Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Too Much Government

I endeavor to avoid politics when I travel--there's not a lot of good that can come from such discussions in other people's countries! I just came across this, though, and I have to say that banning something for no reason other than personal preference is not a trait I'd want in a politician:
Pineapple on pizza would be a forbidden fruit, if the president of Iceland had his way...

When one student asked him what he thought about pineapple on pizza, he launched into a tirade — explaining he would pass a ban on the topping, if he had the power, according to a translation by Iceland Magazine.
I still wouldn't mind staying here a couple more days, though.

Last day

The weather ran the gamut again today; this time, though, the snow stuck on the ground in Reykjavik.  I've been wearing this rabbit skin hat I brought to keep my head warm, but I don't really like it.  So I bought an Iceland beanie with fleece inside :)

There's a cemetery between the hotel and the main downtown district.  We've walked through it a couple times.  This morning, before the snow fell, I caught a glimpse of this 19th Century (?) headstone with runes on it.  Very cool.
I'll post more pictures and video when I get home, when I have access to what's on my phone. Great trip (except for not seeing the Northern Lights). Bus picks us up to take us to the airport just after lunch tomorrow (it's 10:44 pm here right now).

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Natural Tease

Strokkur, the geyser on the Golden Circle Tour, sure knows how to be a tease.  Wait long enough, though, and you're bound to see an eruption.  I captured one in slo motion.  It's not high quality video, and it's kinda long, but the end--when you see the beginning of the eruption--that's way cool.  Video is here.  For comparison, here's video of Strokkur that I took a year and a half ago (summer).

Then we went out on the Northern Lights tour.  The forecast was very positive, the reality was the opposite.  No sighting at all.  In other words, we froze out on the water for no good reason.  This picture sums up my feelings on the Northern Lights tour:

A Teaser Pic For Today

Just got in from the Golden Circle tour. It was supposed to last 6 hours, it lasted 8. Here's why:
The weather alternated between cold and yucky and cold and reasonable clear.  One road was closed, that created a small problem.

Now we're heading out for a quick dinner and then the Northern Lights tour!

Update:  we didn't get to see the Northern Lights.  Extremely disappointing.

Monday, February 20, 2017

I've Made It To Reykjavik

I am physically exhausted, having gotten only a couple hours of sleep in the last 34 hrs. But I can't go to bed (it's 9pm here) without posting a picture:
It's one of my favorite sculptures in Reykjavik.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Recording Your Professor

Readers might recall that, early last semester, a student and that student's parent pushed our school hard to allow the student to record me during class.  I'm quite against that--I don't want to accept the risk of having teenagers, with their video-editing savvy, to have video of me.  No good can come from that.  Add to that concern the fact that our newly-adopted textbooks all have online videos and tutorials, and there's no legitimate reason to record me.

University professors are a little different.  In many cases they're lecturing to a hall of students who don't have the opportunity to ask questions during class.  Accordingly, some professors allow students to record them, some don't.  That seems eminently reasonable to me.  However, I'm not sure it's appropriate to hide behind a "no recording" policy when doing and saying things in class that you'd regret if word got out:
A student who recorded his professor’s post-Election Day rant against Donald Trump has been suspended, but his attorney vowed on Wednesday to fight the sanctions, calling administrators’ decision punitive and a violation of the student’s Constitutional rights.

Student Caleb O’Neil was suspended for a semester from Orange Coast College for allegedly violating a policy that prohibits recording professors, but his attorney, William Becker, called instructor Olga Perez Stable Cox’s tirade against Trump an “unconstitutional act that needed to be documented."
Which constitutional rights?  And a professor's tirade is unconstitutional?  Uh, interesting.   But let's continue:
Becker told the Register “this is an attack by leftists in academia to protect the expressive rights of their radical instructors at the expense of the expressive rights of conservative students on campus.”
This is no doubt true.

I probably tilt towards the student in this case as I tilt towards Edward Snowden--violated the rules, but did so to expose wrongdoing.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Cool Currency

I'm writing and scheduling this post in early December, with plans to leave for Iceland in a couple days:

click to enlarge

Actually, all of these "cool currency" posts were written in early December and scheduled for later dates!  Oh, Darren, you're thinking, you're so sneaky!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Not An Overwhelming Victory

Not a crushing defeat either, though.  I got my first test back in my current (and last!) master's course.  I expected a low A, I got a high B--89%.  I'm more disappointed in that than perhaps I should be, but I'll let this serve as a motivator not to slack off.

I've been getting up every morning for the past few weeks and studying 15-20 min for my cumulative test, which I take in April.  Talk about high stakes--if I score well enough, I get my master's degree.  If I don't score well enough, I don't.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Compelled Vegetarianism Lauded In The People's Republik

Vegetarianism is good for the environment--so let's force it on kids!
Oakland schools partnered with the environmental group Friends of the Earth (FOE) to fight global warming by making student lunches climate-friendly.

FOE gave kids a lunch menu designed to eliminate foods it says are “unsustainable for our planet.” The new menu features far less meat and more plant-based food. Any meat or cheese the school did use came from “pastured, organic dairy cows.” The student’s lunch menu went from beef hot dogs and pepperoni pizza to vegan stir fry tofu and vegan tostadas. The new FOE-approved menu served meat and cheese-less frequently and reduced the portion sizes.
Tofu?  Does anyone really like tofu?
“This is a landmark moment for school food,” Jennifer LeBarre, head of nutrition services for Oakland Unified School District, said in a FOE press statement. “We were so excited to see how the data showed that we could reduce our carbon and water footprint by serving healthy, delicious food –– like the vegetarian tostadas with fresh made in-house salsa, that kids absolutely love –– all while saving money.”
It's ok to force this on your own kids, but it should be criminal to force this on other people's kids.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

You've Probably Heard About The Oroville Dam Spillway

Sacramento is in no danger, but tens of thousands of people were evacuated.  They're being told that the immediate danger has passed and that they can return home:
With the crisis at the Oroville Dam stabilized for now, authorities announced Tuesday that the 188,000 people evacuated Sunday will be allowed to return to their homes but should prepare to move again if a new emergency arises.

The announcement by Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea, who ordered the mass exodus Sunday afternoon amid fears that the dam’s emergency spillway might collapse, came in a 1:40 p.m. press briefing in Oroville...

Despite that, officials said they are confident that the steps taken to repair the hillside along the emergency spillway – using helicopters to dump boulders into holes and pour concrete on top of the piles – have made the structure safe in the event that the emergency spillway must be used again.

They also said such a scenario is highly unlikely, with the next series of storms predicted to be much weaker than previous ones...

More storms are predicted to hit the area starting Thursday, but Croyle said they are not expected to be powerful enough to produce rainfall that will create another problem.

Meanwhile, a massive effort is underway to fill in erosion in front of the emergency spillway that led to officials ordering the evacuations. Authorities have 40 truckloads moving 30 tons of boulders every hour, two helicopters dumping rocks every 90 seconds and 125 construction crews at work.

“We’re aggressively attacking the erosion concerns that have been identified...,” Croyle said. “We have a long spring runoff ahead of us, and we’re prepared for that...”
You'd think that perhaps they'd be doing maintenance on dams all along, but we in California have other priorities:
The flood danger from the Oroville Dam receded Monday, but California was hit by a wave of criticism for failing to heed warnings about risks to the spillway at a time when the state spent generously on illegal immigrants and high-speed rail.

California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, came under fire amid reports that federal and state officials for years rebuffed or ignored calls to fortify the massive 50-year-old dam, which provides water to more than 20 million farmers and residential consumers...

 A radio talk show host, Mr. Donnelly said California “has been so busy defying President Donald Trump in order to protect illegal aliens from deportation that it forgot to do the things government is supposed to do, like maintain infrastructure. Governor Brown is now going hat-in-hand to beg the Trump administration for emergency funds.”
That's a bit of hyperbole, at least as far as raising the topic of defying the new president.  California has been spending money on illegals and building the bullet-train-from-nowhere-to-nowhere for many times longer than the few weeks Trump has been president.
Built in 1968, the Oroville Dam, located about 70 miles north of Sacramento on the Feather River, is the tallest dam in the nation at 770 feet, but environmental groups argue that the project’s infrastructure needs have been a low priority.

In 2005, advocacy groups led by Friends of the River urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to order the state to reinforce the dam’s earthen walls with concrete, citing the erosion risk, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

The agency rejected the request on the recommendation of the state Department of Water Resources and local water agencies, which would have been on the hook for improvements that could have cost as much as $100 million.

Reinforcing the Oroville Dam was not included on Mr. Brown’s $100 billion wish list of projects prepared last month at the request of the National Governors Association in response to Mr. Trump’s call for $1 trillion in infrastructure improvements, CNBC reported.

One project that did make the list: California high-speed rail, a pet project of Mr. Brown’s with an estimated price tag of $100 billion that has become for state Republicans a symbol of out-of-control government spending.
What's just as bad, these reservoirs we have in California, and the dams that create them, aren't designed for water storage as much as they are for flood control.  That's partly why, for the past 5 years of drought, so much water has flowed out of our reservoirs--well, that, and we have to keep tiny fish that no one has ever seen alive (thank you environmentalists).  We haven't added water storage since the 1970s, despite the fact that our population has grown so much since then.

This is California, this is what you get when one party runs both houses of the legislature for so many decades.  Heckuva job, Brownie.

Turning An Argument On Its Ear

Is he a closet Republican or something?
CHRIS KENNEDY, the Chicago-area businessman and son of the late ROBERT F. KENNEDY who entered the Democratic race for governor last week, had some strong words about needed school improvements across the state — and in Springfield.

During an interview with The State Journal-Register, he mentioned the city's three public high schools.

He said at Lanphier and Southeast, "less than 10 percent of the kids who graduate ... are ready to go on to a university, enter a trade school, go to community college, or enter the workforce without remedial education. Ninety percent of those kids, therefore, are going to be doomed to a life of economic oppression"...

"The state needs to step in," Kennedy said. "What is the economic impact of having all of those people unable to take care of themselves? Where is the moral outrage in the community?"
His is the best argument for school choice that I've heard in a long time.

Monday, February 13, 2017


My latest master's course isn't a full-on course in abstract algebra, rather it appears to be an eclectic pick-and-choose of topics that (I hope) will illuminate some of the interwovenness of algebra and geometry topics.  The first test, which I took last week (no score yet!) dealt with groups, permutations, and isometries of the complex plane.  Yes, I know, not a lot of commonality there.  And now we're into some topics related to triangles on spheres before moving onto the platonic solids.

It's nothing if not interesting.  And one of our homework problems is amenable to a solution using matrices--my first course in this program, 4 1/2 years ago.  It's taking me awhile--the solution, given but which we're supposed to derive, is pretty ugly, which makes matrices even more difficult to use--but I'm going to keep at it!

Update:  Got it!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Do You Have A Fire Extinguisher?

Had a little engine fire in my truck yesterday; fortunately it happened just as I pulled into my garage, and not out on the road somewhere.

I grabbed my house fire extinguisher--how long has it been empty?  I rushed into my travel trailer and got the fire extinguisher I keep in there, and that put the small fire out.

Today I went out and bought a fire extinguisher each for my car, my truck, my trailer, and the house.  The several dozen dollars I spent on them is a pretty cheap insurance policy.