I wholeheartedly approve!
And on sale for the low, low price of $19.08!
I wholeheartedly approve!
And on sale for the low, low price of $19.08!
It has been an abhorrent weekend, but I am trying to stay positive (hard as that may be when the newly minted occupant of the White House quotes (or paraphrases) an honest-to-goodness Batman villain in his inaugural address – and not in any ironic way either! I was working today, but one of my colleagues joined the over one million people who marched in protest against Trump and his ilk … marches that stretched from Washington across the globe … all the way to the Antarctic. To give Trump credit, as much as he divides our society, he has helped bring parts of society closer together.
That said, I am going to stay positive by sharing something neat. As a young man, I saw Cosmos, the PBS mini-series that introduced me to that generation’s great communicator of science, the soft-spoken, poetic, yet tough Carl Sagan. It was one of the greatest science lessons ever presented, and it sent a message of hope.
One of my favorite Sagan quotes (and he wasn’t even the first to use it), is one that teaches us that we are true citizens of the universe, for that is where we all came from:
Our Sun is a second- or third-generation star. All of the rocky and metallic material we stand on, the iron in our blood, the calcium in our teeth, the carbon in our genes were produced billions of years ago in the interior of a red giant star. We are made of star-stuff.
What the good doctor was poetically saying is that the very elements that make up our bodies were born in the extreme and often violent throes of the universe: hydrogen and helium were mostly born from the remnants of the big bang that marked the birth of the universe. Others were made in the cores of stars as they lived their life. Others were born in the supernova deaths of stars or in the massive collisions of stars… one of the great cosmic truths … often times an act of destruction is simultaneously an act of creation.
Dr. Jennifer Johnson, an astronomer at THEE Ohio State University, has come up with her own version of the periodic table, highlighting where the elements tend to come from.
Just in case you were ever wondering where the phosphorus that helps hold your DNA together, or the nitrogen that makes up the folic acid that leads to healthy babies, or the sodium and chlorine that allows a thought to come into existence … all of what we are really did begin out there. In at least one way, we are as extraterrestrial as any alien species we might one day hope to encounter.
There is a subset of the population out there that adores standardized tests. It is hardly a homogeneous group. Some like them because they did well on them as young kids, turned out successful, and think that standardized tests must be good at predicting future success. While using one example doesn’t make a compelling argument, there is some degree of logic present. People who endorse private or charter schools love standardized tests because they will consistently point to how poor a job public schools do … provided they never look at changes in test data from freshman to senior year. Others simply see no better way to measure student accomplishment.
However, there is at least one point that this all hinges on: can we trust these tests. Clearly, if the answer is “no”, then the entire argument of supporting their use becomes a moot one. Having delved into arguments with some of these people, I can tell that some of them have never looked in depth at standardized tests before.
I have. There are lots of problems with them, and rather than seeing these problems get better, they seem to be, at the least, staying the same. I was, thus, attracted to this Washington Times article (which originally appeared in the Huffington Post) that really says something about what goes in with standardized tests.
Sara Holbrook is an author who specializes in young adult poetry. Two of Holbrook’s poems (“A Real Case” and “Midnight“) ended up being used as part of the reading assessment on the Texas STAAR test. A teacher (who might be being investigated for revealing test questions) wrote to her and asked her about one of the poems and how she might answer a question asked on the test.
As you might guess, Holbrook was unable to answer questions analyzing her own poetry. If you read the article, she gives great arguments as to why this happened, but what it comes down to is that the test writers simply do not understand what they are writing about. Keep in mind, at least with testing giant Pearson, question writers need not even have a college degree to write. And grading the test … according to that same article, a college degree is required, but the want ad was posted to Craig’s List.
In short: the question writers of these all-important tests may not have a college degree or any meaningful experience in the subject they are writing questions in, and even if they do, may not understand the subjects they are writing on to the point where they can write questions that actually measure what they purport to measure.
Keep that in mind the next time these all-important scores come out and describe a school.
I just go back from a pub trivia event centered around the theme of people who died in 2016. As the host noted …. about the same number of famous people died in 2016 as any other year, but the summed notability of those who died in 2016 was a little higher than in most years. Throw in the election of 2016, and the loss of family connected to friends and colleagues (my school district had three staff members die in the past year) and one might suppose democracy also can be added to this list.
Keeping with my trivia background: facts about those who left us in 2016. This is a long list. Very long. Hopefully you will find something curious here.
The movie Hook has a huge star-studded cast. Quite a few of them had small parts like Phil Collins who was a police inspector and David Crosby, Jimmy Buffett, and even Glenn Close as pirates. Very young Gwyneth Paltrow played young Wendy. But two of the bigger stars were uncredited, and not really seen up close.
As Julia Robert’s Tinkerbell is carrying Robin William’s grown up Peter Pan to Neverland, they pass over a bridge, and some fairy dust falls on a pair of lovers engaged in a long embrace and kiss … and they begin to levitate off of the bridge. They were played by a friend of Steven Spielberg and the film’s script doctor … the person called in to fix the problems with the script.
That was George Lucas and Carrie Fischer.
I had the chance a few years ago to catch Fischer’s Wishful Drinking show on HBO. It is funny, and cathartic for someone who has gone through a lot … a lot of break up and drugs, and some mental health issues on top of that. Rather than hide, she actually talked about it. It is self-deprecating, a bit introspective, and pretty darn funny.
Here’s a clip focusing on her association with Star Wars, Lucas, the odd downsides of fame, and signing away the rights to her image at age 19 … She doesn’t hold back, and I suspect that part of this was as much for her personal well-being as it was simply funny to listen to. My favorite quote: “George Lucas, ruined my life … I mean that in the nicest possible way.”
The narrative, and it is hardly an undeserved one, is that certain groups of college athletes, particularly football and basketball players, have the run of the place. Many schools give them special tutors to help them with classes, and they often times eat separately from the rest of students, and in addition to top flight facilities and work out equipment that the rest of the students don’t get to use, they often get private accommodations on campus .. in addition to a largely free education that the rest of us pay tens of thousands of dollars for. On the one hand, that’s a sweet deal, on the other, those kids are often working much longer hours and are risking debilitating injury in some cases.
There is another aspect of, particularly. men’s athletics .. hat being that the jock gets the girl! Nothing wrong with that, unless it is the jock forcing himself on the girl. For that, you would think there would be some serious punishment, but for many years male athletes could get away with this as coaches and school officials hushed things up. Certainly, we know that sometimes those athletes are falsely accused (Duke lacrosse), but I think we also know that in some substantially large percent of cases, those accusations are real.
Just this year, Baylor is under a huge cloud because of its football team. Harvard shut down its men’s cross country and soccer teams for following the example of the soon to be occupant of the White House. Columbia shut down the wrestling team for the same reason.
But let’s face it … none of those programs is particularly well known (maybe Baylor football …. but note they aren’t shut down). But a major shut down has finally come … not in athletics … but in music.
From the school that gave you the world famous prison experiment, the Leland Stanford, Jr. University Marching Band. That’s right … the “band is on the field” band.
For those not in the know … a long time ago, the Stanford Marching Band was a normal marching band, but one day their beloved director got fired and the students took it upon themselves to rebel. On the plus side, they became a very happy-go-lucky, relaxed, pop music based band that was a reaction to the harsh discipline of regular marching bands (I mean, Stanford is a pretty academically demanding environment, I would say the kids were right in wanting to have some fun). This was all good! Most of the real marching bands from schools like the Big-10 and PAC-12 don’t consider them a real band … and they have not been invited to competitions and get-togethers with other bands. They’re like that one bad kid on the block who never gets invited over because none of the parents want him there.
The problem was that over time they really started stretching things a bit, and in a few cases made their halftime shows less fun and more openly mocking of their opponents.
There was the time they were at the University of Oregon and did an anti-logging, pro spotted owl routine…
… the time they did the show with the cows when Stanford played Iowa in the Rose Bowl (that is the first video up there) …
…. the time they played BYU and did a show with seven girls in wedding dressers called “Seven Brides for one Brother” ….
… the time they made fun of the whole priest sex abuse scandal in a show vs. Notre Dame (this included the drum major dressing as a nun, and conducting the band with a large crucifix) …
… then there was the other Notre Dame show entitled “These Irish, Why must they fight?” It included jokes about the potato famine as part of the announcements …
… the time two members of the band decided to relieve themselves in a corner of the field while waiting to go on (as was explained later … they were pretty drunk, so no big deal) …
… and the time they recreated the O.J. Simpson white Bronco chase while playing at USC (O.J.’s alma mater) … that was after a small group of them set up shop outside the court house during jury selection to play “She’s Not There” to the assembled masses …
The band got … banned from many places (including the entire state of Oregon) for a time. The university had their backs, and they must have started to think they were untouchable … kind of like all of those football players and other athletes.
It seems, however, the buck has finally stopped. After a few years which have involved issues swirling around drugs and alcohol related hazing, and sexual harassment also as a part of hazing that seemingly has not gone away, Stanford may have finally dropped the final shoe. The band is now suspended for the rest of the year, and Stanford has announced they are hiring an honest to goodness professional band director to take over the reigns of this group.
I’m not even sure who would take that job? Taking on responsibility for 200 college kids is one thing … taking on responsibility for a group that has made it a point to act rebellious is a whole other thing. My guess would be many members of the band would not return to work unless there was some latitude to continue being … funny?
Why all of a sudden? In the band’s case, this may have been a long time in coming, but in Stanford’s case, their reputation is seriously on the line. You may recall last year the trial of a swimmer from Stanford, Brock Turner, who was found guilty of assault and sexual penetration of a woman who was unconscious. Whether this is overblown or underblown, the problem is that more and more universities are seen as dangerous places for women, with predators around every corner. Schools must make it clear that this behavior isn’t tolerated, and that students will be safe. Thus, schools are far more willing than before to jump to major sanctions on students or groups when there is suspicion they are not respecting the rules of respecting sexuality (and that includes alcohol and drugs which may put people into bad situations). Consider this: Indiana recently passed a prohibition on all hard liquor at fraternity parties. Dartmouth outlawed hard liquor outright. Stanford had already passed a ban on hard liquor bottles over a certain quantity …
I can remember 25+ years ago at Illinois … all women were given whistles, the rules were simple: you didn’t travel alone at night, you didn’t drink anything unless you saw it poured from a container you saw opened in front of you, don’t trust fraternity boys. There were certainly crimes committed, but perhaps we didn’t hear a lot about them, or we just were pretty safe back then. Maybe it is awareness that has changed?
When I was in second grade, I won a contest sponsored by a realty company, and I drew a nice picture of the moon being sold by that company, which may or may not be legal, but almost certainly not recognized by any nation. As a reward, I got to meet Wally Schirra. Schirra was likely the least well known of the Mercury 7 astronauts, and like many astronauts got to trade on their heroic status as pilot and space farer to get some opportunities in business. I didn’t care. I met an honest to goodness real live genuine astronaut who had traveled into space (in fact, he commanded Sigma 7 of the Mercury Program, Gemini VI and Apollo VIII, becoming the first astronaut to command three different space missions). That was a great day.
In contrast, while fewer people knew of Wally Schirra, billions knew the name John Glenn.
Glenn was the walking embodiment of just about everything that was America. Heck, they could have replaced Uncle Sam with John Glenn, and I think few would have objected. He was a lean mean US Marine pilot who saw combat duty who quit college shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and saw further combat in Korea where, for a time, his wingman was Ted Williams. Ted Williams flying with John Glenn. That was an amazing pairing!
He later became a test pilot, and became the first man to complete a supersonic transcontinental flight across the United States.
Despite all of this combat experience and tempting danger, he was a great looking guy, with a warm demeanor. He appeared on an early version of Name that Tune. Heck, in his later years he appeared on the TV series Frasier. When the marionette show Thunderbirds was created, John Tracy was named for John Glenn.
Glenn flew the first US orbital flight, Friendship 7. The previous flights has been named Freedom 7 (as a contrast to Soviet flights) and Liberty Bell 7 (because Gus Grissom was a funny guy, and painted a “crack” on the capsule), but Glenn wanted a name that was more welcoming to the people of the world.
Glenn left NASA, largely disappointed with the politics of the Administration, and entered into business and politics. He spent 24 years representing Ohio in the Senate, and in 1984, ran for the Democratic nomination for president. It took him over 15 years to pay off his campaign debt, but he did pay it off. Glenn nearly became vice-president under Jimmy Carter in 1976, but when he failed to impress folks with his still developing political acumen, Walter Mondale got the call.
Glenn retired from the Senate in 1998, the same year he got the call for his second trip to space aboard USS Discovery. There are varying stories that range from Glenn called in a bunch of favors to get this, to NASA had been planning for an elderly astronaut with space experience to compare early and later data, and that Glenn happened to be the best candidate. I dunno. Whatever it was, Glenn sparked interest in space again as he returned to orbit.
Glenn had his drawbacks. In the early 1960s, he testified before Congress against permitting women to fly in space. He later changed his tune, and supported the careers of some women who became astronauts. While in the Senate, he was one of the “Keating Five” who got caught accepting donations from Charles Keating, who may have been trying to influence senators over an investigation of his mismanagement of Lincoln Savings and Loan. Three of the senators were found guilty of ethics violations to different degrees. Only Glenn and John McCain got off the hook.
Glenn’s greatest triumph: his wife Annie was at his side when he died. They had been married 73 years. If you ever get to see the great film The Right Stuff, John and Annie were played by Ed Harris (his first really big role) and Mary Jo Deschanel (mother of Zooey). One of the more factual aspects captured in the film is Annie’s stuttering problem. For a guy where public image was everything, it took tremendous resolve and a lot of love to not turn on his wife (or for her to turn on him). For the record, she spent time as an adjunct professor in the Department of Speech Pathology at Ohio State. The pair were inseparable. When Ohio State named a street after John, it was “Annie and John Glenn Avenue”. And when Glenn got his most unique honor, he and his wife shared in the glory
Over 500 people have gone into space … only about 15 non-band members have ever gotten to dot the “i”.
One day, we will be working in space and hopefully preparing for the colonization of the solar system. Looking back, Glenn and his fellow Mercury 7 astronauts (including the heroic men and woman of the Soviet cosmonaut corps) will be seen as the real trailblazers who took the first tentative steps into space … strapping themselves onto massive tanks of explosives, and hoping the engineers were all having good days during construction, mounting, and testing.
Amazingly, while Glenn was a politician, he seemed to fly above most politics. since retirement, he has steered clear of giving opinions and prognostications. It is rare that you will find him bad mouthing someone. Perhaps the best thing you can say about him: he would not have fit in with today’s politics.
At age 95, Glenn was the last of the Mercury 7 astronauts. This means of the Mercury 7 and the Vanguard 6 (the original Soviet Cosmonauts), only Valery Bykovsky who flew Vostok 5 remains of the earliest generations of star/space voyagers.
As Scott Carpenter said to him as Friendship 7 cleared the tower … Godspeed, John Glenn!
Man, has 2016 just sucked the worst … and there are still 3 weeks to go!