It sounds reasonable like a reasonable goal: slow development out in the rural backcountry and focus it where homes already exist in cities and towns. But some of the strongest critics of the county’s proposed blueprint for the future are themselves out in the boonies.

Tree-huggers? Nope, these are farmers and others who want to build on their properties and fear new zoning rules will zap the value of their undeveloped properties. They’ve aligned with realtors and builders, making for some unusual bedfellows.

A county official says the big financial fears are unfounded because some rural land isn’t worth as much as people think. Still, the county recognizes that some property values might drop. It’s looking into compensating owners, but that requires money.

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Grade Inflation?

Grades at a little local public high school nicknamed the Met are spectacular: 73 percent have a grade B average or better, compared to just 32 percent at another school. So how come the test scores at the two schools are about the same?

It may have something to do with the upgrading of letter grades, and an controversial investigation has charged just that. Or there may be another explanation. Whatever the case, grades themselves have plenty of critics.

“Grades are probably the least effective way to compare anything,” says an educator. “Probably the only grade that a parent knows what it means is an F.”

As education reporter Emily Alpert puts it, “What should grades mean? Do they stand for how much kids learn, how hard they work, or how they behave in class? Should teachers save As for the cream of the crop or give them to anyone who aces the class — even if everyone does? Grades can mean just about anything, often many things at once.”

I’ve always wondered something myself: if grades are fair (and often based largely on test scores), why shouldn’t teachers get them for their performance too? If you think kids deserve grades but teachers don’t, send me an email explaining why.

Not So Fast:

A Washington Post story at first made it sound like a virtual done deal that the trial in the case of the suspected Arizona shooter would be moved to San Diego in order to escape the biasing effects of local publicity. But it was updated later to include a quote from the Justice Department that such a move shouldn’t be taken for granted: “The Department plans to bring the case in Arizona and will oppose any change in venue motions.”

So will it be moved or not? There’s a big precedent: a judge moved the trial of domestic terrorists Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols from Oklahoma to Denver.

The SATs Were Harder:

As long-time readers may recall, I took part in a genetic test study a couple years ago and wrote about it in a two-part series. The first thing I had to do — produce a bunch of saliva while a handful of people watched — was the hardest part. The results, which showed I’m a higher risk of prostate and colon cancer, were easier to deal with.

I didn’t even freak out. In fact, I didn’t do squat (or, for that matter, squats). My lifestyle, such as it is, didn’t significantly change.

It turns out that my reaction, or lack of one, was hardly unusual. Scripps Health researchers have finished their study of how 2,037 people, including me, reacted to the results of their genetic tests. Most people didn’t get anxious or take better care of themselves.

So why bother a test like this in the first place? Experts are skeptical that the tests are worth anything, especially since it’s far from clear that the health risks they pinpoint are real. For one thing, the tests are based only on the DNA we’re born with; they know nothing about what my prostate, my colon and the rest of me have been up to over the last few, um, decades. And the predictions could be well short of the mark too.

A Commune of Their Own:

A century ago, a community of farmers in San Ysidro made the news across the nation through an experiment in utopian living. “The man who owns the land, tills the land, lives by the land, is the only independent man,” declared the leader of the Little Landers colony, whose ideals sound positively socialistic today.

Hundreds of people took him up on the idea of a place with no landlords, bosses or employees. Everyone would live off an acre of land and sell the surplus: “Theirs shall be the life of the open — the open sky and the open heart — fragrant with the breath of flowers, ore fragrant with the spirit of fellowship which makes the good of one the concern of all, and raises the individual by raising the mass.”

Our latest history flashback tracks the rise and fall of the citizens in Little Landers, who were about as successful as their motto was catchy: “A Little Land and a Living Surely Is Better than Desperate Struggle and Wealth, Possibly.”

Dressed for the Part:

When she tied herself to the White House steps to protest the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, a former Navy sailor from San Diego named Autumn Sandeen dressed the part. “Her regulation dress blue skirt, fitted jacket, hat and black pumps were new,” the AP reports, adding that they were “fitting for a woman who spent two decades serving her country as a man.”

Sandeen, 51, is an activist who hopes that the military will one day allow transgender people to join. They’re currently banned from serving, and the lifting of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell won’t change that.

The story quotes another transgender San Diegan who served with the Coast Guard and had to battle with a VA doctor to get a testosterone prescription transferred to help in her transition to the male gender. Sandeen, however, said the VA has been very helpful to her in her transition.

Breathe Deep the Gathering Gloom:

Theater blogger Jenni Prisk checks in with Alice Ripley, a Tony Award-winning actress who first made it big in San Diego in the early 1990s before going on to become a Broadway big shot. She’s here to play a “a manic-depressive, bipolar borderline schizophrenic with wild hallucinations.”

You can imagine the toll she takes on my body, mind, voice and psyche,” Ripley says. “Preparation means many hours spent alone, breathing and meditating on joy, in order to plunge headlong into her despair onstage.”

Whoa. Who knew it was so challenging to take on a role of a larger-than-life person? Makes me think it’ll be a tough gig for the actor who plays me in Morning Report: The Miniseries.

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

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