is already widespread at colleges and universities, UF educational technology researchers are offering some of the first hard evidence documenting the potential cost-savings of virtual schooling in K-12 schools.

“Policymakers and educators have proposed expanding learning time in elementary through high school grades as a way to improve students’ academic performance, but online coursework hasn’t been on their radar. This should change as we make school and school district leaders more aware of the potential cost savings that virtual schooling offers,” said Catherine Cavanaugh, associate professor at the University of Florida’s College of Education. “Over the next decade, we expect an explosion in the use of virtual schooling as a seamless synthesis between the traditional classroom and online learning.”

UF researchers considered several key factors to calculate and compare the cost of full-time online learning with regular schools. Cavanaugh reported their findings today at an education reform conference and national podcast sponsored by the Washington D.C.-based Center for American Progress. A monograph of her report will be posted on the center’s Web site at http://www.americanprogress.org/events.

Based on a 2008 survey of 20 virtual schools in 14 states, UF researchers found that the average yearly cost of online learning per full-time pupil was about $4,300. This compared with a national average cost per pupil of more than $9,100 for a traditional public school in 2006 (the most recent year in which such data was available). Their cost estimates covered course development and teaching, and administrative and technical expenses.

“Online programs have little or no cost for instructional facilities, transportation and related staff,” Cavanaugh said. “The value of distance education also increases when considering the broad range of available online courses.”

She said investing in virtual education could allow schools to provide instruction before, during and after school — in essence, lengthening the school day and school year — without sinking millions of dollars into new buildings, additional personnel, professional development and other operating costs. Such school reform measures may not be popular with the kids, but America’s education system is falling behind our competitors abroad. Simply put, students in other developed nations are spending more time in school and learning more than our kids do.

“Time is one of the most valuable resources for learning. Even a few days’ difference in learning time can determine whether a school makes adequate yearly progress,” Cavanaugh said.

In her report, Cavanaugh describes various scenarios whereby school days begin early and end late, with students attending traditional classes on designated weekdays and learning online in a flexibly scheduled computer lab on other days. The longer school day allows time for club and enrichment activities and recreation or athletics for a healthier school experience. The boundaries of time and place are removed through Internet-connected mobile devices such as netbooks and smart phones, letting students access online courses while traveling between home, school, work and athletic events. Most homework is done at school under direct teacher supervision or with after-school online coaching.

With two decades of studies supporting the effectiveness of K-12 virtual schools, researchers are moving beyond the question of whether virtual schooling works as well as face-to-face instruction, focusing instead on when and how distance education works best. Partnerships between school districts and state-run virtual schools — including Florida Virtual School, the nation’s largest virtual school, based in Orlando — are expected to play a major role in the emergence of K-12 distance education.

“Virtual schooling and online learning fit in extremely well with the emerging trend to embrace the same technologies that our young people are using in their everyday lives and apply them in education,” Cavanaugh said. “Schools that don’t embrace online learning soon will be viewed as limiting the learning opportunities of their students.”

The better K-12 online programs, she said, will have experienced online teachers and coaches and on-site facilitators, with tailored lesson plans to suit the learning levels and pace of all students.

“Dr. Cavanaugh’s report provides a vision of what schools could look like in the near future, as online courses and programs are developed that not only expand learning time but help educate students with a wide range of academic and learning needs,” said Susan Lowes, director of research and evaluation at the Institute for Learning Technologies at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Source: University of Florida News

I’ve had some limited experience with the Florida public education online classes. The people that complete them are the self-motivated kids that will do well at anything. The kids that are disruptions in class and that are not completing their work and are assigned to the online classes don’t do them.

It would be a great savings of taxpayer money if schools did not have to be built, remodeled, furnished, and heated/cooled, transportation did not have to be provided, and schools existed as a testing site and for the hands-on portion of various classes. In the event of bad weather, students would resume their studies as their electricity came back on.

I do not see this happening routinely in 20 years if parents still work away from home; after all, kids will still need supervision to make sure that they’re doing their schoolwork and not engaging in burning down the neighbor’s house. “Oh, puhleeze!” you may exclaim, rolling your eyes. “This is not the job of the school but of the parents!” I agree. Government seems to think otherwise because the school’s responsibility for the student has been radically expanded over the years.

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Watering Rules for Heavy Wind and Rain….

We’ve gotten warnings of heavy wind and rain with localized flooding from the local NBC affiliate. Here is what is at the bottom of the story:

Make sure you follow the watering rules — ODD numbered addresses can water Wednesday & Saturday, EVEN numbers water on Thursday & Sunday. All lawns should be watered for only one hour before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.

Yep, I’ll be sure to water my lawn no more than an hour on Thursday and Sunday after I’ve gotten several inches of rain.

Update: We now have new weather information, to wit:

JACKSONVILLE, FL — A flood warning continues in effect for southeast St.Johns and Flagler counties until 6:15 am Tuesday. Rainfall amounts over 7″ have now been reported. Also the hurricane center is now planing (sic) to check out the sub-tropical low over the Bahamas on Tuesday . Gale force gusts are now impacting the beaches. Gusts near 50 mph will be possible through Wednesday. This is strong enough to begin to cause power outages.

This major nor’easter is the combination of a strong high building in from the north and a sub-tropical type low developing over the Bahamas that the NHC is planning to check out.

Winds will increase with gusts to 50 mph over local waters and at the beaches Tuesday. Seas will build to over 14 feet. This combination will push tide levels above normal along the St. Johns . As the heavy rains spread inland on Tuesday and Wednesday we could start to see flooding in poor drainage areas in urban Jax . Beach erosion will be significant.

Of course, the last paragraph still gives the warning about watering restrictions because they just KNOW that people are going to want to sneaky add another 1″ of water to their lawn when the lawn is underwater so nobody will see them cheating.

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Can We Call It a Pandemic Yet?

KOBE — Japan’s number of confirmed swine flu cases soared to 93 at the weekend, officials said late Sunday, amid fears hundreds more are already infected in the country’s crowded cities.

Most of the infections were reported among high school and college students in and around the western cities of Kobe and Osaka, where authorities ordered more than 1,000 schools and kindergartens to stay shut on Monday.

The island nation until Friday thought it had kept the virus at bay, after detecting four people who tested positive when they flew in from North America and immediately quarantining them along with about 50 fellow passengers.

But since the government Saturday confirmed the first domestic case, a 17-year-old male Kobe student who had not been overseas, the number of confirmed infections has risen quickly in the two urban areas.

Late Sunday officials in Hyogo prefecture, which includes Kobe, told AFP 53 cases had been confirmed, while Osaka prefecture reported 36, raising the national toll to 93, including the four overseas infections.

Masato Tashiro, the chief flu researcher at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, said several hundred people in Japan may already be infected, the Kyodo news agency reported.

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U.S. Temperature Record Very Unreliable

From SurfaceStations.org:

The official record of temperatures in the continental United States comes from a network of 1,221 climate-monitoring stations overseen by the National Weather Service, a department of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Until now,
no one had ever conducted a comprehensive review of the quality of the measurement environment of those stations.

During the past few years I recruited a team of more than 650 volunteers to visually inspect and photographically document more than 860 of these temperature stations. We were shocked by what we found.

We found stations located next to the exhaust fans of air conditioning units, surrounded by asphalt parking lots and roads, on blistering-hot rooftops, and near sidewalks and buildings that absorb and radiate heat.

We found 68 stations located at wastewater treatment plants, where the process of waste digestion causes temperatures to be higher than in surrounding areas.

In fact, we found that 89 percent of the stations – nearly 9 of every 10 – fail to meet the National Weather Service’s own siting requirements that stations must be 30 meters (about 100 feet) or more away from an artificial heating or radiating/ reflecting heat source.

In other words, 9 of every 10 stations are likely reporting higher or rising temperatures because they are badly sited.

It gets worse. We observed that changes in the technology of temperature stations over time also has caused them to report a false warming trend.  We found major gaps in the data record that were filled in with data from nearby sites, a practice that propagates and compounds errors. We found that adjustments to the data by both NOAA and another government agency, NASA, cause recent temperatures to look even higher.

The conclusion is inescapable: The U.S. temperature record is unreliable.

The errors in the record exceed by a wide margin the purported rise in temperature of 0.7º C (about 1.2º F) during the twentieth century. Consequently, this record should not be cited as evidence of any trend in temperature that may have occurred across the U.S. during the past century. Since the U.S. record is thought to be “the best in the world,” it follows that the global database is likely similarly compromised and unreliable.

 

As they say, read the whole thing, then take a look at the pictures of the stations that are taking the official temperatures that are later adjusted upwards.

Everybody that gardens knows that when the “official” temperature comes from the city or airport, the “real” low temperature outside the city (or airport) is going to be lower, and the “real” high temperature is going to be lower as well, sometimes by as much as 5 degrees! While it doesn’t sound like much, it makes a helluva lot of difference to the survival of a garden and delicate plants!

Should I be therefore be shocked to find that the temperatures that have already been biased towards warmth are additionally “adjusted” to give even higher temperatures as “proof” that global warming exists? Or should I use it as additional confirmation that government organizations that are pushing global warming and carbon limits are lying to me?

H/T Fresh Bilge

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We Have Too Many Customers, So We’re Getting Rid of Some….

At least that’s what GM and Chrysler seem to be saying. After all, the dealerships are independent businesses that cost them nothing and buy vehicles from them. The dealerships are GM and Chrysler’s customers.

If they’re cutting dealerships in order to “increase the profits” of remaining dealers, sounds like what they really mean is “We’re cutting the amount of competition; therefore, consumers can expect their prices to go up and to like it”. Besides, customers would really rather go out of their geographic location in order to shop at a mega dealership.

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