Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hoodlum hatred

Some sorry thugs just deliberately took out our mailbox. I know, because I was sitting in the living room next to the front of the house when I heard it happen. There was a loud thud, followed by loud laughing and a "Yee-Haw" by some illiterate redneck, and the sound of a car speeding off.

By the time I got up out of the chair and looked out the window, they were rapidly turning onto Gold Valley, and I couldn't see anything about their car.

I'm wagering they are the same thugs who took out the mailbox across the street last week.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Why are people afraid of a child learning?

So, Barack Obama has decided that education is important enough that on Sept. 8, "the president will speak directly to the nation’s children and youth about persisting and succeeding in school. The president will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning," according to Education Secretary Arne Duncan in a letter to school teachers detailing the purpose of the speech. The letter includes links to suggested classroom exercises for teachers before and after the speech.

I've read the letter. I've read the classroom materials. It's pretty straight-forward. It's all about getting students excited and motivated about their education, and about encouraging them to take responsibility for their actions and their futures. It seems just like the kind of message every parent should want their child to hear. And who better to deliver that message than the president of the United States? He is the most powerful man in the free world, and he's the leader of our country, whether you like him or not. As such, he deserves our respect. And, last time I checked, children respecting their elders and their leaders was considered a virtue.

Unless, of course, the president isn't a member of your political party. Then, he's the devil incarnate hell-bent on "indoctrinating" your children to his "socialist agenda." It has nothing to do with simply educating your children.

I thought a major part of education was to teach children to think critically, make informed decisions and learn through knowledge. However, if you are going to deny them access to knowledge, and tell them they can't listen to the president of the United States speak because you don't agree with his message or agenda, and simply keep your children ignorant, how will they learn? Oh yes, I forgot, knowledge is power. The learned tend to be able to make informed decisions, and not blindly follow those who espouse rhetoric based upon fear. I can name five people I work with -- at a four-year public university, no less -- who hate Obama because he's not white. I can name several people with whom I attend church whose racism has been blatantly exposed when they talk about Obama. Racism is simply a product of an uninformed, uneducated individual. It's based upon fear, not knowledge. By denying our children this opportunity, you continue to spread this same fear and deny children the knowledge they need to be our future leaders and decision makers.

The chairman of the Florida Republican Party, Jim Greer, has gone so far as to claim that Obama's speech is meant to infiltrate these children's minds and brainwash them against their parents and against American ideals. Good grief!

My son attends what is supposed to be a high-achieving academic magnet school. Today, the principal felt compelled to send out a robot phone call to parents because of the endless phone calls she was receiving from parents who don't want their children exposed to the president's message next week, telling us we can send a note to our child's teacher if we don't want him or her to participate in this activity. I'm sorry, but that's just ignorance at its highest. I would expect these parents, who are mostly affluent, highly educated individuals, not to be so ignorant and closed-minded. Many of them recently fought hard, alongside me, to see that their children's educational futures weren't denied by an obtuse school board. They claimed they wanted their children to learn in a high-achieving environment that exposed them to challenging ideals, forced them to become critical thinkers, and to learn from the best knowledge that could be provided. I thought they were more enlightened than this.

I guess not.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Britain has its own Grammar Nazi!

It's nice to find a kindred spirit. I once walked around my college campus with a Sharpie, correcting errors on posters, so I feel his pain.

Apostrophe warrior Stefan Gatward's mission to correct our wayward grammar

He has been called a vandal, a graffiti artist and a pedant.

Even his admirers admit he is "a bit of an old codger". But Stefan Gatward – accountant, former private in the Gordon Highlanders and now Anglican day chaplain – remains unrepentant.

Known as The Apostrophe Man of Royal Tunbridge Wells, Mr Gatward shot to fame last week after taking the law (or at least a bylaw) into his own hands by adding a missing apostrophe to the street signs on his road.

St Johns Close became St John's Close and overnight Mr Gatward gained respect and derision in equal measure. While many of his neighbours congratulated him on his stand, the apostrophe was scratched off three days later.

Fearful of an appearance at a magistrate's court – or should that be magistrates' court? – Mr Gatward decided not to paint in the apostrophe again.

However, determined to halt the slide of the Queen's English into what he regards as a babel of Americanisms and street slang, he has instead embarked on a tour of the spa town in order to point out the grammatical howlers which besmirch its street signs.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My response to the Rutherford County School Board

Below is the draft of what I plan to say during the open comment section of the RCSB meeting on Thursday, Aug. 13, 2009. If anyone has any feedback for me, I would appreciate it.

Gentlemen of the Board, I find it very necessary to respond to your work session discussion regarding the CAMS admission policy upon which you plan to vote tonight. While some of your arguments have great merit, and while I agree with some of them, others are based upon flawed assumptions and information which I feel it necessary to address before you vote on this proposed admissions policy.

First, I think we are all in agreement that you were elected to this school board because you care about the children in Rutherford County. You were elected to represent each and every taxpayer and each and every child in this county. It is your duty as an elected official to ensure that each and every child has an equal and fair opportunity to obtain the best education to which he or she is entitled. I firmly believe each of you wants to do that. This magnet school will be a great means to that end, and I, along with the parents in this room, am delighted that this school will be available to our children. But if you vote for these admissions requirements as written, you will deny some children in this county the opportunity to obtain the very education this new school is meant to provide. You will, in effect, be violating your policies, which state under the Role of the Board of Education, "The Board will provide, within the ļ¬nancial limitations set by the community, the best educational opportunities possible for all children." A vote for this policy as written will violate that policy, clear and simple.

Dr. Mark Byrnes, you said at Tuesday's meeting that, and I quote, "One of the reasons government is not trusted is they keep going back on their commitment." Your quote implies a promise was made to McFadden students that they would have a magnet school education through the eighth grade. Yet, you also said no written guarantee was ever made. Your own attorney, Mr. Jeff Reed, told you at the work session, and again I quote, "There's been no contract. Zone lines can be changed at any time, admission standards can be changed at any time. That's all at the discretion of the board. There's been no written contract with parents of McFadden School, and you can't guarantee zone lines with admission to certain schools." Your own attorney has contradicted your argument that this board must honor its unwritten commitment. To quote a famous philospher, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." What is more important to this board: Ensuring a unwritten commitment to a small group of students, or the commitment you made to each and every student in this county when you ran for public office and were elected to this board?

Second, Mr. Donald Jernigan himself pointed out that even though he has a grandchild in first grade at McFadden, he's not certain this middle school will be appropriate for that child in five years. He agreed the child should have an opportunity to attend, but he questioned the need to grandfather in that child. How can anyone possibly say that a kindergartner, who by virtue of an interview is admitted into McFadden this fall, will be ready for a middle school and high school magnet environment in 2015? Even if that student meets the minimum enrollment requirements, is it fair to that student to place him or her in a school where he or she may be 10 points or more behind his or her peers who tested in exclusively on merit? Is it fair to the teachers? Is it fair to anyone?

Mr. Donald Jernigan went on to say, however, that current middle schoolers should be allowed in, even hinting that their scores shouldn't matter, that their self-esteem should be considered. However, Superintendent Harry Gill said this is to be a high-achieving school known for its academics throughout the state. If we are going to make exceptions for kids because we don't want their feelings hurt if they don't qualify, then what's the point of an admissions standard at all? Additionally, the concern was raised that we would be hurting these kids if they had to leave McFadden for one year, go to a new middle school for eighth grade, and then to a new high school for ninth grade. However, regardless of what happens with this admissions policy, that's still going to happen to this year's seventh graders at Central. Sacrifices will have to be made if this school is to achieve its fullest potential. The only way this school will achieve the respect and reputation you desire it to obtain is to ensure that it enrolls the best and brightest students in Rutherford County. Each and every student must meet the same admissions requirements. You can't create one policy for one group of students and a second policy for another group of students. Yet, that's exactly what your current policy sets forth.

Third, Mr. Rick Wise, you said this was the same issue as when the Discovery School moved from Bellwood to Reeves-Rogers, but it's not. That was, literally, just moving a school. The policies did not change. The admissions requirements did not change. The scope, breadth and mission of the school did not change. All of that changes with CAMS. This is not just moving a school from one building to another, as Mr. Terry Hodge himself said at the work session. This board voted, unanimously, I might add, on April 24, 2008, "to develop the magnet school around an academic focus for mathematics and science and a Career and Technical Education focus on engineering and health sciences." However, according to its own Web site, "students at McFadden School of Excellence are provided with a wide range of learning activities and experiences in all areas of written, oral, and visual communications." It's mission theme is "Communications through Technology." I don't know about you, but mathematics and science seem to be a completely new direction than written, oral and visual communications. The argument made by many people that you are simply moving one school to another here does not fit with your own mission statements for these schools. That must be considered. And, I argue, the admissions standards for this school should emphasize those test scores that directly apply to this new school's mission. If science and math are going to be the emphasis of this school, then it should be the science and math TCAP scores that have the greatest impact on admission. Not just any two, and certainly not minimum standards met by a student from a school with an entirely different educational focus.

Finally, and I can't emphasize this enough, there are far, far more areas regarding this new school on which we agree rather than disagree. We are all excited about this new school and the opportunities it will offer the children of this county through the 12th grade. It would be a travesty if this debate created a rift regarding this school between the parents and children who all want the same thing: an education that best fits our children's needs. I simply hope that each of you recognize for that to take place, this school must be equitably accessible to each and every child in the county.

Thank you for your time and your service.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Board work session transcript

The Rutherford County School Board met Tuesday, Aug. 11, at 5 p.m. for its regular work session meeting to discuss items on the agenda for its regular meeting set for 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 13. The majority of the time was spent discussing the admissions policy for Central Academic Middle School. Below is the transcript of that discussion. Members of the public were not allowed to speak at the work session, but may speak for a maximum of three minutes at Thursday's meeting. My next blog post will be my interpretation of this work session.

Transcript:
Rutherford County School Board Work Session

Aug. 11, 2009

5 p.m.

Speakers:

Dr. Mark Byrnes, Rutherford County School Board Chairman

Mr. Wayne R. Blair, School Board member

Mr. Grant Kelley, School Board member

Mr. Terry Hodge, School Board member

Mr. Harry Gill, Superintendent of Rutherford County Schools

Mr. Rick Wise, School Board member

Mr. Dorris Jernigan Sr., School Board member

Mr. Donald Jernigan, School Board member

Mr. Jeff Reed, School Board attorney

Byrnes: If you want to speak on Thursday night, you are certainly free to do that. I've talked to different people on different sides of this debate. I am pretty certain we know what the issues are and the sides are, so I'm not sure it's going to be incredibly useful for 25 people to get up and say anything. But you have that right and you can certainly do that, but you need to keep your discussions to three minutes if you do that.

We welcome your presence here, but this is not a rally. Do not cheer, boo or hiss. That is not welcome here.

There's been a lot of communication about this issue and we're all for the public being involved, but what I'm hearing second hand is that some miscommunication has taken place. First on the city-county issue and how McFadden's admission policy figures into this debate. In this issue I don't see how it's particularly relevant. Our GIS person plugged the McFadden enrollment numbers into his database and found 206 city students and 195 outside the city. When you consider Murfreesboro residents only make up 40 percent of the population, then they are overrepresented, so this argument doesn't work.

Another miscommunication is that the committee who did this was comprised of McFadden parents. They were employees who just happened to be McFadden parents. Could we have done a better job with that committee, probably. But it wasn't unfairly loaded with McFadden parents.

The proposed grandfather clause is the middle school only. No proposal before the board that said the proposal would grandfather the kids through high school. Doesn't say that now. Never has. I will close with this comment: We've heard a lot of arguments, and 90 percent of them say we need to do what the fair thing is. The problem is all sides have a different idea of what fairness is. Screaming that is not much of an argument. I think most board members recognize there is some reasonable case to be made on both sides, and our job Thursday night will be to decide what is most fair. I understand it's a passionate issue. You're talking about your kids. We're all parents up here, we fully understand the passions involved. I think we need a little less passion and a little more rationality on this.

Full disclosure I am a McFadden parent, and I will not vote on Thursday, but I will not give up my right to say what I think.

GILL: There weren't any backroom politics. No deals were struck with anybody. I think the policy is fair, but if you are a parent at Discovery, you probably don't. It's a fair recommendation from my perspective, so I'm going to propose to the board to approve the policy as it was presented to the board.

BYRNES: Slightly edited. New version is on the Web site.

DORRIS JERNIGAN: This only applies to the kids in sixth, seventh and eight at McFadden, right?

GILL: No, every child at McFadden.

HODGE: Are we discriminating?

REED: The question has come up if you establish a grandfather clause is that discriminatory. You have to identify a class. Under this policy, there's no evidence of that in this case. Not race, gender or anything. This is just the board setting its own admissions policy in terms of this school. Under state law, local school boards are given broad policy to determine the admission criteria of the new magnet school. It's not like you are trying to do any profiling. No discrimination based upon this policy.

DORRIS JERNIGAN: I received an e-mail that talked about a contract. I'm not sure there was a contract. There's been discussion about there being a contract with McFadden parents about that school. A contract can be written, implied, or verbal, by someone who has the authority to make that agreement. In my seven years on the board we've never made such an agreement with a McFadden parent their child could go all the way through the eighth grade. We have moved kids from one school to another school, which we are going to do next fall, so I just have a problem thinking there's been a contract.

REED: There's been no contract. Zone lines can be changed at any time, admission standards can be changed at any time. That's all at the discretion of the board. There's been no written contact with parents of McFadden School and you can't guarantee zone lines with admission to certain schools.

GILL: We tested out, and we're here eight years or nice years, and we think it's a fair thing to do to move all the McFadden kids over to the new magnet school. I think we kind of addressed that. We wanted this magnet school to be a school that challenged kids. We want this to be recognized as a high achievement school.

BYRNES: I haven't heard anyone argue there's a legal contract, but there is a commitment. One of the reason government is not trusted is they keep going back on their commitment.

WISE: When Discovery School moved, didn't they move those kids from one school to the other? Isn't that the same issue? I'm not taking a stand one way or the other, I'm just making a statement on that issue.

DORRIS JERNIGAN: The word contract keeps coming up, and we don't have a contract. My daughter told me we were set on zone lines, and I told her don't count on it. The way things are in the community change is going to happen. Change is going to have to happen.

HODGE: I've struggled with this from the get-go. It's not moving from one school to the other. I know people think this is unfair. Time will tell when they get there. If they don't pass, they'll have to go someplace else. In my opinion sixth, seventh and eighth grade ought to be able to go, but K-5, I don't know.

BLAIR: It came down to two questions for me: Do we move sixth, seventh and eighth, just move them over. and the other question was do we work out a compromise that students who come into this highly academic program be challenged and have a chance to be successful. I think we have a responsibility to these McFadden students and parents. I think your staff put together as fair a compromise as you could, and I'm going to support it.

DONALD JERNIGAN: When did we set upon the sixth through 12?

GILL: It's been a year and half that we've been trying to have this magnet school concept approved. It was about 18 months ago that we settled in on a grade structure.

DONALD JERNIGAN: That's a date that students at that particular time are there. But after that, people knew what was going on. The sibling rule, you say we dropped that, or it changed. Would you please explain that change to me, Mr. Gill?

GILL: As it is, kids who are in K-8 right now would be grandfathered into the school. We recommended we drop that altogether. Total drop.

DONALD JERNIGAN: I have two grandchildren at McFadden. One is an eighth grader this year and one a first grader. I thought about this a lot from that standpoint. From first grade to the sixth grade there might be some changes there. Grandfathering him in? I don't know. Giving him an opportunity, yes. Grandfathering? I'm not so sure.

I would hate to see a child who's been in McFadden all these years, K-8 situation, if they are a rising sixth grader, and then to say or seventh grade, look, you can't go to the new school, because of whatever, you're down the list. Your scores are good, but you're down the list, in a middle school somewhere else in the county. I think we can be prudent with that child, but the kids who are in K-5 or K-6 schools in the county or in the city, they know they are going to change, they've known that all the time. I think we have to, in my mind, we have to protect these kids that fall in that category.

There will be a lot of interest in this school. But just because there's a lot of interest doesn't mean a lot commitment. But when it comes to those who express interest and those who are committed. That number will dwindle.

GILL: When we started a discussion of a magnet school, we wanted a school with an accelerated curriculum. There are people in McFadden and Discovery School who scored in the 50th or 60th percentile. We talking about a significant disparity in how they are scoring. We're not going to win this in whatever direction we go. If kids have to go to Rockvale, or whatever, these are great schools, and it's not like they're going to be left out of a good education. I think we start discriminating when we say you don't have to meet the minimum standards to get in.

DONALD JERNIGAN: The seventh grade is going to be the one who loses out here. If you don't give them some flexibility, you are sending them out and you are automatically categorizing them. They didn't make it. The only reason they didn't go is they didn't make it. You are throwing the red flag up on them. For that middle school group, it's a difficult time, and we're saying you've got a seventh grader, and going to be an eighth grader next year, to say she had to go to Christiana Middle School, she went to McFadden all those years but couldn't make the grade for Central, I just have a hard time with that.

Byrnes: Gosh, you say going to McFadden all these years, then have to go to a different school in eighth and then a differnet one in 9th, walking a fine line here. There are those at McFadden who aregue that any sort of qualification is inappropriate because it's not required now. We really need to think about that.

Blair: I'm sympathetic and I've struggled with it and I continue to support the director's recommendation because I want to make certain the kids are equipped and ready for that sort of challenge. That challenge is coming. The academic curriculum.

Wise: If you do this all the wya down to K you are going to be dealing with this for a long time. For the 6, 7 and 8, I can understan d, but if you do it all the way down to K, it's going to keep coming back "we did it for this one, we did it for this one." I'm leary of that.

DONALD JERNIGAN: That's why I started it out about the date.

BYRNE: We need to look back before Thursday to see when that was set.

DORRIS JERNIGAN: I sat down this morning, and made some notes, and these are my thoughts. We need to get it right. It will change even in the second year. This is a one step, two step, three step process. These kids will come from the city, the county, private schools and maybe even home schools. And where will home schools come up with these grades that we are dictating to be these requirements. Transfers? How can you have a transfer? There are county children who are going to schools outside this county who may decide to transfer back when this school goes into effect. I don't want to rule out kids from Eagleville, Smyrna or LaVergne. I am worried we are underestimating people. If I see it as a battle between McFadden and Discovery, I'm not going to get in that mess. I want as many to step forward and make application to attend the Magnet School. I have a concern about the sixth grade student in the Murfreesboro School System. If they wait to apply to come to the Magnet School in seventh grade, are they at risk? Yes, we'll have 25 more in the seventh grade than in the sixth grade, but I have a concern for the child who will be a sixth grader next year. They are already having a number of sixth graders coming out of the City schools to go into the County system. They are losing money. Dollars the state provides that goes to the county system. I understand dollars drive our concern.

Do we only accept just the top scorers? We have a baseline here, but does that limit diversity? Free and reduced lunch students. Are we going to say because you don't meet the top scores, you don't come to this school? We need diversity in this program. I don't want to limit it only to the top, top scores.

I think we delay the vote to survey all the schools, city and county, to determine the interest. we can't assure the sixth grader out of the city system there will be magnet seat when they reach the seventh grade.

Finally, sports, we have in place a program in the county, if your school does not offer this sports program you can do sports at another school. Can magnet school kids go to their zoned school and participate in sports?

GILL: We will offer all sports but wresting and football. But we've got those bases covered.

DONALD JERNIGAN: We've talked about a lot of things, but until we take a vote and a commitment, that's what it is, talk.

DORRIS JERNIGAN: It's easy to express an interest, it's more difficult to make a commitment. I think if you take a survey, you throw out a third of them, because they will never follow through.

BYRNE: None of this is final until we vote it that way Thursday night.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Machiavelli, meet the Rutherford County School Board

Today, the Daily News Journal has a story about the admissions policy being proposed for the new Central Academic Magnet School. The policy, supported by most, if not all, members of the Rutherford County School Board, is a monumentally flawed document that favors certain students (specifically, children who currently attend the county magnet school, McFadden) above others. The policy is not based upon admission by merit; but rather, a favored-sons status. You see, the chairman of the RCSB, Mark Byrnes, has a child at McFadden. As did two-thirds of the people who drafted the admissions policy, including the new school's principal, John Ash, who drafted the original proposal for admission. Where are your ethics in this process? Where are your morals?

Schools Superintendent Harry Gill sees nothing wrong with the policy. Today, he's decided to make a good-will gesture to members of the community by asking the board to cut a provision that would provide favored status to siblings of CAMS students, a policy even more discriminatory than the basic admissions policy, again excluding children based upon merit. Mr. Gill, your good-will gesture remains a sham. The core of this proposal still smacks of favoritism, elitism, discrimination and entitlement. It is wholly unfair, and is essentially design to ensure that many of the best and brightest children of the county will, indeed, be on the outside looking in when this new school opens. Unless, of course, one of their parents sits on the School Board or was drafted by the board to write the admissions policy.

The only fair admissions policy is one that provides each and every child living in Rutherford County equal consideration for admission. It's a policy that requires each and every child to take the same test, and meet the same standards for qualification. It's a policy that ensures no child will be admitted ahead of another child simply because of where he or she attended elementary school, or who his or her father happens to be. Those who have drafted this policy, and those who support it, appear to disciples of Machiavelli. Simply put, their ethics state they will do whatever it takes, regardless of the harm it causes, to maintain the status quo. In this instance, the status quo means their children gain favored status over others, regardless of qualification.

Perhaps before these school board members take a vote, they should look at what happens to board members who ignore what's right for their personal gain. Today's Chronicle of Higher Education has a story about the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, all of whom are being asked to resign in a report drafted by a state-appointed panel that found every single member of the board violated state ethics laws in how its policies admitted students. An excerpted summary states: "The Illinois report, prepared by an Admissions Review Commission appointed by Gov. Pat Quinn, says that since 2005, about 800 applicants with ties to trustees, politicians, and donors received preferential consideration for admission. The applicants' names were flagged on an internal list known as "Category 1," or the "clout list," and were funneled through a pipeline supported by their well-connected sponsors." The parallels between what these trustees did and what the Rutherford County School will do if it passes this policy are stunning.

Gentlemen of the school board, and I say gentlemen because our school board is comprised entirely of white males and contains absolutely no diversity (much like CAMS will be if this admissions policy is enforced -- check the TDOE report card if you would like to compare McFadden's diversity [90.7 percent white; the second-whitest elementary school after Lascassas Elementary in Rutherford County, including Murfreesboro City Schools] to other schools in the county and city), if you pass this policy as written, you will violate the very trust the citizens placed in you when you were elected to your current positions. We elected you with the expectation you would protect our children, treat them fairly, and provide each and every one of them with the opportunity to obtain the best possible education. This admissions policy is a blatant violation of that trust. It's time for you to reject this policy that smacks of back-room political deals and Washington politics, and for you to do the job you were elected to do: educate our children fairly.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Guess who cheated on his wife?

Yep, Gov. Mark Sanford.

Case closed.

The political party of family values certainly has a terrible track record with family values, doesn't it? I'm still trying to figure out how the conservative political mantra that gay marriage is a threat to traditional families works when it seems to me that extra-marital affairs are a far bigger threat.

What the hell was Mark Sanford doing?

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford was missing for more than four days late last week and early this week.

First off, how does a head of state disappear for four days, with no one, not his wife, his children, his chief of staff, his security detail, I mean no one, having a clue where he is?

This man has been in the news a lot for his opposition to the state accepting stimulus money, often for reasons that are clearly based on the fact he simply wants nothing to do with anything Barack Obama does. I think Obama could offer to heal every sick person in South Carolina, and Sanford would object simply because Obama is a Democrat.

But I digress.

When the leader of your state disappears for four days, leaving the state without anyone in charge (suppose there had been a disaster, or some other unanticipated event, that required his, and only his, signature or approval to deal with), something is wrong with that person mentally.

To top it all off, he clearly had no means of contacting the outside world, because when he finally did call to check in, he had no idea anyone was looking for him.

What? You are the governor of a state. You disappear for four days. And you think no one is going to look for you? 

Clearly, this man is mentally incompetent and should not be the governor of South Carolina, or any other state.

Now, he's apparently told several different stories as to where he was during his absence. First, he was believed to be in Atlanta. Then, his staff said he told them he was hiking the Appalachia Trail. Now, he claims he was in South America.

WTF?

Surely there's something in the law in this state that says mental incompetence disqualifies you from serving out your term. If not, he needs to be removed by whatever legal means necessary, before he severely damages his state.

Of course, he's no Rod Blagojavich. Or Elliott Spitzer (who, apparently, New Yorkers now want back in office). However, he's still nuts, and needs to go.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Rutherford County Election Commission thinks it's above the law

Well, it's chairman and a crazy member do, at least.

I was going to rant about its claim that it doesn't have to abide by state laws when it meets. Then, I read Christian Grantham's blog post on it, and decided he said it as well or better than I ever could. So, I'm asking everyone to just read that.

Monday, June 22, 2009

How bad will Gannett papers become?

It was announced today that Gannett may be laying off another 4,500 newspaper workers in July, out of a total 41,000 nationwide. This comes on top of thousands of layoffs by Gannett in the past year, including several at our local papers, combined with eliminated vacancies.

How bad has it made the Daily News Journal, my local source of news? In recent months, almost unreadable. I had noticed a steady increase in typos, grammatical and style errors, design mistakes and the like since the layoffs began, but nothing as egregious as what I read in three days this weekend.

Friday's edition misspelled "linebacker" in headline as "inebacker." Sunday's edition misspelled "European" "Europen" in a headline, and proceded to repeat, word for word, the same story in two separate sections of the paper. I'm not even going to try to count all of the mistakes I found in the body copy. 

This is abhorrent. How Gannett can think it will possibly retain readers by cutting staff to the point that the paper becomes unreadable is beyond me. I fully expect Gannett to completely collapse within two years, if not sooner. If you work for them, I hope you have a fall-back plan.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"Parish" the thought

Duncan and I were heading to taekwondo Monday night when we passed a church on Halls Hill Pike near our house. Duncan shouted out to me that there was a word misspelled on the sign. I looked, and he was right. So, we stopped to take this photo:

Now, Duncan's only 10, so he didn't get the joke that comes with this misspelling on a sign outside a church. However, I'm still proud of him for knowing it's wrong.

Meanwhile, I'm wondering if someone would like to buy Dave Brown a dictionary....

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The year the media died

Great parody video of The Year the Music Died that pretty much sums up what's happened to big media. If you aren't a media person, don't bother.

Sad day for my friends at The Birmingham News

The first thing I noticed in my Twitter feed this morning was the announcement that The Birmingham News is cutting all salaries 10 percent, announcing buyouts, and eliminating all part-time positions and internships.

That's a sad day for journalism, especially when you consider that Birmingham has already lost its best local daily, The Post-Herald.

Now, Birmingham residents will be less well served in terms of local news coverage than before. The News is also planning to close all of its suburban offices, which means even less coverage of local politics and news for the vast majority of subscribers, who live in those suburban zones. It had already announced mandatory furloughs and a benefits freeze in March.

I am very fearful for the many friends of mine who work there, as well as for the community that will be even less well served than before. And, given the corrupt history of Birmingham and Jefferson County politics, who is going to be left to uncover the malfeasance that permeates those two governments? Alas, I fear soon, no one will be.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The New York Times proves it no longer gets it

This week, the New York Times appointed its first-ever social media editor, a woman named Jennifer Preston. She is a longtime New York Times journalist, and she's also a book author and adjunct professor at Columbia University. Her journalism skills are not in question, nor is her journalism experience or knowledge of the traditional aspects of the field.

It's her social media skills that are in question. 

She didn't have a Twitter account until she became social media editor. As near as anyone can tell (here, here and here), she doesn't have a Facebook or a MySpace page. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but those three Web sites are essentially the epicenter of the social media universe. If you don't use them, have never used them, and therefore likely have little or no working knowledge of how they are used, how on God's green earth can you possibly effectively serve as a social media editor? If the New York Times wanted to really effectively use social media in its reporting, if it really wants journalism to meld with social media, then shouldn't it have hired someone with at least a modicum of understanding of what it does? Shouldn't her first tweet have been something more profound than "How should @NYTimes be using twitter"? I mean, come on, a decent social media editor should have answered that question during the freaking job interview!

The internal memo sent to staff announcing her hiring confirms that question wasn't asked. In fact, the memo pretty much implies that her job is just figuring out what the hell social media are -- and that she'll spend most of her time talking to staffers who already use it. WTF? Shouldn't one of them have been named social media editor?

The rumor circulating around the newsroom at the Times is that she wasn't hired to help the staff better use Twitter. It was to monitor their use of it and put the brakes on it. Times deputy managing editor Jonathan Landman is quoted in the May 26 New York Observer pretty much saying such: "Mr. Landman said that Ms. Preston was tapped to help ensure 'some consistency about what we consider good uses of [social media] and bad uses of it.'”

In addition, Executive Editor Bill Keller went on a newsroom tirade earlier this year when details of meetings involving restructuring at the Times were spread via Twitter. His statements at the time indicated he didn't want staffers using the service.

People constantly ask me why I think newspapers are important. Why they should survive. Why we should fight for them. I tell them it's because they are the last wall protecting this country from government run amuck. Broadcast television no longer practices journalism; it's just a bunch of screaming idiots shouting their opinions at the American public. Blogs written by "citizen journalists" again are little more than individual spouting their personal opinin. They lack the investigative prowess and discernment, as well as professional objectivity, provided by trained journalists. Newspapers are all that's left of true, meaningful, investigative journalism. But if those papers can't accept, embrace and effectively use new media technologies and distribution methods to gather, parse and disseminate their work, then that work becomes useless because no one will see it. The Times, quite frankly, no longer gets it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

New video about me

I have a G.O.D. complex, I have just learned. That's Grammar Obsessive Disorder. The video here explains it all.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Grammar woes

I spent the past two days mingling with incoming fall freshmen. This group of students are supposed to be our best and brightest. All have earned scholarships. I expect a highly literate, articulate bunch of students.

Hardly.

What is being taught in our schools today that these kids can't use proper grammar. At all. It was very depressing.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

When bad grammar happens in the forest...

And no one is there to correct it, does it happen?

I ask this question because today I had to have some automotive work done on my car. The two mechanics were very good at auto repair -- they showed me everything that was wrong, and offered me multiple options for every repair to save money -- but they had to be the two most grammatically illiterate men I've ever met. I cringed every time they spoke, and nearly bit off my tongue to keep from correcting them, for fear my auto repair costs would skyrocket with each increase in price.

I don't know what was more painful for me personally, keeping quiet, or the $489 repair bill.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Star Trek will live longer, prosper further, with this reinvention

I had a chance to see the new Star Trek movie at a preview event this weekend. It is unbelievably good. Speaking as a die-hard Trekker, who went into the screening expecting to be disappointed and angry when I left the theater, I was not. I was completely impressed with almost every aspect of the movie. Only two things happen in this film that are so far removed from Trek universe canon I had a difficult time accepting them, but even then, they still fit. I won't spoil them for you, but I will post a thread about them once the movie has been out about a week or two to get feedback on them.

The weakest part of the film is, as usual, the villain. Nothing can compare to Khan. Chris Pine does a great job as a new, young Kirk, and he doesn't in any way make it a parody of Shatner. Zachary Quinto is a fantastic Spock. Eric Bana did what he could, I think, with the Nero character. However, the development of that character was incredibly weak, which I blame in part on the intent of the script, which was more to reintroduce the seven primary Star Trek characters and not Nero. The movie far exceeds my expectations in its handling of the Star Trek original seven. I was disappointed not to see a nurse Christine Chapel in the film; however, we got to be blessed one last time with Majel Barrett Roddenberry's voice as the ship's computer.

Leonard Nimoy's Spock, is, as usual, what you would expect. He plays a more mature, more comfortable-as-who-he-is Spock. My biggest gripe is the absolutely illogical way in which he first appears in the film. I have a better chance of winning back-to-back Powerballs without even buying a ticket than the chance encounter filmgoers will witness that brings him into the movie.

Karl Urban's McCoy is probably the closest we see of all the original seven to being extremely true to the original actor's portrayal, but I don't consider it a parody. It's a true interpretation of McCoy. His introduction is hilarious. I just loved how he summarized every single personal detail we learned about his life in the series in one sentence.

Zoe Saldana gives us an Uhura we've never seen before, but one that has always been hinted at beneath the surface. And, she's a sexy Uhura, and looks so much better half-naked than an old Nichelle Nichols did in Star Trek V.

Jon Cho does a great job with Sulu. He has a lot more screen time than Sulu has had outside of Star Trek VI, and he runs with it. Cho has a lot of action scenes, and some good dialogue.

Anton Yelchin steals a few scenes as Chekov, but mostly he's no more than a glorified extra in the film. I wish he had more to do, but like in the original series and throughout the movies, he's more comic relief than anything else.

Which brings me to Scotty. Of all the original series characters, I think he's my most beloved just for what James Doohan did with the role. He clearly had fun with it, and he always had at least one scene that made me laugh. Yet, at the same time, you could tell just how serious he was about the role as well. Simon Pegg, I thought, was a huge gamble to be cast in the role. All I think of when I hear his name is Shawn of the Dead, and let's face it, that movie nor his role in it lead one to believe he would make a good Scotty. When we were already more than halfway through the movie with still no Scotty sightings, I was thinking that maybe he was so bad in the movie the producers had cut all of his scenes. Then, he shows up. Pegg NAILS Scotty. He was dynamic, funny and intelligent. When the movie ended, my biggest regret was Scotty was introduced so late in the film!

A lot of other characters familiar to the Trek universe are introduced throughout the film, and most are fleeting introductions with no new information. With one exception. Bruce Greenwood is a good Capt. Christopher Pike, and die-hard Trekkers will notice the nod to the original Capt. Pike at the end of the movie. In fact, die-hard Trekkers will enjoy this movie on a completely different level than those who are just casual fans or completely new to the Star Trek universe. Tons of Easter Eggs are hidden throughout the movie for die-hard fans, and I'm not going to spoil any of them because that would ruin the fun of spotting them. However, I will say you need to stay and read the credits, because a few are hidden in there as well. For example, Cyrano Jones is credited as the singer of some songs in the movie. If you are a Trekker, you know what that means, if not, you miss the joke, but you aren't cheated of anything, either.

For the first time ever, we see Kirk's mother, but only as she's giving birth. We meet his father as well. Sarek and Amanda appear, and I have to say neither lives up to my expectations of those characters as they were developed by Mark Lenard and Jane Wyatt. Then again, neither has very much screen time, either, so I can live with it.

A number of people make cameo appearances in the film, the most notable of which is the actor who plays the head of Star Fleet Academy. Many people already know who it is, but again, if you don't know, the surprise is fun, so I won't say. Most of the cameos are uncredited, nonspeaking roles, so you have to keep your eye open for them.

Some scenes that haven't already been spoiled by the plethora of trailers on the Web and TV do surprise or enthrall as well or better than those teased. I have to say one of my favorites was the look inside a Vulcan educational institution. The classrooms are the coolest thing they've developed for such a minor scene in a movie. Another good scene is the often-mentioned but never-seen Kobayashi Maru test, which you finally get to see unfold.

And, a couple of the teasers are misleading. You will genuinely be surprised when the entire scene unfolds on the big screen versus what you are led to believe will happen in the trailer.

Whether you are a Star Trek fan or just a fan of good action movies, you'll be delighted when you see this movie. I'm going to watch it again this weekend, only this time, in IMax.

And, I still can't wait.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Murfreesboro Magazine: "Ethic" Proportions



This is from the cover of this month's Murfreesboro Magazine, a publication produced by Gannett primarily as an insert for the Daily News Journal, though you can buy a subscription, though I can't imagine why you would.

This month, the magazine's cover story is on "ethic restaurants," though I have no idea what that means, unless they are talking about restaurants that employ questionable morals in the preparation of my food. I think they meant "ethnic" restaurants, which just shows that all the layoffs at Gannett clearly included anyone who can read.

I can undertand mistakes in a daily newspaper. Stories miss deadline, happen on deadline, and you have a daily pressure to get everything done in a limited amount of time. This is a monthly, glossy, four-color expensive product. You would think there would be some quality control. And someone to proofread the cover. But they must have all been on furlough when this went to press.

That said, I expected to read about multiple restaurants in the referenced cover story. I mean, the word was plural, right? However, I did not. The cover story featured one -- one restaurant! Murfreesboro probably has more ethnic restaurants per capita than any city in which I've ever been, and I'll include New York and San Francisco in that. Yet, apparently, only one restaurant made the cut. There's a very incomplete list of "ethnic" restaurants that's clearly a paid ad on the page before the story about Sushin, but that's it. And it places "Demos' Steak and Spaghetti House" under Mediterranean, though aside from spaghetti and lasagne, which has been Americanized to the point it's not Italian at all, it has nothing Mediterranean on the menu. And the list omits some of our most ethnic restaurants, such as Cuzco, which is an outstanding Peruvian restaurant (review coming soon on my food blog).

And while Sushin is good Sushi, it's not the best in the 'Boro. That belongs to Sakura, which isn't even on the list. I imagine Sushin got the feature story because it bid the highest for the honor. The entire "review" read more like an advertisement than an honest assessment of the food available. Yes, Sushin is good, but it's not nearly the quality the story made it out to be.

So, in a word, Murfreesboro Magazine sucks.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Food blog has launched

I have finally launched my food blog. I've moved it to WordPress, simply because I want to diversify my online blogging technology knowledge. I'll eventually give it its own domain name, I've just not gotten around to that yet. However, for now, here it is:

http://eatingmurfreesboro.wordpress.com/

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The dead in Alabama suffer bad grammar, too.


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From the road that leads to my grandparents' grave. Sigh.
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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I'm back, baby!

After an unceremonious, sudden disappearance not caused by me (don't ask, I don't want to talk about it any more), The Grammar Nazi is back on Blogger. However, few, if any, of my old posts survived. I'm still searching for caches of them on the Web. If and when I find them, I'll try to repost the best of the bunch. Sadly, however, it looks like I'll be mostly starting over from scratch, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

I'm considering transforming this into a Murfreesboro-area food blog, mainly because I've been eating a lot of good restaurants lately. And these are restaurants I want to stay around, so I want to encourage people to eat there.

If anyone out there, for some really weird reason, ever saved any of my old blog posts, please let me know and forward them to me. I would appreciate it.

And now, I'm off to teach Media Writing and rant about bad grammar!