A few random thoughts:
- I saw on the Post-Gazette website today that state police are looking for a 76-year-old guy who was last seen at a casino in Erie. Here's the kicker: The dude is suffering from Alzheimer's and "may be driving a maroon, four-door Nissan." How in the hell does a 76-year-old Alzheimer's patient have access to a set of car keys? Just another piece in the mountain of evidence that points toward the need for mandatory driver's license retesting for those over a certain age. By the way, there's also a perfectly good bill languishing on the state Senate floor that would ban the use of hand-held cell phones for talking or texting while behind the wheel. But do you think our state lawmakers would pass any bill that would anger a significant segment of the population in an election year? Of course not. A great many of them are more interested in getting re-elected than they are in doing what is right for the people of Pennsylvania. How else could you explain the continued existence of the state store system.
- Speaking of which, the union that represents the state store clerks issued one of its hilarious, self-serving news releases the other day. The subject was the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board's rolling out of its new wine-vending machines that will be placed in some grocery stores. Granted, the vending machine idea is stupid. Why not just let the stores sell wine off their shelves? Of, because the PLCB would lose its reason to exist. But the Independent State Store Union really went over the top. The union says the vending machines will "only intensify the effort to eliminate the state store system." Actually, the PLCB is doing this as a way to lessen the move to kill the state store system by showing (falsely) that it is trying to cater to wine buyers across the commonwealth. But here's where it gets really funny. Check out this quote at the end of the union's news release: "Alcohol is not a Red Box DVD - it is the most abused drug in every town, city and state in the USAA." OK. If that's the way you feel about it, why don't you issue a news release calling for elimination of all alcoholic beverage sales in the state? Oh, but that would eliminate all those highly paid clerk positions. Never mind.
- Tom Cruise's latest movie, "Knight and Day," pretty much tanked at the box office over the weekend, and it's pretty certain that it's not going to make enough money to cover the cost of producing and promoting it. Anyone who is not a blithering idiot can tell you that Cruise's career went south when he started jumping on couches and acting like a loon about his freak-show religion. But a spokesman for the movie studio that put out the latest film had the cojones to say that the movie got good reviews and "smart audiences" will make it a success by flocking to it. Bull@#$%. The smart audiences are the ones not sticking their dollar bills into the pockets of that wacky Scientologist.
- Finally, this little item struck a nerve with me on Friday. We got a news release at the newspaper from Intermediate Unit 1 announcing that its Center for Science, Engineering and Mathematics Education has gotten a $192,500 grant to "promote algebra readiness in third through eighth grades." The release goes on to say that dozens of teachers in Washington, Greene and Fayette counties will be able to participate in an "intensive summer math academy and school year follow-up focused on the development of content knowledge, its application to classroom practice and understanding of the role that mathematics plays in real-world careers in those subject areas for students." Gag me with a spoon. This is emblematic of everything that is wrong with our education system. Teachers are going to be taking time away from drilling elementary students on the basic math that they WILL use later in life in order to "promote readiness" for algebra, which I'm pretty sure not many of them will be using after high school. I took algebra in high school. I've never used anything I learned in that class, and I'm certain that I would have benefited more by taking ANY OTHER class that might have been offered. Hell, even metal shop was of more use to me than algebra. And in our modern world, with all of the technological advances, there are very few people who will need to come out of high school with the ability to figure out algebraic equations. For those who are pursuing a field in which that might be useful, there will always be the opportunity to take those courses in high school. But it's an absolute waste of time - and our school tax money - to force algebra, or "algebra readiness," on the student body as a whole.