Not Snowed In

by Terry 12/22/2008 10:26:00 AM

Saturday morning I completed the wiring of the generator transfer switch. The winds started in earnest in the evening. After dinner I lubricated and fueled the generator. It started smoothly and flawlessly. Karen, Kaitlin and I were ready to take on the stormy night.

The winds were fascinating Saturday night. I have not been able locate, yet, the recorded wind speeds from any of the local weather stations in the area, but I have heard reports of 87 mph gusts. It sounded like a flock of low-flying jets pulling out of a dive with ice filled jet wash.

Remarkably there is little damage in the neighborhood that I can tell or have heard. We lost power overnight and it was restored by morning. The neighbors lost a panel from their fence which they mended on Sunday morning. Otherwise there were just snowdrifts on the leeward side of every standing structure. I shoveled a meter of snow from my driveway so I could use my car if needed. As it stands I have had no reason to drive anywhere.

I never used the generator. I did not see the need to run it so late in the evening. We elected to just go to bed. At least I know it all works. We just got lucky this year and lost power for eight hours instead of six days.

Sunday was spent re-warming the house and digging into last minute gift making, which we are sorely behind on.

Monday morning and I am back to work, from my home office. The roads are mostly bare and wet or patched with packed snow, with big drifts of snow narrowing the streets to one lane roads in some areas. There is still more snow predicted, although unlikely to be much of any significance. I promised Karen I would toss the chains in the car when we next go out. I got the chains when we bought the car in January, 2000. I have never opened the box. I am very much a just-in-time user of technology. It drives Karen nuts.

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Personal | Snoqualmie

Storm Predicted, Generator Ready

by Terry 12/20/2008 6:58:00 AM

Last night I worked on mounting and wiring the generator transfer switch in the garage. Karen commented that I had to wait until a major wind and ice storm was predicted to hit before finishing this task. I was merely employing just-in-time services. Right, that is it. I am simply efficient.

This morning I will kill the house mains so I can connect the bundle of wire in my electrical panel. I could have done that last night, but I figured it would be smarter to roll open the garage door in the daylight rather than fumble in the dark with a screwdriver in one hand, a wire in the other and a flashlight held in my mouth to see by. It is beastly cold out, so working in the daylight makes the task a bit easier.

Of course, sunrise is around 7:52 AM, the temperature is a 14.5° F (-9.7° C) and the storm winds are predicted to start around 9:00 AM with gust hitting 90 mph (144 kph). In theory, this gives me an hour to complete all the work and test the generator on the new mains. See, just in time delivery.

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Does Eliminating the Gifted Label Actually Help Anyone

by Terry 12/18/2008 3:54:00 PM

In a recent article in the Washington Post, the Montgomery County school system has decided to drop the use of the ‘gifted’ label for kids who show exemplary scholastic skills. See, Montgomery Erasing Gifted Label.

Apparently, it seems, many schools see calling gifted students gifted is unfair to the less gifted, but the ‘gifted’ classes remain open to all students. There is a belief that all students will somehow benefit from advanced placement. Many of our public educators believe the fallacy that pouring advanced education on the less-bright will make the dim brighter. The fallacy of this belief has been well argued by Charles Murray.

From the Washington Post article, “School system leaders say losing the label won't change gifted instruction, because it is open to all students.”

The point, in my opinion, of special, more advanced training is to give the brighter kids enough challenge to keep them interested in school with the goal to ready these kids for being future leaders in our society. I would hope we would want the brighter kids to become our leaders. By simple definition, not all children are above average. Again, from the Washington Post article.

“The gifted label is a hot potato in public education. A school that tells some students they have gifts risks dashing the academic dreams of everyone else. Any formula for identifying gifted children, no matter how sophisticated, can be condemned for those it leaves out.”

And

"'It can set up a kind of have and have-not atmosphere at your school, and we don't have that here,' said Aara Davis, principal of Georgian Forest Elementary School in Silver Spring."

Eh? So, why do we have tests? Would not tests for aptitude in a subject create a have and have-not atmosphere? I guess because grades must be kept private from other kids (and presumably parents) it would prevent any of the kids from feeling bad about themselves.

Sure, some kids will feel left out. Some kids can't run fast, jump high, swim well, play chess or do well any of an infinite number of other difficult or merely functional tasks.

Frankly, offering the carrot of advanced education to our brighter kids, particularly the top 10% - 25%, depending on the particular goals, is equally or more important than providing a remedial education for the below average. Our nation seems bent on lowering the bar so that every child appears above average. Lowering the educational bar serves only to bore our bright kids into trouble.

I can site myself as a partial example. In grade school I was often pegged by my teachers as a 'special needs' child and sent to remedial classes. My mother balked at this, convincing the school to instead to leave me in the regular classes. What my mother understood, and the teachers did not recognize, was that I was simply bored in class.

I recall clearly in third grade sitting in class calculating the answers to all the math questions the teacher wrote on the chalk board for a simple quiz. I had gotten past memorizing the answers of basic multiplication, instead started using algorithms to figure the answers. That was an epiphany for me, knowing the patterns of math rather than the rote answers. I then memorized the answers to each question on the board as I processed each in my head. When the teacher finished writing the questions and asked us to turn over our paper to start the quiz, I simply wrote the answer to each question (there were about 15 questions). I then had plenty of time to kill while the rest of the class finished their tests. I became bored and quickly a bit of a nuisance to the rest of the class while I sat fidgeting in my chair. My teacher, now standing by my desk to settle me down, was a little miffed I had not shown any of my work and believed I was somehow cheating.

This is when my epiphany came full circle. In defending my answers I explained to my teacher that I knew how each answer was derived by a simple algorithm. This took a few minutes to explain as a third grader, but by the end of my explanation I was standing in the front of the class teaching the entire class how I was both deriving my answers and checking my work. (For example, numbers multiplied by 5 always end in 5 or 0, or a number is evenly divisible by 3 if the sum of the digits is also divisible by 3, and so on.) When my teacher understood that I understood the math beyond what was being taught was I no longer suspected of cheating. This event was one of the few times I actually showed interest in my classes almost until college.

Oddly, I never thought I was particularly bright (having been told for years I was not) until I went to college and excelled in calculus, physics and computer science. I could pick classes that were actually a challenge and I was interested in class and my grades had never been better.

My hope is our teachers find ways to encourage and stimulate our brighter kids.

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Personal | Policy

What are the Automaker Bailout Costs?

by Terry 12/12/2008 1:33:00 PM

What are the costs of the automaker bailout? Really, I ask myself, why must the automakers need a bailout and why should the government provide one (or more)?

If you take the current condition of the automakers, GM and Chrysler in particular and Ford to a lesser extent, the Big Three are admittedly bankrupt; without intervention they cannot pay their current obligations. Most businesses in this case will, must really, declare a formal bankruptcy. The states each have a system in place to deal with this.

So, what makes the Big Three special enough to demand the federal government provide a massive guarantee of funds? I see basically three areas of argument, which are the selling points for supporting these dying giants.

Industrial Base

In my opinion, the most valuable asset the automakers posses are their collective industrial base. This offers the most tangible resource which adds value to the national economy. Without the manufacturing plants, the automakers are nothing. Industrial capacity within the country is a vital national concern. A nation with no industrial capability is at the whim of its suppliers.

Labor Force

The labor force, represented by the United Automobile Workers union, is of some value. Trained workers are of some value. There is considerable cost to society and the taxpayers of an idle (i.e. unemployed) work force. The most valuable labor force is one that works. Ideally, the work force does its work efficiently and has the workers feel like they contribute to society, themselves and the employer. The worst condition of a work force is one that does not work.

Technology Sciences

Technological improvements are vital for the growth of society. Progressive technological improvements always contribute to the growth of society. The abandonment of technological investment is a strategic concern. There are many historical examples for the value of science and technology. For example, after the French Revolution, which abolished the Académie des Sciences in 1793, the government and Napoleon reinstated parts of the Académie to continue important work, of which the establishment of the metric system is an example of the results.

Options

Of these three arguments, I believe, the weakest is the labor force. Consider, if any of these companies fail, the technology and the manufacturing assets are the only elements the companies can barter for their debt. That is, who would buy the services of the existing labor force at the cost the U.A.W. contracts require?

What the U.A.W. is effectively demanding is the government security of its labor contracts. While it would be a terrible cost to every unemployed worker, the cost to the government and taxpayers would be far less to pay unemployment benefits until employment is found. Allowing the collapse of any of the automakers would be much more painful at first, the pain or ripping a bandage off a cut comes to mind, but many of these workers would likely go back to work at any restructured company which emerges from a bankruptcy. Those who do not would still be paid unemployment at a lesser cost than the cost associated of the bailout.

Ultimately, the market for cars, if it is there, will allow a well managed, efficient automaker to step in and use the technology and factories most efficiently. If a strategic emergency should arise, the factories and labor force can be employed by government contracts and prizes. It is not unlike the aftermath of the French Revolution but without the Reign of Terror.

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Taking a sick day, before the storm

by Terry 12/12/2008 1:31:00 PM

Bad weather is predicted for the Seattle area. Kaitlin and I are both sick with a minor head cold. I am enjoying sitting in my bed looking out on Mt. Si as the snow level slowly drops while I work on my laptop. I expect I will be taking a nap shortly. After a bit of rest I will likely brave the weather and finish some holiday shopping before the weekend snow makes staying at home more desirable.

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Facebook Experiments

by Terry 12/2/2008 1:36:00 PM

I have been playing with Facebook off and on for the last week. I am somewhat uncompelled to use it as a journal, preferring the control and layout of my own journal (blog) site, yet it is fun to play with. I certainly like it better than MySpace by large margins for aesthetic reasons. When I post things, I like to say something. I am not very interested in the short one-line posts or Twitter. I will continue to play with Facebook for awhile. I may find a happy medium.

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Thanks for 35mm Film Containers

by Terry 12/1/2008 9:11:00 PM

Thanks to Karen’s tireless ability for research and efficiency, I think I have probably 1400 35mm film containers. Karen printed the Puget Sound area Walgreen and RiteAid addresses and phone numbers. As we travelled about this week we would call ahead and stop at their various one-hour photo processing centers, if they were reasonably convenient. Many places would set aside the stock for us. I do not have an exact count of what we collected so far. I will need to estimate with a scale in the near future. Either way, it is one less thing I need to gather. Karen is a master of task management and research. If it were up to me alone, I would have about 50 containers and no organized plan to get more. Thank you, Karen. Smile

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chemistry | Personal

Of Thanks, Birthdays and a Vigil

by Terry 12/1/2008 9:04:00 PM

Last week began with news of a death in the (extended) family. John Spalding passed away after a long fight with cancer at the age of 33. He is survived by his wife, Jodi, parents and siblings. I did not know John very well, seeing him only occasionally on holidays and such. I always found him easy to talk to and an exceptionally good person. Attending his vigil last night demonstrated that impression is largely true for many others as well. I cannot add too anything others have not already said, and will leave the eulogies for them. His MySpace page is a good place to learn more about John. May he rest in peace.

http://www.toothandnail.com/news/2067/John_Spalding_19752008/

http://www.seattlesubsonic.com/2008/11/24/in-memory-john-spalding-1975-2008/

The remainder of the week was filled with the usual Thanksgiving activities; too much food, the seeing of friends and family, too little sleep and much general running about. It was good to see old family friends. The passing of John gave added an extra bit of reason to be thankful. I and my daughter are of good health; my wife suffers from chronic issues, but is thankfully not terminally afflicted and is improving bit by bit every day (and hopes to soon share her experience and knowledge with others). The economy is uncertain, but I have apparent steady work. I have a good home and live in a great community. Life could be much worse, and I am deeply thankful; it is a life worthy of many thanks.

Post Thanksgiving activities are nearly as busy as Thanksgiving itself. More food, friends, family and running about. We spent the evenings with my sister and her family, ending the week getting what amounts to an annual Santa photo with the combine families. I find it really amusing to take out Kaitlin’s annual Santa photos and compare how both she and Santa have changed from year to year.

Yesterday, Sunday, started with a birthday breakfast with Karen’s father. Karen spent the afternoon with her dad while I did a bit of book shopping. Afterwards Karen, Kaitlin and I attended John Spalding’s vigil. We walked away with a deeper appreciation of both John and things to be thankful for.

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About Terry Losansky

Terry Dee Losansky

I am a software architect, actively practice and teach martial arts and live in Snoqualmie, Washington. I have an amazing daughter who is the jewel of my life.

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