Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Orleans at the Salty Dog was a staple of my youth. We saw Larry and the newly constituted Orleans perform outside Cincinnati in 2009, and Lara's friend Cliff played with Larry regularly. Sad news.

A Few Fotos from Florida

Others are available at my FB site.

Reading List

Here's what I read on my summer vacation. The nonfiction is nothing you don't already know, but seeing it all put together is hair-raising. The authors propose solutions, none of which I think is particularly plausible (mandatory voting?), and they seem to wave a blithe hand at the issue of money in politics. Ornstein is married to Bill's cousin (we met him at the Bill-Lela wedding), which is why I found it worth reading on vacation with Bill.

Despite the hype surrounding the fictional work, it truly is a tour de force, gripping and clever and worth reading. A great beach book.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Enough Bromides

Kudos to NYC's mayor for having the guts to talk about gun control in light of this morning's Colorado shooting. So far, he's the only one.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Tower Is Live

Not that anyone called to let us know, but when Paul asked, he was told that Dryden's newest broadband tower is ready to go. He tested our new connection with his iPad and scored 20Mbps down, compared to our usual 0.4, so that's good news. We've alerted the neighbors and will change over once we get back from vacation.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Required Reading

Thanks to Simon for this astonishingly well-reasoned article on the befuddling relationship between art and commerce. Since Ithaca recently received kudos for its appeal to the Richard-Florida-invented "creative class" (We're Number Three! We're Number Three!), this is all the more relevant.
Vibrancy is a sort of performance that artists or musicians are expected to put on, either directly or indirectly, for the corporate class. These are the ones we aim to reassure of our city’s vibrancy, so that they never choose to move their millions (of dollars) to some more vibrant burg. An artist who keeps to herself, who works in her room all day, who wears unremarkable clothes and goes without tattoos— by definition she brings almost nothing to this project, adds little to the economic prospects of a given area.

Affordable Care in Dryden

Paul came home with questions about a small business in Dryden and the Affordable Care Act. Here are the answers.

Because the business has fewer than 50 employees, it is exempt from employer responsibility for offering insurance. However, since it has fewer than 25 full-time employees and offers wages that average under $50,000, it could provide employee health insurance, pay at least 50% of premiums, and receive a tax credit of up to 35%, increasing in 2014 to 50%. It will also be eligible in 2014 to shop at the Affordable Insurance Exchange to receive more choices and lower prices—similar to the buying power that large businesses currently have. If the employees it is insuring feel the cost is too high, they can take the employer contribution in cash and apply it to their own chosen health insurance plan from the Exchange.

Because it is so small, the Dryden business may decide to continue without offering insurance. Employees will be able to buy insurance directly on the Exchange, starting in 2014. If they make under $14,000 (or $29,000 for a family of four), they will be eligible for Medicaid. If they make under $43,000 (or $88,000 for a family of four), they will receive a tax credit that is advanceable (to lower monthly premiums). They may also qualify for cost-sharing of payments and deductibles. If they choose not to purchase insurance, they will pay a fee (now considered a tax), which will go to help pay medical bills for other uninsured Americans, a fee that every taxpayer in the nation currently helps to pay.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Evaluate This

In the ever-evolving world of Race to the Top, AKA the Gift That Keeps on Taking, the APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review) may have occupied more administrative-teacher time than any other obstacle. As this article indicates, fewer than 30 percent of districts met the July 1 deadline. Negotiations are sticky, because there's not much leeway involved. The state did cave somewhat in allowing a so-called "local" score to comprise 20 percent of the composite score for each teacher. Determining what that local score will entail has taken up a lot of time. Here's what the review will look like:

60%: Observations. These, of course, are largely subjective. At TST-BOCES, they will be based on the Danielson rubric, but other districts may use other rubrics—or none at all. Only certain people are allowed to evaluate through observation, and there must be a minimum of two observations per year, one of which may be announced ahead of time.

20%: State Score. Since TST-BOCES has very few classes in which state tests apply, most teachers there will be writing individual SLOs, student learning objectives, through which to measure their students' growth. In the districts, teachers who teach coursework that is not tested by the state will also need to write SLOs. Although there are some suggested directives for writing these SLOs, there is no clear across-the-board methodology or correlation. In theory, this assessment measures individual growth over time. A fourth-grader's scores from 2013 may be compared to that same child's scores from 2012 to see whether the child's year in Ms. K's class led to the expected growth. What that expected growth might be is something State Ed is apparently working out. With the exception of classes that have SLOs, this is the one segment of the APPR that might be considered quasi-objective and universally correlated—in other words, once State Ed works it out, growth G in Student A in District X will be equivalent to growth G in Student B in District Y.

20%: Local Score. Districts may buy existing tests or create their own. At TST-BOCES, there will be a mix. In theory, this assessment measures comparative achievement, although it is possible that it might also (or instead) measure growth over time.

A teacher who receives an overall composite score of 75, once all variables are compiled, is considered to be effective or highly effective. One who receives a score below 75 is considered to be developing or ineffective and thus in need of a TIP (Teacher Improvement Plan). Two ineffective scores over two consecutive years are grounds for dismissal, although there is an appeal process available.

Possibly the lone good thing about this plan is that it has forced unions and administration into serious talks about what constitutes a reasonable plan for evaluating teachers across the board. They all pretty much agree that this isn't it.

Worth noting: the amount of instructional time lost as teachers test students, grade tests, prepare SLOs, etc.

I should mention that there is a similar plan for evaluating principals.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Shinagawa v. Reed: What's in a Name?

Greg S sends this along about a western NY station and its hate jockey, Bill Nojay. It might be one of those "If they spew racial hatred in western NY and nobody listens, does it matter?" events, but for the fact that Bill Nojay is also running for state assembly.

On the radio with me this morning, Mike Sigler suggested that Tom Reed had a "broader appeal" to people in the district. I thought he was talking about politics, but maybe I should have pressed him on it.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Blueberry Season Starts Early

Blueberry jam, blueberry muffins, and a boatload of blueberries left.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

How Does the SCOTUS Decision Affect Me?

In my working life, I've had maybe five different insurance plans, including at least two different self-purchased plans. We signed up for our current plan prior to 2010, which means that we are grandfathered in under the Affordable Care Act. As far as I can tell, the changes for us are these:

1. Olivia can stay on our plan until age 26.

2. We no longer have a lifetime limit on coverage.

3. We can't get dropped if we get sick.

4. Our premiums may increase, but they can't suddenly skyrocket.

I thought we'd get free immunizations, but there's some discrepancy in what I'm reading. It appears that grandfathered plans aren't forced to provide free preventive care.

All in all, it doesn't seem to affect me much, at least not the way the screaming right wing would suggest. I don't much feel that my freedom is affected one way or the other.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Markhor My Words

When he rediscovered the woolly flying squirrel in 1994, there was no such thing as conservation in that part of Pakistan. In the 18 years since, PZ's work has led to a number of small triumphs, and now one pretty big one.

Check One

→"Gee, maybe there's something to this climate change stuff."

→"God is really, really, really, really, really, really pissed off."