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DCUM Weblog

How I Scooped the Washington Post by More than 3 Years

by Jeff Steele last modified Dec 19, 2022 04:49 AM

In June of 2007, I wrote about data contradicting a claim on Michelle Rhee's resume. The Washington Post has just discovered the same data.

On February 8th, Jay Mathews -- Washington Post educational columnist and author of the Post's "Class Struggle" blog -- posted a blog article titled "Michelle Rhee's early test scores challenged." Mathews described how local education blogger G.F. Brandenburg had written an article casting doubt on claims by Michelle Rhee to have dramatically raised test scores of her students at Baltimore's Harlem Park Elementary School. Mathews wrote, "He has found the missing test score data from former D.C. schools chancellor's early years as a classroom teacher, something I did not think was possible." Not only did I know that it was possible, I had unearthed the same data and written about it 3 1/2 years ago.


Avoiding Unexpected Appstore Charges

by Jeff Steele last modified Jul 26, 2011 06:47 AM

Children have been making unexpected purchases on their parents' iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches. Here's how you can avoid having it happen to you.

Today's Washington Post describes how children have been racking up unexpected charges on their parents' iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches. "Over the winter break from school, 8-year-old Madison worked to dress up her simple mushroom home on the iPhone game Smurfs' Village. In doing so, she also amassed a $1,400 bill from Apple." This is not the first time I've seen stories such as this, so I thought I'd provide some suggestions about how to avoid finding yourself with an unwanted bill.

Many apps in Apple's Appstore are offered for free or at low cost. The programs can then be enhanced by "In-App Purchases." Any purchase through an iOS device -- whether through the Appstore, iTunes, or In-App -- requires entering a password. However, most owners don't realize that after entering a password, it is cached for 15 minutes. Therefore, if you enter your password to buy little Johnny a new application and immediately hand him your iOS device, he has a 15 minute window to wreck havoc on your credit card. Here are some tips for avoiding surprise charges:


Are DCUMers Rich, Angry, Mean and Sex-Starved?

by Jeff Steele last modified Jan 18, 2012 08:30 PM

The Washington City Paper Describes DCUM as "The Mommy-Fight Site" and Says its Members "Aren’t Getting Laid".

This week the Washington City Paper's cover story, titled "Mommy-Fight Club" in the paper version and "The Mommy-Fight Site" online, focused on the frequently contentious atmosphere of the DCUM discussion forums. Kathryn Masterson, who authored the story, is in her final weeks of pregnancy and has been visiting DCUM as both a journalist and an expectant mother. She highlighted some of the not-uncommon flamewars of the forums and addressed issues that lie behind the strong feelings of many posters. Masterson concluded the article by saying that DCUM is making her crazy and she would have to stay away after finishing her article.

Generally I enjoyed the story and appreciated the attention it gained for DCUM. There was one factual error: While I helped set up DCUM in the beginning, I was not a founder and the idea for it was not mine. Otherwise, I found the article to be an accurate and honest portrayal of one woman's experience in our crazy little world. Of course, I would have preferred that her conclusion had been different, and I hope that she will eventually come to see DCUM in a better light.


Top Topics of 2010

by Jeff Steele last modified Oct 25, 2021 07:51 AM

The DCUM Forum topics of 2010 with the most views and responses.

If there is one thing I hate it is end of the year top 10 lists. I can't explain why, but I hate them with a passion. With that in mind, I don't blame anyone who refuses to read this post. I don't even want to read it and I'm the one writing it. Call it a lack of imagination, but I decided to identify the 10 most popular topics posted in the DCUM forums in 2010. The list will be familiar to DCUM regulars, though there may be a few surprises. This list probably says something profound about DCUM, but I'm not sure what that might be. On the other hand, what it says about us might not be particularly flattering.

First, this is a list of the topics started in 2010 with the most views:

  1. "African-American Name for White Child?" — 10,780 views. While race is generally a hot button topic that can generate a lot of discussion, name-related topics were one of the surprises of 2010.


The End of an Era

by Jeff Steele last modified Jul 26, 2011 06:51 AM

I say "good bye" to both analog music and the stereo system I've had since high school.

Today my sons -- aged 6 and 10 -- listened to an album. By "album" I mean one of those 12-inch vinyl platters that goes on a phonograph and by "listen" I mean that they were in the vicinity when I blasted AC/DC's "High Voltage". After playing "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)" a couple of times at unhealthy volumes, I shut off the stereo and moved the turntable to a pile of electronics destined for the recycling center.

I attended high school from 1978 to 1982. I say that because it was sometime within those years that I bought this stereo system. While I don't remember exactly when it was, I precisely remember the store. I remember the salesman taking me from system to system giving detailed descriptions of the strengths of each. In every case, I would ask a single question, "Is it loud?". That was important because of two facts: 1) I had a drumset in my bedroom; and 2) I got home from school most days a few hours before my parents or brothers arrived. With no one around to tell me to keep things down, I could play the drums as loud as I wished and I needed a stereo that I wouldn't drown out. While the salesman repeatedly reacted to my question with a pained expression, he eventually succumbed to reality and pointed to a system saying, "this one is loud."


Nation of Stereotypes

by Jeff Steele last modified Jul 12, 2011 10:28 PM

Recent discussions of the proposed federal employee pay freeze highlight an unfortunate development: Americans have begun taking far too much pleasure in other's misfortunes.

When President Obama proposed last week that the pay of federal employees be frozen for two years, the DC Urban Moms and Dads discussion forums were inundated with posts on the topic. A common theme among posters who supported the proposal was that government employees were lazy recipients of overly-generous benefits packages who were impossible to fire. "Welcome to the real world" was the frequent refrain.

I was immediately reminded of the debates surrounding former DC Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and DCPS teachers. Rhee was praised for her willingness to challenge the Washington Teachers Union. Teachers were criticized as lazy whiners who were more interested in protecting their cushy jobs than teaching children. Rhee received nearly universal praise for firing them in great numbers.


Public Housing and Crime: An Insider's View

by Jeff Steele last modified Feb 21, 2012 09:07 AM

Recently, Pennsylvania Ave, SE has been the location of a series of brutal, unprovoked attacks against women. The perpetrators have been linked to the Potomac Gardens public housing project. A discussion in the DCUM forums about the attacks and Potomac Gardens devolved into a series of accusations of racism. But, one comment stood out as particularly nuanced and insightful. That post is reproduced here.

This comment by an anonymous poster originally appeared in the thread, "Pennsylvania Ave SE Crime and Potomac Gardens in the DCUM Forums.

I grew up in public housing / section 8 housing. I'm white. I have seen it all. Our housing project was most certainly "slummy." About 20 percent of the residents cared about one another and the rest were either too desperate, angry, exhausted, or entrenched to give a damn. Even fewer cared about things like upkeep and cleanliness. I'm not sure I could accurately predict how many of the parents cared about their kids, but the reality is that the way the children were raised in the projects is not at all like the way children are raised by most middle-class or even working class non-project residents. In some cases the parents were just checked out, but in many other cases the parents were subject to the same pressures stated above -- too exhausted, angry, desperate, etc, to spend as much time with their children as they'd like. The time they did spend was not usually quality time. And children and young parents were indoctrinated into the same culture they saw. It was very much self-perpetuating. When I was growing up, welfare was still aid to families with dependent children and not the current temporary assistance to needy families. Parents weren't booted off public assistance with no child-care subsidies in a short two years the way they are now.


For Geeks Only: DCUM Usage Statistics

by Jeff Steele last modified Jul 26, 2011 06:53 AM

For the tech geeks in the audience, here is some information about DCUM users and their computers.

Inspired by Josh Marshall at Talkingpointsmemo.com who just reported on browser usage on his website, I thought I'd do the same for DCUM. Marshall describes his audience as "more tech-savvy, Mac-using and affluent than the web at large". I think much the same can be said about DCUM users.

Over the past 30 days, Internet Explorer has accounted for 43% of visits. Safari comes second with 26%, and Firefox third with 23%. Chrome is a distant 4th with 7%. In comparison, Talkingpointsmemo.com's stats are "Firefox 34.50%, Explorer 26.63%, Safari 23.66% and Chrome 12.52%."

In terms of operating systems, Windows leads on DCUM with 66% of the visits. Macintosh takes second with 21%, iPhone third with 6% and iPad fourth with 2%. Somewhat surprising are the poor showing by Android and BlackBerry devices. Both lag the iPad with Android at 1.6% and Blackberry at .85%. Apple's iPod, coming it at .94%, actually beats the Blackberry. Macintosh and iOS devices combined make up just over 30% of the visits, about 5% less than Marshall sees.


The Washington Post Contributes to Fenty Loss

by Jeff Steele last modified Jul 26, 2011 06:55 AM

The Washington Post has been the Overly-Indulgent Parent to Adrian Fenty as the Spoiled Child.

Responsibility for losing the September 14, 2010 Democratic primary election for Mayor of the District of Columbia falls squarely on the shoulders of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty. Fenty managed to squander the goodwill that led to his winning every single one of DC's precincts four years ago. But, I think there is another culprit as well. One that can easily be described in terms to which parents can relate. While Fenty may have been the perpetrator of his own demise, The Washington Post, especially its editorial board, contributed by playing the role of over-indulgent parents to a spoiled child.

Throughout Fenty's term, the Post has behaved as a parent who, despite a need to make constant amends for a child's transgressions, believes the child can do no wrong. Soon after Fenty took office, the Post was alerted to the fact that Fenty's Academic Plan for the schools had been largely plagiarized. The Post ignored the story until it was publicized elsewhere. When the Post's editorial page finally weighed in, it was mostly for the purpose of damage control. The idea that anyone should be punished for the plagiarism was dismissed.


How Can I Support My Friends With Special Needs Kids? Do's and Dont's

by Paprikash last modified May 25, 2023 09:22 PM

A mom to a child with special needs discusses her experiences and provides some practical tips for supporting kids with special needs and their parents and families.

As the mom of a four-year old girl who is physically disabled, I get asked a lot of questions about special needs kids.  People want to do the right thing, and most people are well-meaning.  So over time I’ve put together a kind of mental list of Do’s and Dont's.  The usual caveats apply --  I’m just one mom, and everyone has their own feelings and own style.

The question I get asked the most is usually something like “How can I support my friend who has a special needs child?”  Sometimes that friend has a newborn and has received a stunning and unexpected diagnosis.  Other times there is an older child for whom there are worries and fears in some physical or behavioral realm.  There can be a profound disability or a sense that something’s just not quite right.