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9.30.2004

Mangled headline 

Actually, it's a mangled first paragraph, but anyway:



BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Suspected insurgents launched deadly car bomb attacks Thursday in Baghdad, killing at least 45 people and wounding scores more in operations aimed at Iraqi government targets.



First, if they set off car bombs, there's not much to "suspect" about them, is there? This is different from arresting someone in connection with the car bombing -- until he's convicted, he's "suspected" of carrying it out. But the guys who actually did it, actually did it.

Second, if they set of car bombs, they're not "insurgents", they're "terrorists".

9.29.2004

Mathematics of the electoral college 

Many folks seem to think that in Presidential elections, voters in smaller states have more power than voters in larger states to influence the Presidential election. Actually, that's not really true. The two extra senators and possible roundoff errors in population don't come close to compensating for the fact that bigger states can more easily swing the election, thanks to electoral college bloc voting.

In general, in a state of population n, the probability of the vote being split equally is then

(n! / (n/2)! (n/2)!) * (1/2)^n.

We use Stirling's approximation to evaluate large factorials:

n! = (approx.) (n/e)^n sqrt(2 pi n)

Hence, the probability of the vote being equally split is approximately

((n/e)^n * sqrt (2 pi n) / (n/2e)^n * (pi n)) * (1/2)^n

= sqrt (2 / pi n).

If you live in a state of population n, this is the probability that you hold a swing vote in your state. (Yes, n should really be the number of voters, not the population. Oh well.)

Calculating the probability that your state is a swing state is a bit trickier. Suppose your state has k electoral votes; we're then interested in finding the probability that the other states give between 269-k and 269 electoral votes to Bush. Again it's hopeless to try to compute this probability explicitly for every state, but we can make a few simplifications.

Each state votes as a bloc; it gives either j or 0 votes to Bush. The variance (standard deviation squared) in this quantity is j^2/4. A basic theorem of probability is that if you have a bunch of independent random variables, the variance in the sum is the sum of the variances.

Looking at the current electoral vote map and summing j^2 over all states, we get that the sum of j^2 is about 10000. So the variance in the number of votes that the other states deliver to Bush is about (10000 - k^2)/4, where k again is the number of votes in your state. The standard deviation is the square root of the variance, so the standard deviation would range from about 43 if you're in California to almost 50 if you're in a small state. Call the standard deviation sigma, as is customary.

The basic simplifying assumption we can make is that the distribution of electoral votes in other states going to Bush is a normal distribution (bell curve) with standard deviation as calculated above, centered at (538-k)/2. The probability that your state is a swing state is the area of the probability function lying over the interval (269-k, 269); this interval lies in the center of the probability distribution and has radius k/2.

Recall that sigma is in the 43-50 range. The interval we're looking at has radius at most 28 (if you live in California); this is less than two-thirds of sigma. The bell curve is actually pretty close to flat if you only go two-thirds of sigma away from the center. So the probability that your state is a swing state is pretty close to a being linear function of k. The bell curve has height 1/(sqrt(2 pi) sigma) at the center, so the probability that your state is the swing state is about 1/sqrt(2 pi) (k/sigma).

Recall that the probability that your vote is the swing vote in your state is about sqrt (2/pi n). Hence the probability that your vote decides the election is about

sqrt (2 / pi n) (1/sqrt(2 pi)) (k/sigma) = 1/pi sqrt(1/n) (k/sigma).

Recall that k = (n / 660,000) + 2, or something like that (plus roundoff error). For n large, we can neglect the 2. The probability that a voter in a big state decides the election is thus proportional to sqrt(n), i.e. voters in big states have more power. If you do the math, the extra votes in states with 3 electoral votes help a bit; it's the voters in states with 4 or 5 votes that get screwed.

Plugging in some numbers:

California: n = 35,000,000
k = 55
sigma = 43

Probability of your vote being a swing vote in state= 1.35 x 10^-4
Probability of California being a swing state = 0.51
Probability of your vote deciding the Presidential election = 6.88 x 10^-5

Pennsylvania: n = 12,000,000
k = 21
sigma = 49

Probability of your vote being a swing vote in state = 2.30 x 10^-4
Probability of Pennsylvania being a swing state = 0.171
Probability of your vote deciding the Presidential election = 3.93 x 10^-5

Colorado: n = 4,500,000
k = 9
sigma = 50

Probability of your vote being a swing vote in state = 3.76 x 10^-4
Probability of Colorado being a swing state = 7.18 x 10^-2
Probability of your vote deciding the presidential election = 2.70 x 10^-5

Nevada: n = 2,200,000
k = 5
sigma = 50

Probability of your vote being a swing vote in state = 5.38 x 10^-4
Probability of Nevada being a swing state = 3.99 x 10^-2
Probability of your vote deciding the presidential election = 2.14 x 10^-5

Wyoming: n = 500,000
k = 3
sigma = 50

Probability of your vote being a swing vote in state = 1.13 x 10^-3
Probability of Wyoming being a swing state = 2.39 x 10^-2
Probability of your vote deciding the presidential election = 2.70 x 10^-5

A caveat: The "probability of your vote deciding the presidential election" is a conditional probability: it is the probability that your vote decides the election, conditioned on the event that everyone else votes randomly. We can't add up these probabilities, since they're conditioned on different events. That's how we get probabilities of the order 10^-5 in a nation of 300,000,000. But they are valid for comparing voter power in different states.

9.27.2004

Having six different email addresses is nice 

if you're doing some troubleshooting with mailing lists.

9.26.2004

Music review: U2's new single, "Vertigo" 

Judging from this single, it seems like U2 has finally caught up with the 1970s. U2's new single "Vertigo" features some raunchy guitar work by the Edge, though of course there's a middle-eight part consisting entirely of harmonics. The lyrics look like another of those instances where Bono attempts to sing about God and about women and confuses the two.

The song sounds maybe a little like a cross between "I Will Follow" and "11 O'Clock Tick Tock", though the Edge is definitely shredding a lot harder than he ever has before.

Oh yeah, the full album will be called "How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb." Yeesh.

This one looks like the work of a bunch of two-bit criminals 

Unless there's something being left out of this article, this latest kidnapping of six Egyptian guys who work for a cell-phone firm looks like it's the work of a bunch of lowly gangsters rather than the work of an Islamist terrorist cell.

Using relievers in tie games 

The Sox had their closer ready to go in the eighth inning of a 5-5 game in case runners started getting on base. The Yankees didn't. That's why they lost.

9.25.2004

Deja vu all over again 

Okay, this time I thought that the decision to send Pedro out to start the eighth inning was slightly more defensible than in 2003, because the Sox bullpen hasn't been nearly as solid as it was during last season's playoffs and because it was severely spent after the series with the Orioles. But this quote from Terry Francona sounds eeriely familiar:



Why start the eighth with Martinez? "In my opinion, he still had good stuff," the manager said.

Matsui's home run, on a fastball Martinez left over the middle of the plate, was a compelling reason for Francona to reconsider that decision. That's not how he saw it.

"If I run out there after two pitches, you understand what I'm saying, it would make it look like I wasn't making a very good decision before the inning," Francona said.



Then again, I'm not sure what Francona should have done. With Matsui (L), Bernie Williams (S), Jorge Posada (S) and Ruben Sierra (R) coming up, the best solution I can think of would have been to have Alan Embree (L) pitch to Matsui and hope that Keith Foulke can get the last five outs.

9.24.2004

When you're in a hole, stop digging 

Yes, Rathergate is overblown and a distraction from the important issues blah blah. But the whole incident is like a car crash...you just can't turn away...

Anyway, here's what Bill Burkett has to say about the matter:



Bill Burkett, who gave CBS News the alleged documents about President Bush's National Guard service, insists "the jury is still out" on whether those documents are authentic.

"The documents have not been conclusively proven false," Burkett said. "Neither have they been proven authentic. That jury is still out."

...

Burkett also accused the White House of using the blog community to launch a "kill the messenger campaign" against him after the documents were made public.

"The coordinated attacks against the documents, then against me, which CBS did nothing to deflect or defend, and then against Dan Rather and CBS producer Mary Mapes have not been against the validity of the documents, but rather as an attack against anything being considered at all," he said.

Burkett's wife, Nicki, described the couple as "shaken" by the uproar.

"Our name has been destroyed and cannot be reclaimed," she said in the e-mailed response. "We are presumed guilty, not only for poor judgment of involving ourselves with CBS, but now considered to be forgers and liars."

...

Burkett has subsequently revealed, through his attorney, the source of the documents -- a woman who identified herself as Lucy Ramirez, who called him to tell him she had documents related to Bush's Guard service.

The memos were later handed to Burkett by an unknown man during a visit to Houston, and Burkett said he made copies and burned the originals to protect the woman's identity.


Just because the memos came from a mysterious source and look identical to MS Word documents is no reason to cast doubt on their credibility...

Dude, the jig is up. Deal with it.

CNN also reveals its lack of understanding of the blogosphere:



But immediately after the broadcast, the documents came under fire by the conservative Internet community of bloggers.



Saying that "the documents came under fire by the Internet community of conservative bloggers" would be more accurate, because not every blogger in the universe is conservative. But there were also plenty of non-conservative bloggers who helped out as well.

9.23.2004

Curt Schilling to be fined $500,000 by FCC? 

ESPNEWS aired part of the segment where Schilling called in and lit into a Boston talk-radio host for suggesting that he and Pedro Martinez didn't get along. Schilling dropped at least one F-bomb during the tirade.

Social justice? 

A while ago the Presbyterian Church of the USA followed the lead of the moonbat leftists at a bunch of college campuses and started divesting their funds from companies that do business with Israel. One of PCUSA's main targets is Caterpillar, a large firm that sells construction equipment. Apparently PCUSA isn't too happy about the wall between Israel and Palestine.

(As an aside, some of Harvard-MIT Divest's targets are really silly. Harvard invests in firms such as Johnson & Johnson and McDonalds. How can Larry Summers sleep at night knowing that Harvard's money helps provide Israeli soldiers with Big Macs?)

Now according to this article in the National Review, PCUSA still has funds invested in China and Sudan, a couple of countries with absolutely atrocious human rights records where government and economy are much more strongly entwined than in Israel.

Okay, there are plenty of companies that are doing legitimate business in China. But Sudan...even American oil companies aren't allowed to do business with Sudan. If PCUSA really has funds invested in companies that do business in Sudan, then they're using a strange set of standards...

UPDATE: I'm trying to find out if PCUSA really does still have funds invested in Sudan. They used to have funds invested in Talisman Energy, but Talisman pulled out of Sudan sometime in 2002, and PCUSA had divested from Talisman before that. I'm thinking that the author of the National Review article overlooked this fact. The point still remains that Israel does seem to be unfairly singled out for special treatment here.

9.22.2004

Kerry blasts Bush's handling of Iraq but provides non-solutions 

From the horse's mouth:


We need to turn the page and make a fresh start in Iraq.

First, the President has to get the promised international support so our men and women in uniform don’t have to go it alone. It is late; the President must respond by moving this week to gain and regain international support.

Last spring, after too many months of resistance and delay, the President finally went back to the U.N. which passed Resolution 1546. It was the right thing to do – but it was late.

That resolution calls on U.N. members to help in Iraq by providing troops… trainers for Iraq’s security forces… a special brigade to protect the U.N. mission… more financial assistance… and real debt relief.

Three months later, not a single country has answered that call. And the president acts as if it doesn’t matter.

And of the $13 billion previously pledged to Iraq by other countries, only $1.2 billion has been delivered.

The President should convene a summit meeting of the world’s major powers and Iraq’s neighbors, this week, in New York, where many leaders will attend the U.N. General Assembly. He should insist that they make good on that U.N. resolution. He should offer potential troop contributors specific, but critical roles, in training Iraqi security personnel and securing Iraq’s borders. He should give other countries a stake in Iraq’s future by encouraging them to help develop Iraq’s oil resources and by letting them bid on contracts instead of locking them out of the reconstruction process.

This will be difficult. I and others have repeatedly recommended this from the very beginning. Delay has made only made it harder. After insulting allies and shredding alliances, this President may not have the trust and confidence to bring others to our side in Iraq. But we cannot hope to succeed unless we rebuild and lead strong alliances so that other nations share the burden with us. That is the only way to succeed.



For those of you keeping score at home, nobody besides the UK, Australia, Poland and a few other countries really seems to care whether Iraq becomes a democracy (however tenuous) or whether Iraq plunges into civil war or whether Iraq becomes a theocratic tyranny.



Second, the President must get serious about training Iraqi security forces.

Last February, Secretary Rumsfeld claimed that more than 210,000 Iraqis were in uniform. Two weeks ago, he admitted that claim was exaggerated by more than 50 percent. Iraq, he said, now has 95,000 trained security forces.

But guess what? Neither number bears any relationship to the truth. For example, just 5,000 Iraqi soldiers have been fully trained, by the administration’s own minimal standards. And of the 35,000 police now in uniform, not one has completed a 24-week field-training program. Is it any wonder that Iraqi security forces can’t stop the insurgency or provide basic law and order?

The President should urgently expand the security forces training program inside and outside Iraq. He should strengthen the vetting of recruits, double classroom training time, and require follow-on field training. He should recruit thousands of qualified trainers from our allies, especially those who have no troops in Iraq. He should press our NATO allies to open training centers in their countries. And he should stop misleading the American people with phony, inflated numbers.



Again, this part of the plan hinges on other countries' willingness to help out.



Third, the President must carry out a reconstruction plan that finally brings tangible benefits to the Iraqi people.

Last week, the administration admitted that its plan was a failure when it asked Congress for permission to radically revise spending priorities in Iraq. It took 17 months for them to understand that security is a priority … 17 months to figure out that boosting oil production is critical … 17 months to conclude that an Iraqi with a job is less likely to shoot at our soldiers.

One year ago, the administration asked for and received $18 billion to help the Iraqis and relieve the conditions that contribute to the insurgency. Today, less than a $1 billion of those funds have actually been spent. I said at the time that we had to rethink our policies and set standards of accountability. Now we’re paying the price.

Now, the President should look at the whole reconstruction package…draw up a list of high visibility, quick impact projects… and cut through the red tape. He should use more Iraqi contractors and workers, instead of big corporations like Halliburton. He should stop paying companies under investigation for fraud or corruption. And he should fire the civilians in the Pentagon responsible for mismanaging the reconstruction effort.



I agree that putting so much of the reconstruction in the hands of American workers and not providing enough forces to keep these efforts secure has been a bad idea. No doubt the general state of Iraqi civilian infrastructure and the high rate of unemployment have led to widespread frustration among Iraqis and given people a reason to support the insurgency.

However, it's also worth noting that employing Iraqis in the reconstruction isn't going to make the terrorists go away. The terrorists have bombed random Iraqi civilians, and they have killed Iraqi police for the crime of supporting the Americans. No reason to think they won't target Iraqi reconstruction workers, as long as America maintains any sort of presence (economic, military or political) in Iraq.



Fourth, the President must take immediate, urgent, essential steps to guarantee the promised elections can be held next year.

Credible elections are key to producing an Iraqi government that enjoys the support of the Iraqi people and an assembly to write a Constitution that yields a viable power sharing arrangement.

Because Iraqis have no experience holding free and fair elections, the President agreed six months ago that the U.N. must play a central role. Yet today, just four months before Iraqis are supposed to go to the polls, the U.N. Secretary General and administration officials themselves say the elections are in grave doubt. Because the security situation is so bad… and because not a single country has offered troops to protect the U.N. elections mission… the U.N. has less than 25 percent of the staff it needs in Iraq to get the job done.

The President should recruit troops from our friends and allies for a U.N. protection force. This won’t be easy. But even countries that refused to put boots on the ground in Iraq should still help protect the U.N. We should also intensify the training of Iraqis to manage and guard the polling places that need to be opened. Otherwise, U.S forces would end up bearing those burdens alone.



Again, Kerry's waiting for a UN bailout that isn't coming anytime soon.



If the President would move in this direction … if he would bring in more help from other countries to provide resources and forces … train the Iraqis to provide their own security …develop a reconstruction plan that brings real benefits to the Iraqi people … and take the steps necessary to hold credible elections next year … we could begin to withdraw U.S. forces starting next summer and realistically aim to bring all our troops home within the next four years.



So what happens when the UN member nations decide not to send troops to Iraq? Do we withdraw troops anyway and leave Iraq twisting in the wind, or do we expand our own efforts in Iraq? (In case anyone cares, I'm 25 and I'm finishing school in a couple months. You know what that means.) I'd love for somebody to ask him this question in one of the Presidential debates. Maybe we'll find out if he's really more concerned about saving Iraq or about crafting an exit strategy.

9.21.2004

Unsportsmanlike 

Asking an umpire to check an opponent's equipment to try to psych him out, in the absence of other evidence that he is cheating, is completely unsportsmanlike. The Sox did this to Orioles pitcher Rodrigo Lopez before the top of the eighth inning tonight; Lopez subsequently coughed up the first run of the game.

I remember once some guy who was facing Kerry Wood asked the umpire to check the ball. Wood promptly drilled him with a fastball for the next pitch.

Kids, if you're reading this, don't ever call an opponent a cheater without some solid evidence.

9.20.2004

Quandary (or, between Iraq and a hard place) 

If this report is accurate -- that Bush plans to pull troops out of Iraq after the election and leave Iraq to fend for itself against the Islamic terrorists and/or plunge into civil war, then I'm voting for Hartley Rogers.

A day late and a dollar short 

Dan Rather:



While stopping short of saying the memos purportedly written by Bush's late squadron commander in the Guard were fake, Rather also is no longer defending their authenticity.

"After extensive additional interviews, I no longer have the confidence in these documents that would allow us to continue vouching for them journalistically," he said. "I find we have been misled on the key question of how our source for the documents came into possession of these papers. That, combined with some of the questions that have been raised in public and in the press, leads me to a point where -- if I knew then what I know now -- I would not have gone ahead with the story as it was aired, and I certainly would not have used the documents in question."



What, you couldn't immediately tell when you read it that the memo was typed in MS Word? Geez.

9.18.2004

Nomenclature 

Hawks tend to label everyone who's causing trouble in Iraq terrorists. The vast majority of big media outlets and people who oppose the US presence in Iraq call them insurgents. Seems to me that there are both "terrorists" and "insurgents" in Iraq, and that both sides are committing an error by conflating the two groups.

The "terrorists" set off bombs in crowds, kidnap and behead civilians and air their exploits on al-Jazeera. They want to establish martial Islamic law in the Middle East. They are evil. They must be destroyed.

The "insurgents" are ordinary Iraqis who just want the US out of Iraq. They may be affiliated with a major movement, or not. They get their guns from the basement and start shooting at US soldiers. Their motives are many: simple xenophobia; political power; tribal warfare; frustration with daily life and the economic and social progress of Iraq; and so on. While they will certainly have to amend their ways if they wish to be full citizens of a modern democratic Iraq (assuming that this is to happen), their demands can't be completely dismissed out of hand.

In fact, even this dichotomy is probably too simple: people who are fighting the US probably come with a wide mix of motivations and methods. (The Baath Party probably merits its own category altogether.) The point is that painting the entire opposition as a homogeneous force of one color or another doesn't help us understand the situation in Iraq.

UPDATE: One of the most recent hostages has been decapitated.

Before we rush to label this incident another failure in US foreign policy, consider this: if the terrorists weren't operating in Iraq, they'd be operating in Israel, Pakistan, the United States, or other places around the globe. (By all accounts, terrorist activity around the rest of the world is down.) It's hard to establish reliable metrics for our progress in the war on terror; all that I know is that the terrorists must be eliminated.

Where we have failed (diplomatically and logistically) is in getting the new Iraqi police and other forces in a position to help us destroy these terrorists who are flocking to Iraq.

China's gender imbalance approaching MIT-esque proportions 

Ok, not quote, but the gender ratio in China nowadays is around 1.2:1.

I find it mildly amusing (and extremely sad) to think that all this time Chinese couples have been, uh, not having girls all this time without regard for the mating prospects of their progeny.

(HT: Deadly Mantis.)

9.17.2004

MVP of tonight's Sox-Yankees game... 

...is the Sox fan in the left-field seats who got into Yankee Stadium without a ticket and backed off to let Manny Ramirez steal a home run from the stands.

Jack Nicholson gets destroyed by Sean McDonough 

So during the second inning of tonight's Sox-Yankees game, the cameras spot Jack Nicholson in the seats wearing a white-on-white hat. At first Sean McDonough and the Rem-dawg can't figure out what's on the hat. Eventually they see the NY logo, and McDonough says "as long as he likes the Lakers, he might as well like the Yankees. The man clearly has no taste in sports teams."

Generally McDonough is a little more professional than that, but it was hilarious.

Evite is insidious 

Here's why:



Another practice, which involves using e-mail as a kind of Trojan horse to deliver a cookie file, recently prompted the Michigan attorney general's office to warn that it would sue one Web site, Evite, under the state's Consumer Protection Act unless it began to inform consumers.

Party organizers use Evite, a San Francisco-based online invitation service, to send e-mail HTML invitations. In addition to collecting the official R.S.V.P.'s, Evite is able to tell the organizer who opened the mail without responding, and who did not open it. Those who open the invitation receive a cookie from Evite, which would not otherwise be possible unless they visited its Web site.

Privacy advocates speculate that the company could "rent"the cookie and the e-mail address it is associated with to other sites.

Evite's chief executive, Josh Silverman, declined to be interviewed, citing continuing negotiations with the Michigan attorney general. He said in a statement that the cookies Evite delivered were not linked to addresses.

But Nick Ragouzis, a technically savvy business consultant in San Francisco who discovered Evite's invisible pixel in an invitation he received recently, said that alone was enough to make him feel his privacy had been invaded.

"I don't really care that they know I opened this particular message," Mr. Ragouzis said. "But they never asked me. And there would be other messages that I would care about. I feel I should be asked."

Mr. Ragouzis said he told the host of the party, Jad Duwaik, to refrain from sending him future Evite invitations and asked that he stop using the company's services altogether. But Mr. Duwaik, who organizes networking events for entrepreneurs, said the information provided by Evite about how many of the invitees open the messge helped him gauge interest in his parties.

"It's something I feel uncomfortable with as a consumer," Mr. Duwaik said. "But as an organizer it's just too useful to give up."


I think Evite matches email addresses with IP addresses, too: I scrubbed the cookies from my machine, viewed an Evite, and it still recognized me.

9.16.2004

Lose the headscarves 

if you're playing sports. In most sports, the opponents are supposed to be able to see your face.

9.15.2004

If you're the police, who will police the police? 

I dunno. Coast Guard?

That's about all I (or Homer Simpson) have to say about the bloggers vs. the media.

9.12.2004

Mushroom cloud over North Korea 

US says forest fire, the South Korean press says it was a nuke.

Somebody's full of crap here. Given that South Korea (the press and government) usually tries a lot harder to ignore hostile activity on the part of their northern "brethren" than the US does, I'm inclined to believe that it really was a nuke. There's gotta be a way to tell definitively whether or not a nuke went off (a Tacitus reader suggests looking at seismic activity).

Apparently this all happened three days ago, on the anniversary of the founding of the country. Nice to hear about it now.

UPDATE: The Yonhap news agency of South Korea cites unidentified sources who claim that there was seismic activity related to the suspected blasts and that there's a fresh crater two miles wide in North Korea. This more recent AP article quotes some expert:



"It's difficult to say, but it won't be easy for North Korea to conduct a nuclear test without resulting in massive losses of its own people," said Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea expert in Seoul. "I think there is a (greater) possibility that it is a simple accident, rather than a deliberate nuclear test."



Right, because we know North Korea would never endanger the lives of its citizens. Meanwhile, South Korea's unification minister now claims that it's unlikely to have been a nuke.

I don't think South Korea should be that worried, given that North Korea probably already has enough conventional weaponry to destroy the entire peninsula several times over. Here are some other concerns, though:

(1) Can any of these weapons hit the US?
(2) Would North Korea sell these weapons to others?

9.11.2004

Formulaic 

Once again, unimaginative play-calling leads to short offensive drives, defensive exhaustion and, in the end, an offensive explosion by Notre Dame.

Why does Michigan always have these problems against the Irish?

Ticketbastard 

A $65 ticket to see REM turns into $80 with the addition of Ticketmaster's $10 service fee and $5 delivery fee. (That's $5 to deliver a ticket via email.)

9.09.2004

Which is more valuable: a Harvard education, or four Lexii? 

TMQ writes about a study that suggests that students of equal ability and motivation will turn out equally well (at least measured by post-graduation income) regardless of what colleges they attend. Matthew Yglesias (Harvard College '03, or is it '02?) comes to Harvard's defense, sort of. thinks that the proper lesson to draw from this study is that while it may not matter much which college a student attends, his list of acceptances and rejections is useful diagnostic information.

Yglesias is right, up to a point. Getting rejected by Michigan, Virginia or Wesleyan might be a sign that one isn't as hot as one originally thought, but being rejected by Harvard or MIT shouldn't be terribly discouraging, given that both schools reject around 90% of applicants nowadays.

After debating the value of highly selective colleges, Easterbrook gives his explanation for the improved quality of teaching at non-elite colleges over the last half-century. Well worth reading.

Here's an interesting observation: among the 25 "Gotta-Get-In" schools that Easterbrook lists, four are in California (Caltech, Pomona, Stanford, Cal-Berkeley), three are in the Midwest (Washington, Northwestern, Chicago) and one is in the South (Duke). The rest are all in the Northeast. Quite frankly, I think the Northeastern schools might be overrepresented here. (Who wants to pay more to go to a school with lousy weather that's stuck in the middle of nowhere when you could go to Virginia, UNC-Chapel Hill or Rice?)

9.06.2004

New York Yankees, always a class act 

Yes sir, they're always gracious to people who have been affected by natural disasters.

9.05.2004

Massacre 

The New York Times has a harrowing account of the schoolhouse siege that resulted in hundreds of children being killed.

I could be wrong, but it appears that (1) some of the captors were Islamofascists and (2) they tried to collapse the roof on everyone by shooting at it when the Russian troops stormed the building.

9.04.2004

Cat eats tinfoil. Tinfoil destroys microwave. Microwave cooks cat. 

The New York Times has a feature on rock-paper-scissors.

If you want to practice, I highly recommend the roshambot in the links section.

So close, and yet so far 

The US says that what's going on in Darfur appears to be a campaign of racially motivated attacks, but the State Department can't quite bring itself to utter the G-word that's supposed to trigger some sort of reaction from the United Nations.

AP: busted 

It turns out that campaign audience Bush was speaking to did not boo when he wished Clinton well in his recovery, and this guy caught the AP trying to cover its tracks.

I sincerely hope somebody lost his job over this farce.

9.03.2004

Olympic Ultimate Frisbee gets TMQ's endorsement 

for what it's worth.

9.02.2004

Bono talks about AIDS on the O'Reilly factor 

Transcript and video here.

Observations:

1. God, Bill O'Reilly is annoying.

2. Although I don't deny that the world has a moral imperative to help Africa fight the AIDS crisis, I think Bono overestimates the effect such a fight would have on the worldwide war on terror.

If America led the fight on AIDS, and this elevated the opinion of America in European minds, the political capital that would accumulate would be useful. The guy whose opinion really counts is the average guy in the street in Iraq or Pakistan or Saudi Arabia; I honestly don't know if he'd be that impressed. I hope I'm wrong though.

Well, okay, countries like Sudan and Ethiopia also have large Muslim populations, pockets of terrorist activity and relatively large HIV-positive populations. Maybe America will make some headway there.

3. The CIA factbook claims that 20% of adults in South Africa have AIDS. Jeebus.

Prosecution drops charges against Kobe Bryant 

The civil suit is still pending, but the criminal trial is over.

The moral of the story? "No" means "yes" if you're a slut, I guess.

9.01.2004

Schadenfreude 


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