Classes have ended at my University and finals will begin soon. Hence, I have a lull and can blog about some other things.
On a personal note: this recent "snow-out" has bitten into my workout routines, though I've gotten some activity. This morning, I had my longest "run/walk" since June: 6 miles. I warmed up with two slow running miles on the treadmill, did 3 more (hills) in 26:50, and then walked an 11 minute mile.
The walking mile was slightly painful.
The road back is a long one, and mine is paved in snow. Speaking of snow, the snowstorm was 4 days ago, and the roads are still bad. Needless to say, our city is incompetent when it comes to even basic things
PEORIA - Though the snowfall has stopped, the accompanying problems continue to blanket the area.
Alleyways and major thoroughfares alike still carry a thick slab of compacted ice and snow, dividing lines and turn lanes are still obscured and drivers still crawl across Peoria's streets.
"It's still pretty slick," Adrienne Sarlos said Sunday night from her residence on West Richwoods Boulevard. "It's drivable, but it's really slippery."
For example, traffic on Allen Road was stopped for a time Sunday evening as a semi was pulled from the side of the road by a tow truck. Police said the truck had been stuck for hours after sliding off of the road, and was towed about 8 p.m. Traffic was at a standstill as the work progressed.
A native Californian and recent transplant from Rockford, Sarlos, who was snowed in both Friday and Saturday, finally ventured outside on North Sheridan Road Sunday only to hit upon heavy traffic and rough travel.
"We didn't have any snowstorms this size (in Rockford), but it seemed the response was better," she said.
Although the number of reported accidents has declined and most primary roads are passable, other Peoria-area residents echoed Sarlos' feelings.
"They weren't very good," said Peorian Matt Hendrickson of the city's streets. "They were drivable but that's about it. It was still really tough to know where the lanes were."
While city crews are making headway, officials said they realize drivers are frustrated and urged patience.
"We have had quite a bit of progress on the residential streets as far as (removing snow to the curb)," said David Haste, the city's head of the street and sewer department. "Eventually, with salting and warmer temperatures, we'll be plowing (remaining snow) for as long as we have to."
Haste said the initial sleet and lower temperatures allowed a solid coating of ice to form beneath the snow, out of reach from snowplow blades. As a result, driving on a paved city street felt akin to bouncing down a rocky dirt road.
"It just seems like the temperatures don't want to work with us. Usually, this time of year they break up," Haste said, referring to the covered streets. "It's something we have to work on, and we'll get done soon enough. We did a lot of pre-salting this year. But when it came down so hard and so fast, there was no way you could put enough salt down."
Plows continue to tackle residential streets by day and major routes by night.
In addition, mechanical breakdowns and stuck vehicles continue to plague Haste's fleet of about 25 trucks.
"Any breakdown on the trucks and that's one less truck on that route," he added.
Road conditions not only frustrated drivers, they also led to the closure of District 150 schools. Superintendent Ken Hinton said in a news release that all schools are closed "due to the severe road conditions remaining from the snowstorm."
"The conditions are just too bad for our buses," Hinton said Sunday night. The lack of cleared neighborhood sidewalks, he added, also contributed to his decision.
Of course the Peoria Pundit had a point
And did it ever occur to the many critics of the city’s snow storm response that one of the reasons there are so many complaints is because so many idiots were out and about when they did not really need to be? My two cents: Anyone who reads this blog knows I’ll tear into government employees at the drop of the hat. But the explanations offered for the poor road conditions make sense to me — a heavy coating of sleet that froze and was covered by more than a foot of snow, coupled by heavy traffic that slowed the city’s response. And did it not occur to people that the time to stock up on groceries, snow shovels, rock salt and other supplied MIGHT have been the day before the anticipated snow storm hit?
University Teaching: Judged by the Students
About school: today was the last regular class day, and so I gave my teaching evaluations. They went ok, I think; they usually do when it takes 10-15 minutes to do.
I think that the following is ironic: when I was in grade school, people with undergraduate degrees (a few with masters) evaluated me. When I was in college, I was evaluated primarily by Ph. D.s. As a graduate student, some of the best scholars in the world evaluated me.
Now I am evaluated by post-adolecents with no degree at all!
I suppose it has a purpose; I sometimes learn something from them. And, the students need an outlet, and I agree that we need to be held accountable. But, unfortunately, students don't know what a good course should be; they simply don't have the experience and their point of view is going to be too narrow.
The students can tell you things like: "I studied this much", "I learned more when you did this than when you did that" and they can tell you if they felt attacked; one has to be honest with the students but to do so in a way where the student doesn't recoil from the message that you are trying to get across. And many students are not as thick skinned as, say, football players or military types.
Still, I wish more of our teaching evaluation came from peer review, but there would be problems with this approach.
On this topic, there is an outfit called "rate my professor" and some time ago, a group of disgruntled students blasted me there
. My wife read this and wondered if my feelings would be hurt; I in turn showed her all of my teaching evaluations from that same class. She was surprised; she said it didn't appear "as if they were talking about the same professor."
Here are some of my favorite remarks:
- "huge nerd"
- "He is a really smart professor, but a VERY strange one... When he explains, he goes off on explaining things that don't even deal with the class (for example he started talking about physics for no reason). Overall, he's ok but you will need to study on your own because he talks way to "intellectual" for calculus."
- "He is a smart and nice guy but if you want an A you will have to put the work in - not as bad as some say he is - work hard and come to class and you should have no problem. Have to work to get a A or B though."
- I don't have a direct quote, but one person called me "evil".
In all, I like this service, as it will pre-weeds out the slackers and the whiners.
Well, that is no longer the world's best.http://www.iaaf.org/news/Kind=2/newsId=36938.html
Four-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist Nathan Deakes has broken the World record** for the 50km Race Walk in Geelong, Australia, this morning. Deakes recorded a time of 3:35:47.
Competing at the Telstra Australian 50km Road Walking Championships in blustery conditions, Deakes took 16 seconds off the World record previously set by Poland's World and Olympic champion Robert Korzeniowski at the 9th IAAF World Championships in Athletics, Paris, France in 2003 (3:36.03).
In a big day for Australia’ walkers, Duane Cousins set a personal best and World Championships a-qualifier of 3:53.19 to finish second, as did Victorian Jared Tallent who walked a time of 3:55.08 to finish in third place.
Deake’s smashed his previous best and Australian record of 3:39:43 which he set in Melbourne in 2003.
Overcome by tears, an emotional Deakes fell to the ground after crossing the finish line, his wife Annette and parents rushing in to congratulate him.
“It’s obviously quite a surprise. I didn’t think I was in that kind of shape. To break a World record is really special. To do at home is even nicer. The best prepared athletes walk fast anywhere,” explained Deakes after the race.
Of course, this was a road walk and therefore only qualified as a "world best"; "world records" have to be set on tracks. Still, you are talking an absurd 6:56.7 minutes per mile for 31 miles. Keep in mind that his marathon split would have been 3:02, and this is judged walking.
My (pathetic) best unjudged 50K is a mere 6:20; in my judged attempt I picked up a third "red card" for bent knee
at 37 km (almost 23 miles).
An important case is before the Supreme Court:
For the first time in a decade, the Supreme Court will revisit the legacy of a landmark: the Brown vs. Board of Education decision of 1954 that declared unconstitutional the racial segregation of public schools.
Separate schools for black and white children are "inherently unequal," Chief Justice Earl Warren said in an opinion that helped launch the civil rights movement.
State-enforced segregation laws are long gone, but for school officials today, a key question remains: Did the historic decision commit them to a policy of seeking integrated schools, or did it tell them not to assign students to a school based on their race?
Today, lawyers in a pair of integration cases will debate whether school boards may use racial guidelines to assign students. And both sides will rely on the Brown decision to make their case.
The outcome could affect hundreds of school systems across the nation [...]
In Seattle, the school board adopted a policy — now suspended — that gave "nonwhite" students an edge if they sought to enroll in a popular, mostly white high school. In Jefferson County, Ky., which includes Louisville, the school district said the black student body at each elementary school should range from 15% to 50%.
In both cities, several white parents sued to have the plans declared unconstitutional after their children were barred from enrolling in the school of their choice because of their race. Though they lost in the lower courts, the Supreme Court voted in June to hear their appeals, leading many to predict the justices are poised to outlaw "racial balancing" in the public schools.
"At its core, the issue here is the promise made 52 years ago in Brown vs. Board of Education," said Theodore Shaw, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which won the ruling that struck down racial segregation in the South. "Mandatory desegregation is now a thing of the past. All that's left is voluntary desegregation, and now that is being challenged."
Shaw said school officials should be lauded for their efforts to achieve integration. He said he was particularly troubled by "the ideology that equates any race consciousness with racial discrimination."[...]
Bush administration lawyers, who joined the case on the side of the parents, say the Brown decision sought to move the nation toward a color-blind policy. They say school officials may not open or close the door to particular students solely because of their race. In short, race-based decisions are racial discrimination, even if the officials are pursing a laudable goal, they say.
"The promise of this court's landmark decision in Brown … was to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis," U.S. Solicitor General Paul D. Clement wrote in his brief to the court. "Race-based school assignment does not advance that objective."
This is a tough one, as far as I am concerned. Learning to get along with others is a big part of being educated. And as Justice Ginsburg said: "how can one possibly achieve a race related goal (integration) without having some sort of of race criteria? On the other hand, one has to take care so as to not out and out bar someone from entering a school based on their race; in this case, race was used as a "tie breaker" in deciding if somone got into a school of choice or not.
Personally, I can sympathise with the intentions of the school district, but I don't want to see things like this happening:http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15997066/site/newsweek/
Dec. 1, 2006 - Crystal Meredith had a simple wish: she wanted her son, Joshua, to attend an elementary school near their home in Louisville, Ky. But when Meredith went to enroll him in kindergarten in 2002, she bumped up against the schools’ voluntary integration policy. Designed to maintain racial balance in the once-segregated Louisville schools, the plan lets parents choose among schools in various clusters across the city. But the institutions all strive to keep the number of African-American students somewhere between 15 and 50 percent of the school population. If the number drops too low or grows too high, students of any race can be shunted to other schools.
When Meredith, who is white, tried to sign up Josh, he was assigned to an elementary school that required a long bus ride across town. “The bus didn’t come anywhere near our house, so I had to drive him,” Meredith tells NEWSWEEK. A single mom, she had to cut back her hours at work so she could serve as chauffeur. Meredith soon applied for a school transfer so that Josh could move to a closer school. But the request was denied: it would have thrown off the racial balance at the school across town. Meredith soon filed suit, losing twice in federal court. On Monday, she’s taking her case as far as it can go—to the U.S. Supreme Court. “I see this as a parent wanting what’s best for their child,” says Meredith, who insists her case is not about race or affirmative action. “That’s really all I see.”
I've heard of horror stories of students not getting home from school until 9 pm at night!
Secretary of Defense Hearings
Robert Gates, who was the first President Bush's CIA director has been nominated to replace Rumsfeld as the Secretary of Defense. There are some troubling signs here, when one looks at the old CIA confirmation hearings:http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/3645
After Bush tapped Gates to replace Rumsfeld on Nov. 8, the Washington press corps quickly adopted a conventional wisdom that the Gates nomination represented a move by former President George H.W. Bush to impose some reason and discipline on his headstrong son.
The thinking went that Gates would guide the younger George Bush away from the neoconservative ideologues who were gung-ho for war in Iraq and back toward the so-called “realists” who held the upper hand under the elder George Bush – the likes of James Baker.
There was even a Newsweek cover illustrating this thesis with a large Poppy Bush in the foreground and a smaller Sonny Bush in the rear.
But the truth now appears to be different, with George W. Bush virtually spitting out his contempt for the “realists” during his press conference in Amman, declaring that the notion of a “graceful exit” had “no realism to it whatsoever.”
Given Bush’s petulance, it’s hard to conceive that he sat down with Gates just before the Nov. 7 elections and didn’t get assurances that Gates would fall into line behind Bush’s oft-stated determination to see the Iraq War through to what the President calls “victory.”
In other words, the smooth-talking Gates might be presenting himself to Senate Democrats and other Iraq War skeptics as their closet ally when, in truth, he is a closet ally of the neocons.
Throughout his career, the 63-year-old Gates often has acted the part of the mild-mannered moderate – the aw-shucks Eagle Scout from Wichita, Kansas – but then did the bidding of his hard-line bosses in the Executive Branch.
According to rank-and-file CIA officers who knew him well, Gates cloaked his fierce ambition in his boyish charm as he ingratiated himself to powerful mentors, such as the late CIA Director William J. Casey.
For instance, while head of the CIA’s analytical division and responsible for maintaining a clear line between intelligence and policymaking, Gates pushed dubious intelligence assessments on Nicaragua, the Soviet Union and Iran. Invariably, these intelligence judgments served the interests of Gates’s superiors.
In December 1984, Gates even veered off into policy prescriptions, sending a secret memo to CIA Director Casey that took extreme positions on the conflict in Nicaragua, including calls for air strikes and other actions to oust the “Marxist-Leninist” regime – just the kind of tough talk that Casey liked to hear.
Not only did Gates’s behavior violate the principle of separating intelligence from policymaking, but it turned out that his alarmist assessment of Nicaragua was completely wrong. Rather than becoming a permanent “Marxist-Leninist” regime on the American mainland, the ruling Sandinistas surrendered power when they lost an election in 1990.
To some at CIA, it was never clear whether Gates was a closet true-believer in right-wing policies or a skillful apple-polisher eager to please his bosses. But Gates’s bureaucratic maneuvering did serve his career well, as Casey elevated Gates in 1986 to be deputy CIA director. [For more on the Nicaragua memo, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Why Trust Robert Gates on Iraq?”]
However, after the Iran-Contra scandal broke in late 1986 – revealing widespread deception by the Reagan administration – Gates found himself in hot water. Members of Congress suspected that Gates had misled them and he was denied the top CIA job in 1987 after Casey’s death from brain cancer.
Gates salvaged his career with the help of the senior George Bush who took Gates on as deputy national security adviser in 1989. By 1991, after the Iran-Contra scandal had cooled, Bush nominated Gates again to be CIA director. [...]
This time, Gates’s nomination faced an extraordinary uprising among CIA analysts who went public to accuse Gates of politicizing the analytical division and shaping the intelligence to fit the desires of the Reagan-Bush political team.
One of the more famous cases is when Gates pushed to have the CIA come to the conclusion that the Soviets were behind the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul.http://www.motherjones.com/washington_dispatch/2006/11/Gates%20Files.html
Nicaragua wasn’t the only place Gates wanted to take action. In 1985, sounding very much like one of today’s neoconservative hawks, the then head of intelligence analysis at the CIA drafted a plan for a joint U.S.-Egyptian military operation to invade Libya, overthrow Col. Muamar Ghaddafi, and “redraw the map of North Africa.” On the basis of this idea, CIA Director Casey, sometimes said to be the man who invented Gates, ordered up a list of Libyan targets and the National Security Council developed a plan to have Egypt attack Libya with U.S. air support and seize half the country. The Joint Chiefs drew up plans for a military operation involving 90,000 troops. Alarmed, the State Department subsequently succeeded in downsizing Gates proposal to “contingency” status.
According to Robert Parry, a reporter who has closely tracked this period in the CIA’s history, during this time the Reagan administration was “pressing the CIA to adopt an analysis that accepted right-wing media reports pinning European terrorism on the Soviets. The CIA analysts knew that these charges were false, in part because they were based on ‘black’ or false propaganda that the CIA itself had been planting in the European media. But the ‘politicization’ tide was strong.” And Gates, he writes, led an effort to implicate the Soviets in the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. “In 1985, Gates closeted a special team to push through another pre-cooked paper arguing that the KGB was behind the 1981 wounding of Pope John Paul II. CIA analysts again knew that the charge was bogus, but could not block the paper from leaving CIA.”
Hmm, someone who wants to redraw maps, and someone who wants to slant intellegence to fit desired policy. Doesn't that sound familiar?
No wonder President Bush nominated him.
The Reality of Mental Health Care in the Military Military rules and regulations are full of written things to make civilians feel better. For example, when I was in the Navy, one had the written option to not take the watch if one was, say, too sleepy to stand it properly. But if one tried to actually use that rule, one was told that one was supposed to "suck it up"; hey "everybody is tired."
I stood watch on a nuclear reactor while taking medicine which said "don't operate heavy machinery while taking this".
This reality is all the more true when there is combat.
Face it: combat is scarey and hellish; it is normal to want to not go. And so people try to make excuses or sometimes get worked up enough to where they think that they have mental illness when, in fact, they don't.
But on the other hand, enough horror and combat will break you; it is only a matter of time, and the time for each person is different.
So we get the following sad situation, all brought about by well intentioned people:
Army studies show that at least 20 percent to 25 percent of the soldiers who have served in Iraq display symptoms of serious mental-health problems, including depression, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Administration officials say there are extensive programs to heal soldiers both at home and in Iraq.
But an NPR investigation at Colorado's Ft. Carson has found that even those who feel desperate can have trouble getting the help they need. In fact, evidence suggests that officers at Ft. Carson punish soldiers who need help, and even kick them out of the Army.
Soldier Tyler Jennings says that when he came home from Iraq last year, he felt so depressed and desperate that he decided to kill himself. Late one night in the middle of May, his wife was out of town, and he felt more scared than he'd felt in gunfights in Iraq. Jennings says he opened the window, tied a noose around his neck and started drinking vodka, "trying to get drunk enough to either slip or just make that decision."
Five months before, Jennings had gone to the medical center at Ft. Carson, where a staff member typed up his symptoms: "Crying spells... hopelessness... helplessness... worthlessness." Jennings says that when the sergeants who ran his platoon found out he was having a breakdown and taking drugs, they started to haze him. He decided to attempt suicide when they said that they would eject him from the Army.
"You know, there were many times I've told my wife -- in just a state of panic, and just being so upset -- that I really wished I just died over there [in Iraq]," he said. "Cause if you just die over there, everyone writes you off as a hero." [...]
The Army boasts of having great programs to care for soldiers. The Pentagon has sent therapists to Iraq to work with soldiers in the field. And at Army bases in the United States, mental-health units offer individual and group therapy, and counseling for substance abuse. But soldiers say that in practice, the mental-health programs at Ft. Carson don’t work the way they should.
For instance, soldiers fill out questionnaires when they return from Iraq that are supposed to warn officials if they might be getting depressed, or suffering from PTSD, or abusing alcohol or drugs. But many soldiers at Ft. Carson say that even though they acknowledged on the questionnaires that they were having disturbing symptoms, nobody at the base followed up to make sure they got appropriate support. A study by the investigative arm of Congress, the Government Accountability Office, suggests it's a national problem: GAO found that about 80 percent of the soldiers who showed potential signs of PTSD were not referred for mental health follow-ups. The Pentagon disagrees with the GAO's findings.
Soldiers at Ft. Carson also say that even when they request support, the mental-health unit is so overwhelmed that they can't get the help they need. Corey Davis, who was a machine gunner in Iraq, says he began "freaking out" after he came back to Ft. Carson; he had constant nightmares and began using drugs. He says he finally got up the courage to go to the Army hospital to beg for help.
"They said I had to wait a month and a half before I'd be seen," Davis said. "I almost started crying right there."
Intimidated by Superiors
Almost all of the soldiers said that their worst problem is that their supervisors and friends turned them into pariahs when they learned that they were having an emotional crisis. Supervisors said it's true: They are giving some soldiers with problems a hard time, because they don't belong in the Army.
Jennings called a supervisor at Ft. Carson to say that he had almost killed himself, so he was going to skip formation to check into a psychiatric ward. The Defense Department's clinical guidelines say that when a soldier has been planning suicide, one of the main ways to help is to put him in the hospital. Instead, officers sent a team of soldiers to his house to put him in jail, saying that Jennings was AWOL for missing work.
"I had them pounding on my door out there. They're saying 'Jennings, you're AWOL. The police are going to come get you. You've got 10 seconds to open up this door,'" Jennings said. "I was really scared about it. But finally, I opened the door up for them, and I was like 'I'm going to the hospital.'"
Richard Travis, formerly the Army's senior prosecutor at Ft. Carson, is now in private practice. He says that the Army has to pay special mental-health benefits to soldiers discharged due to PTSD. But soldiers discharged for breaking the rules receive fewer or even no benefits, he says.
Alex Orum's medical records showed that he had PTSD, but his officers expelled him from the Army earlier this year for "patterns of misconduct," repeatedly citing him on disciplinary grounds. In Orum's case, he was cited for such infractions as showing up late to formation, coming to work unwashed, mishandling his personal finances and lying to supervisors -- behaviors which psychiatrists say are consistent with PTSD.
Sergeant Nathan Towsley told NPR, "When I'm dealing with Alex Orum's personal problems on a daily basis, I don't have time to train soldiers to fight in Iraq. I have to get rid of him, because he is a detriment to the rest of the soldiers."
A therapist diagnosed Tyler Jennings with PTSD in May, but the Army's records show he is being tossed out because he used drugs and missed formations. Files on other soldiers suggest the same pattern: Those who seek mental-health help are repeatedly cited for misconduct, then purged from the ranks.
War simply sucks on so many levels; it kills and wounds, and not all of the wounds are physical.