Monday, January 31, 2011

Shooting Saturday

Four friends went to the firing range on Saturday near where Grant Wood painted his "American Gothic." There was enough armament to take over a small Central American country. After 3 hours of shooting, ammo boxes were considerably lighter. They went out to eat and three of the four had a beer with their lunch. By some miracle, not a single one became enraged and opened fire on the patrons in the restaurant. I'm not sure how this didn't make the news.

In an unrelated report, a prospector found a large deposit of lead and copper in the side of a berm. "This could be one of the richest veins on record," he was quoted as saying. Development is expected.

These are Mutually Exclusive Concepts

Sometimes even the politicians come up with statements that are absolutely amazing in their complete disdain for logic.

"If the president is going to ask us to increase the debt limit, then he's going to have to be willing to cut up the credit cards" - Speaker Boehner

Let's see how this works. Pretend for instance that I make $210,000 a year and I have credit card debt of $1.4 million, partly because for the last few years I have been spending close to $400,000 a year. Now my wife decides to put her foot down and say enough is enough. I beg and plead for her to have our credit card limit increased to $1.6 million, because if we don't then we will have to declare bankruptcy. She capitulates as long as I cut up the credit card.

Huh? So if I cut up the credit then does increasing my credit limit to $1.6 million stave off bankruptcy?

This is the exact situation that Boehner finds himself in (just add some extra zeros to my numbers above). Perhaps Congress and the President could use a little refresher course in budgeting 101, maybe even a session with the Consumer Credit Counseling Service.

For those of you who had hoped that the Republicans were going to turn things around, you were sorely mistaken.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Education in America: The Farce

When I read an article like this one, I am not the least bit surprised. Being a trained engineer (we actually take science classes in college), a devote Mormon, and a firm believer in evolution (and not just the micro-evolution schtick that creationists make up; I am talking the full blown macro-evolution cat gives birth to a dog spiel that they try and dance around), I am usually appalled by the treatment of science in schools. Mostly thought I am appalled at the whole "qualifying teachers" aspect to education.

Study after study has shown that colleges of education have the lowest performing students of any of the colleges at universities. Go to any university campus and I guarantee you that there will be plenty of jokes among the student body about the education students. At Texas A&M, the joke was you went to college as an education major in order to find a husband. Does this mean that every one with an education degree is a blithering moron? No, there are quite a few smart ones that I have met (coincidentally, none off of the top of my head are actually teaching school).

To compare to the college of Engineering at Texas A&M, when I started as a freshman, probably 80% of the freshman in my dorm were engineering majors. By sophomore year that had dropped to less than 50% and by junior year it was down to 25% where it remained fairly stable through graduation. I never heard of anyone (not saying it didn't happen) who transferred into engineering from the business college or the education college. I did know one person who got a degree in psychology and then came back and got a degree in engineering after realizing that she didn't like her job options. Of course, if she had have started in engineering she would have been successful and saved herself $20K and 4 years.

So why the drop in numbers? Because some people can't hack it. It may be they aren't smart enough, it may be that they don't have the work ethic, it may be that they don't like dealing with fractions. That's OK. Unfortunately, we have turned education (at least on the public side) into a game of the lowest common denominator. If we know that the majority of our biology teachers are waffling (for whatever reason) on a scientific theory that is widely accepted and has been thoroughly debated to the point that those who dismiss it are seen as crackpots by the scientific community, then what hope do we have for English, math, and history.

Lest anyone try to say that Einstein was considered a crackpot with his theories, let us remember that he proposed something new that the scientific community had not had time to investigate. After years of investigation, we have come to realize he was right in many things and wrong in a very few (and those things he was wrong on were usually due to oversimplification of the issue).

Evolution is not some new theory, although based on the training the colleges of education give, it may very well be.

And if you think that evolution entails cats giving births to dogs, you are either dishonest or need your head examined.

Friday, January 14, 2011

9-Year Old VISA Violators

Because we have already solved our southern border problem, we now are able to focus on those kids whose grandparents are taking them to DisneyWorld. I mean, isn't it obvious that this kid from England is trying to sneak his way into the US (even though he didn't know it). Probably trying to establish himself as an anchor baby to bring the rest of his family over.

I have a few questions. Why was the 9-year old's VISA denied, but the grandparents were not? How old do you have to be to even have "strong ties outside the United States"? Is the bond between parents and children not considered strong enough? Does EuroDisney suck that bad?

This is where the Disney company should step in and show the world how generous they are. All expenses paid to EuroDisney, 5 star hotel, breakfast with Buzz Lightyear, the works.

Government Run Amok, Again

As many of you my know, I am not a proponent of government. I believe they have a few things (relatively few) that they should do, and should keep away from doing anything else. Besides that, as they grow in size (and in organization grows in size) the application of common sense decreases exponentially.

For instance, Houston doesn't want people to feed the homeless. This couple was not asking for a government handout and then embezzling the money, they were doing it out of their own compassion and the donations of those they contacted. Apparently food regulators demand that they get a permit and have the food prepared in a certified kitchen. The money quote:

The regulations are all the more essential in the case of the homeless, Barton said, because "poor people are the most vulnerable to foodborne illness and also are the least likely to have access to health care."

If you read that correctly, the government officials are saying that "its OK if the homeless starve, as long as they don't get a foodborne illness from someone's home kitchen." When faced with the choice of no food vs. food that has a low likelihood of having a foodborne illness, which would you choose?

While the regulators may defend that the regulations keep the public safe by ensuring that restaurants have appropriate cleanliness standards, I say BS. It is the customers that ensure that the restaurants have cleanliness standards (the regulators aren't at the restaurants every day or even every week). If a customer sees a roach crawling around on the floor, he is going to leave and probably tell all of his friends about it who then will not go to the restaurant. Hence, business is lost and unless the restaurant turns itself around, there will be no more restaurant. So it is in the restaurants best interest to maintain those high standards even without the regulators. The free market is a rapid and harsh punisher (of course the rewards are beyond compare).

It is a fact that home kitchens are several times less sanitary than restaurants. That being said, you don't see a neighbor dieing everyday from food poisoning. It is also a fact that garbage cans and dumpsters are several times less sanitary than the home kitchen, and usually not a good place to be scrounging food. But that is the option that Houston has provided for its homeless. (So I think that Houston - as in the government - should provide meals and shelter for the homeless? NO WAY. But stay out of the way of those people who do want to.