Thursday, February 24, 2011

Some Perspective on Teachers Unions

Jonah Goldberg has an article up at NRO, "Public Unions Must Go." In it, he compares the rough origins of the private-sector labor unions with their public counterparts:
Traditional, private-sector unions were born out of an often-bloody adversarial relationship between labor and management. ... Day-to-day life often resembled serfdom, with management controlling vast swaths of the miners’ lives. Before unionization and many New Deal–era reforms, Washington had little power to reform conditions by legislation.

Government unions have no such narrative on their side. Do you recall the Great DMV Cave-in of 1959? How about the travails of second-grade teachers recounted in Upton Sinclair’s famous schoolhouse sequel to The Jungle? No? Don’t feel bad, because no such horror stories exist.

Well, actually those horror stories do exist. You just have to go back to the Depression (or earlier) to find them.

My father, James C. Adell, was one of the founding members of the Cleveland Teachers Union, which affiliated with the CIO(?) in the 50's. According to his biography, Cleveland teachers faced challenges when the school board ran short of money:
"He returned [from a summer session at Teacher's College] to John Hay High School in September, 1932 to face a salary cut of 15 percent for all teachers."
Apparently, Mr. G. A. Gesell, the finance director of the Cleveland schools, was working at reducing the school debt, in part by short-changing the teachers.

Daddy was prevented from giving a speech at the 1932 Thanksgiving Convention of the Central Association of Science and Mathematics Teachers. It ended up on the front page of the Cleveland Press instead, thanks to Scripps-Howard Science Editor (and friend) David Dietz:
"There is a move under way to wreck the American schools and to curtail the opportunities for education which previously have been considered the right of every American child.

"Schools in many parts of the United States have not opened this year. Many Ohio schools did not open. Many others are operating only three days a week.

"Teachers who invested thousands of dollars in university graduate courses, teachers who have acquired higher degrees and spent their whole lives improving their technique of teaching, now find themselves out of jobs. Many teachers are still waiting for their salaries. Pay cuts have been universal.

"Unless the teachers take action, they will be made the goats of the depression. The earnest advocates of the curtailment of American education will get their way unless the teachers who are interested in education, and the ordinary citizens of the nation who are interested in getting their children educated, unite for political action. For this convention, saving the schools is more important that improving techniques."
Earlier in the bio came this tidbit:
"Saturday, February 25, 1933, Adell deposited his salary check at the Cleveland Trust Co. Rumors of banks closing started mild runs on the banks. Monday, February 27, the Cleveland banks limited withdrawals on all accounts to 5 per cent and the Guardian Bank allowed only 1 per cent. Wednesday, March 1, 1933, Adell's salary check was returned from the bank. Thursday, March 2, 1933, he could not get his salary check cashed any place. Money stopped circulating. ... For his March salary, Adell received $137.79."
In a letter he wrote to department store executives on April 10, 1933, he put it stark terms:
"As compared with our salaries of last March, in this March pay the teachers received [42.5 cents] on the dollar -- a reduction in our purchasing power of [57.5%]. ... The school teachers accepted a 15 per cent cut last fall without a murmur. But this drastic and uncalled for cut in March has made the teachers desperate and has undermined out efficiency for public service."
One story I heard growing up was that at some point, the teachers were paid in scrip when the school board's cash ran low, while the unionized janitors were paid in cash. To my father, that seemed immensely unfair.

My mother was a teacher in the Louisville, Kentucky, schools during this period. They never had the cash flow problems that Cleveland did. My parents agreed to disagree about whether unionizing teachers was good for the profession. (Looking at the debacle in Wisconsin, I'd say most of her predictions have come true.)

Mother also related that at the gala celebrating the affiliation with the CIO(?) in the 50's, there was zero recognition given to those who had founded the union (Local 279 of the American Federation of Teachers) two decades before. After that, he started voting Republican!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Iwo Jima Navy Chaplain Remembered

The Rev. E. Gage Hotaling, who was married to my oldest cousin Adell, passed away on 16 May in Springfield, MA. The Boston Herald has a nice tribute with a good picture of Adell and a video of their son Kerry with excerpts from the service:
In the bloodiest days of Iwo Jima, he spoke the last words over fallen Marines and Navy corpsmen as they were buried in the island’s black sand.

Yesterday, Marines, sailors and soldiers returned the favor to the late Rev. E. Gage Hotaling of Agawam, sending the old Navy chaplain on to join his comrades with military honors.

Hotaling, 94, died Sunday in a Springfield hospital, 65 years after the iconic battle for the Pacific island. In a 2007 documentary, he talked about the grim task he faced as Marines fell in bitter combat against the dug-in Japanese enemy. Of the 6,821 Americans killed, Hotaling believed he buried about 1,800.

I found that link from Jules Crittenden's blog where he tells how he learned about Gage's death and the military tribute he received on Thursday:
Thanks to Joe Galloway and Massachusetts State Trooper Mike Cutone on the headsup. Cutone, an Army Special Forces veteran of Iraq, was on a prisoner watch at Mercy Hospital when he learned from an old Marine that Hotaling was dying down the hall, made some calls and saw to it he was attended at his bedside by Marines in dress blues in his last days as he had tended to them in theirs in dirty, bloodstained dungarees.
According to Kerry, Gage was the last surviving chaplain who served at Iwo Jima.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Blogging for Fun & Profit

Recently, some friends asked me about learning to blog. I started at Blogger.com back in 2004, and started a second blog last year using Blogger tools that's hosted on one of my own domains. Wordpress.com is another popular platform where you can start blogging for free.

Blogging can be a very individual art form. Some people just post one-liners like Instapundit, while others go in for long-form essays based on a particular field of expertise such as Dr. Sanity. Betsy's Page is another good example; she has enough traffic that a) she has to pay for her bandwidth, and b) ad revenue helps. Some people like Instapundit and the Anchoress moved from their original (growing) blog to find a new blog home as part of a larger enterprise site.

There are group blogs such as The Corner at National Review, where they keep a lively conversation going about current events (it helps that they're all professional writers). Powerline is another popular group blog. WattsUpWithThat has become a very popular blog, posting lots of technical papers and articles about weather and climate science; the comments are an education in themselves. "Hockey stick observed in NOAA ice core data" is worth a read ;-)

How do people find blogs? They start by word of mouth, seeing a reference or hyperlink online, or in an email. One way to promote your blog is to comment on other blogs and link back to relevant content on your own (a "trackback"). Another technique is to post an article to a site like Ezine Articles and include a link back to your site and/or blog. Some of my traffic comes from people doing Google searches.

Many blogs have a list on the side with links to their favorite or allied blogs; this is known as a blogroll. Lucianne.com just started a new site, Blogs Lucianne Loves, to highlight stories from selected blogs rather than main-stream media (MSM) as on her original site.

Blogging is one way to build content for your business website. One of the functions of blogs is to let your readers know not only what you're expert at, but what info you find valuable (or bogus) elsewhere on the internet. That's why you'll see lots of hyperlinks in people's articles, especially on opinion sites. The downside to linking elsewhere is that people leave your site. But if they find the content valuable and you keep it fresh, they'll keep coming back for more.

Perry Marshall is a good example of the business-focused blogger, which makes sense since his business is coaching people how to use Google AdWords and other internet marketing techniques. Ed Dale, another internet marketing guru, uses Twitter and Facebook to link people back to his blog or other interesting sites.

There are other tools available for bloggers. I use StatCounter.com to track my blog traffic, so I can see statistics such as what my visitors are reading, what countries they're from, what browser and operating system they're using, and whether they've visited more than once recently. I also use HaloScan for comments and trackbacks. Since I have light traffic, Blogger.com, StatCounter.com, and HaloScan are all freebies. These aren't the only ones by any means. I have a widget to link to my own Twitter feed on both blogs, and Real Simple Syndication (RSS) is also enabled.

One of the reasons I started blogging was because I found myself writing too many link-laden emails to family and friends during election season! By blogging, I've reached readers from around the world :-)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pyramids made of artificial stone?

Interesting story about geopolymers at Wired.com:

Professor Davidovits was awarded the French Ordre National du Mérite, and is President of the Geopolymer Institute. His most remarkable claim is that the pyramids were built using re-agglomerated stone, a sort of geopolymer limestone concrete, rather than blocks of natural stone. This would explain many of the mysteries of pyramid construction. Handling barrels of liquid concrete and casting in place would be much easier than moving giant blocks of stone. Remarkably, recent X-ray and microscopic study of samples has supported the theory that the pyramids are made of artificial stone.
(h/t Lucianne.com)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Think & Grow Rich!

Would you like a nearly-free* copy of the book that changed Bob Proctor's life?

Bob Proctor, you may recall, is one of the teachers featured in "The Secret" DVD. I've had the privilege of hearing him in person -- and getting a hug from him too!

Bob's been carrying around the same copy of "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill since 1963. He quotes from it frequently in his personal achievement seminars. It helped him go from being a fire-fighter making $4000/year (and $6000 in debt) to making more than $1,000,000 two years later as an entrepreneur!

My friends Vic and Lisa Johnson are doing this crazy marketing test where they're giving away a hard copy of Napoleon Hill's "Think & Grow Rich."

I'm helping them with their big giveaway and wanted to make sure you got your copy before they take this offer down.

Get the details here: www.FreeTGRbook.com/Tesseract or follow the link in the ad on the right.

Feel free to pass this on to friends. They can get one too if they act right away.

This is one of my favorite books. I know you'll love it!


*Well, the book is free, you just pay a nominal shipping & handling charge.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Expectations Gap

Over at Pajamas Media, Michael S. Malone comments on T-Mobile losing all their customer's Sidekick data October 1st:

The vehemence and paranoia of some of these rumors only underscored what was the single unassailable truth about this episode: that the Sidekick’s one million users had a deep emotional (and often financial) investment in the device . . .and that loyalty had been betrayed.

[...] we have a dangerous gap between consumers’ expectations and what the supplier believes it is obliged to deliver. In this case, Sidekick users expected the data they put on their devices to send to some safe place in the computing cloud where it would always be protected as part of the contract with Microsoft and T-Mobile. Apparently, those two companies thought differently; that their job was to provide the highest quality product and service possible, and to make a good effort to keep customer data secure – and effort that, it seems, did not include creating redundancies and back-up files.

For new products and services, customer expectations are often driven by marketing hype, not the fine print in the contracts. This happens in defense contracting too, when program managers (both government and contractor) tout the benefits to the sponsors, Congress, and the warfighters while glossing over the limitations or technical challenges in the way.

Customers, of course, can always make assumptions about how a product should operate that were never imagined by the marketers or engineers in their wildest dreams. But the Sidekick episode would seem to be a case where the T-Mobile and Microsoft professionals should have been able to put themselves in their customer's shoes.

Systems engineers and their testing brethren need to work with the marketers throughout the development project to understand the end-users' expectations about the product's capabilities. And then work to ensure those expectations will be met -- or the marketing approach modified.

Customer trust and loyalty, once lost, is very hard to regain. Windows 7, anyone?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Townhall questions for my Congressman

Here's the text of an email I just sent my Congressman, who's a Democrat. He's holding a Townhall meeting tomorrow evening.

Congressman,

I regret that I'll miss your townhall meeting due to a prior engagement. However, I'm interested in getting the answers to a three questions.

1. President Obama has made a lot of promises about "Obamacare". Why would you support legislation such as HR3200 that fulfills none of the President's promises due to perverse incentives?

2. Why in the world would Medicare continue to be a separate program once we achieve universal coverage? It doesn't make sense to mandate that citizens reaching a certain age must change their healthcare plans if they already like their existing coverage.

3. Will you pledge to read the healthcare bill before you vote on it?


Thank you for your service.
I'll be curious to see if I get a response other than a form letter.