Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Throw away your cell phone! And don't eat pickles either!

Today the Cancer research arm of the the WHO added cell phones to it's list of items that are "possibly carcinogenic to humans", giving it a 2B classification.


Cell phones are now classified with lead, Chloroform, and DDT among others. That sounds dangerous. So I guess we all need to start using Bluetooth or talking into our phone like a walkie-talkie, otherwise we are all destined for brain tumors.

Or maybe not. Because you know what else is classified as a 2B? Coffee. And pickled vegetables. And I do not think that anyone looks at a pickle and goes, "you know what, I better not. I have had enough carcinogens in my diet today."

It's a shame that all of the media outlets jumped on this story and made it sound as if cell phones are right up there with nuclear waste and cigarette smoking when it comes to causing cancer. They are not. In fact, here is an excerpt from an article today on Yahoo!:

"Anything is a possible carcinogen," said Donald Berry, a professor of biostatistics at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas. He was not linked to the WHO cancer group. "This is not something I worry about and it will not in any way change how I use my cellphone," he said — from his cellphone.

So relax, exercise a little prudence and be cautious if you must, but don't throw your cell phone away and certainly do not stop enjoying a crunchy dill pickle now and then.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

How much money per student do schools need?

An article this morning from the associated press highlights school budget cuts in a few states including Texas, California, and Florida.


The Florida blurb caught my eye because it provides some actual numbers, which I used to do a back of the envelope calculation about school spending. The article says that the Florida Legislature has approved a budged that will cut school spending by about $540, or 7.9%, per student. Using these numbers I calculate that the pre-cut spending per student is $6,835 and that the after cut will be $6,295. Is this not enough money per student to provide an effective education?

I am not sure how much it costs to run a school, but I can come up with some fairly realistic numbers, at least in my mind, that make $6,235 per student seem like plenty of money. Lets assume a class size of 20 students in a 100 classroom school for a total student body of 2000, which was about the size of my public high school. Using the $6295, each classroom would have a $125,900 budget/year. I put $65,000 of that towards the teachers salary (which I believe is on the high end), and then another $17,000 for teacher benefits, for a total compensation of $82,000. This leaves me with $43,900.

The building has to be paid for, so lets say each teacher "rents" their classroom for $2,000 per month, which includes all utilities and overhead (including salaries for a principal, vice principal, and some support staff) for the building. With 100 classrooms this would come to $2.4 million per year. Again, I am not sure if that is enough, but it seems like a school district should be able to come up with a 100 classroom school for $2.4 million per year.

Subtracting the building costs, there is now $19,900 left. The teaches would be given a supply/field trip allowance of $250/student, which amounts to $5000. The remaining $14,900 could be used to help support athletic programs, computer labs, additional supplies, or other miscellaneous costs that I have not accounted for.

None of these numbers seem completely outrageous to me. And if I am off a little bit, I have left $1.49 million unaccounted for to correct for that. So it appears to me that a school district should be able to provide a pretty good education with well compensated teachers and reasonably sized classrooms for $6,235 per student.

So why don't they?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Police officers aren't above the law

Another story showing why all citizens should support the monitoring of police officers.

A story in today's Philadelphia Daily News shows why it's so important that citizens be allowed to videotape cops - it can be citizens' only way to fight back against police abuse of power.

This incident happened several weeks ago in Philadelphia to Mark Fiorino, a 25-year-old IT worker who carries a gun on his hip at all times for self defense. He got the gun after several friends were mugged.

But he didn't count on attacks by police:

On a mild February afternoon, Fiorino, 25, decided to walk to an AutoZone on Frankford Avenue in Northeast Philly with the .40-caliber Glock he legally owns holstered in plain view on his left hip. His stroll ended when someone called out from behind: "Yo, Junior, what are you doing?"

Fiorino wheeled and saw Sgt. Michael Dougherty aiming a handgun at him.

A link to the full article is below, but I am sure you can guess what happened.

An especially wacky statement from the article:

"It was a setup. He's done this kind of thing before," said Evers, the police spokesman, referring to Fiorino's encounters with authorities. "He did it intentionally, and he audiotaped it."

The citizen set up the cops by legally carrying a hand gun in public? All the police officer had to do was ask to see Fiorino's license and then wish him a nice day and the setup would have been foiled! Doggone it if only! Instead the officer made himself and the Philly Police Department look ridiculous, rude, and ignorant of their own laws.

It is a very dangerous thing when law abiding citizens can be accused by police officers of "setting them up". Obeying the insane amount of laws that are out there on a daily basis is not an easy task to begin with. We shouldn't also have to be worried about our good behavior being misrepresented by shoddy police departments to make themselves look less boneheaded.

Full article is here: