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Thomas Tuegel
Attends University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Lived in Urbana, IL
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Thomas Tuegel

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"Ask a grown-up: does my cat Oscar know he's a cat?
Professor of cognitive science Douglas Hofstadter replies to six-year-old Henry."
Professor of cognitive science Douglas Hofstadter replies to six-year-old Henry
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Thomas Tuegel

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We found a radiometer at an antique shop!
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Gmail's New Compose top-posts replies by default. Another website I have to replace. Posted on G+ for irony.
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Pet peeve of the day: Oregon is trying to make it harder to have exceptional public schools. Which kind of sucks.

Background for non-Americans: the US school system is a disaster, with very uneven quality. You have some good school districts, and you have some really bad ones, and it's all just pretty crazy. Very different from back in Finland, where education isn't just good, it's fairly reliably good. You don't have to worry too much about which school you go to, because while there are certainly differences, they simply don't tend to be all that marked.

In the US, if you care about education, you end up having to make sure you live in a good school district. Or you do the whole private school thing, or try to make sure you can transfer, or whatever. The one thing you do not do is to just take it for granted. You work at it.

I'm not a huge believer in private schools, and I actually wanted my kids to be able to walk to their friends houses, so we made sure to move to one of the better districts in Oregon.

Now, living in a good school district means that you end up paying a lot more for housing, so it's not actually necessarily really any cheaper than sending your kids to a private school. But you do also end up being in a community where people care about education, so it's not just the school: it's the whole environment around you and your kids.

But it's unquestionably unfair, and it unquestionably means that people who can afford it get a better education in the US. Despite the whole "public" part of the US public school system, it's like so much else in the US: you don't want to be poor. The whole "American Dream" is pretty much a fairy tale.

So the Oregon legislature is trying to fix the unfairness. Which I very much understand, because I really do detest the whole US school system - it was always one of the things that we talked about being a possible reason to move back to Finland when the kids needed to go to school. We ended up learning how the US system works, and made it work for us, but that doesn't mean that I have to like the situation. Because I've seen better.

So why is trying to make things fairer a peeve?

The way the Oregon legislature is trying to fix things isn't by making the average school better, it's by trying to make it hard to have the (fairly few) bright spots around.

In particular, let's say that you do have a good school district, where people not only end up paying for it in the property taxes (which is what largely funds the school), but also by having special local tax bonds for the school in addition to the big fund-raisers every year. Because the public US school funding just isn't that great, so the local community ends up fixing it - to the point of literally raising much of the money to build a new building etc.

And I realize that this all just sounds completely insane and broken to any sane person, but hey, Americans are so used to it that they seem to think that it's how things should work. The whole school bake sale is a part of the whole American psyche (and I'd be a big proponent of using that funding method for the military too, but somehow it never works that way).

Anyway, if you actually were successful, had people who cared deeply about the local school, and built a good local public school around such a community, such a school district used to be able to accept out-of-district kids, but charge them extra tuition to make up for the fact that they obviously aren't paying the local tax bonds etc.

And now, in the name of fairness, there's a bill (HB 2748) getting pushed through to make that kind of "out-of-district tuition student" not be an option any more. 

And I really do understand the fairness question. Why should public schools be able to charge some people, just because they don't live in the right place? It's a public school, isn't it?

I'd be frickin annoyed too about the kids of well-to-do families who get to go to a better school in their nice district. I absolutely get it. I grew up in a country where private schools were for odd people who wanted their kids to be in full-time foreign language immersion classes and learn more than just four languages. Where one of my buddies transferred to my school not because it was more convenient or a better school, but because it was the only Swedish-speaking one that taught Latin, for chissake. And it was all free, and we didn't need to have cookie bake sales.

So I really do understand why people would want to get rid of the special schools and find them odious. I find them odious, and they are a sign of how broken the US school system is.

Except HB 2748 doesn't actually do anything to try to fix the breakage, it just says "you can't charge out-of-district students". It doesn't fix the bad schools, it just makes it harder to be a good school. Suddenly local tax bonds etc don't make much sense, because you can't make non-residents bring in the equivalent funding.

Oh well. I bet nobody wanted to hear that whine, and I guess I should put the "First world problems" meme picture here, but hey, I wanted to get that rant off my chest.
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NB: Matlab uses a mixture of lexical and dynamic scoping. I think it's dangerous, but maybe I've been using Haskell too long ;)
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A gentle reminder that your continued existence is due only to your cat's benevolence.
 
Epic action hero cat is... epic. via +Ryan Block
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Have him in circles
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Thomas Tuegel

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Today's "future" fashion looks a lot like "today's" fashion did in the 70s...
 
Our futuristic view of fashion in #TheSeptemberIssue would not be complete without Google Glass: http://bit.ly/18JHO0y 
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My annual recycling program test device has arrived!

To quote +Brian Swetland:

"This is a standard recycling program test device. You are intended to separate the bound paper part from the plastic wrapper and deposit them in the appropriate recycling container(s). Your local waste management or recycling provider will register the arrival of this test device, verifying end-to-end operation of their system."
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Read this if you're all for facts, truth, and accuracy. Almost all 'information' that you see in the What's Hot category here on Google+ is FALSE.

Let me debunk another silly myth that has been doing the rounds. It has been doing the rounds for years actually. Or sadly.

Claim:
NASA spent billions of tax money creating a pen that would work in space, whilst the Russians solved the same problem just using a pencil.

Truth:
In the early years of space flight, both Russians and Americans used pencils in space. Unfortunately, pencil lead is made of graphite, a highly conductive material. Snapped graphite leads and particles in zero gravity are hugely problematic, as they will get sucked into the air ventilation or electronic equipment, easily causing shorts or fires in the environment of a capsule.

After the fire in Apollo 1 which killed all the astronauts on board, NASA required a writing instrument that wasn’t a fire hazard. Fisher spent over a million dollars (of his own money) creating a pressurized ball point pen, which NASA bought at $2.95 each. The Russian space program also switched over from pencils shortly after.

More information about this: http://history.nasa.gov/spacepen.html

40 years later snide morons on the internet still snigger about it, because snide morons on the internet never know what they are talking about.

Please share if you want to see facts, truth, and accuracy in Google+'s What's Hot category. Hopefully this posts make people think more about what they read. For science!
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By R.M. Douglas. The screams that rang throughout the darkened cattle car crammed with deportees, as it jolted across the icy Polish countryside five nights before Christmas, were Dr. Loch's only ...
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Have him in circles
77 people
Daniel Peebles's profile photo
Conrad Barski's profile photo
Randi Pittman's profile photo
Keely Chaisson's profile photo
David Sprunger's profile photo
Xavier “unetenet” Becerra's profile photo
James Strauss's profile photo
Yerzhan Suleimenov's profile photo
Gregg Lebovitz's profile photo
Work
Employment
  • Graduate teaching assistant, 2010 - present
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Urbana, IL - Indianapolis, IN - Muncie, IN - Richmond, IN - Alton, IL
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Physics grad student and Haskell hacker.
Education
  • University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
    Physics, 2010 - present
  • Butler University
    Physics, Mathematics, 2006 - 2010
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