Friday, February 27, 2009

PTN Gives Me All The Reasons I'll Ever Need To Avoid Twilight

Generally, I hate people who hate a book or film or TV program who have never read or seen said book or film or program because, well, that's lame.

In certain cases, however, one reads a case that has been so well made that the need to "see for yourself" just isn't justified.

Such is the case with Twilight and Amber's pitch-perfect review. And a billion bonus points for the Buffy comparison. That gave me pretty much all I needed to know to make an informed "I'm not reading it" decision.

I think this marks a day of personal growth: did I believe those who went before me on things like a two-semester thesis or law school? No, had to find out for myself. But Twilight? I won't go there. Thanks, Amber.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Good And The Bad Of A Lone Voter

The Good: Abel Maldonado won his bid this week to become the most hated member of his party when he cast the deciding vote for the budget plan ending the 106 day (manufactured) stand-off. Naturally, for his act of post-partisanship, his own party is going to eat him alive - beginning this weekend at the GOP convention here in Sac. Loud bloggers like Jon Fleischman has already introduced a censure resolution to punish Maldonado and the other pro-voters for their tax-hiking offenses against mankind.

What's cute is how this is covered like news, rather than the normal course of business. (See: Pescetti, Anthony; Briggs, Mike) Maldonado has always been relatively moderate and was ripe for the picking by his cannabalistic party. Let no good deed go unpunished, y'all! Such political theater, no? Somehow, the "Legislature's" failure to act is felt as a Democratic failure (see e.g. - and don't even get me started on that being in the Capitol where it is) while no press pays attention to this equally valid counter-argument.

But nevermind all that now. It's done. Until voters kill the necessary ballot measures they'll face in May, of course. Eek! Remember how well the last measure-only election went. Doh!

The Bad: Mr. Maldonado, an Open Primary again, really? Really! Really:
A proposed constitutional amendment would go before voters in June 2010 instituting a "top-two" primary system, which would effectively eliminate party primary ballots, erase candidate party labels in primary elections and allow voters to choose the two candidates - of whatever party - who would compete in the general election.
Could it get us more moderate candidates? Maybe. And yes, that would be great. Seriously - it would be really, really great. But we just revised the redistricting system, so should we see if that works first? When conducting experiments in democracy, let's decrease the variables in any given election.

And I'll never support removing party ID from ballots. Non-partisan elections are a fiction helping no one.

Of course, I understand why this policy change is important to him now (see above). And I don't think he deserves what he's about to get from his own party (which needed him to vote for that budget, make no mistake). I probably wouldn't help him (or his party) anyway:
Political consultant Paul Mitchell ran the numbers on which primaries would have moved on to a runoff under the Maldonado's "top two" plan:

"The biggest effect is the “Top Two” twist. With Top Two you would have districts in which either two Republicans or two Democrats move on to the General against each other. Then the Republicans have to chose among two Democrats – probably giving the election to the more moderate candidate.

"Just looking at the 2008 primary elections, and dismissing the “crossover” votes for this analysis, check out the wild General Elections we would have had this past November:

SD 3: Leno vs. Migden
SD 9: Hancock vs. Chan
SD 23: Pavley vs. Levine
SD 25: Wright vs. Dymally

AD 8: Cabaldon vs. Yamada
AD 14: Skinner vs. Thurmond
AD 19: Hill vs. Papan
AD 46: Perez vs. Chavez
AD 52: Hall vs. Harris-Forster
AD 62: Carter vs. Navarro"

Interestingly, no Republican races would have gone to a runoff.
So it's not going to help him. I still wish he wasn't facing certain replacement, however. Hats off to you, for taking one for the team.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

O for Effort, S for Achievement? Or Should It Be The Reverse

Confession: In Elementary school, when grades were Os, Ss, and Us (Outstanding, Satisfactory, Unsatisfactory) and given in two columns per subject, I received a lot of mixed reviews. The first column recorded achievement, the second, effort. And I got - in my third-grade-mind - a TON of crap for getting Os in achievement and Ss in effort. Later, when As, Bs, and Cs made their debut, the same split continued. I could bring it home, but dammit, I just wasn't working up to my potential.

(Mom - you read this - that's accurate, right? I'd hate to think I've been incorrectly remembering this bedrock story of my nature for all these years.)

Is it a negative reflection on my work ethic that, even at the tender age of 9, I didn't see the value of bending over backwards when a simple arm movement would do the trick just fine. Some call it lazy, I call it efficient. I wasn't some rock-star genius, but I seemed to do just fine with a certain level of effort and more effort was only warranted when needed or when I really took an interest in something. I think I'm just following the basic laws of physics.

Apparently, however, the world is ass-backwards on this effort/achievement split as 'Students Pretty Much Expect B's For Breathing.'

I think this is where the effort grade has ruined our culture. It's a consolation prize: sorry little Johnny, you're papier mache greek god just wasn't that great and you can't do pre-algebra, but you tried SO HARD, so here's something to make you feel better. Whaa?

One college senior says:

"I think putting in a lot of effort should merit a high grade," Mr. Greenwood said. "What else is there really than the effort that you put in?"

"If you put in all the effort you have and get a C, what is the point?" he added. "If someone goes to every class and reads every chapter in the book and does everything the teacher asks of them and more, then they should be getting an A like their effort deserves. If your maximum effort can only be average in a teacher's mind, then something is wrong."
What else is there besides effort? ACHIEVEMENT? RESULTS? The correct answer, maybe? If you put in your best effort and you get a C, congrats, you're a C student. Bonus, you could still be president (if you're from an oil-rich, well connected family, anyway). You should not get an A for effort. That's the wrong way to reward struggle.

The linked-to Jezebel post asks whether we're too soft AND too hard on kids: too-hard coming with the focus on grades.

Well, let's focus on the actual Achievement part, right? Skip the letters completely. Does little Johnny know ANYTHING by the time finals come around? If not, no dice. If so, then he should be awarded a mark or an evaluation consistent with that achievement.

Monday, February 09, 2009

First Lady Watch: Shock And Awe Edition

If there's anything I hate in political and policy discussions, it's faux shock at something completely obvious and not-shocking. To wit: I call shenanigans on anyone who really, truly believed Michelle Obama would be solely "mom in chief" and fill the Laura Bush, silent smiler role in her husband's life. This woman had a powerhouse career and formerly supervised her husband at work. So, um, yeah. I'm sure she adores her kids and takes their upbringing seriously. But lady can multi-task, right? Now that she is, let the "whaaa?" begin:

"She went to some lengths to say she was going to be first mom in chief," Myra Gutin, a scholar of first ladies at Rider University in New Jersey, said of Mrs. Obama. "I don't think we ever really imagined her edging toward public policy like this. It's not like she's making public policy. But it's a little less neutral than some of the other things she's talked about focusing on."
Shenanigans! We never imagined her edging toward public policy? Hell, I was counting on it.

Of course, not everyone thinks the sky falls when a first lady dares to speak about all that hard policy stuff.

Lastly, Jezebel describes Michelle Obama as displaying a classy, quick wit when reacting to a little girl's comment at a charter school. I see something still a bit troubling in the girl's statement:

And when a little girl at the charter school visited by the Obamas announced that she dreamed of becoming first lady, Mrs. Obama flashed her self-deprecating wit. "It doesn't pay much," she advised.
Yes, that's funny. And yes, there's a high probability the girl's aspirations were shaped by the guest speaker in the room at the moment, but why can't she dream of being president?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

And It's Offensive To Poppies

Those are poppies, right? Or some sort of wildflower? I think I should be bothered as both a woman and a Californian.

Teleflora is sending apologies and coupon codes to those bothered by the bad-mouthing flower ad that ran during the Super Bowl. According to Jezebel, however, the ad is still on the front page of their site. And, there are more! (Click the above link.)

I'm not sure the ads even send the message the company thinks they send.

Also, I have received flowers in box - several times - and I don't recall ever being offended by them (literally or figuratively).

One ad depicts a new mom receving crapbox flowers from her coworkers that say "hello baby, goodbye promotion," and gleefully explain how everyone back at the company is stealing her big projects. If that were the case, wouldn't they send reallllly nice flowers?

My mom thought the ad was funny. I missed it when it aired originally and have only seen the recaps (and rants) online.

The 5th Anniversary Of The Hastings Press Democrat

Which, of course, quickly became known as Phoblographer*

This will be the site's 2614th post. If you plotted the frequency, or if you're a long-time reader, you'd see/know that more writing went on earlier in the blog's life than more recently. Nevertheless, the site continues to be something interesting, at least to me, and something that keeps me interested in the world around me. It also keeps me writing - though lately, not nearly as much as it should or I would like it to.

It's impossible not to marvel at how much has changed in the last five years: law school; love; loss; love; other blogs; control of Congress; the Administration.

Five years gone, but, as Jed Bartlet would say: What's next?

Thanks for reading.