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.

Screen shot 2015-02-01 at 7.59.34 AM

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
Screen shot 2015-02-01 at 7.11.24 AM

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 Posted by | basketball, Illinois, NFL, politics, politics/social, science, social/political | , , , | Leave a comment

President O dunks on the Republicans

Ok, ok, there is zero chance that the Republican Congress will do anything to work with the President. But please spare me about “the people”; the Senate is badly skewed toward the Republicans due to small states having 2 senators, just as the large states do and due to the House overrepresenting the population of rural America.

Still, it was nice to see.

Workout notes
I’ve had some pain on the lateral part of my foot (the outside, almost where the sole meets the instep, just ahead of the ankle…cuboid syndrome?; there is some slight swelling and tenderness and “light” burning; almost more of a minor nuisance than anything) but I felt it might be a good idea to reduce mileage.

I think it may have come from walking without my foot orthotics.

so today: I swam: 2200 yards

500 steady
10 x 100 on the 2:10 (1:50-1:53 mostly)
100 in 1:48
4 x 50 on the 1:10 (55 each)
100 back
100 side
100 fly practice
2 x 25 fly
50 fist/free

It was enough to start the semester.

January 21, 2015 Posted by | Barack Obama, injury, politics/social, swimming | | Leave a comment

Huckabee’s nonsense

Yes, I might check this book out of the library and read it. But look at the contempt he has for “those HARVARD PROFESSORS”….

Seriously dude: I am glad that you think that your “Bubba-ville” is so superior. But you know what? The world isn’t 6000 years old…

The Founding Fathers weren’t fundamentalist Christians and the nation didn’t view itself that way:

The Treaty of Tripoli (Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary) was the first treaty concluded between the United States of America and Tripolitania, signed at Tripoli on November 4, 1796, and at Algiers (for a third-party witness) on January 3, 1797. It was submitted to the Senate by President John Adams, receiving ratification unanimously from the U.S. Senate on June 7, 1797, and signed by Adams, taking effect as the law of the land on June 10, 1797.

The treaty was a routine diplomatic agreement but has attracted later attention because the English version included a clause about religion in the United States.

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen [Muslims]; and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Mohammedan] nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries

.[3]

Note: it was ratified unanimously.

Now, of course, I am no “Harvard Professor”; my mathematics isn’t within an AU of being good enough.

But if you think that I believe that we’d better off if everyone was like me, you are crazy.

The first photo shows how a professional locksmith had to repair my attempts to install a lock (note the ring around the upper dead bolt lock and the large brass plate in the lower lock).

PENTAX Image

In the second case, the handle kept coming off of the screen door lock. I thought that I could repair it, but I couldn’t drill a proper hole. Later I might see if I can find the type of door we have and buy a storm door lock kit somewhere, though I am tempted to get a new door.

PENTAX Image

I am GLAD that not everyone is like me; we would still be living in caves if everyone was like me!

January 20, 2015 Posted by | huckabee, politics/social, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Secularism, rage of the zealots and missing the point.

Yes, I know; Bill Maher holds some woo-woo beliefs (vaccinations). But his point: if you are secular, be open so others know that you aren’t alone is well taken, as is the point of living by some book that was written in a very ignorant age.

Oh sure, some might be offended by this.
People get offended when their deeply held beliefs are challenged; ok, I am no exception. But I can change my mind.

Not everyone can though, as Paul Krugman explains:

A bit more on the curious back and forth between myself and Robert Samuelson. It started when I made the commonplace point that normally the Fed, not the White House, is responsible for managing booms and busts, and that the great disinflation of the 1980s was basically a story of a Fed-imposed recession, and had little if anything to do with Reagan’s supply-side tax cuts.

Samuelson declared this “maddeningly wrong”, and proceeded to say that my analysis of the economics of the 1980s was … basically right — but that Reagan deserved credit for letting Volcker be Volcker. I pointed out that this wasn’t really critiquing my point. […]

Yet Samuelson is angry about something; indeed declared himself “maddened” by a column whose economic analysis he doesn’t actually dispute. What’s going on here?

The answer, I think, is Reaganolatry. Specific policies aside, Reagan must be seen as the hero who saved America. And therefore he must be given credit for a disinflation carried out by a Fed chairman who was appointed by, and began his anti-inflation crusade under, Jimmy Carter. Anything perceived as detracting from the Reagan legend is infuriating, even if you can’t find anything wrong with the substance.

Yes, one faces fury when one doesn’t pay proper deference to a legend or when one examines something perceived as fact:

Damn you, how DARE you question our VICTIM STATUS!!!!

Now in science, there are disputes. One of the tug of wars is in the theory of evolution. Basically, the tug of war is between the adaptationists (those who believe that evolutionary change is primarily an adaptation that improves reproductive fitness) verses those who see a bit more randomness at play. That is, some results of evolution can be, well, accidental and serve no “enhancement of reproductive success” purpose.

To see a demonstration of how this debate plays out, read Larry Moran’s post about “How did a zebra get its stripes.” It is very possible that the stripes occurred by..well…accident. I know; some just grit their teeth when it is shown that sometimes things happen for no good/useful reason. That is, Pangloss was wrong. :-)

Back to social I think that Vox goes astray here. They put forth a story that says that their free speech/cartoon posts received no threats from Muslims but that their “Islamophobia” posts got threats from non-Muslims.

That misses the point, I think. Yes, there are isolated key board commando crackpots out there; no argument here. The difference is that there are no influential Christian clerics who are issuing the analogy of fatwas against people who write books, and there are no reasonably wealthy Christian countries that have governments who give lashes to those who insult religion.

I said “reasonably wealthy” because there are some third world backwaters where things like witch burnings still happen and where the Christians have a hand in it.

January 15, 2015 Posted by | civil liberties, economy, evolution, politics/social, religion, science, social/political | , , , , | Leave a comment

End of the semester academia posts…

This is an article about string theory. The upshot: while string theory has been an unqualified success in explaining many things about physics and cosmology and while it has generated some super interesting, super difficult mathematics, it is not a “theory of everything” and it increasingly looks like it won’t be:

The final results that we found successfully incorporated various established features of particle physics and so were worthy of attention (and, for me, a doctoral dissertation), but were far from providing evidence for string theory. Naturally, our group and many others turned back to the list of allowed shapes to consider other possibilities. But the list was no longer short. Over the months and years, researchers had discovered ever larger collections of shapes that passed mathematical muster, driving the number of candidates into the thousands, millions, billions and then, with insights spearheaded in the mid-1990s by Joe Polchinski, into numbers so large that they’ve never been named.

Against this embarrassment of riches, string theory offered no directive regarding which shape to pick. And as each shape would affect string vibrations in different ways, each would yield different observable consequences. The dream of extracting unique predictions from string theory rapidly faded.

From a public relations standpoint, string theorists had not prepared for this development. Like the Olympic athlete who promises eight gold medals but wins “only” five, theorists had consistently set the bar as high as it could go. That string theory unites general relativity and quantum mechanics is a profound success. That it does so in a framework with the capacity to embrace the known particles and forces makes the success more than theoretically relevant. Seeking to go even further and uniquely explain the detailed properties of the particles and forces is surely a noble goal, but one that lies well beyond the line dividing success from failure.

Nevertheless, critics who had bristled at string theory’s meteoric rise to dominance used the opportunity to trumpet the theory’s demise, blurring researchers’ honest disappointment of not reaching hallowed ground with an unfounded assertion that the approach had crashed. The cacophony grew louder still with a controversial turn articulated most forcefully by one of the founding fathers of string theory, the Stanford University theoretical physicist Leonard Susskind.

On the other end of things:

There is evidence that Bill Cosby didn’t even write his sham thesis.

And…well, I’d expect any teacher to have cardiac arrest when they read this at their school:

schoolsign

A principal has been reassigned after a misspelled sign was displayed for more than a week outside a New Jersey public high school.

The message on the sign above the entryway to Paterson’s Public School Number 20 included three mistakes: December was spelled “Dicember,” report as “reepor” and a “1” was placed backwards.

The errors drew the ire of school Paterson Board of Education member Corey Teague, who saw a photo of the misspelled sign on Facebook.

“At first I didn’t believe it,” Teague told CBS New York. “I thought it was Photoshopped or something.”

When Teague found out it was real, he shared the photo on Facebook.

“How can we expect our children to learn how to spell when the administration can’t?” Teague wrote. “We must be held to a higher standard.”

“We can’t assume because it’s an urban district — inner-city — that things like this can be swept over,” he told the CBS affiliate. “If it were a suburban neighborhood, parents would be outraged.”

School officials told NJ.com that the lettering “was placed by a custodian and the sign was near an entrance not normally used by staff.” It was later corrected.

After the gaffe was picked up by several local news outlets, Antoinette Young, the school’s principal, was reassigned as a vice principal at a different school.

The school district did not disclose the reason for her demotion, but according to NorthJersey.com, Young was already under review for unrelated performance issues.

What troubles me is that someone ….even a student…a parent…would have noticed and said something.

And speaking of learning: It is common to get bombarded by the old “different learning styles” canard; I suppose that when you have a calculus class with 35 students in it, you need to accommodate all of their individual “learning styles” (which some might classify as, say, 3-4 distinct ones, or whatever). BUT…there is no evidence for this:

A search of the literature on learning styles reveals thousands of journal articles, books, conference presentations, magazine articles, websites, and so on. The sheer volume of the literature may suggest that the hypothesis at the heart of the theory, that matching instructional style to students’ learning style leads to improved learning, has been well studied, but that would be incorrect. Scholars who have taken inventory of this literature have noted that the vast majority of it is theoretical and descriptive in nature rather than empirical and tends not to appear in peer-reviewed journals. Worse still, very few of the empirical studies were methodologically strong and featured a randomly assigned control group. The few remaining studies, including this most recent one, do not support the learning styles hypothesis.

At best, the instruments which purportedly measure learning styles really just measure studying preferences. What’s more, a growing body of psychological research on metacognition demonstrates that our beliefs about how we process information and how we learn can actually be quite wrong, with people predicting superior performance with instructional methods that ultimately produce inferior results. Therefore objectively-measured improvements in performance, rather than self-reported perceptions of effectiveness, are ideal.

An evidence-based approach is necessary to prevent wasteful spending on ineffective educational interventions. Learning styles theory, despite its continued popularity, has failed to produce sufficient evidence of being a valuable educational tool. By focusing on teaching to students’ strengths this approach misses an important opportunity to encourage students to work on developing their weaknesses as well. The learning styles approach also provides an excuse for poor performance to the detriment of students who will not recognize the need to make changes or seek help.

You can see a rigorous study here.

This rings true for me, but of course, that isn’t evidence either. The study I cited is.

December 20, 2014 Posted by | education, mathematics, physics, politics/social, science | , , , , | Leave a comment

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 Posted by | civil liberties, politics, politics/social, world events | , | Leave a comment

Peoria, my town…

Workout notes
weights plus 3 mile run.

The run: 1 10:44 mile on the treadmill; 19:58 2 miles on the track (lane 2). Frankly, it wasn’t good…slow.

Weights: pull ups: 2 x 15, 2 x 10, hip hikes, Achilles
Bench: 10 x 135, 6 x 170, 5 x 170 (weak), rotator cuff
incline: 10 x 135
super set: 3 sets of 10 x 40 dumbbell military press, 10 x 65 one armed rows
super set: 3 sets of (7 x 160 traditional, 7 x 100 low) pull down, 10 x 200 Hammer row.

Then came the run.

Peoria, my town
Bradley University saw some students stage a “die in”.

diein

True, it isn’t exactly “facing down the police dogs” in Selma. But it does show some awareness and it was enough to inflame some of the locals. Read the comments (that I linked to on Facebook)

December 6, 2014 Posted by | Peoria, Peoria/local, politics/social, running, weight training | , | Leave a comment

A challenge to my white conservative friends…

Workout notes: 18 F; ran my Cornstalk 8.1 mile course very slowly; stop watch was turned off. Then I did some McKenzie and light squats; 2-3 sets of weightless squats, then 5 with 45, 5 with 85. Depth (stretching) was the key.

No, that isn’t the challenge; my workouts are pretty easy.

Here is the challenge:
Imagine you live in a mostly African American neighborhood and you have an 18 year old son who, while a “decent kid”, has a bit of a temper and gets surly at times.

You live there for whatever reason; however the law enforcement of the area…well..sometimes they come off as if you don’t belong there and they would rather you weren’t there.

So your son leaves the house for a while.

You find out that while we was walking..jaywalking, a police officer yelled at him. He got into a scuffle…

Then he is shot dead by a black police officer.

You have people tell you that your son was trying to surrender at the time; others confirm this.

The DA is also black…he says “trust me; I’ll investigate this impartially” though you hear that he is raising funds for the accused officer’s defense.(*)

Then the mostly black forensic scientists give their findings and tell you to trust them….”the officer feared for his life and did his job” they tell you. So the DA goes ahead and does..well…a sham attempt at indictment.

So, in THIS situation, would YOU trust the process?

Remember: you are the people that says that government “can’t do anything right”. YOU (or your friends) are the ones that have trouble with Attorney General Holder impartiality.

So with things turned around, would you trust “the facts”?

(*) the DA’s situation was not really this; the fund that he was president of is actually a pretty good fund, but some in the media spun it in this way)

Note: I am NOT accusing the professionals who did the investigation of wrongdoing. I am merely attempting to point out how it might look to someone else.

December 2, 2014 Posted by | political/social, politics/social, running | , | 10 Comments

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:

obamakidsnoclass

Hmmm…nah, I’ll bite my tongue. :-)

December 2, 2014 Posted by | politics, politics/social, republicans | , | Leave a comment

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 Posted by | civil liberties, political/social, politics, politics/social | , , , , | Leave a comment

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