Sunday, December 30, 2007

All My Very Best Wishes for 2008!


This next year brings with it many, many challenges for all of us on the planet. I received a copy of the BBC Planet Earth series and have been watching it almost nonstop since Xmas. It is a remarkable program and I cannot recommend it enough. To be able to see the entire planet as one organism as is presented here is such a privilege. The beauty of the photography is truly uplifting.

As this year comes to a close, I begin a new one with a trip to work with the teachers in Santa Avelina, Guatemala with Helps. I haven’t been to Santa Avelina yet, but a colleague at Utah State was kind enough to invite me to participate. The chance to return to the Ixil triangle in El Quiche was far too hard for me to pass on. It is a grand way to begin a new year.

I have been deeply blessed by a rewarding job, good colleagues and students, dear friends in many countries, a family, a life partner and a son. I live in lovely city, in an amazing and diverse state, that has afforded me a job that allows me to do what I want to do.

In other words I deeply appreciate all that many of you have contributed towards making this crazy life of mine such a marvel. So at midnight tomorrow evening, when Milton & I raise the traditional glass, I will be raising another to you all as well.

All my very best wishes, for peace and health to us all on this deeply troubled tiny little planet of ours!

Cheers!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Taxes are what we pay for a Civilized Society

Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society: Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes.
CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO

10 Excellent Reasons Not to Hate Taxes (Paperback)
With an Introduction by David Cay Johnston
BuzzFlash.com's Review (excerpt)

From Mark Karlin, Editor and Publisher of BuzzFlash.com:

Back in the mid-90s, I attended a luncheon event and was seated at the table of the one-time chairman of the DNC under Clinton, David Wilhelm. We were engaging in conversation about how issues are framed and play out in the political world.

At some point we were discussing taxes and I made a statement something like, "I really think it is kind of selfish and self-defeating for all these Americans who listen to the siren song of how taxes are a great government evil. The Republicans -- and many Democrats -- find the fastest way to win an election is to promise to cut taxes. But it's like saying, listen you can have a nice house that is air-conditioned and well-heated and you won't have to pay the full mortgage. Because in the end, if we don't pay sufficient taxes, our schools will deteriorate, our bridges will collapse, our garbage won't get picked up, we'll have fewer police, and the list goes on and on."

"I know that it sounds so naive, but I don't mind paying my fair share for living in a democracy with good public services. It's the cost of maintaining the public commons and public services, not to say making downpayments on democracy."

Wilhelm, who is an affable guy with a ready smile, looked at me earnestly during my declaration of support for taxes. When I was finished, he waited a moment and then said, "Mark, I have one word of advice for you."

"What's that David?" I asked.

"Whatever you do," he told me earnestly, "don't ever plan on running for public office."

A few years after that encounter, America entered the Reagan anti-tax era or irresponsible tax cutting on steroids, particularly to enrich the already wealthy, as the Democrats in Congress piled on the bandwagon of spreading the charlatan promise that you can have a great nation with great public services and not have to pay for them.

Of course, the Republican strategy has been to keep cutting taxes until there are only the most minimal of government services. It's every person for themselves, and the anti-evolutionists actually espouse the most pared down theory of the survival of the fittest, with no need for government services except for the military.

The flip side of chopping at the tax base is to increase the privatization of services, including law enforcement, fire fighters, military services, prisons, and schools. The Bush/Cheney administration has made considerable advancements in this area toward achieving Grover Norquist's goal of drowning public services in a bathtub.

That leads us to this perky progressive "framing" book on taxes that has ten excellent essays on why taxes are good for us as a democracy. These ten reasons will help you reframe the tax debate, although it will always be a challenge to overcome the politician's perennial appeal to basic greed. But you can start with buying and reading "10 Excellent Reasons Not to Hate to Taxes."

Wilhelm is right: no one will be running on such a platform soon, but some day...Well, let's start the journey with this nifty little book.

Learn More >>> http://www.buzzflash.com/store/items/911

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas to all...


and a very Happy Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Solstice and New Year!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Imagine One Laptop Per Child - Sacramento Challenge

Imagine One Laptop Per Child - Sacramento Challenge

Let’s imagine that we could make the Internet accessible to millions of children around the world. Let’s imagine how that would change the world as we know it. Frankly, I don’t think I can imagine the entire impact that it would have, it’s just too vast, but it would certainly be one of those giant steps that the world takes every 50 years or so. An amazing non-profit organization, One Laptop per Child (OLPC) created by faculty members from the MIT Media Lab, and led by Nicholas Negroponte announced, in January of this year, a goal to design, manufacture, and distribute laptops that are sufficiently inexpensive to provide every child in the world access to knowledge and modern forms of education. The laptops would be sold to governments and issued to children by schools on a basis of one laptop per child. These machines would be rugged, Linux-based, and so energy efficient that hand-cranking alone could generate sufficient power for operation. Mesh networking would give many machines Internet access from one connection. The pricing goal would start near $100 and then steadily decrease. What a goal!

Who would have imagined that less than a year later the machines are on their way to production? Yesterday, Taiwan’s Quanta Computer announced it will bring the machine to market by the end of 2006. Soon thereafter, OLPC says, 5 million to 15 million units will be launched via pilot programs in China, India, Brazil, Argentina, Egypt, Nigeria, and Thailand. Even in this country, the idea is getting rave reviews. Massachusetts Republican Governor Romney has said he would love to get this laptop into the hands of all his state’s students and he has specific plans to buy for the half-million high school and middle school students as soon as they become available.

Hardware used for the laptop will include an eight-inch color LCD screen, wireless connectivity, and it can be powered by either an adapter or through a wind-up mechanism. One of the great hurdles that had to be overcome to meet the $100 price point was how to make a cheaper screen. Negroponte hired Mary Lou Jepsen away from her job as chief technology officer in Intel’s display division to become CTO at OLPC. Jepsen has invented a display that she thinks can be built for $35 or less (compared with the typical $100 or more). There has also been talk of giving the device the capability to access the Internet through cellular networks. On the software side, the laptop will have word processing, a Web browser, e-mail client, and programming software.

So, does the name Negroponte sound familiar? John Negroponte, the new US Intelligence Czar? Nicholas is his brother. He is the founder and director of MIT’s unique Media Lab. He authored a book Being Digital in 1995, which Publishers Weekly described as an upbeat primer on the information revolution. In addition, he was an investor in and correspondent for Wired. But, to me, the most interesting fact about him is that he has a passion to get a laptop into the hands of all children in the developing world since the 1980’s. He even set up a real-life experiment. He and his wife, Elaine, set up a school in a rural Cambodian village and donated 50 laptops. His partner, Seymour Paper, has been an integral player in getting laptops to every 7th and 8th grader in Maine. The results in Maine have been very positive. Teachers are now able to tailor lessons to individual student’s needs. One teacher reports that 20% of his eighth-graders are completing the honors algebra ninth-grade curriculum. How does Negroponte describe his motivation? “What actually happened was I got sufficiently irritated by people telling me it wasn't possible," he says. "I'm a firm believer that half of the solution comes from sheer resolve."

Corporate sponsors include Google, AMD, RedHat, Brightstar, News Corporation and Nortel. The Microsofts, Dells, Apples of the world are watching. Is Bill Gates getting heartburn imagining 200 million children in China getting cozy with Linux? Intel made a statement that clearly shows where it stands through its Chairman, Craig Barrett. “Mr. Negroponte has called it a $100 laptop -- I think a more realistic title should be 'the $100 gadget'," Barrett told a press conference in Sri Lanka. "The problem is that gadgets have not been successful."

So, at the risk of irritating our colleagues at Intel, I am putting out a challenge to the business, government and academia executives in Sacramento. What’s it going to take to make Sacramento the city (or the county?) that equips all (most, some) of its kids with $100 laptops by the end of 2007?

Let’s make a profound difference in the lives of these kids. And let’s imagine what happens when they take these laptops home and get their parents involved in the world that the Internet can open up to them.

As John Lennon said in his song Imagine, that withstands the test of time by the sheer clarity of its message:

You may say I’m a dreamer,
but I’m not the only one,
I hope some day you'll join us,
And the world will live as one.

©Bag Productions, Inc
Gillian ParrilloThe Sacramento Executive

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Milton's OLPC arrived in time to take to Brasil


Its really great... I can't wait for mine to arrive! Cuter'n a bug!




SAY WHAT?




“Unless Moses comes down with two stone tablets from Brokeback Mountain to tell us something different, we need to keep that understanding of marriage.”– Mike Huckabee


“It’s the acts, it’s the various acts that people perform that are sinful”– Rudolph Giuliani on homosexuality


“I don't want civil unions or gay marriage.” – Mitt Romney


In case you were wondering why I support Obama...

U.N. GENERAL ASSEMBLY EXPRESSES "DEEP CONCERN" ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS IN IRANUNITED NATIONS

U.N. GENERAL ASSEMBLY EXPRESSES "DEEP CONCERN" ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS IN IRANUNITED NATIONS, 19 December 2007 (BWNS) --

The United Nations General Assembly yesterday adopted a resolution expressing "deep concern" about "ongoing systematic violations of human rights" in Iran.Adopted by a final vote of 73 to 53, with 55 abstentions, the resolution took note of repression and persecution aimed by the Iranian government at groups ranging from women and women's rights defenders to the news media and labor groups, as well as various ethnic and religious minorities, including Baha'is."We are happy that the General Assembly, the most globally representative body of United Nations, has seen fit once again this year to call attention to the dire situation in Iran, where Baha'is and other groups continue to face oppression and persecution by the government," said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha'i International Community to the United Nations."Our hope now is that the Iranian government will heed the opinion of the international community and stop the systematic violation of human rights directed against its own people," said Ms. Dugal.The resolution, put forward by Canada and co-sponsored by 41 other countries, describes the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran, expressing "serious concern" about "confirmed instances" of "torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including flogging and amputations"; public executions, including stoning, and "arrests, violent repression, and sentencing of women exercising their right to peaceful assembly, a campaign of intimidation against women's human rights defenders, and continuing discrimination against women and girls."The resolution, the 20th on Iran since 1985, also notes "increasing discrimination and other human rights violations against persons belonging to religious, ethnic, linguistic or other minorities" including Arabs, Azeris, Baluchis, Kurds, Christians, Jews, Sufis and Sunni Muslims and Baha'is.Regarding Baha'is, the resolution notes particularly that there have been "attacks on Baha'is and their faith in State-sponsored media, increasing evidence of efforts by the State to identify and monitor Baha'is and prevention of (Baha'is) from attending university and from sustaining themselves economically; an increase in cases of arbitrary arrest and detention."

To view the photos and additional features click here:http://news.bahai.org--8-bp-071219-1-GARESO07-594-S
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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The good lads at KUMES - Nepal

Last summer the good lads at KUMES - Kathmandu, Univeristy, Nepal posted an interview,
see: http://kumesnepal.blogspot.com/2007/09/interview-with-mr-daniel.html

thanks guys!

Here is what they posted on Wednesday, September 26, 2007

---------------------

An Interview with Mr. Daniel

Date: 18th June 07.(begun late on the 19th of June, 2007)

Hello! Sir,Namaste!
It is our pride, pleasure and a great opportunity to be with you at this moment.

I am humbled to be here, and deeply honored to be asked to work with you all.

Ethnomathematics was a strange subject for us when it was introduced in K.U. It was a dream for all of us to meet the persons like you who worked and made significant contribution in this area. The dream has turned into reality.

No, the dream is mine! To travel to Nepal has been a dream of mine for a very long time, I am so very honored to be here and to work with you all.

We hope the moment we spend with you here in Nepal will be productive in many aspects for us, Nepali people, the society and of course for the world. We believe that we are trying to learn how to make a good start in the field of ethnomathematics.

I am sure you are!

We are very young in this area. We are not sure whether our questionnaires will meet your expectations or not, but we hope that you will understand our limitations in different angles. How do you like to introduce yourself? How do you enumerate the influence of your family, culture, place of birth, politics of the work place and personal nature in the journey of your mathematics and ethnomathematics?

I like to be called Daniel, though I think in this culture that form of informality is not acceptable. Though in Brasil, like California most everyone refers to each other by their first name. Dr. Orey is good, I am not worried about titles, just call me friend! I was born in San José, California a very long time ago (in 1955). My parents were a typical young middle class protestant couple of the time. I have one sister (two years younger). I was very fortunate - I have been given every opportunity imaginable, and my parents spent a great deal of energy making sure that I didn't see too many things that were uncomfortable or unpleasant. I went to college and became a teacher, and after three years I was married and convinced my wife that we needed to live overseas for awhile. So it was that we got jobs in Guatemala. I didn't know anything about Guatemala then, and learned about injustice, and suffering, and extreme poverty, classism, and racism, and for the first time I saw the consequences of my country's foreign polices for those less fortunate... but despite all these things I saw the sweetness of the Mayan people. They are so strong, despite 500 years of colonial domination, and the current horrors they were experiencing... they taught me so very much.

I am not registered for any political party (I find them divisive and contrary to unity, and not interested in what the people need) but I always vote, and I would say that I am a very liberal progressive, and believe in the full expression and freedom of individuals no matter what their religion, sexual orientation, gender, political party, race, national origin, or language. My trip here to Nepal really confirms something basic in my religious foundation - that all people everywhere on this planet have much more in common than they have different. Though the food, language, customs are different, underneath all of this - we are all essentially the same - we love, we laugh, we like good food, good drink, good friends, we all have dreams and wish for societies based on peace and justice. It gives me such hope for this world that is so full of problems!


What is the purpose of visit to Nepal? How many countries have you been visited till now regarding the ethnomath project?

My purpose to come to Nepal is to work with KU in relation to ethnomath and mathematics education. Countries in relation to my work in ethnomath? Hmmm... Brasil (of course!), Guatemala, México, Costa Rica, Italy, and now Nepal.

How can the study of ethnomath help in the development of economically poor countries like Nepal? How do you suggest the concerned authorities?

It can only be helpful in assisting any culture in coming to value what it has. Mathematically, my hope for the ethnomath research group here is that you have a very short window to document as much as you can about the old customs and ways of counting, ordering, ciphering, etc. Nepal is about to change and when the younger generation begins to play computer games, etc... they will no longer want to know about or will forget the old and unique Nepali ways of thinking, learning and doing mathematics (this is consistent to "development" in Brasil and the United States).

Universalists claim that the ethnomath project will destroy the peace and harmony between the cultures in the world, how do you justify?

No, that seems very strange to me, I haven\'the faintest idea what a universalist is, or why they might think this. As Ubiratan D'Ambrosio has said: "An individual, hopes in this phase of the evolution of our species, that the respect for diverse peoples will not be replaced by our arrogance, envy and great power and that in solidarity, we will be able to contribute to the preservation of a common inheritance."

How do you advise the university graduates who want to join in the agenda of ethnomathematics? What about the future?

I hope that each of you comes to understand what D'Ambrosio is sharing with us all. I hope that each one of you can document - using mathematical modeling - and save as much of the traditional ways of doing mathematics before it disappears forever. Nepal is about to make incredible changes - it will need to retain its "Nepaliness" while gaining its own, new voice and entering and fully participating in the world economy and politics. The world does not need another copy of the Untied States, China or India... what we need is a strong, vibrant and confident Nepal. One that has all the information it needs to solve its own problems. It is my hope that Nepal will look at countries that have come out of the long dark nightmare of war and violence like you are, and look at them as roll models and seek their input and guidance. I speak chiefly of Chile and Brasil - I hope that some students from Nepal might go and study in Brasil and that Brazilians might come to KU to study someday.

We are grateful to you for your valuable time and your heartfelt attempts to enrich Nepali ethnomath.

No, I am most grateful to you all for your interest, love and respect for ethnomathematics. I cannot enrich Nepali ethnomath - it is already very rich... you just need to find it!

Namaste!

Thank you Kumes (A club of M.ed students at K.U. with a slogan "mathematics for all")

Interviewed by:Amrit Bahadur Thapa, L.B Gurung, Krishna Poudel

------------------------------------

Daniel Clark Orey, PhD
Senior Fulbright Specialist - Nepal
CNPq Fellow - Brasil
Professor, California State University, Sacramento
http://www.csus.edu/indiv/o/oreyd/resume.htm
http://ubnotorious.blogspot.com/

Did You Know 2.0

see for the latest:

Did You Know III-Updated June 2007

and

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMcfrLYDm2U&eurl=http://www.didyouknow.org/

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Story of Stuff




Snowglobes




This year we are a pair of clumsy guys... during our annual tree critique nad feijoada, a wreath and lights fell offthe chimmney and crashed otneh floor, brigning with ita few santas and all the lights... early on a snow globe fell off a shelf and burst on the floor... which made me remember one of my favorite silly links:


And of course the good folks at wikipedia have posted the history of snow globes:


Keep on shak'n!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

California won a major legal battle Wednesday in its fight to implement a global-warming law

State can regulate greenhouse gas from autos, judge rules
By Dale Kasler and Jim Downing - dkasler@sacbee.com
Last Updated 11:21 am PST Wednesday, December 12, 2007

California won a major legal battle Wednesday in its fight to implement a global-warming law that would lead to steep increases in motor vehicle fuel economy.

A federal judge in Fresno tossed out a lawsuit filed by the world's major automakers that tried to overturn AB 1493, a law that requires a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2016.
The automakers had said the law was unconstitutional because it mandated a big jump in mileage standards - a matter that is under the authority of the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They further argued that the California standards would raise vehicle prices by as much as $6,000 per vhicle, leading to fewer sales and tens of thousands of auto-plant layoffs.

But U.S. District Judge Anthony Ishii rejected those claims, ruling that the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and arresting climate change must go forward.

The judge's decision doesn't mean the law automatically takes effect. California still needs a waiver from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to implement AB 1493.

Last month the state sued the EPA to force a decision on its waiver request. On Wednesday EPA spokeswoman Jennifer Wood said the federal agency will rule on the request by the end of December. If the EPA turns down California's request, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other state officials have vowed to sue the government again.

The Fresno decision came as climatologists and policymakers, including many from California, convened in Bali, Indonesia, to hammer out a worldwide treaty on curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

State officials and environmentalists have said AB 1493 can be implemented using largely off-the-shelf technology. They say the additional cost per vehicle is probably no more than $1,800.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, responding to the decision, continued to criticize the California law, saying, "We need a consistent national policy for fuel economy, and this nationwide policy cannot be written by a single state or group of states - only by the fedeal government."

The alliance noted that leaders of Congress, working on a new federal energy bill, recently agreed to raise fuel economy standards for all vehicles from an average 25.3 mpg to 35 mpg by 2020. The bill has passed the House but not the Senate, and may run aground because of issues not related to fuel economy.

The judge's decision was greatly influenced by two earlier court cases. Last spring the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal EPA had the duty to regulate greenhouse gases. More recently, a federal judge in Vermont threw out the automakers' lawsuit over a copycat law.

Vermont is one of 11 states that have adopted California's standards; five others are considering doing so. But all are on hold pending the EPA's decision on California's waiver request.

Environmentalists hailed Judge Ishii's ruling. "We keep winning," said David Bookbinder, a lawyer with the Sierra Club, which participated in the case. "The courts are simply not buying (the automakers') arguments."

He said he wouldn't be surprised if the automakers file an appeal, adding: "Sooner or later they're going to have to stop throwing lawyers at the problem and start hiring engineers."

Call The Bee's Dale Kasler, (916) 321-1066.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Prius Versus Hummer: A Nickel for Your Thoughts

Prius Versus Hummer: A Nickel for Your Thoughts

fro mthe ask Mr. Green on : http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/200711/mrgreen_mailbag.asp#headaches


Hey Mr. Green,I am looking to replace my 11-year-old commuter car with a new one and was thinking about getting a hybrid. But I have heard that the energy used just to produce the battery in a hybrid is more than a Hummer uses over its lifetime. Now I'm wondering if I would be better off getting a really fuel-efficient regular car.
My other concern is that the battery in a hybrid may not last for the life of the car. As you can see, I prefer to keep my cars for at least ten years. Will a hybrid battery work that long?
Please help! I want to do what's best for the environment, so I'd appreciate it if you could clarify this matter for me. —Jennifer in Downingtown, Pennsylvania



Hey Jennifer,Some wonderful urban legends have sprung up about the Prius and its battery, the most colorful being this claim about the hybrid being less ecofriendly than a Hummer. Some of the more thrilling chapters originated in one study done by a marketing company that was not peer-reviewed but, unfortunately, was widely quoted in the media. Writer George Will, who is syndicated in 450 papers, penned an April column on the topic, headlined "Use a Hummer to Crush a Prius." The story was also pumped into the Internet-disinformation pipeline by gleeful bullies for whom size is apparently quite important, and before long the Prius had morphed into a sort of traveling toxic-waste dump trailing clouds of diabolical fossil-fuel exhaust.

You can disprove most of the false claims by doing a bit of math. Regarding the hybrid battery, let's say a Hummer is driven 200,000 miles in its lifetime. Its EPA rating is 14 miles per gallon in the city and 18 miles per gallon on the highway. Let's be real generous and assume it is driven only on the highway at a reasonable speed, yielding the maximum mileage. Divide 200,000 by 18, and you're talking 11,111 gallons of gas.

Next let's calculate the Btus in that amount of gasoline and convert them to kilowatt-hours. Gasoline has between 115,000 and 125,000 Btus per gallon, so the Hummer would burn through about 1.3 billion Btus over those 200,000 miles. Since there are 3,412 Btus in a kilowatt-hour (kWh) of energy, this would convert to almost 400,000 kilowatt-hours, which, at the rock-bottom price of five cents per kilowatt-hour, would be about $20,000, or almost as much as the price of a Prius. If the energy to make the hybrid battery came from fuel oil, which has around 140,000 Btus per gallon, it would take an estimated 9,524 gallons of oil to match the Hummer's 1.3 billion Btus. At $2 a gallon, that's also about $20,000.

Now if Toyota is truly spending that much money on the battery alone, U.S. automakers can stop worrying about the Japanese competition pronto. Either that, or Toyota is cooking up the most brilliant marketing strategy in the history of modern capitalism: investing unprecedented prodigious funds in a loss leader!

In any case, the study indicting the Prius has been discredited by a number of reliable sources since its appearance early this year. As David Friedman, the research director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' Clean Vehicles program, put it: "This study has been completely contradicted by studies from MIT, Argonne National Laboratory, and Carnegie Mellon's Lifecycle Assessment Group. The reality is hybrids can significantly cut global-warming pollution, reduce energy use, and save drivers thousands at the pump."

Among the many critics of Hummer hugging, Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute noted that one of the many flaws of the CNW Marketing study is that it is based on fudged figures. As he points out, it assumes a Hummer would travel 379,000 miles in its lifetime and last 35 years, whereas a Prius would only go 109,000 miles and last 12 years. So of course, using these figures, the amount of energy needed to make the Prius is going to come out high on a per-mile basis. (Who knows? In real-world time the Hummer might well have a shorter life because when the owners get bored with their mega-toys and want to dump them, no one may want to buy these gas hogs. Note also that I could've fudged and used that 379,000-mile figure, which would've jacked up the Hummer's lifetime energy use for fuel alone to a value of around $37,000.)
Getting back to the Prius's nickel metal hydride battery, laments about its other environmental iniquities were largely based on reports of environmental devastation from nickel mining in Sudbury, Ontario, where 10 percent of the world's nickel is mined. The problem is that these reports described Sudbury 30 years ago, not today. Yes, nickel mining is a nasty business, but in the 1970s, Sudburians started to clean up the mining mess and make huge strides in rehabilitating their environment. As Canadian Geographic declared recently in giving one Sudbury group an award for restoration, "Once derided for its barren landscape, Sudbury, Ontario, has experienced an environmental makeover since the 1970s. Today, the former industry-blighted moonscape has been transformed."

In any case, Prius batteries, which contain 32 pounds of nickel each, require only a fraction of the world's supply. More than 94 percent of the 1.55 million tons of nickel mined each year is used for stainless steel, alloys, and electroplating. So the batteries for the one million hybrids Toyota has sold so far have required only one percent of the world's annual nickel-mining production. Since the estimates on nickel recycling indicate about 80 percent is being reused, a million Priuses' share of newly mined nickel would really only be about two-tenths of one percent.

Additionally, Toyota researchers say that a Prius battery will last for at least 180,000 miles. There's no reason to believe that the company is inflating its figures, for the simple reason that Toyota issues an eight-year or 100,000-mile warranty on their batteries. Company representatives say that very few batteries have failed and that some fleet cars have already racked up 200,000 miles and the batteries are still going strong. The Prius batteries are also completely recyclable, and Toyota's recycling program even issues a $150 credit when they're finally retired.

Finally, after much Hummering and hawing, there remains your question whether you'd be better off getting a "really fuel-efficient regular car." Well, you might. As previously reported here, I've driven another Toyota, the Corolla, and gotten 42 miles per gallon, a mile more than its official EPA rating. That's pretty competitive with the Prius, especially when you consider that the Corolla costs about $7,000 less. So that regular car may be a sensible alternative to the Prius, but not because the Prius is environmentally worse than the Hummer.

Environmentally,Mr. Green

------------------------------------

Views expressed by readers may not reflect those of Mr. Green or Sierra magazine. Reader suggestions have not been researched or tested.
Read more advice from Mr. Green, including his Web-only mailbag, and submit your own environmental questions at sierraclub.org/mrgreen.

California State University Audit

California State University:
It Is Inconsistent in Considering Diversity When Hiring Professors, Management Personnel, Presidents, and System Executives

AUDIT HIGHLIGHTS

Our review of California State University's (university) hiring processes and employment discrimination lawsuits revealed the following:

  • The university has issued little systemwide guidance to the campuses regarding the hiring process.
  • Campuses are inconsistent in their consideration of gender and ethnicity when hiring assistant, associate, and full professors.
  • Campuses use differing levels of detail when estimating the percentage of qualified women and minorities available for employment, decreasing the university's ability to effectively compare data among campuses.
  • Campuses have hiring policies that vary in terms of the amount of guidance they provide search committees for Management Personnel Plan employees, and one campus has developed no policies for these positions that relate to nonacademic areas.
  • While the hiring process for presidents requires input from many stakeholders, the hiring of system executives is largely at the discretion of the chancellor in consultation with the board of trustees.
  • As of June 30, 2007, the university spent $2.3 million on settlements resulting from employment discrimination lawsuits filed during the five-year period we reviewed, and $5.3 million for outside counsel in defending itself against such lawsuits.
see full report at: http://www.bsa.ca.gov/reports/summary.php?id=551

and then of course there is:


Monday, December 10, 2007

Christmas on the Ponderosa







Our Annual Holiday Tree Critique on the Ponderosa... you can see in detail here how quickly the group broke into intense discussions about the tree and the decorations...
Luckily no one was hurt during the collapse of the wreath over the hearth...

It was great fun!






SPEECH BY AL GORE ON THE ACCEPTANCEOF THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZEDECEMBER

SPEECH BY AL GORE ON THE ACCEPTANCEOF THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZEDECEMBER
10, 2007
OSLO, NORWAY

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Honorable members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen.
I have a purpose here today. It is a purpose I have tried to serve for many years. I have prayed that God would show me a way to accomplish it.
Sometimes, without warning, the future knocks on our door with a precious and painful vision of what might be. One hundred and nineteen years ago, a wealthy inventor read his own obituary, mistakenly published years before his death. Wrongly believing the inventor had just died, a newspaper printed a harsh judgment of his life’s work, unfairly labeling him “The Merchant of Death” because of his invention – dynamite. Shaken by this condemnation, the inventor made a fateful choice to serve the cause of peace.
Seven years later, Alfred Nobel created this prize and the others that bear his name.
Seven years ago tomorrow, I read my own political obituary in a judgment that seemed to me harsh and mistaken – if not premature. But that unwelcome verdict also brought a precious if painful gift: an opportunity to search for fresh new ways to serve my purpose.
Unexpectedly, that quest has brought me here. Even though I fear my words cannot match this moment, I pray what I am feeling in my heart will be communicated clearly enough that those who hear me will say, “We must act.”
The distinguished scientists with whom it is the greatest honor of my life to share this award have laid before us a choice between two different futures – a choice that to my ears echoes the words of an ancient prophet: “Life or death, blessings or curses. Therefore, choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.”
We, the human species, are confronting a planetary emergency – a threat to the survival of our civilization that is gathering ominous and destructive potential even as we gather here. But there is hopeful news as well: we have the ability to solve this crisis and avoid the worst – though not all – of its consequences, if we act boldly, decisively and quickly.
However, despite a growing number of honorable exceptions, too many of the world’s leaders are still best described in the words Winston Churchill applied to those who ignored Adolf Hitler’s threat: “They go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful to be impotent.”
So today, we dumped another 70 million tons of global-warming pollution into the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding our planet, as if it were an open sewer. And tomorrow, we will dump a slightly larger amount, with the cumulative concentrations now trapping more and more heat from the sun.
As a result, the earth has a fever. And the fever is rising. The experts have told us it is not a passing affliction that will heal by itself. We asked for a second opinion. And a third. And a fourth. And the consistent conclusion, restated with increasing alarm, is that something basic is wrong.
We are what is wrong, and we must make it right.
Last September 21, as the Northern Hemisphere tilted away from the sun, scientists reported with unprecedented distress that the North Polar ice cap is “falling off a cliff.” One study estimated that it could be completely gone during summer in less than 22 years. Another new study, to be presented by U.S. Navy researchers later this week, warns it could happen in as little as 7 years.
Seven years from now.
In the last few months, it has been harder and harder to misinterpret the signs that our world is spinning out of kilter. Major cities in North and South America, Asia and Australia are nearly out of water due to massive droughts and melting glaciers. Desperate farmers are losing their livelihoods. Peoples in the frozen Arctic and on low-lying Pacific islands are planning evacuations of places they have long called home. Unprecedented wildfires have forced a half million people from their homes in one country and caused a national emergency that almost brought down the government in another. Climate refugees have migrated into areas already inhabited by people with different cultures, religions, and traditions, increasing the potential for conflict. Stronger storms in the Pacific and Atlantic have threatened whole cities. Millions have been displaced by massive flooding in South Asia, Mexico, and 18 countries in Africa. As temperature extremes have increased, tens of thousands have lost their lives. We are recklessly burning and clearing our forests and driving more and more species into extinction. The very web of life on which we depend is being ripped and frayed.
We never intended to cause all this destruction, just as Alfred Nobel never intended that dynamite be used for waging war. He had hoped his invention would promote human progress. We shared that same worthy goal when we began burning massive quantities of coal, then oil and methane.
Even in Nobel’s time, there were a few warnings of the likely consequences. One of the very first winners of the Prize in chemistry worried that, “We are evaporating our coal mines into the air.” After performing 10,000 equations by hand, Svante Arrhenius calculated that the earth’s average temperature would increase by many degrees if we doubled the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Seventy years later, my teacher, Roger Revelle, and his colleague, Dave Keeling, began to precisely document the increasing CO2 levels day by day.
But unlike most other forms of pollution, CO2 is invisible, tasteless, and odorless -- which has helped keep the truth about what it is doing to our climate out of sight and out of mind. Moreover, the catastrophe now threatening us is unprecedented – and we often confuse the unprecedented with the improbable.
We also find it hard to imagine making the massive changes that are now necessary to solve the crisis. And when large truths are genuinely inconvenient, whole societies can, at least for a time, ignore them. Yet as George Orwell reminds us: “Sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.”
In the years since this prize was first awarded, the entire relationship between humankind and the earth has been radically transformed. And still, we have remained largely oblivious to the impact of our cumulative actions.
Indeed, without realizing it, we have begun to wage war on the earth itself. Now, we and the earth's climate are locked in a relationship familiar to war planners: "Mutually assured destruction."
More than two decades ago, scientists calculated that nuclear war could throw so much debris and smoke into the air that it would block life-giving sunlight from our atmosphere, causing a "nuclear winter." Their eloquent warnings here in Oslo helped galvanize the world’s resolve to halt the nuclear arms race.
Now science is warning us that if we do not quickly reduce the global warming pollution that is trapping so much of the heat our planet normally radiates back out of the atmosphere, we are in danger of creating a permanent “carbon summer.”
As the American poet Robert Frost wrote, “Some say the world will end in fire; some say in ice.” Either, he notes, “would suffice.”
But neither need be our fate. It is time to make peace with the planet.
We must quickly mobilize our civilization with the urgency and resolve that has previously been seen only when nations mobilized for war. These prior struggles for survival were won when leaders found words at the 11th hour that released a mighty surge of courage, hope and readiness to sacrifice for a protracted and mortal challenge.
These were not comforting and misleading assurances that the threat was not real or imminent; that it would affect others but not ourselves; that ordinary life might be lived even in the presence of extraordinary threat; that Providence could be trusted to do for us what we would not do for ourselves.
No, these were calls to come to the defense of the common future. They were calls upon the courage, generosity and strength of entire peoples, citizens of every class and condition who were ready to stand against the threat once asked to do so. Our enemies in those times calculated that free people would not rise to the challenge; they were, of course, catastrophically wrong. Now comes the threat of climate crisis – a threat that is real, rising, imminent, and universal. Once again, it is the 11th hour. The penalties for ignoring this challenge are immense and growing, and at some near point would be unsustainable and unrecoverable. For now we still have the power to choose our fate, and the remaining question is only this: Have we the will to act vigorously and in time, or will we remain imprisoned by a dangerous illusion?
Mahatma Gandhi awakened the largest democracy on earth and forged a shared resolve with what he called “Satyagraha” – or “truth force.”
In every land, the truth – once known – has the power to set us free.
Truth also has the power to unite us and bridge the distance between “me” and “we,” creating the basis for common effort and shared responsibility.
There is an African proverb that says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” We need to go far, quickly.
We must abandon the conceit that individual, isolated, private actions are the answer. They can and do help. But they will not take us far enough without collective action. At the same time, we must ensure that in mobilizing globally, we do not invite the establishment of ideological conformity and a new lock-step “ism.”
That means adopting principles, values, laws, and treaties that release creativity and initiative at every level of society in multifold responses originating concurrently and spontaneously.
This new consciousness requires expanding the possibilities inherent in all humanity. The innovators who will devise a new way to harness the sun’s energy for pennies or invent an engine that’s carbon negative may live in Lagos or Mumbai or Montevideo. We must ensure that entrepreneurs and inventors everywhere on the globe have the chance to change the world.
When we unite for a moral purpose that is manifestly good and true, the spiritual energy unleashed can transform us. The generation that defeated fascism throughout the world in the 1940s found, in rising to meet their awesome challenge, that they had gained the moral authority and long-term vision to launch the Marshall Plan, the United Nations, and a new level of global cooperation and foresight that unified Europe and facilitated the emergence of democracy and prosperity in Germany, Japan, Italy and much of the world. One of their visionary leaders said, “It is time we steered by the stars and not by the lights of every passing ship.”
In the last year of that war, you gave the Peace Prize to a man from my hometown of 2000 people, Carthage, Tennessee. Cordell Hull was described by Franklin Roosevelt as the “Father of the United Nations.” He was an inspiration and hero to my own father, who followed Hull in the Congress and the U.S. Senate and in his commitment to world peace and global cooperation.
My parents spoke often of Hull, always in tones of reverence and admiration. Eight weeks ago, when you announced this prize, the deepest emotion I felt was when I saw the headline in my hometown paper that simply noted I had won the same prize that Cordell Hull had won. In that moment, I knew what my father and mother would have felt were they alive.
Just as Hull’s generation found moral authority in rising to solve the world crisis caused by fascism, so too can we find our greatest opportunity in rising to solve the climate crisis. In the Kanji characters used in both Chinese and Japanese, “crisis” is written with two symbols, the first meaning “danger,” the second “opportunity.” By facing and removing the danger of the climate crisis, we have the opportunity to gain the moral authority and vision to vastly increase our own capacity to solve other crises that have been too long ignored.
We must understand the connections between the climate crisis and the afflictions of poverty, hunger, HIV-Aids and other pandemics. As these problems are linked, so too must be their solutions. We must begin by making the common rescue of the global environment the central organizing principle of the world community.
Fifteen years ago, I made that case at the “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro. Ten years ago, I presented it in Kyoto. This week, I will urge the delegates in Bali to adopt a bold mandate for a treaty that establishes a universal global cap on emissions and uses the market in emissions trading to efficiently allocate resources to the most effective opportunities for speedy reductions.
This treaty should be ratified and brought into effect everywhere in the world by the beginning of 2010 – two years sooner than presently contemplated. The pace of our response must be accelerated to match the accelerating pace of the crisis itself.
Heads of state should meet early next year to review what was accomplished in Bali and take personal responsibility for addressing this crisis. It is not unreasonable to ask, given the gravity of our circumstances, that these heads of state meet every three months until the treaty is completed.
We also need a moratorium on the construction of any new generating facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store carbon dioxide.
And most important of all, we need to put a price on carbon -- with a CO2 tax that is then rebated back to the people, progressively, according to the laws of each nation, in ways that shift the burden of taxation from employment to pollution. This is by far the most effective and simplest way to accelerate solutions to this crisis.
The world needs an alliance – especially of those nations that weigh heaviest in the scales where earth is in the balance. I salute Europe and Japan for the steps they’ve taken in recent years to meet the challenge, and the new government in Australia, which has made solving the climate crisis its first priority.
But the outcome will be decisively influenced by two nations that are now failing to do enough: the United States and China. While India is also growing fast in importance, it should be absolutely clear that it is the two largest CO2 emitters — most of all, my own country –– that will need to make the boldest moves, or stand accountable before history for their failure to act.
Both countries should stop using the other’s behavior as an excuse for stalemate and instead develop an agenda for mutual survival in a shared global environment.
These are the last few years of decision, but they can be the first years of a bright and hopeful future if we do what we must. No one should believe a solution will be found without effort, without cost, without change. Let us acknowledge that if we wish to redeem squandered time and speak again with moral authority, then these are the hard truths:
The way ahead is difficult. The outer boundary of what we currently believe is feasible is still far short of what we actually must do. Moreover, between here and there, across the unknown, falls the shadow.
That is just another way of saying that we have to expand the boundaries of what is possible. In the words of the Spanish poet, Antonio Machado, “Pathwalker, there is no path. You must make the path as you walk.”
We are standing at the most fateful fork in that path. So I want to end as I began, with a vision of two futures – each a palpable possibility – and with a prayer that we will see with vivid clarity the necessity of choosing between those two futures, and the urgency of making the right choice now.
The great Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen, wrote, “One of these days, the younger generation will come knocking at my door.”
The future is knocking at our door right now. Make no mistake, the next generation will ask us one of two questions. Either they will ask: “What were you thinking; why didn’t you act?”
Or they will ask instead: “How did you find the moral courage to rise and successfully resolve a crisis that so many said was impossible to solve?”
We have everything we need to get started, save perhaps political will, but political will is a renewable resource.
So let us renew it, and say together: “We have a purpose. We are many. For this purpose we will rise, and we will act.”

Saturday, December 8, 2007

More mandala photos

In between Saturday errands went by the Episcopal Cathedral down town to see the progress and the priests were putting finishing touches on the mandala. The choir was practicing, it was a great mix of culture and tradition. see my post from Friday evening for the full story.












Bill Cosby's book

I just sent for my copy...

see:

New Cosby Book Calls for Action By MEGAN K. SCOTT Associated Press Writer

Cosby's 'Come On People' calls on the poor, middle-class to help solve problems

Keith Olbermann: "Neocon Job"

Justify Full
FOCUS: Video Keith Olbermann: "Neocon Job"

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/120807Z.shtml

Keith Olbermann on MSNBC Countdown comments about the president's "cataclysmic deception about Iran."

Friday, December 7, 2007

A World Contained in Grains of Sand













my pics

By Niesha Lofing - nlofing@sacbee.com


Visiting Tibetan monks begin work Thursday on a sand mandala at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Sacramento. The church is hosting four days of events centered on the creation of a traditional Tibetan Buddhist mural composed of millions of grains of dyed sand. Randall Benton / rbenton@sacbee.com
See additional images

The sights and sounds within Trinity Episcopal Cathedral on Thursday morning were anything but typical.

While evergreen wreaths adorned the pulpit and garlands decorated pillars, it wasn't the sound of hymns or Christmas carols that filled the Episcopal church.

Instead, the melodic voices of two Tibetan monks chanting and praying rang through the cathedral. The smell of sweet incense filled the air.

And in an alcove near an empty manger awaiting its Nativity figurines stood a table with a blueprintlike outline of what would become a Medicine Buddha sand mandala decorating its surface.

The juxtaposition of Eastern and Western religion was intentional, an effort to exemplify the need for peace and understanding among groups.

"When there's so much division happening in the world, especially with religion, it's important to practice hospitality," said Brian Baker, dean of Trinity Cathedral.

The church, with the Dalai Lama Foundation's Sacramento chapter and other groups, is hosting four days of events centered on the creation of a sand mandala, a traditional Tibetan Buddhist artwork composed of millions of grains of dyed sand.

The mandala under way at Trinity represents the residence of the healing Medicine Buddha. After the monks complete the mandala – expected to take about 50 hours – it will be dismantled Sunday during a 1 p.m. ceremony. The mixed sand will be given out to the audience and released into the Sacramento River.

The event is the first of many that will precede the Dalai Lama's visit to Sacramento, scheduled for 2009.

Baker said he hopes his parishioners will be inspired by the Buddhist traditions to reflect on their spirituality and open their hearts and minds to different points of view.

"There's nothing wrong with making space in your life for other perspectives," he said.
About the writer:
Call The Bee's Niesha Lofing, (916) 321-1270.

Unique content, exceptional value. SUBSCRIBE NOW!


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

HELPS International


Did I tell you about my January plans with HELPS International? I am going to be working with some cool folks in a village about an hour north of my favorite village (Nebaj, Quiche) as part of a project to help a school. If you feel like donating or supporting the project, or just learning more about it see: http://www.helpsintl.org/programs/education.php


Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Morris League

Two of my former math students - Dominic and Donte Morris - have an amazing baseball project.

I am beyond proud of these guys.

Check it out: http://www.morrisleague.com/

Monday, December 3, 2007

This is a Ribbon Chert



My buddy Tim Horner a Geology Professor here at Calfironia State University, Sacramento states re: my photo of rocks


This is a ribbon chert. It forms in the deep ocean, often in upwelling zones. Plankton feed on the nutrients in an upwelling zone, and when they die their silica-rich shells are so common a cherty (silica-rich) layer forms. It is probably Cretaceous in age (more than 65 million This is good stuff. I didn't know that there was such a good exposure in S.F. There are similar outcrops in Point Reyes and near Bodega Bay.


Sunday, December 2, 2007

Hiroshi Sugimoto







I am playing a bit with my photo from Point Bonita (Golden Gate) this morning...

I am inspired by the work of Hiroshi Sugimoto's Seascapes that I saw at the D'Young a few months back...






Mukunda goes to the City








my Sugimoto Photo










Me and my Hybrid








Tectonic pressure








The Castro from a far...











A pensive sea gull
















Braum and Mukunda









I invited my friend Braum to go with me to show Mukunda (our guest from Nepal) the sites in San Francisco... it was Mukunda's first time to see the ocean...

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Pursuit of Equality

Last nite I went to a screening on campus of the documentary "Pursuit of Equality".

Sometime I am so damn proud of being a Californian. It is people like San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome and his staff that really are amazing. How they stood up to the evangelical, right-wing, religious republican nutcases with style, grace and strength was an inspiration.

Here's a quote from the back of the DVD:

By issuing same-sex marriage licenses, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom uproots the status quo, attempts to change the way the nation looks at life, love, and marriage, and ignites what may become our nation’s next great Civil Rights issue.
PURSUIT OF EQUALITY is an emotionally charged film that puts a face on American citizens who strive for marriage equality.


From the first frame of the film, even before the press is aware, this film crew is with Mayor Gavin Newsom’s senior staff as the nation’s first same-sex couple exchange their vows and ignite the most controversial civil rights topic in recent history.

The story continues on the streets, in the courtrooms, and on the steps of City Hall, where same-sex couples clash with church groups who declare that who they are and how they love is a sin.

The film focuses on the compelling, human rights struggles surrounding same-sex marriage and captures the elation and despair of couples and families who are fighting for equal rights.
As the only film crew in the Mayor's chambers during the most crucial of times, this extraordinary film provides a telling ‘fly-on-the wall’ view as this historic event unfolds.


Watch the trailer now!

Go get a copy and share it the website is: http://www.pursuitofequality.com/

Thursday, November 29, 2007

American Voters Speak on Job Skills: Oh, Please, Just Shut Up

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From The Huffington Post Blog, November 28, 2007. See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gerald-bracey/american-voters-speak-on-_b_74485.html
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American Voters Speak on Job Skills: Oh, Please, Just Shut Up
By Gerald Bracey see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gerald-bracey/#blogger_bio for bio]

On November 3, 2004, 59,054,087 Americans cast their presidential votes for George W. Bush. On November 4, 2004, the front page of the London Daily Mirror showed a picture of a smirking George W. Bush and asked, "How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?" Three years later, surveying the rubble and ruin of what once was the United State of America, one finds the question even harder to answer. In any case, that presidential result should give one pause before one puts a great deal of stock into some conclusion endorsed by the American voter.

Still, in October 2007, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills announced that in a survey, most American voters don't think that our public schools are giving kids the 21st century skills they need. This little piece of idiocy could be dismissed out of hand except that the Partnership has many heavy hitters from industry -- Apple, AT&T, Cisco, Dell, Intel, Microsoft and even the National Education Association and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. It appears to matter not that whatever their genius at their professions, Apple's Steve Jobs, Intel's Craig Barrett and Microsoft's Bill Gates (and lately, Melinda, too), have been consistent whiners about schools and when discussing education have said some of the dumbest things in history (see, "Dumb and Dumber, the Gateses on Parade" on this blog -- see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gerald-bracey/dumb-and-dumber-the-gate_b_67648.html).

The immediate questions that come to mind -- or certainly should come to mind -- are "What constitutes a 21st century skill?" and then "Who gets to define such a skill?" The answer to the first question is "nobody knows" and the answer to the second question is "The Partnership for 21st Century Skills." Futurist Ed Barlow told the Industrial Asset Management Council in October, 2007 that 80% of the jobs our current kindergartners will hold as adults don't exist yet. This, I submit, makes it a bit complicated to prepare the kids for them. You would think Barrett and the others would see this: Barlow also said that 90% of Intel's products at the end of a year didn't exist at the start of that year.

Among the skills listed by the Partnership are "Ethics and Social Responsibility." Excuse me? These are areas only now emerging as cogent to the 21st century? "Self-direction?" Yoo-hoo, David Riesman pointed to this in 1950 -- The Lonely Crowd. "Critical Thinking" and "Problem Solving" also number among the 21st century skills. I suppose it is boorish to point out that without further context and elaboration, both of these terms are wholly meaningless. Back in the 1960's some psychologists announced that they wished to produce "content free problem solvers." That goal is now viewed as absurd. Problem solving always occurs around some content and people who are superb at writing software to solve some statistical problem might be awful at dealing with human beings in an organizational setting (see, Jobs, Gates, and Barrett, above). It might be important to think outside the box, but the contours of the box differ hugely from situation to situation. Jaime Escalante, the inspiration for "Stand and Deliver," was unable to reproduce his L. A. success when he moved to Sacramento, in large part it appears, because the situations were so different.

All this begs a larger question: Is job preparation what schools should be about? I have argued, and continue to argue, no. I have written here and elsewhere about even conservative school reformers now coming to the realization that the old time notion of the well-rounded person, the person who has received an education that includes a healthy dose of the liberal arts, is an appropriate goal for the 21st Century. They have realized that a narrow focus on job preparation is inadequate. Steve Jobs, Craig Barrett and Bill Gates all emerged in reaction to their educational situations. Such people will always emerge at unexpected times and in unpredictable ways -- who the hell could have predicted the Sixties from the Fifties? The schools should not be restructured around these people in an attempt to reproduce them.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Too much School Testing, Panel Says

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From The News and Observer [Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina], Monday, November 19, 2007. See http://www.newsobserver.com/news/story/780273.html
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Too much school testing, panel says
By T. Keung Hui

RALEIGH - A state commission agreed today on a draft report saying "there is too much time spent on testing" and that several exams should be eliminated or no longer counted in the state's testing program.The Blue Ribbon Commission on Testing and Accountability agreed to recommend to the state Board of Education that the fourth-, seventh- and 10th-grade writing tests and the eighth-grade computer skills tests be eliminated.The commission also agreed that the number of end-of-course exams used to measure how high schools are doing in the state testing program be cut from 10 to five. They no longer want to count physics, physical science, chemistry, algebra II and geometry, which if adopted by the state could lead to those exams no longer being offered.In addition, the commission is recommending not counting new science exams in fifth- and eighth-grades in the state's testing program. The state is only offering the exams for the first time this school year to satisfy federal requirements.It's up to the state Board of Education, which created the commission, to decide whether to adopt the recommendations. The commission will present its final report to the state Board in January."We're testing more but we're not seeing the results," said Sam Houston, the commission's chairman. "We're not seeing graduation rates increasing. We're not seeing remediation rates decreasing. Somewhere along the way testing isn't aligning with excellence."The commission's finding represent a strong backlash to the rise in statewide testing that has taken place over the past 12 years.Since 1995, North Carolina public schools have been held accountable for how their students do under a variety of state exams. As time has gone on, the number of state exams has increased.The state's ABCs of Public Education testing program has also been tied into bonuses awarded to teachers for how well their students are doing. Some have complained that schools are now focused on teaching to the tests.

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keung.hui@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4534************************************************

FREEZE STUDENT FEES

GARAMENDI: FREEZE STUDENT FEES

Lt. Gov. John Garamendi went on the offensive against California’s ever-rising student fees last week. In an opinion article published in the Los Angeles Times, Garamendi advocated for a moratorium on student fee increases.

His article states: “We've been creeping down that road toward privatization for years, slowly shifting the cost of running our public universities from the public at large to students and their families. Over the last 13 years, as the cost of living went up by 40% in California, total student fees for resident undergraduates at Cal State increased by 90%, and at UC by about 110%.

“Enough is enough. Cal State and UC fees should be stabilized at current levels, in constant dollars. That means no future increases except to keep pace with inflation.”

To read the full opinion article, go to: http://www.ltg.ca.gov/pdf/LGG_LAT_OpEd.pdf

· FRESNO, MODESTO BEE TAKE ON STUDENT FEES

Last week the Fresno and Modesto Bees published perhaps the harshest critique yet of CSU executives for continuing to raise student fees at the same time that top executives continue to rake in extravagant raises.

“Leaders of the state's higher education systems are contemplating an early Christmas present for California's college students: higher tuition. That's quite a different gift than the pay raises and perks given to executives of the two systems,” the papers wrote.

“State support for higher education, as a percentage of the systems' budgets, has fallen sharply. That's led to frequent and onerous fee hikes borne by students and their families. And that, in turn, has pushed increasing numbers of students out of the system -- and out of the opportunities that higher education can offer them.”

To read the editorial, go to: http://www.modbee.com/opinion/story/127232.html

Monday, November 26, 2007

Andres Oppenheimer: Latin America's education gap

By Andres Oppenheimer

Here's a new statistic that should sound alarm bells in Latin America: The region is falling increasingly behind China, India and other Asian countries in the number of students it sends to U.S. universities, which are still ranked in international studies as the best in the world.

According to the new Open Doors report by the New York-based Institute of International Education (IIE), India remains the country that sends the most students to U.S. universities, with nearly 84,000 students, followed by China with 68,000 students – 76,000 if one includes Hong Kong – and South Korea with 62,000.

By comparison, Mexico has 14,000 students in U.S. universities; Brazil, 7,000; Colombia, 6,700; Venezuela, 4,500; Peru, 3,700; Argentina, 2,800; Ecuador, 2,200; and Chile, 1,570.

While the number of Indian students in U.S. universities grew by 10 percent last year, and that of Chinese students by 8 percent, the number of Latin American students fell by 0.3 percent.
These are startling numbers: Even communist-ruled Vietnam, which until recently was in the stone ages in terms of its insertion in the world economy, has more than 6,000 students in U.S. universities – twice the number of Argentina, whose economy is nearly three times bigger.
Why are there fewer Latin American than Asian students in U.S. universities? It's not because of economic reasons: While Latin America is not growing as fast as Asia, its economies have grown by an average of nearly 5 percent over the last four years, which is the region's best performance in 25 years.

And it's not because the governments of China, India, South Korea and other Asian countries are paying for the foreign studies.

To my surprise, when I asked Chinese education officials about this during a visit to Beijing two years ago, I was told that less than 5 percent of the Chinese students in the United States had government grants. Virtually all of the Chinese students' expenses are paid for by their families, they said.

IIE officials say Asian families have a long-standing culture of investing in their children's education, a tradition that may date back to Confucius, the Chinese philosopher born in the sixth century B.C. who advocated focusing on education as a key pillar of social progress.
Peggy Blumenthal, a senior official of the IIE, told me this month in a telephone interview that Asian students are also more likely than Latin American students to get financial help from their U.S. universities because they tend to come with part-time jobs as assistants to professors.

While nearly 70 percent of Asian students are graduate students, and nearly half of them can pay part of their tuition by working as assistants to professors, most Latin American students in U.S. universities are undergraduates who rarely get teaching jobs, she said.

What may be even more troubling for Latin America, Asian students tend to concentrate in business, science and technology.

"Overwhelmingly, Asians are graduate students and pick business, management and engineering," she said. "Among Latin American students, there are more undergraduates, and they tend to concentrate in humanities, communications and social sciences." My opinion: This is a troubling trend for Latin America because in a knowledge-based world economy in which countries that produce sophisticated goods get the biggest income, you need scientists, engineers and business managers trained at the world's best universities.

And if you look at the two best-known rankings of the world's best universities – the London Times' Higher Education Supplement's list of the 200 best universities in the world, and the University of Shanghai's ranking of the world's 500 best universities – U.S. universities overwhelmingly dominate the first 100 places.

Unless Latin American families follow the steps of their Asian counterparts and invest more in their children's education – including graduate studies in the United States, Europe or wherever the best universities in their fields of study are located – they will continue losing competitiveness, and the gap separating them from Asia's booming economies will continue to widen.

Post script: On a happier note for Latin America, the IEE study shows that a record 224,000 U.S. college students studied abroad last year, an 8.5 percent increase over the previous year.
Latin America did not do badly: There was a 14 percent increase in the number of U.S. college students who chose the region as their destination.
About the writer:

Andres Oppenheimer is a Latin America correspondent for the Miami Herald. Oppenheimer can be reached at aoppenheimer@miamiherald.com. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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