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Tuesday, March 03, 2015

When Does Spring Begin?

By WeatherBug Chief Meteorologist, Mark Hoekzema

Most people consider the first day of spring to be the Spring Equinox, will start this year at 6:45 p.m. EDT, March 20th. This is because, astronomically speaking, the sun is directly overhead of the Equator as the Earth`s tilt begins to point the northern hemisphere towards the sun.

As the earth rotates around the Sun, the Sun will be situated directly overhead at mid-day at different times of the year. The Vernal (Spring) Equinox is the day the Sun is again highest in the sky at noon over the equator as the apex progresses north. The day the Sun is straight up at noon over the Tropic of Cancer and Capricorn (23.5 degrees N and S latitude) are the summer and winter solstices, respectively.

Many refer to Astronomical Spring on March 20, as the first "official" day of spring. Most meteorologists, except for this year across the East and Midwest, will argue that spring begins a few weeks before, on March 1st.

That`s because meteorologists observe seasons over different time periods. Meteorological spring began March 1st, summer begins June 1st, fall begins on September 1st and winter begins on December 1st.

There are a couple of very important reasons why this is the case. The most important is for climate record-keeping. Climatologists require set time periods to calculate averages and do seasonal comparisons over the years. Astronomical dates will fall on different days depending on the year, and keeping seasonal climate records based on those dates would be confusing and inaccurate.

A second reason is that weather-wise, it makes more sense around the globe. In spring, mild surges of air from the south are becoming a regular occurrence and severe weather threats begin to kick in by March 1. The heat of summer has been experienced in most areas across the country by June 1 and the heat of summer is waning by September 1st.

Know Before(tm) and stay informed! Download WeatherBug for your mobile device and desktop computer for real-time observations, forecasts for 2.6 million cities, and the most advanced warnings to severe weather. Follow us on Twitter and Like Us on Facebook.
Photo images from Maclay Gardens State Park in Tallahassee Florida. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Chinese New Year Celebrated Feb 19th, 2015

The Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival as it’s been called since the 20th century, remains the most important social and economic holiday in China. (History.com)
Originally tied to the lunar-solar Chinese calendar, the holiday was a time to honor household and heavenly deities as well as ancestors. It was also a time to bring family together for feasting. With the popular adoption in China of the Western calendar in 1912, the Chinese joined in celebrating January 1 as New Year’s Day. China, however, continues to celebrate the traditional Chinese New Year, although in a shorter version with a new name–the Spring Festival. Significantly, younger generations of Chinese now observe the holiday in a very different manner from their ancestors. For some young people, the holiday has evolved from an opportunity to renew family ties to a chance for relaxation from work.

The ancient Chinese calendar, on which the Chinese New Year is based, functioned as a religious,
dynastic and social guide. Oracle bones inscribed with astronomical records indicate that it existed at least as early as 14th century B.C., when the Shang Dynasty was in power. The calendar’s structure wasn’t static: It was reset according to which emperor held power and varied in use according to region.

Did You Know?
San Francisco, California, claims its Chinese New Year parade is the biggest celebration of its kind outside of Asia. The city has hosted a Chinese New Year celebration since the Gold Rush era of the 1860s, a period of large-scale Chinese immigration to the region.

The Chinese calendar was a complex timepiece. Its parameters were set according to the lunar phases as well as the solar solstices and equinoxes. Yin and yang, the opposing but complementary principles that make up a harmonious world, also ruled the calendar, as did the Chinese zodiac, the cycle of twelve stations or “signs” along the apparent path of the sun through the cosmos. Each new year was marked by the characteristics of one of the 12 zodiacal animals: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

The Chinese New Year period began in the middle of the 12th month and ended around the middle of the first month with the waxing of the full moon. Observance of the New Year period was traditionally divided into New Year’s Eve and the first days of the new year.

Traditionally for the Chinese, New Year was the most important festival on the calendar. The entire attention of the household was fixed on the celebration. During this time, business life came nearly to a stop. Home and family were the principal focuses. In preparation for the holiday, homes were thoroughly cleaned to rid them of “huiqi,” or inauspicious breaths, which might have collected during the old year. Cleaning was also meant to appease the gods who would be coming down from heaven to make inspections. Ritual sacrifices of food and paper icons were offered to gods and ancestors. People posted scrolls printed with lucky messages on household gates and set off firecrackers to frighten evil spirits. Elders gave out money to children. In fact, many of the rites carried out during this period were meant to bring good luck to the household and long life to the family–particularly to the parents.

Most important was the feasting. On New Year’s Eve, the extended family would join around the table for a meal that included as the last course a fish that was symbolic of abundance and therefore not meant to be eaten. In the first five days of the New Year, people ate long noodles to symbolize long life. On the 15th and final day of the New Year, round dumplings shaped like the full moon were shared as a sign of the family unit and of perfection.

The Western-style Gregorian calendar arrived in China along with Jesuit missionaries in 1582. It began to be used by the general population by 1912, and New Year’s Day was officially recognized as occurring on January 1. Beginning in 1949, under the rule of Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong (1893–1976), the government forbade celebration of the traditional Chinese New Year and followed the Gregorian calendar in its dealings with the West. But at the end of the 20th century, Chinese leaders were more willing to accept the Chinese tradition. In 1996, China instituted a weeklong vacation during the holiday–now called Spring Festival–giving people the opportunity to travel home and to celebrate the new year.

In the early 21st century, many Chinese families spent a significant amount of their discretionary income celebrating the Spring Festival with traditional symbols and food. They also spent time watching the televised Spring Festival Gala: an annual variety show featuring traditional and contemporary singers, dancers and magic demonstrations. Although the rites of the holiday no longer had religious value, people remained sensitive to the zodiacal animals to the extent that they considered what, for example, a year of the rat might mean for their personal fortunes or for a child born at that time.

A change in attitude toward the Spring Festival has occurred in China’s young people, with Chinese college students reporting that they prefer surfing the Internet, sleeping, watching TV or spending time with friends to celebrating with family. They also reported not liking traditional New Year food such as dumplings and glutinous rice pastry. With its change of name from Chinese New Year to Spring Festival, for some members of the younger generation the holiday has evolved from an opportunity to renew family ties to a chance for relaxation from work.
From History.com

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Why are so many college students failing to gain job skills before graduation?

By Jeffrey J. Selingo  - January 26

If you watch college sports on television, you’ve probably seen the ad for Enterprise Rent-A-Car featuring former college athletes working behind the counter at your nearby Enterprise location. Enterprise – which hires more entry-level college graduates annually than any other company in the U.S. — likes recruiting college athletes because they know how to work on teams and multitask.

“We see a lot of transferable skills in athletes,” Marie Artim, vice president of talent acquisition at Enterprise, told me.

Even so, Enterprise, like many employers, still finds today’s college graduates severely lacking in some basic skills, particularly problem solving, decision making, and the ability to prioritize tasks.

“This is a generation that has been ‘syllabused’ through their lives,” Artim said, referring to the outline of a class students receive at the beginning of a college course. “Decisions were made for them, so we’re less likely to find someone who can pull the trigger and make a decision.”
Bosses, of course, have long complained that newly minted college grads are not ready for the world of work, but there is a growing body of evidence that what students learn — or more likely don’t learn — in college makes them ill-prepared for the global job market. Two studies in just the past few weeks show that the clear signal a college degree once sent to employers that someone is ready for a job increasingly has a lot of noise surrounding it.

One study is the result of a test administered to 32,000 students at 169 colleges and universities. It found that 40 percent of college seniors fail to graduate with the complex reasoning skills needed in today’s workplace. The test, the Collegiate Learning Assessment Plus, is given to freshmen and seniors and measures the gains made during college in critical thinking, writing and communication, and analytical reasoning.

The results of the test found little difference between those students who graduated from public colleges and those who went to private schools. Not surprisingly, students who graduated from the best colleges did better than everyone else on the test as seniors, but their gains since taking the test as freshmen were actually smaller than those students who graduated from less elite schools.

The big difference between the skills of graduates depended on their college major: Students who studied math and science scored significantly higher than those who studied in the so-called helping and service fields, such as social work, and in business, which is the most popular college major.

A second study released this month found a similar disconnect between what employers need and the readiness of college seniors. In a pair of surveys by the Association of American Colleges & Universities, would-be graduates said college armed them with the skills needed for the job market. But employers disagreed. On a range of nearly 20 skills, employers consistently rated students much lower than they judged themselves. While 57 percent of students said they were creative and innovative, for example, just 25 percent of employers agreed.

read the rest of the article here:

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Free Tuition for Community College

Last week I wrote about education in community colleges in general, as an introduction to President Obama's proposal for providing free tuition for community college students. At the time, only the idea had been introduced, with the promise that the President would announce the specifics in his State of the Union address last Tuesday. I concluded last week's blog by saying that this week I would dig deeper into the details, look at minuses and pluses of the program, and update you on any recent developments.

Instead of the President going into the details of his proposal during the State of the Union address, the White House announced some likelihoods of the program prior to Tuesday night. Currently, we have only a few of the specifics, and this week I will write about: what I do know about the proposal; the need for more particulars; arguments in favor of, and in opposition to, the proposal; and an alternative proposal.

First of all, let's concentrate on the details.
• The program would provide tuition-free education for community college students who maintain a 2.5 grade point average (c+) and who make consistent progress toward graduation--whether working for a certificate or degree in occupational training programs leading to employment or an associate degree that is transferable to a four-year college.
• The cost is estimated at about $60 billion over ten years, with the federal government bearing three-fourths of the cost and the states and local entities paying the remainder.
• The federal money would come by increasing the capital-gains and dividends tax rates for high-income households, closing a trust-fund loophole, and charging a fee to financial firms that borrow heavily.
• The proposal also calls for streamlining Coverdell education-saving programs and the 529 savings plans, which are difficult for students and their families to understand.
• And the proposal would extend the Hope tax credit to students enrolled less than half time.

The details of this proposal are very complicated. In my opinion, it would be imprudent for the U.S. Congress to pass this bill before all the specifics of the program are clearly spelled out, which would include a precise line-by-line budget and reasonable safeguards for the budget to be adhered to. We know that government spending always seems to run amok, and we remember Nancy Pelosi's famous words about first passing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and learning about the details later.

Let's look at some of the arguments for and against the proposal, first turning to what people in favor of the program are saying.
• This program would send a clear message to everyone that community college is an affordable option for higher education and could induce more high-school students to prepare for, and enroll in, college.
• This program would possibly encourage more students to attend community colleges instead of the more expensive for-profit colleges, thus reducing their debt burden.
• Four-year degrees would be more affordable by attending community colleges for the first two years and transferring to a four year college for the last two years. This is significant because having more people highly educated would: make for a much larger and better qualified workforce, bring new industry to the United States, create many new jobs, and generate more revenues than the costs of funding such a program.
• The proposal would help middle-income families who make too much money to qualify for Pell Grants but do not make enough money to pay for the total cost of a college education.
• Because so many students who attend community colleges work full-time jobs, covering the tuition for part-time students in addition to full-timers would make it possible for more students to attend college.
• If students are allowed to use Pell Grants to defray college expenses other than tuition, as many White House officials suggest it will, it would be a huge bonanza for college students. Tuition is only a small portion of the total cost of attending college, and most colleges have "tuition" grants available for students with limited financial means, making it possible for the Pell Grant to be used for other college expenses.

Here are some of the comments from those who oppose the proposed program.
• There is too much emphasis on the need for everyone to attend college, thus degrading people who just do not have the disposition or temperament to attend college. There are many respected vocational positions that do not require education beyond high school.
• Tuition is already free for most poor and working-class students, who qualify for federal Pell Grants and tuition grants from the college they are attending.
• If we are going to fund the first two years of college tuition, such funding should not be restricted to community colleges; it should also be used for the first two years of tuition for four-year colleges. The drop-out rate at community colleges is a tragic 82% (on average, only 18% graduate). If students plan to transfer to four-year colleges, it is a mistake to encourage them to initially go to community colleges, where they are much less likely to graduate; it makes more sense to attend four-year colleges in the first place.
• Transferring credits from a community college to a four-year college sounds easy, but in real life it can be a nightmare.
• This program broadens the country's welfare program, which encourages people to depend on the government, rather than promoting hard work, long-range planning, sacrifice, and self-reliance--attributes that have long been hallmarks leading to success. At the least, if the program is adopted, students participating in such a program should be required to commit to a one- or two-year service project in the community, military service, or an equivalent.
• No one has provided solid information to suggest that the program would be helpful for education over the long haul.
• Once federal programs get started, they historically grow in size and cost far, far beyond what was originally forecast.

From what I have been able to learn about the President's proposal, although it has some attractive components, the arguments against the program outweigh those for it.

Writing in The New York Times (January 19, 2015), David Brooks offers an alternative program that deserves looking at. He suggests that the problem is not getting students to enroll in community colleges, but helping them to graduate. He proposes that, if the money is going to be spent, it should be used to: subsidize counselors, tutors, and mentors; provide better remedial programs (all college teachers agree that a substantial number of their students are not prepared for college work, and that this is especially true of students attending community college); and to provide more and consistent support services such as child care.

"In short," writes Brooks, "you wouldn't write government checks for tuition. You'd strengthen structure around the schools."

(Sources for this column are: various articles in recent issues of The Chronicle of Higher Education and The New York Times, numerous reports of the U.S. Department of Education, and personal knowledge gained from being involved in higher education as a teacher and administrator for many years.)
explore in depth on Google News - 116 articles

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

TCC Career Center: comprehensive career, transfer and job search assistance services

The mission of the Career Center is to enhance student success by providing comprehensive career, transfer and job search assistance services.  The staff is committed to fostering individual growth and development by assisting students with their academic, career and employment needs.

Partnerships and collaborative efforts are developed with alumni, faculty, businesses, organizations, colleges and universities to help students explore various career, internships, employment, and transfer opportunities.

The Career Center envisions career development as a life-long process and empowers students through its programs and services to develop and implement a plan to achieve their current and future career goals.

The TCC Career Center offers a diverse array of services related to career planning, preparation and job search assistance, including:

  • Computerized career assessments (SIGI3 and Florida CHOICES)
  • To take SIGI3, click: SIGI3
  • To take FL CHOICES, click: Florida CHOICES

There are 2 sets of SIGI3 new user instructions for students:
1) Students attending new student orientation: SIGI3 Guide for new users-students.pdf
2) SLS1510-College Success students or students who want to by-pass the quick FastStart survey and begin with the full assessments:
SIGI3 Guide for new users-students-SLS1510.pdf
The Career Center can assist in planning for your future, regardless of your career development needs.
For additional information, please enjoy the video below:

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Governmentattic.org: thousands of interesting Federal Government documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act

Welcome to governmentattic.org

governmentattic.org provides electronic copies of thousands of interesting Federal Government documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.  Fascinating historical documents, reports on items in the news, oddities and fun stuff and government bloopers, they're all here.  Think of browsing this site as rummaging through the Government's Attic -- hence our name.   Our motto: Videre licet.

governmentattic.org has two file sections: FOIA Logs and Documents.
To get to the actual documents,  click on the above links: "FOIA LOGS" or "DOCUMENTS"

Recommended in the August issue of ALA's Choice
"The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) became law in 1966 and was later amended to cover electronic documents produced by various executive agencies but not Congress. The application process, though not exceedingly difficult, prevents easy, immediate access to a vast amount of material. Once a request is made, agency employees must find the document and then assess whether some or all of it can be released. This is a costly, time-consuming process, and requesters are charged for photocopying. To help citizens find or keep up with document releases, Keith Yearman, Michael Ravnitzky, and others created and now manage the free, "noncommercial website" Governmentattic.org. Its motto is Videre licet ("It is permitted to see"), and its logo is an owl perched on a limb. From the site's inception in 2007, newly released documents (electronic copies of documents obtained under FOIA) have been placed on the website weekly, in varying numbers".