Thursday, March 16, 2006

Student Recites 8,784 Digits of Pi - Yahoo! News

It's not politics directly, but it strikes a chord with me and effectiveness of public education. Read the article, then come back...

Student Recites 8,784 Digits of Pi - Yahoo! News

Some thoughts I had...

But his mathematical feat won the praise of others, including the math and computer science teacher who got Gaurav interested in it.

What mathematical feat? Memorizing 8K+ numbers in a row is math now? Guess this must be the NEW New Math, a step up from the finger counting my daughter had to learn in grade school. When I was in high school (the kid's 15, he better be at least a freshman), the mathematical feats I did were proving geometric theorems, deriving the quadratic formula, applying calculus to physics, and learning to triple-integrate to get the space under a curve.

My math teacher (three years in a row - Trig, Algebra II, and Calc) didn't expect us to memorize crap - we got to bring into each test one 8.5"x11" sheet of paper with anything written on it we wanted. Her idea was that memorization was for magentic storage media - knowing where to find the information we needed was more important than memorizing the information.

The Teacher must be REAL impressed with cell phones – look at all the numbers they can remember and recite back…

Gooding holds the competition every year, and said she expected students to learn about 40 digits.

What the hell? Is this kid in a school for Luddites? Even rocket launches don’t need that much precision, and I'm certain the launch engineers don't enter pi into their HP calculators manually - they rely on the calculator's or computer's software to retreive a value accurate enough for their uses.

I see this as a complete waste of taxpayer dollars to have a teacher encouraging a student to do what a computer can do faster, cheaper, and easier. As a hobby, let the kid memorize whatever he wants, impersonate any austistic savant as much as possible - but to encourage this in a classroom, to expect kids to memorize 40 digits of pi, is insane bordering on criminal.

BTW, here's what I remember of pi: 3.14159725. And that's been good enough for any calculation, computation, or graphic display I've ever done. Actually, I don't think I've ever needed the actual value of pi before - I just use Math.PI in whatever graphics/math libraries the language I'm coding in provides me. And when I'm doing math long-hand, I just write pi.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

New Florida Town Plans Abortion, Porn, Birth Control Bans

Man, this is a tough one.

On one hand, if a group of like-minded people get together to form a community based on their own beliefs, to the exclusion of others, there's a First Amendment that says they can. So long as they're not going to be displacing other property owners to make their Vatican Vacation Getaway, I don't see a problem with someone buying a few million acres, calling it Ave Maria, and parceling out to others under contract.

On the other hand, this is a going to be a town, where non-residents may be passing through freely, who require services not provided by the town. It may very well be unconstitutional in Florida, maybe not in other states.

Not sure how I feel about this one - I'm not Catholic, will never live there, will never probably go there, but who am I to say that a group of Catholics can't form their own little community and live the way they want to? Nuns and monks do it all the time.

Of course, there's another angle Monaghan hasn't though of - if there are a lot of influential Catholics all living in a small area, it's much MUCH easier to take them all out at once with a well placed briefcase nuke. - Family - New Florida Town Plans Abortion, Porn, Birth Control Bans

Monday, February 13, 2006

Inflating a resume illegal? It might be under new bill

Exactly how flipping deep is the Washington State legislature gonna bury their fingers in the private sector's ass? How does this even REMOTELY fall under the auspices of small focussed government? If you're an employer (like the federal government, cited in the piece) and you can't spare the time to independently check on a given credential, maybe you deserve what you get.

Inflating a resume illegal? It might be under new bill

Thursday, February 09, 2006

East Texas Weekly Community Newspaper

Someone needs to explain something to Armstrong Williams.

There are numerous ways to defend America against terrorist attack. The way the President has chosen - and which Armstrong defends - have the unfortunate side-effect of destroying the America it's trying to defend. It's like killing an infection by application of cyanide - sure, we stop the infection, but at the cost of the patient.

His last sentence is particularly telling - since he's not a terrorist, or affiliated with a terrorist organization, Williams obviously isn't worrying. Can we extrapolate here a little? I will make the assumptive leap, for the purposes of my argument, that Williams is also not a drug runner - I'm sure he wouldn't mind being stopped in his car for an impromptu warrantless search. Since he's also not a murderer, he won't mind a similar warrantless search of his home for evidence of that crime. Since he's also not a pedophile, a search of his home computer would be welcome as well to allay the government's fears. Of course, we'd do this at times when it wasn't an inconvenience - say, search his car while he's in the office, his home while he's at work, and his computer at 2am when he's asleep. The one exception would be when he's trying to board a plane, at which point all concerns about convenience would be suspended.

Armstrong Williams needs a swift kick in his rhetorical pants - the America he and I both love is being killed by the cure he is supporting. America annot tolerate this without doing something. It will either fight back, or (as I fear and see), roll over and die. And then Armstrong Williams can feel safe knowing the government is watching over him and his family, because all they do and say will be screened for potential mindcrimes...

East Texas Weekly Community Newspaper

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Eminent Domain: The Political Favor

Think the recent Kelo v. New London thing was a tragic anomaly, but couldn't affect you? Think again - government has all the time in the world to wait you out. Too bad taking them to court won't work...

KTLA The WB Where Los Angeles Lives Land Seized for Animal Shelter May Be Sold to Developer-Donor

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Listening to the Radio

Usually, I ride my motorcycle to work, but since we've had rain for the past 24 days straight in Seattle, my wife thinks I should be driving the car instead. So, I've been driving the past few days, listening to the radio on the way in. I listen to KZOK-FM in Seattle, and the morning guys are Bob, Spike, and Joe from the Bob Rivers Show. They're reasonably funny, have good on-air chemistry, and I like them...

Until, that is, they start talking politics - I've turned them off more times than I can count when they start talking politics.

This morning, for instance, they were talking about the rebuilding of New Orleans. Apparently, a recommendation is being made that would allow local neighborhoods to decide how they would like to rebuild - what kidn of buildings, what kind of houses, etc. A good idea on the surface, but remember, this rebuilding is being paid for with tax dollars, not private money. The show's resident babe and socialist, Kaci (who, from her bio, has a PoliSci degree), said she liked it, because it got the free market out of the equation (???).

A caller with a definitely libertarian bent (although he called himself non-partisan) said it was a bad idea - New Orleans was a horrid place to build even before the hurricane, because it's below sea level. He was advocating letting salvage companies have the place, and if they took the risk and could make a profit, that's the way it was supposed to work. He also said what I feel - that his tax dollars shouldn't be going to New Orleans to rebuild restaurants he'll never frequent. Kaci commented, "Way to help your fellow man." In other words, a bleeding heart socialist.

There are a few things Kaci is completely missing. First, we have helped our fellow man - perhaps she forgets who was first into New Orleans to help. Hint: it wasn't the federal government. Give up? Private charities and companies were there to help when FEMA couldn't find it's ass with both hands.

Second, taxation is a poor way to "help your fellow man". It's theft, and if you believe the ends justify the means, then extra taxes to help rebuild New Orleans could be considered a charitable contribution, which means I can deduct them from my taxes next year, right? Come on - if I had the money the feds took from me every pay period, I might have some extra to donate to a rebuilding project in New Orleans - as it is, the feds take my money before I ever see it and use it fund imperialism in the Middle East, propagandize our kids, and subsidize failing businesses and stupid people who build houses in places that are doomed on a regular basis (flood insurance?). Given that my money already is going there, I don't see a need to donate to charities to do the same thing.

Third, why is this a federal problem? It's the city of New Orleans, wholly and completely located in (and under) the state of Louisiana. Where was the New Orleans money for the past 30 years when people in this area had their homes flooded due to heavy rain? Or was the fact that a person who builds a home at a place called Washaway Beach is obviously much better off than the working poor of New Orleans, and therefore doesn't need any help when Mother Nature knocks his home into the sea?

Kaci is a bleeding heart socialist - she's not talking about economics or politics in any objective or realistic way. She just wants to help the poor folk stuck in New Orleans because they can't find a way out. Everyone there should be getting the same education most of us did, in public schools - everyone there should be getting paid at a decent minimum wage - everyone there should be getting enough welfare to keep a roof over their head and three squares a day - so why is it that some people have more while others have less? According to Kaci, I guess, it's not because she and I are smarter, or have more initiative and drive to learn and succeed, or were fortunate enough to not be born into poverty (I was born into working poverty) .

I'm not sure why she thinks this, but I think I know her solution - simply redistribute the wealth. Tax people so that we can spread the money over the populace in an equitable manner. She and I and every other person making more than the median income should work hard so we can give all that excess to the poor in New Orleans (and New York, and Compton, and south Chicago, and east St. Louis, and presumably Seattle as well).

I invite her to go first.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Repealing the Magna Carta

A good article, and a good rebuttal to my previous comment - the Administration spying on U.S. citizens isn't the only issue, just the latest, and one I hope will be the straw that breaks the camel's back and pushes towards more liberty. I'm afraid, however, it's a juggernaut that can't be stopped short of revolution...

Repealing the Magna Carta

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Comment from mistaken post

A while ago, I mistakenly posted my blog article on Bush's defense of domestic spying to my other blog. I pulled it once I found out about it being posted incorrectly, but still got a comment. Since I'm not going to mix messages in a blog, here's the comment, in it's entirety (not sure who sent it to me):
I don't know where your personal blog is, but you can take this comment and
shoot it over there (or just post the info and your response). If you are going
to post about such a complex legal issue as electronic eavesdropping on foreign
agents where domestic contact with said agents is possible, you might want to
(instead of using a child's view of the issue as a hammer to beat your political
opponents with) take a reasoned look at it prior to knee-jerking a response.
Since, I'm sure, you would not believe anyone's opinion on the subject who
doesn't hate Chimpy Bushitler McHaliburton, I'd suggest reading this editorial
by a former member of Clinton's Atty General's office, John Schmidt:,0,3553632.story?coll=chi-newsopinioncommentary-hed

Of all the stupid, inept or quasi-legal things you can beat up BushCo for,
this isn't one of them. We need to be able to spy on foreign agents without
having to worry about whether or not Americans (who are calling or are being
called by these agents) get spied on as well. Quite frankly, its those people
who are the ones we need to be keeping track of in the first place.

Some rebuttal to the comment is necessary.

First, I'm not a Bush hater because I'm a good liberal - I'm a Bush hater because I'm a freedom loving libertarian (also known as a classic liberal, but since the word "liberal" has been co-opted and redefined, like "gay" and "patriot", I'll stick with libertarian).

Second, while the President may have had authority to do so, that does not make it right. The City of New London has the authority to take your property and turn it over to someone else by the same argument - that does not make it right.

Third, we're talking about actions taken well along the wrong path to neutralizing the threat of terrorists. By stating that there is precedent and authority and correctness in this action, we're justifying the actions that led to it. Draconian security at our airports and train stations, secret courts and NSA letters, and covert spying on Americans at libraries and on the phone are justified by that fact that we are at war, when in fact that the war itself could have been avoided had we simply kept our imperial noses out of other country's respective businesses. By meddling in the affairs of Middle Eastern countries, we've earned the enmity of those people, and have been reaping the rewards of that meddling since 1946. Had we left well enough alone, or engaged in free and open trade rather than obtrusive foreign policies and military aid, I feel Al Qaeda would be a non-entity as far as the U.S. was concerned.

The op-ed piece mentioned above also cites a clause in the knee-jerk Congressional order giving the President power to use all necessary force to prevent another attack. The War on Terror, however, like the Wars on Drugs and Poverty, are not, as mentioned before, conventional wars, and to my mind, were not considered in the Constitution when the President was given Commander in Chief powers at wartime. Open-ended ill-defined wars against intangible enemies only serves to preserve broad and unchecked Executive power over the lives and well-being of Americans, and cut the life expectancy of citizens of perceived enemy states. While quoting an act passed by a Congress desirous of appearing to be "on top of the situation" isn't the best way to gets one's point across, it is, however, merely a supporting argument, not the main one.

The op-ed further goes on to say that, while use of this power, if done properly, has immense benefit for little cost, there is still something to fear if this power is not limited as the Bush Administration assures us it is. Given that the administration won't honor agreements in writing (Constitution? What Constitution? Fourth Amendment? Fifth Amendment?), how am I to be assured that a purely verbal assurance will be honored?

In summation, justifying the use or abuse of power, whether legal or not, in order to assure the perceived safety of the citzenry, is immoral. Temporary safety should NEVER be traded for essential liberty - in fact, unrestrained liberty is the best defense against outside threats, and the most feared weapon against internal threats such as those coming from our government.