Today: 5k, football, weather, etc.

Our university has a 5K that runs right past my house and it starts in 90 minutes. So, of course, I can’t resist. :-) It is in the high 50’s so I’ll have only my lack of running conditioning to blame.

Right now, I am doing a little of everything each week: longish walks (15-20 miles), a few short runs (4-6 miles), a couple of weight sessions and a couple of 2200 yard swims (2 km). After next week’s walking marathon, I’ll probably add a swim/lifting session and cut back a little on the midweek walk.

Heel: still slightly sore; sometimes feels like mild PF..but going up on my toes doesn’t hurt?

I have tickets for Illinois vs. Texas State. Texas State used to be Southwest Texas State (I-AA…now FCS) and now they are a FBS team in the Sun Belt. They lost to Navy at home (35-21); they trailed 28-0 in the second quarter and Navy ran all over them. So, this is a team that Illinois *should* be able to handle; they should be a step down from Washington. But the emphasis is on “should”; who knows until they play the game.

Navy plays Rutgers at home; THAT should be interesting. This is Navy’s second game against a Big Ten team this year. Rutgers is 2-1, having lost to Penn State last weekend.

Also of interest: Miami vs. Nebraska. Is Nebraska all smoke and mirrors or are they for real?

Weather: we are supposed to have rain in Peoria this afternoon, but not in Champaign (where the game is). We’ve had an unusually cool September but the planet, on the whole, has been warm. What is in store this winter? It could go either way. A bad winter could be bad news for us, as budget cuts has cut our plowing/salt budget.
I need to buy some decent snow boots to walk to work and to shovel.

Secularism This is a nice piece in Time Magazine which was generated by the recent incident in which the Air Force wanted to keep “So Help Me God” as a required part of the enlistment oath. They wisely recanted: (this is part of the article)

It took the threat of a lawsuit before the Air Force agreed on Wednesday to allow airmen to omit the phrase “So help me God” as part of a required oath. Until then, they claimed an airman stationed at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada was ineligible to reenlist after he crossed out the phrase on his reenlistment form.

This controversy will rile up many people of good will—not against the military, but against the airman. Why make a big deal out of words that the majority of Americans believe in? Just cross your fingers if you must, and say the words. Why rock the boat?

Here’s why: The incident betrays a subtext of intolerance and hostility toward secular people that is embedded in American culture and public institutions. The Air Force was ready to end a man’s military career because he would not submit to its religious demands.

To secular Americans, requiring an oath to God is like asking a Jewish airman to swear, “So help me Jesus” or a Christian to say, “So help me Allah.”

I love the article, but have a minor quibble with the last sentence in the quote: asking me to swear an oath to God is NOT like asking a Jew to pray to Jesus or a Christian to pray to Allah.

Asking me to pray to God is exactly like asking me to pray to the Tooth Fairy. On the other hand, asking a believer to pray to a different deity is asking them to commit blasphemy which, to a believer, is a serious offense which can cause emotional and mental anguish.

September 20, 2014 Posted by | politics, politics/social, religion, running, science, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Delusions, polls, etc.

Workout: swim (2200 yards); crowded again but I got a lane and that was what mattered.

500, 5 x 100 (fist/free) on 2:00 (1:50-52), 5 x 100 on 2 (1:45-47), 3 x 100 (kick/free with fins) with 100 in between, 4 x 25 stroke count (22-23), 4 x 25 fly.

I am still trying to beat that Mechanical Engineering professor; he does “faster” free sets and then recovers with different strokes and I am not quite up with his faster stuff.

Note: my heel was slightly sore this morning; I did NOT ice it after yesterday’s run. I am still not out of the “icing it afterward” stage. The pain was “oh so slight”; I might not have paid attention had I not been tracking this.

Delusions: When it comes to votes, people tend to believe what they want to believe and fail to look at the uncomfortable.
I learned that lesson in the Bush-Kerry election and saw it play out in the Obama-Romney election.

I saw that play out yesterday; some of the “pro-Scottish Independence” refused to look at the real, hard data. The betting lines were firmly in the “no” camp and the polls suggested that was a good bet.

Now I’d like to issue a caution: polls are reliable WHEN there are a LOT of them out there; an isolated poll might well be an outlier. Hence, you have more upsets at, say, the US House, Governor or Senate level than you do at the Presidential or national level.

The more local races simply aren’t polled as extensively.

Now, as far as what a poll actually means: here is a wonderful, statistically literate guide. Roughly: say a “yes/no” vote are separated by the “margin of error”. So one says that one cannot, with 95 percent confidence, say that one or the other is ahead. But one might be able to say that the leader is ahead with a lesser degree of confidence. And if one position is consistently ahead in several competent polls, that position has a lead.

And yes, betting guides are useful too. No, the bookies don’t necessarily know the issues that well, but they set the odds to balance the money paid in and paid off, sans a bit of profit for themselves. So, they are, in effect, reacting to “the wisdom of the crowd”.

As they were with the Bush-Kerry, both Obama elections and the Scottish one, they were right on.

And no, I don’t always like what they have to say. :-)

September 19, 2014 Posted by | injury, politics, politics/social, swimming | , , | Leave a comment

Fracking, economics, Obamacare and religious freedom…

Fracking I’ve never been aboard the “fracking is terrible and should be banned” bandwagon. I’ve always been aboard the “energy companies should do it right” bandwagon, and when the companies get sloppy and take short cuts, accidents happen, often with terrible consequences.

So, this study which showed that water contamination near gas wells in Pennsylvania and Texas was NOT due to fracking but instead due to leaky gas wells did not surprise me at all. Yes, there is a problem and it should be fixed. But the technique of fracking isn’t the culprit in these instances.

Of course, this headline is wildly wrong: it should read “no water pollution due to fracking”: (from here)


Economics Textbook economics is working fine, but too many economists have let ideology trump economic theory:

The big problem with economic policy is not, however, that conventional economics doesn’t tell us what to do. In fact, the world would be in much better shape than it is if real-world policy had reflected the lessons of Econ 101. If we’ve made a hash of things — and we have — the fault lies not in our textbooks, but in ourselves.

Yes, Obamacare is working for many, but those who are benefiting from it will vote for those who want to repeal it anyway:

The Affordable Care Act allowed Robin Evans, an eBay warehouse packer earning $9 an hour, to sign up for Medicaid this year. She is being treated for high blood pressure and Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder, after years of going uninsured and rarely seeing doctors.

“I’m tickled to death with it,” Ms. Evans, 49, said of her new coverage as she walked around the Kentucky State Fair recently with her daughter, who also qualified for Medicaid under the law. “It’s helped me out a bunch.”

But Ms. Evans scowled at the mention of President Obama — “Nobody don’t care for nobody no more, and I think he’s got a lot to do with that,” she explained — and said she would vote this fall for Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and minority leader, who is fond of saying the health care law should be “pulled out root and branch.”

Ms. Evans said she did not want the law repealed but had too many overall reservations about Democrats to switch her vote. “Born and raised Republican,” she said of herself. “I ain’t planning on changing now.”

So now you know why my sympathy for people is limited. I am for Obamacare as I think that it helps the economy. But as for the individuals helped by it: read the above.

I remember reacting with disgust when many who are on the public dole complain about President Obama and the liberals.

I suppose their cluelessness is a bit like this:

Separation of Church and state

Now, of course, what is said here is perfectly legal as a campaign rally is not a government sponsored event. And yes, Senator McCain had not yet arrived when this invocation was given (he was to arrive later via his “Straight Talk Express” bus:

But I’ll speak to my reaction (I was there): I bit my tongue and tried hard to not break out in laughter; to me this is “Zeus vs. Thor” stuff.

My point: while I believe in separation of church and State and believe that the government should not take sides on religion, I am NOT religiously offended at public prayers and the like. I see it as, well the way you might see an exotic (to you) culture going through some sort of ritual.

But the religious might be VERY offended; a prayer in one religion might be “blasphemy” to someone else.
Hence, religious people ought to be MORE in favor of “separation of church and State” than I am. Because if these aren’t separated:

The Satanic Temple is widely known for fighting to place a statue of Baphomet next to the Ten Commandments on the Oklahoma statehouse grounds. And now they’re bringing Satanic materials to kids in Florida, and it’s all thanks to “Christian” extremists.

Had Christian extremists let the school remain a secular place that honored the separation of church and state, the Satanic Temple would not have been able to introduce kids to The Satanic Children’s Big Book of Activities, which will be widely available in Orange County schools.

The activity book asks kids to find ways to be inclusive in order to solve problem. For instance, one set of instructions in the book says, “These bullies are mad and afraid of things they don’t understand. Help Damian use inclusive language to defuse the situation.” In addition to the activity book other materials will include “pamphlets related to the Temple’s tenets, philosophy and practice of Satanism, as well as information about the legal right to practice Satanism in school.”

A Louisiana state lawmaker learned this the hard way:

In Louisiana, Republican Governor Bobby Jindal pushed for a voucher program that would allow state funds to be used to pay for religious schools. It’s unconstitutional, it’s a way to use taxpayer money to fund someone’s faith, and it was a bad idea to begin with.
But it passed.
Now, one of the state legislators, Rep. Valarie Hodges (R-Watson), just made a shocking discovery, though: Christianity isn’t the only religion!

Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Watson, says she had no idea that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s overhaul of the state’s educational system might mean taxpayer support of Muslim schools.
“I actually support funding for teaching the fundamentals of America’s Founding Fathers’ religion, which is Christianity, in public schools or private schools,” the District 64 Representative said Monday.

“Unfortunately it will not be limited to the Founders’ religion,” Hodges said. “We need to insure that it does not open the door to fund radical Islam schools. There are a thousand Muslim schools that have sprung up recently. I do not support using public funds for teaching Islam anywhere here in Louisiana.”

(of course, she appears to believe that our Founding Founders were Christians; some were but others were not).

September 17, 2014 Posted by | civil liberties, health care, morons, politics, religion, science, social/political, technology | , , | Leave a comment

Scottish Independence: probably will fail

The odds: the line is roughly 1/4 for “no” winning (e. g., to win 1 dollar you have to bet 4) and 3/1 for “yes’ (you can win 3 dollars by betting one).

From here.

Screen shot 2014-09-15 at 8.12.43 PM

The vote is this Thursday.

September 16, 2014 Posted by | politics, world events | | Leave a comment

Snarky quips: US Senate race, Pearls Before Swine, etc.

The US Senate races: Paul Krugman doesn’t know and neither do I. Polling isn’t nearly the quality or quantity as it was for a Presidential race. So, based on…well, not much, I’d have to favor the R’s as Nate Silver’s model does. Too much has to go right for the D’s to maintain control; my 95 percent confidence interval for Democratic (caucus) seats ranges [47, 51]; I’d be delighted with 50 seats.

Pearls Before Swine

click for larger…

September 5, 2014 Posted by | 2014 midterm, humor, politics | , | Leave a comment

Frogs, GMOs and Mother Jones becoming Salon?

Frogs: some new species were discovered in Peru. And these frogs have transparent skin! (yes, you can see the organs) I wonder: is there a purpose to this, or is it just the effects of genetic drift?

GMOs: this is a every even handed, level headed post via “I F****ng love science. And, surprisingly, The Nation also had a decent article as well. I share the pleasant shock and surprise of doomvox at Daily Kos:

I feel like the millennium is at hand: The Nation is taking on the anti-GMO activists, with an article by Madeline Ostrander that asks the question Can GMOs Help Feed a Hot and Hungry World?, with the answer provided in the subtitle: “Not if activists succeed in making the genetic modification of food politically unsustainable”. This is a blow for rationality I would not at all have expected from The Nation (their idea of balanced coverage of the nuclear issue, for example, is a debate between an anti-nuclear person and a fanatically anti-nuclear one). Maybe the left really is on it’s way to being “the reality based community”…

You know it is a sad day when I am pleasantly surprised by a competent article coming from The Nation.

Of course, Mother Jones did this: it hammered Scott Brown for posting….triathlon photos?

The Massachusetts transplant is gearing up for his campaign against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) this fall by literally running for office. He’s also biking. And swimming. And hiking. And taking jump shots. If it’s a weekend, you can expect to find the Republican candidate tweeting a photo of his latest feat of strength. Things might not work out for Brown in November, but Brown will almost certainly work out.

Uh, workout/sports photos are bad because….???? Seriously: are photos for some politician holding yet another baby, hunting, or eating another hotdog at a county fair supposed to be better?

At least this article didn’t accuse him of “fat shaming”, but hey, I haven’t read the comments. :-)

PS: politically speaking, I am not a fan of his and I hope that his opponent wins this election. But really???

August 27, 2014 Posted by | frogs, politics, science, social/political | , , | Leave a comment

President Obama’s main weakness

It is no secret that I am a fan of the President. But like the rest of us, he has weaknesses. This is one of his: he seems to have a disdain for building the personal relationships with members of Congress that people like President Clinton did.

Now, I happen to PREFER working with someone who is curt and to the point so *I* could probably work with him. But I don’t have a politician’s personality.

August 19, 2014 Posted by | Barack Obama, politics, politics/social | | Leave a comment

Liberals and Conservatives

Well, is there a genetic difference between conservatives and liberals? The evidence for “yes” is piling up; here is something from last month and here is one of my favorite TED talks by Jonathan Haidt. Upshot: conservatives appear to be more concerned with order and concerned with negative consequences.

Why is order important? Well, where would we be without laws to govern traffic (air and vehicle), radio waves, standardized parts (construction, electrical, computer, etc.). No order means no society and little, if anything gets done.

Of course unnecessary order and enforced conformity is no good either.

But here is the value of such studies: they show that things like facts and logical arguments are unlikely to change anyone’s mind on public policy; if we are to understand each other we should see the goals. They aren’t always the same.


Far be it from me to praise anything on Fox News but this piece by Megyn Kelly isn’t that bad:

If anything, it explains why the conservative justices weren’t crazy. Oh, it turns out that they were wrong (and she is too) but it is subtle:

Kelly was dismayed that liberals would offer scientific information provided by actual doctors showing that “three of the[se] four contraceptives do not lead to abortion, even using the conservative definition of when life begins.” Kelly thinks that piece of science is just a “notion.” Gunter writes that Kelly bases her incorrect claims that Plan B and ella (levonorgestrel and ulipristal acetate postcoital contraception, respectively), and Mirena IUS and ParaGard (both intrauterine devices or IUDs), “can and do end fertilized eggs”, on basic descriptions of the products and the opinion of the five men on the Supreme Court, whose — as Gunter wisely points out — “last biology class was likely 40 or more years ago (i.e., before the basic science evaluating these methods of contraception existed) and who do not practice medicine.”

Gunter dispels the idea that product descriptions should be used as a basis for these decisions:

“Product monographs do not contain the latest research; they are a compilation of FDA labeling requirements and corporate legal lingo used to deflect lawsuits. As more and more data emerges after a product goes to market, monographs become outdated because updating them offers no financial gain. Since I’m a doctor, not a lawyer, I’ll leave the specifics of how the case was argued to lawyers, but if the product monographs of Plan B, ella, Mirena IUS, and ParaGard were used as evidence to support the government’s case, then the government was relying on outdated and inaccurate information.”

Gunter cites a “plethora of medical evidence” and references showing that Plan B and ella are not abortifacients, and says that the idea that postcoital contraception and IUDs affect a fertilized egg is antiquated and not based on today’s technology. She writes, “If using the wealth of scientific data (multiple basic science articles, statements of experts in peer-reviewed journals, and international organizations) makes me an ideologue, I’m fine with that. However, I’m not sure that I’d use ‘liberal’ as the label, I think ‘evidence-based’ ideologue is more accurate.”

So the justices, and Kelly, were relying on outdated information that is on an official monograph and are therefore wrong.

But they weren’t crazy to make the argument.

And, sadly, it isn’t just conservatives that often get science wrong. I’ve seen non-scientists get offended by, well, what they think that a scientist said when, in fact, they don’t understand the statement and they make the wrong inference from their incorrect understanding of the statement. Sometimes talking to the general public is very painful.

August 8, 2014 Posted by | politics, politics/social, social/political | | Leave a comment

Politics: President Obama and Congress

One thing I’ve noticed: more and more, some of the liberal voices that were initially hard on President Obama have warmed up to the results. So, in terms of policy, (e. g. financial reform, health care reform, not rushing into wars), he has done what he set out to do. What has NOT happened was a decrease in partisanship; in fact that has gotten worse. And so, his approval ratings (low to mid 40’s) remain a little bit better than those of President Bush at the same time in his administration:

Screen shot 2014-08-06 at 4.41.24 PM

His presidency has actually become a bit stronger because Congress won’t do anything. Sure, they won’t bass bills that help the country…but they won’t pass bills that retard executive actions either because this divided Congress can’t do anything!

Interestingly enough, while Congressional approval has been rock bottom low for a long time, in the past, people hated Congress but approved of those that THEY elected. Now, for the first time in…who knows when…the majority of people don’t like who is representing them.

This might not mean that much for the following reason: we are living in a highly partisan time. When it comes to their own representative, those of the opposite party are more likely than ever to dislike person in office. And every member of Congress will have at least some opposition from their own party; hence approval ratings of over 50 percent are unlikely if the particular district is not solidly one party or another.

So, I don’t expect the House to change all that much in 2014, though the Democrats are going to have a rough time in the Senate, given that the Democrats are attempting to hold seats in some red states (Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina). I’d be delighted to see the Senate at 50-50, in which case VP Biden tips it to us. But that is, well, perhaps a 40 percent shot?

August 6, 2014 Posted by | Barack Obama, political/social, politics, social/political | | 1 Comment

Political Icon Images



At times, our political debate is nothing more than adding text to these photos.

August 3, 2014 Posted by | political humor, politics, social/political | , | Leave a comment


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