Wednesday, June 27, 2007


The U.S. Department of Education wants to know what you think about technology in the classroom. The department is seeking input from people on their Web site, as to what role they think tech should have in our schools.

Already, Southwest Missouri classrooms are pretty wired. We all know about all the SMART Boards in classrooms. One of the stipulations of the $57.3 million bond for new JopMo middle schools is to rewire North Middle School in order to accommodate the interactive whiteboards, computers and projection units for many classrooms. The R-8 district also has a pretty impressive program for getting more technology in schools.

Carl Junction is ahead of the game: Their board members work with laptops and e-documents instead of traditional board booklets (which also means easier public inspection of board business... g'head, see for yourself). Webb City's superintendent is reluctant to go to such a technical solution, but other districts are interested.

However, Joplin is expected to take a deeper look into its policies regarding electronic devices brought in by students. Board members will likely delve into the topic during their next meeting.

~ Here's a special bulletpoint for my grammarphile readers: Just like there's no such common nouns as a Kleenex, Frisbee or Xerox, SMART Boards are proper names for interactive whiteboards. Occasionally in journalism magazines such as AJR, companies will take out ads featuring the proper use of their names. Smart Technologies may want to consider that.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Apologies for the drizzle of posts. I've been working serious overtime lately. No gripes here... I'm saving up for something sparkly. More about that later. :) For now, here's a few quick hits:

~ Riverview Gardens is the latest district to lose its accreditation. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education reports that it is the second district in the state and in the St. Louis area to lose accreditation this year.

~ A bill pushing school start dates back was signed into law. Two predictions: 1.) We'll see a marketing blitz from the state tourism department, encouraging us to take our vacations in-state; 2.) Most school districts will use the opt-out provisions and start at relatively the same time. Joplin will fall into this category. Educators think that it makes more sense to end the first semester at the Christmas break.

~ The Joplin City Council approved hiring two new school resource officers for the Joplin R-8 School District. The cost will be split between the city and district, but the city is getting its money from a three-year grant. When the money runs out, we'll see if school security is still a priority for the city.

~ Neosho teachers will be getting a raise. The aggregate 5-percent increase will push the base to $32,368, just barely over Joplin's base of $32,000, also recently raised. Joplin's 7-percent aggregate includes bigger raises at the masters levels, however. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education reports that the average salary for Missouri teachers was $40,397 in 2006.

~ A final parting thought about Ron Davis' new job: He was once a tourist, a travel journalist who would bring us tales and legends from a mystical place called Medialand. Now, he's a sworn-in citizen! Once they indoctrinate him, he certainly won't be able to issue his dispatches from the land of the pretty, talking heads. Who among the Springfield bloggers will take up the mantle, carry the torch, keep the home fires burning, all that jazz? I wish I could, but the new digs in Joplin make that tough.

With that in mind, I nominate Blogistan's favorite rodent, the Snarling Marmot. She has the chops, the writing ability and the thick skin to pull it off.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


One of Springfield's best has accepted a position with one of Springfield's worst.

Ron Davis, chief wordmonkey at the Chatter blog, has accepted a position with KSPR-TV as a senior producer. KSPR, recently purchased by the same company that owns KYTV, has long suffered at the bottom of the ratings. The quality of the news product is not exactly known as the cream of the crop.

That's about to change, if I know my old boss.

Davis took me under his wing at 417 Magazine, and taught me much about journalism, growing a spine, being a community journalist and believing in the cause of journalism for journalism's sake. He is one of a few who believe that journalism is still a noble profession.

An interesting twist for his new job is his newspaper background -- Davis spent many years with the News-Leader, back in the Randy Hammer days. His story about the Acid Tunnels is stuff of legend. But, after landing a cake job with the NL, he and shutterbug extraordinaire Mike Wingo left the 800 lb. gorilla to start a little something called 417 Magazine. Since then, he's held the occasional talk-radio gig, run a media company, managed a campaign and started the occasional talk TV show. True, his strongest experience is with the written word, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a new technology with which he is unacquainted. My guess is he already has two of these in his pocket, and one is just for playing with.

Will KSPR news be -- dare I say it -- exciting to watch? I wish I could. Sadly, KSPR doesn't reach into the Joplin market. But, I suspect Davis will be changing that with the Internet. Other changes at KSPR will be revolutionary. At the very least, I suspect the David Kadushin drinking game will come to an end.

I wish the best of luck to Davis and everyone at KSPR. You're in for a wild ride.

Labels: , ,

Friday, June 15, 2007


Zero-tolerance policies are coming under fire. According to this Associated Press story, people are losing faith in the policies, most instituted as either platforms against drug use during the Reagan years or hastily implemented after the Columbine tragedy. Lawmakers in Texas, Mississippi and Utah are scaling back some of those zero-tolerance policies.

Since the Memorial shooting last October, the Joplin district has had a program called, "Just Tell It!", in which students are encouraged to pass on any threatening information they have to an adult, whether it's a parent, teacher, principal or guardian. In contrast, a task force chairman interviewed in the above story said that "kids are walking on eggshells" because of all the stiff punishments they face for seemingly innocent acts, such as bringing a butter knife to school.

Still, zero-tolerance policies seem to make sense to many when firearms are involved. In April, a North Middle School student brought a BB gun, which was manufactured to resemble a real gun, to school accidentally. Combined with a report of intruders, a lockdown was initiated. At the scene, parents seemed in favor of stricter, even-less tolerant punishments for such incidents.

Missouri lawmakers haven't announced any intents to study zero-tolerance policies. If they do, where should the line be drawn?

Labels: ,


Governor Matt Blunt was supposed to be at West Central Elementary today at 5 p.m., for a ceremonial signing of House Bill No. 2. Less than two hours before the event, his office sent an advisory, canceling the event because of "inclement weather and tornado warnings" in the Joplin area.


Just to make sure, a quick call to the Springfield branch of the National Weather Service led to the confirmation that there were no tornado or severe thunderstorm warnings in Southwest Missouri on Friday afternoon.

We know Blunt showed up at Springfield at about 3:30, thanks to this report on On second glance, that link appears to be copy-pasted from Blunt's press release, even though the byline credits News-Leader staff, so I'm not so sure he made it.

It's not a big deal, in the big scheme of things. In my opinion, this would have been another media event in which Blunt could take credit for the hard work of the General Assembly. Still, the Governor coming to town means something to many in the Joplin area. The school made preparations for his visit, so blaming the cancellation on fictitious weather fronts is either a bad mistake or a lame excuse.

I can't wait to hear the explanation.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, was named chairman of the budget appropriations committee today by Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons. The position will put Nodler in charge of the Senate committee in charge of drafting the budget.

Nodler was recently credited with rescuing the MOHELA sale, which was part of a higher education bill passed last month. When in Joplin for a ceremonial signing, Gov. Matt Blunt said Nodler rescued the controversial sale when it was on "life support."

Will this appointment translate into additional financial support for Missouri schools? Time will tell. Already, he gets glowing reviews from officials with Missouri Southern State University. They credit Nodler for fixing an inequity in the higher-education funding formula, which basically shafted MSSU on state funding in comparison to similarly-sized schools. This year's budget calls for MSSU to get an increase in state funding.

However, a key provision of Nodler's higher-education bill keeps universities from raising tuition fees past the rate of inflation.
If universities find themselves receiving less money from the state, and if the Coordinating Board for Higher Education doesn't approve a tuition increase to keep up, then universities will be forced to scale back and/or cut programs.

Labels: , ,

Monday, June 11, 2007


MST3K is back!

Well, sorta.

Wired News reports that the creators of Mystery Science Theater 3000 have returned with more snarky comments about popular B-movies. At, you can download Mike Nelson's commentaries and listen to them alongside many popular DVDs.

The one thing I wished MST3K would have done is slaughter popular B-movies and other sci-fi classics. Nelson does that: For $3 a pop, you can hear his commentaries about The Matrix, Star Wars 2: Attack of the Clones, the pilot episode of Lost, Eragon, Casino Royale and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory -- old school style, not that Tim Burton abomination. Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot won't be appearing, but the guys who did the voices -- Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett -- will.

Here's a freebie from their Web site. Enjoy.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, June 09, 2007


Dream Theater used to have a message board on their Web site. It was filled with passionate users who had frank, brutal opinions about their favorite band. When Octavarium came out, the board was filled with people slamming the album, calling it full of ripoffs. Nevermind that it had a title track that is easily DT's most powerful epic ever. Or that it made use of a symphonic orchestra, which the band expanded for their live DVD, Score. Naysayers said that one song sounded too much like U2. Another sounded too much like Muse.

The point that these rabid, passionate fans made is that the band should be exploring its own music, not piling in influences. Those influences were the same thing as ripoffs, in their eyes.

I never agreed with those fans. Dream Theater has always been open and honest about its influences. Instead of rehashing something that has been overplayed on the radio, they take something they have heard, twist it and turn it into something fresh and engaging.

Take the second track of their new album, Systematic Chaos. "Forsaken" is a song about vampires. The song is filled with the sound of Evanescence, with a haunting, Michael Myers-esque piano melody played on top of low guitar and bass playing in gothic unison. Anyone that listened for two seconds might think, "Yeah, Amy Lee wannabe." But after listening to "Forsaken" all the way through, the average listener will be blown away. Odd time signatures add an urgency to the sound. Keyboards simulate a full orchestra and add punch to the chorus. Mike Portnoy's drums add complexity and groove.

The same happens on most of Systematic Chaos' eight tracks. A sharp-eared listener can pick out Foo Fighters and Queen in "Prophets of War," Megadeth in "In Constant Motion," Black Sabbath and Rush in "In the Presence of Enemies." Are those ripoffs? Hardly. But if you call those ripoffs, then you have to also call "ripoff" when you hear strains of Liquid Tension Experiment, A Change of Seasons, Voices, In the Name of God, Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence and many other Dream Theater songs.

I don't buy into the argument that DT is ripping off other bands. Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby" is a ripoff. Come to think of it, almost any rap song is a ripoff. Even Evanescence is a ripoff. Don't believe me? Listen to Lacuna Coil.
Dream Theater pays homage to those bands by extracting those influential styles, adding layer upon layer of counterbalance and creating a magical, full sound that travels far beyond anywhere the original influence could have gone.

Systematic Chaos is a great introduction to the world of progressive rock where, like learning to drink beer, the music becomes quite enjoyable once you acquire the taste.
Systematic Chaos is one of the band's better releases. Dream Theater fans should be immensely pleased with a CD that was expected to be a sequel to the aggro "Train of Thought," yet is a much more musical journey. If you have never listened to Dream Theater before, prepare for an adjustment period. Once you hear what's going on, your ears will never be the same.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


The MOHELA founder who submitted a referendum to put Gov. Matt Blunt's "Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative" to voters has given up. The story is in today's Globe.

Politically, John Hancock of Missouri Pulse said that Democratic opponents have only legislation available to stop the sale. Before Purdy's concession, Fired Up Missouri suggested that new federal legislation would make the sale illegal.

The petition might have thrown a monkeywrench in building plans, had it gone on. The governor's office said that universities should proceed as if the check was in the mail. Had Allan Purdy garnered enough signatures, there would be some serious screeching sounds from universities slamming the brakes.

The bill authorizing the sale of MOHELA's assets had been signed just days before Purdy turned in his referendum. The fight to get to that point took two years, and most of the fighting in the first year was between the governor and Republicans in the legislature. But still, this was Allan Purdy -- a founding board member of MOHELA and involved with the creation of Sallie Mae, according to his wife, Vivian. Even belatedly, his effort to alert the public shows his concern about the issue.

And though Purdy has conceded the idea of having voters decide, I don't think Missouri has seen the last of the debate over the MOHELA sale.

Labels: , ,


What a wonderful day. Systematic Chaos is out. I'll have a review later.

I went to get it during lunch (heck yeah, I bought the special edition with the bonus CD/DVD that has a making-of documentary and every track in Dolby 5.1!) and brought it back to work. I was hoping that I could listen to it while writing, especially since the battery on the iPod was dead and the Musak in our office is more loud than it used to be. I don't care what anybody says: It's difficult to write stories when "Free Bird" is playing.

Yeah. "Free Bird."

ANYWAY... Long story short: Through the miracle of technology, my computer geekiness and iTunes ver. 1.1 (Yeah. iTunes ver. 1.1), I was able to hear parts of it while writing my story. Initial impression: Wow. This album is fierce. I thought it would be corny, but WOW. I really think that Jordan Rudess is the best thing to happen to Dream Theater. Not that KevMo and Derek Sherinian weren't great, nay, incredible. But as awesome as those two are, JR is on "a whole nother LEVEL." He brings and enhances the band's compositional skills, turning a standard rock song the "The Dark Eternal Night" into a blend of grungy camp and blistering thrash. The unisons between JR and John Petrucci are amazing -- their first unison in the first minutes of the first song almost brought me to tears. And the slower songs, such as "Repentance" and "Ministry of Lost Souls" are powerful yet restrained.

Like I said, I'll post a review, once I'm done geeking out.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, June 03, 2007


The blogger behind thinkingthings found this story from the Boston Globe which should throw more gasoline on the fire started by the Springfield News-Leader, when it suggested that bloggers should sign their names to their blogs. Just about everyone in the Ozarks province of Blogistan has thrown in their two cents, including many of the blogs listed to the right.

The story talks about Robert P. Lindeman, a pediatrician on trial for malpractice. He wrote about the trial anonymously on his blog "drfleablog," which has since been taken down. While on the stand, opposing counsel asked him if he had a medical blog. The exchange, which might have puzzled jurors, telegraphed a message that the plantiffs were ready to bring the contents of the blog into the trial. Lindeman eventually settled the case.

Thinkingthings is right. Since I'm riding her coattails with this post (thanks for the ride!), the only thing I can add is that it is truly amazing what people will say under the cloak of anonimity. Want proof? Next time I write a report on the Joplin school board, read the comments. I guarantee some anonymous writers will go way over the line with personal attacks on board members.

Nine times out of 10, an unsigned, anonymous opinion means very little to me, personally. But that tenth time, it might be pretty important. The journalist's rule of thumb regarding anonymous sources seems to apply in the debate about anonymous blogs. Anonymous sources are critical to reporting. But the public needs to have trust in the media source that there is a legitimate reason for the source to be anonymous. Seems to me that bloggers and opinion-writers who conduct themselves uncivilly do more to harm legitimate anonymous writers.

Labels: , ,


Blogger Joshua Rosenau, he who thinks Thoughts in Kansas, passes on some thoughts about KU's updated security since the VT shootings. Specifically, KU's public safety department sent out what Rosenau was a false alarm about an alleged rifleman on the campus. He criticized all the fuss over an unconfirmed report.

The first comment attached to the post appears to be written from someone at the Lawrence Journal-World, who alleges that there was so much buzz about a shooter that the university HAD to put out some sort of warning.

According to the reporter's comment, the story behind the story is that there was scanner traffic that had to be investigated. Given that many law enforcement officers responded, and that anyone who was there would have seen all those officers, the paper felt it had to put a post on its Web site. However, people who saw the post complained that they DIDN'T get notified from KU's new system.
Nevertheless, Rousenau said the false alarm wasted his time and criticizes the media for biting on it. "Unconfirmed reports, as anyone in the news business will tell you, only create fear and confusion," he writes.

The exchange shows the difficulty of informing a student populace of a potential threat. LJW is taking a hit for reporting the police action (even though it later identified it as a false alarm) and KU is getting hit for letting the LJW post the first information about the unconfirmed report.

Maybe this makes me flippant and trite, but the spelling errors in the KU security e-mails bug the heck out of me. A "uconfirmed" report? A "permeter" search? Those are the kind of misspellings that would leave me doubled over in pain, leaving myself unable to run from a crazed shooter.

Labels: , ,

Friday, June 01, 2007


With the conclusion of "Through the Looking Glass," the third season of Lost ends on an intriguing note. The ending didn't initially sit well with the Mailbox, but the more it thought about it, the more kick-butt it became. By having Jack in a "flash-forward," and because of what happened in that glimpse of the future, the island has become even more mysterious.

As usual, the show has created more questions than answered previous questions: What does Jack do that makes him want to get back to the island? How did Jack and Kate survive? How many were rescued? The Mailbox thought the season would end with Locke killing Ben and taking charge of the Others. At least he's not dead.

Hurley had the best moment, plowing through Others with a Dharma V-Dub. Sawyer killed Zeke in cold blood, and the Mailbox wasn't revolted. It even whooped. Things fell apart beautifully for Ben. Jack also showed some stones by not letting Ben manipulate him. Sayid broke a guy's neck with his FREAKING FEET. The first two seasons ended with much more resolutions than the third, but the Mailbox loved this episode. Basically, it shows that the island has many more mysteries, and that rescue, or salvation, won't come easy... if at all.

But that doesn't mean the Mailbox has no gripes.

~ Why did Jack kiss Juliet, but tell Kate that he loved her?

~ Why didn't Charlie try to swim out of the hole? Even though Patchy survived a spear in the chest, surely he couldn't survive a grenade blast. The revelation that the boat was not Penny's should have trumped the whole "gotta die so Claire and Aaron can get on the copter" thing. Instead, he Sharpied his message on his hand. Betcha he's not dead...

~ What the driveshaft was Patchy thinking, splodin' hisself to flood the station? Maybe if he knew he was going to die, OK. But he put the diving gear back on! That HAS to be a sign of interest in self-preservation!

~ Locke can chuck a knife into a complete stranger, but he can't pop a cap in Jack? Especially after being resurrected by Walt, or whoever that was?

The Mailbox's biggest gripe goes to the obvious, however. In one of Jack's flashforwards, he gets in an argument with the chief surgeon. Though the Mailbox can't find the exact quote now, Jack says something about bringing his father down, in order to compare who handles their drinking better. But we don't know that it is a flashforward until the very end. The Mailbox thinks that scene is a deliberate red herring. Although people have come back to life, they have to be on the island. Jack's dad was dead long before he crashed.

Every scene has a reason in Lost. The show is meticulously designed for a bigger picture and larger purpose. That's why the Mailbox feels like it was suckered by that scene. If that statement is explained in a future episode, then fine. But it feels like the producers set that scene simply to trick us. Not shock us. Tricksy hobbitses... can't be trusted, my precious...

Anyway, it's gonna be a long time until February. However, the Mailbox has season two on DVD, and will get season three the day it comes out. So, if it finds anymore gripes, it will pass them on.

Labels: ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]