Monday, September 20, 2010

Hey math teachers!

My colleague in math and a friend at a nearby community college are producing free online math textbooks aimed mostly at the kind of students we teach. So far they have college algrebra and pre-calc. You can download the .pdf file for free or have the book printed by Lulu for $15. If you want your students to get hard copies through your bookstore, you can make courspacks or order in bulk from Lulu. These are books that ordinarily cost $100+ and all shared via a Creative Commons license.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Smells Like Teen Spirit at 19

Jim H on facebook reminds me that "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was release on this day nineteen years ago.

I had graduated St. Johns and was working at the Tower Records on University Avenue in Seattle. I had no idea how to survive in the real world, and had only gotten the job at the record store through the intervention of my friend Doug, otherwise I would be completely unemployable.

I think Doug must have brought home the single for "Smells Like Teen Spirit" when it was released to radio, two weeks before Nevermind came out. Doug and I shared the basement of our house. He had the finished part of the basement, and I had a corner of the unfinished part, walled off by plywood. We listened to the single by the laundry machines. I remember thinking that it sounded more or less like the Nirvana I had been listening to all summer. I was obsessed at the time with the CD single for "Sliver" and the live version of "About at Girl" that came with it. The new Nirvana was just a hair slicker, though. I distinctly disliked the bweep BWEEP you hear during the verse (bweep BWEEP/load up on guns...)

I was working the night Nevermind itself came out, and I remember telling the manager around five that I was taking my dinner break. She said, "Don't you want to wait an hour to go to the Nevermind record release party at Beehive." Beehive was our competition around the block. I waited till six and wound up seeing Nirvana in a small shop that looked just plie my place of work, but it was full of sweaty people. Never got a chance to see them that close again.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Dennis Lambert for County Council First District.

Information gets thinner when you look at candidates for the Democratic nominatino for County Council first district. I'm going with Lambert mostly for the way he talks on corruption issues. He also mentions on his website that he has been both a union representative and a manager. I'm not as confident in this vote as I was for the county executive vote.

These notes are mostly from the Plain Dealer website and focus on stances on specific issues in the campaign.

James D. French (Lawyer): Not sure if he wants to release minutes of executive meetings. Doesn't want to raise taxes. Gets the Plain Dealer's endorsement. I haven't lived here long enough to decide what that is worth.

Walt Halun (Director of purchasing at some company): Will publicize the minutes, won't raise taxes.

Nicole Daily Jones (City councilwoman for North Olmstead): Wants to reduce taxes. Will release the minutes of executive meetings.

Dennis Lambert (Customer service supervisor at the post office, former Fairview city councilman.): Has a degree in accounting. He talks explicitly about ending the patronage system when he talks about ending corruption, rather than talking vaguely about accountability and transparency, as the other candidates do. Wants to release the executive minutes in a limited form. Wants to reduce taxes.

Pete Matia (retired UPS driver, former city councilman for Fairview Park): Will release minutes, will not raise taxes.

Maureen Sweeney: would consider raising taxes, would not change the policy on minutes of executive sessions.

Terri Hamilton Brown for Cuyahoga County Executive.

Cuyahoga county government has been mired in corruption for years, but stands a chance of turning around now that a new structure with a strong central executive has been put in place. Terri Hamilton Brown is the candidate most likely to clean up the corruption, and hereby gets the much coveted Helpy-Chalk endorsement. Below are my notes on the four candidates for the Democratic nomination for county executive.

Terri Hamilton Brown: Her most important qualification is her work cleaning up corruption at the Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority: Few dispute that Hamilton Brown, 48, cleaned up CMHA, where her predecessor was fired for shady dealings and later went to federal prison for theft of public funds and other crimes. That links is to her plain dealer profile, which opens with a compelling description of Hamilton Brown going ballistic over the failure to remove snow from public housing sidewalks and parking lots after a big storm. She comes off well, and the Plain Dealer isn't even endorsing her; they are endorsing Ed FitzGerald.

The PD also has thisvideo from Hamilton Brown. She doesn't talk about corruption of CMHA. Instead, she just talks about finding savings and efficiencies in government working, and says that if we do this, we won't have to raise taxes. She also advocates greater transparency, including making executive meeting minutes publicly available.

She gets my vote for competence as an administrator of a public institution and ability to fight corruption.

Ed FitzGerald: is a former FBI agent. His profile at the Plain Dealer makes him look mostly like a law-and-order candidate, with detailed proposals for improving the police. The PD endorsed FitzGerald, citing Hamilton Brown's aggressive management style, which might make it hard for her to work with the County Council. They also imply a conflict of interest, because her husband works for Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson. I'm not particularly impressed by either of these arguments. If the goal here is to clean up corruption, I think we need someone who can stand by her principles. And I'm not exactly sure what the conflict of interest with Hamilton Brown's husband is supposed to be. Frank Jackson and his team have a reputation for being bland technocrats, competent people who play by the rules.

The other two candidates for the democratic nomination aren't serious. James F. Brown is a bus driver with a high school education, no experience leading large organizations, and no organized campaign. Dianna Lynn Hill uses ALL CAPS a lot in her statement to the plain dealer. When asked what she would do first on taking office, she writes: "The first thing I will do upon taking office would be to SALUTE the people of Cuyahoga County Ohio who have endured generations of corruption and chosen the less traveled road toward reform and revitalizing the American Spirit of our citizens at large by standing up for change!!!"

One final note: this story by our local NPR affiliate states that many candidates for office this election have extensive criminal records, including things like murder and soliciting sex with a minor. But then the story provides no information at all on who these people are or how we can avoid voting for them. Grrr.