Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Saturday, November 22, 2014

China and Censorship

In many ways I think the government of China is doing some really good things for it's citizens:
  1. Though draconian in some ways, the one child law stopped an out of control unsustainable population growth rate.  This has helped to increase the size of their middle class.
  2. The government has spent a huge amount on excellent high speed trains and other infrastructure.
  3. Most of the citizens I work with seem just fine with their current form of government, which I assume means they are "not too unhappy" with their lives.
One must remember that just 30 years ago China was very far "behind the times" and today they have pretty well caught up , and working hard to pull ahead. (ie other than that air pollution problem...)  As one of my peers and I noted, China pretty much was technologically stagnant for nearly 50 years as the rest of the world progressed.

 The one thing that I have a hard time dealing with though is their blockage of web sites.  I apologize for not commenting or posting during my trip, however I could not access my blog which is hosted by a group within Google.

And I did not have time to take Jerry's advice to take a river cruise from Shanghai to Chongqing.  That is apparently a 9 day cruise.  It would be beautiful though.  Going from the Chongqing airport to the customer who was somewhat out of town was very scenic.  Chongqing is different from the other Chinese mega cities I have been in because it is built around some small mountains that are heavily covered with forest. (ie kind of like the Appalachians)  Therefore it is rather spread out and has more green space.  And as the last time I was there, they are putting up 30 story apartment/condo buildings everywhere. Thus my pet name for China... "The Land of 1 million Tower Cranes"

It looks something like these pictures I found on line.
Pic 1   Pic 2   Pic 3

And if you have visions of a backward China, check out the nice shack I had to stay at...  It was really roughing it...Hotel Hengda  The worst things about it was that it had 0 English speaking TV channels and I was only there 1 night, therefore I assume most of it's client are usually Chinese as they were during my stay.


Ps. Back to the topic of my post...  Apparently the Chinese government is telling it's citizens that the Hong Kong rallies are being sponsored by us Americans for some reason...  And those folks are likely to believe it because they have been raised on this type of misinformation since birth...

Friday, November 14, 2014

SCOTUS and Gay Marriage

Well for better or worse I leave for Shanghai & Chongqing tomorrow, so I will leave you with one of our favorite topics to discuss.  It has been a hot topic at MinnPost again due to the rural folks kicking DFL politicians out of their districts and with the potential SCOTUS case.

MinnPost How GOP Conquered Rural MN
MinnPost Same Sex Marriage will likely become a Supreme Court case

My simple views and questions are:
  • Rural citizens voted for the amendment to ban same sex marriage.  Soon after, their elected DFL representatives ignored their clear voice and voted for a bill to make it legal.  Of course they were not going to get re-elected and they shouldn't be.  They are elected to represent their district.
  • There is at this time no way to tell if a person is gay or straight, except to ask them. Whereas sex, race, disabilities, age and the other typically protected/constitutional status markers can be determined through records, observation, testing, etc.
  • Since there is no way to tell (yet), there can be no real classification of an LGBT person.  Pragmatically, there are people who live the LGBT lifestyle. I do believe that in time research will identify the factors, however at this time they have not.
  • Now religion is a very specific lifestyle / belief system that does have constitutional protection.  That was a very sensitive topic when the country was formed.
  • It seems to me that the same sex marriage proponents are arguing that all adults have the constitutional right to get legally married, and that it is illegal to keep any adults from getting married just because they live a different lifestyle or have different beliefs.
  • In summary, if adults want to get married the government must sanction those wishes.  Even if the majority of people in their state disagree with that lifestyle or belief system.
Center for Public Justice: Same Sex "Marriage" is not a Civil Right
Gay Marriage ProCon
Slate Same Sex Marriage is a Constitutional Right, Not a Democratic Issue
PEW Forum Constitutional Dimensions
WP Inverted Equal Protections
Gay Marriage Bans in 4 States Upheld

Personally, I think it should be left to the States and their citizens/governments to resolve this issue.  Definitely not to the Federal courts.  Thoughts?  And be polite...

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Give to the MAX

Well folks, Give to the MAX day is upon us again. So pry open those wallets and give deeply to support the causes that you think deserve the help. Yes that means using your money, not someone elses.
Give to the Max Day

Odds are good that I will be supporting PRISM and Seven Dreams as usual.
Seven Dreams Foundation
Banaadir Academy (Laurie's School)

However I am torn about Parents United, I do find their legislative updates useful, and sometimes appreciate their perspective. However they seem to be highly "Education MN" friendly. Meaning they seem to want to raise funding and rarely mention raising accountability or eliminating tenure. So they may get the lump of coal this year, however I'll take some time to read their recent information before making a final decision.
Parents United

Finally, I should give to MinnPost and MPR, since I enjoy the content they provide.

So who else do you think the other readers and I should consider giving to this year and why?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Common Core and Mandated Process

So Jerry says that Common Core mandates how Teachers teach.  Of course, there is no source or proof provided:
"The problem comes in when the zealots start to mandate HOW we must teach these standards. I would wager I can teach addition without that cumbersome, mind-deadening drawing of squares that CC requires. I think teachers are smart enough to figure out how to teach and teach best when given that authority. If a master teacher or principal can evaluate and then guide young teachers into these "best practices" sooner, that's great. If through good student evaluation we identify better best practices, that's continuous improvement, and if those student evaluations help us to concentrate on those who are struggling or even modify our approach to do so, that is exactly what's needed so we have "no child left behind."

It was rather funny, a few days ago, when discussing some of the changes in the math curriculum, a teacher asked me, "what do we do about the tactile learners?" I had always smirked at the notion that there were different kinds of learners until I ran into (and eventually overcame) an extreme example at work, and so I now immediately relate when somebody tells me about children who are similarly hampered by some "one-size-fits-all" instructional technique dictated by some bureaucrat who doesn't understand that kids are not all the same "size." " Jerry
Ed Week Many Ways to Subtract
WP Common Core Math
Edutopia Visual Learning
Hechinger Report Math Problem
Common Core First Grade Math

I am wondering if people are:
  1. identifying real problems with common core
  2. trying to make mountains out of mole hills
  3. showing their personal resistance to change (sonny... it was good enough for me when I had to walk to school uphill...  both ways...)
Personally I am thinking 2 & 3 are the winners.  To me it looks like the Common Core describes what concepts children should know by what year.  The curriculum gives ideas regarding how to accomplish this, however it seems both leave how that is accomplished to the Teachers.


Tenure Turned on It's Head

Beth has a link to a video you need to watch.  It is a fascinating concept.

MinnPost Young Teachers Most Protected


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Minneapolis Teachers / Schools Conundrum

Beth posted an interesting article at MinnPost.  It discusses Sunday's article in the Star Tribune that details how many of the "highest performing / senior teachers" reside in the schools that have have the fewest unlucky students.  Whereas the schools with the most unlucky students tend to get more of the new / poor teachers. It also includes a letter from Supt Bernadeia Johnson to the Teachers...

I left a few comments there, including these:
"The article says:  "School administrators, union and district officials say high-poverty schools often have the least experienced teachers. Those schools generally have the most openings when more experienced teachers move on."

How did you extrapolate this to "Edina teachers are miracle workers and North teachers are vile scum"?

The reality is that seniority allows Teachers to choose where they teach, therefore they move out of the most challenging schools when given the opportunity. And the silly "steps and lanes" comp policies limit the ability of Districts to pay Teachers more to stay in the more challenging schools.

If districts actually had the freedom to pay Teachers on their performance and the difficulty of the position. Good Teachers at North would be paid more no matter how many degrees they had or how many years they had worked in the district." G2A

"Excellent coverage !!! What I found most interesting were the following. I am very curious if they "fired" any tenured teachers or just those in the "probation" status. That "catch them early" seems telling.

"Minneapolis Public Schools fired more than 200 teachers last year over performance issues, more than any other year in recent history."

"District officials would not talk about dismissals at specific campuses.

“We catch them early,” Nordgren said. “We don’t let them go 20 years being ineffective.”" G2A

"How old are your kids and do you speak with parents that have older kids? Some teachers get all praise, some get mixed reviews based on the style of the other parents.

But sometimes there is consensus that a teacher is just disorganized, communicates poorly, can't control the classroom, etc. And then you will wonder why the Union puts that employee's job before the welfare of your kids." G2A

Nascar, MN and Communists

It seems like a good time to retell my friends NASCAR driver story...

"In the 1960's my grand father was eating in a diner in Ohio when a famous NASCAR driver came in.  They started to talk and the driver asked my grand father where he lived.  My grand father replied that he was a citizen of Minnesota.  To which the driver responded, "Oh you live with all them Communists...""

Well we may not all be communists, however we have again shown that a majority of people in the Twin Cities metro support more government involvement in our lives, higher government spending and higher taxes. I say this because Hennepin county alone pretty much ensured Dayton's win over Johnson.  Politico Results Maps: Minnesota

On the upside, the GOP took back the MN House !!!  So hopefully we can slow the tax and spend spree that the DFL led during the last 2 years.

Other thoughts?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Election Crystal Ball

Since I am way too busy enjoying the sun shine, I'll keep this short.  I have no idea what is going to happen on Tuesday.  What do you think will happen in the State and National races?

Will the Liberal voters show up at the polls in this mid-term election?
Will the Conservatives show up and stand the polls on their heads?
Have people just given up and don't care?
Will the GOP control the Senate?
Would it make any difference?

Real Clear Politics 2014
Star Tribune Politics
MPR Politics
MinnPost Politics

Monday, October 27, 2014

MN Politics: DFL Cause and Effect

Sorry for the slow rate of posts, however it is a BEAUTIFUL Fall and being on a PC seems somewhat like a waste of a blessing.  Though the lake water is very very cold...  We pulled the toys off the lake yesterday. (brrrr)

So the commenters at MinnPost are once again praising the marvelous economy and employment that the DFL and Dayton have given us.
MinnPost Big Business

Of course this puzzles me, so I left my usual response.  To which none of them apparently have a response.
""Now you do realize that the Democrats in MN did not do anything in MN until ~16 months ago, and many of the laws / taxes did not take hold until later.

My point that no one knows what the DFL changes will mean for MN. Our current success is still a result of fiscal restraint that occurred before..."

Since large companies take a long time to do anything, I assume the changes motivated by the DFL controlled Governor and Legislature are just coming to or soon will come to light.

My guess the GOP is responsible for the changes until this Spring, and the DFL motivated changes will begin soon. For better or worse.

I mean we have not even seen the impact of the minimum wage change, which is only partly implemented." G2A

CBS Dayton Hockey Ad Reality Check

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Robbinsdale 281 Referendum

RDale Referendum Information

My Views on Question 1
  • Voting YES is a no brainer, it just extends the existing locally supplied operating funds.
  • Without it, our district would need to make extremely painful cuts in 2 years.  This would be really bad for our community.
My Views on Question 2
  • Anyone who maintains their own home network and computers understands that it is not cheap or easy in this ever changing world.
  • In the old days, a school system did not need routers, servers, hubs, antennas, security, computers, etc to be a premier school.  It is not the old days...
  • If you want our community to compete with Wayzata, Minnetonka, Hopkins, etc for excellent citizens, and if you want them to be willing to pay good money for your home at some point, our schools need to be technologically equal or better than them.
  • So a YES vote is a vote to maintain your community and home value, a NO vote is vote to give up and let your neighborhood degrade and your home value drop.
  • I guess Voting YES is a no brainer in this case also.
The unfortunate reality is that much of the housing stock in our communities is not highly desireable in the eyes of modern higher income buyers.  However if we maintain excellent schools, we can attract young middle class families who don't want to spend money commuting in from St Michael, Elk River, Hanover, etc.  To do this we must invest in maintaining modern highly desireable schools and safe communities.

To say... "They are spending too much" is to deny the simple reality that this is a contest and the communities with the best schools / communities win.  Smart responsible parents/citizens simply will not move to and invest in a community where the current citizens are unwilling to do the same!!!  Would you?


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Earth Warming and Resistance Forces

Since I am back in the states, exhausted and the weather is beautiful.

I am going to be a lazy blogger.  Lance wrote this piece that the CAGW folks loved.  However I asked one question and did not get any answers.   MinnPost Earth Warming Faster  Thoughts?
"There is a form of insanity peculiar to humans that comes into play when politics and money are allowed to dominate in discussions in which they have no legitimate place, or only peripheral involvement at most. It is called "magical thinking".

People, most people, are so used to feeding every issue under the sun into the political meat grinder that they think they can do it with physics too, as if the basic laws by which the universe operates can be influenced by opinion polls, PAC money, votes (bought & sold), and postings on comment pages. I blame it on our abysmal educational effort in science and mathematics. People opt out of the "hard" classes, but then proceed to blather about the topics they didn't study.

MODELS: AGW denialists love to attack climate models as being inaccurate. You know what? They are. That's why they're just models, which are by definition imprecise approximations of the real world, using only a subset of all the myriad variables that go into the real world system. They are useful in testing which variables are the most important, thus improving our understanding of the natural system, and over time become more precise as they are adjusted based on new data. But this is all a red herring. We don't need models to know what happens when the Earth is out of energy balance, because we have ample record of what *has actually happened* in the Earth's past when energy imbalance has occurred due to nonhuman forcings. We also have the examples of Venus and Mars, which started out much like the early Earth, but went in radically different directions. The bottom line is that when more energy is coming into the system than is going back out, the world warms, and this has various consequences to the climate system and the biosphere. When warming is extreme or very rapid, the climate system is destabilized and species go extinct. It's all there in the paleo record, you only have to look.

PHYSICS: CO2, methane, and other gases are greenhouse gases. This means when they are present in an atmosphere, they retain heat by preventing it from radiating back into space. There's no good arguing about it, this is a physical fact. Add more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, and more energy is retained in the system. Period, end of story. As I and many others have noted, physics cannot be bargained with, wished away, or voted out of office. It just is, and it had better be accounted for when making decisions. Ask any engineer or astronaut about physics. Leave it out of your calculations and disaster results.

ENERGY: The various forcings impacting the Earth's energy balance can be measured with precision. Pre-industrial civilization, the Earth was more or less in energy balance. Natural forcings would sometimes push the climate toward cooling, and sometimes toward warming, but over time the system would re-balance. Human activity has now pushed the Earth out of energy balance. A NASA study (http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/news/20120130b/) of the Earth's energy balance during the period 2005-2010 - a period of unusually low solar activity - found that reduced solar radiance had a negative forcing of 0.25 watts per square meter of the Earth's surface. If the Earth were in energy balance, that would result in cooling. However, the carbon people are pumping into the atmosphere produces a positive (warming) forcing of 0.58 watts per square meter, more than twice the natural negative forcing (there will never be another ice age as long as humans maintain an industrial civilization). This energy is not being radiated back into space, it is staying in the system. 0.58 watts per square meter. Multiply that times the surface area of the Earth - that's a heck of a lot of energy. In order to restore energy balance, atmospheric CO2 would need to be reduced to no more than 350 ppm. We are now at 400 ppm, give or take a couple of ppm. The last time this happened, horses and camels lived in arctic. Given that we are doing nothing effective to reduce emissions, we will certainly reach 450 ppm. The last time that happened, there was no sheet ice anywhere on the planet, and that means dramatically higher sea levels.

TIPPING POINTS: The issue is not just the CO2 level, that isn't even the most important issue by itself. The real danger is crossing a tipping point after which warming accelerates dramatically and out of any hope of control. In the past, long periods of warming led eventually to the melting of methane hydrates, releasing vast amounts of methane into the atmosphere, which abruptly spiked the temperature. Methane lasts only a short time in the atmosphere, but is oxidized to CO2, which lasts a long time. Temperatures spike, and all the extra CO2 holds in the excess energy. Civilization would end, as quite likely would the human (and all or nearly all other) species. Depending on how things play out, the world could enter a Venus Syndrome phase of unrestrained warming. It's just nothing to play with. In recent years, elevated release of methane has been detected in the arctic. It seems the melting may have already started. We had better hope not, because if it has, we have no hope of stopping it no matter what we do.

BUT NO WARMING?: Nonsense. It just hasn't been where you expected. According to the same study, "the upper ocean has absorbed 71 percent of the excess energy and the Southern Ocean, where there are few Argo floats, has absorbed 12 percent. The abyssal zone of the ocean, between about 3,000 and 6,000 meters (9,800 and 20,000 feet) below the surface, absorbed five percent, while ice absorbed eight percent and land four percent." The energy is there, the ocean has absorbed most of it. The ocean may temporarily be keeping the Piper at bay, but the Piper will be paid in the end.

CONSEQUENCES: Greenhouse gases have risen this high and higher in the distant past, and the Earth has been far warmer than it is now. Life survived. Life did, but not most species. Once major difference between then and now is that pre-humans, these changes happened over periods of thousands and tens of thousands of years. Species had time to adapt if they could. They had time to migrate. Not so, now. We are accomplishing in a couple of centuries what took tens of thousands of years through natural means. The natural world has no time to adapt. We are already in the midst of a 6th Great Extinction, mostly due to human activity. We have also confiscated and farmed or developed vast areas of habitat, and imposed blockades on most migration routes. Adding human induced climate change to the pressures we have already put on the biosphere means that most species will not be able to adapt, with enormous risk of wholesale collapse. If that doesn't scare you, you're not thinking hard enough. That is the chief problem from my point of view, because as much as we might like to think we're separate from nature, or somehow above and in control of it, we are not. We cannot survive without the web of life that supports us, and it is in imminent peril. That doesn't even get to other consequences, such as agricultural disruption (7+ billion people well on our way to 10 billion, and they all want to be fed), sea level rise when the ice melts (how many trillion $ to move our seaports "inland", or try to shelter them with massive seawalls?), acidification of the oceans (attacks the food web from the bottom up), human migrations (if you think immigration is a problem now, wait until the heat is on), and the list goes on.

The part of all this that makes me angry is that the denialists are willing to subject their descendants to all of this, mainly because they don't want to spend any money now to change how we do business, or compromise their lifestyles in any way for the benefit of our posterity, or because they calculate they can cynically use the issue to win elections in the short term. The Koch brothers I understand - they're in it for the money and the power, and they won't be around for the consequences, so what the hell. But why their disciples, who are not rich and powerful and will be victimized by all of this, allow themselves to be used so cynically is something that escapes me. I don't understand how they can care so little for their grandkids and great-grandkids. I can only put it down to gaps in education.

I am reminded that Carl Sagan warned that advanced civilizations may be rare, because they may tend to snuff themselves. With regard to climate, he said "Our intelligence and our technology have given us the power to affect the climate. How will we use this power? Are we willing to tolerate ignorance and complacency in matters that affect the entire human family? Do we value short-term advantages above the welfare of the Earth? Or will we think on longer time scales, with concern for our children and our grandchildren, to understand and protect the complex life-support systems of our planet? The Earth is a tiny and fragile world. It needs to be cherished."

Carl was wise. And we can no longer tolerate ignorance and complacency in such matters." Lance

""Natural forcings would sometimes push the climate toward cooling, and sometimes toward warming, but over time the system would re-balance." So if humans are accelerating the balance in one direction, when and how will nature adjust to push it back? The CAGW folks seem to deny that Mother Nature has self corrected before and will again.

As for Venus and Mars, maybe they are just like the story of the 3 bears. Venus was too close to the sun, and Mars was too far from the sun, whereas Earth was just right..." G2A

Thursday, October 9, 2014

School Cliques: How to be Popular?

I tend to be a practical person who isn't in to style, fads, sports, arts, etc.  And I have never felt a desire to act differently or dress up to impress people.  Therefore I need your assistance.

I got these images from the RDale Demographics presentation.  They definitely show that the demographics of our student population with regard to affluence are changing very quickly.  Now that would not be a problem except that low income is the factor that almost always is directly correlated to poor academic performance, struggling schools, falling property values, higher crime, etc.

Now there are many factors that are driving this change. (housing stock, neighbors, businesses, stores, crime rate, schools, aging community, etc)  For this discussion, let's focus on schools since that is why I typically lose my younger neighbors when their oldest child is ready to go to kindergarten. Remember, I live near 494 & Rockford Rd, so we have newer houses, businesses, safe streets, etc. Yet still they run.

With this in mind, what can our community do to stop my young smart well to do neighbors from selling their homes and running when their children approach school age?  I understand Numbers Guy and R Five's views that the money needs to be spent wisely, however the reality is that we also need to be judged as modern, safe, effective, and have lots of offerings.  How do we become a "Popular District" again and therefore a "Popular Community"?  Are we willing to invest to attain that status?

Robbinsdale Vote YES Org
Robbinsdale Vote YES Facebook

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

District 281: Vote YES Info Mtg

I have been so busy with the work and the MinnPost topics that I have been neglecting my local duties.

District 281 Referendum Info Page
League of Women Voters Info Mtg: 8Oct14 at ESC at 7 PM
Robbinsdale Vote YES Org
Robbinsdale Vote YES Facebook
SUN Letter 1
SUN Letter 2
SUN Decrease in Levy

In case you are curious given my fiscal conservative leanings, I will be voting YES on both questions.  My logic is pretty simple, I believe in funding our communities at the lowest and most efficient level.  So as a resident of the Robbinsdale school district, I believe it is critical to make sure our schools are well funded by us.

And if you need a selfish reason for voting YES.  If our schools are not Good to Excellent, Good to Excellent families with financial means will leave our community.  Which will leave a void to be filled by others who are less particular, which makes it harder to maintain Good to Excellent schools, which degrades our community, which reduces your property value, which reduces your safety, etc.

So remember to Vote YES on both questions !!!  And if you want to make sure it passes for the good of the children, community or your property values.  START VOLUNTEERING NOW !!!  Only ~4 weeks until the vote.

As always, this a blog.
Anybody out there have a reason for voting NO that they want to raise?
Or kinder and less pragmatic/general reasons for voting YES?

As time permits, I will be digging into the details and discussing further.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Americans Want Everything

We were discussing "excessive executive compensation" and if government should interfere in some way.  This got me thinking about all the ways in which us Americans are goofy.  We want so much, and so much of it is not aligned:
  • We want good paying jobs with good benefits
  • We want good deals when shopping
  • We want the freedom to buy what we like.
  • We want investments that earn good returns
Of course this makes no sense, does it?  I mean:
  • if our retirement investments are not returning adequate growth and dividends, we change to a different investment where the returns are better.
  • if not ourselves, we delegate maximizing our gain to the pension managers, the mutual fund house, the financial planner. our company, etc.
  • to fulfill our demand and stay in business, companies need to make more profits than their competitors. (ie raise stock price and afford dividend payouts)
  • to maximize profits, companies need to aggressively control costs while attracting and retaining the best employees they can afford.
  • the vast majority of American customers are not going to pay more for a product or service just because the company chooses to pay their employees more than necessary.
  • the vast majority of American customers want to maximize the value of the transaction for themselves. (ie low cost, high quality, high features, etc)
  • the company is then highly incented to hire employees where their quality and effectiveness is high and cost is low.
  • the investors who are often employees and customers demand high profitability
  • the employees who are often customers and investors demand high wages and benefits
  • the customers who are often investors and employees demand high value and low cost
Let's use GE as an example, I would dare to say that everyone with stock or blended mutual funds in their 401K, IRA, Pension, etc own some of GE.  And we all are customers of GE, whether we know it or not.

With this in mind, are we okay if they start paying their employees more than the market requires?  Remembering that as their costs increase and profits decrease, the growth of our retirement fund slows.

Are we willing to buy their product just because they pay their employees more, even if it came at the expense of less R&D and their product does not keep up with the features, quality, effectiveness, value, etc of a competitor who paid their employees less?

And yes GE is paying their CEO a small fortune, however that is because the Board of Directors thinks that CEO is worth the expense...  I mean most of them are also GE stock holders who want to maximize the return on their investment by attracting and retaining the best employees they can afford.

That said, I do agree that there is too much mutual back scratching and collusion between Board members and Management now days.  Though I am not sure how to control this if the financial houses who own most of the stock in our names don't work to fix it.

So are you willing to buy low value product or accept lower returns on your investments if a companies decides to pay higher wages and benefits than their competitors?