quote of the day

designed by engineers, for engineers

Could these boxes be uglier? Can something have a negative aesthetic score?


quote of the day

Who thought it was a good idea to make things worse for generations yet to come?

Link: Who thought it was a good idea to make things worse for generations yet to come?

We’re doing to higher education what we already did to secondary education; private schools, and public schools barely scraping by with lower standards, with smart people knowing that that’s not where you send your kids if you value education, except that we’ll want those public university students to take out lots of loans.

quote of the day

If teachers’ unions are so powerful and influential, why are teachers’ working conditions so bad?

Think about that. These people

  • earn bachelor’s degrees, maybe even a masters
  • spend their own money on materials for their workspace, sometimes even on food for the children in their care
  • can’t even go to the bathroom when they need to
  • sit at kids’ tables in empty classrooms or in staff rooms (if there is one) to eat their lunch in 20 minutes or so
  • can never meet a friend for lunch unless they work in the same building
  • can’t run errands during the day
  • can’t make appointments during working hours or take phone calls
  • deal with kids who don’t know why they are there
  • and don’t make nearly as much as people think.

And the hours? Not much different from regular office workers: 7 or 8 to 5, some more, some less. It’s not 9-3 unless you think the classrooms clean themselves, that materials are made and distributed by fairies, that curriculum planning is easy, and that managing kids, their learning styles and needs, is trivial. Add to this the bureaucratic overhead and the constant attacks by people who haven’t been inside a school since their own unsuccessful school days and it’s a wonder anyone bothers with it as a profession. 

Most days the kids make it worthwhile, bless ‘em. 

quote of the day

NPR 600 word story entry 1

Some people swore that the house was haunted. We never believed it but we were happy to let others think so.

The house’s appearance helped. It was right out of the props department of a movie studio. A tall, narrow, wooden house with shutters hanging by a corner, swinging and slamming in the slightest breeze, slats missing, standing alone on a treeless hill at the end of a street. Rotten steps leading to a front door that was missing most of its paint. Broken windows, loose trim, odd sounds and smells. Some said there had been trees near it at at one time but they got scared away.

OK. Not all of that was done by supernatural forces. Unless you count teenage boys and girls. The windows were broken as far back as I remember. And the strange smells could be from garbage — or worse — thrown through those windows. We never figured out where the sounds came from but we never looked that hard. No one I knew ever went into the old place.

The history of the old place went back a few generations, with the usual story of well-heeled gentry building a house to match their status followed by the family slowly slipping down the ladder of respectability. Throw in a few cases of madness and it’s a cliched pulp novel. But this family didn’t dwindle into obscurity. They just vanished. They had been seen out and about in the town one day, with dinner and some shopping in the evening, and the next day they disappeared. No wagon came for them, their own carriages and horses stood waiting. The servants came to an empty house that morning but never returned, not even to collect their wages.

There it stood for years, decades even, brooding and deteriorating on its empty hillside, its only companions bats, pigeons, stray cats, bored teenagers.

Then one day a car drove up to the old house, an old car no one could recall seeing or even identify, long, black, curved, with wire wheels. It drove slowly through the town, whining in the wrong gear as it were being punished for wanting to go faster, and turned down the road to the house. We followed as closely as we dared, on foot, on bicycles, wondering what this was about.

We waited at the end of the drive, sitting, squatting, hiding behind our bicycles and each other. The car lurched to a halt and backfired, so loud we could hear it echo. The driver got out, so tall he unfolded as he came, and turned to open the rear door. After a pause, he closed it again, straightened his coat, and walked up the steps, his hands folded behind his back. The front door opened as he was halfway up the stairs and he walked in, closing it behind him.

Half the watchers left, as fast as they could go, mumbling to themselves and waving away things only they could see.As the rest of us watched, the house seemed to shimmer and blur ever so slightly, and as we looked it got straighter, taller, less slumped. Windows were opened and were once again windows with unbroken glass. Lamps were lit, and loud thumps and deep vibrating hums came from the earth under and around the house.

When we saw the trees slowly walking across the hillside, slumped as if in shame at their faithlessness, we all backed up slowly and made our way back to town, never once turning our backs on the house.

Nothing was ever the same again after that.