April 2009 Archives

Two Jews and a Kennedy

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Among all the celebrities participating in the Darfur Fast for Life, a few notables stand out. The leaders of two Jewish organizations have been involved since the beginning: Ruth Messinger of American Jewish World Service and Tzivia Schwartz Getzug of Jewish World Watch. The Jewish organizations were among the first to recognize the genocide in Darfur, and they co-founded now-legendary groups like the SaveDarfur, the Coalition for Darfur, and the Darfur Action Coalition. Maybe it's based on the Jewish imperative for social justice, or maybe it's just that we're well-organized and globally concerned. Either way, it's nice to see that we're still on the forefront of the movement.

Oh, and the Kennedy. Ellen, specifically, of Genocide Intervention Network-Minnesota. They're cool too.

Wikipedia's Saving Grace

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For years, I've happily repeated that party line that "Wikipedia is cute, but it can't be used for serious research." I never even considered using it for an academic paper, and we fired a reporter at the newspaper for using it as a source.

In recent years, the new line has been "bad for facts, but good to find sources." True, Wikipedia entries do have a handy list of internet links on the bottom, many leading to legitimate academic resources, but I've discovered better ways to find internet sources. Like, you know, Google and stuff.

However, earlier this month, I realized Wikipedia's true saving grace: standardization of organization. All Wikipedia articles are organized exactly the same way. Table of contents, major headings, minor headings, sources, internet resources, media. In an era of overinformation on the internet, it's comforting to be able to glance at a page and instantly recognize where each piece of information is presented, and how and in what order. I still hesitate to use it as a primary academic source, but I've looked up countless bits of trivia recently, and never once been disappointed.

Don't worry. America has enough phone numbers.

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See, I was sitting in my room this morning, writing my thesis and being extremely productive (I actually wrote 2 pages so far today, for a grand subtotal of 23), when a sudden thought hit me. The gravity of the thought shocked me to the core, and I suddenly freaked out for the future of our country: Do we have enough phone numbers for our growing population?

So, I pulled up the handy-dandy computer calculator, and after a few false starts (nope, you can't simply multiply 7x9), I remembered learning about powers in school.

The first day we learned about powers (it must have been in Algebra I), I got so excited, because this was a difference from the mathematical norm! No more learning about quadratic formulae and angles and coordinates planes - this lesson would be different. We'd learn about power! And even if it weren't about superpowers (I kinda doubted that, because I was a smart kid), it would still be a cool departure. Physics, perhaps, or even economics. How much power can be transmitted over a single electrical line? How much does it cost? How much is lost along the way? (I learned much later that a huge amount of power is lost in transmission, and that such insufficient infrastructure is the primary roadblock to green energy in this country, but that's a different blog entry.)

But no, it was simply a fun word for yet another mathematical formula. It wasn't all bad, though. This one was different, and fun, and exciting. This one could get really big, really fast, and it looked pretty on my graphic calculator!

So, here are my findings: Using the current seven-digit local system, America can provide roughly 4.8 million phone numbers in each area code. Factoring in for all the current and future area codes, that's about 3.5 billion total phone numbers. Should be enough, even when you factor in area codes like 911 and 123.

On a related note, America has no 251 area code. I really wanted to create a Facebook group my freshman year, back when that was hip, entitled "251: For fans of the jazz turnaround and [insert city here]." But there was no city. And the group wouldn't have been funny if it was just about the jazz turnaround. So I didn't create it. In fact, the only group I did create that year was a local West Wing fan group, which still has about 9 members. We never did get together to watch the show...