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Don’t Worry…

For those readers who are probably like “Why isn’t there a post about the Indiana teacher pay law” or “No post about Osama bin Laden?” let me tell you that my job is revving up for the next couple of weeks and is such that effective and regular blogging is next to impossible. I had to work through this past weekend out of town and this week I have so many long days that I want to spend my down time resting and not working. I apologize for the break in posting but I will do my best to start back up next week. Thank you for sticking with me as I try to make this hobby a productive reality.

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In part one of this series we explored the closer entrance music as it exists now in the MLB American League East. Today we take a look at the National League East.

Atlanta Braves: Craig Kimbrel

To the best of my knowledge this is his song, but reports said he hadn’t chosen one as of early April, so if you have a correction feel freee to submit.

Florida Marlins: Leo Nunez

I couldn’t find this one. Feel free to let me know if you know it.

New York Mets: Fransisco Rodriguez

Philadelphia Phillies: Ryan Madson (for now)

And so because all before him are injured, Madson gets the spot. However this means that he doesn’t have a super awesome song we can attribute to his entrance. Get on that Madson!

Washington Nationals: Drew Storen

Via his blog, Drew Storen stated that he was looking to change his entrance from Icky Thump to something different, but the most recent information I could find was the good ol’ White Stripes. Enjoy and get pumped!

Better late than never. After Ed’s magnificent post today about education and the people he linked to, I had to add my voice to the choir.

I would like to share a few stories that have happened over the past week in education and education policy.

1. From Nevada (4/24): the push to switch to the performance pay model. A republican assemblyman states that Nevada ranks last in the nation where high school graduation is concerned (no statement was made as to how they rank on the all important standardized test) and so requires “radical surgery.” So the current emphasis on higher education in the teacher pay scales in Nevada would go away completely and performance pay would take its place. While many states do utilize student performance in determining teacher incentive pay or raises, adherence to a student performance only model (or 50%+) is the disturbing trend sweeping a nation in financial crisis. Now all teachers are employable because all teachers are paid the same base salary: that of a recent graduated undergraduate. Then it’s all up to you! Teaching pay based on commission.

2. From Wisconsin (4/23): is it a law? School districts are confused about what to do about teacher hiring/firing/pay while the courts decide if the law actually became a law or not. The chairman of the Senate Education Committee in Wisconsin has voiced a fear that if teachers don’t feel protected by unions, that they might just leave the field altogether. The state superintendent of public instruction stated in an interview with the Journal-Sentinel that the reforms would make it “harder for individual teachers to innovate and districts and teachers to feel safe.” It’s like a guy saying that he’s going to hit you in the face, but he fakes it a couple of times so you don’t know when it’s coming, but you’re pretty sure it’s coming.

3. From Kentucky (4/24): Bring me your poor… Chris Kenning with the Courier-Journal in Louisville is writing a series of stories examining the Jefferson County public schools. The editor states that the purpose of the series is to determine the problems they face, their chances for success, and whether the system judging them is fair. This installation discussed the struggles against the effects of poverty that the school engages in and how the students’ current condition would set the teachers up for failure before they even began. Observation occurred at Shawnee High School, where 86 percent of kids qualify for free or reduced lunch, about half of the students graduate, and the test scores are among the lowest in Kentucky. Generally solutions center around changing curriculum or firing/evaluating teachers instead of addressing the direct sociological issues, like kids who don’t receive adequate medical care outside of school, who don’t get enough to eat, or have behavioral or mental health issues. There are many studies which illustrate the relationship between poverty and low test scores, however blaming teachers for not being able to overcome that seems to be the most popular way to avoid the issue. Teachers are expected to make no excuses and make students perform at the same level as another school without the same demographics.

***

How much can you sell yourself short? How cheap are your skills? How affordable are you for school districts? You have $100,000 in student loans between bachelors and masters degrees. Will you work for $35,000 to get the job? How about $33,000? That person that just interviewed said we could ignore her doctorate and pay her $25,000 a year. What can you bid?

Want to try that new technique you learned at that seminar that didn’t get you any raise in pay but helped you learn a new technique to use to help you keep your pay through increased student performance? Better make sure the parents, school board, principal, other teachers, state representatives, the mayor, and the governor approve of your action. Otherwise you might get fired for using non-approved curricular material in your classroom. Oh, and Johnny says you touched his no-no area and, what’s that? You can’t afford an attorney? Where did that union go? Oh yeah, the students are always right and their performance is all that matters!

Can you keep the attention of 40 students? 10 of them didn’t have breakfast, 3 are depressed, 11 are beaten nightly by their parents, 1 deals drugs after school, 5 have learning disabilities, 2 need glasses but their families can’t afford them, 2 are homeless, and 6 are gifted but cannot afford to move and live within the range of a better school (side note: no, vouchers would not solve this problem. Vouchers pay for tuition, not increased cost of living, cost of relocation, and transportation).

All of this must be done with no right to bargain, with your performance pay in the hands of 5-18 year olds and their families, and your educational experience marginalized.

Teach public school. Federal and state governments double dog dare you.

(Sorry about Teaching Tuesday. I have articles to read and a plan, but I was at the in-laws for Easter through Monday and while Music Monday was easy to write, TT needs more attention. Thank you for your continued patronage through my inconsistent blogging.)

As long as this blog has been in existence I have been emphasizing “eat less, move more” as the basic, no frills guide to weight loss. How you choose to accomplish those two things is up to you, but that is the basic jist. That is, it had been until I read Patti Neighmond’s (NPR) article on sitting all day and how it affects us. This article came out on Monday and presented new research which states that even if you engage in regular, daily exercise it might not be enough to battle the effects of sitting the rest of the day. In an interview with epidemiologist Steven Blair from USC (South Carolina, not Southern California) he states that even if you do 30 minutes of walking every day (which is what federal health experts recommend), the 8 hours of sleep you get plus that half hour of activity leaves 15.5 hours in the day which you spend doing what? If you are like me (and apparently millions of Americans) you spend it on your ass either working or watching tv.

Basically results of this recent study state that exercise may not matter if you spend your work and leisure time sitting on your butt. For example, the study showed that men who exercised regularly but spent more than 23 hours a week not moving/sitting were more at risk of dying than men who exercised the same but saw only 11 hours or less a week sitting. The secret lies in the larger muscles, which have to be engaged and working to assist with the speed of metabolism. Additionally participants who sat more had worse levels of cholesterol and were at greater risk for diseases such as diabetes even though they exercised regularly.

This article blew my mind and completely changed how I view my day. How much time do I spend sitting? My job is such that I have the benefit of standing for much of what I do. This engages the large muscles in my legs which helps with all of the aforementioned issues. Not all people have this advantage and so they are subjected to the humiliating “cubicle exercises” that are often shown at office health seminars and lauded in articles such as this one. Stand and do a little jig! Sit on an exercise ball! Lift small weights as you talk on the phone! Ugh, seriously. Neighmond is right when she says that it is indisputable that it is a good idea, the problem lies in getting people to actually do these things.

Take a day this week and try to keep track of how much time you spend on your tuckus. What could you be doing during that time instead? Is that a time of rest and therefore okay? Could you be taking a walk or cleaning a room in your house or exercising? Could you take time to go to the mall and walk around in the stores even if you don’t want to buy anything? If your butt in in contact with a surface, keep track. See how many hours you rack up in a day. Then see where you stand in relation to this new research. I know I’ll be paying much closer attention to my behavior. I don’t want to die early because I exercised to be lazy.

Music Monday: I’m So Blue

When I was young I was “lucky” enough to grow up in an area that was so rural that it celebrated not only a ridiculous amount of country music, but also bluegrass music. My one and only pet rabbit was acquired from a breeder who was selling them out of his camper at a local bluegrass festival. My father played the banjo for a while (and even took lessons), my sister played a fair mandolin, I failed miserably at learning the fiddle and my mom owned a guitar. Our family bluegrass band did not succeed and you can imagine that I immediately rebelled into alternative rock and hip hop as soon as was humanly possible.

My love of the music just lay dormant though, and in my college years I rediscovered it through artists like Bela Fleck who tried to put a new spin on bluegrass. Here they bring in Indian drumming and electric banjo to play Aaron Copland’s “Hoedown.”

Bluegrass itself comes in different flavors, and one of the most simple comes from the Appalachian mountain regions, specifically West Virginia or Pennsylvania. You could define it further as mining towns, but I hesitate to do so because that might be too specific. What I can say about it is that, like many things in the early 20th century, it was dominated by men so when women began to shine in the field people took notice.

One of the premier women in the field of bluegrass was Hazel Dickens, who died last Friday at the age of 75. One of the women who made their mark on Appalachian mountain music, Hazel was one of the first inductees into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2007. Her voice brought a different flavor to bluegrass music, and she performed almost right up until her death. Here is a clip of her singing.

Remember that America has produced musical styles outside of jazz, hip hop, and country which have lasted through the ages. These musical styles are just as important to our history as Americans, even though we don’t hear them as much on the radio or honor them openly at awards ceremonies. They speak to deep, regional traditions that are key to the identity of that regions’ inhabitants and we should know and honor them.

Dear Readers,

Due to my attendance at a baseball game tonight and my sojourn to the in-laws house for the weekend, a very thorough Planned Parenthood article will have to wait until next week to be finished. You will however, receive Sports Friday which will be an intimate look at the ridiculousness of the NBA playoffs. I promise. 🙂

Until then please watch this excellent clip from The Colbert Report where he not only points out John Kyl’s ridiculous statement about Planned Parenthood and abortions, but also fails to stay in character because the analysis of the situation on Fox is SO ridiculous. Enjoy!

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/381282/april-11-2011/pap-smears-at-walgreens

Weighty Wednesday: Enough is enough

Today I will have crossed the “I lost 5 pounds!” line, and don’t get me wrong I’m happy about it, but it sucks that it took 7 WEEKS to get here. It doesn’t help that I’ve made this journey before and done it much better. When I lost 40 pounds in 2006 I lost on average between 1 and 2 pounds every week, and I went from 225 pounds to 190 in 4 months. Now I’m lucky if I lose .2 each week and that is maddening! One can only say “At least it’s a loss and not a gain!” so many times before one wants to actually buy smaller sized clothes or jiggle less.

So the question at hand today is when enough weight loss is enough for a reward. Is 5 pounds enough to feel good about your progress to move on? Do you buy a new shirt at 10 pounds? New pants at 15 or 20? When I did Weight Watchers they said that you can usually start to notice your own weight loss at ten pounds and others typically begin to notice and comment on it around a loss of 20. That’s all well and good to keep members coming back and paying, but how do you get through 4.2 pounds? or when you’re at 11.7 lost? How do people keep going when all motivators seem hollow in the face of chocolate brownie ice cream? When you can’t fit into the next size down even after you’ve lost 10 pounds, what do you use to motivate yourself? Everyone says you aren’t supposed to use food to reward because, well, you’re trying to manage food intake and when you worked your butt off to lose one pound you probably shouldn’t have 4 pounds of pizza to celebrate.

I know people read this blog (all 4 of you!) so what could constitute an acceptable and enjoyable reward for simply losing weight? When you aren’t at a recognizable milestone like 10 or 15 pounds, how can you motivate yourself to keep going? And when the real goal is fitting into size 14 jeans, what can jewelry or movies or other things do during the rough spots to help get you there?

For a better late than never Music Monday post (and for the few after it) I have decided to share the music from some of the closers around the MLB this year. This week well start with the AL East. Closer music is important in that it gets the player psyched up to save the day and end the game. In my opinion three of these songs do that. Two of them do not. I’ll leave it  to you to figure which are which and to decide for yourselves.

Rauch (Blue Jays)

K. Farnsworth (Rays)

I got nothin’ on this one. If you can find it I will post it.

Gregg (Orioles)

Rivera (Yankees) *I LOVE this song but I HATE the Yankees so it’s hard to give it props. It is a really good closer song though.

Papelbon (Red Sox) *Despite my obvious bias I feel like this song is the best out of the AL East, but Dotel’s song is pretty awesome too.

The University of Maine hockey team has a long history of excellence. From 1984 to 2001 Shawn Walsh built a team that won two national championships (’93 and ’99), five Hockey East championships (’89, ’92, ’93, ’00, ’04), and three regular season Hockey East championships (’88, ’93, ’95). These are just the winning years. The Black Bears have been to the national dance multiple times since Walsh took over the team in ’84, going every year between 1987 and 1993, once in 1995, then every year between 1999 and 2007. Since 1987 Maine has only seen two periods (1994 and 1996-1998) in which they did not go to the tournament at all.

In September 2001 Shawn Walsh died from kidney cancer, leaving the team to current coach Tim Whitehead. As shown by the statistics above he was able to get the team to the national tournament for the next 6 years. This was due in part to excellent recruitment on the part of Walsh and the freshman players brought on in 2000-2001 who stayed on through the 2005/2006 school years. In present day Maine fans, used to the feast of championships and higher level games and achievements, are antsy because their team has not made it to the NCAA tourney since 2007 and they have not won a Hockey East championship since 2004. At the end of the 2010-2011 season many called for a change in leadership.

Whitehead was offered a three year extension on his contract and has two more years of that extension to work. While I sympathize with anyone following up a coaching great like Walsh, with 4 years in the trash and 7 years since a conference win at some point someone needs to say that it’s time to say goodbye. Relying on his own recruitment from 2006 on Whitehead has produced nothing like what Maine fans are used to, and the rebuilding excuse can only work for so long. Eventually the excuse must become a coaching issue, an issue resolved easily if people are willing and able to let go.

Without a winning record or some kind of championship run in the next few years I think it is time to say goodbye to Tim Whitehead, and time to say hello to a coach that might return the team to greatness.

Weighty Wednesday: Opposites

First, I apologize for the delay in posting.

Current political events have prompted me to try to find an analogy to real life. Thinking about my Wednesday posts I tried to compare the current budget “crisis” with procedures for weight loss. With all of the talk of trimming the fat and getting rid of waste, the approaches currently being taken to balancing the national budget sound an awful lot like weight loss. However when I attempted to see similarities I found that the process is actually the complete opposite of losing weight.

When you want to lose weight you are actively trying to burn more than you take in. The analogy of calories to money would make weight loss efforts highly detrimental to budget balancing. Spending more than one takes in sets up a situation in which debt is a factor, as well as the interest that comes with that. In reality budget balancing must take an approach almost completely opposite to weight loss.

On the one hand to balance a budget you do need to cut back on spending. Much like cutting back on eating, cutting back on spending sets up a budget for success by getting rid of unnecessary expenditures (i.e. cake or Magic Cards respectively). However, this is where the analogy splits and it is this distinction that I feel like Washington is forgetting.

Weight loss also requires that you cut calories further by spending more on exercise (or burning them). When you combine reducing caloric spending with further caloric burns you see successful losses.

The government seems to also be trying this to solve their current crisis: cut spending and cut taxes in the hopes that what they spend will magically match up with what they take in. Without taking in more to meet the spending cuts in the middle this strategy could never work, at least not in a way that allows the country to be full functional. Where weight loss moves in one direction (less calories/burning calories), the government budget balancing has to move in two directions: less spending and more taxes/revenue. If government does what weight loss prescribes we stand to face a highly anorexic country which cannot properly serve or protect its citizens, when what we want is a fat, well fed budget able to provide the services and help that its citizens require.

This issue is very complex and I don’t mean to simplify it, but it seems to boil down to who is going to be willing to convince us all that we need to feed government more (taxes)  while we exercise (spend less)…