Archive for March, 2010

A Gentle Reminder

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Remember, the deadline for the Roswell shirt contest is tomorrow. I’ve only gotten one submission so far, so if you have some spectacular design that you’re just finishing up, this would be a good time to mail it to me.

Why New York Is Screwed

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

From this article in this morning’s Buffalo News:

Between 2000 and 2009, districts across New York added 14,746 teachers and 8,655 nonteaching professionals, such as administrators, guidance counselors, social workers and nurses. During the same period, statewide enrollment dropped by 121,280 students, according to a report by the Empire Center for New York State Policy.

The group said upstate schools saw the sharpest enrollment drop — 72,000 students — yet added 939 teachers and 2,408 other professionals. It said upstate enrollment dropped by 7.4 percent while teacher hiring was up 1.1 percent and other professional hiring leaped 19 percent. The group said about half the additional teachers were for special education programs.

Adding 939 teachers to handle 72,000 less students is bizarre. Adding almost three times that many support staff is just insane.

Deodorant Cannons

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

There’s a landfill on the outskirts of Beijing that’s causing citizen complaints due to the overwhelming odor. The Chinese government’s solution? Fragrance cannons to mask the stank.

Apparently they’re “based on Italian technology” – my guess would be that it’s from the New Jersey Research arm of the Axe Body Spray corporation.

Pastry School

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

My friend Brooke is a fantastic baker, and she’s decided to take the plunge and be formally trained as a pastry chef. Perhaps more importantly, she’s blogging about the experience. It’s pretty damned entertaining, I gotta say.

Japanese Bike Storage

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Japan wins. Again.

In a country that revolves around the bicycle, Japan has had a rash of bike thievery as well as a problem with storage. There’s too damn many bikes to the point where they’re crowding sidewalks and streets just by sitting there. They’re illegally parked but there’s little choice in the matter.

So a very smart company built an ingenious bicycle storage facility that is completely automated, cheap, and secure. Beats the hell out of locking your only mode of transportation to a fence.

Economic Reality 101

Monday, March 29th, 2010

The economy is in the toilet. Unemployment is still in double digits, New York is looking at borrowing billions of dollars to close a $9 billion deficit, there are layoffs and furloughs and shutdowns everywhere you look.

According to NYSUT, though, the teachers still want their raises.

Ricahrd Iannuzzi, the head of the New York State United Teachers, claims that Sam Hoyt’s suggestion of a wage freeze for teachers this year is “a ploy to avoid taking responsibility for the failure [in Albany] to meet its legal obligation to adequately fund education”. Really? Last I checked, we were spending over fifteen thousand dollars per student per year in Buffalo, and have a graduation rate hovering around fifty percent. What’s the plan? Spend twice as much and maybe everyone will graduate?

Phil Rumore, the leader of the Buffalo Teachers Federation, would apparently rather have 680 people laid off than have everyone go without raises this year. That’s sterling leadership.

I work in education, too. The difference is that I work at a private college, which receives no state aid. We’ve got no raises this year either, and are most likely looking at layoffs. Why do public school teachers seem to think that the economy shouldn’t affect them?

My triumphant return

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

It has been a while since I have submitted a post.  Let’s dive in with this beauty.  We bought our house about 3 years ago.  We have done a lot of work over those three years.  I have fixed a lot  poorly done work by the previous owner.  Lets just say I have become real good at finishing drywall.  One of the projects that I have been itching to get started on is refinishing the basement.   Originaly it was going to be a Man Cave, now we are going for more of a play room.

 It was already done when we bought the house, however there was some water damage from the Great October Storm of Ought Six.  They didn’t get much water but they had to remove the carpet.  Here is a picture from when we came to look at the house.214

This is the only before picture I had.  Just imagine two more walls some drywall some paneled.  I jumped right in ripping down the ceiling that was drywalled then the walls.  I found some interesting things like junction boxes behind the drywall which is a no no.  I also found two spots with wires that were just wirenuted in the ceiling.  So after I sorted this and some other electrical problems it was time to tear down the walls.  You might think why not just drywall over the existing walls I think these next pictures will explain why I had to start from scratch.  You can’t see it in the picture above but the two brick pillars are .5″ out of level.  For $15 I bought two new pavers(the ones there were not up to my standards) for the tops and built up the mortar so they are the same height.  The top row of bricks were loose so i fixed those as well.

If you look at the studs adjacent to the brick you see what I was working with.  This was the average level of “craftsmanship” for most of what the previous owner did.  If you have a keen eye you will also notice that there are 2×2 nailed to the bottom of the floor joists and a small gap for the main water line.  My dad and I rerouted that today to run along the wall.  That cost about $35 there was probably $60 in lumber nailed to the joists.

This is where the story gets real good.  We have never used the wood burner in the basement.  We pulled the flew out when we moved in and it was full of cricil.  I vacuumed the stove out but never got to replace the flew(decided to wait until we redid the basement).  Last summer I notice a smell by the wood burner kind of like cat piss.  We own a cat so I thought he was peeing near the stove.

074  I open the stove and see a bunch of soot, scratch my head and say “didn’t I vac this out 2 years ago”.  About this time we were getting flys in the house, maybe one or two a day.  Never found where the flys were coming from.  Any one see were this is going.  Well when we started this project I knew we had to replace that flew.  So I pulled the flew off again and looked in the top of the stove and see a big pile of soot.

078Does that soot look hairy? Lets take a closer look


Is that a paw?  Shit how do I get it out?


Yep Squirrel, This was the source of the smell and the flys.  If you go back to the picture of the inside of the stove.  That’s not soot those are dead flies.  This was by far the worst part of this job so far.  OK now for a recap.  Gutted basement removing drywall electrical and studs, rerouted water line, learned how to lay bricks, removed dead squirrel from wood burner.  Now I have a blank canvas to work with.  lets get building.

Bathtub Racing

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Southern Polytechnic State University in Georgia is reviving an old tradition: bathtub racing.

The Marietta, Ga., university has revived the Southern Polytechnic Bathtub Races after a 20-year break. The races originated in the 1960s, when Greek organizations on the campus filled cast-iron tubs with drinks for fraternity parties. When the tubs became too heavy, students added wheels.

Hey, Pitt, you could always enroll for another degree. You know you want to try this.

[Insert David Caruso one-liner here]

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

I realize this will give me 2 posts about the British Education System, which is a percentage many would deem to be “ridiculously high,” but the latest from our UK friends is just simply too awesome not to share.

Apparently a school in Worcester wanted to kill two birds with one stone, teaching the kids about forensic science and school safety in one fell swoop. Because there is no better way to teach 300 ten year olds about forensics than to roleplay their favorite teacher getting gunned down.

I wonder where they got the idea that this would inspire courage and teamwork.


Thursday, March 25th, 2010

GM unveiled the cleverly named “Electric Networked Vehicle“, or EN-V, at the Shanghai World Expo yesterday. Finally, a chance to drive something even smaller than a Smart car.