Sunday, September 21, 2014

Supporters of Common Core testing take me to task over a science question, and Washington State University names its engineering school after former Aera Energy president and CEO Gene Voiland

 * … COMMON CORE: I clearly touched a nerve last week in writing about what I considered an extremely difficult science question on the Common Core testing at Fruitvale Jr. High School. There
were too many responses to list, and most readers were kind enough to politely point out my ignorance. Said Bruce Deeter: "Richard, Richard, Richard, ridiculously hard? That problem isn't difficult at all. Think about it, why does a rock sink in water and a piece of wood float on water? Rock is more dense and wood less dense. Or take oil and water, you've surely seen layers of liquids like these float on top of each other. Or salad dressing in a bottle as another example. This problem is no different. The numerical values just give you the info you need to place them in order by what is more dense and less dense. Density of pure water is 1.0, BTW. This is some very basic stuff. I remember doing this sort of thing in show and tell in fifth grade in the 1960s." Thanks Bruce. I am blaming this on my public education in the state of Georgia.

* …. MORE CORE: Added Andy Wonderly: "All the problem requires are understanding the concept of density, knowing the density of water (which should be an easy recall for anyone actively engaged in a science class), and being able to put numbers in order from largest to smallest. I don't know anything about Common Core, so I can't comment on the question's appropriateness for this exam.  But to call this question 'ridiculously hard' perpetuates an unfortunate attitude toward science that I believe is holding Americans back in the STEM fields. I can't blame the child for his or her reaction. Science is hard. I have been there myself. But this child's reaction should be met with aid and explanation, not applause and exaltation. I pray that someone gave this child five seconds of their time to explain this simple word problem in the hope that the child may gain a better understanding of science and increased reading comprehension."

 * … MORE CORE: And finally there was this thoughtful response from Lora Coppola: "I assumed that as a journalist, word problems would be your forte. This particular word problem requires no solving for unknowns, or any other complex reasoning skills. It only requires a basic grasp of the term 'density,' the knowledge that the density of water is 1.0, and the ability arrange numbers from largest to smallest.  Even if the student in question had not paid attention in class, he or she probably knows innately that wood floats on water and lead sinks.  Of course, if the student had not paid attention, he/she might have missed the news that the density of water is 1.0. But since it is the key element to solving this question, I'm going to assume that it was emphasized in class and on lab and homework assignments. To answer the question: From bottom layer (most dense) to top (least dense): Purple, water, red, yellow. The wood chip is floating on the red layer. Methinks you're stirring the pot." Methinks I must have skipped out on that high school science class.

 * … VOILAND: Congratulations to former Aera Energy CEO Gene Voiland and his wife Linda, who had a major department at Washington State Universitynamed in their honor. The Linda and Gene Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering was unveiled last week in part of honor Gene's contributions to his alma mater.

 * … GOOD FORM: The stretch of Alfred Harrell Highway near the soccer fields was awash in litter this Sunday, but it was heartening to see a group of cyclists (David Rous, Adam Hensley and Richard Picarelli) hope off their bikes and take the time to pick it all up. Meanwhile, up on Panorama Drive I spotted a young woman and an older man doing the same thing, spending their morning cleaning up the trash that others so unceremoniously left in the park.

 * … SPOTTED: On my friend Joe Drew's Facebook page: "Why is it when you retire, and time is no longer very important, they give you a watch?"

 * … KINDNESS: Barbara Winegar was among a table for eight recently at Kan Pai restaurant on Brimhall Road, enjoying her daughter's birthday party while sharing a long table with two stranger. "When it came time to pay for our great  meal, my son-in law was informed that the bill had already been taken  care of by the couple at the end of the table. We thanked them again and again, but  we want everyone to know what a gracious couple  they are, and what a magnanimous gesture. The gentleman's name is Hayward  from Norfolk Va., and his lady friend from Bakersfield. We are very touched by your generosity."

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A ridiculously difficult math problem appears on a "common core" test at Fruitvale Jr. High School, and a Seven Oaks homeowner's association makes the right call on overseeding rye grass

* … COMMON CORE: Think you are smarter than an 8th grader? Then consider this ridiculously hard question that appeared on a "common core" exam at Fruitvale Jr. High School, along with the witty response from the student. The question: "A glass cylinder contains four liquids in four
separate layers. One liquid is pure water. The purple liquid has a density of 1.62 g/cm3. The yellow liquid has a density of 0.46 g/cm3. The red has a density of 0.91 g/cm3. What is the order of the liquids in the cylinder? Explain your answer. What will happen if you slip a small, flat chip of wood (density 0.85 g/cm3) into that cylinder?" Seriously? The student left this answer: "That question … is by far the most challenging, most hard and impossible to answer question in the history of time and matter. Everyone in this room is now looking at this knowing that there is no one able to solve such a question. Award me no points because I know I'll never get this. Thank you!"

 * … RYEGRASS: Hats off to the Grand Island Homeowners' Association at Seven Oaks for making the right call when it comes to water conservation. The association sent letters to homeowners saying they would not be fined if they reduced or eliminated watering during this period of drought. Normally, homeowners would be fined if they did not overseed with ryegrass during the winter.

 * … MORE DROUGHT: John and Norma Fowler wondered how many other homeowner associations would follow suit, and noted they told their own gardener to let their lawn go brown this winter. "We did, however, have him order mulch for the flower beds so that our choice will not affect his income and because it will help hold moisture in our soil."

 * … FOODIE BEST BET: Try the cheese ravioli appetizer at Uricchio's Trattoria downtown, a bargain at just $6.50.

* … BRIDAL SHOP: A new bridal boutique business - Enchanted Bridal Boutique - is opening on Stockdale Highway. Co-owners and sisters Angela Jourdan and Patricia Holcomb have set the grand opening for this Saturday over at 4817 Stockdale Highway. The store carries dresses for the entire wedding party.

 * … ROTARY: Breakfast Rotary Club kicks off the Halloween season with "Bats and Brooms" on Oct. 18 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Kern Agriculture Pavilion. The costume party will feature a gourmet menu, dancing to music by No Limit  live auction, and much more.  Ticket are $75 each with chance to win $1,000 gift of travel with purchase of ticket. Contact Jan Lemucchi at (661) 754 2957 for details.

 * … BAKERSFIELDISM: Ronal Reynier says you may be a Bakersfield old timer if you remember Golden Crust Bakery. "When I was in junior high school we would stop and buy a unsliced and unwrapped loaf from their outside window. It was hot and fresh right from the ovens. On the way home we would tear-off the top and eat the inside. We would tear up the crust and throw it into the canal for the fish, frogs, and crawdads to eat. Yes, our canals were full of them in the days
long gone. My wife was from Iowa and she had tears when they closed their doors. After all these years you still can not buy bread as great as Golden Crust."

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

New study points to leaky pipes, not hydraulic fracturing, that has contaminated water in Pennsylvania and Texas, and Soraya Coley bids farewell to CSUB to become president of Cal Poly Pomona

 * … FRACKING: There is yet more evidence that the practice of hydraulic fracturing is not contaminating ground water supplies. A new study, conducted by The Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences, found that leaky pipes, not fracking, is responsible for tainted drinking water. The good news, according to the study, is "improvements in well integrity can probably eliminate most of the environmental problems with gas leaks." The study looked at contaminated water in Pennsylvania and Texas, where environmental groups have pointed the finger of blame on hydraulic fracturing.

 * … COLEY: Congratulations to Soraya Coley who has been named the sixth president of Cal Poly Pomona. Coley is one of the most prominent, and effective, members of the Cal State Bakersfield administration, serving as vice president of academic affairs and provost. In her tenure at CSUB, she has shown a passion for education and a strong commitment to her adopted community of Bakersfield.

 * … OVERHEARD: A resident of a gated community in the Southwest is talking to a friend about the drought and overseeding his yard with rye grass this winter. "Our homeowner's association requires us to have green lawns in the winter … wonder if they will back off during this drought?"

* … FOODIE BEST BET: Make sure you check out the Tuesday special at the two Juicy Burger locations: the pastrami burger combo, normally $10.49, is a steal at just $6.99. I tried it at the downtown location and it does not disappoint.

* … GOOD FORM: Maureen Buckey reached out to thank Coach Paul Golla and so many of his Driller football players from BHS for supporting her family during a recent death. "I  just wanted to let you know what a class act the Bakersfield High School Football team is. This past weekend we had a funeral for my husband's brother, Barry Buckey. He was very close to our son, Craig, who helps out with the Bakersfield High football team. You can't imagine our amazement when we walked out of the church and saw many of the varsity players in shirts and ties with their jerseys over them... They were there to support our son, who was devastated by this death. A number of them came over to the house afterwards for the reception and were so polite and very helpful. Numerous people commented how impressed they were with these young men. Coach Golla and his staff do such a  fabulous job of instilling values and leadership to these players. "

 * … MILT'S: Milt's Coffee Shop is wishing a happy 96th birthday to its most faithful customer, a patron named Serrill who has not missed a day at Milt's since it opened in 1964. Now that is loyalty.

* … CAMP KEEP: This coming Friday, Sparkling Image Car Wash of Bakersfield will host its 5th annual fundraiser to benefit the Kern Environmental Education Program (Camp KEEP). For every full service car wash sold that day at any of its five local locations, Sparkling Image will donate 50 percent of proceeds to Camp KEEP. Last year the day netted $9,000 for KEEP, and the car wash has donated more than $30,000 to KEEP in recent years through its annual car wash fundraisers. Funds are used to help send kids in need to camp.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Looking for a technological solution to texting while driving, celebrating the renovation of an iconic Bakersfield men's store and enjoying some fresh fish at one of our outstanding local eateries

 * … TEXTING: I read with interest a piece in The New York Times about a Colorado man's efforts to build a device that blocks incoming and outgoing texts for motorists. We are not there yet, but experts say the technological obstacles will eventually be overcome. Said The Times: "People know they shouldn’t text and drive. Overwhelmingly, they tell pollsters that doing so is unacceptable and
dangerous, and yet they do it anyway. They can’t resist. So safety advocates and public officials have called for a technological solution that does an end run around free will and prevents people from texting in the first place." The next time you are at a red light, take a look around you and you will likely see folks casually texting away.

 * … MILLER: I am not sure what to make of the story of the Bakersfield man who was sentenced to six years of hard labor in North Korea after being found guilty of conducting "hostile acts" against the government. According to North Korea, Matthew Todd Miller arrived on a tourist visa, tore up his U.S. passport and asked for asylum. In at least one interview with Western media, he did not deny asking for asylum but he is now apparently rethinking his actions.

* … H. WALKER'S: Kudos to Tracy Walker Kiser and her crew over at H. Walker's Men's Clothing on K Street downtown who have totally renovated the popular men's store, bringing in new cabinetry and furniture, carpeting and a bright, inviting coat of paint.

 * … FOODIE BEST BET: Nice to see La Costa Mariscos enjoying record crowds in its new digs over at the Ice House near the Garces Circle. I stopped by for my favorite La Costa meal: the whole huachinango (red snapper) grilled fish, a can't miss dish at this iconic Bakersfield eatery.

 * … BUSINESS: Charlie Powell wrote to comment on a story of a California company, Firefly Space Systems, moving from Hawthorne to Cedar Park, Texas. "The article … is just one of many examples of the poor business climate in California pushing companies to a friendlier environment. I can tell you with confidence that Cedar Park is great place to have a business, and to live. Oh yes, my son Matt (a former Bakersfield resident), just happens to be the mayor of Cedar Park."

 * … RYE: I have to agree with this note from reader William Elliot: "The city of Bakersfield show have a campaign against planting winter rye this season. We need to save out water not our lawns."

* … PORSCHE: Do you own a Porsche or - like some of us - dream of it one day? If so put the weekend of Oct. 4-5 on your calendar. On that Saturday the Porsche Club of Bakersfield will be showing off their cars at Stramler Park from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Entry includes lunch. Then on Sunday, from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., the club will hold a autocross at Minter Field in Shafter with all proceeds benefiting MARE.

 * … HARVEST: The annual Harvest for Hope event, sponsored by Catholic Charities, is set for Saturday, Oct. 4, over at the Kern County Fairgrounds. This event benefits the need in the Kern/Inyo area. There will be chef's tastings from local caterers and restaurants along with a silent and live auction. Tickets are $100 and sponsorships are available. Call Beverly Camp at (661) 319-6049.

Friday, September 12, 2014

House Majority Leader McCarthy supports President Obama's plan to destroy the Islamic State

 House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy brings us his weekly post from Capitol Hill. In his own words:

 "This week, we remember the thousands of innocent Americans who died on September 11, thirteen years ago while also remembering the four Americans who died on September 11, 2012 while serving our country in Benghazi, Libya.

 "We will never forget the lives lost in New York, the Pentagon, on Flight 93, and those who fought and died to protect America in the years after. We must be constantly vigilant in our fight against terrorism, and we must reaffirm and strengthen our commitment to fighting this deadly scourge again today.

 "Our nation is threatened once again by the renewed rise of terrorism around the globe and particularly in the Middle East. We did not ask to fight a war on terrorism, but war was declared on us. America desires peace but we will not sit idly as our citizens are executed and our homeland and allies are targeted. America has defeated great evils before, and I know our great nation can do so again.

 "The American people heard from the President directly on the necessity for America to act to eliminate the threat ISIL poses to our country and our allies. The threat these terrorists pose to the United States and our allies cannot be tolerated, and I support the President taking military action in Iraq and Syria to combat this organization. But more must be done.

 "We must recognize ISIL is but a symptom of a broader terrorist threat that has been ignored for too long by this Administration. Preventing the next 9-11 requires us to confront the reality that al Qaeda has metastasized, and that radical terrorists operating out of sanctuaries in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and elsewhere pose a growing threat to the United States must be destroyed.

 "If our efforts to combat this scourge are to be successful, it will require a level of commitment to this fight against terrorism not yet seen by this President. The Administration briefed Congress this week further on the President’s strategy, and Congress will do the vigorous oversight required in the days and months ahead to ensure that it is sufficient to meet this threat.

 "A President who has made ending the war on terrorism the central focus of his foreign policy must now make winning it a priority.  I stand ready to work with the President to destroy ISIL, win this fight, and ensure America’s continued safety.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

If it's a new day, it's time for a new telephone scam making the rounds in Kern County, some really great customer service at Albertson's and recognizing the folks who care for our pets

 * … SCAM: Our nation is awash in telephone scams and Kern County residents continue to be targeted. Consider this note from reader Wes Wells: "I just wanted to share a recent telephone scam that really upset my wife today. When I came home she was on the phone with a representative from the
Department of Legal Affairs of the U.S. Department of the Treasury who was threatening her with a bench warrant over unpaid taxes from 2007 in the amount of $9,875. They were trying to get her to take out an 'Instant Text Voucher'" in the amount of $3,948 as a settlement and provided a call back number to confirm. Upon calling back, the person on the other end had a strong accent and in English challenged us to call any law enforcement authority. So we did. An officer at BPD said they have received hundreds of similar complaints. So I filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (the real one) and then contacted a Congresswoman (a real one, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren) who represents a district covering the (408) area code in the San Jose area to report the same information. It seems that these scams should be easier to stop if the phone companies that serve these areas could act more quickly to discontinue service to the offending numbers. Someone, somewhere has got to pay a phone bill when they sign a contract for a land line or a cell phone contact."

 * … GOOD FORM: Here's your "feel good" nugget for the day, this one compliments of Caroline Read. She took an elderly friend shopping recently to the Albertson's at the corner of Gosford Road and Stockdale Highway. All the woman wanted was three bananas. "I parked the car to run in and get them," she said. "She wanted me to lock her in and not roll the windows down.  I couldn’t leave the car running to provide air conditioning … so I opened the windows a crack, locked the car, ran in, found a clerk, handed her $5 and said, 'I need three bananas. I have an elderly friend in the car and I can’t leave her there.  It’s too hot.'  I ran back to the car and turned the air conditioning on and watched for the clerk. Pretty soon, she came running out, waving the change and the bag of bananas! Now I ask you, is that local and personal service? ?

* … PETS: Kudos to the folks over at the Coffee Road Animal Hospital who took care of my ailing cat recently. Kern County is blessed with many competent veterinarians, and I have always felt there is a special place in heaven for those among us who care for our pets, whether they be veterinarians, vet techs, receptionists or volunteers at animal shelters and rescue organizations.

 * … DROUGHT: In all the discussion about our long drought, many folks are going to drought tolerant landscaping to save water. Kathy Beck wrote to say the California redwood trees are simply wrong for this area of our state. "The poor trees are stressed, turning brown, dying or dead. Here is what this tree requires: 20 gallons a month PER INCH DIAMETER of the trunk. That's right… read it again. So a 12 inch diameter trunk requires 240 gallons of water a month to be happy, healthy and green. They are a northern California tree and they do not require thinning .. .it only stresses out the tree more and makes them branch out funny. The city needs to remove all of them… those who continue to survive will only require more water. We just removed our tree in our front yard, as it was turning brown, the math on our tree said it required 720 gallons a month to be happy."

 * … SERVICE: I haven't met Rick Chesire over at Hearing Aids Today, but he sure has a big fan base. Consider this note from Connie Stewart: "Rick is always happy to help with any problem you might be having.  Beside being a good business man he is an outstanding, caring young man. I would recommend Rick to anyone."

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Nashville songstress heads to Bakersfield for a Sunday concert, more concerns about the drought and a Liberty High graduate punts for the Buffalo Bills

* … CONCERT: Don't forget about a very special concert coming up this Sunday over at the Bakersfield Museum of Art. The show features a folk indie band out of Nashville called Nora Jane
Struthers and The Party Line. The doors open at 5 p.m. and the concert starts at 6 p.m. Tickets are $20 at the door. I suspect this may be one of the best shows yet sponsored by a group of friends who formed a group called Passing Through Productions, devoted to bringing live music to out town.

 * … DROUGHT: Diana Nelson is one of a handful of readers who reached out to me about the long drought facing California. "I really don't think people understand how serious it is. My husband and I redid our backyard last winter, replacing all of the thirsty plants and lawn with drought tolerant plants, with the exception of three redwood trees that act as a screen, and a dwarf orange tree. We have not got it perfected yet, but we have gone from watering every day to watering for the most part twice a week during the summer… We are going to work on the front yard this winter. This works for us because we do not have children or grandchildren in the area. Plus we wanted to cut down on the maintenance cost, attract birds, bees, and butterflies, and use less water."

 * … MORE DROUGHT: Patty Orsburn of Tehachapi agrees. "I took my kids to play at North of the River's Polo Community Park and was so sad to see the grass not only well watered but very flooded in many areas! I understand trying to keep the parks somewhat nice, but come on NOR, there are communities running out of water, turn your sprinkler timers down!"

 * … PUNTER: District Attorney Lisa Green is an avid fan of the Buffalo Bills, and last week she flew to Chicago to watch the Bills take on the Chicago Bears. To her surprise, former Liberty High School and UC Davis grad Colton Schmidt had been signed by the Bills as the team's punter just days before. "His family (mom, dad and siblings) lives here. Anyway he had a great game (ESPN punter of  the week). After the game one of my friends who traveled to the game and had seats behind the Bills bench yelled out 'hey Bakersfield'  and Colton came over and talked with my friend for a few minutes. Thought you'd like the story about a Bakersfield kid making it in the pros."

 * … EAST ROTARY: If you treat yourself to one pricey charity event of the year, I'd recommend the upcoming "Elegant Evening of Wine" benefitting the Joe Alexander Scholarship Foundation of the Rotary Club of Bakersfield East. This years event 's planned for Saturday, Oct. 11, at the downtown home of Mark and Sue Ashley. Meir Brown of Cafe Med will be pairing the food and wine as usual, and the Ashley home will provide a beautiful setting. Individual tickets are $175 each and sponsorships are available. Call Vernon Varner for more information at (661) 979-5788.

 * … GOOD FORM: William Goldman is another satisfied customer of Hearing Aids Today and its owner Rick Chesire. "When I moved to Bakersfield,four years ago, I needed a new hearing aid. After calling three places, I knew Rick was the man for me. He goes out of his way for everyone. He's even done emergency repairs for me on weekends."

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A chance encounter with Joan Rivers, the last minute heroics of USC's Andre Heidari and head over to The Padre Hotel for some remarkable flatbread

* … JOAN: I ran into John Pryor at the John Brock Awards dinner last week and he shared his own personal experience with the late comedian Joan Rivers. John and his wife Meg were in New
York City a few years ago when they stopped for lunch at a small, intimate restaurant. "We were a little early for lunch so we were the only customers until in came Joan Rivers with a lady friend -- and her dog. She came over to our table and asked if it was okay with us that she had her dog with her in the restaurant. We responded of course, and were amazed at her concern for the sensibilities of others.
Then another lady entered the restaurant, saw Joan Rivers, and went directly back to the kitchen -- out of our sight. A few minutes later, the lady left the restaurant without saying anything to anyone.
Then the chef emerged from the kitchen to give Rivers a handwritten note from the lady.  Rivers jumped up from her table and said she had to catch that lady who had written such a wonderful note to her.  She ran out of the restaurant and returned a few minutes later to say she caught up with the lady and had thanked her profusely. Does that sound like the Joan Rivers you see portrayed on TV?"

* … DROUGHT: Are we taking the drought seriously here? One reader, who asked that I not use her name, doesn't think so, at least compared to what she saw in Cambria recently. "All restrooms at the beaches and state parks we visited, including Hearst Castle, and the public restrooms in the east and west villages of Cambria had been closed and were replaced by port-a-potties and wash stations.  Many eating establishments had their restrooms open for use of the sinks only, you still had to go outside to use the port-a-potty. They also had signs posted around town reminding people of the drought. Now if we could just get people in this town to stop overwatering their yards. We walk in our neighborhood early mornings and the water wasted is incredible."

 * … HEIDARI: It's fun to watch the Bakersfield connections on the USC Trojans make such a positive difference. This weekend it was Andre Heidari, the Stockdale High graduate, who made a 53-year-old field goal to win the game against Stanford. Last year, Heidari kicked a 47-yarder to seal the game against Stanford. And of course, the Trojans are led by former Centennial standout Cody Kessler.

 * … FOODIE BEST BET: Most local restaurants offer some kind of flatbreads, but few do it as well as The Padre Hotel downtown. The flatbread offering changes daily, depending on the chef's choice, but make sure you try the vegetarian dish featuring eggplant.

 * … GOOD FORM: Mark Sheffield wrote to compliment the folks over at Hearing Aids Today for going above and beyond in customer service. Turns out his mother, who is 91 and in hospice care, had a hearing aid that was broken. "I decided to go by  Hearing Aids Today and talk to Rick Cheshire whom I have used for several years, not having much hope of saving it since there was a small piece missing. Rick looked at it and told me to come back in a few hours. When I returned it was working and looked like new. Here is the nice part, when I tried to pay him he refused the money and said he was only interested in helping keep her comfortable in the short time she had left. I told him we were all very thankful and he said tell the man upstairs."

 * … JAYWALKING: Jaywalking is problem across town - whether it's Ming Avenue or White Lane - but it is near out of control downtown. Gabrielle Lopez is a downtown business owner who has had enough. "Today when I was coming to the store, I was at the light at 19th and Chester heading east. I saw this guy in a white tank top heading north on the other side of the street. He answered his phone as my light turned green. He never stopped to glance at the fact that he could have been walking into a car, he never even paused…just kept on like it was the sidewalk. Honestly, what the heck is wrong with people? Try paying attention when you are walking on a STREET with CARS. You are the one who will get hurt in that accident. And it is YOUR fault for not paying attention."