Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ohio Torture-Teacher Goes to Court

Via Pharyngula

Back in April, I harangued regarding John Freshwater, an Ohio middle school teacher who was under investigation for, among other things, burning crosses into his 8th-grade students' arms as a 'demonstration' in science class. Apparently, the issue has now gone to court, and my prediction that there was going to be more ugliness revealed is being born out. From the Mount Vernon News:

(School superintendent Stephen) Short, (middle school principal William) White and the school board are named as defendants in the case because they allowed Freshwater to continue to teach religion, and violate school policy and the Constitution after being notified of the policy violations and unconstitutional activities. For example, after April 14, the suit claims, Freshwater assigned “extra credit” to his students for homework related to intelligent design and was not removed from the classroom.

White also, according to the court documents, disclosed the identity of the plaintiffs to Freshwater, although Short had promised them anonymity. After the parents raised concerns of retaliation against their son, a field trip was scheduled, with their son assigned to a certain group and chaperone. The suit claims that once the child’s identity was revealed, his group assignment was changed to the one led by Freshwater. As a result, the parents “were forced to prohibit their son from attending the school field trip.” That caused injury by depriving the son of a valuable educational experience and discouraging the plaintiffs from continuing to exercise their right to free speech.

Initially, I thought that the lack of action on the part of the school stemmed from either an aversion to scandal, or at worst, your typical Christian fundamentalist assumption that the "non-believers" were just being hysterical and over-reacting. That if they ignored the complaints, it would all blow over.

The above seems to indicate something far more malevolent. The plaintiffs may talk about "depriving the son of a valuable educational experience", but it had to creep them the hell out whan the school placed their son into the hands of the same teacher who saw fit to brand him as a demonstration of how spectrum analysis works.

Go read the whole article. This is blatant intimidation on the part of Freshwater and White. They should both be fired. Or perhaps Gene's solution over at PZ's house is more appropriate:

Perhaps Mr. Freshwater should have his apparatus applied to his testicles as part of his ongoing education about why he shouldn't use it on students.

God-damned pair of sleaze bags.


Oh, and this is what he used to brand his students. Not sure how he got from "High Frequency Generator Tester for Leak Detection" to "A Cool Device to Burn Little Kids With", though.

What a nice man.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Hex Hatch, or An Exercise in Frustration

Those who ply the trout waters of the Midwest are aware of the mayfly Hexagenia limbata, or "Hex" for short. It's the largest mayfly known, and when it hatches, it draws the largest trout in the stream out of hiding. Clouds of them have been known to show up on Doppler radar on Lake Erie and along the upper Mississippi.

It goes about 2 1/2-3 inches long with the tails (that's 6-8 cm for those of you living in advanced cultures), ranges from a dusty brown, to buttery yellow, to an off-white tan. Hatches usually start in my home state in early June in the South-West and progress North and East over the next six weeks or so. The bugs generally start to come off of the water at dusk shortly after the whippoorwills start singing and continue to come off until after midnight. This generally means that in order to fish the hatch, you have to fish in the dark. Doing so can be very challenging even on a stream you know well. It is downright dangerous and stupid on a stream you don't, and don't even think about going if the water is high.

So what do I see on the screen of my cottage this past Friday morning?

For those of you who don't know mayflies, the grayish object at the bottom is the husk of the mayfly's original adult form, the dun. It has molted into a spinner, the form in which it will mate, lay its eggs (if it's a female), and die.

Normally, this would excite me no end: there's a passably good trout stream a few miles away, which I think would play host to these bugs. And I know the stream pretty well.

Problem is, it's been raining like hell for 2 weeks, and the streams are all over their banks, and not likely to come down soon.

(grinds teeth) Bloody weather.

This Ethanol Bullshit is Looking Better and Better /scarcasm

This year's corn crop has taken a big hit from the recent rains in the Midwest, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. As much as 10% of the crop in Wisconsin has been killed off by flooding.

The devastating Midwest floods are creating waves of economic pain with crops ruined, corn prices pushed to record levels and a damper put on expansion of the ethanol industry.

Development of ethanol refineries - seen by some people as an economic development panacea in rural communities - has been suspended at a dozen plants around the country, a trade group said Monday. High corn prices, and now questionable supplies, have made the ethanol business less attractive.
May I be only the most recent in a long line of people to say

WELL, DUH??!!!

This is a small taste of what could happen if we go too far down the ethanol path. Forget for the moment about the inflation this nonsense is causing. Forget, even, the drop in global food supply we've seen due to the diversion of corn to the gasoline industry. If we become even a bit dependent on corn for transportation, we stand to suffer economic chaos every time there's a lean yield: and with pronounced climate change becoming more and more likely, the odds the our corn yield will be affected increase considerably.

Why don't we take the damned ethanol subsidies and put them into research for better sources, like grasses, waste streams, and bacterial production? The oil isn't getting cheaper, but that supply is at least steady. Short term, become less energy dependent. Middle and long term, find stable sources of energy. Then we can tell the middle east to go jump off an Allah-be-praised cliff.

Requescat in Pace, Mr. Russert

Bummer. I was blissfully unaware for several days that the only Sunday Morning political reporter worth a tinker's damn passed away. While he sometimes dropped the ball and didn't go after guests when he should have, Russert was head, shoulders, chest, belly, hips and thighs over the rest of the field. His death leaves us almost totally at the mercy of the Hannitys and Olbermans of the world.

I understand Brokaw is under consideration as a fill-in until a new anchor is chosen. I hope it is a temporary arrangement. I think there are better candidates out there, like Andrea Mitchell, David Gregory, and Chuck Todd.

Just please, not Chris f-ing Matthews. That ass would ruin the show.

Back Again

I've been spending most of my time at the cottage I mentioned a few posts ago, and I can't post from there, so the world has had a respite from my nonsense. While I was loafing around fishing and working on my golf game, the Midwest flooded, the corn crop has been trashed, Tim Russert has died, and the Supreme Court has evidenced some modicum of sanity and bitch-slapped the Bush administration on Habeas Corpus at Gitmo.

Boo, boo^2, boo-hoo, and YAY!

The cottage was great, aside from the 10 days of periodic deluge. Thankfully, I'm on a hill on a lake and the house is built over a crawl-space, so it didn't flood.

A couple of pics of the place:

That's the actual cottage. Not much to look at, but considering I'm only paying as couple of hundred bucks a month (with 18 holes of golf a day), I'm not going to complain about a little peeling paint or an uneven floor. This is the view toward the lake:

The lawn was a bit shaggy that day, because the days and days of rain made it impossible to get a mower out there and cut the grass. And this is the view on the other side of the house:

The club house and first tee of the golf course.

Life ain't half bad.

Sunday, June 1, 2008