End of March, 2008

Workout Notes 2650 swim. Last night, my legs just “glowed” with heat. I enjoyed my long walk, but I am not ultra ready. Yet. 🙂

My swim today was rather ugly (2650 yards); ok, not really ugly but very slow. Afterward I stretched a bit in the hot tub and, much to my delight, Beth Haynes got in there with me. Beth helped drag me through miles 80-90 when I rode my only Century ride (in 2006) and is training for Ironman Brazil. She is the type that gets upset if her Ironman finish is slower than she had hoped for. Oh yes, she looks great in a swimsuit too! 🙂

Injury wise, my left hip tingled a bit. I need to be serious about stretching.

Today’s topics: McCain, Clinton-Obama (embellishments) and finally, the mathematics of traffic jams.

Elections: Former Navy Commander Philip Butler, Vietnam veteran and POW explains why he isn’t voting for John McCain. Note that is is NOT a “Swift Boat” attack; he openly honors McCain’s service.

As some of you might know, John McCain is a long-time acquaintance of mine that goes way back to our time together at the U.S. Naval Academy and as Prisoners of War in Vietnam. He is a man I respect and admire in some ways. But there are a number of reasons why I will not vote for him for President of the United States.

When I was a Plebe (4th classman, or freshman) at the Naval Academy in 1957-58, I was assigned to the 17th Company for my four years there. In those days we had about 3,600 midshipmen spread among 24 companies, thus about 150 midshipmen to a company. As fortune would have it, John, a First Classman (senior) and his room mate lived directly across the hall from me and my two room mates. Believe me when I say that back then I would never in a million or more years have dreamed that the crazy guy across the hall would someday be a Senator and candidate for President! […]

People often ask if I was a Prisoner of War with John McCain. My answer is always “No – John McCain was a POW with me.” The reason is I was there for 8 years and John got there 2 ½ years later, so he was a POW for 5 ½ years. And we have our own seniority system, based on time as a POW.

John’s treatment as a POW:

1) Was he tortured for 5 years? No. He was subjected to torture and maltreatment during his first 2 years, from September of 1967 to September of 1969. After September of 1969 the Vietnamese stopped the torture and gave us increased food and rudimentary health care. Several hundred of us were captured much earlier. I got there April 20, 1965 so my bad treatment period lasted 4 1/2 years. President Ho Chi Minh died on September 9, 1969, and the new regime that replaced him and his policies was more pragmatic. They realized we were worth a lot as bargaining chips if we were alive. And they were right because eventually Americans gave up on the war and agreed to trade our POW’s for their country. A damn good trade in my opinion! But my point here is that John allows the media to make him out to be THE hero POW, which he knows is absolutely not true, to further his political goals.

2) John was badly injured when he was shot down. Both arms were broken and he had other wounds from his ejection. Unfortunately this was often the case – new POW’s arriving with broken bones and serious combat injuries. Many died from their wounds. Medical care was non-existent to rudimentary. Relief from pain was almost never given and often the wounds were used as an available way to torture the POW. Because John’s father was the Naval Commander in the Pacific theater, he was exploited with TV interviews while wounded. These film clips have now been widely seen. But it must be known that many POW’s suffered similarly, not just John. And many were similarly exploited for political propaganda.

3) John was offered, and refused, “early release.” Many of us were given this offer. It meant speaking out against your country and lying about your treatment to the press. You had to “admit” that the U.S. was criminal and that our treatment was “lenient and humane.” So I, like numerous others, refused the offer. This was obviously something none of us could accept. Besides, we were bound by our service regulations, Geneva Conventions and loyalties to refuse early release until all the POW’s were released, with the sick and wounded going first.

4) John was awarded a Silver Star and Purple Heart for heroism and wounds in combat. This heroism has been played up in the press and in his various political campaigns. But it should be known that there were approximately 600 military POW’s in Vietnam. Among all of us, decorations awarded have recently been totaled to the following: Medals of Honor – 8, Service Crosses – 42, Silver Stars – 590, Bronze Stars – 958 and Purple Hearts – 1,249. John certainly performed courageously and well. But it must be remembered that he was one hero among many – not uniquely so as his campaigns would have people believe.

John McCain served his time as a POW with great courage, loyalty and tenacity. More that 600 of us did the same. After our repatriation a census showed that 95% of us had been tortured at least once. […]

I furthermore believe that having been a POW is no special qualification for being President of the United States. The two jobs are not the same, and POW experience is not, in my opinion, something I would look for in a presidential candidate.

Most of us who survived that experience are now in our late 60’s and 70’s. Sadly, we have died and are dying off at a greater rate than our non-POW contemporaries. We experienced injuries and malnutrition that are coming home to roost. So I believe John’s age (73) and survival expectation are not good for being elected to serve as our President for 4 or more years.

I can verify that John has an infamous reputation for being a hot head. He has a quick and explosive temper that many have experienced first hand. Folks, quite honestly that is not the finger I want next to that red button.

It is also disappointing to see him take on and support Bush’s war in Iraq, even stating we might be there for another 100 years. For me John represents the entrenched and bankrupt policies of Washington-as-usual. The past 7 years have proven to be disastrous for our country. And I believe John’s views on war, foreign policy, economics, environment, health care, education, national infrastructure and other important areas are much the same as those of the Bush administration.

I’m disappointed to see John represent himself politically in ways that are not accurate. He is not a moderate Republican. On some issues he is a maverick. But his voting record is far to the right. I fear for his nominations to our Supreme Court, and the consequent continuing loss of individual freedoms, especially regarding moral and religious issues. John is not a religious person, but he has taken every opportunity to ally himself with some really obnoxious and crazy fundamentalist ministers lately. I was also disappointed to see him cozy up to Bush because I know he hates that man. He disingenuously and famously put his arm around the guy, even after Bush had intensely disrespected him with lies and slander. […]

Again note how “non-swift-boatish” this letter is. There is no accusations of McCain lying or misrepresenting his record.

And, this is how I see it: McCain is a genuine war hero who should not be President.

Obama and Clinton

Leonard Pitts has an interesting take on Hillary Clinton’s repeated embellishments:

In a way, its unfair to single out Hillary Clinton for lying.

They all do it, after all. Eight years ago, John McCain, conductor on the Straight Talk Express, swore he saw nothing wrong with South Carolina flying the Confederate battle flag atop its statehouse. He later admitted this was a lie. Last week, Saint Barack Obama called for passage of legislation ”I put forward with my colleague Chris Dodd” to help homeowners threatened by foreclosure. The Washington Post says Obama’s co-authorship of the bill came as news to Sen. Dodd.

Ok, I’ll break here to explain what is going on with the Obama-Dodd situation (note: Dodd formally endorsed Obama)

After weeks of arduous negotiations, on April 6, 2006, a bipartisan group of senators burst out of the “President’s Room,” just off the Senate chamber, with a deal on new immigration policy.

As the half-dozen senators — including John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) — headed to announce their plan, they met Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who made a request common when Capitol Hill news conferences are in the offing: “Hey, guys, can I come along?” And when Obama went before the microphones, he was generous with his list of senators to congratulate — a list that included himself.

“I want to cite Lindsey Graham, Sam Brownback, Mel Martinez, Ken Salazar, myself, Dick Durbin, Joe Lieberman . . . who’ve actually had to wake up early to try to hammer this stuff out,” he said.

To Senate staff members, who had been arriving for 7 a.m. negotiating sessions for weeks, it was a galling moment. Those morning sessions had attracted just three to four senators a side, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) recalled, each deeply involved in the issue. Obama was not one of them. But in a presidential contest involving three sitting senators, embellishment of legislative records may be an inevitability, Specter said with a shrug.

Unlike governors, business leaders or vice presidents, senators — the last to win the presidency was John F. Kennedy in 1960 — are not executives. They cannot be held to account for the state of their states, their companies or their administrations. What they do have is the mark they leave on the nation’s laws — and in Obama’s brief three-year tenure, as well as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s seven-year hitch, those marks are far from indelible.

“It’s not an unusual matter for senators to take a little extra credit,” Specter said. […]

With colleagues in Congress quick to claim credit where it is due, word moves quickly when undue credit is claimed.

“If it happens once or twice, you let it go,” said Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), an Obama supporter. “If it becomes the mantra, then you go, ‘Wait a minute.’ ”

Immigration is a case in point for Obama, but not the only one. In 2007, after the first comprehensive immigration bill had died, the senators were back at it, and again, Obama was notably absent, staffers and senators said. At one meeting, three key negotiators recalled, he entered late and raised a number of questions about the bill’s employment verification system. Kennedy and Specter both rebuked him, saying that the issue had already been resolved and that he was coming late to the discussion. Kennedy dressed him down, according to witnesses, and Obama left shortly thereafter.

“Senator Obama came in late, brought up issues that had been hashed and rehashed,” Specter recalled. “He didn’t stay long.”

Just this week, as the financial markets were roiling in the wake of the Bear Stearns collapse, Obama made another claim that was greeted with disbelief in some corners of Capitol Hill. On March 13, Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, unveiled legislative proposals to allow the Federal Housing Administration to guarantee new loans from banks willing to help homeowners in or approaching foreclosure. Obama and Clinton were in Washington for a day-long round of budget voting, but neither appeared at the housing news conference.

Yet Obama on Monday appeared to seek top billing on Dodd’s proposal.

“At this moment, we must come together and act to address the housing crisis that set this downturn in motion and continues to eat away at the public’s confidence in the market,” Obama said. “We should pass the legislation I put forward with my colleague Chris Dodd to create meaningful incentives for lenders to buy or refinance existing mortgages so that Americans facing foreclosure can keep their homes.”

Dodd did say that Obama supported the bill, as does Clinton. But he could not offer pride of authorship to the candidate he wants to see in the White House next year.

“I’ve talked to him about it at some length,” Dodd said. “When Senator Obama was there for that full day of voting, we had long conversations about it. He had excellent questions and decided to support it.”

So there: I acknowledge that Obama is not perfect. 🙂

Back to Leonard Pitts’ article:

Most of us, I suspect, consider such fibs the political equivalent of white lies: unavoidable, but of no lasting significance. Besides, if you disqualified liars from the presidency, you’d have to do without a president for awhile.

But even by that forgiving standard, Clinton’s lie stands out. If you missed it: She has been telling audiences, as a way of burnishing her foreign-policy credentials, how she had to dodge bullets when she went to Bosnia as first lady in 1996. ”I remember landing under sniper fire,” she said. “There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.”

It’s a story that’s thrilling, hair-raising . . . everything but true. The comedian Sinbad, who was with Clinton on that trip, disputed her account, but she — incredibly — stuck with it. She did not stop telling the untruth until reporters who were on the trip called her on it and produced video showing Clinton and daughter Chelsea stepping calmly off a military transport and accepting a little girl’s greeting. No gunfire, no running for her life.

She now says she ”misspoke.” It’s a benign characterization of a troubling fact: The gap between Clinton and truth has become suddenly vast. And that raises manifold questions. […]

So bald and bold is the lie that it leaves me wondering if maybe she honestly remembers it that way. Science has shown we’re all susceptible to false memory; it’s not unheard of for a person to believe she’s had an experience she has not, especially after years of telling and embellishing a story. As it happens, the events that Clinton recalls did occur — just not to her. The Post reminds us that Sen. Olympia Snowe came under fire on a visit to Bosnia six months before Clinton got there. So perhaps Clinton has transferred the memory?

I know I’m reaching. Granted, someone might innocently misappropriate someone else’s memory of something trivial, even something relatively important. But it requires a 6-year-old’s credulity to believe a woman would not accurately recall whether she and her daughter came under sniper fire.

Speaking of false memories, someone else brought that up! 😉

Tidbit from Karl Rove If there is anyone that I am the polar opposite of, it is Karl Rove. But he knows politics and has a nice article about what may (or should) happen in the Democratic convention, especially if we don’t have a candidate selected as yet. Hat tip to Election 2008 (or Electoral Vote) who pointed us there.

Mathematics of Traffic Jams

Science Avenger blogs about an interesting article on traffic jams. The mathematics of it is basically works like this:
say you drive for 5 miles at 60 miles per hour and then get in a long line of traffic where it takes you 10 minutes to cover the next mile. That means it took you 15 minutes to cover 6 miles, or you have averaged 24 miles per hour for that 15 minute period.

Now had you just slowed down to 24 miles per hour at the beginning of that 15 minute period, you would reach your destination at exactly the same time, but there would be no line of stopped cars behind you. In other words, the jam would be gone!

Now that is a bit fanciful as one can’t anticipate jams that far in advance (most of the time) but that explains how the math works. The linked article talks about merging, leaving spaces ahead of you and the like.

In short, only those behind the traffic jam can help break it up.

March 31, 2008 Posted by | hillary clinton, mathematics, mccain, obama, politics/social, swimming, ultra | Leave a comment

All over the place

Workout notes I am getting ready to go out for an easy 6 hour walk. I need to break in my ultrawalking shoes. 🙂
Depending on how bad the weather gets, I might do some of the walking inside (treadmill, Riverplex track). Time on my feet is the issue today.

Update: 6 hours plus later I am done. The whole thing took me 6:12, but featured W. Peoria, the W. P. Cemetery, Bradley Park (Cornstalk loop), Columbia Terrace to Broadway to the Boredom course, then off of Boredom on Harvard (no parking lot cheating!) to Springdale, up to Prospect, Glen Oak (past the zoo) down to the Rivertrail, the Gooseloop, back past the trail head, up to Kumpf, MLK, Moss and then Cooper. I got some light drizzle; the walk was tiring but pleasant. I estimate this at about 24 miles plus.

Yesterday’s race: the photos are up; I am here and here.

Speaking of endurance stuff: here is a New York Times article about Runner’s High

THE runner’s high: Every athlete has heard of it, most seem to believe in it and many say they have experienced it. But for years scientists have reserved judgment because no rigorous test confirmed its existence. […]

Some who said they had experienced a runner’s high said it was uncommon. They might feel relaxed or at peace after exercising, but only occasionally did they feel euphoric. Was the calmness itself a runner’s high?

Often, those who said they experienced an intense euphoria reported that it came after an endurance event.

My friend Marian Westley said her runner’s high came at the end of a marathon, and it was paired with such volatile emotions that the sight of a puppy had the power to make her weep.

Others said they experienced a high when pushing themselves almost to the point of collapse in a short, intense effort, such as running a five-kilometer race.

But then there are those like my friend Annie Hiniker, who says that when she finishes a 5-k race, the last thing she feels is euphoric. “I feel like I want to throw up,” she said.
The runner’s-high hypothesis proposed that there were real biochemical effects of exercise on the brain. Chemicals were released that could change an athlete’s mood, and those chemicals were endorphins, the brain’s naturally occurring opiates. Running was not the only way to get the feeling; it could also occur with most intense or endurance exercise.[…]

Researchers in Germany, using advances in neuroscience, report in the current issue of the journal Cerebral Cortex that the folk belief is true: Running does elicit a flood of endorphins in the brain. The endorphins are associated with mood changes, and the more endorphins a runner’s body pumps out, the greater the effect.

Leading endorphin researchers not associated with the study said they accepted its findings.

“Impressive,” said Dr. Solomon Snyder, a neuroscience professor at Johns Hopkins and a discoverer of endorphins in the 1970’s.

“I like it,” said Huda Akil, a professor of neurosciences at the University of Michigan. “This is the first time someone took this head on. It wasn’t that the idea was not the right idea. It was that the evidence was not there.”

For athletes, the study offers a sort of vindication that runner’s high is not just a New Agey excuse for their claims of feeling good after a hard workout.

In a follow-up study, Dr. Boecker is investigating if running affects pain perception. “There are studies that showed enhanced pain tolerance in runners,” he said. “You have to give higher pain stimuli before they say, ‘O.K., this hurts.’ ”

And, he said, there are stories of runners who had stress fractures, even heart attacks, and kept on running.

Dr. Boecker and his colleagues have recruited 20 marathon runners and a similar number of nonathletes and are studying the perception of pain after a run, and whether there are related changes in brain scans. He is also having the subjects walk to see whether the effects, if any, are because of the intensity of the exercise.

The nonathletes can help investigators assess whether untrained people experience the same effects. Maybe one reason some people love intense exercise and others do not is that some respond with a runner’s high or changed pain perception.

The rest of the article describes the experiment and says why it hasn’t been done before.

Political Humor.

The state of the 2008 Presidential race:


Here are a couple of more Pat Oliphant cartoons: Clintons and Bill Richardson, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

For the uninitiated, this is what the Clinton cartoon was talking about:

Redstate Update weighs in.

Now from the blogs that I read:

Yes, John McCain is either: 1. A true conservative or 2. Panders to right wing groups. He can’t have it both ways.

The blogger brotherpeacemaker lets Pat Buchanan have it.

Ok, what about Pat Buchanan? Well, I admit that I subscribe to his magazine, because it does a good job of focusing on corporate abuses and it contains good anti-war writing. And even more strangely, it has covered Barack Obama; in the more recent issue one article says that Obama is our best hope for getting out of Iraq ; in a previous issue it says that Obama is one of the few candidates that hints at having an even-handed policy in the Middle East, and in yet another article it says that Obama might be too eager to get us into a war? (though it acknowledges that he thought that the Iraq was was a bad idea)

But I digress. I understand what Buchanan is saying: basically he is making two points.

1. He claims that African Americans are, on the whole, better off than West Africans (where the slaves originally came from)

Example: compare life expectancies from the West African and Central African countries to those of African Americans.

2. He claims that white society, on the whole, has put in a great deal of time, effort and money to help right some of the wrongs that they were not responsible for (e. g., a current college student had nothing to do with Jim Crow, even if he/she didn’t have the burden of trying to life while back)

Of course, Buchanan’s argument seems to assume that African Americans did nothing to contribute to this country and aren’t responsible for any of the successes that they had and it seems to dismiss the scope and magnitude of the evil done to them by our society, and the weight that having a darker skin carries. In fact, check this out:

Andrew Hacker has also explored the concept of invisible privilege and the intangible value of white skin. Hacker, author of the book Two Nations and a professor of political science at Queens College, constructed a provocative scenario. In it he tells students to imagine that it was discovered that through some terrible mistake they were not born black as they should have been and that the situation must be rectified. They were to assume that at midnight they were to magically become black, with not only darker skin but the bodily and facial features associated with African ancestry. He asked them to imagine what recompense they would consider reasonable assuming that they were to live for 50 years more. Most students felt that $50 million or $1 million for each black year would not be out of place.

Note: the whole article that I quoted from is pretty good; it is honest too as it freely admits that, like all human programs, sometimes affirmative action programs make mistakes. I should also point out that affirmative action programs need to be intelligently carried out. For example, it makes no sense to throw an unprepared student into a program where he/she will be over their head from day one; perhaps they might benefit from a year or two of seasoning at a prep school/junior college. The service academies have such programs.

Also think of the film Rudy where the star was given a year or two to prove himself at a junior college prior to being admitted to Notre Dame.

Science: Early human ancestor skull found in Spain; modern Europeans and the Neandertals probably evolved from this hominid (1.1-1.2 million years ago)

The following three stories come from links from the blog 3-quarks daily.

Education: a study focuses on the impact of family wealth and educational achievement of children. In the past, the effect of family income had been studied.

Language: pidgins versus creoles. What is the difference and how do these come about?

[…]Pidgins are contact languages invented by people who don’t share a language to use. Pidgin speakers, Bickerton explains, will “use words from your language if they know them; if not, they’ll use words from their own, and hope you know them, and failing that, words from any other language that might happen to be around.” Some pidgins, like Chinese Pidgin English (once spoken along China’s coast) or the Chinook jargon of the American Northwest, originated in voluntary trade contexts. Others arose from the slave trade and plantation economies.

Compared with pidgins, Creoles have bigger vocabularies and more grammar; the conventional view is that they are pidgins that became someone’s native language (though some linguists disagree). Many Creoles — like Saramaccan, an English/Portuguese Creole spoken in Suriname, and Seselwa, a French Creole spoken in the Seychelles — have more features in common (like their verbs) than you’d expect from languages that have never been in contact. Is this because they were created when English, French or Portuguese words were laid onto the same bed of grammar as African languages? Or because later generations learned both the pidgin and their parents’ languages, mingling the two? Or because a pidgin was created once, perhaps in a West African slave trade outpost or by sailors, and then transmitted elsewhere?

Bickerton swats down all these theories and explains how he arrived at his own solution, the language bioprogram hypothesis, which he elaborated in the book “Roots of Language” (1981). According to this idea, a pidgin becomes a Creole when children learn it, filling in the grammatical gaps with patterns and words that come not from any specific language but from some universal language template they all carry in their heads. This was an extension of Noam Chomsky’s influential claim for an innate universal grammar possessed uniquely by humans. […]

Bioterrorism, E coli and evolution The bad news: evolution can produce some nasty stuff. The good news: it is probably very, very difficult for a bioterrorist to do so.

[…]n 2006, a pair of major E. coli outbreaks swept across the country. One was carried on spinach, the other on lettuce. The spinach outbreak caused 204 illnesses and three deaths. The lettuce outbreak made 71 people sick. In both outbreaks, many people had to be rushed to the hospital. Some got away with just bloody diarrhea. In other cases, the bacteria released toxins into the bloodstream that caused kidneys and other organs to shut down.

The same strain was behind both cases as well as most other recent outbreaks of E. coli. It’s known as E. coli O157:H7, named for some of the molecules on its surface. It emerged in the 1980s as a nasty pathogen found mostly in tainted hamburger meat. It lives comfortably (and harmlessly) in cows and other mammals, but if it gets into a human host, it sometimes wreaks havoc. When animals shed the bacteria in their manure, the pathogen can make its way onto crops, and in recent years it has contaminated not just hamburger meat, spinach, and lettuce but apples and bean sprouts. In addition to the occasional major outbreak, it causes a steady stream of illnesses—about 75,000 a year in the United States—that attract less attention. […]

Scientists noticed that the most recent outbreaks were particularly brutal. The bug from 2006 sent three to four times more people than expected to the hospital. Typically, only 4 percent of people who get infected with E. coli O157:H7 suffer the worst form of the disease, in which toxins are released into the bloodstream. As many as 15 percent did in 2006. […]

To figure out what makes this new strain so vicious, the scientists selected a microbe from the 2006 spinach outbreak and sequenced its entire genome. They discovered that it is not a minor variation on the basic E. coli O157:H7 plan. It is a major overhaul. Hundreds of its genes can’t be found in other strains. It has lost hundreds of others. And many of the genes it shares with its close relatives have mutated.

March 30, 2008 Posted by | education, hillary clinton, mccain, obama, religion, republicans, running, science, walking | Leave a comment

CIDA 5K Walk 2008

Today I walked the CIDA 5K race; it was the first short walk that I’ve raced in a while.

Overall Results: Mike Heffron won the men’s race in 16:24 with Chris Friedman 10 seconds back; Emily Dewald won the women’s race in 18:38 with Lisa Menniger (43) in second 46 seconds back. Note that Lisa won the Chicago 50K in 2005.

Race photos are here.

I finished in 145’th place out of 216 (remember that I was walking and this was a running race) 🙂

The day was in the mid 30’s (3-4 C) and had a mild wind; the roads were completely dry and there was some sunshine (mostly partly cloudy).

And due to the temperature, it was a spandex day! 🙂 (I love it!)

I got up early, walked about 1 mile on the treadmill and did some shin stretches on the stairs. I then picked up Tracy and we drove to the race site, where I got in about 1 more mile of warm up.

We started and I tried to keep things under control. I stayed well toward the back of the pack but continued to move up. I passed Sandy Theobald, Joanne Frazier (who is coming back from a heart attack and broken foot; normally she runs 22-24 minutes for the 5K), and later moved up on Herb Kasube (fellow math professor who is also coming back; normally he averages 8:15-8:30 mpm). We went down Water Street and up Adams (small uphill) against a mild wind. Mile one came at 10:00 for me (10:10 official time). I hadn’t caught Herb as yet but I had my eye on the pack ahead of me; I was still a bit stiff (and was told that I didn’t have my usual “roll” to my torso). But I decided to pick it up slightly but hold back until mile 2.

We then turned onto the trail near the marina and I was still moving up; mile 2 came at 19:50 for me. Then I decided to pick it up.

During this stretch one of my friends (who was watching the race) told me that I looked as if I were just about to break into a run; that isn’t a good sign. I was NOT lifting; about my knees? I’ll explain that later.

Finally around the Gateway building I picked up and walked hard. I attempted to keep my knees nice and straight. I did get caught once but held on for a 9:47 third mile and then a 30:35 (30:45 official) finish.

I cooled down, walked back to Tracy (who took 3’rd in her age group) and then socialized a bit.

Total: 6 miles, 3 “sort of fast”. I was pleased with the workout.

But: as far as my time, I do wonder if my knees were legal.

See for an explanation of the “straight knee” rule.

In a nutshell:

(photo: from Jeff Salvage at

The walker in front has a bent knee; look at his support leg. In a formally judged racewalk, the knee of the support leg has to be straight and his isn’t. The walker behind him is legal as the knee is straight. It is ok for the leg of the non support leg (the one that is moving forward but with the foot not in contact with the ground) to be bent; in fact it should be bent. And of course the knee can bend when the leg moves behind the body.

Anyway, I wonder if I was doing that on today’s walk. See also

Personally, I’d love to look like this, at least in terms of technique:

Past: I’ve done this race off and on since 1998. This was the first year that I walked it (rather than ran it); previous times have been 20:24 (1998),
21:21 (1999), 20:50 (2001), 21:54 (2002), 23:51 (2005; note I was training for walking ultas that year).

Future: I don’t know; I am going to sign up for FANS but first I’ll try my hand at 50 miles at McNaughton.

Some newly scanned photos:

Somewhere early in the 2006 race; John Greene’s wife took this shot of me. I’d say that I was at about mile 30 or so; I was to finish with 83.

This is Barb Curnow (about 80 miles), me (83) and John (93); John is also a mathematics professor.

March 29, 2008 Posted by | Peoria/local, running, time trial/ race, walking | 4 Comments

Wilkins Ice Shelf, Scientific Claims and all that.

Workout notes My legs are sore due to three 10 milers in a row, so I’ll swim and bike a bit later (easy, recovery level stuff).

Update: 2650 yard of swimming: 500 free, 10 x (25 fly, 25 free). First 6 were on 1:10, last 4 were on the 1 (about 55 each), 10 x (25 drill, 25 swim), 5 x 100 paddle, 100 free, 50 back, 100 IM at cool-down intensity.

There was a lady two lanes over who was burning it up. Humility is always a good thing. 🙂

Wilkins Ice Shelf. Many of you have heard that the Wilkins Ice Shelf is on the verge of collapse (maybe during the next Antarctic summer?)

A thin strip of ice, just 6 kilometres wide, is all that is holding back the collapse of a huge ice shelf in Antarctica, according to glaciologists.

The Wilkins ice shelf – previously some 16,000 square kilometres in area – has been disintegrating fast. On 28 February, an iceberg 41 km long and 2.5 km wide broke off the ice shelf. This triggered the runaway disintegration of a further 570 square kilometres of ice.

“I would be very surprised if it survives more than a couple more melt seasons,” says Ted Scambos of the University of Colorado, US.

Other researchers, including David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey, believe it could be gone within weeks. “The ice shelf is hanging by a thread – we’ll know in the next few days or weeks what its fate will be,” he says.

Basically, the floating sea ice acts as a barrier to protect ice shelfs from waves. But much of the sea ice has melted with has exposed this ice shelf to battering from the sea:

Normally, a slurry of sea ice floating in front of the ice shelf would act as a wave breaker, keeping the surrounding waters still. But this year – as in 2002 when the Larsen B shelf dramatically disappeared in just 30 days – warm temperatures melted away much of the sea ice. The glaciologists believe this is what has caused the break up of the Wilkins ice shelf in recent weeks.

The Wilkins ice sheet is not connected to inland glaciers in the same way as Larsen B was. As a result, its collapse will not accelerate the flow of glaciers into the ocean, and so will not immediately cause a sea-level rise.

Every time something like this happens, it opens up heated exchanges between those who believe that climate change is real and those who are skeptical of it.

Skeptics sometimes say: “hey, the Antarctic continent is cooling, isn’t it”? In fact, there is some truth to that claim.

While the rest of the world has generally been warming up, much of Antarctica has been cooling for the last 35 years, scientists report […]

the cooling helps illustrate how little is known about some important aspects of Antarctica’s climate.

Thirteen researchers, who work with the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Dry Valleys Long-term Ecological Research program, report in the Jan. 13 online edition of the journal Nature on both the cooling and its effects in the Dry Valleys, an a little larger than Rhode Island on the west coast of the Ross Sea.

Dry Valleys temperatures dropped an average of 1.23 degrees Fahrenheit a decade from 1986 to 2000, with the greatest cooling during the December through February Antarctic summer, they report.

This cooling is important because “summer temperatures are the driver of Antarctic terrestrial ecosystems, and our data are the first, to our knowledge, to highlight the cascade of ecological consequence that result from the recent summer cooling, ” says Peter Doran of the University of Illinois at Chicago, the article’s lead author. […]

As part of his research, Doran has scuba dived through holes cut in the permanent ice covering Dry Valley lakes to study the mats of diatoms and blue-green algae on the bottoms. In the Nature article the researchers report that growth of these mats has been declining 6% to 9% a year, at least in part because the cooler weather has thickened the layer of ice covering the lakes, reducing the sunlight that reaches the bottoms. […]

That is some, pardon the pun, cool research, isn’t it? Mathematical research isn’t as exciting.

Unfortunately, many (outside of the scientific community) have misunderstood the significance of this research. Doran writes in the New York Times:

IN the debate on global warming, the data on the climate of Antarctica has been distorted, at different times, by both sides. As a polar researcher caught in the middle, I’d like to set the record straight.

In January 2002, a research paper about Antarctic temperatures, of which I was the lead author, appeared in the journal Nature. At the time, the Antarctic Peninsula was warming, and many people assumed that meant the climate on the entire continent was heating up, as the Arctic was. But the Antarctic Peninsula represents only about 15 percent of the continent’s land mass, so it could not tell the whole story of Antarctic climate. Our paper made the continental picture more clear.

My research colleagues and I found that from 1986 to 2000, one small, ice-free area of the Antarctic mainland had actually cooled. Our report also analyzed temperatures for the mainland in such a way as to remove the influence of the peninsula warming and found that, from 1966 to 2000, more of the continent had cooled than had warmed. Our summary statement pointed out how the cooling trend posed challenges to models of Antarctic climate and ecosystem change.

Newspaper and television reports focused on this part of the paper. And many news and opinion writers linked our study with another bit of polar research published that month, in Science, showing that part of Antarctica’s ice sheet had been thickening — and erroneously concluded that the earth was not warming at all. “Scientific findings run counter to theory of global warming,” said a headline on an editorial in The San Diego Union-Tribune. One conservative commentator wrote, “It’s ironic that two studies suggesting that a new Ice Age may be under way may end the global warming debate.” […]

Our study did find that 58 percent of Antarctica cooled from 1966 to 2000. But during that period, the rest of the continent was warming. And climate models created since our paper was published have suggested a link between the lack of significant warming in Antarctica and the ozone hole over that continent. These models, conspicuously missing from the warming-skeptic literature, suggest that as the ozone hole heals — thanks to worldwide bans on ozone-destroying chemicals — all of Antarctica is likely to warm with the rest of the planet. An inconvenient truth?

Also missing from the skeptics’ arguments is the debate over our conclusions. Another group of researchers who took a different approach found no clear cooling trend in Antarctica. We still stand by our results for the period we analyzed, but unbiased reporting would acknowledge differences of scientific opinion.

The disappointing thing is that we are even debating the direction of climate change on this globally important continent. And it may not end until we have more weather stations on Antarctica and longer-term data that demonstrate a clear trend.

In the meantime, I would like to remove my name from the list of scientists who dispute global warming. I know my coauthors would as well.

Other factors which confuse people are those articles which point out “as yet unexplained” data which seems to confuse the issue:

Some 3,000 scientific robots that are plying the ocean have sent home a puzzling message. These diving instruments suggest that the oceans have not warmed up at all over the past four or five years. That could mean global warming has taken a breather. Or it could mean scientists aren’t quite understanding what their robots are telling them.

This is puzzling in part because here on the surface of the Earth, the years since 2003 have been some of the hottest on record. But Josh Willis at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory says the oceans are what really matter when it comes to global warming.

In fact, 80 percent to 90 percent of global warming involves heating up ocean waters. They hold much more heat than the atmosphere can. So Willis has been studying the ocean with a fleet of robotic instruments called the Argo system. The buoys can dive 3,000 feet down and measure ocean temperature. Since the system was fully deployed in 2003, it has recorded no warming of the global oceans.

“There has been a very slight cooling, but not anything really significant,” Willis says. So the buildup of heat on Earth may be on a brief hiatus. “Global warming doesn’t mean every year will be warmer than the last. And it may be that we are in a period of less rapid warming.” […]
That becomes clear when you consider what’s happening to global sea level. Sea level rises when the oceans get warm because warmer water expands. This accounts for about half of global sea level rise. So with the oceans not warming, you would expect to see less sea level rise. Instead, sea level has risen about half an inch in the past four years. That’s a lot.

Willis says some of this water is apparently coming from a recent increase in the melting rate of glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica.

“But in fact there’s a little bit of a mystery. We can’t account for all of the sea level increase we’ve seen over the last three or four years,” he says.

One possibility is that the sea has, in fact, warmed and expanded — and scientists are somehow misinterpreting the data from the diving buoys.

But if the aquatic robots are actually telling the right story, that raises a new question: Where is the extra heat all going?

Kevin Trenberth at the National Center for Atmospheric Research says it’s probably going back out into space. The Earth has a number of natural thermostats, including clouds, which can either trap heat and turn up the temperature, or reflect sunlight and help cool the planet.

That can’t be directly measured at the moment, however.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have adequate tracking of clouds to determine exactly what role they’ve been playing during this period,” Trenberth says.

It’s also possible that some of the heat has gone even deeper into the ocean, he says. Or it’s possible that scientists need to correct for some other feature of the planet they don’t know about. It’s an exciting time, though, with all this new data about global sea temperature, sea level and other features of climate.

“I suspect that we’ll able to put this together with a little bit more perspective and further analysis,” Trenberth says. “But what this does is highlight some of the issues and send people back to the drawing board.”

Ok, so what is going on? What is really happening? If you value science and its conclusions, there are a couple of great resources out there: New Scientist Magazine and Scientific American have both put together a collection of climate change articles.

The fact is that there are still many climate mechanisms that are not well understood as yet. There is, in fact, some uncertainty as to the cause or to the scope of climate change. There is, in fact, some uncertainty in our current models. But,

Some of these feedback processes are poorly understood—like how climate change affects clouds—and many are difficult to model, therefore the climate’s propensity to amplify any small change makes predicting how much and how fast the climate will change inherently difficult. “Uncertainty and sensitivity are inextricably linked,” Roe says. “Some warming is a virtual certainty, but the amount of that warming is much less certain.”

Roe and his U.W. co-author, atmospheric physicist Marcia Baker, argue in Science that, because of this inherent climate effect, certainty is a near impossibility, no matter what kind of improvements are made in understanding physical processes or the timescale of observations.

“Once the world has warmed 4 degrees C [(7.2 degrees F)] conditions will be so different from anything we can observe today (and still more different from the last ice age) that it is inherently hard to say when the warming will stop,” physicists Myles Allen and David Frame of the University of Oxford wrote in an editorial accompanying the article. “If the true climate sensitivity really is as high as 5 degrees C [(9 degrees F)], the only way our descendants will find that out is if they stubbornly hold greenhouse gas concentrations constant for centuries at our target stabilization level.”

Therefore, waiting for more scientific certainty before acting is a mistake, Roe says. “People are comfortable with the idea that stock markets, housing prices and the weather are uncertain, and they are used to making decisions on that basis,” he notes.

But this also means that targets such as stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of CO2 at 450 parts per million (nearly double preindustrial levels) to avoid more than a 3.6 degree F (2 degree C) temperature rise are nearly impossible as well. There is no guarantee that such a target would achieve its stated goal. “Policymakers are always going to be faced with uncertainty and so the only sensible way forward to minimize risk is to adopt an adaptive policy,” argues climatologist Gavin Schmidt of the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies, “which adjusts emissions targets and incentives based on how well, or badly, things are going.” […]

It also means that scientists and other experts are going to have to monitor measures other than just atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases to catch catastrophic climate change developing. “It is essential that we designate the harbingers of abrupt and significant changes or, perhaps more importantly, the triggers and thresholds that could commit the planet to these changes well before their tell-tale signs appear,” says economist and IPCC author Gary Yohe of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. “We cannot accept the adaptive design completely without having confidence in our abilities to determine exactly what to monitor.”

The IPCC has taken a crack at that, identifying 26 “key vulnerabilities” in its most recent assessment, ranging from declines in agricultural productivity to the melting of ice sheets and polar ice cover as well as determining how to judge if they are spiraling out of control. Disappearing Arctic ice is already helping to amplify global warming beyond what the IPCC had predicted in the past. “We already know about as much as we are going to about climate system’s response to greenhouse gases,” Roe says. “We already have the basis for making the decisions we need to make.”

Also, it is sometimes difficult to write an accurate science article for the non-scientist reader. Professor Moran reproduces a letter by Ruth Cronje, a faculty member of the Scientific and Technical Writing Program at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Here is part of that letter:

The idea of using framing strategies to communicate science to the public has recently been taken up in scientific forums (1, 2), the mainstream media (3), and the blogosphere (4, 5). Most participants in the framing science debate limit their notion of scientific information to scientific facts. However, confining science messages to just the facts interferes with public understanding of science as a systematic, logical process of human inquiry and effaces the distinction between data and scientists’ reasoning about data. To communicate successfully, we should focus on scientific process by emphasizing two important elements of scientific rationality: skepticism and dynamicism (6, 7).

Scientists deliberately integrate skepticism into their procedures by trying to refute their own hypotheses, retaining them only when confronted with compelling evidence sought through carefully controlled procedures. Scientists tend to shy away from revealing the intrinsic skepticism of science to the public, fearful that it will open the door to doubt about the validity of their conclusions. But communicating only the facts of science (framed or unframed) destabilizes public confidence in science. A fact doesn’t allow science communicators to reveal, justify, and ultimately promote the skeptical reasoning process that helps make scientists more confident that their reasoning is correct.

Science is also dynamic; it is a cumulative enterprise that requires scientists to situate their instrumental activities and interpretations against the evidence that has come before and to alter them in light of new evidence. Insisting that new data be interpreted within the context of past and future data will ferret out and correct error over time, but it means that a fact cannot, by definition, be anything more than the (ephemeral and fallible) consensus of scientists at a given point in time. A “just the facts” strategy can and often does backfire, ultimately fueling public alienation from science. When scientists inform the public of “facts” (like the “fact” widely disseminated in the 1970s that all dietary fats are bad for us), and then that “fact” is refined or altered (now we’re told olive oil is good for us), the public is justifiably confused. Studies suggest that the public tends to regard normal scientific refinement and self-correction as equivocation or incompetence (8-10). Instead of sweeping uncertainty under the rug, science communicators should help the public understand the logical and systematic procedures by which scientists confront it.

So, some exclaim: “hey elite scientists sometimes get it wrong”. Well, in the long run, they (I say they because, while I am a mathematician, I am hardly elite), not really, (unless you count things like Newtonian mechanics as being wrong, when in fact it really isn’t)

Some food for thought: what has happened to computers over the last 30 years? What has happened with gps technology? Nuclear weapons (ok, evil, but still evidence that science works)?

Life expectancy (from birth) over the past 70-75 years or so? This speaks to advances in medicine, industrial safety, nutrition and well child care.

What about child mortality? What about infant mortality?

In 1847 Thomas A. Edison is born on February 11th in Ohio, USA, Alexander Graham Bell is Born on March 3rd in Edinburgh Scotland. Born just three weeks apart they were both triumphant over the dangerously high Infant mortality rates of their time. A harsh world took the lives of nearly 25% of all infants born during this period. Infant mortality rate is the death of a child before their first birthday; this is an annual rate of deaths measured in one thousand childbirths. The infant mortality rates in the early to mid 19th century were high. The babies raised in ideal conditions, clean environment, regularly breast fed, and well cared for could expect death rates of 80 to 100 per thousand. The inner city rates were dramatically higher, 300 deaths per thousand on average mainly due to the poverty, dreadful housing situations, and unhealthy urban sanitary conditions. The development of obstetrics, which encompasses all aspects of pregnancy, birth and its result, evolved into the rise of gynecology.

In short, scientific progress has produced real, tangible results, much of what overthrew the “common sense” at the time. I know that won’t be news to many of my readers and that those who deny scientific findings probably won’t have their minds changed. But hey, it is worth a try, and I have had fun reading these articles. 🙂

March 28, 2008 Posted by | politics/social, science, swimming | 6 Comments

Hard Workouts

Workout notes 10 miles (2:20 worth) outdoors, which included Glen Oak Park, Springdale Cemetery, the gooseloop and the Bob Michael Bridge. Prior to that I had a nice yoga class with Ms. Vickie.

No, my workout wasn’t as hard as the ones that these folks do: (hat tip to the excellent blog: 3 Quarks Daily)

CrossFit has 450 chapters in 43 states (and several other countries). The network has a message for the merely healthy: “Your workout is our warm-up.”

Hmmm, I kind of doubt that as some of my training sessions last 4-12 hours. But yeah, the intensity is a bit low as I am training for long, low intensity events. But…

Every day, its members consult like a Book of Common Prayer, receiving instructions for their workout rites and periods of rest. Performing caveman feats like hauling, clambering, trudging, snatching, hurling and deadlifting, CrossFitters deliberately overwhelm and distress their bodies, executing near-impossible stunts with as much weight as they can bear. A Workout of the Day, or W.O.D., might include 50 kettlebell swings, 3 800-yard dashes in rapid succession and 10 pull-ups. Then repeat. No breaks. No weight machines. All you need is a body built for discipline and a mind that can justify so much apparent self-abuse.

Cool! Ok, I can see the need for an ex athlete (say, an NCAA caliber athlete) having the need for extra tough workouts, and I can see reaching for a level of fitness that is beyond “fit enough to lower health risks by x amount”.

The enemies in the eyes of the CrossFit crowd are “Stairmaster chumps” (who log long, drowsy hours on the machines but huff and puff on actual stairs) and myopic “specialists” — athletes or exercisers who neglect versatility in order to refine one or two skills. The CrossFitters’ critique has chastened at least one specialist. An essay by a triathlete named Tom Demerly titled “How Fit Are We?” appeared on a biking blog, conceding that if triathletes “found ourselves in a jam that required overall physical fitness to survive, we’d probably be in trouble.” Further admitting that he could barely do a single pull-up, Demerly went on to praise the fitness of a CrossFit type he had met named Joe Sparks, who “gave a demonstration using a 50-pound kettlebell making it look like he was maneuvering a tennis ball.”

I find the blocked part a bit curious. I have no trouble doing 8-10 pull ups, and this goes to 15-20 when I start weight lifting. But this may come from the fact that I am a poor swimmer! If that sounds paradoxical: remember that good swimmers go fast by being efficient; when they get efficient and strong they become very, very good. I, on the other hand, am very inefficient; hence I end up building muscle when I swim. That makes for poor swim times but ok upper body strength.


I just don’t understand this

Why does she need to embellish all of these things; why can’t she merely say “I took this trip and did that”? Sad to say, this really reinforces some of the points that Dick Morris made in his Hillary Clinton book; there he pointed out that she embellishes many things, even the reasons for picking out a hairstyle! (hat tip to Jed Report)

I guess that some people never change.

Straight talk?

March 27, 2008 Posted by | hillary clinton, mccain, politics/social, running, ultra, walking | 5 Comments

Obama fields Questions; Jeremiah Wright’s background.

Election Stuff

Obama fields questions: contrasts himself with Hillary Clinton:

Talks about gas prices: tells people what they need to hear.

Samantha Power: stands by her Iraq Statement; thinks about a cabinet position.

Former Obama aide Samantha Power may be repentant for calling Sen. Hillary Clinton a political monster, but on the other issue that marked her resignation, she is not conceding an inch.

Speaking at the Columbia University School of Law on Tuesday night, Power labeled herself “amazed” that Clinton had tried to get so much “political mileage” from comments Power made, in which she suggested that the next commander-in-chief would consider conditions on the ground when implementing his or her Iraq withdrawal plan.

“What I was saying is that you have to take into account what the generals on the ground are telling you,” Power told the room of several hundred undergraduate and graduate students. “Take for example that 3 am phone call [from Clinton’s campaign commercial]… She is not going to answer the phone and play a voicemail she recorded in 2007. That is crazy. She is going to judge the situation in 2009. Of course she is going to take into account what the generals have to say about the Iraq situation and what they are saying on the ground.” […]

Power called Obama’s willingness to meet, without preconditions, world leaders with whom America did not always see eye-to-eye, one of the turning points of the Democratic primary: “I can tell you about the conference call the day [after Obama made the proclamation],” she recalled. “People were like, ‘Did you need to say that?’ And he was like ‘yeah, definitely.'”

She emphasized that, unlike President Bush, Obama would put greater focus on the general welfare of the Iraqi people (looking at population displacements, health conditions, economic insecurities), when considering U.S. policy in that country. She also drew a picture of an Obama administration that was filled with different viewpoints and congenial debate.

And, to the delight of many in the crowd, she even hinted that she could be part of that hypothetical cabinet. “Because of the kind of campaign that Senator Obama has run,” Power said, “it seemed appropriate for someone of my Irish temper to step aside, at least for a while. We will see what happens there.”

Hillary Clinton: this article pretty much sums up my grievances. Still, I would vote for her over McCain, provided she wins the nomination within the rules.

Jeremiah Wright: what you probably don’t know about him.

There are very, very few people in American religious life as respected as Martin Marty, few scholars as learned, few Christians as sincere. He has been a professor of religious history at the University of Chicago for 35 years, one of the greatest universities in the world…..
…I have never met the man but I have read a fraction of his over 5,000 articles, was deeply informed by his masterful Fundamentalism Project (co-edited with Scott Appleby) for The Conservative Soul, and know of few more distinguished, principled or decent public figures. Along with Barack Obama, he will not disown Jeremiah Wright, or Trinity United Church of Christ, where he attended services and listened to many Wright sermons.

Read his full defense of Wright in the Chronicle of Higher Education. You will learn this:

In the early 1960s, at a time when many young people were being radicalized by the Vietnam War, Wright left college and volunteered to join the United States Marine Corps. After three years as a marine, he chose to serve three more as a naval medical technician, during which time he received several White House commendations. He came to Chicago to study not long after Martin Luther King Jr.’s murder in 1968, the U.S. bombing campaign in Cambodia in 1969, and the shooting of students at Kent State University in 1970.

This is a man the Fox News right calls an anti-American, a former marine who volunteered to serve his country in a war he opposed.

Original Source.

This is not to say that Wright doesn’t have faults; of course he does. But he isn’t the monster people are trying to make him out to be either.

John McCain: the infamous Boeing vs. AirBus deal.

Yes, this is from the Cato institute, but I feel that it is informative.

Press reports on the tanker saga have left two points unappreciated. The first is the hidden cost of creating a new aircraft assembly facility in Alabama. The second is how John McCain’s demands for competition in this deal helped Airbus and Northrop – not because McCain is crooked but because competition in defense contracting is phony.

To review: The Air Force needs refueling tankers because we fight far-off wars and don’t want to ask permission for overseas basing rights. B-52 bombers couldn’t fly from Missouri to Afghanistan to bomb the Taliban without tankers. Fighters and cargo aircraft need them too. The Air Force’s tanker fleet of 520 KC-135s and 59 larger KC-10s is old. In 2004, the Air Force tried to begin replacing them by leasing tankers from Boeing, as private airlines do. The deal unraveled when it emerged that leasing the tankers would add $6 billion to the taxpayers’ bill, that the deal was partially intended to prop up Boeing, and that Boeing had bought influence with Pentagon officials. McCain led the opposition. Two Boeing executives and one Air Force official went to prison. The Secretary of the Air Force and the head of Boeing lost their jobs.

Still looking for new tankers, the Air Force solicited another set of proposals for the new tanker, now dubbed the KC-45A. A few weeks ago, Airbus, a subsidiary of EADS, the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company, won, along with its partner, American defense contractor Northrop-Grumman. The deal would eliminate jobs in Kansas and Washington where Boeing has production facilities. Congressmen and Senators from those states erupted into patriotic indignation and vowed hearings. Politicians from Alabama, where Airbus will place a new production facility, vowed to fight for the deal. Boeing protested, which forces a GAO review – delaying the start of production by at least 100 days. Now allegations have emerged that McCain aided the victors while taking their money and their lobbyists for his Presidential campaign. Got it?

So claims were made that the Airbus product was “better”. But Boeing claims that the standards were changed….

And it looks as if taxpayers won’t be saving money after all, as this deal requires that a new production facility in Alabama be opened (to convert conventional aircraft into tankers) while keeping a similar Boeing plant open (in Kansas). The article points out that a defense contract plant, once opened, is very difficult to close, since these usually get support from their local Congressmen.

Now here is the contentious part:

Senator McCain has mud on his face because after he blocked the Boeing lease deal and pushed to reopen the bidding, he got around $14,000 in contributions from EADS employees, more than any other politician. Then he hired some of their lobbyists for his presidential campaign. Did that affect his behavior on the current round of proposals? McCain says no. “All I asked for in this situation was a fair competition,” he says.

But keep in mind what fair competition here means. As my friend Owen Cote, a researcher at MIT, points out, with only two viable competitors, this is a not a real market. Ensuring competition among two sellers means giving both leverage over the buyer, because if one exits the process, competition is lost. What the press has not pointed out is that McCain’s insistence on competition gave Airbus the power to force changes in the Air Force’s criteria.

There were two disputes about the Pentagon’s request for proposals that McCain got involved in to the benefit of Northrop-Airbus. First, in September and December 2006, just before the Pentagon was to release its RFP, McCain wrote to top Pentagon officials, asking them to eliminate language in the RFP forcing consideration of how penalties due to a WTO dispute over subsidies might affect the tanker’s production cost. That provision, championed by Boeing booster Norman Dicks (D-WA), would have hurt Northrop-Airbus more than Boeing. McCain got his wish.

Second, in the December letter, McCain asked the Pentagon to give the proposals credit for having more cargo space, instead of equal points for having in excess of a certain amount of space. Meanwhile, the Northrop-Airbus team, which was proposing a bigger aircraft, threatened to withdraw their bid if the Air Force did not change its criteria on this issue. This double whammy put the Air Force up a creek. If Northrop and Airbus weren’t bluffing, leaving the criteria be would hand the deal to Boeing, and enrage McCain, who could then accuse the Air Force in public hearings of giving Boeing another sweetheart deal. The Air Force complied, giving another advantage to Northrop-Airbus. […]

The article concludes that McCain did nothing illegal or crooked, but that it still doesn’t look good for him.

Move over Obama Girl…get ready to rain McCain!

(I think this is supposed to be pro-McCain, but I am not sure)

March 27, 2008 Posted by | hillary clinton, humor, mccain, obama, politics/social, religion | 1 Comment

Carpy walk and False Memories.

Workout notes 10 mile walk; time from the Detwiller Marina dam past the gooseloop was 1:03:04; I had hoped to break 1:03. Dang. 🙂
This leg is just a bit under 5 miles, but it is net uphill (from the Illinois River to the Bluff).

Some photos from this course are here.

Note: as I walked along the water front, I could hear the Asian carp jumping out of the water. The Illinois River has an Asian carp crisis; they have pushed out the native fish and the carp really don’t have a good use (e. g., too bony to be eaten).

Yes, these were imported to solve a problem, but escaped and went on to cause more problems.

Five species of Asian carp now occur in the contiguous United States. These include grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella), common carp (Cyprinus carpio), silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molotrix), bighead carp (H. nobilis) and black carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus). Common carp, brought to the United States from Europe in 1831, were soon propagated and distributed throughout waters of the Upper Mississippi River System (UMRS). Grass carp were imported from eastern Asia in 1963 to control submersed aquatic vegetation in aquaculture ponds and were first documented in the Mississippi River along Illinois in 1971. Silver carp and bighead carp were imported from China in 1973 to improve water quality of aquaculture ponds (initially in Arkansas). These species have invaded our Midwestern rivers, through pond escapement or by deliberate introductions and were first documented in the UMRS as early as 1982. Reproducing populations of these four species are now present in the UMRS. Presently black carp, which are mollusk eaters, only exist in aquaculture ponds of Arkansas and Mississippi.

Update Evidently, I had someone who knows what they are talking about make a comment on this post, and I feel that it deserves to be in the main body:

Just a comment – I could not tell where the text was from, but, depending on your definition of Asian carp, there are either 4 or 6 (not five) species of Asian carp in the USA. If you include common carp (Cyprinus carpio) in the definition, it doesn’t make any sense NOT to include goldfish (Carrassius auratus). In fact, common carp is native to both Europe and Asia, and so is sometimes called European carp, while goldfish are strictly Asian in origion.

However, Common carp and goldfish are often not included in the definition of “Asian carp” in North America. The other four listed above were imported much later, directly from Asia, and constitute the assemblage known in Chinese as (roughly translated) “the four famous domestic fish”. The management plan for bighead, silver, black, and grass carp in the United States makes a point of the definition of “Asian carps” as including only these species. Minor point, I know, but hey…

My note: the link to the text that Duane is referring to is above the quote.

It is an article on the US Geological Survey website written by Todd M. Koel, Kevin S. Irons, and Eric Ratcliff.

False Memories I talked a bit about these in a previous post. Here is one of mine:

I remember when I restarted running (after a period of morbid obesity), I had fond memories of my “glorious period” of running: a two month period from February to March of 1982. During this period, I ran three races: a 32 minute 5 miler on a hilly course, a 1:09:55 10 miler (10.2 miles actually) and a 39:50 10K. I know, pathetic by “real runner” standards, but that was my best.

Soon after I was to attempt to run a 5 minute mile (so I thought) but I ended up getting sick and couldn’t run well at my goal meet.

So, what was my “false memory”? Well, in my memory, I had done 8 x 400 meters in 75 seconds each, or so I had thought. I was so close to that 5 minute mile, right? But my workout log from that era had been misplaced and so this just stayed in my memory. Oh what a glorious track workout! 🙂
I was just striding along, looking like Michael Johnson, feeling great, but that blasted illness came along and deprived me of that sub 5 minute mile that I was sure to run, right? 🙂

Well, then I found my old logs. I had found out: yes, on that day, I had done 8 x 400, but the first 7 were 81-83 seconds, and my last one was…78 seconds. This is exactly what one would expect of a “runner” of my ability. I had written that it was my goal to eventually do them all in 75 but that was a long ways away. But over time, my unrealized goal became my history, at least in my mind. 🙂

Too bad I hadn’t made winning the Boston Marathon as my goal!

March 26, 2008 Posted by | Peoria/local, politics/social, running, science, time trial/ race, walking | 6 Comments

Quickly From other blogs

Workout notes taught a yoga class (or lead it), walked 10 miles (1 mile indoors and 9 outside), which included the Bob Michael Bridge, Gooseloop and the Springdale Cemetery. It was cool and windy.

Humor: Clinton actually leads Obama. Well, Obama has a lead in pledged delegates, overall delegates, popular vote and number of states. But try looking at it this way:

Total number of “New” States



Hilllary Clinton has won New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, and New York. By contrast, Obama has failed to win a single state with the word “New” in its name. Obama’s failure among self-proclaimed new states, raises serious questions about his supposed strength among young voters (new people) and his supposed message of change (new policies).

Average Highest Elevation

CLINTON: 6135 Feet

OBAMA: 6097 Feet

Frankly, I’m surprised that more attention hasn’t been drawn to this. Obama claims to want to elevate the level of discourse, but he has failed in states with the highest elevations. Clinton has won on Mount Whitney (California), Humphreys Peak (Arizona), Boundary Peak (Nevada), and Wheeler Peak (New Mexico). Perhaps more significantly, there are so few peaks left that despite the close margins, Obama has no hope of regaining the altitude vote. Clinton also leads among states with the highest average mean elevation: (Clinton: 1908.8 feet Obama: 1457.7 feet).

Go to the article to see three other ways in which Obama trails.

From the Billy Jack Blog: an interesting moral dilemma:

[…]Judy is now 55 years old and has been driving the car ever since. In fact, she has reconditioned the car, had the engine rebuilt two different times, put a new paint job on it, and has driven it over 300,000 miles. She never suspected her prized possession was actually stolen. But according to KNBC in Los Angeles, she made that discovery recently while reconditioning the car and finding it had two different 1dentification numbers–one on the firewall and the other on the driver’s side door. Now living in San Diego, Ms. Smongesky called the San Diego police department and gave them the vin numbers. They ran them and determined the car had been stolen 38 year ago from Eugene Brakke. […]

Go to the blog and see how she resolved the issue.

Over the top spoof anti-atheist posters: Go to Friendly Atheist to see some of these

I like this one:

There are many more here.

From Rate Your Students: Letter from a helicopter parent and a professor’s dream response.

Dear Professor X,

I know that you have an exam scheduled for the day before spring break, and my daughter Gina requested that she take that exam earlier. You said “no” because you didn’t think her family vacation to Jamaica was a good enough reason. I think you’re being unfair, and now Gina is going to get an F for the midterm because you refuse to consider her situation. Therefore, I’m asking you to think this over again and get back to me as soon as possible.

Gina’s Mom

Dear Gina’s Mom,

Where do I begin? I didn’t just refuse her request because she is going on vacation; I refused her request because I have a class of 250 students. If I offered her an alternate time, then I would have to offer an alternate time for all students. This means reserving a room through the scheduling office, finding TAs to invigilate this extra sitting, creating a completely new midterm, and generally taking up my personal time that I don’t get paid for just to make your daughter’s already pampered life a little more convenient. She won’t receive a zero on the test because I refuse to allow her to write it early, she’ll receive a zero because she decided 10 days of vacation just wasn’t enough for her and that extra day of vacation was worth getting a big fat zero on my midterm.[…]

Note: I often have given students early exams for such things, BUT I teach classes of 20-30 students, so I am in a very different situation than this person. But there was a time when I wasn’t.

Life Expectancy Between Rich and Poor: The bad news is that it is growing. The good news: it is going up for all social classes. What I don’t know: what about quality of life issues? Are the rich getting, say, 1-2 more years, but on life support?

One of the interesting issues is how the data is presented: these graphs are a bit unusual.


Hillary Clinton’s Sniper Fire Story:

This rally was on February 29, 2008!

Oh wait, “she misspoke”. That’s the claim. Misspoke so many times? 🙂

Ok, let’s be charitable here. False memories are sometimes created and reinforced.

About one-third of the people who were exposed to a fake print ad describing a visit to Disneyland and how they met and shook hands with Bugs Bunny said later they remembered or knew the event happened to them.

The scenario described in the ad never occurred because Bugs Bunny is a Warner Bros. cartoon character and wouldn’t be featured in any Walt Disney Co. property, according to University of Washington memory researchers Jacquie Pickrell and Elizabeth Loftus.

Pickrell will make two presentations on the topic at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Society (APS) on Sunday (June 17) in Toronto and at a satellite session of the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition in Kingston, Ontario, on Wednesday.

“The frightening thing about this study is that it suggests how easily a false memory can be created,” said Pickrell, UW psychology doctoral student.

“It’s not only people who go to a therapist who might implant a false memory or those who witness an accident and whose memory can be distorted who can have a false memory. Memory is very vulnerable and malleable. People are not always aware of the choices they make. This study shows the power of subtle association changes on memory.”

The research is a follow-up to an unpublished study by Loftus, a UW psychology professor who is being honored by the APS this week with its William James Fellow Award for psychological research; Kathryn Braun, a visiting scholar at the Harvard Business School; and Rhiannon Ellis, a former UW undergraduate who is now a doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh.

In the original study, 16 percent of the people exposed to a Disneyland ad featuring Bugs Bunny later thought they had really seen and met the cartoon rabbit.

Stephen J. Gould wrote some essays about this in Eight Little Piggies (see section 4)

So it may be true that she is not intentionally lying, but it is also true that you have to take her stories with a grain of salt.

Of course, you could say the same of Ronald Reagan.

But this is a big lesson on politics in the youtube era.

March 25, 2008 Posted by | creationism, hillary clinton, humor, obama, politics/social, religion, republicans, science, walking, yoga | 2 Comments

Jemeriah Wright in Context part II

Workout notes: yesterday 2650 yard swim: 500 free, 10 x 25 fly, 25 free, 10 x 25 side, 25 free, 10 x 25 drill, 25 free, 100 paddle, 100 free, 100 paddle, 100 IM, 50 cool down. Then 30 minutes on the bike: 10 easy, 20 hill climb (about 7 miles).

Note: my legs are very, very weak. I need to strengthen them if I am to have any hope of doing well on trails.

Jemeriah Wright:

First some side background: Korean Churches. Chinese Churches. Greek Church. Polish Church. Anglican Church. Italian Church.

In fact, it is quite common to find churches designed to fill the needs of a certain community of people, with “community” meaning, in part, someone of a certain ethnic background. It so happens that Americans of European descent come for a variety of backgrounds, and these backgrounds tended to be preserved. On the other hand, whereas there are several African heritages, these heritages tended to not be as sharply preserved by African Americans, due to how many of them first got to the US.

So, the “ethnic heritage” tends to be a generic “black” (a simplification, I know).

So look at Hannity’s first question. Yes, Wright’s answer shows inexperience with hostile media; but as I have just shown, setting up a church to mostly serve an ethnic community is very common.

Now, for more of the type of stuff that Trinity does, go here. You’ll have a wide range of videos to choose from.

Note: of course, I am not religious, so it seems odd that I’d defend a church, doesn’t it? 🙂 But I don’t like false accusations.

March 25, 2008 Posted by | obama, politics/social, religion, swimming | Leave a comment

I knew him then…

First a bit of humor from Frazz:


Now back to my past: I started to run again in 1994; I was still 230 pounds and it took me about 25 minutes to jog 2 miles (yes, that is my “quick walking” pace, even now). After a lapse in 1995, I restarted and in 1996, I did my first 5K race (since the mid 1980s). It took me 23:30 to run 5K in baskeball shoes. 🙂

By 1997 the racing bug had bit me pretty hard; I was running races frequently (say, twice a month). Here are the results of one of the 5Ks:

1 Justin Young 17 M Peoria IL 15:23 4:57
2 Eric Moos 19 M Peoria IL 16:54 5:26
3 Christopher Friedman 24 M Peoria IL 17:14 5:33
11 Danny Burk 14 M Metamora IL 18:41 6:01
18 Kevin Burk 40 M Metamora IL 19:47 6:22

23 Jeffrey Neltner 33 M Peoria IL 20:11 6:30
24 Teri Brandt 31 F Brimfield IL 20:12 6:30
25 Jim Henkins 39 M Henry IL 20:20 6:33
26 Brandon Smith 15 M Peoria IL 20:27 6:35
27 Ollie Nanyes 37 M Peoria IL 20:34 6:37
28 Deborah Wresinski 31 F Peoria IL 20:36 6:38

29 Roger Owdom 28 M Chillicothe IL 20:45 6:41
30 Brad Dietrich 18 M IL 20:47 6:41
31 Dave Weaver 48 M Princeville IL 20:48 6:42
32 Robert Hultgren 54 M Peoria IL 20:51 6:43
33 James Martin 46 M Chillicothe IL 20:52 6:43
34 Katherine Suda 22 F Edelstein IL 21:00 6:46
35 Duke Burk 10 M Metamora IL 21:03 6:47
36 Valerie Marquis 16 F Dunlap IL 21:05 6:47

125 Patty Isit 36 F Peoria IL 34:42 11:10
126 Karla Losey 33 F Chillicothe IL 34:43 11:10
127 Carol Henry 37 F Pekin IL 36:30 11:45
128 Becky Henry 6 F Pekin IL 36:37 11:47

Note the Burks: father Kevin, sons Danny and Duke (10 years old!)
Well, Duke Burk used to often beat me at these things; this is one of the few times I actually finished ahead of him. Well, Duke is now back in the news as a wrestler for Northern Illinois University:

ST. LOUIS—Ten seconds, 10 lousy seconds.

That was the difference for Northern Illinois 174-pounder Duke Burk on Thursday during the second session of the NCAA Division I wrestling championships at the Scottrade Center.

Burk (26-6), a Huskies sophomore and former Notre Dame standout, met Central Michigan’s Brandon Sinnott during the evening session on the opening day of action. […]

There is another article about him in the paper:

Duke Burk needed three, but only got two.

As in victories on the second day of the NCAA Division I wrestling championships at the Scottrade Center.

The Northern Illinois sophomore 174-pounder fell one match short of earning all-American honors on Friday when he dropped a 4-3 decision to seventh-seeded Matthew Stolpinski of Navy during the evening session of wrestlebacks.

“I guess it’s like climbing steps on a ladder,” said Burk. “Last year I went 1-2 and this year I went 3-2 so I improved in that year.

“I’ve got two more cracks at it, two more years to train. The next year I will dedicate to improving again, and if I improve as much again I’ll be right there.” […]

Ahhh, he went from being a little kid who could sometimes kick my butt at running to being a young man who can just plain kick my butt. 🙂

He doesn’t know who I am, but I did shake his hand after these runs and I did chat with his dad (briefly); yes, his dad looked (looks?) every part the wrestler.

Oh yes, the other fact that I used to be able to run around 20 minutes for the 5K; sometimes a bit faster, mostly a bit slower. Those days are ancient history; I’d be lucky to break 25 minutes now. I think that, after FANS this year, I’ll take a break from ultras and see how fast I can run these “road” 5Ks. I might train for the Big Shoulders swim too. This sort of training is a bit less time consuming but is more intense; hence I’ll have to resume my bike workouts and maybe include a mile or two of running 2-3 times a week for now.

March 23, 2008 Posted by | Peoria/local, running | 8 Comments