New Theory

It seems that the latest wrinkle of this year’s silly season is crop circles. [Link]

I want to advance a new theory: the crops had developed intelligence and are displaying their sense of humor.

Academic Freedom Here

Seems Zhejiang University has advised entering freshmen to leave their laptops at home. [Link] The official reason is that school administrators do not want the freshmen wasting their time surfing the Internet.

This is the same country where people are used as speed bumps for main battle tanks and educated people get sent off to be farm workers every ten years or so.

Its also the same country who coerced Google and other Internet companies to restrict access to “approved” sites in return for business licenses. Reminds me of Stalin “The capitalists will sell us the rope we hang them with.”

Education is obviously very different in China. Maybe we should study their methods?

Rebellion is Brewing

David Shiga reports in New Scientist [Link] that a grass roots effort is growing to overturn the recently adopted International Astronomical Union definition of planet. Said definition unplaneting Pluto.

Since then, various protests have occurred including several videos of tearful, frenetic toddlers who had just learned the planetary litany. Notably, a large number of t-shirts with various pro-Pluto slogans have been sold; one web store claiming a total of 5×10^4 since the new definition was adopted. Feeling have run so strong that Democrats have announced a “restore Pluto” plank in their party’s platform, Republicans have announced economic aid for Plutonians, and Intelligent Design pundits have been conspicuously silent.

Does anyone remember when there were two Popes? Will we have grey and blue uniforms for astronomers?

Second Again

Seems Alabama again came in second. This time in obesity rate. [Link]

What is obesity rate? I won’t go off into Nerd land discussing transition from discrete to continuous representations, but I will cite my McGraw-Hill nerd dictionary that says a rate is the amount of change of some observable quantity with respect to time.

In more direct terms, the first derivative of that observable quantity with respect to time, which is sometimes difficult to separate from the subjective.

Do journalists know what derivatives are or do they just consider them unreportable?

I suspect that what they are calling a rate is nothing more than the fraction of the population that has been determined to be obese, which the last time I checked was also a subjective quantity.

If we take the time derivative of that quantity, and I’ll settle for a first finite difference here, then we would have a rate.

Subjectivity aside, there are some objective quantities that can be applied, most of them more meaningful than the International Astronomical Union’s definition of planet. One such meaningful formulation seems to be fraction of body weight that is fat, metered against gender (women have need for more fat than men), age, body type, and to an extent, ethnicity.

The second part is to stop thinking of a diet as a transitional thing. A diet is forever, or at least to death. Its what and how you eat. Period. Its not something you do to lose weight, bulk up, or whatever.

Part three is to make sure that you burn enough calories every day. The metaphor here is of a pump. If you don’t get a certain performance out of a pump, it isn’t working. So its not just how many calories per day (which is a rate) and how they are distributed and have trace compounds, but also how many you use up every day. (That’s a rate of a rate thing.)

Part of this is where you get the food. Fast food restaurants are bad. Most of what food you can get at Wal Mart is bad. Almost every food advertised on television is bad. Get smarter about food.

Rip ‘Em UP!

It seems a group of grocers in California (see what I told you last blog!) are suing Wal Mart for advertising that mom and pop grocery stores rip off customers. [Link]


Wal Mart only sells products that move off shelves rapidly. If the reside time of any product exceeds a certain amount, Wal Mart ceases to carry the item. They also refuse to carry any items whose manufacturers refuse to pay Wal Mart substantial rebates or bribes for carrying their products.

In effect, Wal Mart is flagrantly guilty of the worse kind of ethnic, disability, and age discrimination. But expect a Republican administration to act against a good Republican and taxpayer corporation? Has Tartarus thawed?

Go to a Wal Mart and try to buy ethnic food, or specialty diet food such as low sodium or low gluten content. I’m not talking fad diet rubbish here. Diet means what a person eats. If you’re diabetic or suffer from any myriad of physiological conditions you can’t buy those special items at Wal Mart.

And they’re arrogant about it. They seem to train their staff, what few there are, in the Gary Cooper “High Noon” style of customer interaction. Except the register clerks, who are always backed up. And in many communities they have driven the other competing stores out of business.

How is this type of monopoly different from the Communism we fought against for so long?

Has California Seceded?

The Washington Post has an article that California has developed a plan to address global warming. [Link]

I know that Californians think they are the universe, but isn’t a global plan beyond their scope as one of the United States of America?

Another Tombstone of Childhood

I see in the Register feed [Link] that Airfix has gone out of business.

When I was a boy growing up in the early days of Containment, the standard recreational activity was building plastic model kits. These kits came in all manner of subject object: military vehicles and aircraft; automobiles; even buildings; and degrees of complexity. Growing up in Huntsville, misnamed the Rocket City when it should be the Missile City, the preferred subject was missiles and rockets.

As I recall, the major American manufacturers were Revell and Lindberg but occasionally there was an Airfix kit. As one aged into teens this relatively passive activity was supposed to be replaced first by flying model airplane building and then automobile conversion.

My inclinations were into science fair projects. I recall one project was building an enormous reflecting (rather than refracting) microscope. Enormous so you could get big time magnification and reflecting so it wasn’t too big and you could project on a ground glass screen. Its undoing was that screen. You needed a pretty high intensity light source to form a big image and that intensity meant dumping a lot of photons into any part that had any substantial optical depth. Since the biggest chunk of optical depth tends to be what is on the slide, you got some heating.

In the years after graduate school, I took up miniatures wargaming. Airfix was a supplier of little plastic soldiers. Of course, when PCs came in we pretty well abandoned room size wargaming.