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The Day After – Looking Back

September 12, 2016 am30 4:20 am
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August 1998 Rudolph Giuliani put a fence around City Hall with police checkpoints. The public could no longer gather by City Hall steps, not to watch press conferences, not to demonstrate, and not to hang out.

Why was Giuliani taking 9/11 countermeasures three years before 9/11 occurred? He was not. There was a movement afoot to restrict freedom, to restrict the press, to restrict the right to assembly, and that movement was pressing hard and limiting our freedom before 9/11.

Airport Restrictions, The Department of Homeland Security, preventing the public from accessing public buildings – there was a blueprint for all of these things BEFORE 9/11.  They were just waiting for a good enough excuse. (City Hall steps were blocked to the public ‘because’ the US launched missiles at Afghanistan and Sudan. Pretty flimsy excuse).

On 9/11 our city was attacked. It was personal. Many of us lost friends or family. All of us lost some sense of security in our own city. We know who attacked us, and in our country’s way, it got even (killed bin Laden, invaded a few countries that had not attacked us). Slowly those of us who survived and did not breathe the poison recovered, some of us continue to recover.

But on 9/12 Giuliani and his ilk launched an assault on our freedoms that continues to this day. There is no wall that will keep Tom Ridge out. Chris Christie need not fear a Seal Team. The damage done to us on 9/12, we need to begin addressing that.


Robert Jackson and Tuesday’s other Primaries

September 11, 2016 pm30 2:02 pm

Democratic Primaries in NYC for State Assembly and State Senate are usually ho-hum affairs, pitting local organizers who have become insiders against local organizers who would like to become insiders. The winner of most of the primaries then win the general election, many unopposed.

This time there’s a few interesting races.

State Senate 33rd District. Bronx. Gustavo Rivera, incumbent, you might yell at me for saying so, but relatively undistinguished, faces an opponent who has a reputation as a social conservative, including some anti-gay history, and doesn’t deserve any votes against Gustavo, who is also running on the Working Families Party line.

State Senate 36th District. Bronx. Wide open, with the incumbent having moved on to the Cuomo administration, with five? choices. Jamaal Bailey is close to speaker Carl Heastie, has a bunch of labor endorsements, and has the WFP line. I suspect he will win, but low turnout may be a factor.

But one race really has my attention: In the NY State Senate 31st, Inwood, Washington Heights, West Side of Manhattan and Marble Hill, Robert Jackson, champion of the children of New York City, is running against a school reform scumbag and a candidate who wants the right-wing to run the senate. These two might be worth voting against, no matter who their opponent was. But this is not a least of three (really four evils) situation.

Robert Jackson is a hero of public education. He walked to Albany in 2003 – 150 miles with a group of public education advocates. They demanded fairer funding for NY City schools. And they won.

Robert Jackson as a city council member fought fiercely for education. But that’s not all.

Robert Jackson stands for the best sort of immigration reform. He is a tenants’ advocate of the first order. His environmental record is superb. I’m not going on, but I could.

If you are a registered Democrat in the 31st NY State Senate District, get to the polls Tuesday and support Robert Jackson.



Contest: Telling Student Growth Percentiles and Random Numbers apart

September 5, 2016 pm30 5:54 pm

NYC Educator kindly posted my results. (CLICK HERE)

And a list of random numbers.

And my students’ ID numbers (last two digits)

Each list is sorted small to large.

Can you figure out which is which?

Can you figure out why numbers which determine my rating look completely random?

Good luck!

And good luck to each and every one of us subjected to this arbitrary system.

Free IFC Memberships for Teachers

August 24, 2016 am31 8:22 am

Reduces ticket prices $5, from $15 to $10 for most movies. (And no service charge for on-line ticketing)  Click for form for free educator membership.

Free previews and special members-only screenings.

IFC New York is in the old Waverly Theater, Sixth Avenue at 3rd Street, across from the basketball courts.

They show an eclectic mix of documentary, independent and foreign stuff.  And classics. They are one of the hosts of the Doc NYC Festival.

Disclaimer: I’ve had a membership for a few years, and sometimes wander in to see offbeat stuff.

Yesterday, when I noticed the “free for k-12 teachers” in the previews, I was seeing Miss Sharon Jones. Apparently I’ve been enjoying Sharon Jones and the Dap-kings for quite a while, without knowing anything about them.

A fan page on MySpace (remember MySpace?) says: “By the sound of them, you would think Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings started making funk-threaded soul music together in the 1960s.”

100 Days and 100 Nights

might be the catchiest. I’m Still Here

is autobiographical. But they do This Land Is Your Land

that is funked out, and totally enjoyable.


A rectangle question

August 22, 2016 am31 4:20 am

If you take any rectangle, and take the midpoint of each side, and connect them in order, the result is a rhombus (quadrilateral with four equal sides). Cool, and pretty easy to show. (Lots of options – maybe the most accessible is to use the Pythagorean Theorem, since we have right angles, four times, and get four equal hypotenuses)

But what if someone gave you a rhombus, and told you that they formed the rhombus by connecting the four midpoints of some quadrilateral, BUT ONE THAT IS NOT A RECTANGLE. Could they be correct?

(Inspired by Patrick Honner’s cool post on proving the Varignon Theorem, with details that were new to me, including the name of the theorem!)

Below, precinct house around the corner from me. The boxes below the windows show the midpoints of rectangles forming rhombuses.

_MG_1649_02 (1)

_MG_1649_02 (2)


Jagged arc of lights

August 19, 2016 pm31 2:35 pm

Did you know what an ocular migraine is?

I went to a colleague’s birthday party last month. I don’t know why I wore my back-up glasses, but I did. And standing out in her yard I saw a little distortion in the right corner of my field of vision. Damned progressive lenses. I took them off to look at them. But the distortion was still there. Not floaters. A few zigzagging parallel lines, translucent, they didn’t obscure my vision. And they went away in a few minutes, and I forgot about them.

Two weeks later they reappeared, on the right, but closer to the center of my field of vision, and with light and color on the edges. More angular, and brighter. They faded as they got bigger, moved to the right periphery of my vision, and disappeared. Took maybe 20 minutes.

I mentioned it to a friend, who said I needed to go to an ophthalmologist. This could be the beginning of something serious. By the way, did you know there were 2 Ls in ophthalmologist? And 2 Hs. Freaky. But not as freaky as getting a random electric light show.

I meant to go. I did. But it wasn’t until the third episode this week that I jumped up and took care of it. Twenty minutes again. Started right center and grew and faded.

I called the ophthalmologist the next day (but I think I called him an opthamologist because I hadn’t learned to spell it yet), and he took me later that day. Dilated the eyes. Found I see 20/20, with my current correction. Checked the field of vision for blind spots. None. Checked peripheral vision. Good. Imaged the blood vessels and the optic nerves. Good and good.

Was I the only one who didn’t know there are “optical migraines”? This, apparently, is what I have. It’s in my brain, not my eyes. And it’s weird.

My last two were sort of halfway between these two images I found on
the internet.


It’s time to push Fariña on unfair funding, bad principals

August 18, 2016 pm31 12:43 pm

There are a ton of major issues to push with the NYC Department of Education. But my gut says these two should be priority. What do you think?

Unfair Funding Formula

The unfair funding formulas pressure principals to discriminate against experienced teachers. This hurts teachers, schools, kids, and, well, principals. There is no benefit to the schools, and no benefit to the system. Every teacher should be charged the same amount against every school’s budget (or we should use units).

A teacher who is not hired under the current system, they are already in the system, there is no actual cost savings. And a lower cost, brand new teacher? That’s someone who was not already on the books. That brand new teacher costs the system extra.

By linking teachers’ actual salaries to the individual school “budget” (really paper internal accounting, not an actual budget) Bloomberg and Klein created a system where schools, principals, kids, and teachers all lose. We should end this.

The UFT Unity leadership agrees. And Fariña will not take action. She needs to feel pressure. Getting the UFT to apply this pressure should be a priority. This should be the last year of this unfair system.

Incompetent Administrators; Abusive Administrators

We have always had a mix of good and bad principals. But post-Bloomberg our system is littered with administrators who are incompetent, abusive, or both. Many have had inadequate experience. Some never taught, or only spent a year or two in the classroom. Some had poor training. In the last 20 years we have moved away from a system where an administrator would work under an experienced principal for years before taking the reins him or herself. Instead, beginning teachers did a one year boot camp to get ready. The “Leadership Academy” took candidates with zero pedagogical background.

The abuse often follows the incompetence. A principal who does not know what to do may feel threatened by subordinates who do, and last out. The abuse sometimes follows insecurity. If the position was not earned through years of hard work, but rather handed to someone with little experience, that person may treat their authority as a gift, and not something that was earned, and see almost any assertive act as a threat to that (arbitrarily granted, now arbitrarily exercised) authority. And some administrators just don’t have the kind of temperament we would expect from someone supervising adults and children.

Whatever the cause, incompetents and abusive administrators should not be in the those positions (or, in some cases, might be retrained). In theory our union leadership agrees, but is frustratingly unwilling to press the issue. Certainly Fariña has not challenged the Bloomberg/Klein ethos that the judgment of a principal cannot be challenged (despite case after case affirming that we have people with bad judgment, poor tempers, and lack of necessary knowledge and/or experience running our schools). She needs to feel pressure to act correctly.

Push Fariña? We need to motivate our leadership

Both of these issues can be addressed, immediately. Neither is part of contract negotiations. Both would help many, many teachers, and many many schools. And our union leadership is not opposed, in theory, to addressing either issue. They have been, however, bizarrely reluctant to press either issue with the Chancellor.

Yesterday our allies in MORE met and set priorities for the coming year. Likely these two were highly ranked on their list.

There are other issues of importance to the members of our union. But in theory these two would be 1) relatively easy to make progress on and 2) would impact a great number of members, and 3) would shift the “tone” of the current administration. They seem to be good places to begin the new school year. What do you think?