Friday, December 31, 2010

Inside Four Walls: AP failures

I got this from Darren's blog, which is a daily stop for me. I can't add anything to it. It is perfect. I will post an excerpt and you can go to his blog for the rest.

Begin with a quote from the article;
Educators say the hardest-working students at schools like Carver and John McDonogh benefit immensely from exposure to higher-level courses, both in self-esteem and in tangible skills such as test preparation, even if few end up passing the AP exam.
Again, what does self-esteem have to do with this? They have failed. And to be honest, they've failed at something that they should have been prepared for. It's not like they failed rowing alone across the Atlantic, they failed at a course in high school. How does one get self-esteem from that? How does one look in the mirror and feel good about himself because of that? And how do so-called educators convince themselves that allowing students to take courses for which they are not prepared is actually a good thing?

It's a great read, check the rest out HERE. He has a great education blog. Add him if you haven't already.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Yesterdays: Not a bad year...

So as 2010 comes to a close, it really hit me how much this blog has grown over the past year. The first thing I noticed is the number of posts increased dramatically. Up until this year I had a total of 198 posts. This year alone I am probably going to be 225-227. 2008 was the big year with 108, but that was also the year our school blocked Blogger with Webwasher.

I also really cleaned up the blog. Not anything dirty or anything, but organized it better. I have tags for every subject, so readers can just search the tags that they want to instead of reading the whole page.

Of course, I can't forget having one of my posts get put on another blog. That was a huge highlight. It was my post on special ed (HERE). Joanne Jacobs picked it up and posted it on her blog (HERE) which helped get some publicity for my blog. I think that helped open my blog up to more readers and hopefully I kept a few.

I would like to find a way to have more comments on here. I know I am getting viewers, I check that with Analytics, but I guess more interaction would be nice. When Joanne posted my story, I had over 100 visitors and yet not one comment.

Other than that, nothing much else to talk about. I thought it was a fun year, except for October when I had only one post.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tirades of Truth: Tron - Legacy

Holy crap! I actually went out and saw a movie. I think the last movie I saw before this was Star Trek. Anyway...

Tron Legacy is a sequel to the original Tron from the 80's. It was somewhat a cult hit and still has legions of followers. I really didn't see the big deal of the original, but I figured I could take my dad to see the new one, since he liked the original so much.
The first thing I saw was this logo...How cool is that? Disney always puts the castle in the beginning and they went ahead and imagined it as part of the Grid. Then within the next five minutes you see a bunch of references to Disney's other sci-fi movie The Black Hole (which I hear is up for a remake if Tron does well).

Before Sam (Flynn's son) goes into the Grid, there is a nice little 15-20 minute action/stealth sequence. But the real magic happens when they go into the Grid. By the way, the Grid is a place where programs live. They have little clubs and Gladiator type games between programs.

The action sequences are awesome. There was a great storyline going on, but the action was just fantastic. The light cycle battles were breath-taking. So much of an upgrade from the original battle from the 80's. Speaking of upgrades, in addition to the new light cycles, they also through in a new light plane/jet.

The whole movie was beautifully done. I didn't see it in 3D because I'm not into the hype of 3D, but I think this would have been one heck of a movie to see in 3D. The colors are crisp and the three colors (white, red, orange) really stand out and look great. Not to mention how they were able to digitally alter Jeff Bridges to look like he did in the 80's...great! And to me it looked pretty good, not like CGI.

The cast was awesome. But that goes along with the script. The whole time I am watching this movie I am trying to figure out who is good and who is bad.
The two main girls both had me thinking for awhile they were bad, but only one turned out to be. After seeing some of the previews I thought they would try to sex up the movie, but it really didn't happen. The girl in white had the tightest suit, but it wasn't any different than a guy's suit, it's just that it fit differently on her. With the girl in black...couldn't tell a thing.

The guy that stole some scenes for me was this guy. He played an over the top club owner. When I first saw him I he reminded me of two characters, David Bowie from Labyrinth and The Riddler from Batman Forever (I guess it was the cane and the way he used it). He was great...turned out to be an ass, but still solid performance. I also liked Clu's assistant, he also had a solid performance.

The best thing was that you really didn't need to see the original Tron to understand this one. I'm not sure if I ever saw the original Tron from start to finish, but it didn't matter. This was a great self-contained movie...kind of like the first Star Wars movie. There are rumors that if this movie is a hit then there will be 2 more movies and a cartoon as well. I say bring it on.

This movie isn't going to win any Oscars (except for visuals), but it is a great science fiction/action movie with a great storyline that pretty much anyone can follow.

Actually, I really couldn't think of any. It was an enjoyable movie. Don't go in expecting a masterpiece of film, go in expecting a fun action packed sci-fi movie with a solid storyline.

Inside Four Walls: A lesson in socialism

Here is a nice little hidden lesson I do every year to show my kids that no one likes to have their hard work toyed with. What they earn is theirs, not anyone else's. It is my little lesson in socialism.

I tell the students that for grades everyone will get the class average, which is usually around a C (70 - 75%). At that point, all the A students complain saying they worked to hard to have their grade changed. I tell them that they are simply helping out their fellow students and I am just redistributing the points so everyone is equal. The lower students are happy because they don't have to do any work and they will get a passing grade.

Eventually, the higher students tell the lower kids to work harder to bring up the average. The lower kids laugh and tell them why? They are passing already. So then I have to chime in and tell them that the lower kids don't get it, so if you want the average to go up, the B & A students will have to work harder to raise the average because we don't expect the lower students to improve.

After that the high students say that they aren't going to work hard anymore. As they put it, what's the point? The average will never get to an A, so why try.

I do this once a year or so to let the kids understand that school is a capitalistic society just like life is. That whatever you earn is yours and shouldn't be taken away from you. By the way, in all my years of doing this only once did a student catch on to the hidden message. He was the president of the campus' young democrats. He had a B and didn't like the idea of lowering his grade to help others, but when I said "redistribute the points" he caught on and smiled.

It goes to show that even though most kids are liberal by nature, even they understand that taking away something they earned is wrong.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Who Decides: Strawberry Shortcake

Now I have a daughter and she adores Strawberry Shortcake. I don't know how it happen and neither does my wife, but it happened. Well, if you didn't know this her (Strawberry's) look has changed over the years and I will take a quick look at the different designs. This actually would have fit in well with my post on comic book costume redesigns, but whatever.

I remembered Strawberry Shortcake from the 80's. She kind of looked like an old grandma, yet she was young. It wasn't a flattering look at all. I'm sure that the kids loved it at the time, but the big puffy hat, short yarn like hair. Man, I don't know how my wife liked this. She had a definite country style going on, but it was the 80's I guess. But it became iconic. The striped green tights, the apron diamond pattern, the puffy hat. It became the look.

Enter the 90's.
Strawberry Shortcake was no longer the dress wearing grandma from the 80's she was a cool hip girl who wore jeans because we all know that wearing dresses in the 90's was
uncool. And what better way to make Strawberry cool again by taking away one of the most identifiable things about her...her dress. So no dress, no green tights, no puffy hat...this is just some generic cartoon character. And it's nice that they even managed to give her worse hair
than her 80's style. Besides the strawberry on her hat how are to supposed to know who this is?

Now there was sort of an updated version of this Strawberry in the mid 2000's, I guess. I'm no expert. This was a little better. First off, the jeans are gone and the dress is back. Another plus is the hair actually looks good. But that's where it ends. No green tights, no apron. Once again, without that strawberry on her hat, how do you know who it is? This is nothing like the original iconic figure.

Enter 2009. This is how you do a redesign. You take all the iconic elements from the original and update them.
Much like the Ben Reilly Spider-Man suit. I still say if that suit was introduced with Peter Parker and not during that horrible Clone Saga, we would have a new Spider-Man suit...but I just got off topic.

Look at how much it mirrors the original. Dress...check. Green tights...check. Puffy hat...check. Diamond pattern...check. It has it all. And right away you are connected with who it is. Not only is the look iconic, but the hat looks like a strawberry!
I am glad that my daughter actually likes this version of Strawberry Shortcake. It is by far the best version and really stays true to the original look. We picked her up a dvd of the 90's Strawberry Shortcake and she told us quickly that this wasn't Strawberry Shortcake...too funny.

I know this post seems a little out of place, but it has been weighing on me for about 4 months now. While getting the pictures for the post I found this one which shows the looks through the years. Pretty interesting.
The 2007 one bothers me a bit because I can't really find anything else but that picture. The design looks close to the one up above from the mid 2000's, but she has pants on again. It's also interesting to see the one thing that connected the first 3 designs was the strawberries on the hat, whereas the new design brought the puffy hat back, but turned the little strawberries into little seeds.

That's it. Enough of this, my wife will probably make fun of me for posting something like this here.

Inside Four Walls: Paying for CSTs

I have talked about schools paying for grades and heck I recently talked about a teacher who gives out gift cards for her advanced students. So when I read something like this today, it doesn't surprise me at all. In fact, it makes it all the more sweeter knowing that it came from a 9th grader. Now how a 9th grader gets published on the Huffington Post, I don't know. You would think it takes away from their credibility, but whatever.

Seems like this 9th grader feels that schools should give out cash rewards for students who score Advanced on their CSTs. Now I am totally against this. I have made that clear in the past, but this kid just doesn't get it. What his idea?
In 9th grade, if a student scores 550-600 on ALL their subjects, they will receive 50 dollars in cash. Only if a student receives the reward for 9th grade will they be able to get the $100 reward for 550-600 in 10th grade. Once a student receives both of those awards, only then will they be eligible for the $150 reward for 550-600 in 11th grade. Then, if a student manages to get 550-600 again in 12th grade, they shall receive 150 dollars in addition to a certificate stating their hard work and dedication throughout the years, greatly improving their chances of being accepted into a famous college.
What an idiot. Sorry if that hurts anyone's feelings, but this is wrong on so many levels. First, to get over a 550 on a CST is pretty tough. Maybe it's because I teach math, but I rarely see it. Don't get me wrong, I get advanced, but even my smartest students never sniff a 550. And to get 550+ for 3 straight years in ALL subjects? Impossible for most of the students in CA. I would actually want to see this done just to see how much money is given out. If they did this, I would update this post with a The Last Laugh one on no one made any money because it's impossible!!!

Secondly, this just shows he is a freshman because he mentions scoring 550-600 as 12th graders, well sorry to burst your bubble, but seniors don't take the CSTs. Great job on checking the facts buddy.

All joking aside, this is what's wrong with our country. Kids are putting their hands out first saying "gimmie first, then I'll do it." Where does that come from? How realistic is that way of thinking? This country is looking worse and worse.

Now back to our little writer. Something else caught my eye as I was reading the post
The money being used as reward may seem a lot initially, because the population of California is relatively huge. However, we must think about the positive effects. When a student becomes educated, they will become an asset to our state, to our country. They will want to get a job with a high salary. Later, they will be taxed, meaning profit for our state. Of course, the more educated one is, the more likely it is that one will get a better job. In addition, if we consider the dreams of every person, one of those dreams is to buy a house. In order to buy a house, one would need money.
Talk about a liberal in training. Person wants to make more money, which is ok because we can tax the person more and make more PROFIT for our state. WHAT THE?!?!?!?! States aren't businesses that should be showing profit. They should run a balanced budget, which means what comes in, is the same that goes out and vice versa.

The Sun Always Shines on T.V.: Outsourced

A new show? What is this madness?

Yes, I have found a new sitcom, Outsourced. Not a typical one, but one that I absolutely love. Outsourced is a show about a call center in India. An American supervisor is shipped off to India where he works in a call center for adult novelty products.

The cast is very different because it isn't made up of your typical white run of the mill actors. In fact, there are a total of 3 white characters (one who is Australian) and the rest are Indians (not Native American Indians...the ones from India). By the way, that joke in itself is played out during an episode on Thanksgiving.

There is great character development between the lead Todd and one of the operators, Asha. There is a some chemistry there, but nothing can happen because her parents have her in an arranged marriage. Add on that, the Australian female is attracted to Todd and will do anything to get his attention...yes anything. The cast just works. They are your stereotypical office characters, but since they aren't American it seems fresh and original.

Some people have knocked the show for being racist or insensitive, but those people need to lighten up and realize it's a sitcom (situational comedy). These are the same people that forced Vince Vaughn's movie to change the trailer because he said electric cars were gay.

I don't know how long this show will be around. Probably not long. Check it out. It's pretty funny. Check out the preview below.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Last Laugh: CA overstates "Stimulus Jobs"

If CA were a student in my class, the other students would call CA a kiss ass. Because that's what CA is. The state is always trying to find a way to look good to the Obama administration and liberals. Whether it is global warming, illegal aliens, or the positives of stimulus money, CA is always first in line to say "look at us"

So imagine the nice laugh I got when I read this yesterday;
In a sampling of five state agencies, the California State Auditor found that two overstated the number of jobs by 617 positions.

For example, the Water Resources Control Board did not follow guidelines and triple-counted the number of jobs created with the money. It ended up overstating the number of jobs by 71.
Triple counted??? Are you serious? I might see a double count mistake, but triple come on, you are just trying to look good now. I don't think I have any students that would make a mistake like that.

Stimulus jobs are temporary labor. That's it. CA is trying to stick its chest out and look good because we are putting the speed line from the great cities of Borden and Corcoran.

Inside Four Walls: 3D Glasses

As the fist week of Christmas break winds down, I thought I would share an amusing story from last week.

A girl in the front of the class had these thick framed glasses with the words "Real 3D" on the side of them. There was nothing in the glasses either, just frames.

So I put them on and looked at the class. While I was looking around another student asked if they worked. I held up my hand right in front of my face and said "It's so weird. It's like my hand is coming at me. It's like it's right in front of me." Some of the class started to laugh realizing what I was doing. But the student...not so much.

The student asked if they could try them on next. I said sure, but it was weird and pretty trippy to see things in 3D. At that point the whole class was laughing and then the student caught on to what was happening.

Good times.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Sun Always Shines on T.V.: Star Wars - The Clone Wars

I will do a longer write up on how great this show is becoming, but the trailer that just came out yesterday for the second half of the season looks awesome.

Basically the show tells all the stories of the Clone Wars in between Episode 2 & 3. It's nice because you can see how close Obi-Wan and Anakin really were. They threw in a little girl Jedi Ahsoka for kids to watch, but they have taken her character in a whole new direction it looks like.

Are you kidding me? Making her turn to the dark side? This series is becoming better than Episode 1 (minus the last lightsaber battle) and most of Episode 2. I can't wait for January.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Music Non Stop: 2011 already?

Is it too early to look ahead at some albums for 2011? After all, 2010 hasn't been stellar as I am still trying to round out my Top 10.

Well here are some albums I am already looking forward to.
Deadlock - Bizarro World. With a title like that, I know I can expect some good things. Deadlock is all over the place at times. Sometimes they are At the Gates with females vocals on the top and other times they throw in techno, jazz, and rap. Whatever they might be this time, this should be good.

Dead by April They have a EP coming out in January and then an LP later the same year. The EP will have a couple of new songs and some "heavier" versions of some songs off the debut album. If you recall my review of the band, I said they needed to be a little heavier for me, so this has definitely peaked my interest.

Lazarus A.D. - Black River Flows. About time. This band released their debut in 2007, then re-released it 2008 or 2009 after some remixing by James Murphy (I really hope Arcania does something similar). The song they released for the teaser isn't a total thrasher like pretty much anything off of their debut, but it is still good. Lazarus A.D. has potential and for me a lot is riding on this album.

Times of Grace Jesse Leach and Mike D. from Killswitch Engage are back together. Now I love Alive or Just it. When these guys got back together they said not to expect AoJB2, that it would be more rock. Well listening to the samples it sounds amazing. It isn't AoJB2, it is something that has evolved from that. This is the one I can't wait for.

So there you go, four albums that probably would have made my top 10 this year. I really can't wait for these albums. Oh well, let's wrap up 2010 already.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Video Killed the Radio Star: Star Wars Han shot first...

I am a huge Star Wars fan and was so pissed when they changed the scene where Han shot first to making Greedo shoot first. It was embarrassing. I won't go into that discussion because it has been argued plenty of times, down to videos of Clint Eastwood westerns being used as proof that a "good guy" can shoot first to get out of trouble.

Anyway, this video is probably the funniest spoof I have seen on the subject.

I think it's the fact that their bodies never move. Kind of like how they managed to just move Han's head in the first remastered version.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Tirades of Truth: Bullet for My Valentine - Fever

I've already done reviews of Arcania, Blaze Bayley, and Charred Walls of the Damned, so here is the next in line.

Back in May I talked a little about the new Bullet for My Valentine album, Fever. It was mainly because their lead track, Your Betrayal. But as the year comes to a close it's obvious to me that this is a great metal album.

Their last album Scream, Aim, Fire was great as well. In fact, when they started talking about the follow up they said it wouldn't be as "thrashy" as Scream, Aim, Fire. I believe they said it would be more rock oriented. Well, Fever is far from rock.

The one place you see a difference is the vocals. There aren't as many screams or growls, but BfMV was never known for the screams. There are still plenty of thrash moments in Your Betrayal and The Last Fight. I would say the material is a lot catchier than anything they have ever done. Every song is memorable from the get go. Every song has that hook that you look for, that sing along chorus (Your Betrayal), that memorable riff (Alone), or memorable drum pattern (Begging for Mercy). The music goes from thrash to groove/mid paced metal to ballads.

The title track is pretty good as well. The song has that sort of dirty 80's glam rock feel to it. Seriously, I could have easily have seen Poison doing this song because of the lyrics. The difference between Poison and BfMV is that BfMV has a heavier guitar sound.

The one thing that left a somewhat bad taste in my mouth was the song, Bittersweet Memories. Not that it's a ballad, I have no problem that. It's just that it reminds me so much of Forever and Always off of Scream, Aim, Fire.

There is absolutely no filler on this album. There was always a couple of songs I would skip off their last one, but this one is a play straight through album. Add onto it that every song is memorable, you have a winner.

From start to finish this is one of the most complete albums of the year and will place very high on my Top 10 list this year.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Video Killed the Radio Star: Bar Stool Economics

A nice video explaining taxes to everyone. And it gives you a great insight into the mind of a liberal and how they think.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Music Non Stop: Top 10 ...8 down 2 to go.

A few weeks ago, I thought I had a solid Top 10 list done. But as I listened to some of the albums, I realized they were good, but nothing great. So I took a hard look and narrowed it down. Unfortunately, doing so left me with only 8 albums. The top 8 are great albums. In fact, right now I have 3 albums that could easily be number 1. After that...who knows.

What has the year been like for me? Well, half of the 8 albums have never been on the top 10 list and were basically debuts or sophomore albums. It was fun to discover new bands this year. I am going to try and do a review for those top 8 bands before I give my list, so I can link the review to the list instead of doing a mini review on the Top 10 list.

I don't know if I will get a solid Top 10, but I won't put on albums unless they belong there. Remember I did have a Top 11 one year because there were so many good albums.