‘Knaidel’ wins the Bee

New Yorker Arvind Mahankali won the 2013 National Spelling Bee with “knaidel,” a Yiddish word for matzoh ball. The 13-year-old Queens boy had finished third two years in a row and ninth in 2010. An admirer of Albert Einstein, he plans a career in physics.

Since 1999, 11 of the 15 winners of the bee have been Americans of Indian descent, reports NPR. ”Indian-American spelling successes have also been fueled in recent years by the South Asian-only farm leagues that have popped up,” said Tovia Smith. “Those tournaments act as a kind of breeding ground, where many Indian versions of the “tiger mom” start their kids as young as 6 years old.”

The second and third place finishers also were Indo-American. Pranav Shivashankar, 13, of Olathe, Kan., was eliminated on “cyanophycean.” Sriram Hathwar, of Painted Post, N.Y., finished third after misspelling a Greek word, “ptyalagogue.’’ Amber Born, 14, of Marblehead, Mass., the crowd favorite, came in fourth.

Things have changed

Median salaries have more than doubled in real dollars since 1940 and the percentage of college graduates has gone from 5 percent of adults to 28 percent.

Happy New Year

It’s 2012. Blogging will resume tomorrow.

Bad handwriting foils bank robbery

Even in the computer age, handwriting can be important.  In New Castle, Delaware, a would-be bank robber wrote a note on a deposit slip demanding money. The bank teller couldn’t read the robber’s handwriting. She handed back the note and asked that it be re-written.

The suspect fled the bank.

Thomas J. Love has been charged with attempted robbery — and poor penmanship.

Study: 3.5% are gay or bisexual

Only 1.7  percent of U.S. adults say they’re gay and another 1.8 percent identify as bisexual, according to a new study by the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at UCLA.

Transgendered adults represent 0.3 percent of the population, estimates  demographer Gary Gates.

About 8.2 percent of adults have engaged in some form of same-sex behavior at least once, the study found.

‘How I passed my U.S. citizenship test’

Dafna Linzer passed her U.S. citizenship test, but some of the official right answers were wrong, she writes on ProPublica.

Take Question 36. It asks applicants to name two members of the president’s Cabinet. Among the correct answers is “Vice President.” The vice president is a cabinet-level officer but he’s not a Cabinet member. Cabinet members are unelected heads of executive departments [4], such as the Defense Department, or the State Department.

Question 12 asks: What is the “rule of law”?

There are four acceptable answers: “Everyone must follow the law”; “Leaders must obey the law”; “Government must obey the law”; “No one is above the law.”

Judge Richard Posner, the constitutional scholar who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago, was unhappy. “These are all incorrect,” he wrote me. “The rule of law means that judges decide cases ‘without respect of persons,’ that is, without considering the social status, attractiveness, etc. of the parties or their lawyers.”

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services introduced a new test, which covers history and civics, in 2008. Applicants must answer correctly six of 10 randomly selected questions (from a list of 100). They also must pass a simple reading and writing test to show English proficiency.

Question 55 “tugged at my heart,” Linzer writes: What are two ways that Americans can participate in their democracy? Among the correct answers: “write to a newspaper.”

At my interview, I was asked questions on presidential succession, the Cabinet, Senate terms, and the Supreme Court. I was asked to name a branch of government. (I went with the executive.)

I was asked Question 8: What did the Declaration of Independence do?

Heeding my lawyer’s advice, I went with the official answer: “declared our independence.”

A native Canadian, she read aloud: “Columbus Day is in October.” The same sentence comprised the writing test. She passed.

She affirmed that she is not a Communist, a terrorist or a member of a totalitarian party.

Although I was born in 1970, I was asked: Between March 23, 1933 and May 8, 1945, did I work for or associate in any way with the Nazi government of Germany? Had I worked at a concentration camp?

She passed that one too.

On Friday, Jan. 28, accompanied by my family, I was among 160 citizens-in-waiting who filed into a 3rd floor auditorium in lower Manhattan to be sworn in as Americans. On our seats were an American flag, a copy of the Constitution, a booklet featuring the stories of prominent naturalized Americans, and a welcome letter from President Obama.

Reading the letter, I began to cry. I had spent more than one-quarter of my life hoping to become American, and I was suddenly overwhelmed by the honor and the significance of the moment. The place I have called home for 12 years was finally claiming me as well.

I looked around the room and saw other fortunate souls with long journeys now behind them, quietly weeping with joy.

Great Aunt Lillian, also born in Canada, came to the U.S. as a young girl.  She delayed applying for U.S. citizenship because the courthouse in Winkler, Manitoba had burned down, destroying all the birth records. After 50 or so years in the U.S., Lillian wrote to Winkler, sorted out the missing birth certificate and applied for citizenship.  The examiner asked one question: “When was the Louisiana Purchase?”

“Oh, that was a long time ago,” Lillian said.

“That’s right!” said the examiner.

And so Great Aunt Lillian became an American.

Gay toon joins Archie comics

Archie, Veronica, Jughead, Betty, Moose and Midge are getting a new classmate at Riverdale High: Kevin Keller, Archieworld’s first openly gay character.

“Riverdale has always been a safe world for everyone. It just makes sense to have an openly gay character in Archie comic books,” said Archie Comics Co- CEO, Jon Goldwater.

In “Isn’t it Bromantic?” Kevin Keller “is the new hunk in town and Veronica just has to have him.” After Kevin defeats Jughead in a burger-eating contest at Pop’s Chocklit Shoppe, Veronica makes a play for Kevin, while Jughead tries to make sure she doesn’t realize why the new guy just isn’t interested. “Mayhem and hilarity ensue,” according to Archie Comics.

I wonder if Kevin will find romance at Riverdale High.

Education-as-political-privilege

Just go read.  Here’s a teaser:

While many Chicago parents took formal routes to land their children in the best schools, the well-connected also sought help through a shadowy appeals system created in recent years under former schools chief Arne Duncan.

Whispers have long swirled that some children get spots in the city’s premier schools based on whom their parents know. But a list maintained over several years in Duncan’s office and obtained by the Tribune lends further evidence to those charges. Duncan is now secretary of education under President Barack Obama.

The log is a compilation of politicians and influential business people who interceded on behalf of children during Duncan’s tenure. It includes 25 aldermen, Mayor Richard Daley’s office, House Speaker Michael Madigan, his daughter Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, former White House social secretary Desiree Rogers and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun.

Really… whoever could have guessed that the best of publicly funded resources would go to the powerful?  It’s bad enough that the rich can fund their own better schools.  It’s even worse when they demand that the middle and lower class do it for them.

(H/T to Instapundit and Hot Air.)

So this is 2010

Not so bad, so far.

I started 2009 with bursitis and “frozen shoulder,” which made it painful to use my right arm. And I am very right handed. I had surgery to fix it in late January and went through months of physical therapy to regain my strength and flexibility. It worked! I’m starting 2010 with full use of both arms. This is good. At my age, I’m grateful for a physical problem that can be fixed.

Of course, we’re planning to go skiing this month, after a 15-year hiatus.

Merry Christmas

And Happy Hanukkah, Swinging Solstice, Krazy Kwanzaa, Festive Festivus, etc.