# blueollie

## 20 Mile Fail: Head Games and Training (and other topics)

Workout notes I started off with a slowish 7 minute run 3 minute walk for the first 10 miles of the East Peoria Trail. It was chilly (23 F) with a chilling breeze. The first 10 miles didn’t go as easily as I had hoped; evidently stepping up my training for 2 weeks didn’t turn me into a Kenyan Olympic runner. 🙂

When I went out for my second 10 mile lap; I just up and started to quit a quarter mile into it. I stopped; started to head back and then told myself “walk it out”. I got to the first mile marker; stopped, almost turned around and then asked myself: “are you injured? No. Are you overly tired? No. ”

In fact I was

1. Cold
2. Bored.
3. Disappointed in my pace.

So I told myself to keep moving and so I did. I thought about turning around at mile 2. I didn’t. I kept moving forward with a brisk walk. Finally at mile 3 I started to feel better, and the last 7 miles were downright pleasant.

Ok, it didn’t hurt that the sun came out and the temperature rose into the 30s. 🙂

The numbers: 57 minutes out, 59 back, 1:15 out (walk), 1:12 back (walk), 4:24 total. No, I wasn’t that tired when I finished; in fact I felt better at the end than I did at mile 10. That means I can “recover while moving forward”, which is a necessary ultramarathon skill.

Politcs President Obama puts the big-money interests on notice!

Bobby Jindal: exaggerated his Katrina story.

Typical hypocrisy. From TPMMuckraker.com:

Jindal had described being in the office of Sheriff Harry Lee “during Katrina,” and hearing him yelling into the phone at a government bureaucrat who was refusing to let him send volunteer boats out to rescue stranded storm victims, because they didn’t have the necessary permits. Jindal said he told Lee, “that’s ridiculous,” prompting Lee to tell the bureaucrat that the rescue effort would go ahead and he or she could arrest both Lee and Jindal.

But now, a Jindal spokeswoman has admitted to Politico that in reality, Jindal overheard Lee talking about the episode to someone else by phone “days later.” The spokeswoman said she thought Lee, who died in 2007, was being interviewed about the incident at the time.

This is no minor difference. Jindal’s presence in Lee’s office during the crisis itself was a key element of the story’s intended appeal, putting him at the center of the action during the maelstrom. Just as important, Jindal implied that his support for the sheriff helped ensure the rescue went ahead. But it turns out Jindal wasn’t there at the key moment, and played no role in making the rescue happen.

Yes, there is a lesson: you can tell when a Republican is lying if they are moving their mouth! Jindal had nothing to refute President Obama with so he just made stuff up.

Academia: A student describes a “typical” literature discussion class:

It really is funny. Yes, it takes an appropriate swipe at faculty too.

Speaking of funny, here is a typical whine made by a student; evidently the tone of her professor hurt her tender feelings. Note: what these modern snowflakes call “being yelled at” amounts to being spoken to in a “not friendly” tone. These tender snowflakes wouldn’t last 5 minutes at a Marine boot camp. 🙂

Blogger wars: PZ Myers relates some whining that has been directed at him because he links to some religious woo websites.

February 28, 2009

## Boxing, Bikinis, Elephants and Watermelon

Workout notes Nothing yet; in about 90 minutes or so I’ll start a 4 hour “walk/run/jog/slog” on the East Peoria trail. I might run the first 10 and then walk/jog another 10 or so; I’d like to get some “quality” for aerobic conditioning followed by some “time on my feet”.

Boxing I saw three bouts last night; the first one featured a boxer who actually sewed his own boxing trunks! In the first televised bout, Danny O’Connor (4-0, 1 KO) won a four round majority decision over Jamar Saunders (2-2-1, 1 KO); scores were 40-36, 40-36, 38-38. As far as the last one, I could understand giving Saunders the first round as the two fighters felt each other out and Saunders did land a few shots. But O’Connor absolutely dominated round 2 (I scored it 10-8) and had Saunders in deep trouble. The last two rounds were a bit closer but O’Connor continued to land hard punches whereas the game but overmatched Saunders didn’t. I scored it 40-35.

The second fight was the best of the evening: it was a wild welterweight bout between Antwone Smith (15-1-1, 8 KOs) and previously unbeaten Norberto Gonzalez (16-1, 12 KOs). The second round was very interesting; it appeared to me that Gonzalez had Smith in a bit of trouble and had him pinned against the ropes and was landing shots. But Smith used the “tuck the shin and roll the opposite shoulder back” move to invite Gonzalez in and unloaded a huge hook shot, knocking him down!

This sort of plan worked for Smith the rest of the fight; Gonzalez threw more punches but Smith landed the more telling blows and rocked Gonzalez repeatedly. Gonzalez suffered a big cut over his left eye and bled much of the night.

The three scores had it Smith 78-74; I had it 78-75 on my personal card ( I had round 2 10-9, as though Gonzalez was knocked down, he was hammering Smith right before the knock down).

I’d like to commend Teddy Atlas for his detailed commentary during the fight; he clearly explained what each fighter was trying to do (Atlas once managed and trained professional world champions, such as heavyweight Michael Moorer).

In the last fight, Glen Johnson (49-12-2, 33 KOs) defeated Daniel Judah (23-4-3, 10 KOs) by unanimous decision 99-89, 99-90, 99-90. (I had this 100-90 on my card). Johnson knocked Judah backwards (Judah was held up by the ropes) to obtain a knockdown in round 1 with a big right hand and was able to land the right hand throughout the night. Judah tried to psyche Johnson into believing that his bombs weren’t hurting him, but clearly they were; Johnson also did some damage to the body.

Judah stayed inside with Johnson; I am wondering if the punishment in the first couple of rounds took away his legs, thereby taking away his outside attack.

Johnson and Judah fought to a draw the first time, though many felt that Johnson had won. Johnson has held the light heavyweight title a couple of times and is currently ranked number 3.

More at Fightnews.com (includes a photo).

Bikinis: From the Legal Satyricon:

Ever wonder what a plumber is thinking about when beneath a woman’s sink? Put her in a bikini and I bet he’ll be thinking of how to loosen the pipes with a whole lot of pep in his step…

New research shows that, in men, the brain areas associated with handling tools and the intention to perform actions light up when viewing images of women in bikinis. (source)

Now that we can peer into the brain and map the privacy of thoughts, take a guess at how many males are going to go to the doghouse for that brilliant info!

Just what kind of tools and intentions are we talking about here however? Well men do have an intimate relationship with their penis. Besides it having a name, it’s fondled, stroked, played with, twirled and tucked. I won’t go further. Of course this new research is no surprise but how spooky is it that now science can back up the fact that men think with their dicks?

I’m sorry. Were the tools more like hammer and screwdriver where subconsciously a male thinks of ways to build a fertile bikini clad woman a house made out of coconuts because he intends to procreate and stick around to care for the kids? Leave it to evolution to muster up the grand illusion necessary for species survival: sexual pleasure in exchange for procreation. And thus, we have the battle of the sexes.

Ah, I like this. For those who might be unfamiliar with academia: one of the constant verbal tussles you see are those between some of the old school feminists who bristle with the charge “sex object” when a male reacts to a scantily clad female.

On one hand, I can understand the fear that some women might have of being judged only by her sexual attractiveness and not by other, more relevant qualities (e. g., a female scientist ought to be judged in the same way a male scientist is: by the quality and impact of their work).

On the other hand, it is utterly ridiculous to deny that some women or women dominated entities (e. g., women’s professional beach volleyball leagues) don’t dress in a manner to provoke a sexual reaction in heterosexual men.

About 10-15 years ago, the State of Illinois came out with a poster designed for use on college campuses; it showed a small photograph of a young man with large photos of young women who were surrounding him and yelling at him; one of the things being yelled was “how we dress has nothing to do with sex”. Bull f*cking s*hit.

It would have been accurate to say “you aren’t entitled to sex with us no matter how we dress”; that would have been true. But to imply that many (if not most) young women don’t dress to be sexually attractive is to deny reality.

Politics:

[65-year-old] Los Alamitos Mayor Dean Grose has apologized and said he wasn’t aware of the racial stereotype that blacks like watermelon.

Associated Press, February 27, 2009

What an *sshole.

Seriously, if there was no racial intent, why make up this photoshop photo?

Note: yes, I know that there are stereotypes of Blacks and basketball, but had someone put a basketball court on the lawn, I wouldn’t have seen that as negative as President Obama has openly played a lot of it and clearly loves it; that would be like putting a saxophone in President Clinton’s hands.

February 28, 2009

## President Obama’s Approval Ratings Soar; Conservatives are Desperate

President Obama

90 percent from the Democrats, 62 from Independents and 42 among Republicans. 🙂

Reasons? My guess is that he is being credit for trying. Note that President Obama is keeping his campaign promises:

It felt like a primal whine from rich reporters. Hasn’t Barack Obama considered that maybe John McCain’s tax policy is the right one? Does Obama not realize that the best way to be a Democrat is preserve conservative Republican tax policy?

Why would Obama raise taxes on people making over \$250,000 beginning in two years? If you tamper with trickle-down, the dramatic shift of income toward the wealthy that was the hallmark of George W. Bush’s tax policy, don’t you know it’ll be disaster? It’ll be “class warfare!” (The first questioner: Are you worried that the “class warfare” argument could sink the budget?)

In a remarkable scene, Gibbs patiently and repeatedly explained that, no really, Obama actually won the election, that he’d explained exactly what he was going to do during the campaign, the American people understood and voted on it, and now he’s doing it. During the campaign, Obama had pledged to cut taxes for 95% of American workers and end the catastrophic non-workingness of George Bush’s trickle-down tax policy. Now, among some questioners, there seems to be confusion and alarm that Obama intends to implement that policy.

I actually sort of remember this coming up during the campaign. Those making more than \$250,000 will be asked to give a little back, give up the Bush income tax cuts and go back to the marginal tax rates during the Clinton years when the economy was strong and the rising tide lifted all boats.

At Camp Lejeune in North Carolina right now, Barack Obama is announcing that the Iraq combat mission will end by August 31, 2010.

Obama proclaimed, “a new era of American leadership and engagement in the Middle East.” That era, Obama said, has just begun.

After the combat brigades are withdrawn, 35,000-50,000 U.S. troops will remain for the transition with three missions: (1) training and equipping non-sectarian Iraqi Security forces; (2) targeted counter-terrorism missions; and (3) protecting ongoing civilian and military efforts.

Under the Status of Forces Agreement, all U.S. troops will be out by 2011.

In addition to the withdrawal of American troops, Obama cited two other strategic priorities: sustained diplomacy with Iraq and “comprehensive American engagement” across the region.

Oh yes, remember that “plucky young African American girl from South Carolina” that President Obama referred to in his address? Well, I have no problem with Republicans (or anyone else) honestly doing a fact check of her story; that is entirely appropriate. But it isn’t appropriate when they mislead:

No, it was the conservative Washington Times that cast the first stone at Ty’Sheoma Bethea, the Dillon, S.C., teenager who wrote to Congress seeking stimulus funds for her shamefully dilapidated school. Obama used her statement, “We are not quitters,” as the coda of his speech Tuesday night, but now the Moon-owned paper tells us what’s wrong with Bethea, in an editorial with the condescending headline, ‘Yes, Ty’Sheoma, there is a Santa Claus.”

Obama “presented” Bethea “as a plucky girl from a hopeless school who took it on herself to write the president and Congress asking for much needed help,” the Times began, ominously. Wait, she’s not a plucky girl from a hopeless school? The editorial depicts her instead as a player in Obama’s “mere political theater” because the president has been using her school, J.V. Martin, as a “political prop” since he first visited in 2005. Wow. Dastardly. I’m getting the picture: Obama, that slick Democrat opportunist, has repeatedly visited one of the poorest schools in South Carolina, a state that voted for John McCain. You just know he leaves with his pockets stuffed with cash every time he makes the trip.

It gets worse. The Times insists Dillon residents haven’t been callous about conditions at Ty’Sheoma’s school; in fact they passed a 2007 bond measure to reconstruct it. That’s true, but it’s only part of the story: The Chicago Tribune’s Howard Witt reported that the bond measure “ran aground of the national credit crisis: No bank will loan the school district the construction funds.”

Economy: As he warned earlier, the stimulus that was passed was probably too small to get the job done; expect the need for another one:

All told, according to the new data, the nation’s economy shrank at an annual rate of 6.2 percent. Last month, the government’s preliminary estimate of the drop in fourth-quarter GDP was only 3.8 percent. Roughly half the Commerce Department’s revision was due to a sharper drop in business spending than had been anticipated. As a result, business inventories — the amount of stuff they they have on hand to sell — have dropped. That’s good news because eventually businesses will have to replace their inventories, in anticipation of at least some consumer buying, and such replacement spending will spur the economy. But here’s the bad news: Inventories still aren’t dropping as fast as sales are dropping, suggesting even less business spending and investing coming up.

There’s no reason to suppose the 1st quarter of 2009 will be any better, and lots of reason to think it will be worse. Government is spender of last resort. We’re at the last resort now. \$787 billion over two years, and only two-thirds of it real spending, is way below what will be needed to get the economy moving back toward full capacity. Do Republicans know this? Is this why they’re continuing to bet that the economy won’t be recovering by November, 2010, and why they’re going to continue to say no?

A Bit of “Fun” with the Republicans

The Republicans called Paul Krugman and Robert Reich out at the CPAC conference; they claimed that conservatives were “more fun” to hang out with; they implied that Rush Limbaugh would be better to hang out with than Robert Reich or Paul Krugman.

I was too: I decided to run a poll: currently Reich and Krugman are trouncing Limbaugh by a margin of 79-2 percent. Ok, it is a Daily Kos poll. 🙂

Yes, Reich has a sense of humor:

That is not a bad headstand, for being in a suit. 🙂

Republican Follies:
Promoting astronomy is “pork”, at least to Republicans. Hey, the Republicans depend on ignorance to survive!

Of course, you know about their gun fetish: you need a gun to be anything!

The NRA’s Wayne LaPierre tells the CPAC audience that the 2nd Amendment is the foundation of all of our freedoms and that all rights and freedoms are nothing but “stains on a rotten piece of parchment paper in a museum somewhere” until they are “guarded by the blued steel and dry powder of a free and armed people.”

He also proclaims that he knows it is not politically correct to say so, but he doesn’t care “if their butts pucker from here to the Potomac, the Founding Fathers understood that the guys with the guns make the rules”:

My guess is that many male Republicans were probably bullied as kids. 🙂

More funnies:

Here is Representative Michelle Bachmann:

Speaking of incessant, grating whines…here’s another Minnesota pest, Michele Bachmann. She spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference (by invitation…how deranged have the Republicans become, anyway?) and offered this jewel of logic:

I just wondered that if our founders thought taxation without representation was bad, what would they think of representation WITH taxation?

Mostly, I’ve tried to ignore “Joe the faux Plumber”: I consider him to be all but insignificant. But some retards conservatives actually think that he might be a candidate for office or some sort of spokesman for their cause?

He had some things to say:

When will conservatives realize this guy is straight out of wingnut militia central casting and flush him for good? Think Progress has the story:

On Wednesday, Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacher said that if he were in Congress, he would “probably be in jail” because he’d be charged with “slapping some member.” He added, “And that’s not [bull] either.” ThinkProgress asked Joe at CPAC yesterday which members he would most like to slap. “Pretty much anybody that’s stood there and said anything bad about our troops, pretty much anybody who sat there and talked treasonous talk about America,” Joe said. He then implied that some members of Congress should be shot:

“Back in the day, really, when people would talk about our military in a poor way, somebody would shoot ‘em. And there’d be nothing said about that, because they knew it was wrong. You don’t talk about our troops. You support our troops. Especially when our congressmen and senators sit there and say bad things in an ongoing conflict.”

This is what passes for “thought” in such circles. 🙂

February 27, 2009

## Game For Liberals: Name that Wingnut!

I had to work to figure out Mrs. Howell and at Mary Ann. I’ll give you a hint for Mary Ann: think “Congress”. 🙂

February 27, 2009

## 27 February 2009 AM

Workout notes 4000 yard swim; I did something a bit different this morning:
500 of alternating 25 free, 25 back (10:18), 500 of alternating 25 side, 25 free (just under 10), 10 x (25 fly, 25 free) first 4 were on 1:05, last 6 on the 1, 5 x 100 IM on the 2:15, 400 IM (8:29), 12 x 50 (25 drill, 25 free) with fins, 5 x (100 paddle, 100 free).

I was in one of those moods where I wanted to have some fun and not really train. 🙂 Then, yoga on my own; it is making a difference.

Weight: 185.5 prior to my swim; that is good news.

Politics

That about nails it, doesn’t it? What continues to amaze me though is that the Republicans think that they deserve to be listened to. Why? They’ve done absolutely nothing right over the past 8 years or so; what they have earned is a nice long time on the bench.

Race Matters: Leonard Pitts comments on the “chimp” cartoon. As usual, he “gets it”.

Again, I saw the cartoon as more as a criticism of the stimulus bill and those who wrote it than anything racial. But the authors should have been aware of how a reasonable person might take offense for racial reasons (offending because you are attacking ideas is fine). But in his column, Pitts leaves this gem:

Let’s be clear on one thing: The Post has a right to provoke and even offend. That is absolute and sacrosanct. But it is difficult not to be troubled by a suffocating cluelessness that allows it to provoke and offend without knowing it or meaning it or even, apparently, caring about it — and then, to dismiss provocation and offense as the work of ”opportunists” instead of seeking to understand why people were so upset.

The paper’s attitude, its evident ignorance of historical context, are not unique. Rather, they have their echo in too many white Americans whose default defense is the proverbial good offense whenever they feel cornered on the subject of race.

And yes, that attitude is fed by the fact that in recent years too many African Americans have found it convenient to cry wolf where race is concerned. But if arrogance on the one end and disingenuousness on the other are our only alternatives, we’re in trouble.

Emphasis mine.

Science: chimps are not that much stronger than people, in absolute terms, though they are much stronger “pound for pound”. First, where the the misconception that they were so much stronger come from? It came from a faulty study from the 1920s that compared the strength of chimps pulling on a dynamometer versus some college football players trying the same thing.

But then later studies were done:

But the “five times” figure was refuted 20 years after Bauman’s experiments. In 1943, Glen Finch of the Yale primate laboratory rigged an apparatus to test the arm strength of eight captive chimpanzees. An adult male chimp, he found, pulled about the same weight as an adult man. Once he’d corrected the measurement for their smaller body sizes, chimpanzees did turn out to be stronger than humans—but not by a factor of five or anything close to it.

Repeated tests in the 1960s confirmed this basic picture. A chimpanzee had, pound for pound, as much as twice the strength of a human when it came to pulling weights. The apes beat us in leg strength, too, despite our reliance on our legs for locomotion. A 2006 study found that bonobos can jump one-third higher than top-level human athletes, and bonobo legs generate as much force as humans nearly two times heavier.

So the figures quoted by primate experts are a little exaggerated. But it is a fact that chimpanzees and other apes are stronger than humans. How did we get to be the weaklings of the primate order? Our overall body architecture makes a difference: Even though chimpanzees weigh less than humans, more of their mass is concentrated in their powerful arms. But a more important factor seems to be the structure of the muscles themselves. A chimpanzee’s skeletal muscle has longer fibers than the human equivalent and can generate twice the work output over a wider range of motion.

February 27, 2009

## 26 February 2009: Rainstorm!

It is raining to beat the band at the moment, and yes we’ve had some lightning lately. I suppose that beats having a blizzard.

Academia: how to gladden the heart of a mathematics professor.

In class we talked about why the functions $t^2 |t|t$ are linearly independent over any open interval containing the origin and yet have a zero Wronskian. (note: the Wronskian for a pair of differential functions $g, h$ is $gh'-hg'$.) Anyway, I pointed out that this zero Wronskian didn’t violate our stated theorem because these two functions, as a pair, were never the solution to any second order linear differential equation.

One of my students noted that $|t|t$ didn’t even have a second derivative at $t = 0$.

Now making an observation like that is how you make a mathematics professor’s day! 🙂

Ok, here is what else is putting me in a good mood:
Republicans!

Mike Huckabee at the CPAC

Though I applaud Huckabee for being concerned with the poor and middle class, I find it amusing to listen to him appear to imply that Americans have a yearning for his type of theocratic government.

Let him keep believing that.

Speaking of CPAC, Huckabee is rather moderate compared to many who are there. Right Wing Watch reports:

Accuracy in Media’s Cliff Kincaid, tapped to introduce Rep. Mike Pence, regaled the audience with tales of CPACs past, when the country had a president who was not a communist and was actually born in the United States … oh, how times have changed.

He also praised Pence for being a conservative before it became “stylish and popular for … House Republicans and others to suddenly discover fiscal sanity” under Obama. And to prove it, Kincaid hailed Pence as one of the few Republican members of Congress willing to stand up to “pseudo-socialist president George W. Bush.” Pence then came out and thanked Kincaid for his kind words:

Remember this is what passes for mainstream “thought” among the conservatives. 🙂

More Comedy From CPAC:

Just a little bit of the crazy from the first day of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC):

* There was a former U.N. Ambassador joking about nuking the city of Chicago … the crowd cheered.

* There was a member of the House of Representatives introduced by a man who questioned the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s presidency … and the Congressman thanked him for his “kind words.”

* And an unlicensed, tax-evading plumber talked about running for public office.

Also more video:

Please conservatives, keep running off at the mouth!!!

Of course the theme of Ronald Reagan was brought up over and over again, as was the myth.

Let’s have a little bit of reality, ok?

Republicans want to go “back to the future,” but in doing so they are attempting to perform an impossible feat. There is simply no small government, Reaganite past to return to. And Bush, the black sheep of the family, was no aberration. In a very real way, Bush was a Reagan conservative – a big spending, fiscally irresponsible supply-sider who threw the government ever deeper into debt. Something to keep in mind as the wailing over Obama’s “liberal big government spending” ramps up.

Given the Republicans sorry track record on the economy, there is absolutely no reason to listen to them. Having a Republican lecture you on the economy is like having a creationist lecture you on science. 🙂

Science Woos

Sandwalk posts some videos: he notes that it is rather simple to debunk astrology:

and wonders why we don’t do similar things to those who purport to use the Genesis myths as historical fact:

More Science Woos:

George Will was caught making false science claims in a previous columns. Either he is too dishonest to admit that he made huge blunders or too stupid to realize that he did:

Summary: In a column obtained by Media Matters in advance of its publication, George Will falsely claims that in his February 15 column, he “accurately reported” on the contents of an Arctic Climate Research Center document on sea ice data. In fact, while Will suggested the ACRC data undermine the scientific consensus that humans are causing global warming, the document actually states that the sea ice data are consistent with the outcomes projected by climate-change models.

In his forthcoming column — obtained by Media Matters for America in advance of its publication — George Will doubles down on his previous global warming distortions, once again misusing sea ice data to falsely suggest that the data undermine the overwhelming evidence that humans are causing global warming. In his new column, Will falsely claims that in his February 15 column, he “accurately reported” on the contents of an Arctic Climate Research Center (ACRC) document when, in fact, the document he cited rebutted the very argument he was making. The ACRC document that Will relied on actually stated that the sea ice data are consistent with the outcomes projected by climate-change models. In the words of TPM Muckraker’s Zachary Roth, Will’s new column “amounts to a stubborn defense of the amazing global warming denialist column he published earlier this month, that was ripped apart by just about everyone and their mother.”

In his February 15 column, Will suggested that the ACRC data undermine the case for the existence of “man-made global warming”:

As global levels of sea ice declined last year, many experts said this was evidence of man-made global warming. Since September, however, the increase in sea ice has been the fastest change, either up or down, since 1979, when satellite record-keeping began. According to the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979.

Responding to widespread criticism of his distortions, Will’s new column cites and provides a hyperlink to a January 12 ACRC document that he claims to have “accurately reported” on in his prior column. As he did in his February 15 column, Will once again falsely suggests the ACRC data undermine the “global warming consensus … in the media-environmental complex.”

No wonder the print media is in big trouble: clowns like this are considered “respected”. Then again, he is a conservative and conservatives have had an absolutely miserable track record as of late; I can’t think of a single thing that they have been right about.

February 27, 2009

## Confessions of an Atheist

Workout notes Yoga with Ms. V. (subpar as my mind was elsewhere; Ms. V. lead a good class) followed by an 8 mile run in the fog. There was almost no wind; that is rare around here.

The run took me though Springdale Cemetery, up mausoleum hill, back, then up the large hill (long route) to Prospect, through Glen Oak and back. I started at 7:15 and finished at 8:37; I then walked 2 cool down miles on the riverfront.

My feet felt fine, but I am going to have to start taping them as the planar fasciitis is back in my left foot. It shows up not as heel pain but as tingles in the arch.

Sometimes ultra training really reminds me of “whack a mole” in terms of keeping all of the little aches and pains at bay.

Religion, Atheism and my life: a confession

I saw this photo at Friendly Atheist and it got me to think a bit:

First of all, the guy in this photo did nothing wrong per se; he stood there politely with his message and spoke politely to anyone who spoke to him. That is fine.

However the message itself rubs me the wrong way.

To me, a life of “all Mardi-Gras” and no “Lent” isn’t a life that I want to have. Yes, there is a time to celebrate and party, but there is also a time to prepare and to show restraint.

Example: when I was a student, Lent was studying; Mardi-Gras came when I made a good grade.
In sports, the tough, “I don’t want to get out of bed” training is the Lent. The Mardi-Gras comes when I earn that finisher’s medal and get a personal victory with a good performance.

In mathematics: Lent comes with the mind numbing sorting of the nitty-gritty details of a paper and going through the pain of getting it in shape to be published. Mardi-Gras comes when it is accepted.

In my personal life: Lent comes when I use discipline and don’t gossip about a friend. Mardi-Gras comes when, after years of this, I enjoy his/her company. Lent comes when I am sexually and personally loyal to my wife; Mardi-Gras comes when when I enjoy spending some nice time with her.

It sort of boils down to this: I don’t reject all of the stuff in “life’s toolkit” that comes with religion. I find prayer, meditation and yoga to be useful. Prayer and meditation calms me, centers me and helps me a better professor, husband, father, citizen and neighbor. Yoga gives me nice metaphors for life (concentration, not over reaching, relaxing while trying, humility) and keeps my back from getting sore.

My rejection of religions, deities and the like is merely a rejection of superstition; I am completely unconvinced of a meddling deity, spirit, or whatever. And no, I don’t believe in the existence of ghosts, divinely given gold tablets, flaming chariots, talking donkeys, divinely mandated slaughter, zombies, resurrected bodies, elephants with lots of arms, mystics, mediums, healing crystals, tarot cards, Chakras, many of the BS claims made by yoga teachers, etc.

But, at times, the religions do provide some useful tools for living, as well as useful myths, metaphors for life, and useful emotional and physical health techniques.

February 26, 2009

## President Obama’s Address, Jindal’s Response, Republican Crackpottery

My favorite lines:

I understand that when the last administration asked this Congress to provide assistance for struggling banks, Democrats and Republicans alike were infuriated by the mismanagement and results that followed. So were the American taxpayers. So was I.

So I know how unpopular it is to be seen as helping banks right now, especially when everyone is suffering in part from their bad decisions. I promise you – I get it.

But I also know that in a time of crisis, we cannot afford to govern out of anger, or yield to the politics of the moment. My job – our job – is to solve the problem. Our job is to govern with a sense of responsibility. I will not spend a single penny for the purpose of rewarding a single Wall Street executive, but I will do whatever it takes to help the small business that can’t pay its workers or the family that has saved and still can’t get a mortgage.

That’s what this is about. It’s not about helping banks – it’s about helping people.

It is our responsibility as lawmakers and educators to make this system work. But it is the responsibility of every citizen to participate in it. And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma. And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country – and this country needs and values the talents of every American. That is why we will provide the support necessary for you to complete college and meet a new goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

I’ll post videos of President Obama’s speech and the Republican rebuttal. The full text is here. First I’ll mention that I am watching the PBS Lehrer News hour discussion. After listening to some of the newspaper editors, I can see why newspapers are in trouble; these editors are morons.

One wondered how we would lower the deficit while doing all of this stimulus spending. Here is a hint, moron: if we get out of Iraq, we will save a huge amount of money! Also, forget this canard that “this spending is not stimulus”; the idea is something like this: no one is buying. So the government buys thereby putting money into businesses thereby getting money to workers, so they can spend. That stimulates.

Now my take: of course I loved the speech; but then again it was pitched to people like me. Then again, so did many others. 82 percent of speech watchers approved of Obama’s plan and 68 percent saw the speech in a positive manner, and 24 in a somewhat positive manner.

But here is where I am cynical: many people like government intervention when they are hurting but don’t like it when they are doing well; the idea is “government help for me but not for thee”.

Liberalsmustdie (a poe blog) put it well when they boiled down the essence of the Palin-Biden VP debate:

So, even thought I didn’t watch the debate, I know what was said… let me recap:

Palin: I will fight for every day Americans

Biden: I love Al Queda, homosexual marriage, and I want our troops to die in Iraq so that I can use it as a talking point to get elected.

Palin: I love America, and I trust in God.

Biden: I hate America and wish I lived in France. There is no God, and if there was I would worship Satan.

Palin: I want to give tax cuts to all Americans.

Biden: I want to take all your money and force you to live next to blacks and mexicans.
etc.

So you see, Palin won. End of discussion.

So when Americans are well off, we don’t want our money going “to them”. But we want it for us when we need it. 🙂

Now for the videos themselves:

Obama’s Speech

This lasts 53 mintues.

Governor Jindal’s Republican rebuttal

Part I

Part II

Reactions

One Daily Kos member (wmtriallawyer) noted that the Republicans in Congress started to clap more and more as the speech went on…

The beginning of the speech concentrated on the passage of the stimulus plan, so you saw the Republicans essentially sit on their hands in terms of applause.

But as the President continued his speech, you could see Boehner and McConnell visibly panic. “Damn,” they thought, “this guy is really good.”

Cue the vibrations of Blackberrys going off in the chamber. A text message to the Republican caucus:

“Guys, if we don’t clap at what the President has to say, we are going to look like real assholes. Get up outta your seats.”

So what did we get?

Republicans giving a standing ovation to more banking regulations.(!)

Republicans giving a standing ovation to health care reform.(!!)

Republicans giving a standing ovation to the end of torture.(!!!)

Um, hello? Seriously? Forget Obama triangulating the right. These guys just essentially wholeheartedly applauded the repudiation of their rule from the past eight years.

Jindal’s Rebuttal was widely ridiculed.

There were some who questioned some of the factual details of what Jindal said. I won’t get into that but I will address one specific topic. Nate Silver comments on Jindal’s “volcano monitoring” quip:

While some of the projects in the [stimulus] bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending. It includes … \$140 million for something called ‘volcano monitoring.’ Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, DC.

— Bobby Jindal

Before the cataclysmic eruption, roughly one million people lived in the region around Mount Pinatubo, including about 30,000 American military personnel and their dependents at the two largest U.S. military bases in the Philippines–Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Station. The slopes of the volcano and the adjacent hills and valleys were home to thousands of villagers. Despite the great number of people at risk, there were few casualties in the June 15 eruption. This was the result of intensive monitoring of Mount Pinatubo by scientists with the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) and the USGS.

The first recognized signs that Pinatubo was reawakening after a 500-year slumber were a series of small steam-blast explosions in early April 1991. Scientists from PHIVOLCS immediately began on-site monitoring and soon declared a 6-mile-radius danger zone around the volcano. They were joined in a few weeks by USGS scientists from the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program, a cooperative effort with the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
[…]
The USGS and PHIVOLCS estimate that their forecasts saved at least 5,000 lives and perhaps as many as 20,000. The people living in the lowlands around Mount Pinatubo were alerted to the impending eruption by the forecasts, and many fled to towns at safer distances from the volcano or took shelter in buildings with strong roofs. Additionally, more than 18,000 American servicemen and their dependents were evacuated from Clark Air Base prior to the June 15 eruption. In the eruption, thousands of weaker roofs, including some on Clark, collapsed under the weight of ash made wet by heavy rains, yet only about 250 lowland residents were killed. Of the 20,000 indigenous Aeta highlanders who lived on the slopes of Mount Pinatubo, all but about 120 were safely evacuated before the eruption completely devastated their villages.

In addition to the many lives saved, property worth hundreds of millions of dollars was protected from damage or destruction in the eruption.

Paul Krugman (a Nobel Laureate in Economics) had a few things to say:

What should government do? A Jindal meditation

What is the appropriate role of government?

Traditionally, the division between conservatives and liberals has been over the role and size of the welfare state: liberals think that the government should play a large role in sanding off the market economy’s rough edges, conservatives believe that time and chance happen to us all, and that’s that.

But both sides, I thought, agreed that the government should provide public goods — goods that are nonrival (they benefit everyone) and nonexcludable (there’s no way to restrict the benefits to people who pay.) The classic examples are things like lighthouses and national defense, but there are many others. For example, knowing when a volcano is likely to erupt can save many lives; but there’s no private incentive to spend money on monitoring, since even people who didn’t contribute to maintaining the monitoring system can still benefit from the warning. So that’s the sort of activity that should be undertaken by government.

So what did Bobby Jindal choose to ridicule in this response to Obama last night? Volcano monitoring, of course.

And leaving aside the chutzpah of casting the failure of his own party’s governance as proof that government can’t work, does he really think that the response to natural disasters like Katrina is best undertaken by uncoordinated private action? Hey, why bother having an army? Let’s just rely on self-defense by armed citizens.

The intellectual incoherence is stunning. Basically, the political philosophy of the GOP right now seems to consist of snickering at stuff that they think sounds funny. The party of ideas has become the party of Beavis and Butthead.

Hey, what did you expect from someone who has an exorcism on his resume? 🙂

The Republican Party has been taken over by “flat earthers”, creationists and assorted crackpots. Jindal-Palin, 2012!!!! 🙂

February 26, 2009

## 25 February 2009 take two

A personal note:
On my walk home, I felt a pain in my left foot (bottom); I am wondering if it is the result of lower leg tightness or some scar tissue breaking. This happens to me from time to time; this might lead to tomorrow’s run being done on the treamill.

More assorted topic stuff

Science Evidently there is such a thing as a “collapsed star” that isn’t a black hole but is still denser than a neutron star: it is called a “quark star”:

Paul Parsons in New Scientist:

Quark star A new kind of star may be lurking in the debris from a nearby supernova explosion. If confirmed, the “quark star” could offer fresh insights into the earliest moments of the universe.

When supernovae explode, they leave behind either a black hole or a dense remnant called a neutron star. However, recent calculations suggest a third possibility: a quark star, which forms when the pressure falls just short of creating a black hole.

Evidence for such stars has been presented; if true, these objects might lead to insights on what happened soon after the “Big Bang”.

Humor: just look at the faces of these testosterone poisoned young guys….

see more pwn and owned pictures

Hello Prof. Pedro,

I have some questions I would like to go over with you before the midterm. Given that the lineup for your office hours will most likely be long, I was wondering if you could set aside, at most, an hour to go over my questions. Wednesday between 11:30am – 4pm works, and anytime on Thursday or Friday. This would be greatly appreciated.

Many Thanks,
Snowy Snowflake.

Surf to the blog to see the reply that he/she is too polite to write.

Religion

Gallup did a survey on “how important is religion to you in your day to day life” and listed the results by country and by U. S. States. They then did a list which compared certain states to certain countries.

Here are but two of the comparisons:

Surf to the Gallup article to see the least religious states and the most and least religious countries.

The broader point is that the United States is relatively religious for an industrial country, but not that religious when compared to all countries in general.

(hat tip: Science Avenger)

Recursivity: points out that irrational defense of religion can make a smart person look stupid; he gives specific examples. Here is one of them:

David Gelernter is an example. He teaches computer science at Yale, and apparently once made some important contributions to parallel programming. Lately, however, he seems to spend most of his time writing essays and books; he’s a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

But he’s also obsessed with religion. […]

And his obsession with religion makes him say some extremely stupid things. Here’s an example: the Templeton Foundation, that den of insipid God-talk, recently asked 12 people, “Does the Universe have a purpose?” Here is Gelernter’s response:

Consider this question: Do the Earth and mankind have a purpose? If so, then the universe does too, ipso facto. […]

Could the Universe fail to have a purpose, even if the Earth and mankind do? Of course. Consider a pile of trash that has been assembled by the wind. Inside the pile is a torn page from Gelernter’s Ph. D. thesis. Does the page have a purpose? Surely. Does the pile of trash itself have a purpose? No. Gelernter, by the fallacy of composition, would have to insist that the pile does, indeed, have a purpose.

The other parts of this post are worth reading. 🙂

Republicans

Here is probably one of the biggest idiots to ever hold a US Senate Seat: Senator Jim Inhofe.

n December, the Oklahoman reported that Sen. James Inhofe had regularly been making trips to Africa, using taxpayer money, in order to spread the gospel of Christ

In the past decade, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Tulsa has made at least 20 trips to Africa as part of a mission that he frequently describes in religious terms.

Inhofe’s African trips have cost taxpayers more than \$187,000 since 1999, according to a review of expenses Inhofe and staff members have submitted through the Armed Services Committee.

Inhofe insists that his trips have either been paid for personally or stemmed directly from his work in Congress on humanitarian, national security and economic matters. But Inhofe’s own words make it sound as if these trips are more about using his office and standing as a US Senator in order to evangelize:

Some of the trips have been taken on military planes that cost thousands of dollars an hour to operate. The military does not disclose the cost of flying members of Congress to their destinations.

The trips — which Inhofe has referred to publicly as “a Jesus thing” — have spanned the continent, though the senator has spent most of his time in a few countries, including Uganda and Ethiopia.

In an interview with an Assemblies of God publication in 2002, Inhofe said, “I’ve adopted 12 countries all the way from Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, and Gabon in West Africa as far east as Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. I’m planning to meet with nine presidents in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. My focus will be to meet in the spirit of Jesus.”

This is the face of the current Republican Party!

Here is some more:

The Colorado Independent has posted an audio clip from Colorado state Sen. Scott Renfroe explaining his opposition to Senate Bill 88 (which we mentioned here and which would add domestic partners to the list of dependents eligible for coverage under state employee group benefit plans,) by rattling off a bunch of Bible verses and then comparing homosexuality to murder.

In a rambling and borderline incoherent speech, Renfroe proclaimed his opposition to the measure based on the fact that “homosexuality is seen as a violation of this natural, created order and it is an offense to God, the Creator, who created men and women, male and female, for procreation” and then citing various Bible verses to back up his point […]

At about 1:30, he compares homosexuality to murder. This clown fits right in with the current Republican Party.

February 26, 2009

## 25 February 2008; other topics

Workout notes 4000 yard swim plus yoga on my own; I warmed up with 10 x 100 (5 on 2, next 5 on 1:55), 10 x 100 on the 1:45 (cheated and did a couple on the 1:40), 10 x 50 (drill/swim, fins), 5 x 100 fist, 5 x (25 fly, 25 back, 50 free) on 2:05, cool down of 500 (paddle free, back).

Once again, the pool was packed; lots of dog paddlers, one tri geek, one kick ass swimmer and a few lap swimmers (myself included).

My weight is holding at about 186 which is good; it would be great to be 5 pounds less in a month or two.

Other topics
Math teaching
It took about 10 total hours to grade my 28 differential equations exam papers; I say this because some don’t know how much time one has to put into teaching these sort of courses. Sure, teaching them is loads of fun and I love preparing. But it is time consuming.

Race Matters
The topic of “we need to discuss race in an honest way” came up again when Attorney General Eric Holder said that we were a nation of cowards for not discussing race honestly.

We play games. Many white Americans go about with fingers in ears singing ”la la la la” at the top of their lungs rather than hear inconvenient truths that challenge their fantasies of how we have overcome. You can bring them a thousand anecdotes, you can bury them in studies from universities, think tanks and the federal government itself, documenting ongoing racial bias in housing, employment, education, criminal justice, and they will still tell you all that stuff ended yesterday.

This is what I have repeatedly seen. And small wonder, if you are black, you stop trying to have substantive discussions about race with white people: They refuse to listen. Small wonder, if you are white, you stop speaking freely about race with black people: Every little thing is racism with them.

And small wonder, in recent years, the discussion on race has come to be dominated by loud, intolerant voices using the reach they are afforded by the Internet and the intellectual cover they are provided by conservative extremism to promulgate a neo-racism more raw than anything the mainstream has seen in years. Small wonder the Southern Poverty Law Center reports the number of hate groups in this country has risen over 40 percent since 2000.

We live in an era where the bad people among us are feeling emboldened by the silence and compassion fatigue of the good ones. But after all we’ve been through, after all we have done and suffered to bring about change, we cannot afford silence or fatigue, cannot afford to turn the conversation over to the voices of loud intolerance.

So thank Eric Holder for the reminder. If good people do not lead this discussion, the bad ones happily will.

I should say that I have gotten stung on this topic; I’ve been verbally attacked by neo nazis, condemned by regular conservatives and criticized by liberals (for not being “brown enough”).

Here are the facts as I see them (as a brown American of Mexican descent):

1. Yes, I’ve put up with ignorance; for example people who hardly know me ask me “what my nationality is” frequently enough for me to have a response routine. Note that no one ever asks my wife that same question. But this is hardly a life changing slight; it isn’t as if I am going to need therapy to “overcome” this slight.

2. Frankly, I think that I’ve had as much success as my talents and industry would have allowed 99 percent of all others to have had. I have no complaints; if anything my race opened me up for things like the Patricia Harris Graduate Fellowship.

3. Ironically, that fellowship may have hurt my chances slightly as it limited the amount of teaching assistant experience I had. Had I had to teach earlier, I would have had my own classes for a couple of years prior to graduating which might have made me slightly more marketable. But I wouldn’t have ended up at a better institution; the job I have was at the upper limits of what people of my ability were getting though I might have had more offers of this caliber.

4. Of course, what I faced is nothing compared to what my parents faced, and far less than what African Americans face.

5. Still, this immigration issue pains me. Yes, I believe in following the rules. Yes, I know it is impractical to deport everyone who is here illegally. But I mostly keep my thoughts to myself because much of the anti-illegal immigrant rhetoric is filled with nasty racism and I don’t want to be associated with such people. On the other hand, calling for immigration reform doesn’t make one a racist, even though some of the loudest voices ARE racist voices.

Ok, those are my honest thoughts; at least some of them. 🙂

Uplifting thoughts from the local newspaper

The story starts off routinely enough:

Illinois senior 157-pounder Mike Poeta, already has filled the trophy case.

He finished third at the NCAA wrestling championships as a sophomore, then lost as the top seed in the title match last season, a one-point decision that was “the most devastating thing in my life,” he said.

Poeta owns titles from the Midlands and Las Vegas Invitationals — the two biggest in the regular season — and the Big Ten. Yet something big is missing. He wants a national title.

“This is the time that everybody remembers,” Poeta said. “All the stuff you do in the season is training for the national tournament. In my previous years, I’ve pretty much won every tournament leading up to the national tournament. You know what? No one cares. No one remembers it.”

But he then goes on to talk about the pressure of trying to succeed at that level:

Seven Illini won NCAA titles since Johnson became head coach for the 1992-93 season, but Illinois hasn’t had a national champion since 2003. The clock is ticking on Poeta.

“The guys in Afghanistan and Iraq, that’s pressure,” Poeta said. “What we do is fun. In the past three years, I put way too much pressure on myself. Not only was I wrestling the other guy, I was wrestling myself. There was so much pressure, I was holding back.”

Now that is wisdom beyond one’s years, Mr. Poeta. Well said! 🙂

Fun at the expense of Republicans

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal gave the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s congressional address. More on that later. A Christian conservative site brought this up from Governor Jindal’s past:

Republican Bobby Jindal has a big moment tonight. The national response he gives to President Obama’s speech tonight could be the launching pad for a 2012 presidential run.

If the Louisiana Governor runs for President in 2012, he’ll have a lot going for him. Fiscal conservatives love him, social conservatives love him and he would literally be a fresh face for the GOP. Not your typical GOP politician if you know what I mean. Plus, he has the intellectual heft to go up against President Obama. But there’s one incident from his past that may scare some folks.

In 1994 when Jindal was in his early 20’s he wrote an article entitled, “Beating a Demon: Physical Dimensions of Spiritual Warfare.” In it he describes being present for what many would refer to as a spiritual exorcism. It involved his best friend at the time “Susan.” It is a truly captivating read full of talk of demons, screaming, praying, crosses, peace, etc. In many ways the whole experience left Jindal with more questions than answers but you can bet that if Jindal runs this topic will come up big time.

The conservative magazine National Review was not amused that CBN brought this up:

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Is This Really the Day to Rehash Jindal’s Exorcism Story?

It’s just swell of David Brody to conclude that today was the right day to rehash Louisiana Bobby Jindal’s story of witnessing an exorcism as a young man.

Believe in the phenomenon of exorcism or don’t, that’s your call. But at this moment, the country has other matters on its mind. Obama’s massive stimulus has been passed; Jindal
has been selected to make the case to the public that the government borrowing and spending its way out of this hole will only make things a lot worse. Tonight, Jindal is the spokesman for a lot of skeptics out there.

Actually, bringing this up was entirely appropriate. For better or worse, at the upper levels, the Republican party is represented mostly by a collection of religious fundamentalists, anti-intellectuals, woos and other assorted idiots and morons. Heck, believing that the earth orbits the sun is probably enough to get you kicked out of a Republican caucus these days. 🙂

February 25, 2009