Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Why Neighborhoods Decline?

We have a chicken or egg discussion going on at multiple locations, so I thought I would post some links and move the G2A discussion to this post.

Speed Gibson Full Steam Ahead
Speed Gibson Does Open Enrollment Work?
G2A Blame vs Contributions
G2A's View
"I don't think I have ever heard of someone open enrolling or moving because of a bad curriculum, bad building or poor Teacher."

J's View
"Of course not, because most of the other problems, the "social problems" and their side-effects, are secondary problems caused by the failure of schools to focus on education."
To add to my view, the older and smaller housing available in these neighborhoods also contributes to the flight to the suburbs.

What do you think? Did poor schools cause the Urban decay or did the Urban decay cause poor results in Urban schools?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays !!!!

I have to agree with J that it is time for family and the celebration of whatever holiday you and yours celebrate at this time of year.  And if you do not have one, check out the links below for some ideas.

Holiday Insights
December Holidays
Education World - December

And for some fun, here are some morse amusing links.

Funny Pics Holiday
Cartoon File Holiday
Glasbergen Holiday
Whipnet Christmas

Merry Christmas !!!  Happy Hanukkah !!!
Joyous Time Off !!!  or Enjoyable "fill in the blank" !!!

John and Family

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Blame vs Contributions

Since I got a sense that some thought we were picking on the Teachers excessively, I want to talk about another favorite book of mine. Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most (Stone, D., Patton, B., & Heen, S., 1999)  Thankfully some folks wrote up summaries that I have linked to below.
Peace: Difficult Conversations Summary
Frumi: Difficult Conversations Summary

This is another incredible book if you want to work productively with people that see the world differently than you do.  The area of interest for me today is the concept of "Contribution Systems".  I have found this to be one of the simplest and most profound concepts.  Before learning this I may have "blamed" someone or some group for some unfortunate turn of events, and from my viewpoint it was usually pretty clear who was at fault and it typically was not me.

Now when something goes wrong, I take a little time to think about all the factors and people that may have contributed to the event, and often I do carry some of the burden of responsibility.  Finally, if it is important I can then attempt to apportion the blame/responsibility amongst the factors/parties.  Now I usually do not do this so that I can club someone, though sometimes it may be useful when negotiating a settlement.

I typically apportion the responsibility to the factors and people so that I can learn from the incident.  With this information I can change a policy, train someone, give directions differently, add some checks to my list, fix a flaw, etc, etc, etc.  The truly bad mistake is one that people do not learn from, and are therefore doomed to repeat over and over.

Now if we were to create a list of contributing factors with regard to why "so many children are left behind?"  What would you add to this starting list I have created?

  • Irresponsible, yet they have children
  • Do drugs, alcohol, smoking, etc. (ie harm child)
  • Have more children than they can afford
  • Poor parenting due to laziness or ignorance
  • Propogating victim / entitlement mind set
  • Can't speak English  (Laurie)
  • Parents are illiterate (Laurie)
  • Working 2 or more jobs (Laurie)
  • Single parent household (Laurie)
  • Belief systems, behaviors and actions not aligned with "typical American culture"
  • ???
  • Choose to behave poorly or resist learning
  • Child is academically or behaviorally challenged for physical, mental or emotional reasons
  • ???
Public K-12 Teacher / Union System
  • Protect the time served and education based comp system
  • Resist firing of poor performers
  • Resist standardized curriculum
  • Resist competition / limiting options and availability
  • ???
Public K-12 Administration
  • Protect the time served and education based comp system
  • Resist firing of poor performers
  • Resist accountability measures
  • Resist competition / limiting options and availability
  • ???
Charter and Private K-12 Administration

  •  Fiscal and Result Reporting scandals that damage reputation
  • Cherry picking good determined students and leaving the others for the public schools to deal with
Belief Systems/Philosophy (may apply across categories)
  • Soft bigotry of low expectations, expected to fail (JE)
  • That universal public education is a public good AND entitlement. (JE)
  • That education can not be run as a business. (JE)
  • Belief that the Public School model is the only viable model. (JE)
  • Education is entitlement and social service (JE / NG)
  • ???
State Policies and Laws
  • Inadequate funding
  • Too many regulations
  • Inadequate early childhood education
  • ~9 mth school year (ie Summers off) 
  • Inadequate parent training
  • Inadequate health care
  • Inadequate social and nutritional systems
  • Limit competition
  • Too much or little accountability focus
  • ???
National Policies and Laws
  • Inadequate funding
  • Too many regulations
  • Too much or little testing and measuring
  • ???
American Culture
  • Too socialist - coddling lazy people
  • Too capitalistic - coddling rich people
  • Values Football more than Education
  • Self centered with little thought of others
  • Too few volunteers to help the unlucky kids
  • Rich and Middle Class parents run from Poor neighborhoods and kids. Leaving high density neighborhoods of poor and unlucky students. (ie less funds, fewer volunteers, fewer good role models, more problems, etc)
  • ???
Other Countries/Parties
  • Foreign infiltration plot (JE)
  • ???
Now this one I am going to do a little different. When you give me ideas I will add them to the list, so start brain storming...  Additional sub-headings are also welcome.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Whose Children have been Left Behind?

One of my Facebook Friends posted regarding the blog post linked below.  The thoughts we discussed in Liar Liar seem very related.  Here we have a woman that claims to have been a Conservative expert and ardent NCLB supporter claiming that she has seen the evil of her ways and switched sides.

So in this article she in essence says that Charters, Privatization, Testing, Incentive Pay, etc are NOT WORKING, and that we should focus on what seems to me as the typical Liberal / Public School agenda.  She references many facts and makes a convincing case.

Being an ardent NCLB supporter, of course I disagree with her.  If we don't have active system monitoring that drives system adjustments, we have no idea where we are relative to the goal and no way to correct the system.  It would be like a furnace without a thermostat, which makes no sense.

Now I do agree that NCLB does need some tweaks. Below are some links from our previous discussions on the topic. Some of her improvement points definitely make sense, like more early education and hire/keep only highly qualified Teachers.  Though I am sure we would disagree regarding what a qualified Teacher is...  She seems to like years and degrees... (ie pro-Union?)  And I am not sure how she would implement and pay for her ideas. 

It seems she believes that if we give the Educational and Social Services groups more money, they'll take care of the problem.  Which I find funny since we tried that for decades before NCLB, and the result was a huge gap and a burning platform that allowed NCLB to get passed. (Note: NCLB was a Ted Kennedy bill (ie Liberal), Bush just signed it... She forgot to mention that.) 

So what do you think, was she ever "Conservative"?  Is she trying to manipulate the information and us?  If so, what is her intent/motive?  What are your thoughts regarding the article and the topic?

Whose Children have been Left Behind?
by Diane Ravitch on Parents Across America
Parents Across America

G2A No More NCLB?
G2A AYP  Pick your corner
G2A AYP - The Top 10 List
G2A Sir, The Class is to Hard
G2A High Stds Reqd
G2A Dead Beat Parents
G2A Teaching to Test?

Diane's Top 12
  1. Every pregnant woman should have good pre-natal care and nutrition so that her child is born healthy. One of three children born to women who do not get good prenatal care will have disabilities that are preventable. That will cost society far more than providing these women with prenatal care.
  2. Every child should have the medical attention and nutrition that they need to grow up healthy.
  3. Every child should have high-quality early childhood education.
  4. Every school should have experienced teachers who are prepared to help all children learn.
  5. Every teacher should have at least a masters degree.
  6. Every principal should be a master teacher, not a recruit from industry, the military, or the sports world.
  7. Every superintendent should be an experienced educator who understand teaching and learning and the needs of children.
  8. Every school should have a health clinic.
  9. Schools should collaborate with parents, the local community, civic leaders, and local business leaders to support the needs of children.
  10. Every school should have a full and balanced curriculum, with the arts, sciences, history, civics, geography, mathematics, foreign languages, and physical education.
  11. Every child should have time and space to play.
  12. We must stop investing in testing, accountability, and consultants and start investing in children.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Liar Liar Pants on Fire

I know there must be something more important to discuss out there, but this concept still fascinates me to no end.  Here is one of J's quotes from the last post.
"If you're getting your news from CNN you have no idea whatsoever what those who get their news from Fox know, because you will never hear it. Most studies find exactly the opposite, in fact. Remember, people CHOOSE their sources for news, and they do so intelligently, contrary to liberal belief. Lying to them or slanting the truth loses you audience. Compare Fox News and CNN and you will see it, plain as day."
Now what do you think, is there really a huge conspiracy out there where the Liberals, Conservatives, Whole Organizations, etc are actually working to twist FACTS and state LIES?  Or do they truly believe what they are writing, saying, etc is the TRUTH / FACTS?

If you answer twisting and lying, who do you think is the biggest LIAR LIAR PANTS ON FIRE and why?

The reason it fascinates me is because it comes down to intent.  Are they really evil tyrannical manipulators or honest well intentioned engaged citizens, news people, politicians, etc?  That is a pretty big difference that seems very important to me.

As you are aware, I like to peruse all types of information sources so that I can understand the play from the perspective of all seats in the theater. Be it from the Left, Middle, Right or some other country. Overall I think most folks are being honest based on their perspective of reality, and I find it amusing when folks call these fellow citizens liars. 

Finally, what important sources did I miss below?

G2A Snopes and Relativity
Blind Spots
FOX News
Aljazheera (English)
BBC News
Huffington Post
EIB network
The Nation

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Republican Candidates Weak?

After browsing these 2 links, I am wondering how the Conservatives will ever find a great candidate?  It seems many of them are seeking a Far Right pious Christian who has not sinned.  Which is unlikely since sin and humanity tend to go together.  And I am thinking that even Jesus was more of a moderate on social issues.

My Mom and Dad were at the debates last night, so I will need to get the inside scoop later.  Of course Mr Carville would not think much Mom's choice of radio stations. (see below)

Questions of the day:
  • Who do you think should be the Republican nominee and why?
  • Is the current candidate pool weak?
  • If so..   Why?  How can they improve this?
Since I will likely vote for the Republican candidate, I hope the party works toward offering a better option than they did in 2008.  I liked McCain except for his advanced years, but had no faith in Palin.  And yes I voted for them anyway given the Socialism advancing alternative.

CNN Carville
CNN Belief Gingrich
""We have watched GOP debates where audience members booed gay soldiers and cheered the prospect of someone dying without health insurance. We've seen a candidate who wasn't penalized in the least for not knowing that China has had nuclear weapons since 1964 but had to drop out because of a consensual sexual relationship. We have seen a member of the House Intelligence Committee who apparently didn't realize that we haven't had an embassy in Iran for the last 30 years, candidates who don't believe in evolution, and a candidate that didn't even know the voting age in the United States. Maybe Bush, Daniels, Christie, Barbour and Thune figured out ahead of time what Fairleigh Dickinson University uncovered just recently: that people who watch Fox News are actually more ignorant than people who watch no news at all. Could you imagine what they would have found had they studied people listening to talk radio?
Perhaps the Republicans are getting exactly the kind of candidates that best match the intellectual composition of the majority of the people in their party -- just a thought, but it's my only explanation of our low bidders. Looks like their chance at the presidency is going, going, gone."

Thursday, December 8, 2011


You have just got to check out the video of the school board meeting where they approved moving forward with the STE(A)M school.  The presenter (Lori Simon) gave the recommendation and asked for questions.  At which time our Board members asked the HARD questions...  NOT !!! 

Their questions were simply verbal leaders that allowed Lori to pump up the sales pitch.  Then Gayle and Aldo got into the act, the Board Members started posturing, and the rest is history.

Now I don't get frustrated/angry too often with the Board, but this has got to be one of the most bone headed things the district has done since I have been watching these district politics.  The district community schools have many challenges, and here we go "de-worsifying" and losing focus.  What are they thinking?

Let's see...
  • demographics are shifting in the wrong direction in our neighborhood schools
  • so we set up another "escape pod" to drain off more of their engaged parents/students
  • closing the "gap" is supposed to be critical, and here are dropping those kids again
  • the district staff is tight, so we start them working to set up a new school, with new curriculum
  • we are tight on money so we open another school which means another school staff
  • an 8 yr payback, who would make that investment other than a gov't entity
  • etc, etc, etc...
I will give Helen credit for at least asking some more interesting questions.  And Tom asked a little about the budget and payback at the end.

I sure hope these folks know more than I do.  By the way, being an Engineer I totally support the STEM curriculum concept, so let's upgrade the community schools... Not set up one more odd duck to maintain. Thoughts?

Agenda with links to supporting docs
Dec 5th Meeting Video
Comm Solutions STEAM
STEM School Blog
STEAM site

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

MN Surplus $876 Million - Now What?

Being anti-debt, I am hoping they pay back the school shift and any other piggy banks they raided before they start raising spending or cutting taxes again...  Thoughts?

Independent Good News for Schools
MPR Surplus
KARE11 Surplus
Washington Post Surplus
MN Politics Good news

Friday, December 2, 2011

RAS Truth In Taxation

Since there seems to be some passion here, let's take a look at these documents.  And remember the meeting is on Monday, Dec 5th if you are interested in sharing your opinions with the Board.

One of my concerns right now is a rumor I have heard that there may be cuts in the budgets of Middle School after school activities.  It seems unwise to me since there seem to be a lot of reasons to ensure these activities stay in place. (ie build students tie to school, bored kids create issues, learning opportunity, prep for High School activities, etc)  Also, I have not found it written down anywhere...  Anyone know if this has been proposed or not?

A lot of information and data linked below.  Thoughts? 

RAS Truth in Taxation Presentation
RAS Truth in Taxation Agenda
RAS Truth in Taxation Worksheet

RAS Recommended Budget Adjustments
RAS Spreadsheet  on 2012/13 Expenses

RAS 2011/12 Budget
RAS 2011/12 Budget Presentation
RAS Audit Summary
RAS Accountability in Finance Pg
RAS Financial Advisory Council Pg

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Question from NumbersGuy

Since this got buried in the past, I thought I would resuscitate it.  See quote below.

As I said previously, I think they should keep it in house for at least the short term if they can compete.  If not, it should probably be contracted out ASAP.  Though I would prefer it be part of a bigger improvement where they sold off the ESC and Bus Garage facilities.  That is a lot of Capital/Overhead that could probably used more effectively.  (maybe New Hope wants a Walmart since Plymouth is dragging their feet...)

Of course, "compete" has to include both the Quantitative and Qualitative aspects. (ie not just the money)  So Numbers, what are other criteria at stake other than the $600K?
"NumbersGuy said...

Any thoughts on the bus transportation issue in RAS??

Does anyone think it is worth an extra $600,000 per year for in-house bus transportation or should that money be used in the classroom/touching the student to help get better performance and learning? "
Sun Sailor Disservice
Sun Sailor Middle School Format 
Sun Sailor Bus Drivers Plead case
G2A RAS 14Nov11 Work Session
G2A Full STE(A)M Ahead

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Could I be Mistaken?

I am taking some time to revisit my number 1 & 2 books. G2A Booklist  They do an excellent job of helping the reader to understand the challenges we all face when we strive to be self aware.  And how hard it is to challenge our own beliefs, especially when discussing a topic we feel strongly about.

An important first step is as follows.

“Have you ever been in a conflict with someone who thought he was wrong. If you are not wrong, then you will be willing to consider how you might be mistaken.”
― Arbinger Institute, The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict

Good Reads Arbinger Quotes
Arbinger Site

I thought this was a worthwhile note because it seems we all continually fall into our historical position instead of even considering the other possible shades of gray.  Then again, maybe each of us knows better than everyone else...  To believe that would be normal.
Interesting how us humans can believe so differently and yet we insist adamantly that our truth is the only correct truth.  I guess that must mean we are incredibly smart and everyone else must be stupid...
So my challenge to all: try being willing to look for how you may be mistaken...  It can provide for an excellent experience.

Per J's comment, here is more of the quote:
"“Okay, first of all,” Lou began, “I asked whether it makes any difference in a conflict if one side is in the right and the other in the wrong. So I ask again: doesn’t that matter?”
“Yes,” Yusuf replied, “it does matter. But not in the way you think it does.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”

“Well, Lou,” Yusuf responded measuredly, “have you ever been in a conflict with someone who thought he was wrong?”
Lou thought of Cory and the boardroom meeting with his five mutinous executives.
“No,” he answered coolly. “But that doesn’t mean they’re not.”

“True,” Yusuf agreed. “But you see, no conflict can be solved so long as all parties are convinced they are right. Solution is possible only when at least one party begins to consider how he might be wrong.”
“But what if I’m not wrong!” Lou blurted.
“If you are not wrong, then you will be willing to consider how you might be mistaken.”
“What kind of twisted riddle is that?”
Yusuf smiled. “It only seems like a riddle, Lou, because we are so unaccustomed to considering the impact of what is below our words, actions, and our thoughts.”" 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Higher Tax Rates Are Good?

Les Wes asked an interesting question when I posted a link to the historical tax rates while commenting on the Patriotic Millionaires post over at MN Publius.  "G2A, I realize the rate was officially 90%. What I'm asking is if any individuals ever ACTUALLY paid 90% of their income?"
Almost Classical: 90% Tax Rate
MN Publius Patriotic Millionaires

He pointed me to the Almost Classical post to help me understand his question better.  And my initial answer was as follows:
"Just one quick note from the link. "The reality? On earned income, the richest U.S. taxpayers paid close to 40 percent of their earned incomes in taxes in 1944." It looks like the author jumped back to effective tax rate for this statement...

The rich could have paid a marginal rate of 94% on income above "top rate started at $200,000, which today is equal to $2,413,059.90 ", and still had a ~40% effective rate. (ie $2.4 @ 35% & $.22 @94%) Just a thought. I'll review further...

One more note: those right offs likely included a lot of charitable giving and other spending that help keep the economy churning. Not a lot of sense re-investing if you'll only have 4% to invest after paying 94% to Uncle Sam."
Now I have not done anymore research on the topic, however I would like to get the feedback from my readers.  Since it seems to relate to the discussion we were having on G2A $1.2 Trillion.  I am thinking that Les Wes has a point, a 90% top marginal rate would definitely promote certain behaviors.  Wealthy investors may be highly motivated to:
  • avoid dividend paying stocks
  • give deeply to charities
  • buy capital goods that could be depreciated
  • spend on expenses that can be written off
  • avoid short term investments (ie regular income)
  • other
Here is the latest from MN Publius on the topic.
MN Publius 76% Optimum Tax Rate

Maybe this is why the Rockefeller's, Carnegie's, Getty's and their peers were so charitable.  I mean 90% to the government, or 100% to your preferred charity and your name on a building.  Seems like a simple choice.

And how can invest and hold be a bad thing...  It seems it would drive people and companies to make better choices.

Thoughts?   Happy Thanksgiving !!!!!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

$1.2 Trillion in 6 Days

So what do you think will happen here?

Who do you think is being rational and why?

Who do you think is being irrational and why?

Other thoughts?

Of course, I am for significant cuts and tax increases.  I wish they were going for a lot more than the $1.2 Trillion.  So I think both the Left and Right are being a bit irrational...  The National Debt has apparently exceeded $15,000,000,000,000 !!!  I think I got all those zeros right.  Just servicing it at 4% is be $600,000,000,000/yr !!!  Cut up those credit cards people !!!

CNN Deficit talks to Blame Game
FOX News $15 Trillion and Counting
FOX News Taxes,Benefits stall committee
Huffington Post Move to Somalia
PBS News Hour Stymied
MinnPost Found Middle?

Monday, November 14, 2011

RAS: Full STE(A)M Ahead?

Well, the work session looks like it will have something for everyone tonight.
  • Budget Adjustments, 2012/13 Expenses
  • Transportation Survey
  • Middle School Schedule Changes
  • STE(A)M discussions
So what are your thoughts:
  • Should we cut deeper?  If so, where?
  • Should we outsource the transportation? Why?  Why Not?
  • Does changing schedules really make sense? Why? Why Not?
  • Do we really want another Magnet in RAS? Why? Why Not?
RAS Board Work Session Agenda Packet

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Kelli's Hope for Children

My bright, beautiful and creative 8th grade daughter was recently recognized at the New Hope Mayor's Prayer breakfast and at last night's RAS Board meeting for a recent art project that she entered into a contest.  The topic was "Hope for Children".  She has agreed that I can share it with you.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What percent are you?

Here we go again.  A co-worker just showed me this cool calculator...

Wall Street Journal Calculator

Here is their data graphed.  Similar to the Hennepin County data, but different.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Abortion and Conservatives

Here we go again, some religious right group is trying to take another swing at it.  And in my opinion it is hard to argue against the premise that would "define life as beginning at the moment of conception".
CNN Mississippi Amendment

The problem I still have is that the Conservatives seem to want to take responsibility for the life of the unborn fetus. (ie force it's birth)  Yet when that unwanted child is born, abused, impoverished or neglected, they seem to run for the hills.  Worse yet they take their wallets with them.

I was having a discussion with a Conservative that was so happy that the Republicans were making headway in cutting the funding for Planned Parenthood.  However when I asked about additional funding for Early Childhood Education Funding, Parent Education Funding and other things that could help these kids, they in essence said that that was the Parent's responsibility...
Life Romney

Now let me repeat this again to help you see the hypocrisy:
  • The Conservative says that I am responsible to make sure your child gets born and will use the Government to do it, since you the Parent are incapable of making the Right decision.
  • The Conservative says that once the child is born I bear no responsibility for the life and well being of that child, and that the Government has to stay out of it because it is the Parent's job and they know best.
Now I whole heartedly agree that Men/Women or Boys/Girls should be capable of abstinence or contraception.  And if they screw up and conceive a child, they should be responsible for their actions.  But I am sure not smart enough to decide if abortion or neglect/abuse/poverty is the better of 2 bad alternatives.

Now if the Conservatives were Pro-Life before and after birth, I would probably have more in common with them.  But the bullets above are so inconsistent that I wonder how they sleep at night.  Then again we humans do have an amazing ability to rationalize our flawed logic.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What is a Good Net Worth?

So if incomes are somewhat taboo.  How about thoughts regarding this net worth data?

As a reminder, the median is the point where half the families are above and half below.

The median is where you add up all the net worths, and then divide by the number of families.  These mean values are higher than the median values because the distribution is not normal.  It is skewed to the right by the minority of families that have very high net worths.

The scariest thing I see in this data is that median net worths are very low for the baby boomers that are likely thinking to retire.  For their sake I hope Social Security will stay solvent, otherwise they will likely be working until their final days.

Beware these calculators and use at your own risk.  They may cause you to become despondent...
CNN Retirement Planner
AARP Retirement Calculator

Census Table

Sunday, October 30, 2011

What is Middle Class?

I am thinking that we need some common definitions to help us have better discussions.  I did some research for Hennepin county and found the following demographics regarding household incomes.  My peers and I often begin to think that we are normal, since we are almost all in the same situation. (ie 1 or 2 incomes, college educated technical professionals)  Therefore we kind of forget that we are average for the upper 25th percentile (ie orange) and certainly not normal for the total population. (and many in the top 4%)

With these $100+K incomes in mind it is easy to say, "why isn't everyone saving more???"  Whereas if they had half that income, they may sing a different tune.  And with 25% of it they would certainly become more empathetic.

When my friends and colleagues start expressing that they are middle class, I start pointing out all of the adults that serve them at stores, restaurants, gas stations, etc in an attempt to help them appreciate their current status and income.  Though I accept it is hard to feel well to do while trying to "keep up with the Jones's".  Maybe they need to find some new "Jones's" to compare themselves with.  This would likely breed more gratitude and less jealousy.

So do these numbers make sense to you?  What is your definition of middle class?  How can that lower 25th percentile breakout?  Thoughts?

City Data Hennepin County (source of graph above)
Census Quickfacts Hennepin County
Hennepin County Fact Sheet 2006

The pdf below is a bit dated, but it has some great info.
Hennepin County Demographics

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Rich Get Richer

Just think, I found this on  So much for them being biased...

Of course this seems somewhat like common sense, since assets/investments typically compound in value.  This is why we save and invest.

Fox News Rich Outpace Middle Class

WonkBlog CBO Income Inequality

NY Times Top Earners Doubled

CBO Study Links

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Conservatives Hate the Environment?

I recently heard that someone had said "all Conservatives hate the environment".

Then I spoke with several friends that had just gotten back from China.  All of them said that the air pollution was awful.

So it seems to me that though China is supposedly Communist, they seem to embrace the Conservative belief that little or no regulations is the way to go.  I mean we want growth, right?  I mean people will make the right decisions, right?  And we want low cost solutions, right?


Facts and Details: China Environment
Google Photos

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Women Driving USA to Socialism?

Well, I am visiting my incredibly Conservative parents.  I  told them a little about Would Shoulda Coulda.  In particular, I discussed the hypothesis that our society's choice to give "Women the Right to Vote" could have led to more Liberal results over the past ~90 yrs.

My rationale is totally based on stereotypes and wild assumptions.  So take this with a few grains of salt...  Very simply, sometimes women tend to be more community based and nurturing than men.  There are exceptions and this may be changing, however historically this seems to have been the case.

Of course I was met with shocked disbelief...  I am used to that...  Thank God they Love me anyway...

So what do you think of this crazy hypothesis.  Possible or not?  Rationale?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

People Unite !!!

I can almost here the Wall Street and Conservative crowd saying "Let them eat cake"...

So is this the rebellion the Liberals have been talking about or just another passing fad?

Do you think the cell phones of the protesters say Motorola or LG/Samsung?

What about their cars?  GM/Ford or Toyota/Honda?

How would us established citizens feel if our portfolios were cut in half because Wall Street stopped worrying about corporate profits?


HP: Occupy Wall Street
CBS: Occupy Wall Street
CNN: Occupy Wall Street
TC Daily Planet: Occupy Movement in Mpls
Minnpost: Occupy Wall Street

Friday, October 7, 2011

Peace Activists Confuse Me

As I drove past the corner of Rockford Rd and Winnetka last night, I saw some folks out holding up various signs. (ie PEACE, GET OUT OF AFGANISTAN, etc)  This along with all the news and commentary of late (see example below) got me thinking...
  • Would getting out of Afganistan really serve the cause of PEACE? 
  • Or would it serve the cause of VIOLENCE?
I can think of many reasons for getting out of Afganistan, some include:
  • Stop the wounding and death of American soldiers
  • Stop the excessive spending of American tax dollars
  • Butt out of a foreign nation's internal strife
  • They've been fighting forever, unlikely to change anytime soon
However I can also see potential negative consequences, some include:
  • Women's rights in Afganistan disappear again.
  • Tribal killing increases again.
  • Drug production and terrorist training proliferate again.
So I am unsure what we should do? 

As a test of the Peace protester's beliefs, I think we should remove all Policeman from the Minneapolis streets for 6 mths.  I would be interested to see if the city would be more or less peaceful after the 6 months.  Of course, Mexico may give us some indicators of what may happen.  (Mexico)

I am thinking that pulling the troops out of Afganistan may be the right thing to do for America, but I am not naive enough to think that it will enable peace in Afganistan.

CNN Afganistan

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

No Taxes No Vote !!!

A friend of mine asked me to propose this to you folks, just to see what kind of comments this would generate.  To give you some background, he is pretty conservative however he has someone close to him that is on the "public dole". (ie got a refund for more than they paid in...)  The rationale is pretty straight forward, if you are not smart or driven enough to earn a modest taxable income, should you really help guide the country with your vote?

Though it is probably illegal for some reason, do you think people should lose the right to vote if they do not pay Federal Income Taxes for a period of time?

An analogy that comes to me is my local PTA, I do not get to vote on how the funds are spent if I do not pay dues...  Even though my child attends the school and I contribute to the fund raisers.  Should the USA be any different?  If so, why?  If not, why?  Thoughts?

A different topic...  Cupboards and countertops are installed...  Everything looks great !!!  All I have left to do is to blow more insulation into the attic where I shoveled it off when installing the recessed lights...  Though I'll probably do the whole thing while I am up there...  I mean it is ~26 yrs old and settled, and natural gas isn't getting any cheaper.  Yippeee, I may get back to my hobbies at some point !!!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda

It seems that "hindsight is certainly 20/20" in the case of bloggers.  Here are a few turning points of interest.  I wonder how a few slight changes may have impacted our country???
  • The citizens of the US Colonies had decided not to rebel against England.
  • The citizens of the USA had decided to accept slavery and not fought the civil war.
  • The citizens of the USA had not given women the right to vote.
  • The citizens of the USA had decided to enforce prohibition instead of repealing it.
  • The citizens of the USA had not become involved in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Middle East, etc.
  • The citizens of the USA had left the plight of the poor, weak and needy to the private charities and work houses.
  • The citizens of the USA had banned Unions.
  • The citizens of the USA had not made Public Education mandatory.
  • The citizens of the USA had converted the country to a full fledged Socialism or Communism.
  • The citizens of the USA had chosen to not support the progressive tax system.
  • The citizens of the USA had not chosen to set and enforce pollution limits.
Personally, I am not smart enough to pretend I could have made a better choice than the citizens made back at that point in time. (especially w/o the benefit of hindsight)  However I am certain that some of you are willing to try.  So what would you have changed?  What other turning points did I fail to note?

Overall this self governing thing has worked out pretty well it seems.  Or maybe you would have preferred a "Benevolent Dictatorship" that hopefully shared your beliefs?  Or my co-workers in China seem to like their efficient Government, just think of a Fall with NO political attack ads...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

National Debt - Summarized

I found this fairly straight forward, though of course they blamed only the Politicians and not all of us Constituents.  Maybe it is hard to look in the mirror, and it is probably a bad idea for a writer/news organization to blame its readers...

CNN - National Debt 5 Minute Primer

Another interesting link.
GAO: Debt Ownership

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Rich Spend Poorly?

To my question: "Do they save or spend too much?"

I found Hiram's answer fascinating: "They tend to invest too much, and spend in ways that are wasteful."

Primarily because I have no idea what it means.

In my personal life I keep 2 sets of books.  The first is the income and spending side.  These are the funds I earn at my job and spend way too fast.  The second is the long term savings or net worth accts.  Thankfully my Parents beat it into my head to start saving some of the "income" early and often.  Of course, this meant I had to be willing to live "below my means" in order to start that nest egg.  Now that nest is pretty sizable, usually growing and I am certainly not touching it until the "income" side starts to decrease.

I don't see it as terribly different for most of the "Rich".  Bill Gates has a huge nest egg that he has grown over the years.  This nest egg funds the ongoing operations of likely hundreds of companies.  He really isn't going to break into it, and would we really want him to?

As for spending "unwisely", is there such a thing?  I mean no one would benefit if one went out and burned a pile of money.  Other than that it seems that someone always benefits from most other transactions.

Being a "buy and use" it guy, I have never understood collectors and what they choose to buy.  Yet even in this seemingly senseless transaction, many people gain.  Look at the Antique Roadshow...  Someone with excess money buys an old painting for $10,000.  The agent gets a cut and the seller get cash.  Then these folks can reinvest their gains or use them to pay employees, go to the D\dentist, buy clothes and even pay taxes.

I will never understand how folks think the Government spends more wisely...  Thoughts?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Trickle Down Doesn't Work?

I was going to write some thoughts regarding "trickle down" and then I ran into this link over at MNPublius.

NY Times The Limping Middle Class
NY Times Prosperity/Regression Graphic

It definitely has some interesting graphics, though I am pretty sure I disagree with a fair number of his comments.  In particular with regard to his thoughts that we should be more like Germany.  Though us Minnesotans surely do like sending our money to VW, Audi, BMW and Mercedes Benz.

So what do you think of the graphics and his comments/analysis?

As for my trickle down story.  Last winter I commented on MNPublius that I had seen some excellent examples of "trickle down" while snowmobiling on Lake Mtka. (ie several mansions were being remodeled) Of course one of the more Liberal commenters took exception to this...  He thought it was WRONG that people had to SERVE the wealthy to get their money...  It was very strange considering we live in a service economy.  I assume he thought higher taxes and more handouts were in someway more ethically correct. (strange values out there)

The reason this came up was because though I am upper middle class, I have been spending a great deal of money on home improvements this Summer.  To me this what trickle down is all about.  And it really hit home when I was up at the cabinet maker's shop and saw that he was employing some neighbors to build our new kitchen cabinets.  It occurred to me then: the Large Corporation that pays me, I pay the Cabinet Maker, and he pays local employees and suppliers.

Now if we all bought USA goods and services, trickle down would work much better.  Instead we buy VW, Audi, BMW and Mercedes Benz, and send the money flow to Germany. (or Korea, China, Japan, etc) Maybe we could fix our economy and improve the worker incomes by just changing our buying habits.  No Governement intervention required...

It was interesting that the graphs shifted in ~1980, which is about the time buying "non-American" became fashionable.  Before that most folks would not have been caught dead with that "foreign junk" product.

G2A Made in America: The Myth?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Shutdown, or Cassellius & Dayton?

Well, I have been checking occasionally for the updated MN School Report Cards and they are still not there.  Last year they were posted by early July.  And this year the kids did them on a computer...  So why the delay???  Did the 3 wk shutdown delay the posting by 2 mths?  Or is their a political conspiracy afoot?

In the mean time, here are some interesting links.  Enjoy...  I am going back to sanding cabinets...

MN Dept of Ed RAS Report Card
Star Trib  New Grad Rate Formula
Asian Scientist US 32nd in Math

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

EPA Moratorium and Ads

I just heard a radio ad that was attacking Erik Paulsen for siding with the lobbyists to in essence "pollute our air and harm our children".  I found this hard to believe since he has kids also...

See the first link for some thoughts regarding why we should slow down the EPA's good works.  And the second to listen to the ads.
WSJ An EPA Moratorium
Environmental Defense Action Fund 2011 Ads

I find it interesting since the EPA has been overwhelming our industry for 10+ yrs by requiring cleaner burning diesel engines.  And it is going to continue for another ~5 yrs.  By the time we are done we will need very clean fuel, lots of expensive hardware on each machine, and the air coming out of the stack will sometimes be cleaner than that going into the air cleaner. EPA Tier Timeline

The upside is that it has given Engineers some great job security.  The downside is that the equipment keeps getting more expensive, which is passed on to all of us citizens via higher construction costs and taxes.

So when is good, good enough?  How much are you willing to pay for excellent?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

RAS STEAM and Transportation

First off...  Sorry for being an irresponsible and inconsistent blogger lately.  Hopefully in ~3 wks my life will return to somewhat normal. This Summer has been CRAZY... (ie built paver patio, boat damaged/repaired, family member with ruptured disk/surgery, and finally a kitchen remodel, and work as crazy as ever....)  Lord I hope it slows down soon.  The upside is that I am learning a lot of information and developing some new skills. (ie paver prep/installation, fiberglass repair, recessed lighting install, the mechanics of the spine, sanding and staining of Maple, etc, etc, etc)

The topic of today is STEAM...  And NO I did not say STEM...  Apparently the Magnets committee has decided that STEAM is the best alternative. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics)  It kind of reminds me of the sales tax increase we passed awhile back.  "If you can not get enough votes, throw someone else's concerns into the mix" (ie sales tax = environment and arts)  Worked well for the Sales Tax, not sure it makes a good school strategy.  Thoughts?

The second topic is the potential outsourcing of RAS Transportation. It is definitely a decision that needs to be considered, but researched carefully.  There could be some very interesting consequences for the better and worse.  The definite upside is that it would pave the way to selling off the current ESC/Bus Garage site. Then the District personnel could be placed in or distributed across other less expensive already owned sites.  Thoughts?

8Aug11 Worksession packet
15Aug11 Board mtg packet
Sun RAS could save $1 million

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Please Let Me Lower Stds

Well, if not raising funding each year is considered a cut...  Is not raising standards each year considered cutting standards?

If so, then our Commissioner of Education is asking permission to do just that.  Standards were supposed to increase until 2014 when "No Child Was to Be Left Behind".  Of course this was difficult at best and impossible at worst given the lack of control we have over Parenting or the lack thereof, and the Households these kids come from.

However it was an admirable goal.  Too bad the Educational establishment spent more time and energy vilifying it instead of trying to attain it.  (been there, discussed that)

So what do you think of the waiver request?  Is it a good move or permission to leave kids behind?  (Oh, those poor "Unlucky" kids, we forget them again???)

KARE11 MN Seeks Waiver for NCLB
Star Trib MN Wants Waiver from NCLB
MPR MN Seeks Wauiver from NCLB
MinnPost Educators Cheer Waivers
Ed Week Waivers Offered
Dept of Ed Flexibility and Waivers

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Emeperor's New Clothes

When I heard the news the weekend, I thought it is about time...  There have to be some consequences to this "spend more than we raise" or "raise less than we spend" mentality.  There would be in our personal finances, and there should be for our Society as a whole. (aka USA)

CNN S&P Downgrades U.S. Credit Rating

And of course the Administration is looking to manage the spin.

CNN Obama Official: Move "Way Off"

And the nervous investors are off and running....  Since I am a couch potato investor that stays pretty much invested all the time, I am sure this will do terrible things to my on paper net worth...  (note to self: don't look for a year or so...)  Good thing I am 15+ yrs from retirement...

CNN Sell First, Ask Questions Later

So what do you think?
  • Are you dumping your equities as fast as you can? Or staying put?
  • Is this the beginning of the end?  Or just another bump?
  • Was S&P correct in taking the action they did?
  • Were they naive like the child, or very brave to say what they did?
  • Will there be retribution against them?  What?
  • Who is to blame? The spenders?  The no tax hikers?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Debt Mgmt and Women's Health

I found these comments by Daniel Mitchell very interesting in a cynical sort of way.

CNN  Debt Deal: Politicians Win, Middle Class Loses

And of course the posturing and spinning is continuing...
Fox News  Tax Hikes Impossible? Think again...

So what do you think?  Who is winning and who is losing in this deal?  Will it work?
On another topic:
Fox news: Women's Health
HP Free Birth Control

Doesn't this just make sense?  Or promoting moral decay?

I think it makes a great deal of sense...  If unlucky kids are severely taxing our Social Systems and Public Schools, then let's help those Unlucky Moms not have as many kids...  Seems pretty simple and logical...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Please Help Me !!! I'm Powerless !!!

I'll make this one short.  I thought it was odd that the President of America asked for TV airtime to plead his case to raise taxes and somewhat villify the GOP folks...  What did you think of the plea to the public? And the comments made by Obama and Boehner?

Another thing I thought was odd that Obama tried to imply that raising the debt ceiling has historically been no big deal.  And that the GOP blocking it is somehow inappropriate...

My thought is that maybe if others had blocked it more often, we wouldn't be in this mess.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Parents United Liberal Editorial

I know I should not have expected any different, yet I had hope.  However as is often the case, PU is taking shots at the GOP.

Parents United 22Jul11: The Liberal Editorial...
Parents United Home

From our Finland discussions, I find it interesting that the USA has one of the most expensive educational systems and yet lack luster results.  Yet the Liberal folk that praise the Fins, would say that the USA's poor academic performance is because we are providing inadequate funding...

MAKE UP YOUR MINDS !!!!   If our funding is high and our results are not, then the Educational System is broken !!!  Not our funding of it !!!

With this in mind, if Finland spends less and gets more...  What is our Educational System doing wrong and how are they going to change to fix it?  Other than asking for MORE MONEY? (ie apparently we are already number ONE in spending...)

Who is paid too much?  Who is not productive or effective?  Do we have too many ineffective personnel?  Too good of benefits?  Are we teaching too many subjects?  Is are curriculum totally ineffective? Too many or too nice of buildings?  Too many buses?

If we are spending more the the Fins and getting less, where is it going?

Star Trib: Big Changes

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Finland and Education

Annie posted this link and comment recently:

Salon: How Finland became an Educational Leader
"A new documentary is being released on how Finland has achieved educational success in the past 30 years or so. I'm looking forward to the film; here's an interview with the director about the high level of accountability required of the teachers, and the virtual absence of tests.
Basically, they put a vast responsibility on the teachers' shoulders, but they then afford them respect, prestige, compensation, and autonomy.

No, you can't compare Finland to the US. But you CAN compare it to Minnesota. And you CAN find important reforms that will work here."
I read the article and I was curious:
  • How they made the transition to only 1 out of 10 applicants were deemed qualified to be hired as a Teacher?
  • What did they do with all the "existing Teachers" that did not meet the new criteria?
  • How do they attract these very qualified to this "high prestige", yet not necessarily "high compensation" career? 
Because if we were to adopt this model in Minnesota, these are some of the Change Resistance issues we would need to address.
Other Links:
BBC Finland's School Results
History of Finland's Reform
Ecoles: Limitations of Finnish Ed
Wiki Finland Demographics
Note: looks like Finland just started to allow immigration in last ~10 yrs.  Not sure what that means.
Wiki Minnesota Demographics

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Kitchen Table Economics and Natl Debt

This sounded kind of familiar...  Any thoughts where this potential train wreck is headed?

MSNBC Kitchen Table

I always enjoy leading teams when they run into significant hurdles, people are fixed in their view of reality, and the end of the train track comes into view.  It is at these times when the team members usually pull their heads out their lower extremities and some "Creative Conflict" takes place...

Remember that it is hard for teams to truly "Perform" until they have successfully passed through "Form", "Storm", and "Norm".   Wiki Team Dev 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Compromise Reached in Minnesota

Well, it looks like compromise was finally achieved in Minnesota.  I may get to see those MCA II and AYP results sooner than later...

Now based on the 15Jul11 ParentsUnited update, it looks like the Liberals will be viewing this as a loss for their side.  In fact the quote by Sen Tom Bakk is priceless...
"But let’s be very clear about what this budget deal means for Minnesota: rather than asking the richest 0.3% of Minnesotans to pay their fair share, Republicans instead chose to solve the state’s budget crisis with a borrow-and-spend proposal that does nothing to solve the long-term financial challenges."
As we have discussed before, it seems to me the "rich" are paying their share and that of about another 40+% of the MN population...  As we know of course, someone has to be paying the fair share of those that pay little or no taxes. (since those individuals certainly are not)

I of course see it as a true compromise, in maybe the worst way...  The LEFT and RIGHT are again agreeing to SPEND MONEY THEY DO NOT HAVE !!!  And since they can not take out an operating loan or create a true "State Operating Debt", they make the school districts and others do it for them.  They force the schools to do this by increasing the payment shift to a WHOPPING 60% upfront and 40% at the end, vs the historical 90/10 split !!!.

Well let's just pray that the MN economy booms in a good way soon so that the State revenues start increasing sooner than later.  This reliance on debt by our Federal and State governments is REALLY BAD and CONCERNING...

Thoughts regarding this "compromising" agreement to take out loans and keep spending like drunken sailors?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Parents United Wants to Revise NCLB ?

What Timing...  I post regarding the Gold Std yesterday (ie MCA, AYP, NCLB, etc) and some folks from Parents United drop me an email asking me to lobby for significant changes to NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND today.  Of course being a huge advocate of NCLB and PDCA I will be deleting this, or lobbying folks to reauthorize NCLB with few or no changes.

Or maybe we should go back to the 1990's where we just trusted the Educational Establishment to take care of the kids...  Oh yeah, I forgot that that led to a very large group of students being passed through the system that were not capable of Reading, Writing or doing Math !!!!  While Educational Spending just continued to increase and Productivity was stagnant at BEST !!!  The Lucky students got more and the Unlucky students were forgotten ...

If you are not measuring something and taking aggressive action based on that result, you will probably NOT attain the GOAL.  PDCA is not OPTIONAL, it is REQUIRED to drive System Improvements.  NCLB and AYP are NECESSARY to hold the Educational Establishment ACCOUNTABLE and to force them to PRIORITIZE around the NATION's needs !!! (ie responsible young adults that can read, write, do math, know science, communicate, solve problems, etc)

Schools can not do this without good Parenting and Community Support, but the Schools must meet their obligations and focus appropriately.  Below are the letter and some related links...  What are your thoughts regarding NCLB and its reauthorization?

"Dear friends of public schools,

Congress is discussing reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation. We have been in contact with members of the Minnesota delegation encouraging them to replace the current law with policies and resources that will better serve our children and their schools.

Minnesota’s leaders are positioned to play a significant role in writing the legislation.

Congressman John Kline (R-MN 2nd District) chairs the Education Committee and Senator Al Franken is a member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

We invite you to contact Congressman Kline and Senator Franken as well as your own Congressional representative.

To assist you, we have crafted a letter you may tailor, sign and send. Please help us encourage others to take action by sending a copy to Parents United for Public Schools at or 1667 Snelling Avenue North, St. Paul MN 55108.

Thank you."

Parents United NCLB Lobby Letter
Parents United: NCLB in MN Pg

Dept of Ed: Strengthening NCLB
G2A No More NCLB ?
G2A NCLB and Teaching to the Test?
G2A Sir, The Class is Too HARD
G2A Why High Educational Stds are NOT OPTIONAL !!!

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Reason to End the Shutdown...

RAS MAP Results: Promising

Now I am anxious for the end of the shutdown...  I mean MAP testing is beneficial in some ways...  But the gold standard in MN are the MCA's, and usually they are published by the MN Dept of Educ about this time.  I assume we will just have to wait patiently to see how the local Districts performed this year !!!

While we wait, here are the links to some of last years posts on the topic.

Poor Kids: Stupid or Unlucky?
Just One More
A Comparison
One More Try
Data Manipulation
MCA Reporting OOPs

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Minnesota Critical Services ?

Like the Energizer Bunny, the gridlock keeps going.  I find the discussions regarding "Critical Services" and "Self Funded Entities" most interesting.  Some questions that come to mind....
  • Why shut down State Parks on the one week/weekend when User Fees probably exceed actual cost?
  • Why the delay in keeping the Zoo open?  You are continuing to feed the animals anyway...
  • Do more things become Critical the longer the State is shutdown?
  • Why are Politicians given the choice regarding turning down their salary?  Shouldn't that have been one of the first things cut? 

Star Tribune Same gulf divides
Star Tribune What's Open/Closed?
Star Tribune MN Zoo Open
Star Tribune More Things Critical
MinnPost Impact on Non-Profits
Forbes MN Gov't Shutdown
MinnPost Soving Shutdown
CBS News MN Shutdown Commentary

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Email Etiquette

Well, I am cursed with the responsibility of creating and distributing minutes/updates and action item lists for each of my ~9 active projects.  The teams are ~7 people, the subject matter experts consist of another ~6 and the stakeholders add another ~15.  And of course there is only limited overlap, so the total number of unique names across these lists is ~177.

Of course there was always some Manager somewhere that thought their question was important enough to "Reply All".  Then of course this led to a geometric growth rate of Replies in all directions.  So I finally got smart and put a note in the email that said, "All Subject Matter Experts and Stakeholders are BCC only in order to reduce excess email responses." Not amazingly, the recipients and other Team Leads thought this was a great idea and were thankful not to hear from the one questioning Mgr...

So this article made me smile....  What do you think of politicians sending out to the State Mailing lists?  What humorous email stories do you have to share?  The cartoon at the bottom of the 2nd link is FUNNY...

Star Tribune Koch and Zeller's email

White Email Etiquette and Funny Cartoon

Thursday, June 23, 2011

RAS FAC Maintains Independence?

I looked through the Financial Advisory Council's year end presentation and found it a bit anemic.  Now I have not sat in on a mtg for over a year, so I really can not speak with authority on what they have been doing.  However I do know enough to question one of their suggested next steps:
  • Maintain Independence
I mean the Board seems to only pick members that are unlikely to rock their boat...  By this, I mean that I know some qualified boat rockers who are repeatedly turned down.  And I really don't see any communication from the FAC to to the Citizens, so they don't seem to be helping us understand how or what the District spends on. This is probably important considering the school closures, school renovations, potential sales, potential Magnets, Funding challenges, etc.  And almost half the attendees are Board Members and Administrators, so how can they be in anyway "independent"?

I guess I'd just say that they are a group of hand picked individuals that report directly to the Board with their thoughts regarding what is presented to them.  I am not sure if this qualifies as "independent", especially when you are in a room with School personnel.  It seems hard to believe that group think is not the rule. (G2A Group Think)  I still greatly appreciate the efforts of the citizens that do get involved, I just "independent" is a bit too strong of word.

A quick story: someone asked me to get more involved with a local Organization that has some pretty strong opinions regarding our schools.  I replied that it would be better if I stay on the fence on this one.  (ie independent)  They jokingly responded that "as long as it wasn't a picket fence..."

Speed once wrote about an Ombudsman being a good answer, but I just can't see how they would be independent if they report into the Public or the Org they are investigating... (ie FAC) Thus I will stay on my picket fence...  Anyone got a pillow?

By the way, there are also links to some interesting MAP and Enrollment presentations.

FAC Year End Report 20Jun11
Grade 3-5 MAP Analysis 20Jun11
End of Year Enrollment 20Jun11
Board Agenda 20Jun11
Board Summary 20Jun11
RAS Financial Web Page

Friday, June 17, 2011

Fund It All or Else !!!

I found this statement by Mary fairly amusing.  Apparently she believes Minnesotans will only be truly happy if "EVERYONE" gets as much money as they desire.  And she seems to see this as a very positive quality.  It is a fascinating, though very alarming, perspective... 
"While it is true that the GOP is sweetening the pie by adding dollars to the overall K12 budget, they are still refusing to consider increasing revenue. This means, the additional dollars for K12 will need to be taken from another part of the state budget. Their largesse in adding K12 funds is built on the premise that K12 advocates will grab the money and not care where it comes from. I have a much higher opinion of Minnesotans and simply don’t think that’s true! The Governor has certainly made it crystal clear that he will not sign a budget that pits Minnesotans against each other. So—the impasse continues."
Parents United 17Jun11 Update

Dayton Press Release via Parents United

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Dam Finally Breaks in Wisconsin

Finally, due process has prevailed...

First the Democrats unprofessionally left the State and their jobs to resist due process.  By this I mean that the Voters elected their political Representatives, who are the Democrats to decide they can take their toys and go to Illinois?

Then the Democrats file this silly charge to delay the due process further.  Like the Republicans would have had to be creative if the Democrats had come to work like any other employee would have been expected to !!!

Well thank heavens the Voter's representatives finally were able to do what they believe is correct.  And if their actions do not represent the wishes of their constituents, then God help them during the next election cycle.  The process works....


LA Times Court allows Wisconsin's union law
HP Wisconsin Union Law

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Education Updates

Parents United continues to push the spend more agenda and it looks like the RAS Board meeting agenda was rather calm.

Parents United 6/10/11
RAS Board Minutes 6/6/10

For your interest, someone sent me an email regarding this little problem that occurred in Kansas awhile back. Maybe following the rules and procedures all the time may be a bad thing in some cases.
Snopes - A Bridge Too Far

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Dayton Holds Strong and GOP Blinks?

This headline seems so misleading as to appear inaccurate or possibly politically motivated.(ie imply GOP blinked first) If someone tells me I can spend $110M in one place if I cut $110M in another, it seems we are no closer. Though I may be somewhat happier because my priorities are being valued.

It looks like Dayton is holding strong. Anyone that picked a quick resolution date in our pool was incorrect. Any updated prognostications?

Thankfully my 4th of July plans involve no State parks or services... (I hope...)

Star Trib GOP Moves $110M closer to Dayton
G2A This Could Take Awhile
G2A Mandates and Consequences

Sunday, June 5, 2011

No Money for Druggies...

Sometimes I agree with the ACLU, however many times I do not. In this case they are suing over mandatory drug testing, and thinking about suing because Florida has decided that it would prefer to ensure state funds intended for kids are not being given to an addict.

If they are an addict, the kids can still get state funds. However the recipient needs to be drug free. Seems pretty common sense to me... Thoughts?

CNN Florida Gov Defends Law

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Wind, Waves and Insurance?

Well, I spent Saturday and Sunday preparing Mom and Dad's lake home for a Summer of family fun and bonding. I was very happy that everything seemed to be in good shape and that I would not be spending a lot of time fixing things like usual... (rare if you use/rent/own lake property...) The docks went in, the lifts were good, and the boat & jet ski were running. Life was GREAT when I came back Monday !!!

Oh what a difference a day makes !!! About noon on Tuesday, the folks call me to say that the wind is severe and coming straight down the lake. (~40 mph w/ near 50 mph gusts) About 3 PM they call and say that I should run out there because the front cross beam on the lift broke and dropped the front of my boat into the water/whitecaps. And worse yet, the jet ski dock caught the boat rub rail on the way down and peeled the top of the hull away from the bottom.

I got there around 7:30 PM to find my boat like the pictures below. Somewhat worse than I imagined... The upside was that the electrical, engine, battery and stern drive seemed pretty safe, secure and relatively dry. I was surprised but not dismayed. (ie my pragmatic just fix it self...) My parents, my friend (Tim) and I got to work. (thanks for the help !!!) We turned on the bilge pump, lowered the back end, bailed with a bucket and thankfully the boat started up and was operational!!! We put it on the trailer and I was back in the cities by 12:30 in the morning.

Now... In general, this post is just an interesting story. Yet there is a topic involved. On Wednesday I spent a few hours agonizing over whether to call my insurance agent and claim the damage. I know it is strange, but the potential for increased premiums made me stop and think. Is it really worth it? I mean I can fix it with some pop rivets, fiberglass, resin, gelcoat paint, sand paper, etc.

I finally did decide to claim it due to the extensive nature of the body damage. Now I am waiting to see what the Adjuster thinks, and to see if it negatively impacts any of my premiums? (hopefully not) Now isn't it odd that we buy insurance to handle accidents like this, yet we have to be concerned that some actuary is going to jack our rates for claiming our rightful portion of the insurance pool? Thoughts?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Marbles in a Jar

I am reading "The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player" by John Maxwell. Often I find him annoying, but so far this book is pretty good. In the chapter regarding living an intentional life, he referenced this very interesting story. It resonated with me because I often refer to "How many years until a parent is an empty nester" as a reminder that the kids will be gone all too soon. So you'd better stay involved with and make time for the kids.

By the way, I am ~8.3 yrs from being in the empty nest category. Though most older adults tease that it will be longer than that given the rash of adult kids that keep returning home for short or extended stays.

Finally, my other favorite saying is that we have ~2.3 years to develop my oldest teenager into a capable independent adult. You know that gets me some good eye rolls and head shakes... Enjoy !!!

1000 Marbles !
The older I get, the more I enjoy Saturday mornings. Perhaps it's the quiet solitude that comes with being the first to rise, or maybe it's the unbounded joy of not having to be at work. Either way, the first few hours of a Saturday morning are most enjoyable. A few weeks ago, I was shuffling toward the basement shack with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other. What began as a typical Saturday morning, turned into one of those lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time.

Let me tell you about it.

I turned the dial up into the phone portion of the band on my ham radio in order to listen to a Saturday morning swap net. Along the way, I came across an older sounding chap, with a tremendous signal and a golden voice. You know the kind, he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business. He was telling whoever he was talking with something about "a thousand marbles".

I was intrigued and stopped to listen to what he had to say. "Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you're busy with your job. I'm sure they pay you well but it's a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work sixty or seventy hours a week to make ends meet. Too bad you missed your daughter's dance recital."

He continued, "let me tell you something Tom, something that has helped me keep a good perspective on my own priorities."

And that's when he began to explain his theory of a "thousand marbles."

"You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about seventy-five years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about seventy-five years."

"Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and I came up with 3900 which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has in their entire lifetime. Now stick with me Tom, I'm getting to the important part."

"It took me until I was fifty-five years old to think about all this in any detail", he went on, "and by that time I had lived through over twenty-eight hundred Saturdays. I got to thinking that if I lived to be seventy-five, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy."

"So I went to a toy store and bought every single marble they had. I ended up having to visit three toy stores to round-up 1000 marbles. I took them home and put them inside of a large, clear plastic container right here in the shack next to my gear."

"Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it away."

"I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life. There is nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight."

"Now let me tell you one last thing before I sign-off with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast. This morning, I took the very last marble out of the container. I figure if I make it until next Saturday then I have been given a little extra time. And the one thing we can all use is a little more time."

"It was nice to meet you Tom, I hope you spend more time with your family, and I hope to meet you again here on the band. 73 Old Man, this is K9NZQ, clear and going QRT, good morning!"

You could have heard a pin drop on the band when this fellow signed off. I guess he gave us all a lot to think about.

I had planned to work on the antenna that morning, and then I was going to meet up with a few hams to work on the next club newsletter.

Instead, I went upstairs and woke my wife up with a kiss. "C'mon honey, I'm taking you and the kids to breakfast."

"What brought this on?" she asked with a smile.

"Oh, nothing special, it's just been a long time since we spent a Saturday together with the kids. Hey, can we stop at a toy store while we're out? I need to buy some marbles."

Jeffrey Davis

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What's a Parent to Do?

As I get older, I occasionally hear stories with a similar theme. They sound something like this:

  • Seemingly normal Parents work to raise their children "right".

  • Sometime along the way, things start to go wrong with one of the kids.

  • Be it permissive behavior, failed relationships, addictions, excessive spending, criminal behavior, etc.

  • Often this continues on into, or starts in adulthood.

  • Often these life choices lead to financial hardship for the adult child, and possibly the grand child(ren).

  • Often the Parents are asked for financial assistance, with a low likelihood that the adult child will change their ways.

  • In your opinion, what should these parents do? How much money should they spend? At what risk to their own financial well being? What should be done about the grand child(ren)? When do the Parents just say no more and break the cycle of co-dependency? Thoughts

    Wednesday, May 25, 2011

    Tuesday, May 24, 2011

    Anyone Can Teach Well?

    Laurie’s last comment included some quotes that seem “oh so wrong” to me that they deserved their own post. Here is Laurie’s comment/quote:

    “A principal's comment shared on Ravitch's blog:

    "He said that we must remember that one has a moral obligation not to terminate someone's livelihood and career without long and hard deliberation; to do so, he said, required taking responsibility for ruining someone's life. We talked about the "reformers" who are almost gleeful in their zeal to fire teachers. He thought that they failed to recognize the moral dimensions of leadership."

    later in the blog post:

    "One of my fellow panelists was John Jackson of the Schott Foundation for Public Education. He said that he had recently visited some high-performing nations, and at each stop he would ask someone from the ministry of education: "What do you do about bad teachers?" The answer invariably was, "We help them." And he asked, "What if you help them and they are still bad teachers?" And the response was, "We help them more."”

    First: When did firing an incompetent employee become equivalent to “ruining someone’s life”!!! Give me a break. It’s a job, and there are plenty of other jobs out there for qualified hard working personnel. In fact, throwing someone out of the nest that does not fit their skills, personality and capabilities may be the kindest thing you can do for them.

    Imagine that 20 yr veteran Teacher that has not improved their knowledge and capabilities adequately, or has become so burnt out that coming to work drains them. Yet they keep coming because the misery they know is better than taking the risk of attaining something better. Who is succeeding or happy in this situation? The Teacher’s students, peers and mgmt are burdened by them, and the Teacher is stressed and bitter…

    Second: According to the second paragraph, the author seems to think that anyone given enough training can be a very good Teacher, which I whole heartedly DISAGREE with. That’s like saying that anyone given enough training could be a good Surgeon, Quarterback or Engineer. This implies that Environment can overcome the power of Genetics, which off course is silly… Or it implies that Teaching is so simple that ANYONE can excel at it, which is silly…

    I do agree that improvement efforts should be taken to help good Teachers that have slipped in their capability or attitude, however the turn around had better happen within a couple months. Not a few years… Can you imagine nurturing and protecting for years a Surgeon that was harming all of their patients? Probably not… Yet you would nurture and protect a Teacher that is harming their students through incompetency or laziness…

    As always, I think Teachers have a very vested interest in getting their poor performing peers fired as soon as possible. These individuals are their passing work and poorly prepared students on to their capable peers. Also, they damage the Professional standing of all Teachers by still being allowed to Practice their Profession. How respected would Doctors be if they protected the poor performers and allowed them to keep treating patients?

    My only guess is that Union pressure, empathy and a fear that they may be that poor of a performer someday are keeping them from doing what is right for the Students and their Professional standing. And if they choose to not self regulate High Professional Stds and Performance, then the customers/citizens will….