Archive for November 2008

I’m Out Until Thursday

November 23, 2008

With the van fixed (took about eight hours) and all else settled, the dog and I are headed to Arkansas for a three day backpacking trip.

The Car Dilemma: To Buy Or Repair

November 21, 2008

[Updated Below]

We have to make the decision about the Venture.

On the one hand, it has 108k miles on it, has left Jenny stranded a few times in the past year, and now needs work totalling either $1,500 bucks or a long weekend of work for a friend of mine and me (he works, I hand him tools). Neither of us has ever really liked it, either. It’s done the job, but it’s a Chevy, so it has always felt, acted, and sounded cheap. I’ve also found two super deals on fantastic replacements: A 2004 Odyssey with 35k for $13,500 and a 2003 Odyssey with 42k for $12,000.

On the other hand, even though it’s a Chevy, 108k isn’t that many miles. If we fixed it, I’m confident we’d get at least two or three more trouble free years. Most of the strandings have been related to the problem which has now been properly diagnosed. Buying a car is a major pain in the ass. It’s a hooptie, but gets good mileage and is very big. I’m 6’2″ and can fit comfortably in even the back seats. I can’t do that in many cars. Most importantly of all, we own it free and clear. I have not paid a car note in almost seven years. I really don’t want to start again.

So far I’m leaning towards replacement. Of course we’d save money by repairing the Venture. But the pain in the butt factor of constantly repairing little (and now big) problems just about outweighs the savings. In other words, I’m almost certain that I’d rather pay a note than worry about having to make frequent repairs. Like I said, we never really liked the Venture, either. It rattles. The windows stick. The cup holders – one of which is broken – are the flimsiest, most useless things ever designed. The engine is noisy. The headlights are as bright as candles, and replacements start around $250. The a/c blows with the strength of chain smoker with emphysema. In short, it’s a GM product. I’d love to replace it with one of those two Hondas. Quality.

Then again I’ve been told I’m the kind of guy who tosses around nickels like they were manhole covers. So we’ll see.

[Update]

Repair. I might regret it if the transmission goes out or something similarly catastrophic occurs in the next two years, but right now I can’t justify stretching to buy another car when I could spend a weekend and $350 in parts to have this one running again. Oh well, at least it’s my hooptie.

Uhh, Aren’t You In Charge Of That System?

November 20, 2008

State Super Paul Pastorek, moron, speaking in Baton Rouge:

In the member’s only gathering at the City Club of Baton Rouge, Pastorek talked about the failings of the state’s educational system, describing them as “pathetic, dismal and abysmal.”

“Your school system is precipitously close (to similar problems),” Pastorek told the Baton Rouge audience, “and (also) that of the city of Monroe.”

Not his fault, though. He’s the savior. Because he makes intelligent, fact based decisions:

Monroe Superintendent James Dupree said Wednesday that he had not previously heard about Pastorek’s remarks.

“That’s unfortunate on his part; Monroe is nowhere near that,” Dupree said. “He has a tendency to make wrong statements — a lot.”

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education member Keith Guice agrees with Dupree’s assessment of the Monroe City schools.

“Monroe City has issues like all systems have issues, but they’re nowhere near being taken over,” Guice said.

Historically, BESE has only intervened in the administration of local school districts when at least 50 percent of the district’s students were attending academically unacceptable schools. BESE policy prevents intervention except under these circumstances. Monroe city schools has nearly 9,000 students in 18 schools. Only one of the schools is labeled as academically acceptable. Approximately 5 percent of those attend Clara Hall, the district’s only academically unacceptable school.

To recap: They guy in charge of the whole system slams it as horrible. He then slams individual districts when he has not even discussed the matter with the folks responsible for those districts. And his facts about those districts were wrong. One word: Blowhard. Unfortunately, he’s in charge of education in this state.

What Happens When Rednecks Get Rich

November 19, 2008

On one of our rides, after passing the hundredth rig out in the country, some of us started wondering how all that money would change the lives of the average country land owner. This is a possibility:

A Monroe woman was arrested Tuesday after being accused of bashing her boyfriend’s face with a wine glass.

Lanay Page, 19, 21 Northgate Drive, was charged with aggravated battery by domestic abuse.

The victim told Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s deputies that Page struck him in the face with a wine glass that broke and caused gashes to his nose and forehead requiring 17 stitches.

The again, the story didn’t say what kind of wine it was.

If You Haven’t Seen It Elsewhere Yet

November 19, 2008

Here’s the babies singing happy birthday to each other:

Local GM Workers Demand Handout, Freedom From Accountability

November 19, 2008

To be fair, the workers only demanded the handout. A guest speaker at the rally for the handout demanded freedom from accountability:

Several community leaders spoke to the crowd, urging them to call, write and e-mail their legislative delegation, asking them to support a bailout package for the auto industry.

Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce President Dick Bremer was among the speakers.

“We’ve got to do what we can and ask our representatives in Washington “» to make an investment in this industry,” Bremer said. “But they’ve also got to do other things. They’ve got to reduce taxes for the auto industry, remove all rules and regulations that make things much more difficult than it should be and allow companies to put out a top notch product to make net income.”

Nice. When it comes to profits, GM ought to have unfettered ability to produce what it wants, how it wants, and it ought to keep all of its profits for itself. But if that freedom results in a loss, we the taxpayers ought to bear it. How is that fair? Free markets mean you’re free to succeed but also free to fail. Privatized profits and public losses? I’d pick socialism over that.

Leave the auto makers to themselves. If they die, they die. If we really want to help anyone, then set up a program to give a “bailout” to the hourly workers who will lose their jobs. It could be cash, it could be money for education or job training. It could be anything to help them develop new skills so they can find new employment. Whatever we do, though, let’s not reward decades of bad business decisions by giving a handout to the whole company.

Caddo Continues Plan To Fire Few Teachers It Has

November 18, 2008

Here’s the story:

Several dozen Caddo public school employees listened with worried looks as national, state and local members of the American Federation of Teachers told them Monday night what may happen to their jobs when the district reconfigures or Louisiana takes over 11 of the parish’s low-performing schools.

Either way, all employees in the 11 academically unacceptable schools will be forced to reapply for their positions, which may mean some of them may not have a job next school year. . . .

Several people murmured sighs of disbelief and others whispered to those sitting close to them. One teacher shouted, “I’m confused because we’re not fully staffed right now and we have issues right now and they’re ready to get rid of all of these terrible teachers, yet they can’t staff what they already have.”

Caddo’s low-performing schools have the most job openings and have among the lowest teacher-retention rates. The parish resorted to recruiting teachers from the Philippines to teach in critical shortage subjects such as math and science, and about half of the Filipino recruits teach in the failing schools.

This is the kind of think that sounds good – “hey, those teachers aren’t teaching, so lets get rid of them all and get some folks in there who’ll give our children the education they deserve” – but is really, really a bad idea.

First, trust me, as a teacher, I’m telling you the problem with these schools is NOT the teachers. My school divides the students’ classes by achievement level. At the top, I have motivated kids with good parents. Most of that group has an A or B in my class. At the bottom, I never see or hear from the parents, the students are frequently absent or in trouble, and – not surprisingly – most are failing my class. The difference in the grades is not the content or the teacher. I am teaching the same stuff to both groups. The difference is the students. So, If you swapped the entire faculty of Magnet High School (Caddo’s best school) with the entire facult of Woodlawn High School (Caddo’s worst), the next year’s test scores, dropout rates, college admission rates, and other numbers would all remain the same as they were prior to the swap. The difference is that Caddo is filled with motivated students with involved parents while Woodlawn is filled with delinquents with absentee parents. It is that simple. Complex, actually.

Second, treating your employees like shit is NOT a good way to improve productivity. I would say “trust me” again, but the story points out that those failing schools are already the toughest to staff. Why would anyone think kicking the few employees who do work there in the head will attract new people? I don’t teach in Caddo, but I’d like to move closer to home. After hearing these stories, though, no way in hell I’m applying at one of those schools. I have a family to support, I need to know I’ll be rewarded for my hard work. In short, the result of the mass firings will be tons of applicants at the Caddo Magnets of the world. You think anyone who can find a job anywhere else will be returning to the failing schools?

Third, all the employees will be fired. That includes janitors and lunch room workers. What a great way to spend time and resources. Not like anyone has anything better to do. Well, I guess the administrators don’t. Otherwise, they would never have thought of this plan.