Friday, August 29, 2014

National Merit Semifinalist notices were mailed August 26; formal announcement expected Sept. 10

    NOTE: This is a reprint of a blog post that I wrote on August 29, 2013. There is not much to change, except to note that letters were mailed to schools on August 26, 2014 informing them of each school's National Merit Semifinalists. These notices are sent by bulk mail, so schools should start receiving them today or early next week.
    Last year the national cutoff score for commended students was 203. This year it is 201, as I reported back in April. Last year the Mississippi cutoff score was 207. I also predicted in April that this year it will be 205; we will know soon enough.
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    The College Board has sent semi-finalist notifications to the schools of students who took the PSAT or National Merit Test last October. These letters may arrive today, and many high schools will immediately call the seniors in to the office to tell them the good news.
    Roughly 16,000 seniors across America will be named National Merit Semi-finalists. While the letters should arrive this week, the actual press release date is Sept. 11 (for 2014, I think Sept. 10). Semi-finalists are required to have an SAT score that is in line with their PSAT, have reasonably good grades, a letter of recommendation from their principal, and to complete some paperwork to become Finalists. About 15,000 will go on to Finalist status, with 1,000 not making the cut due to failure to meet the above requirements.
    The College Confidential board has some pretty good information on what is going  on this year with test scores. They tend to fluctuate a little bit, but this year the score for a Commendation is 203 nationwide, the same as last year. Commendations offer little but a warm feeling inside, or perhaps a frustrated feeling in some states, such as Mississippi, where there is only a point or two of difference between being named a Commended Student and a Semi-finalist.
    While Commended status is based on a nationwide score of all students scoring in the top three percent, Semi-finalist cutoff scores vary by state. Last year in Mississippi the Semi-finalist cutoff was 204, so there were very few unlucky Commended students. On the other hand, Massachusetts has a cutoff score of 221, so there is a big gap between the two.
    As I've written before, the difference in cutoff scores means that it is much easier for a diligent student to earn National Merit status living in states like Mississippi, Wyoming, and West Virginia than it is in states like Massachusetts, New Jersey, or Maryland. A score that puts one in the top one percent in Mississippi might only put one in the top two or three percent nationally.
    My opinion is that it is far easier for a student who usually scores in say the 94th percentile to work hard and improve himself to reach the 98th percentile than it is for a student who usually scores in the 98th percentile to work hard and improve himself to the 99.7th national percentile. For the diligent student, there is an advantage to being schooled in Mississippi!
    Here's a test-taking tip. High school freshmen and sophomores are allowed to take the PSAT; only the junior-year score is used for National Merit purposes. If your child has reasonably good test scores, pay the $15 or so for him to take the test. You ought to get an idea from these scores as to whether or not your child has National Merit potential. With a couple of years to work on it, much of the PSAT math can be systematically mastered, and there can be some improvement in the reading and writing as well. A little bit of improvement can go a long way, so it's worth the effort.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

In 20-20 hindsight, Jackson Prep player's death was both predictable and preventable

Walker Wilbanks
    The Clarion-Ledger reports that the lead physician who treated Jackson Prep football player Walker Wilbanks said the teens death from a lack of sodium was a "fluke" and "freak" occurance. Wilbanks fell ill during the Friday, August 22 game against Oxford. His death was from hyponatremia, or an extreme lack of sodium.
    "Please don't overreact. Don't let this alter the way you prepare for games," he said. "Friday night was an isolated incident. He couldn't have prepared for it. No one could," Pressler said. "There are times where there are no answers medically, and that's what we're dealing with here."
    I'm not a doctor but I disagree with this one. There are certainly some unanswered questions, such as whether or not Wilbanks might have been taking a diuretic, for example (which can cause hyponatremia), but I'm not willing to accept that such deaths can't be prevented.
    First, I only played football for a single year. I was terrible. But I remember on really hot days the coaches would give us salt pills. My understanding is that salt pills are no longer given. Why? I've never heard of anyone dying from taking a proper dosage of salt pills before a football game, but I now know of one who died because of a lack of salt in his system.
    Second, when football players practice and play in extreme heat bad things, including the possibility of death, are more likely to happen. The high temperature at the Jackson airport on August 23 was 93 degrees. At 6:53 the temperature was 90 with a heat index of 95.4. These temperatures were recorded on the outskirts of the city, and are likely lower than those that existed on the Jackson Prep field. I think it is obvious that had temperatures been cooler Wilbanks would be alive today.
    Following the death of a football player to heat stroke the state of Kentucky adopted rigid rules concerning practices in heat. With a heat index of 95 or above the following steps are required:
 Provide ample amounts of water. This means that water should always be available and athletes should be able to take in as much water as they desire.
 Mandatory water breaks every 30 minutes for 10 minutes in duration
 Ice-down towels for cooling
 Watch/monitor athletes carefully for necessary action.
 Contact sports and activities with additional equipment
 Helmets and other possible equipment removed if not involved in contact.
 Reduce time of outside activity. Consider postponing practice to later in the day.
 Re-check temperature and humidity every 30 minutes to monitor for increased Heat Index.
    Unlike a practice, a football game doesn't allow 10-minute water breaks every half rour. Players can't always remove their helmets. And the outside activity can't be reduced or postponed.
    But there is a solution: Don't allow football games in August!
    School traditionally began the Tuesday after Labor Day, with the first football game perhaps the Friday after Labor Day. Labor Day marks the end of summer for a reason; temperatures drop with every passing day.
    I don't blame anyone for Wilbanks' death. But in hindsight it wasn't a "freak," unpreventable occurrence. It was predictable and preventable. We need to attempt to discover as many facts as possible and work together to prevent such deaths in the future.
    We can prevent future deaths by banning August football games and by making sure players have a high enough sodium level, whether it's achieved with salt pills, energy drinks, or something else. As a state we need to regulate football practice conditions as well. These changes can come from the athletic associations or from the legislature; I don't care which.
    As a state we have a choice. We can make some changes, or we can decide to bury some more teen-agers. Because when another kid dies, it won't be a "fluke." It will be because we allowed it to happen.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

As the government tries to ban salt from our schools, study shows eating salt promotes good health

    In the "why we need less federal government intrusion" department, a new study finds that reasonable or even slightly high levels of salt in the diet do no harm. In fact, the most dangerous sodium intake level is the very-low-salt diet, such as the one the government is forcing on our school children.
    Schools across the nation have been scrambling in an effort to meet federal demands that school lunches have ultra-low-sodium. Aside from making food taste good, salt is an important ingredient that improves both texture and shelf life of baked goods.
    School lunch prices for full-pay students have skyrocketed this year, pursuant to federal mandates that schools serve unhealthy meals low in sodium. We are -- as is always the case with the federal government -- paying more to get less.
    Some people, such as those with high blood pressure, should limit salt intake. But for the rest of us, salt is good food.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

At Wall's I found dishwashing detergent that works for half the price of modern stuff that doesn't

Four years old and full of
delightful, effective phosphate!
    Regular readers of this blog know that when I grocery shop I stock up on deeply discounted sales items -- in a big way. As a result I manage to save a good bit of money on groceries, and if the Earth is ever hit by an asteroid folks at my house will still eat for a few weeks.
    Yesterday Jinny and I went to Wall's down in Grenada. Going to Wall's is a crap shoot, and this trip was proving to be unproductive -- until I spotted the bags of Cascade Action Packs on the back wall (at Wall's).
    The packaging looked rather old, so I turned the bag over and found a disclaimer assuring the customer that the product contained no more than eight percent phosphate. I hit pay dirt!
    Phosphate -- usually in the form of Sodium Tripolyphosphate, or STPP -- is the magic ingredient that makes soap work. Liberals passed laws against phosphates in laundry detergent years ago even though they did little if any damage to the environment (almost all phosphates in rivers and streams came from and still comes from agricultural fertilizer, not laundry soap). But dishwashing detergent still contained some phosphate until 2010.
    A few states passed additional laws against phosphates and so the big corporations decided to punish all Americans by depriving us of phosphates. Most people didn't know about the changes until they noticed that their dishes were no longer getting clean.
    The "old" Cascade that was on sale at Wall's cost $1.99 per bag of 20 wash packs. The new-and-much-worse version of the same product was on sale for $3.99 at Kroger yesterday. So I was able to buy dishwasher detergent that is twice as good for half the price. I bought 35 bags, or enough for 700 dishwasher loads. We have about 10-12 dishwasher loads per week, so that's about an 18-month supply.
    For those of you who can't find any old detergent that works, The Chemistry Store online sells buckets of sodium tripolyphosphate. Just add a tablespoon to cheap dishwashing detergent and your dishes will get clean. Add two tablespoons as a laundry booster and your clothes will last longer and stay cleaner.
    Best of all, phosphates work as fertilizer. So if you have a septic tank like us, every time you do a load of laundry you'll fertilize your yard as well.
    Without phosphates Erma Bombeck never could have penned her best-seller, The Grass Is Always Greener over the Septic Tank.

In the eyes of the Tunica Treasure Bay casino, good fences didn't make good neighbors.



    I was going through an old box and found this button from the long-defunct Treasure Bay Casino in Tunica.
    The casino started handing out these buttons after the Horseshoe Casino opened next door, accessed by a new road that made it 10 to 15 minutes closer to Memphis. Many Horseshoe guests were simply walking across the parking lot to pay a visit to the Treasure Bay. So the Horseshoe took care of that problem by erecting a fence.
    During the squabbles over the fence I heard that Jack Binion had offered to include the Treasure Bay in the group of casinos being served by the new roads that he had financed for a million dollars. The Treasure Bay -- at the time plenty busy -- turned down the deal.
    If you look at the map above, you can see that the Horseshoe and the old Treasure Bay site are perhaps 1,000 feet apart. Yet by car it was quite a slog. I don't think the road that now appears on the southern part of the map was there at the time.
    The Treasure Bay had some problems other than just fences. They didn't build a hotel, so were entirely dependent on the drive-up trade. I heard they were much too generous with their site owner, with a lease that paid a percentage of gaming revenue as rent whether the casino was making money or not.
    But one of the biggest blows the casino had was in not being a part of the Horseshoe-Gold Strike group that was right next door. The casino closed May 31, 1995, less than four months after the Horseshoe opened its doors. At the time it closed it had been in business just over one year.
    If they could have been included for only a million dollars then their failure to do so was truly a bad bet. Treasure Bay had the opportunity to build a bridge, but they didn't. So the Horseshoe built a fence.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

National media lend hand to race riots by portraying murderous thug as angelic college student

Liberal darling Michael Brown robs a convenience store just minutes
before his death while charging a policeman.
    It's interesting how the media works hard to portray violent criminals like Michael Brown or Trayvon Martin as angelic victims of the excesses of white people.
    Here's how The New Yorker described the death of Michael Brown, of Ferguson, Mo., in a August 11, 2014, article entitled "Why Did Micheal Brown Die?":
Michael Brown didn’t die in the dark. He was eighteen years old, walking down a street in Ferguson, Missouri, from his apartment to his grandmother’s, at 2:15 on a bright Saturday afternoon. He was, for a young man, exactly where he should be—among other things, days away from his first college classes. A policeman stopped him; it’s not clear why. People in the neighborhood have told reporters that they remember what happened next as a series of movements: the officer, it seemed to them, trying to put Brown into a car; Brown running with his hands in the air; the policeman shooting; Brown falling. The next morning, Jon Belmar, the police chief of St. Louis County, which covers Ferguson, was asked, at a press conference, how many times Brown had been shot. Belmar said that he wasn’t sure: “more than just a couple of times, but not much more.” When counting bullets, “just” and “not much more” are odd words to choose.
    And then.....
How does the choreography of Michael Brown’s afternoon form a story that makes sense?  It cannot, or must not, be easier for the police to shoot at an eighteen-year-old who is running—away from the officer, not toward him—with his empty hands showing, than to chase him, drive after him, do anything other than kill him. Teen-agers may not always be prudent; there is no death penalty for that, or shouldn’t be.  
    Now let's look at the facts. Yes, Michael Brown was walking down the street -- the middle of the street -- in broad daylight. He looked to be high on drugs. He had just robbed a convenience store and beaten the owner in order to steal a box of Swisher Sweets cigars. A policeman told him to get out of the middle of the street, at which point Brown -- no doubt thinking he was about to be appreheded for his robbery -- attacked the policeman and attempted to get his gun and murder him. Brown then fled, but later turned and charged the policeman, again in what can only be presumed an effort to murder him. The policeman fired, and felled the thug as he was charging him, with Brown's body finally coming to rest a mere three feet from the policeman.
    In order to further the myth that blacks are somehow frequently mistreated at the hands of the police The New Yorker -- and many other media outlets -- printed things which simply were not true. For example, it said that Brown was shot while running from police. Yet three different autopsies have found that all of the bullet wounds entered Brown's body from the front, as Brown was charging and attempting to murder the policeman.
    In order to keep the false impression that Michael Brown was some type of victim, the racist Obama administration pressured the Ferguson Police Department not to release video showing Brown robbing the convenience store just minutes before he attacked the policeman. It was important to Obama and Eric Holder that the false sense of black grievance not be tamped down to ensure continued rioting and looting in the streets.
    Certainly there should be people in the streets, but these people should be celebrating the death of notorious thug Michael Brown, not blaming the police for his wrongful death. Since when is it wrong for a policeman to shoot a robber who is in the process of trying to murder him?
    A look at statistics shows that black-on-white violent crime is endemic; White-on-black crime is uncommon. If we're going to keep score of every racial wrong, then let's do it properly; let's keep score. Because a proper accounting shows that blacks aren't suffering at the hands of whites; it's the other way around.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Changing the name of Confederate Drive at Ole Miss is violation of state law

    There's a little glitch in Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones' plan to desecrate the memory of our Confederate War dead by changing the name of the spur road that serves to access the cemetery. He announced plans last Friday to change the name of the road from Confederate Drive to Chapel Lane.
    Such a name change is apparently against the law.
    Mississippi Code 55-15-81 provides that most streets named in honor of military units, organizations or events may not be renamed. This would certainly include a street serving a Confederate cemetery, named in memory of the men interred therein.
    Dan Jones has shown an unwillingness to adhere to the Ole Miss Creed regarding civil discourse. His hatred of Ole Miss and its history is so great that now he wants to break the law to erase memorials to the dead. Isn't it time we had a chancellor who would adhere to the Ole Miss Creed and obey the law?

    The relevant code section reads as follows:
(1) None of the following items, structures or areas may be relocated, removed, disturbed, altered, renamed or rededicated: Any Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican-American War, War Between the States, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War, War in Iraq or Native American Wars statues, monuments, memorials or nameplates (plaques), which have been erected on public property of the state or any of its political subdivisions, such as local, municipal or county owned public areas, and any statues, monuments, memorials, nameplates (plaques), schools, streets, bridges, buildings, parks preserves, reserves or other public items, structure or areas of the state or any of its political subdivisions, such as, local, municipal or county owned public areas, which have been dedicated in memory of, or named for, any historical military figure, historical military event, military organization or military unit.

UPDATE AND ADDENDUM: In the space of 10 hours this has become the second-most-read post I've had on this blog, as determined by direct click-throughs. Of course, I do have a few regular readers who just type in the blog name (in fact, I think this is becoming more common).

I really did not come up with this idea on my own. Someone posted a comment on Facebook which cited a Senate or House bill, not the code section. I read this on my phone, and when I tried to find the post on my computer I couldn't. I wanted to give whoever it was credit. But to whoever it was, next time cite the code section! You made me do some work. Also, my good friend John Cofield said he was aware of this information for the past few days and was just waiting for someone to publish it.