The Genius of Donald Trump, a Sanders score and teachers…

Workout notes: 3 mile walk (to lower Bradley Park and back) followed by weights:

5 sets of 10 pull ups
rotator cuff
bench: 10 x 135, 3 x 185, 3 x 185 (bodyweight: 187, home)
incline: 10 x 135
military: 2 sets of 10 x 85 barbell, 10 x 40 dumbbell (standing)
rows: 2 sets of 10 x 60 each arm, 10 x 110 machine
pull downs: 2 sets of 10 x 160, 10 x 150 alternate machine
yoga with head stand.

Gym: pretty empty.

Teachers: there is now a teacher shortage; frankly few want these jobs anymore. My prediction is that the same will happen for higher education, at least at the non-elite, non-Research I institutions.

Election 2016: this is hilarious; the liberal social justice warriors can’t seem to figure out why everyone else isn’t outraged that Donald Trump isn’t following their approved scripts.

And, of course, why is Mr. Trump getting away with it when others can’t? There is a method to his madness, as Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert) points out. I disagree on one point though: if nominated, Trump will lose and lose big no matter who he selects as VP.

Bernie Sanders: calls out CEOs who call for austerity. Sen. Sanders is correct here.

1. While these CEOs are business geniuses, running a national economy is different than running a business. Example: government spending can percolate up and have a multiplier effect.

2. A CEO can be indifferent to the fate of laid off workers. A government shouldn’t be.

Good for Sen. Sanders for calling out these people.

August 28, 2015 Posted by | education, politics, politics/social, walking, weight training | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sorting it out

My summer is at a cross roads; I am not sure as to what to spend my time on. I’ve gotten stuff done though.

Workout notes: easy 6 mile run (6.4-6.5 really) that I didn’t time; I didn’t want to know. I just beat the rain storm (barely).

I watched the Chiefs game last night; they won 1-0; the starter pitched 6 innings and allowed 1 hit, 0 runs and struck out 8; the relievers struck out 4 more. The visiting team: they only gave up 4 hits and struck out 8. So this was a defense dominated game which featured good pitching, great fielding and terrible base running.

President Obama: visited Oklahoma City and Durant. Some people were flying “Confederate flags”. What I remember is that there is a rest stop with a “Confederate Memorial Museum” off of highway 75/69 near Durant. I visited there and was pleasantly surprised at the display they had on evolution and geology; it was genuine science and worth seeing. The other stuff was mostly historical; I suppose it could be renamed “local history museum” but would then draw fewer visitors.

Iran nuclear deal: this was just about the bomb; many nuclear scientists see this as exactly what is needed to keep them from getting one.

Politics: from the Hillary Clinton campaign: you can see who they think are the best people to fundraise against. I don’t see Sen. Cruz as a threat; I do see the other 3 as serious contenders. Notice which Republican is NOT there.


This latest poll shows that people would consider voting for a “qualified” gay person at about the same rate as a “qualified” evangelical Christian (73-74 percent). Atheists and Muslims are rated closely as well (58-60 percent) with socialists rated last (47 percent).

Elections do have consequences: Gov. Walker has made changes to the University of Wisconsin university system..and these are changes that many see as bad.

July 16, 2015 Posted by | education, hillary clinton, Political Ad, political/social, politics, politics/social, running | , , | Leave a comment


Workout notes: I stayed up too late and ended up getting up too late (6:40?)

Walk: 5 miles on the treadmill (58:11 (12:21/11:24/11:25/11:25/11:35)) then 3 outside. The 5 on the treadmill was becoming…well..too similar to a race effort so I backed off. Also, the rain had subsided a bit so it was time to get outside and to the course to Bradley Park (Maplewood, Parkside, down and up).

While on my way back it sounded as if the world was ending; West Peoria did its 10 am, first Tuesday of the month siren test.

For all of my fantasy, I am not in shape to walk a fast marathon just as yet. I need to be able to double the distance I did on the treadmill with roughly the same effort to have a chance at a reasonable walking marathon result.

But I’ve made progress though.

Some other stuff
So, Chicago public schools are increasing their graduation rates. How?

Get a high-school student through freshman year and the odds skyrocket that he or she will graduate. Chicago was a pioneer of the strategy, first applying it in 2007, and has the numbers that would seem to prove its worth, even after accounting for inflation by principals possibly gaming the system. The potential is huge for school systems across the nation, especially those in urban areas plagued by low graduation rates.

Between 2007 and 2013, the number of freshmen in the Chicago Public Schools making it to the 10th grade grew by 7,000 students. The school system’s four-year graduation rate also jumped, from 49 percent in 2007 to 68 percent in 2014. Graduation rates are up across the country, but Chicago’s double-digit growth stands out.

Wow, that’s pretty good, right? How did they do it?

chools like North-Grand that have successfully improved freshman pass rates employed variations of the same set of interventions. They adopted data systems to track freshmen progress, carefully picked the right teachers for ninth-graders, created weekly grade checks, provided mentors and tutoring sessions, stepped up truancy monitoring, set aside one day a week for students to make up work, and started freshman seminars that teach kids to “do high school.”

Yay! Oh wait:

Some schools also switched to forms of grading that are designed to be more fair and modern—less emphasis on turning in homework on time and more emphasis on actually learning—but have been accused of inflating GPAs.


At Manley High School on Chicago’s West Side, students frequently skip first and last periods, according to attendance records provided by three teachers. The records show that administrators frequently change absences marked by teachers as “unexcused” to “school function,” a notation that once covered field trips or assemblies but now appears to cover almost any reason for being out of class. This change marks the child as present, boosting attendance data for the student and the school.


Meanwhile, many teachers across Chicago fear that the new grading policies—with names like “standards-based grading” and “no zero” grading—make passing too easy. Some schools go too far, they say, by declining to penalize students for late work and prohibiting teachers from giving grades below 50. Traditionally, a student who didn’t hand in work would get a zero.

A single zero can disproportionately pull down a student’s average, but teachers at some schools say the new grading tactics come with a destructive practical effect. At Manley, some students refuse to work until the very end of the quarter—in some cases just cutting classes—when teachers must give them a make-up packet for any classes they attended but for which they failed to submit assignments, or those classes marked as a school function. If the student completes most of the work, they are likely to pass.

Ah. In other words, lower the bar far enough….

What this means, practically speaking, is that these kids will be unprepared for college and unprepared for the work force.

Now about criminal activity: does it work to…pay delinquents not to shoot people? I am still trying to wrap my head around this one. This is counterintuitive to me…but the results were better and cheaper than what we’ve tried earlier.

On the other hand, people in my old stomping grounds (Bastrop, TX) were concerned that the United States was going to invade them? Why? Well, “President Obama”.

I am so glad that I don’t live among them anymore.

Health notes: Why is the percentage of people with celiac disease going up? Evidently humans are evolving a maladaptation?

July 7, 2015 Posted by | education, health, social/political, walking | , , | Leave a comment

Ideas that can’t be communicated are worthless

I love this Mother Goose and Grimm cartoon. The poor dog things “E = MC^2 ” but can only say “Arf”.


In the past, I’ve passed out this cartoon to my students. Too many times, I’ve heard “I understand how to do the problem, but I can’t do the problem on the exam.”

Well, I suppose that is a bit like saying:

“I know how to swim, but when I jump in the pool, I drown.”

“I know how to fly the plane, but when I try, I crash.”

July 2, 2015 Posted by | education | , | Leave a comment

Activists: my lack of patience with them

Workout notes I did an 8 mile course in 1:47 (8.08); to Bradley Park via the usual way, 2 lower loops and 2 full upper loops (past the bathrooms) and back; last “mile” was 12:53.
Interestingly 3 weeks ago, I “ran” a similar 8 miles in 1:33; as you can see my brisk walk pace is only a little bit slower. My department chair says my run gait is pretty much the same as my walk gait.

The difference: the degree to which I bend my knees. Sad, I know. :-)

Yes, tenure is good job security, but it is far from perfect. If you anger enough people, they’ll find a reason to get rid of you. They used her classroom language as an excuse, but my (very uneducated) guess it was more this:

In a letter that day to Buchanan, Damon Andrew, dean of the College of Human Sciences & Education, said “multiple serious concerns” had come to his attention, including “inappropriate statements you made to students, teachers and education administrators,” as well as conflict with Iberville Parish Superintendent Ed Cancienne.

“This behavior is completely unacceptable and must cease,” Andrew wrote.

In an interview with The Advocate, Cancienne said he called Andrew because he’d received complaints about Buchanan from a couple of his teachers and felt it was his duty to alert LSU. LSU then asked him to put his concerns in writing, he said.

“When I think there’s a serious issue, then I have to communicate that to them,” he said.

Iberville continues to participate in the selective PK-3 Teacher Education Program that Buchanan founded.

Buchanan said Cancienne had asked repeatedly for her to send teachers to Iberville Parish, but she’d resisted because it’s a relatively low performing district, and her students teachers need to see standout teaching so they know what to do themselves. She said the program got off to a rocky start there, but she denied any unprofessional behavior.

She said she voluntarily agreed to no longer supervise the LSU student teachers in Iberville after Cancienne called her to complain. She said she thinks Cancienne’s complaints, and LSU’s desire to placate him, had something to do with her firing.

Buchanan said the selective teaching program she ran is demanding, likening it to a medical school internship, making her unpopular with some students.

“I have very low tolerance for poor teaching and very high standards,” she said.

Yes, she is suing.

Activists I have no patience for stuff like this: a woman climbed flagpole on the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol and took down the “confederate flag”. This was viewed as a good thing by many of my social media friends, but not by me.

Yes, I am gladdened to see calls for the flag to come down and I hope that the South Carolina state legislature does the right thing.

But to me, this is just another “know it all” deciding what is right (in her opinion) and just making a unilateral decision. I don’t think that the people of South Carolina elected her or appointed her. So I am fine with her getting the appropriate legal punishment (proportionate to the act, which I consider to be a relatively minor nuisance).

Oh sure, this was far, far, far worse and I have much greater contempt for this action.

June 30, 2015 Posted by | education, political/social, quackery, social/political, walking | , , , | Leave a comment

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

Nuclear energy; gaffes, free speech for professors, etc.

Nuclear Energy It has been a very long time since I had anything to do with nuclear power plant operation. Back then we had main coolant pumps, higher power reactors and the submarine had a screw.

Now-a-days; the subs have less powerful reactors, some rely less on coolant pumps and the Virginia class submarine uses a pump jet propulsor instead of a screw.

What I knew is obsolete. :-) Sort of. More here.

Here, Paul Krugman, who is a “lukewarm opponent” of the TPP, pushes back on some of the Obama administration push back to TPP opponents.

College campuses and free speech
In an effort to be accommodating to many different types of students and faculty, some colleges have tried to restrict free speech and to keep faculty from saying anything that might “offend” students, at least in a certain way.

Here is one professor’s push-back.

In today’s world; what faculty say, even on line and in newspaper column comments is subject to scrutiny and possibly negative consequences.

Now I don’t like what either of these professors said. But are we getting to the point in which professor’s public comments on the big issues of the day are subject to being straight jacketed?

Now I don’t want to conflate issues. Yes, I’d be fore firing a creationist biology professor or astronomy professor for incompetence, just as I’d fire a mathematics professor who tried to teach mathematical nonsense like this or this.

Competence matters.

So, if you want to fire, say, a holocaust denying history professor, well, good. That person would be too incompetent to teach history.

But what if I had genuine doubts and expressed them in public? (no, I am not a history professor) Would that be a fireable offense? By the way: I don’t have any doubts; to me, simple arithmetic seals the deal. Just look at the Jewish population before and after, as well as mountains and mountains of documents, much of which the Nazis generated.

What if someone really gave some credence to, say The Bell Curve (the book) stuff and they wanted to honestly discuss this in public?
Personally, I’d enjoy the challenge of having an honest discussion and debate with someone who honestly holds such ideas.

Now of course, others in other professions (e. g. politicians) should have more PR savvy than this.

Yes, this is a Democrat and yes, this was stupid. She is probably toast.

May 17, 2015 Posted by | education, politics, politics/social, social/political | , , , | Leave a comment

Slackers and punishment…

Workout notes early morning: 10K walk in Bradley Park; 5.1 mile plus lower 1.23 mile loop. It was cool and pretty; it would have been peaceful too except our local ROTC contingent saw fit to run around and chant stereotypical military sounding stuff. They might have been more impressive had they not been going 10-11 minutes per mile. They aren’t exactly West Point material.

So, needless to say, I don’t like slackers. But sometimes one can be counterproductive when one attempts to punish them. This New York Times story talks about the poor who get into debt but are then hampered by losing their driver’s license …which makes many jobs off limits to them. I believe in paying one’s debts; perhaps wage garnishments are the way to go.

Charter Schools I have mixed feelings about these; and these can sometimes lead to increased segregation:

Parental preferences are part of the problem. The charter school admissions process is itself race-blind: Schools that are too popular conduct lotteries between their applicants. But if a school isn’t white enough, white parents simply won’t apply.

In previous research, Ladd discovered that white North Carolina parents prefer schools that are less than 20 percent black. This makes it hard to have racially balanced charter schools in a state where more than a quarter of schoolchildren are black.

“Even though black parents might prefer racially balanced schools, the fact that white parents prefer schools with far lower proportions of black students sets up a tipping point,” the authors write. “Once a school becomes ‘too black,’ it becomes almost all black as white parents avoid it.”

On the upside: this is the type of bipartisanship that I hope to see more of:

The Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved sweeping changes in the way Medicare pays doctors, clearing the bill for President Obama and resolving an issue that has bedeviled Congress and the Medicare program for more than a decade.

The 92-to-8 vote in the Senate, following passage in the House last month by a vote of 392 to 37, was a major success for Republicans, who devised a solution to a complex policy problem that had frustrated lawmakers of both parties. Mr. Obama has endorsed the bill, saying it “could help slow health care cost growth.”

The bill, drafted in the House in negotiations between Speaker John A. Boehner and Representative Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader, also extends the Children’s Health Insurance Program for two years, through 2017.

Without action by Congress, doctors would have faced a 21 percent cut in Medicare fees on Wednesday or Thursday. Senate leaders cleared the way for final passage by allowing votes on several amendments sought by liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans.

April 16, 2015 Posted by | education, health care, political/social, politics, poverty, walking | | Leave a comment

Has Government cut higher eduction funding?

I found this Paul Campos article interesting :

The conventional wisdom was reflected in a recent National Public Radio series on the cost of college. “So it’s not that colleges are spending more money to educate students,” Sandy Baum of the Urban Institute told NPR. “It’s that they have to get that money from someplace to replace their lost state funding — and that’s from tuition and fees from students and families.”

In fact, public investment in higher education in America is vastly larger today, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than it was during the supposed golden age of public funding in the 1960s. Such spending has increased at a much faster rate than government spending in general. For example, the military’s budget is about 1.8 times higher today than it was in 1960, while legislative appropriations to higher education are more than 10 times higher.

In other words, far from being caused by funding cuts, the astonishing rise in college tuition correlates closely with a huge increase in public subsidies for higher education. If over the past three decades car prices had gone up as fast as tuition, the average new car would cost more than $80,000.

Some of this increased spending in education has been driven by a sharp rise in the percentage of Americans who go to college. While the college-age population has not increased since the tail end of the baby boom, the percentage of the population enrolled in college has risen significantly, especially in the last 20 years. Enrollment in undergraduate, graduate and professional programs has increased by almost 50 percent since 1995. As a consequence, while state legislative appropriations for higher education have risen much faster than inflation, total state appropriations per student are somewhat lower than they were at their peak in 1990. (Appropriations per student are much higher now than they were in the 1960s and 1970s, when tuition was a small fraction of what it is today.)

As the baby boomers reached college age, state appropriations to higher education skyrocketed, increasing more than fourfold in today’s dollars, from $11.1 billion in 1960 to $48.2 billion in 1975. By 1980, state funding for higher education had increased a mind-boggling 390 percent in real terms over the previous 20 years. This tsunami of public money did not reduce tuition: quite the contrary.

Campos goes on to point out that colleges are spending a LOT more on administrative overhead. Now there are many reasons for this; some include technology (someone needs to administrate the computer systems), mandates (all of the “learning disabled” students who are entitled to “accommodation”), helicopter parents and, yes, competing for students to stay in business. Obviously, this is an incomplete list.

But Jordan Weissmann published a counterpoint:

To his credit, Campos is at least gesturing towards an important point. Even in years when states increased their per-student education spending, public colleges still raised their prices faster than inflation. And while schools tend to up tuition when legislators cut their budgets, they don’t usually lower it when the subsidies get restored (see the graph below1). Instead, they lock in the extra revenue so that they can spend more per undergrad. Where has that money gone? Here, Campos is more on point. As he writes, universities are spending an increasing share of their budgets on administration. In other words, the bloat really has grown in higher ed, and it’s costing students.

But that doesn’t change the fact that government cutbacks have contributed to the problem. There have been moments when university profligacy has been the major driver of tuition increases. At others, contracting state support has played a critical role. This has especially been the case in these days of post-recession budget austerity. Depending on who’s calculating, states are giving schools somewhere around 25 to 30 percent fewer dollars per student than they were 15 years ago. And someone has had to make up the difference. Namely, college kids.

Now this gets to the crux of the disagreement. When you say “spending on higher education is up” or “spending is down”, what exactly do you mean?

Now of course, we have to adjust for inflation. But do you mean: “amount spent” in terms of dollars? (Campos does) Do you mean “percentage of GDP” or “percentage of budget”? Do you mean “per capita” in terms of a state’s population or in terms of “per student”? And if you mean “per student” do you mean “dollars per student” or “percentage of expected expenses per student”? Which measure are you using and why are you using that one?

To give the Devil His Due: Mitt Romney explained this principle very well in his book when he discussed “defense spending”.

April 8, 2015 Posted by | economics, economy, education, social/political | , | Leave a comment

School books…



(Thanks Jennifer)

April 2, 2015 Posted by | education | | Leave a comment


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