Showing posts from May, 2007

How We Teach Math and How They Teach Math

I just heard again on the radio about how the United States is falling behind other countries in mathematics. I found an anecdote about a guy from India who thinks he knows why.

In the military, I was a Field Artillery fire direction chief. Over the course of my career, we moved from manual, slide-rule gunnery to various stages of electronic ballistics computing. But through it all, we still understood the manual basics. If you don't understand that, then the computer makes no sense, and when it goes wrong, you don't know why.

I think mathematics is a lot like this. Do we rely too much on our computers in our United States math classes? This guy seems to think so:

It reminded me very much of a conversation that I had a few months ago. The person I was speaking with was a programmer visiting the U.S. from India. This gentleman and I had gotten to know each other fairly well, and he has been programming for quite some time, probably around as long as I have. He and I got onto…

Click it or Stick It

It appears from the current "Click it or Ticket" campaign that there is a federal law requiring people to wear seat belts. There's actually not. Beside the fact that the CIOT commercials sound like a mafia shakedown, it is not the responsibility of government to ensure that we are safe.

"Dad, why does government make so many stupid laws just because they think it will make us safe?" my ten-year-old son asked me yesterday. He was talking about rules not allowing minors to drive ATV's but his point is valid. If he decides to run for Congress, I'll volunteer to be his campaign manager. Sometimes children, who have been untainted by politics, understand the essence of politics better than we as adults do. The essence of politics is liberty.

The campaign to urge states to require seat belts is about as draconian as I have ever seen. If a child sees or hears it, it will scare him out of his wits.

Utah has a primary seat belt law for anyone under the age …

The Only Surefire Means of Fair Voting

Having worked in computers for my entire adult life, I am of the opinion that computers are not the means by which we can be confident that our elections are fair.

There's been a lot of discussion in the opinion pages about electronic voting lately. Some think it's the best way to facilitate elections, while others are of the opinion that electronic voting is fraught with peril. I happen to belong to the second camp.

Not only can computer voting be affected by fraud, things can also go wrong that no one even thought of, leaving people without a means of voting or people voting for the wrong candidate because the computer programmer(s) made a mistake. I ought to know; I'm a computer programmer. I've written voting systems, and I know how easy it would be to make a mistake in the program as well as to defraud the voters by manipulating the results.

The only way to ensure confidence in our elections is to have paper balloting. It takes a lot more time to count the votes…

We're Number 2! Well, It Could Have Been Worse

Utahns have, for the past several years, been right up there near the top in an ignominious category--bankruptcies. Now we're nearly tops in another one! Do these shortcomings indict Utah culture, Mormon culture, or both?

I've often wondered whether the breakdown of bankruptcies in Utah into religious statistics would match the Utah religious demographic. In other words, if 60% of Utahns are LDS, do 60% of bankruptcies in Utah involve LDS people? I suspect, but have no evidence for it, that the ratio of Mormons in bankruptcies is higher than the general demographic.

Now, along comes another statistic that has to worry us--mortgage fraud.

For subprime loans, Utah ranked second nationally in fraud levels, up from No. 3 in 2005.
The most common type of fraud is to claim that a purchased home will be the owner's primary residence in order to get a better interest rate from their lender.

Why do I think (again without proof) that LDS people might be disproportionately involved in…

"The End of [Burning in Hell]"

Once again my paradigm has been challenged, and I suspect it has moved a bit. Actually, there are several things that I agree with in Sam Harris' book, The End of Faith.

It is very easy for any religious adherent (the German word is "anhanger"--on-hanger) to become dogmatic. The moderately innocuous result of this dogmatism is the statement "I hope you burn in hell." The ultimate form of such dogmatism is the suicide bomber and those who encourage and celebrate such wanton destruction of life.

Sam Harris makes several provocative statements in his recent book. The most provocative to me (because I think it is almost infinitely insightful from a Mormon sociological perspective) is this:

Because we are a people of faith, taught to concern ourselves with the sinfulness of our neighbors, we have grown tolerant of irrational uses of state power.

--The End of Faith, page 162
This is to me the quintessence of why a majority of Mormons decried the sexually immor…

Why Don't I Watch TV? Oh...That's Right

We don't have either broadcast or cable or satellite television in our home. So we don't watch TV very often. It's interesting to reaffirm, when we are in a place to see tv, why we don't watch it.

I am in Chicago this week for a 5-day training course. My hotel room has a television. Normally, I don't have access to TV, but this week I thought I'd watch it a little bit.

Here's what I found:

Based on frequency of reporting, Rosie O'Donnell is the most important person on earth. I'm not sure how many times I either turned off the TV or changed the channel, because I had already heard a "news story" of her yelling at another woman on some show called "The View".

A guy on a show called "Deal or No Deal" used random intuition (no intellect or skill, mind you) to determine that he would rather see if his briefcase contained $1 million rather than take $305,000. When he failed, and instead was awarded with $25 and a new car, …

Carbon Indulgences

The mantra of Man-Made Global Warming (MMGW) is not only a religion--it is a medieval one, what with its own selling of indulgences.

Straight out of the Dark Ages. If you pay money, you can still pollute, but you don't have to feel guilty about it! The problem is, in many cases, the money does not go toward cleaning up the environment whatsoever.

For those who support it, it offers the reward of "carbon neutrality" without having to lower one's standard of living. To critics, it allows guilt-free pollution. Either way, the burgeoning carbon offset industry needs more oversight, say two members of Congress.

About 60 different companies sell carbon offsets to U.S. consumers but operate under virtually no standards, the congressmen said. They cited reports alleging that some organizations get money for emissions that don't exist and that others make large profits on cleanups that would have taken place anyway.

Education Vouchers: Should We Implement Them?

Regardless of how one feels about the current Education Voucher law in Utah, it is nonetheless a law. It is not vacated simply because there will be a referendum on the issue in November, or that it might be the subject of a lawsuit. It is bizarre that the Utah State Board of Education thinks that it has the authority not to implement the law, regardless of its reasoning.

Update: May 18, 2007 - The bulk of my post will remain unchanged, although since posting it my opinion has changed based on what I have since learned about what Utah law says about referendums. See Emily's comments at the bottom of the post for more insight into my change of heart.

When a law exists, it is brazen for anyone, let alone a governmental entity, to announce that it will not follow or implement the law. For reasons that the State of Utah might possibly be sued over the law, the Utah State Board of Education has refused to implement what the Legislature required by majority vote in its last session. …

GOP Debate: Iraq--What Ron Paul Really Said

It is important to listen to what Ron Paul said in the May 15th GOP Presidential debate hosted by Fox News, as well as what he didn't say. It is also critical to ignore what Rudi Giuliani said he said, because he didn't.

In the debate, Rudolph Giuliani claims that Ron Paul says our attacking Iraq "invited" al Qaeda to attack us. This is a very simplistic statement and distorts the context of Rep. Paul's statement. The Iraq anecdote is simply symptomatic of the entire problem created by America's foreign policy in the Middle East for the past several decades.

Here's a nutshell of what Ron Paul actually said:

The Republican party has always been the party of non-entangling alliances.Politics in the Middle East is for us very irrational, and to go to war carelessly is a travesty, because it ensures that wars continue nearly endlessly.Our intervention over the past several decades in the Middle East has been a factor in their animosity toward us and their dec…

Z Visas, Illegal Immigration, and Restoration of the Rule of Law

Arlen Specter says "It is not amnesty. This will restore the rule of law." Okay, I'm going to trust you just this once that you can fulfill all the requirements that have been stated in congressional/presidential conferences about the Z Visa Non-Amnesty program. But this must be our line in the sand. Shame on me if you fail and I trust you again.

It would be essentially impossible to round up all the illegal aliens in our country and deport them. It would cause an upheaval greater than the current problem we are trying to solve. But if we don't solve the current problem, America will become a nightmare, and it will become necessary to attempt to do just that.

This is why I like the Z Visa agreement that congress and the president have agreed on in substance. I don't think that it equates to amnesty, but I will not be surprised if our national government's inability to perform ultimately proves me wrong.

The Z Visa agreement requires the following of illega…

Must be Constitutional if Orrin Says it Is!

Rather than wait for a couple of years, when Utah is a cinch to gain an additional seat in the US House of Representatives, a lot of people are putting themselves in all sorts of contorted positions to claim that it would be constitutional to give Utah a seat right now.

The only way to make it Constitutional is to pass a Constitutional amendment. It's a bit ironic that Orrin Hatch belongs to a church, one of whose prophets said that its priesthood leaders would be part of the group that saves the Constitution from destruction, but he uses a specious argument to unmask his impatience at getting Utah a fourth seat in the House of Representatives and further diluting the meaning of the Constitution.

Hatch noted that Congress has opted to collect federal taxes from D.C. residents and allows the federal court to have jurisdiction over the district, even though the Constitution says these actions are allowed for "states."

"The question is whether the fact that the District …

Warriors! Come Out to Play-i-ay!!

Against the Utah Jazz in game 3 of the NBA Western Conference semifinals, the Golden State Warriors were high as a kite. Suddenly, in game 4, they appeared to be the thugs from the 1979 movie of the same name as their team.

In the 1979 movie The Warriors, one of the characters taunts the members of a rival gang. "Warriors! Come out to play-i-ay!" he says. Last night's Golden State Warriors looked a lot like a New York street gang as game 4 of their playoff series against the Utah Jazz came to a close.

First, Baron Davis decked an unsuspecting Derek Fisher with a forearm shiver to the head.

Shortly thereafter, Jason Richardson nearly killed Mehmet Okur (pictured above) after the game was out of reach.

Richardson was ejected from the game, which only had 37 seconds to go.

It is amazing that a team that has finally jelled could, with two senseless acts, let the end of a hard-fought game cast a pall over their otherwise excellent season.

Imagine, game 5 played without Golden …

Failing in Our Ability to Admit Failure

One of the reasons I don't read Hollywood magazines is because the people in them lead some pretty bizarre lives. Maybe that's what causes them to say some pretty bizarre things.

It's not only okay, but it's healthy to admit when we have failed. Admission of failure sets a more likely stage for potential future success. To claim that we have been successful when we really haven't is an affront to those who really have been successful. And it is an affront to ourselves and the expectations of self that we should have.

I suspect Hollywood is the epicenter of faux successes. This week's Parade Magazine illustrates one such failure that was branded a success. Actress Ellen Barkin, while admitting that she made a mistake by marrying her second husband, claimed that even though she divorced her first husband, that marriage was a success.

"A successful marriage doesn't necessarily last until you're dead."
Yes it does. If society is not to eventual…

Yes, You Are a Role Model!

Public figures, despite how much they wish it weren't so, are role models for everyone who follows their line of entertainment. Of all people, professional athletes should understand this. Some do. Unfortunately, some don't.

Roger Clemens recently unretired from Major League Baseball for the how-manyeth time. Why? He could make a boatload of money, and because he wanted a championship. Here's what he said at his unretirement party:

Make no mistake about it, I've come back to do what they only know how to do here with the Yankees, and that's win a championship. Anything else is a failure, and I know that.

Unfortunately, American society agrees with him. Everything in our "we're number one" society proclaims that number two is scum. Fortunately, this sentiment is wrong, but it's terrible when a professional athlete tells kids that if they're not the best, they are worthless.

If that's all Roger Clemens thinks about baseball, I wish he wo…

How Much Does Your Faith Motivate Your Politics?

Some people think that their religion should have very little effect on their political outlooks. What they don't realize is that it can't help but have an effect.

In the recent Republican presidential debate, Governor Mike Huckabee answered a question about faith and politics in an interesting and, I think, correct way. He said essentially that "If you don't think your politics are motivated by your faith, then your faith doesn't mean very much to you."

Looked at from another vantage point, if our faith does mean a great deal to us, it is disingenuous to say that it does not motivate our political thinking. How do you feel about capital punishment? Abortion? Campaign finance and lobbying gifts? Nuclear power? The war on terrorism? If your religion means anything to you, then it has had a hand in coloring the way you look at all of these issues and more.

In this context, I want to make clear my definition of faith. It is evidence to ourselves of things …

Ban Bottled Drinking Water!

One way that we can reduce global warming is to ban all the bottled water that people drink. Do you think Cheryl Crow would go for that?

It turns out that it requires 1 and a half million barrels of oil to make all the plastic bottles that Americans use per year--and that's just for the ones that contain drinking water. That's assuming that some of us don't use some of the water to finish cleaning our hands after we use just one square of toilet paper after our morning bowel movement.

Actually, we could improve our situation if we recycled more of our plastics. (And this time I'm being serious.)
The kind of plastic most commonly used for water bottles -- polyethylene terephthalate, or PET -- is recyclable. But consumers recycle just one of every five bottles they drink, with the rest ending up in landfills, said Pat Franklin, executive director of the Container Recycling Institute, a Washington group that promotes recycling. "It's wasted energy and wasted res…

Why Won't that Fly Stop Buzzing Around My Head?

Some parts of politics resemble flies buzzing around our heads. We'd probably be better off to ignore them, but it's hard to resist the urge to swat helplessly at them. (I hesitate to post this article, because it proves that I'm not completely taking my own medicine, but it's good for all of us for future reference.)

My wife and I love to speed walk a couple miles up the canyon 2-3 mornings a week in the Spring and Summer, and then run back down. Often, at one point along the return path, I am bombarded by between one and 50 flies which, if I pay attention to them, gets them all energized and me full of hatred, stress, and misdirected energy.

Some flies make a big buzz. They are full of themselves. And you can just see that they love all the attention they're getting as you try to shoo them away.

Mitt Romney was bombarded by such a fly yesterday. Some dude denigrated Mitt Romney and his religion yesterday by saying something about Mormons not believing in God. …

Al Gore for President?

Rumors are starting to percolate that Al Gore is going to make a bid for the presidency. Will it happen?

I think so, but I would never vote for him. I heard on The Right Balance this morning that a good Democratic source says that he is. Newsmax is saying that he will.

He almost won 7 years ago. He seems to be positioning himself for a run with his "Inconvenient Truth" tour. He is his own greatest fan. So it wouldn't surprise me in the least!

So, if it doesn't happen, forget you read this. But if it does--you heard it here third!

Or, how about this...vice presidential running mate for Hillary...? ...Naw...!

That's How Not to Treat People

In my political wanderings, I've learned several lessons. They usually have something to do with remembering that the other person in the debate is a person, too.

My wife's best friend has a nephew who served a mission for the LDS church, and, upon returning, announced that he was homosexual. Another uncle promptly announced that his family--particularly his sons--would from henceforth have nothing to do with the nephew. Irrational fear makes us do irrational things. That's how not to treat people.

As told on PBS "The Mormons", a woman who had been excommunicated from the LDS Church was not allowed out of spite by her brother-in-law to be present when her sister (his wife) was clothed (in LDS temple clothing) for burial. That's how not to treat people.

Several years ago, I was talking on the telephone with my teenage sister. She told me of something she had done that she was not particularly proud of, upon which I piled on the criticism. She already had …

Putting a Bad Face on Deportation

They thought they were in the United States legally. They had been here 16 years. They had integrated into Utah society. Now they've been forced back to Guatemala. It appears that the Department of Homeland Security would rather use its Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arm to put out non-existent fires rather than stopping them from occurring in the first place.

If someone wants to become a US citizen, and they're trying to do it legally, why does our government piss on them?

I've had some people tell me that legal immigration to the United States is not difficult to understand. Well, I know of someone who thinks it is. And because it's so easy to understand, they are back in Guatemala after living in Utah for 16 years.

Ana Corado was 6 years old when her parents brought her and her two siblings to Utah on tourist visas in 1991. Her parents later applied for political asylum for the family and were denied, but they appealed it.

Corado's dad, a Baptist mi…

Proposed Pilot "Tax the Rich" Project

I've changed my mind. I think it is time to increase taxes on the rich. They aren't paying their fair share. My proposal will be a phased approach.

I have come to agree with liberals that some people have too much money. They're getting to big of piece of the American pie (yes, probably that pie, too ;-) ). So I have a proposal to increase taxes on the rich.

Phase I would begin the new tax scheme by introducing it in select regions of the country. The regions that I randomly propose are Washington D.C. and Hollywood. I propose a tax rate of 95%.

Phase II is to leave it that way until they scream "Uncle!"

Phase III is to send them to an economics class, so they can see that "the pie" actually grows!

P.S. Presidential Candidate-soon-to-be Fred Thompson, in a recent "campaign" speech said that, because the Democrats are targeting the rich for tax increases, he suggests that middle-classers steer well clear of the target. I agree.

Glenn Beck Disses Ron Paul...Why Am I Surprised?

I knew the media would either slam on Ron Paul or just ignore him, because he's not establishment. Well, color me naive--but I didn't think Glenn Beck would do it.

Other, more recent Ron Paul articles on Simple Utah Mormon Politics
The Six Million Dollar Ron Paul Media BlackoutRon Paul Most Popular Presidential Candidate on GoogleI Loved Mitt Romney's Speech, But...Ron Paul and the Theory of Two Speeding CarsWho Would You Vote For if You Had a Gun to Your Head?
I just decided that I was going to give Glenn Beck a try, so I purchased 6 months of his archives, etc. for $30. (I saved two bucks a month by doing it in six-month increments.) I tried Rush, and got sick fast. I tried Michael Medved, and liked him a lot. So now let's give Glenn a try. But I'm wondering if I made a mistake. I'll still listen, but...

The very first thing that he talked about on the very first show that I streamed after buying access to it was to make fun of Ron Paul. Okay, so he made…

The "Rockity I" Awards

If you ask me, the debate was much more civil between Mayor Rocky Anderson and talk show host Sean Hannity last night than I thought it would be. It was entertaining, it was educational, and it was healthy. It wasn't perfect though. In remembrance of the Rockity I Debate, I present a handful of awards.

KSL Nightside implied that it was just short of a barroom brawl at Kingsbury Hall last night. I guess it didn't come across that way on TV. Although at one point I seriously wondered, "What happens if Hannity takes one more step into no-man's land toward Rocky? Will somebody punch somebody?"

Mr. Integrity: Rocky Anderson. Not once did he stoop to ad hominem name calling as did his interlocutor.

Vladimir Putin Budding KGB Agent Award: Did anyone else think it was a bit strange that Hannity admitted he had a picture of Rocky driving a car that had a "Kerry for President" bumper sticker?

It's Really About Me Award: First place--Hannity. If it's …

Rockity I: What I Wish Rocky Had Said

From my perspective, Rocky Anderson was the clear winner of the debate against Sean Hannity in Salt Lake City last night. The debate was very healthy. However, it could have been even healthier if Rocky had conceded a couple of points.

Here's what I wish Mayor Anderson had said:

Sean, I have done a great deal of research into this, and I am very firm in my conviction that what I have presented is truthful. However, you are correct in a couple of regards. Many Democrats in congress were as culpable for getting us into the Iraq war as was the Bush administration, and some of them should perhaps be removed from office as well. It comes across often that because we despise the Iraq war that we despise the American troops. I apologize for contributing to this perspective, because I think our men and women make up the greatest military in the world, and they should not receive the brunt of our negativity in this political controversy.

Your suggestion that our vehement disagreements …

Rockity I: What I Wish Hannity Had Said

There are a lot of things I wish Sean Hannity hadn't said in the first debate with Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson last night. But here I will constrain my thoughts to some very simple but ameliorating things I wish he would have said.

Both Hannity and Anderson could have proven that they were serious about solving the Iraq problem except for the things that they left unsaid. Here's what Hannity could have said.

Mayor Anderson, you are correct to a certain extent with many of the allegations that you make. It has become evident that we knew that the aluminum tubes alleged to have been used for Saddam's nuclear ambitions were likely nothing more than tubes for building conventional rockets. You are correct that there was very little, if anything, to the supposed relationship between Saddam and al Qaeda.

Most importantly, it does appear that we have been derelict in our responsibility to be an example to the world, in that there have been more than just a handful of ex…

Ladies and Gentlemen, President Ron Paul!

I know the post-debate MSNBC poll is a non-scientific poll, but it's good to see that Ron Paul left such a favorable impression with presidential debate devotees last night. I'd suspect he's got the establishment a little nervous.

Ron Paul did very well in the debate last night.

I was listening to the Jerry Hughes show for a bit this afternoon on Accent Radio Network, and he suspected that if Mr. Paul starts doing well in the polls, things will get a bit dicey with him as juxtaposed with the establishmentarians. I agree with Mr. Hughes that Candidate Paul is the least palatable candidate for them. (Interestingly, (of this writing) he is one of the few who does not have a "candidate page" on MSNBC).

Awesome! All the better for him to win!

I've always had a great deal of respect for him, even though we see slightly differently on issues of morality as they relate to politics. But he's my choice at this point. Sorry Mitt.

I don't know how an unscientifi…

"Digg"ing a Hole for Democracy

What happens when Democracy goes wild? Here's a story that ought to make you think.

Recently a web site posted the instructions for how to decrypt content on HD DVDs. Quickly it received thousands of approval "Digg"s on The "intellectual property rights owners" asked digg to remove the story, as it was an infringement on their property--which, by the way, it is. The result? A plethora of other unique source stories began to pop up around the internet, which got Digg'ed, and which included the same decryption secrets.

Representative democracy (or a 'democratic republic') works rather well. Democracies often do, too. But sometimes the herd mentality of a democracy causes society to go haywire.

I think is cool. Digg is not to be blamed in the least. But this story clearly illustrates that if we were to allow everything to be decided in a pure democracy, life would turn into rule by the whims of the mob.

As much as I despise the …