5 F with More Snow….grrrr

Workout notes Nothing yet; I’ll do 2 hours on my feet of some sort about an hour from now. I am slightly sore from yesterday’s run.

Last night we went to the symphony. One interesting feature is that there was a jazz band there (from Bradley University); there was one piece where the symphony played the traditional and then the jazz band played the Duke Ellington version.

The Peoria Symphony Orchestra is undergoing change as the Director has not had his contract renewed.

Big changes are afoot at the Peoria Symphony Orchestra. The result may be an organization that’s much different from what local classical music fans have been accustomed to.

Last week, the symphony’s board announced that it was not renewing the contract of David Commanday, the orchestra’s music director, who finishes his term as music director on May 31. The reason, said Dr. John Day, the board’s president, has nothing to do with Commanday’s service, which everyone agrees has been outstanding. (Note: Day, the symphony’s board president, should not be confused with the John Day who handles publicity for the Peoria Symphony Guild.)

During his tenure, the orchestra has hosted internationally acclaimed soloists such as violinist Itzhak Perlman and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

Instead, Commanday’s departure is linked to what might be a major leadership overhaul at the symphony orchestra – an overhaul that has to do with updating the 111-year-old institution to meet new challenges, among them, broadening its audience base.

Yes, the overwhelming majority of those who attend are elderly; very elderly. But one of the reasons for this might simply be the economy even though the symphony takes pains to make the tickets affordable (e. g. 10 dollar student tickets; the cheapest 7 session season tickets are 110 dollars, etc.).

Economy Robert Reich claims that we have “lemon socialism” in this country; that is, the taxpayers end up financing wall street’s failures and not its successes:

The federal government — that is, you and I and every other taxpayer — has taken ownership of giant home mortgagors Fannie and Freddie, which are by now basket cases. We’ve also put hundreds of millions into Wall Street banks, which are still flowing red ink and seem everyday to be in worse shape. We’ve bailed out the giant insurer AIG, which is failing. We’ve given GM and Chrysler the first installments of what are likely to turn into big bailouts. It’s hard to find anyone who will place a big bet on the future of these two.

It gets worse. While Washington debates TARP II, the Federal Reserve Board continues to buy or guarantee or provide loans for a vast and growing pile of questionable financial and corporate assets, much of which are likely to be worth far less than the Fed has paid or guaranteed or accepted as collateral. We’re talking big money here — so far over $2.4 trillion. (The entire TARP — parts I and II — in combination with the proposed stimulus package come to just over $1.5 trillion.) […]

Consider too that the government already finances much of the aerospace industry, which is still doing reasonably well but depends on a foreign policy that itself has been a dismal failure. And a large portion of the pharmaceutical industry and health care sector (through the Medicare and Medicaid, the Medicare drug benefit, and support of basic research). These are in bad shape as well, and it seems likely the Obama administration will try to reorganize much of them.

What’s left? Most of high-tech, entertainment, hospitality, retail, and commodities. So far, at least, we taxpayers are not propping them up. And when the economy turns up — perhaps as soon as next year, most likely later — these sectors have a good chance of rebounding.

But the others — the ones the government is coming to own or manage — are less likely to rebound as quickly, if ever. […]

A note about Robert Reich’s blog I sure enjoy reading it and I hope that it continues. However it has gotten under the skin of right wing assholes some conservatives, especially people like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michelle Malkin and the idiots that follow them their less than savvy readers. Robert Reich tells them to stop lying about what he says.

Social: This post from Cosmic Variance really surprised me:

My theory is that Barack Obama, among his various superpowers, has the ability to reach out to groups of people across the world and subtly re-arrange their DNA. How else are we to explain this?

In the study made public on Thursday, Dr. Friedman and his colleagues compiled a brief test, drawing 20 questions from the verbal sections of the Graduate Record Exam, and administering it four times to about 120 white and black test-takers during last year’s presidential campaign.

In total, 472 Americans — 84 blacks and 388 whites — took the exam. Both white and black test-takers ranged in age from 18 to 63, and their educational attainment ranged from high school dropout to Ph.D.

On the initial test last summer, whites on average correctly answered about 12 of 20 questions, compared with about 8.5 correct answers for blacks, Dr. Friedman said. But on the tests administered immediately after Mr. Obama’s nomination acceptance speech, and just after his election victory, black performance improved, rendering the white-black gap “statistically nonsignificant,” he said.

The study hasn’t yet been published (or accepted), and doesn’t seem to be online; here is the press release.

Via DougJ at Balloon Juice, who says everything that needs to be said. Including that this is no surprise at all, at least to people who recognize the phrase “stereotype threat.” Studies have shown that simply reminding women or minorities that they are women or minorities causes them to do statistically worse on tests involving subjects that they are, stereotypically, supposed to be bad at.

I had to think about this a bit. Yes, I am still surprised as, if the difference in test scores is mostly due to different groups of people being given different qualities of education (e. g., African Americans going to worse schools), then we shouldn’t be seeing this result. If this result is valid, then it means that a major difference is attitude and expectations.

Don’t get me wrong; genetics is still a big factor in intelligence (e. g., most of us, myself included, aren’t going to do original research in string theory). But genetics should account for differences between groups but rather for differences within groups among individuals.

Evolution and biology

U. S. lizards (native ones) are evolving a defense against fire ants (an invasive species):

Penn State Assistant Professor of Biology Tracy Langkilde has shown that native fence lizards in the southeastern United States are adapting to potentially fatal invasive fire-ant attacks by developing behaviors that enable them to escape from the ants, as well as by developing longer hind legs, which can increase the effectiveness of this behavior.

“Not only does this finding provide biologists with an example of evolution in action, but it also provides wildlife managers with knowledge that they can use to develop plans for managing invasive species,” said Langkilde. The results will be described in a paper to be published later this month in the journal Ecology.

Fire ants from South America, which were introduced to the United States accidentally in the 1930s, often will attack a fence lizard that has wandered onto their mound in order to protect their home. But the ants also have been observed attacking lizards that are nowhere near their mound. “Fire ants need protein, especially for their developing brood,” said Langkilde. “It takes just 12 of them less than a minute to kill a three-inch-long fence lizard. In fact, they have even been known to eat animals as large as calves, stripping them down to their bones.”

Langkilde conducted an experiment in which she compared the responses to fire ant attacks of lizards that were collected from four different sites: one that had not yet been invaded by fire ants and ones that were invaded by fire ants 23, 54, and 68 years ago. Her goal was to determine whether the amount of time since invasion influences the ways in which lizards respond to attacks.

To conduct the experiment, she first captured lizards from the four different sites using a little noose tied to the end of a pole. “Luckily, the lizards rely on camouflage to avoid being eaten. When they see you they lie really still, and this makes it easier to slip the noose over their heads,” said Langkilde.

Next, she located a naturally occuring fire ant-mound. By dragging a stick across the top of the mound, she encouraged a few ants to come out. “We didn’t want the ants to kill the lizards, so we had to be careful not to disturb the mound so much that hundreds of ants would come out,” said Langkilde. “No lizards were injured during our trials.”

Langkilde then encouraged the lizards to run onto the ant mound and observed their behavior as the ants crawled around on their bodies looking for scales to lift up. Once the ants have exposed a lizard’s soft flesh, they will inject a neuromuscular venom into its skin that can paralyze and kill the animal.

“The lizards can survive this attack by twitching to flick off the ants and then by running away from the mound,” said Langkilde. “We found that the lizards from sites that have been invaded the longest were more likely than the lizards from sites that have not yet been invaded to perform this survival behavior. Many of the lizards from the uninvaded site and the most recently invaded site just sat there with their eyes closed while the ants attacked,” said Langkilde, who stopped the experiment after 60 seconds to prevent any of the lizards from dying. […]

Cancer Research

Scientists have discovered a novel way by which a much-studied cancer-promoting gene accelerates the disease. The finding suggests a new strategy to halt cancer’s progress.

Up to now, research has largely focused on how the mutated gene, Myc, disrupts the ability of DNA to be “transcribed” into RNA – the first step in making proteins that are essential for cell growth and function. But the new research shows that this altered Myc gene, called an oncogene, can also act directly on the final stage of protein production.

The finding in mice suggests that drugs already available to counter this increased protein production could slow or stop cancer’s runaway growth induced by Myc. Rapamycin, for example, an immunosuppressant drug already in clinical trials for cancer, might help treat cancers where Myc is over active, the scientists suggest.

The discovery was led by Davide Ruggero, PhD, and Maria Barna, PhD, faculty scientists at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF).

Study findings were published in the journal “Nature” (December 18, 2008).[…]

Religion and social issues Friendly Atheist shows some of the more humanistic/atheist friendly signs that British atheists have posted inside the passenger compartments of trains (“the Tube”):



January 25, 2009 - Posted by | 2008 Election, Barack Obama, economy, education, evolution, obama, Peoria, Peoria/local, politics, politics/social, religion, science

1 Comment »

  1. I love that sign!

    Comment by adventuresandmusings | January 25, 2009 | Reply

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