blueollie

Republicans …..you just can’t make this stuff up

If you see this as “well, it was impolite to say in public and non-pc to say but largely true”, well, you are probably a Republican.

March 10, 2014

The real utility of Wendy Davis….

Yes, it appears that she will be the Democratic nominee for the Governor’s race in Texas.

Frankly, she doesn’t have much of a chance in a large, conservative state like Texas. She will probably win the Obama regions (South Texas, El Paso, Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio) and get smeared elsewhere.

But she has national appeal and can probably be used to raise PAC money that can go to more viable candidates.

My guess: she might eventually run for and win a US House seat.

March 5, 2014

More on outliers…cold and science…talking past one another

No workout this morning (up too late for the basketball game and I needed sleep). But I’ll lift after my 9-10 class and maybe catch a quick swim at 1100 (1000 yards?). I’ll take my lunch to the gym locker so I HAVE to go to the gym.

Yes, MORE snow and cold on the way (6-10 inches are forecast for the weekend, though that is a few days out):

Basically, we are having a (junior varsity) Canadian style winter this year, and I don’t expect relief until sometime in April.

A bit of science (I need cheering up)

Religion

Why do some people continue to insist that “it is in the Bible” means anything at all?

Talking past one another
Paul Kurgman’s mini essay made me think:

James Surowiecki makes an important point: if you want a society in which everyone has a decent life, you need to construct a society in which everyone has a decent life — not a society in which everyone has a small but equal chance of living the lifestyle of the rich and famous.

Not that we’re anywhere close to the second condition, anyway — the most important factor in whether you can become rich is whether you chose the right parents: Most people are going to end up with socioeconomic status close to where they started. But even if that weren’t true, those moving up the ladder would be matched by an equal number moving down. Since anyone could find himself or herself downwardly mobile, social mobility arguably actually strengthens the case for a strong safety net.

But many conservatives are just fine with a society that heavily awards winners and lets the losers flounder; this is the high risk, but high potential society which perhaps is left over from the old “frontier mentality”. Either you have some success, or die.

And statistically, the vast majority of us (myself included) are pretty average (despite what you read on the walls of Facebook; from the glowing reports of parents, you’d think that the off spring of my FB friends are all bound for the National Academy of Science!).

Having a society that caters more to the average might well be more realistic, but it might well crush the dreams.

February 26, 2014

Ignorant and proud of it….

Workout notes
Full weights plus 1800 yards of swimming (just over a mile)

Weights: rotator cuff, hip hikes, Achilles
pull ups: 2 sets of 15, 2 of 10
bench: 10 x 135, 7 x 170, 6 x 170
military (dumbbell): 3 sets of 12 x 50 (seated, supported)
rows: uphight, 3 sets of 10 x 25 (dumbbells)
rows: Hammer, 3 sets of 10 x 210
pull downs: 3 sets of 10 x 160
curls: 3 sets of 10 x 70 (machine)

Swim: 500 warm up (slow; got blown away by Ms. Bikini)
500 of drill/swim (no fins)
10 x 50 on the 1:10 (first 5, count strokes: 21-23 per length, 51-52 sec.)
next 5: 49-50
100 first drills
2 x 100 IM

I felt a bit bad; I grabbed the lane by the wall, and this kind of strange guy who usually swims there saw that and left, though there was room in the middle of the pool. I’ll ask him if there is some medical condition that precludes him from using the middle lanes.

The pool (and the weight room) has been used at an unusually high level lately.

The public and mathematics
Yes, some people have asked me this: “why all of the letters? Why don’t you use NUMBERS?”.

If I am in a patient mood I might say something like: “ok, suppose you want to be able to program a computer to compute a tax on an order? Well, you’d need the item ordered, the price of the item ordered, how many of each item ordered and the applicable tax, right?

Well, there is a “slot” in the order form for each of those, and the “letters” we use stand for such slots.”

Usually, these questions come from those who haven’t had the benefit of an education.

Ignoring pleas from business leaders, the Senate Education Committee voted 6-3 along party lines Thursday to bar Arizona from implementing the Common Core standards the state adopted four years ago.

Sen. Al Melvin, R-Tucson, who championed SB 1310, said he believes the concept of some nationally recognized standards started out as a “pretty admirable pursuit by the private sector and governors.”

“It got hijacked by Washington, by the federal government,” said Melvin, a candidate for governor, and “as a conservative Reagan Republican I’m suspect about the U.S. Department of Education in general, but also any standards that are coming out of that department.”

“I’ve been exposed to them,” Melvin responded.

Pressed by Bradley for specifics, Melvin said he understands “some of the reading material is borderline pornographic.” And he said the program uses “fuzzy math,” substituting letters for numbers in some examples.

No, this isn’t satire. I wish that it were.

So, in all seriousness: how is such a person supposed to make a decision on any issue that requires the least bit of analytical thought?

I swear: I am old enough to remember Republicans when they were proud of their educations and knowledge. Now, at times, it appears that they are mostly proud to be ignorant.

But…I can’t blame this all on the rabid populists. A Facebook friend posted this article on her wall…and look at her comments, especially the LAST ONE:

Get that? If something is too tough for a “special needs” person to do…well, it is too hard for the general population.

I’d hate to think that common standards are determined by the least able among us, but there is a large segment of the population that thinks EXACTLY that way.

I can see a conservative chuckling and saying “ok, how is that PUBLIC EDUCATION working out for you”?

Note while there ARE legitimate criticisms of Common Core; using “letters for numbers” isn’t one of them.

Note: the above link was brought to my attention by someone on Facebook.

February 24, 2014

Pull ups, Republicans, Catholic Bishops, economic metaphors and access …..

Social
Handicap access: not so good in China. Note: there is a different aspect to the body and the handicapped in China:

The continuing popular horror of disability today points to the strong grip of Chinese traditions that conflate biology and morality. One of the most powerful of these is the patriarchal Confucian notion of the importance of lineage. Confucianism sees the body, especially if male, as part of a chain of continuity stretching back to an individual’s ancestors and forward to his descendants. In this vision, a crippled or deformed body is a perversion – one often attributed to the moral or spiritual flaws of parents, especially mothers, who are blamed for their failure to follow medical superstitions, such as post-natal confinement or the avoidance of certain foods during pregnancy.

As a result, birth defects occasion far more fear and disgust in China than disability caused by accidents. ‘Sometimes people outside the city think I was born like this,’ commented one travelling businessman, showing me the prosthesis he’s worn since he lost a leg in the Tangshan quake in 1976. ‘And I tell them quickly, “no, no, it was the quake.”’

Hence, less empathy.

Speaking of bodies: The Marines will require that women be able to do pull ups. One (female) Major thinks that is a great thing:

First, to female Marines: You must understand that pullups will become the single standard measure of physical fitness (Marine administrative message 035/14). The flexed-arm hang is an antiquated test that is no longer applicable. Get it out of your head that it is an acceptable measure of fitness.

United States Marines, of any MOS or gender, should be required — and able — to pull their body weight up and into a window, over a wall or into a helicopter.

If you have not reached a minimum of three pullups by June 2014, you must fall into one of two categories: broke or lazy. Those of you who are broken: get healthy. Those of you who are lazy: get up and get training.

Remember: she is addressing young, healthy people (she is 37, but 17 years my junior).

Gosh, I miss attitudes such as this one.

Economics
Paul Krugman thinks that “simple thought experiments” are extremely useful in economics; this 1997 article is amusing:

One of the points of this column is to illustrate a paradox: You can’t do serious economics unless you are willing to be playful. Economic theory is not a collection of dictums laid down by pompous authority figures. Mainly, it is a menagerie of thought experiments–parables, if you like–that are intended to capture the logic of economic processes in a simplified way. In the end, of course, ideas must be tested against the facts. But even to know what facts are relevant, you must play with those ideas in hypothetical settings. And I use the word “play” advisedly: Innovative thinkers, in economics and other disciplines, often have a pronounced whimsical streak.

It so happens that I am about to use my hot-dog-and-bun example to talk about technology, jobs, and the future of capitalism. Readers who feel that big subjects can only be properly addressed in big books–which present big ideas, using big words–will find my intellectual style offensive. Such people imagine that when they write or quote such books, they are being profound. But more often than not, they’re being profoundly foolish. And the best way to avoid such foolishness is to play around with a thought experiment or two.

Go ahead and read the article; it discusses what happens when productivity goes up in a particular sector of the economy.

The 4,500-square-foot home sits on 8.2 wooded acres in the hills of Hunterdon County. With five bedrooms, three full bathrooms, a three-car garage and a big outdoor pool, it’s valued at nearly $800,000, records show. But it’s not quite roomy enough for Newark Archbishop John J. Myers. Myers, who has used the Franklin Township house as a weekend residence since the archdiocese purchased it in 2002, is building a three-story, 3,000-square-foot addition in anticipation of his retirement in two years, The Star-Ledger found. He will then move in full-time, a spokesman for the archbishop said. The new wing, now just a wood frame, will include an indoor exercise pool, a hot tub, three fireplaces, a library and an elevator, among other amenities, according to blueprints and permits filed with the Franklin Township building department. The price tag, the records show, will be a minimum of a half million dollars, a figure that does not include architectural costs, furnishings and landscaping. Construction is progressing as Myers asks the 1.3 million Roman Catholics of the archdiocese to open their wallets for the “archbishop’s annual appeal,” a fundraising effort that supports an array of initiatives, including religious education, the training of future priests and feeding the poor.[...] Very Republican, indeed. But according to a TIME analysis of county-by-county food-stamp-enrollment data compiled by the nonprofit Feeding America, it appears that House Republicans represent more districts with high levels of participation in the program than House Democrats. Of the 350 congressional districts in which TIME was able to estimate the percentage of people enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), 76 had levels of 20% or higher. Of those, 43 are held by Republicans while 33 are controlled by Democrats.[...] One caveat: Democrats may well represent more people on SNAP as Democratic districts have more people, on the average, than Republican ones. Part of that is gerrymandering, but much of it stems from the fact that Democrats tend to live in more densely populated urban areas. February 20, 2014 Peoria Democrats Presidents Day Dinner Yes I worked out in the morning: weights: hip hikes, Achilles, rotator cuff. pull ups (5 sets of 10), Had to fight off the ROTC crowd: bench: 10 x 135, 4 x 180, 6 x 170 (latter was weak) military: standing barbell: 10 x 85, 10 x 85, 5 x 85 standing row: 3 sets of 10 x 35 curls: 3 sets of 10 x 30 (dumbbell) pull downs: 3 sets of 10 x 160 Rows (Hammer): 2 sets of 10 x 220, 10 x 200 Swimming: 500 warm up 300 of drill/swim (fins) 8 x 50 on 1:10 (mostly 48-49; no 50′s) 100 in 1:42 (lame) 2 x 100 IM 100 fly practice (fins) Then after work: shoveling WET heavy snow (yuck) I decided to try to go to the President’s Day Dinner and it was ok; Mike Frerichs (State Senator, Democratic candidate for State Treasurer) spoke. Sheila Simon was there as was Cheri Bustos. I asked Rep. Bustos to contrast herself with her Tea Party challenger Bobby Schilling; she seemed a bit irritated. I am trying to nudge her in a more “Peoria area friendly” direction and away from those Blue Dogs. Note: this is my 10′th dinner; I’ve made every once since 2005. February 18, 2014 They really believe it: the rich think that they are entitled to a greater say…. Billionaire tech mogul Tom Perkins, who recently came under fire for his letter in the Wall Street Journal warning that the less wealthy might stage a Nazi Germany-style pogrom against the wealthy 1%, told a forum in San Francisco that the world could be saved by changing American voting laws: “If you pay$1 million in taxes, you get a million votes.”

According to Mother Jones, Perkins recently sat down at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club for a Q&A session with Fortune magazine’s Adam Lashinsky entitled, “The War On The 1%.” When asked to offer one idea that could save the world, Perkins discussed changing American voting laws “You don’t get to vote unless you pay $1 in taxes… If you pay$1 million in taxes, you get a million votes.”

Following the forum, Perkins stated that he was simply “trying to be outrageous.”

Folks, they really do believe something close to this.

February 14, 2014

Getting it done…sort of

Today’s workout (9 am), 2 mile treadmill run to warm up (21:xx), then 4 x (.25 at 10, 8:57, 8:34, 11:19 mpm, or 10, 6.7, 7, 5.3 mph); that got me to 6 miles in 1:00:40. I had a lower GI issue (rare for me), then I got back on and did 2 more miles in 20:54 (1:21:34) and then walked 2 miles on the track (30:44; first mile was 16:10)

That was enough to give me sore legs! Oh well.

Speaking of getting it done: it looks as if President O will be using executive orders, whenever possible:

Good for him.

February 8, 2014

Talking past each other: the “1 percent” (not really) and work ethic…and income inequality

First, I admit that I don’t care for slogans such as “war on X”. Yes, people of all political stripes use it. So while admitting that, I find that this Robert Reich video makes some excellent points:

Adding to that: too many not making good wages can lead to a “demand” problem. And yes, I want people to be able to send their kids to my university, so, yes, I have some skin in this game. The “demand” side of the economic equation is very important to me.

And then we see this: some of the very richest among us get their feelings hurt when they aren’t catered to and some went as far as to claim that they are similar to the Jews in Nazi Germany! (no, I didn’t make that up)

So, this one person backtracked but made this statement:

Venture capitalist Tom Perkins recently caused a stir when he wrote an item comparing contemporary liberals to Nazis, insisting liberal criticism of the wealthiest 1% has “parallels” to Nazi genocide. He later apologized for having used the word “Kristallnacht,” but defended his message.

The story ran its course and faded away, right up until yesterday, when billionaire Sam Zell, chairman of Equity Group Investments, decided to defend Perkins in a Bloomberg TV interview.
“I guess my feeling is that he’s right,” Zell said when asked by Bloomberg’s Betty Liu how he felt about Perkins’ stance. “The 1 percent are being pummeled because it’s politically convenient to do so.”

Zell then said the problem is that all non-rich are just jealous that they don’t have the same work ethic that the country’s wealthiest do.

“The problem is that the world and this country should not talk about envy of the 1 percent. It should talk about emulating the 1 percent,” he said. “The 1 percent work harder. The 1 percent are much bigger factors in all forms of our society.”

Given the role that randomness plays in which investments boom and which go bust…isn’t this at least a little bit like bragging about having a winning lottery ticket?

Now before you cry “foul” and say something like “well, the elite in any profession DO work harder, on the average, than the mediocre”, I’d actually agree with that.

Well, I’d agree with that to a point. For example, I might decide to shovel snow for a living. I might work 16 hour days and work very, very hard in hard conditions. And I mean “shovel snow” and NOT expert snow removal. But I won’t get rich. So it isn’t merely “hard work”.

So, when we talk about “1 percent”, what do we mean? Lots of times, it is a proxy for the top tenth of one percent, where most of the gains went. And this is NOT a diverse group; we mean mostly hedge fund, venture capitalist types, with a tiny percentage of, maybe pro athletes and entertainers of various types.

When you talk about the elite in the high prestige professions: medical doctors, engineers, business owners, SOME science researchers (say, those at big pharma), even star professors, these people ARE well paid (and should be) but we really aren’t talking about them.

There is a big difference between being toward the top in one’s high prestige profession and being among those whose incomes are part of the “income inequality” equation. These are different issues, and most of us don’t mind the former people AT ALL; personally I admire them.

February 8, 2014

Different start and a couple of thoughts…Good Old Days and Bill Nye’s debate

Today, I woke up, checked some e-mail and yes, did some math. That might be a way to start my Tuesday/Thursday when I start to teach late: get up, start my duties and THEN break for a run/walk as I’ll take in a few moments.

It will be indoors, again:

Our neighborhood streets are solid compressed snow and ice.

What I am working on: it is somewhat technical. But imagine you want to find solve $f(x) = 0$ where the solution is impossible to solve “in closed form” (e. g. solve it like you did in algebra class). There are numerical techniques that you can use a computer for. If you’ve had calculus, you might recognize Newton’s method where if $x_{n}$ is an approximation to the solution, $x_{n+1} = x_n -\frac{f(x_n)}{f'(x_n)}$ where $f'(x)$ is the derivative of $f$. Never mind that; the point is that one generates a series of approximations to the solution (provided certain conditions are met): $x_1, x_2, x_3, .....x_n, x_{n+1}, ....$ which are hopefully getting closer to the desired solution. If you met the correct “starting requirements” and the solution exists, this sequence of numbers WILL get close to your desired solution.

One problem though: “how many times do you have to do this?” is an important question. One reason: the computer can’t store every number exactly; hence there is round off error, and that error grows with each calculation.
So, if it is the case where each approximation $x_n$ has error inherently built in, it might be possible (if certain conditions are met) to take your series of approximations and manipulate them so that the larger “inherent errors” subtract off and one gets close to the solution in a fewer number of steps. One adds calculation early (adding round off error) to save many more calculations later (greatly reducing round off error).

One such process is called the Aitken Delta-squared process and that is what I was working on.

Two thoughts

Thought one: the Good Old Days:

Okay, I’m just going to say this once more: No, I don’t miss the days when gas was 15 cents a gallon, and your curfew was “when the street lights came on,” and kids were more afraid of their parents than of the cops…..
Because back then, women, minorities, gays, and other marginalized people had even fewer rights than they have now. Crime is not really significantly worse now than it was then. It’s just than when a man beats his wife to a pulp, he can be convicted and jailed for it now, whereas back then, it was just seen as a domestic issue and no business of anyone else. People are still killing other people. People are still loving other people. People are still dying of curable diseases. People are still committing random acts of kindness.
And what a lot of conservatives don’t like to admit, but what the facts support, is that even the white, male, heterosexual population is better off when non-whites, females, gays, and any marginalized segments of society gain strength and power. Power is a renewable resource, increasing for the whole when it increases for a part; not a finite, limited supply.
In general, more of us are better off than we were 20, 40 years ago. I wouldn’t trade my penny candy memories for gas-guzzling over-poluting cars and institutionalized misogyny, not ever.

She is right, of course. I think that when we remember the past, we remember the good but not the bad. And change is NEVER all good; for example we live longer (most of us anyway) but that means there are more elderly who live long enough to lose their minds through dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

What was curious though was one of the replies she got (she is religious and has religious friends):

In matters of the flesh, it certainly does seem things are better than they were.

But in matters of the Spirit, we are not better off, we are worse off and it is deteriorating from there.

We are abandoning God. That is never a sign that things are “better”, no matter the outward appearance that they are.

That leads to the next point. There are those who use religion to better their own lives in the hear-and-now, but to all too many, there is an inherent virtue to accepting some woo-woo supernatural claim (THEIR claim, of course) and rejecting it is a type of evil.

I can’t have an intellectual discussion with someone who is that delusional.

Which leads me to discuss the Bill Nye “The Science Guy” (educator) versus Ken Ham (owner of the creation museum).

I might watch the debate later

There are two schools of thought:

1. Bill Nye didn’t understand that this was an exercise in politics: hence he lost by merely showing up.

2. Bill Nye won the day by presenting some science to people who don’t see a lot of it. Maybe, just maybe, he planted a seed of science that might later germinate in a young mind.

Ok, there is a third, less popular school of thought: show up and insult the creationist as a charlatan. Here, the scientist started off by making some blunt accusations against the creationist and then offered the creationist a chance to electrocute himself:

Prior to the debate, I was in camp 1, but after the debate (which I didn’t watch), I thought ….well…remembered as a kid I once believed that superstitious nonsense….maybe? Then again, I kind of “evolved” out of it by basically living among more educated people. I have deep respect for those who manage to find their way out while staying in the same environment.

Ok, time to get it….

February 6, 2014