14 April 2011 posts

Workout notes Ms. Vickie’s yoga class with Lynn in the early morning. I was able to get into head stand easily but then had some vertigo problems during the “laying down” phase; the other stuff was ok.

Then over lunch, I lifted weights (and did rotator cuff PT) and then walked 3 miles easily outside (included some Bradley Park hills; the day was too pretty to stay inside)
squats (free, no Smith Machine): 10 x 45, 10 x 135, 10 x 155, 4 x 175 (not great depth), 10 x 135
curls (dumbbell): 3 sets of 10 x 20 lb.
pull downs: 3 sets of 10 x 120
incline presses: 10 x 115, 8 x 130 8 x 125
rows: 2 sets of 10 with 220 (close grip), 1 set of 10 with 180 (wide grip) (Hammer Machine)
sit ups: 4 sets of 25 with various inclines.

Shoulder notes: somewhat sore on one of the rotator cuff exercises (where the elbow is tucked and the arm moves from the chest and is rotated outward. This is day three of NSAIDS.

News of the weird
Well, I now know not to bring in strippers to give me a lap dance in class. 🙂

A La Salle University professor, Jack Rappaport, has been suspended for allegedly hiring strippers to give lap dances at an extra-credit seminar on business ethics.
Rappaport was in the front of the classroom and three bikini-clad and miniskirted women were on top of him giving him a lap dance, according to Brad Bernardino, a sophomore at La Salle who attended the March 21 session. At various other times, Bernardino added, the strippers gave willing students lap dances, and a PowerPoint presentation related to business ethics ran in the background.

Oh well…

Can meditation help with pain? Well, there was a study that compared people with no meditation at all, people with fake meditation training (who thought that they were getting the real training) and those who got the real training. It turns out that the “real meditation training” group dealt with pain better; and this was verified by a brain scan! But there are some serious caveats to this study:

Now for the caveats. Every subject had some pain relief by meditating, but there was wide variability among participants — between 11% and 93%. Further, it’s difficult to draw conclusions from 15 people (18 were recruited, but one was excluded for not being sensitive enough to the heat, one was too sensitive and another fell asleep in meditation).

And the pain the researchers inflicted — a burning sensation for a few minutes — doesn’t compare to what many people, such as cancer patients, must endure.

Overall, such studies add to a growing body of research suggesting that even short meditation sessions can have measurable pain-relieving benefits. That’s important to folks who must struggle with the aches and pains of daily life and who don’t want to pop painkillers for every twinge. And for sure, daily meditation has clear medical benefits.

But meditate, for a few seconds, on the thought of undergoing even a small surgery without painkillers.

Still, this is worth thinking about for dealing with, say, the pain of athletic performance.

Science fun
Even if you aren’t a fan of arachnids, this spider is beautiful:

(click the thumbnail to see the photo at Jerry Coyne’s blog along with the article)

Speaking of Coyne’s blog, surf here to see some serious FAIL on the part of apologists for religion. Among the howlers: atheism is diminished because of the lack of martyrs and, well, religious types lead the way for skepticism (you see, if someone doubted one religion, it HAD to be because another religion was true…)

Security Sometimes a change of policy can make cheating more likely and therefore call for increased security. Here Schneier provides an example:

In the U.S., under the No Child Left Behind Act, students have to pass certain tests; otherwise, schools are penalized. In the District of Columbia, things went further. Michelle Rhee, chancellor of the public school system from 2007 to 2010, offered teachers $8,000 bonuses — and threatened them with termination — for improving test scores. Scores did increase significantly during the period, and the schools were held up as examples of how incentives affect teaching behavior.

It turns out that a lot of those score increases were faked. In addition to teaching students, teachers cheated on their students’ tests by changing wrong answers to correct ones. That’s how the cheating was discovered; researchers looked at the actual test papers and found more erasures than usual, and many more erasures from wrong answers to correct ones than could be explained by anything other than deliberate manipulation.

Teachers were always able to manipulate their students’ test answers, but before, there wasn’t much incentive to do so. With Rhee’s changes, there was a much greater incentive to cheat.

The point is that whatever security measures were in place to prevent teacher cheating before the financial incentives and threats of firing wasn’t sufficient to prevent teacher cheating afterwards. Because Rhee significantly decreased the costs of cooperation (by threatening to fire teachers of poorly performing students) and increased the benefits of defection ($8,000), she created a security risk. And she should have increased security measures to restore balance to those incentives.

Mr. Paul Ryan gets used as a pinata! Of course, many idiots in the media said “ok, so Ryan’s plan isn’t serious; therefore Obama’s can’t be either.” Uh, no. Example: creationism being false doesn’t mean that evolution is also false.

And no, Mr. Limbaugh, Ryan’s plan isn’t being attacked because we can’t get dates. 🙂

By the way, here is the President’s speech on the budget.

Fahreed Zakaria’s response was fair and thoughtful but Robert Reich worries that too much of the plan is dependent on the economy recovering…(while noting that long range forecasts are almost always useless anyway)

April 14, 2011 Posted by | 2012 election, atheism, Barack Obama, biology, business & economy, Democrats, economics, economy, nature, neuroscience, political/social, politics, politics/social, religion, republicans, republicans political/social, republicans politics, Rush Limbaugh, science, shoulder rehabilitation, superstition, training, walking, weight training, yoga | Leave a comment

8 April 2011 (am)

Workout notes
Simple today: Just three miles of running on the treadmill in just under 30 minutes (I used my home sport-tech, which is manual and only works at a rather steep incline, so my run times are ALWAYS slower on this than on the road). I got to 5K in 30:50 and called it a day.

Weekend plans: longer run tomorrow morning; work the 5 pm to 6 am shift at McNaughton (50 and 100 mile runs) and perhaps get a 10 mile loop on that course.

Health: I added a “pulling” rotator cuff exercise to my routine; it appears to be helping. Why? Some of my rotator cuff irritation is caused by my arm motion when I run or walk fast. This is helping.
Vertigo: much, much reduced, but still there when I get out of bed too quickly, or when I change from supine (even on the incline bench press) to upright and visa-versa. But I can do yoga head-stand again.
Anemia: my blood hemoglobin is back to the mid 14’s; the blood chemistry looks good again.
Weight: in the 192-194 range. That is too heavy for ultras, but I’ve been lifting so…

Note: I’ve been doing squats; and no, I don’t look anything like this:

Forget how heavy the weight is; I don’t look this good with an unloaded bar! 🙂
And it was only recently that I could even squat to this depth at all; the knee flexibility is returning but oh-so-slowly.

Does Bible study promote peace? 🙂
epic fail photos - Probably Bad News: Bible Study FAIL
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Computers and security: It is possible to deduce your location from your IP…to within an astonishing degree of accuracy. This is both impressive….and…pause for thought.

Economy and Politics

Where are the Republican priorities?

The Ryan plan calls for cutting the top marginal rate to 25 percent — lower than it has been at any time in the past 80 years. That in itself should tell you that this is a deeply unserious proposal: anyone who tells you that we have to face hard truths, that everyone must sacrifice, and by the way, rich people will pay lower taxes than they have at any time since the 1930s, is just engaged in a power grab.

Beyond that, has anybody besides Bruce Bartlett noticed that Ryan still hasn’t gotten an independent estimate of the revenue losses from his tax plan? Last summer I pointed out that he was getting a free pass on tax cuts that appeared likely to lose a lot of revenue; his defenders came up with all sorts of excuses about how he couldn’t get anyone to do a proper estimate.

You got it. And no, we will never get out of this mountain of debt without taxing the rich.

My Two Cents on the Government Shutdown
I don’t know if the shutdown will be averted or not. But I am hearing a ton of negativity toward Congress about this (here and here)

But, to be brutally honest, I really don’t blame Congress. Basically the Representatives are doing what they were elected to do, and we have two very different visions for our country. One vision is that the government has a role to play in our collective welfare (well articulated here) and those who want to see the New Deal programs and dismantled and governmental regulations all but eliminated. Now in the 1950’s and the 1960’s, this divide wasn’t so great; Republicans saw a need for such things. Remember it was President Nixon who started the EPA and who fought for affirmative action! How times have changed…

So the squabble really isn’t about money. The Republicans want to dismantle much of our government and the Democrats want to keep it.

Anyway we have these two visions (I can recommend Paul Krugman’s book The Conscience of a Liberal; this is well explained there).

It would be simplistic to say: “ok, let’s split into two countries” because, at its core, it is not really a dispute between the North and South. It is more about “city” vs. “rural”. Just check out these election maps: Illinois is regarded as a “blue” state and Texas a “red state”:

This is Texas from the 2008 election; note that Obama carried Dallas, Houston, Austin, El Paso and San Antonio (but lost Ft. Worth). Obama got obliterated in the countryside; there were some counties where he didn’t even get 10 percent!

This is Illinois from the 2010 governor’s election:

The margin came from Chicago.

The bottom line: we have two very different groups of people electing very different representatives and any “compromise” will be seen as capitulation. And frankly, I don’t see any possible compromise. We are at a point in our history where we are headed toward a new Gilded Age with out economy barely out of the 1929 levels.

I don’t blame Congress. I blame the American people; collectively we deserve bad government.

Update Dr. Andy directed me toward what I consider a reasonable Republican response. And yes, if my taxes go up, so be it. Of course, Mr. Brooks does talk about Medicare costs and there should be cost control measures but:

Jonathan Chait gets angry at the way Republicans, who claim to care about the deficit, propose saving money by cutting back on expenditures that are needed to control health costs. Indeed. But there’s a larger dynamic at work here than mere stupidity.

Let’s focus, in particular, on the ridicule some of the quoted Republicans heap on “comparative effectiveness research.”

Ask yourself, what do we have to do to control Medicare costs? We can save some money, maybe a lot, by reforming payment systems so that providers are paid for overall treatment rather than on a fee-for-service basis. But over the long term, the fundamental issue is going to be to decide what Medicare will and won’t pay for. We need, as Henry Aaron has often said, to learn how to say no. […]

So how are you going to make decisions about what not to do? Um, you need good information about which medical interventions work, and how well they work: comparative effectiveness research. And no, that information isn’t already out there: doctors know surprisingly little about how effective procedures are relative to one another.

Why, then, are Republicans opposed to this kind of research? Some of it is sheer stupidity and/or anti-intellectualism — hey, those researchers are probably atheistic Democrats, you know.

But you should always remember that the GOP comes to bury Medicare, not to save it. The favored “solution” on the right is to replace Medicare with vouchers whose value will systematically lag behind medical costs; so it will be up to insurance companies and patients to say no. There is absolutely no reason to believe that such a system would work; in practice, it would mean denying adequate coverage to all but the affluent. But that’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

This is from Fareed Zakaria:

The President has talked passionately and consistently about the need to tackle the country’s problems, act like grownups, do the hard things and win the future. But he has also skipped every opportunity to say how he’d tackle the gigantic problem of entitlements. Ryan’s plan is deeply flawed, but it is courageous. It should prompt the President to say, in effect, “You’re right about the problem. You’re wrong about the solution. And here’s how I would accomplish the same goal by more humane and responsible means.” That would be the beginning of a great national conversation.


Over the past two years, Ryan has used the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of Obama’s health care plan to criticize it relentlessly. Now the CBO has scored Ryancare, and it is a devastating critique. The main mechanism by which Ryan would cut costs on health care is to limit payments for Medicare and Medicaid. This would save money for the federal government, but it’s not clear at all that it would lower health care prices for seniors or the poor. In fact, last year the CBO studied Ryan’s voucher plan and concluded that it would raise costs because “future beneficiaries would probably face higher premiums in the private market for a package of benefits similar to that currently provided by Medicare.” In other words, Medicare — the Walmart of American health care — can bargain for lower prices than an individual can.

The theory behind Ryan’s health plan is that if individuals have to pay for their health care, they will shop carefully and drive down costs. But health is an unusual economic good and is unlikely to follow the usual market pattern.

So why do I applaud the Ryan plan? Because it is a serious effort to tackle entitlement programs, even though any discussion of cuts in these programs — which are inevitable and unavoidable — could be political suicide. If Democrats don’t like his budget ideas, they should propose their own — presumably without tax cuts and with stronger protections for Medicare and Medicaid and deeper reductions in defense spending. But they, too, must face up to the fiscal reality. The Government Accountability Office concludes that America faces a “fiscal gap” of $99.4 trillion over the next 75 years, which would mean we would have to increase taxes by 50% or reduce spending by 35% simply to stop accumulating more debt. Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will together make up 50% of the federal budget by 2021.

(emphasis mine)

I disagree with the Ryan plan being courageous; raising taxes on the rich OR subjecting CURRENT senior citizens to this Medicare plan would be courageous. But yes, something is going to have to give. Yes, this means RATIONING; note that the sickest 25 percent of the Medicare crowd runs up 85 percent of the cost, and we should see if we are getting the best “bang for the buck” there. For example: is it worth 100,000 dollars of tax payer money to give an 80 year old an extra month in the hospital?

But, as Zakaria says, an honest discussion of these issues by a politician will probably lead to that politician not getting reelected. And THAT is the fault of the American people.

April 8, 2011 Posted by | 2008 Election, 2010 election, 2012 election, Barack Obama, business & economy, economics, economy, Illinois, political/social, politics, politics/social, recession, republican party, republicans, republicans political/social, republicans politics, shoulder rehabilitation, sickness, social/political, trains, yoga | 3 Comments

23 March 2011 am

Last night, I woke up at about 11:30 pm; I was sweating heavily, dizzy (lying down dizzy) and nauseated. I spent much of the night throwing up and dealing with dizziness; my guess is that I got food poisoning; probably from drinking out of a jug that had some old milk in it.

I feel much better today though I haven’t eaten much; fortunately I was able to “work from home” today. Tomorrow, I hope to do a gentle 2-3 mile walk.

I do have some posts

From here

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Remember that evolution shaped us; reproductive success was what evolution maximized…and it did that thousands of years ago. Hence, we have some not-so-refined instincts. Read about that here.

No, creationism shouldn’t be taught in science class and those who do are committing malpractice.

But at least we don’t get threats for teaching evolution.

World Events
Japan really took it on the chin.


GOP 2012
Here is a run down to what they are up to. Here is a list of “liabilities” that might hurt them in the 2012 primary.

Mr. Pawlenty has formed an exploratory committee; this means that he is probably running. I have no clue as to who will rise to the top; I see Pawlenty and Romney has having the best chance in the general election, though I wouldn’t say that either has a good chance.

Common ground

I actually agree with many conservatives here.

But of course, I still have many issues with them; here is a long, but fair (and documented) list.

And for the time being, Republicans are holding up nominations for no good reason; as a basis they use some out of context statements. Paul Krugman argues that this will lead to mediocre people being appointed to such posts.

If our current economic state is a correction and reflects people training for the wrong jobs, what are the correct jobs? Which areas are “hot”?

No, we don’t have to study deep theology to oppose religion or to argue that it is incompatible with science.

March 23, 2011 Posted by | 2012 election, atheism, boxing, business & economy, economics, economy, education, political/social, politics, politics/social, religion, Republican, republican party, republicans, republicans political/social, republicans politics, science, sickness | Leave a comment

24 December 2010 (AM)


(note: the above billboard, destined for a highway in Alabama, is more about those who see the stories as literal history rather than as a religious myth; that is, a story that has meaning)
More from
Friendly Atheist here.

Workout Last night the shoulder felt better but I iced it twice.
Update: 8.3 mile walk from my Mom’s house, one mini-Hike and Bike loop (plus Deep Eddy spur) and back. Lots of feminine spandex of various types; it has just rained. I wore hiking books, sweat pants and a rain slicker; it was too much clothing.



The smart:

The stupid

From Mano Singham’s blog: a Fox News host hides her intelligence.

From Jerry Coyne’s Blog: Dr. Coyne has little patience with “science and religion claims are compatible foolishness”., even when it comes from atheists.


Republicans: modern day Scrooges:

I mean, consider the scene, early in the book, where Ebenezer Scrooge rightly refuses to contribute to a poverty relief fund. “I’m opposed to giving people money for doing nothing,” he declares. Oh, wait. That wasn’t Scrooge. That was Newt Gingrich — last week. What Scrooge actually says is, “Are there no prisons?” But it’s pretty much the same thing.

Anyway, instead of praising Scrooge for his principled stand against the welfare state, Charles Dickens makes him out to be some kind of bad guy. How leftist is that?

As you can see, the fundamental issues of public policy haven’t changed since Victorian times. Still, some things are different. In particular, the production of humbug — which was still a somewhat amateurish craft when Dickens wrote — has now become a systematic, even industrial, process.

Let me walk you through a case in point, one that I’ve been following lately.

If you listen to the recent speeches of Republican presidential hopefuls, you’ll find several of them talking at length about the harm done by unionized government workers, who have, they say, multiplied under the Obama administration. A recent example was an op-ed article by the outgoing Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, who declared that “thanks to President Obama,” government is the only booming sector in our economy: “Since January 2008” — silly me, I thought Mr. Obama wasn’t inaugurated until 2009 — “the private sector has lost nearly eight million jobs, while local, state and federal governments added 590,000.”

Horrors! Except that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, government employment has fallen, not risen, since January 2008. And since January 2009, when Mr. Obama actually did take office, government employment has fallen by more than 300,000 as hard-pressed state and local governments have been forced to lay off teachers, police officers, firefighters and other workers.

They can’t even get it right. 🙂 What happened is that the census did hire lots of people..who were then laid off. That did cause a rise in public employment, which has gone away.

Speaking of getting along: there has been some bipartisanship, but NOT on economic issues. Robert Reich explains why.

Money for public education has been cut during these hard times; here is an appaling list.

December 24, 2010 Posted by | 2010 election, 2012 election, business & economy, cosmology, Democrats, economics, economy, education, humor, nature, political/social, politics, politics/social, religion, Republican, republicans, republicans political/social, science, training, walking | Leave a comment

Former Bush Adviser Hubbard Weighs in on Tax Cut Debate | PBS NewsHour | Sept. 22, 2010

In the first of several conversations on whether Bush-era should be extended, Gwen Ifill speaks with Columbia University’s business school Dean Glenn Hubbard, who helped craft the cuts when he served as an economic adviser to President George W. Bush.

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Former Bush Adviser Hubbard Weighs in on Tax Cu…, posted with vodpod

September 23, 2010 Posted by | bush-era, business & economy, deadline, Democrats, extension, glenn hubbard, gwen ifill, jim lehrer, newshour, north america, poor, Republican, rich, tax cuts | Leave a comment

Countdown: Countdown Special Report: Small in name only (and other topics)

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Countdown: Countdown Special Report: Small in n…, posted with vodpod

Bottom line: “small business” does not always mean “small profit”; rather it is about the number of employees on the official payroll as measured in a specific way. The Republicans are using this “small business” canard as a way of fighting to keep tax returns for the wealthy.

Some conservatives are more honest:

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Former Bush Adviser Hubbard Weighs in on Tax Cu…, posted with vodpod

The above is the type of thing I am ok with: here the policy goals are clearly stated and we can have debate.

Other topics
Health Care Reform:

The owner of this video is a right-winger but the important point is that HCR attacks this problem.

Paul Krugman on the ongoing whines

I suppose this is what passes for noblesse oblige these days. 🙂

September 23, 2010 Posted by | 2010 election, Barack Obama, business & economy, Democrats, economics, economy, health care, political/social, politics, politics/social, Republican, republican senate minority leader, republicans, republicans politics, Spineless Democrats | Leave a comment