All About Josh

Saturday, June 01, 2002

WHAT'S IN A NAME, PART TROIX: If you ever wondered how popular (or unpopular) your name was throughout the decades, the Name-O-Meter is for you. Some interesting
notes from trying it out:

-- Jessica tops the girls' list, reaching #2 in the 1990s and #1 in the 1980s.

-- Of all my friends' names, Brendan is the trendiest, rising from #679 in the 1950s to #133 in the 1990s. It has continually risen in popularity in the last 50 years.

-- On the other hand, Glenn and Eugene are dramatically falling in popularity to the point of potential extinction. Glenn, which peaked at #68 in the 1950s, is now down to #410 in the 1990s. Eugene, once as high as #24 in the 1930s, has plummeted to #390.

-- Renee once barely cracked the top 1,000 at the turn of the century, managed to hit as high as #74 in the 1960s, and now is on the decline again. At last check, it's down to #232 on the charts.

-- The name Jesus is surprisingly popular, perenially in the top 200.

-- The name Rachel was never in the top 100 until the 1970s. Since 1970, it's been one of the most popular girls' names.

-- Adolf made it to the top 1000 in the 1900s and 1910s. Not surprisingly, it hasn't cracked the list ever since.

-- Cento, Saddam, Lior, Avi, Cat, and Pervez have never made it to the top 1000 in the last century.

Thursday, May 30, 2002

SOCIALIST ECONOMICS OF COLLEGE TUITION: Peter Scheer of Slate explains that the federal student-aid subsidies for colleges have a lot to do with the skyrocketing costs of tuition.

MISS UNIVERSE: a Russian. Unbe-freakin'-lievable looking -- she's a Russian hottie. I didn't get to see the awards live on CBS, hosted by Phil Simms. But, I did get to see the winner this morning clad in a bathing suit. Check her out for yourself. And, Eugene, maybe I'll take you up on that offer for that Russian party in Bethesda.

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

HIGH-STAKES STANDARDIZED TESTS: Jay Mathews has an excellent column today in the Washington Post Online about a high school student's struggle to pass the SOL -- Virginia's state standardized tests -- because of her learning disability. The "conservative" part of my educational philosophy -- that learning disabilities are often imagined, that teaching in public schools is largely mediocre, the recent study showing the complete lack of student knowledge in history, etc would normally make me feel unsympathetic to people who don't pass these tests. Personally, I am against high-stakes tests, in general. The classes themselves are where grades and student achievement should be monitored, not by a bureaucratic testing process.

However, that isn't the issue. The problem is these SOLs hardly test anything of value -- I took them 3 years ago as a junior at Annandale HS. Point in fact: I had transferred mid-year into Annandale from a private school, and was placed into a US History class in March. I had only taken the class for about a month when I took the mandatory US History SOL. I passed with flying colors, and I had hardly taken the class at all. Why? I'm a good standardized test-taker. I took educated guesses but also looked at clues within the questions to eliminate bad answers and correctly answered many questions which I honestly didn't know the answer to. (In fairness, I am a history major at American U., and the subject has always interested me -- but I had not been exposed to the curriculum on the test.)

Other tests that I took were equally invalid. The English tests have the highest passing rates of any of the SOLs, yet many Fairfax County students don't speak English as a first language. Why is this the case? The simple reason is that the tests are so absurdly easy and measure tasks such as reading shopping lists instead of writing coherent prose. I would bet if the test itself was made more relevant to the curriculum, the scores would drop substantially. I was a TA for an honors English class and looked at many of the juniors' essays. They were *horrible*. The writing was obscenely substandard. (I wrote my final column as Editor In Chief of the student newspaper The A-Blast about this, and it created a huge uproar in the English Department.)

How does this relate to the Cumberlands? Well, in my judgment, the converse is true as well. Just as my talent in taking standardized tests without knowing the material allowed me to pass the History SOL, Frank Cumberland's daughter's weakness in taking standardized tests prevented her from passing, despite being proficient in the material. (I'm assuming her grades were a C or above.)

Test scores can be enormously valuable to analyze trends and to determine school achievement rates -- although even these scores should often be taken with a grain of salt. But, when we're depending on a bureauracy, state politics and an invalid test to determine who graduates, it shows states like Virginia have a complete lack of faith in the teachers' ability to evaluate students.

SICK BASTARDS: I don't usually read the Wall Street Journal because its Web news content is for subscribers only. I do, however, get to read it at my job and I was sickened when reading their lead story on right-wing anti-abortion lunatics taking pictures of women at abortion clinics and posting their pictures on the web, calling them "homicide mothers."

The Site,, which Mr. Horsley claims gets almost two million hits a month, marks a tactical shift by the anti-abortion movement. Increasingly, protesters are targeting women who seek abortions, not just doctors who perform them. The weapon of choice: the camera.

Andrew Sullivan beat me the punch in posting about it, and I share his sentiments about the privacy questions this raises. It's not a libel issue, as he points out, since the claim the website is making is true -- Woman X is indeed getting an abortion. However, it's a troubling privacy issue. With the Internet allowing anyone to post anything online -- including myself -- with just a computer and an Internet connection, everything and everyone is fair game.

And that's a scary thing.

YASSER ARAFAT CHITOS: In Egypt, you can buy cheese-flavored Yasser Arafat potato chips.
Here's a picture of the tasty treats.

Laurence Simon, on the Little Green Footballs blog, writes his top 10 rejected slogans for Arafat Snack Foods, Inc:

10. Bet you can't detain just one.
9. I can't believe I detonated the whole thing!
8. It's stubble-licious!
7. Why not try our "Mister Smelly Pretzels" too?
6. Baked for less grease to wipe off on your kaffiyeh.
5. Mister Potato Head has martyred himself for your snacking pleasure.
4. Sure, you are bold. But are you suicidal?
3. Get to the bottom of a body bag today!
2. The flavor explodes in your mouth like a suicide tuber.
1. Try them today with new UN Observer Dip.

Monday, May 27, 2002

CONTACT ME: If you have any questions, comments, disagreements, or just want to drop a line, you can e-mail me at:

MEMORIAL DAY TRIBUTE: Here's a great Memorial Day column by Andrew Bernstein.

THANKS TO POSTWATCH: For those of you linking here from Christopher Rake's excellent PostWatch site, welcome! I hope you'll find "All About Josh" to be a mix of everything to everyone. I am a 20-year old junior, majoring in history at American University in Washington, DC and -- unlike the prevailing trend -- have become more conservative in my two years as an undergraduate.

Some posts will touch on the political. I am proudly pro-Israel and have written several op-eds about the Middle East conflict to the (woefully mediocre) American Eagle -- most recently this piece. I am very interested in international affairs, but unfortunately, AU's international studies program is so ideological that it's hard to find a class where you will learn, as opposed to be indoctrinated. Every class relates to "peace and conflict resolution" -- books by Edward Said are regularly assigned for many classes, while there was not a single SIS book authored by the pre-eminent Middle East historian, Bernard Lewis. My "Analysis of Foreign Policy" professor, the tenured Phil Brenner, said on Sept. 7 that "maybe Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are only bad from a Western perspective. Think about it." Those comments were particulatly eerie, considering what transpired four days later. I later withdrew from his class. On the other hand, AU's history department (and its political science dep't) is excellent. And that's my major anyways -- with a minor in journalism and possibly justice or Jewish studies.

I also have written about educational issues in the past, beginning as the lead columnist (and editor-in-chief) for the award-winning The A-Blast in high school. My column on state-mandated standardized testing in Virginia was published several years ago in the Fairfax Journal, and my comparison of the SOLs to "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" became a regular soundbite of Fairfax County school superintendent Daniel Domenech. In addition, I will post comments on the news that I find particularly interesting, and occasionally may pen the occasional editorial on the site itself.

For the American U. alumni, AU current student body and any DC-area collegians, you'll be seeing commentary and random thoughts about the prominent people and events on that cozy campus near Embassy Row in Washington, DC. AU (along with its sister-school GW) is notable for its intense student government, which participants perceive to be as large as the federal government just several miles away. Over the past year, we've had an impeachment scandal, mudslinging in student campaigns (vote Brendan Craven!), and many "Cabinet" appointment hearings. It's crazy, but it's also admittedly pretty fun when elections come around.

I also am a recent graduate of Annandale HS, and attended high school at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School. I have many great memories and great friends from those two schools, in addition to some not-so-good ones. But, I'll occasionally reference to news from those two schools and information about the interesting personalities that made up the Class of 2000 and teachers that taught us. Also, you'll see some (hopefully humorous) information about my daily life and the interesting observations about the ordinary occurrences of everyday life. I'll toss in some pop culture, too.

So, in closing, there's something for everyone at "All About Josh." Thanks for stopping by!