Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Bush Claims Osama Bin Laden as a Supporter

Yeah, we all knew this already, but still, to hear Bush admit it: Bush: Bin Laden helped me.

Let the spin begin!

Friday, February 24, 2006

More Reason To Teach Graph Reading

DarkSyde at DailyKos' Science Friday has a great post today about how hurricanes form and grow, the connections with global warming, and the absolute uselessness of most media outlets in explaining both.

This goes along with an earlier rant on this blog: the consequences of shifting a distribution when what people are watching is how many events are above a threshold. In the case of Tropical Depressions, Tropical Storms, and Hurricanes (categories 1 through 5), we put all of these phenomena into baskets based on wind speed.

As long as you don't move the goalposts (and who, he asked innocently, in this Administration would do something like that?), then shifting the distribution of storm strength a bit higher on the strength scale will automatically lead to more storms in the higher-strength baskets.

I'm thinking more and more that we should be teaching kids statistics and graphs as early and as often as possible (rather than starting with algebra and geometry[1]). Statistics and graph skills are exceedingly important to understanding the world.

[1] Math curricula may be quite different from when I was in school. YMMV.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Constitutional Amendments I'd Like to See

Today on Salon (premium content, sorry), Garrison Keillor argues that the U.S. should amend the Constitution to require military service as a prerequisite for the Presidency. I don't consider this totally outlandish, but here are my wish-list amendments to the U.S. Constitution:

  • The Anti-Aristocracy Amendment
    No person can serve as President whose parent, grandparent, sibling, spouse, or child has served as President.

    You could plausibly call this the "No Hillary, no Jeb" amendment.

  • The Service Amendment
    No person can serve as a member of Congress, Cabinet Secretary, Appellate Court Judge, Supreme Court Justice, or President unless they have done one or more of the following:

    • served a full term in the regular armed forces with an honorable discharge
    • worked as one of the following for at least a year:
      • public school teacher
      • nurse
      • public defender
      • <insert more here>
    • spent a year living on minimum wage
  • Tuesday, February 21, 2006

    Why do they hate America?

    I am so stunned by this story that I can barely type.

    FORT CAMPBELL, Kentucky (AP) -- Wearing vests covered in military patches, a band of motorcyclists rolls around the country from one soldier's funeral to another, cheering respectfully to overshadow jeers from church protesters.

    They call themselves the Patriot Guard Riders, and they are more than 5,000 strong, forming to counter anti-gay protests held by the Rev. Fred Phelps at military funerals.

    Phelps believes American deaths in Iraq are divine punishment for a country that he says harbors homosexuals. His protesters carry signs thanking God for so-called IEDs -- explosives that are a major killer of soldiers in Iraq.

    "Thank God for IEDs"?

    Is there a single Republican in Congress who will condemn Phelps and his band of assholes? Hell, is there a single Democrat who will?

    Friday, February 17, 2006

    Depressing Friday

    It's gray enough here in eastern Massachusetts in mid-February. I don't need extra stuff to depress me:

    Glaciers Flow to Sea at a Faster Pace, Study Says (title says it all).

    Religion in the News, about groups that conduct "Biblical tours" of science museums and research centers.

    Wednesday, February 15, 2006

    Right Whingers

    From http://www.thefreedictionary.com/whinge:

    whinge Pronunciation (hwinj, winj) intr.v. whinged, whing·ing, whing·es Chiefly British
    To complain or protest, especially in an annoying or persistent manner.

    It came to me tonight in a flash: the Right Wing in this country is a bunch of whiners. They control every branch of government; most of the media; most of the business establishment; and pretty much everything except a few colleges and universties and the Unitarians. But they still whine about how they're so oppressed, and how they're being picked on.

    The Brits have a great version of "whine" for this: "whinge". Let's call them Right Whingers from now on.

    This is your Modest Proposal for the day.

    Tuesday, February 14, 2006

    Physics Jokes

    Cosmic Variance has a Bad Physics Jokes post. I had to add a comment with my favorote, which I reproduce here:

    There once was a theorist who was hired by the American Dairy Council to help optimize their milk production (because, you know, physicists are smart).

    She goes around to the pastures, to the milking stations, looks at the scaling of the distribution networks (definitely not scale-free), etc. After months, she has a presentation prepared. The auditorium is packed. She puts up her first slide and says "First, assume a spherical cow...."

    Friday, February 03, 2006

    Health Care as Homeland Security

    If you're interested in public health and epidemiology, go read this interview with Dr. Tara Smith on the Daily Kos' Science Friday.

    The bit that leaped out at me was

    Bush's solution to this [the threat posed by an epidemic] is Healthcare Spending Accounts; ignoring the fact that health care is a vital issue of national security. The public won't ever be "safe" while so many of us are vulnerable to the cracks in our healthcare system, no matter what the vector of infection.

    Look, it's yet another political opportunity for the Democrats to miss!

    NTP Considered as Indicator of Generational Shift

    In David and Lisa (the 1962 black-and-white version, not the 1998 Oprah TV version), David and Lisa are well-off white teenagers in a mental institution of some kind.

    The way they demonstrate that David (Keir Dullea) is disturbed is by having him be really twitchy about knowing the exact time. There's a scene where he raves on and on about how wonderful it would be if everyone had a watch that could synchronize itself somehow to a central clock, and everyone would know the correct time....

    My response is "and this is a problem why...?"

    This is especially ironic these days, since almost everyone's cell phone synchronizes its own clock with the cell network -- and cell phones (amongst other things) are driving a decline in watch sales.

    Moral: one generation's neurosis is another generation's basic expectation.