Grumpy Halloween Everyone!


October 31, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Maybe that is why I like “the big butt”? :-)

I laughed out loud:

Ferre’ Dollar/CNN

Women with larger-than-average butts, rejoice.

A new study by scientists at the University of Oxford suggests you may be smarter and healthier than ladies with smaller backsides.

According to the research, women who carry more body fat in their thighs and buttocks tend to have lower levels of cholesterol and more likely to produce hormones to metabolize sugar.

This makes them less likely to develop diabetes, heart disease and other conditions associated with obesity.

Having a big butt also requires an excess of Omega 3 fatty acids, which is proven to catalyze brain development, ABC News reported.

Researchers also found that children born to women with wider hips are generally smarter than the children of slimmer mothers.


Ha ha…this lady is certainly smart and healthy! And my wife can feel good too! 🙂 (*)

(*) ok, no I have not seen the study and I really wonder: “what is the difference in the various metrics, what are the p-values, and is this one of those famous “false positives” that we are constantly warned about? My guess: “probably”; such announced results usually are. But this is such a fun topic.

October 31, 2013 Posted by | big butts, science, social/political | | 2 Comments

Running while tipsy or hung over

Ok, confession: I haven’t had an alcoholic drink since February 1996 (save one sip of wine at a Sukkot ceremony) (*); hence I have next to zero tolerance for alcohol or drugs.

Last night, I got a tickle in my throat (post nasal drip from my departing cold) and hence I took some Nyquil and woke up…hungover. Evidently, I am not alone.

So my run….my 5.1 mile course took me 57 minutes (57:06); I just didn’t care. I stumbled, wobbled…not in pain….not out of breath…and I got the light workout I had intended. I even enjoyed it. (note: October 31, I wore a mesh short sleeve shirt and was comfortable; it was wet and in the 60’s).

But the NyQuil was an overreaction to this tiny throat tickle; I’ll try something else next time. I am still a tiny bit light headed.

(*) No, I am not a Friend of Bill W.; I abstain from alcohol because drinking alcohol makes me want to overeat.

October 31, 2013 Posted by | illness, running | | Leave a comment

Talking past each other: this won’t convince conservatives


This cartoon will NOT convince a conservative though it might be a “go team” shot for liberals.

Here is why: the argument is how much to tax the rich. Taxing means “taking a percentage of income” from someone. So, to a conservative, this means “taking other people’s money” which they *might* approve of to, say, pay for military, police and the like. But lowering tax or not taxing is NOT the same as “giving to the wealthy” in their eyes.

“Taking from the poor” here means: “giving them less in handouts (aid)”. Taking does not mean “giving someone less”; after all, they really aren’t EARNING anything.

“You breed ’em, you feed ’em” is the mantra here, and yes, I know from personal experience that those without means to pay for their own kids have kids. Some in my genetic and in my “in-law” family have been on the public dole, a number of times. It happens.

Most liberals would be appalled at what I just wrote but conservatives wouldn’t have a problem with it.

THAT is why I use the “economic stimulus” argument for things like food stamps; I also point out that there is evidence that things like food stamps now reduces the probability of kids landing in poverty later on in life.

Funding these things helps the economy! And remember, the wealthy can only spend so much of their excess.

October 31, 2013 Posted by | economics, economy, politics, politics/social, social/political | 4 Comments

Confession: my own cluelessness ….

While I was running, I detected the scent of an opossum; when they feign death, they emit a distinctive odor.

Now I am not, not, not a country boy by any stretch of the imagination. But I did live in the country for 18 months, and I have always loved hiking trails (day hikes of, say, 3-20 miles) and trail runs and so have a limited (very limited) experience with animals.

Then I thought about some of my attitudes. I admit that I have an intellectual contempt for those who cling to a superstitious type of religion (a religion that posits direct action by a deity in the events of this universe; e. g. a deity that will cure cancer if given enough prayers, one that sends hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.).

I have political contempt for the type of politics that is frequently practiced and espoused in rural areas.

I have outright contempt for the fierce anti-intellectual attitudes that one often finds there (though, to be fair, there are smart agriculture scientists, biologists, geologists, that live in rural areas, as well as some scientifically savvy farmers).

Then I remembered some of the first part of Lilly Ledbetter’s book Grace and Grit which provides some stark, brutally honest insights into the life of the poor in rural Alabama.

Seriously, if you think that rural life is all pristine and serene……a lot of it isn’t, especially for the desperately poor.

But then I realized something.

My life: yeah, I might hike and then go home. I might recognize isolated species or two.

But as far as day to day life:

the meat I eat: from the store. I don’t kill nor do I skin, dress and prepare the meat. Much of our existence depends on killing other living things. Rural people understand that in a direct way; I’ve had a sanitized, soft existence here.

Hard work for me: spending hours in an office and having to take breaks to stretch my back. Hard work means something very different for them; something genuinely hard.

Illness: I have insurance and doctors and money for medicine. Not everyone has that luxury.

It goes on and on; the bottom line is that I have had a very soft, sheltered, sanitized existence.

And no, I haven’t always been an academic; I served on a nuclear submarine and operated heavy machinery…state of the art machinery.
Neither of my parents were educated, but they took me to libraries and insisted that I went to school. They knew what it was like to pick cotton under a scorching sun and didn’t want me to know that.

So yes, in many ways, *I* am clueless.

But aren’t we all, in at least one way or another? 🙂

October 31, 2013 Posted by | books, social/political | | Leave a comment

Seen near New York City…


October 31, 2013 Posted by | political humor, politics | | Leave a comment

Do I sign up for an Ironman that starts in 6 days? Maybe …seriously!

Workout notes: I am still “not quite right” but am almost over my cold. The “sort of but not quite” fever is gone.

AM: I slept in and ran my hilly Cornstalk 5.1 course in 53:47: 26:48/26:58 were my splits; note that the turn around point is 80-100 feet below my starting point. I put a tiny bit of effort into it but not much.

Today, while going through the course, I smelled an opossum! Seriously: they emit a distinctive odor when they “play possum”. Yesterday, I got a good look at a red hawk up close; it didn’t look as if it were attacking something.

Over lunch: I had intended to do a 2/3 workout just like on Monday, but did a full workout (almost, save one rotator cuff exercise and some bridges)

hip hikes, Achilles, dumbbell rotator cuff, MacKenzie, plank (front 90 seconds, side 30 seconds)
pull-ups: 2 sets of 15, 2 sets of 10.
dumbbell military: 3 sets of 12 with 50’s; note I had to do one set after abs because I struggled with the right arm on my first two attempts.
rows: dumbbell, 3 sets of 10 x 65 (each arm)
curls: dumbbell: 3 sets of 10 x 30
pull downs: 3 sets of 10 x 160
abs: 3 sets of 10: twist, sit back, crunch, vertical crunch
incline press: 5 x 140 (more difficult than I had anticipated), 2 sets of 10 x 135 .

I got it all done by noon.

Ironically, I did MORE this Wednesday than I usually do (2 more miles of running), though I did 5 instead of 10 yesterday.

Yes, it is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, 26.2 mile run! Yes, it starts on November 5 and the entry fee: FIVE dollars, WITH shirt!

The catch: the time limit is……FIVE WEEKS. 🙂 Yep, but….this might actually get me in the water and on the bike, and one can use the indoor bike.

I might just sign up. Who knows, I might give myself a 140.6 sticker!!! 🙂

October 31, 2013 Posted by | illness, running, Uncategorized, weight training | 2 Comments

This will get me unfriended a few times: how different people are

I’ve just graded a bunch of differential equations papers. The contrast in papers couldn’t be more stark.
There were some who UNDERSTAND the material in that they could make adjustments. There were many others who tried to get by on sheer memorization of cases; with these papers, you could switch a cos(t) to a sin(t) and they would completely fall apart because the formula that they memorized “exactly” didn’t quite fit.

I admit that I’ve changed a bit; I started to write “smiley faces” on those who correctly answered the bonus questions.

I’ve just gotten over a head cold. While I had it, I certainly cut back my activity; a 4 mile run became an 8 mile walk on hills at a slow pace; a planned hard 10 mile trail run became an “easier effort” run on the same course, I did 2/3’rd of my usual weight workout yesterday, and today I ran half of my 10 mile course (and slept in a bit extra). I know that I’ll feel just a bit better if I move.

On the other hand, my couch potato spouse really doesn’t have the inner urge to move; even feeling a little bit under the weather is excuse for her to do nothing. I think that such attitudes are genetic.

In short, she, at times, forces herself to exercise because it make her healthier; on the other hand I want to stay healthy so I can play my sports.

Politics I doubt that liberals and conservatives will ever understand each other. A political friend posted this:


Now I have internet friends (and a few in-real-life friends) who STILL think that President George W. Bush was a good president. Seriously: Iraq, the non-existent WMD and the economic collapse:


But NONE of that means ANYTHING to them.

Sure, it would be easy to dismiss them as knuckle-dragging idiots (and ok, a few are close to that) but some have had success at a variety of things; a small percentage are more successful than I am.

I think that they are hard wired to judge a policy by a different standard. I’ll explain with some examples:

1. A state has sex education. Then it switches to “abstinence only” sex education. Teen pregnancies go up.
Liberal: “the switch was a failure; teen pregnancies are up.” Conservative: “the switch was the right thing to do; it was more moral. Those who got knocked up should have gone to church.”

2. The criterion for food stamps is loosened to make it easier to get. The economy gets a small stimulus.
Liberal: “good program; fewer are hungry and some businesses saw an increase in business.” Conservative: “bad program; laziness has been rewarded and the unworthy are getting MY tax dollars”.

Conservatives tend to judge programs as to how well they conform to their “values”; many liberals tend to look at metrics. Just look at a Facebook argument sometime; I liberal will present graphs, figures, tables, etc. Conservatives present verbiage and spout cliches.

Of course, *I* have just made a generalization that isn’t based on data; things sure appear that way to me.

Then, there is the unaccomplished “know-it-all”. Someone was griping about someone else putting forth an argument that mandatory GMO-labeling laws were bad; she claimed that the person was:

just read a comment on a friend’s page by someone who is against GMO labeling.

Said that it’s been going on for over 10,000 years (seriously, what orifice was that number pulled out of?) and that those who are in favor of it are based in ignorance.

I find the assertion of ignorance, by someone who doesn’t know the difference between hybridization and genetic engineering hilarious… (and kinda sad, because these people breed, and vote)

Note: the person saying this really doesn’t have science credentials to speak of. This person isn’t an idiot, but their \frac{self assessment of intelligence}{actual intelligence} ratio is way higher than 1.

So, I merely pointed toward an editorial in Scientific American which spoke out against the labeling laws. There is nothing more head shaking that a scientifically uninformed person thinking that THEY are the informed one; the Dunning-Kruger effect is real.

Sometimes the toughest people to talk to aren’t the intellectually dull; they are often the “intellectually somewhat above average but thinks that they are an outlier” types; e. g. the ones who would self-asses their IQ at 150, when they are really 105-110.

Sadly, you see similar attitudes among SOME of the faculty at small time schools. They’ve been at such places so long they can no longer distinguish between the research that they do in their spare time and the research that the big guns do at Division I research universities. Really; they honestly believe that THEY are just as knowledgeable as the faculty at MIT or Cal Tech. 🙂

This is one thing I like about sports such as running or weight lifting. When I run a race (on a standard course), I can compare my time for the 5K to, say what a top runner does for a 5K. And all the rationalization in the world can’t make the difference disappear. 😉

October 29, 2013 Posted by | politics/social, running, social/political, weight training | , | Leave a comment

Feeling Better

This morning: 5 mile (5.1 mile really) run in 54:53; I was right at 45 minutes with 1.03 to go. It was cool and chilly.

My legs were ok, but given that I didn’t do much this weekend (8 mile walk, 10 mile trail run) I’d normally expect to be faster. But I am getting over a head cold, and not making myself feel worse is good enough for today.


Childhood poverty has a lasting effect on the brain:

Poverty shapes people in some hard-wired ways that we’re only now beginning to understand. Back in August, we wrote about some provocative new research that found that poverty imposes a kind of tax on the brain. It sucks up so much mental bandwidth – capacity spent wrestling with financial trade-offs, scarce resources, the gap between bills and income – that the poor have fewer cognitive resources left over to succeed at parenting, education, or work. Experiencing poverty is like knocking 13 points off your IQ as you try to navigate everything else. That’s like living, perpetually, on a missed night of sleep.

That finding offered a glimpse of what poverty does to a person during a moment in time. Picture a mother trying to accomplish a single task (making dinner) while preoccupied with another (paying the rent on time). But scientists also suspect that poverty’s disadvantages – and these moments – accumulate across time. Live in poverty for years, or even generations, and its effects grow more insidious. Live in poverty as a child, and it affects you as an adult, too.

Some new research about the long-term arc of poverty, particularly on the brain, was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and these findings offer a useful complement to the earlier study. In this new paper, researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Cornell, the University of Michigan, and the University of Denver followed children from the age of 9 through their early 20s.

Those who grew up poor later had impaired brain function as adults—a disadvantage researchers could literally see in the activity of the amygdala and prefrontal cortex on an fMRI scan. Children who were poor at age 9 had greater activity in the amygdala and less activity in the prefrontal cortex at age 24 during an experiment when they were asked to manage their emotions while looking at a series of negative photos. This is significant because the two regions of the brain play a critical role in how we detect threats and manage stress and emotions.

Poor children, in effect, had more problems regulating their emotions as adults (regardless of what their income status was at 24). These same patterns of “dysregulation” in the brain have been observed in people with depression, anxiety disorders, aggression and post-traumatic stress disorders.

Over the course of the longitudinal study – which included 49 rural, white children of varying incomes – these same poor children were also exposed to chronic sources of stress like violence and family turmoil, or crowded and low-quality housing. Those kinds of stressors, the researchers theorize, may help explain the link between income status in childhood and how well the brain functions later on. That theory, they write, is consistent with the idea that “early experiences of poverty become embedded within the organism, setting individuals on lifelong trajectories.”

How one starts life really matters.

October 29, 2013 Posted by | politics, politics/social, poverty, running, social/political | | 1 Comment

Obamacare nonsense

GOP political leaders are trying to scare people away from trying to use the health insurance exchanges.

As you can see: the health care exchange basically asks your age, where you live, sex and if you smoke; going to the exchange won’t compromise your medical records.

So what about this?

President Obama repeatedly assured Americans that after the Affordable Care Act became law, people who liked their health insurance would be able to keep it. But millions of Americans are getting or are about to get cancellation letters for their health insurance under Obamacare, say experts, and the Obama administration has known that for at least three years.

Four sources deeply involved in the Affordable Care Act tell NBC NEWS that 50 to 75 percent of the 14 million consumers who buy their insurance individually can expect to receive a “cancellation” letter or the equivalent over the next year because their existing policies don’t meet the standards mandated by the new health care law. One expert predicts that number could reach as high as 80 percent. And all say that many of those forced to buy pricier new policies will experience “sticker shock.”

None of this should come as a shock to the Obama administration. The law states that policies in effect as of March 23, 2010 will be “grandfathered,” meaning consumers can keep those policies even though they don’t meet requirements of the new health care law. But the Department of Health and Human Services then wrote regulations that narrowed that provision, by saying that if any part of a policy was significantly changed since that date — the deductible, co-pay, or benefits, for example — the policy would not be grandfathered.

In other words, if your current plan changed into “junk insurance”, it wouldn’t be covered.

Well, “duh”.

The point of the mandate is this: if someone gets really sick and has to go to the emergency room and receive expensive treatment, they would have insurance that would cover said “expensive treatment”. Having a junk policy that doesn’t cover much is useless.

Of course, conservatives are trying to make a big deal out of this.

Ironically, the parts of this plan that are causing the problem (keeping private insurance companies in the mix) is exactly what is complicating things.

And guess what: Republicans want to change Medicare into this type of plan!


To my conservative friends: you have zero credibility on this issue. Just stop it. 🙂

October 29, 2013 Posted by | health care, politics, politics/social, social/political | | Leave a comment