Social Media Data Mining in Action?

I admit that this is not a controlled experiment; this COULD be mere coincidence.

But a few weeks ago, my (formerly) favorite NFL team announced that they were moving from St. Louis to Los Angeles. I made some tweets and Facebook posts that used the “infidelity” metaphor for this move “she never loved me”, “she is unfaithful”, “two-timing slut”, etc.

So what shows up in my e-mail?


The bottom e-mail message is an ad for divorce lawyers. The top e-mail contains this

I am sorry but I think I seen your partner
on a dating website yesterday.

I advise you to check it on this site

This allows you to view social profiles
and hidden pictures from 60+ social networks
including dating sites just by entering an email address

Get the truth now

Adrian Smith

Again, this could be coincidence. I’d love to see a controlled experiment.

January 19, 2016 Posted by | internet issues | , | Leave a comment

Evolutionary bullying and other topics

Science and society
Nature in full fury: this is a photo of the tornado that hit central Illinois:


Via: Cami Avis.


Does the Theory of Evolution promote….bullying?


Uh…no. 🙂 Ah, for the good old days when people were held as a captive audience to religion:


Seriously, evolution is a theory about how our world works, and it is as well established as the other great scientific theories (e. g. gravity). You can’t understand biology without it, and it has nothing to do with morals and the like.

And for a western religion take on bullying, I refer you to:

2 Kings 2:23-24:

23 From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. “Get out of here, baldy!” they said. “Get out of here, baldy!” 24 He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.

And from the “loving” New Testament:

Luke 19:27 (from a parable that Jesus told)

But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’”


Now back to evolution
Evolutionary science is different from mathematics in a fundamental way. We might have differing terminology for the same thing (e. g. a vector space is sometimes called a linear space; real analytic is sometimes called holomorphic ) but the concepts themselves are well defined.

That isn’t the case for biological concepts (e. g. “natural selection”).

Consider this (from Larry Moran’s blog Sandwalk) :

There are excerpts online. The first chapter is “What Is Evolution?” by Jonathan Losos. I’m not very impressed with his answer but I was shocked to read the following passage.

The logic behind natural selection is unassailable. If some trait variant is causally related to greater reproductive success, then more members of the population will have that variant in the next generation; continued over many generations, such selection can greatly change the constitution of a population.

But there is a catch. Natural selection can occur without leading to evolution if differences among individuals are not genetically based. For natural selection to cause evolutionary change, trait variants must be transmitted from parent to offspring; if that is the case, then offspring will resemble their parents and the trait variants possessed by the parents that produce the most offspring will increase in frequency in the next generation.

However, offspring do not always resemble their parents. In some cases, individuals vary phenotypically not because they are different genetically, but because they experienced different environments during growth (this is the “nurture” part of the nature versus nurture debate; see chapters III.10 and VII.1). If, in fact, variation in a population is not genetically based, then selection will have no evolutionary consequence; individuals surviving and producing many offspring will not differ genetically from those that fail to prosper, and as a result, the gene pool of the population will not change. Nonetheless, much of the phenotypic variation within a population is, in fact, genetically based; consequently, natural selection often does lead to evolutionary change.

I never heard to this idea before (that natural selection may not lead to evolution). I thought that natural selection was DEFINED as a change in the frequency of alleles in a population due to selection. Doesn’t it have to have a genetic component?

In other words, some experts do NOT consider “natural selection” as a subset of evolution but rather the phenomena of a difference of reproductive success based on characteristics, which may not be genetic (e. g. epigenetic effects or environmental effects).

I suppose the closest thing we might have to this is that some mathematicians might not accept, say, the Axiom of Choice or the Continuum Hypothesis, though most mathematicians accept the Axiom of Choice and if a proof assumes the Continuum Hypothesis, that is clearly stated.

Social Sciences
Ok, where is the fallacy here: “I studied the habits of wealthy people and I studied the habits of poor people and I found the following differences: (blah blah blah blah). Hence the poor are poor because of their behaviors and if they did (blah blah blah blah) they’d stand a better chance of being wealthy (or no longer being poor).

I am not talking about the alleged “snob factor” that is alluded to in the article I linked to; I am talking about the logical fallacy.

Here is a hint: “I see wealthy people driving luxury cars and poor people driving beat up old cars. Hence driving luxury cars might help poor people become wealthier.” 🙂

Or: “If you are short and want to be taller: I see lots of tall basketball players. So if you want to get taller, play basketball.” 🙂

Social media and hoaxes
I saw the “tip denied because you are gay” story. It turns out: it was false.

Right after a receipt and credit card statement suggested a NJ server’s tale about bigoted customers was a hoax, a local newspaper from her hometown started digging into her past. And now the Journal News reports that Dayna Morales, “has a reputation for lying,” according to former colleagues and friends.

People were rallying around Morales and sending her tips after she shared a photograph of a receipt she got back at her work, NJ restaurant Asian Gallop Bistro. The receipt showed no tip, with the note, “I’m sorry but I cannot tip because I do not agree with your lifestyle and how you live your life.” But then the family came forward saying that they actually did leave a tip, showing their copy of the receipt and a credit card statement that suggested they were truthful.
According to the Journal News, Morales lied about having cancer, her military service and damage to her home during Hurricane Sandy:
[She told] co-workers she shaved her head because she had brain cancer and later telling them it was her friend who had brain cancer, her colleagues and friends said.
They said she also told co-workers at a day care center where she once worked that Superstorm Sandy severely damaged her home in Stony Point, and sent a boat into her living room. Concerned co-workers dropped by her home and found only minor damage to the carpet by her front door and no sign of a boat, they said…
Morales told people she was a former Marine who was sent to Afghanistan and that everyone in her platoon died in an explosion except her, [a co-worker and a friend] said. The explosion left her with back injuries that required surgery and a couple of months to recover, Larkin said Morales told her employer. But during her time off, Morales posted photos of herself on Facebook enjoying a trip to Florida with a girlfriend, they said.

Though a military spokesman confirmed Morales did serve in the Marines, he added, “There is no indication of combat service in Iraq or Afghanistan” and she didn’t fulfill her reserve obligation.

Moral: the more I WANT to believe an outrageous story, the MORE skeptical I should be. That is a tough thing to do, but I’ll make fewer mistakes by doing that.

Here is one such example: I used to believe that conservatives were less likely to accept science than liberals. My mind changed when I started reading the anti-vaccination people, the rabid anti-GMO “activists” and the “alternative medicine” woo-woos.

Believe me, I’d love to think of conservatives as being mostly stupid people (Dr. Andy, Ms. Ann and many of my Naval Academy classmates excepted 🙂 ) but the facts say otherwise: stupid people can’t be successful military officers, CEO’s, economists, nuclear engineers, successful jurists, business owners, etc. I think that these folks might have blind spots, but we all do!

Speaking of “jumping the gun”: You might have heard of the “fit mom” who used herself as an example of someone who could have kids and still be very physically fit.


Yes, I know: genetics have a lot to do with looking this athletic and buff; most of us don’t have the genetics to look like this. But many of us could do better than we are doing now, and that was the point.

And yes, the “fat acceptance” people jumped on this and she shot back and….ended up getting reported and banned by Facebook! (temporarily; Facebook admitted their error of just relying on “reports of hate speech”):

At the time, Kang defended her tough love stance, telling the “Today” show, “However your body physically manifests in the process of exercising and eating healthy is beautiful. And it doesn’t have to look like mine.”

But Kang seemed to contradict her own statement that it’s not about looks recently when she took to Facebook to criticize another viral sensation — Curvy Girl Lingerie’s Facebook campaign encouraging customers to submit photos of “regular” women in their underwear. As Curvy Girl’s Chrystal Bougon explained of the idea, “For most of us Curvies, we will have rolls, bumps, lumps, scars, stretch marks, surgery scars, breasts that are natural and that have breast fed our babies. And we can still be STUNNING and BEAUTIFUL.” Kang had a different point of view. Writing on Facebook, she declared, “I was a little peeved because while I feel like it’s ok to love and accept your body, I think that we’re normalizing obesity in our society.”

Ridiculously, after a user complained, Kang was temporarily booted from Facebook and her post was removed as “hate speech.” Kang told Yahoo! Shine Monday, “I felt like I’d been sent to the principal’s office and been expelled. We’ve become so sensitive to this weight issue that people who speak out against it are vilified. It’s so backwards to me.”

Ok, one issue is Facebook having the habit of taking “reports of hate speech” seriously; many bozos merely report what they don’t like as “hate speech”.

The other issue is this: “we can still be STUNNING and BEAUTIFUL”

This is such bull-sh*t. This is like me saying: “ok, I teach at a 12 hour load university and I was not one of the research stars of my Ph.D. class, but I can still BE A GENIUS or “hey, I ran 8:19 a mile for my last 3 mile race, but I AM STILL STUNNINGLY FAST. 🙂

Seriously, not everyone can be “stunningly beautiful” unless that phrase is stripped from its meaning; the blunt fact that most of us (yours truly included) are, well, rather ordinary. “Stunning” implies something well beyond the average, and most people simply don’t have the genes to be “stunningly beautiful”.

But MOST people can be reasonably fit and healthy and I think that most women can be “reasonably attractive” to a reasonably large population of heterosexual males if they put some effort into taking care of themselves.

Example: I wouldn’t call any of the women in this photo “stunningly beautiful” but they are all plenty attractive enough for me! They all look reasonably fit.

That is the level of fitness I think the “fitness lady” is talking about.

November 28, 2013 Posted by | biology, evolution, internet issues, mathematics, nature, religion, science, social/political | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bruce Schneier on internet power (TED talk)

It is only 12:30 long, but really gets to the heart of our internet issues. We have two extremes: the small, technically savvy groups and the large, intrenched interests (corporations and governments). The former is more nimble; the latter can bring more power to bear.

What will happen in the long run, and what *should* happen?

October 3, 2013 Posted by | internet issues, social/political | | Leave a comment

Bubbles….life in them.

I admit that I chuckled when I saw this:


Ha ha ha! That isn’t a liberal nightmare; that is a liberal DREAM. Such a ticket would be a large scale disaster for the GOP and help Democrats not only at the top of the ticket, but down the ticket as well.

But some conservatives will never see that in 1,000,000 years.

But liberals are just as guilty of living in a bubble.
I sometimes joked about it. Back in the 1988 general election, I saw the polls and Governor Dukakis was losing badly to then Vice President Bush. But when I got to work (I was in graduate school) I loudly proclaimed that Dukakis was going to win and win EASILY. My friends looked at me as if I had lost my mind. They asked me how I “knew” this and I told them on my walking route to school (2 miles), I had counted 21 Dukakis signs and only 3 Bush signs.

We all had a belly laugh; this was a very liberal neighborhood next to a sort-of liberal university in a liberal town. Yes, Dukakis carried Travis county that year (no shock) but of course, lost Texas and got creamed nationwide. No one was surprised.

I knew that I was in a bubble; of course, in my case, this mitigated by the fact that previously I was in the Navy which has a very conservative atmosphere. The nuclear engineers I worked with were smart, capable people, as were the mathematics graduate students and professors. But the social outlook could not have been more different.

Sadly, some liberals haven’t caught on to the fact that the rest of the nation is not like them. For example, I sometimes see this:


Yeah, that ticket *might* carry *most* of the Kerry states; maybe…probably not. For those who cry “foul; these people are not comparable” I’d say “sure; you are right.” For example: Elizabeth Warren is smarter than either Sarah Palin or Alan West. But Senator Warren is not a politician; not a national caliber one anyway. In fact, I might argue that Gov. Palin actually might have more political skill than she does. Not intellect; no the intellects aren’t even close; not on the same planet. But politics is not an intellectual contest.

Then you have this:

Screen shot 2013-08-26 at 7.38.31 PM

Oh great. Liberals are going to tell Alaskans what they should do. Talk about adding ammunition to the Palin campaign (if there is one)! There is nothing wrong with, say, giving money to the Democratic candidate but come on; the last thing that we need is for some clueless outsiders to butt in and attempt to “educate” them.

Then there is another kind of bubble: it is the old “who you hang out with”.

Sometimes, when someone wants to support an agenda or cause, people make signs, buttons, or take photos of themselves holding up “I support X” or “This is what a supporter of X” looks like.

I admit that I tend not to do that; no one wants public support from a nerd who is an outspoken atheist.
So no, I did NOT wear this shirt:


When I did wear an Obama shirt, it was more to give comfort to others in “hey the whole nation does NOT watch Fox News”. But it sure wasn’t a case of “look at how cool Obama supporters are.” 🙂

Now you see this:


The meme was snarky but wasn’t among the meanest ones I’ve seen.
But hey, in your bubble of friends, well, many are likely to tell you how AWESOME you are or how cool/good you look. But, hey that is just friends “being supportive” and not much more than that.

But when you believe your friends and you see that, well, your message…say “fell flat” with much of the population; some feelings get hurt (here, here)

Cue the calls about “fat shaming” (no, her weight was not mentioned; see the meme below), “bullying” (no, push back is not bullying; if you put something out there you should expect responses), etc.


This meme in one form or another has been around a lot longer and, well, I would wager that most heterosexual males would find her attractive.

Here is another permutation:


Anyway, I invite the interested reader to click the links I provided. One might read the comments to the Cosmo article.

Note: I certainly don’t approve of the meme in question; I would not have made it up. But I’d cringe if one of my friends was going to post such a photo of themselves on line, unless they did so now (as a show of support) or if this really were a “oh my, I didn’t expect that” type of photo:



(Yeah, I know; I picked two black guys, but the non-black guys I found were all sort of “hippie-ish” or, well, visually wimpy looking. Sorry. And for me: bearded nerdy professor. Big shock.)

August 27, 2013 Posted by | internet issues, political/social, politics, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Google Reader RIP and Facebook’s new censorship

First of all, I loved Google Reader. Now it is gone. 😦

I am trying “all” (; we’ll see how it goes.

First of all, I realize that Facebook is a private internet hangout; they can make any rules that they want. And they depend on sponsors to make money and the sponsors have things to say: in particular, sponsors are pulling their ads from pages that have sex and violence.


However Facebook appears to use user generated complains to censor what gets posted, at least on walls that aren’t the user’s. For example, I got the following message when I tried to post a rather tame video to a group wall (I was allowed to post it on MY wall, and I was allowed to post it as a comment):

Screen shot 2013-07-02 at 11.44.48 AM

I got the same message for another video. Here are the two videos in question:

As you can see, neither contains profanity, threats or other such things. And note: these were NOT copyright complaints.

Again, Facebook has the right to do this. But given that I use (or used to use) Facebook as a place to discuss social issues, well, maybe Facebook doesn’t want to be used for this?

I know: I could post at places like Daily Kos, but on Facebook, I get to discuss things with people who have different points of view.

July 2, 2013 Posted by | internet issues | , | Leave a comment

Keyboard Krugmans and Klitschkos

I was a bit amused when I read the following Tweet from Lennox Lewis, a former world heavyweight boxing champion:

Screen shot 2013-05-24 at 8.30.14 PM

Someone made a comment about “Keyboard Klitschkos”; it is sure easy to puff out the old chest and talk trash to someone you will never meet in the ring.

In terms of boxing: I had to box for PE at the Naval Academy. I made a B (86); they didn’t inflate grades. Basically, an “A” was someone who was at the level to box in intramurals, from which the boxing team was drawn. Going head to head with someone who could compete at that level was both a painful and humiliating experience.

Never mind a competitive amateur or a professional!

This internet principle holds in other arenas. On the internet, an average person can provide “corrections” to a Nobel Laureate economist. Paul Krugman talked about “pulling rank” (e. g. two economists are arguing over a policy, and the more lauded economist argues “hey, I am more successful than you are therefore….”). Paul Krugman thinks that is not a good thing to do. But he goes on to say:

Do I do this myself? Probably on occasion, when I don’t catch myself. But I try not to. I would say that commenters who begin with “I can’t believe that a Nobel prize winner doesn’t understand that …” might want to think a bit harder; mostly, though not always, I have actually thought whatever you’re saying through, and the obvious fallacy you think you’ve found, isn’t.

In other words, if YOU think that he missed something basic in economics, it is highly likely that you are wrong.

And of course, there are the untrained who think that their “common sense” observations (e. g. the heuristics that makes sense TO THEM) constitute something useful to the discussion of a complicated topic. It doesn’t:

In the nicest possible way and with great respect, could I make two suggestions to would-be commenters, based on past experience when this topic has come up-

Please pause before offering your own common sense view. There are topics in science, of which this is one, where common sense is not a good guide. If it were, professional biologists would not have been arguing about it for five decades. There is a large back literature in which the likelihood is strong that whatever commonsense view you put forward has already been proposed and exhaustively discussed. As an analogy, common sense is notoriously misleading when we try to understand quantum mechanics. If you could do physics by common sense, we wouldn’t need physicists. To a lesser extent, something like the same thing applies here.

I admit that the folks I just talked about are in the elite ranks of sports, economics and science.
I am NOT in the elite of anything, though I am competent in mathematics; I do get a few references in mathematical literature:

Screen shot 2013-05-24 at 8.57.17 PM

And even I get tired of dealing with cranks. I can handle it when people know that they don’t know what they are talking about. But, in many cases, people really don’t realize that there IS a body of knowledge out there and that “this makes sense to me” is NOT evidence of anything!

If an expert in a field is doing something in their field that seems counterintuitive to you, just remember that the chances that you are right and that the expert is wrong is very, very small.

I hasten to point out that having a blog or being a writer about a topic does not qualify as being an expert. 🙂

May 25, 2013 Posted by | boxing, evolution, internet issues, science, social/political | , , | Leave a comment

Free Products on the Internet: following the professionals.

Do you love biology? You can learn much of the latest from following the blog of a professional biologist.

Is economics your thing? Have a free daily seminar with a Nobel Laureate economist or follow the thoughts of a former United States Secretary of Labor.

You can read about physics (sometimes) and cosmology and physics here. These blogs are written by research physicists.

So if you want spandex butt shots….why not follow…the twitter feed of a porn star?

(via Girls in Yoga Pants)

I am only sort of kidding about the latter; now-a-days porn stars do have twitter feeds (facebook pages too?)

And I am face book friends with some national columnists and professional boxers and have had conversations (one on one via social media) with some of these people.

Not only did I learn things, I’ve also learned to associate a real human being with the bodies/heads that I see on television…and yes, with even the spandex butt that I ogle. 🙂

January 22, 2012 Posted by | big butts, biology, economics, education, internet issues, physics, science, spandex | Leave a comment

Republican Faith Chat: RIP

Republican Faith Chat is no more:

I wonder if it will appear? My guess……yes. 🙂 If it doesn’t appear on its own…..

Update A site called Republican Faith Chat is up and running for now. This isn’t the old site.

November 17, 2011 Posted by | Blogroll, internet issues, political humor, politics/social, religion, republicans | 8 Comments

Keyboard Heroes and the Penn State Rape Scandal

In case you haven’t heard, on 1 March, 2002 a Penn State football graduate assistant walked in on a assistant coach raping a child in the shower. He reported what he saw to head coach Joe Paterno, who then reported it to his superiors. No one called the police.

So, this came to light recently and the Penn State athletic director, president and, yes, Joe Paterno were fired.

No problems with that (the firings). Yes, some of the officials face perjury charges, among others.

But now, on the internet, I am reading about how others “would have done this and that” had they been that graduate assistant who walked in on the rape. Note: the grad assistant is was/is a strapping young man and former varsity football player; he is no wimp.

But you know what? These “keyboard heros” that “wouda/couda/shouda” probably wouldn’t have done jack.

Remember that the young man who saw the incident was probably in shock; it wasn’t just how heinous the incident was but rather WHO was doing it.

I get the sense that most of the keyboard heroes are imagining themselves walking in on a stranger doing the raping rather than walking in on someone that they deeply respect and admire doing the raping.

Of course, I do fault the grad assistant and Coach Paterno for not calling the police that day; THAT was inexcusable.

But their not doing so…..perhaps understandable (even if completely wrong and inexcusable?)

One of our local sportswriters wrote and excellent blog post on the matter that I can highly recommend. Here is a bit from Kirk Wessler of the Peoria Journal Star:

[…] We are appalled. But as the shock wears off, we should not be surprised.

Three factors loom large in the Penn State story. They are present throughout society, but they run at especially high intensity in sports.

The corrupting nature of power.

The culture of the closed group.

Our instinct for self-preservation.

Over 62 years at Penn State, the last 46 as head football coach, Joe Paterno became the most powerful man on his campus. As the decades rolled by, he won games and national championships, he raised money for the school library, which was named for him, and his reputation for morality and integrity became legend. What parent would not want their son to play for Joe Pa?

At some point — who knows when? — Paterno became bigger than life. He could not, would not be replaced. He could not, would not die. And nothing would tarnish the proud image of the Nittany Lions. Joe Pa could not, would not allow it. He knew people, the right people. Problems did not exist at Happy Valley. They simply went away. Paterno was invincible, because he did things the right way. And nobody was more convinced of this than he.

Around Paterno, there were his teams, filled with players he recruited, mentored by his hand-picked assistants. The very concept of the team is magnificent: a group of individuals, working together as one to achieve a common goal. The best teams are like families. They argue, they fight, but in the end, blood rules. Win or lose, they stick together.

Then, at some point — who knows when, exactly? — it’s not just win or lose, but right or wrong. The lines are drawn from inside, always. Insiders are the only ones qualified to make those judgments, and all judgments are in the best interest of the team. The team is forever right. Therefore, whatever a member of the team does to protect another member of the team … that, too, must be right.

These things are human nature.

A person of power will be inclined to preserve that power. A person who has built something great will be inclined to maintain that greatness and protect it from assault. He will be inclined to do these things, no matter what it takes.

Members of a family group, a team, will be inclined to preserve the group. The tighter the bonds between members, the greater the sense of preservation. When faced with a decision involving the team, the inclination of one member will be loyalty to the group and its members, above all else.

And this, too, is human nature. We are inclined, first and foremost, to save ourselves. That inclination is not necessarily what we would prefer. It is not always right. But it is the basic, prevailing instinct of our beings.[…]

Read the rest.

With that, I can recommend this Scientific American article by Karen Schrock:

According to psychological theory, every person has a social identity, which depends on being a member of various groups. “The social groups you belong to become a part of the very essence of who you feel you are,” explains psychologist Adam Galinsky, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. These groups can include our families and circles of friends; the clubs, churches and schools we attend; our race, ethnicity and nationality; and the list goes on. The more strongly we identify with a particular group, the more vehemently we defend its members and ideals—a trait that experts think evolved along with early human society. Banding together and protecting one another allowed our ancestors to survive, and so to this day we are quick to cheer on our comrades and feel animosity toward rival groups. Many scientists think this in-group psychology explains prejudice, racism and even sports fandom.

Most of the Penn State students who rioted Wednesday night have social identities that are built around a lifelong allegiance to the school. If you attend Penn State, Galinsky explains, “Penn State is you, it’s part of you, it’s such an important thing.” And nothing symbolizes Penn State more than Joe Paterno, head football coach for 46 years. Many of these distraught young adults chose to attend the university because of their love for the Paterno’s team—not the other way around. And they rioted because “the person that symbolized the school they go to, that’s given the school stature, that’s made their own selves have meaning and purpose, has now been taken away from them in an aggressive and sullied way,” Galinsky explains.


November 12, 2011 Posted by | college football, internet issues, social/political | Leave a comment

Youtube “Watch Me Shrink” series

I won’t embed the video because some more prudish workplaces might call it “Not Safe For Work”.

But I’ll post a link here.

There is a “watch me shrink” series of videos on youtube; it consists mostly of curvy women posing in their underwear; the idea is that they want to show a “before”, “during” and “after” series of body shots.

Funny, but many of their “before” shots look pretty good to me, but I can understand someone wanting to get fitter. But yeah, mostly I like it for “dirty old man” reasons, I’ll cheer on these women on their fitness journey! 🙂







October 26, 2011 Posted by | big butts, bikinis, internet issues | Leave a comment