Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Massachusetts Congressional Delegation

The first video shows pretty well why the Kennedys are still important. The second one shows Barney Frank, a Congressman from Massachusetts, getting properly sassy with a crazy woman. The Athens of America indeed.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Morning Meyousic

Because I feel the need for some culture.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Teaching To the Test

Every school teacher I know, and most people that are informed about public education, are infuriated by the amount that teachers are forced to “teach to the test”. The test is usually a state administered standardized test that students are required to pass in order to be promoted to the next grade level.

So “teaching to the test” has become a code-word for bad educational policy, but is it? Stephen Brill has an article in the New Yorker describing the difficulty in removing a horrible teacher from the classroom in the NYC public school system. Teachers are paid based solely on seniority, and most are tenured after three years, so there is little economic incentive for them to continue to teach well. The city is prohibited from using test scores in their consideration of offering tenure to teachers, which effectively prohibits any consideration of teacher quality in the decision to offer a teacher life long employment.

Most teachers do continue to teach well, and they always will because they became teachers in order to do so. But some won’t. And, as Brill notes, teacher quality is more important than any other factor in determining a student’s progress. So the question becomes: How do we decide who the bad teachers are if we don’t like the use of standardized testing? The advantage of standardized testing lies in the name itself: it’s standardized. A program in which teachers are evaluated in their own classroom by an independent observer could conceivably accomplish the same purpose, but the ratings would not be standardized. That is, the personal disposition of the observers would allow a large amount of variation between assessments.

Most public school teachers work very hard for not very much money. But in a school system like New York, where tenured teachers who have twenty five years seniority are getting paid well over a hundred thousand dollars a year, there has to be some sort of accountability mechanism. Standardized testing may the imperfect but functional choice.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Freedom Isn't Free

Good thing we have these brave men protecting it for us. But really, it’s probably because carrying an assault rifle makes your penis twice as big. I really doubt that these losers are the ones that the Secret Service or whomever has to worry about. It’s the guys who don’t strut around who might actually pull the trigger.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Mediterranean Spinach and Orzo Salad and Zucchini Latkes

I think I’m going through a Greek phase. Or maybe it’s not just a phase; maybe I have always liked Greek/Mediterranean food and I’m just finally learning how to make my favorite things. Anyway, I ate falafel every day for at least two weeks recently, and I ate basic Greek salads even longer. Now I’ve been making this orzo salad for several days, and I just bought more sundried tomatoes so I could keep eating it. It might be good with olives if you’re one of those people that, you know, like olives. I’m not one of those people.

The latkes aren’t Greek, but they’re just something I’ve wanted to make for a while. They are really good with a little bit of sour cream. The first time I made them, I didn’t think the mixture was eggy enough and decided to add another one. Don’t do that. They turned out more like overcooked eggs with some potato and zucchini mixed in.

I got the salad recipe from my mother, who saw it in a Costco magazine. The recipe is one of those that tell me which brand of spinach to buy. That makes me laugh. The zucchini latkes are from the best food blogger on all of the internets.

Mediterranean Spinach and Orzo Salad
1 cup orzo pasta
½ cup sundried tomatoes
½ diced cucumber
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 oz feta cheese

Red Wine Vinaigrette
1 clove of a shallot or 1 clove garlic, chopped
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ cup rw vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard if you want it to be a little creamier
Fresh oregano or thyme if you have it

For the vinaigrette, mix it all up in a bowl and leave it to sit while you make the salad. Boil the orzo to the liking of its manufacturer, and then let it cool before adding it to the salad. Mother says it’s good to let the orzo soak in a little bit of dressing beforehand but I’m not so sure. That sounds like a recipe for soggy orzo to me. Anyway, you know how to assemble a salad. Do it with the ingredients mentioned above.

Zucchini Latkes

Recipe here. I used flour instead of matzo meal because I have never purchased matzo meal and had never really considered it before. If you have matzo meal, maybe you should consider using that, but flour was just fine.

Monday, August 10, 2009

What to do if your teacher is a war criminal?

I suppose some of my former high school classmates will be facing this question at Texas Tech. Most laughably, he will be teaching a “leadership” class for minority and underrepresented students. Presumably, he will tell them to sell their soul so that the rich, white Republicans can win more elections.

To be fair, his war criminal status is as yet to be determined. Go Red Raiders!

Being Well Endowed.

I’m talking about colleges, of course. A while back I wrote a short post about the inferior endowment problems at Reed (the innuendo just keeps on giving). Now an economist/blogger named Felix Salmon raises an interesting question: Why don’t colleges spend their endowments during rough times to avoid the admissions and service cuts that they are currently enduring?

It seems like colleges are beholden to the same growth principle that drives publicly traded companies that says that simply sustaining the current level of profitability is not enough. The result must be an exponential increase or else that result is a failure. I just don’t get it.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Why I Love the Mercury

Things like this.

Everyday Salsa

So since I acquired a tiny little food processor/chopper around Christmas, I have realized that there is no longer any need to buy salsa. Ever. I haven’t experimented with trying different kinds of salsas yet because I mostly just love really spicy, tomato-y, cilantro-y salsa, so I’m still working on getting tired of putting that on everything (like my breakfast of potatoes and eggs this morning).

So, for anyone who has even a tiny food processor at their disposal, there is no longer any need to consume that substance known as Pace Picante, which seems to have a half life of about 10,000 years. It only takes about 10 minutes to make your own salsa, and you can make it spicy as hell. You can probably make this with fresh tomatoes as well, but you should squeeze a lot of the juice out first because in my experience blended fresh tomatoes = very watery salsa.

Everyday Tomato Salsa

1 can diced tomatoes

1 cup chopped cilantro

1 jalapeno, chopped with seeds removed

¼ of a red onion

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 clove garlic

1 teaspoon hot sauce (Louisiana, Cholula, etc.)

Juice of ¼ of a lime

1. Put all the ingredients in your food processor/chopper

2. Process/chop it up real nice

3. Eat it on any one of the five million things that salsa is good on. Preferably a burrito, though.