Education, public discourse and ideas…

Bonus: has an interesting ranking of the all time bets NBA teams. The discussion is interesting as well.

Press coverage: Paul Krugman attacks an attack on Elizabeth Warren:

Yesterday Politico posted a hit piece on Elizabeth Warren, alleging that she’s being hypocritical in her opposition to a key aspect of TPP, that’s interesting in several ways. First, it was clearly based on information supplied by someone close to or inside the Obama administration – another illustration of the poisonous effect the determination to sell TPP is having on the Obama team’s intellectual ethics. Second, the charge of hypocrisy was ludicrous nonsense – “You say you’re against allowing corporations to sue governments, yet you were a paid witness against a corporations suing the government!” Um, what?

And more generally, the whole affair is an illustration of the key role of sheer laziness in bad journalism.

Think about it: when is the charge of hypocrisy relevant? Basically, only when a public figure is preaching about individual behavior, and perhaps holding himself or herself up as a role model. So yes, it’s fair to go after someone who preaches morality but turns out to be a crook or a sexual predator. But articles alleging that someone’s personal choices are somehow hypocritical given their policy positions are almost always off point. Someone can declare that inequality is a problem while being personally rich; they’re calling for policy changes, not mass self-abnegation. Someone can declare our judicial system flawed while fighting cases as best they can within that system — until policy change happens, you have to live in the world as it is.

I see this attack on Hillary Clinton as being similar (the attack: she wants to overturn Citizens United, but still welcomes support from 527 groups). To me, this is like advocating for a rules change, but playing within the rules prior to said change. I am fine with either side doing it.

Education One secret is that most students really don’t want to be educated. They are fine when learning is painless but ultimately, they want the grades, credits and credentials:

Dear Students:

The collective attitude you have shown toward reading and writing during the past semester is neither new nor surprising. You are not well-suited to do either. To your credit, you hate ignorance, as I do. To your discredit, you really only hate being shown that you are ignorant, through encountering words and ideas that are foreign to you and your immediate experience. Rather than look them up and learn about them, as is moronically simple these days, you disdain them, and then complain that you do not understand them. This complaint is disingenuous because you show no interest in having them explained.

Rather, you want to be relieved of responsibility for knowing them, and for reading the works that contain them. In short, you do not want to be educated, or even to go through the motions of education. What you want is a degree, and if there existed a system of academic indulgences, you would gladly fork over four years tuition to receive one without having to waste time going to classes. For a little extra, you could get someone like me to drop by and, for about a half-hour, confirm your base prejudices, the ones you’ve gotten from television and the movies and video games and life in general. You have written about these prejudices incessantly: why brute force is an answer for everything, why the whole world, with its little invisible workers everywhere, has come together for your material and personal happiness, why you live in the greatest country in the history of the world, led by its greatest leader, why your ethnic group has undergone suffering that leaves you preeminent over us, who are all racists… I will not go on.

I have read your stories about anime characters, complete with super-deformed doodles, your tales of extraterrestrials and werewolves and vampires. It is interesting that your eyes turn to the supernatural world so often, since you have such an impoverished notion of this one. […]

Note: I don’t think that, in this regard, much has changed since the time I was in college as an undergraduate; we were that way also. It is more comfortable to rationalize what you already know.

Public discourse: I think that honest discussions such as this one are a good thing; note that both of these students have some serious misconceptions.

However I really don’t like the headline. This is why: (opinion to follow) all too many times, people come to honestly held opinions and are loudly shouted down as “bigots” when they express them.

Examples: many of us have indigent family members who are lazy, dumb and perpetual moochers. So, it is easy to extend what we see in our own lives to conclude that laziness and stupidity is what causes poverty.

We see inner city riots and see mostly blacks. So, given that we humans are hard wired to “reason” inductively, it is easy to conclude that there is something wrong with black people.

We read about people leaving the US to join ISIS. We come to conclusions…without realizing that we are reading about extreme outlier behavior!

The same thing applies to lottery winners; the winners make the paper; the far more common “didn’t win diddly squat” people do not (in fact you are more likely to die in a car crash while driving to buy a lottery ticket than you are to draw the winning number)

I’d like to see more honest discussion and less “shouting down”.

Attitudes don’t help either. All too often I’ve seen conservatives make their own opinion as the benchmark for what is moral and patriotic. All too often I’ve seen liberals make their opinion as to what is bigoted or misogynistic. And all too often those setting their own opinion as the standard are those who are very limited in intellect and lacking in anything resembling accomplishment. I think that too many are overconfident in their own judgement and unaware of what they may be missing.

May 22, 2015 Posted by | basketball, NBA, political/social, racism, social/political | Leave a comment

Donald Sterling’s comments on race….

Obnoxious, but seriously: do you think that he is really that different than most other rich, older white guys? Seriously?

Of course, the NBA will have to discipline him, given that most of the players are black and many of the fans are too.

April 26, 2014 Posted by | basketball, NBA, racism, social/political | | Leave a comment

A couple of my favorite NBA players

April 15, 2014 Posted by | basketball, NBA | , , , | Leave a comment

Stars: Astronomical and NBA

Workout notes AM: 2200 yard swim: 500 free, 10 x (25 fist, 25 free) on the 1, 10 x (25 fly, 75 free) on the 2; fastest 2 were 1:44, 1:45; the rest were 1:47-1:48. 200 cool down (side, back); had someone to push against.

PM: 5 miles plus (really about 5.5) including 4 with the group on the steamboat course.

I’ll be glad when the NBA season is over; staying up to watch the Celtics is making me sleep deprived. But it is a lot of fun; most of their playoff games have been close. My guess is that the next game against the Heat; possibly the next two..will be close. The Heat are far from finished.

Note: Paul Pierce is being guarded by LeBron James; that is a tough person to shoot over.

Jerry Coyne displays some reader shots of the Venus transit; one of them shows the sun setting over buildings with Venus in the disk of the sun.

Think that we are hot stuff? Compare the size of the moon to other things:

June 7, 2012 Posted by | astronomy, basketball, NBA, running, science, swimming, walking | Leave a comment

Climate Change, Energy, Fairness and Fatigue

I admit that I woke up a bit tired today. Part of it is my 4 mile race (running) on Saturday, and 13.1 mile walk (half marathon) on Sunday; both were high intensity efforts for me.

But part of it is that the Boston Celtic vs. Miami Heat series is too interesting to fall asleep on; I watch the first part intending to go to sleep later but it never works that way. The series is tied 2-2; last night the Celtics won the first half, the Heat won the second half and it went into overtime and the Celtics overcame Paul Piece fouling out easier than the Heat overcame LeBron James fouling out. Hence the 2 point overtime win for the Celtics.

Workout notes Weights only.
rotator cuff (pulley, dumbbell)
pull ups (4 sets of 10)
rows: 15 x 180, 15 x 200, 10 x 220
bench press: 10 x 135, 8 x 165, 4 x 175, 1 x 190 (bodyweight: 188.5 so I got my body weight)
190 was easy…sort of. I used a spotter.
incline press: 10 x 135, 9 x 135
pull downs: 3 sets of 10 x 160
curls: 3 sets of 10 x 70 (machine)
military: 2 sets of 10 x 80, 1 set of 10 x 90 (machine; saving my forearms)
sit ups: 5 sets of 20
push backs: 3 sets of 10 x 130
abductor: 3 sets of 10 x 170
hip hikes
about 10-15 minutes of yoga (including head stand)

That was it; it took me some time to get warmed up but by the 3’rd set of pull ups, I started to sweat.

Perspectives and projections
The perils of drawing conclusions from incomplete data:

We are in a liquidity trap; companies have money but no reason to invest in more jobs as consumer demand is not there. Recovery has to start at the bottom and not the top, as Robert Reich explains.

Climate change is affecting our energy producing systems. One reason: when one generates something by boiling water and using the steam to turn a turbine, the steam has to condense before it is put back into the system. Cold water is usually used to condense the steam, and the warmer the water, the harder it is to condense and the harder it is to keep a good vacuum in the condenser. This lowers the efficiency; the Navy knows this as the steam plants for ships are less efficient when the Navy sails in warm waters.

Biofuels: when talking about biofuels, one has to consider the energy that goes into producing the fuels to begin with AND the impact of, say, cutting down trees to make the wood. Peter Fairley explains:

New science confirms that burning trees to produce power instead of coal may be a losing strategy for combatting climate change.

In my April 2012 Spectrum news article on the questionable carbon benefits of largescale biomass power generation, I identified a boom in exports of wood pellets from the U.S. Southeast to Europe, where they are fast becoming a crucial energy supply for power firms seeking to meet the European Union’s renewable energy and carbon reduction mandates.

Forbes Magazine greentech columnist (and friend) Erica Gies noted my analysis in a May 22 blog post, Massachusetts Addresses “Biomass Loophole” and Limits Subsidies, about recently-issued regulations that set higher standards for biomass power plants seeking state-issued renewable energy certificates. The regulations eliminate the presumption that biomass power is carbon-neutral and, instead, require some proof from power generators that their operations—including fuel harvesting—deliver environmental benefits. Gies describes the state move as “an important course correction to the ‘biomass loophole’ that wood from forests has enjoyed in many policy frameworks around the world.”

The caveat: all too often, energy research is influenced by money from companies that, well, want to keep selling their products. I am NOT saying that is the case with this article, but I think this is why some on “my side” might be reluctant to accept such conclusions, even if they, well, turn out to be correct.

June 4, 2012 Posted by | economy, energy, NBA, technology, time trial/ race, weight training | Leave a comment

In St. Joseph, MN

Ate dinner at the packet pickup, now watching 76’ers-Celtics on TV. Celtics up 46-31 at the half. It could be warm tomorrow; perhaps some rain toward the end.

May 19, 2012 Posted by | frogs, marathons, NBA, racewalking, travel, ultra, walking | Leave a comment

Today: I hated myself for being slow

This afternoon, I went to the Riverplex to help my “Building Steam” group train. But I did an easy 3.2 mile run (31:26) on my own.

Early into the run, a young woman wearing very tight, shiny spandex shorts (bright blue) blasted past me at what appeared to be at least a sub 7 minute per mile pace. These were the “almost bun-hugger” cropped shorts.

I HATED myself for being so slow. :)

Other sights made up for it later though; there are advantages to being slow.

Oh yeah…the group: we started a bit too quickly as I was warmed up at the very start. Still the group hung in well and the slowest person averaged 14:20 minutes per mile (supposed to be the 14:00 minute per mile pace group). It was the best workout of the year, IMHO.

Total miles: 6 (3 run, 3 walk).


(via yahoo)

I did miss the first 3 quarters of the Celtics-76’ers game, and when I picked it up, the Celtics were up by 20 and went on to win 107-91. So, at least I’ve watched the competitive games.

May 17, 2012 Posted by | basketball, NBA, running, walking | Leave a comment

Teamwork, Raygun’s economics, Hot Jupiters and Hot ancient women…


(image from Yahoo)

I just watched the 76’ers beat the Celtics 82-81; the 76’ers out hustled the Celtics for most of the game and deserved to win. Then again, the Celitcs scored 13 points in the second quarter and 11 in the third; you aren’t going to win many games that way.

The last 4 Celtic games (I’ve watched them all): lose by 1, win by 3, win by 1, lose by 1. At least these are not boring games. It doesn’t matter that much though, in that the winner of the Heat-Pacers will win the East (IMHO).

Teamwork of a different sort
There are social spiders that support each other and hunt in packs:

(hat tip: Conservation Report)

Can Paul Krugman stand a Ray-gun in the hands of an “Austerian”? Go to his blog to find out!

Hot Gas Planets
Why are astronomers interested in star planetary systems which have large gas planets that orbit the host star from a short distance?

These are Jupiter-sized planets that have an orbit of only about three days. The scientists looked at 63 hot Jupiters to see if they could find evidence for any nearby Earth-like planets. They found none.[…]

The current theory is that hot Jupiters formed and then migrated in towards their stars. The researchers say that the migration might have “disrupted the formation of Earth-like planets.” Good thing our Jupiter kept its cool.

In short, a “hot giant gas planet” might mean that there is no use looking for an “earth” in that system.

Hot ancient women
Via Scientific American:

Since their discovery in 1994, the spectacular paintings of lions, rhinos, and other animals in southern France’s Chauvet Cave have stood out as the oldest known cave art, clocking in at about 37,000 years old.* But there have been occasional sightings of other cave art that is equally ancient, although its dating has been more uncertain. Now a team working at another site in the south of France claims to have discovered what appear to be engravings of female genitalia that are as old as or older than Chauvet, possibly making them the world’s most ancient cave art.

Men have been interested in such things for a long time, it seems. :)

May 15, 2012 Posted by | astronomy, basketball, biology, economy, human sexuality, nature, NBA, physics, politics, science | Leave a comment

Social chimps, galaxies, technicals and the horse race

Weekly address

The horse race, as the NY Times sees it.

This has to be one of the worst technical foul calls that I’ve ever seen.

Check out this cluster of galaxies

(click for the larger image)

Chimps Even chimps have differences between societies: here is a case in which tool use differs between groups.

May 12, 2012 Posted by | 2012 election, astronomy, Barack Obama, basketball, biology, nature, NBA, science | Leave a comment

Assorted Topics: prime numbers, smart security, and Wladimir’s upcoming boxing (mis)match

I started my vacation last night by watching a thrilling basketball game between the Celtics and the Hawks. The Hawks trailed but didn’t go away; they even took a lead with 3 minutes to go and still held it with under one minute to go. But Paul Pierce made a huge defensive play (block) and the Hawks missed one of two free throws; Pierce made both of his. So the Celtics won 83-80 to take the series 4-2 and to take on the number 8 seed 76’ers who eliminated an injury depleted Bulls team.

Wladimir Klitichko is trying to convince his fans that his upcoming bout against Tony Thompson will be competitive.

This is what happened last time:

And now Thompson is over 40 and Wladimir has gotten even better. Sorry; I’ll be surprised if this goes past the middle rounds.

I respect Thompson for trying; it takes guts to get in the ring with that beast!


Mathematics and Profiling

Terrance Tao is on the verge of another huge mathematical breakthrough:

One of the oldest unsolved problems in mathematics is also among the easiest to grasp. The weak Goldbach conjecture says that you can break up any odd number into the sum of, at most, three prime numbers (num­bers that cannot be evenly divided by any other num­ber except themselves or 1). For example:

35 = 19 + 13 + 3
77 = 53 + 13 + 11

Mathematician Terence Tao of the University of California, Los Angeles, has now inched toward a proof. He has shown that one can write odd numbers as sums of, at most, five primes—and he is hopeful about getting that down to three. Besides the sheer thrill of cracking a nut that has eluded some of the best minds in mathematics for nearly three centuries, Tao says, reaching that coveted goal might lead mathematicians to ideas useful in real life—for example, for encrypting sensitive data.

The weak Goldbach conjecture was proposed by 18th-century mathematician Christian Goldbach. It is the sibling of a statement concerning even numbers, named the strong Goldbach conjecture but actually made by his colleague, mathematician Leonhard Euler. The strong version says that every even number larger than 2 is the sum of two primes. As its name implies, the weak version would follow if the strong were true: to write an odd number as a sum of three primes, it would be sufficient to subtract 3 from it and apply the strong version to the resulting even number.

Note: Tao is a Fields Medalist and perhaps one of the smartest human beings on this planet.

Here is what is wrong with it:

1. There are so few terrorists that profiling will almost never produce a true positive; you effectively gain no information from doing it.
2. Actual terrorists often don’t fit the profile.
3. The actual terrorists can “counter” the profiling tactic (e. g., deliberately picking those who don’t fit the profile)
4. This tactic builds resentment.

Bruce Schneier concludes:

The proper reaction to screening horror stories isn’t to subject only “those people” to it; it’s to subject no one to it. (Can anyone even explain what hypothetical terrorist plot could successfully evade normal security, but would be discovered during secondary screening?) Invasive TSA screening is nothing more than security theater. It doesn’t make us safer, and it’s not worth the cost. Even more strongly, security isn’t our society’s only value. Do we really want the full power of government to act out our stereotypes and prejudices? Have we Americans ever done something like this and not been ashamed later? This is what we have a Constitution for: to help us live up to our values and not down to our fears.


By the way, kudos to Sam Harris for publishing an expert who completely disagrees with him.

May 11, 2012 Posted by | basketball, boxing, civil liberties, humor, mathematics, NBA, Personal Issues, statistics, world events | 1 Comment


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