Arbitrary and Capricious

By now, you’ve probably heard that federal prosecutors have decided not to press charges in the Pennsylvania high school laptop spying case. I thought it might be helpful if I explained some of the legal issues involved — but first, I should probably list my qualifications as an expert.
Continue reading “Arbitrary and Capricious”

Video Review: Vinay and Maru Prove that P ≠ NP

P vs. NP is one of the most famous unsolved problems in math. Recently, mathematician Vinay Deolalikar circulated a paper that contained a possible solution to that problem. There’s been lots of discussion on the Internet about this paper; surprisingly, though, the companion video series has been largely ignored.

Maru
Maru

In Vinay and Maru Prove that P ≠ NP, Deolalikar presents the material from his paper with the assistance of Maru, who is possibly the most entertaining cat on YouTube. Each episode features video imagery of Maru with narration by Deolalikar. In Episode 1, Deolalikar defines what P ≠ NP means — basically, that the solutions to some problems are hard to find but easy to verify — while Maru interacts with a large cardboard box. Finding a way into the box is a difficult problem for Maru; eventually, he solves it and goes on to demonstrate (repeatedly) that verifying the solution is easy. Of course, the fact that Maru found the initial problem difficult doesn’t prove anything; it’s possible that someone could discover a simpler box-entry-finding algorithm tomorrow. Episode 1 gets two thumbs up from me — the narration is clear and informative, and Maru’s performance is outstanding.
Continue reading “Video Review: Vinay and Maru Prove that P ≠ NP”

Frequently Asked Questions About California’s Proposition 8

Now that Proposition 8 has been overturned, will the California constitution require all public schools in the state to teach gay marriage?
Yes.

I don’t understand. Schools weren’t required to do that before the election. How does leaving the Constitution unchanged impose a new requirement on them?
Many people are confused by this, but the explanation is really quite simple. In 2004, Californians passed Proposition 59, which added Article 1, Section 3(b) to the California Constitution. Although this addition appears at first glance to concern itself only with public access to government meetings and records, legal scholars discovered in 2008 that language requiring schools to teach gay marriage had been concealed in Section 3(b), using a process known as steganography.
Continue reading “Frequently Asked Questions About California’s Proposition 8”

My Car is Really Dirty

car in river

My car is dirty. Really, really dirty. If someone were to steal my car and replace it with a car-shaped pile of dirt, I probably wouldn’t notice until I tried to open the door. car taking a bathI’m tempted to drive my car into the nearest body of water and give it a nice long soak before washing it, as the owner of the car in this photo apparently did. I say “apparently” because she claimed she drove into a river because her GPS told her to — but seriously, if the car was clean, what made the water turn so brown?
Continue reading “My Car is Really Dirty”

Sofa, Cat Toy, or Work of Art? The CatSofa is All Three

Thank you for your interest in CatSofa, the world’s only claw-friendly living room furniture.

How It Works


The CatSofa is an upholstered sofa with a twist — instead of a single layer of upholstery, the CatSofa features twelve layers of fabric in different, coordinating colors. When your cat scratches the sofa, she exposes hidden layers of upholstery, creating a stunning work of art. The more your cat scratches, the more attractive your sofa becomes!
Continue reading “Sofa, Cat Toy, or Work of Art? The CatSofa is All Three”

Vampire Bee Update

This probably won’t make much sense if you haven’t read my earlier post about vampire bees.

A yellow jacketI’ve never understood why, in most vampire fiction, everyone conspires to keep the existence of vampires secret. It makes sense for the vampires to do this, of course, but why would the human vampire hunters go along with it? Wouldn’t it make more sense to educate the public about the existence of vampires and the steps we can take to protect ourselves?
Continue reading “Vampire Bee Update”

The Unsuccessful Undead: Four Animal-Themed Horror Movies You’ll Never See

Thanks to everyone who commented on the “vampire bees” post; some of the stories about zombie bees and similar creatures inspired this list of hypothetical horror movies.

1. Jaws 5: Night of the Wolf


Sharks are scary, and werewolves are scary, so what could be more frightening than a shark werewolf? This 3D IMAX movie features some breathtaking underwater visuals but ends somewhat abruptly after the first full moon, when the shark turns into a wolf and drowns.

2. Hummingbird Horror


Hitchcock’s classic The Birds meets, well, any zombie movie ever made. Zombie hummingbirds terrorize an isolated coastal town; however, because hummingbirds need to flap their wings very rapidly to fly, and zombies move very slowly, all these creatures can do is sit and stare at passers-by. Still, this behavior is pretty creepy, and some people do sustain injuries tripping over the birds.
Continue reading “The Unsuccessful Undead: Four Animal-Themed Horror Movies You’ll Never See”

Vampire Bees

Vampire bee from the 1931 Dracula movie.

Vampire bee from the 1931 Dracula movie.I’ve been trying to get a picture or video of the bees on my patio, with no success. No matter how many bees are around, I always wind up with a picture completely devoid of bees; in fact, I don’t even see them when I look through the viewfinder. This is probably because I’m taking the pictures from a distance (because they’re bees, and they’ve already stung me once), or because I’m not a very good photographer, or because my cellphone camera just isn’t up to the job of photographing small insects flying rapidly with bad lighting conditions from a distance.

At least, that’s what I keep telling myself. But no matter how hard I try to rationalize, I just can’t ignore the fact that the simplest explanation is that I’m dealing with vampire bees.
Continue reading “Vampire Bees”