Slept in Today

I’ll start my workout a bit later today (say, 7 am) just because I can.

Update Morning workout: 4000 yards of swimming. 5 x 100 free on the 2 (warm up), 5 x 100 (drill/swim alternate) with zoomers, 1000 (no flips) in 16:44 (4:11, 8:21, 12:34), 200 stroke (easy), 10 x 100 on the 2 (no flip turns; mostly 1:37-1:38, one 1:39), 200 stroke, 10 x 50 (alternate paddle, free), 4 x 25 fly with zoomers (cool down).

This was my best swim in a while.


I owe myself some progress on my outstanding paper (“outstanding” as in “I still need work on it” rather than “quality” as the latter will be up for others to judge.)

Olympics: Don’t get me wrong; I love it when USA swimmers do well and I am amazed at the exploits of Michael Phelps.

But I get a bit annoyed with the media when I read things like this:

Greatest Olympian of all Time

Yes, he has done well in several events and seemingly wins world record after world record. But think about it: there are events (gymnastics, swimming, and to a lesser extent, the sprints in track and field) where it is possible to do this. One can be a truly great boxer, wrestler, basketball player, or even distance swimmer, but NOT have the opportunity to win gold after gold just because their events aren’t set up that way.

And as far as swimming: there is the 50, 100, 200, relays as well as the back, free, fly, breast etc.

But what about distance? You have the intermediate distance (200, 400), and something resembling distance (1500 for the men, 800 for the women) and finally, this year, a 10K open water swim for both the men and women. But the fact is that the swimming events are set up for the sprinters.

And while I respect sprinting, I can’t say that someone who cleans up at the sprints-intermediate distances is really a better swimmer than someone who dominates at the distance swims.

For a schedule, go here.

World Events
A Daily Kos diary by Grand Moff Texan shows why we should trust our local media to get it right concerning world events:

Up ’till now, every bit of the analysis of the South Ossetian conflict has assumed that Russia entered into the fighting as the result of careful thinking and careful timing. It was timed to coincide with the Olympics. It was a show of power, not just to the former Eastern Bloc, but to the US and NATO.

The Russians were trying to reestablish the Soviet Union. – John Bolton

The Russians are trying to reestablish the Russian Empire. – John McCain

Surely it’s the Russians whose minds we should be reading, because the Russians must have known what Georgia was going to do in South Ossetia, right?

Well, no…here is a timeline what what happened prior to the invasion:

Furthermore, the Georgian provocation seems to have had an Ossetian provocation. Here’s an article from the day before the Russians invaded Georgia:

The latest outbreak of hostilities began on July 31 after two roadside bombs hit a Georgian police Toyota SUV near the Georgian village of Eredvi. Six Georgian policemen were wounded (Interfax, August 1). Russian peacekeepers, according to the Russian Defense Ministry, discovered that the bombs were made out of 122 mm artillery shells (, August 2). The road leading to Eredvi was built by the Georgians to bypass Ossetian roadblocks near the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali. Last November I traveled that road in a similar Toyota to visit the Georgian-controlled part of South Ossetia. This road has been a thorn in the side of the Ossetian separatists for some time. On July 4 a car with the pro-Georgian leader of South Ossetia Dmitry Sanakoyev, whom the separatists consider a renegade, was hit by a roadside bomb and shot at on the same road in almost the same spot. Three bodyguards were wounded, but Sanakoyev was unhurt. A surge of tension followed the attack (RIA-Novosti, July 4; Kommersant, August 4).

The roadside bomb attack on July 31 was followed the next day by bloody clashes. Both sides accused the other of initiating the fighting. The Ossetians admitted six dead and 15 wounded, many hit by sniper fire. The Georgians admitted nine wounded. Both sides accused the other of using mortar fire. The Ossetians announced that 29 Georgian solders had been killed but did not substantiate the claim (RIA-Novosti, August 4). The Ossetians began an evacuation of women and children to North Ossetia (a Russian autonomous republic), called for volunteers from the North Caucasus to join the fight against Georgia, and threatened to attack Georgian cities and to cleanse the Georgian forces out of South Ossetia. The South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity claimed that Georgians living in South Ossetia were begging to be “liberated” from the forces of the regime in Tbilisi (RIA-Novosti, August 2, 3, and 4).

Kokoity has announced that some 300 volunteers have arrived in South Ossetia to fight the Georgians and that more are coming (, August 5). Most of the “volunteers” seem to be South Ossetians that were serving in police and other militarized formations in North Ossetia and were sent south as reinforcements. Kokoity has ordered that these “volunteers” be integrated into the South Ossetian Interior Ministry forces (RIA-Novosti, August 6). Yesterday the Ossetians were reporting fierce battles with Georgian forces, while Georgian authorities and Russian peacekeepers reported only shooting incidents in which no one was injured (Interfax, August 6).

The Ossetian authorities have announced the cancellation of a planned meeting with the Georgian side in Tskhinvali on August 7, while the Russian Foreign Ministry said that it believed the meeting had to go ahead (RIA-Novosti, August 6). Russian peacekeepers say that after the initial flare up of fighting on August 1, the situation in South Ossetia has somewhat calmed. The Ossetians insist that it is getting worse (Interfax, August 6). High-ranking Russian officials, including President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, have remained silent about the conflict in South Ossetia.

The diarist concludes:

And all of these interpretations require a western perspective, and a paranoid one at that. Once again, dumbing the analysis down to personalities or Cold War narratives is a cheap way to get out of having to know what the hell is going on at ground level.

And the American press, especially, has cut its teeth on tedious celebrity gossip. They are not equipped to analyze a goddamn thing.

Oh come on, our press is plenty capable of finding out if some big name had had an affair. 🙂

Humorous Ignorance (from Evolved and Rational)

Why we need to teach evolution in science class
(New York Times)

Evolution should be taught — indeed, it should be central to beginning biology classes — for at least three reasons.

First, it provides a powerful framework for investigating the world we live in. Without evolution, biology is merely a collection of disconnected facts, a set of descriptions. The astonishing variety of nature, from the tree shrew that guzzles vast quantities of alcohol every night to the lichens that grow in the Antarctic wastes, cannot be probed and understood. Add evolution — and it becomes possible to make inferences and predictions and (sometimes) to do experiments to test those predictions. All of a sudden patterns emerge everywhere, and apparently trivial details become interesting.

The second reason for teaching evolution is that the subject is immediately relevant here and now. The impact we are having on the planet is causing other organisms to evolve — and fast. And I’m not talking just about the obvious examples: widespread resistance to pesticides among insects; the evolution of drug resistance in the agents of disease, from malaria to tuberculosis; the possibility that, say, the virus that causes bird flu will evolve into a form that spreads easily from person to person. The impact we are having is much broader.

For instance, we are causing animals to evolve just by hunting them. The North Atlantic cod fishery has caused the evolution of cod that mature smaller and younger than they did 40 years ago. Fishing for grayling in Norwegian lakes has caused a similar pattern in these fish. Human trophy hunting for bighorn rams has caused the population to evolve into one of smaller-horn rams. (All of which, incidentally, is in line with evolutionary predictions.)


The third reason to teach evolution is more philosophical. It concerns the development of an attitude toward evidence. In his book, “The Republican War on Science,” the journalist Chris Mooney argues persuasively that a contempt for scientific evidence — or indeed, evidence of any kind — has permeated the Bush administration’s policies, from climate change to sex education, from drilling for oil to the war in Iraq. A dismissal of evolution is an integral part of this general attitude.

Moreover, since the science classroom is where a contempt for evidence is often first encountered, it is also arguably where it first begins to be cultivated. A society where ideology is a substitute for evidence can go badly awry. (This is not to suggest that science is never distorted by the ideological left; it sometimes is, and the results are no better.)

But for me, the most important thing about studying evolution is something less tangible. It’s that the endeavor contains a profound optimism. It means that when we encounter something in nature that is complicated or mysterious, such as the flagellum of a bacteria or the light made by a firefly, we don’t have to shrug our shoulders in bewilderment.

Instead, we can ask how it got to be that way. And if at first it seems so complicated that the evolutionary steps are hard to work out, we have an invitation to imagine, to play, to experiment and explore. To my mind, this only enhances the wonder. […]

Hat tip to Friendly Atheist

Side note: a university system has just received permission from a court to deny applicants science credit for courses in which fake science is taught.

Where I am glad that the judge ruled correctly, I am a bit miffed that we need the courts to uphold academic standards.

Politics: How is Obama doing with the various religious groups?

He is winning them all, mostly by large margins, except for the Evangelical Christians.

Self-Identified Evangelical Christians 37% 39% 23%
Barna-Identified Evangelical Christians 17% 61% 14%

The survey is here, along with explanations.

Oh yes, Obama is winning atheists and agnostics 55-17 percent. 🙂


August 13, 2008 - Posted by | boxing, creationism, education, humor, mccain, obama, politics, politics/social, ranting, religion, science, swimming, training, world events

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