## Dogs suck as indoor pets

It occurred to me the other day just how terrible dogs are as indoor pets, especially in the city (I can see dogs being good outdoor pets in the country). While pets all bring inconveniences, dogs stand out as egregious burdens:

• Dogs stink. Fact.
• You have to let them outside to relieve themselves, and then clean up their feces by hand
• You have to walk them
• You can’t leave them home alone for more than a day
• They impose costs on 3rd parties: mainly barking and obnoxious behavior, especially since you have to take them out in public to walk them
• And much more…

I rest my case: dogs are objectively bad urban pets.

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## Algebra appreciation

We take algebra for granted, at least those who still remember it. But it’s not as obvious as we think (as those who don’t remember it can attest.) Consider Boolean algebra: it’s very similar to ordinary algebra yet we find it highly surprising (Boolean algebra is basically just algebra for logic). Boring old algebra is similarly surprising when you think about it.

To be precise, I’m using algebra here to refer to elementary algebra. It’s the one we’re all familiar with: solving an equation for a variable (x).

Algebra lets us solve problems that would be extremely difficult without. Easy equations can be solved trivially in your head: for example, say you have $8 and you give$3 to your son and the rest to your daughter. Obviously, you gave her $5, but you could also write out the equation and solve it: $x+3=8$Subtracting 3 from both sides we get $x=5$ But when it gets more complicated, it’s much more convenient to use the rules of algebra to manipulate the equation to isolate x: for example, say you’re at an amusement park and the pricing is as follows.$12 to get in and $3 per ride. You have$30 and a 50% off coupon. How many rides can you afford? You could count it out, or write out the equation and solve it using algebra: $\frac{12+3x}{2}=30$This is tedious to solve without algebra. But it’s very easy to solve with algebra: multiply through by 2, then subtract 12, and divide by 3, yielding x=16.

As you can imagine, when the equations get more complicated it becomes practically impossible to solve them without using algebra. Algebra provides a set of tools to systematically solve equations. We can even program computers with these rules so that they can solve equations for us algorithmically.

Manipulating equations to solve them is extremely useful, and not intuitively obvious. Without algebra, we would be greatly inconvenienced.

• #### Evolutionarily 5:55 am on March 4, 2012 Permalink | Reply

What do you think about the concept that a human can have a fiendishly difficult time understanding and learning algebra, or a better example calculus, yet throw that person a ball and they solve a dozen simultaneous derivations in their mind to direct their hand to where they predict the ball will land? I am sort of channelling Stephen Wolfram’s idea here that most of mathematics are quirky of history and the individuals who created them, and if we reran history we may end up with a different type of mathematics to do algebra, or calculus? What is that separation to how our brains have solved all sorts of physical problems, and we are now relearning or rediscovering them using abstract language? Almost just talking out loud here haha

## University Hack

First year university courses suck. Chances are you’re in a huge class with at least 100 other students and the lecturer is a grad student whose English is hard to understand. These classes are pointless: you could just as easily watch a video of the lecture, or better yet just read the lesson and skip the lecture. Lectures are a terribly inefficient way of sharing information. Lecturing is a tradition that dates to the middle ages, before the invention of the printing press, when the best way to share information was to lecture to a class of students who would take notes. Nowadays, this method is horribly inefficient: the instructor reads his notes while the student attempts to both listen and write down what he says. Needless to say, much is lost in transmission. Sadly, while the rest of the world enters the information age, university courses are still taught with the ancient lecture method. The university still hasn’t fully adapted to the printing press, never mind the computer or the internet.

So what is one to do? Simple: take distance courses. Online or independent study. It probably won’t save you much money, but it can save you a load of time and effort. First, if you’re a fast learner you aren’t wasting any time in lectures aimed at slower students. Second, you completely avoid lectures and note-taking, and you’ll learn that much better. Third, you can work around your own schedule and if you can get all your courses by distance, you can completely avoid living on campus or commuting.

You’ll need to be self-motivated and disciplined, because it’s all too easy to neglect your coursework. If you’re a strong student, you’ll love it.

• #### Valtsu 3:12 pm on October 5, 2010 Permalink | Reply

I have been thinking that I’m the only one with these thoughts. I just finished high school and IMO most of lessons were waste of time, it was just very suboptimal. Now I’m doing non-military service but after that I should apply to university and the idea of wasting 1-2 hours every day to transportation and a lot more hours to some unnecessary lectures doesn’t really fascinate me… I hope there will be some way to do a large part of those university grades self-studying.

Vladimir (or Valtsu) from Finland. I just found your blog, you have interesting articles.

• #### Toban Wiebe 3:24 am on October 25, 2010 Permalink | Reply

Definitely check into distance courses, they’re totally worth it if you’re an independent learner. If you can’t avoid the commute, try to get some good studying done while commuting.

## Vivaldi Concerto RV 443 on Recorder

This is an amazing performance, Antonini is on fire! It’s also kind of humorous how animated he is!

For more wonderful Vivaldi music, get this torrent.

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