Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Time for Change: Bye DirecTv

I have been using DirecTv for almost 10 years now and can't complain about the service at all. Sure they pushed me out of my Tivo box, but the channel selection was always great and picture quality was always up there as well. So why did I switch to cable? Money. Bottom line is I am looking to save some money. With cable taking over as my TV and internet, I will be saving about $40 a month.

I thought I wouldn't be losing any channels, but the main one I lost was Cartoon Network HD. How can I watch Star Wars The Clone Wars in SD after 2 seasons of HD? CN HD is in Los Angeles so hopefully it will make it's way towards me soon.

As far as the internet is concerned, I was at 3MBPS and now I am at 30MBPS. Yeah that's not too bad.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thoughts Without Words: Differentiated Instruction

Joanne Jacobs has a post on Differentiated Instruction right now on her blog and it made me reflect upon my own classes.

I have already mentioned with my special ed student how they get their own grade scale. And when I mentioned what if everyone had their own grade scale, the dean responded you would have to do it if it was in the IEP.

That's where education is going. Everyone will get their own grade scale and lesson plan. This will never work. Why? Right now I have an average of 36 students. How can I successfully hit all of the student's needs and at the same time cover all of the material necessary for the CSTs?

The school doesn't want "low" classes or "high" classes anymore either. They mix them so none of the students get their feelings hurt being in the "low" class. What does this mean for me? Well in all of my classes, I have at least 2 students with a 100% or higher and at least 2-4 students in the 40%'s or lower. Now how can I raise the low ones without dumbing down the class for the high ones? Answer: I can't.

If classes were created based upon CST scores, then you could see some results and have a better chance to do something like this because, for the most part, the students would all be grouped similarly. Will they? No. Besides if they go to base our pay off of CST scores, who wants to be the teacher with the Far Below/Below Basic students?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Music Non Stop: Arcania - Sweet Angel Dust

2010 is quickly coming to a close and I thought that my Top 10 was pretty much set, then Arcania had to come in a through the proverbial wrench into it.

First off I gotta say one of my new favorite sites for metal reviews is The NewReview. Without this site I wouldn't have found Arcania and Eye of the Enemy. Great site and is probably my first go to site now for metal reviews.

So onto Arcania. What is their style? I would say modern thrash with a touch of progressive metal thrown in for good measure. The album starts off with the title track and you are treated to a classic Metallica intro ala Fight Fire with Fire before the magic starts. The music is completely break neck speed, but it has that perfect groove.

I won't go song by song because I might do that for the Top 10...just kidding. For a debut they did a nice job of making the music and songs so memorable. The title track, No End, Against My Fear are all great examples of the music being instantaneously being remembered. Something that is hard to say about a lot of other albums these days. There are plenty of thrash out aggressive moments through out the album and tons of progressive elements added to enhance the material. I really liked how they didn't just try to copy the thrash style of the 80's, but rather took a lot of that influence and added their own style to it. Top it off with a 10+ minute song to finish the album and you have yourself one heck of debut album.

Vocally the guy is good. A lot of people compare him to James Hetfield and I can hear the similarities, but he does his own distinguished style. Obviously, if there are similarities to Hetfield, I'm not going to complain. If anything I hear a little more Sully from Godsmack, which is fine too because I actually like Sully's style.
This is a great debut and I hope to hear more from them. I hope to see Arcania be more a DevilDriver, Trivium, or All That Remains instead of a Beyond the Embrace and Blistered Earth. If you don't know the last two bands, check them out they were awesome!>
I expect to see Arcania grace the Top 10 list this year and hopefully years to come. By the way, go to iTunes to buy the album, it's only $4. If you can't spend $4 to support a new band, then there is something wrong.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Inside Four Walls: Gift Cards for Advanced?

Last school year I read some articles about schools paying students for getting good grades. I felt that the use of funds could be used better than by paying students for doing something they should be doing anyway. To me it was another sign of educators giving in and lowering their standards again.

So imagine my surprise when this week a teacher who is our department told us that she buys her students that score advanced on the CSTs a $20 gift card to anywhere they want. Now she kind of justified it by saying that the students need to come back to her in August to get them, but still...gift cards for Advanced?

The other teachers there seemed to think that she could be spending her money in different ways. I kept quiet, didn't say a word. This teacher gives her life to teaching, gets there at 7 for tutoring, stays in at lunch most days, and stays late in the day for tutoring. Will also come in on the weekends to help out students. I know she is single and I hear she still lives at home with her parents. So she clearly has a lot more money and time than say someone like me who has 2 kids and a wife of 10 years.

I'm not bitter, don't get me wrong. But I feel that it sets a precedent, a bad one. Once again the students are going to be expecting something when they move onto the next level. I have had some of her students in my Geometry class and I am always hearing about how Ms. So & So let us do this and gave us this. Don't get me started on the parents either. They see that and expect it from all teachers.

By the way, before some of you think "wow, the teacher is just rewarding the students", she told us the reason for it. Quote "I want high test scores, so this is extra motivation." She is obsessed with test scores. One year I beat her by 10+% and she came and went on about how if she took out the special ed and some of her troubled students then she would only be 5% off from me. There was a time that I cared about my scores, but now I realize it's up to the kids to perform. And I'm not going to spend my money to do that. And if that makes me a bad teacher, so be it.

And they want to tie my pay to these tests?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thoughts Without Words: What is wrong with San Francisco?

Almost a rhetorical question, I know. But in all honesty it's horrible up there right now. It's funny liberals always talk about how government shouldn't take away your rights, but in S.F. it seems to be the norm right now.

First off the Happy Meal Ban. Basically it requires any meal with a toy to be less than 600 calories. Some might say, that's not too bad. But my question is why does the government think they have the right to tell me what to eat. Besides, if the parents want McDonalds, they are just going to buy the kid a regular meal now with no toy. Nice one S.F. So why? Well this guy explains why;
We're part of a movement that is moving forward an agenda of food justice," said Supervisor Eric Mar, who sponsored the measure. "From San Francisco to New York City, the epidemic of childhood obesity in this country is making our kids sick, particularly kids from low income neighborhoods, at an alarming rate. It's a survival issue and a day-to-day issue."
Food Justice? Really? Add that one to social justice I guess.

As if that wasn't bad enough, enter the male circumcision ban. You know that procedure to keep a penis cleaner and cut down on chances of infections and bacteria? The one that most every doctor will say, it's better than not doing it? Well they want to ban that as well. Best part? You can't say you are doing it for religious reasons. So not only is S.F. taking away your right to decide what you want to eat, they are now taking away your freedom of religion. We read;
“Tattooing a child is banned as a felony and circumcision is more harmful than a tattoo,” said Schofield, who believes religious traditions should change.
“People can practice whatever religion they want, but your religious practice ends with someone else’s body,” said Schofield. “It’s a man’s body and…his body doesn’t belong to his culture, his government, his religion or even his parents. It’s his decision.”
I got nothing. This is where the country is heading. The taking away of choice and freedom...unless you are non-Christian, then you are fine.

By the way, if you don't live in CA, just watch how messed up this state gets as we are in complete democratic control.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Thoughts Without Words: Time to Watch CA Fall

Well for the first time since the 30's all 9 state offices are controlled by one party, the Democrats. They also have control of the Legislature and passed the simple majority budget proposition. So in effect, the Democrats don't have to involve the Republicans at all, not that they did much to begin with, but they did have to compromise at times. Now it is free reign.

It will be interesting to see how much worse this state gets in the next few years. I read an article on the Huffington Post that talked about how CA could show the way for progressives on how to run a state. And all I could think was, really? Dems have had control of the Legislature for years and our spending is out of control, we have higher taxes than most states, and we have too many social entitlement programs. We passed a prop that will increase all energy bills across the board and probably effect our gas prices too.

CA is going down the drain fast. Hopefully the rest of the country will take note and learn what not to do.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Music Non Stop: 2010 surprises

As the year comes to a close I will go ahead and share with you two bands that almost came out of nowhere with great albums that will most likely be in the Top 10 and one of these looks like it will end up #1.

First up is Charred Walls of the Damned, what a mouthful right? Anyway, this has been labeled a "super-group" by some. Richard Christy left Iced Earth to be a side kick for Howard Stern, cool and weird at the same time I guess. So he decided to go ahead and make an album after about 6 - 7 years. So you put Richard on drums (known for work in Death and Iced Earth), Steve DiGiorio on bass (from such bands as Death, Iced Earth, Sadus, and Testament among others), Tim "Ripper" Owens on vocals (from Iced Earth, Judas Priest, and his solo band), and you round it off with Jason Suecof on guitar. Who? you might ask. Jason is more known for his producing skills Trivium, DevilDriver, God Forbid, The Autumn Offering) than his guitar playing, but he is a fine musician. In fact it's his solo on The Autumn Offering's Embrace the Gutter that made me pick up the album.

Ok so onto the album. What can I say... this is the album that Iced Earth should have released after The Glorious Burden. I don't mind the continuing of the Something Wicked Trilogy, but in terms of music, this is what Iced Earth could/should have sounded like. I mean it shouldn't surprise anyone, look at that line-up, 3/4 of them played in Iced Earth. The music is crisp and beautifully played. Ripper does a great job here. Let me say this, I am by no means a fan of Ripper. He's good. His best album for me was TGB because he showed some variety and wasn't trying to copy Halford (not his fault either). His solo stuff was average. But here he shines again. It's enough of the mid-range and enough of the high stuff for me. I love this album. And it came as a welcomed surprise when most bands are starting to sound alike, these guys stand out. Check out their Myspace, HERE.

Next up is Blaze Bayley. He of course came from Wolfsbane and more known Iron Maiden. He got screwed in Maiden and was forced out after two albums. So when I heard stuff from his solo debut I was shocked. I was so much better than Maiden, it was up there with Bruce Dickinson's solo material. Here is the lead track from the debut;

awesome. Anyway, the follow-up was good as well, but their 3rd album was pretty bad. I gave up on the band when everyone left. So when they released The Man Who Would Not Die, I didn't look at it (big mistake). This year came Promise and Terror. I caught the lead track and video and was instantly hooked. I sounded like it was right off the earlier albums.

The album is full of great tracks. God of Speed has one of the best riffs I have ever heard in a song and Comfortable in Darkness sounds like it was off of Iron Maiden's X-Factor, dark and brooding. This is a great album and it's great to see Blaze get some credit for it. Check out his Myspace, HERE.

Just a couple of surprise albums this year and there is one more, but not as good as these. Top 10 is just around the corner.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Thoughts Without Words: CA is full of idiots

I don't know how else to say it. I am watching the election results and the country is pretty much saying no to Democrats and Obama, but in California? Democrats are still winning left and right. Certain propositions which should be win (Prop. 23) are losing and some that should be defeated (simple majority for budget) are winning. What is wrong with this state?

We are re-electing a Senator who has done nothing for this state. In her 3 terms what has Boxer done for us? We are the democrats biggest supporters, yet this state gets nothing. Obama laughed at us when we asked for federal dollars to balance the budget. Or Race to the Top...what a joke. And yet the people keep re-electing the democrats into office.

This has always been a backwards state and tonight it showed it again.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Right Now: M.I.A.

so some of you might have noticed I took an entire month off from blogging, why you ask? No reason. I just got busy and stopped and before I knew it, November was here. Here's a quick run-down on some things
  • Top 10 list is coming together nicely, I might actually have to bump some out...I didn't think that would happen.
  • School - moral is down, including mine. I will talk about the new cell phone policy and special ed.
  • Politics - well we will have to wait another day to see how this is going to pan out, but I think we all know what's going to happen.
  • T.V. - some good shows, nothing fantastic. Caprica was cancelled, but a new show about the first Cylon War is in the wings.
That's it for now, hopefully the next post will be sooner rather than later.