Friday, December 21, 2007

Canada Rules

Steven Harper met the Dalai Lama at his official office, and certain countries are unhappy about it. But Harper turned that criticism away with this deft bit of analysis:

"I met the Dalai Lama in my office but I meet everyone in my office. I don't know why I would sneak off to a hotel room just to meet the Dalai Lama. You know, he's not a call girl," Harper told OMNI television.

He quickly added: "As I say, he's a respected international spiritual leader."

Friday, December 14, 2007

Some Good Advice

From the Globe and Mail:
Avoid sharing a crack pipe, university warns

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Lou Dobbs Democrats

I'm not really into the idea of talking politics in a public forum, but this caught my eye:
“If you can build a school in South Africa, build one in South Carolina,” Linda Dogan, a member of the City Council in Spartanburg, said on the conference call, which was organized by the Edwards campaign.

which might remind you of this piece of work
And, my friends, the job will be done when we stop opening firehouses in Baghdad while closing them down here in the United States of America.

courtesy of Edward's former running mate John Kerry...
See also this, and Steven Landsburg's entry here.
Kucinich isn't any better.
Since when did the filthy scourge of racism take such a strong hold of the Democratic Party? Behind every argument to pull out of Iraq yesterday, lies the implicit belief that Iraqi lives are less valuable than the lives of American soldiers. It's a racist sentiment that I feel more than a little uncomfortable with.

Friday, November 02, 2007

An Assault on the Constitution.

This bastardization of the legislative process is finally on its way out in Wisconsin. As things stand currently, the governor of Wisconsin can (and does) sign into law a bill which is markedly different from the one passed by the legislature. How? By crossing out words, numbers and punctuation to create new sentences with completely different meanings from what was intended originally. Up until 1990 Wisconsin's governor would sometimes cross out individual letters. Even now s/he can cross out individual numbers.

Check out this example from a Milwaukee newspaper. (The pdf is hosted on a republican senator's webpage - though despite her protestations, Governors of both parties have been guilty of abusing the line-item veto. Currently a Democrat holds the Governorship.)

Here's another example.

Incidentally, the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld this ridiculous veto usage.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Cryptic Fortune-Cookie Fortune

Sell your idea- they are totally acceptable

On an unrelated note, the new single from ex-Moloko singer Roisin Murphy is amazing:

Monday, October 22, 2007

I just watched an interesting shouting match on CTV's The Verdict. A racist, a Muslim-Women activist, and a eloquent and thoughtful Québécoise journalist. Mostly it was loud/boring but an interesting point was raised with regard to voter ID cards & the Muslim practice of wearing some sort of veil. Mr racist felt it was ridiculous that Muslim women could vote while wearing a veil - saying that it could lead voter fraud. Mlle reasonable journalist interjected that the reason Muslim women can vote while veiled is not due to some special accommodation, but only due to the absence of a law requiring ID cards to be presented at the polls. Apparently many other Canadians for one reason or another do not have ID cards (license, passport etc), and enacting such a law would require some sort of plan to deal with issuing photo IDs.

It reminds me a bit of Bruce Schneier's Movie-Plot Threat Contest that has fun at the expense of misplaced fears and useless security measures. What's the point in wasting millions of dollars to combat a theoretical problem? In practice very few women wear veils. Even if this problem does exist it's too statistically insignificant to affect the outcome of our elections, and thus probably a waste of resources.

A similar discussion over voter fraud by illegal immigrants is taking place in the US - though the percentage of illegal immigrants in America is, I imagine, larger than the percentage of hijab-wearers in Canada.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Neti Pots

My girlfriend likes to watch Oprah, and occasionally Oprah has a doctor on her show talking about different health stuff. Those are probably the best episodes (the debt diet ones are good too). Earlier this year they featured a Neti Pot, which is a device for rinsing your sinuses. Supposedly it's benefits include prevention of common colds, and alleviating cold symptoms like post nasal drainage, and coughs caused by post nasal drainage. I had a cold earlier this month that lasted about 2 weeks (so maybe this thing doesn't prevent colds), and I took that as an opportunity to try out the cold-improving features of neti pots.

Sometimes when I have a cold, it's hard to get to sleep because of all the coughing, so I decided to use the neti pot every night right before bed. It worked pretty well (although the stupid cold still lasted 2 weeks). Most importantly it was kind of cool in a little-boy kind of way: i.e. it's gross, but the grossness is half the fun.

I also figure this is probably a healthy thing for my family members in Mexico to do in order to combat the effects of that nasty air-pollution.

There are a whole bunch of video's on YouTube featuring instructions. This one right here is pretty good.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Funniest Guy Ever

Norm riffs on Carrot Top.

Friday, September 28, 2007

More Craziness

It's good to see that the UW has taken seriously the lessons from the VT murders. An armed robbery occurred this morning near campus. For the second time this week a campus wide email went out, and buildings near the last known/suspected location of the suspect were on lockdown. He's now been captured.

Interestingly the University also used facebook to notify students about the threats. Already some students are checking their facebook more frequently than their email, hence the UW's unusual ad. (If only facebook had an email plugin/widget they could do both at the same time.) Facebook has lots of uses, but I think this is the first (and now second) use by a University for emergency announcements. It was pretty cheap too; apparently only costing the university a single C-note.

In fact when I set up my course blog a close 2nd choice was to set up a facebook page for the course. The advantage would have been that students could join the group and then always have that page linked to from their profile pages... For some reason students are less diligent about bookmarking pages. Ultimately I didn't want to coerce students into joining facebook, so I went with the blog.

Also, update on that last incident: it turns out the poor guy probably wasn't even in Madison. They just arrested him in California. His story is really sad; sexual abuse, a ridiculous number of foster homes, drug use, and now this. There's no easy answers there.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sign 'O' the Times:

Madison is, apparently, the latest campus to be confronted with armed violence. UW students got an email this afternoon, reading in part:
UW Police and City of Madison Police are currently searching for a suicidal
man who claims to have a gun. The search is focused on the area of UW
Hospital at 600 Highland Drive. Police are asking people to stay away
from the area. The entrances to the Hospital are blocked. The emergency
room is open. The emergency room can be accessed from University Avenue
to University Bay Drive...

That's the other edge of campus and I'm not very familiar with it, but there are soccer fields and possibly a baseball field and a park over there. So I think it would be hard for this guy to move away from that area without being noticed. Hopefully that will make it easier to catch him.
"Man Injured by Sword-Yielding Intruder"

The AP's misadventures in language: If this poor guy had wielded a sword, he would have been able to protect himself from this particular brand of assailant.

Friday, September 21, 2007

A better way to migrate your mail into gmail

I had written about a google mail loader for IMAP mail servers. Well I found something easier. If you use pine, or can use pine, to access your mail then following these instructions is the easiest way to forward/bounce your mail to a gmail account.
Unas fotos, para que se acuerden de mi.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Anna Quindlen has an article in Newsweek that challenges anti-abortion activists to put a number on the amount of jail time that women should serve for getting abortions (in that hypothetical fantasy land where a law banning abortions is constitutional). I'm always surprised by the USA's appetite for revisiting this topic. Anyway, blah blah blah... I was offended, not by the abortion stuff, but for this little throwaway line:

Buried among prairie dogs and amateur animation shorts on YouTube is a curious little mini-documentary shot in front of an abortion clinic in Libertyville, Ill. The man behind the camera is asking demonstrators who want abortion criminalized what the penalty should be for a woman who has one nonetheless. You have rarely seen people look more gobsmacked. It's as though the guy has asked them to solve quadratic equations.

What? It's as though they've been asked to add 1 and 1? Come on! Few things in life are easier than solving quadratic equations. We teach it in high school, or junior high.

Is the state of mathematical knowledge in our society really in such a shambles? Is a smart commentator like Quindlen really using quadratic equations as a metaphor for the most challenging conundrums life has to offer?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Google Mail Loader

I started using Thunderbird recently, but while foolishly playing with the settings, I had it delete all mail on my account on the Math Dept's IMAP server that was older than 1 month. Fortunately they keep 2-week backups, and I was able to recover my mail.

Anyway, lesson learned, I have now set about creating a backup of that mail in a gmail account. Some guy by the name of Mark Lyon has a great little app, a Google GMail Loader that sends your IMAP emails to your gmail account. To use it, you first need to (or maybe just should?) download the mail to a local mailbox file using for example Thunderbird (the original source of my mail problems!), and then give yourself plenty of time, because the program sends the messages out one at a time, with a 2-second pause in between messages, so if you have 5 years worth of stuff, it might take a while. Anyway, if you are also in the math department, and leaving soon, this is one way to backup your emails while enjoying gmail's searchableness. (Also, since when is searchability is not a word?!)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Time Management Program

This Instant Boss is a great little program for managing your work time.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Blogging Experiment
This blog is, currently, mostly for me to experiment with the internets. But now I am starting my very first Job-related blog for my calculus class. I figure, what the hell, it's the future. My class blog is here. I decided to use Wordpress, just to experiment with a different blogging tool.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Ms South Carolina Teen
Why can't American's find the USA on a map? Ms South Carolina Teen thinks it might be because they don't have maps. So they're unprepared for the task, having never seen a map before.

But maybe the real reason is that American high schools give 3.5 gpa's and a pat on the back to intellectually stunted students. After all one way to meet NCLB's requirements is to lower standards so that everyone can be considered "at grade level".

2 Mike Lester cartoons:

Saturday, September 01, 2007


I bought runts for the first time in years, and found 2 gross new flavours: pineapple and a gross approximation of mango... C'mon Wonka! Of the original flavours 4 of 5 were great... if they would just go back to the originals, and get rid of the limes, everyone would be better off, and fatter.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Adventures in Moving
A quick housing related story; I recently moved from the Tenney Park area, to State Street, into the building that my girlfriend lived in until she left for her TFA posting in Chicago.

Over the summer I had been subletting my apartment and staying at my girlfriend's, but I was still on the lease at my place and I still had some of my stuff there. So when moving time rolled around we drove over there to grab my bed/desks/etc. and help with the cleaning. We found things to be in rather poor shape. The bathroom wasn't clean, nor was the kitchen. There was broken glass frozen into the ice that lined the bottom of the freezer, and a bunch of muddy-looking stains on the carpet. We cleaned up a little bit mostly because we felt embarrassed to leave such a mess, but we didn't put in too much effort figuring that our 99$ deposit wasn't worth it (that's 33$/roommate).

Well, yesterday I got my deposit check in the mail, and somehow we got it all back. I'm not sure what to think about that. It's actually a little bit scary: if this is what they consider 'clean', what kind of messes are they used to seeing? And what kind of neighbours did we have for the last year? Apparently we lived in a crappier part of town than we had realized.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Rubberband Man

So this guy, let's call him Omar, posted video on his blog the other day. That seemed pretty fun, so now I'm using this post as an excuse to try embedding a video on my blog.

Today's post is about T.I.'s song Rubberband Man. I used to love that song. So much so that I set it as my ringtone. But about a year and a half ago I made the mistake of setting it as the alarm soundclip on my cellphone. For months this is what I've woken up to. And now it has ruined the song for me. I can't listen to it without instantly feeling tense.

Just for fun here are videos for my other, non-dread-inducing ringtones.

My girlfriend gets Silent Shout by The Knife... for no particular reason... it just happened to be my favourite song a few months ago.

And everyone else gets Don't You Want Me by The Human League, but instead of posting the video, I'll put up the clip from the Mighty Boosh which originally turned me on to the Human League:

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Addendum to last post:

Madison is dead at night, campus is empty and all the libraries are closed. I don't know of any place where people gather to study at 2, or 3 AM. If there was better lighting, and a 24 hour Starbucks, and if restaurants and libraries stayed open later maybe people would come out at night. At McGill I found it reassuring to know that I could go down to the engineering building at any time of night and study in the cafeteria... and I wouldn't be the only person doing so... It made me feel like the campus was alive and teeming with people eager to learn, no matter what time of day. The more I think about it, the more it bothers me that Madison doesn't have any good late-night-study spots.

Monday, July 16, 2007

A few months ago a guy got shot and killed on State Street near the university, and my apartment. And now a few weeks ago a girl was murdered after spending a night in the state street area at a bunch of bars that I sometimes go to. State Street Brats is a good place for sports games, and brats, obviously. Lava Lounge is a nice chill bar that I go to a lot, and I think they mentioned Amy's in one of the news stories - those last two bars are my default bars. It's scary to think that some poor girl got murdered by someone that drinks at the same places I drink at. What the hell? The weird thing is in a lot of ways Madison reminds me of nice safe cities like Ottawa and Kingston, but for some reason it seems like there has been a lot more violence here lately. It's like Busta Rhymes says: it ain't safe no more.

One thing that has always freaked me out about Madison is how dark it is at night. I remember at McGill the heart of campus was always well lit, and there was a recommended path for getting around late at night (basically just Prince Arthur). Not here. Libraries and even restaurants close up early. Even the McDonalds that we used to have next to campus would close at 11. And the area between the university bookstore and the student union hardly has any lighting at all. It just doesn't make sense, why would a campus teeming with students shut down so early? And there's none of those yellow emergency stations like at McGill, where you could just hit a big red button and a 911 call would go out.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Green Tea & Soda

Completely unrelated to that last post: I've stopped drinking soda. I have been soda-free ever since my girlfriend took off for Teach for America. The trick has been to drink Green Tea all the time. Like 1 gallon/day... Water's too boring, but with green tea somehow there's just enough flavour to keep me from looking for the nearest coke machine. Plus it's supposedly good for you.
Job Search - First Step

Went to a career counselor today. Step 1 of my job search! It was actually very reassuring: I had all these unanswered questions about what I'm qualified for, what my job search timeline should look like (am I starting a bit late, etc), and how to present some things on my resume. For example I taught a math for education course in the fall, and it went fairly well, but there were certainly many speedbumps... How do I put that on there? Well it turns out that the answer is to emphasize the aspects of the course that I took initiative on: like choosing the syllabus, choosing the teaching order, designing the handouts, and incorporating feedback mechanisms... The guy was right, it does sound way better when you write it like that. It beats the hell out of what I had written prior to meeting with him: "Designed and taught Math for Elementary Education III"...

The biggest worry I have is; what if I don't want a math job? I'm not sure of that yet, but I would like to know my options. If I want a math job, hey, no problem... I know where to look; AMS and SIAM have career booths at their conferences. But what else is there? The appointment was less successful in answering that rather important question, but at least I've started this process early enough that I've still got time to figure it out.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Time to start posting again.