Global warming and hurricane Katrina 

Some folks are claiming that global warming is directly responsible for hurricane Katrina.

The claim that it is responsible for a greater frequency of hurricanes is debunked here.

The claim that the warming of the Gulf of Mexico is responsible for the greater destructive force of the hurricane has more weight to it, but I imagine that it's not terribly useful. With stricter environmental laws in place, maybe the ocean temperature rises only 0.4 Celsius over the last 20 years instead of 0.5 Celsius, leading to 120 mph winds instead of 140 mph winds? Anybody want to do the serious mathematical modeling here? And does this slightly less powerful hurricane Katrina fail to destroy the levees which keep the Mississippi river and Lake Pontchartrain at bay (the main cause of flooding in New Orleans)?

(obligatory link to the Red Cross, of course)

Oh yeah, and not that anybody asked, but I don't mind if (a) people start looting grocery stores for water and food and (b) if the National Guard starts shooting people who start stealing valuables or looting homes.


Washington Monthly goes off the deep end 

To supplement its annual sniping about the US News college rankings, the Washington Monthly has published its own. In the inaugural Washington Monthly rankings of colleges and universities, MIT is #1, UCLA #2, Texas A&M #7, Harvard #16, Iowa State #34 and Princeton #44.

Of course, the US News rankings are based on dubious data (class size being the most notorious factor). So what sort of data matters to the Washington Monthly?

These are even worse than the BCS rankings.



Ok, so Marshall worries that the Boston summer league is turning into a stomping ground for organized club teams. And periodically Jim grumbles about having to play against summer league teams that are stacked with Nationals-caliber players.

Given that there are no eligibility rules, it does rather sound to me like the Red Sox complaining about the Yankees' payroll. "Complaining" is probably too strong/negative a word for what Marshall and Jim are doing though.

However, the point of this post is not to address those issues; it's to bring up a heckle from 2000.

I had graduated from MIT the year before and was finishing up my first year of grad school at Harvard. That spring, MIT Ultimate was eliminated at Sectionals, while Harvard qualified for Regionals but was bounced on Saturday.

Some folks from my old MIT dorm and some math guys at Harvard had been playing in the MIT intramural ultimate league that spring, and I think I had played one or two games with them. Technically, students at other schools are eligible to play if they're cross-registered for classes at MIT. I was taking a class at MIT, but I don't think any of the other math grad students were, so they were ringers. All together, only three of us had ever played in a UPA series.

Sunday happens to be the day of the MIT IM tournament, so I decide to play. In semis, we end up going against what is essentially the MIT Ultimate team plus alumni (Jeremy, Wilmer, Dean and others. Plus Tim Tuttle). They beat us 9-5.

At the end of the game, I say, "shouldn't you guys be playing in a real tournament, like Regionals?"


Under construction 

Please pardon the mess. I'm getting rid of the antiquated HaloScan comments and switching to Blogger's. It's proving to be more difficult than it should be.

Another one from the log 

I do talk about ultimate frisbee sometimes on this blog. And who knows, I might have made a post or two about charitable organizations.

But apparently if you search for pages containing the terms Jim, Parinella, salvation, army, this site is the top hit.



U2 at Fenway?



In-N-Out Burger is overrated.


The stands at Harvard Stadium have 37 sections. Each section has around 30 rows, and the steps between each row are about 16 inches high.

The stands at Drake Stadium in UCLA have 15 sections. Each section has around 30 rows, and the steps between each row are about 8 inches high. Not ideal for Ultimate Frisbee training.

I did see Barry Bonds rehabbing at the track once, though. Part of his rehab to strengthen his knee involves running routes against a young DB playing bump-and-run coverage.


Naturalistic evolution vs. intelligent design 

Three guys are sitting at a table.

One guy flips a coin 100 times in a row.

The second guy claims that the coin tosses were fixed because 100 heads came up.

The third guy claims that the coin tosses were random because 50 heads and 50 tails came up.


Who speaks for the dead? 

Apparently Casey Sheehan had voluntarily reenlisted for a second tour of duty in Iraq when he was killed.

His mother claims that

Casey knew that the war was wrong from the beginning. But he felt it was his duty to go, that his buddies were going, and that he had no choice.

Whether or not Cindy Sheehan is taking her son's name in vain, we'll never know.

I do have to say though, that this entire pow-wow outside the Bush ranch is a huge waste of videotape. Bush isn't going to give Sheehan an audience, because he knows there's no possible way he can win in Sheehan's eyes (Sheehan has already decided that the answers she's going to get aren't the ones she want) or in the media's eyes (obviouisly). And Sheehan hasn't exactly done anything to elevate discourse about the war.

So August 31 will pass, Bush will vacate the ranch, and Sheehan's fifteen minutes will be up.

Sore losers 

The Sunni Muslims' complaining about the new Iraqi constitution sort of feels like white people complaining about South Africa's new constitution. Relatively speaking, Sunnis represent a bigger chunk of Iraq than white people represent in South Africa, but the parallel is there -- both are minority groups whose disproportionate wealth and power have vanished due to the collapse of their corrupt governments.


Using ethnic names and caricatures as nicknames and mascots 

As you've no doubt heard by now, the NCAA has banned Native American nicknames and mascots from all NCAA postseason events, most notably the NCAA basketball tournament.

Now I think the NCAA is a bunch of pompous, incompetent bureaucrats. I also generally oppose laws and other measures that differentiate between ethnic groups (especially affirmative action measures in college admissions). I think that 'Oriental' and 'Asian' are descriptive terms that mean the same thing, and that there's no need to differentiate between them just because Edward Said said so. And I enjoy tasteless ethnic jokes as much as the next person. But consider this:

There are few complaints about the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Iona Gaels, Penn Quakers, Mississippi Rebels, Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns, Oklahoma State Cowboys and their mascots. This is because these names refer to ethnic groups that are either not minorities or have generally been well-integrated into American society. The same certainly cannot be said of Native American groups.

Now imagine that there's a team in South Korea called the "Whites". Or a team in Israel called the "Arabs". If you were a member of either of these groups living in that country, you'd probably feel really uncomfortable being treated as a novelty in this manner. Heck, for that matter, imagine that there's a team in America called the "Fighting Negroes". That definitely wouldn't go over so well.

Some Native Americans don't mind the nicknames. Fine. But if enough people complain about them, nicknames and caricatures that refer to ethnic groups should be scrapped.

The point is this: these names, logos and mascots call attention to the fact that these groups are somehow distinct from mainstream society. If we believe that it's an important goal to create an integrated society, then these names are antithetical to that goal.


Sound advice 

James Dobson's show Focus on the Family offers some "advice" to fathers who want to "prevent" their sons from turning out gay.

He neglected to mention one thing, though -- make sure you never drop your soap in the shower.

(HT: Josh Foust)



That's exactly what Terrell Owens is.

Apparently Mr. Owens is upset by the asymmetry of NFL contracts -- they're not guaranteed, and NFL teams can terminate them just about anytime for any reason, so he's holding out for a higher salary.

Fine. Hold out for the entire season if you have to. Or demand to be traded to a team that will renegotiate. Or demand to be released immediately. But keep it between yourself and ownership. Keep it off the field.

American high schools not challenging enough 

Here's a quote from my old quantum mechanics professor that ended up in the yearbook. When I was in his class, he gave us a midterm that had a table of contents. Anyhoo, here's the quote:

Student: Professor Arias, why do you make us work so hard?

Prof. Arias: Because we have to keep up with the Russians!

I bring this up because CNN has declared that American high schools are too easy. I guess the kids themselves realize that school basically serves as (1) expensive, tax-funded child care and (2) an exaggerated social microcosm where the beautiful and the athletic thrive and the maladjusted are killed and eaten. Or go on shooting sprees.

Ask anybody who grew up in Russia, India, China, South Korea, etc. -- they'll tell you that high school kids in America are 2-4 years behind kids of the same age from their native countries in math and science. Some even go so far as to heckle our math olympiad contests.

See, computer games are bad for you. Yeah. 


UPDATE: Is this story a hoax?



In the wake of the public revelation of Derek Lowe's affair with FSN's Carolyn Hughes, Phil Mushnick of the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post excoriates Fox for its policy of putting attractive but unknowledgeable female journalists on the beat.

Jason Whitlock declares that sports needs to go back to keeping female journalists out of male dressing rooms. Given the dominance of male team sports, Whitlock realizes that demand for equal opportunity for female journalists would dictate that all journalists be kept out of locker rooms.

Maybe Jack Morris was onto something when he famously declared, "I don't talk to women when I'm naked, unless I'm on top of them or they're on top of me."



Google has declared that it will not speak to CNET for a year, in retaliation for a CNET article that, by way of arguing that Google was a danger to personal privacy, published loads of personal information about CEO Eric Schmidt that it obtained via Google searches.

CNET is wrong to argue that Google is somehow at fault for having such a staggering quantity of personal information about individuals in its cache, but Google's reaction strikes me as, well, not particularly mature.


More conference blogging 

Sunday at the AMS Algebraic Geometry conference. We're playing soccer and trying to figure out how to make teams. One guy says "characteristic 0 versus characteristic p."

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