Letters for the week of March 28-April 3, 2007 

Readers comment on HD Radio, Emerson Elementary, and Bottom Feeder's departure.

"HD Radio on the Offense," Press Play, 3/7

The shame of digital radio
I have been a broadcast engineer for over thirty years. This system is probably the biggest waste of time and resources that has ever been fobbed off onto the public. The coverage is less than half of a good analogue signal, and is interfered with by such things as the vehicle ignition and even some traffic lights.

Technically, it's incredibly flawed. The digital signal is put on the two adjacent frequencies, so it will interfere with nearby stations, and be interfered with by them. On AM, distant skywave will skip in and wreak havoc. Effective coverage areas on both AM and FM will shrink, even on the existing analogue signals. I have bought a couple of HD Radios specifically to see how well it works, and it simply doesn't. Should this be authorized by the FCC, and a significant number of stations implement it, the radio bands will simply be awash with digital hiss grinding against itself. It's really a shame. They dropped the ball big-time with this, and I hope the public isn't too wounded by it that they simply give up on radio. For digital radio to be implemented correctly, it really needs its own band. Trying to squeeze such incompatible technology together is a serious mistake.
Craig Healy, Providence, Rhode Island

The airwaves are ours
HD Radio is a scheme by BigKorpseorate monopoly broadcasters to take over public airwaves. HD cheerleaders make one false claim after another. They claim HD has CD-quality audio. Actual users call it "seedy quality." HD brings more stations via "streams." But "streams" are, as this article states, dumps.

Almost everyone who buys an HD Radio returns it. Why on earth approve this destruction? The HD gang hasn't told us about this scam because they want it to be a done deal with the FCC before they spring the trap. You see, what HD Radio does best is jam. HD's digital noise denies you the right to hear stations of your choice. HD Radio renders every radio you own obsolete — worthless. That's right. They just stole your property. Want radio? Then you must buy HD Radio. That's what this grift is about. It's the return of the company store. Want to stop it? E-mail www.fcc.gov. Call your representatives. Tell them radiowaves belong to us — not a handful of corporate thugs who coerced the FCC into stupidity. Tell the FCC it's time they took a stand and stopped this destruction of public airwaves. Your influence counts. Use it.
Dr. Paul Vincent Zecchino, Manasota Key, Florida

"The Honeytrappers," Feature, 3/7

The trauma of infidelity
My staff has had a large number of calls inquiring about certain aspects of this article. The most common has been about fees. Lauren did an excellent job on the article and it was a pleasure having her around (she's quite a naturally talented, self-taught investigator in her own right), but we did not want to turn the article into an advertisement for services.

Infidelity is an extremely traumatic experience that oftentimes causes one's life to come to a complete standstill. Eating, thinking, and temperament are just a few aspects that are drastically affected. I would rather the reader of this piece remember that while we are out chasing the truth, there is still a spouse in a home somewhere feeling sick and dreading my call.

For the spouse's sake (and for those contemplating hiring a PI), I hope the article shed some light on the inner workings, and speedbumps, of this profession.
Christopher B. Butler, Butler & Associates, Walnut Creek

"An Oakland Original," On Food, 3/7

Cock-A-Doodle Don't
After reading your review, my husband and I decided to try Cock-A-Doodle for brunch this past Sunday and, unfortunately, were not impressed. The space was pleasant and the patio where we were seated was lovely and drenched in sunshine. However, service was inattentive and primitive at best. No efforts were made to check on us after our food was eventually delivered after a thirty-plus-minute wait, and we had to hail a waitperson for coffee refills, the check, you name it. (I used to wait tables myself and am the first one to empathize with a busy, harried waitperson, but this seemed more like they didn't know what the hell they were doing.) As for the food, it was okay for brunch fare — we've had better at other local brunch spots, including Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe, Blackberry Bistro, and the Lake Shore Cafe.
Mari L'Esperance, Oakland

"A Real Class Act," Full Disclosure, 3/14

Is there any hope?
Emerson's student demographics do not reflect those of the Temescal neighborhood. Many students transfer to Emerson from more poorly performing "Program Improvement" schools in Oakland, apparently attracted by the marginally better test scores and the Umoja Village after-school program. Temescal parents in turn send their kids to better Oakland schools or to private schools. Principal Wendy Caporicci and area parents have been working to improve the school's effectiveness and reputation, and more power to them. But when they can't even get rid of egregiously bad teachers, no less recruit the staff the principal wants, what chance do they have? There is certainly demand for a better public school in Temescal, but it seems like Emerson will never be able to meet it.
Lisa Gartland, Oakland

The problem is ours
This letter does not reflect any individual mentioned in Robert Gammon's "A Class Act." Rather, it is a letter of support for the many wonderful educators who teach in the Oakland Unified School District.

To quote the article, "The students at the North Oakland school [Emerson Elementary] are among the most troubled in the city and desperately need good teachers. Nearly 70 percent come from families living in poverty, and the school consistently scores among the worst in the state on standardized tests."

The day this article was published, I was at Emerson, as I typically am three to four days a week. In a period of fifteen minutes, three teachers approached me in dismay about how their school and their life's work was characterized in the article. I feel it is my obligation to share their sentiments with you. In these two sentences, Robert Gammon unintentionally deflated the hearts and psyches of hard-working teachers who care deeply for their students at Emerson Elementary. Teachers at Emerson, like teachers all over urban districts in this country, are often accused of failing our country's neediest students. Teachers alone cannot fix our society's problems. Unfairly, they are asked to do so using scarce resources, confined by scripted curriculum that many believe forces them to let go of best practices, in favor of teaching to the tests.

There are children in urban schools who live with disadvantages like hunger, stress, fear, anger, and insecurity that cloud their ability to focus, strive, and succeed in school. With high-stakes testing, teachers have no time to address these significant issues. Instead, testing requires them to ignore these children's realities, pressing forward with unengaging curricula that leave many children behind.

Oh, and those "troubled kids" Robert Gammon refers to? They are fantastic! They are bright, curious, and love to learn. With talented teachers who hold high expectations, provide encouragement, give responsibility and offer engaging, relevant curriculum, they can thrive. The surest way to keep "troubled kids" out of trouble is to engage them in school so that they discover learning is fun and relevant to their lives. Tests, which are the foundation of the federal education legislation No Child Left Behind, are the only measure by which schools are being assessed these days, and they can never tell the whole story. Teachers may witness significant improvement in their students, but if the tests don't show it, the schools are considered failures. Can you imagine how discouraging it must be to work really hard, feel good about student improvement, and then discover that you have failed because of test scores?

Instead of criticizing teachers under tremendous pressure to do so much with so little, please be part of the solution. The "education problem" in our country belongs to every one of us. There are gazillions of ways to help in schools. Students will thrive on the extra attention and teachers will feel support instead of blame for what is truly a societal problem.

So, folks, let's stop pointing fingers and show the kids we care. If you want to know where to get started, I would be delighted to give you suggestions.
Laurie Grossman, Park Day School community outreach coordinator, Oakland

Top feeding
My compliments on how much better the Express has seemed since Will Harper got, uh, promoted to your San Francisco sister paper. The paper's overall tone seems calmer, more thoughtful, and more inviting. The writing seems to be fueled less by impulsive adrenaline bingeing, and more by real analysis. Even Robert Gammon's "Full Disclosure" column — a vehicle originally designed for Harper to take anonymous, then bylined, cheap shots — has grown up into respectable muckraking. Gammon is tilting at deserving targets instead of hapless idiots. And he's taking the time to weigh, and even interview, both sides of the issues he takes on. Guess SF Weekly's, uh, "gain" has been your readership's gain, too. Now maybe you could bring back the contents page and masthead?
Marcia Lau, Berkeley

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