Tuesday, December 24, 2013

If you haven't joined Marriott Rewards, join now and get a free night; or two!

    New Year's is just over a week away and it's time to make those resolutions. Most of these can actually be made at any time, but I have one that is best made at the start of the year.
    It's this: If you plan to spend two or more nights in hotels over the next 12 months, you need to join a hotel loyalty program.
    Hotel loyalty programs are a lot like the airline programs were 15 years ago, in that there are some really generous offers to be had out there. For example, Jinny and I both recently got a couple of free nights in Raidisson hotels that would have cost us more than $300 merely by spending a single night apiece in a cheap Radisson. It was as if we had been given a free $600.
    The Radisson deal is long gone, but there are still plenty of very generous offers out there. For casual travelers, I've been touting the Marriott program and its Megabonus for some time. If you aren't already a member of the Marriott Rewards program, pat yourself on the back for refusing to listen to me earlier. Because they are giving a free hotel room to new members.
    That's right, sign up, stay twice over the next 120 days and get a free Cat. 1-5 room night. This offer is stackable on top of Marriott's thrice-yearly Megabonus offer, which for most casual travelers is a stay-two-get-one offer. So for new members, stay twice and get two free room nights.

    In other hotel loyalty club news, Priority Club, now known as IHG Rewards, has a promotion called The Big Win that, like the Marriott Megabonus, gives a custom offer to each member. IHG is punishing its most loyal members by giving them crappy offers, but casual travelers can come out just fine on this.
    Both Jinny and I got Big Win offers that total around 87,000 points. Her offer requires a bare minimum of 11 stays, two of which must include a Saturday night. Mine, on the other hand, can be completed with just four one-night stays.
    Needless to say, I'm going for the points. Jinny will likely devote her business elsewhere.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Ole Miss presented with $25,000 tab for party celebrating victory over LSU

Fans rush the field after Ole Miss' 27-24 win over LSU

    I published the photo above on Oct. 21. I was surprised that the security officials allowed the fans to storm the field, although perhaps there was little they could do to stop it.
    Now Ole Miss is paying the price, with a $25,000 fine being levied against the school by the SEC. The large fine is because Ole Miss is a repeat offender.
    Other schools were fined as well. Mississippi State received a repeat-offender $25,000 fine for excessive ringing of cowbells. Auburn was fined $5,000 as a result of the fans storming the field after the Alabama victory. Missouri also will have to pony up $5,000 following its celebration of its win over Texas A & M.
    I guess the Ole Miss needs to work harder at keeping the fans off the field!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

I lost my camcorder, but hottytoddy.com pulled through for me and shot this great video

    Back in my Ole Miss student days I was a real thorn in the side of Ed Meek, who was the head of public relations for the university. Neither of us ever had a cross word with each other, but I'm sure I irritated him no end.
    Time is a salve that heals all wounds. Since moving back to Oxford three years ago I've found that Ed and I are frequently on the same page, and I am proud to call him a friend.
    For the past couple of years I've been recording the Oxford School District orchestra concerts that my daughter has participated in and have posted them on this blog and on Youtube. Unfortunately, I have lost my video camera and wasn't able to film these year's concert. I miss my video camera.
    And it's a shame, too. It was a great concert. It was a big change from year's past. Members of the various orchestras remained in their seats on stage for the entire concert, so there was no 15-minutes of switching and tuning between the beginner, 7th & 8th grade, and high school orchestra. And the choir was invited to participate and contributed several great choral performances.
    I have a short attention span, and the concert just whizzed by. I would honestly recommend to any Oxford resident that they attend future concerts. It was top notch.
    I wish I could say the highlight of the evening was my daughter's cello playing, but it wasn't. It was the performance of a quintet which sang the modern Christmas carol, "Mary Did You Know?" in what I would call a street-singing style. I'm not predisposed to care for this type of music, but I loved it.
    I was truly saddened that I wasn't able to record this and share it on my blog. So I sent Ed Meek an email and told him about the group and asked him to see if he could get someone from his news website, hottytoddy.com to do a story and perhaps get a video of this fine group. Ed Meek and hottytoddy.com came through for me. Thank you Ed! Thank you hottytoddy.com!
    These students arranged this song by themselves. They give us cause to be proud of our local schools and our city. And we're proud of them, too.
    I've already posted the hottytoddy video at the top of this post, but click this link to see the hottytoddy.com story on the quintet.

House snoop yields a small treasure trove of history

    I was snooping through an abandoned house recently and found a book in the basement entitled Great Issues and National Leaders: The Voters Guide for the Campaign of 1908.

    The rather thick book does a pretty good job of describing the various candidates for president. In addition to Republican William Howard Taft and Democrat William Jennings Bryan, the book profiles a number of what we would today call "fringe" candidates, such as socialist Eugene Debs.
    A good portion of the book isn't so much about the current election but the recounting of recent political history. The book also spends a good bit of time explaining how our government works. I found refreshing the passages which explained that the federal government had granted no authority to the states, as it had none to grant; rather, the book explains, the states ceded certain enumerated powers -- and no more -- to the federal government.
    Much of the book is simply the reprinting of speeches and party platforms. For example, under the subhead "Republican Principles Enunciated" is the Republican convention keynote address by Julius C├Žsar Burrows, of Minnisota.
    I could go on, but the point is that history reads very differently when it's written as current events rather than it does from a 100-year-old history book. I certainly discovered some things I didn't know. The book describes Mississippi representative John S. Williams as a "leading" Democratic statesman (see photo below), but I confess I had never heard of him. Williams was minority leader of the House from 1903 to 1908. Have any other Mississippians held this post, or that of majority leader? Why haven't I heard of this guy? I find it interesting that in an era without television or radio much of the electorate was far more informed 1908 than it is today with our modern communication systems.
    The book spent many a year in a damp basement, and it smells absolutely dreadful. But I will brave the smell and continue to browse the book over the next few weeks. And if my high school history teacher, Bobby Mitchell, wants to borrow this little treasure, of course he is welcome.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Parlez-vous Serbo-Croatian?

    I was poking around on my insurance company's website and found a feature that would identify doctors able to deal with patients speaking foreign languages.
    Apparently Oxford has two (or maybe only two within my plan). One doctor can handle French speakers and one can handle those speaking Serbo-Crotian. As for Spanish, nada.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Christmas story of a grandmother's love and of her friends' kindness

   With Thanksgiving over, we started with our Christmas decorations. The first items to go up were the children's stockings.
    My mother, Sara Hurdle, made these with needlepoint for the children. Ash's was given to him on his second or third Christmas. Lucy's took a little longer.
    Mother had started on Lucy's stocking, but set it aside. When she was in the hospital for what turned out to be her final visit, she asked that her needlepoint project be brought to her. I remember seeing her work on it.
    One day mother's friends Martha Carlisle and Lou Jones stopped by for a visit and asked Mother if there was anything they could do for her. She handed them the needlepoint and asked them to finish it. She said she just didn't have the energy.
    So Lou and Martha finished the needlepoint and took it to wherever stockings are made. A couple of weeks after Mother's death Martha gave me the stocking, sharing with me the story behind it. I cried, of course.
    Each year when I hang these stockings I can't help but think about a mother's love for her grandchildren and the bond of friendship that led Lou and Martha to finish Lucy's Christmas stocking.
    And yes, every Christmas I cry.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

After seeing the Wal-Mart "sale," I think I'd rather pay more and not endure it

    I needed a computer mouse today and drove over to Wal-Mart to pick one up. The photos above show the crowd I found. It's important to note that these crowds were all over the store, although a couple of spots did have a higher density.
    It seems Wal-Mart is having a pre-Black-Friday sale Thanksgiving Day, with several items going on deep discount at 6 p.m. and later 8 p.m. Everyone was waiting to buy some cheap stuff, such as a $99 32-inch television. Wristbands were being distributed in some fashion to keep the people from clawing each other's eyes out at the stroke of 6.
    Fortunately, I was able with some effort to get my mouse and checked out with little wait. No one was waiting to pay yet; they were waiting to grab their discounted items. I did get a sale catalog and discovered that for the $9.99 I paid for my corded mouse I could have gotten a wireless mouse at 8 p.m. It was worth the $10 loss in value to be out of that zoo!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

If shopping Amazon this Christmas, buy yourself a gift card from Kroger and save money on gas

    Last year I wrote about saving money on gas by buying an Amazon gift card from Kroger. It's that time of year again.
    Kroger is offering quadruple fuel points on most gift card purchases through Dec. 10. Kroger fuel centers redeem these fuel points with a 10-cent discount on gas per hundred points redeemed. So a $250 Amazon gift card purchase earns 1,000 points, or a dollar-per-gallon discount, the maximum allowed.
    There are a few quirks about the Kroger points. They don't accumulate, and points earned can be used immediately or carried into the next month. But after the next month they expire. Also, they pull from the earliest month possible when redeemed, but will pull from only one month's point. So if you have 800 October fuel points remaining and 1,000 November points, asking for an 80-cent discount will use the October points. Asking for a 1,000-point discount will use the November points, letting the October points go to waste.
    There is a strategy to all of this. You need to be aware of your fuel point balances, which are printed on your grocery receipt. On Nov. 29 or 30, buy just enough points to bring your November fuel-point total to an even thousand. Then buy additional gift cards Dec. 1 through Dec. 10 to give yourself fuel discounts through the end of January. So if you know you will be shopping on Amazon, go ahead and pay now!
    Oh, and the gift cards are easy to use. Just log into your Amazon account, go into "My Account" settings and apply the gift card. It will immediately give your account a credit balance for the amount of the gift card.
    The amount you save will depend on the size of your car's gas tank (and the size of your family's Christmas), up to a maximum of 35 gallons per fill-up. A $250 gift card purchase yields a $1-per-gallon discount on gas. For my car that's $16 in savings. Since I use an airline card to buy groceries, add another $2.50 to that for a total of $18.50 saved. If you drive a Suburban, figure $30 in fuel savings, so an effective 13-percent discount on your Amazon shopping.
    For us, this is only a seven-percent savings on our Christmas purchases, but if you know you are going to be spending money with Amazon, why not save the seven percent?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Spend $500 on magazines and American Airlines will throw in a round-trip ticket to Hawaii for free

    In the amazing deals department, a couple can buy $250 each worth of magazine subscriptions through the American Airlines AAdvantage shopping portal and they will throw in a round-trip ticket to Hawaii for free.
    Now, let me admit, they don't just issue a ticket to Hawaii with two $250 purchases. But they will credit each purchaser with 17,500 miles. For a husband and wife each making purchases that comes out to 35,000 miles, which is the cost in miles of an off-peak round-trip ticket to Hawaii.
    Here's how this one works. AAdvantage is offering a 2,500-mile bonus through December 2 to anyone purchasing $250 through its shopping portal. This spending can be spread among retailers. They also have a 1,500-mile bonus for $150 in spending and $75 for 750 miles.
    Each retailer also offers miles for purchases, generally from two to six miles per dollar. But from time to time a retailer will offer a really large milage bonus. And that's what's happening now. Magazines.com usually offers a generous 20 miles per dollar spent, but right now they are offering 60 miles per dollar. Add that to the shopping portal bonus and $250 nets 17,500 miles. A husband and wife can do this and each will get 17,500 miles, for a total of 35,000 miles -- the cost of an off-peak ticket to Hawaii.
    To put that in perspective, consider what AAdvantage sells airline miles for. They usually get almost three cents a mile, although a current promotion provides 10,800 miles for just under $250. So for $250 you can buy 10,800 miles directly from the airline, or you can buy $250 in magazine subscriptions and get 17,500 miles thrown in for free. So you can pay 2.5 cents for miles or you can get them for 1.4 cents each and have a lot of magazine subscriptions thrown in.
    Some of the magazines are quite reasonably priced. A two-year subscription to Time costs $60, or just over 50 cents an issue. A year of Rolling Stone is $59.90. Eleven issues of Esquire is $8. Twenty-four issues of the National Review costs $29.50. All of these prices are a fraction of the newsstand cost, and generally less than I've seen quoted for these magazines.
    These points can't be pooled, but presumably most AAdvantage members will already have some miles in their accounts. The AAdvantage off-peak for Europe is Oct. 15 to May 15, with round-trip tickets going for 40,000, so this deal almost produces enough miles for a trans-Atlantic trip.
    Don't wait too long. This one won't last.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

One Day More -- Nov. 15 is the last day to claim your free Marriott room nights

    Each day offers differing opportunities and dangers for every person. This is a reminder that you have one day more to sign up for Marriott's Megabonus offer, which for most will offer a free room night for every two stays. The promotion period lasts through January 15, but November 15 is the last sign-up day.
    The Megabonus offers are individualized, but for most casual travelers the offer will be a Category 1-5 room certificate for every two stays, up to a maximum of two. We've used these certificates to attend away football games, for a quick trip to New Orleans, or just when traveling.
    We usually use our certificates for hotel nights that would otherwise cost us in excess of $150. So 12 one-night stays per year yields six free-night certificates worth $900 in hotel stays. Oh, and you should earn in excess of 15,000 Marriott Rewards points over those 12 stays, which is enough points for a night at a Category 3 Marriott-family hotel. So 12 stays equals seven free nights. The math is pretty good on this one; if you have the need for hotel stays over the next two months then failing to sign up for these free room certificates is just silly.
    If a husband and wife both travel a little bit, just double it and make it 12 free-night certificates a year. That's about as many free nights as a family can possibly use.
    For those who keep up with such things, Marriott has one of the best aspirational awards going: Seven nights in a Marriott-family hotel plus 120,000 airline mile. The point cost varies, but most will end up spending 300,000 to 390,000 points for this.
    So what is the air-hotel package worth? Well, 120,000 airline miles will get two tickets to Europe in the shoulder season, which if purchased for cash could easily cost $1,500 each. Seven nights at the Paris Marriott Opera Ambassador Hotel could easily cost 2,400 Euros, or about $3,250. So the value of the flight-hotel package is about $6,000. Spouses can pool their points when redeeming these awards.
    Of course, it will take a while to earn that many points, and there is always the risk that the award chart could be gutted. But if the chart stays the same then  in two more years Jinny and I will get a heck of a vacation.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A word to the wise: If you value your sanity, don't subscribe to AT&T's U-verse service

    Maybe you've heard about AT&T's U-verse service and are thinking about subscribing. I strongly advise against it. Read on.
    We subscribed to U-verse, which is AT&T combo service providing Internet, phone, and TV, when we moved into a rented townhouse in Oxford, just over two years ago. I have to say for the most part we liked the service. The problem is that it is impossible to quit and no one at AT&T will answer the telephone.
    We bought a house this year and transferred our service to our new location. We were told that our new address wasn't eligible for U-verse and that we would have to go back to old-timey phone and DSL service. The service at our townhouse was to end on May 21 and begin in our new home May 24. Well, it didn't. I think we finally got phone service June 14; so we were without phone service for three weeks.
    Of course we called to find out what was going on with our phones. We were always told it would be cut on in a couple of days. Then we would call again two days later. Or we tried to. And that's when we made an unpleasant discovery. Regular AT&T service and U-verse service are apparently two completely separate divisions within the AT&T empire. We would call and ask about our phone service and be cordially welcomed as a "U-verse customer." When we would finally talk to someone they would tell us they couldn't help because we weren't with the U-verse division anymore. They would then deposit us back in he automated phone queue. Lather, rinse, repeat. Ad infinitum.
    I do understand, by the way, that automatic phone systems save corporations money. But it's ridiculous to have to go through 20 minutes of phone prompts, two Spanish lessons, and a lecture on texting while driving when all one needs to say is, "May I speak to someone in billing, please?" Oddly enough, there is no phone prompt asking if one has been charged for something one doesn't owe. In fact, it is virtually impossible to talk to anyone at AT&T about any problem. It's made even more difficult when one's phone number is linked to the U-verse division even though one is no longer a U-verse customer, so that one enters an endless circle of phone prompts.
    AT&T continues to charge us for service we did not receive. They are trying to charge us for equipment we returned. They are still charging us for long-distance charges that are supposed to be part of our package. They refuse to answer the phone so we can discuss it.
    I've said enough. If you think you will be a U-verse customer for life, go for it. But if you think you might ever want to move to a new address, avoid the service like the plague.
    Lawsuit to follow? Probably.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Yazoo Revisited fails to ask the most important question: Why did the white students leave?

    Well, I was a little disappointed in the Yazoo Revisited documentary that I saw tonight at the Overby Center.
    David Rae Morris visited Yazoo City to create this documentary on the resegregation of Yazoo City's schools. When his father, Willie Morris, wrote a book on the subject 40 years ago he thought integration was a done deal. Instead, the school went from 60 percent black to 90 percent black over a 20-year period. Today the schools are 99 to 100 percent black.
    My problem with the rough-cut documentary is that it is in large part a retrospective of Willie's book. It tells us the schools are resegregated, but it doesn't even offer a clue as to why. It shows a copy of the book, and if I saw it correctly Willie had scrawled in the margin, "Why was I wrong?" And yet the documentary makes zero attempt to answer Willie's question.
    The documentary misses the point that whites didn't simply go to the private academy or move out into the county. They often left the area entirely.
    The exodus of whites from the public schools 20 years after desegregation is treated as an absolutely unsolvable mystery, and maybe it is. But I would say that the first step in solving this mystery is to ask some of the people who left. It's hard to get people to be honest about delicate matters concerning race, but one can't know if one doesn't ask.
    This didn't just happen in Yazoo City. It happened in a number of Delta towns which initially integrated the schools successfully. They resegregated years later when the white people left. So why did they leave? Someone has to ask them -- assuming anyone cares about their answers.
    I'm not going to say the rough-cut documentary wasn't interesting, because it was. And I certainly wish David well. But I wanted more and didn't get it.

Willie Morris' son, David Rae Morris, to screen rough cut of Yazoo resegregation documentary

    David Rae Morris, son of Willie Morris, is producing a documentary on the integration and resegregation of Yazoo City schools. A rough cut of this documentary will be shown at the Overby Center (Farley Hall) Monday, October 28, at 5:30 p.m. I hope to be able to make it.
    David Morris is essentially taking up the issue of Yazoo City school desegregation where his father left off. In the early 1970s he wrote a long magazine article that was expanded into a book entitled Yazoo: integration in a Deep-Southern town. The book ends with Morris expressing his view that everything was going to be just fine. It didn't end up that way.
    I read Morris' book over Christmas and wrote an Amazon review in January 2013. So rather than rehash the issue I will simply reprint my review, which among other things makes the point that what happened in Yazoo City happened in a number of Mississippi towns; Rolling Fork, Leland, and Clarksdale come to mind. I shared my view on what happened in many of these towns in a blog post in which I criticized efforts of the federal government to resegregate Cleveland's public schools.

My Amazon review:
To Morris' eventual dismay, he got it wrong, but an interesting readJanuary 7, 2013
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Willie Morris certainly didn't know it at the time this book - an expansion of a long magazine article - was released, but the subtitle should have read "FAILURE of Integration in a Deep-Southern Town." It would have brought him great sadness and eventually did.

That isn't the way the book leaves off. In fact, Morris completed the book in January 1971 firmly believing that the Yazoo City schools - his home town - had gotten over the "hump" and would successfully integrate. Roughly 150 whites who had fled the public schools at desegregation in January 1970 had returned in September of that year. Morris was confident that whites would continue to return and that the private Manchester Academy would either close or shrink into insignificance.

The Yazoo City integration success was trumpeted by many throughout the 1970s and even the 1980s. But the schools suffered the same fate as many other heavily black public schools that weathered the first wave of white flight. Slowly the whites drifted away, either to private schools or to other school districts. In 1971 the Yazoo City schools remained roughly 40 percent white, even after substantial white flight. Today Yazoo City High School is 99% black.

I purchased the original edition of this book as I got it for a low price used. It was re-released in 2012 with an Afterword by Morris' widow, JoAnne Prichard Morris. It's possible to read most of this Afterword by looking at the Amazon preview, but unless you can get a good deal on a used book it's worth paying extra to have her short Afterword. Morris had first met Prichard when he wrote Yazoo; she was one of two Yazoo City white teachers who volunteered to teach in the formerly all-black school in 1969 under Freedom of Choice. Years later, in 1990, they would marry when Prichard edited a collection of essays that Morris produced for the University of Mississippi Press.

Prichard taught in the Yazoo schools through the 1980s. She sent her children to Yazoo City schools and saw the white enrollment slowly dwindle away. She said Morris was tormented by the fact that he had gotten it so wrong and asks in her Afterword why school integration failed. "What happened?"

The answers are, in part, are actually in Morris' book. He interviews a Yazoo City attorney and former ABA president John Satterfield - an integration opponent - who shared his opinion that the schools would be integrated without violence or incident, but that if the classrooms were fully integrated eventually the school system would be all or almost all black. Satterfield cited the experience of the Washington, D.C., schools, which were desegregated by President Eisenhower and by 1970 were 93 percent black. Satterfield said he saw no basic difference in the character of the people of Washington, D.C. and the people of Yazoo City that would allow full integration to succeed in Yazoo city where it failed with the full support of the federal government.

Morris also has a footnote where he cites claims by others that there are "tipping points," or a certain black percentage that will trigger white flight, citing for example the unpublished Princeton thesis by Luther Munford which pointed out that every school with more than a 50 percent black student population had lost at least 20 percent of its white student population at the point of integration.

I think ultimately where Morris got it wrong is that he agreed with Yazoo City mayor Jeppie Barbour, who said the citizens would just have to stay put and make integration work. "They're here to stay and we're here to stay, and we don't have much other choice," Barbour said. But people did have a choice; they could leave, and many eventually did.

Prichard seems to have made the same mistake in her afterword when she notes that in the 1980s white students began transferring in increasing numbers to white academies. Certainly this may have happened, but this is not what really happened. If you take time to visit the various white-flight academies in Mississippi and count the number of white students in their school composites for the years 1971 to 1975, then count the number of students in the same town's public school composites, what you will find is that the white students haven't simply left the public schools, they have completely left the areas served by almost-all-black schools. If whites had simply transferred to Manchester Academy that school would today have an enrollment of about 1,500. Instead it has an enrollment of under 500. Essentially most of the white working class has moved elsewhere along with much of the middle class; in the case of Yazoo City some have moved to the county schools, some have moved to Madison County, some have even left the state. This has taken place all over Mississippi.

A great irony in recent years is that many of the formerly all-white "segregation" academies are now integrated. The black student presence isn't high, but in many of these private schools five to eight percent of the student body is black. Thus in many towns the white-flight schools are actually more integrated than the public school.

Even though this book is a period piece it is an interesting read. There is some accidental name-dropping by Morris. For example, he describes having dinner with a white Mississippi civil rights lawyer and his black wife - perhaps the first mixed-race couple in Mississippi - and describes the young woman as a recent Sarah Lawrence graduate and aspiring writer by the name of Alice Walker. In recounting the names of 1970 class officers at the newly integrated Yazoo City school Morris mentions the name of newly elected junior class president "Gentle Ben" Williams. In 1972 Williams would become the first black football player on the Ole Miss football team.

I also found it interesting that Morris mentions in passing the extreme violence that black leaders admit and even boast of using against other blacks to enforce a black boycott of white-owned businesses.

One impediment to integration that Morris mentions throughout the book is the difference in ability levels between black and white students. The first semester of integration at Yazoo City (Spring 1970) the school was integrated but the classes remained segregated, which actually helped with the transition. The black classes simply moved to the white high school over the Christmas holidays with no other changes. The next year the classes were integrated. Yet any type of ability grouping has been heavily discouraged if not banned by the federal courts, and I believe the lack of such grouping may have led to much of the white flight in those schools which had at first successfully integrated. Today the ability gap is greater than ever as the white working class has fled, leaving only a more-educated white elite that can afford private school tuition.

(Another cause of white flight that I have casually observed in a number of Mississippi school districts over the years is black-on-black violence. While white students might sometimes be tormented, black-on-white violence is quite rare in most school districts; however, whites frequently respond to serious black-on-black violence events by pulling their children out of public school.)

I had the pleasure of knowing Morris as an Ole Miss student. I never had him as a teacher, but we would frequently visit at the Hoka Theater over Irish coffee and spent a few evenings talking, laughing and arguing almost until the sun came up. My hometown is similar to Yazoo City - a formerly wealthy hill town where cotton was king in 1860 - and I could easily relate to much of his upbringing because much of it was my own. As a student he was editor of the Daily Texan. I would eventually become editor of the Daily Mississippian. I was as conservative as he was liberal. He loved Mississippi, loved history, loved people of all stripes, and absolutely hated social problems which seemed insoluble.

If we truly have a desire to make school integration work, or at least make school desegregation work, I think we have to come to certain agreements. First, few well-to-do black people would want to send their children to a school made up of 90 to 95 percent very poor, white children. No white person wants the opposite. We need to find a way to allow some cluster grouping of students who are friends or relatives outside the classroom, so that even where a school district is 90 percent black a small group of white friends might be allowed to remain in classes together -- or vice versa.

Second, parents want their children to be equally yoked in their classrooms, both in terms of ability and behavior. Students should be grouped both by achievement and a willingness to behave, and such groupings will almost certainly not be racially balanced. One need but read the many blogs of Teacher Corps teachers to know that there are some serious behavioral problems with many students in Delta schools, many of which seem to be far worse than when Morris wrote this book in 1971. These problems simply do not exist at most private schools. I suppose these Teacher Corps teachers - who do wonderful work - will some day be told to stop recording their experiences, because few educated, middle-class, white people of my acquaintance would ever send their child into such an environment, and as I said earlier many blacks are now finding their way to private schools for the same reason.

In short, if we want to have racial integration we have to be willing to have segregation by achievement and behavior. The courts and the black leadership have shown little willingness to allow this; until they do, in heavily black areas there can be no school integration.

I happen to support school vouchers. Vouchers take the left-wing, California-educator types out of the equation and allows parents to find schools with academic, dress, and behavior standards that suit their children's needs. But again, such vouchers would result in school integration and there are too many people out there opposed to school integration except on the government's terms.

I don't think I ever visited with Morris after I graduated from law school in 1988; maybe once. While he enjoyed being back in Mississippi, his years at Ole Miss were often spent in a bit of an off-and-on depressed funk. I heard through friends after a couple of years that he had remarried and that his wife was like a tonic for him and had made him truly happy. He was described as a new man. So I'm glad he and Prichard found each other and had almost 10 years together, and I'm glad she released this book.

My understanding is that Morris' son David has done the field work for a short film on Yazoo School integration and why it failed. I wish he or another documentary maker would expand it to include all the other school districts which seemed to have integrated successfully only to become 99 percent black 30 years later. In any event, I look forward to seeing this film should it ever be released.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The lapis-lazuli dagger exumed at Ur is apparently alive and well in the Baghdad Museum

Lapis-lazuli dagger exhumed at Ur
    I've been trying to read Will Durant's Story of Civilization. It's a slow go. It's not exactly bathroom reading, but that's where I keep it. But I also try to make myself read a few pages every day while sitting on the sofa.
    I've only made it to page 134 in the first volume. The 11-volume series has about 10,000 pages, so I'm just over one percent through it.
    I had to stop reading and go to the Internet when I read Durant's description of Sumarian artifacts. This is the oldest civilization that we know of, dating to about 4,000 B.C. He describes the Sumarians as terrible potters but good goldsmiths and mentions some of these elaborate artifacts. "Best of all is the gold sheath and lapis-lazuli dagger exumed at Ur," which he said touches on perfection. His footnote says that this artifact is in the Iraq Museum in Baghdad.
    Of course, I had to rush to the Internet to see if the dagger was one of the items looted after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The failure of our military to secure this museum quickly is inexcusable. As best I can tell, the dagger remains in the museum. But many priceless Sumarian artifacts were stolen or simply destroyed. These are the oldest man-made artifacts in the world and they aren't making any more.
    So the dagger apparently survives. I can go on with my reading, three or four pages at a time.

    It's the nature of Internet searches that one will discover facts tangental to one's original search. The excavations at Ur took place at the start of the 20th century and eventually stalled. The ancient city is only 20 percent excavated, and current excavation activity is limited.
    I found a webpage filled with photos of the artifacts exhumed from the royal tombs of Ur. The website is worth a visit. As you look at these items, remember that they come from the oldest civilization that we know of. Pretty amazing.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

If you are really, really sick you need to hire a doctor to hire your doctor

    Internet blogger Steve Sailer occasionally creates national talking points by writing things that mustn't be written. Others then repackage his views and either repeat them in gussied-up form or else denounce his ideas without referencing exactly what they are denouncing.
    For example, he opined in 2005 that the difference between Red States and Blue States was that in Red States "Affordable Family Formation" was possible. In other words, in Red States it was generally possible to get married, have children, buy a house, and send children to public school. He Googled the phrase and found not a single instance of this phrase having ever been used in the history of the Internet. Google it today and you will get 44,300 hits.
    He's written a few posts over the years about being cured of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1997. The most recent item was in response to a New York Times opinion piece which pointed out the fact that people need to take control of their medical treatment, because doctors do get things wrong.
    I'll cut to the chase. Sailer's advice to anyone suffering a serious illness is this: Hire a doctor to hire your doctor. In 1996 he hired an oncologist as a consultant to choose between three different doctors with three different treatment proposals. Because of this he was one of the first people in the country -- if not the first -- to use a new drug that has been found since then to be highly effective. He credits his decision with saving his life.
    A personal example: A few years ago my father got a call from one of his doctors telling him that they had his blood tests and that his potassium levels were dangerously high (high potassium can cause a heart attack). They told him not to eat any bananas, tomatoes, or other foods high in potassium and to come in first thing Monday morning (it was late Friday). That was it.
    When I heard this I immediately did a web search on all of his medicines and found that an alpha blocker he was taking for blood pressure was associated with high potassium levels. His blood pressure problem wasn't all that serious, so I had him discontinue the alpha blocker until his consultation, at which time the doctor ordered it dropped as well.
    I didn't do anything the nurse couldn't have done better. But if I hadn't done it then it simply wouldn't have been done.
    Two years ago I wrote about a simple genetic test that most of us have already taken that could save your life. The test to answer the question, "How does dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM) make you feel?" I don't know of any doctor who asks that question. As a result, these doctors are mis-treating three to seven percent of their patients, risking potentially fatal consequences.
    When it comes to medicine, your health and life demand that you do some research on your own. And if you are really sick, hire a doctor to hire your doctor!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Use of Confederate flag to insult Yankees is an insult to Southerners

    This political cartoon is a great example of anti-Southern and anti-Confederate bigotry that one sees too often.
    Yankees and scalawags love to denounce the Confederate flag at every opportunity. So successful have they been at besmirching this Southern symbol that now, to them, it has become a way to insult people in a modern version of Waving the Bloody Shirt.
    The politicians and public figures pictured on the flag above are:
  • Sean Hannity, born and reared in New York City or environs
  • Koch Brothers, both born in Kansas, educated in Massachusetts
  • Roger Ailes, born and reared in Ohio
  • Ann Coulter, born in New York City, educated at Cornell and Michigan
  • Glenn Beck, born and reared in the state of Washington
  • Sarah Palin, born in Idaho, reared in Alaska and an Alaska resident, attended college in Idaho
  • Michele Bachmann, born in Iowa, reared in Minnesota, educated in Minnesota, Kansas and Virginia
  • Rush Limbaugh, born and reared in Missouri, a border state
  • Mike Lee, born in Arizona, reared in Utah and Virginia, now a Utah senator.
  • Eric Cantor, born and raised in Virginia
  • Jim DeMint, born, raised in South Carolina and was a senator from that state
  • Rand Paul, born in Pennsylvania, but moved to Texas as a child
  • Ted Cruz, born in Canada, but a Texan of Cuban origin.

    What's interesting is that seven of those featured on the flag have little or no connection to the South. They are Yankees. Rush Limbaugh is a kinda-sorta Southerner from the kinda-sorta state of Missouri. Likewise, Mike Lee spent a portion of his childhood in Virginia, but was born and has spent most of his life in the Far West. That leaves four with an actual Southern upbringing or connection.
    If the cartoonist wants to associate actual Southerners with the flag I wouldn't mind it so much. But simply using the association with the Confederate flag as a way to hurl an insult in offensive.
    I love Yankees and I love most of the politicians or public figures featured in this cartoon. But that doesn't change the fact that they are Yankees and don't deserve the honor of association with our flag. Couldn't the cartoonist at least think up 13 Southerners he didn't like?


Ole Miss Rebels almost certainly bowl bound, but will we get a chance to pick cotton?

Fans rush the field after Ole Miss' 27-24 win over LSU

    Saturday's 27-24 win against LSU is now history, one of those games that Rebel fans will tell their children and grandchildren about.
    It doesn't match the 1983 Egg Bowl win when State, with a few seconds on the clock, was kicking a chip-shot field goal. It seemed to me at the time that the ball actually went through the goalposts. Then a 40-mile-per-hour wind blew through the open end of the stadium and literally ejected the ball.
    From my vantage point it looked like the ball barely went through the goal posts, then went straight up for about half a second, and then went into reverse; sort of a loop-de-loop. This rather lousy Youtube video shows the ball going up and then changing direction, although it doesn't look like the ball made it all the way to the goal post, as it appeared to me at the time.
    The funny thing about human nature is that it is far more exciting and memorable to squeak out a win against an opponent than to win resoundingly. Ole Miss was leading LSU by an impressive 17-0 margin in the third quarter. A big win would certainly have been exciting and satisfying. But not nearly as memorable as the squeaker-win with six seconds left.
    At the time-out just before Ole Miss kicked its winning field goal the clock showed only three seconds left. But three seconds were added just before Ole Miss kicked its field goal for some reason. I was reminded of the legendary game in Baton Rouge where sluggish clock operations allowed the Tigers to complete three plays in 10 seconds for a win. I never saw it, but for years there was a billboard on I-55 which said, "Now Entering Louisiana. Please set your clocks back four seconds," or something to that effect.

Now for talk of bowl games

    Predicting the future for Ole Miss is always a gamble. But right now the 4-3 Rebels have seen the worst of a very tough schedule. Our remaining match-ups are Idaho, Arkansas, Troy, Missouri, and Mississippi State. All save the Egg Bowl give the Rebels a home-field advantage.
    So let's handicap it. I'm not willing to give the Rebels more than an 85 percent chance of winning any game, even though my gut feeling is that Ole Miss is certain to defeat Idaho and Troy. Arkansas is weak this year, although it would be foolish to sell them short. I think the Rebs have an advantage over Mississippi State, although the Egg Bowl is always Anything Can Happen day. And then there is currently undefeated Missouri....
    So let's give Ole Miss an 85 percent chance of defeating Idaho and Troy, a 70 percent chance over Arkansas, a 65 percent chance over State and a 15 percent chance against Missouri. Using my figures I predict a 7.2 to 4.8 season. 
    Of course, we can't win two-tenths of a game. So my real prediction is that we are very likely to finish 7-5 and have a very good chance of being 8-4. I find it very unlikely that Ole Miss will win all five remaining games. Another way to analyze it is that I give Ole Miss about a 50 percent chance of going 7-5, a 45 percent chance of 8-4, and a five percent chance of the miraculous 9-3.
    So Ole Miss is almost certainly headed to a bowl game, and probably a better bowl than last year's Compass. At 7-5 look for Liberty or Music City; at 8-4 look for Gator or Peach; and in the unlikely event the Rebels finish 9-3, get ready to pick Cotton.
    Just my view, for what it's worth. Those of you who are more avid football fans than I am are more than welcome to critique my analysis.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Happy sex in public leads to regret-rape charge by shamed Ohio University co-ed

    Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, is a little bit like Ole Miss and Oxford. Athens is a town of 23,000 in a part of Ohio that is beyond rural. The main campus has 23,000 students; more than Ole Miss, but virtually every state college has more students than Ole Miss.
    Oxford has a central town square surrounded by restaurants and student hangouts while Athens has a strip of bars and restaurants which line almost half-a-mile of Court Street. There are, of course, bars in other locations, but Court Street is the main drag. It's a neat place and worth a visit should you be in the neighborhood.
    Students at Ohio University are as liberal as Ole Miss students are conservative, so there is a limit to the comparison. But both are decent state schools located in relatively small towns, a state-university dynamic that is actually quite rare.
    Over the weekend a young man and woman, presumably students and apparently drunk, engaged in sexual activity in front of a small crowd of people on Court Street. Without getting too graphic, this activity involved the man getting on his knees and performing a sexual act. Need I say more?
    The crowd of up to 30 which witnessed this blessed event did what most people do these days -- they took out their cell phones and created a memory garden. They then shared their creations on Twitter, Instagram and elsewhere.
    A day later, the woman woke up to find that she had become an overnight sensation. She said she only became aware of her nocturnal activities though seeing videos and photos on various social media sites. I would guess she got a phone call from the morals officer of her sorority. She then went to the police and reported that she had been sexually assaulted, or raped.
    Needless to say, this event brought out all the radical feminists who really believe that any act of sexual intercourse involving a man is rape. Fortunately for the victim of this false accusation, the photos and videos taken by onlookers show the purported victim to be having a grand time. For roughly 10 percent of the time her paramour was performing oral sex she had her hand on the back of his head, apparently pushing him inward and onward. Following their tryst the couple posed for photos and then left together.The video has mostly disappeared from the Internet, but here is a description from a TotalFratMove writer who viewed it:
The video is 1:27 in length. The male was clearly providing oral sex to the female. Generally speaking, the two appeared to be willing participants who were, frankly, enjoying themselves. At one point in the video, the female put her right hand on the back of the male’s head while he was engaged. This lasted about eight seconds. Two different times in the video, the male looked around at different onlookers and exchanged words with them. This was in response to jeers they hurled at the couple. His words were unintelligible.
    Of course, the radical left immediately accepted the obviously bogus claim of rape as truth and castigated the bystanders. "All that needed to happen was to say [to the woman], 'Hey are you alright? Is this what you want to be happening?'" she Ohio University student Allie Erwin. "She obviously wasn't OK with what happened. It was rape. She reported it to the police as rape." What wonderful circular logic. It must be rape because the woman enjoyed it at the time but regretted it the next day.
    I would ask Ms. Erwin why she didn't think that anyone should have asked the man these questions? Why isn't she upset that no one asked him if it was alright and what he wanted to be happening? How does waiting around for a day and finding one's reputation in shreds suddenly make an absolute non-rape into a rape? If this man now says he must have been raped, should his word be accepted as absolute fact?
    There seems to be a notion that people who are drunk can't consent to sex, and at some point they surely can't. But doesn't that work both ways? Suppose that we accuse this man of rape on the ground that his drunken partner couldn't legally consent. Onlookers said he was drunk as well. Wouldn't that make the woman guilty of rape as well? Why should there be a double standard?
    So we are left with the meme that this woman had to have been raped because she said she was raped and women never lie about rape. The photographs and videos of her enjoying the events must be ignored. (I've seen these but am not going to link to them). Since women supposedly never lie about being raped, everyone is expected to accept any claim, no matter how ridiculous, at face value.
    The truth is that women can and do lie about rape. When a woman named Crystal Magnum was about to be thrown in jail for public intoxication she suddenly accused several Duke Lacrosse players of raping her. And her outlandish claims were accepted solely on the grounds that "women never lie about rape." Of course the feminists and left-wing types came out in force, because to them truth is unimportant; what is important is the impaling of men. This Youtube video shows the effort of the left-wing community to lynch these innocent boys.
    One could fill an encyclopedia of case notes where women have falsely accused innocent men of rape or abuse, either intentionally or by accident. A Department of Justice report found that when DNA was available roughly 25 percent of accused or already convicted men were excluded. Some studies put the false accusation rate at more than 40 percent, although I believe the latter figure to be too high (The author of the article I've linked to is a rape victim, for what it's worth).
    Rape is like any other crime. Law enforcement officers have a duty to ask some basic questions before bringing charges: Does this person have an incentive to lie? Does this story sound outlandish? Does the available evidence contradict the claim? If yes, they should proceed with caution.This is just basic police work. The willingness of the media to go along with obviously false claims of rape harms the credibility of real rape victims. It needs to stop.
    I feel sorry for the woman who participated in this public display. I'm sure neither she nor her sex partner gave much thought to the consequences of their actions. Life is unfair to women when it comes to sex. In the video the man refers to himself as a "whore." All too often a male "whore" is tolerated or even celebrated. A female "whore" is quickly shunned. But however unfair society may be, it does not change the fact that intense regret the day after does not convert consensual sex the night before into rape. Regret About Previous Encounters is not rape.
    Drunk, stupid sex isn't rape. It's just sex. And when two drunk, stupid people have voluntary sex the man is not the guilty party. Both the man and the woman are equally guilty or equally innocent. So if the police want to charge this man with rape they need to charge the woman, too.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Video proof that Ole Miss never loses a party

    Here's a Game Day video that's a little painful to watch. But hey -- we didn't lose the party!
    And here's a news story on TotalFratMove.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

I've added link to an Ole Miss events calendar

    At one time I found it very difficult to find out what events were happening on the Ole Miss campus. They seemed to be advertised in different areas of the school's website.
    There is now a pretty good calendar maintained by the school. I've added a link to it in the upper-right corner of this blog, right above the newspaper links. I hope this will be helpful to those who use this site as a way to navigate to other places.
    There are a lot of free or inexpensive things to do at Ole Miss. Certainly we all ought to take advantage of them from time to time.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

We lost the football game but won the party with these Greek Salad Skewers

Greek Salad Skewers drizzled with Greek dressing

    We may have lost the ballgame with A&M, but these Greek Salad Skewers were a winner at our Grove tent.
    I had some of these in a Hilton executive lounge a while back and thought they would make great party food. They do, and were a perfect addition to a Grove table.
    There are plenty of recipes for these around the Internet. Just do a Google search and find the one that looks best to you. Here's how we made ours:

  • Feta cheese cubes
  • Grape tomatoes (the smaller the better, if used whole)
  • Kalamata olives, halved
  • Small piece of sweet onion (a square cut from a single ring)
  • One-quarter of a slice of English Cucumber
  • A tiny piece of romaine lettuce
  • Salt and pepper

    Simply skewer the items in the order that looks best to you. The toothpicks we used were too small. Try to find some longer toothpicks, perhaps using sword toothpicks, or some other type of skewer.
    Make a Greek Salad Dressing of your choice and drizzle over the skewers 30 minutes before serving. The Greek dressing we made was a little bland so I added three tablespoons of Wishbone Italian. Season with salt and pepper.
    These might work well with the feta cheese cube on the bottom, as it will allow the skewer to stand straight up. Also, I think it might be good to have the Greek Dressing in little bowl as a dip rather than drizzled over the top.
    You can just make this one your own. I can think of dozens variation on this theme, all of which sound good to me.

Monday, October 7, 2013

I found my Aunt Eva's roll recipe; I continue to miss her, but maybe I won't have to miss the rolls

    Pictured above is my Aunt Eve Lehman Hurdle's roll recipe as it appeared in the 1976 Marshall County Historical Society Bicentennial Cookbook.
    I recently saw another roll recipe on Facebook and "shared" it so it would be on my timeline. It wasn't long until a cousin chimed in about how she sure would love one of Aunt Eva's "little pan of rolls," as she called them when she dropped by.
    Aunt Eva would make and freeze a huge batch of these rolls on a Saturday, or perhaps another day when she had household help. She then would deliver them at the first sign of a sneeze by a friend or family member. Some people called them Eva's "death rolls," because they were often the first food item to arrive after the death of a loved one. Aunt Eva never beat the Grim Reaper, but she came close a couple of times.
    They were truly good; better than Sister Shubert by a long shot.
   I'm not sure what "fat" means. Jinny assures me it means Crisco. I've done some reading and some outstanding rolls use lard. Jinny can't stand the idea of using lard, so I will either use the lard secretly or use Crisco for the "fat."
    Likewise, I didn't know how to "scald" milk. I found this tutorial on how to scald milk for recipes.
    I haven't "tested" this recipe. I know I should, but I spent some time looking for it and decided to share it while it was on my mind. I plan to make a few pans soon. If any reader should beat me to it, by all means let me know how it turns out.


    I would guess that Aunt Eva met my Uncle Joe Hurdle at the University of Southern Mississippi. Uncle Joe and Uncle Jake (and others?) attended Southern, then Mississippi Normal College, because their first cousin was married to the president, J.B. George.
    It was such a different world back then. I doubt many college presidents today would allow their wife's cousins to take up residence in the president's home to scrimp on college expenses, but that is what they did.
    Uncle Jake's college expenses were defrayed by a $25 per month contribution made by his first cousin, Jimmy Hurdle, the son of Gid Hurdle of Taylor (my great-uncle). While Jimmy attended the Mississippi Synodical College in Holly Springs my grandfather gave him $25 per month on condition that he would repay the loan by helping one of his cousins when it was his turn.
    While Uncle Joe and Uncle Jake were attended Southern, my maternal grandfather was also earning a degree, so that he could enter the Methodist ministry. He had already served as a school superintendent of the Philadelphia schools in the 1920s, so I find it interesting that it took more college education to be a preacher than an educator. I know Uncle Jake was on friendly terms with my grandfather at USM; not sure about Uncle Joe. So it ended up being an odd coincidence when my parents met.
    My grandfather, Inman Moore, managed the campus bookstore while he was a student. The school gave him the use of an acre or two of land where the football stadium is today so that he could have a couple of milk cows. He would milk the cows in the morning and my mother and Uncle Inman would deliver the milk to a few faculty members each day.
    Aunt Eva was a native of Meadville in Franklin County, and read the Franklin Advocate until her death. (I had the pleasure of visiting with Advocate editor and publisher, the late David Webb, some years ago and he couldn't get over how much I looked like Aunt Eva's nephew, a Lehman. I explained that Aunt Eva and I weren't blood kin, but he insisted that I still looked like her nephew). Her parents immigrated from Germany, and she had the chests they used to contain their belongings on the ocean voyage refinished and proudly on display.
    I miss her. I miss her rolls.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Twenty-seven of 224 Oxford High seniors last year scored 30 or higher on the ACT

    I recently posted congratulations to Oxford High School's 11 National Merit Semifinalists. And I mentioned once again that this massive number of Semifinalists isn't an anomaly, but rather the result of ongoing brain clustering in the Oxford Community.
    This brain clustering is one of the most important socio-economic trends occurring in both our state and nation, and I'm going to post some more thoughts at a future time.
    Anyway, two days after my National Merit post, in which I stated my opinion that Oxford High School is the best open-enrollment high school in the state, the School District posted on Facebook that 27 of the 217 seniors last year who took the ACT scored a 30 or higher. And there are only 224 seniors, so almost every student took the ACT.
    The school district's post:
Oxford school officials just announced that 27 Oxford High School seniors in the 2013 graduating class scored a composite score of 30 or above on the ACT college entrance exam, reaffirming what school officials know: Oxford High School seniors continue to perform at the top among their peers on the national college entrance exam.
Of 224 Oxford High seniors, 217 took the ACT: that’s 97 percent of the 2013 senior class who took the ACT. It's also the highest number of high school seniors who have ever taken the ACT at Oxford High.
    I would guess that perhaps half of Mississippi high schools did not have a single senior who scored a 30 or higher on the ACT last year. In fact, quite a few don't have a STAR student every year, as that award requires a minimum ACT of 25. So for Oxford to produce 27 of these high scorers -- 12 percent of the senior class -- is just unheard of.
    Of course congratulations to all of these students are in order; but the school district and the community as a whole are to be congratulated as well. And I am desperate to know whether there is an open enrollment public school in the entire nation with a greater percentage of high scorers.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Here are the types of scholarships this year's National Merit Finalists can look forward to

    I've talked about the National Merit awards in recent posts and have mentioned the possibility of scholarships based on being named a semifinalist or finalist.
    The College Confidential website has a list of full or almost full scholarships available to National Merit Finalists. The beauty of these scholarships is that they are automatic. In many cases additional scholarships can be piled on so that a student truly attends college for free, with tuition, books, room, board and spending money provided. The latter takes some application and effort.
    Many solid state universities have established top-notch Honors Colleges over the past 20 years or so. Students in the honors program live with other honors students, take many of their classes with other honors students, get first choice of classes, and are essentially treated like minor royalty by the university.
    The College Confidential list is easy enough to read that I don't need to elaborate much. But I will mention three programs:
    Ole Miss enrolled 40 National Merit Finalists last year. Most, no doubt, are in the McDonnell-Barksdale Honors College. Ole Miss guarantees Finalists full tuition and the cost of a dorm room, with additional scholarship money available. The Honors College has been very aggressive in trying to keep some of the best Mississippi students in-state, which translates into lots of potential merit aid. Last year the average ACT score of the roughly 200 students admitted to the Honors College was between 31 and 32. This group of kids is as talented a bunch as you will find almost anywhere.
    The University of Alabama has been one of the most active in the country in recruiting Finalists. Last year 241 Finalists enrolled at UA. And for good reason; the UA National Scholars program is one of the best in the nation, offering 10 semesters of free tuition (and more) that can be used for both undergraduate and graduate work. So a student who arrives with a substantial number of hours through Advanced Placement or dual enrollment can go to graduate school free or almost free.
    I'm not sure how many people from the Southeast consider the University of Oklahoma, but it also boasts a tremendous Finalist package. It's not a full ride, but like Alabama it is a 10 semester award that can be used for both undergraduate and gradate school. Oklahoma houses its National Scholars together and gives them all sorts of other perks. A full-time administrator is devoted solely to providing special assistance and advice to these students.
    I could go on, but there is no need to. It's worth the effort to set a goal of being a National Merit Finalist.
    And what if a student sets this as a goal and doesn't make it? Even the best student can have a bad test day. All is not lost. Most of these schools offer good merit aid for students with high ACT scores and good grades. So even if a student has a bad day when he takes the PSAT, he can still, with luck and effort, get a nearly full ride. But it won't be automatic, which is the beauty of the Finalist scholarships.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fuddy-duddy me had no idea of how much tuition has gone up in 25 years.

    I just had an experience that shows just how old and out of touch I am.
    I blogged a few weeks ago (I haven't been very active lately) that Ash was taking a single college course and much to my surprise he got a tuition scholarship. From my post:
After his acceptance into the program we got a very welcome surprise. We had expected to pay about $400 in tuition to cover Ash's three-hour college course. When he got his acceptance email he also got a notice that all high school students in the Ole Miss dual credit program receive a tuition scholarship. So his cost to take the college course is limited to the price of the textbook.
    Well, I logged into Ash's account today and saw he had a balance due. I called the bursar to see what was going on and was informed that the cost to take a single three-hour course is roughly $840. Ash's tuition scholarship covered only half of this amount.
    My best recollection is that when I was in school in the early- to mid-1980s the cost of tuition was substantially less than $1,000, with the student activity fee and other costs adding about $300 to this amount. I tried to find some exact numbers but came up empty, so I have to go from memory. I didn't pay much more than that for law school, perhaps $1,500 per semester total. I remember thinking that out of all the costs associated with going to college, tuition was just a drop in the bucket.
    UPDATE: Several people have posted on my Facebook thread that the total undergraduate tuition in the mid-1980s was about $750.
    Tuition is no longer a drop in the bucket. It's a bucket full! The cost for an Ole Miss undergraduate attending full time is $3,300 per semester. The cost for law school is almost $6,800 per semester.
    Things aren't so bad when you put an inflation calculator to it. $1,100 in 1984 had the same buying power as $2,500 today. $1,500 in 1987 had the same buying power as $3,000 today. So undergraduate tuition has risen 50 percent more than the Consumer Price Index; law school tuition, though, has outpaced inflation by more than 100 percent.
    When you put an inflation calculator to this, you find that $750 in 1985 had the same buying power as 1,630 today. Since current tuition is $3,300, undergraduate tuition at Ole Miss has risen at more than twice the inflation right. So in constant dollars, tuition has doubled in less than 20 years.
    Of course, the tuition at other state schools is far higher than Ole Miss. Tuition and fees at the Universities of Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, or Texas run from $5,000 to $5,500 per semester. So despite the tuition increases Ole Miss is still only charges in-state residents about two-thirds of the tuition in other states. Out-of-state students pay an extra $5,000 per semester, which for many students is still a bargain compared to other colleges.
    Part of what is going on with these tuition increases is that virtually all state governments have cut back on support for higher education, as this USA Today story illustrates. The money has to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is frequently from the students themselves. And today's college campuses just seem a lot nicer than they used to. This luxury costs money, too.
    There are some legitimate concerns about the amount of debt that students are having to take on to finance these ever-increasing tuition costs. That's a post for another day. For now, I'll quit my belly-achin' and go pay the bursar  -- and be grateful that we got a half-scholarship.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Congratulations to Oxford High's 11 National Merit Semifinalists -- about five percent of junior class

National Merit Scholarship Program semifinalists are: Abbigail Pullen, Yuqi Zhao, Dion Kevin, Brian Clancy, Matthew Forgette, Yoomin Jo, Joelle Young, Cynthia Torma, Shreya Mathur, Mary Kathryn Pearson, and Reid Mallette.

    I mentioned about three weeks ago that the release of National Merit semifinalists was coming soon. It came and not a word from me. Better late than never.
    Once again Oxford High School had a tremendous number of semifinalists: Eleven this year. Last year the school boasted a record 12 semifinalists. I said at the time I didn't think these large Semifinalist numbers were an anomaly. I believe they are the wave of the future. People from throughout the Delta and other parts of the state are flocking to Oxford because of the good school system. The type of parents who are willing to make this type of move tend to have smart children, sometimes very smart.
    The Tupelo Daily Journal reported the names of Northeast Mississippi students who made the Semifinalist cut this year. There were a total of 18 Semifinalists in the entire northeast region covered by that newspaper, which goes as far west as Lafayette and Marshall Counties and as far south as Oktibbeha County. Eleven of the 18 were from Oxford High School. They are:

  • Brian Clancy
  • Matthew Forgette
  • Yoomin Jo
  • Dion Kevin
  • Reid Mallette
  • Shreya Mathur
  • Mary Pearson
  • Abbigail Pullen
  • Cynthia Torma
  • Joelle Young
  • Yuqi Zhao

   There are approximately 16,000 Semifinalists nationally; this year Mississippi had 136. Each state has a separate cutoff score, which is designed to recognize the top one percent of students in each state, and so the number from a low-population state will fluctuate a good bit each year, as it  is impossible to set a score that will recognize exactly one percent. Mississippi's cutoff score this year was 207, up three points from last year. By comparison, Tennessee has a cutoff score of 212; Massachusetts and New Jersey have cutoffs of 224. National Merit also offers "Commended" status to the almost-made-its, roughly the top four percent. This year the national cutoff for Commended status was 203 for all states, unchanged from last year.
    The Mississippi School for Math and Science apparently led the National Merit race statewide (from a percentage standpoint), with 12 of approximately 120 juniors being selected, or about 10 percent. Of course, MSMS should do well; it's a magnet boarding school that only takes extremely bright kids.Oxford had 11 out of approximately 220 students selected, or about five percent of juniors. I can't find the link, but I believe Madison Central High School had 23 Semifinalists this year. But that school has more than 550 juniors, so about four percent of its students were Semifinalists.
    As I mentioned earlier, Oxford High School is starting out with some of the brightest kids in the state. But to achieve the numbers that it's getting the school is clearly doing something right. This past year Oxford also had eight students who scored a 35 or 36 on the ACT. Roughly 5,000 students nationally made a 35 or 36, out of almost 1.7 million who took it. It's just unheard of for a relatively small school to produce these kinds of scores.
    Oxford High School is not perfect, but a strong argument can be made that academically it is the best public school in the state of Mississippi, and that it is better than almost all private schools as well. The only possibly "better" schools I can think of in the entire state are MSMS, which isn't open enrollment, and private St. Andrews Episcopal School in Jackson. Of course the floor is open for additional nominations in the comment section.
    I'm fascinated by the opportunities that Mississippi and other students from low cutoff states have in gaining Semifinalist status. In the most competitive states one has to score in something like the national 99.7th percentile to snare the award. In Mississippi it's more like the 97.5th percentile.
   What this means is that every student who participates in the Duke TIP program as a seventh-grader ought to have a shot at earning Semifinalist status. The TIP program is open to students in roughly the top five to seven percent of their class all students nationally, and I think five years of hard work can move one from the 93rd percentile to the 97th percentile. A Duke TIP participant whose ACT score puts him in the top half of this group ought to be a Semifinalist -- provided he puts in the work that he is supposed to over the next five years. Unfortunately, I'm not sure how many students are parents are aware of the fact that Semifinalist might be an attainable goal.
    I've written about the National Merit test a number of times, and in the next few days I'm going to have a couple of additional posts. If it's overkill, no one is required to read them!

Edited 9-26-13 to add photo.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Ash is our family's newest Rebel; he's taking his first Ole Miss course this semester

    Ash started college this week at Ole Miss. He got his student ID today.
    Okay, he's only taking one class. It's through a dual credit program offered by most Mississippi high schools whereby he can attend one or more college classes and earn both high school and college credit. Being able to actually attend classes at Ole Miss is one of the benefits of living in or near a college town.
    Any high school junior or senior with a 3.0 grade-point-average is eligible to take college courses for dual credit with the permission of his high school. Freshmen and sophomores have a minimum ACT score requirement. Ash retook the ACT in June with hopes of scoring high enough to dual enroll, and just made the cut.
    After his acceptance into the program we got a very welcome surprise. We had expected to pay about $400 in tuition to cover Ash's three-hour college course. When he got his acceptance email he also got a notice that all high school students in the Ole Miss dual credit program receive a tuition scholarship. So his cost to take the college course is limited to the price of the textbook.
    We're certainly grateful to Ole Miss for the help. It's not something that the university is required to do. Some states cover the tuition costs of dual enrollment, but Mississippi isn't one of these. There's not a mention of the scholarships at all on the Ole Miss website; perhaps it's something that the university doesn't want to promise in case there aren't enough funds to offer the free tuition every year.
    I frequently post things about trying to figure out ways to finance college. Dual credit/enrollment and Advanced Placement are the best routes to saving money I know of. If Ash takes two courses this year and four courses in subsequent years he'll have 42 dual-enrollment hours when he graduates. Add in six AP course credits and he's looking at the possibility of starting his freshman year with 60 semester hours. That's almost halfway to graduation with no tuition cost; or housing cost, board cost, or fraternity cost.
    Most college-bound students will have a 3.0 average and be eligible for at least two years of dual credit work. Courses can be taken both in the fall and springs as well as in the summer. For students wanting to save on college costs, dual enrollment is a must. In fact, it's a good deal even if you have to pay tuition out of pocket, as there are no housing, food, or other costs typically associated with college enrollment. Much to our surprise we were told that relatively few students take advantage of dual credit each year. Failure to participate in this program is both money and opportunity down the drain. One important note: While you can dual enroll in a junior college, many universities will not accept all junior college hours. So students need to dual enroll in a four-year college to make their hard work worthwhile.
    I took a pretty active role in helping Ash find a suitable course. He's taking Classical Mythology, a course that is harder than it might sound (I think I dropped it years ago when I saw it was going to require work). The professor teaching it is new to Ole Miss, but her student reviews from her prior university were about as glowing as an instructor or student could wish for. Some students described the instructor as one of the hardest they had had, but also as one of the very best. I thought it important for Ash to have a good-quality instructor for his first college course, and if the course is hard then he'll just have to work hard.
    After two class sessions Ash commented that he really liked the college format. It's just more straightforward and down to business, and the students are quieter and more attentive than middle school or high school students.
    Oxford High School records university grades on a 4.5 scale and AP classes on a 5.0 scale. So if Ash should make an "A" in his class it will go down as a 4.5. Ash is still going to take as many AP classes as he can. They get more of a g.p.a. boost, and Oxford reportedly does a good job with them. So Ash will continue to take nearly a full load at Oxford High until he graduates. He's still a member of the Class of '17, but now he's an Ole Miss student, too.