Crime and Punishment.

It is the most-remembered execution in history. And the date that it happened isn't well known.

Except that it coincided with Passover; the religious holiday of the Jewish people.

The victim was a rabbi. He was at odds with the Sanhedrin, the religious council that governed worship in the Temple. He attracted many crowds of people. Stories of miracles followed in his wake. His teachings caused a great stir.

Were the religious leaders afraid of his popularity and his strange teaching?

Or were they afraid that he would try to turn his popularity into a popular revolt against the Roman imperial power?

Whatever the explanation, an innocent man was railroaded into a death sentence.

Strangely, the man seemed to intend to meet this end.

Even more strangely, His closest followers claimed that their lives were forever altered by what happened three days later...


Math puzzle

Eugene Volokh at the Volokh Conspiracy posts something very non-legal.

It's a challenging math question. I wish I could say that I had figured out the answer already, but I haven't. And, having seen the answer, I'm not sure I can try it without pushing my attempt towards the already-known result.

The problem is still very interesting, though it is deep in the realm of math-problems-without-an-obvious-real-world-use.


Douglas Adams (a few days late)

This past Monday marked a point when a certain insignificant planet had circled its primary star some 61 times since the date on which a particular novelist had been born.

Douglas Adams sense of humor was uniquely zany and pointed. Amusingly, I found this quote of his to be on-point for a discussion at my job a month back.
A loud clatter of gunk music flooded through the Heart of Gold cabin as Zaphod searched the sub-etha radio wave bands for news of himself. The machine was rather difficult to operate. For years radios had been operated by means of pressing buttons and turning dials; then as the technology became more sophisticated the controls were made touch-sensitive--you merely had to brush the panels with your fingers; now all you had to do was wave your hand in the general direction of the components and hope. It saved a lot of muscular expenditure, of course, but meant that you had to sit infuriatingly still if you wanted to keep listening to the same program.
Zaphod waved a hand and the channel switched again.
So, when the manager was talking about the gesture-controlled radio system (for automobiles) that he had seen at the Consumer Electronics Showcase, I asked if they would require the user to sit perfectly still...


Approximate Pi Day

I'm not sure how to get an exact version of Pi Day, but 3.14 is pretty close.*

I think this approach is pretty good. Though maybe I'll find a way to bake a pie today, also.

*For people who use Month.Day notation for expressing dates. At least it's a shortened form of an official pattern. But I notice that the official pattern uses a "-" separator, not a "." separator...


Interesting Conversation

Over the weekend, I spent a lot of time at a church building in my area. It's not my usual place of religious attendance, but I know several of the members.

And on the events-for-the-body-of-believers bulletin board, I saw a note about a Ladies Gun Club.

This led me to some conversation with one of the women at the church. The conversation went more in the direction of "I have my rights, and I don't want to lose them" than self-preservation. (We all live in the Detroit Metro Area. The suburbs and exurbs of Detroit are usually pleasant and safe. Unlike the City of Detroit, which is notoriously dangerous.) The conversation also detoured around the differences between State laws on firearm purchasing, and current/future purchases.

I was surprised, in a pleasant way. These are conversations that I might have had at work a few years ago, but hadn't expected to have at a church.

While I didn't try to convert the woman to gun-nuttery, I did give what has become my standard reminder. Guns don't provide safety, nor are one-shot stops guaranteed. Tragedies are not averted by going about armed.

However, every person is their own first-responder. Police and ambulances take time to arrive. Even if people don't want to be armed, they should practise the mindset of awareness and being ready for trouble.



Some discussion of textbooks has been seen over at Grim's Hall and at the lodging of the Assistant Village Idiot.

Grim's associate Tex99 goes on at length about education, mentioning textbooks along the way. AVI has a pity comment that links to Richard Feynman's thoughts about the process of textbook selection.

Both reminded me of an educational and textbook environment that I grew up in. My parents skirted the law at the time they began educating children at home. (There was a court case ongoing. Within a few years, the State Supreme Court decided that people with strong religious convictions could be exempt from compulsory attendance.)

Anyway, I've had distant contact with lots of different theories of education. And I've seen parents choose books. I've also seen what the market for textbooks looks like, from the perspective of a home-schooled high schooler, and from the perspective of an adult helping my parent run a regional curriculum fair.

The market for homeschool textbooks quickly sorts out ideas that work from ideas that don't. It also managed, once the movement was above a minimum size, to promote several trends.

One thing that disturbs me about Feynman's comments are the ways in which bureaucrats and textbook publishers conspire to produce books that appear good on the surface, respond to fads in educational theory, and put them through as little rigorous analysis as possible before the final selection is done. The tale of a book full of blank pages getting good marks from the committee is disturbing and amusing.

It is hard for a governing body to design a process by which textbooks are selected by experts in the field. Yet it is easy for said body to turn the process into a bunch of make-work. And easier still for everyone to assume that the committee is making a smart decision by averaging the value of many non-smart decisions.

I have several reasons for being against large institutions and bureaucracies, where smaller operations can serve the purpose. This is one of them. Bureaucracies make decisions that affect many; the people who make the decision can often ignore the results of their decision. Especially results that are less-than-optimal. Even results that are harmful.