February 6th, 2008

xkcd try science

It's Math Contest Season!

I volunteer organizing math contests for various schools in the district and February is always the big Math Contest season. I regularly do Math League, MathCounts and MOEMS and have lots of information and thoughts about them in addition to other contests I've done in the past.

I like math and academic contests. I got a lot out of these contests in middle and high school. I like helping kids learn how to do math contests and build problem-solving skills. It's some fun times. If anyone has any questions, let me know. I'm happy to help.

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Thoughts and Summary
I have a back-burner plan to organize some sort of Sacramento area-wide math contest one of these years. The best bet would be to get the local universities involved. It's going to take some gumption and persistence, and I'm just about tapped out of those right now.

My dream would be for California to one day have statewide academic competitions similar to the ones that Texas's UIL (University Interscholastic League) runs along with the sports competitions. These contests run the gamut from math and science to accounting to drama and literature. I did some of these in high school and they were great!

The CIF (California Interscholatic Federation) is only about sports. Lame-o-rama. If only I could win the lottery, I'd fund something like this. Anyone have a few million they'd like to donate?

(ETA: More math contest info and a summary)
bald man thinking

election thoughts (organized by category)

Age and Generations

On Talk of the Nation this morning, it was stated that John McCain (at 71) would be the oldest presidential nominee EVER (older than Reagan was). Wild. Also, Hilary Clinton (at 61) would be the oldest Democratic nominee since Truman. Double Wild.

Barack Obama is 46, not quite five years older than me (I am *such* a slacker). While that puts him in the tail end of the Baby Boomer category, I tend to think of him as more of a Generation X president and he certainly has a tremendous amount of appeal among Gen X and Generation Y (aka Echo Boomers or Millenials).

If Obama wins the Presidency, it is entirely possible that Bill Clinton and George W Bush would end up the only two "true" Boomer presidents. This amazes me. With the sheer mass of Boomers and Bill Clinton being elected at such a young age, you would have expected a long string of Boomer presidents (note that Edwards, Huckabee, Romney are all solid Boomers). Wha'happen?

Negative Campaigning

C and I were having the hypothetical "Clinton or Obama" conversation last night. We're both registered Greens, so our preference was former Georgia Representative Cynthia McKinney. But I digress.

We realized that one of the points we would unfortunately have to consider is the national electability of either candidate. Hilary Clinton seems to bring all the hard core conservative rabid dogs out and the sheer boundless depth of their hatred is frightening. Alas it seems that blatant, nasty, crude misogyny is still fairly acceptable in politics, which is terrible (see Salon's Broadsheet for details that I don't care to repeat here). C'mon guys, can't we get past this?

Candidates in General

I really think that Hilary Clinton is a fantastic candidate. Just reading her Wikipedia entry, you get the picture of someone who has strong interests and gets things done. (Even if that picture makes her look like Stephen Merchant from "Extras"). C described her as a "great COO", which is a nice description. She'll wade right into the midst of things, take charge, make the deals, straighten things out, and make it happen. She just seems to rub some people (a lot of them conservatives) the wrong way. Not as much charisma.

And, oh my goodness, does Barack Obama ever have charisma. He's obviously a smart guy, with leadership abilities, passionate concerns, and a good attitude. As others have said, when he talks people listen. And they start to think that perhaps there can be something better. And they start to care, and to believe. In that aspect, he reminds me of Bill Clinton without the troubling personal pecadillos. No wonder all the Gen X and Gen Y folks are thrilled about him. I guess they think he can bring about change in what these generations see as a pretty broken system of politics in America.

Given that I'm a liberal sort of fellow, I don't think about the Republican candidates as much except in terms of what they're espousing and how they'd fare in a general election.

Ron Paul? remus_shepherd had a great summary of Ron Paul in a post: "Ron Paul is an agent of chaos who I'd love to see win an election in a simulation somewhere, so we can safely watch the bloodshed and disaster unfolding." I don't think it would be that bad, but I agree. I wouldn't want Ron Paul to win, but I'm completely curious about what the world would look like if he did. Anyone want to write that sci-fi book?

Huckabee is the standard white, male, political, evangelical candidate. One can fear that if he won, the US would immediately turn into "The Handmaid's Tale"-esque theocracy. I'm not sure that could happen, but why risk it?

Romney is the standard white, male, religious, businessman candidate. I'm never quite sure what he's done beyond be the son of a politician, be a CEO, run the Winter Olympics, and make a lot of money. Admittedly that is something, and he's not as blatantly anti-intellectual or faux country boy as W, but what is he actually?

McCain is the standard white, male, war veteran, foreign policy hawk, "maverick" candidate. It seems like there's quite a few McCain personalities and they pop out depending on the circumstance. Of all the candidates, McCain scares me the most because I think he could have the best chance of winning. I'm hearing rumors of a McCain-Huckabee ticket, because McCain regularly alienates the hard-core conservative evangelical core and needs points with them. That, I don't like that.

And still nothing is really decided, which is competely rare in our political system and rather fascinating. I do know that I'm more into this primary cycle that I have been in a long time. It's quite fun. Hopefully, it will keep being fun and we will end up with something new and meaningful as a result.
doctorevil bad

Is that a popsicle stick in your pocket?

Taken from comments on a post by topayz4 and in response to the question for goodness sake, why would anyone have a popsicle stick in their pocket?, I hereby present:

Top 10 Reasons for Having a Popsicle Stick in Your Pocket

#10) The popsicle was finished, there was no trash can around, and littering is wrong.
#9) It just feels goooood.
#8) Latent desire to be like MacGyver.
#7) Swordfight with a rapier-wielding cat!
#6) Spontaneous throat examinations.
#5) Along with change, needed for tiny catapult.
#4) When practicing twirling, a popsicle stick is less conspicuous than a baton.
#3) In case propellor breaks on beanie hat.
#2) I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.
#1) The washing machine is going to try to take over the world, and I have to stop it!!