As PZ points out, here's an absolutely invaluable resource for answering the above question.



Not that I had anything to do with it, but Sen. David Vitter's (R-Louisiana) attempt to siphon federal funds to promote creationism in his home state has been quietly withdrawn, as NCSE reports here.

What would this country's educational establishment do without a watchdog like NCSE, which probably mobilized most of the pressure on Vitter's colleagues to not 'look the other way' when the Senator attempted to sneak this through? I'm proud to be a member of NCSE, and if you're not, you should consider joining.



I'm sore---but it's a good sore. Being in my mid-forties, and (like most Americans) overweight, my opportunities for competition are slipping through my fingers. Father Time, and all that. But I love playing ball, and so for the past two years most of my Tuesdays have been spent playing softball with a bunch of twenty-somethings who for the most part are recent grads of the high school I teach at. Rather unimaginatively (it's the high school's name), we go by the Knights.

Now, the original team wasn't like that. Oh, it had the same name, but it was mostly teachers, my age or older, along with a few recent grads as ringers. Well, pretty much all of my colleagues ended up so banged-up from attempting to play that we had trouble filling a roster. We went 1-8-1 (the one win was a forfeit by the other team!), so we were pretty much the laughingstock of the league. Kind of punishing.

Well, I still wanted to play but my dream of a faculty team was obviously unrealistic. One of the ringers, a former student of mine named Jeff Moore, got the bug to play and (thankfully) managed the club instead of yours truly, who obviously hadn't done that great a job (1-8-1, remember?). Anyway, I was the only over-the-hill guy who stuck around, though we were joined by Mr. Moore's Dad, and I do not exaggerate when I say that Moore Senior was our most reliable hitter in that second season. We ended up being a .500 club, a vast improvement.

Not satisfied, manager Moore recruited more players, including some ladies who not only could play, but didn't have any prominent varicose veins. The downside to this upgrade is that I didn't play the field as much as in the past, but (realistically) this was just as well, as I had managed to hurt myself pretty bad with bruised feet and an abdominal strain. Frankly, I had doubts that I would be able to keep playing, and it affected my ability to contribute to the team in the second half of the season. We started off great and at one point, in our third league, we were 5-0, but then we had a disastrous evening where we couldn't do anything right, including my horrible injuries, and we gave away three games before righting the ship and finishing 6-4. Still, having been in the running for first place, it was a bitter disappointment.

That brings us to our current league, which is our fourth time playing together. We went into last night 6-0, but we had a doubleheader to play, and the second game was with a club (the 'Mighty Mitts') that had been dominating the entire league, and which was 7-0. Realistically, to have a shot at finally winning one of these things, we needed to beat them. As expected, we won our first game rather handily and (thankfully) no one was hurt. That brought up the Mighty Mitts, who clearly were expecting to dominate us as well. It was pretty clear why they were scoring so many runs: they had a couple of guys and gals who were pretty swift, and they were very aggressive on the basepaths.

After an inning and a half, they were up 4-0 and things weren't looking so good. But we started to chisel away with a run here and a run there, and (most importantly) we didn't panic and we played good defense. They ran their lead to 7-4, and then we stopped them in successive innings, adding two to make it a one-run game. At this point, I was (frankly) just enjoying myself tremendously. We hadn't been tested much this season, and here we were, in the last few innings, in a one-run game with the club that was leading our leagues in runs scored. No matter what happened, I thought, it was a thrill to have come this far. When Ronald dug out a low bullet to first on a bang-bang play for the last out in the fifth, it was tremendously exciting!

I went out to coach third in the bottom of the fifth. Our leadoff hitter, a girl, has made a career out of the swinging bunt and she beat out an infield hit. That brought up Gumby (Matt), who drilled a two-run homer to give us our first lead of the ballgame, 8-7! Still, the Mighty Mitts shut us down and they had their ups at the top of the sixth, with seven minutes to play. They quickly scored a pair of runs with one out to retake the lead, 9-8, but with the bases loaded, our defense held and with a light rain beginning to fall, we took the field for the bottom of the sixth. We had the tying and go-ahead runs on-base with two out. I came up, and laced a single sharply up the middle, but it ricocheted straight up in the air off the second base bag, which slowed it down long enough for their centerfielder to cut it off and we had to hold the runners.

Gulp. Bases loaded, down a run, two out, but if we get a hit---we win. And you know what? We did! Our manager, Jeff, came through, crushing the second pitch he saw over the rover in right-center, for a game-winning, three-run triple! Knights win, 11-9, and we improved to 8-0 in our league, all but clinching a title. Very exciting, and I have to admit that I'm proud. I don't care if it's a pizza-and-beer league, when you're my age, any championship is worth savoring.

So the soreness today, from the doubleheader? It's a GOOD soreness, believe me.



My father's book on motorcycling legend Rollie Free (previously posted about here and here) has been linked by a certain celebrity's web site, in the video shown here. Below is a picture of that enthusiast's Vincent Black Shadow, which (as discussed in the video) is similar to the one used in Free's famous 'bathing suit' record.

All I can say is, 'Thanks, Jay!'


Jorge Chan of Ph.D. has a few helpful tree-saving (and mind-numbing) hints regarding academic papers:

If only the Fresno Bee would take his advice on their letters page, I would not be limited to 200 words in my quixotic sallies against the forces of non-reason....



What is DEEP ?

Basically, it's a society of students at my local high school who want to look at the 'deep questions' about life, the universe and everything---the sort of thing that, for whatever reason, doesn't make it's way into the high school curriculum. I've been kicking this idea around with students for a few years, but the impetus to actually make it happen was due to two things:

1) A handful of students who were willing to help organize and publicize the initial effort;

2) The hints that were coming from my district that there were going to be monies to support new curriculum offerings, coming at the same time that the site was getting a new principal.

The former was a necessary condition in my mind to organize a student club, and the latter was a necessary condition for using the student organization as a basis for having a campus discussion about the 'deep questions' that were being left out of the curriculum. There's no point in trying something radically different if there isn't real student interest, and no point in sticking my neck out beyond that without the possibility of real change.

So, with those new things in place, I advertised (a flier, a few PA announcements) and did a stunt one lunch hour (I had a hat-full of little cards with 'deep' questions on them), and then on Club Day had signups. I told the kids that had helped that, unless we had at least 20 signups, that was as far as things would go.

Well, we had 31 signup, about 20 attend the first meeting and so far 16 have filled out the paperwork I generated for legal purposes in which they agreed to abide by the district's policies on freedom of expression (they received a copy of same). Well, this was a better response than I would've predicted, and enough to justify my involvement!

So we're up and running. At our second meeting I hinted broadly that, based upon what I knew about our site being designated a magnet school for 'law and social justice' (FUSD just got a federal grant), that perhaps in the future the DEEP organization could become the genesis of a regular course offering: a survey course of the 'Big Ideas' from philosophy, ethics, comparative religion, logic, etc.

To my great delight, this possibility seemed to strike a DEEP (sorry) chord with many of the DEEP members present. In fact, a handful were ready to storm the (administrative) barricades after my suggestion. I had to reel the firebrands back into my version of reality, which is that we would need to build a broad coalition of support from other teachers and community members as well as students.

In the meantime, many of these enthusiastic students have actually brought in materials for review and we approved a 'field trip' to our local college to hear one of those anthropic principle-style arguments to deity presentations favored by certain ID types---no doubt the first of a series of provocative DEEP events designed to stimulate thinking about same. Even if nothing comes from this other than a student club, I feel sufficiently encouraged to support these students---it just sounds like something that serves a legitimate educational purpose, meets certain kid's needs and (frankly) fun. We'll just have to see what happens next!