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Can you stomach this? 

Bleargh. I've got that flu bug or whatever it is that's been going around recently, and I've got it bad. This is the third time this week it's hit me, and each time it's gotten worse. I'm not a big fan of watching whatever I ate come out again in an explosive rush, especially if it's not coming out the same way it went in. Hold on. I'll be right back.


I heard that more than a few local school kids are just gushing over this germ. Literally. Whole herds of them are getting wiped out at least temporarily. This bug doesn't discriminate. Age. Race. Religion. Sexual orientation. Favorite football team. Have. Have-not. Opinion of me. It doesn't matter. If you've got an alimentary canal with an orifice at both ends, you're fertile ground, no matter what your other traits are. That's how it seems, anyway.

People have been dropping right and left here in the New Times building, and I've noticed a marked decrease in the number of people on the streets over the last couple of days. It could be because of the local upsurge in nausea and diarrhea. Or it could be because the massive cold wave sent scores of the population into some sort of bear-like hibernation.

Maybe in the spring we'll see them hundreds of locals lumbering sleepy-eyed from their homes, blinking in the sunlight and wondering who won the Super Bowl, whether Wal-Mart really is coming to Atascadero, if state and Central Coast educator unions have finally reached an agreement with their respective administrations, and, for those who've been out for quite a while, who shot J.R.

(To the latter, I'm sorry to say that it's been so long I don't remember. Not many other people would remember either, I'll wager. Anyway, I think it was all a dream anyway, a hokey gimmick to resolve a straggling plot with minimal explanation. Sounds like lazy writers, to me. But I digress, as usual.)


Anyway, speaking of teachers and the like, this particular wee vomit-inducing beastie's rampage through the local education system is enough to make me throw my rapidly decreasing weight behind Sen. Abel Maldonado's new online education bill, which brings the classroom to kids who aren't actually in the classroom.

I think the intent behind the legislation is to make it easier for high schoolers in rural or poor urban areas to learn at advanced levels. Theoretically, it can also help boys and girls with jobs study in between shifts, but I say why not expand the law to include kids glued to their toilets? Just because a kid can't leave the porcelain throne doesn't mean all learning should stop. Crap, they're losing body fluid enough as it is. They shouldn't lose knowledge too. Children are our future, after all, even the sick ones. And the ugly ones, as much as we'd like to think otherwise. (And think of it: This bill would help keep them at home, too, where no one would have to look at them while they learned. It's a win-win situation!)

In his press materials for the bill, Abel says that it "would help bring California's education into the 21st century," but let me remind you that such a leap is going to take more than a few online classes. Have you seen some of the campuses in this area? To be honest, I haven't, but I'd guess that there are one or two schools in the county that would be happy to be home to fewer portables, more real classrooms, and more than a handful of teachers who aren't about to retire. If the direst of the dire predictions come true, it sounds like at least one local district will be scraping the barrel when it comes to educators. Seriously, we're hemorrhaging teachers. It's like California contracted this bug that's been going around and is squirting out virtually every educator in its system. Look out! Here come some more!

Bleargh. It's enough to make me sick. Er. Sicker. I was already sick to start with, and yes I mean that in the way you think I mean it. Ah, double entendres. Where would I be without them?

All this talk of school reminded me that I've seen a lot of report cards lately, too. Grades are important, because they compartmentalize you into an easily recognizable and standardized box, which can quickly be compared to other peoples' or groups' standardized boxes that have also been stripped of all context and nuance.

I'm sorry. No, I didn't get a 4.0. Are you happy now, Mr. Smarty-Pants?

Anyway, I was reading somewhere the other day that some local law enforcement agency or another didn't score very well on some test or another. Boy, I really should start paying attention to details. Honestly, I'm usually better at this sort of thing, but all the liquids I've leaked lately have really taken their toll. I can't even think properly. You should understand.

If I remember correctly, some group called Californians Aware, with help from folks around the state and from the Tribune in our very own backyard recently pulled a "secret shopper"-style stunt with law enforcement groups of all stripes. Various people requested information from various agencies, and then reported on how well the departments complied with those requests.

I wasn't a part of this audit which is too bad, because it sounded like fun but the group's web site explains all about what questions they asked and how each department started with 100 points, but had points deducted for failing to measure up in certain categories, like "disclosable crime information" and "death in custody reports."

It all boils down to Californians Aware reporting that the San Luis Obispo Police Department took a D-, and the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department nabbed an F+.

But hey, Einstein failed math and was still a genius, right? That's how the story goes anyway. And there's always room for improvement, which leads me to beg the question: So, what's next? More than a few officers and such have been crying foul at the test, which prompted the Tribune to award some points back to the Sheriff's Department, raising the grade to a C+. The way I see it oh, hold on. I'll be right back again.


Hey, I don't remember eating corn.

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