Friday, September 29, 2006

Playing the Permillages

I'm curious about something. Why are we so tied to the percent? By percent, I mean taking everything as a ratio out of 100. Why not out of 10? Or 1000? 99% sure seems like pretty close to the whole, but in some cases its really not going to cut it. When only 1 error can be a huge problem, 1 out of 100 chances is way too high a number. If 99% of people who go on a ride at Lagoon (our Utah amusement park) survive, that sounds pretty safe right? I mean 99% that's pretty high. Obviously there's been some deaths, so 100% would be a lie, so 99% is the next step down. But when you realize that probably close to 50 people get on that rickety white rollercoaster everytime, 99% would mean that someone is dying every other time the car goes out.

We are so tied to 100 in our system that we even have a sign (%) that means out of 100. The word is percentage, and there's no other option like permillage or perbillage (at least not that I'm aware of). So we get stuck using things like 99.9% or 99.99%, but honestly does either of those mean anything different to you? 99.99% is pretty much as close as I can fathom to 100%. 99.999% which is 10 times closer to 100% doesn't really seem much closer than 99.9%, does it? When did we decide that 100 was our reference number of choice for all (and by all, I mean most) ratios? Any one know why this is?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I'm not dead

in case you were wondering. I just haven't really had much to talk about. While I've been away, I had a birthday and been on a few dates, and watched a couple football games. I'm playing Fantasy Football this year for the first time ever, and have jumped in feet first with two different teams. Its nice that at least one of them is doing really well.

September is my favorite month, and as it winds to close I'm amazed at how fast time is starting to move. Every year seems to go by faster than the one before. I've got at least one more book to review, and then I'll probably need to find something better for my weekly feature. The book reviews just don't seem to get it done for me. I'm thinking perhaps something music-related.

And finally, I'm not quite ready to change the dating threat level, but there's a strong possibility that we could be at orange here before too long. CJ, do you have that widget ready, yet? ;)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

3 Seconds of Fame

I don't know if you caught it or not, but I happened to be on the news tonight, on Fox 13 (Just You Watch the Best!). It was a story related to the college shootings in Montreal today, which were obviously tragic. It just happened to take place in the same week that the Utah State Supreme Court struck down the U's ban on firearms on campus which currently applies also to concealed weapons permit holders. There are still some federal issues being tried in federal court and the U's president, Michael Young, hopes to maintain a gun-free campus.

In response to reading this story, I wrote a letter to the Chrony (the school paper in question) stating that it really didn't matter how this whole thing turns out since even now, with the ban in effect, nothing is being done to ensure that people are abiding by the ban. There are no bag checks or metal detectors. Essentially, the only effect of the ban is to limit law-abiding concealed weapons permit holders from bringing their guns on campus. Anyone who wants to come and shoot people, like the shooter in Montreal for example, can just walk right in and do so. This isn't to say that I support metal detectors on campus. That probably would actually scare students more than would otherwise be. I'm just saying that we seem to be putting a lot of time (over 2 years now) and money (how much did tuition rise this year?) into fighting over something that is purely cosmetic in nature. You can read the letter here. Sadly, neither I nor the paper's editor was able to correct the fact that I wrote medical detector instead of metal detector. Too much medical informatics on the brain, I guess.

Apparently a reporter at our local Fox affiliate, KSTU-13, was on campus today and happened to talk to a University employee who felt it would be inappropriate to state their opinion on the situation, but referred the reporter to my letter in the school paper, saying that he agreed with what I had written. This prompted the reporter to call me and ask if he could meet with me and interview me for the story.

I was more than a little surprised and at first tried to get out of it, informing him that I was not on campus today and would be all over this afternoon. He said, "that's okay, we can come wherever you are", so finally I agreed to let them come to my apartment. I was actually pretty nervous at the prospect of being on television, so I changed into a nicer shirt and made sure I didn't have anything stuck in my teeth.

Half an hour later they arrived and for about 5 minutes they filmed me while I answered about 10 different questions related to my stance and to my thoughts on the situation at the U. I felt like I did a fairly good job of representing myself well and not saying anything that I didn't really believe. Based on some tips from a friend gave me, I made sure to keep my arms at my sides and not wave them around.

Afterwards I sent out an email to most everyone I knew and let them know to watch for me during the 9:00 news tonight. Then I headed to the church for a full night of interviews (I'm the executive secretary). I arrived home around 9:40 and found out that the story still hadn't aired (sorry to everyone who sat through 45 minutes of local news programming), but probably would shortly. Finally the story came on, and sure enough a few minutes in, I appeared and gave my 3 second soundbite. They also mentioned my letter briefly, while showing a screenshot of the online version of the newspaper, that for some reason was focused between the headline and the first line of my letter. Not sure what they were going for there, but oh well.

Anyway, a few people recorded it for me, and there's a chance I could get it burned to DVD. If that happens I'll try to post the video here for anyone who missed it and would love to see me in action. Don't blink you might miss it.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Day Late

So as I've been perusing the blogosphere today I've seen a lot of 5 years after 9/11 posts. And as I found them to be interesting, I thought I'd chronicle my experience here, as much for myself as for anyone else.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I had a class to attend, taught by Dr. Hanscom. It must have been Computer Architecture. Anyway, I drove over to school, parked in the E lot, and as I was parking the car heard on the radio that "in case you haven't heard, two planes have crashed into the World Trade Center this morning". As I snapped off the radio, I thought to myself, "What are the odds of that happening?", then headed off to class.

When I arrived, my friend Wade came up and asked, "Who do you think did it?" and I said, "Did what?" and he proceeded to spell out for me that the planes crashing was not an accident, and he probably mentioned the name Bin Laden to me, which I hadn't heard before. My professor arrived, and unlike most of the classes on the softer side of campus, he said, "I'm sure you've all got a lot on your minds, but we've got a lot to cover, so lets get to it." And then we had class as usual. Meanwhile, Wade was getting messages on his pager that informed him of the plane crashing into the Pentagon and also of the flight (Flight 93, I believe) that was crashed in the field.

After class, I headed to the Student Union Building. I must have had some kind of obligation over that way, but all I remember was walking into the Union Building and seeing people crowded around the TVs. I watched as they replayed the footage of the plane crashing into the tower and was amazed at how the plane was engulfed by the building, rather than smashing against the side of the tower as I would have imagined it happening. And thats when it finally seemed real to me.

The rest of the week, none of my classes were cancelled, but we (myself, my roommates, and my neighbors) spent plenty of time in front of the TV watching the coverage. We needed a mop and I joked about taking it to school and marching about "mopping up terrorism." This period was followed by endless politicizing, songs, video montages, and telethons (why was a Canadien -- Celine Dion -- singing God Bless America in our telethon).

I remember President Hinckley speaking during conference the next month and mentioning that he'd just been informed that we were bombing Afghanistan. I remember the footage of Baghdad being bombed 2 years later during my Spring Break. I now have a good friend serving in Iraq who returns in November.

It seems long ago now. I guess 5 years is a long time. Kids are entering kindergarten now who had just been born. If I've been changed by the whole thing, I guess its an increased awareness of how people treat our country and our leaders. Both people outside and inside our country. I'm getting tired of people talking bad about our country. Its still a pretty great place. Anywhere else that this would have happened, we'd have been asked to step in, and we would have. Most other places, Muslims and Arabs (and especially Arab Muslims) would have lost a lot of rights. Here, perhaps they are more likely to be "randomly" selected for increased screening at airports, but otherwise most people seem to be giving them a fair shake.

For the most part, I feel like 9/11 is slowing fading into the past. Hopefully it will continue to fade into the past along with other tragedies, as the majority of our days continue to be peaceful and prosperous. Maybe not for those of us who lived through it, and especially not for those directly affected, but for the rest, maybe it will be like JFK's assassination and Pearl Harbor. Years from now, kids in school will be trying to remember on their history test whether it was 9/11 or 11/9 or something else, but at least we managed to get the date into the name, instead of D-Day or VE-Day, so you can thank us for that kids of the future.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Something cool

I've been feeling guilty about not posting a Literature Review on Friday, and thinking that I need to do that before I do anything else here, but you know what? Maybe I'll just do that when I feel like it. Right now, I feel like telling you about an experience I had the other day.

For the very first time, I made a deposit at the bank without using the ATM. Why is that? Because the ATM was broken. In addition to making the deposit with an actual teller, and this is the really exciting part, I also got to use the pneumatic tube system at the bank drive-through window because the inside of the bank had just closed. And seriously, that was almost cool enough to make me want to do it again. As a kid growing up, I always thought it was awesome when my mom would have to stop at the bank and use those, and how the teller would put suckers in it and send them back to us. And as a grown-up? Its still really neat. I would have thought that that kind of system would have become outdated by now, replaced with something more hi-tech, more electronic. Glad to see its still around.

And by the way, the Blogger spellchecker, which doesn't have 'blog', 'Blogger', or 'spellchecker' as acceptable words (does it accept 'ironic' I wonder?), did have the correct spelling for pneumatic. Who'da thunk?