Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Posted from a runway in Raleigh

On plane. Doesn't say JOHNSON AGRI-CHEM on side but /is/ small.

Glories of the Internet

Here's another one … as long as you're not already in the car when the question arises.

To find rest areas on I-95, say for example in Maryland, you can look them up with the other useful information here at the I-95 Exit Information Guide.

Excellent title!

I can't comment on the content, nor the source -- The Weekly Independent, a left-liberal arts & angst kind of paper, distributed free in this area -- but I loved the title of a 9/16 lecture:

"Mozart with Hegel:  Non Giovanni"

Garrison Keillor would approve.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

What you been doing with yourself lately?

A whole lot of this, mainly.

After review, there were seventeen Post-It notes needing attention on this drawing alone.

But I'm just keeping the lights on for our customers and groceries on the table for us.

Time to unleash the Trunk Monkey

Ric Kolseth sent this in response to a frustrating interpersonal situation I'm dealing with. What a wonderful innovation -- the Trunk Monkey.

I wonder if they have one for a '97 Blazer?

Bill's barn

The owner of one our favorite places in Wilson was recently told that he couldn't advertise his restaurant on the side of his own barn, so he got rid of the sign, barn, and all.

Paul Chesser has the whole story here.

I say here's one for Bill, and a raspberry for regulators.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Long term view of things

"Meditation on Statistical Method"

Plato, despair! We prove by norms
How numbers bear Empiric forms,

How random wrong Will average right
If time be long And error slight;

But in our hearts Hyperbole
Curves and departs To infinity.

Error is boundless. Nor hope nor doubt,
Though both be groundless, Will average out.

-- J . V. Cunningham


-- headline posted on a friend's desk at Clemson

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be the First-born among many brothers. But whom He predestinated, these He also called; and whom He called, those He also justified. And whom He justified, these He also glorified.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Truly He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?

-- Paul the apostle (Romans 8:28-33a - MKJV)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Good things about working late

  • You get to be first to use the restroom after the cleaners
  • No one minds if you listen to Chinese folk music on your workstation's CD-ROM drive
  • You don't have to step outside to take a personal call
  • You can practice Spanish with the custodians
  • Sunsets are really pretty from the west side of the building
  • You don't have to pay to leave the parking garage after 7:00
  • You have a clear shot at the last break room cookie everyone avoided all afternoon
  • There's less ambient glare after the sun goes down
  • You don't get hung up behind other people's jobs at the plotter
  • You get to find out when other people really leave

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Some understatement is too painful

From the Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer:

It's a misdemeanor to race cars on any street or highway in North Carolina. But when someone is hurt or killed while racing unlawfully, the consequences can be serious.

The picture above was a 1970 Corvette on Monday -- I thought it was a motorcycle at first glance. The other car, a Mustang, was split in half. The driver of the Corvette is the one that survived.

Oh, THAT explains it

A short article in The Charlotte Observer reported on local schools starting to teach Mandarin Chinese, even at very early ages.

A table at the end compared the difficulty of learning two classes of language -- French and Spanish, which are phonetic and share some roots and cognates with English, are "Category I" and take about 480 hours to become "minimally proficient". Students can aim to "function professionally" after 700 to 900 hours.

Chinese, though, and Arabic as well, are "Category IV" languages which take "at least 1300 hours" to even get to the miminum level, and 2400 to 2700 for professional fluency. Bu hao.

I'd be interested to know how Arabic differs structurally from English -- as far as I know it also is a phonetic language, though reading right-to-left in a totally different script is bound to make it at least a Cat II. I'll ask my Syrian-born colleague at work if I think about it.

All the more interesting in light of the 53 hours or so we were able to invest before landing in Shanghai.

Update: I did speak with my Syrian coworker, and he said that the complexity of Arabic is grammar and pronunciation. It is phonetic, anyway.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Small private schools sell their size

Small private schools, with 25 or fewer students, filling a niche
Carolina Journal Online, 9/14/05
“We are committed to each child feeling like they’re in the front row.”

That was the vision shared by Judy Miller, the head of Raleigh’s Maas Jewish Community School. ( Hers is one of the newest nonpublic schools in the state, just starting its second year this fall. It is also one of the smallest; the 2004-2005 enrollment was 10 students.

Miller’s comment underscores one of the contrasts in North Carolina’s educational landscape. While the state’s public school systems and their constituent campuses have grown to massive proportions, with some superintendents presiding over student populations near 100,000, there are a significant number of small private schools attracting their own share of students and supporters. In many cases, their very smallness is key to their success.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Wider circulation

A couple of years ago my column in the November 2003 Greenhouse Report was called "Hard Time Homeschooling".  The point of it was that even when circumstances get tough, we need to keep on with our commitment to home education for the sake of our children, and not let ourselves be overwhelmed by events.  It got the most response of any column I've written to date -- I think because all of us either go through these times, or know someone who has, or can imagine facing hard decisions like that and wondering how to deal with it all.
I mentioned the column and the basic argument in an online discussion with other state leaders following the landfall of Katrina, and to my surprise a number of them have requested permission to reprint it in their own publications.  To date they include:
Christian Home Educators' Fellowship of Oklahoma
S.C. Home Educators Association
Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators
Ontario Christian Home Educators' Connection (Canada)
Indiana Association of Home Educators
and Dr. Brian Ray's e-mail newsletter (he's blogging but doesn't know it yet -- all the writing and research is going into the e-mail so he may as well put it where everybody can see it).  Kind of flattering -- I hope they all find it useful.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Help for homeschoolers in the Katrina Zone

We've received a number of calls asking how to help homeschoolers who have been displaced or disrupted by Hurricane Katrina.  While there are many agencies well equipped to provide food, clothing, and shelter, only other homeschoolers will understand the need to replace critical educational materials -- because when the homes were flooded, their school system was destroyed at the same time.

There are several projects which started up within days of the storm, but as we learned helping the victims of Hurricane Floyd in 1999, the need will continue for months, and months, and months … the following are accepting cash and credit donations, and I can personally vouch for the integrity and determination of the leaders in each case.

Three projects we can recommend are:

The Home School Foundation "Hurricane Emergency Response" and "Operation Extended Family"
Link []

The Foundation is a charitable fund operated by the Home School Legal Defense Association.  Donations should be designated for Katrina relief, since HSF has a number of different assistance projects ongoing.

Family Reformation Ministries "Operation Katrina"
Link [

FRM is headed up by our friend James MacDonald of Katy, Texas, just outside of Houston.  Among other things, James is using his contacts within the homeschooling community and publishing world to provide curriculum for home educators flooded out by the storm.

National Black Home Educators Resource Association
Link []

NBHERA is led by long time brethren Eric and Joyce Burgess of Baker, Louisiana, a suburb of Baton Rouge.  I spoke with Joyce recently -- it took several days to get a phone call through at all -- and she said their project is focusing on the black families which were hit so hard in New Orleans.  Their church in Baker is operating a shelter for over 500 evacuees, and Joyce said she and a team of volunteers are working with the mothers of preschoolers in the shelter -- although most of them may not have been considering homeschooling, while living in the shelter there's literally no place for the pre-K children to go, and Joyce's group is helping them fill the time with worthwhile and educational activity.  NBHERA is a special group always, but they are particularly close to the crisis at this moment.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Oh, rats

Cobranchi's blog (not Cobranchi per se, he's offline and out of country at the moment) reports today that Scott Somerville is shutting down his admirable blog, Somerschool.  

We can only conjecture what's up at the moment -- somehow I can't imagine Scott will just disappear without his usual gracious explanation of things -- but I'm going to miss it, too.  Hope to see you again soon, Scott (one place or another :-)

Mileage rates increase -- sort of

A follow up to an earlier post on The Locker Room ( --

"In recognition of recent gasoline price increases," the Internal Revenue Service has just raised the standard mileage allowance for business travel from 40.5 cents to 48.5 cents per mile. (,,id=147423,00.html)

"This is about fairness for taxpayers,” said IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson. “People are entitled to deduct the real cost of operating a vehicle. We’ve responded to the recent gas price increases by making this special adjustment so taxpayers get the tax benefit they deserve.”

Volunteers who travel on behalf of non-profit organizations and charities will continue to enjoy the 14 cent per mile rate in effect since at least 2000 ( ); it is "set by statute, not the IRS", as the current press release points out.




Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Best of the evening

Spoken by Four Oaks mayor Linwood Parker, concerning the government's response to Katrina in New Orleans -- as exactly as I could catch it in the county GOP meeting last night:

"The problem of people in low-lying areas in New Orleans wasn't because they didn't have cars to evacuate, or didn't know where to go or what to do.  The problem was they were dependent on government assistance, so many of them, and they knew that if they left their homes with their checks coming in two or three days, when they came back they wouldn't have any money the next thirty days.

Why is it that 20% of the people can't participate in the American dream?  That's something which the government can't give you.  What we've seen is that if you wait on the government, you drown."

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Free music - of the d-i-y kind

A friend transferring in-company but out of state sent me a phrase of liturgical Latin (Domine, non sum dignus, to be exact) in our exchange of notes.  Admittedly not fluent myself, I did a quick Google to find the translation -- and what should turn up but a "Wiki" site, the Choral Public Domain Library, with a 171-page index of free choral music … including several by William Billings.  Whoa …

Link for reference:

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Hint: It's not glamorous but it works

But attacking the academic achievement gap is hard work. It takes time. It takes commitment. There's little public glory in helping a child to read or learn math. Substance and effort are boring. But symbolism -- like a flaming cross in the night -- is seductive and attracts attention.

One paragraph out of Rick Martinez' column, but it brought to mind a couple of things I've read this year.

One is Sam Levinson's Everything But Money. Levinson is an often-quoted Jewish humorist who grew up in the Depression-era slums of New York, but went to college like his brother the doctor and his brother the dentist, etc., and became a teacher. Why did he succeed? He says they were "the privileged poor" -- committed parents, a solid foundation of training in right and wrong, high expectations. Also notable is a community culture which honored scholarship. It may not have paid much, but a scholar was a man worthy of respect.

The Chinese culture shows the same currents. Ebey's Illustrated History of China may not have offered any new insights, but it elaborated on the truly ancient civil service system of Imperial Cathay -- those who aspired to leadership were expected to be scholars as well as gentlemen. In Europe, you can see where notable men scratched and scrawled graffiti at historic sites -- like Lord Byron's mark in the dungeon of Chillon Castle. In China, you see tablets of poetry or honored fragments of calligraphy, which were the accepted signature of a noble mind's visit. (And as Paul Theroux mentions in Riding the Iron Rooster, it is very possible that the deeply imbedded Confucian ideal of filial piety and honor for the family is what preserved modern China from absolute chaos during the upheavals of the Twentieth Century).

As another columnist stated somewhere this spring, the Asian student in America does not have a "math gene" which programs him for academic success, but he does have a supportive framework, a family with high expectations, and a culture which respects academic achievement.

A few months ago I spoke with a reporter who wanted to talk about "classical education", i.e. the philosophy rooted in the liberal arts, Western civilization ideal. She asked if it showed a difference in test scores, and I told her I doubted it, because standardized testing, like most of modern education, is based on reading comprehension and math computation skills, and classical education focuses on interaction with the great conversation of ideas and philosophy -- which are not tested that way. It's meant to produce minds like Newton and Jefferson, and not simply employable units of human resource.

So if it's not genetic, i.e. deterministic and beyond our influence, then what can we do to re-instill these things in American culture, before it's simply too late?

What's wrong with that?

The magazine The Church Report offers this list of "Ten Ways To Be Sure You're In A Bad Church".

I especially liked the first one:  The church bus has a gun rack.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

No longer in Biloxi

NOAA has posted 350 aerial photos from their survey of damage caused by Katrina. I was able to locate our old apartment on West Beach Boulevard in Biloxi, in this image here. You can scan from the water's edge on the left, follow the path of the storm surge, step over the debris pile about four blocks inland from U.S. 90, and then into a Disney-like landscape of Keelser Air Force Base ... so perfect anyway, but in comparison with the wreckage a quarter mile south, absolutely surreal.

Anyway, just for reference, our apartment was just to the left of center in this image, which was due south (left in this orientation) from the end of the runway over at KAFB.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Good walls make good neighbors?

North Carolina has a positively unique legal situation for private (and home) education -- a complete separation between private and public sectors. I have an article in the August issue of The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty, outlining the history and the law which set this up .

It's not one of the articles available online but the title shows up, anyway.