Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Shut Up

No, you haven't watched the Capitals for "20 years." No, you didn't hide your team loyalty through the regular season because you've had "your heart broken too many times in the past." No, you aren't a fan.

Shut up. Fair weather fans, bandwagoners -- shut up. You're ruining sports. Buying a throwback jersey last week doesn't make you a devout, life-long follower of the Capitals, the Steelers, the Cavaliers, or the [insert recently successful team here].

Your actions are transparent, your words are predictable, and no, your coworkers around the water cooler aren't buying it.

Shut your mouth.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

"Yes We Do"

The Recipe officially supports polygamy because it's hilarious.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

On Earmarks

The Post recently ran a segment on earmarks. A number of notable political figures chimed in, including our friend and savoir, Ronny Paul. According to Paul, earmarks “account less than 2 percent of the spending bill just passed. And even if all earmarks were removed from the budget overall, no money would be saved. That money would instead go to the executive branch to spend as it sees fit. Congress has the power of the purse. It is the constitutional responsibility of members to earmark, or designate, where funds should go, rather than to simply deliver a lump sum to the president.” In other words, they aren’t that big of a deal, and can actually serve a purpose.

Earmarks encourage transparency, establishing a clear line-of-site between government spending and services to citizens. For example, a bill could give the State of Maryland $50 million for environmental restoration. Or, an earmark could allocate $10 million to irrigation research, $10 to marshland preservation, and another $30 million for returning oysters to the Chesapeake Bay. We, as citizens, would know what we’re getting for our dollar.

There has been a long-standing initiative in government to account for every dollar spent. Instead of distributing lump sums, Congress should allocate spending toward “line items,” or individual projects with clearly defined scope. Whether we call them projects or earmarks, the public should not scream every time a “pet project” is initiated – it’d be great if the entire federal budget was comprised of pet projects.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Teaching skillz

Recently, I received a forwarded email from my friend and yours, the enviable educator of young children, Dr. Leonard. Was the good Leonard asking for a blog post and would I be kind enough to write it? How could I say no to a request like that?

Forgive me, Dr. Leonard, for superficially summarizing the contents of your email for those not fortunate enough to read it themselves. The overall subject was Michelle Rhee, chancellor of the DC public school system. The Cornell and Harvard trained Rhee has taken the education policy world by storm. With Mayor Fenty’s blessing she has wrested power away from the DC School Board, and has embarked on a series of radical reforms of the DC school system.

Leonard’s question focused primarily on the qualifications of Rhee, and whether her relatively low level of in-class experience rendered her unqualified for the job. As Leonard pointed out, while she did found the New Teacher Project, an experiment (and successful one at that) in recruiting other professionals into teaching, she was only in the classroom for three years. As a Teach for America graduate (which is similar to the program that she founded), she was not trained as a teacher.

While I am not entirely versed in Ms. Rhee’s policies, I work in public policy, and am familiar with the particular tribulations of American education policy. In general, I support her desire to move power away from a highly politicized organ (the school board), to hold schools and principals accountable (in a way which may or may not be test-based), but most of all, her willingness to implement new and bold ideas to see what works in education policy. DC schools are in a horrible state, and I see no reason to arbitrarily maintain the status quo.

To answer Leonard: is she qualified for the job, given her TFA training and three years in the classroom? Firstly, and at the risk of incurring Leonard’s wrath, but in the interest of full disclosure, I should state that I support Teach for America (and similar programs) as creative and successful, albeit imperfect, solutions to the teaching shortage that exists in America. I understand Leonard’s point that the most crucial teaching skills like how to manage a classroom or engage a student cannot be taught in a six-week crash course, and I sympathize with his desire to maintain high training standards for teachers. But until policy makers can figure out other ways to successfully train more teachers, and to move quality teachers the positions where they are most needed (i.e., poor and low-performing schools), programs like TFA will have to do.

But regardless of her experience, I would state that the qualifications that Ms. Rhee needs in order to be successful as a schools chancellor are not the same as one needs to be a successful teacher. While I don’t want this to be interpreted as a verdict on her skills as a teacher, Ms. Rhee needs to be aware of what makes a good teacher or principal, even if she does not possess those skills herself. In other words, Ms. Rhee must understand education policy - what works and what does not work. She must manage a large bureaucracy and a huge budget in a high-profile field. She must be able to analyze a policy problem and develop a solution. True, first-hand experience in the classroom is an important factor, but it is only one piece of the puzzle. Her new role is one of a manager, not a teacher.

While we should probably wait before issuing the verdict on her tenure, I would say yes, she is probably qualified for the job. But we have to wait and see if she can be effective in her role.

PS: It’s wonderful to be back from sabbatical.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


A few notes on the alphabet:
  • M should precede N.
  • X is a novelty letter with no real purpose. Don't give me that 'xylophone' nonsense.
  • We should have an odd number of letters.

More to come on numbers.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Top Fives

Top Five Greatest Inventions of Our Generation

1. Paper Shredders –- I dare you to tell me you haven’t ever put something other than paper through the shredder. Yes, we all know they can take down a banana.

2. Yellow First Down Line –- Changed the way we see the game.

3. Flash Fryers –- Even glass shards and rusty barbed wire can be delicious for the fat-ass on the go.

4. “That’s What She Said” Jokes –- A recent university study demonstrated that 63% of casual conversation is now hilarious because of this phrase. I’d say use it sparingly, but I’d be lying (that’s what she said).

5. Plan B –- Try it with college!

Bottom Five Greatest Inventions of Our Generation

1. Email Recall –- It always too late to recall the message. You screwed up, sent it to the wrong person, and there’s no going back. Dust off your resume.

2. “Emoticons” –- The worst. If you require further explanation, find a cave and leave the rest of us alone.

3. Digital Cameras –- The single most empowering invention for women since the vote. The only thing worse is multiple women, drink(s) and camera in hand, firing away at your long-term political aspirations. We’ll be the first generation of would-be politicians that have to answer to 12,932 pictures of terrible decisions.

4. Facebook Rebirths –- I don’t really know what to call this, but I’m talking about all the things you did as a child that have been reborn – revalidated? – via “the book.” Drawing, tagging, and – this one is the worst – chain letters, have all been brought back. There’s probably an e-slap bracelet out there somewhere.

5. Grassroots –- If it started as a “grassroots movement” then it’s wrong. Stop it. No we can’t.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Oh Hi!