Well, then it's all fine and good

SIX STUDENTS IN MASSACHUSETTS that failed the high school graduation exit exam are suing the state, saying that the test discriminates against minorities and the poor. Perhaps I'm biased, having gone to school in the great state of Alabama with its superb, world-famous educational system - and having always done well on standardized tests (as well as essay tests and the like) - but let's look at the facts:

Graduation from high school happens upon the successful completion of the 12th grade.

The graduation exit exam in Massachusetts tests all subjects at a 10th grade level.

The exam can be taken five times during a student's high school career.

How is this unfair? You're given multiple opportunities to prepare for and take the test - you're being tested at an educational level that is two years below where you should be testing - and yet, you can't pass? Either you're an idiot without a clue, spending more time in the school parking lot than in the classroom, or you've gone to a school where the "feel good" policy of social promotion has done nothing but screw you over in these, the final moments of your high school career.

I don't think this is a matter of a test being inherently unfair to minority students based on some abstract cultural differences - how exactly culture keeps you from finding the main idea of a paragraph, identifying a right triangle, and knowing the fourteenth President of the United States is beyond me. And I don't think this is a matter where poor students are somehow discriminated against by design.

It might very well be an indictment of the failed educational policies of many state governments - an indictment of subcultures that do not reward hard work and academic ambition - or an indictment of who remain willfully ignorant and are now paying the price. Regardless, the right answer is not to allow these students to graduate and enter a world for which they are ill-prepared, let alone a university. However, the poor jasmin live performance of minorities should provoke further investigation into the root causes, be they economic, political, or socio-cultural - without fear of what we might find.

Speaking in terms of decades and centuries

I'm often annoyed that I live in a time where we are on the brink of traveling amongst the stars - and that I'll probably be dead before such a dream is realized. Of course, if I had been born in the year 2171, I'd probably be annoyed about something else anyway.

FOR ALL THE HYPE ABOUT DICK BROWN and his turnaround miracle at EDS, you'd think he could do better than making an announcment about future prospects and getting the stock hammered to the tune of a 43% loss in value. Thanks, Dick!

What's worse is that I had planned to sell half of our stake this week, as the stock seemed to finally be making a comeback - looks like I'll be sitting on it another year! It feels like a Monday.

Update: Reader James sends this link to a memo from Dick Brown, sent to EDS employees just prior to the announcment of lowered earnings estimates. Dick, of course, is encouraging "action, urgency, excellence!" yet again, apparently unaware that he's been saying it for several years - and look where it's gotten them - perhaps it should be "action, urgency, realistic communications to the chaturbate market through the year so that they don't grossly overestimate our earnings targets down the road and send our stock price into the toilet yet again!"


...until I go back out of town, which will be in about two days.

Anyway, I've had a nip or two of Laphroaig single-malt scotch, and I just watched The Pianist. The level of raw honesty Polanski displayed in the film, abandoning a lot of the cinematic trickery he's known for, rivals that of Spiegelman's Maus. So much so, and so harrowingly, in fact, that I fully expected to see the infamous panel in Maus where the Nazi soldier was dashing Jewish ' heads open against the wall to be brought to full, sickening, cinematic reality. As it was, the various unflinching scenes were horrific enough.

Yes, yes, I'm aware of naysayers' comments that Polanski wasn't faithful to Szpilman's book, but given that he's a Polish Holocaust survivor himself, how could he possibly NOT inject his own experiences into the film?

Excruciating. That's the word I'd use to describe this film. The "extra" bits on the DVD were full of the film crew declaiming how "full of hope" the movie was, but I found myself thinking how nice it would be to see an arrogant Nazi grin disappear in a spray of blood, brains, and bone. Don't get me wrong. I thought it was excellent. But God, was it excruciating...but then, I think everyone should be forced to watch the raw footage of the Nazi horrors as Polanski and crew did (in fact, some of the scenes in the movie were recreated precisely from Nazi films.)

One thing bothered me, though. At the end of the extra footage, Polanski said that he made the film to help prevent similar circumstances from transpiring. Ever heard of Rwanda, Roman? The Congo? Cambodia?

Someday someone will make horrifically difficult-to-watch movies about those places too.

And to the jackass on IMDB who oh-so-jadedly said that the movie didn't have anything we hadn't already seen in other Nazi movies, screw you, asshole. I don't remember seeing an elderly man in a wheelchair dumped out a high-rise window into the street, then run over with a Nazi halftrack before.


In the fine tradition, blogging will probably be pretty light this weekend. OK, yes, his tradition is to not blog at all on the weekends - and, the evidence would indicate, as little as possible during the rest of the week too.

I'm in the office today - and what a beautiful day it is, at least it looks like such from inside the confines of this building - working on a draft version of the https://www.jasminelive.online project that is due Monday. I'm the luckiest boy in the world.

In closing, I've linked up a rather stunning photo of Jewel for your viewing pleasure. No, I don't know why.

Savant intelligence

That's right, just by being hooked up to this machine, you too can count the number of matches spilled on a diner floor just by looking at them briefly!

Seriously, this is an incredible discovery - the brain never ceases to amaze me (although the way many people use theirs never ceases to disappoint me either, so there's an equilibrium there). Even more interesting is the hypothesis that savants actually use their brain less than your average Joe - and that it's the shutting off of parts of the brain that allows other elements to astound us and inspire roles for Dustin Hoffman.

We have plans to, in addition to English, teach Fiona both Spanish and French. This means, of course, I really need to brush up on my Spanish - seven years of instruction, near fluency, and now I can order tacos and say "thank you." My wife has it easier; she's fluent in French. With a substantial bit of German, Russian, and Czech thrown in because she's not a product of the American public education system.

In addition, I plan to play Finnish language tapes and radio excerpts for her - if nothing else, perhaps she can pick up the sounds of the language, the accent, and apply them later (because what would be more useful than a language primarily spoken in one frozen part of the world by only 4 million people, right?).

Anyway - go, read the article - we could be on the verge of a new level of understanding of the human brain. And if not, then at least it helps us draw pretty pictures of cats and dogs.

I don't smoke

I find the habit generally disgusting. I've seen firsthand the damage it can do to someone's health. I think smoking is really, really dumb.

That said, if you want to smoke, knock yourself out. If a private establishment wants to permit or prohibit smoking, bully for them.

While we've got those inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we're all perfectly free to pursue our happy vibes in another establishment, rather than the one that allows the smoking we don't like.

The other argument is that the ban is to defend the health of employees. Last time I checked, we're all also equally free to work where we choose (so long as the company in question also chooses us).

Warning: anecdotal tale! I've worked in the restaurant industry before and with the turnover there, it's not that hard to find another job... and, besides, most of the folks I knew were either smokers or potheads, alcoholics at the very least, so I doubt their health is their primary concern.

Now, given all of the above, I don't think such a ban would really hurt many establishments, at least not based on what I have read. New people will be willing to come out; current customers will still want to socialize with a drink. We'll all breathe a little easier in the end.

But that's not the point. This remains nanny-state do-goodism run amok, fighting a non-problem in the pursuit of looking like you're actually doing something meaningful. We are a state with economic concerns, immigration issues to be addressed, and public assfaces like Representatives Tom Tancredo and Marilyn Musgrave with which to contend - and this is the big battle our legislature is fighting?

Oh, please.