barnabas_truman: (army)
Have you ever wondered why songs and jokes and stories have always been the tools of the resistance?

Flyers can be torn down.
Graffiti can be painted over.
Picket signs can be confiscated.
Books and pamphlets can be burned.
Printing presses can be smashed.
Web servers can be turned off.
Guns can be out-gunned.

But if you compose a catchy song, a funny joke, an inspiring story, and you tell it to enough people, and they tell it to enough people, then you create a message that cannot be shut down.

Why does the resistance use songs and jokes and stories?
Because they are unstoppable.
barnabas_truman: (oldstyle)
If soldiers all were pugilists there would not be a war,
For pugilists would want to know what they were fighting for.
For instance:
If Tommy Atkins had been told to beat up Herman Schmitz,
And Herman had been told to blow the other into bits,
And if they had been pugilists they would have answered "No!
We will not fight unless we get a section of the dough.
We will not risk our arms and legs and shed our ruddy gore,
While you who fatten on the fight make millions by the score.
Although it is a noble stunt to redden hill and dale,
We will not fight unless we get a section of the kale."
And thus the world-wide warfare would be ended in a minute,
For bankers would not start a war if there were nothing in it.

("Yellow-Legs and Pugs," quoted in the May 1917 "Journal of Electrical Workers and Operators" and attributed to "a wise wage-slave somewhere"; later recited by Utah Phillips on his album "I've Got to Know")
barnabas_truman: (kimiko)
Today's staff meeting was more exciting than usual: a group discussion with administrators about recent occupations of Dutton Hall and the plans they're developing to deal with future protests.

While I am glad that they are putting a great deal of thought into the issue, I am concerned about a couple of things. First, I'm not convinced that the administrators truly understand the mindset of the "new protester"--at one point in the meeting it seemed that one administrator was under the impression that the first Occupy Dutton (which was obnoxious but allowed classes to continue) and the recent pro-Palestine takeover (which chained the doors closed and allowed no-one to enter the building) were the same group.

Second, it sounds like all of the plans are *reactive* measures ("What can we do WHEN Dutton is occupied again?") rather than *preventative* measures ("What can we do to make it less likely that Dutton is occupied again?"). I'd love to see more communication with student groups to send the message that this sort of protest is NOT effective. It does not sway the opinions of policymakers, it does not provide good publicity to anyone, it disrupts education, and it makes students and staff angry--not angry at the subject of the protest, but angry at the protesters themselves.

The university ought to be saying "We know you have serious concerns. Taking over a student services building isn't going to help. Let's work together to find productive ways for you to voice your concerns."
barnabas_truman: (oldstyle)
My grandmother had a lot of children's books about peace and cooperation that I read often when I was young, and (since normal is what one grows up with) I did not realize until much later that most of them were books from the 1940s that nobody else had ever heard of. One of them is called The Goolibah Tree, by Joe Gunterman. There is very little information about it to be found on the internet, and some of you have expressed an interest in hearing what it's about, so here's what I remember about the plot.




Mr Spinglespangle went on a walk through the forest, and found a tall goolibah tree with plenty of delicious-looking fruit. He piled up a bunch of empty crates to form a stack he could climb, and sat on a branch picking fruit and eating his fill.

Presently he heard footsteps approaching, and saw two others, Mr Krinkle and Mr Wrinkle, approaching the clearing. He worried that they might climb the tree and eat some of the fruit, and he wanted it all for himself, so he kicked down the pile of boxes and continued eating.

Messrs Krinkle and Wrinkle noticed Mr Spinglespangle in the tree, and asked if they could have some fruit. Mr Spinglespangle apologized and explained that there probably wasn't enough fruit for everyone, and besides, there was no way up the tree. Messrs Krinkle and Wrinkle noticed the boxes, realized what was going on, and started to stack them up again.

However, some of the boxes had broken during the fall, so Mr Krinkle walked off to search for more boxes. While he was gone, Mr Spinglespangle began convincing Mr Wrinkle that Mr Krinkle should not be trusted--don't you see that he's different than you? have you seen how krinkly his hair is? do you imagine that perhaps he wants all the fruit for himself?

By the time Mr Krinkle returned with some boxes, Mr Wrinkle did not want to cooperate with him at all, and told him that maybe they'd better just divide up the boxes and each work separately to build his own pile. Mr Krinkle was confused but agreed, and began building his pile with the new boxes while Mr Wrinkle walked off to find more boxes for himself. In the meanwhile, of course, Mr Spinglespangle ran the same lines past Mr Krinkle to convince him not to trust Mr Wrinkle, with similar effect.

Messrs Krinkle and Wrinkle continued building their separate piles of boxes, each worrying (and rightly so) that he didn't have enough, and then began to argue about which boxes were whose, to the point of fighting. Meanwhile Mr Spinglespangle sat up in the tree, eating more and more fruit and watching with amusement.

At some point a dove landed on the tree and asked "What are you doing?" Messrs Krinkle and Wrinkle explained the situation (while Mr Spinglespangle tried to get the dove to go away), and the dove laughed and said "You're all being silly. Mr Spinglespangle, there's plenty of fruit for everybody; stop being so greedy. Messrs Krinkle and Wrinkle, if you work together you can easily build a pile of boxes high enough; don't let Mr Spinglespangle play you for fools."

Messrs Krinkle and Wrinkle looked at each other with guilty embarrassment, worked together to build the pile of boxes, and there was indeed plenty of fruit for everyone, even Mr Spinglespangle.




I didn't realize until YEARS later that the whole thing is a rather obvious metaphor for the wealthy overlords kicking the ladder out from underneath themselves and pitting the lower classes against each other. I suppose that makes May Day a good time to post this. :-)
barnabas_truman: (oldstyle)
This is one of my favorite parts of Grapes of Wrath, and I keep wanting to quote it and then having trouble finding it, so I'm putting it here for future reference.

"Fella named Hines-got 'bout thirty thousan' acres, peaches and grapes-got a cannery an' a winery. Well, he's all a time talkin' about 'them goddamn reds.' 'Goddamn reds is drivin' the country to ruin,' he says, an" 'We got to drive these here red bastards out.' Well, they were a young fella jus' come out west here, an' he's listenin' one day. He kinda scratched his head an' he says, 'Mr. Hines, I ain't been here long. What is these goddamn reds?' Well, sir, Hines says, 'A red is any son-of-a-bitch that wants thirty cents an hour when we're payin' twenty-five!' Well, this young fella he thinks about her, an' he scratches his head, an' he says, 'Well, Jesus, Mr. Hines. I ain't a son-of-a-bitch, but if that's what a red is-why, I want thirty cents an hour. Ever'body does. Hell, Mr. Hines, we're all reds.'"
barnabas_truman: (oldstyle)
I taught the math half of a math/physics combination class for two years at a small progressive high school. At my very first staff meeting there, one of the topics for discussion was whether the teachers and/or daily announcements should lead students in the Pledge of Allegiance. The teachers in general didn't have much interest in it; the principal pointed out that schools are required by law to include some sort of "daily patriotic observance," but doesn't specify which.

At that point I stood up and said "Every day I teach math to young Americans to prepare some of them for a career in the sciences and help all of them learn better critical thinking and decision-making skills. I can't imagine anything more patriotic than what I'm already doing." That got a fair bit of applause. We never bothered with the Pledge.
barnabas_truman: (oldstyle)
If you think that the police are always right,
or if you think that the protesters are always right,
or if you think that the newspapers are always right,
I ask that you please set aside your prejudice
and watch what actually happened.
Use your eyes. Use your ears. Use your voice.

A brief summary:

I was in North Hall when the pepper spray hit the fan, so all I knew about it at the time was the sound of distant shouting, but I've been following it closely since then. It's pretty clear from the eyewitness video footage that the Chancellor's letter is all self-serving damage control and the statements from police leadership are largely fictional.


This video actually displays what was going on for the two minutes before the attack began.


This one shows (towards the end) the power of peace and unity as the protesters peacefully escort the police to the edge of the quad and tell them that they can go


Lots of photos on the Aggie website here.


A written account of the events.
barnabas_truman: (kimiko)
"So why are there so many problems along the Mexican/American border?"

"Crumbling infrastructure, lax law enforcement, underfunded schools, widespread poverty, and an increasingly apathetic government."

"Yikes!"

"Yeah, and Mexico's in pretty bad shape too. Zing!"
barnabas_truman: (kimiko)
I just realized that "Body Mass Index" is defined as mass divided by height squared;
BMI = m / h^2.
This leads me to wonder if Adolphe Quetelet was an idiot (hint: certainly not, but I can't think of a better explanation), and, more to the point, why anybody ever thought his formula was a good idea.

Allow me to explain. This is going to involve a bit of math and physics, so buckle down and be prepared to look things up or ask questions as needed.

Suppose, for the sake of the argument, that every body has the same proportions and the same density.

Then the mass of a body is its volume times density:
m = d * V
where d is density and V is volume.
But volume is proportional to height cubed:
V = k * h^3
where k is some proportionality constant.
We're assuming for the moment that both d and k are the same for everyone.

If we substitute these into Quetelet's formula, we find that
BMI = d * k * h^3 / h^2
Two of the h's cancel out, leaving
BMI = d * k * h
In other words, BMI is equal to a constant times one's height!

Body Mass Index is a measure of height, not of obesity! What were they thinking??


Of course, the assumptions that d (density) and k (proportions) are the same for everyone isn't true at all in reality. So BMI is really measuring the product of density, height, and a constant involving body proportions. But why allow height to be a factor? The end result of this is that, all other things being equal, tall people have higher BMI. Isn't the whole point of dividing by height to cancel out the influence of height entirely?

On the other hand, if BMI is defined as mass divided by height CUBED, the extra h-factor also cancels, and BMI becomes the product of d and k, which actually means something. Why isn't it defined this way to begin with?

Alternatively, mass divided by (height squared times shoulder width) might work even better--that at least attempts to scale it individually for different body structures, something that BMI ignores entirely.


P.S. It should also be noted that Quetelet's goal was to apply rigorous methods from statistics to the study of populations, and that he never intended BMI to be used to diagnose individuals. However, I still can't imagine why he wouldn't at least take the square-cube law into account!
barnabas_truman: (army)


I only wish that the music, movie, and video game industries understood this as well as he does.
barnabas_truman: (army)
"He who becomes master of a city accustomed to freedom and does not destroy it, may expect to be destroyed by it, for in rebellion it has always the watchword of liberty and its ancient privileges as a rallying point, which neither time nor benefits will ever cause it to forget."
barnabas_truman: (oldstyle)
State school board adopts Common Core standards

California will be dropping the State Standards for education that it has been using for the past decade or so and switching instead to the Common Core curriculum used nationwide. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this. I never liked the State Standards much but I'm also pretty dubious about this Common Core thing, and the idea of using the same standards as the rest of the nation in general.

You can read the standards here.

I've looked over the new standards for math with mixed feelings. I do like the more formal approach to geometry. I worry that the standards for algebra and functions are too vague, and that the elementary school standards develop arithmetic too slowly. I worry about the one-size-fits-all mindset that usually results from listing the standards by grade rather than by topic. I wonder how much success this program has seen in other states.
barnabas_truman: (oldstyle)
Yev: for the longest time now i had a feeling like I am watching a badly done sci fi movie about the future

Yev: and how in the future the political process will be conducted

Yev: what about you?

Barnabas: In the distant future, the leaders will be selected by small, elite secret societies

Barnabas: The secret societies will then assemble large groups of ordinary people, put them in a building, entertain them, and convince them that they, the people, made the selection

Barnabas: The decision will ultimately be turned over to The People in general, or at least, that is what The People are permitted to believe.

Barnabas: The votes are counted--and fudged--by a hyperintelligent decentralized network AI known as DIEBOLD-9000

Barnabas: and the final final decision for the Leader of the "Free" World is made by a secret cabal of nine old men in black robes known as the "Supreme Court."

Barnabas: Yeah, sounds pretty spooky.

Yev: I am too lazy to prevent this future.

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