This....is just amazing.

Back in the day, the Monsanto Corporation sponsored a ride at Disneyland, that ended with a loop song by the Sherman Brothers extolling the brave frontiers of corporate-sponsored chemistry. The ride itself was a hoot and one of my fondest childhood memories. The above video is a virtual recreation of what that ride was like, and I have to tell you, it's not only pretty accurate, it has details that I had forgotten or never personally experienced due to the way the ride evolved. For example, Monsanto eventually quit sponsoring it, and the Disney folk expunged direct reference to the company and its wares from the ride's conclusion.

This no doubt had something to do with message fatigue, but it also has to be noticed that there was a 'sea change' in public attitudes about the discipline of chemistry. In the 1950's, chemistry was seen as a beneficient fountain of modern miracles: WD-40! Nylon! ...and, especially, plastic, PLASTIC, PLASTIC from polymers derived from petroleum.

Then books like Silent Spring entered the public consciousness, and the emerging counter-culture (which Disney resisted for decades) carried with it a largely anti-scientific but emotionally powerful notion of "ecology" that carried with it a negative connotation to the word 'chemical'. Companies like Dow Chemical and Monsanto saw their public image greatly eroded by well-publicized (and, sometime, ill-founded) critiques of pollution and the unintended consequence of exposure to the dreaded 'chemicals.'

But, of course, everything is 'chemistry' in one sense or another. The field of chemistry is simply that branch of physics concerned with discovering and understanding all the different ways that matter and energy can be arranged. There is nothing inherently bad or good about such an enterprise, and it's more than a bit aggravating to see the pseudoscientific movements still with us that take, as a starting point, the position that "chemicals are bad." Only slightly less nauseating is the premise of "unnatural chemicals", as the deadliest chemicals I can think of are those that liberate free oxygen. I'd like to see somebody in the anti-vax movement or the "chemtrail" enthusiasts lambaste oxygen, or, as a kid once allegedly based a science project on, the deadly effects of dihydrogen monoxide (DMO).



So, I'm working quietly at my desk during my prep on a new assessment. Just me, no students.
About ten minutes into this exercise, the lights go out. The district, when it "modernized" the classroom, installed a sensor that automatically kills the lights in the absence of motion. Wow! It has the added plus of looking like a certain homicidal computer in a Kubrick film.

Call it Hal 2.0....

And, frankly, even if I opened my blinds at the top of the north wall, very little light comes in from the outside: it's a typical Fresno winter, shrouded in gloomy fog. Kind of like a Bergman film, without all the sunny moments:

Thus, my productivity grinds to a halt until I can get the sensor to detect my presence. Sometimes I can trigger it from my desk by waving my arms. Usually, though, I have to get up and walk around the perimeter of the classroom. By the time the lights are on and I am back in my seat, a minute of prep time has vanished. This will happen every ten minutes, so I could lose as much as four minutes of prep time if I stayed in the classroom, working quietly at my desk.

No doubt some bean counter factored this modest loss of productivity as an acceptable tradeoff for x number of kilowatt-minutes saved by this exercise per classroom per instructional day. Just like they figured that any discomfort experienced by teachers unable to set the thermostat in their own classrooms (previous practice) is outweighed by their ability to save coin by remotely managing the temp from downtown (another "modernization" wonder).

On a similar topic, my district-supplied laptop (a Compaq 6715b) doesn't work all that fast, because of all the district-mandated software running in the background of the underpowered bargain board slows down its performance. Sure, I lose productivity when Power Points crash, data entry doesn't "take" or when a video won't stream properly at a resolution sufficient to make its use worthwhile. But at least the district can keep an eye on me and others using the system! Besides, I can just make up the lost workplace productivity by either staying after school or working x number of hours at home on a real computer, that actually works.

And....the lights just went out again. Hurrah! THE SAVINGS!!!



Let me say in advance that the video clip is ugly.

It shows a politician dodging questions, which is to say it shows a politician. It also shows a radio talk show host become abusive, which is to say it shows a certain kind of radio talk show host.

But that in no way justifies the way this conversation unravels. There's a difference between being a partisan and attacking another person's identity. In this interview, Memphis radio host Thaddeus Matthews comes unglued when talking to GOP candidate Charlotte Bergmann. Bergmann is asked if she is a member of, or affiliated with the Tea Party, and she dodges the question, no doubt for political reasons. That's sad, but the way Matthews handles it is horrible: a... vulgar, hateful, racially-divisive personal attack. See it for yourself:

Now look, I'm a strong supporter of the President. I haven't voted for a Republican in 20 years. But I want to ask all people, regardless of party, to repudiate this kind of speech. It violates the most basic of values, which all Americans (regardless of party affiliation) should cherish. Please note that this is not a "trap". As the title of the link below shows, it was uploaded by someone who apparently thinks Matthews was acting honorably. What a shame.