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

Current events: why people post what they do on their walls…

I am throwing out a conjecture that I have no evidence for.

When it comes to sensational events in the news (e. g. Ferguson shooting, NFL domestic violence incident, etc.), many of my Facebook friends post something. But, it appears to me, that many of the posts seem to be aimed at:

1. getting approval from like minded people
2. appearing to be virtuous or righteous
3. seeking praise or approval

Than anything else. There seems to be an indifference to looking for nuances or completeness of view as, well, doing that doesn’t result in pats on the back. :-)

So, I find myself commenting on other people’s “issues” related status less and less; mostly I just let them yell or cheerlead.

September 9, 2014 Posted by | politics/social | , | Leave a comment

Cops are human too…

I’d like to add something. There was a shooting in St. Louis: in this case the police shot and killed some guy who came out them with a knife. No, the initial story (about how he was holding the knife) was false, but human recollection is often flawed. Not all inaccurate testimony or reporting is lying.

Now, from the safety of my living room/office and the internet, I can say that the police should have made more of an effort to diffuse the situation. BUT, I don’t have someone coming at me with a knife. It is well known that soldiers in combat are almost always scared and often panic. Why would that not also apply to police officers?

Yes, there are some bad police officers who abuse their authority. But in holding the police accountable, we should distinguish between malicious abuse of authority and “heat of the moment” situations. Sure, police candidates are selected and then trained, but the “heat of the moment” situation is going to affect them too; they are not soulless robots.

More stuff
Good media reaction: this article in Time by former NBA great (and UCLA graduate) Kareem Abdul Jabbar is, well, very, very good. It is well written and even handed.

This Media Matters article isn’t so good. It claims that Geraldo Rivera is “blaming the victim”; instead he is making a prediction of how a jury might view the victim. I normally like Media Matters; they’ve slipped a bit here.

Poor communities: Eugene Robison talks about how many of these communities are isolated from the middle class and often invisible to us. This is also why honest discussions are so difficult.

I’ll give an example: most of the black people I know are college students or professionals that I interact with on the internet. Though I know a few and have had honest conversations with them (e. g. one of my friends was profiled by law enforcement and spread eagled on the pavement…this guy is an engineer, for crying out loud!), well, they are only a small percentage of my associates. The college students I see have passed through a sieve of sorts before I see them.

Yes, I sometimes see black people at the gym, or in the parks/rec trails, but these are those with the health and the means to exercise. They are all middle class or above.

My contacts with those in the poor community are minimal and often highly non-representative (e. g. panhandlers…and yes, the demographics of panhandlers vary from place to place; around the University of Texas they were almost all white, at least in the late 1980’s when I was there).

Bottom line: I have no clue as to what life is like in such communities.

I can have some empathy though, at least with regards to how they view police. I got profiled once and didn’t like it (you might read the comment by one visitor who told me that part of the problem was “MY RECORD” (speeding ticket?)), and I imagine that this happens to them all of the time. Still, I mostly see police as “good”; e. g. as being on “my side” and I can understand why others might not have this feeling.

A bit of good news
Teen pregnancy can contribute to poverty, but that is..on its way down! Of course, we aren’t completely sure as to why (e. g. the standard guesses such as “sex education” and “availability of birth control” have been statistically tested, and such tests have proved to be inconclusive).

August 22, 2014 Posted by | political/social, politics/social, racism, 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

I don’t have a good feel for this: Ferguson, Missouri

I sometimes use the St. Louis Airport (Lambert) and sometimes go to Rams games. So, I’ve been near Ferguson a few times.

This is where an unarmed African American was shot to death by police; I don’t know the full story; I’ve read a few accounts (did he struggle with the police? Was he shot while he was away from the police?)

I do know that there has been looting (undeniable) and that there are protests going on, which police swat teams (local, I think) are breaking up with tear gas and the like.

It appears TO ME that the police (the local police IN THIS AREA, not all police) are losing the PR war; they are coming across as overreacting thugs.

But I wonder if other people will focus on the looting and see the police response as, well, what you’d expect in such a “lawless area”.

I don’t know what to think; I do know that I’d hate this in my neighborhood and it would anger me to think that, say, some of the Jones Dome employees who were so good to us in the past were being mistreated.

August 14, 2014 Posted by | politics/social, social/political | , , | Leave a comment

Most of the stupid people that I know are liberals! (that wasn’t always the case either…)

Yes, it is true: most of the stupid people I know are liberals. There was a time when most of the stupid people I knew were conservatives, but that has changed….a long time ago.

So what changed? What has changed is this: most of the people I “know” (“know”, as in, “have non-superficial conversations with”) are now mostly Democrats. So, most people that I *know* (by this definition) are Democrats…so I could have easily said that “most of the smart people I know are liberals” and also been accurate.

When I was at the Naval Academy and later in the Navy, most of the people I knew then were…well…conservative.

My point: drawing a conclusion about the intelligence of a group of people adhering to a political philosophy based on one’s personal experience is dangerous.

Think of it this way: suppose there is a CEO who hangs around …well….mostly other CEO level people. These people are largely conservative. Suppose the only Democrats that this person sees are, well, say, janitors and other such people. It would be easy for this person to conclude that conservatives are smarter based on what this person sees in their day to day life; one could probably say the same for, say, a highly successful scientist who mostly hangs around other scientists (who lean liberal) and only encounters conservatives at, say, the gas station, retail stores and the like.

August 8, 2014 Posted by | politics/social, social/political | | 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

Modern Conservative Culture: dupe the gullible out of their money

The Guardian is having a field day with the new Sarah Palin channel:

Given the content available and the affectedly simple presentation, it’s hard not to see the new Sarah Palin Channel as simply a moneymaking enterprise.

Her competitor Glenn Beck’s vertically integrated TV-website-dogwhistle aggregator, the Blaze, takes in $36m per year before ad revenue. And, as both Rick Perlstein and Alex Pareene have noted, one of the animating principles of the conservative movement over the last 40 years has been soaking every last dollar out of people whose intellectual incuriosity has never been an impediment to further rage and paranoia. It’s why places like WorldNetDaily run obnoxious flash ads in columns that, top to bottom, tell you to buy and hoard gold, to click here to join a paid newsletter that outlines the UN/Agenda 21 plans to annex Joe’s Crab Shack, and how your $25 check to FreedomWorks is the only thing standing between repealing Obamacare or toiling in the lesbian nose-earring mines while wearing Soviet-style tracksuits that give everyone frontbutt.

I wanted to see for myself, but I still can’t even sign in for the free sample of the Sarah Palin Channel. Each attempt ends with a server error and my desultorily trying to glean something from available teaser videos.

The author of this article went on to get a one month subscription (cheaper than the NYT!) and describes what he saw.

I am too cheap to subscribe to a pay service. But I do know that I get “buy gold now” and “your doctor doesn’t want you to read this” advertisements from things like and the like. They are *always* hawking something and they do this in a way that liberal groups do not. Liberal groups also constantly ask for money, but it is always to “fight those evil Republicans”, etc. It is never to buy this or that investment, health secret, blah, blah, blah.

But it isn’t just the lower economic class of conservatives who get conned. Consider this Paul Krugman article about Karl Rove and the ultra-wealthy conservative establishment..and this article was written days PRIOR to the 2012 general election:

The estimable Rick Perlstein has a fascinating essay about the seamless continuum from direct-mail marketing scams to direct-mail right-wing fundraising, and from there to the whole character of modern movement conservatism. Go read. I didn’t know, for example, that heroes of direct-mail fundraising like Richard Viguerie ended up delivering hardly any of the money to political causes; somehow it ended up swallowed by overhead, otherwise known as the fundraisers themselves.

And although Perlstein doesn’t make this point, I suspect that his analysis explains one of the great mysteries of 2012: the failure of the great Rove/Citizens United juggernaut to materialize.

Remember how Rove and others were supposed to raise vast sums from billionaires and corporations, then totally saturate the country with GOP messaging, drowning out Obama’s message? Well, they certainly raised a lot of money, and ran a lot of ads. But in terms of actual number of ads the battle has been, if anything, an Obama advantage.

Krugman admits that he didn’t know how the election would actually go…not for sure anyway. But he had a great idea. But then:

Well, what if we’ve been misunderstanding Rove? We’ve been seeing him as a man dedicated to helping angry right-wing billionaires take over America. But maybe he’s best thought of instead as an entrepreneur in the business of selling his services to angry right-wing billionaires, who believe that he can help them take over America. It’s not the same thing.

And while Rove the crusader is looking — provisionally, of course, until the votes are in — like a failure, Rove the businessman has just had an amazing, banner year.

And you know something: there is part of me, albeit a small part, that envies the people that con these fearful idiots out of their money. There are times when I wish that I had that skill. :-)

July 31, 2014 Posted by | 2012 election, politics, politics/social, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Obama’s so called “Muslims built the very fabric of our Nation” remarks contrasted with Bush’s remarks

Yes, the White House released this statement (shown in full) on the 27’th of July:

Statement by the President on the Occasion of Eid-al-Fitr

As Muslims throughout the United States and around the world celebrate Eid-al-Fitr, Michelle and I extend our warmest wishes to them and their families. This last month has been a time of fasting, reflection, spiritual renewal, and service to the less fortunate. While Eid marks the completion of Ramadan, it also celebrates the common values that unite us in our humanity and reinforces the obligations that people of all faiths have to each other, especially those impacted by poverty, conflict, and disease.

In the United States, Eid also reminds us of the many achievements and contributions of Muslim Americans to building the very fabric of our nation and strengthening the core of our democracy. That is why we stand with people of all faiths, here at home and around the world, to protect and advance their rights to prosper, and we welcome their commitment to giving back to their communities.

On behalf of the Administration, we wish Muslims in the United States and around the world a blessed and joyous celebration. Eid Mubarak.

Emphasis mine.

Of course right wing “sources” such as Breitbart (shown in this screen shot) played this statement in this manner:

Screen shot 2014-07-30 at 3.46.04 PM

And of course, we see the spreading of outrage from the morons conservatives all over the internet.

For comparison, this is what President George W. Bush said:

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, sir. It’s good to be with you again. And it is my honor to visit the Islamic Center of Washington once again.

For half a century, this beautiful mosque has served as a place of worship for Muslims and has helped to advance understanding between people of different faiths. Millions of our fellow Americans practice the Muslim faith. They lead lives of honesty and justice and compassion.

President George W. Bush marks Eid al-Fitr, the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, with an address at the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C., Thursday, Dec. 5. White House photo by Paul Morse I am pleased to join you today in the celebration of Eid, the culmination of the Holy Month of Ramadan. I appreciate so very much Dr. Khouj, and I want to thank the other distinguished imam from the Washington, D.C. area. Thank you all for being here. And I enjoyed our visit. I also appreciate the Muslim schoolchildren who are here, telling me stories and reading poems and showing the art work. Please tell them thanks again for their hospitality.

Islam traces its origins back to God’s call on Abraham. And Ramadan commemorates the revelation of God’s word in the Holy Koran to the prophet Mohammad — a word that is read and recited with special attention and reverence by Muslims during this season.

Over the past month, Muslims have fasted, taking no food or water during daylight hours, in order to refocus their minds on faith and redirect their hearts to charity. Muslims worldwide have stretched out a hand of mercy to those in need. Charity tables at which the poor can break their fast line the streets of cities and towns. And gifts of food and clothing and money are distributed to ensure that all share in God’s abundance. Muslims often invite members of other families to their evening iftar meals, demonstrating a spirit of tolerance.

During Eid al-Fitr, Muslims celebrate the completion of their fast and the blessings of renewed faith that have come with it. Customs vary between countries — from illuminating lanterns in Egypt to lighting firecrackers in Pakistan, to inviting elders to traditional feasts in Niger. Around the world, families and neighbors and friends gather to share traditional foods, and congratulate each other on meeting the test of Ramadan.

The spirit behind this holiday is a reminder that Islam brings hope and comfort to more than a billion people worldwide. Islam affirms God’s justice and insists on man’s moral responsibility. This holiday is also an occasion to remember that Islam gave birth to a rich civilization of learning that has benefitted mankind.

Here in the United States our Muslim citizens are making many contributions in business, science and law, medicine and education, and in other fields. Muslim members of our Armed Forces and of my administration are serving their fellow Americans with distinction, upholding our nation’s ideals of liberty and justice in a world at peace. And in our Nation’s Capital, this center contributes greatly to our spiritual and cultural life.

On behalf of Laura and our family and the American people, I bring our best wishes to all who worship here, and to Muslims throughout the world for a joyous Eid, and for health and happiness and prosperity in the year to come.

Eid Mubarak. God bless.

The Bush statement is longer but, if anything, is a bit more specific with respect to the contributions made by American Muslims.

July 30, 2014 Posted by | Barack Obama, politics, politics/social, republicans | , , , | Leave a comment


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