Some political reality

If we listen to the detractors, EVERYONE hates President Obama.

But what is reality? If one looks at the cold, hard facts, President Obama’s approval ratings:

1. Track very well with the historical ratings of previous presidents (who have served two terms)

2. Are well above those of President Bush (at this point in his presidency) but below what President Clinton’s were. President Reagan had better ratings for much of his presidency but, at this point, his approval ratings were similar to President Obama’s (remember Iran-Contra)


Dotted line: average of all presidents. Light green: President Obama. Dark green: President Bush.

Screen shot 2015-05-24 at 5.13.45 PM

Again, light green is President Obama, darkest green is President Reagan (with the big dip); the middle green (and highest ratings) is President Clinton.

From here

Now the Republicans turn their sights on the 2016 elections. Yes, some are bloviating about the instability in Iraq (President Bush left a stable situation!) evidently forgetting that the Status of Forces agreement to get the US out of Iraq was negotiated with Iraq by President Bush. Yes, the region was more stable with us there, but were we to stay there in perpetuity?


May 24, 2015 Posted by | 2016, Barack Obama, political/social, politics, republicans, republicans politics, world events | , , , | Leave a comment

Going longish…


The skinny: 20 miles in 4:59:18, with the final 4 miles (W. Peoria Heading course) being done in 58:49. I also added 6:14 in case my course was short (I sort of winged part of it) to get 5:05:32 for 20.4 miles.

Weather: overcast with periods of sun; 66 F with 65 percent humidity at the start; 80 F with 52 percent humidity at the finish; I beat the cold front with rain by about 10 minutes.

I did my best walking in the final hour; that might be because that was the flat part of the course.

For Peoria types:
Cooper to Laura (onto the BU campus) to Maplewood to Columbia Terrace. Then to Broadway all the way to McClure. Then to Bootz, Corrington, Bigelow to Forrest Hill (turn right). Take that to Central, go north to Peoria Heights (Marietta) to Prospect to Tower Park. Pit stop.
Then to Grandview, to East Grandview Dr., Harmon, Bishop Hill where I took the Rock Island trail (bikepath) all the way past Affina into Springdale Cemetery. Then to the bottom of Glenn Oak Park, up the hill, around the Park District Building, through the new parking lot along the sidewalk; exit, turn north on Prospect, turn left (West) on Forrest Hill….retrace the out part except when I got to Columbia Terrace, I kept going all the way to Parkside.

Then along Main/Western and turn onto Heading and go until it runs out. Then left, right to Swords, left, first left then down a few blocks and turn right to get to Rohmann, right on Sterling past the Cemetery and right on Kickapoo..through the brick street neighborhoods to Manor Parkway by the golf course..then to Waverly all the way to Rohmann then right to Western then right on Bradley ave. to Cooper.

It was a bit of everything; I saw other people on the course.

While it was my best long walk of the year and my best week since October 2014, it still wasn’t much. I have to be aware of that.

Along the way, I heard a call of a green frog (Rana Clamitans)

May 24, 2015 Posted by | frogs, walking | Leave a comment

River Run 2015: tough competition; I fall further back.


Yes, over 1 minute slower than last year; 53/109, 2/3 AG, 38/57 among the males. But for a change, we had some younger, faster runners show up.

Past years: 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013., 2014

mile 2009 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
1 7:35 8:19 8:08 8:03 7:54 8:07
2 8:43 8:49 8:07 8:01 7:56 8:15
3.1 9:21 9:48 8:47 8:52 8:52 9:21
final 25:40 26:56 25:03 24:56 24:42 25:45
place 82/148 144/283 89/255 71/258 47/146 53/109

Notes: missed 2010 (knee surgery year), 2009 was after the Rockford Marathon (5:14, walking), 2011 was after the Crud 8 hour trail event, 2012 was a week after a 7 hour walking marathon, 2013 was a week after a marathon; 2014 was the week after a hard half marathon powerwalk. All days were reasonable days to run.

Today, it was 64 F, moderate humidity; a “no excuses” day.

I felt slow and tight upon trying to warm up; it took me 13-15 minutes to start feeling good. But then I was ready; as ready as I would be this year.
It seemed as if the entire field pulled away from me; I was tracking Pat and stayed with her for about 2 miles; we chatted some. Afterward she mentioned my “heavy breathing on her neck” though I was not THAT close. I saw Dianne and Jerry up ahead but they were to finish under 25 minutes; roughly where I was last year.

I didn’t feel that bad in mile 1 and at mile 2 I gave some thought to perhaps having a kick; that idea faded at 17-18 minutes into the race. It was all I could do to keep moving forward; my last mile was around 8:34 or so.

It isn’t as if I am not trying; I wonder if I have gained 3-4 pounds over the first part of the year; I was 184 after breakfast last Monday and 186 yesterday morning. But what is unusual is that I am not feeling that on pull ups; my pull ups are actually stronger than they were earlier in the year when I was slightly lighter.

AmusingI stayed at watched the winners of the various age groups go up and get awards. I was amused: in my age group, both guys who were there had to straighten their backs when they got up after sitting; it seems that bad backs correlate with age. 🙂

7 March 24:42 for 2.87 miles (about 26:45 for 5K) (recent illness) 39 of 83 (college students)
21 March 25:27 for 5K 71 of 269
28 March 25:50 5K (26 F) 15 of 68
11 April: 26:14 5K (some hills) 42 of 153
18 April: 25:45 5K or 9 of 105 Kidney 5K
2 May: 26:59 Run to Remember (collapse final mile)
9 May: Race for the Cure: 26:14.
23 May: River Run 25:45

This is what last year looked like (through May). I am certainly slower but I am not as far along on training; last year I had more “hard miles” under my belt by this time.

31 May: Family House 5K 26:50 (fell down)
24 May: River Run 5K (certified) 24:42 5K
10 May: Race For the Cure 25:27 5K
3 May Run to Remember 24:17 5K .
26 April: 26:47 5K (Bradley soccer 5K)
19 April: 23:27 2.96 (24:40 5K, or 23:45 3 mile)
5 April 22:31 (2.8 miles) 25:05 5K
29 March CIDA 25:09 5K
1 March: 27:27 for 3.25 miles: 26:10 5K.

5K (or close)

2012 2013
25:47 Yates City. 26:05 Yates City
25:42 Brimfield: 7:56, 8:10, 8:44, 0:51
27:59 Aug. 5: Math Fest 5K 26:56 Rocket Run July 20: 8:27, 8:42, 9:46
26:07 Run for the Health of it July 14 8:28 8:49, 8:49 (AG) 26:32 5K run for the health of it July 13 (AG) 8:03, 8:02, 10:26
27:46 July 4 Firecracker 8:09 8:43 10:53 27:40 July 4 Firecracker
25:03 May 26 River Run 8:08, 8:07, 8:47 24:56 May 25 River Run
25:13 Race for the Cure May 12 (8:25, 7:34, 9:12) (AG) 25:48 Race for the Cure May 11
24:34 May 5 Run to Remember (7:54, 7:45, 8:54) 26:12 (3.18?) May 4: Sam Fan 5K
25:41 Bradley U. April 28 25:29 (hilly) 20 April: BU women soccer 5K
25:14 CIDA March 31 (8:27, 8:17, 8:29) (AG) 25:14 March 23: New Interplanetary 5K
25:08 Interplanatary March 24 (8:14, 8:19, 8:34) (AG) 27:04 (3.25?) 2 March: 5K Jack Kenney (AG)

May 23, 2015 Posted by | running | , , | 3 Comments

Education, public discourse and ideas…

Bonus: has an interesting ranking of the all time bets NBA teams. The discussion is interesting as well.

Press coverage: Paul Krugman attacks an attack on Elizabeth Warren:

Yesterday Politico posted a hit piece on Elizabeth Warren, alleging that she’s being hypocritical in her opposition to a key aspect of TPP, that’s interesting in several ways. First, it was clearly based on information supplied by someone close to or inside the Obama administration – another illustration of the poisonous effect the determination to sell TPP is having on the Obama team’s intellectual ethics. Second, the charge of hypocrisy was ludicrous nonsense – “You say you’re against allowing corporations to sue governments, yet you were a paid witness against a corporations suing the government!” Um, what?

And more generally, the whole affair is an illustration of the key role of sheer laziness in bad journalism.

Think about it: when is the charge of hypocrisy relevant? Basically, only when a public figure is preaching about individual behavior, and perhaps holding himself or herself up as a role model. So yes, it’s fair to go after someone who preaches morality but turns out to be a crook or a sexual predator. But articles alleging that someone’s personal choices are somehow hypocritical given their policy positions are almost always off point. Someone can declare that inequality is a problem while being personally rich; they’re calling for policy changes, not mass self-abnegation. Someone can declare our judicial system flawed while fighting cases as best they can within that system — until policy change happens, you have to live in the world as it is.

I see this attack on Hillary Clinton as being similar (the attack: she wants to overturn Citizens United, but still welcomes support from 527 groups). To me, this is like advocating for a rules change, but playing within the rules prior to said change. I am fine with either side doing it.

Education One secret is that most students really don’t want to be educated. They are fine when learning is painless but ultimately, they want the grades, credits and credentials:

Dear Students:

The collective attitude you have shown toward reading and writing during the past semester is neither new nor surprising. You are not well-suited to do either. To your credit, you hate ignorance, as I do. To your discredit, you really only hate being shown that you are ignorant, through encountering words and ideas that are foreign to you and your immediate experience. Rather than look them up and learn about them, as is moronically simple these days, you disdain them, and then complain that you do not understand them. This complaint is disingenuous because you show no interest in having them explained.

Rather, you want to be relieved of responsibility for knowing them, and for reading the works that contain them. In short, you do not want to be educated, or even to go through the motions of education. What you want is a degree, and if there existed a system of academic indulgences, you would gladly fork over four years tuition to receive one without having to waste time going to classes. For a little extra, you could get someone like me to drop by and, for about a half-hour, confirm your base prejudices, the ones you’ve gotten from television and the movies and video games and life in general. You have written about these prejudices incessantly: why brute force is an answer for everything, why the whole world, with its little invisible workers everywhere, has come together for your material and personal happiness, why you live in the greatest country in the history of the world, led by its greatest leader, why your ethnic group has undergone suffering that leaves you preeminent over us, who are all racists… I will not go on.

I have read your stories about anime characters, complete with super-deformed doodles, your tales of extraterrestrials and werewolves and vampires. It is interesting that your eyes turn to the supernatural world so often, since you have such an impoverished notion of this one. […]

Note: I don’t think that, in this regard, much has changed since the time I was in college as an undergraduate; we were that way also. It is more comfortable to rationalize what you already know.

Public discourse: I think that honest discussions such as this one are a good thing; note that both of these students have some serious misconceptions.

However I really don’t like the headline. This is why: (opinion to follow) all too many times, people come to honestly held opinions and are loudly shouted down as “bigots” when they express them.

Examples: many of us have indigent family members who are lazy, dumb and perpetual moochers. So, it is easy to extend what we see in our own lives to conclude that laziness and stupidity is what causes poverty.

We see inner city riots and see mostly blacks. So, given that we humans are hard wired to “reason” inductively, it is easy to conclude that there is something wrong with black people.

We read about people leaving the US to join ISIS. We come to conclusions…without realizing that we are reading about extreme outlier behavior!

The same thing applies to lottery winners; the winners make the paper; the far more common “didn’t win diddly squat” people do not (in fact you are more likely to die in a car crash while driving to buy a lottery ticket than you are to draw the winning number)

I’d like to see more honest discussion and less “shouting down”.

Attitudes don’t help either. All too often I’ve seen conservatives make their own opinion as the benchmark for what is moral and patriotic. All too often I’ve seen liberals make their opinion as to what is bigoted or misogynistic. And all too often those setting their own opinion as the standard are those who are very limited in intellect and lacking in anything resembling accomplishment. I think that too many are overconfident in their own judgement and unaware of what they may be missing.

May 22, 2015 Posted by | basketball, NBA, political/social, racism, social/political | Leave a comment

Cold water and plans

Workout notes: empty lane, so I took advantage. While I was doing my 500 warm set, some silver haired guy was burning it up. He did one length next to me just to show me that he was faster, but that was unnecessary; I could tell he was a far better swimmer than I by how his IM sets were going.

Totals: 500 warm up, 10 x (25 side, 25 free), 5 x 100 IM (challenging), 5 x 100 (alternate pull, free), 4 x 50 (alternate 25 fist, 25 free) 2200 total.

Then I lifted (felt it in the shoulders so I at least needed to do my rotator cuff exercises:

pull ups: 5 sets of 10 (rotator cuff)
bench and military (3 sets of 10 each, with dumbbells), military: 40’s (standing), bench: 65, 70, 65.
rows and pull downs: rows: 70, 55, 45. Pull downs: 137.5

Then I did some back stuff

Plans for the weekend: Saturday: 5K run; possibly a medium walk afterward.
Sunday: longish walk; 20 miles or 5 hours; whatever comes first.

Then it is “not much” for 2 weeks.

May 22, 2015 Posted by | swimming, weight training | Leave a comment

Modern life: too much noise pollution!

Some time ago, I went to a conference in Madison, Wisconsin. The conference center was lovely and had a great view of a lake. There was an open area at on the roof; which I deemed a perfect place to sit, eat my lunch and read. It has many benches. I also noticed it was empty despite the pretty day.

But there came some worker with a large leaf blower going full blast; the racket was deafening. The place was unusable.

You see that on our campus too in in many other places.

As far as my neighborhood: in the spring and summer, it does look pretty and looks as if it should be peaceful. But the second you go out on the porch, someone nearby will fire up their power mower, or leaf blower, or edger; or some Stanley Steemer will park and just generate a deafening racket.

Our neighborhood is set up so that sound travels very easily; if someone is having a normal conversation across the street, it is very easy to listen to from where I am. You can guess the noise level that a symphony of power mowers and leaf blowers generates.

May 22, 2015 Posted by | social/political | , | Leave a comment

Slow but sure

Yes, I did something incredibly stupid. You can find out what I did here (a list of “most” of my very long races; the Netherlands 24 and Houston 24 walks are missing)

But this morning, I did a very leisurely 10K run; the day was perfect and the course was pretty. And oh my goodness I was slow.

Last night I did 3 miles with Cathie (no group members showed); I had thought about going with the 9 minute training group, but they warmed up too fast for me to stay with them! Yes, my 5Ks are in the 8:00-8:20 range and I’ve done 4 mile training runs faster than 9 mpm, but my warm ups are ALWAYS slow; 11-11:30 mpm at the fastest. I just can’t move very well when I start out.

Ok, I should go outside and do something useful.

May 21, 2015 Posted by | running | , | Leave a comment

Nice answer Secretary Clinton…

Direct and to the point…they way I like it.

May 20, 2015 Posted by | 2016, hillary clinton, politics, politics/social | | 2 Comments

STEM and humanities education


I had an interesting experience in the weight room today. The weight room was almost empty at the time; there was one (graduate?) student from India there doing some leg presses and I was doing pull ups on the power rack (has a pull up bar attached). Sometimes, people like to do squats on that rack; note there is a mirror there too.

As I did my pull ups, I noticed that he was looking my way. My guess is that he eventually wanted to do squats; so upon finishing a set he asked me something like “how many sets do I do?”

I THOUGHT that he wanted to know when I’d be done with that rack so he could use it. So, I moved the Olympic bar back to the racks and said “I am done right now!” thinking that he’d be happy with the news.

He looked confused, then smiled and walked away.

It dawned on me that he wasn’t waiting for the rack, but was genuinely interested in my routine!

That is a small matter of little consequence, but it also shows the value of communication and how important it is.

That is where the humanities are so valuable, beyond their inherent worth. Things like communication, ways of thinking and culture matter. Just think of how much better off both the US and Vietnam would have been had we recognized that Vietnam really had no interest in aligning with China (they were historically bitter enemies) or with “Communism”; they wanted independence from ALL of us.

This also reminded me of other issues too, in particular poverty and work and migrant workers.
We watched the film Overnighters last night; it was about one church’s ministry to the workers migrating to North Dakota to take advantage of the oil boom.
We saw that many of these workers had checkered pasts and many had a history of making bad decisions; of course with this influx of workers came things like an increase in crime rates, a decrease of available housing, etc.

This ties in with our culture wars with regards to anti-poverty programs and safety nets.

Some wisdom is essential here: we should remember what has happened in the past as well as being able to wrap our heads around the relevant statistics.
Yes, it is true that many social pathologies are correlated with poverty; one sees substance abuse, sloth, and bad decision making. Yes, many have made life decisions which put them in a bad place to begin with, and in other cases, poverty was the cause of the bad decision making. And in other cases, one just has plain bad luck.

Communication is essential here: many times our conservative friends are right when they point out the pathologies and self-destructive behaviors of some of the poor. Hey, don’t we all have that one relative that is constantly mooching off of others and always wastes whatever money they fall into? And yes, any safety net program WILL end up helping some chronically irresponsible people and there will be some who game the system.

But don’t we have to look at the big picture when we figure out what to do? Sometimes it is counter productive to make “punishing the slackers” our top priority.

Figuring out solutions to these problems does draw on the wisdom that comes from the humanities and the statistical literacy that comes from STEM education.

That leads me to what I’ve seen recently:


I note, with irony, that such memes are passed along via the internet which is reached by things like computers and cell phones! How ironic is that?

Even worse, we see some “why do people have to learn algebra” type stuff coming from those who should know better.

So you say, “ok, algebra might be necessary for future scientists and engineers, but what about the rest of us?”

Well, let’s examine some important issues: what are the implications of economic policies? (change vs. rate of change is brought up here)

What about breast cancer screening implications? How might the average citizen interpret and understand the relevant facts?

Without some mathematical literacy you are flying blind…and even might not know that you are flying blind.

May 20, 2015 Posted by | economics, education, social/political | , | Leave a comment

anti-vax trolling and working out

Workout notes
Weights: pull ups (3 sets of 10)
Bench: 10 x 135, 3 x 180, 7 x 170 (rotator cuff)
incline: 10 x 140 (rotator cuff)
pull ups: 2 sets of 10
military: 10 x 85 standing, 8 x 85 standing, 10 x 100 (each arm) machine
pull downs: 2 sets of 10 x 160 traditional, 10 x 150 (other machine)
rows: 3 sets of 10 x 110 (machine)

Then an untimed 5.1 mile hilly walk outside (chilly again)

The anti-vax people keep a list of “known trolls” who attack their positions. I am on that list. Who knew? 🙂

May 20, 2015 Posted by | walking, weight training | | Leave a comment