Friday, October 12, 2007

1506 Denver, Math, Plans

Friday, October 12, 2007

PBS had a tribute to John Denver this evening. It reminded me of a reaction I had back in the very late 70s or early 80s, when John Denver was at the top of the charts with one song after another. I was driving, and there was a new John Denver song playing on the car radio, and then the announcer said "And that was Annie's Song by John Denver." Well, back then, car radios weren't all that good, and what I heard was "And that was any song by John Denver", and I laughed and thought, "oh, yes, they do all sound alike!"

Not to knock JD, I loved him, too, but hey, they DID all sound alike!


If you have children in school, or know anyone who has children in school, you MUST watch this video. It's about 15.5 minutes long, but it's interesting, important, and frightening. The teaching of math is changing again, and not in a good way. As a former math teacher, this scares me!


There have been several responses to the above video. At, a guy has timed the old algorithms against the new methods.

At (Part 1) and (Part 2) a college professor attempts to defend the new against the old on the grounds that students must understand the concepts behind what they are doing, and must learn the logic, as opposed to simply memorizing the algorithms. However, he admits that he is unfamiliar with the new books and methods. He apparently doesn't realize that the new methods DON'T get one closer to the concepts. Taught correctly, the old algorithms should be backed by concepts. I can assure you MY students understood what they were doing!

Finally, is an amusing (and very well done) look at the topic.


It's been two weeks since I've seen The Man. We were supposed to get together in Newburgh last night, but work pressures intervened, so it's tomorrow. I'm heading to NJ for the Saturday performances at Rakkasah, and he will join me there.


Whoops. A PBS program on child brides in India is starting. Gotta sign off.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

1505 Taxes and Cascade

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I got a $500 rebate check yesterday, under the STAR program (School Tax Relief Program, which includes a school property tax rebate program and a partial property tax exemption). The amount of the rebate depends on one's age and income level, and amount of taxes paid. They (Albany) determine your income from the income tax forms filed the previous April.

Now, I appreciate the rebate. But what bugs me is that it costs the state money to cut all these checks and mail them. I paid my school taxes several months ago, using money from a money market account, $500 of which I will now return to that account. So I'm out those months of earnings on that $500.

In these days of computers, would it really be so difficult to figure the rebate before I pay the school tax, and simply discount the tax bill by that much? Duh?


This ( is a New York Times article on "mistaken consensus".

I've seen mistaken consensus in action in The Company. It's when some person considered an expert comes up with a conclusion that a few others accept without question. Then, since there are now several "experts" espousing this conclusion, others accept it too. It cascades. Next thing you know, it's common wisdom. "Everyone knows" it's true.

Then, a few skeptics decide to actually test the truth, and are unable to support the conclusion. In fact, they may even prove it false. But since the conclusion is generally accepted (by experts who have never tested it, based solely on the acceptance of others who had never tested it, the cascade), these skeptics are shouted down, and even ostracised, to the point where dissension could become professional suicide - in a "reputational cascade".

The example used in the article is "Dietary fat is bad for you." 'Tain't true. The article traces the origin and mistaken cascade of the myth, and the difficulty combating it.

I witnessed several mistaken cascades within The Company. The source was almost always someone who stood to profit from the myth (not that they knowingly spread misinformation - they likely fully believed it - just that it wasn't true), and, on the basis of the myth, was promoted beyond harm by the time it was disproved. And, unfairness piled upon unfairness, the disprover was usually professionally injured by early dissension, and the final disproving of the myth never fully repaired that damage. ("Harumph! Not a team player! Rocks the boat! Yeah, ok, she was right, but still...")

Sigh. Yeah. The disprover was often me. It's a real credit to my talents that I actually did quite well on appraisals, raises, promotions. When I wasn't in the doghouse, that is. Which would last until I managed to kickstart a competing consensus cascade of my own.

There's a lesson there.

1504 Sheesh. Some People....

Last year I replaced all the windows in my house with those expensive, double-pane energy efficient kind. Yesterday, I got a call from the contractor who installed them. He was complaining that the windows had been installed a whole year ago and I had not paid for them yet.

Helloooo.... Now just because I'm blonde doesn't mean that I'm automatically stupid! So I told him what his fast talking sales guy had told ME last year....namely, that in just ONE YEAR these windows would pay for themselves.

"Helloooo"? (I told him) "It's been a year." There was only silence on the other end of the line. So I finally just hung up. He hasn't called back, probably too embarrassed about forgetting the guarantee they made me.

Bet he won't underestimate a blonde anymore!

1503 Some Amusement

The Top Ten Reasons Why Trick-or-Treating is Better Than Sex

10. You're guaranteed to get at least a little something in the sack.
9. If you get tired, you can wait 10 minutes and go at it again.
8. The uglier you look, the easier it is to get some.
7. You don't have to compliment the person who gives you some.
6. It's okay if the person you're with fantasizes you're someone else, because you actually are.
5. Forty years from now you'll still enjoy candy.
4. If you don't like what you get, you can always go next door.
3. It doesn't matter if the kids hear you moaning and groaning.
2. There's a lot less guilt the morning after.
1. You can do the whole neighborhood.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

1502 The Geeks and the Brauhaus

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Mensa dinner tonight at the Mountain Brauhaus, near Mohonk. It was a tad expensive for this group, but the food was very good. We sat down at the table at 6:30. We got our entrees at 8:00. I was amused because after the wait of an hour and a half, five of the six at the table had inhaled their dinner within 12 minutes of its arrival (I'm a bit slow). The waitress apologized for the slow service. The place was mobbed (on a Wednesday night!) and they were short handed.

Angie's friend Nate sat next to me, and he says "sexy lingerie" is garter belts with stockings with seams up the back, and stiletto heels. Nobody else at the table had much of an opinion (Les looked confused), but Nate seemed to really get into the topic. Angie was looking at him like he'd grown a second head.

My exploration continues. I may have to write a book.

Not much else to report. I'm slow paying bills again. They're on the list every day, and they just don't get done. Good thing I don't have a mortgage, or I'd be out on the street by now. They probably won't get done tomorrow, either.

One of my guilty pleasures is Beauty and the Geek (don't knock it if you haven't watched it all the way through). This time they have a twist. It had always been male geeks and female beauties. This time there's also one female geek and a male "beauty", Sam.

I don't know who picked him. He's NOT even remotely good looking. He makes me cringe, with his dead eyes, self-satisfied mouth, and sticking-up-on-top hair. I'd like to see him gone, but then his partner the girl geek would go, too, and I like her.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

1501 Heat

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

I just heard on TV that "they" expect heating oil to go up by 22% this winter. A few weeks ago I paid $1500 up front to lock in the August price for $1500 worth of oil. It was painful pocket-wise, but I guess it was a good decision.

Today I drove two hours and forty-five minutes to drop some stuff off on Daughter's back porch, then turned around and drove home. She and SIL were both still at work, and both had stuff scheduled for this evening, but I wanted them to get the stuff. So, quick trip.

On the way down and back I listened to a CD that a friend would like me to be familiar with. When I stopped at a rest area to get some food, I said to myself, "Ok, there are 14 selections on the album, and you've been listening to it for five hours. Name or describe three songs." I could think of only one. Worse, right now I can't remember even that one. Sometimes I worry about me.

1500 Restroom

Dear Date:
Remember my trip to the restroom before dinner, the day of our Central Park walk? When I came out of the ladies' room, I found you wondering what had happened to me, and that while I was in the ladies' room, the hotel had chased all the men to the upstairs facilities, and turned the men's room into a temporary ladies' room.

I found the following on a joke website, and it's scarily close to my experience that day.


When you have to visit a public bathroom, you usually find a line of women, so you smile politely and take your place. Once it's your turn, you check for feet under the stall doors. Every stall is occupied. Finally, a door opens and you dash in, nearly knocking down the woman leaving the stall.

You get in to find the door won't latch. It doesn't matter, the wait has been so long you are about to wet your pants. The dispenser for the modern "seat covers" (invented by someone's Mom, no doubt) is handy, but empty. You would hang your purse on the door hook, if there was one, but there isn't - so you carefully, but quickly drape it around your neck, (Mom would turn over in her grave if you put it on the FLOOR!), yank down your pants, and assume " The Stance."

In this position your aging, toneless thigh muscles begin to shake. You'd love to sit down, but you certainly hadn't taken time to wipe the seat or lay toilet paper on it, so you hold "The Stance." To take your mind off your trembling thighs, you reach for what you discover to be the empty toilet paper dispenser. In your mind, you can hear your mother's voice saying,"Honey, if you had tried to clean the seat, you would have KNOWN there was no toilet paper!"

Your thighs shake more. You remember the tiny tissue that you blew your nose on yesterday, the one that's still in your purse. (Oh yeah, the purse around your neck, that now you have to hold up trying not to strangle yourself at the same time). That would have to do. You crumple it in the puffiest way possible. It's still smaller than your thumbnail.

Someone pushes your door open because the latch doesn't work. The door hits your purse, which is hanging around your neck in front of your chest, and you and your purse topple backward against the tank of the toilet. "Occupied!" you scream, as you reach for the door, dropping your precious, tiny, crumpled tissue in a puddle on the floor, lose your footing altogether, and slide down directly onto the TOILET SEAT. It is wet of course.

You bolt up, knowing all too well that it's too late. Your bare bottom has made contact with every imaginable germ and life-form on the uncovered seat because YOU never laid down toilet paper -not that there was any, even if you had taken time to try. You know that your Mother would be utterly appalled if she knew, because you're certain her bare bottom never touched a public toilet seat because, frankly, dear, "You just don't KNOW what kind of diseases you could get."

By this time, the automatic sensor on the back of the toilet is so confused that it flushes, propelling a stream of water like a fire hose against the inside of the bowl that sprays a fine mist of water that covers your butt and runs down your legs and into your shoes. The flush somehow sucks everything down with such force that you grab onto the empty toilet paper dispenser for fear of being dragged in too.

At this point, you give up. You're soaked by the spewing water and the wet toilet seat. You're exhausted. You try to wipe with a gum wrapper you found in your pocket and then slink out inconspicuously to the sinks. You can't figure out how to operate the faucets with the automatic sensors, so you wipe your hands with spit and a dry paper towel and walk past the line of women still waiting. You are no longer able to smile politely.

A kind soul at the very end of the line points out a piece of toilet paper trailing from your shoe. (Where was that when you NEEDED it??) You yank the paper from your shoe, plunk it in the woman's hand and tell her warmly, "Here, you just might need this."

As you exit, you spot your hubby, who has long since entered, used, and left the men's restroom. Annoyed, he asks, "What took you so long, and why is your purse hanging around your neck?"

This is dedicated to women everywhere who deal with a public restrooms (rest?? You've GOT to be kidding!!). It finally explains to the men what really does take us so long. It also answers their other commonly asked questions about why women go to the restroom in pairs. It's so the other gal can hold the door, hang onto your purse and hand you Kleenex under the door!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

1499 Sunday Warming

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Today I went to a ... panel discussion? (but there was no discussion, really. It was three presenters) ... on global warming, organized by Mensa and sponsored by Sierra Club and two SUNY environmental groups. Today's portion was the science and why it's worrying. Next Sunday is the politics. The following Sunday is what can be done.

It was at 3 pm in the lecture center at SUNY New Paltz. I have a problem with that campus. It's huge, and no matter what maps I print out, the minute I enter the campus, I'm lost. Somehow, the way the roads twist around, and end suddenly, and unexpectedly become one-way, I lose all sense of direction. North becomes west, labels on the map bear no relation to signs on buildings. I always just park in the first legal-looking space I can find and ask someone to point me in the direction of the building I want.

Our current Mensa programs person is a prof at SUNY New Paltz, so she seems to think the campus is the ideal place for events. "So convenient." I hate to admit the place scares me.

I found the talks interesting. There were a lot of townspeople and students there, which was nice, but only three of us Mensans, two of whom were the organizers of the event, and me. That was disappointing, but I could have predicted it - there was no free food!

The first speaker addressed what "global warming" is, what causes it, where the greenhouse gases come from, and why it's dangerous. Even a small change causes a shift in ocean and air currents, increasing the effects.

The second speaker addressed a question I've had, which is "How do we know what the temperatures were all those thousands of years ago, when, like, there was nobody out there waving a thermometer around." There are several things they look for in ice and ocean floor cores, one of which is the proportion of two particular oxygen isotopes (I'm not a chemist and may be using the wrong term - ignore me) in the shell remains of ocean critters, and the air trapped in ice. He showed the relationship of temperature fluctuations over a few hundred thousand years in relation to the amount of methane and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and how they determine those amounts.

The third speaker addressed the environmental and economic effects of rising temperatures on the state of New York. (I figure one good outcome is a shorter snowmobile season. I HATE the damn things. Noisy ground-tearer-uppers, operated by idiots with no respect for private property.)

We three Mensans went out for dinner after the program. The other two were saying that the second speaker was completely over their heads, and maybe they should review content ahead of time. I said that he's the one I found most interesting, the others talked about stuff I already knew, and I didn't find him dense at all. Oh, well.

They've had some difficulty finding politicians willing to speak at next week's session. Several well-known federal and state representatives at first agreed to participate, and then one after another they cancelled. To hot a topic, perhaps? Too small an audience? They've had to settle for poli-sci types.

I had a question I've been carrying around for two years now, and I should have asked it of the second speaker, but I forgot. The movie about the march of the penguins - the penguins walk a gazillion miles across ice shelves into Antarctica to breed and raise their chicks, because that's where they have been going for eons. Now, is it possible, even probable, that back when penguins started going there, it wasn't so terribly far? That either the ice shelves didn't extend so far out, or the ocean was higher? If so, where does that fit on the time/temperature charts he was showing us? Is there an explanation?

I'm so annoyed that I forgot.