SocraticGadfly: 12/31/06 - 1/7/07

January 06, 2007

Reason No. 932 I’m glad I’m not a parent in today’s world

Can you imagine trying to track, let alone clamp down on or prevent, your child’s online spending? The traditional allowance sounds so quaint.

IMO, what’s really the problem is too-permissive parents. Stop letting children under a certain age on an Internet-accessing computer, period.

Apparently a certification DOES matter, even in Lancaster ISD management

If it is against against education code for Richard Gonzales to do any PDAS evaluations without his certifications, that puts a kink in district operations of special and bilingual operations, does it not? Ooops...

And, will that have further effect on No Child Left Behind issues?

Ignore that, though, because you just cannot believe that newspaper editor guy.

January 05, 2007

Apple acts smug, this is what happens

The Month of Apple Bugs project is trying to get Steve Jobs to take Apple bugs more seriously and fix them in a more timely fashion.

Hey, all you Mac salivators, I agree it’s got its upside, but 91 days to fix the average reported security problem is nothing but Jobs’ arrogance.

“Fuck Iraq” — our brilliantly comedic U.S. troops at work, winning children’s hearts and minds

Teaching Iraqi children to say “Fuck Iraq” isn’t even coming close to a “hearts and minds” counterinsurgency. All it is, is sowing more anti-American hatred for the future.

Wonderful. Maybe a would-be volunteer from Lancaster can go over and show them how to do it right.

Contact your friendly local school board member

First, here’s information from the cover letter I sent each of them with their personal copy of the Colorado findings on Richard Gonzales.

A. Did you know Richard Gonzales is uncertified? Did you know that it’s not because of academics, but that he had his certification REVOKED?

B. Did you know it was because of TWICE inappropriately disciplining children in Colorado? Read the enclosed information from the Colorado State Board of Education to learn the details.

C. What if Dr. Lewis knew this before hiring him, and went ahead and hired him anyway?

D. Do you really want a superintendent who will willingly hire someone like this?

What will you do?

The theft problems, the rekeying problems are only the tip of the iceberg. Richard Gonzales, even, is just one layer below the tip.

If you want to contact them yourselves, and ask these same questions, well, here’s your contact information.

I have no doubt, as someone warned me, that after I sent that, I would be perceived by most board members as having a personal vendetta against Superintendent Lewis.

I don’t. In fact, if anybody has “personalized” problems at the new Lancaster High School in particular and the Lancaster School District in general, it hasn’t been me.

Reflections: Ten Mile Creek

Fog at Ten Mile Creek
Nature park dampness spreading
Magnifies earth scents

Creeping, crawling mist
Hugs tress, fills low spots, moves on,
Swells and grows higher

Sunset fades grayer
Whitish mist darkens with it
The eve arises.

In clammy coolness,
Be one as nature surrounds,
Then depart in peace.

Reflections, Jan. 5

Well, here we go with day two of this project. Some late-night photography, and an extended haiku, this time, to accompany it. Humor me.

The back of the sign
Has no meaning; the symbol
Without words — the shape.

So it is with life.
We infer, guess and reckon
As we long for more.

Stop in the name of … what?
Nothing. Just stop. And stay stopped.
Only then can you ask.

No stop signs, no labels;
Road signs for life are inside,
In intuition.

It is yours alone,
Innermost private ideas
Half-conscious mind-stuff.

It may just be right.
Though alienated;
Take the risk and trust.

January 04, 2007

Once again, the Snooze's website sucks

The Dallas Morning News had a story Jan. 4 about Toyota passing DaimlerChysler in 2006 U.S. sales and joining the “Big Three.”

Went to the Snooze website. To the Biz section. The story, an AP story, ain’t there. Did a search. Didn’t show the story.

The Big Three: Ford, G.M. and …


Yes, it’s now official. (Daimler)Chrysler, even counting the Mercedes half of the company, is now No. 4.

Toyota ended the year with 15.4 percent of the U.S. market, compared to 13.3 percent for DaimlerChrysler.

Oh, and as for Toyota as No. 3?

Won’t last long.

They’re poised to pass Ford this year. Ford had 16.4 percent for 2006 and is projecting 15 percent U.S. market share for this year.

And, that recent Ford visit to Tokyo?

First, who traveled and who stayed at home? Second, since it wasn’t about a merger or anything similar, what WAS it about? Maybe it was Ford wanting some sort of alliance, going to Japan, and having their faces laughed in.

And GM?

Toyota is also posed to set the new “Mark of Excellence” worldwide by moving into the top spot this year for global sales.

Changes in store for Lancaster Minyard’s?

Minyard’s is selling its Lakewood store to Whole Foods Market for it to move out of its original Dallas store on Lower Greenville.

Now, that has nothing to do with the Lancaster Minyard’s, but this does:
Over the next two months, Minyard will evaluate all stores under its three banners, including the discount Sack 'n Save, and some stores may close while others will be remodeled, (Michael) Byars, (Minyard’s chief executive) said.

Last fall, Minyard opened a flagship Carnival store on West Illinois Avenue in Oak Cliff that has attracted industry attention for its design and fresh food departments. This year, the Hispanic-focused Carnival will account for more stores than the namesake Minyard chain.

Minyard is also putting its Coppell distribution center, which employs 231 people, up for sale or lease. The decision will free up resources to put into the company's "growth vehicle," Carnival, Mr. Byars said.

So, is it Carnival time on Pleasant Run? I will give you 50-50 odds.

A bit more freedom of speech for LISD employees

At least for one person from the high school who complained. You CAN now talk to the board, if you go through channels first.

Khalilzad next to be thrown under the Iraq bus by Bush.

Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad is among the Iraq-related military and civilians President Bush will replace. Khalilzad actually will make a much better U.N. Ambassador than Bolton did, but a quote like this:
Michael Rubin, an adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority that administered Iraq after the U.S. invasion in 2003, said replacing Khalilzad was a positive move that “creates opportunities which we can either seize or squander.”

Khalilzad is a careful diplomat but his efforts to draw Sunni Muslims into the Iraqi political process have not been successful and his status as an American Sunni Muslim gave some Iraqi Shi'ites an excuse to accuse him — erroneously — of pro-Sunni partisanship, said Rubin of the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

You can just hear the gears on the bus, can’t you?

Larry Lewis’ excellent? pep rally

Well, the message from South Centre Street for teachers to start the second semester was the same as it was to end the first.

1. The First Amendment can apparently remain missing in action, with Baptist church-style testimonials during a public school event by district leadership.
(Larry, I’ve got an Andrew Jackson in my wallet for the first teacher to pull out a prayer rug, face east-southeast and recite, “There is no God but Allah and Muhammed is his prophet” at the next such event.
More seriously, were I to be here still, I’d figure a way to do an open records request on that subject. And, no, it’s not because I’m an atheist. See Point No. 3.

2. The local newspaper (even though no longer in existence) is still telling lies. (My experience is that you learn a lot about doing something by doing it yourself. ’Nuff said to read between the lines there, I think.

3. Only “unscrupulous” teachers talk with the former editor of that former newspaper. Would that include unscrupulous teachers who also don’t care for the First Amendment being folded, spindled and mutilated?

4. Oh, Larry… and Mini-Me, new uniforms or gowns don’t make bands or orchestras play better. Strings for the orchestra do. Arranging schedules to not cut students out of orchestra or run teachers haggard does.

I’m still here, and still saying “hi” via cyberspace. Now, if one of those “unscrupulous” teachers could give me a more in-depth transcript…

A new personal project for 2007

I am going to do some sort of “reflections” type project, where I shoot at least one non-work related, around-town picture and/or write one poem a week, if not more.

I may do a haiku with each picture, as with this one, which starts us off:

Water puddles gray
Reflect homestead stonework
Cloudy, cloudy day

Fixing middle schools?

The New York Times has an in-depth article on what New York State is trying to do with its middle schools.

The ideas are many.

One is to lower student-teacher ratio. Hmm, maybe Texas needs to extend the 22-1 rule higher up the grade ladder.

Another is that laptops are good … to address middle-schoolers’ fidgeting. Well, can’t we find a less expensive way?

Yet another is the “small community” or “classroom within a classroom” system. That’s already being tried locally, in Duncanville. However, results are mixed at best, as one middle school principal in New York City already knows.
At Seth Low — also known as I.S. 96 — in the Bensonhurst neighborhood, Mr. Fein is skeptical of the rush for quick answers.
“Nobody’s ever come down and said, ‘This works,’ ” he said, speaking amid an office cluttered with John Lennon memorabilia, congratulatory plaques and student work like a glittery card reading “Mr. Fine, He So Fine.”

Maybe the middle school problems are due in part to the artificial hormones in our beef and other meats, especially in combination with the hormone mimicking qualities of some plastics that wrap our foods and bottle our drinks.

Is a change in home life also possible?

I have no doubt that the rampant advance of the computer and video game age has something to do with this.

Oh, well, the cynical part of my says that as long as they work well enough to pay my Social Security …

January 03, 2007

Lancaster development code 2007: Some suggestions

About a month ago, I said Lancaster was still, in my opinion, one development code behind the curve.

I wasn’t specific that I was talking primarily about design standards, not zoning classifications or similar.

With that said, then, here’s some of my suggestions for design ideas to incorporate in the next development code, from big to small.

1. Insulation — let’s say all new houses have to have R-13 minimum in the walls and R-25 in the roofs; that’s not too much to ask. I’d actually prefer something like R-19/R-30, but am being lenient.
2. Windows — must be at least double-paned; preferably glazed to boot
3. Some sort of “Energy Star” type rating, if this is legally allowable. Just like you have a sticker on the new fridge that says, “This model will take $$X per month to operate,” put that on new houses.
4. Developments of 50 or more houses have to use at least 2 percent recycled material.
5. Soffits MUST have at least 18 inches of overhang on sides and 24 inches front and back. I have NEVER gotten this idea of building houses without eaves, especially when every extra bit of shade in the summer keeps the body of the house cooler.
6. To riff on The Preserve, for standard zoning, not PDs, let’s then have a “take two” list of other design elements, at least two of which would have to be included with each new house. And, please don’t count chinzy items such as brick mailboxes.

Anyway, that should be enough to get the ball rolling. I have no doubt other people can offer additional ideas.

Complaint point, related to No. 5 — what’s with houses being built without screen/storm doors on the front?

January 02, 2007

Brazil: World No. 1 beef exporter

In a 2004 post, I noted that Brazil was already reportedly the world’s biggest exporter of chickens, orange juice, sugar, coffee and tobacco.

Add beef to the list, according to the January 2007 National Geographic. With soybeans soon to follow.

Somebody didn’t inform our state’s ranchers about losing top beef honors, I’m sure.

Two months ago, in a related post, I noted that the U.S. had become a net food importer. That’s right, the “breadbasket” is not an overflowing cornucopia.

In comments for that post, Jeff Melcher said he thought it was all “luxury foods” that we were importing. I personally don’t consider out-of-season fruit that much of a luxury. Is the imported beef in your hamburger or on your grill a luxury? The sugar on your cereal? The orange juice at your breakfast table? The chicken breast that’s the “healthy” alternative to the steak?

But, as the NG story points out, it’s coming at a huge price: the increasing deforestation of the Amazon. This has implications for global warming, world weather patterns, species diversity and more.

The Richard Gonzales story and Lancaster ISD hiring practices

Or, why is a person with all teaching and management certifications revoked for improper disciplining of children running the district’s special and bilingual education programs?

I can't run the whole newspaper story here, as that would go beyond proper fair use, and for whatever reason, it did not get posted to the Today website. But, as at least one person has asked what I wrote, I'll provide snips with some blogging.

Here’s the key parts, from the center of the story and taken from the open records report from the Colorado State Board of Education:
Gonzales had his Colorado state certification revoked due to multiple instances of improperly disciplining children on two different occasions while an elementary school principal in Denver Public Schools, that city’s school district.

Colorado officials acted not only on the basis of those two incidents, but on allegations of previous improper discipline while in the Austin School District, where Lancaster Superintendent Larry Lewis was an area superintendent.

In Denver, in the spring of 2003, Gonzales was found to have improperly disciplined a student at Knapp Elementary, by making him kneel on the floor, place his hands behind his back and his face on the floor. Gonzales reportedly then pulled the student’s arms behind his back hard enough to make him feel pain and to cry. In another incident with another student, he similarly pulled that student’s arms behind his back.
Nine months later, the first student complained to a school nurse. The district put Gonzales on administrative leave while investigating.

Investigator Bob Mickelson contacted the Austin School District, where Gonzales had been principal of Galindo Elementary in 2000-01. He found that Gonzales had punished students there by having them kneel and place their foreheads on the floor and stretching their arms in front of them; several students said he had also twisted their arms.

I e-mailed Austin ISD through its ridiculous webmail system to check if Galindo was one of the schools under Lewis’ purview. (Under Austin’s system at that time, it had five area superintendents. Each oversaw a couple of high schools, a few middle schools and a number of elementaries.) AISD didn’t respond before last week’s press deadline.

After the previous week’s five-minute shouting match on the phone with Lewis, I wasn’t even going to ask him. I should have asked Teri Wilson, but didn’t think about it at the time.

Anyway, I think Galindo was under his oversight, but since I wasn’t sure, couldn’t write that up. But, even the size of AISD, word of Gonzales would have traveled.

In the story, I went on to say that “the story” is bigger than Richard Gonzales, and ultimately has two other aspects.

One is how many other administrators have histories that would possibly contraindicate them holding their positions, to use a medical term? And how many were knowlingly hired?

Two, where’s the Lancaster School Board in all of this? Isn’t this just another blank check for board members to not be taking more seriously their state-mandated oversight over hiring issues?

I noted in the story that I mailed a copy of the Colorado SBOE findings I obtained to every school board member, and I also sent a cover letter. That cover letter included some rhetorical questions, such as”

What if Lewis hired Gonzales in full knowledge of his background?

Even more, what if he did so knowing that other people at Lancaster ISD administration know about Gonzales’ background and let him know?

Remember, Bush I schwaffling started Hussein down his road

Ambassador April Glaspie’s read-between-the-lines green light for Hussein to invade Kuwait in 1990 led to where we are today, as Ted Rall’s latest column notes, excellently as usual.

Anti-activist Massachusetts Supreme Court makes no sense

If the Massachusetts Supreme Court has already ruled that ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, how can it push the Legislature there to call a referendum vote on an amendment that marriage is man-woman only?

Isn’t this like Earl Warren telling Congress to call a national referendum on Brown vs. Board of Education?

Apple, meet Microsoft: Welcome to the anti-trust world

While newspaper editorial offices generally use Macs, and while I agree that they still have some advantages over PCs (though I believe that gap has narrowed), as far as “upstart Apple” vs. “the evil Microsoft empire,” I don’t drink anybody else’s Kool-Aid and I don’t peddle anybody else’s mythmaking.

So, I find it funny that, on top of Apple czar Steve Jobs’ potentially increasing federal trouble with stock options, Apple is now being sued, by a private individual, over a “bundling” issue similar to what got Microsoft in trouble years back.

Maybe it’s not really YOU making those New Year’s resolutions

What if free will (or a unitary “master” conscious self) just doesn’t exist the way the typical person thinks it does?
“If people freak at evolution, etc.,” philosopher of science Michael Silberstein wrote in an e-mail message, “how much more will they freak if scientists and philosophers tell them they are nothing more than sophisticated meat machines, and is that conclusion now clearly warranted or is it premature?”

Or, if that’s not enough to set your ears wagging:
“Free will does exist, but it’s a perception, not a power or a driving force. People experience free will. They have the sense they are free. The more you scrutinize it, the more you realize you don’t have it,” Mark Hallett, a researcher with the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, said.

Renowned philosopher Dan Dennett claims we do have free will, at least any variety worth wanting.
“We have the power to veto our urges and then to veto our vetoes,” he said. “We have the power of imagination, to see and imagine futures.”

Sorry, Dan, but I disagree on a few counts.

You yourself have come to the brink of questioning just how much not free will, but the idea of a unitary conscious controller “I,” exists. (If the “I” doesn’t fully exist outside illusion, free will certainly doesn’t.) Second, as some of the experiments by Benjamin Libet have shown, maybe we don’t have so much veto power over ourselves as we think.

Dan Wegner, who has stepped beyond Dennett in this issue, takes this bull more by the horns.
“It’s an illusion, but it’s a very persistent illusion; it keeps coming back,” he said, comparing it to a magician’s trick that has been seen again and again. “Even though you know it’s a trick, you get fooled every time. The feelings just don’t go away.”

I believe that the idea of free will, the feeling of free will, may come naturally as an emergent property of a certain level of consciousness. Therefore, to some degree, there’s nothing we can do but accept the illusion while further discussing what this fact means.

Cross-posted at Philosophy of the Socratic Gadfly.

Contrary to myth, the “boots on the ground” don’t support Bush either on Iraq

In a story that’s gotten very little national media play (so much for another tired myth, that of the “liberal media hating the war”) only 35 percent of U.S. forces support the war in Iraq and only 41 percent thought we should have gone there.

No, there’s not been some huge upsurge in liberals in the armed forces, either. And, in a number of related questions in the poll, unvoiced dissatisfaction with Bush policies appears to be growing; on many questions, the “no opinion” numbers hit 20 percent.

The mail-in poll may not be strictly scientific. The authors of the story say it probably weighs in the direction of career members of the military and perhaps a bit higher up the ranks.

Wouldn’t this be a fun nature trip?

Drag your own sled across 250 miles of Antarctic ice to hike the continent’s tallest peak, more than 16,000 feet. Rewards?. Seeing almost all the way to the South Pole in a balmy early-summer day in the Antarctic, just -35 at the summit. Actually, with people more trained in polar exploration than I, that would be fun.

An international union? About time

If a merger of two British unions go through, the new Amicus and its American and German unions with which it has alliances would have a combined membership of more than 7.5 million members. A full merger of manufacturing unions in three of the largest economies of the world (including No. 1 and 3) would be huge.
Derek Simpson, general secretary of Amicus, said: “Our aim is to create a powerful single union that can transcend borders to challenge the global forces of capital. I envisage a functioning, if loosely federal, multinational trade union organisation within the next decade.”

Here’s hoping that Derek Simpson is right. The decline of First World trade unionism needs to be reversed and fast.

January 01, 2007

And now for 2007 …

In a previous post, I offered readers here a chance to vote on their assessment of how 2006 was for them.

Well, we are in 2007 now, so … have you made any resolutions yet, or are you planning on any?

The poll below allows multiple votes. Some of them are “stereotypical” resolutions, others are based at least in part on stuff I want to do in the new year. So, vote away!

(Oh, please comment in the comments link as well, if you would, especially since one person besides me has already checked "moon the White House" as one of his/her resolutions!)

Free polls from
What resolution(s) do you plan for this year? (Vote for more than one if you want)
Lose weight Get someone else to lose weight Quit smoking Quit drinking or something else Get someone else to quit something Increase in self-awareness Do other personal growth work Moon the White House, even if from the safety of your own residence Meet someone special, or develop something special, if unattached Re-examine job/career path Learn about accepting life better Look at how to possibly "reframe" how I see things Renew old acquaintances/friendships Get more financially organized or better planned   


The winter-bared trees at sunset
Reflect the day’s last dying embers.
The light-line creeps ever higher
Looking like Southwest canyon rimrock.

I think of Big Bend, or Canyonlands,
As the first full moon of winter
Rises slowly in the eastern sky,
And hangs pendant o’er now-gray limbs.

Did some Comanche of times past
Stop to absorb a similar sky?
Standing here, in my own footprints
To take stock of his own inmost self?

Sunset’s last treetop fingertips fade;
The moon looms higher in the dusky chill.
I am more one with the world that is,
Finding peace that I already had.

Jan. 1, 2007

Taking a look at 2006

Yes, put that champagne glass down, pull the lampshade off, or wake up and smell the espresso. Give a brief think back to the year just past and share your opinion about it.

In hindsight, what was your 2006 like?
Free polls from

The eyes have it - thoughts about existential eternity

(An old poem brought back to memory by the thought of looking into Someone’s eyes)

The moment
When the eyes return
From near to far
Is eternity.
An unfocused gaze
With no
Intervening ego.
The self shines through
The real me,
Momentarily unfiltered.
But if I try
To grasp the moment
It trickles through
My clawing fingers
And drains away
Liquid silver
Flowing free and uncontainable.
The moment
When the eyes return
From near to far
Is eternity.
For eternity is
Always found
In the moment
Of the now.
A momentary
Refocusing of thought
Which thinks beyond myself
Unbounded by old burdens,
Uncontrolled by old ideas
This moment
Is eternity.


The dead lie askew,
Scattered and strewn about;
Just as in life.

Gravestones refuse to be erect,
Tilting awry as the burdens of age set in.
Just as in life.

Yet, from all around the dead sprouts life.
Mushrooms rising even in winter with renewing rains
And cedars evergreen shading the tangible memories of the departed.
The dead, even in small ways, do not lie unremembered,
Just as in life.

Graveyard walks can be very reflective
When the dead are approached with an open mind,
Just as in life.

Will we find life
In our inner, personal and emotional deaths,
As long as we have life?

Dec. 31, 2006