30 Nov 2010
in civil liberties, security, torture
Tags: civil liberties, security, torture, TSA
There’s been abit of an uproar about the new security guidelines and procedures at airports.
It’s funny in a way since most people didn’t have a problem with torture or wiretapping or indefinite detention without habeus corpus or the no-fly list. It’s because they they think they’re the ‘good guys’ and have ‘nothing to hide’. They assume that anyone who is accused is guilty (well, unless a liberal says so).
Here THEY have to go through the drill–it’s almost as if people assume they might be guilty of something. I try to look for allies, but really if a person didn’t have a problem with torturing and indefinitely detaining someone because someone accused them of terrorism, then they should just shut up about this.
Innocent people were tortured to death because of someone’s accusation. The Obama administration has said they can kill a US citizen without a trial even if they’re not on a battlefield or an imminent threat. And this is what causes an uproat? Really?
23 Nov 2010
in history, Math
Tags: Babylon, history, Math, Sumeria
NYU has an exhibit on Babylonian math (from the NY Times, which refers to it as Sumerian math since it was written in that language). I like the example they give:
YBC 7289 is a small clay disc containing a rough sketch of a square and its diagonals. Across one of the diagonals is scrawled 1,24,51,10 — a sexagesimal number that corresponds to the decimal number 1.41421296. Yes, you recognized it at once — the square root of 2. In fact it’s an approximation, a very good one, to the true value, 1.41421356.
You can see that this is very accurate, but even this understates it–it is the answer to four decimal places in base 60, so perhaps they could calculate it more accurately but just rounded.
I also like this:
Other tablets bear lists of practical problems, like calculating the width of a canal, given information about its other dimensions, the cost of digging it and a worker’s daily wage.
With some tablets the answers are stated without any explanation, giving the impression that they were for show, a possession designed to make the owner seem an academic.
Imagine a society where people displayed mathematical equations to show status. Heaven.
The Times also has a slideshow of images of the tablets. I like this one which shows an incomplete calculation–I’m picturing it as the work of a student who didn’t know how to do the problem (I imagine students were much less likely to put in random stuff to try to get points when they had to put it on a tablet).
19 Nov 2010
in pictures, poetry, World
Tags: Antarctic, pictures, poetry
Since links are a bit of a pain right now, here’s a link-free post. First a picture of the Transarctic mountain glacier taken from a DC8 as part of NASA’s attempt to completely map the Arctic and Antarctic ice (Credit: NASA/Sarah DeWitt):
and the usual Friday poem:
I live under
A mistaken expression
19 Nov 2010
in history, Math
Tags: history, Math, xkcd
xkcd has another comic with math in it:
What I like about it, is that the math joke isn’t obvious until you look at the title of the comic. I’ll put that below the fold, if you want to try to guess: More
17 Nov 2010
in craziness, education, Media, politics
Tags: craziness, James O'Keefe, Media
James O’Keefe has put together a video about teachers in NJ at a convention. At this point, the correct response of any intelligent person should be ‘who cares’–James O’Keefe (and the semi-related Breitbart) are jokes. They film somebody and cut it together to make a point, even if their point is the complete opposite of what the person said. Anybody who takes them seriously is an idiot or thinks we are. Cue (via here and here) the superintendent and Republican Governor Christie.
And this is another in the long line of the difference between the crazies on the right and the crazies on the left: the ones on the left are ignored, while those on the right are championed by Republican governors. The fact that the teacher being suspended literally threw herself in front of a van to save students doesn’t matter to them if they can make a point.
14 Nov 2010
Tags: fall, Malden, pictures
I’m a little slow in putting these up, but here are some more pictures from Forest Dale cemetery and from the hill in Pine Banks park (click on the pictures for a better view) with nice fall colors.
12 Nov 2010
in economy, poetry, World
Tags: china, economy, poetry, US, World
China (and other countries) is upset at the Fed’s Quantitative easing:
At a press briefing in Seoul, Zheng Xiaosong, director general of the Chinese Ministry of Finance’s international department, indirectly accused the United States of ignoring its international responsibilities. “The major reserve-currency issuers, while implementing their monetary policies, should not only take into account their national circumstances but should also bear in mind the possible impacts on the global economy,” he said.
Which is pretty interesting given that China has been manipulating their currency without worrying about anyone else.
And since I’m talking about China, has anyone else noticed that China seems to be cracking down more on their citizens since the Olympics? Here’s a sample:
A father who organized a support group for other parents whose children were sickened in one of China’s worst food safety scandals was convicted and sentenced Wednesday to 2 1/2 years in prison for inciting social disorder, his lawyer said.Zhao Lianhai had pushed for greater official accountability and compensation for victims and their families after the 2008 scandal that shocked China. His sentence appeared particularly severe because the case related to a public safety incident that the embarrassed leadership had pledged to tackle in a bid to restore consumer confidence.
It seems giving them the Olympics didn’t help. Ah well, it was a nice circus. And you can tell it’s getting bad when Vietnam sides with the US (to be fair, China and Vietnam are traditional adversaries).
And since it’s Friday, here’s a poem:
Blood rains on the page
As my thoughts gather
And cover my rage
Drawing strength from me.
11 Nov 2010
in craziness, politics
Tags: craziness, Democrats, politics
This is true:
For Democrats, November’s election results are sad, as Pelosi told Diane Sawyer. To Pelosi, it must also feel personally unjust. She passed health care reform, but minus the public option that she and fellow liberals really wanted. Despite her willingness to compromise, she has been demonized for promoting “socialism’’ when there is no truth to the charge. It is unfair.
But to use that overused quote from JFK: “Life is unfair.’’
Life after the midterm elections is no longer about Pelosi. It’s about Democrats trying to find some way to advance any serious agenda when the other party defines their primary goal as the desire to make Obama a one-term president.
Pelosi can’t lead that fight. She is too polarizing a figure. Republicans, who won by running against her, will now make sure their constituents never see them negotiating with her. She shouldn’t be minority leader, because it will only ensure gridlock, as promised by the GOP. It’s hard to walk away from power or even just the illusion of it, but that’s what Pelosi should do. She’ll have her legacy as a leader and role model and someday will get her due.
but it’s missing the reason that Pelosi is polarizing. She’s polarizing because Republicans have spent the last years caricaturing her, demonizing her, and refusing to work with her at all. And they’ll do the same for any Democrat in a position of power, so it’s true that she will have trouble advancing an agenda. But so will any Democrat, because these Republicans don’t want to work with any Democrat.
05 Nov 2010
in pictures, poetry, science
Tags: moon, nasa, poetry, stars, Sun
Today, I throw out a few pictures from NASA (as always, click on them to get a good look). The first is an eclipse of the Sun captured by the Solar Dynamic’s Observatory (Credit: NASA):
The second is the Lagoon nebula as captured by the Hubble telescope (Credit: NASA):
The third is of the Andromeda galaxy taken in ultraviolet (Credit: NASA/Swift/Stefan Immler (GSFC) and Erin Grand (UMCP)):
And finally, the usual Friday poem:
The world comes crashing
And so shall we
We never know.
04 Nov 2010
in craziness, economy, politics, wealth
Tags: banks, craziness, politics, Republicans
The huge win by Republicans is surreal to me. People were upset by the economy and the financial institutions, so they elected people such as (via here):
Mr Bachus, who as ranking Republican on the committee could replace Barney Frank as chairman of the panel, expressed concern that shareholders of Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase will be hurt because the banks will be less profitable.
Of course he pretends that this is all about jobs (if we don’t allow bankers to make millions, why the economy will collapse), but it’s obvious to anyone with a brain that it’s not. So we have just elected people whose response to the financial industry almost shutting down the world economy because of their greed and incompetence is to worry that regulations might hurt them. Thanks people.
01 Nov 2010
in nation, politics
Tags: democracy, voting
Remember to vote tomorrow. This is an important part of a democratic society–a society where not many people vote will not remain a democracy. Any reason you can give for not voting looks silly if you look at other societies:
- you have no real choice or it doesn’t matter? In some countries, only people from a very narrow group are even allowed to run for office.
- the campaign has been uncivil or hostile? In some countries, people running for office are shot by the opposition and there is often widespread violence at the polls.
- the election will be stolen? In some countries there is widespread fraud, but here it’s rare. Amazingly rare compared to even our history.
- it’s a hassle? In some countries, people will wait in lines for most of the day to vote. This despite the fact that many of them are in countries where violence and fraud are rampant.
Do you have another reason? I bet it’s just as silly if you look at other countries. Remember that revolutions have been fought and people routinely die to be able to vote and to protect the right to vote. So, get out there and vote.
Given that I’m a lefty, I’m going to vote for only Democrats and vote NO on all the ballot questions (this will keep the tax on alcohol, keep 40B–the affordable housing law–as is, and keep the Sales tax at the current 6.25%).