Sunday, February 25, 2007

If I Picked the Academy Awards

Having not seen most of the movies nominated for anything for the Oscars tonight (not do most of them look interesting to me), I made my own picks for “best of” 2006:

Best Actor:
Sacha Baron Cohen - Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Best non-English Speaking Movie:
Jet Li's Fearless

Best Animated Movie:
Over the Hedge

Best Movie:
V for Vendetta

Best Visual Effects:
X-Men: The Last Stand

Best Song:
Snakes on a Plane (Bring It) by Cobra Starship - Snakes of a Plane

Best Soundtrack:

Best Supporting Actress:
Natalie Portman - V for Vendetta

Best Supporting Actor:
Christian Bale - The Prestige

Don't feel like deciding for more categories right now.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

That's Sick...Oh Wait That's Me

      For starters I have probably the worst flu I've had in years. I've been down for two full days now and a third looks inevitable. I've had triple digit temperatures pushing 105F and that's really not fun at all. My dad got sick on Monday and is still out of it, I started feeling really bad Thursday afternoon and I’m doing better than he is. I can at least function and may possibly go for a quick run tonight to get some serious fresh air into my system. I’ve still got a fever over 100F but feel pretty good nonetheless. I’ve also been instructed by my mom that I cannot go to church tomorrow morning since I’ll still be contagious.
      In other medical news of national importance, scientists at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute think they have discovered an enzyme called SPL (sphingosine phosphate lyase) that inhibits cancer cells from growing. They are not sure which specific forms of cancer are affected by this, so clinical trials are expected to follow soon. Read the whole story from Mercury News here.
      Not to be outdone, Canadian scientists have decided that inhibiting cancer growth is lame and that there are better ways to deal with cancer. So they discovered that dichloroacetate, or DCA, which is used to treat some metabolic disorders not only inhibits cancer growth but in many cases shrinks and kills the cancer cells. For sure it is known to kill brain, lung, breast, and is believed to work its magic on most human forms of cancer. The best part is that it is that DCA is really cheap to make. The worst part is that because it’s so cheap no pharmaceutical company is going to mass-produce it or run enough human lab tests to get it certified as a cancer drug by the FDA since there’s not enough money to be made from it to make it worth their investment. The side effects of such a chemical are nasty for most people, but not nearly as bad as chemo, plus there’s no evidence that it damages healthy tissue while killing the cancerous tissue. You can find links to it here and here and even here. Supposedly you can buy the stuff at most chemical supply stores but is not recommended and is probably dangerous as dosage isn't known.
      Any other medical news? Lets see...Flu...Check!...Cancer...Check!...Guess that's it on that front.
      In other news, the House wasted the whole week debating if they were going to officially say that they don’t like idea of keeping troops in Iraq. I wish I could do so little in a work week. But thankfully we all know that the government that governs least governs best. They really didn’t get anything else done and we can thank them for it. The casualty numbers keep climbing in Iraq too (3,133 as of 17/02/2007); our total number of killed troops across all branches of the military is now almost 1% of what our Army alone lost in WW2. That’s also almost 5.5% of the 57,200 soldiers we lost during the D-Day invasion. That’s probably less than the number of US citizens killed in the past year by illegal immigrants, but I haven’t written a paper on that so I don’t have national statistics for the immigration status of criminals.

Random Quote of the moment:
    He’s definitely not the brightest fish in the cookie jar.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Flunking Failure

Got nothing better to post at the moment, so here's my essay as mentioned in my previous post:

        Carl Singleton is pleading with the academic community in this essay What Our Education System Needs is More F’s to do just that, to give failing grades to students who fail a subject in school. Teachers have long been giving passing grades to students when they are not deserved. Singleton claims that this has been true for the last twenty years and started by “giving D’s to students who should have received firm F’s” (Singleton, 130). This resulted in a shift downward in letter grades for students with a B now becoming average, C’s replaced D’s as being below average, and the D essentially replaced the F (130). Now that students were receiving D’s rather than F’s they were able to pass on to the next level of their education, regardless of the fact that they did not have a solid understanding of the material. Singleton argues that teachers are also reluctant to flunk students because a failing student could be an indicator of deficient teaching. Not wanting to have the stigma of being a poor teacher, many teachers pass students in order to evade this disgrace.
        With students being passed along without achieving the acceptable level of proficiency in a subject, the problems were merely passed along to the next teacher. As a result Singleton points out an increase in the number of illiterate high-school graduates who have passed through the system rather than being forced to repeat courses that they should have failed (130). With students who should have failed being allowed to pass, those who should indeed pass are being held to lower standards than they otherwise would. This substandard system has lead to the production of “…low-quality teachers who never should have been certified in the first place” (Singleton, 130). As a result many freshman college students are taking classes in basic reading, writing, and math because they failed to learn these basic educational skills while in grade school. This ultimately leads to a drain on college resources which would otherwise be used for teaching higher level courses.
        If these students were sent home from school with failing grades instead of passing ones, Singleton argues that this “…would force most parents to deal with the realities of their children’s failure while it’s happening and when it is yet possible to do something about it” (130). Yes, some parents may not be able or willing to help their children, but at least they would be aware that a problem exists. By having parents knowledgeable about their students’ shortcomings in school they may force their children to dedicate more time to study and less to other activities. Singleton brings up a quote by former Governor Lester Maddox, “‘We’ll get a better grade of prisons when we get a better grade of prisoners’” (130). The same can be said for schools in that better schools will require better students. Better students are those who have learned what is required of them, whether this requires more parental involvement and effort on the students’ part or if it means drastic measures such repeating a class if they did not fully comprehend the required materials. Issuing failing grades where they are due may be the only way to bring about such awareness.
        Once students are given the grades they truly earn the school system will begin to right itself. Singleton explains that neither “Higher salaries, more stringent certifications procedures, [nor] getting back to basics…” have had significant impact on the quality problems faced by today’s educational system (130). Singleton is arguing that by failing the many students who have not earned a passing grade the educators will take notice of the systematic problems and begin to fix them. Once only passing students are allowed to graduate from high-school – while those who fail are forced to repeat until they do pass – everyone who passes through high-school will be literate and able to function academically at the required level. With a higher caliber of students graduating from high-school, colleges will have to devote fewer resources to classes meant to catch students up to the level where they should already be. Less time being spent learning how to read or write or handle basic math problems means more time to spend on further studies. This would usher new teachers into the school system from these graduating classes who have passed all of their subjects in school and who will be able to help students from falling through the gaping cracks that have let so many before them slip through. This perpetual cycle of requiring students to meet the standards set for them will increase the quality of education for all by keeping students until they have mastered the material and passing students only when they are ready.
        Singleton implores teachers to give F’s “…by the dozens, hundreds, thousands, even millions…” if necessary in order to flunk the failure out of the system until such a time comes when the failure is overcome and students pass to a satisfactory level, and are then able to succeed at the next level of their education (130). Singleton makes assumptions that failing grades will wake everyone up to the problems of our public school system and ignores the possibility that some people simply don’t care that students are undeservedly passing. The teachers want to look good by not having failing students in their classes; this is a disservice to their students as they slip behind in their learning, yet continue to pass as if they understood the material required of them. The students now believe they are learning at an acceptable level as they are passing all of their subjects. The harsh reality that students are unprepared finally hits them when they leave high-school. By that point they flood into the colleges to take basic courses to make up for the deficiencies from high-school. Only after this will many of them finally be prepared to pursue their higher education or start a career.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Update of DOOM!

    Not really, but I’ve got Invader Zim on my mind at the moment and that sounds like something Zim would say. But for an update on my squirrel eaten pizza, it turned out to be a rat. I know this because I saw it a few days ago when I was getting the pizza box to throw it out. The little rat was sitting on top of the box when I opened the BBQ lid. It just stared at me for about 15 seconds before jumping out of the grill, climbed the rail on my deck, and jumped into the cedar tree growing next to my deck.
    I’m heading out East Thursday morning to the Snake River Classic Bible Quiz tournament in Meridian, Idaho where my team will be competing Friday and Saturday. I’m not thrilled about cramming 14 people into two minivans for the 10 hour drive since I know how some of these people pack. I'll be catching up on my reading as I should be getting Kicking the Sacred Cow from the library tomorrow.
    On another totally unrelated topic, I’m currently writing a paper for my English class about why teachers need to fail more students. I’ll probably post it here either on Wednesday night or when I get back from Idaho.

Random Quote:
“The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they're okay, then it's you.”