Sunday, May 15, 2005


From time to time I don't update the blog, either because I have nothing to say or because I don't have the time. For the next week or so it's unlikely that I'll add fresh posts because I'll be busy with other matters.

In the meantime, I'd encourage readers to consider doing their own blog. My preference would be for blogs that specialize in one thing, that offer a voice not often heard, and that speaks from a knowledgable background. Blogging on what is readily at hand often works. Blogging on matters of local concern is under represented and this blog is a small attempt to rectify that. I 'd like to see others join in.

There are several blogging software options. Blogger, the one you're reading here, is free. Click on the 'Get Your Own Blog' button at the top of this page and be guided through the process. You might try it anonymously for a few days to get a feel for it--you can delete posts you don't like. When you're ready let me know about it.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Where's the digital chicken?

Page 1, Egg reactions mixed. The Palo Alto Public Art Commission, lead by Gerald Brett, has very suspect tastes in art and has decided to foist them on the city of Palo Alto. Brett has promoted this particular piece of art--Digital DNA--for some time. Apparently, the symbolism (egg + circuit board=technology incubator) was too obvious to ignore. It didn't occur to him that this simplicity meant that the work short circuited thought. The Burning Squirrel has conducted an informal survey--no one likes the egg. Nothing mixed or even scrambled about that.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Teacher Protest

Page 1. Teachers' day turns to protest. A teacher protest organized by PTAs, school board associations, teachers and their unions occurred yesterday up and down the peninsula. Teachers protested threats to Propostion 98, the 1988 measure designed to maintain a level of state school funding.

In consideration of the state's fiscal woes--the state remains about $9 billion in debt--an agreement was made with governor Schwarzenegger last year to take a one time $2 billion reduction in Prop 98 funds. In exchange, the state was to re-instate funding the next year with a $3 billion payment. According the the Daily News protest story, the governor intends to reneg on that promise. What they don't say is that the state budget is to be released on Friday. Expected to be included is that very same $3 billion dollars.

So that settles it then? Not by a long shot. Next, we'll be fighting over various new methods to fund schools, tenure and merit pay--the list goes on. Teachers don't like to change course, even when headed off a cliff.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Psycho Prof

Page 1. Teacher is put on leave after scuffle. Foothill College psychology teacher Larry Rouse, 58 had a bad day recently. After arriving late to his general psychology class he explained that he'd been stopped by the Mountain View police. In response, student Guillermo Moreira blurted out words to the effect 'No way, I don't believe it'. Rouse asked Moreira to come to the front of the class and began hitting and wrestling with the student. According to Moreira, Rouse took a swing at him, missed and fell to the floor suffering a bloody rug burn to his face.

According to Rouse, the episode was merely a psychological demonstration.
"I wanted to show that if you put yourself into a certain state of mind, you can go into a state where you can do extraordinary things like walk on fire...What I wanted to show was you can face a fine athlete and not get pinned."
Considering that the instuctor was not pinned, merely bloodied and humiliated, you'd have to consider the psychology lesson a raging success. Rug burn...walk on fire--close enough. Responding to being put on paid leave, Rouse explained that the college administration was out to "do me in"--thus continuing the lesson into paranoia.

According to the website Rate My Professor, Dr. Rouse is descibed by students in the following ways:
"interesting, caring and helpful teacher. Overall, a great teacher. He also did go crazy when I took him, but we all experience problems at times."
"I had DR. Larry Rouse for 3 psychology classes. This man is very passionate about what he does. You will not meet a nicer person in a long time. Has an Unorthodox teaching style. Knows his stuff. You will learn a lot even if you don’t want to."
"This dude is crazy!! which makes the class hella funny, never know what hes gonna do next."
Doing time is what Rouse is hoping to avoid. He is waiting to see if he'll face criminal charges on the matter.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Shopping Mission

The headline says "Safeway plan to be discussed". The discussion is concerned with rebuilding the Safeway store on El Camino Real in Menlo Park. According to Safeway officials, the nearby Allied Arts Guild is serving as an architectural guide for the project. The Burning Squirrel gives that idea the thumbs up.

The inspiration for the Allied Arts Guild comes from early California mission style buildings. In consideration of Safeway's location on the El Camino Real, we see no good reason to deny the obvious--the Father Junipero Serra Safeway.

First, Safeway would survey various California missions and meld together the best ideas each has to offer. Among these ideas is a central plaza usable for outdoor selling stalls populated by farmers and local fish mongers. Live chickens would provide an authentic touch. Next, saltillo tile flooring. Sure your grocery cart wheels would go haywire, instead we'll use big wheeled wooden carts to carry our purchases. The early missions were dim, but with modern candle making we could probably increase visability, plus, it'll be environmentally friendly. Proceeding to checkout we'll see the shrouded figures of monk/checkers. Getting your purchases to your car in the dusty parking lot would be courtesy of real live donkey's guided by various local day laborers. Mariachis complete the scene.

City Kids

The city of Mountain View is looking to get into the child-care businesss--sort of. Some city council members have proposed constructing a child care facility that would be leased to and run by a 'child-care operator'. The facility has been under study by the city for eight years--you heard that right--and construction costs are estimated to be $3.5 million dollars. When completed, the center would be expected to serve 104 children. The monthly cost per child is expected to amount to $1000, some of which would be provided by an annual subsidy from the city of $50,000. Although it hasn't been named, the city has chosen Children's Creative Learning Center as the operator.

In justifying the move councilman Michael Kasperzak says;
"If we have spent $13 million on a senior center to accommodate seniors in the community, I believe we can get involved to the tune of $3 million to accommodate children in the community."
Instead of questioning the wisdom of the senior center, as well as lowballing the costs of the child-care facility, the councilman uses it as a benchmark for spending greater amounts of money. Guided by such reasoning, and happily rewarded voters, councilman Kasperzak should feel unrestrained in providing services for a host of innovative services. Rather than questioning where government ends, Mountain View expands the concept of government. Can city run car washes be far behind? First, the eight year study.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Clear as the bell on the train passing by.

Letter writer Janice Hough tells Atherton what they'd rather not hear.
"Regarding the outcry from Atherton residents and the City Council over the station closure; It seems like they are prepared to do anything to keep Caltrain except actually ride it."
That says it all. Should make the commute faster.

Foreign Dignitary Gives Commencement Address

Reading about the Menlo College graduation I was taken aback when I read;
"The college's 78th annual commencement drew a crowd of about 2000. U.S. Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, delivered the keynote address, calling the graduating class member of "America's greatest generation" yet."

Republican Richard Pombo? Without protest? Have the raging grannies slipped into senility?

German American Understanding

Over the masthead in the Sunday edition we learn that some Germans are hyper sensitive when it comes to displays of their national symbol. According to Wolfgang Kaschuba, an ethnologist at Berlin's Humboldt Unversity, simply seeing another German flying their country's flag causes him to view that person as a neo-Nazi. Try having a two way conversation in that professor's class.

Ever since the country suffered the humiliation of being lead by a world class despot, some Germans think that the rest of the world needs to pay special attention to their moral dictates. For professor Kaschuba, showing the flag is considered such bad form that he transfers his distaste to large numbers of Americans. We show the flag...we sing God Bless America--horrors!

Professor Kaschuba and other German's need not bother going quite as far in order to be offended. Those familiar with travel in Sweden know Swedes fly their flag much more than do Americans. Yet hearing German's scold Swedes on this is highly unlikely. So why the special treatment for this story? Some American's--without the shame of Germany--also like to be offended by their flag. Go figure.

Chief Johnson Likes a Clean Shaven Man

Palo Alto police chief Lynne Johnson is real happy about the new regulation requiring officers to lose facial hair. One of her officers, Paul Brown, was known for his handlebar mustache, now gone. Chief Johnson, commenting on the clean shaven look to officer Brown, said, he looks "...ten years younger". Officer Brown, commenting on the chief, said "Come to think of it, the chief would look ten years younger if she weighed what she weighed ten years ago? Can't we get a regulation on that?"

(Okay, I made up officer Brown's comment.)

Friday, May 06, 2005

Beach Bum

The page 4 story comes under the heading 'Bay Area Briefs' even though only one item is covered. Still, 'briefs' would be the correct word to use.
Man, 25 suspected of burglary
A 25-year-old homeless man was arrested in Mountain View after police allegedly found him inside a city locker room at dawn, trying on a stolen lifeguard's outfit, officials said yesterday.
Other than a whistle and sunscreen, a lifeguard's outfit would consist almost entirely of briefs.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Taking John Barton to School

A feud carried out mostly behind the scenes comes into full view on the pages of Wednesday's Palo Alto Weekly and in today's Daily News. Background of the fight goes back to an editorial penned by the Daily News' Diana Diamond that was perceived as an attack on the Palo Alto school teachers. School board member John Barton wrote a response taking Diamond to task which Barton withdrew prior to publication saying that he did not like how it was edited by the Daily News. Today the Daily News makes the case for the edits that are based on Barton's misstating what Diamond's original editorial said and they do a side by side comparison of what Diamond wrote and Barton's response.

Although the Daily can be faulted for not responding sooner to Barton's complaints or providing the Weekly with their version of events, it's hard to square distortions engaged in by Barton as demonstrated by today's comparisons. In his guest opinion published in the Weekly, Barton displays a disturbing tendency to paint a picture of nearly all legitimate questions as 'attacks on teachers', even going so far as to blame them on 'the right'. He says;
"...I do not condone broad-brush attacks on an entire profession as a legitimate or constructive contribution to the dialogue on education."

Diamond's editorial dealt mostly with district policy and drew heavily on figures provided by the district's offices. It is not an attack on an entire profession. Barton engages in the broad-brush technique he deplores and proceeds to tip his toe in murky political waters with:
"...the political right sees--and fears--a growing bond between the business community and education, particularly in growth industries such as high tech. In may areas strong coalition are developing between business and education, formal or informal."
It's absurd to suggest that Diana Diamond represents the political right. So who are these conspiring bogeymen on the right that so disturb Barton? He refuses say (broad-brush anyone), but it should be blindingly evident to the least informed that the political right has zero influence in Palo Alto schools.

Barton's line of attack rests on delivering cheerleading support for teachers through sweeping generalities and appeals to emotion. Diamond may be wrong about her proposals, but at least she leaves school girl emotion out of it and relies on a fair reading of the facts.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Newly Accountable

Although the Daily News does not have an online edition, it should be applauded for printing the email addresses of their reporters for all bylined stories. It shows a willingness for greater accountability. With the sale of the paper to Knight Ridder the practice of keeping a PDF archive of past issues has stopped. Hopefully, they will consider developing an online version similar to the Palo Alto Weekly's excellent resource.

DeLayed Reporting

An above the masthead story today informs readers that congressman Tom DeLay (R-TX) as well as Democratic congressmen James Clyburn (D-SC) and Bennie Thompson (D-MS) may have illegally received travel reimbursements. Previous to this article, the focus has been on DeLay and his relationship with Jack Abramoff, a lobbiest under investigation for making the travel payments. For whatever reason, the article makes no mention of the same charges applied to Norm Dicks (D-WA) who recent paid back illegal reimbusement.

At the conclusion of the story we read,
"One of the Democrats, Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, said in an interview yesterday that his trip was in full accordance with House travel rules. Lanier Avant, a spokesman for Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi said that the Democrat lawmaker had understood that the National Security Caucus Foundation had paid for the trip."
It isn't illegal for non-profit organizations to make such payments, a point made previously by Rep. DeLay, who, as this article fails to point out, has made nearly word for word the same statements given here in defense of the Democratic congressmen. So why doesn't the Daily treat them equally?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Thinking Like an Attorney

You're the senior assistant Palo Alto city attorney, Grant Kolling, whose been handed the unwelcome task of breaking it to the citizens that your city will be paying $21.5 million to Enron for breech of contract. Oh the indignity of actually PAYING those crooks. How do you ease the pain of that message? Two thoughts come to mind and you begin to play around with a couple of statements.
"In a perfect world, given the outrageous conduct of Enron, we shouldn't have to pay a dime...I think anyone who has done business with Enron feels the same way."

But then it occurs to you that this begs the question "so why did the city pay"? Aha! You'll deflect criticism and tell them that by negotiating, Palo Alto only has to pay less than half of what the city was on the hook for--such a deal.
"In my opinion, this is a pretty good settlement for the city."
Which message should you contradicts the other. Wait, you think, why do you have to be consistent--confuse 'em--give both messages. Make everyone happy.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Reform School

A group is interested in starting a charter school and has petitioned the Mountain View school board for permission. The proposed school goes under the name Collegiate Arts and Science Academy CASA. According to Vicki Hobel Schultz it would bring educational choice to Mountain View. A review of the school's website shows a line-up of flags from many nations, none of which include the United States. Further, the school targets a select group. It's website says:

"CASA Charter plans to serve "highly motivated, high achieving and gifted” children and young adults. “Highly motivated” means highly motivated students at any achievement level. Low academically achieving students are welcomed, and their skills will be addressed. “High achieving” students will be challenged. “Gifted” students will be served. CASA Charter plans to serve "highly motivated, high achieving and gifted” children and young adults. “Highly motivated” means highly motivated students at any achievement level. Low academically achieving students are welcomed, and their skills will be addressed. “High achieving” students will be challenged. “Gifted” students will be served."
Opponents to the school feel the school would weaken existing schools making needed reforms less likely. That the charter school might address some of these reforms is not acknowledged. Also left unsaid is the notion that charter schools most often address the needs of failing students--not the intended students for CASA. By default Moutain View schools would become the schools for low achievers. Those wishing to get ahead of the charter school movement in Mountain View might wish to address that need instead of faulting reformers.