MidAmeriCon II

At the most recent World Science Fiction Convention (LONCON3) the World Science Fiction Society voted to award next year’s North American Science Fiction Convention, MidAmeriCon II, to Kansas City.

Congratulations to all involved; for a certain sub-set of us this will be a hoot. Not to mention all the cosplay costuming photo ops it will provide local media – we can hear the local news anchors tittering already.

For more details, check out their first newsletter. Or hit the main web site to volunteer. 1

Oh…and that’s not all. The people bringing us MidAmeriCon II have loftier ambitions; they’re intent on bringing WorldCon to Kansas City in 2016. All they have to do is somehow sabotage the Chinese’s bid to hold it on Beijing. Below is the vid they put together promoting KC for the WorldCon 2016:

Finally…a blast from the past, the only WorldCon we’ve yet attended.

MidAmeriCon II

Show 1 footnote

  1. How to tell if you would make a good MidAmeriCon volunteer: do you own a full period costume, complete with sword?  Or a furry outfit (probably with a tail) you wear around the house? You qualify…

Concussion Symptoms

If you’ve had a chance to visit the new Swope soccer fields (off 63rd Street) perhaps you also passed by ACE Prep Academy’s new track/football complex. The stadium and field are stunning, wholly redone over the course of the last couple of years; the AC Prep Knights FB page has a great photo of the facility.

The cost for this makeover was just about $1 million. And, of course, that was money well spent: the ACE Prep Knights are ranked 320th in Missouri, 13972nd in the US and tend to lose more games each season than they win. More importantly, they now have a spanking new field they can show off to their more upscale rival, Southwest High School. 1 Team spirit, rah!

Except…haven’t we just spent the last decade publicly decrying the severe long-term brain damage promoted by repeated concussions suffered playing football? Isn’t wasting millions to encourage our youth to damage themselves as stupid as putting a fully automatic weapon in the hands of a 9 year old? 2

So why wasn’t a soccer pitch put in instead? Or a lacrosse field? 3

Well, it’s because the KCPS is incapable of learning, that’s why.

Take the school district’s recent return to provisional accreditation: did that come about because KCPS scholars were inspired by a new and innovation teaching strategy/system implemented by Superintendent Green? Nope. In fact the new and innovative teaching strategy proposed by CEE-Trust was widely reviled exactly because it was new and innovative. 4

So if the children’s educational scores didn’t improve how did KCPS achieve provisional accreditation?

Dr. Green managed to ‘tweak’ some improvements in the way the KCPS administration performed.

And that’s it.

KCPS last lost accreditation with a failing score of  84/140. Earlier this month the district received the passing score of 86.5/140.

And still fully 70% of KCPS scholars are proficient in neither English nor Math.

Seventy percent.

Attendance: 20%.

And there’s more: read and weep.

Upon the district’s reinstatement, Dr. Green said: “Now we’ve answered those questions, I knew — everyone in the district knew — that (the growth) was not a fluke.”

Worse, Nicastro also donned the Emperor’s new clothes: “We feel they are showing individual student growth and that is an incredibly positive sign.”

Green and Nicastro are behaving like people with concussion symptoms: a certain confusion and fogginess; memory loss over what ‘learning’ means; and Thor knows they’re “seeing stars”, apparently high on having avoided the whole messy transfer issue at the last-minute.

But our response is one of nausea 5 because the end result is that absolutely nothing has changed in education in KC. Kansas City district scholars are still not being educated and KCPS and DESE are still happy holding press conferences proclaiming how wonderful it all is.

Concussion Symptoms

Show 5 footnotes

  1. Oops! Gonna need another rival… although possibly the real reason ACE got a new field was so the Mighty Marching Knights would quit falling in gopher holes.
  2. Guns don’t kill people: 9-year-olds with Uzis do. Hey! It could have happened to anyone. Really.
  3. Hell, even a bocce court would have been better.
  4. And would have shaken up the existing non-functional administrative structure, e.g. “gimme” jobs and back room sweetheart contracts the district has clung to for decades.
  5. And that’s NOT taking into account the Mayor James (self) vaunted assistance with education in KC.

Rick Santorum Punching Bag

Let me explain what I mean by reminding you of one of the most disturbing news stories to come across the wires in the last month. In a much-reported study, the Russell Sage Foundation discovered that median household wealth in this country fell by 36 percent in the 10-year period ending last year. Wealth for people at the top, as other news stories remind us, has continued to soar. These things are a consequence of the Great Recession, of course, but they are also a reminder of the grand narrative of our time: The lot of average Americans constantly seems to be growing worse. The Great Depression of the 1930s was awful, but it set America on the path toward a period of shared prosperity. Our bout of hard times has had the opposite effect. It has accelerated the unraveling of the middle class itself.

Now, you can blame the risible, Ayn Rand-reading Tea Party types for this if you like, and you can also blame the George W. Bush Administration. They both deserve it. But sooner or later you will also have to acknowledge that there are two parties in this country, not just one; that the Democrats held significant power during the period in question, including (for much of it) the presidency itself; and that even when they are not in the White House, these Democrats nevertheless retain the capacity to persuade and to organize. For a party of the left, dreadful news like this should be rocket fuel. For the Dems, however, it hasn’t been. Why is that? Well, for one thing, because a good number of those Democrats have not really objected to the economic policies that have worked these awful changes over the years. They may believe in the theory of evolution – hell, they may savor the same Jon Stewart jokes that you do – but a lot of them also believe in the conventional economic wisdom of the day. They don’t really care that union power has evaporated and that Wall Street got itself de-supervised and that oligopolies now dominate the economy. But they do care – ever so much! – about deficits and being fiscally responsible.

Bring up this obvious point, however, and you will quickly discover what a dose of chloroform the partisan style can be. There’s a political war on, you will be told; one side is markedly better than the other; and no criticism of the leadership can be tolerated. Instead, let’s get back to laughing along with our favorite politicized comedians, and to smacking that Rick Santorum punching bag.

Rick Santorum Punching Bag