Posted by: bkivey | 14 March 2011

Careful What You Ask For

 The primary local alternative newspaper, Willamette Week, publishes a column called ‘Rogue Of The Week’ in which they take to task people or organizations deemed to have offended the paper’s editorial sensibilities. In a humorous bit of unselfconcious irony they excoriate the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) in their 2 March edition. The story revolves around the efforts of a band composed of Americans of Asian descent who want to trademark their band’s name, The Slants.

In a fit of political correctness the PTO has twice denied the band’s application on the grounds that the name ‘Slants’ is racially offensive. The paper is shocked – shocked! – that a government agency is applying the same standards to a minority group that, it’s fair to say, the newspaper’s staff would agree with if a bunch of white people were involved. The fact that the PTO’s nanny-esque attitude is informed largely because of people like the staff of the newspaper is completely lost on them. The story is cast as Big Government interfering with the lives of ordinary people, when the paper regularly carries stories that advocate just that, except, you know, it’s okay when groups they don’t happen to agree with are interfered with. Or when the staff’s white guilt is assuaged.

While the band’s music is not something I’m going to buy, I don’t think that the PTO, or any other government agency,  has any business making value judgements. That should be left to private citizens and the market. And I’m not sure why WW is so upset. This is, after all, the world they want.

 Pi Day

Once again it’s pi day, and while we still have five years to go before we get a date approximation (American-style) of the transcendental number, here’s a fun way to approximate pi using the Monte Carlo method. Having written an Excel algorithm using this method, I can vouch for it’s accuracy.

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