# blueollie

## My own “triggers” (of knee jerk responses)

I’ve often chuckled about “trigger warnings” and snowflakey things in academia. But I have my own “triggers” which, well, set off an illogical knee jerk reaction in me. NO, I don’t need to be “warned” or protected from them. An NO, this is not the same as what is meant by the way the word is usually used (say, a war veteran being told that a science demonstration will have a loud “boom”).

1. Buzz words. When I am deciding if I want to click on the link to read an article, I look at the headline and the words. And yeah, there are certain words and phrases that trigger a “scroll past” or “look elsewhere” reaction in me.

Among those: “how scientists find that The Bible was right about….” or “privilege”, “patriarchy”, “deep state”, “misogyny”, “cultural appropriation” etc.

What gets me skeptical are titles such as “What if everything you knew about X is wrong”, or “what you don’t know about Y”.

2. People themselves. I admit this (to my shame): when I see a person about my age (or within a few years) who is obese and moving with great difficulty, I feel an automatic contempt. That, of course, is illogical as I know nothing about the history of the person (e. g., they could have had a stroke, injury, heart attack or other unfortunate physical problem) and the fact that I haven’t as yet is mostly due to genetics and good luck more than anything else. I’ve done nothing to merit “good luck” though I do practice decent health and lifestyle habits. Still, those “healthy habits” only tilt the odds in your favor; there are NO guarantees.

So I try to use my mind to get past that. But I can see where the concept of a “cursed person” comes from and why ancient people might ascribe such a condition to having angered a deity, spirit or whatever.

Workout notes; thunderstorm (which cancelled a baseball game) so I did 4 miles of “running” on my home treadmill in 46 minutes.

May 20, 2017

## Ok, Obamacare repeal passes the House..what next? Malthus lives on…

Here are a couple of good articles which explain what must happen for this bill to become law: it needs a CBO score, then it needs to be determined if this bill meets the rules for reconciliation AND it can even get 50 Republican votes. (Washington Post, Scientific American)

My guess: House moderate Republicans changed their minds because, unlike the ACA, this is unlikely to become law in its current form. So, while the ACA passage cost the Democrats many, many seats, this bill, if it dies or becomes unrecognizable, might not cost the Republicans nearly as much.

Besides, the biggest threat to many Republicans is a primary challenge, NOT the general election.

My guess: the Senate will have to make some tweaks to both get to 50 votes AND to meet reconciliation rules, and that tweaked bill might not survive a second round in the House. I’ll be watching carefully.

Oh, my feed is full of “those heartless Republicans” but these pleas are likely to fall on deaf ears. The elite Republicans have always had a bit of a social Darwinist element to their reasoning.

You see life is hard, it is risky and many do not make it. If you are one of those, well, that is sad, and perhaps a charity might help you out. But that is NOT “our problem”.

This sentiment is expressed by former US Representative Joe Walsh:

Republicans in office cannot say this directly, but he can. Believe me, many of the wealthy Republicans think this way.

There are assets and debits. If you cannot contribute due to either age or disability AND aren’t wealthy, well, you are a debit, not a credit. So society is better off not supporting you. Reverend Malthus would be proud.

Workout notes:
rotator cuff, pull ups (ugly got 10-10-10-10-(5-5), incline presses (10 x 135, 5 x 135, 4 x 135, strict hips), military: 20 x 50 (dumbbell) seated, supported, 2 sets of 10 x 45 standing (dumbbell), 3 sets of 10 x 110 row machine.

2 mile run: 10:36/19:14 via 8 minutes of 2-2-2-2, then 6.7 until mile 1, 6.8-7.1 and 7.2 for the last 46 seconds.

Then goblet squats (100 meter walk recoveries) 50-45-50-60-50-65 (5 reps). Took two sets to get to the proper depth.

Now: onward to see my daughter graduate and finish final exams.

May 4, 2017

## Hitting the bat with the ball… (personal and trivial)

My dad introduced me to baseball when I was quite young. I had a toddler bat and he would pitch to me. At first, he would lob the ball at my bat so I could hit it.

I also remember that I was promised a quarter if I hit the ball over the house (a rubber ball). I did that.

But ….when it came to an actual game…I wasn’t so good. I got used to my dad lobbing the ball..trying to hit a ball that was coming at different speeds, different angles…ugh.

I didn’t have the genes to be a good athlete.

So what does this have to do with my life now? I teach college mathematics for a living. And yes, the students need practice on elementary problems before they can develop the expertise to tackle “real world” mathematics problems.

And this is one of the toughest things to do: encourage an appropriate amount of confidence: “yes, your showing that you can solve the canned problems that we ask on exams shows that you have some ability and knowledge, but solving an uncanned problem is several orders of magnitude harder, and you’ll have to work up to that.”

I still remember the day after finishing my undergraduate mathematics program. I thought that I was hot stuff. So I strolled into the library, picked up a mathematics journal, attempted to start a mathematics article…and never made it past the abstract. I understood a few of the words (“compact” was one of them) but that was about it.

Later, just prior to starting my graduate program, I went to the mathematics section of the book store..and perhaps understood the TITLES of maybe, 5-10 percent of the books.
After getting my PH. D., I understood 20-26 of them. 🙂 But by this time, that did not shock me.

Weekend agenda Spouse is in Cuba. So I had dinner with a friend last night (yay!), do a 5K run (plus weights, yay!) this morning, cut some grass (boo…I hate that), see a couple of baseball games (yay!), dinner with another friend (yay!), more grading…boo. I guess that isn’t a bad “yay” to “boo” ratio.

April 22, 2017 Posted by | Personal Issues | Leave a comment

## ugh…

Oh, it isn’t that bad. I am still feeling oh so slightly out of sorts..probably due to lack of sleep. Play wise, I am trying to decide between doing a 5K on April 8 and getting a chance to watch quite a bit of baseball (2 Bradley games, 2 Chiefs games..probably watch 2 BU games) or a chance to do a rugged trail 30 miler at night that I am in no way prepared for. I am leaning toward the 5k and baseball.

Personal: my students did reasonably well on their midterms. That pleases me.

Workout notes: new shoes…wear them tomorrow? 4 mile walk (Cornstalk classic) after weights:

rotator cuff, 5 sets of 10 pull ups
bench press: 10 x 135, 6 x 185 (people in the gym), 10 x 170
standing dumbbell military: 10 x 50, 10 x 45, 10 x 45
rows: 3 sets of 10 x 110
Hammer Machine incline: 3 sets of 10 x 140 (45 + 25)
goblet squats (used as rests): sets of 5: 45-45-50-55-60-65
leg presses: 10 x 250, 10 x 270
abs: 2 sets of 10 yoga leg lifts, 12 twist crunch, 10 moving yoga half-bridges
headstand: since I tried it, I had to follow through and the second attempt went easy…still have confidence issues.

March 29, 2017

## Unrequited Love

Over the past year, I’ve had an energetic back-and-forth with someone who I’ve grown fond of. A year ago, I didn’t even know what she looked like, though we were FB friends for a couple of years (I wasn’t even sure if “she” were even a “she”…that is, was this an “alternate account”?). So our FB relationship has grown and evolved; right now I play the part of a clueless, infatuated, socially awkward male who constantly gets rebuffed…but still doesn’t learn. This has generated a series of memes, and here is one of the latest ones:

I admit that I like this one as I am a fan of “over the years” photos; I’ll post another one as a “PS” to this post.

But behind all of the joking is the idea of “unrequited love”, which the Main Ingredient sang about so well:

And this has been a big part of my life, albeit NOT in terms of human relationships. Oh sure, many (most?) of those I had a crush on did NOT have crush on me. But hey, that is life for most of us. I am thinking more along the lines of my life and professional aspirations.

Yes, for most of my young life, I really, really, really wanted to be a professional athlete. And I did all of the “right” things: I ran wind sprints, lifted weights, practiced my football drills. And it paid off: I stared two years of JV an one year of varsity football in high school.

But, well, college competition was a different story, and, in all honesty, I didn’t have even enough ability to play Division III ball. There just isn’t a market for those who take 5.8-5.9 to run a 40 yard dash (to put this into perspective, linemen usually run 4.8-5.0, backs 4.3 to 4.5).

So now, yes, I do hear from professional sports teams….when they have ticket specials. 🙂

But this has a happy ending. You know all of that running and weight lifting I did? Well, I am still doing it, albeit at a more age appropriate level. I grew to love working out, and I still do.

So, sometimes unrequited love really does have a happy ending. In my case: no broken body (though I have a few aches and pains…that is normal for someone in their late 50’s), no concussions. No athletic performance either, but I can still run a 5K at 8:30-8:40 mpm (yeah, that used to be 6:20…but never mind) and I can still do sets of 10-15 pull ups.

February 18, 2017

## Bucky: Rest in Peace

You will be sorely missed.

January 23, 2017 Posted by | Personal Issues | | Leave a comment

## First Class Eve

Ok, time to get to bed as classes start tomorrow.

I’ve had some interesting political discussion today and…ok, watched a lot of short videos about some of the “100 greatest NFL players” and focused on the linemen, especially the offensive linemen.

Workout notes: 5.1 mile Corntalk course; jogged to the start of the dogpark hill, and then ran the uphills hard; walked, then jogged to the next uphill. I did that workout on December 31’st. Felt good.

Time to get it..lots of admin stuff to do.

January 18, 2017 Posted by | Personal Issues, running | Leave a comment

## Semester about to start

So for a bit of “mathematical physics” humor:

So go ahead and unfollow this blog. 🙂

1.5 hour department meeting, plus an extra 20 minutes for us older folks…

Workout notes: run on the treadmill (to break in new shoes): 5 minute segments for the first 50 minutes (0.5 incline)
5.2-5.3-5.4-7.0-5.3-7.0-5.3-7.0-5.3-7.00, then walk jog for 4 minutes, 6.7 for 3, 6.8 for 2, 6.9, 7.0 for 1 minute each; 6 miles in 1:00:04
3 mile walk (I think) and it felt good…until I tried to get up after sitting down. It WAS work but work that left me feeling refreshed.

Time: about 52 minutes (by the time of day), or 15:0x ish minutes per mile, which felt like the pace I was walking.

August 23, 2016

## Olympics and useful BS (nonsense)…

Yes, I’ve watched some Olympic action (in particular, boxing, swimming, gymnastics, court volleyball). I remember watching these when I was a teenager…and watching NFL games and thinking: “wow, with some work, that COULD BE ME.” I still remember using my Exergym rope exerciser while watching NFL games on the black and white television in my bedroom.

This was on the weekend; I used my high school universal gym during the week, as well as running the steps, running the track, doing agility drills on my own, etc.

I remember when I was on the JV: our games were on Wednesday night. On Sunday evening, after the NFL game, I’d go to the track and do 2 miles, reasonably hard (13:30-14:00 was my time, as a 220 lb. offensive tackle).

No one was going to outwork me! My motto was “you can do anything if you want it badly enough and are willing to work hard enough.”

That, of course, is complete and total bullshit.

The reality is: “if you see someone on TV because they are good enough to warrant TV coverage, that will NEVER be you…unless you are one of those “1 in 1000” outliers.

I eventually found what I was best at (mathematics) and even that, I was nowhere good enough to be, say, a MIT professor. Getting the Ph. D. and getting a few new results published was about my talent level; it is a bit like the 2:25 (male) marathon runner who dreams of sneaking into the Olympic Trials, though he knows that he has essential zero chance of making the team, or the baseball player who peaks out at playing, say, A or AA ball. It is still damned good, but not “TV good”.

So, would I have been happier (and better off) had I known that early in life? It is hard to say.

On one hand, I would have been more relaxed. On the other hand:

1. I grew to love lifting weights and running because I did these things to get ready for football. I enjoy these activities to this day; my first weight room workout was in 1972!
2. I can sympathize with the student who, say, is enrolled in engineering but doesn’t have the talent for it. I can explain that there are other rewarding paths to a college degree and that humans tend to have different talents.

And yes, I am getting ready to go lift, work on my math paper, watch some more Olympics, and see yet another class A baseball game this weekend.

August 12, 2016

## Rant: recognizing the limits of what one knows

I’ll admit that I am an expert in a very narrow slice of mathematics. But I am at least an AU from being an international or even a national caliber expert in that narrow field of mathematics.
And yes, I often read about topics that are not in my area; I enjoy popular books and articles on topics from the various branches of science, economics and the like.

Nevertheless, I also realize that when I read such a book or article, or when I attend a public lecture, I am getting a watered down, simplified treatment of the subject. I lack the context and the prerequisite knowledge to appreciate a presentation aimed at the experts.

And there lies one of my biggest frustrations when it comes to talking to people, either on the internet or in person. There are so many who really can’t detect the difference between expert knowledge and what they read (and perhaps half-digested …if that much) from a popular book. It is THAT level of “lack of humility” that makes some unpleasant conversation companions; I am ok with ignorance. After all, I am ignorant of the vast majority of human knowledge. I think that all of us are.

And, sadly, I see this lack of intellectual humility in political or social issues discussion, especially from the “losing side”. It appears to me that being on the losing side of an election (and I’ve been there, many, many times) brings out the worst in people in several ways.

Example: I had someone try to tell me that Hillary Clinton’s popular vote is “within the margin of error”, when one factors in the caucus states.

Of course, that is a dumb statement for a number of reasons.

1. There is a difference between a vote count and a poll count, even though both have a margin of error (remember Florida in the 2000 general election). The margin of errors in vote count is much smaller than it is for a poll.

2. The margin of error for a poll is $1.96 * \frac{.5}{\sqrt{n}}$ (assuming a 95 percent confidence interval and a relatively close election; this comes from the normal approximation to the proportion distribution. So as $n$ increases, the confidence interval, and therefore the margin of error, decreases. Note: for more on polls, read this wonderful little article written by a physics professor.

3. Hillary Clinton leads by about 3 million votes, even when one counts the caucus votes. The latter doesn’t add much as there are fewer caucus states, and these tend to be smaller states. Anyhow, she leads about 57-43.

4. The person making the claim appeared to not understand that winning a small state by a very large percentage didn’t make up for winning a bigger state by a smaller margin.

Yes, by knowing that Sanders won a lot of caucus states and that there IS such a thing as margin of error puts this individual into the “above average” category. But this person was clearly ignorant of their own ignorance.

There is another factor in play: I really think that desperation makes one dumber. When one really likes a candidate or a person, or even a sports team, it is tough to accept an unpleasant reality. I’ve become acquainted with the latter as an Illinois football fan (“yeah, we have a shot at being Wisconsin!” Sure.)

Desperation can lead to an abandonment of one’s values. Check out the Republican Chairman’s take on Donald Trump

Oh sure, few would be surprised at Donald Trump’s behavior, and I doubt that a certain type of Republican really cares that much (“hey, what do you expect with Trump anyway?”)

May 16, 2016