Sunday, September 22, 2013

What the hell is happening to my country?  A father is at a town hall forum in Towson, Maryland.  He's concerned about the effects of the Common Core education initiative on children there.  During the public question and answer session, he asks:
My question is, how does lowering America's educational standards prepare kids for community college?
Next thing he knows, he's been thrown out of the meeting by a security officer, handcuffed, arrested, and now faces six months in the hoosegow or a $2,500 fine

This is America?  Did Maryland secede when I wasn't paying attention, and install a thugocracy?

There's video of the actual incident at the link.

Pardon me, but I'm going to go off in the corner and cry for a while...
Now I'm really worried about her, because Pelosi sounds delusional and completely disconnected from reality.  Asked about where further spending cuts might come from, she said:
The cupboard is bare.  There's no more cuts to make.
Really, Nancy?  Really?  Nowhere in our Federal budget is there even one thin dime to cut?

Nobody with a functioning brain could make such a statement and believe it...
“What planet do you live on?”  You've probably heard this story already: some 300 kids broke into a football star Brian Holloway's home to have a party.  In the process they trashed his home, while tweeting and posting on Facebook about it (we didn't say they were smart kids!).  Instead of pressing charges and suing for damages, Holloway created a web site to reach out to those same kids.  He offered to have them come over and help him clean up and repair his house (one kid showed up).  Result?  The parents of some of those kids are now suing Holloway for identifying their kids online.

A local (Latham, New York) radio personality, Kelly Lynch, has written a beautiful open letter to those parents, taking them to the woodshed for their behavior. A sample:
Instead of sitting little Johnny down and reminding him that what he did is not acceptable and then dragging him by the collar to apologize to Mr. Holloway, you chose instead to harass and threaten the victim. Let’s not forget here, your child victimized this man by destroying his home. How dare you respond with anything other than regret, embarrassment, and a sincere apology instead of righteous indignation, threats of violence and lawsuits.

Parents like you are responsible for an entire generation that expects the world handed to them, because you have given it to them all along. Instead of teaching your kids to work hard and earn things, you give a trophy to every kid in youth sports and then hand them an iPhone in middle school. You are the parents screaming through the fence at the Little League umpire instead of teaching good sportsmanship. You are the ones criticizing the teacher instead of realizing they just want to help your child learn.

Amen, sister...
Zombie rips the BBC a new one, and in the process gives us all a lesson on how to analyze reporting malfeasance
And speaking of the IPCC, it seems that they're struggling mightily to deal with the disjoint between their models and their past assertions, and the observed realities.  Making it even harder for them: they're getting political pressure to avoid anything that would temper fears about global warming.  Those politicians really love a good crisis – the money flows ever so much more easily then...
Meyer 1, climatologists 0.  Warren Meyer, the blogger behind CoyoteBlog, has long been a skeptic of anthropogenic global warming.  Six years ago, he came up with an incredibly simple model that fit observed data.  He didn't really intend it to be a predictive model – but at right, there's the model updated with the last six years of observed data.  The fit is actually pretty good – and it's far better than the IPCC models.  But it sure does make you wonder what the IPCC's “bottoms-up” models are good for, when a simple regression has better results...
“There weren't enough good guys with guns.”  Talking about the Navy Yard shootings, which occurred in a government-mandated gun-free zone.  As many have said before, gun-free zones make it awfully easy for the bad guys to decide where to attack...
I'm actually starting to worry about her mental health.  Pelosi on Republicans:
I call them legislative arsonists.  They’re there to burn down what we should be building up in terms of investments and education and scientific research, and all that it is that makes our country great and competitive.
What will Mother Nature think of next?  Scientists discover a moth that can jam bats' sonar.  That's an awesome moth!
What killed Blackberry?  The funny little Blackberry was, just a few years ago, the standard office worker's accessory.  So why did the iPhone and Android devices wipe out the Blackberry so easily?  It's actually very simple: Blackberry devices were purchased by companies, and iPhones and Androids were (at least at first) purchased by individuals.  Corporate IT departments are learning how to integrate individually owned devices into corporate IT systems, and this has forced enormous changes into all sorts of things.  ServiceNow, a company I used to work for, leverages this new “bring your own device” by being web-based and fostering iPhone and Android apps; many other IT vendors are doing the same thing.  Larger corporate IT shops are producing internal iPhone and Android apps that only work within their corporate networks.  All of this is a huge change from the way Blackberry worked, and it accelerates the broader trend in corporate IT environments from more-or-less homogenous worlds to unabashedly heterogeneous worlds.  At the executive level within these companies, it's very clear that the heterogeneous world is a big win.  The stodgier IT community isn't so sure – but, like the buggy-whip makers, they won't be around for too much longer...

There are some parallels that could be drawn between this phenomenon and the immigration issue :)
Why do I doubt his sincerity?  Iran's President Rouhani says that Iran is ready to talk with the U.S. about their nuclear development program.  A careful parsing of his words shows that it's full of classic weasel-wording.  And even a casual glance at his speeches for an Iranian audience shows that he says much different things to them (this is an outrageously under-reported facet of Arab and Persian Middle East politics).  But somehow I suspect that the progressives will jump all over this speech as a “signal” of Rouhani's moderation.  In the end, we'll spend much effort and money pursuing another progressive pipe-dream...
Is this really so surprising?  A new study examines the characteristics of successful scientists.  One discovery: successful scientists tend to have published earlier, and in larger quantity.  The study's authors seem to conclude that earlier and more publication leads to scientific success.  I'm suspicious that they've confused correlation with causation, and that what's really going on is that the same talent and drive that make a successful scientist also tend to make them publish earlier and more...
Why do most poor people not use banks?  Short answer: customer service.  Lisa Servon, writing in The Atlantic Cities, has a fascinating piece on this phenomenon that's full of surprises...
Tiny ray tracing program, fits on the back of a business card – but generates the image at right.  Fabian Sanglard reverse-engineered it, and Andrew Kensler (the original programmer) comments on it.

Awesome geeks!
A sober voice on immigration and assimilation.  Political historian and commentator Michael Barone, writing in the Wall Street Journal, has an excellent piece that lends a sober perspective on the perceptions and realities of immigration and assimilation over U.S. history.  Long-time readers will know that I'm an ardent supporter of much more open immigration into the U.S. – with the condition that we get the assimilation part right, and not duplicate the errors so visible in Europe.  Over the course of U.S. history, as Barone relates, we have a track record of doing exactly that...
Who knew? Smart cables...  The new “Lightning” interconnection cable introduced by Apple last year includes an integrated circuit that allows the devices connected by the cable to verify its authenticity.  With IOS7, the newest release of the Apple's operating system for mobile devices, unauthorized cables now won't work.  The speculation is that Apple is responding to reports of electrical shocks caused by after-market cables, but it could be as simple as Apple wanting to hang onto their cable profits.  The most surprising thing to me is that integrated circuits combined with robotic assembly has now made it cost effective to embed some reasonably smart circuitry into a simple cable...
It shouldn't be possible.  At least, not with our current understanding of earthquake mechanisms.  “It” is a magnitude 8.3 earthquake that occurred 378 miles under the earth's surface.  What this really means is there's something interesting about plate tectonics that geologists haven't figured out yet...
Unreplicable studies...  Especially in certain branches of science there has been a rash of scientific studies that were published, but whose results could not be duplicated.  Sometimes these studies aren't discovered to be unreplicable for many years.  It used to be that such problems occurred mainly in the “soft” sciences, like psychology and anthropology, where the scientists involved may have had little mathematical training, and where opinion and fact are difficult to discern.  More recently there's been an increasing number of unreplicable studies in “hard” (or at least, harder) sciences like climatology and medicine.  The common thread seems to be money: when it's possible to obtain grant money by outright fraud or less overt “shading” of study results, you'll see some people doing that.  The more that such tactics work, the more pervasive the practice becomes.  The antidotes are the pure sunshine of exposure and greater care with the money...
Today is the fall equinox, and APOD is celebrating with this lovely photo of the analemma formed by the sun's position at the same time on the different days of the year.  This photo was taken at 9 am on many different days of the year, so each white “dot” shows the sun's position at 9 am on that date.
Sweet Lorraine...  A few weeks ago, I posted about this 96 year old songwriter entering a contest with the lyrics, and assisted on the music by a musician.  Now that song has made the Billboard Top 10 (video report)...
What happens when you challenge a handicapped kid, instead of coddling her?  Short answer: good things, inspiring things.  Meet Charlotte Brown...
Some people are still recovering from WWII...  Seven decades ago, a young soldier, about to be deployed to Europe to fight in WWII, wrote a letter to a newborn daughter he had never met.  A few days later he died in battle.  That letter was never delivered – but it was recently found and is now on the way to that daughter, along with her father's Purple Heart and some other memorabilia.  I can't even begin to imagine...
“We can compare shiv marks next time we meet, my friend.”  That's Sarah Palin, shouting out in support of Ted Cruz's efforts to defund Obamacare...
A sticky mess!  A German company got caught in a complex scheme to illegally import Chinese honey into the U.S.  The story is full of intriguing details about the honey business that I would never have guessed...
A pleasant evening in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.  Late yesterday afternoon, Debbie and I drove up to one of our favorite wildlife watching spots: Stonewall Mine Road (see the “A” pin on the map at right) in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.  We timed it perfectly, arriving there just 20 minutes or so ahead of sunset.  We saw about 25 deer, many of them quite close to the road and easy to view.  There was one particularly handsome stag, an intriguingly colored doe (dark gray toward her front, reddish-brown toward her rear), and a stunningly beautiful yearling, with a treacle-sweet face that could adorn a poster.  Oddly, we didn't see a single turkey (usually they're the dominant form of animal life here).  There was a falcon atop a small pine in one of the meadows, and several beautiful panoramas of autumnal high-altitude chaparral, dominated by the browns and pinks of dried seeds.  It was a lovely way to end our day...

Also cheering us: the presence of about ten car-loads of people doing exactly what we were doing – driving slowly along, stopping frequently, to watch the wildlife.  Most of the time we run into some annoying obliviot or two who seem to have no objective other than to drive that road as fast as they can go.  None of that this time; just a lot of nice people enjoying the same thing we were.  One couple coming the other way stopped alongside us to talk for a moment.  In a few minutes of conversation, we learned that they had just celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary, and have been visiting Stonewall Mine Road for a lot longer than we have.  We're hoping that we can reach their age (late 80s or early 90s) and still enjoy things like this...

Side note: for years now, there has been a small sign at the Stonewall Mine parking lot letting you know that you have to pay for the privilege of parking there and exploring the mine.  The current price for this privilege is $8.  It still infuriates me, after many years of this regime, to know the government wants to charge me for visiting something that (allegedly) belongs to us (the people of California, not the damned legislators in Sacramento)...