Farewell to May, 2009

Workout notes 6 mile trail walk at the Forrest Park Nature Center; 57:08 for the outer loop; 49:12 for the out and back.

Social One of our department members is getting married, so we are going to his wedding. When he told me that he was getting married I asked “oh, so you are tired of sex?” 🙂 But he is going ahead with it anyway….


One early result evidently was due to error (see here)

Last week came word of something of a setback in the quest for understanding the nature of dark matter, the mysterious substance that is far more abundant in the universe than the ordinary matter that makes up stars, planets, and people. An instrument on NASA’s Fermi spacecraft failed to detect a surge of electrons and positrons at high energies that was seen last year by a balloon-borne instrument. That peak had been thought to be the signature of the annihilation of weakly interacting massive particles (better known by their acronym, which is, yes, WIMP), a theoretical particle posited by some astrophysicists as the composition of dark matter. But with Fermi providing more and better data than the earlier experiment, that discovery may have been only a false alarm.

(hat tip: 3 quarks daily)

There is a lesson here: often the initial, spectacular sounding results ARE false alarms. That is why we need peer review and why we need to be, ahem, conservative on announcing “new results”.

Reaction times in people who are not physically fit (note: we are not talking about “reflexes”, such as those needed to, say, box or play tennis)

Did you know that one study suggests that wimpy people react quicker to danger signals?

“Responses to looming sounds are scaled to the motor system’s ability to react,” said Neuhoff, and that is directly related to how physically fit an individual is.

The difference is less than a second. Nevertheless, “this systematic perceptual error might provide a selective advantage,” said Neuhoff. “Perceptual bias might be a behavioral adaptation shaped by evolution.”

Women typically responded sooner than men, who on average are physically stronger. Plus comparative studies in Rhesus monkeys showed the same biases, suggesting a biological basis for the results. But the research is still in its infancy.

“It makes some ecological sense that there is this particular bias, but there are a lot of variables,” commented Norbert Copco, a researcher at the Department of Cybernetics and Artificial Intelligence at the Technical University of Kosice in Slovakia, who also presented a paper at the meeting.

He noted that if this is effect is real, then older people, whose ability to defend themselves is lower, should also react sooner to approaching sounds.

Neuhoff agreed that more research is needed. “We still need longitudinal studies, looking at physical fitness over time.”

I’d be interested in knowing how this works in the case where someone is born with the genes to be strong but then becomes a couch potato.

World Events
Israel continues to struggle with the immoralities in its past:

Negating the truth about the Nakbah — the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Arabs from what became Israel in 1948 — has been a staple of Jewish-nationalist propaganda as long as I can remember: As a youngster in Habonim, I was told bubbemeis tales about foolish Arabs marching off into the wilderness like zombies after being hypnotized by radio broadcasts urging them to leave; a “miracle” on a par with the parting of the Red Sea that ostensibly gave the Zionist movement the “land without a people” about which it had fantasized. It should have been painfully obvious that this was a preposterous self-serving myth (which even then didn’t account for the fact that the ethnic cleansing was sealed by Israel in one of its founding laws that denied the right of any Arab absent from their property on the day of Israel’s creation to return to that property). But to suggest anything less than a miraculous conception and bloodless birth for the state of Israel was to deny its “legitimacy”, we were told. As international pressure grows for an historic reckoning between Israelis and Palestinians, the frenzy of denial and negation has intensified. […]

There are other Israelis, of course, who don’t deny the Nakba, but strive to reveal its history to their fellow citizens, precisely because the pathological denial of their own country’s own history as perpetrators of dispossession and ethnic cleansing, there can be no true healing between Israelis and Palestinians. One such brave and visionary Israeli is Eitan Bronstein, whom I had the pleasure of meeting last year. He graciously agreed to allow Rootless Cosmopolitan to republish an English translation of his article published in Yediot Ahoronot today article challenging the proposed Nakba law.

A Response to the Proposal to Ban Commemoration of the Nakba on Independence Day

By Eitan Bronstein […]

Follow the above link to read the response.

Hat tip: 3 quarks daily.


On a lighter note:

Obama supporters: Obama stuff is on sale, cheap! Hmm, perhaps my conservative friends might get a few goodies in their Christmas stockings this year? 🙂

On more serious notes

Torture Photos

U. S. General denies reports that the photos that President Obama is holding shows rapes. Here is the issue: there are many sets of photos out there and the ones that President Obama is talking about constitute only a tiny fraction of those.

Stupid Republicans

Many of the critics of the Sotomayor nomination are unaware that he full speeches ARE available in the public domain.

Glen Beck: urges Republicans to not pay their taxes. Sure, he is phrasing it as “what if” or “Imagine” :). The interesting this is that the majority of the imbeciles that listen to him get their taxes taken out of their paychecks and would probably get at least a bit of a refund if they filed. 🙂

But don’t you find it interesting that, in the eyes of the wingnuts, “loving America” means “hating the majority of it”??? 🙂

Some Republicans are a bit like spoiled little kids. They say “love your country” until, well, the majority of the country ceases to agree with them. When they lose, they pout, throw tantrums and threaten to take their toys and “go home” (e. g., secession threats, not paying one’s taxes, etc.)

May 31, 2009 Posted by | 2008 Election, Barack Obama, economy, free speech, hiking, Judicial nominations, Middle East, nature, obama, politics, politics/social, science, SCOTUS, walking, world events | Leave a comment

Just for Fun: Catching up on the Fail Blog:

Here are a few of the recent ones:

Parenting Fail How much therapy is this kid going to need? 🙂

fail owned pwned pictures
see more Fail Blog

Puzzle for kids of NRA members?

fail owned pwned pictures
see more Fail Blog

Driving Safety Fail

fail owned pwned pictures
see more Fail Blog

Big Time Parenting Fail

fail owned pwned pictures
see more Fail Blog

Just Read

fail owned pwned pictures
see more Fail Blog

And you wonder why kids are bad at math?

fail owned pwned pictures
see more Fail Blog


fail owned pwned pictures
see more Fail Blog


fail owned pwned pictures
see more Fail Blog

Just Read

see more Fail Blog

The following FAIL reminds me of an old “puzzle” that went around some circles when I was a kid: it was the old 3 people check into a room, pay 10 dollars each to the bell boy, the bell boy gives it to the room owner who gives the bell boy 5 one dollar bills to refund the 3 people. The bell boy keeps 2 for himself and gives 1 dollar back to each person.
So: each person pays 9 dollars for the room and if you add the 2 dollars that the bell boy kept you have 29 dollars. Is there a missing dollar? (psst: no; it takes about 10 seconds to see why there isn’t)

fail owned pwned pictures
see more Fail Blog

Is this clown a jerk or what?

fail owned pwned pictures
see more Fail Blog

First rule of “safety programs”: do no harm.

fail owned pwned pictures
see more Fail Blog

Parenting Fail

fail owned pwned pictures
see more Fail Blog

May 31, 2009 Posted by | humor | Leave a comment

Lakers versus Magic in the NBA Finals

The Magic took care of business and beat the Cavaliers 103-90 in a game that was not that close. I have to admit that I underestimated the Magic; I thought that they mostly struggled against the Celtics (except for game 7); I forgot how good the Celtics were.



Lakers Nuggets Basketball


(photos: yahoo)

The series should be interesting. I can say that I’ve enjoyed the NBA play-offs this year; there has been an excellent mix of individual excellence and solid “team” play.

Here are some of my favorites from the distant past:

1977 Blazers-76’ers

1970 Knicks-Lakers

1988 Pistons-Lakers

1984 Lakers-Celtics

For more memories on the conference finals, go here.

May 31, 2009 Posted by | NBA | Leave a comment

The Republicans are Going Nowhere

In their own voices:

Check this out. You have a tired old wheezing man talking about the Republicans losing the new generation. Gee, don’t you think that things like this and this might be a big part of the reason?

Folks, it isn’t the medium. It is the message: things like creationism presented via 21’st century technology remains creationism.

Screaming about Judge Sotomayor being some sort of a racist on the internet remains ridiculous.

Hat tip: The Good Kentuckian.

May 31, 2009 Posted by | politics, politics/social, republicans | Leave a comment

Why I don’t take opponents of affirmative action seriously

When it comes to the issue of affirmative action with respect to admission to colleges and universities, one often hears an argument of the following variety: “it ought to be on merit alone; giving a break to a racial minority is “reverse discrimination””.

Interestingly enough, I once said this at an ACLU meeting: “I’d be in favor of the following statement: “college admissions will be based on academic merit alone”, provided this policy would be rigorously enforced.”

People who know me (and know that I favor affirmative action) were aghast. I reminded them: “provided this policy would be rigorously enforced”, and the chances of that are next to zero.

Of course, we see things like George W. Bush getting admitted to Yale and Harvard. But those are private schools who have more leeway, and even William F. Buckley thought that such schools should be free to diversify their student body.

But what about public ones?

Yep, influence from the well to do is there too:

The University of Illinois scrambled Friday to explain how politically connected applicants with less-than-stellar resumes — including the relative of a convicted fundraiser for ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich — gained entry into the school over more qualified students.

University President Joseph White said he plans to make clear to employees that no one should feel pressured to admit prospective students because the governor or anyone else with political clout takes an interest.

The scandal — reported Friday by the Chicago Tribune — riled state lawmakers. One said he wants any university trustee involved in trying to influence admissions to resign and another said he would press to end political appointments to public university trustee boards.

The university, considered one of the top public universities in the country, keeps a little-known list of applicants tracked by politicians and university trustees. The Tribune said the list often results in the admission of clout-heavy students over those with better qualifications.

“I’m putting out a communication today to the university community that makes it crystal clear that admissions are to be based on merit only and that our people are not to succumb to pressure to admit,” White told The Associated Press Friday.

The list included a relative of convicted political fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko who got accepted to the school after then-Gov. Blagojevich made a request, according to the Tribune. The newspaper says Rezko’s relative was supposed to be denied admission before Blagojevich interceded.

Spokesman Thomas Hardy said Friday the problem was manageable and that likely only a handful of students at the university’s flagship campus in Urbana-Champaign are what he called questionable admissions.

“We don’t want a small number of questionable cases to lead to misperceptions about the quality of our process, the quality of our incoming class,” Hardy said. “The insinuation of pressure, either applied or implied, we need to eliminate that.”

Hardy said the list — dubbed “Category I” — contains more than 100 potential students each year whose applications legislators and trustees have been asked to check on by constituents, typically parents or other relatives of the applicants. This year, there are about 160 on the list, he said.

He said only some of those are admitted and noted that other universities keep similar lists.

The Tribune says 1,800 pages of documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show 77 percent of the 800 students placed on list since 2005 for admittance to the Urbana-Champaign campus were accepted. Meanwhile, the acceptance rate among other applicants stood at 69 percent.

The Urbana campus typically gets 23,000 or more applications for about 7,000 seats. This year there were 26,000.

Students accepted from the list who were freshman in 2008 on average ranked in the 76th percentile of their high school class, the Tribune said. The same year, the average high school ranking among all freshman was in the 88th percentile. […]

Gee, why don’t the “principled” conservatives raise a stink about this? 🙂

Here is one possible reason: look at who are some who make the most noise about affirmative action (and related topics).

True, this doesn’t represent all conservatives, but my guess is that this does represent a fair percentage of the extreme ones that you’ll see at places like CPAC.

I find it very odd that what conservatives consider “fair” just so happens to be what favors them! 🙂

May 31, 2009 Posted by | affirmative action, education, politics, politics/social, racism | Leave a comment

Bad Writing on a Statistically Related Issue

In today’s (30 May, 2009) Peoria Journal Star, I read the following on the front page:
(article: Concealed firearms idea strikes a chord)

An unscientific poll of readers overwhelmingly agree with the mayor that Peoria should be the city where concealed carry legislation is tested. More that 800 people voted as of 9:30 pm. Friday, with 47 percent in support of Ardis’ idea.

Think about it for a second. 47 percent is overwhelming support???

Interestingly enough, if one goes to the poll itself, the conclusion is correct even if the statistics are poorly presented. One can find the poll here (the article I am quoting is not up on the website).

It turns out that the poll is constructed as follows (with more current numbers):

Yes, agree with the Mayor (50 percent)
No, disagree with the Mayor (14 percent)
Should be “state only”: (26 percent)
No conceal carry law at all: (11 percent)

So in fact, those responding to the poll are either in favor of the Mayor’s plan OR in favor of a concealed carry law. However, the newspaper article should have mentioned the wording of the poll question.

My take: though I don’t like crime, I am far more afraid of an idiotic, untrained yahoo carrying a gun than I am of the crooks as there are a lot more ignorant, untrained yahoos than there are crooks. 🙂

May 30, 2009 Posted by | mathematics, Peoria, Peoria/local, politics/social, statistics | Leave a comment

I need to get tougher

Family House 5K today. Bottom line: my time was 24:00.7 (70 out of 239)

What happened: mile 1: 7:27 (ok) Mile 2: 7:33 (15:01). Mile 3: 8:14 (23:15). 45 seconds for the last .1.
What went wrong: I was tracking Mike Rucker at mile 2 and then stopped! He yelled at me for stopping. 🙂

I just am not used to “5K” type of pain; I was out of breath. I walked a few seconds, restarted but couldn’t regain my lost ground (20 seconds or so). In the last mile Terry Whitehead got me back and Pat O’Bryan almost got me.

The silver lining: this is my fastest time since January 8, 2006 (well before my piriformis injury). Still, I want to get that sub 24 monkey off of my back.

Irony I used an age grade calculator to compare this 5K run to the marathon walk I did a couple of weeks ago. My “equivalent” marathon walk time: 5:14:31. My actual time: 5:14:26. 🙂

Barbara went with me and finished in 56:00. I walked the last mile with her; I finished with 6 for the day.

Some photos:

Mary Hosbrough with friends at mile 2.

Barbara at mile 2.

Butt shot of Barbara.

May 30, 2009 Posted by | family, Friends, running, time trial/ race | 1 Comment

30 May 2009, Morning

NBA: The Lakers sure are looking like a championship caliber team at the moment:

Can Cleveland come back? They have a tall order and Orlando has the edge, but I can’t count the Cavaliers out yet. 🙂


Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination: here is an honest analysis of one of her decisions that I didn’t like:

The right to free speech embodied in the First Amendment is not a right to speak without consequence. If you tell your girlfriend, yes, your ass does look fat in those jeans, the consequence is likely to be no nookie for at least a month. If in a job interview, you say that your goal is to spend as little time working as possible and intend to surf the internets at every opportunity, you consequently aren’t going to get the job. If you set up an anti-semetic Facebook page that spews hateful racism and encourages violence, you run the risk that the Facebook people are going to tell you to piss off.

The problem arises when it’s the state that’s doling out the consequences.

Public school settings present a particularly thorny First Amendment landscape, where the balance between the free speech rights of students are often in awkward tension with the legitimate interests of schools to maintain an effective learning environment. If a student stands up in the middle of Algebra class each day and spends 10 minutes screaming “fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuuuuuuuuuuuuck” a the top of his lungs, I think we can all agree that while it might be funny the first time, it’s speech that is disruptive, and that, well, there should be some kind of consequence – even if that consequence technically transgresses the student’s First Amendment right to yell “fuck.”

In contrast, what the school failed to demonstrate, in the Doninger case, is that what Doninger wrote on her personal blog actually had the effect of disrupting the school (or, was so likely to do so that the school had no alternative to imposing discipline). That school administrators got some annoying phone calls and emails as a result of the blog (and a related email the students sent out) is insufficient to outweigh the likelihood that student free speech would be chilled as a result of banning Doninger from running for school office. So, I think, Sotomayor and the other members of the Second Circuit panel got it wrong.

That said, First Amendment cases that involve public schools are almost never easy, and very, very often are the result of the failure of the adults involved to find a solution to the problem that doesn’t involve state-imposed punishment. […]

Religion Miracles: if someone performed a miracle 2000 years ago, they are a “savior”. If they did it during the dark ages, they are a witch and were executed. 🙂

May 30, 2009 Posted by | Barack Obama, NBA, obama, politics, politics/social, religion, SCOTUS, superstition | Leave a comment

Republican Buffoonery

Enjoy today’s Republican Buffoonery:

Watch their heads turn 360 degrees over the Sotomayor nomination:

She is David Duke in a skirt. If she is confirmed, the Civil War was fought for no reason. Female bodily functions are also a hazard.


Of course, now the Republicans are turning on each other.

My question: how long will it take for a sitting United States Senator to apologize to Rush Limbaugh?

Good times:

LIMBAUGH: The bash-Rush — the pass key for RINO Republicans to get glowing media treatment — works for Colin Powell, it worked for Tom Ridge, and it’s now working for John Cornyn, a person from — I’m probably going to embarrass him by saying this, but I was asked by friends to do a fundraiser for Senator Cornyn when he was running, and I did — flew to Texas and I did it. Yesterday on NPR, John Cornyn was asked this question: “We’ve heard Rush Limbaugh. We’ve heard the Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich calling Sonia Sotomayor a racist, saying that she should withdraw.” I didn’t say that, Newt did, but that’s the question. “What do you make of the rhetoric that’s tumbling out of these people these days, Senator Cornyn?”

CORNYN : I think it’s terrible. This is not the tone that any of us want to set when it comes to performing our constitutional abilities of advice and consent. Neither one of these men are elected Republican officials. I just don’t think it’s appropriate. I certainly don’t endorse it. I think it’s wrong.

LIMBAUGH: All right, now we’ll talk about this in detail as the program unfolds here. But we can not forget something here, ladies and gentlemen — that is that the Democrat Party was and is vicious.

It’s not clear why the Democratic Party is vicious because John Cornyn thinks Rush Limbaugh’s hate speech is terrible, but it apparently makes sense in Rush’s fevered mind. Who cares. Let’s just enjoy the fact that the titular head of the Republican Party continues to help tear the GOP apart.

At the rate this is going, we’ll have 80-85 “Democrats” in the United States Senate. 🙂

May 30, 2009 Posted by | 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Judicial nominations, morons, politics, politics/social, republicans, Rush Limbaugh, SCOTUS | 2 Comments

29 May mid morning/early afternoon

Workout I was going to swim over lunch but my wife just got in from being gone a week and wanted to eat lunch. So I might go for a short walk in a couple of hours.

I’ve decided to lace ’em up and do a 5K run tomorrow; I’ve had some success with “blowing out the carbon” a week before a big event.

Afternoon entertainment

Conservative Republican Brainstorm: to fight pirates, put lasers on sharks. Really.

Of course, Krugman goes on to point out that “they” have always been nuts. Relive Senator Coburn’s “so many lesbians in school that they don’t let girls go to the bathroom in pairs” remark and Senator Inhofe’s remark about global warming:

Establishing his Christian credentials, Inhofe invoked Romans 1:25 (For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever) to suggest that taking steps to ameliorate global warming would constitute a form of idol worship.

Then there is the Limbaugh comedy hour; of course he is merely lying about Judge Sotomayor’s record than coming up with anything original.

May 29, 2009 Posted by | Blogroll, morons, political humor, politics, politics/social, religion, republicans, SCOTUS | Leave a comment