Harmonic mean

Math can be cruel.

So, let's say you have a strong wind.  Oklahoma-strong.

On your bicycle, you ride a tailwind and zip along at 20 mph. Unfortunately, you have to come back home fighting a headwind all the way.  You manage to grind back in at 10 mph.

What was your average speed?

15 mph? You wish.

Answer: the harmonic mean of 10 and 20.  This works out to 13.3 mph.  Grrr.

Rehabilitating Neville Chamberlain

The magazine Slate is infamous for their counter-intuitive arguments wherein they argue that every expert is wrong on something because of one minor detail.  However, this reads true:
Chamberlain's story is of a man who fought for peace as long as possible, and went to war only when it was the last available option.
Hitler was not Hitler before 1939.  Before that, there was little to distinguish him from, say, Mussolini. And the world could have lived with another Mussolini.  Britain declared war on Germany on Chamberlain's watch, not Churchill's.

Even as the war-mongers throw around "appeasement" and "peace for our time" as naive pronouncements, historians are coming around to a more balanced and sympathetic view of Neville Chamberlain.

A late fee for paying early

Can you get charged a late fee for sending in your payment a month early?

Citibank seems to think so.

The wife said that her credit card got rejected yesterday. I looked up the account online and discovered that the payment was overdue. That seemed curious and sure enough, on checking my bank account records, I found that I'd paid the bill in full on Aug. 13.

Time for a call into Citibank.

The Aug. 13 payment was for the bill that was due Aug. 14, I was informed.  I had missed the payment that was due Sep. 14.  But what about my July 20th payment, I asked.  That, too, was for the Aug. 14th date.

I started laughing at the logic involved here.  So, I owed $176. I paid it on Aug. 13. The bank closed the billing cycle that day but credited the account for the period that ended before, charged me a $20 late fee for missing a payment on what should have been a zero balance, and then said that my account was $20 overdue ..."

But the phone representative didn't see the abuse of common sense. She kept going on and on about how I'd paid in the previous cycle.  She's probably paid not to understand logical fallacies. Finally, I asked to speak to her supervisor who did agree to remove the charges.

A late fee for paying early.  Who would have thought American banks could be this innovative?

Ambiguous Hand Signal

I was bicycling in the sparsely populated section of East Norman and had stopped to swap out water bottles.No traffic. Rolling hills. Lovely countryside. It's some of the best bicycling around in these parts.

Seeing me stopped on the side of the rather desolate road, a passing big, red truck started to roll to a halt. I gave the driver a thumbs up, the universal sign for "It's okay; I'm fine". It was only when I saw the quizzical look on her face that I realized that the thumbs-up is also the hand signal for when you need a ride.

Was I okay, or did I need a ride to town? No wonder she was confused. I smiled and waved and made happy faces and she drove away.

No traffic. Rolling hills. Lovely countryside. And to top it off, SAG vehicles.

Making Syria safe for Al-Qaeda

The lack of any sense of history in this whole debate about Syria is astounding.

All those people talking about "red lines", whether they are Obama's or America's or the world's ... answer me this.  Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war in the mid-80s.  For thirty-five years, until Assad did so, no one in the world used chemical weapons.  There is no need, in other words, for the world to police the use of chemical weapons -- the most despicable thugs know that once they use chemical weapons, they cease to have a country they can govern.  So, why should America enforce any kind of red line here?

Look also at what has happened in Libya -- the last place we provided air support and trained the rebels.  Gaddaffi is gone, but the place is now overrun with jihadists.  Syria will be no different.

All that we are fixing to do is to make Syria safe for Al-Qaeda.