The Paper Chase.

It can be pretty @#$%ing tough to find the leadership of the Edu-Mountain.

For three days, my co-teacher was attempting to get a hold of the King of the Edu-Mountain, since she needed his principal level signature on paperwork. That paperwork is actually completely vital to her credentialing process…failure to complete it would have meant an inability for her to continue as a teacher.

So…pretty important.

On Day One, she made very reasonable attempts to find him, seeking him out during her conference time, or when he was supposed to be on supervision. These were both complete “fail column.”

Day two involved an attempt to find him in his office as “field trips” from our class, in session, while I held down the fort, as it were. Not only did she never find him outside of “important meetings,” but after lunch, he left campus to go to off campus “important meetings.” I assured her that I had a solution.

That solution was the height of simplicity. On Wednesday, he was actually scheduled to come to our classroom, with an entourage of guests, Vice Principals, and Junior Management from the district. It seemed that it would be child’s play to put the documents in his hand quickly, when he HAD to be there.

I could not have been more wrong.

He left the entire entourage in the hands of junior management, and went on to do other mysterious principal level things. I say mysterious, because many basic principal level things have been falling through the cracks, or happening late, like the approval of payroll hours, teacher evaluations, or the application for a magnet school on our site. Those are both important, and if they aren’t getting done, I can’t be sure what exactly is.

Ultimately, my persistent partner in education found him, and got the documents signed. First thing in the morning, when he came in to sign in, she was standing at the sign in sheets. She clearly applied her cat like stealth and abilities in that. A very clever move that one…even principals need approved hours. It got done, and that’s what is important.

This has been a thing on campus that students and staff are noticing. The students are quick to compare him to our oft unliked prior principal, who was constantly visible on campus, and very “hands on” about day to day activities. You would think that his more approachable demeanor would make the students big fans, but many of them feel like certain important things aren’t happening. I’m often finding myself giving the advice of, “he’s new, give him a chance to settle into it.”

Being as direct as I usually am in the commentary her, I have to say this: he has never made it to my classroom. He’s often expressed an interest, and said he’d come by to see something, even programmed it into his Google Calendar in front of me. Never happened though. I’ve been pretty close to the vest about it at school, but on that subject, I feel a whole lot like the students. That the friendliness is just something that gets said, and the walk all the way across campus to my Edu-Dungeon from the office is just too long.



As always, pretty much non fiction…

It has been a rough week for technology at the Fortress of Togetherness.

On Saturday, my beloved car needed to go in for a trip to the kind people at Culver Automotive Center for MAJOR smog related repairs. It will be about a week, and I stopped in today to see the profound level of repair an effort that they were putting in. As I was typing this post, I got a text with photos of their further efforts, which were, simply put, amazing. I may figure out how to get them out of my phone, and do a post just about that stuff, it’s so @#$%ing cool.

Last night, however, I turned on the computer that for the past several years I have used to do Tales of Adequacy.

No go.

It is why we missed a day, and why the post today is about failing astromech units, and replacing them with similar astromech units. Given that everything happened downstairs in the Fortress, a whole crowd of ponies, not just Applejack, looked on in frustration. The computer turned on, as I stated…except that it didn’t DO anything. It just sat there, boot sector unfound, unable to do the business of computing. The thing that it was created for was computing, so that was a problem.

I actually had a very similar computer on hand, as a result of the two being the product of a single grant. That computer has not been updated for YEARS, so as a result, is unable to do the one thing that I currently want it to do…which is access the authoring side of Tales of Adequacy.

Thankfully, I realized that I had yet another, more ancient but less convenient computer that WOULD access Adequacy’s administrative side. As a result, we have this post, but also, today’s artwork. I will have to sit down with the second laptop, and make it the functional equivalent of the first, now malfunctional machine. Ideally, I’ll treat the hard drive as a big USB drive, and port all of the old data over to the new machine.

Right now, I’m a little busy for that, so Cap is ahead of me on that.

The good news is that the brief interruption of service to Adequacy is over, while I figure out the more convenient technological issues.

Tolarian Study Hall.

After School Training Day at the Edu-Mountain…!

Today will be the second segment of the “Mastery Learning” training at my school site. The last training focused more than I would like on the idea that grades didn’t matter, except for the fact that student grades were the entire thrust of the hour and a half long presentation. Which is it, right?

The trouble with a training like this is the “trickle down” theory of knowledge. I went to the trouble of reading actual primary sources of the content being taught, before the training sessions. As a result, I was a ble to have real access to the creator’s insights, as well as the decades of studies that have been done, as well as the implementations. I was able to contact real experts, and ask them the various questions that I had, because I was asking people that were involved in the research related to the topic of Mastery Learning, or doing interesting studies related to it.

The thing is…staff trainings in LAUSD are not done by true experts. They are done by people who have gone to a training, and successfully put together their notes into a Power Point presentation, and a set of hand outs with related activities. They aren’t terribly knowledgeable about the content, and haven’t really gone out of their way to do much more than sit in a training like the one that they are giving. As a result…since they are starting from a small knowledge base, they can’t really convey any more knowledge than they have…in fact, they almost have to convey less. That’s the “trickle down” effect, and it has a whole lot to do with why solid ideas in education wind up looking nothing like the actual theory when implemented.

I’ll be sitting though that kind of thing today. Last time, the Principal came to sit at my table, which kind of bugged me. At least there was no crying.

It bugged me because…well, he’s not a bad guy. He’s just the kind of guy that sits in a training like this, participates as much as is necessary, and then feels like somehow a “silver bullet” of teaching has been discovered. That is, until the next training, which might have a different cure all, does everything “silver bullet.” He’s just not all that evaluative about what’s going on around him, and that lack or organization and evaluation are eventually going to impact ME.

At this, point, right now, it isn’t.

For reasons that I don’t fully remember, my co-teacher can’t actually be in this training on the same day as I am, which is inconvenient. If she were present, I’m sure that I would feel like there were “take away” elements that I wanted to try, because she is terrifyingly enthusiastic. She isn’t, though, so it is pretty much time that I don’t enjoy spending, and profit very little from. Even given that separation, she appears again in today’s art, with some kind of big ol’ armored glove that I guess she got recently. Don’t try to look back and figure it out, this is its first appearance.

I just felt like drawing it.

The general look and feel were inspired by Anime Club, and a manga I have been reading called “Hollow Fields.” The premise of “Hollow Fields” is simple…the protagonist, Lucy, accidentally enrolls in a school for evil geniuses. The worst student of any week gets detention, and no one comes back from detention. Ever. She’s not prepared for the classes, making it a comedy of errors with a sort of steampunk fantasy setting. Her classes are things like “Elementary Grave Robbing,” “Killbot Engineering,” and “Cross Species Transplantation.” It’s charming and macabre at the same time, and the classes are pretty much as futile as my training today.

The title, of course, is derived from a banned Magic: The Gathering card, “Tolarian Academy.”

The Janus Coin.

Even Cap looks mildly concerned here…

I’ve avoided talking about a case in the Supreme Court of the United States for some time now. The reality is that next week oral arguments are going to be heard, and it is a HUGE deal for California educators. In fact, it affects pretty much all public sector unions.

The case is Janus vs. AFSCME, and has a huge amount in common with the more directly Teacher related Friedrichs vs. CTA. Today’s art is a reference to the current case’s name…Janus, which is also the name of the Two-Faced Roman God of Betrayal and Duality. That’s why we have the huge Two-Face coin from Batman in the background, see? Heck, Two-Face was even a Lawyer, so there’s that connection.

Again…next week, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 31 case, which addresses a crucial (though convoluted) question for organized labor: Should public-sector workers who are not union members, but nonetheless covered by union-negotiated collective bargaining agreements be required to pay some form of union dues or fees?

For that matter…can I be compelled to pay Union dues at all to be a public sector employee, like a teacher? Especially if the payment of those dues might in effect circumvent my right to Free Speech? I’ll explain…

Mark Janus, the lead plaintiff in the case (not Harvey Two-Face), is a child support specialist for the state of Illinois, where a state law mandates that workers who are not union members but who are covered by union-negotiated collective bargaining agreements must “pay their proportionate share of the costs of the collective bargaining process, contract administration and pursuing matters affecting wages, hours and other conditions of employment.” (About half of the United States has similar laws on the books.) The same rule applies in California…through a convoluted process, I could actually NOT be a member of the Teacher’s Union, but they would STILL lift dues out of my check on a monthly basis.

In 2015, Janus sued his union (the AFSCME), saying that he disagreed with many of the union’s positions and alleging that the mandatory fees violate his First Amendment constitutional rights. In effect, they were using HIS dues money to support political campaigns, or politicians, that he DID NOT support, effectively negating his political voice. Here’s how Janus put it in a 2016 op-ed for the Chicago Tribune:

“The union voice is not my voice. The union’s fight is not my fight. But a piece of my paycheck every week still goes to the union. I am not anti-union. Unions have their place. And some people like them. But unions aren’t a fit for everyone. And I shouldn’t be forced to pay money to a union if I don’t think it does a good job representing my interests.”

Pretty reasonable viewpoint, actually.

As I mentioned before, the case is essentially a rerun of one the Supreme Court heard back in 2016, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. As with the Friedrichs case, Janus asks the Supreme Court to overturn a 1977 ruling, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which established the current precedent on mandatory union fees. The Abood ruling concluded that requiring workers like Janus to contribute to a union’s political activities was an unconstitutional violation of the worker’s First Amendment rights, but that requiring workers to contribute so-called “agency fees” toward the costs unions incur while conducting collective bargaining was constitutionally kosher. I’m not exactly sure how that plays out legally, but I’m not a lawyer. It’s the ruling that has stood for decades, that’s the important part.

Back in 2016, legal analysts expected the court to rule in favor of the plaintiffs, but the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia resulted in a deadlocked court. This deadlock left the mandatory fees in place, and started a race to get a similar case into the Supreme Court…hence the Janus case being heard now. Scalia’s replacement, Justice Neil Gorsuch, is widely expected to rule in favor of the plaintiffs and eliminate agency fees.

The ripple effects of such a ruling are hotly debated. Union advocates have argued that a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs would effectively gut public-sector unions. They are right, if they are deaf to the needs of their constituent members, and try to conduct business as usual. The union concern is that a free rider problem will arise: Workers, who would be able to enjoy many of the benefits of membership (higher wages achieved via collective bargaining, etc.) without those pesky dues and fees, may opt to drop their membership to save a little cash. There’s little doubt that the elimination of agency fees would deprive unions of a significant source of revenue, many unions across the nation have been bracing for just that eventuality.

It is entirely possible that striking down agency fees might actually encourage public unions to become a social movement again, as they were in the late 1960s and early 1970s before such fees existed. For instance, the teachers’ unions would have to sincerely listen to the concerns of its most junior members, who make up their largest number of dues payers. Their concerns about representation would suddenly come into the foreground, and become central policy issues…as opposed to now, where they are largely ignored as transient members of the community (due to high teacher turnover).

If that happens, the teachers unions at least would cease to be a self serving, self absorbed entity deaf to the needs of the majority of its constituents. Considering that roughly ten percent of members vote in union elections (in UTLA), it is safe to say that a significant number of dues payers feel like they aren’t being heard, and already don’t participate. This lack of participation could easily turn into a lack of payment, unless the local unions, and state teachers’ unions, can shift gears to actually address the concerns of their gross membership, not simply the union die hards.

It’s hard to tell how this will affect the working environment of teaching, and hence, why Cap looks concerned. I disagree with UTLA on most things, and have often had them act at cross purposes to my beliefs as a teacher. I’d opt out of paying dues almost immediately…but like Janus, I don’t think that the union is an inherently bad thing. I do think that the existing teachers’ unions in California need to be more in touch with the real concerns and needs of their constituents, but I have said that a couple of times already.

Anyway…this is a Big Deal, and that’s my summary.

I did a version of the art for today with an background patterns, but didn’t like it as much as the foreground sketch alone. For completeness, I’m going to post the background version below.

The version with sort of a cave like stone background.

Honestly, Two-Face is one of the most interesting characters in Batman’s rogue’s gallery. He also has a tendency to go after the younger partner (he actually referred to Robin as “the boy hostage”) so Cap’s partner should be on her toes. Oddly, not unlike with the Supreme Court case and her union representation.

Bitchin’ Camaro.

Those Transformers look pissed that she stole Matt Trakker’s Camaro.

On Friday I got my California car registration paperwork in the mail. When you drive a 33 year old car, that is always an adventure of sorts. I needed to bring my car in for some minor services, so I figured I’d just get the smog check out of the way. This time, I was excellent in most categories except the Nitrous Oxide Emissions…which need to be addressed. I left the car with the excellent folks at Culver Automotive, who always make things right, so it’s not that big a deal, but I am a bit depressed.

Driving a classic car, especially in California, is pretty much a lifestyle choice. You have to plan around it, you have certain expenses that other people don’t, and concerns that others don’t. In 2015, a bill was proposed (AB 550) that would have relaxed restrictions on classic and historical vehicles, but California legislature never heard it before leaving session. I’m imagining that this will take a bit to diagnose and repair, so in the meantime I am driving this big ol’ loaner car from the shop (which is a very kind thing that they do), a Pontiac Grand Prix.

It’s not Matt Trakker’s Bitchin’ Camaro, for sure. It gets the job done though, while my car is basically at the spa.

That’s why today’s post is up, why I drew it. All of the cars in it are from the fifties, seventies, or eighties, so they would all have a @#$% of a time passing smog her in California. The Bitchin’ Camaro represents the loaner, even though Cap is clearly stealing it, to Applejack’s concern. I was thinking of the Autobot Hound on the left of the frame (he’s an old school Jeep), and one of my father’s old car’s on the right hand side. I’m assuming that they both are janky @#$ Transformers, who seem pissed as @#$% about Cap taking the old MASK Thunderhawk until her own transportation is out of the shop.

Cap seems a bit stressed, which is on purpose. The Grand Prix is like a Mad Max car, both in appearance and drivability…it’s kind of fun, but it’s a kind of WORK. You’re always investigating sounds, tapping gauges to get an accurate read, and wondering if the power steering will be live for that turn. With all that said…it is a comfortable and reliable loaner, that has never given me any trouble.

The real stress is from the smog repairs. Culver Automotive always does a fairly priced job, but smog is expensive. I’m expecting at least to be replacing the EGR Valve (which is directly related to NO Emissions) and possibly the Oxygen Sensor. On a Mercedes, those aren’t cheap.

Again…it’s a lifestyle choice.

In reality, given the complex problems that people can have, and some of the problems in the world right now, I will take these problems as a matter of course. They are totally solvable…any car can be made to pass smog with enough tech and cash thrown into it. Other problems, sadly, are not as easy as replacing an EGR Valve.

If you are looking for a reliable, friendly, and trustworthy mechanic in Los Angeles, check out the good people at Culver Automotive, by the Helms Bakery building on Washington Boulevard.

Black Panther Is Here!

The King Of Wakanda and his Warriors, in the style of Jack Kirby.

I remember liking the Black Panther a whole lot when I was young. His book was awesome, picked up off the rack at the grocery store, and drawn by Jack Kirby. It was dynamic, full of science fiction and exotic locations, and like most things that Kirby did, filled with momentum. The Panther was smart like Iron Man, having designed the Avengers plane, strong enough to take on the WHOLE Fantastic Four in his first appearance, and King of his own, remote, scientifically advanced nation.

The Black Panther was awesome.

The series that came about much later, by Christopher Priest was equally fun, and very much calibrated to my older self. It had complex issues of race, politics, and economics, bound withing the same kind of awesome, momentum driven storytelling. It was witty, and possibly one of the smartest comics of its time. Clearly the smartest thing that Marvel was doing at the time.

Now…Black Panther is coming to the Big Screen, using those stories, from those time periods, as serious sources of content. I am beyond excited.

That’s all that today’s post is about. My love for the Black Panther as a comic, and my excitement that soon, I’ll see T’Challa on screen, in his own film. Not as a supporting character or a cameo, but a Black Panther film. I have no idea what I’m going to get, but the trailers have shown all of the things that are part of a good Black Panther story. That’s really all I want…to see those things realized in motion, by real people. The Black Panther realized in reality, at least insofar as films seem more real than comics.

I never go to Opening Weekends…but I’ll be sitting down to see my childhood heroes pretty soon.

Excelsior, True Believers!

We Weren’t Meant To Ride With Clouds Beneath Our Knees…

Lana knows that Cap isn’t too great at flying.

Today is Valentine’s Day at the Edu-Mountain.

High School Valentines Day is a pretty complicated thing. The school is attempting to put “rules” in place for the day, restricting the exchange of gifts, shows of affection, and so forth. That’s ultimately in order to keep the students that don’t get any gifts or tokens of affection from feeling somehow left out, or worth less than the others. Considering that from day to day, the school can’t seem to enforce pretty obvious and straightforward rules about hats and footwear, I’m not thinking the effort to curb those items at the door is going to be all that effective.

Drawing today’s art, I thought back to Valentine’s Day when I was in my teens. I think that teenagers now have a very different life experience than I did, and I don’t envy them for it. Things that could just be left at school, or kind of ignored, can’t be these days. My students are constantly connecting and reconnecting to Social Media, recording and relaying every single event in their lives. If you are left out of Valentine’s Day, it’s way harder to ignore it than it was years ago.

I tend to think about the past a whole lot, and I definitely did while drawing the art today. I was trying to remember Valentine’s Day in my High School experience, and just couldn’t, really. I’m sure it seemed socially important at the time, and I’m sure it had school activities attached, but I couldn’t bring to mind any specific memory, good or bad. I know that in my last year of high school it would have been a Big Thing, because I was in a Serious Relationship. Even that undoubtedly good evening or day or whatever…just kind of lost in the shuffle of more important memories.

After all, the Internet couldn’t record it forever, either way it went.

I like that Cap can give her ex, Lana Lang, a lift into the sky this Valentine’s Day. It would be impossible for me to say even a nice hello to my High School ex…they aren’t with us anymore. I used to draw in High School, often for the school newspaper…sometimes I think that it would be nice to share Adequacy, and the growth of my skills, what I’ve done. Not possible, though. Cap gets to fly with Lana, though, which is nice.

Today, some of my students will be showing up to class with balloons, candy arrangements, and stuffed animals. Flowers will be given, and the new tradition of “Prom-posals” will take place. The students with items of affection will be the center of attention, or envy, or whatever, as usual, for the day. Tomorrow…not as much.

The students that don’t get anything…a few do have really epic level bad days. Most of the others though…they go about their business as usual. The Magic players will still play Magic, the soccer players will still congregate in circles to practice ball handling. Things shouldn’t be too different. With that said, I still haven’t fully gotten my brain around High School Valentine’s Day.

The title of today’s post is from Five for Fighting’s “Superman.” It struck me as on point…when we are super young, we think that we can fly as high as we can imagine, and that things last in measurements of forever and infinity. It’s only getting older that limits the ideas of potential, the equations of possibility.