Oh Great! Measles!

I told people about BB’s in Morgantown.  It may not have been the best timing.  Unfortunately someone was there around the 11th of July who may now have measles.

Measles or Rubeola is a pretty dangerous illness that has been “virtually” wiped out in the US, but make no mistake, people do still get it and it still kills.  Measles starts like a nasty cold, high fever and hacking cough, but then you develop the rash.  You can be exposed and not develop the symptoms for up to two weeks- some folks don’t show evidence of the illness for up to 3 weeks.

For some folks they not only have the all over body rash, but they also have hives.   The rash will probably last a little over a week and then it appears to dry up and slough off following  the same pattern that  it  originally developed on their skin.

Patients require bed rest until the fever passes, and you have to watch them because they can get dehydrated with diarheaa and vomitting, or they can develop pneumonia.

If you worry that you might have been exposed because you are feeling feverish ( and we are talking a high fever here, it can go up to 103), and you have that hacking cough and you have developed a rash around your hairline, or you have red dots called Koplik’s dots on the inside of your mouth next to your first couple of molars then you need to see a physician and tell them what you think the problem might be.  ( koplik’s dots are small red dots almost like dots made by a red pen but sometimes they have  white in the center.)

While we have almost eradicated the illness, it still exists!  It is HIGHLY contagious!  Unfortunately it’s symptoms are similar to those of some other illnesses.  Therefore a lot of folks who think they have measles often find out that it’another illness, but it’s certainly worth checking since most of the people who haven’t been given a vaccine will come down with the illness.  Naturally not all the people who come down with measles develop serious complications that lead to death, but nobody wants to predict outcomes so it’s safer to err on the side of caution.  The bad news is you can be contagious before you know you have the illness!  And then you are still contagious after the measles show.

There isn’t much you can do if you find that you have measles.  You’ll need to stay hydrated and stay in bed!  But please make sure you contact your doctor. 

I’m no Doctor!  I have never even played one on TV!  I used internet sources to get a quick and dirty education so don’t listen to me!  See your Doc! 

As I read about the possibility that there might be measles in our area  I instantly felt itchy.  Reading about it almost made me pass out!  But I forced myself to find out what measles was and how it could hurt folks. 

I’m going to hope that this isn’t a measles outbreak!  But if it is let’s try to stop it in it’s tracks and not let it turn into a major outbreak.







Bleaching T-Shirts

My kids were looking for something to do one day last week and I suggested they clean their rooms.

That didn’t go over well.

They decided they might be interested in cleaning if they could collect some items of clothing that were worn or that they weren’t really fond of anymore and they could bleach them.

I figured it was a fair deal.  I poured household bleach into a spritz bottle and I laid the ground rules about safety and the kids did the rest. 

I was pretty impressed with their work.  One of my girls had 2 similarly colored tanks and when she bleached them they looked almost as if they had been tie-dyed.  And now she can wear the two of them together and what once was 2 slightly worn and unnattractive tanks is now one cute top.

Another daughter had a black t-shirt that was looking a little tired.  She bleached a heart on it with dots around the rest of the shirt and what was really interesting is that the dye in the black t-shirt  had shades of red in it and the bleach drew out the red and the pinks which fade to an off white in the center of the heart image.  An ugly old boring black t-shirt now looks like something you’d buy new.

If you think this might be something you’d like to try then I’d recommend it but please make sure you do it outside with lots of ventilation.  You also don’t want to leave bleach on certain fabrics or it will eat straight through so please test an area before you try this.  Don’t bleach anything that you’ll regret ruining-as  you can’t be sure this is going to work out.  And make sure you wear protective gloves and don’t you dare spray bleach anywhere near your face.  The best bet is to lay your item down on the ground on top of a ground cloth and spritz away.

Rinse the bleach and then handwash your shirt and voila!  You’ve created something new from something old.

I don’t think my kids ever cleaned their rooms!  Maybe I’ll suggest that again today and I’ll have a new project for you tomorrow!




My Swaniebraai or Grilling With the News!

I found a tiny grill called a Swaniebraai.  It was just sitting on the floor in a junk shop.  The african mask on the front of the cardboard box caught my attenion.  I went over to the box and I picked it up and I smiled when I realized I was actually holding something I had seen here online over a year ago.

I spotted an old video from back in the 80’s.  There were quite a few companies marketing this great new grill idea.  It was being sold as eco friendly because it didn’t need charcoal or lighter fluid.  It only needed old newspaper and who didn’t have tons of that lying around?

There was one version of it called the Qwik Cook Grill.  Here is a really silly looking infomercial about it which I’ll post  for you to see.

.Then the excitement faded.  I think part of the problem might have been that newspaper chars and floats upwards which might make your food a little newspapery.  The Qwik Grill solved that by suggesting users place foil on the handy grill before you place the meat or fish on the fire.  The people on that infomercial insist that their food doesn’t taste like newspaper at all! :)

I found a website that is still marketing my grill- it only costs 399.00 in african Rand.  That is about 58 American bucks.  But of course I don’t have to buy one!  I have my own little Swannibraai and I have newspaper, and I have meat!

Anyone want to join me while I barbecue with the news?



Boehner’s Big Non-Plan!

I just read the 56 page budget plan by John Boehner and I thought it would be a lot more detailed.  I’ll post a pdf of the bill that I found over at Politico


Okay, for those of you who don’t have the time or the interest in wading through the file I’ll give you a very brief rundown.  Mostly it takes existing clauses that include dollar amounts and it updates them.  Funding that was appropriate in 1965 is not appropriate in 2012 and will not be sufficient in 2020.  That isn’t surprising is it?  What bothers me about this bill and what I assume will bother other people is that it has definite costs figured for what spending will be allowed for each program it details.  And any additional spending will be removed from other accounts because this bill demands a balanced budget.

So that means that we have a certain amount of money set aside with which to use in the far future- cause 2020 isn’t that close.  And if the US needs  to “borrow from Peter to pay Paul”  it is going to be a lot harder than it is right now.

If the President decides he wants to spend without worrying about the balanced budget requirements the House will censure him by sending him notice that they are in disagreement with his actions.  There are timelines for how this new action will occur.  If the Senate ignores  the House then it goes back to the House and they can continue working on it so that a vote can be taken on it and if the President signs a veto then there is language that almost makes it easier for the House to override his veto through cutting back on how much time the bill has to be discussed and argued over.

There is also a section that eliminates funding graduate programs with Pell Grants. 

There are built in increases for costs in Social Security and health costs.  (I’m not sure I’d want to agree now on determining  future costs up to 2020.)

Other than that the bill contains a lot of information on the new budget balancing rules.  There will be a committee created to keep an eye on how things are going.  They’ll make sure their numbers are accurate by using the CBO’s numbers. 

So that is it.  There are a lot of formulaic pages.  If you don’t have an original clause it’s hard to see what is being changed with the addition of a certain clause or a new paragraph but I’m guessing that the only major change Boehner is promoting is this balanced budget theme. 

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t object to a balanced budget myself.  If it makes politicians have to work harder to get things done then I’m all for it, but the real question we have to face is will it?

Will changes be made so that America can move forward and become strong again?  Or will the changes be so convoluted that nothing gets done.  Remember if you have to subtract money from one area in order to fund another it is going to be a lot noiser with assorted groups challenging one another for funding.

Will politicians engage in making those changes?  Or will the leaders simply make the rules and the status quo will decide how things move forward?

A lot of folks are going to be applauding Boehner on coming up with a plan- but I say read the darn thing!  You’ll find it isn’t much of a plan at all.  There are no real elements of change in it.  There are some dollar figures pulled out of thin air and a tiny bit about no more Pell grants to grad students and no incentives for paying loans back early.

That is the plan!

Not much of a plan at all if you  ask me!



Are You Wealthy? Do You Have $598,435.00?

Hi!  Mo here!  And I’ve got a question for you.  Are you wealthy?

It’s a very easy question for me to answer!  My answer would be an emphatic no.  Oh well!

  It seems that the gap between rich and poor is growing in America.  The online Drudge Report has illustrated the issue with a report from the AP over at a Taiwan newspaper.  A Ms. Wen wrote that the gap between blacks and hispanics and whites has never been higher.  Her article points to the fact that white workers have invested in things like 401 K plans, whereas blacks and hispanics have their wealth tied up in their mortgaged properties and when the housing bubble collapsed a lot of that “wealth” simply dried up and blew away.

So do you care about how much money ” wealthy people” have?  Here are the figures according to Wen…

The share of wealth held by the top 10 percent of U.S. households increased from 49 percent in 2005 to 56 percent in 2009. The threshold for entry into the wealthiest top 10 percent, however, dipped lower: from $646,327 in 2005 to $598,435.

I told you, I’m not wealthy!  What about you?



Free Ocean Fishing Registry for NJ

I had no idea you needed to be a registered “angler” if you were holding a rod anywhere near the ocean, but it’s true.  The only people who don’t need to have an approved license are those under 16, or folks who have signed up for one of those recreational fishing expeditions.

In 2006 America decided it needed a list of all the anglers in the nation.  If you sign up for that list, then you have to pay for it, but New Jersey decided that they already had a method of signing up their own anglers and so they are allowing people to sign up with them for free!  And they made it okay for fishermen to sign up with theirs and avoid worrying about signing on with the national list.

You have to give some personal information including some digits of your social security number.  You must be a US citizen, and it helps to have a printer nearby, or an email address in case you need more than one copy.

Here is the site where you can register for free so that if you are fishing in the bay, or on the ocean in the NJ area you won’t get a fine that could be  from 300 dollars to much more!


Happy Fishing!



Cheating Scandals

Pottstown School District recently found out that it’s standardized tests may have shown some kind of irregularity. The irregularity is consistent with possible cheating. 

There are several different kinds of irregularities when it comes to tests.  There are tests where all the students appear to have the same answers- in that case the assumption is that they were given the answers either ahead of time, or during the test.  Or maybe a teacher arranged seating so that smart children were seated next to dullards and everyone was invited to look at the smart kids work.

These types of cheats are usually identified by the people involved with them.  It’s hard to believe that a large group of kids could have been directed to cheat without at least one of them mentioning that experience to someone who had a clue.

Another flag is raised when students answers are changed.  John Armato pointed out that he’d be interested in seeing how many changes students made on tests that were right answers to wrong answers- because the flag that alerted officials to possible cheating was WTR answers, or wrong to right answers.  In order for a large number of students to change answers from wrong to right, they either have to be coached, or educators might have been responsible and changed the answers themselves to make it appear that the students had a better grasp  of the material.

I just read about Atlanta’s problem with cheating.  They have named teachers and administrators who have cheated. They have gotten admissions from some of those teachers that cheating occured at parties in which a group of people got together and “fixed” tests.

That is nuts!

The wildest thing for me to read is that the measurement companies that check the tests have had the ability to check things like suspicious erasures for years.  In Atlanta this started in 2008 I think…in PA we are looking at results from 2009. 

That is wild!

I’m not really comfortable with the evidence that suggests cheating was happening.  For example, tests assume that each child may have up to 3 legitimate changes on their test of wrong answers to right answers.  This is just an example, but follow me- now let’s say a child is answering on a scantron system and they got their answers mixed up.  That child may well erase 5 or 6 answers and correct them.  That child may now be included in that 3 standard deviations from the mean that would flag a cheater.  Although, in our example no cheating happened!

  Now let’s imagine that the tests were created so that that wouldn’t happen, in otherwords, they expected that children might erase 4 or 5 questions in a row and fix them.  So the test may not be looking at blocks of adjusted answers- but we don’t know that!  And this  is one of the reasons that John Armato might have been asking about how many questions students adjusted that went from right to wrong!

These tests for cheating just show general overuse of the WTR changes.  They aren’t testing particular students results and they  aren’t testing the same tests over again necessarily.  They are saying ” these are our margins”  When we see any deviations we flag them as possible cheating violations.  When we see a standard deviation of 3 or more then we are almost sure it is evidence of cheating.

Now let’s talk about those deviations.  While it sounds like a sure bet that there has been cheating going on it only works because there is a norm that gets created when most students take tests.  If the average student changes 3 questions  then our flagged test might only have 5 questions changed, or 6 questions changed.

So let’s imagine again…Let’s say a test was created by a company using all the standard methods.  But let’s say that no one checked the actual questions.  Let’s say a group of students in one particular school was advised during their instruction about a particular connection between some of their material.  So when they answer question 14, they suddenly realize that question 4 and question 8 are wrong. These students just hit the standard for correcting questions that were wrong to make them right.

If they make any further changes on their tests, which they might be more likely to do now that they have noticed what they consider might have been a trick- then their tests will be flagged as if there was some cheating going on in their tests.

Yes, there is a lot of science involved in test taking and test grading.  Yes, I’m sure it works very well for the most part.  But there are also some problems!  And schools hire companies to test their systems and their states hire testing facilities and tests.  All of these systems are products.  They all have a cost.

My concern is that we are blaming teachers and administrators for doing something that they haven’t been shown to have done.  Again, remember that there is just a question of cheating- no one has been accused of it.  The only thing that will happen is schools that have been accused of cheating will have a “forensic audit”. 

I don’t imagine that means they’ll test the students again.  What will  happen is they’ll test their machines. And they’ll re-grade the tests.  But none of this addresses problems with the answers on the test.  Oh, that is probabaly because we’ve already agreed that the test is perfect- but that is another silly assumption.  How can a test be perfect for students from diverse communities?  How can a test be perfect for Latino students and Black students and Caucasian students and Asian students from different communities? 

If a child is familar with the phraseology of a question or with the language- will they not have more time to respond and then go over and make changes to their booklets?

For a child who is struggling with the language and who might feel confused by certain questions- will they have time to check and recheck answers?

When you really think about it what we have here is a problem with our system as a whole.  We created a test to make it easy to test large groups.  *( that is sort of cheating)  We then say we aren’t going to leave the grading to teachers, we’ll use a machine ( that is also sort of cheating).  Then we say our machines are pretty accurate.  But they are machines- so we can’t ask them to understand why students make certain choices, all we can do is calculate how all the other students have answered those questions ( that is sort of cheating).

We are in this problem of education because the numbers have gotten away from us.  And they have gotten away from us because we have mistakenly assumed that we are all the same and therefore we can use a one size fits all system.

Guess what?  We are the same and more importantly we are NOT!

Our tests have been created to prove that each child has assimilated the material they’ve been presented with.  If the child doesn’t  answer the test  accurately then we fault the teachers or the administrators.  ( This is silly.  It’s cheating our kids.)

It’s the easy way to handle the problem of educating students.  Let’s not see if kids really know what we are demanding they should know.  Let’s just test them on what we think they should have absorbed. 

Folks?  That is cheating too!

We have a problem alright but it isn’t going to go away if we fire some “bad teachers or administrators”.  That is a bandaid on a much  larger problem.

Just remember…I told you!



Take NY’s Regent Exams- I Dare You!

I need a life!  I’m the first to admit  that because I have the time to take exams that I don’t have to take.  I’m not in school.  I don’t have to graduate High School in New York!

But I did take practice exams and they are really hard!  There is no way for a young person to know all the material that is required unless they are walking sponges which is probably why they only have to get 55 percent right to pass.  But isn’t that odd?  Why create a test that is so complicated?

Tests like these make some people see red.  They wonder why children are being denied a standard general education that teaches them to think on their own instead of being force fed information that is part of the test.  You’ve heard the worries from the people who hate the idea of “teaching to the test”  haven’t you?

The problem is that individual schools don’t have the room to teach what they want because there are lots of these tests out there.  It would be foolhardy for a school to decide on their own what they thought their future graduates needed to know.  And so we have a big problem!

When we complain about our local schools not being as good as surrounding districts we are doing a great disservice to our local school leaders.  We don’t know what they are being asked to do!  We just expect that because they have a degree in education that therefore they must know how to teach children what they need to know to succeed.

It would be a lot easier if we knew what our kids needed to know in order to succeed first!  One of the differences in schools as I’ve mentioned before is that some communities have parents with higher educations.  it isn’t that those parents are all geniuses, instead they have a sense of what kids need to know.  If they think their child isn’t doing as well as they should be in math then they will complain at their child’s school, or they’ll hire a tutor.  In families where no one has made it through to Algebra II or Calculus in their own educations  it is a lot harder to see when a child isn’t succeeding. 

If you don’t speak English then you can’t know that your child is failing in it.  And just based on numbers if a kid does poorly the first 2 marking periods then they’d have to be finishing out the year with straight A’s just to pull their grade up enough to pass!

But if teachers lower their marks for student success  then we say they are “dumbing down” students.  It’s like they can’t win!  

Do me a favor- go take a Regent’s exam.  Find a practice test.  Try to perform at least as well as a young kid.  When you fail, which you probably will especially since there is a succession of 5 tests and what is the likelihood you’ll do well in all 5?   I suggest you take the next test and then the next and then the next.

Now let’s talk about improving education!





I Say We Don’t Need a Breast Feeding Baby Doll

A Spanish toy company has introduced a doll that cries when it’s hungry and then is fed when a child puts on an apron type bit of fabric with 2 flowers pasted on the front.  And they  are surprised that American’s are shocked by this kind of doll.

Some people are saying it’s healthy to help children feel that breasts aren’t just sexual objects and instead show children that they are natural and useful and beneficial to baby humans.  Afterall breast feeding is the best way to nourish a growing human infant right?

My thinking is that as a breast feeding mom, I didn’t have to attach an apron to myself in order to nurse my child.  I had no training in nursing a child and yet, my babies knew what to do and my body knew what to do.   There were nurses in the hospital that offered advice but mostly that was directed towards making baby and mother comfortable during feedings unless a mother or a baby had particular difficulty.

My children started rooting as soon as they were hungry and placed at chest height.  And “mothering breasts” fill up and start leaking as soon as baby cries!

You aren’t going to show a child that in getting them a hundred dollar plastic infant that makes suckling noises.

For mothers that have already breast fed- what can I say?  I don’t think this will help train future mothers.  For mothers who have never breast fed- I ask you , would wearing a breast feeding apron as a 5 or 6 year old have changed your opinion?  And for women who haven’t yet experienced the joys of swelling up and nursing – well, it’s something you absolutely have to go through on your own.  You’ll learn a lot about what your body does without much control on your part.  You’ll see how intimately connected your body is to your childs.  You’ll see what natural rock hard breasts feel like.  And you’ll see that unlike other milked animals human breasts express fluid around the nipple.  It doesn’t come out in a single stream which is why babies have to “latch on” properly in order to feed well.

A plastic doll isn’t going to help young children learn about breast feeding.  It’s a gimmick.  If someone wants to buy their child a doll that breast feeds when you attach it to a flower the child wears then go for it..but it’s a far cry from the real thing and it’s pretty foolish to imagine that a toy is going to change how our society views breast feeding.

I don’t even want to see a toy breast pump for little working Mom’s.




A Little Southern Humor Ricky Mokel Style

I got to see Ricky Mokel a few years back and I found him enchanting.  I think I enjoy listening to him because I find myself going along with him,  following his train of thought and then screeech!   He introduces  a jarring right or left turn of an idea that makes me think I’m in a mental funhouse!   If you have a few minutes then sit back and enjoy a little of his show down at the Alabama Theater in South Carolina right off Rte 17.  Find out why it’s so irritating to live in mountainous North Carolina!