Throwback Thursday

This photo is both painful and joyful for me. This was taken in May, 1981, when I graduated from the Naval Academy. My mom was my current age at that time.


Of note: I am at the age when most of my peers have lost or are losing their parents. It is merely the “bathtub curve” in action:


(not to scale for humans). This curve is used in reliability engineering. When a piece of equipment is put in place, there are some “early failures” (e. g. defective components) and as time goes on, there comes a point when the equipment fails due to wear and tear on the various components. And for humans, it looks a bit like (this is the U. K.):

Screen shot 2014-07-31 at 3.36.25 PM

This lists the “likelihood of dying” by age and sex. (From here)

Note: if this looks linear past the local minimum, look at the scale on left. It is a log scale, hence the linear appearance. It really is a bathtub curve.

July 31, 2014 Posted by | family, mathematics, science | , , | Leave a comment

I’ve Goat to stop trolling so much (and my workout)

Today: lifting and swimming.

Bodyweight (after lifting, prior to swimming) 178 lbs. via the gym scale.


This is me at last week’s not so good 5K (warm); no, I haven’t gained weight. Yes, it was warm and yes, that can be a problem. But I digress.

Today’s workout:

pull ups (5 sets of 10); hip hikes and Achilles rest.
bench press: 10 x 135, 4 x 180 (strong; kid who spotted me gave me a fist bump), 10 x 160. Rest: rotator cuff.
incline press: 10 x 135, 4 x 150. Rest: rotator cuff
Superset: military (3 sets of 10 x 40 dumbbell, standing), pull down (3 sets; 2 low (110), 1 traditional (150), different machine), rows: 3 sets of 10 (100).

The reason I bring up my body weight: the 4 x 180 on the bench was my best in a while; of course when I was younger I got 11 x body weight (230 in those days). But that was then; this is now. It isn’t 1985 any longer.

Swim: 500 in 9:45, 500 in 9:20, 5 x (50 front kick fins, 50 free), 6 x (25 fist, 25 free), 4 x 100 IM on the 2:30 (fastest: 2:07; that’s pretty bad).
Total: 2200.

Note: I kind of got busted; we have a MILF that sometimes works out in the pool; she wears a bikini which has a bottom which doesn’t quite…cover everything.


She was walking toward her swim lane and therefore walking away from me as I entered the pool area. She looked over her shoulder and smiled at me; my grin was just about splitting my face in two. BUSTED.

Goats: when I was psyching myself up to do the 180 x 4, the first 3 were pretty easy. I decided to try for a 4’th and I told myself: “I GOAT this!” Really. I’ve got to stop. Well, maybe I *should* stop. 🙂

July 31, 2014 Posted by | big butts, bikinis, swimming, weight training | , , | Leave a comment

A Goat Joke teaches me about science (and on having very smart friends)

I’ve had some good friends in my life; one if them is Mary. I met her early in my career at my university; she was serving as a sabbatical replacement. We walked and did various things (e. g. sometimes have lunch). We met at science conference; her Ph. D. is in physical chemistry; yes, that is the branch of chemistry that directly uses quantum mechanics. She has published in that area.

Though she moved away and lives on the west coast with her family, we sometimes have contact via the social media.

On Facebook, I have a joke persona: I play the part of a dumb, grumpy, smelly old goat. (it has a political origin) Ok, perhaps ALL of the adjectives apply to me, but I’ve been told that I am not “really” a goat. 🙂 But as part of my goat persona, I joke about getting kicked out of places for eating tablecloths, books, upholstery and the like.

Mary couldn’t resist informing me that my goat behavior was more in line with “myth” than reality and provided an interesting article. The common myth is expressed by this meme:


Now real life goats DO explore things with their mouths (e. g., tug at clothing) and they will “sample” things by nibbling and chewing; here we see examples of books, paper and kites. No one denies that they ARE chewers.

But when it comes to actual eating (via Modern Farmer):

In fact, goats are actually extremely picky eaters who go after only the most nutritious options available to them.

“They are the survivors because they are very good at finding the most nutritious stuff,” Solaiman says, “They don’t eat tin cans but they will look inside a container and find something and get something out of it.” In other words, goats are resourceful when it comes to finding something to eat. “You’ll see cattle skeletons on the ground in the desert, but [goats] are running around.”

Solaiman says that goats are browsers who go after whatever in their environment will benefit them most. She’s seen them eat the bark off trees, because bark is a good source of tannin which supplies the goats with antioxidants to help ward off parasites and fungi.

One thing goats aren’t crazy about? Hay. While livestock like cattle can get by on the feed, goats need a more varied, nutrient-rich diet.

“If you feed goats low-quality forage, they will play with it,” she says. “They’ll be like, ‘Are you kidding me? I’m not going to eat this. I can lay on it, I can pee on it. But I’m not going to eat it.’ In truth they are pickers and choosers.”

But what about when you wade into a goat pen and every mischievous little mouth is tugging at your shirt? Solaiman says this is just the curious nature of the goat. They do not want to eat your new Brooks Brothers, they’re just checking it out.

And their “checking it out” or sampling can be destructive.

July 31, 2014 Posted by | Friends, nature, science | | Leave a comment

Public intellectuals: a couple of different laments.

Richard Dawkins sometimes uses emotionally charged examples to make logical points about other emotionally charged situations. Recently, one such episode caused a storm of tweets from “the masses”, so to speak.

Dawkins was talking about the current Gaza crisis and making the point that while one can deplore, say, how modern Israel came about in the first place, one can rate the Hamas charter that calls for the utter destruction of Israel to be even worse; however one can condemn both. There are degrees of bad things (say, comparing the theft of a candy bar from a super market to embezzling someone’s life savings; both are theft, both are bad, one is worse).

The controversy really erupted over this example (and another one):

Screen shot 2014-07-29 at 7.09.03 AM

So, he explained himself here:

I believe that, as non-religious rationalists, we should be prepared to discuss such questions using logic and reason. We shouldn’t compel people to enter into painful hypothetical discussions, but nor should we conduct witch-hunts against people who are prepared to do so. I fear that some of us may be erecting taboo zones, where emotion is king and where reason is not admitted; where reason, in some cases, is actively intimidated and dare not show its face. And I regret this. We get enough of that from the religious faithful. Wouldn’t it be a pity if we became seduced by a different sort of sacred, the sacred of the emotional taboo zone?

Moving from the hypothetical to the real, if you raise the question of female genital mutilation, you can guarantee that about half the responses you get will be of the form “What about male circumcision?” and this often seems calculated to derail the campaign against FGM and take the steam out of it. If you try and say “Yes yes, male infant circumcision may be bad but FGM is worse”, you will be stopped in your tracks. Both are violations of a defenceless child, you cannot discuss whether one is worse than the other. How dare you even think about ranking them?

When a show-business personality is convicted of pedophilia, is it right that you actually need courage to say something like this: “Did he penetratively rape children or did he just touch them with his hands? The latter is bad but I think the former is worse”? How dare you rank different kinds of pedophilia? They are all equally bad, equally terrible. What are you, some kind of closet pedophile yourself?

Note: I’ve talked to people who have been molested as kids, and yes, while all acts of pedophilia are bad and none should be tolerated, there are degrees.

But this is the risk one takes when one goes to the public; not only do some grow super emotional when it comes to some issues, but they’ll even try to barge in when OTHERS are attempting to have the discussion. I’m no public intellectual but I’ve had that happen to me when I was discussing an emotional topic with someone else and our conversation was overheard; the topic was that *some* women use abortion as a type of birth control and I got my information from other women who worked at Planned Parenthood and was discussing this issue with a Unitarian minister who worked with other women who did that; a bystander couldn’t bear to hear this and sought to “educate us” even though we had actual facts.

Of course, other public intellectuals lament that policy makers ignore the knowledge that they have and are generating. You see this all the time in science (e. g. climate change, GMO policy, evolution) and here Paul Krugman laments the state of economic policy:

Justin Wolfers calls our attention to the latest IGM survey of economic experts, which revisits the question of the efficacy of fiscal stimulus. IGM has been trying to pose regular questions to a more or less balanced panel of well-regarded economists, so as to establish where a consensus of opinion more or less exists. And when it comes to stimulus, the consensus is fairly overwhelming: by 36 to 1, those responding believe that the ARRA reduced unemployment, and by 25 to 2 they believe that it was beneficial.

This is, if you think about it, very depressing.

Wolfers is encouraged by the degree of consensus — economics as a discipline is not as quarrelsome as its reputation. But I think about policy and political discourse, and note that policy has been dominated by pro-austerity views while stimulus has become a dirty word in politics.

What this says is that in practical terms the professional consensus doesn’t matter. Alberto Alesina may be literally the odd man out, the only member of the panel who doesn’t believe that the fiscal multiplier is positive — but back when key decisions were being made, it was “Alesina’s hour” in Europe and among Republicans.

You might want to say that the professional consensus was rejected because it didn’t work. But actually it did. Mainstream macroeconomics made some predictions — deficits wouldn’t drive up interest rates in a depressed economy, “fiat money” wouldn’t be inflationary, austerity would lead to economic contraction — that drew widespread scorn; Stephen Moore at the WSJ (which was predicting soaring rates and inflation) dismissed “fancy theories” that “defy common sense.” The fancy theorists were, of course, right — but nobody who rejected the consensus has changed his mind. Oh, and Moore became the chief economist at Heritage.

Yep; it is very hard to override “gut feelings” (I KNOW that supply side works) and “morality plays” (safety net spending rewards the slackers).

When it comes to science: yes, the public may be mostly science illiterate and embrace science only to the degree to which it conforms to their beliefs. But: the computer I am typing this on still works, airplanes fly, medicine is getting better and technology is improving. People, on the whole, might not understand why and those who recover from an illness (thanks to modern medicine) might credit their deity, their friend’s prayers or, perhaps Reiki or switching to organic vegetables. But scientists can at least SEE their stuff being used and working, even if the public can’t.

Now back to the public intellectuals: I don’t know what gives them the patience to talk to the rest of us, but I am glad that they do.

July 31, 2014 Posted by | economics, science, social/political | , , , , | Leave a comment

Restaurant: doesn’t permit loud kids

I am actually happy to see this:

Screen shot 2014-07-31 at 6.55.11 AM

Screen shot 2014-07-31 at 6.56.46 AM

I have zero problem with this. If, say, a couple wants a nice, quiet meal and time together, why shouldn’t a store be able to cater to that?

Disclaimer: I am such a cheap person that, well, I frequent buffets (usually, Indian or Vietnamese or Chinese, and yes, even Golden Corral) and other low budget places and yes, there are kids all over the place. But that is MY choice, and I have no problem with restaurants catering to other types of customers.

July 31, 2014 Posted by | social/political | | Leave a comment

Modern Conservative Culture: dupe the gullible out of their money

The Guardian is having a field day with the new Sarah Palin channel:

Given the content available and the affectedly simple presentation, it’s hard not to see the new Sarah Palin Channel as simply a moneymaking enterprise.

Her competitor Glenn Beck’s vertically integrated TV-website-dogwhistle aggregator, the Blaze, takes in $36m per year before ad revenue. And, as both Rick Perlstein and Alex Pareene have noted, one of the animating principles of the conservative movement over the last 40 years has been soaking every last dollar out of people whose intellectual incuriosity has never been an impediment to further rage and paranoia. It’s why places like WorldNetDaily run obnoxious flash ads in columns that, top to bottom, tell you to buy and hoard gold, to click here to join a paid newsletter that outlines the UN/Agenda 21 plans to annex Joe’s Crab Shack, and how your $25 check to FreedomWorks is the only thing standing between repealing Obamacare or toiling in the lesbian nose-earring mines while wearing Soviet-style tracksuits that give everyone frontbutt.

I wanted to see for myself, but I still can’t even sign in for the free sample of the Sarah Palin Channel. Each attempt ends with a server error and my desultorily trying to glean something from available teaser videos.

The author of this article went on to get a one month subscription (cheaper than the NYT!) and describes what he saw.

I am too cheap to subscribe to a pay service. But I do know that I get “buy gold now” and “your doctor doesn’t want you to read this” advertisements from things like and the like. They are *always* hawking something and they do this in a way that liberal groups do not. Liberal groups also constantly ask for money, but it is always to “fight those evil Republicans”, etc. It is never to buy this or that investment, health secret, blah, blah, blah.

But it isn’t just the lower economic class of conservatives who get conned. Consider this Paul Krugman article about Karl Rove and the ultra-wealthy conservative establishment..and this article was written days PRIOR to the 2012 general election:

The estimable Rick Perlstein has a fascinating essay about the seamless continuum from direct-mail marketing scams to direct-mail right-wing fundraising, and from there to the whole character of modern movement conservatism. Go read. I didn’t know, for example, that heroes of direct-mail fundraising like Richard Viguerie ended up delivering hardly any of the money to political causes; somehow it ended up swallowed by overhead, otherwise known as the fundraisers themselves.

And although Perlstein doesn’t make this point, I suspect that his analysis explains one of the great mysteries of 2012: the failure of the great Rove/Citizens United juggernaut to materialize.

Remember how Rove and others were supposed to raise vast sums from billionaires and corporations, then totally saturate the country with GOP messaging, drowning out Obama’s message? Well, they certainly raised a lot of money, and ran a lot of ads. But in terms of actual number of ads the battle has been, if anything, an Obama advantage.

Krugman admits that he didn’t know how the election would actually go…not for sure anyway. But he had a great idea. But then:

Well, what if we’ve been misunderstanding Rove? We’ve been seeing him as a man dedicated to helping angry right-wing billionaires take over America. But maybe he’s best thought of instead as an entrepreneur in the business of selling his services to angry right-wing billionaires, who believe that he can help them take over America. It’s not the same thing.

And while Rove the crusader is looking — provisionally, of course, until the votes are in — like a failure, Rove the businessman has just had an amazing, banner year.

And you know something: there is part of me, albeit a small part, that envies the people that con these fearful idiots out of their money. There are times when I wish that I had that skill. 🙂

July 31, 2014 Posted by | 2012 election, politics, politics/social, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Neil deGrasse Tyson speaks out about GMOs

Though lots of liberals are highly anti-GMO (to the point of being “knee-jerk” about it), this sort of position isn’t the “liberal position”, yet:

What this tells us is that elite opinions matter a lot in public discourse. The gap between liberals and non-liberals is not really there on this issue at the grassroots. That could change, as people of various ideologies tend to follow elite cues. This is why the strong counter-attack from within the Left elite is probably going to be effective, as it signals that being against GMO is not the “liberal position.”

Follow the link to see the actual data (as of 2013).

That is why I am refreshed to see Neil deGrasse Tyson speaking up. To those who want to cry “foul” over artificial selection and hybridization being compared to genetic engineering, I’ll note that both changes the genome but G. E. does it in a more targeted, more precise way. G. E. actually produces LESS change than the former.

To the genuinely neutral, I’d recommend reading what the bulk of the science community says and a good place to get your opinions might be from science magazines such as Scientific American, Nature Magazine and our National Academy of Science. Yes, you can sign up for a free NAS account and download a FREE book on the topic! I just did and shall read it.

I won’t get into the nuts and bolts of the argument since I am not a scientist (or at least a scientist of this type; don’t know if “The Queen of Sciences” counts 🙂 ). But in a contest between the professionals and people who “just know”, I’ll go with the professionals every time.

July 31, 2014 Posted by | science, social/political | , | Leave a comment

The National Review “disses” Differential Equations

(hat tip: Vox)

The National Review excerpt:

[…]One part insecure hipsterism, one part unwarranted condescension, the two defining characteristics of self-professed nerds are (a) the belief that one can discover all of the secrets of human experience through differential equations and (b) the unlovely tendency to presume themselves to be smarter than everybody else in the world. Prominent examples include […]

(emphasis mine).

Oh noes! I love differential equations! 🙂

Yeah, I am just having fun with the quote; what really sticks in the craw of people like this is that many of us reject the idea that humans are the focal point of some deity and claim that “supernatural” explanations are really no explanation at all. 🙂

Keep in mind that the National Review is supposed to be their “intellectual” magazine; in fact, it probably ranks alongside Salon.

July 30, 2014 Posted by | mathematics, media, republicans, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Obama’s so called “Muslims built the very fabric of our Nation” remarks contrasted with Bush’s remarks

Yes, the White House released this statement (shown in full) on the 27’th of July:

Statement by the President on the Occasion of Eid-al-Fitr

As Muslims throughout the United States and around the world celebrate Eid-al-Fitr, Michelle and I extend our warmest wishes to them and their families. This last month has been a time of fasting, reflection, spiritual renewal, and service to the less fortunate. While Eid marks the completion of Ramadan, it also celebrates the common values that unite us in our humanity and reinforces the obligations that people of all faiths have to each other, especially those impacted by poverty, conflict, and disease.

In the United States, Eid also reminds us of the many achievements and contributions of Muslim Americans to building the very fabric of our nation and strengthening the core of our democracy. That is why we stand with people of all faiths, here at home and around the world, to protect and advance their rights to prosper, and we welcome their commitment to giving back to their communities.

On behalf of the Administration, we wish Muslims in the United States and around the world a blessed and joyous celebration. Eid Mubarak.

Emphasis mine.

Of course right wing “sources” such as Breitbart (shown in this screen shot) played this statement in this manner:

Screen shot 2014-07-30 at 3.46.04 PM

And of course, we see the spreading of outrage from the morons conservatives all over the internet.

For comparison, this is what President George W. Bush said:

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, sir. It’s good to be with you again. And it is my honor to visit the Islamic Center of Washington once again.

For half a century, this beautiful mosque has served as a place of worship for Muslims and has helped to advance understanding between people of different faiths. Millions of our fellow Americans practice the Muslim faith. They lead lives of honesty and justice and compassion.

President George W. Bush marks Eid al-Fitr, the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, with an address at the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C., Thursday, Dec. 5. White House photo by Paul Morse I am pleased to join you today in the celebration of Eid, the culmination of the Holy Month of Ramadan. I appreciate so very much Dr. Khouj, and I want to thank the other distinguished imam from the Washington, D.C. area. Thank you all for being here. And I enjoyed our visit. I also appreciate the Muslim schoolchildren who are here, telling me stories and reading poems and showing the art work. Please tell them thanks again for their hospitality.

Islam traces its origins back to God’s call on Abraham. And Ramadan commemorates the revelation of God’s word in the Holy Koran to the prophet Mohammad — a word that is read and recited with special attention and reverence by Muslims during this season.

Over the past month, Muslims have fasted, taking no food or water during daylight hours, in order to refocus their minds on faith and redirect their hearts to charity. Muslims worldwide have stretched out a hand of mercy to those in need. Charity tables at which the poor can break their fast line the streets of cities and towns. And gifts of food and clothing and money are distributed to ensure that all share in God’s abundance. Muslims often invite members of other families to their evening iftar meals, demonstrating a spirit of tolerance.

During Eid al-Fitr, Muslims celebrate the completion of their fast and the blessings of renewed faith that have come with it. Customs vary between countries — from illuminating lanterns in Egypt to lighting firecrackers in Pakistan, to inviting elders to traditional feasts in Niger. Around the world, families and neighbors and friends gather to share traditional foods, and congratulate each other on meeting the test of Ramadan.

The spirit behind this holiday is a reminder that Islam brings hope and comfort to more than a billion people worldwide. Islam affirms God’s justice and insists on man’s moral responsibility. This holiday is also an occasion to remember that Islam gave birth to a rich civilization of learning that has benefitted mankind.

Here in the United States our Muslim citizens are making many contributions in business, science and law, medicine and education, and in other fields. Muslim members of our Armed Forces and of my administration are serving their fellow Americans with distinction, upholding our nation’s ideals of liberty and justice in a world at peace. And in our Nation’s Capital, this center contributes greatly to our spiritual and cultural life.

On behalf of Laura and our family and the American people, I bring our best wishes to all who worship here, and to Muslims throughout the world for a joyous Eid, and for health and happiness and prosperity in the year to come.

Eid Mubarak. God bless.

The Bush statement is longer but, if anything, is a bit more specific with respect to the contributions made by American Muslims.

July 30, 2014 Posted by | Barack Obama, politics, politics/social, republicans | , , , | Leave a comment

midweek workout change

I need to get some more walking midweek and so will replace a lifting session (Wednesday’s) with a medium walk (10 miles). I’ll keep this up until marathon taper week.

Today: from the Riverplex to the first road crossing on the East Peoria trail (about 8 miles) then to the Marina. 2:32 was the total time; it was a lovely day but it was an effort. Yesterday’s workout took something out of me.

I also did 10 minutes on the bike afterward.

It sure looks as if someone is trying to promote a Wladimir Klitschko vs. Shannon Briggs match:

I’m not sure if fight fans will buy this; Briggs is tough but is 42 years old, and his outing against Vitali Klitschko was, well, rather ugly:

Here he was, in the hospital after the fight:


How he got there:

Are the fans really clamoring for this?

July 30, 2014 Posted by | boxing, walking | , , | Leave a comment