Author Archive

Thoughts on Bullying

March 14th, 2011 Matt Jones 5 comments

I posted this over at Tumblr, but I thought I would repost here because it is a fairly complex and interesting topic.


Mad As Hell of the Day: A portly 16-year-old kid named Casey Heynes allegedly got into a fight at school with a bully. The video of the altercation was posted to Facebook by someone claiming to be the parent of Casey’s friend.

He/she writes:

The larger kid on the right, is my son’s friend Casey - thankfully they don’t go to the same school. Poor Casey has been bullied his whole high school life, and this is what happens when he snaps!! But guess who was suspended in this scenario - Casey!!

Although there is no official confirmation for this account (there’s a bit more here), Facebook has already sided with Casey, establishing a support page in his name.


Here is the video at Facebook and the (somewhat edited) video on YouTube (both the Facebook and YouTube videos have been removed) and from towleroad:

I have to be careful what I say about this since I am a public school teacher. I will say that if I ever have kids of my own, I would tell them to stand up for themselves just like Casey did.

Students should be able to stand up for themselves and not take bullying of any kind. Sure, Casey should be held responsible for his actions (possibly including suspension although I am not sold on that), that is a part of life (or it should be anyway), and he should be willing to accept those consequences. But he still should have done it even with repercussions.

The other child should have been punished much more severely as he clearly instigated the fight (and had probably bullied Casey in the past).

Other teachers and parents might disagree with me. “Casey could have moved away and gone to tell an adult” they might say. Yes, I suppose he could have done that. But the reality is that that would not have stopped the bullying, at least long term. The reality is that Casey will not be bullied again (at least by that student) because of his actions.

I don’t condone violence. I do condone and absolutely support students standing up for themselves (or others) against any form of bullying and students should be held accountable for their actions.

I should also note that I find it fairly sad that there are so many students just watching things happen. I know that is usually how it goes, but it still make me sad. Don’t just by a bystander, stand up for what you know is right.

What are your thoughts on this?

Update: Fox has picked the story up: Teased Kid Snaps! Body Slams Bully

The Earthquake in Japan

March 13th, 2011 Matt Jones No comments

There are lots of posts up all over the net about the devastating 9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami in Japan (there have been nearly 400 earthquakes off the coast of Japan in the last week, 34 of them have been of magnitude 6 and higher). I just thought I would post the links, images, and videos that I found must striking.

A tsumani triggered by a powerful earthquake makes its way to sweep part of Sendai airport in northern Japan

A tsumani triggered by a powerful earthquake makes its way to sweep part of Sendai airport in northern Japan.

Google Crisis Response: 2011 Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami
World Vision Japan Quake and Tsunami Relief
Video: Earthquake in Tokyo from 22 stories up and 230 miles away from the epicenter
Quake moved Japan coast 8 feet, shifted Earth’s axis
NHK World TV

Satellite Imagery:
NY Times: Satellite Photos of Japan, Before and After the Quake and Tsunami
ABC News: Japan Earthquake: before and after
NASA Satellite Imagery

Photo Essays:
The Atlantic’s In Focus: Earthquake in Japan and Japan Earthquake Aftermath
The Big Picture: Japan: earthquake aftermath

NOAA Japan Earthquake Tsunami Model
OurAmazingPlanet: Japan Tsunami Earthquake Explained
Video: Raw Video: Tsunami Wave Smashes Boats and Cars
Video: Tsunami Flooding in Japan
Video: Flooding at the Airport
Video: Amateur video: Tsunami destroys Japanese village

Nuclear Reactor:
Why I am not worried about Japan’s nuclear reactors
Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT
Nuclear Energy Institute: Information on the Japanese Earthquake and Reactors in That Region
World Nuclear News: Efforts to manage Fukushima Daiichi 3
World Nuclear News: Battle to stabilise earthquake reactors
ANS Nuclear Cafe: Media updates on nuclear power stations in Japan
How the nuclear emergency unfolded with an image that helps articulate why people don’t need to freak out:

Radiation Dosage Comparisons

Radiation Dosage Comparisons

Categories: Around the World

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

March 12th, 2011 Matt Jones 1 comment

Catching Fire

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Last night I finished off Suzanne Collins’ second book in the Hunger Games series, Catching Fire (here is my review of Hunger Games). While this series is one for “young adult” readers, it is definitely one that can be enjoyed by all audiences. The plot is interesting and the characters are relatable. Catching Fire definitely had an Empire Strikes Back or Two Towers feel to it; it is a middle book. That being said, it still carried its own weight in terms of plot development.

At the end of Hunger Games Katniss Everdeen has become victor in the arena but at the expense of making the Capitol look foolish. Because of her innocuous actions (at least to her), they have it in for her. Little do they know but she, and a surprising number of others, have it in for them. This book is definitely a build up to something larger.

My only actual complaint was that the resolve at the end seemed to happen all at once and a little to neatly (not that everything is good, just neat). It was nice to have some closure on things that I had already figured out, I just didn’t think wrapping up everything would come in the last few pages of the book. But that wasn’t a big deal and it did come naturally as part of the plot.

One of the most brilliant scenes was when Katniss’ designer had her turn into a Mockingjay, a very powerful symbol that has been with Katniss through her first ordeal and that will remain with her throughout her life. I am actually quite looking forward to finishing the series in Mockingjay.

Here are Cori’s thoughts on Catching Fire. And my original review of Hunger Games. Hey, look at that, book number six done!

Categories: Literature

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

March 8th, 2011 Matt Jones 1 comment

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

This was my second time through Douglas Adam’s classic Hitchhiker and it was just as fun reading it again. I’m not going to do an actual review here, but just recommend it to those who enjoy quirky sci-fi. This is a classic for a reason.

I would also like to point out that this is the 5th book I have read this year. Which, for me, is a big deal. Just sayin’.

Just remember that the “answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything” is 42. Now, if only we knew the Ultimate Question.

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe come next in the series!

Categories: Literature

Space Saturday XXXVI: The Rosette Nebula

February 26th, 2011 Matt Jones No comments

The 36th edition of Space Saturday brings us the Rosette Nebula.

The Rosette Nebula

The Rosette Nebula

This beautiful image of the Rosette Nebula comes to us from Brian Lula (source) and is found in the constellation Monoceros. Nebula is about 5300 light years away and contains hot, young X-ray emitting stars at its center.

Inside the nebula lies an open cluster of bright young stars designated NGC 2244. These stars formed about four million years ago from the nebular material and their stellar winds are clearing a hole in the nebula’s center, insulated by a layer of dust and hot gas. Ultraviolet light from the hot cluster stars causes the surrounding nebula to glow.

For more astronomy pictures, check out my Space Saturday Archive.

Categories: Science

Storm Front: The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

February 25th, 2011 Matt Jones No comments

Storm Front: The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

Storm Front: The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

On another recommendation from Dan I picked up the first of The Dresden Files series: Storm Front. It was another enjoyable entrance into the realm of fantasy. Here we meet Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden a private detective trying to pay his rent and make it from day to day in our difficult world who also happens to be a Wizard.

What’s a guy to do when the White Council is out to get you, when the cops lose their faith in you, when people are being murdered by magic and some want to blame you? Well, I guess you take matters into your own hands and do your job, even if that means venturing into the dark.

Odds seemed really good that I was going to get killed, whether I tried to face him or not. To hell with it, then. If I was going to go out, it wasn’t going to be while I was lying around moaning and bitching about how useless it all was. If Victor Sells wanted to take out Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, he was going to have to shove his magic right down my throat.

He was having a rough day, but he sure kept on going! And without giving too much away, I had to quote this toward the end of the book:

And so, I walked through a spectral landscape littered with skulls, into the teeth of the coming story, to a house covered in malevolent power, throbbing with savage and feral mystic strength. I walked forward to face a murderous opponent who had all the advantages, and who stood prepared and willing to kill me from where he stood within the heart of his own destructive power, while I was armed with nothing more than my own skill and wit and experience.

Do I have a great job or what?

Doesn’t that just make you want to check this book out? Well, you should!

Categories: Literature

Michelle Malkin - The plight of the conservative public school teacher

February 24th, 2011 Matt Jones No comments

Please go read this article from Michelle Malkin: Letter of the day: The plight of the conservative public school teacher. There has been a lot of stuff going around about teachers’ unions. Being conservative and a public school teacher is a very challenging thing. My first year of teaching (2008-09) Bellevue School District went on strike. I disagreed with the reasons and posted this: Bellevue School District: On Strike – My New Job. Needless to say, people were not very happy with that and I probably burned a lot of bridges, even within my own building (I’m sure this post won’t exactly help either…). (However, I do have to say that MANY MANY teachers offered their support for my position and offered helpful suggestions, even if they did disagree with me.) It is difficult to speak out against the union. I paid over $1000 in dues to the BEA, WEA, and NEA and therefore supported positions and candidates that I did not endorse and probably voted against. Michelle quotes a letter from a teacher:

The hold that unions have over the public educational system is nothing short of toxic. Year after year, I have a lot of money taken out of my paychecks for union dues. What do I get for my money? I am bombarded with emails and flyers “urging” us to vote for candidates that coincidentally always have the letter (D) after them. I get to be lectured to by union reps about the evil Republican candidates are and why they know what is best for me.

Now I am being hit with email after email “urging” me to stand with the teachers of Wisconsin. One teacher who is very tight with our union replied to our district making fun of Republicans directly. You might ask why I don’t forward this to human resources, but the repercussions would be brutal.

This rang true for me. But I cannot do much about it.

The other thing is that I am very aware that my union has done very good things for me; they want me to get paid better, they want me to have better health benefits, they want class sizes to be smaller (which absolutley impacts student learning). These are great things. So I seem like an ungrateful jerk if I speak out against them. But I do often question their intent. I don’t like that there is always an “us-vs-them” attitude when it comes to the district administration.

I know you don’t have to be a conservative to disagree with unions, but that’s where I’m at. It is just frustrating. I hate that politics become involved in this. Teachers should be able to focus on instruction and impacting student learning; administration should be there to support teachers in that; we should be compensated decently for our time, effort, and success. Ugh, I like debate and argument; but not this.

Here is some discussion at this post’s Facebook Note.

Categories: Education

The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller

February 12th, 2011 Matt Jones No comments
The Prodigal God

The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Timothy Keller

I started reading The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Timothy Keller right when I got my Kindle, blazed through most of this amazing book, and then promptly got distracted by a few other books… Well, I finally finished! Keller’s thesis is summarized neatly:

Jesus’ great Parable of the Prodigal Son retells the story of the entire Bible and the story of the human race. Within the story, Jesus teaches that the two most common ways to live [the younger son's estrangement from the father and the elder son's self-righteousness before the father] are both spiritual dead ends. He shows how the plotlines of our lives can only find a resolution, a happy ending, in him, in his person and work.

This is a very quotable and profound book, I hope you will read on (Sorry, it’s going to be a long one!)! Read more…

Categories: Literature, Religion, Theology