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Thursday Morning Breakfast

A month from now, I will have lost the muffin top and will be lounging around somewhere in Maui drinking Bad Ass Coffee for breakfast.  I will toss my red hair in the trade winds and laugh, “ha-hahhhh!”  Until then, four more weeks in frickin’ New Jersey with an eighth grader who is making my life miserable because I decided to do an academic intervention and send her to an intense five weeks of algebra this summer.  (No, she didn’t fail anything.  She’s just an underachieving G&T kid who refuses to do her homework).  Seven more days of adolescent sturm and drang before she aces the final and killing her becomes a lot less attractive as a coping mechanism.  I can’t wait.

Bad Ass Coffee

Bad Ass Coffee

In the meantime, lean your surfboard against the wall, grab a cup of kona and read the news.

Corzine *still* trails Christie by 10+ points in the NJ Governor’s race.  {{smirk!}}  Karma’s a bitch, Jon.  Oh, by the way, Hillary hasn’t completely ruled out running for President but she says it’s really unlikely.

Obama has pulled out all of the stops and is asking the public to support his health care plan. First bloggers, now a direct appeal to the rest of us.  What’s the hurry?  It won’t take effect until 2013 anyway and as reform goes, it isn’t that great.  As long as we have four years to implement it, why not take it niiiiice and sloooow and work all of the bugs out of the system.  if you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?  Color me suspicious on the rush job.  For instance, take this “Oh, really?” bit of BS:

With Republicans and some moderate Democrats on Capitol Hill balking at both the specifics of the legislation and Mr. Obama’s timetable for House and Senate passage of the bills, the White House is now trying to rally legislative support and public opinion by linking health care to the nation’s economic health and offering the promise of tangible benefits to Americans.

“If we do not control these costs, we will not be able to control our deficit,” he said. “If we do not reform health care, your premiums and out-of-pocket costs will continue to skyrocket.” He acknowledged that Americans were anxious, saying, “Folks are skeptical, and that is entirely legitimate.”

Folks are skeptical because for the vast majority of us, reform ain’t gonna happen.  We’ll be locked into our current plan and insurers can continue to maximize profits.  Costs and deficits are going to continue to rise for four more years until this baby takes effect and eve the Congressional Budget Office says the current plan will do nothing to curb costs.  The insurance industry seems to be getting a great deal out of this one.  Maybe that’s why they want to seal this deal before anyone finds out.  Call it Son of TARP.

And this is just silly:

At first, House Democrats were weighing a tax on Americans making more than $280,000 a year; now there is talk of imposing the tax on those households earning $1 million or more, an idea Mr. Obama said he favored because it would not put the burden of paying for the bill on the middle class.

“To me, that meets my principle, that it’s not being shouldered by families who are already having a tough time,” he said.

Mr. Obama also signaled that he might be open to another idea under consideration in the Senate : taxing employer-provided health benefits, as long as the tax did not fall on the middle class.

I don’t think the middle class who make less than a million a year would mind a small tax increase if the quality of the health care insurance that everyone received improved.  You can make a small tax very attractive if the results are significantly better than what we’ve got.  Think Social Security.  That’s not what this bill proposes.  But it doesn’t surprise me that Obama would throw out this not-very-well-thought-out, disjointed statement. He doesn’t lead from principle.  He doesn’t lead.  He follows.  And it’s becoming clear that he is worried about media driven public opinion but not terribly worried about doing the right thing.  So what else is new?

Meanwhile, back in Sudan, Iraq, Iran, China and Kyrgystan (Kyrgystan??)…  There are a heck of a lot of foreign news stories on the frontpage.  What’s up with that?  Are these all turning into hotspots or are they just bright shiny objects?

The Birthers are back. Birther prophylactic: we are not nor ever have been associated with the birther movement.  It’s a pointless distraction.  I figure that the Clinton Campaign would have been perfectly within its rights to have Obama disqualified if he were not a natural born citizen.  It wouldn’t have been character assassination.  It would have been a constittuional issue.  But Bill Clinton himself said that Obama met the minimum requirements for being president, which I interpret to mean that they looked into it and there’s no THERE there.  I don’t know why Obama needs to produce the exact original of his birth certificate to satisfy the birther crowd but I can think of a really good reason why he wouldn’t: it makes the birthers look like a bunch of complete loonies if he occasionally stirs up the issue.  Birthers, please don’t try to defend yourselves on this blog.  We’re really not interested.

For those of you who are getting blindsided by the shifting frames of the media on who’s who in the Democratic caucus and who’s screwing up health care reform, check out The Blue Dogs Flunk Obedience School. In summary, Obama, who doesn’t have a political philosophy but for some reason really, really likes bipartisanship for its own sake, has ignored his progressive base and has now become hostage to conservative blue dog Democrats.  These DINOs come from conservative districts where voters are vulnerable to media messaging about tax and spend liberals.  So far as I’ve seen, our current Congressional session skews heavily to the right.  There’s still a lot of taxing and spending going on but nary a liberal intiative in sight.  And as long as the blue dogs remain unprimaried, that’s the way it will stay.

H1N1 is laying low for now but could be a real problem in the fall.  Still no need to panic.  Get your flu shot if you’re offered one, have your doctor’s phone number available if you get sick, ask your employer about plans in case of a public health emergency and follow your public health official’s guidelines to prevent spread of infection.  Let’s hope our precautions make this the biggest non-story of the year.

Podcasts of the day: I have heard it said recently that the world is undergoing a shift in consciousness in a way that is similar to the shift from polytheism to monotheism.  It is a shift away from traditional monotheism to a more logical, holistic vision of the universe and its source of wonder.  It was difficult to see this shift while the country was in the grips of the fundamentalist evangelical base and their Christ for Rich People stuff.  It’s funny that so many religious people vote for politicians who do not believe in holding people accountable for bad behavior.  I might be wrong but it feels like it is time for the country to regain its sense of ethical behavior.  And as we know from bitter experience, it isn’t always to be found in the pews of your nearest megachurch.  Here are several podcasts that have common themes though they aren’t all obvious at first. There is a lot of material to chew on about reason, first principles, inclusiveness and the evolution of the human spirit:

Melvyn Bragg’s in Our Time discusses the Vienna Circle’s Logical Positivism

Bill Moyer’s interviewed Robert Wright on The Evolution of God

Anything from Krista Tippett’s Speaking of Faith.  I have really become addicted to her podcasts. There’s something here for everyone, atheists included.  Tippet is the Terry Gross of the divine but what passes for divine these days may surprise you.   Most of her interviews are not overtly about religion at all but are more about how different faith and ethical  experiences allow individuals to view life, the universe and everything from a more holistic point of view. The Ecstatic Faith  of Rumi won a Peabody and it’s easy to hear why.  It’s poetic and beautiful.  But Tippett also explores The Biology of Spirit with neurosurgeon Sherwin Nuland, freelance monotheism with Karen Armstrong and a more modern form of logical positivism with Echard Tolle.  Her interview with Rick Warren and his wife Kay was fascinating.  The Warrens initially sound like shallow, corporate religious types and don’t quite shake that image with the listener in spite of all of their recent philanthropic efforts. Quite revealing in completely unexpected ways.  All highly recommended.

Heartless employer of the day: Drugmaker Wyeth, in the process of merging with equally heartless Pfizer, sent an email offering a resume writing workshop to all employees. (no link.  I was informed by some former colleagues) I love the way they are promoting the fiction that there are any companies, not in India and China, where their employees have any hope of actually finding a job.  All of the companies I know are in the midst of their own layoffs and endless hiring freezes, leaving projects short staffed and scrambling for outside contractors.  The Pfizer-Wyeth merger will result in the loss of thousands of scientific jobs, burdening further the unemployment rolls of NJ, PA, CT and NY.  I’m sure the workshop is  going to lead to greater productivity between now and when the real layoffs begin.  Just write off real drug development from that new behemoth for the next several years.  The Wall Street guys and the mega shareholders just won’t be satisfied until these companies are reduced to cheap, overseas scientific staff and a bunch of stateside marketers and executives.  So much for American innovation.  Contracting your brain trust from overseas is incredibly short sighted.  It’s like eating your seed corn.  Pretty soon, all that will be left are MBAs.  And what have they innovated lately?

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57 Responses

  1. Maui? Sigh! Sounds … enviable!

    RD speaking of the eighth grader, could you please let her know, that I just love the video “Your Brain”, she once pointed you to. The gentle voice and the harrowing pictures … creepy in an awesome kind of way! And thanks for posting it.

    • She finds a lot of entertaining videos for me. I’ll ask her for some new ones. As for Maui, I lived in Oahu as a kid but haven’t been back to HI since I was 12. Now, my eldest daughter lives in Maui. It’s time to go back and relive the joys of body surfing and hula. Can’t wait.

  2. And then there’s this: Joe Biden in Georgia (link from a Turkish site).


    Biden’s trip comes […] amid increasing concern among some of Russia’s East European neighbors that warming relations between the US and Russia might leave them out in the cold.

    Hope he made it through this:

    Saakashvili and Biden […] both will exchange toasts, a ritual of hospitality that Georgians have turned into an art form.

  3. Swine flu is scaring people to death in Europe. Here, doctors have stopped testing for it a long time ago as they deem it less serious than many other strains we are used to.
    Adding the NYC tabloids to the news mix

  4. They innovated TARP. Does that count?

  5. I hated math,I hated math,I hated math right up until I took my lazy self, at 21, back to a math class taught by my former algebra teacher . Yup. As luck would have it,the same guy who flunked me was teaching math for FREE after retiring from the school system and I got him as an instuctor. This time around,I was ready and he made it fun. And now, my job as a vet tech requires I use numbers everyday and I’m lovin’ it.
    Hope your daughter is as fortunate and realizes the blessing you’re giving her.

    • I didn’t get math in high school. I really, really struggled. It was my only class I actually was “phased” into as an average student.

      It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that all of a sudden it all clicked into place and made sense. Now I kind of like the exactness of it and the fact that it isn’t an “answers may vary” subject. It definitely is one of the more important skills to pick up. I’d rate it right up there with reading well.

      • I think the way they teach math makes math look like its superfluous. Like who needs to know the angle of a ladder propped up on the side of a house. Plus, a lot of math teachers love math for math’s sake rather than see it as a tool most folks have to use. They also don’t teach people critical thinking skills on how to approach problems. As some one who teaches a mathy subject that’s not math, I can see why people react badly to the subject.

  6. RD, thanks for the podcast links. Just what I’ve been looking for.

    • I belong to the chuch of Krista. Just kidding. But she’s really good and manages to find the essence of different faiths in a open and revealling way. I *love* what she is doing with her Reposssessing Virtue series in this period of economic crisis. She is truly a forward thinker in that respect.

  7. {{snort!}}.
    This much glee at the fate of a guy I voted for as senator and governor is wicked. The guy deserves to get thrashed in Nov even if we poor NJ have to sit through 4 years of a Republican. The fact that Christie can be this far ahead just shows you how disgusted we are with the way Corzine failed to deliver. His hero is Jack Welch and Corzine is about to get a giant rank and yank.
    Let this be a lesson to Obama. He is following the Corzine model perfectly.

    • And, he has lost so much of his wealth that he now has to beg for campaign contributions like other politicians.

    • Honestly, I’m not particularly gleeful. Still rip-roarding angry about how he and the rest of the delegation conducted themselves at the convention. It’s particularly upsetting because I always considered Corzine as one of the “good guys.” Karma may be a bitch for him, but I take no joy at all in the prospect of Christie being governor.

      And, btw, since Pallone went along with Corzine, I’m not voting for him either.

  8. Maybe this video or transcript has already been posted here – but this exchange between Sen. Boxer and Alford, Chairman of the Black Chamber of Commerce is mind blowing!

    imo – Boxer was using polling and studies from various orgs to support her climate change position – and used a Black org that seemed to disagree with Alford.
    He then charged her with racism – attempting to pit 2 Black orgs against each other.

    sigh – will it ever end?!?

  9. What an utter waste of a super-majority.

    • Yep, pretty much.

      I wish I could say I was optimistic that we’ll see ANY improvements out of a democratic majority but I am rapidly losing hope. Not only that but after the squandered opportunity we’ll probably be stuck with batshit crazy from the right side of the aisle since the left is bound and determined to pillory someone who appears to be somewhat moderate in her actions if not in her rhethoric. Oh goody.

  10. RD – how do you deal with the G & T issue with an 8th grader? Mine’s just going into 5th, and it’s already like pulling teeth, even though it’s so easy for her. She’s on the way to Sally Ride Science camp in a couple of weeks (thank the Goddess for scholsrships!), and I’m hoping this kind of thing will keep her fired up.

    We’re in Humboldt County, CA, a very isolated area, and local opportunities for our GATE kids are pretty limited. I’m planning on starting up a nonprofit this fall to find opportunities and funding so more of them can access such programs. Where are you sending yours for the math program?

    Any advice on handling a gifted teenager would be GREATLY appreciated – I’m going to need it!

    • This is going to be long. First, my school district made a hige mistake a bout 5 years ago when they hired a new superintendent who didn’t really believe in separating GT kids out from the mainstream classroom. She really bought into the heterogenous classroom experience. So, my daughter got about one year of enriched and advanced classes in third grade before the programs were stopped or watered down to the barest minimum to fulfill federal GT requirements. She was a motivated and happy kid in third grade. It all changed in fourth. She and another girl were expected to do some of their assignments out in the hallway so as to not disturb the other students. Oh, yes. True story. And Brook complained about the dumbed down math but was penalized if she went ahead in the book. Her thrid grade GT teacher told me that even among exceptional kids, she was exceptional. Not anymore. It has been one long continuous battle with the schools to get her the right level of instruction to keep her from slipping into indifference and laziness. For your kid, get’em while they’re young. Here’s some things you can do:
      1.) Stanford offers a program called EPGY for gifted kids. Your kid can take math at her own pace through distance learning. She would have to take or have scores from a national qualifying exam to get in. My Brook did this for algebra on her own for one quarter but for her it was already too late with the motivation thing. She wouldn’t do it on her own so I moved to…
      2.) Check out local prep schools for summer programs. This is what I signed Brook up for this summer. Her course in algebra is intense. it covers a whole year of algebra in 5 weeks. In school, they would have spread tis material over 2 years for her because she was excluded from algebra in one year by a teacher who didn’t like her shitty attitude towards homework. Which leads me to…
      3.) Form a GT parent’s group for your school so you can advocate on behalf of gifted kids. I found out that the enriched math group that my Brook was prevented from taking, even though she is in the top 2% of kids in math nationally, has a population of 14 boys and 7 girls. According to recent studies, girls at the higher levels of math should be in the same proportion as boys. The placement of students depends on a subjective assessment by the teacher as well as test results. And I think that teachers tend to evaluate girls differently from boys. So, a very gifted girl may be excluded because she talks back to the teacher and doesn’t conform socially. That’s what happened to Brook. Her test scores are pretty close to perfect but her teacher thought she was a lazy smart ass and set out to take her down a peg. Seriously, I can’t think of any other explanation. She even stopped calling on her in class halfway through the year. It has crushed her and made her have serious doubts about her abilities. That’s why I sent her to math camp this year. Now she knows that she can do the work, do it well and she’s not as dumb as her teacher made her feel. Anyway, she was forced to repeat pre-algebra in 7th grade while her friends in the same class moved on to Algebra. But if there is a GT parents group, they could go in front of the school board and point out that the district is in violation of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act and that they are not meeting their federal obligation to identify and provide appropriate instruction for gifted students. My GT parents group is presently dormant and I haven’t had time to start it up again. But this is definitely worth your time if you have it.
      4.) There are online resources like Hoagie’s Gifted and Talented resources. But you will have to be very, very vigilant. From my experience, regular classroom teachers do not understand how the gifted mind works. It is like they can’t see a specific color in the spectrum. It is outside of their own experience so they don’t have a foundation to grasp onto when it comes to teaching them. What teachers don’t know is that these children learn incredibly fast. Their brains are wired for speed, depth and innovation. They frequently only need to be told once. They aren’t incapable of making mistakes but they have the capacity to make rapid course adjustments. In other words, learning is an iterative process for all of us. You get introduced to a concept, practice it, evaluate your knowledge, correct, etc. The gifted child does this in a fraction of the time it takes for most other students. For most average children, a public school curriculum is pretty good. Here in NJ, I’d say they do an admirable job. But when a gifted kid hits the pace of a regular curriculum, it doesn’t work for them. They have to deliberately slow down the pace of their learning. I think regular gifted kids can do this and if they are well organized and get outside stimulation, they’re ok. Not great but they’ll survive it until they get to High School. For the multiply gifted who learn EVERYTHING rapidly, from art to writing to learning to play the piano, this just doesn’t work and the stubborness of the educational establishment to accommodate them or consider their special needs “elitist” is doing these children a tremendous disservice. It create behavioral problems, underachievement and depression. At one point, her teachers wanted her to take medication for ADD/ADHD because she wouldn’t sit down and shut up in class. But they didn’t consider that maybe for a kid who can already read, phonics class is a waste of their time and energy and makes they stark raving crazy. What do they expect? I’ve had battles over homework too. When a kid writes as well as Brook does, doing endless pages of adjective worksheets is an exercise in stupidity. And don’t even get me started with the dumb shoebox dioramas she was still doing in seventh grade.
      Math is going to be your greatest challenge. You will have to go up against ingrained societal norms to make them see your daughter as a thinking, logical, reasoning person. But there is law on your side and you shouldn’t be afraid to use it. When Brook finishes Algebra, there will be no reason to keep her out of the next class up and if they don’t accommodate her, I’ll sue on her behalf and that of the 6 other girls in her class who were denied the opportunity they were entitled to.
      Good luck.

      • Women teachers can often be girls WORST enemies — sad but true. Girls who don’t conform to the mythology (girls are dumb at math or whatever) become the mission of these teachers.

        And it only takes one rotten apple teacher to harm a kid.

        In Hawaii I had three teachers who for whatever reason hated white people — and so they targeted the few white kids they had as students. Their aim was to injure their white students — and I learned about what they did because in high school my aunt was my teacher and she had access to my academic records — she was shocked at what she saw written by these r@cist teachers. As my teacher (and aunt) she knew what my abilities were — she also removed the biased remarks from my records. When I moved again I was placed in the College Prep class and did well.

        But by that time I had figured out that most teachers weren’t as smart as I was — and I’ve done my own research and taught myself. I don’t need teachers to move on to the next level.

        Really bright kids have a different way of learning — the step by step process of teaching complex concepts works with students of average intelligence and it works for the majority of kids. But the really bright kids — need to understand the concept FIRST — and then they work backwards. Once kids learn that they see the world differently and that they have a different style of learning that their average classmates — they can take control of their education.

        The worst crime that teachers can do to bright students is thwart the kid’s self teaching ability. By not allowing Brook to go ahead in the lessons on her own they wanted to make her conform their concept of how a child learns.

        My aunt is one of my heroes — she is a former Navy WAVE. And she still teaching. One of her students was another Brook — the school refused to accept this girl as a student — BECAUSE SHE WAS TOO BRIGHT — TOO INTELLIGENT! So my aunt took this bright kid as a student — and my aunt adapted her lessons to fit the child. Because my aunt has taught at all grade levels — she could easily adapt to the child — sometimes teaching high school subjects and at other times returning to the basics.

        But don’t you know girls aren’t supposed to be real intelligent — girls are dumb. THIS is the message that our culture is giving girls. It is all Brook’s fault — she is a SHE. Sexism is ingrained in our educational system — sexism is learned.

  11. In summary, Obama, who doesn’t have a political philosophy but for some reason really, really likes bipartisanship for its own sake, has ignored his progressive base and has now become hostage to conservative blue dog Democrats.

    Well summarized. The bizarre thing here is that people are STILL blaming Obama for being too Liberal and I think “would that it were so”.

    David Brooks column on Tuesday made me put my head through the window.

    • There was a clip from a blue dog here a day or two ago on the healthcare fight. I consider myself a liberal and progressive but he made more sense to me than Obama or our SF flaming liberal, Pelosi. He was a former prof. at Vanderbilt. But his perspective was that we really do need health care reform and that means addressing costs for real and improving treatment outcomes. I see this as the centerpiece of the Blue Dog resistance to the House bill. That House bill is a disaster and I am glad that there are Dems who are calling it what it is. The House bill is bad legislation; it is the stimulus bill all over again—a giveaway to those who already go their’s, yours and mine.

  12. Great post, over the past day or so, I couldn’t help but notice that the birther issue, or more correctly, an attack on birthers is currently underway. Perhaps this attack is intended to portray all of Obama’s detractors as lacking in merit.

    As for your daughter, I can’t help but wonder if her school provides support for parents of high ability students. Underachievement (in certain subjects) and lack of motivation are common problems for these students (or perhaps, inconsistent achievement and motivation). My daughter will be working with a program coordinator this year in an attempt to help her stay focused and motivated (her grades tend to go from one extreme to another, and she’s been afraid of appearing too smart around her friends . . . smart isn’t popular here).

  13. “David Brooks column on Tuesday made me put my head through the window.”

    mablue2, that is the unfortunate side effect of every single David Brooks column. Stay away from them. They are hazardous in any amount.

    Same goes for anything spewed out by the insane junkpile known as Charles Krauthammer.

  14. I sent my daughter to summer school for math after she completed seventh grade. She had not failed, her final grade was “B”, but I had a helluva time keeping her motivated and interested during the spring semester of sixth grade. She tried to blow off assignments and projects I never would have known about had I not gotten a call from a concerned teacher of hers who said it was just not like her to not complete assignments. After the riot act was read to her and she spent two solid weeks catching up, I told her that if it happened again in seventh grade, she would be going to summer school even if she had all A’s. Sure enough, springtime rolled around again, and we were getting calls from teachers.

    I kept my promise and put her in summer school, and it was the smartest thing I ever did. Eighth grade was pure heaven. She completed all of her assignments, with no help or prodding from me, and she got the pleasure of whining to everyone she knew about her mean mother who made her go to summer school even though she got a B in math. I’d do it again in a heartbeat if she started slacking again.

    • How much did she whine at you during the summer course? Brook is angry and unpleasant all of the time over it.
      And I’m still pulling teeth to get her to finish her homework.

      • My son acted that way any time he was “made” to do ANYTHING starting around age 14 and it lasted until age 16 and started to taper off a little at a time.

        It still gets me that the schools somehow think GT kids want to do more work. My son had summer school one year for not completing some papers for “promotion policy” (they had to write a collection of papers and have them in a portfolio). The summer school teacher offered to reward him with being done with summer school when he was done with the papers – he was done in a couple weeks.

        If you can be done with your work in 1/3 the time as others, having 3x as much work is not a reward. It is kind of like working – where you might be able to get 3x as much done for the same pay and vacation. Oh wait, that IS what happens! Well, unless you are female – but I won’t go there.

      • She was in shock during the summer course because we just signed her up for the regular summer school through the school system. Well, who are the kids who are in summer school? The kids who failed. The kids who would rather disrupt the class than pay attention. The kind of kids she never hung around with.

        The first day there was some horseplay in the hallway which resulted in a fire alarm going off and the fire fighters came and the entire class got lectured about that. To a rule follower like my daughter, it was like being in prison. She was terrified. She was in class with all the bullies and losers.

        I told her that if she did her work and kept her grades up, she would never have to associate with the hoodlums again, if she wanted to slack off, these kids would be her colleagues for the rest of her life. The choice was hers.

        I will admit that this past year, tenth grade she has struggled a bit managing her assignments, but still hasn’t tried to blow anything off. I’ll cut her some slack for this year. New school, new state, grandmother died on my daughter’s fifteenth birthday, it’s been a rough year for her, but she still managed to get on the honor roll. Just barely, but she got there.

  15. Does anyone know what a new air conditioner should cost for a 1500 sq ft townhouse? My utility company says I need a new one and they are going to charge me $5600. That makes my trip to Maui a lot less fun.

    • You are being grossly overcharged if that’s what they’re telling you. Should run about $2600 installed. For 1500 sq. ft. you probably only need a 2-ton unit.

    • yeah, really overcharged … I think mine was around $3200.

    • Mine was $4,250 for a 1,360 sq ft house. Price depends a lot on the energy efficiency of the unit. Our highest electric bill was under $60 during the hottest month last year. Our highest bill was $45 when we had the window air conditioner. Central air is wonderful!

    • Won’t you need to change the air handler (the inside thingie) because of new regs? That will increase the cost dramatically.

      You may even need to run new lines from the outside unit to the air handler inside. This can be a real pain if you need to remove drywall to make the run. It is sometimes cheaper to run the lines on the outside of the house but since you live in a townhome they may not allow it because of possible appearance violation.

      Check into a package unit (condensing unit and condensing coil) all outside the house.

      HVAC costs a lot more now than just a few years ago due to new regulations – ozone and all that.

    • Our system was about $7500 for a 2400SF house. And that wasn’t the top of line, most efficient model – just the best we could afford.

  16. (Comment deleted for violating the TC comment policy.)

  17. Come on Ben, what the fuck is this? We do a swap for half a trillion with foreign banks and the Fed Chair doesn’t know who got the money?

  18. So many these days want to be their kids friend rather than the parent. Good for you for sticking to your guns.

    “Pick one thing and stick to it” was the advice the pediatrician gave my mother when it came to dealing with me. It wasn’t until I had my own children that I started to see that she was a pretty smart lady who was a lot of fun and very talented.

    She used to say that her wish was that I have a kid exactly like me and boy, did she get it times three!

    She taught me to shrug off the sullen ‘tudes and not take them personal. When I get an “I hate you” – I chuckle and simply say “I love you, too” and “good, then I know I’m doing my job.”

    She died when my youngest was 3 months old and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss her or use her wisdom on my kids.

  19. Good op-ed from Hispanic Outlook magazine: “It’s Good To Be the King!”

    Click to access july13-politicalbeat.pdf

    • Hillary and Palin, both at large and at loose? mmmmmmmm

      Murdoch backing them…. mmmmmmhhh

      (not saying they’ll be together, but a few home truths never hurt anyone’s audience…)

    • Sounds like she’s working around our oratorial genius, but otherwise incompetent dear leader.

  20. My son aged 20 has changed so much at school, I can’t believe it.
    A total slacker at school between the ages of 14-17, he suddenly decided on his own that he wanted to do well.

    Maximum grades in everything is what he’s pulling in now. He just did 6 exams in a row in the space of 10 days and got the maximum in every single one of them. I still can’t believe it.
    He’s been to California on a scholarship, then he’s off to Helsinki to the School of Art and Design there, for 4 months.

    Mind you he is at Art school now, and can more or less choose his subjects.

    I think he was chafing against the physical restrictions of school b4. (And no, I never disciplined him, just explained that he had to put up with/get out of the system as soon as poss., and that after 18 the world was his oyster.)

  21. Good grief, they are hauling away NJ mayors by the wagonload, along with rabbis. Something about money laundering and (gulp) organ sales.

  22. Woman from Michael Moore’s film SICKO reacts to Obama’s speech last night:


  23. The healthcare debate is not a zero sum game. There is no win-win or even a win-lose. I’m not aware of any country in the world with higher per capita costs of insurers and providers, or higher per capita demand for healthcare from its population. Costs will only escalate and access to even more basic services will become closed to more people. The only thing that will change this is single payer, where healthcare becomes everyone’s right, not an earned perogative. For that to happen, a strong majority of people in the country need to understand both the benefits and the limitations of single payer and still be screaming for it. We’re not apparently there yet. That’s when government will finally have the mandate to transform healthcare away from being a business. That’s when doctors and other providers will make a decent living without fee-for-service incentives, and they the providers (not insurers or government or lawyers) will be the ones making decisions about best and appropriate care and treatment given our resources. The longer we wait to make the transition, the more painful it will be – to our economic future, and to the physical prognosis for the population. We should have begun the change in ’93, but the interests groups were too powerful, and Hillary’s plan which was mainly a regulatory effort was too complicated, but most damning, we as a nation did not want to acknowledge the urgency of the issue. Full and meaningful universal (not medicaid) will not happen until we have single payer. We are mortgaging the future to our children on realestate, healthcare, social security, education costs, living standards, and the national debt.

  24. I think that the trouble with the way math is taught is that the strategies are developed by the small group of people for whom math is a beautiful language. They seem to believe that, if they just explain it right, that we will all see the beauty in it that they do — when what we really need for the vast majority is the ability to solve all of our mundane problems that we encounter in life. And for the vast majority of us, that involves a lot of drill work in the beginning and not trying to get first and second graders to understand set theory.

    • Brook’s problem is the reverse. She used to see math as a beautiful language. She’s never had a problem with math. Her standardized test scores are consistently off the charts. What happened to Brook is that she is being taught by people for whom math is not a beautiful language.
      Brook’s problem is that she wouldn’t do her homework because she got it the first time around. And in our school district, an average student can get a better grade than a brilliant student if they do the homework. So, Brook got lazy. Instead of challenging her, her teachers applied a zero tolerance policy wrt homework and busted her grades. And if you don’t get a 95 in the grade department, they don’t recommend you to the next highest level no matter how smart you are. As it happens, when the time came to make the cut, she had a 93, and half of her homework assignments were incomplete. So, she ended up repeating prealgebra. Needless to say, this failed to improve her attitude about homework. But her teachers have a very Borg like attitude. “Resistance is futile. You will do this boring homework even though we know you don’t need to because everyother kid in the class is doing it. Yes, it will make you hate math. We don’t care. You’re nothing special. If you were, you wouldn’t have missed those two extra points. You should have read our minds when you wrote the essay portion of the math test. Yes, we know that math essays are of little value if you can do the problem and show your work. We don’t care. We put the essay in for the kids who don’t like math.”
      see how it goes? Lose- lose. If you get bumped down over two lousy points, math is never allowed to be interesting again.

      • That is so depressing and discouraging. Just awful.

        RD–did you hear about the big bust of public officials in NJ today? I heard it on NPR. Sounds like quite a story.

        • Not surprising at all corruption in NJ is rampant. I’m only surprised that they nabbed so few. I’m sure my own township had it’s share. There are always sneaky deals in the works with developers andreal estate.
          But they’ve only touched the surface. I’m absolutely convinced that organized crime has a monopoly on liquor licences. Everybody must know it but it seems like no one has any interest in doing anything about it. As a result, most restaurants are BYO. Even if you have the outrageous amounts of money required to get one, who needs the hassle of having to buy one from the mafia with strings attached?
          Anyone dining in NJ has to find a liquor store and get a bottle of each color.

  25. Why push kids to achieve? What good does it do to make the effort? Success in our sick and filthy excuse for a soceity depends on inherited wealth, connections, and @$$-kissing, not talent, merit or diligence.

    I behaved well in school and worked my @$$ off and made good grades, nearly always honor roll, and it did not do me one fornicating bit of good in our 2nd Gilded Age society. I’m doing a job I could have learned to do straight out of high school. College was a complete waste of time and money for me.

    I have too strong an animal self-preservation drive ever to kill myself, but may God forgive me, I hate this society, and I am coming to hate this life, and the amoral, pitiless natural universe in which it evolved.

    We humans have the capacity for evil because, in the amoral and pitiless natural environment in which we evolved, evil sometimes works–that is, it enhances one’s chances of survival and reproduction.

    Because of that, I no longer believe God had anything to do with making this hellworld, even indirectly. No one else did, either–I do not believe in any demiurge. I differ from classic Gnostics there.

    If I want any justice or mercy, I see I will need to wait for the next life. I’m 46, so that should only be a few decades now.

    Bitter? Caustic? My soul must have a pH of 14 by now.

    • “society”. Arrgh.

    • I believe acts that bring us together slightly outweigh acts that pull us apart In cultures where this is nit true, life is very grim indeed. Right now, we are skating on the edge. Our country will not get better until we hold people accountable for their destabilizing acts. So, we have an opportunity to turn things around everyday and in 2010, we can hold our law makers accountable for not holding the destabilzers accountable.
      It wouldn’t be the first time our society has found itself in this situation and had to claw its way back. Let’s just hope our memories are better this time.

    • Hang in there, IBW. Sometimes life really sucks but there are good people in the world. Those of us who still care about each other and about a just society have to hang together and keep on plugging.

  26. Brook and Education Today: After more than 30 years in education, I can only say to parents today—rescue your student if you can. Their lives today are a world away from what is going on in most schools, especially secondary schools. Not only is there a yawning instructional divide, there is also a yawning social divide. The movement in schools over the last 2 decades to do away with “honors” /advanced classes is a part of it but the digital divide creates both an instructional black hole and a social/cultural abyss. Just think how the social infrastructure of teens today is reshaped by texting and twitter and then think of your own high school/middle school experience—who you knew, how you knew them, who you hung out with.

    If you can find a school with an International Baccalaureate Programme—deeply consider it. If not try to get your Board to implement such a program (see http://www.ibo.org).

    Consider some of the top tier online schools coupled with a dual enrollment in a community college.

    Remember it is not your education. It is your child’s education. Engage s/he in that dialogue and get s/he to accept responsibility for making the education experience the experiences needed for goals that are important and meaningful to the person whose education is at issue. If the school does not collaborate, put your student on a hunt to find a school that will. There are options out there today that were not there 5 years ago.

    • If only I could. I tried to get her into a private school last year. I was a year too late. They filled their spots in sixth grade and she was going for 7th. Very few spaces left and too many applicants. She was waitlisted at every one. Not only that but I really didn’t have the $25k and there are no scholarships for middle schoolers. Depressing. The local community college might be an option. Other than that, we’re screwed. The district seems to have a prejudice against gifted kids. It doesn’t understand how to teach them and would rather spend the money on courtesy bussing. I hate it. She hates it. I nearly kept her home last year, it was so bad. She was getting detention for really stupid things. (she slammed a locker door in gym, she was late to school because my car wouldn’t start one morning, she told her teacher her math work was boring). The school is on lock down, there are security cameras everywhere like Big Brother and the place is run like a juvenile detention center. You have to see it to believe it. And this is not some inner city school in Camden. It’s a middle school in the heart of upscale suburbia. We treat our children like criminals and infants who can’t supervise themselves.

  27. Ivory Bill Woodpecker: That life story is profoundly sad. How I wish it were a rare and isolated event. I know it is not.

  28. ….has ignored his progressive base and has now become hostage to conservative blue dog Democrats.

    The Dems need an excuse as to why we are getting GOP type health care…..However there aren’t enough GOP for the Dems to hide behind, so these guys will do in a pinch.

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