URLs du Jour

π Day 2017

■ Does Proverbs 28:10 provide any good advice on enduring a March Nor'easter?

Whoever leads the upright along an evil path will fall into their own trap, but the blameless will receive a good inheritance.

Not really. But later today, lo, I shall be "leading" my snowblower along the "evil path" of the Pun Salad Manor driveway, dealing with the massive piles at the street end, a "good inheritance" left to "blameless" me from the town plow.

■ Yes, it's π Day as well. Rhett Allain of Wired brings his π-love by urging: Let's Calculate Pi on a Raspberry Pi to Celebrate Pi Day. I admire the hardware hack, the Raspberry Pi running a Monte Carlo simulation in Python for the calculation, results displayed in real time, everything mounted on a poster board for easy demo.

■ But wait! There's more! Rhett also demonstrates a π calculation with a different simulation, a random walk. (He doesn't derive the formula he uses, but Wolfram MathWorld does, if you're interested.

Note: geeky as they are, what both examples show is: Monte Carlo methods are a lousy way to estimate π. They take a long time to get not very precise estimates.

■ Ah, but at least they do better than the Bible, right? "Everybody knows" the Bible says π is 3. Stupid Judeo-Christians!

Ah, but wait a minute. Elizabeth Stapel at Purplemath runs the numbers, and comes to the surprising conclusion: "Perhaps those Phoenicians were fairly accurate after all."

(Actually, these days, pages that debunk the Bible-says-π-is-3 meme are easier to find than the original bunkers.)

■ Can you bear one more DST URL? Too bad, here's one anyway: Andrew Heaton at Reason writes on Why We Have Daylight Saving Time and Why We Should Scrap It. He's a comedian and it shows:

There's a healthy debate about whether places like California should scrap DST and permanently move an hour forward or backwards. Television companies consider darkness their ally, and know that the earlier the sun sets the quicker viewers drop irritating habits like family picnics or soccer games and return to the vital activity of watching The Big Bang Theory. Conversely, the Chamber of Commerce and its chorus of retailers lust for delayed sunsets, because shoppers will stay out later buying The Big Bang Theory paraphernalia at malls.

I did not previously realize that we are, essentially, innocent timezone bystanders in a lobbying war between Big Media and Big Retail.

■ Good golly, Miss Molly, there is a lot of commentary out there about ObamaCare, TrumpCare, CBO cost estimates, etc.. Where to begin? More importanly, where to stop?

Well, let's start with Daniel J. Mitchell who describes The World’s Most Inefficient Healthcare System, Part I: Created by Government, Financed by Government. Problem One:

For all intents and purposes, instead of buying healthcare with their own money, [American consumers] use other people’s money, a phenomenon known as third-party payer. And because most of their health expenses are financed by either government (thanks to Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, etc) or insurance companies (thanks to the tax code’s healthcare exclusion), consumers focus only on quality and don’t care much about cost.

No surprise, but still worth pointing out. Much more at the link, including pictures and graphs.

■ Peter Suderman at Reason (yes, a second Reason link today, pray that I don't give you a third) claims: CBO’s Report on the GOP Obamacare Repeal Bill Offers More Proof That Neither Party Offers Health Care Choices People Want.

Obamacare's individual mandate is forcing millions of people to buy coverage they don't want—but the GOP's replacement plan wouldn't give them desirable insurance options either.

In one sense, this is trivially obvious: what people would find "desirable" is to get topnotch medical care on demand without paying anything whatsoever. And, in actuality, what they settle for is a system that delivers adequate care, and manages to obscure actual costs as much as possible.

Other than that, Suderman correctly indicates the difficult minefield any legislative proposal must navigate. (Sorry for the tired metaphor.)