31 March 2010

Workout notes
Weights: I did “super sets” meaning that I went through my routine mixing the exercises with little rest in between: barbell bench press (10 x 135, 9 x 170, 5 x 175), dumbbell military (10 x 45) dumbbell curl (10 x 25, 2 sets), pull ups (2 sets of 7), abs (yoga leg lifts, 2 sets of 30, vertical crunches, 2 sets of 20), barbell military (10 x 85, 6 x 85), incline bench (2 sets of 5 x 135), pull downs (2 sets of 10 x 120), yoga head stand (5 minutes).
Swimming 2200 yards, 1000 in 17:47 (easy, first 500 was 9:02), 10 x (25 free, 25 back) on 1:05, 5 x 100 (25 fly, 25 back, 25 fly, 25 free with fins) on the 2:00, 200 cool down. This was routine.

Injury: no leg ache last night; I made sure that the sheets were NOT tucked into the end of the bed.

Sean Carroll in Cosmic Variance:

Welcome to this week’s installment of the From Eternity to Here book club. Part Four opens with Chapter Twelve, “Black Holes: The Ends of Time.”


Unlike boxes full of atoms, we can’t make black holes with the same size but different masses. The size of a black hole is characterized by the “Schwarzschild radius,” which is precisely proportional to its mass. If you know the mass, you know the size; contrariwise, if you have a box of fixed size, there is a maximum mass black hole you can possibly fit into it. But if the entropy of the black hole is proportional to the area of its event horizon, that means there is a maximum amount of entropy you can possibly fit into a region of some fixed size, which is achieved by a black hole of that size.

That’s a remarkable fact. It represents a dramatic difference in the behavior of entropy once gravity becomes important. In a hypothetical world in which there was no such thing as gravity, we could squeeze as much entropy as we wanted into any given region; but gravity stops us from doing that.

It’s not surprising to find a chapter about black holes in a book that talks about relativity and cosmology and all that. But the point here is obviously a slightly different one than usual: we care about the entropy of the black hole, not the gruesome story of what happens if you fall into the singularity.

Surf to the link to read the discussion. Note that the holographic principle is brought up. I don’t understand it, but it seems to be saying that information about the universe can be obtained by some sort of a projection of the volume onto a 2 dimensional surface (leaf of a foliation?)

Overeating: can have a drug like effect, especially if the foods are loaded with sugar and salt. Read the Scientific American article here.

Catholic Church Pedophilia Scandal Christopher Hitchens has an article in Slate magazine:

[…]Almost every episode in this horror show has involved small children being seduced and molested in the confessional itself. To take the most heart-rending cases to have emerged recently, namely the torment of deaf children in the church-run schools in Wisconsin and Verona, Italy, it is impossible to miss the calculated manner in which the predators used the authority of the confessional in order to get their way. And again the identical pattern repeats itself: Compassion is to be shown only to the criminals. Ratzinger’s own fellow clergy in Wisconsin wrote to him urgently—by this time he was a cardinal in Rome, supervising the global Catholic cover-up of rape and torture—beseeching him to remove the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, who had comprehensively wrecked the lives of as many as 200 children who could not communicate their misery except in sign language. And no response was forthcoming until Father Murphy himself appealed to Ratzinger for mercy—and was granted it.

March 31, 2010 Posted by | injury, politics/social, religion, science, swimming, training, weight training | Leave a comment

Stand and Deliver Teacher Dies at 79

From here.

Legendary Garfield High School math teacher Jaime Escalante, who was immortalized in the film “Stand and Deliver,” died Tuesday afternoon after battling cancer.

Escalante died at 2:27 p.m. at the home of his son, Jaime Jr., in Roseville, Calif., said actor Edward James Olmos, who portrayed Escalante in the film.

“He was surrounded by his children and grandchildren,” said Olmos, who drove Escalante from a Reno hospital Monday night to Roseville.

Olmos said he was notified by the family several minutes after Escalante died.

Escalante, 79, helped turn the math program at the East Los Angeles high school into one of the top programs in the nation.

March 31, 2010 Posted by | education, mathematics | Leave a comment

30 March 2010 (pm)

Injury: I go to physical therapy on Thursday; that should be interesting. I’ve been told that my knee has some fluid in it.


Education Every generation of students has their particular quirks. One of the quirks of the present generation is that many seem to not be willing to take responsibility for their actions; some even deny doing what you saw them do. I honestly don’t know if this is merely a human trait that I am now noticing or if this has gotten worse; here is one point of view:

A friend who teaches at a middle school has often remarked to me that her students will act out in all sorts of ways (such as throwing cups of water at each other) and when confronted will either say “I don’t know why I did that” or “I didn’t do that,” despite the fact that they knew she was watching them the whole time. And they will be 100% sincere about the whole thing! You can see this issue isn’t limited to universities– kids are picking up that faculty for total deniability at a much earlier age.

I don’t think you should be surprised at this kind of behaviour. We are all living in a gilded-age culture where most information outlets place the emphasis on ideals, dreams, and fantasy over the realities of life. When you can plug in your iPod to create your own personal soundtrack as you walk around campus, why shouldn’t you start thinking of life as one big movie where you are the hero? Consequences are such a drag, dude, and don’t exist in the generation of x-box god codes, unending bailouts, and a customer-service economy/society. You want to get the students to accept responsibility for their actions? You don’t need drugs or psychiatrists– you only need to totally disassemble most of the infrastructure of the internet age.

Here is another conjecture: some high schools actually strive to “meet the students where they are” which sometimes means giving them alternative assignments so that they don’t have to do what they don’t want to do:

After months of watching Alexandra cling to her identity as a student who did not participate in class and failing to find an entry point with her into what the class was working on (writing editorials), I realized that even with all the choice inherent in the process, the idea of writing an editorial just was not meaningful to her. I approached her while she was immersed in her latest novel:

“Alexandra, I see that you are not interested in writing an editorial. I also know that you do a lot of writing. Is there another form of writing you’d like to do that would allow you to show the process and skills we’ve been working on?”

After a brief pause she replied, “I could write and publish some book reviews. I just finished one book, and I’ll be done with this one soon.”

I had vowed years ago never to assign book reviews again because they are so painful to read. But I had to honor Alexandra’s choice.

“OK. I have some published reviews you can use as models.”

In college, it doesn’t work that way, nor should it. Note: I am NOT slamming the high school teachers; they deal with different challenges than we do. But I am saying that college is a big adjustment for some of the students. (hat tip: Rate Your Students)

Science: there was a recent judicial ruling concerning human genes and the technology that uses them:

In a decision that shakes the legal foundation for much of the biotech industry, a federal judge has ruled many of a Utah company’s patents on a gene test for breast and ovarian cancer are invalid.

Women who want to learn if they carry variants of the genes linked to cancer have to get a $3,000 test from Myriad Genetics, which was a defendant in the suit.

Judge Robert Sweet in the Southern District of New York has invalidated some of Myriad’s patents. He says the BRCA genes are “products of nature” in a 156-page opinion you can read here, so, essentially, the company can’t own patents on them.

Putting a point on things, Judge Sweet, as the New York Times notes, took up the argument of critics who say identifying and isolating a gene is enough to win a patent. That’s too clever by half, according to Sweet, and constitutes, “a ‘lawyer’s trick’ that circumvents the prohibition on the direct patenting of the DNA in our bodies but which, in practice, reaches the same result.”

Ok, now some treatments might be able to be patented. But, what about artificial genes? We live in interesting times!

Health Care Reform
Paul Krugman makes an interesting point:

Menzie has a nice chart comparing four policies and their impact on the budget: the two big Bush tax cuts, the Iraq war, and the health reform:

It’s curious, then, that Samuelson and others are driven wild only by the last of these. But Dan Gross explained it all a while back: it’s about

a strain of intellectual Toryism bedeviled by the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be getting social insurance.

Note: I’ve noted that this plan is similar to ones that Republicans have suggested or enacted (in Massachusetts). Even the mandate was a Republican idea.

Now we are hearing: is this constitutional? I find it hard to believe that President Obama, who taught Constitutional Law, would push for something that would be unconstitutional. But one can read a spread of opinions here, including opinions from those who are representing some of the states that are filing suit.

Nate Silver talks about race and President Obama’s job performance approval. He notes that his job approval, by race, more or less matches what he got in the election. In short, the President has lost the “surge” in approval that he had post-election.

Sarah Palin and “Hope and Change”
Here is what Sarah Palin said at a Tea Bagger rally:

Less than a week after a Nashville man was driven off the road because his car sported an Obama-Biden bumper sticker, Sarah Palin has called on Tea Partiers to stop drivers whose cars have a similar sticker.

Stumping on Saturday from Searchlight, NV — Harry Reid’s hometown — Palin focused her rhetoric on the health care overhaul passed last week:

It’s like that old bumper sticker that says, “Government: If you think our problems are bad, wait until you see our solutions.”

The crowd cheered. She went on:

Or that bumper sticker you see on the next Subaru driving by, an Obama bumper sticker. You should stop the driver and say, “So how is that hopey, changey thing working out for you?”

The first comment is fine: it is basic conservative boilerplate. But the second? I wouldn’t dream of stopping someone with a Palin bumper sticker. But what about her question?

My answer: “from my point of view, it is working pretty darned well”! Here is why:

Passed Healthcare Reform (ending preexisting conditions, giving small business subsidies for providing insurance, Creating 3.2M HC-related jobs over the next 10 years, closing the medicare donut hole in drug coverage, ensuring coverage for all kids up till the age of 26, covering 32 million americans, expanding medicaid to cover the rest, all while cutting the national debt by a 100 billion dollars) – Check.

Signed into law Tax Cuts for all middle income families, and 95% of all Americans – Check

Signed an Arms control agreement with Russia to dismantle nuclear weapons – Check

Reauthorized SCHIP to cover all Children – Check

Saved the entire stock market from collapsing (from a low point of a dow of 6000 within a month of Obama taking office, to close to 11,000 just an year later, basically preventing millions of retirement accounts from getting wiped out) – Check

Ended the ban on travel for people with HIV – Check

Stopped the dismissals of homosexual individuals serving in the military by the Pentagon (It’s the first step to dismantling DA,DT completely) – Check

Ended the federal crackdown on Medicinal Marijuana centers in CA – Check

Passed into law Mortgage Fraud Protections – Check

Ended the ban on Stem Cell Research – Check

Passed Student Loan Reform, and Used The Savings to Significantly Increase Financial Aid Loans and Grants – Check

Engaged in diplomatic dialogue with Middle Eastern countries, instead of using language like “Axis of Evil” that achieves nothing other than to piss them off some more. – Check

Passed Credit Card Reform (Minimizing Predatory Lending, Making the terms of credit cards clear, eliminating arbitrary rate increases) – Check

Since the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, have had the new job loss numbers from their peak right as Obama took office, go down steadily month after month, every single month like clockwork to the point that finally, this month is going to have job growth in the six figures (a trend expected to accelerate this whole year) – Check

Reversed the ban on sending foreign aid to countries with legal abortions (The Mexico City Policy) – Check

Signed the Expanded Hate Crimes Bill – Check

Helped stem down employment discrimination by passing the Lilly Ledbetter Act – Check

Extended Unemployment Benefit, helping millions of Americans stave off bankrupcy until the economy recovers – Check

Drew down troops in Iraq for a 2011 withdrawl date – Check

Drew down Gitmo detainees and making prepartations to close it by 2011 – Check

Increased the forces in Afganistan and brought to justice 500+ major Al Queda senior leaders in the past year (more than the Bush Administration brought in all eight years combined) – Check

Saved the entire US Auto Industry (GM and Chrysler) from going bankrupt thus preventing dozens of major factories and hundreds of dealerships from closing their doors – Check

Saved banks from going bankrupt to the point that they’re profitable again and have now paid back all of government loans and bailout funds in full and with interest – Check

Signed into law, new mileage and emissions standard for cars and suvs – Check

Now if you are conservative, you probably don’t like many of these things. But I love them! 🙂
Psst: if someone has an Obama-Biden sticker, they probably like these things too.

March 31, 2010 Posted by | 2008 Election, Barack Obama, economy, education, health care, injury, obama, politics, politics/social, republicans, sarah palin, science | Leave a comment

Obama Today Show Interview: Tea Party Built Around ‘Core Group’ Who Question His Citizenship, Believe He’s Socialist (VIDEO)

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March 30, 2010 Posted by | Barack Obama, Democrats, politics, republicans | Leave a comment

30 March 2010 (am-later)

Workout notes yoga, then 4000 yard swim: 500 warm up (8:47), 500 drill/swim (fins), 20 x 50 on the :50 (45-47 each), 500 3g/swim (fins), 10 x 50 fist on 1, 500 in 8:37 (achy left shouder), 10 x (25 back, 25 fly) easy.

Injury: physical therapy appointment this Thursday.

Academia: Frequently, students who are doing poorly in our classes will lie about how good their grades are in other courses. 🙂

Politics Some numbers for the morning via Real Clear Politics:

Note the Senate races; (side of the top screen shot); the “safe” Democratic seat is Connecticut. I am surprised to see Boxer as a toss-up.

March 30, 2010 Posted by | Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, Democrats, health care, injury, politics, politics/social, swimming, training | Leave a comment

30 March 2010 (early am)

Injury note Painful sleeping again; I seem to do better then there is no bed cover to force my toe to stay “pointed”. Symptoms: ache that wakes me up; the ache goes away quickly when I get up and walk around.

Science Image: go here to see a NASA image of the earth’s magnetic field protecting the earth from coronal mass ejections.

Health and behavior Though personal responsibility is good, it is impossible to enforce and all but impossible to build a workable health care policy that depends on everyone behaving optimally. We all have bad habits: some talk on the cell phone while driving, others smoke, eat too much, drink too much, or, on occasion, walk/run too much (see my first entry) 🙂 .

Books: It is a different world out there and independent book sellers are hurting (as are authors):

The death of independent bookshops is just one symptom of a much wider crisis in publishing. Discounted books, online bookselling and the advent of ebooks are destroying old patterns of reading and book buying. We are living through a revolution as enormous as the one created by Gutenberg’s printing press – and authors and publishers are terrified they will become as outdated as the monks who copied out manuscripts. How this happened is down to ambitious editors, greedy agents, demanding writers and big businesses with an eye for easy profit. Combine that with devilishly fast technological innovation and you have a story as astonishing as the credit crunch – and potentially as destructive.

Politics Republican “gotcha” FAIL:

Sorry Jason. The bill doesn’t say anything about playgrounds or jungle gyms or monkey bars. And when you approach someone who is much more knowledgeable than yourself about legislation, you ought not try to lie about what’s in the bill. What the bill says is that funds in this section can be used for…

(i) creating healthier school environments, including increasing healthy food options, physical activity opportunities, promotion of healthy lifestyle, emotional wellness, and prevention curricula, and activities to prevent chronic diseases;
(ii) creating the infrastructure to support active living and access to nutritious foods in a safe environment;

So now we see that Breitbart and his ward are just as opposed to safe schools and nutritious foods as they are to preventing child abuse. But I have to admire his tenacity. After making an ass of himself over the non-existent jungle gyms, Mattera plowed ahead with a complaint about language in the bill that provides new mothers with reasonable breaks for breast feeding. I thought Republicans were supposed to be the “family values” party. Not that they ever actually supported family values, but they have long sought to pretend that they did. But here the truth is revealed as Mattera berates Franken for supporting a bill that permits new mothers to care for their infant children.

Note: not every line in the bill is to lower cost. But doesn’t “healthier kids” imply kids getting sick less frequently? Isn’t this part of prevention?

March 30, 2010 Posted by | books, disease, health care, injury, politics, politics/social, republicans, science | Leave a comment

What Does Science Say About Morality: Round II

We had point (Sam Harris. ) and counter point (Sean Carroll); this was my post.

Well now we have counter-counter-point (Sam Harris) and counter^(3) point (Sean Carroll). As I understand it: Carroll talks about morality depending on accepted axioms (say, in the way that mathematics does; for example one can accept the axiom of choice and do math, or NOT accept the axiom of choice and do math). Harris says “come on; we really can’t get anywhere like that; there are (for practical purposes) universally accepted moral axioms and to deny these is to be as crackpotty as denying the accepted laws of science. In other words, the laws of morality should be able to be put on the same sort of footing that the laws of science are, even if we don’t know those laws and even if some moral dilemmas are difficult to resolve.

Now if I am understanding this wrong, I welcome correction. 🙂

March 30, 2010 Posted by | atheism, politics/social, religion | Leave a comment

29 March 2010 early am

Workout notes
2200 yard swim; super slow 500 free, 10 x 50 on the 1:05 (25 free, 25 back), 5 x 100 (alt side/free) on the 2:10, 500 of drill/swim (fins), 4 x 50 paddle cool down.

Other stuff
Check out Sarah Palin’s speech:

“We don’t need a Constitutional Law Professor lecturing us…” Of course this gets cheered by that audience; this is the tea-party movement. This is American anti-intellectualism.

This link carries a few more minutes of her speech. The title of the post is hilarious: Screeching Dingbat Delights Group of Teabaggers.

Security Issues Fascinating: one can sometimes identify the person by the bacteria that they leave behind when they touch something!

Nature and evolution Check out the defense mechanism that this insect evolved!

March 29, 2010 Posted by | evolution, nature, politics, politics/social, republicans, sarah palin, science, swimming, training | 1 Comment

Krugman says Holtz-Eakin’s “shameful” column on CBO score of health care bill makes assertions “that are just not true” | Media Matters for America

From the March 28 edition of ABC’s This Week…

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March 29, 2010 Posted by | economy, health care, politics | Leave a comment

This post would get me defriended on facebook. :-)

I think that all of these posts make valid points that should be made. Some (like the Sam Harris video) are gentle. The Dawkins post is anything but gentle (but on point). But all of these links/videos/posts would hurt someone’s feelings.

Education What if people treated a sports/fitness personal trainer like some snowflakes treat their academics? This is pretty much on point:

My name is George Gymflake and I am in your TR 9 a.m. training session. I know I haven’t shown up in a while, but that’s because ….

I pay my money, and I remember you saying that if I made appointments with you twice a week, I would see results. I don’t understand why I need your specific exercises, when I learned exercises just like them last year at a different gym so I already know them, so I really can do them at home. Plus when I am in the gym and doing the exercises in front of other people, I get anxious and freeze up and can’t remember what the exercises are.

My point is, I know I’m quickly approaching the end of my contract, and I haven’t lost any weight or gained any muscle. I was wondering if there was anything I could do or say to take a few pounds off before the contract expires.

This will anger the “there are no failed students, only failed teachers” crowd. Then again, that crowd NEEDS offending. 🙂

The Republicans have an anger management problem; they want their base to be fired up but they don’t actually WANT violence (I think):

This won’t shock you, but Republicans are dealing with a serious anger-control problem.

What I mean is, they want Americans angry — but they don’t want them too angry.

They may want them “targeting” Democrats in swing districts in November, but they definitely don’t need them “cutting” a congressman’s brother’s gas line in March.

They want to keep the heat up on health care reform — and so GOP chairman Michael Steele sends out a fundraiser showing Nancy Pelosi in, yes, a ring of fire — but they don’t want to turn Pelosi into Joan of Arc.

The Republicans crafted a strategy for the health care debate that worked quite well. The Democrats, as they put it, were defying the will of the people by jamming a government takeover down the throats of common-sense Americans. The polls may be shifting now — and I doubt you’ll hear cries of repeal and replace much longer — but the strategy worked from the bottom up, which, believe me, scares every top-down politician.

First, they have Fox News, which has become home base for the Republican opposition in exile. You try to control Glenn Beck.

And then there is the Tea Party. When a Republican says they’re all Tea Partyers now, I’m not sure we know exactly what to think. The anti-big-government, anti-tax message is popular. But the messengers — say, Tom Tancredo and his call to bring back literacy tests — may present a different story.

During the last health care debate, it looked like House Minority Leader John Boehner had found a Republican voice, turning the party of no into the party of hell no. But his voice was drowned out by the “baby killer” shout from the House floor and by the black congressmen greeted with racial epithets from protesters outside the Capitol.

Rep. Steve King, addressing a Tea Party crowd, said they reminded him of Prague during the Velvet Revolution and that this was how to get “liberty” back. But all the screaming about tyranny and reconciliation — in which Senate Democrats tyrannically used 56 votes to pass health care — had to compete with the noise of Jim Bunning’s one-senator filibuster.

Who will be heard? David Frum, the Bush speechwriter credited with the axis of evil line, said refusing to work with Democrats on health care was the Republicans’ Waterloo. His bosses at the American Enterprise Institute responded to Frum’s lament by firing him.
Palin knew the story. She defended her cross-hairs map and also her tweet: “Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: Don’t Retreat, Instead — RELOAD!”

She explained that she was only asking America-lovers to get involved. And channeling her inner Joe Biden, she said not to believe “this b.s. coming from the lamestream media lately about us inciting violence.”

Speaking as a pro-leather-jacket lamestreamer, I certainly don’t believe Palin is inciting violence. After all, the hopey-changey elitists would call “RELOAD” a metaphor. I just wonder what the guy who cut the gas line calls it.

Why would this anger some? Some actually believe that there is a symmetry here; in fact there isn’t. They also would see this as a slam on the intelligence of the tea-baggers.

Sam Harris says that we’d be better off without it; with it, we get distracted by things like “the afterlife” or the type of sex that consenting adults have. True, he makes his point gently, but still some will be offended:

This longer video (10 minutes) is not as gentle; the topic is the Catholic Church and the fact that the clergy seemed more interested in defending the clergy than in their victims:

Richard Dawkins is even sharper:

“Should Pope Benedict XVI be held responsible for the escalating scandals over clerical sexual abuse in Europe?” Yes he should, and it’s going to escalate a lot further, as more and more victims break through the guilt of their childhood indoctrination and come forward.
“Should the pope resign?” No. As the College of Cardinals must have recognized when they elected him, he is perfectly – ideally – qualified to lead the Roman Catholic Church. A leering old villain in a frock, who spent decades conspiring behind closed doors for the position he now holds; a man who believes he is infallible and acts the part; a man whose preaching of scientific falsehood is responsible for the deaths of countless AIDS victims in Africa; a man whose first instinct when his priests are caught with their pants down is to cover up the scandal and damn the young victims to silence: in short, exactly the right man for the job.

Read the whole (logical) rant. Wow. Dawkins is correct, but he is no diplomat. 🙂

March 28, 2010 Posted by | 2010 election, atheism, education, health care, morons, politics, politics/social, ranting, religion, republicans | Leave a comment