HRWA's green building gets first "NC Gold" certification in Baltimore City from LEED

It's the Herring Run Watershed Center on Belair Road in northeast Baltimore. LEED's NC rating covers Newly Constructed buildings and extensively renovated old ones. Gold is the second highest certification level based on a 110 point system.

Here's a list of the green features in the building. It was designed by Ziger/Snead and built by Baltimore Green Construction.

Nice job, guys.


Will members rise up against AARP over its health care stand?

Mark Tapscott predicts in the Washington Examiner:
There will be hell to pay for AARP with its members when this ugly reality becomes crystal clear, as it most certainly will.
UPDATE: From the looks this video, Mark might be on to something.


Service-learning opportunity for students in Baltimore County Public Schools

Yesterday I wrote about Arin Gencer's article in the Sun on service-learning.

The article has a sidebar which includes this bit:
Examples of projects tied to service-learning

• Writing a letter to a delegate or senator regarding a particular issue or piece of legislation, or advocating a community need
Which gave me an idea:

Students in Baltimore County could lobby the Maryland General Assembly to repeal the 75-hour service-learning graduation requirement. And get service-learning credits for it!

Sounds like fun to me, and for a worthy cause. Win-win!

p.s. I'm serious about this. If any high school students in the BaltoNorth area* would like to get organized and do something along these lines, send me an email. I'd be happy to help out with ideas, publicity, or introductions to some legislators in Annapolis.

*The BaltoNorth areas corresponds roughly to the districts for Dulaney High School, Loch Raven High School and Towson High School. And perhaps Pikesville High School too.


Sun article on "service learning" program in Maryland schools

Arin Gencer interviewed me for it.

Kathleen Kennedy Towsend and some school administrators defend the program in the article. I found their comments unconvincing and bland.

I'm glad Arin wrote the piece, but I was hoping that the article would dig deeper into the issues, and I was hoping that she would challenge KKT a bit more aggressively.

My original post on the topic of service learning is titled Oxymoron Squared! Mandatory volunteerism now optional in Baltimore County Public Schools. And here's my followup to it.

For more of my posts on schools, go here.

UPDATE: The Sun's dead tree headline was relatively lively and interesting: "Service-learning in classroom stirs debate". But for some reason they toned it down online to the boring: "Reflecting on service learning".


Curveballs: have the dangers to young arms been exaggerated?

Mark Hyman reports in the NY Times on two new studies:
[They] evaluated more closely than before the effects of curves on young arms [. . . and . . . ] compared the forces across the elbows of pitchers as they fired fastballs and curves. [. . .] Each study concluded that curves are less stressful than fastballs and, based on the data collected, contributed little, if at all, to throwing injuries in youth players.
I don't buy it, partly because of this bit from later in the article:
[Dr. James] Andrews cited several limitations of the study. The fact that it was conducted entirely in a lab also needed to be considered, he said. Under game conditions when youth pitchers are fatigued, Andrews suggested, curves could be dangerous.

“I just operated on one kid this morning,” he said. “At age 12, he tore his ulnar collateral ligament in two. His travel ball coach called 30-something curveballs in a row. He became fatigued. Then he threw one that snapped his elbow.”
Mark wrote an excellent article but the headline (written by a someone else presumably) was simplistic and misleading:
Studies Show That the Curveball Isn't Too Stressful for Young Arms


Don't wait for top-down ObamaCare ... let's start fixing our healthcare system now, from the bottom up

Since much of the center-right libertarian punditocracy seems to think that (1) Obama's honeymoon is over and (2) ObamaCare is sinking*, I decided now would be a good time to start my own tiny local campaign to point out the micro problems with our healthcare system as I (and my extended family) come across them in the real, outside-the-Beltway world.

For the next week or so--maybe longer--I'll be posting about recent experiences some of my family members have had with Lyme disease and colonoscopy screening.

Now there are two sexy topics!

*see Charles Krauthammer, Peggy Noonan, and John Stossel. [Hat tip to Instapundit for many of the links.]

UPDATE: Another centrist weighs in . . . Mickey Kaus.


Funny & frightening

After hearing Ron Smith mention it many times, I finally got hold of Nassim Nicholas Taleb's book The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (the CD/audio version).

Although the book is pessimistic in many ways, it's written with humor and elegance. Taleb is blunt, but thoughtful and thorough too. He's original in his thinking and also in his writing style. He demonstrates a broad, deep and interconnected understanding of many subjects--from statistics and finance to literature and philosophy. He tells entertaining stories about dry topics. And he bridges the gap between academics and practitioners, apparently without breaking a sweat.


And David Chandler did a terrific job reading it.

Highly recommended. Amazon reviews here.

Thank you Ron.


Senators Ben Cardin & Barbara Mikulski vote for the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act (S.909)

Worse yet, they sponsored it.

Although I belong to one of the protected groups often victimized in "hate crimes", I see no benefits to hate crime laws. But there are costs:
[S. 909 will] award grants to assist [state & local] agencies with the extraordinary expenses associated with the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes.
It's difficult--and probably expensive--to figure out what people were thinking when they committed a crime. So I'm guessing that prosecution of nearly every hate crime case costs significantly more to prosecute than an equivalent "non-hate" case.

Here's video of Eric Holder dancing around legitimate questions about the bill. He seems unable to cite specific cases or statistics in support of the bill. Probably because there aren't any.

My prediction: any law based on S. 909 will cost plenty but do nothing to reduce the frequency of hate crimes.

UPDATE: A definition:

S. 909] adopts the definition of "hate crime" as set forth in the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (i.e., a crime in which the defendant intentionally selects a victim . . . because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person).


Tour de France

I enjoy watching the Tour. Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen and Bob Roll are terrific announcers.

But I miss the pronunciations from a few years back. For some reason Phil stopped saying "LEAK-y gas" has become LEE-quee gas (for Liquigas). And Bob seems to have dropped his trademark "Tour DAY France". Now it's just the standard "Tour de FRONCE" for him.

Barbara Boxer injected race into "green jobs" testimony . . .

. . . and Harry Alford didn't like it:

For a more substantive, temperate analysis of green jobs, go to the folks at PERC.

Alford is CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. He was interviewed later by Andrew Breitbart.

Gibby's Seafood

Taken a day or two ago on York Road in Timonium:


On-the-job "social networking" for research scientists

This kind of thing could have a big impact on scientific productivity and even help make science cool again.

It also includes a new concept: object-oriented research. Wow!
We are introducing new approaches to make research more reproducible, reusable and reliable,’ Professor De Roure said. ‘Research Objects are self-contained pieces of reproducible research which we will share in the future like papers are shared today.’
Unless you're familiar with the concept of "objects" through software or architecture, the concept can be tough to grasp. But it is very powerful.

You can play around with MyExperiment here.

Via Glenn


National K-12 curriculum?

From Liz Bowie, writing in the Inside Ed blog at the Baltimore Sun:

... for years, every state developed its own curriculum, standards and tests. That process will likely change soon. For a good story on the subject, go to Education Week.
This year, Maryland and 45 other states decided to jointly develop a common group of standards for what should be taught in kindergarten through high school.
[a list of who] will be writing and reviewing the new national or "common core" standards for math and language arts [...] here.

Two good groups

F.I.R.E. and the Sunlight Foundation

York Road & Joppa in Towson

Looking east through Towson Circle from the farmers market today. [Click photo to see larger panorama.]


"Sustain-a-Biz" legislative scorecard for MD District 42

Most legislative scorecards are crude, narrow and unhelpful.

So as a service to voters in District 42 I've created a quick-and-dirty scorecard for those who want to balance environmental protection and economic prosperity. It's a simple average of the ratings given out by the Maryland League of Conservation Voters and Maryland Business for Responsive Government. The resulting hybrid is still crude but it is broader and, I think, more useful.

Dels. Sue Aumann & Bill Frank get the top marks this year while Sen. Jim Brochin and Del. Steve Lafferty bring up the rear:


Del. Sue Aumann ... ]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]] 72%
Del. Bill Frank ........ ]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]] 67%
Sen. Jim Brochin ... ]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]] 64%
Del. Steve Lafferty. ]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]] 60%

In most cases I give a black mark to politicians who get 100% ratings from single issue groups like Md LCV and MBRG. Both Brochin and Lafferty got 100% scores from LCV this year.

UPDATE: A critique of the Maryland LCV scorecard that I wrote five years ago.


"Everybody hates the teachers' unions now"

Mickey Kaus writes about a new new report on education reform. He suggests that the report
implicitly serves as an argument against trying to reform the schools in cooperation with the unions, and in favor of trying to reform the schools by defeating the unions
The title of the report: National Teachers Unions and the Struggle Over School Reform.

via Joanne Jacobs

"Making gentlemen out of savages"

In his superb book Managing the Non-Profit Organization*, Peter Drucker talks about the Do's and Don'ts of writing mission statements.
One of our most common mistakes is to make the mission statement into a kind of hero sandwich of good intentions. It has to be simple and clear. As you add new tasks, you de-emphasize and get rid of old ones. You can only do so many things. Look at what we are trying to do in our colleges. The mission statement is confused - we are trying to do fifty different things. It won't work, and that's why the fundamentalist colleges attract so many young people. Their mission is very narrow. You and I may quarrel with it and say it's too narrow, but it's clear.
One example Drucker seemed to like:
Arnold of Rugby, the greatest English educator of the nineteenth century, who
created the English public school, defined its mission as making gentlemen out of savages.
Compare this to the BCPS mission statement, which is too long for my taste and comes too close to the problematic "hero sandwich":
... provide a quality education that develops the content[,] knowledge, skills, and attitudes that will enable all students to reach their maximum potential as responsible, life-long learners and productive citizens.
For good measure, here's the "vision" statement that BCPS came up with:
Baltimore County Public Schools’ graduates will have the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to reach their potential as responsible, productive citizens in a global economy and multicultural society.

*If you can find it, listen to the audio version. His rumbly Viennese accent is soothing and inspiring, and his personality shines through.


Webtools for online polls and project management

A polling tool and an online project management tool for websites via WebWorkerDaily

Time Magazine officially dead

My parents used to subscribe to Time. I recently scanned a few issues. It has gotten badder than bad.

Exhibit I is Joel Stein's recent exercise in self-reference titled Give Hockey (And Me) One More Shot. It includes this delusional statement:
TIME is one of the last places that tries to satisfy the intellectually curious.

Exhibit II is a piece by Josh Tyrangiel, who writes about his attempt to bankrupt the New York Yankees by overeating at a luxury box buffet. Tyrangiel is Stein's boss (a factoid that I picked up from Stein's navel-gazing effort).

The setup from How to Beat the Yankees with Your Stomach:

I was gifted a $325 ticket to the new Yankee Stadium to see Satan's pinstriped nine play my beloved Baltimore Orioles. It turns out that $325 buys not just an excellent seat but access to the all-you-can-eat buffet in the superswanky Legends Suite.
The plan:

[It] was simple: eat enough so that at the end of the season, the accountants would say ... We lost so much on concessions that night that we can no longer afford to steal a small-market team's best starting pitcher."

I fasted all day [in preparation]...

Tyrangiel serves up standard MSM snark delivered from on high and down low -- with a grating tone that mixes the sensibilities of middle school and the Ivy League. And he bites the hands that feed him:

Sure enough, upon entering the Legends Suite with my ludicrously expensive [free] ticket ... After a survey of the rest of the buffet ... I began to wonder where my seat was.

It goes on:

Turns out you can't really see the game from the buffet area, and it dawned on me that I had been in a room like this before — at Foxwoods Resort Casino. During a brief foray into high-stakes gambling, a friend and I got comped and dove into a mountain of shrimp and lobster tails before stepping out into the casino jacked up on seafood and self-loathing. Well, the Legends Suite is just like that. So many bankers and so much excess that I felt kind of gross for enjoying myself so much.

Hunter Thompson sans personality, insight, talent and style.

More self-reference and cynical snark-as-humor, plus gluttony:

When I arrived at my seat — after grabbing a movie-theater-size bag of peanut M&Ms ($5) to tide me over for the walk — I could admit to being impressed. Third row behind the Yankee dugout. So close I could see the spot where Alex Rodriguez injects his steroids. The great thing? That statement's not even slanderous.

The article dribbles off into nothingness:
I forget who was winning.


R.I.P. Time Magazine.

The art of apology

Tom Peters interviews John Kador on how to make and effective apology. According to Kador, executives who apologize are more success than those who don't. And they make more money.

The five elements of an apology:
  1. Recognition
  2. Responsibility
  3. Remorse
  4. Restitution
  5. Repetition
I made one a few weeks ago. In retrospect, I only covered the first three. Next time I'll try for all five.

[Webtool note: Peters links to the book using a site called LinkBaton.]


First things first

Now that I'm looking into the BCPS curriculum, I thought I'd take a look at the definition of curriculum:
The set of courses, coursework, and their content, offered at a school or university.
The schools my kids go to (or have gone to) in Baltimore County don't seem to publish even a basic list of course titles on their websites. Nor does the central BCPS website have a list.


"All experience hath shewn" ... insights on parents & schools in the Declaration of Independence

I read the Declaration of Independence yesterday on the 4th of July.

The public school system came to mind when I read this part from from the second paragraph:
all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
Most parents don't bother trying to change or improve the public school system. They just try to game it as best they can while their kids are enrolled.


If a president wants to create jobs, the essential first step is to create a predictable regulatory environment

According to Jerry Bowyer, business people think Obama is failing at this. Or at least they are behaving that way:

America isn't hiring precisely because of government policy. Small business owners, who are usually the first into and the first out of the job pool, are standing by the fence and watching. They are paralyzed by regulatory uncertainty. If they hire someone who ends up doing poorly, will they be able to fire that person? Will they have to pay their health care bills after they've been terminated? If so, for how long? ...

Jobs aren't languishing despite the government's best efforts. They're languishing because of them.

via Glenn

Black & Decker hiding green benefits of cordless mower under a bushel basket?

It costs only about a nickel to charge B&D's cordless electric mower (model CMM1200 ) from a fully depleted state. Here's the math: 0.38 KWH (see reading above on a Kill-A-Watt energy meter) x $0.14 cents/KWH = 5.3 cents.

I wonder why B&D doesn't compare the CMM1200 to a two-stroke gas mower and brag about the difference in cost of fuel and carbon emissions.

And here's another green thing you can do with it.