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Collected editorials


The Potato Bomber

In Northern Hyde County in the land of the sky high people there dwells a couple by the name of Brady and Wendi Rinehart. One day not long ago Brady came into the house looking for dinner. As he tells the tale, he sat there quietly whilst Wendi upbraided him for complaining about dinner being late and such other offences as happened to occur to her. She informed him if she heard one word of complaint from him he could get his own damned food. With that she plopped a baked potato on his plate and turned away.

No sooner was her back to the plate than the potato exploded. The explosion must have been impressive. Potato spattered all over the kitchen, the counter, the cabinets, the floor, the ceiling and Brady. Brady claims that he got splinters in his tongue from licking baked potato off the cabinets, though I must say that I doubt that anyone believes him.

Thr truth of all this cannot be doubted for when Wendi was pressed for the details, all she had to say was, “Beware the wrath of a menopausal woman.”

What I say is, “Don’t mess with the Potato Bomber.”

Skeletons in the Basement

Creationism produces some seriously odd crackpots. One of them is the Rev. Dr. Kent Hovind, aka, Dr. Dino. As it happens, the good reverend’s PhD was awarded by a diploma mill. It’s likely that the title of Reverend was self awarded, but I have no certain knowledge of that. In any event his ministry was quite financially successful, the more so since he avoided paying several hundred thousand dollars in taxes. (Apparently the good reverend missed the passage about rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.) The IRS frowns upon such financial malfeasances and, as is their wont, prosecuted. Dr. Dino is scheduled to serve ten years in the Federal pen. His wife did not escape the attention of the feds. She was prosecuted on charges of evading the money laundering laws. It seems corrupt religion was a family business.

Dr. Dino got his nickname from his creationist theme park that features animatronic dinosaurs cohabiting with animatronic humans. Dr. Dino is a fervent advocate of the literal truth of Genesis and that there is a vast evolutionist conspiracy. Some of his theories are quite bizarre. Here is a sample:

“The Smithsonian Institute [sic] has 33,000 sets of human remains in their basement … Many of them were taken while the people were still alive. They were so desperate to find missing links, so desperate to prove their theory that they murdered people to prove it. It was the philosophy of evolution that drove them .”
     — Hovind, Unmasking the False Religion of Evolution, Ch. 4.
The utter implausibility of this claim doesn’t seem to bother “Dr” Hovind nor his followers. The true skeleton in American society is the existence of and the continued success of the creationist scam artists and the gullibility of their deceived followers.

Some poems just don’t cut it

I see England,
I see France,
I see Britney’s…

Canadian Fame

I am a mathematician of sorts with a sense of humor of sorts. (I write articles about bad sorts.) I grant that the thought of a mathematician with a sense of humor is a trifle odd, but it happens. I will admit, though, that the results are sometimes rather odd side. Thus it was that in 1998 I wrote an article entitled A game theoretic approach to the toilet seat problem.

Some of my readers may not have observed this, but males and females have somewhat different plumbing. In consequence males perform an act known as #1 standing up and females perform the same act sitting down. This may not be generally known, since facilities for performing #1 are segregated either by space or by time. That would be human males and females, of course – four legged creatures do their thing in public without remark except for bad jokes about fire hydrants and trees.

This would be a matter of no matter were it not males and females often share the same private residence equipped with a special room known as a bath room. (The equivalent rooms in public buildings are known as rest rooms – go figure.) Bath rooms may but need not contain a bath – go figure. What they do have is a device called a toilet (also known as a water closet and as a ceramic throne.) Toilets are meant as a place for both performing act #1 and another act that we shall call act #2. Both males and females perform act #2 sitting down. Toilets come with an attachment called the seat, which can be in either of two positions, up and down. When act #1 is performed standing up the seat must be up; when either act #1 or act #2 is peformed sitting down, the seat must be down. (Few perform act #2 standing up.) As a result of the little facts, males and females have different opinions as to whether the default position of the seat should be up or down.

This difference is a well known source of domestic difficulties. My article analyzed the differences using game theory. It offered a resolution that I am quite confident has never put into practice. However the article has proved to be quite popular over the years. It has been plagiarized several times and was reprinted (with permission) in 2005 in The Science Creative Quarterly. Having palmed this bit of fluff upon the public I thought no more about it until I got an email from a journalist in Canada named Misty Harris.

Ms. Harris was writing an article. She had come across an article on the web written by a Pakistani economist Hammad Siddiqi in 2006 entitled The social norm of leaving the toilet seat down: A game theoretic analysis. Siddiqi’s article was a followup on my ground breaking 1998 article. He concluded that strategy M was the only stable strategy when the “NAG factor” was taken into account. Ms. Harris felt that the, ah, spectacle of mathematicians and economists analyzing the toilet seat problem would make for a good article on Consumer and Social Trends. She wanted my input. I fired back an email with my best bloviation, satisfied that I had done my best for Canadian journalism.

This was not the end of the matter. I got a followup email, from her colleague, Melissa Leong, who wanted to conduct a telephone interview. We chatted for about half an hour about the ins and outs of the toilet seat problem and the relationship of Canada and South Dakota with the United States. Well, not quite, international relationships, but she did extract the information that I was retired and that I lived in South Dakota.

February 1st came and went. An article entitled Leakonomics: Formula posits putting seat down inefficient answer to toilet tussle between sexes appeared in the Nanaimo Daily News, the Halifax Daily News, the Montreal Gazette and the Regina Leader-Post. A slightly different version entitled Calculation puts a lid on bickering over toilet seat appeared in the National Post. Well written pieces, both of them.

Every one, they say, has their own fifteen minutes of fame. I guess I’ve had mine in Canada.

Nepali becomes both man and woman

BBC News, Kathmandu: “The authorities in Nepal have granted a man who dresses and behaves as a woman both male and female citizenship.”

I gather that they don’t have too many cowboys in Nepal.

Medical school

The Medical College of Georgia in the mid 1800s bought a slave who’s job was to dig up bodies for the cadaver lab. He reburied the remains in the cellar of the school. The cadavers were stored in whisky which the slave sold on the side. After the emancipation, he became the College’s first black employee. This proves the point that it is important to know where the bodies are buried.
    — Dr.GH in talk.origins

A sheltered Life

I was watching a TV ad and casually commented, “I’ve really led a sheltered life. I’ve never driven a pickup through a birthday cake.”

Our Lady of the Large Black Dog replied, “I’m shocked. At your age most people have.”

Archaeologists not wanted here

On usenet someone asked me how long I had been living at my place and whether archaeologists and tour guides would be visiting. I replied as follows:

“I don’t rightly know how long I’ve been living here. I stopped keeping track after they invented dirt. It’s all very well to talk about using mud to make tablets instead of stone, but they just don’t hold up when it rains. At least wise, they didn’t back before they invented roofs.

I had considered having archaeologists and tour guides come in, but the South Dakota Bureau of Tourism got an injunction against me. They mumbled something about offenses against public decency and ruining the tourist trade. It all seemed a bit unfair to me, but what can you do against the government. (That’s another one of those things that never should have been invented.)”

This page was last updated March 1, 2007.

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Collected editorials