# blueollie

## Yucky snow….:-P

Today: right around freezing…rain which changed to heavy snow. It isn’t that cold right now but the roads are very sloppy.

So, I’ll blog for a while then walk to the university gym (if it is open) at 9 am; lift and use the treadmill.

Right now, I am listening to an old Fleetwood Mac album Mirage.

Posts
Science and the public
Yes, scientists and “the public” at large disagree on many key issues. Of course, the scientists are right, except for one issue. The scientists seem to think that better science education will narrow the divide. But I disagree for two reasons.

1. Religion is still a huge factor in determining what people think.

2. Science is hard and frankly many (most?) people simply don’t have the ability to master it or at least obtain an “educated layperson’s knowledge” of it. Accepting something that sounds counter-intuitive seems like going against “common sense” and it takes some intellectual ability to distinguish between what is nonsense and what is…well…true.

I know that I have that trouble with regards to things like “learning disabilities”: what is quackery and what is solid? Of course this area will be difficult for a while as it isn’t as if we can open up people’s brains and examine them.

What isn’t difficult to accept is that vaccines work. Sure, the uninitiated might read a list of ingredients and say “yuck”, but the fact is that some preventible diseases are coming back and some are fighting back. It has gotten to the point that some doctors won’t see “anti-vaccine” patients:

With California gripped by a measles outbreak, Dr. Charles Goodman posted a clear notice in his waiting room and on Facebook: His practice will no longer see children whose parents won’t get them vaccinated.

“Parents who choose not to give measles shots, they’re not just putting their kids at risk, but they’re also putting other kids at risk — especially kids in my waiting room,” the Los Angeles pediatrician said.

It’s a sentiment echoed by a small number of doctors who in recent years have “fired” patients who continue to believe debunked research linking vaccines to autism. They hope the strategy will lead parents to change their minds; if that fails, they hope it will at least reduce the risk to other children in the office.

The tough-love approach — which comes amid the nation’s second-biggest measles outbreak in at least 15 years, with at least 98 cases reported since last month — raises questions about doctors’ ethical responsibilities. Most of the measles cases have been traced directly or indirectly to Disneyland in Southern California.

I haven’t thought this through, though part of me wants to cheer this.

I admit that I am disgusted by this “hey, I am a MOM therefore I know best” attitude that I sometimes hear. Hey, aren’t there moms in 3’rd world countries which have high child mortality rates? Weren’t there moms 100 years ago when the childhood mortality rate was roughly 50 percent?

Sports
In *some* quarters, there is quite a bit of anger over the basketball team’s demise:

Losing to last-place Drake, at home, is yet another colossal disaster for the Bradley men’s basketball team.

Last week, I was tempted to write a letter alluding to the fact that I, and many of my friends and acquaintances, no longer even care about Bradley basketball. But, after this latest debacle, I, and others, now have attitudes much closer to furious than to apathy.

The utter ineptitude of the people responsible for this once proud program is staggering; President Joanne Glasser, athletic director Michael Cross, and head coach Geno Ford have all had a hand in ravaging the Bradley men’s basketball program. Together, they have wrought destruction upon Bradley basketball, embarrassed the city of Peoria and made Bradley athletics a laughingstock within the Missouri Valley Conference and throughout the region. Plus, they haveshamelessly increased ticket prices, alienated countless fans and driven away loyal supporters in droves. […]

Click on the link to read the rest, if you are interested. Note: the team, minus three suspended players, lost to Indiana State on the road yesterday. But they played very hard, which was good to see. And the women won two road games in a row, albeit against the two last place teams. Each time, they came up with key defensive stops down the stretch.

Now you might ask “what does it matter?” And, well, what can I say? I enjoy following the teams but that is really it. I show up whether they are 5-25 or 25-5; in some sense I am the worst possible kind of fan. I go “awww” if they lose and “yay!” if they win. I admit that I get a type of entertainment watching the drama on the fan boards.

Some BU fans are upset that the previous coach (who was a top BU player and lead BU to one Sweet 16) was fired. His current team (California-Davis) is doing well.

They drew 5317 fans for their 81-78 win over Cal-Poly. They are 16-4.

In all honesty, I reluctantly agree with the university’s decision on this coach.

Now about that Super Bowl

Yeah, I’ll watch the game BECAUSE I AM A FOOTBALL FAN and these really are the best two teams in the NFL, as far as I am concerned. I watched the Patriots a bit back when I lived in Connecticut in 1983-1984. They played in Foxboro Stadium (sometimes called Sullivan Stadium) which was very plain; not at all like the new jewels.

February 1, 2015

## Low quality blogging…

Yep, I suppose that I just have nothing useful to say about anything of importance.
Well, that might not be entirely true; I have posted on a few mathematics blogs: I have one on college math teaching, one about the stuff I am currently working on and one for my undergraduate topology class (which I am about to update).

But as far as the issues: well, the zealots (of every stripe) will continue to be unreasonable about their pet issues, and not much will get done in Congress because the country itself is divided (the people who elected the Representatives and Senators). Very serious person X saying that “now Congress needs to compromise” isn’t going to change the minds of the Louie Gohmerts of Congress.

And, strangely, I care very little about the 2016 Presidential race; while I’ll certainly vote, I am planning on sitting out the election, so to speak. I am starting to care less and less.

Oh what the hell. Here is a goat.

Here is a politician with a cute butt.

Quiz:
1. Who is she?
2. Whose hand is she shaking?
3. Who is in the photo behind her?

January 27, 2015

## Ridicule of bad ideas…

Bad idea One: if a large majority of Americans support something we should do it! That’s right: 80 percent of Americans (or those surveyed in this poll anyway) support a mandatory label law for a food that contains …..DNA. “Warning: contains…”

Bad Idea Two: If you have an optional field trip to visit a religious worship center (in your study of world religions), you should expect to have to obey the center’s dress code, even if what you are visiting is a Muslim mosque. If you don’t want to do this, then don’t send your kid on the field trip.

Bad Idea Three: extrapolating on what you see locally to make a global inference. Yes, last year, it was very cold in the midwest part of the United States. You can just look my my “winter sucks” posts last winter. But it was a very warm year; the warmest on record…globally.

I live right where one of the blue patches are. :-)

Bad Idea Four: Don’t trust a politician that tries to “change his spots”. Remember “Mr. 47 percent” Mitt Romney:

Now he is…well…worried about wealth inequality:

Of course, I’m not sure how reliable this thing is. After all, there must be some kind of technical glitch causing all the news sources I can access to report that Mitt Romney is effectively beginning his latest presidential run by declaring that

Under President Obama the rich have gotten richer, income inequality has gotten worse and there are more people in poverty in American than ever before.

Bad Idea Five: When your men’s basketball team is going into a road game having not won on the road all year (often against ordinary opposition) and is 6-12 overall, 1-4 in conference, missing key players with the flu and are playing a team with a higher RPI on the road, don’t expect them to win. When your women’s basketball team is 1-14 going into the weekend with two games against teams with better records, don’t expect them to win either.

Neither did. Bless the student athletes: they did play hard. The coaches are doing their best. But an athletic hole can be a nightmare to climb out of.

Yeah, we made both women’s games (at home) and watched the men’s road game on television.

January 19, 2015

## shovel day: light stuff…good plows

Well, the Peoria plows came by and didn’t bury our sidewalks. Yeah!

It helps that it is cold and that the stuff is very powdery.

Workout notes Weights then a 5 mile treadmill run.
Run: 5.5 mph for first 5 min (at 0.5 elevation) then increased by .1 every 5 minutes.
50:20 for 5 miles.

Weights: pull ups: 5 sets of 10, with hip hikes and Achilles
bench: 10 x 135, 3 x 180, 1 x 180, 8 x 160 (rotator cuff)
military (dumbbell: 2 sets of 12 x 50 seated, supported). 1 set of 10 x 90 (each arm) Hammer machine (weight stacks)
rows: 3 sets of 10 with 110 (machine)
pull downs: 2 sets of 7 x 160 traditional, 7 x 100 low. Then 10 x 130 machine.
(super set the military presses, pull downs, rows).

News:

John Boehner survived the challenge to his being speaker:

The House of Representatives voted Tuesday to once again make John Boehner its speaker, handing the Ohio Republican the gavel for the third time despite a late challenge by dissatisfied members of his own party. Tuesday’s vote saw the most votes against a sitting speaker since 1923.

In the final tally, Boehner received the votes of 216 House members, while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) got 164 votes. More than two dozen discontented Republicans, however, voted for other candidates, including 12 who unexpectedly backed Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.).

Boehner’s GOP caucus had unanimously chosen him as speaker just after November’s elections. However, he soon faced a rebellion from conservative members who were angry that Boehner pushed through a government spending bill in December that didn’t extract concessions from President Barack Obama on immigration or the Affordable Care Act.

I admit that this looks awkward:

Luck and fate
Cancer: it really appears that, aside from a few things that one can do (STOP SMOKING), getting cancer is mostly a matter of bad luck. Basically, a cell mutates and in the copy process, there is a mistake made in the reproduction.

And yes, at times I complain about the cold, the job, the clueless administrators. But it could be worse; read this which is written by a former academic who is still employed. Note the following:

Now, I’m in the wrong job. It crushes my soul one 8 to 5 day at a time. I regret every day I wake up and haven’t died in my sleep, and then I have to go on to work.

It will be two years this spring since I’ve read any book or article related to my research project. If I tell people about the project, everyone is so excited and supportive about it, but the truth is, I work 40 hours a week and have a hellish 60-mile commute each day. When I get home, I want to watch TV, play video games, and not do a damn thing related to thinking.

No one prepares you for what happens when you fail. I spent more than a decade never going to work, but rather going to teach, which was my heart’s passion.

I never thought I’d fail.

I never thought it would be me.

I do relate to this somewhat. It appears that our work piles on administrative duties, much of which is wasted time. So just when you think “Ah-HAH…time to work on this new idea” someone from some other department will want this or that or want you to do something or another. One has to learn to say “no” and to not volunteer for superficial stuff.

There just isn’t mental energy left over after the day is done.

January 6, 2015

## stats, oz effects, and observant football players….

In the discussions about poverty and racism, I’ve been very vocal about parents being the ones responsible for feeding their kids. (here and here) Don’t have kids that you can’t afford to raise properly! Yes, this attitude draws the ire of many, including those who vote the same way that I do.

But when discussing irresponsible parenting, poverty, social pathologies and the like, we need data and we need to analyze it honestly. So, the headlines go: “unwed motherhood is up” and you read:

Census demographers said that single motherhood, while on a steady uptick since the 1940s, has accelerated in recent years. The birth rate for unmarried women in 2007 was up 80 percent in the almost three decades since 1980, the report said. But in the previous five years alone, between 2002 and 2007, it was up 20 percent.

Echoing the findings of many academic studies, the Census Bureau report said women with college degrees and higher household incomes are far less likely to be single mothers than are women who have lower household incomes and less education. […]

Overall, 36 percent of all births in the United States were to unmarried mothers in 2011, the year that the census analyzed from answers provided in the American Community Survey.

In the Washington region, 28 percent of births are to unmarried women. In the District, more than half of all births, 51 percent, were to unwed mothers. Maryland also had a higher rate than the national average, with 39 percent of all births out of wedlock. Virginia, in contrast, had a lower rate than the national average, with 31 percent of births to women who are not married.

The census also found that Asian mothers were the least likely to be unmarried, with just 11 percent of new Asian mothers being single. White single mothers also were below the national average, at 29 percent. Among Hispanics, 43 percent of all new mothers were unmarried, as were 68 percent of all African American women who had recently given birth.

Yep….the percent of births to unwed mothers is up! So, it follows that unwed women (especially black women) are having more kids than before? Uh…no.

Remember: “percent” is a type of fraction and it is: $\frac{unwed mom births}{total births}$ So if the numerator (the top) goes up, the percent goes up. But…if the bottom goes down by more than the top goes down, then the fraction, and hence the percentage, goes up! And we see:

Looking first at the broader issue of so-called “illegitimate children” in the black community, those who forward this argument simply do not understand how to read or interpret basic statistical information. They claim, for instance that the “out-of-wedlock birth rate” for black females has skyrocketed; but in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, actual birth rates for unmarried black women (which means the number of live births per 1000 such women) has dropped dramatically. From 1970-2010, the birth rate for unmarried black women fell by nearly a third, from 95.5 births per 1000 unmarried black women to only 65.3 births per 1000 such women. In other words, unmarried black women are already doing exactly what conservatives would have them do: namely, having fewer children. This means that even if we were to accept the absurd argument that out-of-wedlock childbearing is evidence of cultural pathology, black culture must then be steadily getting healthier and less pathological, rather than more so. In a given year, for every 100 single black females, between ninety-three and ninety four of them will not have a baby—hardly evidence that out-of-wedlock childbearing is a normative experience for black women.
The common confusion on this issue seems to stem from the fact that although unmarried birth rates have fallen considerably, the share of children born in the black community who are born out of wedlock has indeed doubled since the early 1970s. It sounds like a big deal perhaps, but what does that statistic really signify? If unmarried black women are cutting back on childbearing — and remember, that’s what the data says — the increase in the percentage of black births that are births to single moms can’t possibly be the result of those moms’ increasing “irresponsibility.” Rather, this statistical phenomenon must be due to an entirely different factor, and indeed it is: namely, married black couples have cut back even further on childbearing than single moms have. If married black couples are having far fewer children than before, and are cutting back even faster than single women, the overall percentage of births that are out-of-wedlock will rise, owing nothing to the supposedly irresponsible behaviors of single black folks. If black married couples suddenly reverted to their family size norms of fifty years ago, the share of black births to unmarried moms would plummet, even if there were no further drop in the birth rates for single black women at all.

Moral: when talking about “percentage of”, remember that you are dealing with a ratio, which has both a numerator and a denominator.

Now of course, this requires actually knowing some mathematics (albeit at an elementary level) and while this makes you smarter and more likely to engage in disciplined thinking, it is unlikely to make you popular. Paul Krugman (speaking about Dr. Oz) explains:

Simon Wren-Lewis had an interesting piece on why the financial sector buys into really bad macroeconomics; he suggested that financial firms aren’t really interested in anything but very short-term forecasting, and that

economists working for financial institutions spend rather more time talking to their institution’s clients than to market traders. They earn their money by telling stories that interest and impress their clients. To do that it helps if they have the same worldview as their clients.

Thinking about Dr. Oz also, I’d suggest, helps explain a related puzzle: even if you grant that the right wants alleged experts who toe the ideological line, why can’t it get guys who are at least competent? Why do they recruit and continue to employ people who can’t do basic job calculations, or read their own tables and notice that they’re making ridiculous unemployment projections, and so on?

My answer has been that anyone competent enough to avoid these mistakes would also be unreliable — he or she might at some point actually take a stand on principle, or at least balk at completely abandoning professional ethics. And I still think that’s part of the story.

But I now also suspect that the personality traits you need to be an effective entertainer on inherently not-so-much-fun subjects like health or monetary policy are inherently at odds with the traits you need to be even halfway competent. If Dr. Oz were the kind of guy who pores over medical evidence to be sure he knows what he’s talking about, he probably couldn’t project the persona that wins him such a large audience. Similarly, a hired-gun economist who actually knows how to download charts from FRED probably wouldn’t have the kind of blithe certainty in right-wing dogma his employers want.

So how do those of us who aren’t so glib respond? With ridicule, obviously. It’s not cruelty; it’s strategy.

Oh, how I see this. Krugman wrote about a famous incident in which a popular trader was confronted with the fact that every bit of advice he gave was completely wrong, and how anyone who listened to him would have lost money. But hey, he really knows how to yell and draw applause:

So, there was a fun moment on CNBC: Rick Santelli went on a rant about inflation and the Fed, and CNBC analyst Steve Liesman went medieval on him:

It’s impossible for you to have been more wrong, Rick. Your call for inflation, the destruction of the dollar, the failure of the US economy to rebound. Rick, it’s impossible for you to have been more wrong. Every single bit of advice you gave would have lost people money, Rick. Lost people money, Rick. Every single bit of advice. There is no piece of advice that you’ve given that’s worked, Rick. There is no piece of advice that you’ve given that’s worked, Rick. Not a single one. Not a single one, Rick. The higher interest rates never came, the inability of the U.S. to sell bonds never happened, the dollar never crashed, Rick. There isn’t a single one that’s worked for you.

Of course, he got applause because he shares the same world view of those applauding him.

And my goodness, I think that I’ve seen some of this locally. When one looks at the leaders of some local institutions, it is easy to tell from watching what moves they make that they really don’t know what they are doing. But they are sure good at getting the “right” type of people to like them. I’ve seen this in the Navy as well. Remember when the US Submarine Greenville sank a Japanese ship because it did a risky surfacing exercise to impress some civilians and didn’t follow proper procedures?

The commander of the submarine was a classmate of mine at Annapolis and I went to Nuclear Power school with him. Even then, he was an expert at cutting corners when no one was looking, but telling the superior officers what they wanted to hear when they were around; he convinced them that he “was one of them”. It was a type of “affinity fraud”.

Now of course, Paul Krumgan is an economist and he talked about losing weight. He never looked fat to me; in fact he looks like many mathematicians in the sense that most of us appear to be normal sized. You notice that at conferences, though my mind’s eye detects that, as a group, we are starting to get fatter.

Well, as far as us being more slender than normal:

Now this spread surprises me; I’d guess that firefighters and police officers would be required to stay physically fit. I’d guess wrong, unless this figure is “inflated” by things like private security guards.

Note: I can recommend the article, as it is about the employer’s interest in helping employees with their weight problems.

Football players
I can recommend this Jon Stewart video; it is a short clip that attacks the attack on the “don’t shoot” and “I can’t breathe” protests. If nothing else, listen to the last minute in which a pro football player explains that “a call for justice should threaten no one”.

December 21, 2014

## Abuse of government power in the news…

Yes, as a rule, I am quite docile with police as I don’t want a fight. Not only am I physically overwhelmed, I probably would lose in a courtroom to boot.

And yes, many who get beat, kicked and shot by police are those who, well, behaved stupidly by striking police.

But, here, Mano Singham is right. Being rude really isn’t against the law, and the law should NOT require that we become docile. Note: I’ve never had trouble with police, though I did once get profiled while driving on I-55.

Then, the Senate released their “torture report”. It is disgusting. But don’t expect the Republicans to admit any wrong doing…expect their tired old “blame America First” canard.

December 10, 2014

## The louder a self righteous person bellows…

A GOP staffer thought it was a good idea to lecture the Obama girls:

Her deleted post reads: “Dear Sasha and Malia: I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re a part of the First Family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play.

“Then again, your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter. So I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department.”

The post goes on to advise the girls to “rise to the occasion and act like being in the White House matters to you”.

“Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar,” she added.

Given that she was a on the staff of a US Representative from the old Confederate state of Tennessee, well…perhaps I should refrain from bringing up “living up to a stereotype”? (yes, that is a slam at those who talk about “ghetto stereotypes” :-) )

Yes, she resigned. She claims remorse. But I wonder…something about glass houses:

Yes, a 17-year-old Lauten stole from Belk department store in her North Carolina hometown according to the Smoking Gun:

Lauten, pictured above, was arrested in December 2000 for misdemeanor larceny, according to court records. Lauten, then 17, was collared for stealing from a Belk department store in her North Carolina hometown.
Because Lauten was a first-time offender, her case was handled via the District Court’s deferred prosecution program, which resulted in the charge’s eventual dismissal after the future scold stayed out of trouble for a prescribed period.
Since Lauten was just another teenager caught shoplifting at the mall, it appears unlikely that she was publicly pilloried for her lack of class, nor were her parents criticized as poor role models.

Here is a bit more of her classy behavior:

Hmmm…nah, I’ll bite my tongue. :-)

December 2, 2014

## Blogging breakout: modern college teaching issues and feminism

My blogging usually goes down at this time of year; the academic semester is drawing to a close and issues crop up…and yes, football season is still going strong while basketball season is starting.

So a bit about college teaching:

There is often a “hot buzz-phrase” going around and one of those is “teach the students where they are”. Translation: “water your course down enough so that the slackers can get at least a C; preferably better”. But no, I won’t do that. For one, my courses are usually prerequisites for other courses. For another: in almost all of my courses, I have good students who benefit from a genuine course. Yes, I know; if one has an exceptionally good section, one can offer a better course. But college mathematics is a bit like, say, running: if the students don’t do the workouts, they won’t learn. The onus IS ON THEM.

And speaking of student responsibility: someone padded their resume/activity report/CV by producing this guide as to what to do when slacker/under prepared student does “X”. Hmmm, great idea…given that we might start with 70-80 students in a semester. (hat tip: College Misery).

Or, one could let the students accept responsibility for their actions. Nah. Oh yes, they have some teaching tips for you too. Oh dear. Remember: this is supposed to be college.

Weather

Hope for this winter: possibly not as snowy as last year?

Immigration
Senator Tom Coburn warned of possible civil unrest if President Obama went on to issue executive orders about immigration. Well, see for yourself.

Feminism
At the outset: let me say that I am for equal rights for everyone. And yes, as more women take non-traditional jobs, the work places should make “basic fairness” adjustments and provide equal pay for equal work. But I am for fairness to everyone (e. g. racial and religious minorities, gays, etc.) So I don’t use a label.

But like many who took a Time Magazine poll, the term “feminism” has a negative connotation for me. This is another reason why. And in some ways, I feel that some feminist positions demean women though I disagree a bit with the author’s criticism of programs to encourage women into STEM fields. Here is why: I think that many women who DO have the aptitude to excel in science, mathematics or engineering might try these fields with extra encouragement.

Of course, they might not like these fields at the same rate that males do…just for genetic reasons. But I’d like really throw out the welcome mat for those who might be inclined to try.

November 22, 2014

## President Obama and Immigration Reform

Presidents do have some latitude on how laws are enforced (e. g. they can direct that enforcement agents target this situation or that type of behavior). Here is a handy list of what is going on.

Now, of course, people can express their opinions on what they want Congress and The President to do…and personally, I am legitimately confused as to the proper course of action. On one hand, I’d like to see Congress pass something. On the other hand, I am not so sure that they can.

November 20, 2014

## Liberals: President O has done more that some realize

There is a reason that the 1 percent hate him.

November 14, 2014