Category Archives: 1

school bullying in the news in MA

2 sad bullying stories in the news this week in MA:

$35M lawsuit: Lynn failed to protect bullied kid

South Hadley: Prosecutors: 9 teens charged in Phoebe Prince death

To these communities and families and friends of all involved, my heart goes out to you.

ObComment: Many of our schools are broken. Bullying is a symptom of deeper problems. Not just with our schools, but with our communities, families, society. Schools are just a mirror. But still a good place to start!

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Bode Miller on the Olympics

Bode Miller: “The Olympics is definitely, in my mind, a two-sided coin,” he said. “It has all the best things of sport. It has amazing energy, enthusiasm, passion, inspiration. It’s what changes lives. In that sense, it’s the pinnacle of what sports and camaraderie and all that stuff is.

“On the flip side of that is the opposite, and that’s the corruption and the abuse and the money. I’m not pointing fingers, but that’s what was bothering me [in Turin 2006], and being thrust in the middle of that, and being the poster boy for that, when it’s the absolute thing I despise the most in the world was really draining on my inspiration, my level of passion. . . . I just had the plug pulled out on my most important fuel source, and it had been happening for a year, and it was just too much.”


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PHPP / On Passive House (passivhaus) sub-slab insulation

“Alas if the space heating limit is 15 kWh per m2 per year you have only a few options to tweak. One of those is sub slab insulation.
Once you have maximized the cost benefit of wall insulation (which is the most expensive because it increases roof area and fastening costs) and the attic is full to 120 how else do you meet the heating? Well even though sub slab is not that effective it is an available option to meet that unyielding target.”

John Straube,

“… PH software assumes too low of a ground temperature versus what has been measured in cold climate housing with decent sub slab insulation.”

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Little League in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin

An excerpt from This Page at Peter Gray’s Freedom to Learn blog.


Sun Prairie, Wisconsin: managing my little league team at age 9

Between the ages of 7 and 10 I lived in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. I’m told that Sun Prairie is now a rapidly growing suburb of Madison, but when I lived there, in the 1950s, it was a small city with lots of cornfields between it and Madison. The kids in Sun Prairie were involved in many activities that were new to me. For example, I learned from my new friends how to build my own kite and fly it. We used to organize kite-flying contests, with the one rule that the kite had to be built from scratch, not from a kit. Today you’d assume that parents would be involved in helping kids build the kites, but that was not at all true then. We younger kids learned from our slightly older, more experienced friends how to do it, and then we went on to produce our own innovations. We used to get shafts of wood, free, from the local lumberyard to make the frames (sometimes we asked for them, sometimes we didn’t). Some kids built truly remarkable kites, unlike any kites I have seen since.

But even more than kite flying, Sun Prairie was, for boys, a baseball town. Every neighborhood had a vacant lot, and in every vacant lot you would find kids playing baseball—all summer long and on weekends and after school in the fall and spring. Baseball quickly became my passion. Like most of my friends, I was sure I would grow up to become a professional baseball player. We all listened on the radio to the Milwaukee Braves games, and we all collected and traded baseball cards. Kids who couldn’t do long division in school had no trouble calculating batting averages, in those days before calculators.

Most of our baseball was completely informal, in vacant lots with anyone who showed up. But Sun Prairie also had a little league program. I use small letters here for “little league,” because I don’t know if it had any affiliation at all with official Little League, but we called it that. Our little league had nothing like the adult involvement that you see in Little League today. A playground supervisor would get it started each year in the spring, but beyond that it was entirely kid run. Here’s how it worked:

On a certain day in the spring, kids in the proper age range who wanted to be in the league would show up at the main city park. Generally we showed up in groups—groups of friends who were already playing in vacant lots together. Groups would declare themselves to be teams, and individuals who weren’t part of a group would be added onto the teams by the playground supervisor. Each team elected a team captain, who would be the contact person to the supervisor and who would be official manager of the team. Then the playground supervisor worked out a schedule of games, so each team played each other team a certain number of times over the course of the summer. At each game a high-school kid served as umpire. That was it. Generally, no adults even attended the games. If there was an audience at all, it was mostly little kids who hoped to get into the game, as replacements, if one of us got hurt or for some other reason had to leave early. A similar league was also organized for girls’ softball.

These league games were very exciting to us, because they were a step beyond, in formality, the pickup games that we played most of the time. We played on a field that looked like a real baseball diamond, with a backstop and real bases. There was an umpire who called balls and strikes and kept an official score. But the games were also exciting because they were still really ours. No adult was telling us what to do; we had to make our own decisions.

When I was near the end of third grade, and had recently turned 9, I was elected captain of my little league team. That meant I was responsible to be sure that my teammates knew about each game and that they showed up. (We all traveled by bicycle. The idea that parents should drive kids places had not yet been invented. Parents didn’t even know when the games were scheduled.) I also had to determine the lineup for each game. The biggest trick was determining who would pitch. We had one good pitcher and several others who thought they were good pitchers. I had to compromise between letting our good pitcher pitch and letting others pitch to some extent. I was manager, but I had very little real power because players would quit if they weren’t happy, and we needed a certain number of players to keep the team going. So lots of discussion and compromise went into that lineup every game.

Can you imagine, today, putting a 9-year-old in charge of a little league baseball team? The fact that you can’t imagine it is a measure of the degree to which we, as a culture, have lost respect for the abilities of children. It wasn’t just me; every team in that league was led by a kid. The whole league was founded on the premise that kids wanted to play organized baseball so much that they would take responsibility to make it happen. And it worked! If it hadn’t worked, that would have just meant that we kids had lost interest in baseball; and that would be OK too.


This was just an excerpt from a longer blog post/article by Peter Gray. The rest isn’t about baseball or little league but rather on the topic of little kids being capable of way more than we sometimes give them credit for. Read it here…

FWIW… we send our kids to a school that is basically founded on that idea — Sudbury Valley School one of many Sudbury schools that are popping up.

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Installment 1 of the subtle (and usually not so subtle) mentions of how school is not fun, not supposed to be fun, and everyone knows it and that’s just how it is and has to be

1. A 30 sec(?) NPR promo (heard summer and fall 2009, at ~8am) for “All Things Considered” is drawing an analogy between ATC and school (because you can learn all sorts of things.) It ends simply with “Like school…. but fun”. Nice.

2. In the trailer for the movie “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” (2009) A giant pancake falls on a school and smashes it.
A crowd of onlooking kids jumps for joy yelling “No School!!!!”

OK, that’s enough for today.

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On Solar-Powered Attic Fans…

Joe Lstiburek of Building Science Corporation puts it this way:

“In order for the fan to work the air needs to come from the outside and not be pulled from the house so this means that the attic ceiling needs to be airtight. If the attic ceiling is airtight you don’t need the fan. Your money is better spent on something else.”


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Thermal Efficiencies of Power Plants

Did you know that the thermal efficiency of power plants is basically ~33%? This is for oil, coal, natural-gas. I had no idea it was THIS low. I find this horrifying. Our propane furnace at our last house was AFUE of ~94%. LINK

In other words, it does seem a little silly to heat with electricity (at least quite indirect!), even if you are using an air-source heat pump with a COP of over 3 like the Fujitsu 9RLQ. This is essentially just getting you back to 1.00 (.33 * 3 = 1) And minus the losses due to transmission I suppose.

I should look at those plug-in hybrid calculations again. I suppose the issue there is maybe that internal combustion engines kinda stink too, in comparison to electric motors, so it more than makes up for the hopeless electricity generation.

And of course, there is always PVs and GreenUp type options thru the grid. But still. Something seems a little fishy?

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