Friday, November 21, 2008

Some of what I have learnt as a teacher.......

1. There is such a thing as a stupid question. Plenty of them.
2. Never underestimate the lack of effort that some students believe is still worthy of a passing grade.
3. Only 20% of all students in an academic class are generally capable of critical thinking.
4. There is no substitute for proficiency in your subject matter.
5. Textbooks make mistakes - lots of them - too many cooks ruining a broth.
6. If a question can be wrongly interpreted it will be wrongly interpreted.
7. Students are easily duped by mutiple choice testing.
8. Reasoning is a lost art.
9. In a group of three or four students only two will actually work.
10. Acquired knowledge from Math is somehow lost by students when applying the same concepts in physics.
11. Take home assignments are not a good measure of understanding.
12. Only the brightest students get the puns.
13. Be alert during labs multiply that alertness factor by ten.
14. Lab Reports are extremely boring to mark.
15. Organization is key to a succesful lab.
16. Always have at least three different methods to explain a key concept...Use all three as well.
17. Students can never have enough problems to solve.
18. Be consistent...consistency = fairness.
19. There is no silver bullet to classroom management...students should understand that a classroom is not a democracy but a benevolent dictatorship.
20. Its never as bad as it seems.
21. No matter how many times it is explained to them some students will never understand why plagarism is wrong.
22. School Administrators understanding of how a classroom functions is inversely proportional to the square of the time that has elapsed since they taught in one.
23. Fire alarms always occur at inapropriate times.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Useful Autopsy of Election 2008

Taken From Front Page Magazine - This is not good news for Republicans.

The Emerging Majority

Small changes can have dramatic consequences. The electorate shifted about 4 points toward the Democrats in between the 2004 and 2008 elections--from 48.3 percent of the popular vote four years ago to 52.5 percent today. But those 4 points gave Obama the largest share of the vote since 1988, the best showing by a Democrat since 1964, the first black president, the first non-southern Democratic president since John F. Kennedy, and likely larger Democratic majorities in Congress than when President Clinton took office in 1993. In a closely divided America, a swing of four votes in a hundred can mean a decisive victory.

Obama's achievement can be explained with a few numbers. The first is 27 percent--President Bush's approval rating in the national exit poll. Pretty dismal. The poll found that voters were split on whether John McCain would continue Bush's policies. But those who thought McCain would be another Bush broke overwhelmingly for Obama, 91 percent to 8. That's a huge, damning margin.

The second number is 93 percent. That's the percentage of voters who gave the economy a negative rating in the exit poll. They supported Obama. And they were right to give the economy a negative rating. The financial crisis is spilling over into the real economy of goods and services. Unemployment is rising and consumption is falling. The week before the election, the Commerce Department announced that consumer spending had dropped 3.1 percent. Consumer spending hadn't fallen since 1991, and this year's decline was the largest since 1980.

The day before the election, the auto companies announced that they had had their worst month in a quarter-century. When economic conditions are as bad as this, of course the party out of power is favored to win an election.

Considering those numbers, the 2008 electoral map isn't all that surprising. Bush, the economy, and Obama's personal and political appeal have pushed the nation toward the blue end of the political spectrum. But, for the most part, the shift is gradual and on the margins. Obama will be president because he took states that Bush won in tight races four years ago. Bush won Ohio by 2 points in 2004. This year Obama won it by 4. Bush won Florida by 5 points in 2004. This year Obama won it by 2.5 points.

Obama's victories in the West were impressive. Bush won Colorado by 5 points in 2004. Obama won it by 7. Bush won New Mexico by 1 point in 2004. Obama won it by a substantial margin--about 15 points. Bush won Nevada by 2 points in 2004. Obama won it by about 13 points.
Virginia has been trending blue since 2001, when Mark Warner was elected governor. In 2004, John Kerry won the Washington suburbs of Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax, but still lost the state to Bush, 45 to 54 percent. The next year, another Democrat, Tim Kaine, succeeded Warner. And the year after that, voters replaced incumbent Republican senator George Allen with Democrat Jim Webb in a contest decided by just a few thousand votes. In 2008 Virginia went totally blue. It handed the Democrats as many as three more House seats, replaced retiring Republican senator John Warner with Mark Warner (no relation) by a vote of two-to-one, and swung for Obama by a margin of 5.5 points. Virginia's electoral votes went for a Democrat for the first time since 1964.

The two major surprises on our new map are North Carolina and Indiana. Bush won North Carolina by 12 points in 2004. This year Obama erased that margin and won by a couple tenths of a point. It's the first time since 1976 that North Carolina has voted for a Democratic president. In Indiana the swing toward Obama was even more pronounced. Bush won there by a huge margin of 22 points in 2004. Obama made up all of that ground, eking out a victory of about a point. No Democrat had won Indiana since 1964.

If I were Obama strategist David Axelrod, I'd--well, I'd probably be exhausted right now. But I'd also make sure that President-elect Obama spends the next four years visiting North Carolina, Indiana, Virginia, Ohio, and Florida. He needs to deepen his support in all five states. And I'd also make sure Obama visits Missouri, where at this writing it appears he barely lost; Montana, where he lost by 2.5 points; and Georgia, where he lost by 5.5 points. If Obama holds all the states he won this year and adds those three to his column in 2012, he'll be reelected in a landslide. That's a big "if," of course. The key is a successful first term.

Where does this leave the Republicans? In deep trouble. The GOP is increasingly confined to Appalachia, the South, and the Great Plains. When the next Congress convenes in 2009, there won't be a single House Republican from New England. The GOP is doing only a little better in the mid-Atlantic. There will be only three Republican congressmen in New York's 29-member delegation in the next Congress. Only a third of Pennsylvania's delegation will be Republican--about the same proportion as in New Jersey. There will be a single Republican in Maryland's eight-man delegation. The Rust Belt is hostile territory, too. So are the Mountain West and the Pacific Coast. The GOP is like the central character in Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone." It's on its own, no direction home.

The Republicans are in demographic trouble. When you look at the ethnic composition of Obama's coalition, you see that it's kind of a mini-America. About two-thirds of Obama's supporters are white and a third minorities. The Republican coalition, by contrast, is white, male, and old. There's the first problem. Overall, Obama may have lost the white vote (while still doing better than Kerry did), but in 2008 whites (not counting Hispanics, per Census convention) made up the smallest proportion of the electorate since the start of exit polling. Obama scored tremendous victories among minorities. He won more than 90 percent of the black vote. He won the Hispanic vote by a two-to-one margin. He won the Asian vote by a similar margin.

Then there are the young. Voters under 30 turned out in only slightly higher numbers than they did in 2004, but they overwhelmingly backed Obama, 68 percent to 30. A successful Obama presidency could lock these voters into the Democratic column for a long, long time.

For the rest go to the Source: Front Page Magazine article by Matthew Continetti

Another sign of Global Madness

The bigoted kingdom of Saudi Arabia is to host a conference on racial tolerance...
yeah right

Taken from

UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 11 -- Saudi Arabia, the oil-rich Islamic kingdom that forbids the public practice of other religious faiths, will preside Wednesday over a two-day U.N. conference on religious tolerance that will draw more than a dozen world leaders, including President Bush, Israeli President Shimon Peres and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
The event is part of a personal initiative by Saudi King Abdullah to promote an interfaith dialogue among the world's major religions. The Saudi leader agreed for the first time to dine in the same room with the Israeli president at a private, pre-conference banquet Tuesday hosted by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. But Ban hinted that the two leaders -- whose governments do not have diplomatic relations -- were not seated at the same table.
"Normally, in the past, they have not been sitting in the same place like this. That is very important and encouraging," Ban said. "I wholeheartedly support the convening of the interfaith meeting that will be held here at headquarters tomorrow. The values it aims to promote are common to all the world's religions and can help us fight extremism, prejudice and hatred."
The Saudi initiative emerged in the summer during a meeting of religious leaders in Mecca. The Saudi leader subsequently drew a range of religious groups -- including Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Taoists and others -- together in Madrid in July, where they signed a declaration calling for greater cooperation among religions.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice planned to attend the conference to hear the Saudi King's opening address. Bush is scheduled to deliver an address Thursday. The White House said last month that it welcomed the Saudi initiative and supports "the right to practice one's religion" and other principles of religious freedom enshrined in the U.N. charter.
But Saudi Arabia's sponsorship of the event drew criticism from human rights advocates, who said that a country that oppresses its religious minorities lacks the moral authority to lead such a gathering.

"Saudi Arabia is not qualified to be a leader in this dialogue at the United Nations," said Ali Al-Ahmed, a Saudi national who serves as director of the Washington-based Institute for Gulf Affairs. "It is the world headquarters of religious oppression and xenophobia."

For the rest go to the Source

Monday, November 10, 2008

Rabbi Akiva Tatz

I have been somewhat in a philosophical mood as of late....contemplating the ideas of purpose, action and universal identity. In my search I have stumbled on the lectures of Rabbi Tatz. While I don't agree with some of his details the overall message with respect to Free Will and Individuality are spot on.

I am posting the URL for the videos of two lectures.

Lecture A - Free Will

Lecture B - Individuality

Friday, November 07, 2008

20 reasons why John McCain came up short in 2008

1. The public perception that the economic woes are the fault of Republican policy. Of course the issue is clearly more complicated than this (with many parties to blame including the Democrat controlled Congress) but the MSM framed it in such a context and the public seemed to have bought into this bias.

2. The Democrats successfully and unfairly linked McCain to the unpopular Bush administration - this appeared to have stuck.

3. Money - The Dems far outspent McCain and co. with campaign superdollars. Money often,(ut not always, buys results and this seemed to be the case here.

4. Sarah Palin - her inexperience on the key issues showed - the MSM buried her in this department and tagged McCain with the smear.

5. Obama proved to be the master of the sound bite. He could sell sand in Dubai...

6. McCain had a poor environmental policy...Obama offered an increasingly green electorate a more forward thinking approach in this department

7. Obama's marketing team were brilliant in remaking Obama from a left wing senator into a centrist politician...I personally don't believe that much of this transformation is genuine but the electorate seems to have okayed the change.

8. High turnouts brought out more Democrat voters than would otherwise be the case.

9. International support was clearly behind Obama. In an increasingly global world such sentiment probably trickled across to influence the US Electorate.

10. The success of the surge - a key McCain driving point - was played down by the MSM so that it became a non-issue in November.

11. McCain looked tired and old during certain phases of the campaign compared to
the youthful Obama. This certainly did not help him.

12. Minority groups make up a larger percent of the US population. Hispanics in particular helped solidify Democrat positions in California and New Mexico. Republicans need to be more vigilant in the future with respect to winning the minority vote.

13. The GOP political machine proved to be inefficient in registering voters in key swing states such as Colorado and Florida.

14. Possible voter fraud connected to such pro-Obama groups as ACORN may have influenced results in Ohio. I would love to see an investigation of such irregularities.

15. There have been an influx of Democrat voters into Virginia and North Carolina. This turned these former Bush states into Obama territory.

16. Some prominent Conservatives (Obamacons) jumped ship from the GOP in the closing days of the election. This may have had the broader effect of shifting some Conservative voters towards the Illinois senator.

17. The Republicans failed to make significant inroads with the university educated sector of the US population. The GOP's apparent platform focus appeared to be more geared toward the 'redneck' element of the electorate.

18. Some conservatives stayed at home on election day as they felt that neither candidate was Conservative enough to warrant their support.

19. The Republican brand seemed fatigued. The Democrat cry for change played on this.

20. Michael Moore kept his mouth shut this time around.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Saying it as it is

Charles Krauthammer is one of my favourite political writers. I don't agree with his pro-offshore drilling stance but on issues of Islamofascism and its threat to Western Civilization he is normally bang on.

The following is a reprint from a column published at

By Charles KrauthammerLast week I made the open-and-shut case for John McCain: In a dangerous world entering an era of uncontrolled nuclear proliferation, the choice between the most prepared foreign policy candidate in memory vs. a novice with zero experience and the wobbliest one-world instincts is not a close call. But it's all about economics and kitchen-table issues, we are told. OK. Start with economics.

Neither candidate has particularly deep economic knowledge or finely honed economic instincts. Neither has any clear idea exactly what to do in the current financial meltdown. Hell, neither does anyone else, including the best economic minds in the world, from Henry Paulson to the head of the European Central Bank. Yet they have muddled through with some success.

Both McCain and Barack Obama have assembled fine economic teams that may differ on the details of their plans but have reasonable approaches to managing the crisis. So forget the hype. Neither candidate has an advantage on this issue.

On other domestic issues, McCain is just the kind of moderate conservative that the Washington/media establishment once loved -- the champion of myriad conservative heresies that made him a burr in the side of congressional Republicans and George W. Bush. But now that he is standing in the way of an audacity-of-hope Democratic restoration, erstwhile friends recoil from McCain on the pretense that he has suddenly become right wing.

Self-serving rubbish. McCain is who he always was. Generally speaking, he sees government as a Rooseveltian counterweight (Teddy with a touch of Franklin) to the various malefactors of wealth and power. He wants government to tackle large looming liabilities such as Social Security and Medicare. He wants to free up health insurance by beginning to sever its debilitating connection to employment -- a ruinous accident of history (arising from World War II wage and price controls) that increases the terror of job loss, inhibits labor mobility and saddles American industry with costs that are driving it (see: Detroit) into insolvency. And he supports lower corporate and marginal tax rates to encourage entrepreneurship and job creation. An eclectic, moderate, generally centrist agenda in a guy almost congenitally given to bipartisanship.

Obama, on the other hand, talks less and less about bipartisanship, his calling card during his earlier messianic stage. He does not need to. If he wins, he will have large Democratic majorities in both houses. And unlike 1992, Obama is no Clinton centrist. What will you get?

(1) Card check, meaning the abolition of the secret ballot in the certification of unions in the workplace. Large men will come to your house at night and ask you to sign a card supporting a union. You will sign.

(2) The so-called Fairness Doctrine -- a project of Nancy Pelosi and leading Democratic senators -- a Hugo Chavez-style travesty designed to abolish conservative talk radio.

(3) Judges who go beyond even the constitutional creativity we expect from Democratic appointees. Judges chosen according to Obama's publicly declared criterion: "empathy" for the "poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old" -- in a legal system historically predicated on the idea of justice entirely blind to one's station in life.

(4) An unprecedented expansion of government power. Yes, I know. It has already happened. A conservative government has already partially nationalized the mortgage industry, the insurance industry and nine of the largest U.S. banks.

This is all generally swallowed because everyone understands that the current crisis demands extraordinary measures. The difference is that conservatives are instinctively inclined to make such measures temporary. Whereas an Obama-Pelosi-Reid-Barney Frank administration will find irresistible the temptation to use the tools inherited -- $700 billion of largely uncontrolled spending -- as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to radically remake the American economy and social compact.

This is not socialism. This is not the end of the world. It would, however, be a decidedly leftward move on the order of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. The alternative is a McCain administration with a moderate conservative presiding over a divided government and generally inclined to resist a European social-democratic model of economic and social regulation featuring, for example, wealth-distributing growth-killing marginal tax rates.

The national security choice in this election is no contest. The domestic policy choice is more equivocal because it is ideological. McCain is the quintessential center-right candidate. Yet the quintessential center-right country is poised to reject him. The hunger for anti-Republican catharsis and the blinding promise of Obamian hope are simply too strong. The reckoning comes in the morning.