Guys Got Brass

Stephen Colbert was allowed to give a speech at the White House Correspondent Dinner. Bush and company may be regretting it. The transcript is hilarious and I would say gutsy (To view the complete video, click here). Here are some of my favorite moments:

Jesse Jackson is here. I had him on the show. Very interesting and challenging interview. You can ask him anything, but he's going to say what he wants at the pace that he wants.
It's like boxing a glacier. Enjoy that metaphor, because your grandchildren will have no idea what a glacier is.

And as excited as I am to be here with the president, I am appalled to be surrounded by the liberal media that is destroying America, with the exception of Fox News.
Fox News gives you both sides of every story, the President's side and the Vice President's side.
But the rest of you, what are you thinking, reporting on N.S.A. wiretapping or secret prisons in Eastern Europe? Those things are secret for a very important reason, they're superdepressing.

Wow, wow, what an honor. The White House Correspondents' Dinner. To just sit here, at the same table with my hero, George W. Bush, to be this close to the man. I feel like I'm dreaming. Somebody pinch me. You know what, I'm a pretty sound sleeper, that may not be enough. Somebody shoot me in the face.

This president has a very forward-thinking energy policy. Why do you think he's down on the ranch cutting that brush all the time? He's trying to create an alternative energy source. By 2008 we will have a mesquite powered car.

Everybody asks for personnel changes. So the White House has personnel changes. Then you write they're just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. First of all, that is a terrible metaphor. This administration is not sinking. This administration is soaring. If anything, they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg.

Read the whole thing, it's hysterical.

Fair Taxes?

For you fans of trickle-down economics, Mortimer Zuckerman, editor-in-chief of US News & World Report, has a short pointed essay on the effects of President Bush's tax cuts. Reality check: they're not really helping (at least, not to most of us). Click here to give it a read.

Update: An appropriate quote from the recently passed John Kenneth Galbraith regarding trickle-down economics:
"If you feed enough oats to the horse, some will pass through to feed the sparrows."



Via Kevin Drum:


Earth on the Move

In celebration of Earth Day, I thought a cool video of our planet would be appropriate. As the Mercury spacecraft Messenger did a flyby of Earth last year, it took hundreds of photos. They start out around 66,000 kilometers from the planet and go until about 436,000 km. Scientists strung the photos together to create the video, and it was well worth the effort. Check it out here.

(Hat tip to Bad Astronomy for the link)


Workplace Safety

Dwight Schrute, of the Office, has these important tips:

Workers are getting injured, sick, and are dying in EVERY office, EVERY day. You cannot avoid it. Unless you do the following.

1. Do not fall. Falls (e.g. down stairs, out doors, windows, etc.) are dangerous and lead to fractures, sprains, contusions and death.

2. Do not burn yourself. Overheating your tea is a good way to burn yourself. Do you want that? In order to assure that your skin is not harmed, tea should not be heated to more than 98.6 degrees.

3. Stay in your seat. By staying in your seat, you are less likely to encounter any of these hazards. Wait until you have 3 tasks to do, and then get up.

One of my officemates thinks I'm “being ridiculous” and “should seek counseling.” Well, fine, Jim. Do not follow these safety rules. Good luck getting through the month of February which is by far the most deadly 28 days of the year.


For the last three days I've been up at the Olympic Park Institute with my students. We visited Tongue Point to explore tide pools and then spent the rest of our time hiking and canoing around Cresent Lake. It's a beautiful place, and rather than try to describe it, I'll throw up some pictures (still learning how to use pictures effecitively on Blogger. Not impressed so far).


Educate Yourselves!

The 62nd Carnival of Education is up over at the Magic School Bus. Go check it out and read what educators around the globe are thinking (I have in post in there, just to plug myself). Thanks to Coturnix for hosting.


Physics First?

An article in the recent issue of American Biology Teacher revisits the idea of teaching physics first in high school, followed by chemisty and then biology, a reversal of most science curriculums. The Physics First movement, proposed by Leon Lederman in 1998, hasn't been quick to take hold, but is slowly growing. I admit that I've always felt it would benefit biology students to have some physics/chemistry background before tackling the molecular/biochemical/physiological concepts found in biology. Rather than introducing biology in an introductory fashion in 9th grade, provide a more rigorous course in 11th (though different from AP). There are several problems with this, however, as mentioned in the article:

  • the need for increased numbers of physics teachers,

  • the new curriculum and courses for biology teachers,

  • the graduation requirement for only two years of science in many states, and

  • the importance of other disciplines, for example Earth science

The third point is what bothers me. Under this new type of curriculum, students, in some states, could graduate without taking a biology whatsoever. This is certainly not a good idea as biological education is vital and will be moreso in coming years and decades.

The authors outline three possible schemes that incorporate the Physics First model. The first is a the straight-up physics-chemistry-biology model. A second model has students taking an integrated, year-long course that incorporates life science, physical science, and earth/space science. It would be a three year program in total, each year building off the next. Twelth grade would allow students to take AP or Honors courses, presumably in seperate subjects. Much of the science curriculum would focus on inquiry and the relationship with social and personal perspecitives.

The last model is similar to the second, with students learning each discipline in one year but with a graduated format. Students would obtain more physics in 9th grade and more life science in 11th. This would allow the instruction of certain concepts that require more rigorous mathematics after they have been developed earlier.

The latter two models definitely fit the trend of integration found in education today. There was, however, no discussion of the obstacles facing the implementation of these two models. Would a single teacher instruct each scientific discipline over the course of the year, or would the students revolve? Would students be able to weave together biology they learned early on in 9th grade into new material found in 10th? There are still many uncertainties but a dialogue over the issues is a good place to start. For all you science teachers out there, opinions?

Bybee, RW and AL Gardner. 2006. High School Biology & the Physics First Movement. The American Biology Teacher 68(3): 134-138.

Invertebrates All Around

David Attenborough has created what appears to be another amazing documentary series, this one focusing on the invertebrates. Life in the Undergrowth has been shown in Britain but I could not find where it was televised in the US. Fortunately, it comes out on DVD on May 2nd. I'll definitely be picking up a copy!

The Hits Keep on Coming

I like the little comment in the corner. This comic comes on the heels of a bad week for ID/creationists. First, two papers in last weeks Nature describe an excellent fossil find from the Devonian (See excellent commentary here, here, and here). Also reported in Science is the evolution of a 450-million year old hormone receptor, which specifically refutes the idea of irreducible complexity (See excellent commentary here and here). It has been comical to see institutions like the Discovery Institute or AiG respond to this new research. They must be getting used to back-peddling.

(Comic hat tip to PZ)


I'm Dublin

You Belong in Dublin

Friendly and down to earth, you want to enjoy Europe without snobbery or pretensions.
You're the perfect person to go wild on a pub crawl... or enjoy a quiet bike ride through the old part of town.

This is somewhat ironic as I was in fact born in Dublin. I guess my Irish roots haven't deserted me yet!


Truth in America

Click here to read an excellent speech by Al Franken (as part of a debate with Ann Coulter). It really is extraordinary. And quite funny as well.