# blueollie

## Reality: rams, Keynesians, winters, US history, epigenetics and bigotry

I am enjoying a chilly, “when in the heck is spring going to arrive” day by watching women’s basketball on television (NCAA Sweet 16) and blogging. Eating Indian food with Barbara saved me from watching the horrible 105-54 pasting that Connecticut laid on Texas.

The way that Connecticut plays reminds me a bit of the way the better NBA teams played in the 1970’s: lots of ball movement, efficiency and little wasted motion. They look as if they are loafing even while playing fast; they are just cool, calm, collected and ruthlessly efficient.

But the race for spots in the Final Four is interesting.

Reality
This farmer talks about rams and how violent they are:

Do not try to run away from an attacking ram. He can outrun you. If you watch two bucks about to deliver orgasms to each other, they will face off and take a few steps backwards. Then they charge, colliding head on with enough collective force to make an anvil bleed. Then they quiver with pleasure and do it again.

So when you see your buck start to back away from you, walk towards him. I mean go right at him. Almost always this is confusing to a buck and he will keep backing away for awhile and might lose interest in killing you. This can give you time to get closer to a fence or a tractor. If you can get to an immovable object like a tree, all you have to do is keep it between you and the ram. Then he can’t do his classic charge and soon tires of the game.

Otherwise, like out in the middle of a field, he will eventually quit backing up at your advance and attack. Stand your ground. This takes a great deal of nerve the first time. But at the last second before he butts you, he will lift himself on his hind legs to give his forward motion extra pile-driver strength. Up on his hind legs, he can only lunge straight ahead. He can’t turn. So when he lunges, all you have to do is step sideways, quickly of course, and his momentum carries him past you. This maneuver is quite effective and it is almost comical to see how puzzled the ram will be when all he collides with is thin air. If you are young and strong, this is the moment when you grab him, twist his head around backwards, set him on his ass like you were going to shear him, and pummel the living hell out of him. Some shepherds say this will only make him meaner but in my experience, he will act like a gentleman for about a month. Or will absorb enough fear of the Lord so that when you see him backing up the next time, a warning yell will make him stop short and decide it is more fun to go eat hay.

If you are not young and strong, you should only be out with the flock in the pasture if you are riding a tractor or other vehicle. I have often wondered what would happen if a ram decided to dispute his territory with a four wheeler. I’m afraid that the four-wheeler would come off second best.

He isn’t kidding:

Science

Epigenetics (that changes can be passed along without there being changes in the genome) is important, but it isn’t “revolutionizing biology”:

This sounds both liberating and terrifying at the same time: Our destinies are not fixed by our genes, and yet much of what we do and experience could have a profound effect on the biological make-up of ourselves and our children. But the hype has outrun the science. As one group wrote last year, “scientific hyperbole rarely generates the level of professional and personal prescriptions for health behavior that we are now seeing in epigenetics.” Many of the boldest claims being made about the relationship between epigenetics, health, and our environment are based only on evidence from animal studies, and thus are, at best, premature. In fact, much of the recent research in epigenetics hasn’t turned up anything fundamentally new.

Scientists have long been aware that our genes aren’t chiseled in stone—they are in a constant dialogue with our environment. The epigenetic marking up of our DNA, discovered decades ago, is a key part of how that dialogue takes place. And while these marks are an important feature of our biology, the biggest flaw in many of the claims being made about epigenetics is that they confuse cause with effect.

Epigenetic marks are a consequence of changes in the activity of our genes in response to our health, our environment, and our social experiences, but they are not the underlying cause of those changes. There is no reason to believe that drugs, treatments, or health advice that target these DNA markings will be unusually effective compared to therapies that aren’t specifically epigenetic.

While epigenetics is rife with hype, there is at least one advantage to all of the attention this field is getting: People are recognizing just how profoundly our physical and social environment can affect our biology.

Now I believe that science is important to our society and evidently, so did early Americans:

But what’s nice about it is what Will imparted in his email:

The interesting part is the motto on the coin: “Liberty Parent of Science & Industry”. Now we all know that the “In God We Trust” motto is a relatively recent innovation, but I was surprised to find (although I shouldn’t have been) that the founders rated science as one of the boons of liberty. And nary a mention of the creator. Just another little nail in the coffin of “America founded as a Christian nation.” I’ve attached the image.

Sure enough, on the face it clearly says “Liberty Parent of Science & Industry”. If Republicans had their way, it would have said, “Liberty, Offspring of God.”

According to CNN

The coin, known as the “Birch Cent,” was made in 1792, months after the one-cent denomination was first authorized by Congress, according to the auction house Stack’s Bowers Galleries.
It was made in a trial run for the penny, and depicts Lady Liberty. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington discussed the design in letters dated August 1792, before it was presented to Congress as an option for the new coin.

Bigotry I feel good about this: some very wealthy, powerful CEOs are taking stands against Indiana’s “freedom to discriminate against gays” law. Though the law is a setback, we are winning the social war.

Social and economy

This is interesting: some people are saying that Paul Krugman isn’t a “real Keynesian” because

Brad DeLong points me to Lars Syll declaring that I am not a “real Keynesian”, because I use equilibrium models and don’t emphasize the instability of expectations.

One way to answer this is to point out that Keynes said a lot of things, not all consistent with each other. (The same is true for all of us.) Right at the beginning of the General Theory, Keynes explains the “principle of effective demand” with a little model of temporary equilibrium that takes expectations as given. If that kind of modeling is anti-Keynesian, the man himself must be excommunicated. […]

If you can show me any useful advice given by those sniping at me and other for our failure to be proper Keynesians, I’ll be happy to take it under consideration. If you can’t, then we’re just doing literary criticism here, and I’m not interested.

I’ll bet that the person making this claim is religious, which explains why that person might cling to an economic dogma even among a ton of contrary evidence.

And speaking of contrary evidence: this is Krugman’s part II of “air conditioning lead to the growth of the south, not Republican economic policies”; here he shows a correlation of population growth with January temperatures:

As I pointed out the other day, this long-term movement toward the sun, in turn, probably has a lot to do with the gradual adjustment to air conditioning.

And as I also pointed out, the search for mild winters can lead to a lot of spurious correlations. With the exception of California — which has mild winters but also, now, has very high housing prices — America’s warm states are very conservative. And that’s not an accident: warm states were also slave states and members of the Confederacy, and a glance at any election map will tell you that in US politics the Civil War is far from over.

The point, then, is that these hot red states also tend to be low-minimum-wage, low-taxes-on-the-wealthy jurisdictions. And that opens the door to sloppy and/or mendacious claims that low wages and taxes are driving their growth.

This really shouldn’t even be controversial — I think it’s kind of obvious.

He also posts more data about air conditioning: from 1900 to 1970 the south’s share of the population dropped. It started to gain in 1980, right when widespread home air conditioning grew.

Now, of course, both of these points could be correlation and not causation.

If you’re wondering why I’m doing posting so much on a Saturday, I’m housebound with a cold, so why not?

What? This happens to Nobel Laureates too? :-)

March 28, 2015

## CIDA/CIAND 5K: relearning old lessons

Conditions: Not much wind, some sun, 26 F (-4 C). Brrr… I’d predict about a 2-3 percent slow down due to the cold as happened in the past.

I did this race last year when I was further along in training and it was 6 degrees F warmer. Like last year, I went with Tracy to the race.

Upshot: 25:50 for 5K; 15 out of 68 finishers (8:19), 4’th in the age group.

There weren’t many people here and Pat O’Bryan was a bit stiff in starting hence I went out ahead of her. I closed on some ladies and passed them on the way out; mostly I chased a younger, tall guy who was to finish 22 seconds ahead of me.

The lesson: though I was familiar with the course, I didn’t remember where the splits were. According to people with Garmins, the course was accurate enough, but the mileage markers were off (long) as explained by my splits: 8:30, 8:42 (17:12), 8:38 for 1.1.

When I saw the first mile (still chasing one of the two runners I would catch), I thought “I know it is cold and I am not used to it, but I thought that I was doing better than this!” So I attempted to put a bit more into it. I could see Terry and Jerry in the distance (they are very tall) and my distance to them didn’t seem unusual.

We circled and headed back; I was in the place I would finish in and could see the tall younger guy up ahead. Mile 2: 8:42????? That discouraged me; and I am not deep enough into the season to be confident as to what I can do. So I thought “ok, low 26 finish?) and started to let up. But I saw the tall guy and said to myself: “Race. Try to catch him; forget about your time.” So I tried and I did close the gap just a bit. But as we turned toward the start I could hear some quick footsteps; I could tell that was Pat breathing down my neck (not literally; I am about a foot taller than she is). I’ve raced her often enough to recognize her footsteps.

So I said: “pick it up; don’t let Pat catch you” and so I tried to push.

The end of the course is a “once around the parking lot loop (just over 400 meters)” and I saw Terry finishing in 23:28 and knew that I’d be done in about 2:30…time to pick it up as I had a shot of going under 26. So that, plus chasing the tall guy plus trying to stay ahead of Pat sped me up enough to get under 26 (25:50); Pat was 5 seconds behind me. Note: she beats me most of the time.

So, this was 41 seconds slower than last year but I was further along then and this was a tougher day to run.

Afterward, I went out to bring Tracy in and yelled for the other runners; Tracy (F 70-74) won her personal battle to break 40 (39:38) and to beat two women that she had been leap-frogging with.

After the food, conversation (hi JJW) and awards, I had a nice conversation with one of the directors of Building Steam. We talked about a few issues and now I am raring to go.

Another issue
I like this race (well organized, decent course, decent food afterward) but am concerned with its future; it used to have 5 times the current participation. But the small crowd lead to a curious statistical result:

1. Joe Hanks 50-54 19:56
2. Daniel Ball 55-59 19:58
3. Leo Vanvervlugt 60-64 20:08

These are wonderful performances for this age group. But this was NOT the Senior Olympics. This reminds me of this “Slowest Generation” article. Though the competitive young people (e. g. team members) train very, very hard and really get after it, the non-team members…not so much. Then again, who has time to be concerned with times when one is texting and taking selfies while they are running? :-)

If you want some amusement, google “slowest generation” and read all of the butt-hurt.

March 28, 2015

## How good at sports are you? About measuring human performance relative to others…

Workout notes Swimming.

500 very slow; Mike and Jason beat me.
5 x 100 fist/free on 2:10. slow; first 2 were 2:00;then I migrated to 1:55 then to 1:50 for the last 2.
Then 3 x 100 drill (fins), 200 free:
3:31, 3:29, 3:27
100 drill
150 side (stayed with a slow free style swimmer for 50
50 back

It was ok; started bad but got better when I focused more.

Human performance relative to age: who you are compared to makes a difference

Yesterday, I noted that, by the measure used in this calculator, my age adjusted performance at the bench press is better now than when I was at perhaps my peak fitness.

The numbers: 1982, I weighed 190 and could bench press 260, which was 1.26 times my body weight; the minimum for a rating of “excellent” was 240 pounds.
This year (2015), I weigh 180 and can bench press 185 (I got 200 last year), which is a ratio of 1.03 which rates as “excellent”; the minimum rating of excellent for a male my age and body weight is 155 pounds. So, by this measure, I rate higher now than then, and that surprises me.

Now when it comes to, say, the 5K run, using this calculator, I am worse now than as a younger man. I ran about 19:00 as a young man and 19:53 as a 38 year old; last year’s best (at 54) was 24:42, which grades to 21:08 for 20-29, and 21:50 as a 38 year old. Note: my 54 year old time grades to 23:00 as a 45 year old (I ran 23:46) and 23:44 as a 49 year old (I failed to break 24 that year).

So, why do I rate higher in lifting than in running? One reason might be that perhaps my build is better suited for upper body strength than running. It could be that I don’t run as much as I did when I was younger, but my lifting hasn’t changed that much.

But I think that something else is going on.

The running calculator is from a “sport” page; there you are graded against the best in your age group. That is, you are graded against the most extreme outliers.

Now as a young person, outliers were mostly determined by inherent athletic ability. Yes, I know that the athletes have to train like demons, but the training is so that they can beat other outstanding athletes and not to beat me; witness the world class marathoner who ran 2:14 on 35 miles a week of running.

Now when you talk about age, you have to factor in not only genetic ability for the sport, but also the aging process itself; we do NOT age at the same rate, have the same level of accumulated injuries, etc.

So when you are compared to the best in your age group, you are being compared to people who are “double outliers” (ability, aging..)

On the other hand, I think (not sure) that the bench press calculator compares you to the AVERAGE MALE of your age group. The outliers get averaged out, so to speak.
As one ages, that is a very different comparison; as one ages, one can maintain a reasonably good score, relative to the average, by merely staying active when so many others do not. That will not help you vs. the outliers.

Side note
I noticed that my age group place in the Steamboat 15K has gotten worse. One factor: there are now fewer people in my age group; there aren’t many 55 year olds who would just enter a 15K running race on a whim (“I wonder how I’d do”); the only ones there are the seasoned runners. That isn’t true for the younger age groups.

Evidence: This past year, there were 43 people in the male 50-54 age group. I placed 38’th (.88). There were 60 people in the male 35-39 age group. My time would have placed me 46’th (.76). That is, AT MY CURRENT AGE, I placed higher in the 35-39 than I did in 50-54!!!! The reason, I think, is the level of competitions; only seasoned “over 50 years old” runners even attempt it.

March 27, 2015

Education: yes, if you base teaching performance on the test scores of their students, the teachers will cook the data any way that they can. Given a metric, people will seek to optimize the metric, regardless of end results.

A questionable pro-President Obama claim: This article claims a 22 point improvement in President Obama’s approval ratings:

President Obama’s approval rating has improved by 22 points in the Gallup poll since Republicans won control of Congress. Obama’s opposition to the Republican agenda is making the president more popular while destroying the myth of a GOP mandate.

Really? Well, his approval went from 39 to 50 percent, which IS nice. So where did “22 point improvement” come from? You see, his DISAPPROVAL went down so the difference (approval minus disapproval) went from -17 to +5. Okkkkaaaaayyyyy…

That is an interesting slight of hand. But Rep. Sessions (R-Texas) thinks that 108 billion divided by 12 million is 5 million and not 9000. He called it “simple arithmetic”. Hmmm, for him, not so simple? :-)

That’s ok; Fox News will probably back him up, and NPR will probably try to present “both sides” of this arithmetic issue “well, most math teachers say that the quotient is 9000, but some say 5 million so we’ll give BOTH SIDES an equal opportunity….”

March 26, 2015

## No..my body is not kidding me

I ran my 6.4 mile course (hilly, just over 10K) from the house to the university gym. I had the pleasure of a woman on the XC team being in front of me from the entrance to the Park on Parkside and I beat her to the RCC easily! Ok, I did take my usual Columbia Terrace to Maplewood cut whereas she did the “to University to Main”; so I did about 1 mile in the time she did about 1.5.

My goodness…I am slow.

Then to the gym.
pull ups: 5 sets of 10 (yes! Back to that level) rotator cuff
bench: 10 x 135, 1 x 180 (not that easy), 2 x 170 (huh?) 6 x 160 (depressing) (rotator cuff)
seated, supported military: 2 sets of 12 x 50 dumbbells, standing 10 x 40 dumbbells
pull downs: 3 sets of (7 x 160 traditional, 7 x 100 low)

I was weak but…well…never mind. I am tired of excuses.

I keep having this “well, that switch is going to flip and those 7:30 mpm training miles and 10 x 225 in the bench press is going to come back”, but that has not happened and, to be honest, hasn’t happened since the late 1990s.

But here is what is a bit bizarre: the last time I was about this weight (as a young man; about 190 lbs. vs. the 180 I am now), I could bench press 260. I got 310 as a 230 pound man.

I used this calculator.

So, 260 at 190 pounds in my 20’s grades as 1.37 (percentage of body weight) or 20 pounds above the minimum “excellent” range.
Now I get 185 at 180 pounds at 55; this grades at 1.03, which is 30 pounds above the minimum “excellent” rage (155 for someone my age).

So, when one takes age into account, I am actually…in age graded terms..stronger NOW than I was then. That is just bizarre because it sure doesn’t feel that way.

March 26, 2015

## I’ve got a decision to make…

Well, with the exception of one year, I’ve worked “Building Steam” since 2004. What it is: it is a program to help new runners build to being able to finish a 4 mile race. When I first did it, it was run by the Illinois Valley Striders; it was an “experienced runners helping out newbies” sort of thing.

Well, over time….

They decided to include “access steam” with the main program, which means that we now have to take the physically disabled (wheelchairs) and the mentally disabled (with mentors). That is limiting just a bit; e. g. no trips over the bridge which serves as hillwork for the non-disabled runners. I had mixed feelings on that one but was willing to live with it.

But now: the Striders have decided to work together with Running Central on Building Steam and..you guessed it….corporatization.

One of the program representatives (head of the local group for recreation for “special needs” people) said something to the effect “we don’t need you to be trashing our sponsors on the social media”….uh, I am not going to even be censored by my employer, much less by some group that I volunteered to help. :-)

The store owner did say that shoe companies are reluctant to sponsor races as they see little to no tangible increase in sales because of that. So they have a one year contract with a particular company and..well…he all but asked us to encourage our trainees to consider that company’s shoes. Was he just “telling it to us straight up” or…..hmmm.

Nope: I don’t do sales for a living, and I won’t do them on a volunteer basis.

And so I have the “Team Steam” shirt; by Friday I’ll decide if I give it back or not. I am leaning toward leaving this program, as it really doesn’t resemble what I originally signed up for.

I’ll let paid employees do the advertising and selling of merchandise, thank you very much.

March 26, 2015 Posted by | running | | 3 Comments

## Humility and relative speeds

In a recent post I had talked about starting a hill run alongside a group of men’s track team runners. I had said that they pulled away from me so quickly it appeared as if I were standing still. I told my department chair this (he is a runner) and he reminded me of why it appeared this way:

they ran that hill interval (approximately 400 meters) about twice as fast as I did. So they are about twice as fast as I am; that is, the rate at which they pulled away from me is approximately the rate at which I would have pulled away from someone standing still.

To wit: their speed for this interval: about 4 minutes per mile, or $\frac{1}{4} \frac{mile}{min}$. My speed: about 8 minutes per mile (5K pace) or $\frac{1}{8} \frac{mile}{min}$. So the relative speed between us is $\frac{1}{4} - \frac{1}{8} = \frac{1}{8} \frac{mile}{min}$.

That. Is. Humbling.

## Wet walk, climate change and women’s basketball

Today: I walked; I figured that I need to walk more. I did the hilly Cornstalk 5.1 course in 1:11:54 (14:05 mpm pace); it was overcast, dark and a bit slippery.

Climate change Last night I went to hear Harold Brooks speak: he is a NOAA scientist. He spoke about thunderstorms and climate change.

Of interest:

1. When it comes to rain, the total volume hasn’t changed much. BUT the way we get it has; we get a higher percentage of it from strong storms.
2. When it comes to thunderstorms, wind shear and available energy are the two big factors. Climate change has reduced the former and increase the latter; these are competing effects.
3. The models are pretty much in agreement as to what will happen (over time) during the winter, spring and fall. What is open is what will happen during the summer: more storms? Fewer? Wet? Drought? No one knows and the models can’t reach even a tentative conclusion.

Yes, there is a huge difference between the great powers and those lower seeds in the NCAA tournament. Attendance at the games isn’t so great either, but part of the reason might be the unusual start times.

March 25, 2015

## Hills, Huckabee, Cruz and Cranks…

Workout notes: right around freezing, overcast and breezy.
1.4 mile warm up
lower loop in 10:16 (8:20 pace)
4 x lower to upper Bradley park hill, with walk/jog recoveries
10 minute jog
38 minute walk home (from the rear Park Road entrance past the dog park and Parkside)

Slight tug in the upper left hamstring early. I focused on quick steps and knee lift. Some Bradley men’s track team runners were there and did some hill reps; they blew me away (half the time), which is completely expected. Still, it is humbling to be shown, in stark terms, exactly how slow you are.

Nevertheless, I had a tempo run, hills and a walk so it was a good workout. I got some lung burn going, which is what I need.

Topics
Mike Huckabee: recounts PART of the story from I Kings, Chapter 18. This is where Elijah calls down fire from heaven to accept his sacrifice to “prove” that his god was the real god. Pity he didn’t produce a unified theory instead. :-)

Here is the part of the story that Gov. Huckabee leaves out:

36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”

38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”

40 Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let anyone get away!” They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there.

This murder of people who follow a different religion kind of reminds one of…ISIS?

How any modern person can take this stuff seriously continues to baffle me.

Speaking of Charlatans: Ted Cruz is an official candidate for the 2016 GOP nomination. No, he won’t win. But in 2012, he carried Texas 56.5-40, whereas Elizabeth Warren carried Massachusetts 53.7 to 46.2. President Obama won Massachusetts 60.6 to 37.5. That is why I don’t take Senator Warren’s presidential chances seriously.

Now Texas is a southern state, and southern states have enjoyed a population influx. Some say it is the Republican policies but others point out…it may be …the weather….now that we have air conditioning to make summers tolerable. Seriously, if I could find a job with comparable salary and benefits down south, I’d move. I am tired of northern winters.

Other languages: Randazza goes after those who were outraged at the Pledge of Allegiance being said in Arabic. What many don’t know is Allah is merely the word for “God” in that language; it is the same deity that Jews and Christians worship. Personally, I skip that part anyway and say the pre-1950’s version:

Now this is NOT the original, no matter what the caption says. But it is the pre-Red Scare version:

The original is this:

“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

It was changed to the video version in 1923 and then to the current version in 1954.

March 24, 2015

## Accepting weakness

Workout notes: a bit different than what I’ve done recently.

First: short weight session.
Pull ups: 4 sets of 10, 7 and 3 with short rest. Rotator cuff
incline bench: 2 sets of 10 x 135, 4 x 145 (rotator cuff)
military presses: 2 sets of 10 x 40 dumbbells standing,
barbell: 6 x 85, 6 x 75 (almost no rest between)

then to the pool for 1800 yards (1 mile, or 1.6 km)
250 free
5 x 25 back, 25 free
5 x 25 fly, 25 free
50 side

2 x 200 on the 4 (3:45, 3:42)
100 back
200 in 3:43
100 back

My right shoulder got slightly achy, hence the off strokes.

Weight: 181.5; felt somewhat bloated…(TMI: I was correct..found that out later)

So, it was a decent workout.

Weakness Every since Junior High, I’ve always taken a bit of pride in my strength. No, I was never “D-1 football player strong”…not even close..not even “D-3 football player strong”. But from my Sophomore year onward: at 190 pounds I could bench press 260 and at 230 I could do 310 (lifetime PR). I could do 11-12 reps with 225 (PR is 11 with 230 as a graduate student in 1986.)

So I wasn’t anywhere near a power lifter. But I WAS stronger than average.

That isn’t even remotely the case now. Example: I was playing a game of H-O-R-S-E with my wife’s grandson. He is a college student; big guy (6′ 4″, burly). He tried one shot while sitting down well beyond the 3-point line and at least hit the rim.

I couldn’t do that; I lacked the strength to reach the rim. That was humbling. I used to take pride in being stronger than most.
That isn’t true anymore. That is tough for me to accept, but I have no choice.

I can’t say that I am discouraged as I keep going to the gym, swimming, running, walking, and I have no plans to stop as long as my body allows it.
But it does bother me, as does my finishing around the median (just a few places faster) at a campus 5K run, which featured mostly student runners (39/83). Yes, I was just getting over a virus, but had I run like I did this past weekend, I would have only been 35’th. Yes, I am 35 years older than most of them…but still that had me doing a slow burn.

(BTW, I won the game of H-O-R-S-E; I took a lot of medium “old man” shots and made a high percentage of those)

March 23, 2015