Trouble accepting what I have not seen…

I wonder if it is a human trait to reject the experience of others if that said experience is not a part of one’s life.

For example, it has been difficult to persuade my conservative friends that darker skinned males are often seen as “suspect” by the police (example)

I had a brush with being profiled (probably many things, including having a cheap car with Texas plates) and note one of the comments that I got on that post.

It is tough to accept what we haven’t experienced, observed, or been a party to, especially when we don’t want it to be true.

In my case: I have trouble accepting that sexism within the sciences still exists. What caught my eye was this story (from outside of the United States):

In the final months of my physics degree, one of my professors asked me into his office – an exciting prospect, given that I assumed we’d be discussing subjects for my potential honours theses. He closed the door, invited me to sit, and declared he’d fallen in love. He wanted to have an affair, he said, and if I couldn’t share in that plan he couldn’t continue as my advisor – he’d find my presence ‘too distracting’. He was a senior academic, and married; but this was Australia in the late 1970s and the subject of sexual harassment wasn’t on any university radar. It seemed this was just one of life’s inequities, another hurdle facing being a woman in science. So I made the decision to leave physics – a subject I loved – and in the following academic year switched to computer science at a different university.

Now of course, the reasons I resist this claim so strongly is that:

1. I don’t want it to be true.
2. I haven’t seen this in person.
3. I haven’t ever done this to another person.

Note: the degree data I’ve seen in mathematics surprises me. I do know that we’ve had more success in hiring female math professors than we’ve had in the past; is a bad job market part of the reason? I do know that things are better than when I first got my Ph. D., but evidently the numbers have stagnated.

Anyway, I do believe in data and facts though.

Of course, part of what turns me off is the low quality of the arguments that I’ve read. For example, from the article that I quoted from::

Part of what women are up against in science is a continuing widespread attitude that, deep down, we’re not really up to it, which by extension implies that a high rate of attrition is no big loss. That view was startlingly articulated in 2005 by Lawrence Summers, then president of Harvard, when in a conference he mused that if there weren’t more women in top science positions at elite universities it might be in part because women’s mental abilities are different. The ensuing furore led Summers to resign and precipitated a great deal of hand-wringing about academic sexism. Yet here we are, a decade later, with yet more academic sexism.

What surprised me about Summers was not what he thought – in my experience, it’s not an uncommon view among elite academic men – but that he thought he could say it out loud. He didn’t seem to understand the absurdity of stating, in an intellectual forum, that half the Harvard student body might be inherently unsuited for intellectual success.

I see two big problems here. First of all, “he thought he could say it out loud”: this is a hostility to freedom of expression that I find troubling. Also: “that half the Harvard student body might be inherently unsuited for intellectual success”.

The author of this article misses the point badly. For one, Summers remarked that the demands of science at the world class level may be incompatible with family life and it “could be” that women were more interested in the latter. As far as the intellect: remember that Harvard faculty are supposed to be world class; we are talking about the extreme ends of the “bell curve” here. Might it be possible that the variation between men and women are statistically different? Again, I am talking about the “extreme ends”, which is where Harvard STEM faculty would be. That has nothing to do with, say, people like me (ordinary Ph. D. people with a modest publication record) and nothing to do with the student body at Harvard (on the whole.

And, I’ve been turned off by some of the hare brained “sexism!” complaints I’ve seen (e. g. calling an animal part a “penis”).

So yes, some of the “sexism in STEM fields” arguments are bad arguments. But that doesn’t mean that sexism doesn’t exist; I think that I am now convinced that it does.

A bad argument for a position doesn’t invalidate that position (e. g. there are bad pro-evolution arguments out there) , though it does mean that the person making the argument did not make a convincing case for it.

May 31, 2016 Posted by | mathematics, science, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Taper doing its job?

I am tapering for a 24 hour event this weekend; so I am still lifting (my workouts aren’t that strenuous) and doing short runs and walks. Today’s walk was 5K and not timed.

But I did lift:
rotator cuff exercises
pull ups: 15, 15, 10, 10 (strong…this surprised me at bit as it appeared that I had a slight weight gain)
bench press: 10 x 135, 5 x 185 (strong)
incline press: 10 x 150, 10 x 135 (strong)
dumbbell military (standing) 7 x 50, 10 x 45, 10 x 40
rows (Hammer Machine) 3 sets of 10 x 200
headstand and McKenzie exercises.

I did take this at a leisurely pace. One thing I grew to appreciate: there were no “workout bros” in the gym; just a few older people there and some very small young women there (not the kind you’d ask for a spot from). There was no one suitable to spot me for a “max bench press attempt” and I felt that I would have been strong today.

Anyhow, I think that I need to cut back on my next weight workout (Thursday); the idea for my taper is to help out with this weekend and not for weight room success. I don’t *look* as if I’ve gained weight, though I do not have a runner’s/distance walker’s body either. Well, we shall see.


The key for me performing to my capabilities involves keeping the effort easy when I am feeling great, not panicking when I find that I am not going that fast, being content with where I am at any given moment in the race, staying away from nausea and my keeping going when I want to quit during those dark hours (often 10 to 18 or so) where I’ve gone far enough to be tired, but haven’t gone far enough to “see” the end coming up.

May 31, 2016 Posted by | walking, weight training | , | 2 Comments


Easy 3 mile run in the morning. It is taper time. This means more internet reading and more making stupid memes.


I’ve come a long way from only being able to do a few pull ups and getting 4 x 170 on the bench press.

May 30, 2016 Posted by | running | | Leave a comment

Nature, political whining, and censorship of ideas

Workout notes
Though it is Sunday, I lifted. Weight: 192.5 on the Riverplex scale (post breakfast with a lot of coffee)
rotator cuff, pull ups (5 sets of 10: ok)
bench press: 10 x 135, 2 x 185 (“thick” bar), 4 x 185 (“usual” Olympic bar), 8 x 170
incline press: 10 x 135 (very easy)
military: 2 sets of 7 x 50 dumbbell (standing), 10 x 180 machine
rows: 3 sets of 10 x 60 dumbbell (each arm)
head stand, twist crunches (2 sets of 12), yoga leg lifts (2 sets of 10)

Then 5.5 miles of walking in about 1:29; very leisurely. It was pretty and I just wanted to amble a bit.

I see all sorts of wild animals when I walk. Today, I watched a flock of red winged blackbirds (who’ve yet to dive bomb me this year) attacking a hawk. Yes, I’ve seen hawks go after squirrels; each time the squirrel got away and the hawk went hungry. Other times: the squirrel had its life ended (haven’t seen that, but I’ve seen the remains). So, you want to tell me about the “beauty and harmony of nature?” 🙂 Yes, it was a pretty day. But day to day existence for animals is mostly a struggle to survive to reproduce; it was that way for humans as well until relatively recently (in terms of how long life has existed on earth).

Political whining No, the primary election was NOT rigged, no matter what Sanders people say.


The rules were in place before the election started, and no, it isn’t “rigging the election” to not have as many debates as one campaign wants. Having people who worked with BOTH people prefer one candidate over the other isn’t “rigging” the election.

Nate Silver nailed what was going on:


Censorship of ideas
I’ve complained about this before. What got me on this train of thought was seeing someone post this photo in a pro-Clinton facebook group:


The person who took this photo reported that this was the result of vandalism. I know that this sort of thing happens; I remember some person leaving a nasty card on our car which had an Obama sticker on it.

I wonder what makes people think that they have some sort of right to limit what OTHERS can say or see? Yes, this applies to the idiots who think that they have the right to block access to Trump rallies.


May 29, 2016 Posted by | nature, politics, politics/social, social/political, walking, weight training | , | Leave a comment

When not every result was “AWEsome!”

At today’s 5K race, I had a conversation with a runner that I met back in 1997. We talked about how we met; she said “those were good times”. I immediately agreed.

Now what was meant by that?

The situation: I had joined a running group (“Team Steam”) in the summer of 1997; the idea was to get “group coaching” so as to improve my running times. Then in the next year, I joined the IVS marathon training group in hopes of running a decent marathon.

I have vivid memories: I remember all of the colorful running gear. I remember the sense of community, people pushing each other, etc. I also remember how the interactions went. Most people knew who could run what sort of time, and we shared both joy and disappointment when we saw our results. I was disappointed with my 3:46 at the Chicago marathon, and one of the Running Central guys winced in sympathetic pain upon hearing my time. I WAS looking for 3:30.

So, I’ll list some factors which might be missing today:

1. I was recently “born again” into running; I had a hiatus from the running community from 1985 to 1995, at which time I gained to 320 pounds and lost it all. So this was a “return of the Prodigal Son” sort of thing. I wept when I finished my first “post morbid obesity” 5K (23:15 in 1996).

2. The body worked better; though I wasn’t a “runner” I still finished much higher up the pecking order than I do now.

3. I was in the “improvement stage” of my running. I never got to my “early 20’s” times, but I moved from 23:15 to 19:53 in the 5K.

4. I was meeting new people.

5. The atmosphere was slightly different. Today the conversation goes something like this: “I finished a 5K in xx:xx”. Reply: “Oh, that’s AWEsome!” In that era: “I finished a 5K in xx:xx” was met by “Wow..that’s a PR, isn’t it? Or “sounds rough; there are days like that” or “wow..conditions must have been tough”. When the response you get actually depends on the result you give, you get the impression that the person you are talking to has made an effort to get to know you! There was something a bit more intimate about that than a token “AWEsome” response.

I think that this “happy face, everyone is AWEsome” culture is colder and less intimate.

May 28, 2016 Posted by | Friends, running | | Leave a comment

2016 River Run: muggy, windy

Today: it was overcast, 69.8 F, 83 percent humidity and there was a 10 mph (gusting to 17) headwind. Yet, it was easier to run against the headwind as it felt downright sweltering with the wind. We aren’t used to the heat yet.

I drove down with Tracy and I got a good feel for the conditions as I warmed up. I knew it would be a tough race though I felt ok.

The results:

The first person in my age group had the same chip time I had; he just lined up near the front and I couldn’t catch him. BUT, the older age groups actually had faster times.

One hilarious incident: an older couple had accidentally switched bibs; hence the lady got credited with a 10 minute faster time than she ran. They fixed it, and happily both got the medals they earned.

I held back and even tracked Cheryl for a bit. I had Dianne and Jerry in my sights, but early on I trailed a bespandexed lady with sweet, subtle granny VPLs. She fell off the pace a bit so I went after Cheryl and kept three other “targets” in sight. I was ok with my first mile split as it was against a 10 mph wind; I knew conditions would be hard later. The next mile I slowed, but not as much as others. Some experienced runners faded here.

Then on the way back, I did talk myself out of walking. It was tough to keep going, but I was encouraged by my gaining on Dianne. I even caught her but she got me back. When I finished: yep, I felt it.

Afterward: I went back for Tracy and then got to reconnect with some old running friends. Finish photos below:


Past years: 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013., 2014 2015

mile 2009 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
1 7:35 8:19 8:08 8:03 7:54 8:07 8:26
2 8:43 8:49 8:07 8:01 7:56 8:15 8:44
3.1 9:21 9:48 8:47 8:52 8:52 9:21 9:35
final 25:40 26:56 25:03 24:56 24:42 25:45 26:46
place 82/148 144/283 89/255 71/258 47/146 53/109 50/119



Cheryl: looking good at the finish


The “Maybell” like lady and Mike at the finish


Dianne: I am just out of sight. Behind her is the guy who beat me out in my AG


Closing in, trying to not to walk


Clicking my watch; you can see the results of my weight training


Tracy closing in; I am in the background


Tracy puts another one in the books

May 28, 2016 Posted by | Friends, running | , | 1 Comment

Workout issues and 24 hour race coming up

Workout notes: weights only.
Rotator cuff
pull ups: 15-10-10-10-5
bench press: 10 x 135, 5 x 185, 9 x 170 (didn’t squeeze out a 10’th as I was by myself, even though the bench had safety catches)
incline press: 10 x 135
dumbbell military (all standing) 7 x 50, 10 x 45, 10 x 40 (first time got 50 standing in a while; normally I have the seated, supported bench)
rows (Hammer) 3 sets of 10 x 200
head stand (not my best, but ok)
twist crunch: 2 sets of 12
yoga leg lifts: 2 sets of 10

Workout problems: I weighed 194 on the home scale yesterday, but that was after drinking a LOT of coffee. It was 191 this morning, just after getting up. The gym scale had been reading 187-188.
If I have a “genuine” weight gain, my pull ups get harder, and today, they went reasonably well.

I’ve also noticed that I find myself pulling up my sleeves prior to doing bench presses; the arms are slightly bigger. That might be a good thing, but my “goal event” is the 24 hour walk, which occurs the first weekend in June. So having bigger arms won’t exactly help with that.

Anyway, I am signed up and have my hotel all lined up and some friends are also going. It will be fun to see them.

And, well, my 24 hour performances have mostly gone downhill after my first one. Note: the first few were “100 or bust” events where I mostly busted and ended up napping. The way I see it: I haven’t had a good one since 2006. This year: keeping the ego in check early (especially if it is hot) and showing toughness in that “tunnel of despair” period (somewhere between 10 to 18 hours) will be the keys to success. My challenge goal: 79 miles (triple marathon). I was so close to 60 miles last year (sans training) that there shouldn’t be a reason that I don’t improve on that by quite a bit.

But I have some other “worth fighting for” goals:

Walter Mitty: 100 (though Bernie Sanders has a better chance of becoming President than I have of making this..)
Stretch goal: 85 miles
Realistic challenge goal: 79 miles (3 marathons)
Worth it goal: 100 km (62.2 miles)
Ok goal: 50 miles. I can’t discount going over 50 miles, even if it takes me a while.

Date Event Distance Remarks
May 2004 Conrbelt (track) 101 7 out of 49
May 2004 Wandelweekend pavement 88 Netherlands
November 2004 Ultracentric (track) 81
April 2005 McNaughton 100 (trail) 76 split 34:16 for the 100
August 2005 Leanhorse 100 (groomed trail) 85 29:34 for 100
November 2005 Ultracentric (track) 70
February 2006 Houston Bear (pavement) 76 rainy
June 2006 FANS (pavement) 83
June 2007 FANS (pavement) 66
November 2007 Ultracentric (pavement) 58
June 2008 FANS 47.5 retired half way
April 2009 McNaughton 100 (trail) 50 47:48 for 100 (muddy)
June 2009 FANS (pavement) 66
June 2011 FANS (pavement) 54 untrained
June 2015 FANS (dirt/pavement) 59.9 untrained

May 27, 2016 Posted by | walking | , , | Leave a comment

Versus Trump (and the Democratic platform committee)

Donald Trump He keeps saying that he’ll get “great people” to do the job. But is senior press representative basically …knows nothing? The interview I saw reminded me of a Chico Escuela interview that I saw on Saturday night live:

Now, we’d like to welcome a new member to our Update team, the former All-Star second baseman for the New York Mets, Chico Escuela. Welcome, Chico. [Chico clears his throat, photo of smiling Chico Escuela in baseball uniform and holding a bat] Chico will be covering the sports scene for Weekend Update. [applause for Chico, a Dominican ballplayer who sits opposite Jane – he has a thick Dominican accent and speaks very little English]

Chico Escuela: Thank you. Thank you, berry, berry much. … Base-ball … been berry, berry good to me. … Thank you, Hane. … [Photo of major league ballplayer Pete Rose] Pete-ee Rose … Base-ball been berry, berry good to Pete Rose. … Three – point – two – million – dollar para Pete Rose. Charlie Hustle, you bet. … Thank you very, very much. [National Football League schedule is shown] In – foot-ball … I don’t know – football. … In Dominican Republic, foot-ball is — how you say, Hane? Um – Oh! — soccer! Your football– [pause] I don’t know. … [Hockey graphic] In National Hockey League … [shakes his head] I don’t know hockey … [applause, photo of smiling Chico again] In base-ball– Base-ball been berry, berry good to me! … Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much. [applause] Hane? Thank you, Hane.

Jane Curtin: [genuinely enthusiastic] Great job, Chico. I’m glad that we haven’t hired just another stupid ex-jock sportscaster. …

Perhaps the fictional Mr. Escuela can get a job with the Trump campaign as a press secretary?

So how will Hillary Clinton run against Donald Trump? One conjecture is that she might use a little game theory.
Here is the idea: getting into a twitter battle of insults won’t work. However she can get surrogates to attack him, and choose the surrogates to be classes of people that Trump loves to insult (e. g. Mexicans, women, etc.). Trump can’t resist hitting back when attacked, and in so attacking, he can turn off people from those respective groups.

Democratic Primary Yes, the Democratic primary is still going on, but Clinton is all but certain to be the nominee. And no, the system isn’t rigged against Sanders; in fact the evidence suggests that having so many caucus contests actually helped him (example: consider Washington: Sanders won the caucuses handily and collected the lion’s share of the delegates; however Clinton beat him comfortably in the “beauty contest” primary and the primary had a MUCH higher turnout.

And yes, Clinton is the favorite in California. Sure, a couple of polls that showed a close race made the news. (from here)


The polls suggest about a 10 point Clinton lead; demographic regression models predict a larger win.

Nevertheless, the elections continue on. Sanders has picked his platform committee: 6 appointed by Clinton, 5 by Sanders, 4 from the DNC. One Sanders committee member is Cornel West: yes, he was (is?) a well respected religion and philosophy scholar but has some problems when he delves into other areas:

But West also has a particular critique of the sitting Democratic president that goes well beyond Sanders’s expressions of disappointment. West’s position is not merely that Obama has not gone far enough, but that he has made life worse for African-Americans:

On the empirical or lived level of Black experience, Black people have suffered more in this age than in the recent past. Empirical indices of infant mortality rates, mass incarceration rates, mass unemployment and dramatic declines in household wealth reveal this sad reality. How do we account for this irony? It goes far beyond the individual figure of President Obama himself, though he is complicit; he is a symptom, not a primary cause. Although he is a symbol for some of either a postracial condition or incredible Black progress, his presidency conceals the escalating levels of social misery in poor and Black America.
This is actually not empirical. African-American infant mortality has declined, not increased, during Obama’s presidency [..]

The African-American unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level since 2008. The African-American uninsured rate has fallen by more than half, and the administration has undertaken a wide range of liberalizing reforms to the criminal-justice system. The notion that Obama has made life worse for African-Americans rests entirely on affixing the blame for the 2008 economic collapse on him, without giving him any credit for the wide-ranging measures to alleviate it, or the recovery that has ensued. This is, in other words, the Republican Party’s method of measuring Obama’s record, and it’s the sort of grossly unfair cherry-picking that no good faith critic would use.

And the man has no political savvy at all.

I focus on him because I liked the man; heck I still do. I watched him speak at Bradley University in the early 1990’s and got to shake his hand. But..he is so….closed minded about what a President does and can do.

May 26, 2016 Posted by | 2016, political/social, politics, politics/social | , , , | Leave a comment

Safe spaces: utility and inappropriateness …

Workout notes: just a 5.1 Cornstalk course run after a rain; it was a bit humid and I didn’t bother with a stop watch. I’d guess I ran at 11-11:15 mpm or so.

Safe spaces

I’ve thought about the “safe space” concept. This has been a topic of discussion on college campuses. In some cases, the “safe space” concept is used to shield students from ideas that, well, they don’t like and to keep away speakers they don’t like (including: Hillary Clinton!). Of course, one can protest a speaker and counter their ideas with other ideas; in the article I linked to, we see one student saying that Clinton ought not to have been permitted on campus.

Ironically this concept has been used against activists (e. g. the very presence of activists might violate the “safe space” of campus staff members).

So I’ll say that I have serious reservations about this concept.

BUT, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a place for private conversation for certain groups of people. I’ll give some examples.

Example: I find it useful to have a private place to discuss dealings with students. Faculty sometimes get frustrated and there should be a place to deal with said frustration where one doesn’t have non-academic administrators, parents and students present.

Example: sometimes the self destructive habits of the poor come under fire. This can be an especially sensitive subject when, say, birth rates among unwed and underemployed African Americans is brought up. In fact, this very topic IS frequently discussed in private in African American circles. One famous African American columnist said that the privacy was to “keep the bigots from having another stick to beat us with”, or something along those lines.

Example: it is sometimes useful to have a place where one can discuss their prejudices in private. Sure, some might think that they have no prejudice but I am skeptical. Sometimes a good way to deal with them is to discuss them in private. One example: I was walking to an event and I saw a young man with his pants pulled down below his butt; his boxer shorts were visible. I had some non-flattering thoughts. But, when he saw me, he….held the door open for me. Go figure. 🙂

I admit that I’ve joined a “secret” Facebook group for Hillary Clinton supporters. This doesn’t meant that I am afraid of challenges to my ideas. However, it had gotten to the point where if I posted a Democratic primary election article, I’d be attacked by Sanders supporters. And the attacks were often illogical, factually incorrect, or were laden with hidden assumptions. Correcting basic errors is part of what I do for a living. I don’t want to do that on my off time, especially with people who seem themselves as logical and informed, even when they aren’t.

Now the risk in joining such a group is that one is, by definition, in a bubble when one is in such a group. That is why I value some individuals who, while they might differ on candidate of choice (e. g. support Sanders or a Republican), know the basic facts and understand basic logic. These sorts of friends are also good to discuss science related issues with.

So I’ll say that I value private conversation groups, though it is a very bad idea to turn public spaces into “safe spaces”. Private groups can be joined by choice. The latter affects all of us, and I don’t want someone else dictating what is appropriate for ME to see or hear.

One other comment On social media, I treat people differently. If I know a person (either in person or online) and I’ve had history of interaction with them, I’ll cut them some slack. What I won’t tolerate is some moral scold going onto my wall and wagging their finger either at my friends or at me. I’ll accept (even welcome) correction of my factual errors, my error of omission, or my hasty inferences. I sometimes get things wrong or I sometimes am blind to an important factor. So yes, I’ll accept those from strangers.

But if you want to be a moral scold on my wall, I had better have a history with you, like you and respect you. But until you’ve shown me something, I won’t tolerate it. And no, a high self opinion is not a credential that impresses me.

May 26, 2016 Posted by | running, social/political | , | Leave a comment

played too much today

Workout notes: easy 3+ mile walk (Bradley park 5K plus a bit) after weights: rotator cuff, pull ups (5 sets of 10), incline presses: 10 x 135, 8 x 150, 10 x 140, military press: 2 sets of 12 with 50 seated, supported, 1 set of 10 with 40 standing, rows: 3 sets of 10 with 50.

Later: 3 miles with the group. Barbara really struggled with the heat, her just getting over a bug, the cottonwood and her foot.

I didn’t do much today. I was going to go on and on about whatever but I’ll do that tomorrow.

May 26, 2016 Posted by | walking, weight training | Leave a comment