Is Algebra Necessary?

I would like to say "Unbelievable!", but alas, I cannot. I wonder if this political "scientist" (and IMHO, that title is an oxymoron itself) realizes how utterly foundational to rational thinking mathematics truly is? Heinlein said it best, I think:

Anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human. At best he is a tolerable subhuman who has learned to wear shoes, bathe and not make messes in the house.

A typical American school day finds some six million high school students and two million college freshmen struggling with algebra. In both high school and college, all too many students are expected to fail. Why do we subject American students to this ordeal? Iíve found myself moving toward the strong view that we shouldnít.

(link) [New York Times]

12:26 /Technology | 0 comments | permanent link

Retirement plan

The mechanisms of crony capitalism laid bare...

Chesapeake, based in Oklahoma, has two powerful politicians on its board ó former member of the Senate from Oklahoma, Don Nickles, and former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating. The companyís board members used the firmís private planes for travel ó a perk most governance experts frown upon. Perhaps the more salient question is why the two have stayed on the board under the current circumstances. It is equally reasonable to ask why politicians, with their backgrounds unrelated to running big companies, were even appointed to the board.

(link)†[NBC News]

via Dispatches from the Culture Wars

13:09 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

How to Write

An excellent essay on art and craft of words ...

Rule No. 11: There are no rules. If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too? No. There are no rules except the ones you learned during your Show and Tell days. Have fun. If they donít want to be friends with you, theyíre not worth being friends with. Most of all, just be yourself.

(link) [New York Times]

21:42 /Home | 0 comments | permanent link

Scorched Earth in the Midwest

Pretty much what it's like up here in Central Indiana, too.

It's July and the temperatures throughout southern Indiana and northern Kentucky are an inferno, in some cases scorching to over 100 degrees, and we know itís not even August yet; itís only going to get hotter. Several days in a row I get a mind-splitter headache; itís so bad, it hurts to blink.

(link) [New York Times]

19:54 /Home | 0 comments | permanent link

Five eighths

or 0.625 of an inch of rain today - first measurable precipitation since June 20th. Not enough to break the drought, but we'll take what we can get! We're under a severe thunderstorm watch until 11, so maybe we'll get some more as the even wears on. There's always hope, after all.

15:00 /Home | 0 comments | permanent link

Othersí Milk

Fascinating bit of history...

Walk down a dairy aisle and you may start to notice how little we've done with the whole concept. Worldwide, there are about 6,000 mammal species, each with its own unique milk, but Americans get at least 97 percent of all our dairy products from one animal. (That would be the cow.) Even at my local Whole Foods, purveyors of exotica like shad roe and that kombucha stuff, there was only a single brand of goatís milk. ďEASY TO DIGEST!Ē reads the desperate carton.

(link) [Slate]

21:46 /Agriculture | 0 comments | permanent link

LIBOR Fraud May Be the Mother of All Bank Scandals

Details emerge ... we had hunches, now we have numbers.

The sheer volume of contracts based on LIBOR defies the imagination. Estimates vary, but $500 trillion seems reasonable. Even if the banks lied by as little as one-tenth of 1 percent, that percentage applied to $500 trillion multiplied by the six years of the fraud comes to $3 trillion stolen from customers. Cutting that amount in half to allow for the fact that some customers benefited from the fraud while others lost still gives implied damages of $1.5 trillion, greater than the combined capital of all of the too-big-too-fail banks in the United States. Taken to the full extent of the law, these damages are enough to render a large segment of the global banking system insolvent. These damages will be pursued not by regulators, but in private lawsuits by class action lawyers.

(link) [US News]

22:59 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

More Woes on the Home Front

Well, I've successfully avoided posting this for a week, but unless I say something about it now, I fear I'll just retreat back into non-blogging mode until I do say something about it. When I've got something to say, apparently, it must be said, even if the saying must be carefully crafted indeed.

I got laid off last Friday.

This isn't a dirt dumping post - future employers may be googling me, after all. Nor is it an economic rant - I've got plenty of those saved up for sure, but the broad sweep of economic theory suddenly took a back seat to the narrower one of personal scrambling.

I just have to say it, that's all. I got laid off last Friday. That would be the 13th, for the superstitious. Considering the disasters that have befallen us this past year, it's easy to get that way.

I do have other fish in the pan, so to speak, but they're currently somewhat flaky fish, if you get my meaning. Long term now means 90 days. I have high hopes for one, but hope is all that's there for now.

This layoff completely ambushed me - I had no idea it was coming. None, nada, zilch. That's what makes it really tough - always before (and being in the tech industry, this certainly isn't the first time this has happened, nor will it be the last) I'd had some inkling, even some warning, that things were spiraling out of control and change was afoot. Not this time.

Lorraine suggested we take a week to "decompress" and process things - a good idea. And I'm still getting a paycheck, at least for another month what with severance and accrued vacation. So we're not quite dead. Not quite. And I will be hitting the job search engines Monday.

I guess my real fear isn't of not being able to find a position - I'm pretty highly skilled, and there's seemingly a lot of demand out there for my skill set. My fear is that I won't be able to find a permanent position with benefits, but only contract. Which, admittedly pays better, but when you have the kind of health conditions I have, you rapidly discover that buying private insurance on your own is simply impossible. So one health incident would crash everything, job, retirement, farm, future.

It's just scary as Hel.

But I have a wonderful wife, a fine flock, good pastures (albeit very dry, and getting drier by the day), and all the bills are currently paid. We have food in the freezer, love in our hearts and hope springs eternal.

We'll get through this. Somehow.

07:41 /Home | 2 comments | permanent link

Once Upon a Time

Grimm reading...

Even people who have never known hunger, let alone a murderous stepmother, still have a senseófrom dreams, from books, from news broadcastsóof utter blackness, the erasure of safety and comfort and trust. Fairy tales tell us that such knowledge, or fear, is not fantastic but realistic.

(link) [The New Yorker]

06:25 /Home | 0 comments | permanent link

Coffee: Preventing Scurvy Since 1650

Who knew?

In 1650, St. Michael's Alley, London's first coffee shop, placed an ad in a newspaper. That ad -- archived in the British Museum, and Internet-ed by the Vintage Ads LiveJournal -- extolled the many Vertues of the newly discovered beverage. Which "groweth upon little Trees, only in the Deserts of Arabia," and which is -- despite and ostensibly because of its Vertues -- "a simple innocent thing."

(link) [The Atlantic]

15:53 /Humor | 0 comments | permanent link

Heat wave 2012 culprit?

Ran across this article from last week while surfing this morning: I think it posits the best explanation I've heard for the rather bizarre weather we've been having this year. Still no rain here...

Itís the emerging seesaw pattern of intense heat separated by slightly cooler, sometimes storm-carrying weather thatís a major clue as to whatís going on with the weather, and why the rest of the summer is likely to play out largely along the same steamy lines.

(link) [Christian Science Monitor]

10:24 /Agriculture | 0 comments | permanent link

Easy 6502

Nice to see a simulation of the first language I learned. And still a good tool to learn programming in my not so humble opinion.

In this tiny ebook Iím going to show you how to get started writing 6502 assembly language. The 6502 processor was massive in the seventies and eighties, powering famous computers like the BBC Micro, Atari 2600, Commodore 64, Apple II, and the Nintendo Entertainment System. Bender in Futurama has a 6502 processor for a brain. Even the Terminator was programmed in 6502.


07:19 /Technology | 0 comments | permanent link

10-year-long video game creates 'hellish nightmare' world

Wow. Just wow, on so many levels. Kudos to the developers - I played Civ 2 back in the day, and it's not exactly a trivial bit of code.

A member of the social news website Reddit who goes by the name Lycerius posted his results from a decade-long game of "Civilization II," a turn-based strategy games in which players build their own society. His epic struggle pushed the game to its limits, further than developers ever imagined or planned for.

(link) [CNN]

21:43 /Technology | 0 comments | permanent link

Cottage cheese gets a high-end, artisanal makeover

Good stuff, indeed. But expensive, and difficult to keep. It was rarity when I was selling TP product, and it's still pretty tough to find locally. If you can find it, it's worth every penny (and that'd be about 500 pennies for a pound).

Artisanal cottage cheese? The phrase trips off the tongue much the way "organic corn dog" or "hand-crafted diet soda" might. Because while cottage cheese has been a supermarket staple at least since your grandmother served it with pineapple slices, it retains a ho-hum image as a bland diet food. In the hierarchy of culinary esteem, it's not too far above Velveeta.


21:09 /Agriculture | 0 comments | permanent link

Roma Eterna

Roma Eternais my latest Roman read - but unlike fictionalized history this is an alternate history, one where Rome never fell, Christianity and Islam never took root, and the Roman Empire bestrides the world as the only superpower for millennia. Fascinating stuff, if a bit far fetched. The format is different too, more of a collection of novellas and short stories than a single novel. It made it rather easy to read over several days, as the "breakpoints" were pretty clearly delineated. The dates were all AUC, too, which made for some interesting calculations. I'd recommend it as both entertaining and thought provoking - what more can one ask from a book?

21:41 /Home | 0 comments | permanent link