Archive for January, 2008

Thursday Morning Riddle

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

I’m the city of Helen, but foe to the Greeks;
For all silver and gold, I am weighing techniques;
I’m one lead of a movie, on Disney for weeks;
And a film with Brad Pitt that earned lukewarm critiques.

Who am I?

UPDATE: Riddle solved by Ro. See comments for answer.

Thursday Morning Riddle

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

I’m the lowest of floors; or a ball that’s hit low;
I’m a place for a picnic; or beans in your Joe;
To keep children at home; or keep planes down below;
And you break me when building, but gain me to grow.

Who am I?

UPDATE: Riddle solved by Brian. See comments for answer.


Monday, January 21st, 2008

I’ve been too busy to blog much lately, and I’m too tired to blog effectively now, but I did want to acknowledge that it was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day today before I went to bed.

I’m actually teaching a unit that involves Dr. King right now. We didn’t have school today, though, so we didn’t work on the unit today. In short, we celebrated Dr. King’s legacy by not studying it.

I’m not complaining or anything, just noting the irony. The kids will study King (and many others) over the next few weeks.

I was far more poignant last year.

Have a good night.

Thursday Morning Riddle

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

I sell ice cream to Wawa, and kids on the street;
Named for two on a job, which they did not complete;
I’m a short-running show starring Sergei and Peet;
And a strange form of dancing where partners compete.

Who am I?

UPDATE: Riddle solved by Ro. See comments for answer.

Freedom Isn’t Free

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

Paul Krugman has a compelling post about the old canard that cutting taxes increases revenue. I’ve heard Giuliani spouting this line on the campaign trail, pandering to the Club for Growth crowd.

This seems to me to be a conservative fantasy, a cynical ploy to appeal to people who are so opposed to paying their taxes that they are willing to abandon the most basic logic. Surely we can all agree that if we cut taxes down to zero, then we will take in less revenue. Therefore, it must follow that there is a point beyond which cutting taxes cannot increase revenue.

I do understand the economics behind the principle. Cutting taxes leads to more disposable income for consumers, which leads to greater demand for goods and services, which leads to increased demand for labor, which leads to increased employment and wages, which creates more overall income to be taxed. However, in this age when outsourcing of labor is on the rise, and America is importing more goods than it is exporting, that chain seems to have a few weak links.

I Meet Ken Jennings

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

Last night, Ken Jennings of Jeopardy! fame had a book signing event at the Barnes & Noble in Chelsea. There were probably around eighty people there. Ken spoke for a bit and took some questions from the audience. Then he hosted an informal trivia game, giving away a free copy of his new book, Ken Jennings’s Trivia Almanac, to the two winners.

After the event, he was signing books. He signed my free copy of the Trivia Almanac “To Bill — The Chelsea Barnes & Noble Trivia Champ!”

I mentioned that I was a regular reader of his blog and poster to his message board. He didn’t recognize the name, understandably, but when I said “Shakespeare Teacher” he lit up. He told me that he had been to the blog and was in admiration of the 3-D Pic Tac Toe puzzles. He told me “I wouldn’t have thought that was possible.” I had a good comeback. “I wouldn’t have thought it was possible to win 74 consecutive games of Jeopardy!

I asked if he would sign my copy of his first book, Braniac, and he signed it “To Bill — My Pic Tac Toe Guru!” which absolutely made my day.

In person, Ken turns out to be exactly the nice down-to-earth guy you’d expect him to be from his public persona. It was a great pleasure to meet him.

Conundrum: The English Department

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

The English department at the local university has nine professors. Each has been with the department a different number of years, ranging from the new-hire (zero years), all the way up to the chair who has been with the department for fifteen years. Since the university only hires at the beginning of the school year, the number of years that each person has been with the department can be expressed as a whole number.

This morning, the nine professors divided themselves into three committees and each of these committees held a meeting which lasted all morning. In the afternoon, the nine professors divided themselves into three different committees and each of these committees held a meeting which lasted all afternoon. At no point today did anybody meet with anyone outside of these six committees.

1. Irene met with Adam and Dr. Marshall in the morning, and met with Deborah and Dr. Smith in the afternoon. Both meetings were held in Conference Room A.

2. Dr. Osborne met with Charles and Dr. Kaplan in the morning, and met with Gerald and Dr. Lewis in the afternoon. Both meetings were held in Conference Room B.

3. Dr. Johnson met with Frank and Dr. Rogers in the morning, and met with Elizabeth and Dr. Nelson in the afternoon. Both meetings were held in Conference Room C.

4. Each of the six committees has the exact same combined number of years that the three committee members have been with the department, though no two of the committees are identical.

5. Harold has been with the department longer than Barbara has.

6. After the Shakespeare scholar, who has been with the department exactly four times as many years as Irene has, was hired, nobody else was hired until five years later, when the Romantic poetry expert joined the department.

7. Dr. Kaplan was hired one year before Dr. Peterson and one year after Dr. Lewis. Nobody was hired the year before Dr. Lewis. Nobody mentioned anywhere above has left the department.

The department is currently hiring for a tenure-track position for next year. They offer a competitive salary and an impressive benefits package. To apply for a position, determine the full names of all nine professors, and how many years each has been with the department.

UPDATE: Puzzle solved by ArtVark. See comments for answer.

Question of the Week

Monday, January 14th, 2008

Do you think that the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire have an inordinate amount of power in deciding who the credible candidates are going to be in the presidential primaries?

Take the issue of ethanol, an alternate energy fuel that can be made from corn, which is one of Iowa’s chief agricultural products.

Ethanol fuel is not particularly efficient, and some even believe that it may use more energy to produce ethanol than the fuel provides. But both Republican and Democratic candidates must support ethanol to get any traction in Iowa. And you may disagree about the promise of ethanol, but we can never have a serious discussion about it as long as Iowa retains such a powerful voice in the presidential elections.

This is just one extreme example of the larger issue, which is that two states get to set the tone for the other forty-eight. From the financial districts in New York, to the wheat fields in Kansas, to the senior citizen centers in Florida, to the Mormon churches in Utah, to the cattle ranches in Texas, to the Hollywood community in California, to the indigenous peoples of Alaska and Hawaii, America is a panoply of voices and points of view. To bestow the coveted frontrunner status to candidates after hearing from only two out of fifty states seems like a subversion of democracy.

The general election is held in every state on the same day.

Should the primaries all be held on the same day?

Thursday Morning Riddle

Thursday, January 10th, 2008

I’m a conference of nations; or teams, win or lose;
Superheroes for justice, or voters who choose;
I’m a measure of distance that Jules liked to use;
And a quality range that earns common reviews.

Who am I?

UPDATE: Riddle solved by Brian. See comments for answer.

Conundrum: Lateral Thinking I

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

A new type of game/puzzle for the blog…

I’m thinking of a character from Shakespeare. It’s a speaking role that is given no lines. Who is it?

If you know it, don’t post it yet. If you don’t know it, ask Yes/No questions to try to figure it out. Once you’ve got it, you can help me answer the questions as they come in.

Possible responses:

Yes – The answer to your question is Yes.
No – The answer to your question is No.
Irrelevant – The answer to your question won’t help you solve it.
Faulty Premise – Your question is based on an incorrect assumption.
I Don’t Know – I don’t know the answer to your question.
Misleading – The correct answer to your question would lead you in the wrong direction.

Let’s see how this goes!