Trump’s win: in part, due to sophisticated data mining…

No, I am not a fan of President Trump. I am not surprised that stuff like this is happening:

But Godat was surprised by the utter chaos that came with the president’s first month. He said it often felt like Trump and his staff were impulsively firing off executive orders instead of really thinking things through.

“I didn’t think he would come in blazing like he has,” said Godat, 39, who has three kids and works at the same aluminum rolling plant where his father worked. “It seems almost like a dictatorship at times. He’s got a lot of controversial stuff going on and rather than thinking it through, I’m afraid that he’s jumping into the frying pan with both feet.”

Uh, anyone who is surprised by Trump’s impulsiveness has not been paying attention.

However I have to give him credit for employing some very sophisticated technology to get his voters to the polls. This is a long read, but very interesting. In short, they could tell from my Facebook “likes” that targeting me would be a waste of time, but they knew exactly WHO to target for ads, and where, and what type of ads to use.

Give the Devil his Due: this was a very impressive operation.

February 28, 2017 Posted by | political/social, politics, social/political | , , | Leave a comment

Why I usually don’t like math/science movies that *should* interest me

I kind of cringed when my wife wanted to take me to see Hidden Figures, a story about 3 black women who worked as engineers/mathematicians/programmers for NASA.

Oh do not get me wrong; these women were crazy-good; they would not have had their jobs at that time in US history (or at any time for that matter) if they weren’t, and their story deserves to be told to a wide audience. No argument there.

And yes, movies are not documentaries; there is going to be some embellishment, rearranging incidents to make a better story, and of course the “mathematics” that they would show would be mostly math jargon used out of context. And I was not disappointed though one scene showed Schrodinger’s equation on the blackboard (and ironically, I often teach Euler’s method in differential equations class, as well as Graham-Schmidt in linear algebra).

But there were many other errors; they described NASA as being segregated at a time when it was not, and they showed that one of the ladies as not being allowed to author a report, as she actually did. And the computer supervisor got that title in 1948, not 1961 (so here, real life was even more impressive than the movie).

And yes, a small kid factoring a polynomial with integer coefficients is moderately impressive, though not what most would call a prodigy; my guess is that the real person was able do much more than that.

But with all that being said, it was still a good movie (plot, excitement, suspense, relationships, and gives a reminder of our painful past). So by all means, see the movie; it IS well done. But expect some “liberal feel good, White Savior” bullshit, and remember that the real life women were actually *more* impressive than the movie shows. And if you know math, expect to wince from time to time.

You can find a “fact check” here.

Workout notes: Monday, easy 1 hour 5 mile hilly run (gentle pace)
Tuesday: same course, this time a walk after weights:

rotator cuff, pull ups (5 good sets)
bench press: dumbbells, 10 x 70, 10 x 75, 10 x 80
incline press: dumbbells, 7 x 50, 10 x 45, 10 x 45 (standing)
rows: 3 sets of 10 x 110 machine
incline press: Hammer machine, 2 sets of 10 (45, then 70 each arm) then 1 sets of 7 with 90 (each arm; 180 total)
lots of sets of 5 squats, most with 45 pound plate…maybe 6-7?
2 sets of 10 x 250 leg presses
abs( 2 sets of 12 twist crunches, 10 leg lifts, 5 moving bridge
head stand (sort of unsteady for a while)
side planks: 30 seconds each.

February 28, 2017 Posted by | mathematics, movies, running, social/political, walking, weight training | Leave a comment

In defense of “Safe Spaces” (of a type)

Ok, let me make it clear what I am not defending: while I understand male/female bathrooms and locker rooms, I do not approve of having a university sanctioned area where only men, or women, or someone of a specific race are allowed.

What I am talking about: voluntarily limiting one’s social circle when it comes to certain things.

Here is one instance: usually, I make it a point to never discuss mathematics except with other mathematically inclined people (mathematicians or experienced STEM field people).

Reason: I teach for a living, and correcting someone’s elementary error is not a pleasant exercise for me, especially when they try to insist that they are right.

This is not how I want to spend my “off work” time.

I broke my rule of thumb, and paid a small price. Here it is:

Prove: 1 = 2.

x^2 - x^2 = x^2 - x^2 Ok, true enough.

x(x-x) = (x+x)(x-x) Yes, this is true: (x+x)(x-x) = (x(x-x) + x(x-x)) = x^2 -x^2 +x^2 - x^2 = x^2 - x^2 . Yes, this also equals 2x^2 - 2 x^2 .

Now that we have x(x-x) = (x+x)(x-x) Cancel an x-x factor on each side.

This gives x = 2x which leads to 1=2 after cancelling the x.

Of course, this is wrong; we were not allowed to divide both sides by x-x as that is zero.

But someone tried to tell me that iwas ok to divide by zero even if the numerator did NOT go to zero…Oh boy.

February 27, 2017 Posted by | mathematics, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Start horribly, finish ok? What is going on?

How my body reacts continues to surprise me.

This morning I decided to try for a 3 hour walk; no biggie, right? I got one mile into it and was already tired..said “the hell with it” and turned around to go home. That’s it; 2 miles of 16 minute per mile walking?

But I got a drink and went to the gym to lift; the lifting workout went fine:
rotator cuff
pull ups (6 sets of 10; I miscounted sets)
bench press: 10 x 135, 5 x 185, 8 x 170
incline press (plant those hips) 10 x 135
military; 10 x 50, 7 x 50 standing dumbbell, 10 x 80 (each arm) machine, strict.
rows: 3 x 110 machine
squats: several sets including 4 x 5 with 45.
leg presses: 3 sets of 10 x 250 (maybe not deep enough knee bend?)
abs: 2 sets each of 12 twist crunch, 10 yoga leg lifts, 6 moving “half bridges)
headstand (ok) and side planks.

Then I walked 4 more miles (Cornstalk course) with the watch turned off; THAT went fine; much better than the original 2 miles????

My body acts strangely at times.

February 27, 2017 Posted by | walking, weight training | Leave a comment

What does “fair” mean?

I’ve frequently heard “that is not fair”. So, what does “fair” mean, aside from a technical definition (e. g. “fair ball” in baseball). This is one of those concepts that I might THINK that I “know it when I see it”, but when I try to think about it carefully, I drive myself batty.

I think that “unfairness” can be easy to spot, at times. Example: I grade calculus exams and two students say \int x dx = \frac{1}{2}x^2 and I deliberately do not count off for the missing “+ C” on one student’s paper and take off a point on the other paper. But other judgements of “fairness” are trickier …far trickier. Example: is it fair that, at times, I get a medal at a running race whereas someone who ran faster than I did did not get a medal (think: “age groups”). Before you answer: remember that not all humans age at the same rate, running ability is largely determined by genetic factors (though, of course, training counts too), etc.

Anyhow, that is my “useless thing to ponder” for the day.

Workout notes: treadmill: 20 minutes of 5.2-5.6 (every 4 minutes) then I did 2.5 minutes on, 2.5 minutes off, jogging all of the off periods, except for the final 2, at 5.3-5.5 mpm. On: 6.7-6.7-6.8-6.8-6.9-6.8-6.9-6.8. I did about 1-1:30 of walking during the final 2 “off” periods. Then jog to get to 6 miles in 1:02:10, 10K in 1:04:30. Then 16 laps on the Riverplex track in 27:40 (just over 2 miles) walking; cute incentives to lap other walkers. 🙂

February 26, 2017 Posted by | running, social/political, walking | Leave a comment

Social Anxiety and winter…

Winter has revisited us after a long, welcome hiatus. Ok, ok, I know that global warming is bad for the planet but it did feel good for a few days. So I’ll take it to the treadmill in the public gym this morning. The roads aren’t bad but I am not in the mood to bundle up this morning.

I was a bit startled to see this post on my Facebook feed last night.


Ok, I read the article.

It was especially interesting to me because there was someone who seemed to respond to my “is anyone here interested in this event…” posts and even invited me once….but then, let’s just say that only 1 out of 4 materialized. The last straw was when they were in the parking lot just when I got there (on time) and texted that they were leaving due to “social anxiety”.

I was angry enough to block them on social media for several months though we had corresponded regularly before that. Fortunately, I did have (and still do have) a circle of very reliable friends to do stuff with.

But, over time I learned more about these sorts of personality (quirks? disorders? ) traits and I think that there are good work-arounds.

For one, I developed online friendships with others and then realized that I had no idea what these people are like in real life; in particular it is highly likely that I never meet my “Facebook fav” in person as she lives about 2000 miles away. So why does geographic proximity preclude such a relationship?

The other thing: for “one on one” outings, the other person freaking out and cancelling really, well not “ruining” an event, can sure put a major damper on it. I am the type that goes anyway…

On the other hand, a group event where one is going to go with several other people is a nice solution; if the one with SA falters there are many others that one can enjoy: “sure, you are invited and I’ll be delighted if you can make it” or perhaps something low key (like a local baseball game) where I was going to go by myself anyway “hey, I’ll be there and if you show, that will be an extra (unexpected) treat and if you don’t, no hard feelings.”

And as to the individual that I talked about: we talk from time to time on social media again; part of what happened was I made an error when I signed on to Instagram for the first time (it listed recommendations and I “accepted all”; when I saw that this person had been requested I was unable to withdraw the request as they had set up “permission required.”

So it worked out well on many levels.

Now, off to the gym.

February 25, 2017 Posted by | Friends | | Leave a comment

Social media and who you talk to…

Social media is a weird thing. This tweet, which I retweeted, generated quit a bit of discussion:

Ok, it was one conservative and 4 liberals. But that isn’t what struck me as odd.

There were 4 ultra athletes on the thread, including 3 of us who have finished a 100 mile footrace in less than 24 hours (Rob (walker) and Frederick (runner)) are way, way better at it than I am/was.

And there were two lawyers, two Bradley graduates (and one Bradley professor who has 33 hours of BU academic credit), and at least two STEM field types.

By the way, Linda’s point was correct; she was talking about the Dakota access pipeline and that pipe is mostly built; very few jobs at stake (in terms of actually MAKING the pipeline).

Workout notes 14:30 mpm 4 mile “Cornstalk classic” walk then leg weights: 6 sets of 6 squats (25, 4 x 45, 2 x 50 dumbbell goblet) set of 10 leg presses with 230. And yes, it is starting to get easier; the time is soon coming (I hope) where I’ll actually develop some leg/butt strength?

February 24, 2017 Posted by | energy, Friends, social/political | Leave a comment

One fundamental tension in my life

It seems that on most issues, I have a tension between what is “right on the spread sheet” and moral values.


This is a good example of this.

On one hand: I believe that, for the most part, that parents are to blame for “hungry children”. Yes, yes, I know, sometimes things like lay-offs, domestic violence, accident, diseases can put otherwise responsible parents into bad situations. So, there should be safety nets. But many times, kids are the outcome of outrageously irresponsible behavior, as many studies, including this one done by a liberal, show. So the people to do something about childhood hunger are the goddamned parents.

But such sentiments are rarely expressed in liberal circles…


When it comes to school, we spend a lot of time and money trying to improve teaching and student learning. “What will help the students learn”? And we spend money on computers, books, desks, etc.

And what is one thing that will help the kids learn? Well, no. 1 is ensuring that they are fed and aren’t spending time thinking about their being hungry. So, for pedagogical reasons, school breakfasts and lunches ARE a wise investment!!!

So ultimately, I favor them and consider the money to be money well spent; the outcome outweighs any disgust that I have.

Workout notes

Weights then my 2 mile treadmill run (ok, 2.04 miles in 20 minutes): 5.2-5.6 (every 2) then 6.7-6.9 (every 2:30), 7, 7.1 for the last minute.

Prior: rotator cuff, pull ups (5 sets of 10)
bench press: 10 x 135, 5 x 185, 8 x 170
incline press: 3 sets with the Hammer machine (2 sets of 5, one of 10 with lighter weight)
military press: ONE rep with 50, set of 10 with 40 (dumbbell), 3 sets with the Hammer machine (2 sets of 5 with 90 each arm, 1 set of 10 with 70)
abs: 2 sets of 12 twist crunch 10 leg lifts, then headstand. Getting into head stand was hard today, but I stuck with it and got it.

My back: somewhat sore at times today; it is not quite well yet.

February 24, 2017 Posted by | politics/social, running, social/political, weight training | , | Leave a comment

Bradley grows as a team, rallies to beat Missouri State 77-68


Yes, after a last second 3, Bradley trailled Missouri State 32-30 at the end of the first half. The Missouri State lead swelled to 42-33 with 15:41 left to play. But this team does not panic any longer; they made adjustments, kept making the extra pass, stayed with their defensive assignments, etc. They took a 1 point lead with 11 minutes to go and never trailed again. The crowd got loud..the atmosphere is starting, just starting, to resemble the better atmospheres of a decade ago. It was so much fun to see!

What a great way to end the home season. Bradley won 3 of their final 4 home games; they haven’t done that in a number of years.

Oh, my workout: great running weather, though the course was a bit slick with light rain. I did the 5.1 mile course, running the hills hard enough to force myself to walk after finishing each hill; this was my usual “6 hard segments workout. It felt good, though without a stopwatch for each segment, did I really push myself hard enough? Note: the second half took 30 minutes to do (12 mpm, which of course includes recovery walking.

On each uphill, I try to make myself hurt; maybe I imagine the 5K race clock about to tick past 25:59, or maybe T and her shiny spandex just a few yards ahead, etc. …anything to get me to push.

February 23, 2017 Posted by | basketball, running | | Leave a comment

The liberal way

There was a recent article about Fitbit and how its use did NOT seem to make people fitter, in general:

The trial took place at the University of Pittsburgh between 2010 and 2012, and it involved more than 470 adults between the ages of 18 and 35. All of them were put on a low-calorie diet, had group counseling sessions and were advised to increase their physical activity. Six months into the intervention, all were given telephone counseling sessions, text-message prompts and study materials online.

At that time, though, half were also given wearable tech devices that monitored their activity and connected to a website to help provide feedback. All participants were followed for 18 more months.

At the end of the two years, which is pretty long for a weight loss study, those without access to the wearable technology lost an average of 13 pounds. Those with the wearable tech lost an average of 7.7 pounds.

It’s hard for many to accept, so I’m going to state the results again: Those people who used the wearable tech for 18 months lost significantly less weight than those who didn’t.

You may rightfully point out that the primary reason to wear the devices isn’t to lose weight — it’s to be more active. But even in this respect, it didn’t work nearly as well as we might hope. In the IDEA trial, those who employed the technology were no more physically active than those who didn’t. They also weren’t more fit.

Now this is a very narrow demographic (18 to 35) and most of the people that I talk to or who use this are considerably older than 35 years old. And yes, one of the fans of the fitbit is wife. Nevertheless, Paul Krugman weighed in:

Notice: instead of panning a study that gave a counterintuitive result, he looked for other reasons as to why HIS individual experience might have been different. That’s the liberal way.

Now about the other people: People have been showing up at town halls and letting their members of Congress, often Republicans, hear from them. Democracy in action, right? Uh..


That’s pathetic, Mr. President.

Weather and workouts

Was it warm today, by “February in Illinois” standards. Evidently, we aren’t alone. We are having “April/May” stuff right now.

I took advantage to walk a hilly 5K at 14:27 mpm (Bradley Hill course). That was after weights:

rotator cuff, pull ups (5 sets of 10, good), bench press (dumbbell) 10 x 70, 10 x 75, incline press: 10 x 135 (hips planted), military press: 10 x 50, 45, 40 (dumbbell), machine rows (10 x 110, 3 sets).
abs: 2 sets of 10 yoga leg lifts, 12 twist crunches.

lots of free squats; then 5 x 45, 4 sets of 5 x 50 dumbbell goblet, 10 x 230 leg press. Butt is getting stronger.

Right shoulder: slightly sore; back; ache came back briefly while lying down.

February 22, 2017 Posted by | health care, political/social, republicans, republicans politics, social/political, walking, weight training | Leave a comment