Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wisconsin Teachers, By the Numbers

Most likely, all of you have heard about the union debate in Wisconsin, or should I say; The debate that was. It's currently headed to an assembly, where it is basically certain to pass. The bill removes most collective bargaining rights for all public employees. It's justified by Governor Walker under the idea that it will help eliminate Wisconsin's budget shortfalls. Those against it make allegations of Koch Brothers involvement, and give statements such as:

In 30 minutes, 18 state senators undid 50 years of civil rights in Wisconsin. Their disrespect for the people of Wisconsin and their rights is an outrage that will never be forgotten. -Mark Miller (D)

So, lets look at one group of those public workers; The Teachers. Here's some numbers:

Average Wisconsin Teacher Salary: $52,644 (source)
Average Benefits: $20-40,000 (Various sources, take with grain of salt)
Vacation Time: 13-14 weeks (source)
Average Per Capita Income: $25,993(source)
High School Graduation Rate: 85% (40% for blacks, the worst in the nation)(source)

So what are we seeing here? Undoubtedly, you can form your own conclusions. My thoughts are that Wisconsin teachers are doing pretty well. Nothing amazing, but they seem to be making a solid middle class income. Unions are almost certainly responsible for that. These unions are not exactly out of control when compared to the likes of the UAW (~double the average salary for manufacturing sector jobs, $69 an hour including benefits by GM's estimates in 06) Yet, the unions have pushed themselves to a level that is, in my opinion, slightly excessive.

The quality of their work is difficult to ascertain, so it's hard to say whether they deserve the money they make, as it's largely dependent on the individual. This is a major reason why I advocate merit based pay, which unfortunately is hated by many/most unions. (surprise, surprise) One figure really jumps out at me though; That being the vacation time. 13-14 weeks?! Keep in mind, these teachers are making a full time income, for about 25% less time worked. That's where these numbers make you realize that these teachers are not hurting as much as they'd like you to believe.

So, is this "anti-union" bill justified? That's the question I intend to delve into in a series of posts regarding both this specific situation, and unions in general. As always, I'd love to see any comments you guys may have, and may well incorporate them into blog posts if you have a specific figure or interesting opinion that's worth sharing.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Minecraft-My Latest Addiction (and How to Make Water Elevators!)

I recently got my hands on Minecraft, and it's left me wondering wtf I was waiting for. This deceptively simple block based game has soaked up loads of my free time these last few days. As I'm sure most of you are familiar with the game, I won't bore you with explanations of what it's about, or pictures of my creations. I'll just share a few neat tricks I've stumbled across on the forums, Youtube, and while playing. These will most likely be a sort of "tip a day" thing, but shared sporadically instead of on a day to day basis.

Today, I'll detail how Water Elevators are made.

There are two ways of doing the water elevator. One is inferior, as it requires a boat, more space, and more effort. The other is superior in every way, EXCEPT that it relies on what is certainly a bug to work. So there's that chance that it will be updated out in a future patch. And some people get squeamish about using what they consider a bug exploit.

Here is a video I hunted down which shows how use the legit method:

Like I said, requires a boat, and takes a decent amount of effort, but nothing terrible. Now for the non-legit, but superior method:

At the time of writing, this method works perfectly. Although, as I said earlier, there are no guarantees that will continue. I personally use this method, as to me, how is it any less realistic than going up a waterfall? Both methods don't necessarily seem intended. Anyways, an explanation is needed as to why it works:

What is believed to be happening here, is what was called an "off by one" error. Basically, minecraft blocks are believed to be 1 pixel wider in two directions. That is why the direction is very important.This may be deliberate, to keep things meshing together more nicely, or it may just be a typing error. We have no way of knowing. Because of this size disparity, physics effects actually bleed through the blocks they are contained in. Thus, the current pulls you in, and therefore up. For a better, more visual explanation, see here.

So, I believe that's it for today. If any of you guys have tips or tricks you think are worth sharing, let me know in the comments and I'll try to cover them in future postings. Hope some of you find this useful!

As a disclaimer, I didn't discover any of these, and all credit for finding them goes to the original posters who detailed the methods.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Back, and Rather Anxious

As promised, here's a Friday posting, perhaps not an interesting one though. I'm finally free from Accounting, having taken the test yesterday. I'm not sure how I did; It seemed easy, but there wasn't many questions, so even messing up just a few could really affect grades...

I'm still waiting on the results, so hence my being anxious. I was supposed to see the professor and find out how I did last afternoon, but she wasn't in her office. And now she also isn't in her office during her scheduled office hours....yay for teachers with my level of attendance. So I'm sitting here killing time, hoping I can find her. This is the last day for class drops, so I really need to know how I did, since I've got 32% of my grade resting on this test.

So yeah, just a little status update. I'll try to get some more interesting content posted up in the next few days. Sit tight. Here's a song I've been enjoying, seems to be the newest from Serj Tankian. (an official remix)