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Happy Pi Day

Tomorrow is an extra special, up-to-the-second Pi Day. How special? Once a century special!

What is Pi Day? It is a day celebrating mathematics held on March 14 every year. In the US at least, we write this date as 3/14, corresponding to the first three digits of Pi (3.14).

But once a century we get an extra special treat. Tomorrow’s date is 3/14/15, which corresponds to the first 5 digits of Pi (whoo hoo!).

And if you are a real nerd like me, you also get to celebrate “Pi Second” at 9:26:53. That is a mind-blowing 10 digits of Pi!!! 3.141592653 And we get to do it twice, once in the AM and once in the PM.

If that weren’t enough, tomorrow is also the birthday of Albert Einstein, one of the most famous and brilliant mathematicians of all time. What an amazing coincidence!

How do you celebrate Pi Day? By eating pie (including pizza), marching around circular spaces (and meditating on the fact that walking around a circle takes 3.141592653… times as long as walking across it), memorizing digits of Pi, and marveling at the wonders of mathematics (like infinities) and all the benefits mathematics has brought to us. For example, Alan Turing was a mathematician, and he was largely responsible for inventing the computer.

Back in the 17th century, Ludolph van Ceulen spent his entire life calculating digits of Pi, and only managed to get 35 decimals. Nowadays, using our mathematics-based computers, we have calculated Pi to over 10 trillion decimal places.

That’s a lot of Pi!

UPDATE: MIT takes Pi Day very seriously! This is how they send out their acceptance letters for admission, and they do it on Pi Day.


Late Night Political Humor

“This weekend the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC, featured several speakers including Sarah Palin and Phil Robertson from ‘Duck Dynasty’. It was a good weekend for conservatives — and a great weekend for wild animals.” – Jimmy Fallon

“During the CPAC conference, Rand Paul told the crowd it was time for a new president and that people need to help make the change. Of course, most people agreed with him, since that’s how term limits work.” – Jimmy Fallon

“RNC chairman Reince Priebus criticized Joe Biden, saying that he can’t control his mouth. That’s kind of like someone trying to say the name ‘Reince Priebus’, which sounds like a drunk person trying to say ‘rented Prius’.” – Jimmy Fallon

“After the FCC issued the net neutrality rules yesterday, President Obama posted a thank you letter online addressed to the millions of people who helped support the change. He finished with a heartfelt plea, ‘Could someone please tell me what net neutrality is?'” – Jimmy Fallon

“There’s this picture of a dress that someone took, and people online are fighting over what color it is. Some people say it’s black and blue. Some say it’s white and gold. I think someone should ask Obama, our country’s first gold president.” – Jimmy Fallon

“In New Jersey, Chris Christie joked that he gave up The New York Times for lent. But then his priest told him he had to give up something he’d actually miss.” – Jimmy Fallon


Satire for the Win

Andy Borowitz has two hilarious satirical articles about the continued GOP attempts to sabotage Obama’s negotiations with Iran:

Kim Jong-Un Feels Snubbed By Absence of Letter from Republicans” has the North Korean dictator complaining that it was hurtful for Republicans to send a letter to Iran and ignore his country. After all, North Korea already has something that Obama is negotiating to prevent Iran from acquiring. “I don’t know. Sometimes I feel like, when you actually get nuclear weapons, people start taking you for granted.”

Iran Offers to Mediate Talks Between Republicans and Obama” has Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei offering to help reduce tensions between these “two historic enemies”. His offer is predicated on the fact that “it has become clear that both sides currently talk more to Iran than to each other.” Unfortunately, the bitter enemies don’t seem interested. Obama questioned whether “any deal reached with Republicans is worth the paper it’s written on. For their part, the Republicans said they would only agree to talks if there were no preconditions, such as recognizing President Obama’s existence.”

And let’s give the last word to Jon Stewart, who makes fun of both sides:


Late Night Political Humor

“Donald Trump says that he is more serious than ever about running for president in 2016. He hasn’t spelled out his platform yet. But he has spelled the out the word ‘Trump’ on his platform.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“I’d vote for Donald Trump just to find out how he and Melania would redecorate the White House.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“As of midnight last night, marijuana is officially legal in our nation’s capital. Or as President Obama put it, ‘Clear some space, Michelle. Barry’s getting his OWN garden!'” – Jimmy Fallon

“President Obama’s former press secretary, Jay Carney, will reportedly become a senior vice president at Amazon. Carney says he’s excited to work for someone who doesn’t take six years to deliver.” – Seth Meyers

“Hillary Clinton is receiving criticism after telling a crowd to ‘unlock their full potential,’ because that line is commonly used by another possible candidate, Carly Fiorina. People said, ‘You can’t just steal someone’s slogan like that!’ And Hillary said, ‘Yes we can!'” – Jimmy Fallon


Temper Tantrum

It is ironic that the GOP attempts to sabotage negotiations with Iran — first by inviting the Israeli Prime Minister to give a political campaign speech in Congress, then blatantly stating that they are indeed trying to sabotage the negotiations, and finally by sending an open letter to the Iranian government that was so condescending and full of misinformation that it is laughable — will probably have the opposite effect.

By throwing their temper tantrum, like a child trying to get attention at any cost, Republicans prove that they have no idea what the negotiations are about, and don’t even care. They have already shown that they will be against anything Obama supports (even if it was their idea in the first place), but in this case they are even more jealous because Obama is giving attention to someone else.

Remember the last time the Republicans tried the “ticking time bomb” argument? It was against Iraq and Saddam Hussein, and we all know how that turned out. Do they think the American people are so stupid that they can cry wolf any time they want and we will march off to (yet another) stupid endless war?

What makes this even more foolish and petty is that they can’t even wait until there is a proposal from the negotiations. No need to be confused by facts. They want to sabotage any negotiations with Iran. These are negotiations designed to remove the threat of an Iran with nuclear weapons. The alternative is for Iran to go back to developing those weapons. Is that what the GOP wants?

To be honest, I doubt they have even thought that far ahead.

UPDATE: Slate explains in detail why “The letter 47 Republican senators sent to Iran is one of the most plainly stupid things a group of senators has ever done.” This new article agrees that the letter is having quite the opposite effect it was intended and that the drafters of the letter have absolutely no understanding of our constitutional system. You know, the system they are purporting to school the Iranians about.

For example, they state (“in the tone of a teacher addressing third-graders”) that treaties and formal agreements need ratification by Congress, ignoring the fact that the diplomatic negotiations with Iran relieve international sanctions are not one of those. “In other words, contrary to the letter writers, Congress has no legal or constitutional role in the drafting, approval, or modification of this deal.”

The article also points out the hypocrisy of Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who have repeatedly defended the president’s constitutional right to wage war, yet sign this letter claiming that the president has no right to wage diplomacy.

Finally, Slate points out that US law (passed by Congress) specifically makes “Private Correspondence with Foreign Governments”, to “influence” that government “in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the Unites States” a felony subject to fines and prison terms. The article ends by suggesting that “the 47 Senate Republicans [should] bone up on the American legal system before lecturing others on its meaning.”

UPDATE 2: An official petition urging charges be filed against the letter signers for violating US law has passed the 100,000 signature threshold, which means that it should get an official response from the White House.


Late Night Political Humor

“Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald got in some hot water this week for saying that he served in the military’s Special Forces when he never did. It gets even worse when you find out the place he actually served was Old Navy.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Some people are saying Bill O’Reilly exaggerated his war experience in the 1980s. People became suspicious because O’Reilly said he was injured in the East Coast/West Coast rap wars.” – Conan O’Brien

“President Obama vetoed the Keystone pipeline yesterday. Everyone expected him to do that, but Republicans say he vetoed the bill only because their party was in favor of it, while Obama said, ‘That’s what you guys have been doing for how many years?'” – Jimmy Fallon

“John Boehner said yesterday that President Obama’s veto of the Keystone XL pipeline was a ‘national embarrassment.’ And then, out of habit, Joe Biden said, ‘Here!'” – Seth Meyers

“According to a new poll, the value of baby teeth is skyrocketing, up 25 percent from last year. In the U.S., the tooth fairy left a total of $255 million last year. The Vikings believed that children’s teeth had magic powers that would help them fight in battles. This explains why there are no more Vikings.” – Jimmy Kimmel



James Fallows has a good reaction to Obama’s speech in Selma Alabama on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday”. Fallows thinks it may be the best speech ever given by Obama, and I would not easily disagree.

Here’s one quote from near the end of Obama’s speech:

That’s what America is. Not stock photos or airbrushed history, or feeble attempts to define some of us as more American than others.

We respect the past, but we don’t pine for the past. We don’t fear the future; we grab for it. America is not some fragile thing. We are large, in the words of Whitman, containing multitudes. We are boisterous and diverse and full of energy, perpetually young in spirit.

Fallow’s article is a good review, but you should watch the whole (30 minute) speech:


False Economy

Yes, today is the day that we all “spring forward”. The theory at least is that we are lowering our use of energy. Indeed, they do call it “Daylight Savings Time”, and it isn’t daylight we are saving, it is (supposedly) energy. With the high cost of energy, that could be a good thing.

Except that there is almost no evidence that DST saves any energy at all, and even some studies that show that it wastes energy.

Even if once upon a time DST saved energy — by not requiring people to use home lighting until one hour later in the summer — the advent of air conditioning more than cancelled out that savings. After all, air conditioning uses far more energy than lighting.

DST can also be bad for us. One study showed that on the Monday immediately after DST starts, heart attacks increase by 25%. In addition, traffic accidents increase, probably because of losing an hour of sleep.

So why do we keep doing it? I’m a pragmatist. Even if DST once helped save energy, it is an idea whose time has come and gone. As an article in The Atlantic puts it, DST is now wasteful, unnecessary, and even dangerous.

But for now, please be careful out there Monday morning.


Late Night Political Humor

“New Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said that he is open to letting transgender people serve in the military. He said there’s no reason to prevent people from being generals just because of their privates.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Alaska today officially legalized marijuana for recreational use. I think they did this years ago. That’s how the Palin kids ended up with those names, right?” – Jimmy Kimmel

“New research shows marijuana is by far the least dangerous recreational drug. Studies have shown again and again that it leads to virtually no recreation. That’s how safe it is.” – Seth Meyers

“Alaska does have some special rules. You’re not allowed to smoke marijuana in public, and you have to follow special disposal rules. You can’t just throw a joint in the trash. The last thing you want is a grizzly with the munchies.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Boston’s city council is considering increasing its alcohol tax. The plan would raise an estimated $900 million billion trillion.” – Seth Meyers

“The White House announced that many Obamacare customers got the wrong tax information and may have to refile their taxes this year. It’s pretty inconvenient — mainly just remembering what you lied about the first time you filed your taxes.” – Jimmy Fallon

“A new CBS News poll shows Chris Christie is ranked ninth out of all Republican presidential candidates. He’s just behind Bobby Jindal and just ahead of a gun wearing a cowboy hat.” – Seth Meyers


Discriminating Discrimination

This is a new one. Republicans have introduced a bill that prevents states from discriminating against religious organizations that discriminate. So if a faith-based organization discriminates against someone (because of their religious beliefs), then the state can’t discriminate against that organization by reducing funding to them.

It was bad enough when the “religious beliefs” of companies (like Hobby Lobby) trumped the religious beliefs of their employees. But now religious organizations can discriminate against the people they are being paid to serve, and the states can’t do anything about it.


Fractured Flickers

As a sign of how fractured the Republican party has become, a Republican group called the American Action Network (with ties to the House GOP leadership) is funding advertising against sitting Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert. The ads say:

Global threats against our security are increasing … and some in Washington are playing political games with our national security. Tell Congressman Gohmert: Fund Homeland Security.

Gohmert voted against funding DHS, saying that any funding resolution must include language that restricts President Obama’s immigration executive order. So in effect, the Republican group is advocating for Obama.

Will wonders never cease?


Late Night Political Humor

“How many of you watched the Oscars last night? And how many of you are still watching it?” – Seth Meyers

“I don’t want to say the Oscars ran long but the kid from ‘Boyhood’ just moved into a senior living facility.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“I don’t want to say the Oscars ran long, but the best picture Oscar was awarded on ‘Good Morning America’.” – Seth Meyers

“All I could think of all day yesterday while watching all of the Oscar-related shows was how much I miss football.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“The ratings for last night’s Academy Awards hit a six-year low. So few people saw the Oscars that it’s been nominated for an Oscar.” – Seth Meyers

“The Oscar telecast went smoothly. It helped that Bradley Cooper was in the balcony with a rifle in case any of the speeches went on too long.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“During her Oscar acceptance speech, Patricia Arquette called for equal pay for women. Then Oprah stood up and said, ‘She’s right, I can’t live like this. I can’t take another second of this living hell.'” – Conan O’Brien



Tom Tomorrow
© Tom Tomorrow

Dan Perkins is a genius.

I absolutely cannot believe that our national media was obsessed with what Rudy Giuliani said, about whether our president loves our country. Seriously? It is the kind of thing 12-year-old kids would argue. Wait, it actually is!


Late Night Political Humor

“Sunday is the 87th annual Academy Awards. It’s the time of year when all the biggest movie stars get together and try to piece together what happened after they blacked out at the Golden Globes.” – Jimmy Fallon

“The Academy Awards are passed out on Sunday. It’s voted by members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Or as I call them, 50 shades of white.” – David Letterman

“I heard that this year’s Oscar nominee gift bags are each worth over $167,000 and include items like free luxury car rentals and a stay at a five-star hotel in Tuscany. As opposed to the Emmys, where we get an AOL CD and two loose Twizzlers.” – Jimmy Fallon

“President Obama is giving fourth graders and their families free admission to [National] parks for a year. You can tell kids don’t get outside enough, because the last time they saw a sunset they said, ‘Hey, there’s that thing I saw on Instagram.'” – Jimmy Fallon

“The FCC has delayed the decision on the Time/Warner Comcast merger. So how do you think those folks like being put on hold?” – David Letterman

“Kim Jong Un shaved his eyebrows and got his hair sticking right up. How would you like the leader of your country looking like Lady Gaga? Even Dennis Rodman told him he looks weird.” – David Letterman



One of the wonderful things about the Internet is that it promotes disintermediation, also known as “cutting out the middlemen“. This can happen for more conventional products, where websites like eBay directly connect sellers and buyers.

But on the Internet, the primary product is content: music, video, information, opinion, etc. And net neutrality is a boon to both creators and consumers of content. Not so long ago, someone who wanted to create a TV show had to sell it to one of three networks, who acted as gatekeepers. Later, they had to sell it to a cable channel.

Likewise for movies. If you were an aspiring director the gatekeepers were the movie studios. If you were a musician, the gatekeepers were the record labels. Once upon a time, the TV networks, movie studios, and record labels were the heart and soul of Hollywood. So it is marvelous to see that Hollywood is cheering the new FCC net neutrality rules.

Net neutrality is a boon to writers, actors, musicians, and other content producers. New outlets like Netflix,, and YouTube “have sparked a surge in entertainment jobs that has helped drive employment in Hollywood to the highest level in a decade.”

Don’t underestimate the tectonic size of the shift in media consumption brought on by the Internet, even for more traditional content. For example, around 70% of the audience for the NBC show “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” watches it online. This makes the audience larger, because viewers can watch it when and where they want (rather than sitting in front of a TV set at 11:35pm when it airs).

The people who will benefit the most from net neutrality are the next generation of content producers, who have turned directly to the Internet as a way to reach consumers. For example, Christopher J Smith, who created an innovative faux documentary series that is distributed online, says “There’s no reason that anyone that creates content should be filtered by a fast track or a slow track. The Internet, when it’s the open platform it was designed to be, allows for a sense of equality — and for folks like me, ownership — that is not the norm in Hollywood.”

Another content producer makes a show that is distributed directly on YouTube. “I didn’t need anybody’s permission. You can make stuff, put it online and go directly to an audience.”

Net neutrality is also good for diversity, making it easier for Latino, Black, and Asians to create content and reach consumers. For example, the National Hispanic Media Coalition began lobbying five years ago for net neutrality. “We were unhappy in how we were underrepresented and stereotyped on the traditional media networks. We saw the Internet as a tremendous tool to share our stories and help organize our community for social justice.”

The Nib