Talking past each other: version N

I believe that it is difficult for people across the cultural divide to understand each other.

The following letter to the editor got me thinking about our cultural divide:

A couple of weeks ago at a summit on poverty at Georgetown University, Obama explained that unrest in American cities could be traced not to a lack of values but to a lack of cash, which he suggested could be attributed to a lack of luck. He labeled those Americans who are doing better financially than others as “lottery winners.” He added that we should confiscate wealth from these people and redistribute it because that’s “where the question of compassion and ‘I’m my brother’s keeper’ comes into play.”
What lottery in hell did I and many others win? I have been working for more than 50 years. My first jobs were babysitting and working on a farm for 50 cents an hour. I worked swing shift in a sweltering glass factory for minimum wage two summers before college. I have had several jobs in retail, worked at a grocery warehouse and worked for a few newspapers and a radio station. I worked for a graphic arts company for 20 years. I am still working part-time. I have never relied on the government to pay my way.

(Note: there IS some correlation between poverty and social pathology, though there is some data driven research that suggests that poverty is the cause of the pathology, rather than the other way around)

But, just what did the President say? You can read all of it here: but here is the relevant parts:

Part of the reason I thought this venue would be useful and I wanted to have a dialogue with Bob and Arthur is that we have been stuck, I think for a long time, in a debate that creates a couple of straw men. The stereotype is that you’ve got folks on the left who just want to pour more money into social programs, and don’t care anything about culture or parenting or family structures, and that’s one stereotype. And then you’ve got cold-hearted, free market, capitalist types who are reading Ayn Rand and — (laughter) — think everybody are moochers. And I think the truth is more complicated.

I think that there are those on the conservative spectrum who deeply care about the least of these, deeply care about the poor; exhibit that through their churches, through community groups, through philanthropic efforts, but are suspicious of what government can do. And then there are those on the left who I think are in the trenches every day and see how important parenting is and how important family structures are, and the connective tissue that holds communities together and recognize that that contributes to poverty when those structures fray, but also believe that government and resources can make a difference in creating an environment in which young people can succeed despite great odds. […]

Now, part of what’s happened is that — and this is where Arthur and I would probably have some disagreements. We don’t dispute that the free market is the greatest producer of wealth in history — it has lifted billions of people out of poverty. We believe in property rights, rule of law, so forth. But there has always been trends in the market in which concentrations of wealth can lead to some being left behind. And what’s happened in our economy is that those who are doing better and better — more skilled, more educated, luckier, having greater advantages
— are withdrawing from sort of the commons — kids start going to private schools; kids start working out at private clubs instead of the public parks. An anti-government ideology then disinvests from those common goods and those things that draw us together. And that, in part, contributes to the fact that there’s less opportunity for our kids, all of our kids.

Now, that’s not inevitable. A free market is perfectly compatible with also us making investment in good public schools, public universities; investments in public parks; investments in a whole bunch — public infrastructure that grows our economy and spreads it around. But that’s, in part, what’s been under attack for the last 30 years. And so, in some ways, rather than soften the edges of the market, we’ve turbocharged it. And we have not been willing, I think, to make some of those common investments so that everybody can play a part in getting opportunity. […]


When I, for example, make an argument about closing the carried interest loophole that exists whereby hedge fund managers are paying 15 percent on the fees and income that they collect, I’ve been called Hitler for doing this, or at least this is like Hitler going into Poland. That’s an actual quote from a hedge fund manager when I made that recommendation. The top 25 hedge fund managers made more than all the kindergarten teachers in the country.

So when I say that, I’m not saying that because I dislike hedge fund managers or I think they’re evil. I’m saying that you’re paying a lower rate than a lot of folks who are making $300,000 a year. You pretty much have more than you’ll ever be able to use and your family will ever be able to use. There’s a fairness issue involved here. And, by the way, if we were able to close that loophole, I can now invest in early childhood education that will make a difference. That’s where the rubber hits the road.

That’s, Arthur, where the question of compassion and “I’m my brother’s keeper” comes into play. And if we can’t ask from society’s lottery winners to just make that modest investment, then, really, this conversation is for show. (Applause.)

First of all, the President acknowledges that values plays a role. Next: he lists “luck” as ONE of the things helps one be successful. Frankly, I don’t see how anyone can argue with that. After all, one doesn’t choose their parents, their neighborhood, the level of nutrition and schooling that they get growing up, the genes that they inherited (both with regards to talent and with regards to health), whether they had bad luck (getting hit by a drunk driver, crippled in an accident, etc.).

Then in a later section, he makes the “lottery comment”, with regards to billionaire hedge fund managers.

If you are some middle class person who has been diligent and thrifty and say, have 250K, 500K, or even 2-3 million dollars saved up…HE IS NOT TALKING ABOUT YOU. He is talking about the kind who think nothing of eating, say, a 1000 dollar (or MORE!) ice cream dish.

Now, of course, there are perpetually indigent (or sort-of-indigent) people who are leeches, moochers and morons. Many families have “that one relative that….”. But that does not explain poverty on a statistical level.

Social issues and violence
Recently in New York City, a 14 year old gang member was murdered. According to the New York Post:

He flashed gang signs in selfies, posted a photo of a Smith & Wesson on his Facebook page, and had a rap sheet even a veteran street gangster could be proud of.
And now he’s been murdered — at age 14.
Bronx seventh-grader xxxx xxx was stalked and gunned down on a sidewalk near his Bronx home Friday morning — the victim, cops believe, of gang violence.
“He was a gangbanger,” one law-enforcement source said of Christopher, a child known in his Morrisania neighborhood as already well on the road to doom when he was shot dead.
“He terrorized the neighborhood,” said a woman who passed by the grim crime scene.
“xxxxxx is no good,” another neighbor said.
“I saw him fighting last summer in the street,” the man said. “We told them to quit fighting, but he would not listen. The person he was fighting wanted to quit, but he wouldn’t quit.”
xxxxxx had been walking to school with his little brother just a few paces from his Sheridan Avenue doorstep when his killer — who had been lying in wait with a lookout posted down the block — pulled a gun.
As the little brother watched, the gunman pumped a single bullet into xxxxx’s neck, sources said.


Despite his youth, the victim had a lengthy criminal record that includes five arrests — one for an attempted assault with a brick, sources said.
Photos posted to his Facebook page show xxxxx flashing what appear to be gang signs. There is also an image of a Smith & Wesson pistol with an extended magazine.

That isn’t so much the issue. Here is the issue: when a couple of ex New York Policemen discussed this:


This is another place where conservatives and liberals are at odds, both with incomplete pieces of the truth.
The conservatives are realistic in pointing out that this kid WAS well on his way to being a career criminal and would think nothing of harming someone else. Sociopaths exist and there is little we can do, save taking them out of society to keep everyone else safe.

On the other hand, liberals understand that a society that loses sight that some homo sapiens are human beings and that their demise is a tragedy to be mourned rather than something to be a society that is less worth living in. Hence the apparent callousness displayed by the ex officer is alarming to them…even if the ex officer has a valid logical point.

May 31, 2015 Posted by | social/political, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Happy walk…slacker walk..


Overcast, 50 F, breezy. I took a very lazy 10k walk in 1:35:02. I was happy:

1. I didn’t get divebombed by the dreaded red winged blackbirds
2. I didn’t get attacked by the numerous geese parents who were out waddling around with their fledglings

Of course, I did forget to take the letters to the post office; my forgetfulness is still intact.

Personal stuff
1. Work on my application.
2. Work on a teaching related paper.
3. Work on my research talk.
4. Prepare for my upcoming short trip.
5. Perhaps call a tire store; evidently there is a slow leak in one of the tires.

May 31, 2015 Posted by | Personal Issues, walking | , | Leave a comment

more later…maybe much more? :-)

Workout notes
Riverplex. Weight: 182.0 before

Weights: 5 sets of 10 pull ups (4 sets of 10 then one more set of 10 after bench pressing); rotator cuff recoveries.

bench press: 10 x 135, 4 x 180 (better), 10 x 160

Note: I once thought that the Riverplex benches were different or something; then I realized that I almost always lifted at the RP AFTER a 5K (or longer) race; that accounted for the weakness.

military press: 2 sets of 10 x 40 dumbbells (standing), 10 x 85 standing (barbell)

rows: 3 sets of 10 x 70 machine (45 + 25)

Then to the treadmill (rainy outside); 10 minutes slow then 6.7 to 1, 6.8, 6.9, 7.0, 7.1 then at mile 2, I had to back off a few seconds and then resume at 6.7-6.8, then up again to finish at 7.1. Time: 28:21 for 3 miles, 29:11 for 5K; then walking to get to 3.25
Then 6 more laps around the track.

Yep; that is it; I’ve had a very easy week and an even easier few days coming up.

Uplifting: reception for Cheri Bustos at Colleen Callahan’s place (and her husband). Barbara was one of the “official” hosts.

Yes, she is more conservative than I am. But I don’t go by “policy only”; I also look for political skill. I have no use for someone who agrees with me on most (all?) positions but can’t get any bills passed or any policy enacted.

That is one reason I am not supporting Senator Bernie Sanders even if I like his policy positions. I think that Secretary Clinton has more political skill and savvy.

Somber: memorial service for one of Barbara’s long time friends at the UU Church. Yes, he had a great life and a whole church (overflowing) with people. But his death is a genuine loss to the community.

May 30, 2015 Posted by | Cheri Bustos, IL-17, politics, politics/social, running, weight training | | Leave a comment

For no reason at all: 50+ miles

2004 McNaughton 50 12:46 (trail)
2004 Cornbelt 24 hour track 11:13 (100 in 23:41)
2004 Cornbelt 24 hour track 12:28 second 50 mile; en route to 101 miles
2004 Wandelweekend 24 hour: 11:15 (88 miles in 24)
2004 Ultracentric 24 hour 11:24 (81 mile in 24)
2005 McNaughton trail 100 miler 13:23 (100 in 34:16)
2005 McNaughton 100 20:43 (second 50 mile of 100)
2005 Leanhorse trail 100 (groomed) 12:50 (100 in 29:34)
2005 Leanhorse traill 100 16:44 (second half of a 100)
2005 Ultracentric track 24 12:27 (70 miles in 24)
2006 Houston 24 hour 12:28 (76 miles in 24)
2006 McNaughton 100 (DNF 70) 15:17
2006 FANS 24 hour 12:38 (83 miles in 24)
2007 FANS 24 hour 13:41 (66 miles in 24)
2007 Ultracentric 58 miles in 24 hours; my 50 mile split was somewhere around 19 hours.
2008 McNaughton 31 hours plus (52 miles; done in stages)
2009 McNaughton 100 24:18 (100 in 47:55)
2009 McNaughton 100 23:37 (second 50 mile)
2009 FANS 24 hour 12:43 (66 miles in 24)
2011: FANS 24 hour 22:52 (54 miles in 24)
2015: FANS 24 hour 20:31 (59.9 miles in 24)

As of 30 March, 2016: 17 different events, 21 different times (includes one 100 mile DNF at 70)

May 29, 2015 Posted by | ultra, walking | | Leave a comment

“Honest” conversation on race: why I think that it will never happen

Workout notes: easy 3 mile walk. That was it.

“Honest conversation on race”: my guess is that this will never happen. Here is why I think this:

1. When I hear someone say “honest conversation”, it appears to me that the person who wants the “conversation” really wants is others to stay silent while they go on and on.

2. Honestly expressing what one feels can lead to trouble: (example 1, example 2)

3. The truth is quite complicated; there are many pieces to the puzzle which include things like jobs, the legacy of legal racism, educational opportunities, criminal justice practices (profiling , bad law enforcement practices and the like), lack of economic mobility (and increasingly dire consequences of this) and pathological social behavior.

4. Humans appear to be hard wired to reason inductively. That is, we tend to form conclusions on “what we see” and “what we see” tends to be very limited and

5. Humans appear to be tribal.

And so it goes. We notice that the crime rates are higher in the neighborhoods where more blacks live. Perhaps a black person has behaved rudely toward us. So our lesser developed part of our brain draws a hasty conclusion.

But then what about things like this? If we mostly associate with white people (or our own race), we KNOW that most “aren’t like that” and we write those behaving badly as a few “bad apples.” But…how many friends and colleagues do we have from another race? So when we find ourselves thinking “well, my friend X, who happens to be black, well, he/she must be “one of the exceptions” instead of realizing that it is the jerk and criminal that are the exceptions!

Our brains play tricks on us; our brains evolved to help us survive in the world as it was 50,000 years ago, when letting “that other tribe” get to our watering hole might have meant the end for us.

And, sadly, when people speak honestly, we demonize them. Those who express fear of “getting off on the “wrong exit”” are denounced as racists, and those who speak of “structural racism” are denounced as being apologists for all sorts of socially pathological behavior.

Sadly, I have no solutions. What I can say that I was the most comfortable back in the days when I played team sports, especially in Japan. Why? Well, then I had lots of different friends of different races (rather than just internet friends). We visited each other’s houses, trained together. practiced together, socialized together and took the field together.

Oh, I got in fights with people of “other colors”…as in “other color uniforms”.

I really miss those days.

I wish that our university could somehow merge with a historically black university so I could work in a more racially diverse environment, or at least I wish there were more racial diversity in the running/walking community.

But, I feel that Americans are really too racially segregated for there ever to be much common ground.

May 29, 2015 Posted by | racism, social/political, walking | | 4 Comments

Don’t ask a question you don’t want an answer to….

Workout notes: easy untimed 5K run, then a light weight workout:
pull ups: 5 sets of 10 (rotator cuff)
bench press: 3 sets of 10 with 70 pound dumbbells
military press: 3 sets of 10 with 40 pound dumbbells (standing)

Last night: 3 miles of 13-14 mpm “run/walk” with the group. I’ll say this about this year’s group: they are more motivated than groups I’ve worked with in the past; I am enjoying this year more than I have in a long time!

That was it. I am starting to feel just a bit restless.

Now about the title of my post well, an event that you’ve taken seriously is answering a question. I am not so sure I WANT the answer; living in the past is more comforting? 🙂
I suppose it is “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” But I go through this angst every time I do a goal race or submit a paper, etc. I remind myself that “success” means little if “failure” isn’t a possible outcome.

And that leads me to the second thing on my mind: I did ask people on the local runner’s club website about an upcoming 5K that is “geared to newcomers”. I tried to phrase my discussion in a way that wouldn’t discourage comments.

And, well, I was reminded that I often censor what I hear by making sure to only talk to people that I have some respect for.

Some of the attitudes that I am encountering: people being uncomfortable with seeing people who are better runners than they are (fast runners on their way back while you are heading out), I am seeing people suggest having finisher’s medals for the 5K. Personally, I find that amusing to condescending. But I did ask.

I suppose that is what happens when an activity opens up to more people; one sees different personality types show up, and there are certain attitudes that I simply have contempt for.

May 28, 2015 Posted by | running, weight training | | 2 Comments

Running: beginners; my beginning and how things have changed.

Workout notes: 3 easy walking miles. That’s it. Later today: more with the Building Steam group (probably about 3)

Yes, it is “two week vacation from training time” and instead of doing something useful, I’ll babble about running and endurance sports.

In today’s paper, I read about a “I’ve Decided” “first 5K” which is designed for beginners. How different things are now-a-days.

One big difference:


Yes, I started running in the “cotton” era; even nylon running shorts were new.

What drove home my age was a conversation I had with a beginning runner: there was some small country race that timed things the old fashioned way (pull tags) and the new runner didn’t understand how a race could be timed if there was no computer chip! Imagine a race in which someone had a stop watch, yelled your time, and YOU were responsible for writing your name and time on a numbered card that you were given as you crossed the finish line. The number on the card corresponded to your order as you crossed the finish line; the winner had card “1”, the tenth place finisher had card “10”, the 34’th had card “34”, etc.

Yes, I am a fan of the computer chip or the “chip in the race bib” system. I love that innovation. But I do remember a simpler time, and those old “card races” were fine with me.

But the difference I’ll talk about today was cultural.


This is me back in August, 1980. I was nearing the finish of the Severn River 10 mile run; I ran 1:21:45 (8xx out of 3000+ finishers). This was my first public race and I didn’t know what to expect.
But what I remember most was talking to the more experienced runners afterward; I remember one “old man” (30’s?) telling me “ok, that is an 8:10 mile; that will get you 3:3x in your first marathon”..and I thought that he was nuts!

But…well, that December I ran the Maryland Marathon in 3:33 (1054 out of 2229 males; the median male time was 3:36)

And to me, that was part of the fun. The same thing held with racewalking; I remember drawing some red cards during a race and having the other walkers give me tips. The same holds for swimming (getting tips from the better swimmers), weight lifting, ultra walking, etc.

But: that is part of my personality. Before my first race, I had run 1 mile time trials for football, 3 mile time trials for crew; I had gotten my butt kicked on the football field, wrestling mat and gotten hit in the mouth in boxing (PE). I expected anything worthwhile to be hard, and I expected to have a lot of improving to do. That is just how it rolled in that era.

But now: things are very different.

We have gyms that are devoted to, well, not making people feel bad or intimidated.

And so, the median times at road races have slowed a great deal. Some have conjectured that this is due to there being many more outlets for the more intense person (adventure races, trail races, ultra marathons, cross fit, off road triathlons etc.). In fact, in a recent New York Times, there was an article about a 200 mile “off road” bike race which said:

For the last 10 years, the hardiest of cyclists have been flocking to some of the country’s most remote roads to tackle 200 miles of gravel. The single-day race is called Dirty Kanza, a test of both mental and physical endurance, and part of an explosion of extreme-distance events testing the limits of the human body.

“Now, everybody’s grandmother runs a marathon,” said Rebecca Rusch, a professional cyclist whose affinity for extreme-distance races has earned her the nickname the Queen of Pain.

“I really think the point of endurance cycling is sort of that craving for a little bit of adventure,” said Rusch, who has won the women’s category of Dirty Kanza three straight years.

And they have a point.

Sure, *I* run the roads and I enjoy seeing how “fast” (less glacial?) I can “run” a 5K. But if I were just starting out, I am not so sure that running on the roads would have had much appeal. Much of what I see out there are somewhat dimply middle aged to old people waddling along at 10-14 minutes per mile and bragging about their “finishing bling”. As a young person, I would have thought “THAT PERSON is a road runner…YUCK…”

But the current atmosphere serves me well; I can enter most shorter races and finish “within the bell curve” and, in some larger marathons (or “walker friendly marathons”), even participate in a longer race without the sag wagon breathing down my neck. The current atmosphere in road races is much more accommodating to the older person with a stiff back and multiple knee operations. 🙂 But it might not be so attractive to the younger, fitter more intense person who wants to kick butt.

Ok, time to do end this post and do something more useful. 🙂

May 27, 2015 Posted by | running, walking | , , | Leave a comment

Barton Springs Pool Flooding

When I visited Austin, Texas regularly, I would often stop by Barton Springs pool to do some open water swimming. One length was about 220 yards.

This is what it looks like in normal conditions: note the concrete pool deck and wall prior to the grass:



This is what it looked like during the recent flooding:


There are more photos from the flood here.

I am very familiar with many of these places (I played football in one of the stadiums shown).

May 27, 2015 Posted by | social/political | | Leave a comment

Progress: but is it the correct kind?

Workout notes well, workouts for the next 2-4 weeks will be lighter than normal.

Bodyweight: 184.0
Weights: 3 sets of 10 pull ups
Bench: 10 x 135, 1 x 185, 1 x 195 (hard), 3 x 180, 10 x 155 (rotator cuff)
pull ups: 1 set of 10, 2 sets of 5
military: standing, 3 sets of 10 x 40 dumbbell
rows: 2 sets of 10 x 200 Hammer
pull downs: 2 sets of 10 x 150

That isn’t that much easier than normal, but it is a start.

Then running (pouring rainstorm outside)
treadmill run: 3.11 miles (5K) in 28:56; first mile was 11:04 then 2 miles in 17:00 (.5 6.8, .5 6.9, .25: 7-7.1-7.2-7.3, .11 in 7.4)
1 mile walk on the track (started going the wrong way for Tuesday: I was using Monday’s direction) Ooops!

Afterward, my legs felt refreshed.

The bench press (195) was my best of 2015; I am going to have to see when the last time I got 200. In August 2013 I got 205. (August 23). I haven’t seen heavier since then.

May 26, 2015 Posted by | running, Uncategorized, weight training | | Leave a comment

Chicago and Nash

Workout notes: swam: 2000 straight laps (not timed; counted laps by 5: that is, 8 x 250 with no rests), then 200 pull.

I then took my daughter to Chicago Midway; we left at 9 am, I took her through the boarding pass line and to security; then I drove home and got home at 2:45. That was as fast as I’ve ever made this trip (round trip).

News: John Nash was killed in a traffic accident a couple of days ago. He was the focus of the book/movie A Beautiful Mind. He is known for the Nash equilibrium (in game theory); it was for that he won a Nobel in economics. But he had other great mathematics results; one of these was the Nash Embedding Theorem. The statement is somewhat technical but I think that I can give a flavor of what it was about.

Consider the circle. It is an object known as a “1-manifold” in that, if one examined the circle very “locally”, one would see that it was impossible to distinguish from a straight line. Example: if a tiny, near sided creature lived on a circle, it would look like a line to the creature, just like our spherical earth looks flat to us (locally).

Well, one can place a circle in a plane (distortion is allowed) in different ways:

Look at the two closed curves above. Those are “embeddings” (one to one, continuous maps from the circle). The one of the left: two points on the circle itself are “distant” from each other if and only if they are distant from each other as points on the plane. That is said to be an “isometric” embedding of the circle; points on the circle are far away from each other if and only if they are far away from each other in the plane.

Now look at the bent “circle”. See how two points of the circle are “close together” as points on the plane, but if one was forced to go from one of those points to the other point WHILE STAYING ON THE CURVE, one would have to travel a much further distance. That is a non-isometric embedding of the circle as two points are close together as points in the plane but NOT close as points on the circle.

So, the Nash embedding theorem deals with isometric embecdings; he gives a mathematical condition which guarantees that an arbitrary embedding can be approximated by an isometric embedding (as well as a dimensional criteria).

May 26, 2015 Posted by | mathematics, swimming, travel | Leave a comment