The wind is howling up a storm outside; the temperature hit in the 40s today but that I will change for tomorrow’s New Year’s Eve 2-mile (3.2 km) run.
Last night’s game (Alamo Bowl) between Missouri and Northwestern was exciting. Northwestern was dominating the first half until Missouri hit a big punt return just prior to the half.
In the second half, Northwestern would take the lead and Missouri would respond; eventually the Tigers tied the Wildcats just before the game ended and so it went into overtime.
The Wildcats also missed an extra point; otherwise they gave a good account of themselves.
I didn’t see much of the Humanitarian Bowl; I caught a few minutes (maybe 5-10?) of the first quarter. That was enough to see
1. A touchdown drive by Nevada.
2. A kickoff return for a touchdown
3. A botched kickoff which turned into an unintentional squib; this was returned to the Maryland 10 yard line.
4. Then Maryland intercepted the ball end the end zone
5. Then there was another touchdown; this time by Maryland followed by
6. A Nevada score.
The final ended up 42-35, Maryland. A benched starter ended up coming back into the game and went wild.
Currently I have the Holiday Bowl (Oregon vs. Oklahoma State) on the TV and am watching the Texas Bowl (Rice vs. Western Michigan) on the internet. The Cowboys lead the Ducks 17-7 in the Holiday and the Owls lead the Broncos 24-0 in the Texas Bowl. The Owls are moving at will and stopping the Broncos effectively.
Science: here is a good article where the late Stephen Jay Gould’s views on evolution are explained. Note: the purpose of this article is to show that many of Gould’s critics didn’t bother to fully understand his arguments to begin with.
Disgraced and indicted governor Rod Blagojevich has selected Roland Burris for Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat.
Here is Obama’s Statement:
“Roland Burris is a good man and a fine public servant, but the Senate Democrats made it clear weeks ago that they cannot accept an appointment made by a governor who is accused of selling this very Senate seat. I agree with their decision, and it is extremely disappointing that Governor Blagojevich has chosen to ignore it. I believe the best resolution would be for the Governor to resign his office and allow a lawful and appropriate process of succession to take place. While Governor Blagojevich is entitled to his day in court, the people of Illinois are entitled to a functioning government and major decisions free of taint and controversy,”
Harry Reid’s Statement (Senate Majority Leader, for now)
“It is truly regrettable that despite requests from all 50 Democratic Senators and public officials throughout Illinois, Gov. Blagojevich would take the imprudent step of appointing someone to the United States Senate who would serve under a shadow and be plagued by questions of impropriety. We say this without prejudice toward Roland Burris’s ability, and we respect his years of public service. But this is not about Mr. Burris; it is about the integrity of a governor accused of attempting to sell this United States Senate seat. Under these circumstances, anyone appointed by Gov. Blagojevich cannot be an effective representative of the people of Illinois and, as we have said, will not be seated by the Democratic Caucus.
Next week we will start one of the most important debates of the year – outlining an economic recovery plan to create jobs and invest in America. And in the coming weeks, we will be working to protect homeowners and consumers, make America more energy independent, strengthen our national security, and improve health care and educational opportunities. There is much work to do and a lot at stake. It is thus critical that Illinois and every other state have two seated Senators without delay.
“We again urge Gov. Blagojevich to not make this appointment. It is unfair to Mr. Burris, it is unfair to the people of Illinois and it will ultimately not stand. The governor must put the interests of the people of Illinois and all Americans first by stepping aside now and letting his successor appoint someone who we will seat.
What will (might) happen?
Jesse White (Illinois Secretary of State) might attempt to block the appointment, but probably lacks the authority to do so. If this attempt to block fails, there may be no legal way the Senate can refuse to seat him.
What a mess. I don’t like this at all.
Here is one view that Burris ought to NOT be opposed (frankly, I don’t like this appointment, not because I don’t like Mr. Burris but because this appointment is indeed tainted).
The legally elected, not convicted Governor of Illinois did his job today and made an appointment to the US Senate. He choose a man with no ilicit taint. I would contend that if you worked for 40 years in state politics, you would have made a campaign contribution at some time, perhaps when the under-indictment person was not yet under indictment. And if you worked for a political law firm, and your firm did its job well, you’d get some state contracts over the years. Big deal.
The Secretary of State says he won’t certify. The Senate says they will not accept. Bobby Rush makes a good point that the people of Illinois are entitled to their two senators, each of whom comprises 5% of the voting body of the Senate. Think about it, if that seat remains unfilled, and we lose something by ONE vote, is that biting off our nose to spite our face?
If the legislature gets its act in gear and schedules an election, and a Republican wins, is that so good for the Democrats?
I am really beside myself here. Rod Blagojevich is under indictment. All things being equal, he might not get to trial until after the end of his term. He might be impeached by the Illinois legislature, but that depends on what Patrick Fitzgerald is holding back, and whether he will tip his hand prior to trial. If you talk to lawyers about what the “evidence”, it seems somewhat lacking. Fitzgerald has a good track record of evidence, so he’s certainly got more than he’s disclosed. But no one has said that he will keep his position under a new Administration.
Rod said “the Senate seat is worth something.” And?
He cursed. And?
The legislature wants to impeach him because they don’t like him. And even if he is proven guilty, pay-to-play is new? This is virgin territory in Illinois or any other state?
More importantly, people are letting emotion stand in the way of a competent, experienced, good man from filling a seat. A compromise might be to let him have the seat temporarily until an election can be held in the summer or fall. In my mind, the taint on Blagojevich is nothing compared to the emotion of so many people who are letting their hatred of Rod colour their understanding that the people of Illinois have the right to representation.
Again, this is not my view; in fact, I disagree with it. But I thought it was stated well enough to be considered.
Religion and the “New Atheists”
Larry Moran was called out by the author of someone who is whining about the New Atheists. Andrew Brown is a Guardian writer and has a 6 question quiz to find out if someone is really a “new atheist”. I’ll go ahead and take it, just for grins.
1. There is something called “Faith” which can be defined as unjustified belief held in the teeth of the evidence. Faith is primarily a matter of false propositional belief.
2. The cure for faith is science: The existence of God is a scientific question: either he exists or he doesn’t. “Science is the only way of knowing – everything else is just superstition” [Robert L. Park]
Agree for all practical purposes.
3. Science is the opposite of religion, and will lead people into the clear sunlit uplands of reason. “The real war is between rationalism and superstition. Science is but one form of rationalism, while religion is the most common form of superstition” [Jerry Coyne] “I am not attacking any particular version of God or gods. I am attacking God, all gods, anything and everything supernatural, wherever and whenever they have been or will be invented.” [Dawkins]
I’d say that religious claims are non-verifiable and therefore shouldn’t be taken seriously. I wouldn’t call it “opposite” though; “incompatible” would be a better term.
4. In this great struggle, religion is doomed. Enlightened common sense is gradually triumphing and at the end of the process, humanity will assume a new and better character, free from the shackles of religion. Without faith, we would be better as well as wiser. Conflict is primarily a result of misunderstanding, of which Faith is the paradigm. (Looking for links, I just came across a lovely example of this in the endnotes to the Selfish Gene, where lawyers are dismissed as “solving man-made problems that should never have existed in the first place”.)
I’m not so optimistic; it is just that the gods 5000 years from now might be different from the current ones. I’d like to believe that we’d be done with superstition for good, but it may be the case that we’ll always have a percentage of the population which is simply incapable of living without superstition.
5. Religion exists. It is essentially something like American fundamentalist protestantism, or Islam. More moderate forms are false and treacherous: if anything even more dangerous, because they conceal the raging, homicidal lunacy that is religion’s true nature. [Sam Harris]
I think that the “religions” that don’t depend on supernatural intervention or communication from deities might be useful; those that see religion as a source of meaningful life-affirming myth and as a potential source for practices such as prayer (to calm one’s own mind), meditation and practices such as yoga (to stretch the body) might be helpful.
6. Faith, as defined above, is the most dangerous and wicked force on earth today and the struggle against it and especially against Islam will define the future of humanity. [Everyone]
Blind adherence (sans thinking) is indeed a dangerous and wicked force, but this type of thing can take both religious forms and atheistic ones too (e. g., Communism as practiced by Mao or Stalin, Pol-Pot or Kim Jong-il.) Example: the false science that was forced on the Soviet Union retarded their advancement in genetics and could have lead to agricultural disasters.
Workout notes Last night, yoga with Ms. Nancy. This morning: 2650 swim (unbelievably slow; 100s were 1:40-1:44, IMs were 2:15) then yoga-lattes with Ms. Nancy.
Of course, Nancy wanted to rub my newly crew-cut head (got the hair cut at the DFW airport) and I let her. 🙂
We did something that involved down dog
three legged dog
Note: this is what photobucket censored:
Gaza war and terror: Mustafa Barghouthi, Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative gives his side of it here. Here is one of his 7 points:
7. Israel claims that Palestinians are the source of violence.
Let us be clear and unequivocal. The occupation of Palestine since the War of 1967 has been and remains the root of violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Violence can be ended with the occupation and the granting of Palestine’s national and human rights. Hamas does not control the West Bank and yet we remain occupied, our rights violated and our children killed.
With these myths understood, let us ponder the real reasons behind these airstrikes; what we find may be even more disgusting than the act itself.
The leaders Israel are holding press conferences, dressed in black, with sleeves rolled up.
‘It’s time to fight’, they say, ‘but it won’t be easy.’
To prove just how hard it is, Livni, Olmert and Barak did not even wear make-up to the press conference, and Barak has ended his presidential campaign to focus on the Gaza campaign. What heroes…what leaders…
We all know the truth: the suspension of the electioneering is exactly that – electioneering.
Like John McCain’s suspension of his presidential campaign to return to Washington to ‘deal with’ the financial crisis, this act is little more than a publicity stunt.
The candidates have to appear ‘tough enough to lead’, and there is seemingly no better way of doing that than bathing in Palestinian blood.
‘Look at me,’ Livni says in her black suit and unkempt hair, ‘I am a warrior. I am strong enough to pull the trigger. Don’t you feel more confident about voting for me, now that you know I am as ruthless as Bibi Netanyahu?’
I do not know which is more disturbing, her and Barak, or the constituency they are trying to please.
In the end, this will in no way improve the security of the average Israeli; in fact it can be expected to get much worse in the coming days as the massacre could presumably provoke a new generation of suicide bombers.
It will not undermine Hamas either, and it will not result in the three fools, Barak, Livni and Olmert, looking ‘tough’. Their misguided political venture will likely blow up in their faces as did the brutally similar 2006 invasion of Lebanon.
In closing, there is another reason – beyond the internal politics of Israel – why this attack has been allowed to occur: the complicity and silence of the international community.
Israel cannot and would not act against the will of its economic allies in Europe or its military allies in the US. Israel may be pulling the trigger ending hundreds, perhaps even thousands of lives this week, but it is the apathy of the world and the inhumane tolerance of Palestinian suffering which allows this to occur.
‘The evil only exists because the good remain silent’
From Occupied Palestine. . .
Speaking of war and going and not going, this is one of the most honest pieces I’ve ever read:
Around four years ago I went to a military recruiter. As a 35 year old guy, with multiple degrees, and a good job the guy that interviewed me was confused. Why was I there? I told him I came from a family of military folks. I can run a 6 minute mile. And if I have to I can shoot somebody in the head from a hundred yards. I might have even said I want to hunt down and kill terrorist. I told him what I thought he wanted to hear.
But that wasn’t why I was there.
* webranding’s diary :: ::
Instead I felt guilty. My fellow Americans were dying in a far off land and I was sitting in my nice house doing nothing.
That I heard a guy/gal was going back for their second, third, and now even fourth tour just didn’t seem right. Maybe I ought to do something.
But when the time came to get serious I was gutless. I couldn’t do it.
I found it was easier to talk about projecting force, then actually picking up a gun and doing it myself. This realization made me feel really, really small.
Hey, the easy solution is to become a conservative. Then, talking big while not doing much yourself is perfectly acceptable. 🙂
Workout notes I am feeling much better than last week; I’ll do something but I am not sure as to what. I was thinking about swimming but today’s running weather is simply too good to pass up. So I might do another 4-6 miles outdoors (33 F, sunny).
When you live in Illinois, you have to take advantage of the dry roads when you can! 🙂
But I have to be wary of double workouts right now; I am almost recovered from my cold and don’t want to relapse.
Update: I did my West Peoria Cemetery course (one hill loop) in 54:14; I was 19:40 at mile 2 (10:10 at mile one, coughing most of the way) and the last 2 was 18:55 or 38:35 for the course I did yesterday. I think that the course is about 5.4-5.5 miles; I am not sure.
This article argues (correctly, IMHO), that the Cowboys were the biggest flop of the NFL season this year. Sure, the Lions didn’t win a game, but they were expected to be terrible. The Cowboys went 9-7 in a season where they strutted about having the “best talent”.
But think about it: The last time the Cowboys were really good was the 1991-1996 era, when the won the Superbowl following the 1992, 1993, and 1995 seasons. Though Barry Switzer was the coach in 1994 and 1995, those were really the Jimmy Johnson teams. Since then (back when Notre Dame was an elite college team!), the Cowboys haven’t had a great deal of success. So, I suppose it wasn’t the owner that made them so good on the field, was it?
see more pwn and owned pictures
Rate Your Students is doing a series about those “middle of the academic year” conferences which often features a “meat market” (places where prospective employers (aka “academic departments”) can visit with job seekers (aka “about ready to graduate graduate students”). Here is one such article. Note the associated artwork.
It reminds me of the 1990-1991 meeting I went to (the combined MAA-AMS meeting) in San Francisco; I stayed in a discount hotel (room with communal bathroom/shower down the hall) due to graduate student finances. So I get ready to walk down the hall and here goes this shapey lass walking down the hall to the shower clad in her underwear.
Communal facilities aren’t always bad. 🙂
Oh yeah, I did land an interview that lead to my present job.
Oh yes, this was right wen the first Iraq war was stating (Desert Storm) and the local San Francisco community were having protests all over the place. I remember one young woman, clad in jeans and a knitted poncho running down the street with her sign; she was just so eager to join the protest march. It was almost like being in a movie set from the 1960s.
Science: New Scientist is making it’s top 10 articles on evolution in 2008 available free of charge. I’ve got some reading to do! Hat tip to the Dawkins website.
More about my trip (and then I will let it go): the first thing to remember is that, thanks to Congress and airline deregulation, you have practically no rights as a passenger. If they cancel your flight and delay you for days, well, you have no recourse. They have you at their mercy:
Airlines are not required to compensate passengers for delayed or canceled flights. Each carrier differs in its policy and there are no federal requirements for passenger compensation. Most airlines will book you on the next available flight if your flight is canceled. If your plane is delayed, the airline may pay for meals or a phone call, so it’s worth asking. Some will offer no amenities if the delay is caused by bad weather or other conditions beyond their control. Compensation is required by law only if you are “bumped” from a flight that is oversold (discussed below).
Editor’s Note: If you are traveling in the European Union, you do have the right to compensation if your flight is canceled or delayed, but only under certain circumstances. If the airline can claim “extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken” — this could include weather, political instability, security issues and other similar situations — the airline does not have to provide compensation. For more information, visit the European Union’s Web site.
In short: Congress represents the powerful interests and not you. So, the only power we have is to inform each other about the poor performance of the airlines and to not to use the bad ones. So, that is what I am doing.
Also, if so inclined, you can push for your elected leaders to develop other types of transportation to compete with the airlines so as to drive these lousy companies out of business.
I should point out that my story is not isolated; most of the other non-Southwest Airline carries pretty much suck too.
About 26,000 people responded to the survey during the first quarter of this year, rating their level of satisfaction as customers of companies in a variety of industries, including airlines. An American Customer Satisfaction Index, on a scale of 1 to 100, was created based on the responses to questions about overall satisfaction, intention to be a repeat customer and perception of quality, value and expectations.
The index for the airline industry as a whole fell to 62 from 63 last year, barely above its historical low of 61 in 2001. Southwest led the way with an index of 79, up from 76 last year.
“We’re always excited and thrilled that we can offer some of the best customer service in the industry,” Southwest spokeswoman Christi Day said.
After Southwest came a huge drop in customer satisfaction, with scores of 62 at AMR Corp.’s American Airlines and Continental. Delta Air Lines Inc. scored 60, and Northwest Airlines Corp. slipped to 57 from 61 in 2007. US Airways’ score dropped to 54 from 61 a year ago, taking over the bottom spot from United, whose score held at 56.
My story: I submitted it here (where you can read other stories)
Just the facts: I was flying from Austin, TX to Peoria, IL via Dallas. The Austin to Dallas flight left at 4:30; when we got to Dallas we find out that the Dallas to Peoria flight is canceled (due to fog). Ok, that happens.
But American’s response was terrible.
1. The dense fog had settled in prior to the Austin flight leaving; why weren’t we notified at the gate? It is better to be stuck at the start of the trip rather than at a midway point.
2. Only one gate agent was available to deal with this whole flight. We were given a number to call and the operator seemed to not understand that being stuck in a midway point of the trip for 48 hours was unacceptable.
3. When I did finally get a gate agent, he didn’t read the computer correctly; he said that we were rebooked on a flight leaving the next day when in fact it was two days later.
4. Of course, we had to pay for our overnight accommodations even though AA’s scheduling policies were in part responsible for our being delayed for so long.
5. Finally the next day I manage to rebook a flight that got me 90 miles away; fortunately I had someone to give us a ride. We would have been up a creek without that.
6. Of course, the luggage didn’t make it to the final destination.
I find it absurd that one has to have an extra 100-150 dollars extra for the trip because AA couldn’t deliver what they promised to deliver.
I wish I had done what I have done in the past: drive 2.5 hours to a larger airport, pay the parking fees and to have flown Southwest. I’ve never had a problem with Southwest.
The problems go beyond this incompetent, uncaring airline. Some of these carriers need to go out of business and we, as a country, need to develop alternate forms of transportation.
Maybe, just maybe in a few years, we can get alternate transportation and end up putting pathetic airlines such as American Airlines out of business for good!
There’s been a lot of talk in Washington and the media lately that one way for the federal government to give the economy a boost would be to start making massive investments in the nation’s infrastructure. Such spending would both create jobs in the short term and give the U.S. the kind of infrastructure to build its economy around in the future.
In that vein, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) introduced a bill on Wednesday that would allow bonds to be issued to raise more than $23 billion for high-speed rail projects around the country. Some of that money — it’s not clear exactly how much — could be used on the proposal to build a high-speed rail line in California. Here’s a link to a story about the bill in the Boston Globe.
That is interesting, of course, since voters here earlier this month approved Proposition 1A, which allows the state to issue $9.95 billion in bonds to plan and construct a high-speed rail line. It’s not nearly enough to finish the proposed line from Anaheim to San Francisco — the California High Speed Rail Authority said recently the cost will be $33 billion; critics say it will be much more.
Still, the federal bill is worth watching. If it passes, it would arguably be a boost for passenger rail along some Amtrak corridors after decades of the nation making heavy investments in the nation’s airports and highways.
The press release from Kerry’s office is after the jump.
The press release on the Kerry-Specter high-speed rail bill:
Kerry-Specter Bill Would Create Jobs, Stimulus, Infrastructure Investment
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor Ed Rendell Applaud National High-Speed Rail Initiative
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) introduced a bill to create new jobs by updating the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. The High-Speed Rail for America Act of 2008 would transform America’s outdated and underfunded passenger rail system into a world class system.
“At a time when our economy desperately needs a jumpstart, we need an effective national investment that puts Americans back to work,” said Sen. Kerry. “A first-rate rail system would protect our environment, save families time and money, reduce our dependency on foreign oil, and help get our economy moving again. The High-Speed Rail for America Act will help fix our crumbling infrastructure system, expand our economy, and match high-tech rail systems across the globe.”
“We must continue to focus our energies on building and maintaining a strong national passenger rail system in order to ease congestion of air and highway corridors connecting high-growth markets, as well as to meet energy and environmental goals,” said Sen. Specter. “The High-Speed Rail for America Act is an investment in our nation’s infrastructure and has the potential to provide tremendous economic opportunities throughout Pennsylvania and the nation.”
Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Joe Lieberman (I-CT.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), cosponsored the legislation.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell both voiced their support for the high-speed rail initiative.
“Creating a national high-speed rail network is an ambitious goal, but one that gets more urgent by the day,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Investing in modern infrastructure is vital to the nation’s long-term economic and environmental health – and in the short-term, it would help put more Americans back to work. Many countries in Europe and Asia are investing in high-speed rail, and if our economy is going to remain competitive, we have to start catching up. Greater investment in our railways is a top goal of Building America’s Future, the infrastructure coalition that Governors Rendell and Schwarzenegger and I created. I applaud Senator Kerry for tackling the issue head-on, and I strongly support his efforts to create the high-speed rail network our country needs.”
“This long-overdue national investment in high-speed rail would help to stimulate economic recovery while creating good jobs that cannot be outsourced,” said Gov. Rendell, one of the founding co-chairs of the Building America’s Future coalition. “Expanding our nation’s critical rail infrastructure will make our transportation network more efficient, reduce traffic pressure on our already busy interstate highways, and improve the environment.”
The High-Speed Rail for America Act of 2008 builds upon the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 which reauthorizes Amtrak and authorizes $1.5 billion over a five-year period to finance the construction and equipment for eleven high-speed rail corridors. It provides billions of dollars in both tax-exempt and tax credit bond and provides assistance for rail projects of various speeds. The bill creates the Office of High-Speed passenger rail to oversee the development of high-speed rail and provides a consistent source of funding.
Specifically, the High-Speed Rail for America Act of 2008 provides $8 billion over a six-year period for tax-exempt bonds which finance high-speed rail projects which reach a speed of at least 110 miles per hour It creates a new category of tax-credit bonds – qualified rail bonds. There are two types of qualified rail bonds: super high-speed intercity rail facility bond and rail infrastructure bond. Super high-speed rail intercity facility bonds will encourage the development of true high-speed rail. The legislation provides $10 billion for these bonds over a ten-year period. This would help finance the California proposed corridor and make needed improvements to the Northeast corridor. The legislation provides $5.4 billion over a six-year period for rail infrastructure bonds. The Federal Rail Administration has already designated ten rail corridors that these bonds could help fund, including connecting the cities of the Midwest through Chicago, connecting the cities of the Northwest, connecting the major cities within Texas and Florida, and connecting all the cities up and down the East Coast.
and I did my first post-trip run.
The first mile was horrible; I felt as if my blood were sludge and I coughed (very productively) most of the time. Mile two felt better, 3 even better and mile 4 felt GREAT. I had to make myself stop running; that is a good sign.
Sunshine, crisp air (high 30’s F), mostly dry roads; it doesn’t get better than this.
Time: 39:13; 20:17, 18:56.
Update: the bags have arrived (intact), the Bears are choking and life is returning to normal. Maybe, just maybe, the Texans can make enough mistakes to keep the Bears in it. But the Texans are on the Bear 14, less than 5 minutes are left and the Texans are up by 7.
Never mind that the Vikings are down by 9; the Bears are losing. Wait: make that first and goal at the 3.
Whoops! Make that 31-17, Texans. Face facts: The Bears are NOT a play-off caliber team.
I hate American Airlines. I’ll detail their sorry performance tomorrow; but let’s just say that when these idiots go under, I’ll throw a party.
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