Pryor, Oklahoma, and a break from MYOB

Workout notes 1 mile walk on the treadmill (13:30), 2 mile run (19 minutes; last .5 mile at 8:57), 1 mile walk (about 13:30), then a few minutes of yoga. Short, but I got nice and sweaty.

I usually stay at the Micro-Tel as they have a treadmill, bike and elliptical trainer, and free internet. 🙂
Their breakfast sucks (dried out old biscuits and old gravy; or some too-sweet-for-me cereal) but for 41 dollars, I can pack along my own apple and bagel.

Rant-humor-none of my business Do you ever entertain yourself by making internal rants or “observations” about stuff that are really none of your business but you do it anyway just to feel superior? 🙂

Here is mine for this morning: as I went up stairs after my workout, some younger woman (30’ish?) was going down the stairs talking on her cell phone (loudly, of course). She was whining to someone about how much it took to fill up the gas tank in what must be a large SUV (you’ll love that postsimian).

I smiled to myself at how my Prius got me from Peoria to Lebanon, MO (about 360 miles) on 7.1 gallons of gas.

I go upstairs, take a shower, pack most of my stuff (except for the computer of course) and go back to the car. She is in the lobby, still yelling on her cell phone. That’s ok as she had a huge creeper in her sweatpants. 🙂

Now she is eating while talking on the phone. That used to be bad manners, right?

She just reminds me of the pinheads that I attempt to teach for a living (college level). I suppose that they learn something in college, though I wonder if a correspondence course on how to use google and how to cut-and-paste text from a browser would teach them just as much. 🙂

Anyway, that is my old curmudgeon, “nobody asked you and there is a good reason no body asked you” rant for the day!

Now to spend the rest of the day driving and focusing on stuff that is my business.

Ok, I will post something that is part of my business: I decided to do one final check of my e-mail and what do I find in my inbox:

Dear Townhall Opinion Leader,

The National Association of Scholars (NAS) is looking for some help.

We are the group of scholars who got together in the 1980s to fight political correctness on America’s college campuses. Back then, we imagined that the grown-ups on campus only needed to be reminded of their responsibilities to put things right. After all, how could serious scholars permit higher education to descend into speech codes, racial quotas, and political indoctrination? Or preside over the trashing of the core curriculum, Western civilization, and the American founding?

Boy, were we naïve!

We fought and fought hard. But while thousands of professors joined us, and we surely slowed the tide, American higher education is more politicized and less intellectually cogent today than when we started. Then we faced Howard Zinn (A People’s History of the United States) and Jesse “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western civ has got to go” Jackson. Today we have Ward Churchill, Sami Al-Arian, the Duke 88, as well as entirely “postmodernized” academic programs and university requirements, devoted to ensuring that students, who may know little else, know loads about diversity, feminism, global warming, the failures of capitalism, and the hypocrisy of Thomas Jefferson.

An ideological monoculture reigns supreme. Outside the hard sciences, only a handful of institutions exist in which the full spectrum of ideas gets robustly debated. Notions elsewhere regarded as good common sense are routinely dismissed by academic putdowns implying ignorance and malice. Where else but on an American college campus would you find male-female attraction stigmatized as “heteronormativity?” A recent study showed that students at some elite universities, including Yale, know less about American history upon graduation than they did when they finished high school. In some ways, an American college education has become an act of cultural erasure, with “identity” and political commitment replacing genuine knowledge.

Undaunted, we continue to fight, but, now more than ever, your help is needed. We ask you to take our survey. We’ll make good use of your answers in any case, but we do have an ulterior motive. We also welcome your questions—you can reach us at

Yours Sincerely,

Stephen H. Balch
President, National Association of Scholars

Townhall Opinion Leader? Hmmm, all I did was sign up for e-mail updates. Now note the “oh so scary people that they trotted out”: Ward Churchill? I believe that he was, uh, fired?

He was accused of plagiarism, inventing historical incidents and ghostwriting essays which he then cited in his footnotes in support of his own views.

Those allegations were the ones that brought dismissal today.

The Duke 88? Yeah, some people, gasp, signed a petition when they didn’t know all of the facts (the so-called Duke rape case, where the DA got fired (deservedly so). It isn’t as if they, say, voted to go to war over non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

I haven’t checked out what they think about the teaching of evolution, but at least they don’t seem to be condemning the hard sciences. That is a relief.

June 30, 2008 Posted by | education, humor, ranting, running, travel | 1 Comment

The dreaded words: “windows has downloaded updates”

Workout notes Still sore from yesterday; so I swam 2200 yards at the Riverplex. This soreness is just a “you used muscles you aren’t used to using and you went hard” soreness; not an injury soreness.

I leave for Austin, Texas after lunch; I might get in a treadmill workout when I get to my motel this evening.

More photos

Here are a couple of me from yesterday’s trail race

1. I almost look as if I were running.

2. I look as if I were walking.

Oh well. Improvement takes time.

Rant I got the dreaded “windows has installed updates” and “you need to do X, Y, and Z” to install them. This stuff always takes forever; one sort of “it will probably never happen” goal is to learn enough about computers to be able to do all of this myself and to tell microsoft to kiss my…
never mind.

New blog: Called the Obama Letdown Watch; many are concerned that O is now going toward the center and turning “business as usual”. In fact, BHO never campaigned as a liberal; the difference between him and HRC was mainly one of

1. Running a better campaign.
2. Placing more emphasis on “bottom up change” than “top-down”
3. Not being quite as exploitative on people’s weaknesses as her campaign was.

Nevertheless, their world views aren’t all that different.
Personally, I’d love to see them work together; if only we could get WJC to grow up.

John McCain: whining again. So much for his “respectful campaign”.

June 29, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Galesburg (IL) Railroad Days 5K

The 5K: Barbara wanted to do a road race so we drove to Galesburg, IL for the 5K (they also offered a road mile and 10K).

I decided to walk hard. Sort of. My time was 32:13 by my watch. Mile splits: 10:34, 10:26, 11:12 (10:10 pace for the 1.1). Mostly I chased a pack of mostly women and caught them; one got me back in the final .1 miles (these people were running).

Barbara did ok; she ended up with 55:10 for her 5K. That got her 3’rd place her age group.

Before the race

Last .1

From the side

home stretch

The trophies are railroad spikes. I have a few of these from 1998 and 1999.

A close up of Barbara’s butt. 🙂

June 29, 2008 Posted by | family, Peoria/local, time trial/ race, walking | Leave a comment

News of the day…

Science Avenger: an amusing post about Democratic Party unity:

In a new poll by AP-Yahoo, 53% of former Hillary supporters now say they would vote for Obama, whereas 23% say they will vote for McCain. This 30% margin is up considerably from April, where it was 16%. However, what really caught my eye was Hillary’s considerable moron contingency (she consistently outpolled Obama among the least educated voters) that McCain has apparently picked up:

The poll responses also show Obama has more work to do to quell fears among voters like Kirstie Hartle of Rome, N.Y., a registered Democrat who has never supported a Republican presidential candidate. With Clinton out of the race, Hartle said, “I’m Republican all the way now.”

She said she doesn’t like Obama’s name and thinks he has a questionable background. She also said she thought Obama was deceitful when he broke from his church after it hurt his campaign, and she doesn’t trust him to handle the Iraq war.

“It sounds to me like a Middle Eastern type of name and whether or not he’s born here in the United States, he doesn’t seem like, to me, somebody who is trustworthy,” Hartle said in a telephone interview. “You can’t trust anybody these days, so who’s to say he’s not a terrorist and we just don’t realize it yet?”

“I refuse to vote for an Arab to be in my White House,” said retired salesman Dean Johnson of Lanett, Ala. “That is the only factor. Otherwise, you couldn’t break both my legs and make me vote for a Republican.”

Texas Supreme Court Makes a ruling in a lawsuit over an….exorcism? No, you can’t make stuff like this up.

A divided Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of a former Colleyville church Friday, saying church members who were involved in a traumatic exorcism that ultimately injured a young woman are protected by the First Amendment.

In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled that the Pleasant Glade Assembly of God staff’s efforts to cast out demons from Laura Schubert presents an ecclesiastical dispute over religious conduct that would unconstitutionally entangle the court in church doctrine.

Schubert described a wild night in 1996 that involved casting out demons from the church and two attempts to exorcise demons from her. The incident left Schubert physically bruised and so emotionally scarred she later tried to commit suicide. She was 17 at the time.

Justice David Medina, writing for the majority, said that while Schubert’s argument regarding physical injuries might be tried without mentioning religion, her case was mostly about her emotional or psychological injuries from a religious activity that was sanctioned by the church.

For the court to impose any legal liability for engaging in a religious activity “to which the church members adhere would have an unconstitutional ‘chilling effect’ by compelling the church to abandon core principles of its religious beliefs,” Medina wrote.

“Religious practices that might offend the rights or sensibilities of a non-believer outside the church are entitled to greater latitude when applied to an adherent within the church,” Medina wrote.

He went on to say that when claims involve “only intangible, emotional damages allegedly caused by sincerely held religious belief, courts must carefully scrutinize the circumstances so as not to become entangled in a religious dispute.”

Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson, in a stinging dissenting opinion, wrote that the majority opinion is at times “imprecise and overbroad” and imposes an “erroneous standard” that would allow a church to simply claim a “religious motive” to avoid being sued.

He wrote that this “sweeping immunity” is inconsistent with U.S. Supreme Court precedent and that the First Amendment “guards religious liberty; it does not sanction intentional abuse in religion’s name.”

I am just dumbfounded. What do you say in a case like this? Is “the devil made me do it” a defense”? 🙂
I swear, this would be comical if taxpayer money weren’t being wasted.

Our brain: can retain information that we know to be false and make it seem true.

FALSE beliefs are everywhere. Eighteen percent of Americans think the sun revolves around the earth, one poll has found. Thus it seems slightly less egregious that, according to another poll, 10 percent of us think that Senator Barack Obama, a Christian, is instead a Muslim. The Obama campaign has created a Web site to dispel misinformation. But this effort may be more difficult than it seems, thanks to the quirky way in which our brains store memories — and mislead us along the way.

The brain does not simply gather and stockpile information as a computer’s hard drive does. Facts are stored first in the hippocampus, a structure deep in the brain about the size and shape of a fat man’s curled pinkie finger. But the information does not rest there. Every time we recall it, our brain writes it down again, and during this re-storage, it is also reprocessed. In time, the fact is gradually transferred to the cerebral cortex and is separated from the context in which it was originally learned. For example, you know that the capital of California is Sacramento, but you probably don’t remember how you learned it.

This phenomenon, known as source amnesia, can also lead people to forget whether a statement is true. Even when a lie is presented with a disclaimer, people often later remember it as true.

With time, this misremembering only gets worse. A false statement from a noncredible source that is at first not believed can gain credibility during the months it takes to reprocess memories from short-term hippocampal storage to longer-term cortical storage. As the source is forgotten, the message and its implications gain strength. This could explain why, during the 2004 presidential campaign, it took some weeks for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign against Senator John Kerry to have an effect on his standing in the polls.

Even if they do not understand the neuroscience behind source amnesia, campaign strategists can exploit it to spread misinformation. They know that if their message is initially memorable, its impression will persist long after it is debunked. In repeating a falsehood, someone may back it up with an opening line like “I think I read somewhere” or even with a reference to a specific source.

June 28, 2008 Posted by | hillary clinton, humor, mccain, morons, obama, politics, politics/social, religion, republicans, science | 2 Comments

Jubilee 10K Trail Run 2008

Ok, I’ll get to my performance: I sucked. It took me 1:12 to “run” 10K on muddy trails; ok, truth be told, I “ran” about 4.5-5 miles of it and walked; the only non uphill that I didn’t run was a longish “walkable” stretch across a field where I just wanted to stretch my legs.

But you know what? No injury pain, and I had a blast. There was a never ending hill, a log that you had to climb over, two significant stream crossings, mud puddles and shoe sucking mud.

It took about a mile or two to sort things out (where I said goodbye to a few runners) and ran off and on with 2-3 more the rest of the way.

Note: the winner ran about 35 minutes.

Injury: the leg/butt/piriformis/hip all feel a tiny bit sore but ok; I’ll see what I’ll do at Railroad Days (walk with Barbara? Walk the 10K hard? Run the 5K?.

Here are the photos from the Jubilee Run:

We ran together for much of the second half of the race.

Kevin Carrigan and Bill Holmes

The three of us ran much of the last 2 miles together; the lady on the right (JoAnn Grane) took her bike to the park and got in more mileage afterwards.

The Siltmans (Tonya and Mike). Mike was one of those who had signed up for Western States. He still has one of the Grand Slam 100 under his belt. It seems as if he runs a 100 mier every weekend! Tonya has finished 50 milers.

The lovely and talented Bev Enslow. In her earlier years, she was an elite runner, having won the Steamboat 4 miler. Currently, she is national class at off road triathlons.

A Real Athlete and Ollie. 🙂

Elaine Lagoda; she said goodbye to me at about mile two. I ran with the male (didn’t catch his name; Elaine’s husband) for much of the rest of the race.

Mike Rucker; runner, author, race director

June 28, 2008 Posted by | Friends, injury, Peoria/local, running, time trial/ race | 3 Comments

WTF? quiz calls me a “Christian”???

Just for kicks, I took this quiz

Quiz: What kind of Christian are you?

You scored 164, on a scale of 0 to 400.

Here’s how to interpret your score:

0 – 59
You are a Jesse Ventura Christian (a.k.a. a “Secularist” or non-Christian).

60 – 149
You are a Bishop Spong Christian (a.k.a. “Biblical Revisionist”).

150 – 249
You are a Hillary Rodham Clinton Christian (a.k.a. “Left-Leaning Traditionalist”)

250 – 329
You are a George Bush Sr. Christian (a.k.a. “Right-Leaning Traditionalist”).

330 – 400
You are a Jerry Falwell Christian (a.k.a “Historicist”).

I answered the questions honestly; I denied every supernatural event or miracle.

June 28, 2008 Posted by | hillary clinton, humor, religion | 3 Comments

Some videos and Conservative Fear

John “More of the Same” McCain talks about the new GI-Bill.

Too bad that he opposed the bill.


Friday, May 23rd 2008, 2:18 AM
John McCain railed at Barack Obama after the Illinois senator criticized McCain’s stance on military scholarships. Chiu/AP

John McCain railed at Barack Obama after the Illinois senator criticized McCain’s stance on military scholarships.
Obama dismissed McCain’s criticism as a ‘schoolyard taunt.’ Carter/AP

Obama dismissed McCain’s criticism as a ‘schoolyard taunt.’

WASHINGTON – John McCain hammered Barack Obama Thursday as a military know-nothing who shied away from service after being accused by the Democrat of going AWOL on helping veterans.

In a blistering attack, McCain told Obama to butt out on lecturing him about funding college aid for vets in a new version of the G.I. bill that passed the Senate 75-22.

“I will not accept from Sen. Obama, who did not feel it was his responsibility to serve our country in uniform, any lectures on my regard for those who did,” McCain said in a statement.

Obama threw the first punch in what was viewed as a preview of what could be a nasty general election White House campaign.

McCain, who was fund-raising in California, was not present for the vote as Obama took the Senate floor.

“I respect John McCain,” Obama said, “but I can’t understand why he’s lining up with the President to oppose this bill,” which provides funding and housing allowances for vets at private and public colleges.

“There are many issues that lend themselves to partisan posturing, but giving our veterans the chance to go to college should not be one of them,” said Obama, who later dismissed McCain’s criticism as a “schoolyard taunt.”

What is Obama’s plan for the election?

I like this video too:

Conservative Fear
Conservatives must be feeling pretty anxious

It must be really scary to be a conservative. To be one, you must live in constant fear of terrorists nuking the United States, of gay people on the verge of convincing you that you really enjoy sodomy, of Spanish becoming the official language of the United States next week, of every African-American voting seven or eight times in the next election, of radical Islam suddenly becoming the latest hip thing among kids across the country, of perpetual lesbian orgies in girls bathrooms in high schools across America, of liberals forcing everyone to become a vegan, of Christians being rounded up into concentration camps, and of Democrats outlawing private property if they were to ever take power again.

Read the rest; it is quite good.

Hat tip to O’Brien

June 28, 2008 Posted by | hillary clinton, mccain, obama, politics, politics/social, republicans | 8 Comments

Benefit of the Doubt vs. Blind Faith: Obama and FISA

Note: this photo has nothing to do with the article; I just like the photo.

Posted at the Daily Kos

Of course, Barack Obama’s stance on the FISA “compromise” bill has sparked debate and some anger. There has been some polarization as well: “hey, don’t you want to win this November? Lay off!” and the “blind loyalty is bad; look at what it has done to the Republicians” and to our country.

More below the fold.

Of course, Barack Obama’s stance on the FISA “compromise” bill has sparked debate and some anger. There has been some polarization as well: “hey, don’t you want to win this November? Lay off!” and the “blind loyalty is bad; look at what it has done to the Republicans” and to our country. More below the fold.

Of course, Obama has put himself in a tight spot, to say the least. Even the Republicans are taunting him as being “spineless” and are openly saying that it is just a matter of time that he caves in on Iraq as well.

The article I linked to goes on to say that changing one’s mind isn’t always a bad thing; in fact one of the knocks on President Bush is that he “stays the course”, even if the course leads off of a cliff. Sometimes, one needs to admit that the current course is wrong, or that a previous decision was bad.

Example: Remember George H. W. Bush going back on his “read my lips, no new taxes” pledge? In fact, he had to raise taxes at that time; it was the right thing to do.

But the danger is, of course, is that one just goes around telling groups what they want to hear, regardless of their intentions. In fact, Obama has campaigned on the “Tell people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear” theme.

So what about this blind faith versus benefit of the doubt?

Blind faith is, IMHO, just going along without thinking and pretending that doubt isn’t there. That does no one any good and can be dangerous. Look at where that got this country recently.

On the other hand, there is “benefit of the doubt”.

Giving the benefit of the doubt can be a wise course of action in many circumstances. Consider the following:

1. Benefit of the doubt is temporary, and the leader’s right to the BOD is based on performance.

2. The leader often has access to information that the rest of us do not have (yes, Bush and the Republic party leaders used this one on us)

3. The leader has been known to have good, honorable intentions (this doesn’t apply to most of the Republic party leadership)

4. The leader is a brilliant person (this certainly doesn’t apply to our current President, no matter what Harriet Miers thinks 🙂 )

5. The leader has had a history of displaying good judgment (true for BHO, false for GWB)

6. The leader has produced good results in the past (BHO’s campaign proved itself; GWB’s administration has been a comedy of errors)

So, where I disagree with Obama on the FISA bill and where I have voiced my disagreement, I am, at this time, willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

It is beyond question that he knows far more about the details than I do, and it is reasonable to assume that he is smarter and has better judgment than I.

So, for me, he gets the benefit of the doubt, for now. He could certainly lose that, but he hasn’t as yet.

A political aside

This might turn out ok. In this issue, BHO might be having a Sister Souljah moment (“standing up to those liberals”) and we might be having one as well: our vocal displeasure is proof that we are seeing him realistically. We aren’t a group of deluded, hypnotized followers. We can and will disagree with him from time to time.

June 27, 2008 Posted by | hillary clinton, obama, politics, politics/social | 6 Comments

Biblical Literacy for Atheists and How NOT to aruge with an intelligent Christian

The above is a nice response to a fundie who

1. Believes in the Bible literally and
2. Believes that their deity is a loving, personal deity that still does miracles.

It won’t have any effect on most intelligent and/or educated Christians.

This is how I would have answered this video:

1. God’s miracle is more that life got here at all; just think: our bodies not only reproduce themselves, but, within limits, can repair itself. What human engineered thing can do that? But no, God isn’t going to change physics and chemistry on my behalf.

2. Yes, those starving kids are a major tragedy. But this is what happens when we live our lives in a greedy manner and don’t plan ahead; God’s morality is for our own good. Think of what we do as parents: we don’t let our kids play in the street because it can cause harm, even if the kid doesn’t see this. And yes, though those kids are suffering and we should do what we can to help feed them, remember that all human suffering is temporal; we’ll all be happy in heaven (I was from the Universalist wing of the church).

3. About all of those things in the Bible: the horrific (see the book of Joshua where the Israelites ruthlessly murdered thousands), the comical (Jacob affecting the spots an stripes on sheep by exposing them to striped wood while they ate and mated; see Genesis Chapter 30, 33-43) and the bizarre (the fearsome sky god was able to slaughter whole populations but was unable to deal with iron chariots (Judges chapter1, verse 19); one wonders what this god would have done against Abrams tanks and B-1’s.

But as the priests taught me: these books were written by bronze age people who knew nothing about omnipotent deities or science; they were doing the best that they could. See that as a “sacred scrap book” of the thoughts at that time.

The same goes for those weird and often abusive laws.

Hence, such arguments (as in this video) would have little effect.

Here is my recommendation for those atheists who want to learn something about the Bible:

Get a good translation (New Revised Standard Edition, New American (Catholic), or for the Hebrew Bible (aka “Old Testament”) the TANAKH put out by the Jewish Publication Society. The New American has excellent footnotes which explains why some translations were made in the way that they were and they also point out factual errors.

Next get a good book on the Bible (Rogerson: Introduction to the Bible is inexpensive but very readable and scholarly)

One might also get a commentary such as the Interpreter’s Commentary and perhaps Rabbi Teluskin’s Biblical Literacy.

This might sound strange, but I find such exercises to be fun.

June 27, 2008 Posted by | religion | Leave a comment

Taylor series are life saving!

I am getting ready to go swim; I might not run or walk much today. If I do, it will be “5 mileish” (8 km).

Update: 2000 yard swim. What was amusing is that the gasket around my goggles became undone as I took them out; I cursed under my breath and spent about 10 minutes poolside repairing them. A swimmer saw me and invited me to share her lane; that was sweet! 🙂

She thought that I was waiting to have a lane to myself when in fact I was trying to put the gasket back on.

Afterwards I walked home (just over 3 miles) and barely beat the rain; then I did 2 more faster walking miles (12:20 mpm) on the treadmill and some piriformis stretches.

Mathematics: yes, Taylor Series can save lives!

A story about Igor Tamm, the father of tokamak method of controlled thermonuclear fusion:

During the Russian revolution, the mathematical physicist Igor Tamm was seized by anti-communist vigilantes at a village near Odessa where he had gone to barter for food. They suspected he was an anti-Ukranian communist agitator and dragged him off to their leader.

Asked what he did for a living he said that he was a mathematician. The sceptical gang-leader began to finger the bullets and grenades slung around his neck. “All right”, he said, “calculate the error when the Taylor series approximation of a function is truncated after n terms. Do this and you will go free; fail and you will be shot”. Tamm slowly calculated the answer in the dust with his quivering finger. When he had finished the bandit cast his eye over the answer and waved him on his way.

By the way, the answer is (if the series is expanded about 0)
|f^{(n+1)}(c)|(x)^{(n+1)}/(n+1)! where “c” is chosen so that the n+1’st derivative will be at a maximum absolute value in the interval connecting “x” to 0.

Note: you can prove this result by repeated integration by parts.

Note 2: a tokamak is a donut shaped thing that is designed to create a magnetic field to “bottle up” very hot plasma. The idea is that one needs extremely high temperatures for nuclear fusion to take place.

So why is the donut shape necessary?

The reason is that: of all possible surfaces that embed into three space, only the single holed donut shape (called a torus) can have what is called a “vector field which is not zero anywhere). The Klein Bottle has the vector field property, but doesn’t embed into 3-space without intersecting itself.

This is an example of a torus.

If you are curious about what a “vector field” is, I’ll give a quick and dirty oversimplification.

Imagine your surface having lots of lots of hair. Imagine each individual hair being exactly perpendicular to the surface (ok, to the tangent plane of the surface). Now if you shine a light straight over the hair, it casts no shadow at all. The “zero shadow” can be thought of as a “zero vector”. Now bend the hair a bit and shine the light. The shadow of the hair on the surface is called a vector; since there is a shadow we say that the vector is non-zero.

Now, the Gauss-Bonnet theorem says that only the torus (donut) and Klein Bottle have the property that every single hair can be combed so as to produce a shadow; it is impossible to do that on a sphere (called the “hairy ball theorem“).

Here is an attempt to produce a nowhere zero vector field on a sphere; this attempt fails at the poles.

This is an example of the torus with a nowhere zero vector field.

June 27, 2008 Posted by | humor, mathematics, Uncategorized | 1 Comment