Saturday, July 10, 2010

German immigrants in Canada, 1957

That's mom (Sierra) on the right.
These old pictures seem to record some pretty wild partying, but mom says no.
Lots of dancing, singing, she says. But it was all pretty innocent, she insists.
Dad says so too, so there you go.

Mom was quite the dancer. Don't know who this guy is.

Just about everybody smoked.
They did a lot of drinking too. Brewed their own beer.
There wasn't much to do, says my dad. Especially in the remote construction villages where we lived for a while.

Mom with guys and guns. Everybody had a rifle or two.
These people loved to wear crazy hats, at parties anyway.

Dad and a gal named "Gisele."
(She had quite the reputation, evidently.)

Mom and some guy, pointing at dad, who is armed with his Retina, I guess.

Gisele again. Mom laughing.

These two, Hermann and Marianne, are my folks' closest and oldest friends. I've known them all my life.
Upon retirement (maybe fifteen years ago), they moved back to Canada, owing to that country's health care system. They now live in Vancouver (my family lived there in 1959).
As a child, mom lived in the eastern part of Germany—Prussia—but she and her stepmother were forced to flee the Russian invasion, and they ended up far to the west, near Hamburg.
That's when mom met Marianne. The two girls went to school together, were confirmed together. Did everything together.
Meanwhile, Hermann was a huge "footballer," but he was trained in carpentry.
Dad lived far to the south, near Stuttgart.
They all ended up in Canada. But they really wanted to be in the U.S.A.
Too bad about the health care thing. Really too bad.

Annie and I were in bed, I suppose.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Explosion? Nope. Barely a “pop”

     From today’s issue of physicist Robert L. Park’s weekly newsletter, “What’s New”:
     Last week we reported that Michael Mann, the Penn State University climate scientist who played a key role in alerting the world to global warming, was exonerated by the University in the climategate controversy that broke in December (here).
     On Wednesday, a British panel exonerated the members of the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia University in the UK. However, the scientists had failed to uphold the standards of openness on which the credibility and influence of science is grounded.
     Everyone involved has now been held accountable for their actions, except the unknown hackers who broke the law. They must have imagined the [selectively revealed] e-mails would set off an explosion, but it was in the end a barely audible "pop."….

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Some of Sierra and Manny's pottery

Several Dissent readers have requested photos of my mom's pottery.
I've shown some of her work before, but not for a long time.
I happened to be at my folks' place today and I had my camera but I only had my macro lens. Well, I worked with what I had.
Above and below, we see two sides of one of mom's pots. (I call her "mom," but the rest of the world seems to call her either "Sierra" or "Edith.")

Mom used to be a painter.

Me, I go for simple and elegant designs, like this one.

It's hard to tell, but this thing is big.
I think I messed up my back puttin' it on the kitchen table. Sheesh.

This is one of my dad's efforts in clay (he paints too).
That's all I'll say about it.
But I do like it.

Another one of my mom's (i.e., Sierra's) efforts. Very delicate.

This is one of my dad's. Did I mention that people call him "Manny"?

His real name is "Gunther Manfred"

Another simple, elegant design. This is the smallest of a set of three. You know, my back.

Something I found in a corner of their home.

Well, there you go. You can't walk around there without tripping over one of these dang things.

     Earlier, I mislabeled this photo at left. Nope, it isn't a picture of mom when she got off the boat; rather, it is a picture of mom just before she boarded the boat (ultimately to Canada). So the picture was taken in Germany.

     The next photo was taken of my dad maybe a year or two earlier in Germany.

So much for "ClimateGate"; Kaplan snubbed

British Panel Largely Clears 'ClimateGate' Scientists of Misconduct Charges (Chronicle of Higher Education)
     Climate scientists were cleared of charges of scientific misconduct but criticized for a lack of openness in a report released on Wednesday by a panel in Britain.
     The panel was set up by the University of East Anglia, which found itself at the center of the so-called ClimateGate scandal after more than 1,000 private e-mail messages by climate researchers there were made public without authorization last November. Some of the e-mails suggested that scientists had attempted to exaggerate their findings, hide data from critics, and pressure journal editors to suppress information in an effort to strengthen arguments that global warming requires political action.
     The investigation largely cleared the scientists of wrongdoing.
     "We find that their rigor and honesty as scientists are not in doubt," Muir Russel, who led the panel, said at a news conference. "In addition, we do not find that their behavior prejudices the balance of advice given to policy makers.". . .
     But in a 160-page report, the investigators faulted the scientists for attempting to dodge potential open-records requests by deleting some e-mail messages, and said the University of East Anglia management "should have accepted more responsibility for implementing the required processes for FOIA and EIR compliance," referring to Freedom of Information Act requests and Environmental Information Regulations.. . .
     Several other investigations have found the researchers innocent of scientific misconduct, including one last week by Pennsylvania State University, where another of the climate scientists implicated in the e-mails works….
So far, community colleges snubbing for-profit Kaplan University (California WatchBlog)
     It's been about six months since California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott signed a controversial deal with Kaplan University that would allow students to take classes from the for-profit company for credit at a community college.
     Under the terms of a December 2009 memorandum of understanding, it's up to the individual colleges to sign agreements with the for-profit company to decide which Kaplan courses would be eligible for community-college credits. But so far, not a single college has signed up, a Kaplan spokeswoman said.
     When the Kaplan deal was announced, some faculty groups and student advocates questioned it for a number of reasons. For one, students taking the Kaplan classes would pay 10 times as much as they would for the community college class, even after a special discount. ¶ They also questioned the transferability of the Kaplan courses for students who want to eventually attend a UC or CSU campus.
     Michelle Pore, spokeswoman for Kaplan, said it's too early to expect colleges to have set up agreements with the for-profit company. Plus, she said Kaplan doesn't really need the extra business. Before the agreement was signed in December, the company already had deals with 75 colleges that allowed community college graduates to transfer to Kaplan.. . .
     … Jane Patton, president of the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, said a number of community college officials in the state told her they declined approaches from Kaplan about signing agreements. The Academic Senate has been one of the groups to voice concern about the Kaplan deal….

Rebel Girl's Poetry Corner: "in the elegy country"

Early summer took Rebel Girl by surprise, one thing after another and now, today, she heads north, (Polish wedding! Poets! Writers conference! hot springs! hot cha!) back weeks from now on the eve of classes in August. She'll do her best to post poems, the occasional meditation and weigh in when she can on what B. Von Traven has to say.

Here's Howard Nemerov being moody for today.

Blue Suburban

Out in the elegy country, summer evenings,
It used to be always six o'clock, or seven,
Where the fountain of the willow always wept
Over the lawn, where the shadows crept longer
But came no closer, where the talk was brilliant,
The laughter friendly, where they all were young
And taken by the darkness in surprise
That night should come and the small lights go on
In the lonely house down in the elegy country,
Where the bitter things were said and the drunken friends
Steadied themselves away in their courses
For industrious ruin or casual disaster
Under a handful of pale, permanent stars.


The fine beasts of '86

     I found a large manilla envelope in the cupboard where my folks keep their "vacation slides." In it were, not slides, but many color negatives--mostly pictures taken by my mother starting in '86, when my dad bought her a Nikon. They'd never been processed into photos or slides.
     There's a lot there. So I started with these pics from 1986 of Sepl the wonderful German Shepherd pup.
     Sepl is quite legendary owing in part to his being my dad's pal and his "construction dog." Those two would go around together everywhere in dad's Toyota truck. Zep would even sit next to my dad when he ran his tractor, a small JD.
     When I found the negatives, I showed one of the strips to my dad, who has long complained of having no pictures of Sepl. He held the strip up to light and said, "These seem to be photos of a little pig."
     Nope. Not a little pig. Sepl the Wonderdog!

Not long after the great and noble Attila died, my dad brought home Sepl (or Zeppie), a truly wonderful little man. 

Mom loves puppies and kittens. She loved her "little boy" Sepl.

Ronnie was away at college back then. He loved to come home to play with little Zeppie.

One day, years earlier, brother Ray brought home a pregnant cat named "Bobbie."
Bobbie had seven or so kittens. Ray gave away one or two of 'em. The rest ended up living with my folks in the Santa Ana Mountains.
This is "Felix" or "Fat Thing" (don't ask). According to my dad, little Fat Thing was the queen of the cats. She pretty much ran things. Slept with my folks.

The lovely and royal Ildy, Attila's "mate," was still with us. Ronnie was very close to "Ildy Pie."
Ildy was pretty much an invalid by then. She tolerated young Zeppie. Barely.

Here's goofy young Zep, testing Ildy's patience.

Zep didn't have a single mean bone in his body.

Here's one of Bobbie's kittens, the aloof and beautiful Greyball. She lived to be twenty-two.

Nobody fooled around with Greyball.

Zeppie and the cats, chowin' down. That's Moon Unit on the left and Toby in front of her.

Fat Girl on patrol.

I do believe that my mom took these pictures with her fancy new Nikon (back in '86).
Mostly, though, mom's into pottery.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

On that newly assertive loutish and abysmally ignorant political thinking

     Earlier this evening, two readers wrote angry remarks, evidently in reaction to things I have recently written on this blog:
(1) You people think you’re so smart huh? Just wait till Nov. and watch what happens. This social-economic justice thing ain’t going to fly for too much longer. That ought to wipe those lib-turd smirks off all your faces. Most Americans aren’t going to just sit back and allow our country to degenerate into a progressive free-for-all, because that’s not who we are and you know it. I think most Americans have had just about enough of the way this covert-communist administration operates. They sit around all day long thinking up new ways of how to fool and trick us into moving their unpopular agenda forward. Not only has the president failed to lead, he’s been working to destroy our constitution and our god-given protections against the tyranny of a government out of control. And who are you calling a racist? I happen to agree with the tea party. I think you’re a moron, Roy. And yes King George did force health care, in the form of moral orthopedics.

(2) Yeah Roy, if you can't stand it here in the US, why don't you go back to Canada? Even better, French Canada.
     The second comment is merely stupid. The first dips pretty low, too, but it does seem to express real outrage. The writer expresses a view that, I suspect, many others share. But I do think she misunderstands what I’m doing and what (over time) I've argued on this blog. So I’ll respond to her:

     There are different kinds of “fringe” thinkers, politically. Some offer criticisms of the status quo that are so radical (i.e., they attack at the root or foundation) that they have no clear role or power in mainstream politics. Libertarians are sometimes in this group. Anarchists can be in this group. Even communitarians. (I am at bottom a communitarian.)
     Such thinkers typically understand that a reform (or whatever one might call it) that addresses the deep problems or utopian possibilities that most concern them is nowhere on the horizon. (And do not imagine that they meet in secret and plot these changes. They are not idiots.)
     We of DtB are in this group, I believe, though I lean toward communitarianism while Reb and Red lean in a more traditional leftist direction.
     I’ll speak for myself. I was pleased with Obama’s Presidential candidacy, not because he shares my political vision—he doesn’t—but because he seemed (and seems) articulate and intelligent—and he refreshingly approaches at least some issues as decent and informed people approach them (i.e., with sensitivity to the complexities and subtleties and realities involved). I never took Obama to be a radical of my kind or any other kind. Yes, he is smart, knowledgeable, sophisticated, and capable of political brilliance. And he talks about "change." But he is essentially a mainstream pol who holds positions and values continuous with what we’ve already seen and heard in the Democratic politics of the last twenty or thirty years.
     I cannot see any basis whatsoever for viewing Obama as a “radical” or a “socialist” (in any meaningful sense of those words). In some sense, I am a radical. Obama is no radical. I wish he were! (And, in a way, I'm glad he isn't. A radical would be powerless.)
     The notion that he is a radical or socialist is an exaggeration or lie promulgated by some very cynical and ruthless demagogues on the political right (e.g., Dick Armey).
     The “Tea Party” movement appears to be the peculiar product of, (1), the aforementioned demagoguery (which serves the interests of a segment of the GOP) and, (2), the familiar American tradition of (mostly right-wing) "fringe" conspiracy politics, which is difficult or impossible to disentangle from the old American traditions of scape-goating racism and anti-intellectualism. (A classic work in this regard: Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, 1964)
     The conspiracy people are and have always been intellectually incompetent. Their theories invariably rely on the cherry-picking of evidence and similar gross fallacies. One can find virtually no academics who endorse their theories or even refer to them. Among the educated, they are irrelevant. (The “theories” of Steve Frogue and his pal Mike Collins Piper exemplify the usual crudity and sophistry of this crowd.)
     It is not surprising, therefore, that the mass of self-described “Tea Partiers” are ignorant of basic historical or general knowledge, and they never hold views that admit of subtlety or recognize complexity. It’s always, “arrest and deport the illegals,” “deregulate,” “no taxes,” “eliminate government services,” and the like. (Re the "tradition" of ignorance among American voters, see The American Voter, 1960. See also What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, 2004.)
     It does not please me to say that, in recent years, a kind of dam of political stupidity has burst: something has allowed many Americans to unashamedly express stunningly ignorant and absurd views that would be ridiculed in a basic Political Science course. I recall saying, at first, “Don’t these people read the paper or watch the news? How is it possible to think and say such ridiculous things!" (Do you recall the interviews of people waiting to attend the McCain or Palin rallies? It was stunning.)
     I now realize that, despite our nation's tradition of promoting and valuing education, many of these Americans are insulated from learning or facts (watching Fox News being one of the salient mechanisms for this odd self-isolation; for some people, going to church is another). These Americans have been allowed to “develop” their political thinking in the absence of challenge or debate; their “thinking” is almost entirely untouched by intellectuals or experts or even educated people. They gravitate to simple, loutish, and (if carried out) disastrous views.
     That is what I see. I might be wrong, but that is what I see.
     I believe that the Tea Party movement is beyond its peak and is headed for oblivion. But the crudity and unsophistication that can allow such a movement to arise, even for a brief time, is still with us. Assertive loutish and abysmally ignorant political thinking is an old and familiar phenomenon in this country; but it is increasingly "normal" and, for many, it is a kind of mainstream thinking. It is now embraced without shame or embarrassment.
     The ignorant rabble, convinced of their purity and virtue, grow. But for now, they remain unfocused.
     Whence this assertive new phenomenon? A very good and hard question.

Feel that one?

     Did you feel that one? A few seconds ago, I seemed to feel something. Then I definitely felt my couch move a bit. That was at 4:54. (I'm up in the Santa Ana Mountains/Orange County.)
     It's 4:56. KTTV is saying it's a 5.9 in the "Palm Spring area."
     4:57: KCBS is saying it's "near Borrego Springs." 5.9. The crew at the station claim to have felt it for "30 seconds." In my case, it lasted maybe five-ten seconds.
     KCBS's website asserts that the quake's epicenter was "13 miles north north-west of Borrego Springs." Further, it "was reported to be 28 miles south of Palm Springs." Hence:

Quake shakes O.C. hard (OC Reg)

Meddling trustees, Kaplan whistle-blowers, and general suckitude

Accreditor Places Peralta District Campuses on Probation (Inside Higher Ed)
The community college commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges has placed the four campuses of the Peralta Community College District on probation, citing concerns about the "fiscal solvency and stability" of the two-year institutions, the Contra Costa Times reported. The newspaper said that the letter from the head of WASC's Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges raised concerns about meddling by trustees and other leadership issues as well as financial problems in citing the four Peralta colleges: Berkeley City College, College of Alameda, Laney College and Merritt College….

Justice Department Weighs In for Whistle-Blowers in Cases Against Kaplan (Chronicle of Higher Education)
The U.S. Department of Justice weighed in Tuesday on the side of several whistle-blowers who have alleged in lawsuits that various colleges owned by Kaplan Higher Education defrauded the government of hundreds of millions of dollars by paying incentives to recruiters and lying to obtain accreditation….

'Brutal Toll' on State Budgets Will Have an Impact on Higher Education (Chronicle of Higher Education)
A new report by the National Conference of State Legislatures is another reminder of how the recession has taken "a brutal toll" on state revenues and of how states have relied on federal stimulus money to prevent major cuts in higher education in the 2009 and 2010 fiscal years. In addition to an overview of state appropriations, the report provides short state-by-state descriptions of legislation and policies that will have an effect on higher-education finance.

'Low-Income Students and the Perpetuation of Inequality' (Inside Higher Ed)
With a lingering recession sending Americans (back) to college in record numbers, and an administration determined to improve the country's record on degree attainment, higher education, more than ever, has plenty of public attention. But a new book argues that higher education in the United States is falling ever more short on a variety of fronts – particularly when it comes to those students who, theoretically, should stand to gain the most from it.

In Low-Income Students and the Perpetuation of Inequality: Higher Education in America (Ashgate), author Gary Berg uses both quantitative data and information gleaned from personal interviews with students and professors to show how students from poor families are shortchanged at every stage of their postsecondary education, from admissions practices that discriminate against them, to the numerous obstacles they face getting through college, to the lesser benefits they reap after graduation. There is a great deal to be done on each of these fronts, Berg argues, if higher education is ever to live up to its promise – to disadvantaged students, and to society at large….

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

1971: Mount Whitney

     Our two-week family backpacking trip of the summer of 1971 ended with a climb to the top of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the continental U.S. (14,496 feet; see not below).
     The peak is extraordinary. The top is somewhat flat, but the flatness ends in spectacular sheer cliffs such as the one above. As I recall, there are many places from which one could (if one were inclined to) throw a rock that would land thousands of feet below.
     The trail to the peak starts at a very high pass (well, you've got to hike to that, too) and continues along a "sawtooth ridge." As I recall, the ridge is very narrow, and one encounters sheer cliffs on either side. It's a very unusual and unusually dangerous trail. (Click on the photos to enlarge them.)

         Annie, sitting atop one of the "teeth," I guess, of the sawtooth ridge that leads to the peak.

     Looking west, I think. The weather was mercurial, and sometimes bad, though it could have been worse. At one point, there was a thunder storm. 
     You don't want to be on a high peak during a thunder storm. We got the hell outa there pretty fast.

     The highest point is (or was) marked by this metal plate.

     Not sure about today, but forty years ago, there was a rock structure on the peak, constructed, I believe in 1909. I do believe that it was permitted to exist (most such structures were destroyed by law) as shelter from the typically bad weather on the peak.

     Looking to the east (the Owens Valley)

     Looking down to Guitar Lake, just to the west of the mountain.
     My dad was still using his old Retina camera, which he bought while a teenager in Germany (c. 1948).

     At a camp later on our trip. We look pretty dusty. 

     Shelter from the rain or hail.

     Sun-bathing at some falls along the way.

     Annie takes the plunge. (She met her future husband on this trip.)

     At the beach, down in San Felipe, Mexico, I think

     A contemporary photo of the "Smithsonian hut." Wikipedia explains that, in recent years, the estimated elevation of the mountain has been adjusted to over 14,500 ft.

My dad's Retina camera, purchased c. 1948. He used it exclusively until the mid-1970s. (It has a Schneider-Kreuznach 50 mm lens.)

8-14: do you regret all the lying?

✅ Trump Encourages Racist Conspiracy Theory on Kamala Harris’s Eligibility to Be Vice President NYT ✅ Orange County Sees Overall Coronavirus...

Goals and Values and Twaddle

blather: long-winded talk with no real substance*
The whole concept of MSLOs [measurable student learning outcomes] as the latest fad in education is somewhat akin to the now discredited fad of the '90's, Total Quality Management, or TQM. Essentially, the ACCJC adopted MSLOs as the overarching basis for accrediting community colleges based on their faith in the theoretical treatises of a movement.... After repeated requests for research showing that such use of MSLOs is effective, none has been forthcoming from the ACCJC [accreditors]. Prior to large scale imposition of such a requirement at all institutions, research should be provided to establish that continuous monitoring of MSLOs has resulted in measurable improvements in student success at a given institution. No such research is forthcoming because there is none….
The Accountability Game…., Leon F. Marzillier (Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, October, 2002)
In the summer of ’13, I offered a critique of the awkward verbiage by which the district and colleges explain their values, goals, and objectives —aka SOCCCD'S G&V (goals and values) blather.
I wrote a post each for the district, Saddleback College, and Irvine Valley College efforts. (See the links below.)
This verbiage—stated in terms of “values,” “missions,” “goals,” “visions,” and whatnot—is often badly written. It is sometimes embarrassingly trite.
It occasionally communicates something worthwhile.
No doubt you are familiar with the usual objections to jargon. Higher education, too, has its jargon—an irony, given typical college-level instruction in writing, which urges jargon eschewery.
Sure enough, SOCCCD G&V blather is riddled with jargon and with terms misused and abused. For instance, in the case of the district’s dubious blather, the so-called “vision” is actually a purpose. Why didn't they just call it that?
As one slogs through this prattle, one finds that "visions" tend to be awfully similar to “missions,” with which they are distinguished. The latter in turn are awfully similar to “goals,” which must be distinguished from “objectives.” But aren't goals and objectives pretty much the same thing?
These perverse word games will surely perplex or annoy anyone armed with a command of the English language. In fact, readers will be perplexed to the degree that they are thus armed. Illiterates, of course, will be untroubled.
Here's a simple point: the district and colleges’ G&V blather tends to eschew good, plain English in favor of technical terms and trendy words and phrases (i.e., it tends to be bullshitty and vague). Thus, one encounters such trendy terminological turds as “dynamic,” “diversity,” “student success,” and “student-centered.” Even meretricious neologisms such as ISLOs and “persistence rates” pop up, unexplained, undefended.
Does anyone see a transparency problem with all of this? Shouldn't the public, or at least the well educated public, be able to comprehend statements of the colleges' goals and values?
In the case of the district, to its credit, all it really seems to want to say is that it wants to teach well and it wants students to succeed. Admirable!
So why all the ugly, common-sense defying, buzzword-encrusted claptrap?

Districtular poppycock: our “vision” and our “mission” and our tolerance of twaddle - July 31, 2013

THEY BUZZ: Saddleback College's "Mission, Vision, and Values" - August 4, 2013

IVC’s vision, mission, and goals: nonsense on stilts - August 5, 2013

THE IRVINE VALLEY CHRONICLES: no ideas, just clichés & buzzwords - Sep 30, 2013

*From my Apple laptop's dictionary