Federal Express: dreadful receiving end customer service

I got home today to find a “sorry, we missed you” tag from Federal Express. At the bottom of the tag was a bar code. They had the address and hours of the pick up location.


1) They attempted delivery at a residence at 2:30 pm on a work day???
2) There was zero indication of
a) who sent the package and
b) who the package was addressed to.

That is important information, no?

3) To try to contact them, you either had to try to sign up on their website or navigate a “one size fits none” artificial intelligence voice activated menu system…they provided no local number to call to talk to a person.

That is how it goes these days: absolutely rotten customer service.

I know that I’ll be less likely to use a business if they use Federal Express to send stuff.

December 3, 2014 Posted by | ranting | , , | Leave a comment

Neither liberals nor conservatives are inherently dumb. But their knee jerk reactions are.

There are smart liberals and there are smart conservatives. There are also dumb liberals and dumb conservatives. I really don’t see much of an intelligence difference between the two groups, though it appears to me that the intelligence manifests itself in different ways (e.g. top scientists lean liberal; top CEO’s lean conservative).

However, the two groups are prone to knee jerk reactions that ARE dumb. On the right, you see the old “If Obama is for it, it must be ultra liberal, etc.” Never mind his economic plan (in particular, infrastructure rebuilding) and Obamacare have conservative elements to them.

On the left: once a group has achieved “underdog/victimhood” status, they become protected. Hence some liberals conflate discrimination against Muslims (e. g. protesting the building of a mosque) with criticism of Islam as it is widely practiced. And, “innocent until proven guilty” is just fine, UNLESS the accuser is a woman and the accused is a man and the accusation is some hot button “issue crime”.

I think that “innocent until proven guilty” is even MORE important when one doesn’t like the accused or the group that the accused belongs to.

October 28, 2014 Posted by | ranting, social/political, Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Jon Stewart on Ferguson….and Fox’s response

You are tired of hearing about “racism”? Well, some of us are tried of the racism to begin with.

This is one of his best episodes, ever.

Yes, she shooting victim was not a virtuous citizen. But there is enough to suggest that she was shot while he wasn’t a threat and there is overwhelming evidence that black males are not treated fairly by law enforcement (on the whole).

August 27, 2014 Posted by | racism, ranting, social/political | , , | Leave a comment

Obama Derangement Syndrome

Ok, the airline shoot down was a horrible thing; we need to let the facts come in. It was shot down (BUK?) and we need to know: Russian Military? Rebel forces with Russian equipment? guessed it; our wingnuts are all over President Obama.

Here, they attempt to compare President Reagan’s response to USSR Air Force fighters shooting down a Korean Air Lines plane to the current President Obama response.

Uh, wingnuts:

1. President Reagan’s address was on September 5, 1983, and the shoot down was on September 1, 1983.

2. The Korean plane was shot down by official Soviet fighter jets; we still don’t know the details of TODAY’s shootdown (who, with what?)

Also, some are jumping on President Obama for…eating lunch and doing other duties?

These people have forfeited the right to be taken seriously; they are a joke.

By the way: I note that they don’t mention the US shooting down an Iranian Airliner while President Reagan was still in office.

July 18, 2014 Posted by | ranting, social/political, world events | | Leave a comment

Hobby Lobby SCOTUS case: if you are a liberal and didn’t vote for Gore in 2000: STFU

Elections have consequences. Here are two of them: Justice Roberts and Justice Alito.

So, in 2016: the election matters. Republicans and Democrats are NOT the same. Period.

June 30, 2014 Posted by | political/social, ranting | Leave a comment

But it is all natural, 100 percent organic and GMO free!

(I know, redundant)



So why don’t you make a salad of it, or perhaps rub it all over yourself?


Seriously, this is why this “natural = good, GMO = bad” stuff cracks me up. Plants evolved so as to make it more likely that they reproduce at higher rates; they didn’t evolve for our benefit.

June 28, 2014 Posted by | ranting, social/political | , , | Leave a comment

I am a bad liberal…..

I am a bad liberal for many reasons.

1. I think that the fears about GMOs are way overblown; there is no evidence that GMO food is bad for you or that “organic” is better for you.

2. I am not a big fan of NPR and their shows such as Prairie Home Companion, What Do You Know, Wait, wait, don’t tell me, Cartalk, etc.

3. I don’t like watching soccer:


4. I think that personal responsibility is a good thing (e. g., having only the number of kids you can afford to have, etc.)

5. I think that George Will made some reasonable “statistical” points in his article and a good point about the murkiness of a sexual assault charge (though his claim about survivors of sexual assault having a coveted status was stupid and probably turned people off right at the start). Mr. Will is no intellectual giant, but the people calling for his firing aren’t either.

6. I don’t nod my head and agree with XXXXX activists right away; I like to weigh their opinions and arguments first.

7. I have contempt for woo-woo of all types…


8. I find Unitarian Churches only slightly less annoying than other churches.

9. I see little good about Islamic Republics; I find the behavior of many of them to be backwards and barbaric.

10. I refuse to “reason by slogan” (e. g. “war on xxxx”, “fat shaming”, “slut shaming”, “bullying”, blah blah blah…)

11. I find activists, on the whole, to have more passion for than knowledge about their area.

12. I value “knowing what you are talking about” more highly than how passionate someone believes something.

13. I think that getting the best public policy is a constrained optimization problem; e. g. I might want, say, single payer insurance but that wasn’t going to happen. We were lucky to even get the ACA.

14. I back politicians that can actually win on a national level: you might clamor for a Sanders-Warren ticket but not me. I’d rather elect someone that will get 30-40 percent of what I want than to go down with all flags flying with someone who espouses 90 percent of what I want.

15. I don’t see the mundane as “awesome”; to me, “awesome” implies an outlier type quality to a performance.

16. I like boxing and football. I did both (former at the PE class level) and would do so again.

17. I view women to be like men in this regard: they are flawed human beings trying to get along in the world. They are not better than men…nor are they worse.

18. I am not a feminist and have no desire to be to be thought of as one. Yes, women should be treated fairly and are often not (I agree with about 80-90 percent of what is in this book)

June 17, 2014 Posted by | ranting, social/political | , | Leave a comment

On knowing what you are talking about….

First: this is how some discussions about religion appear to me. Comments to the effect of “I don’t see how it could be otherwise” are not convincing.


When people talk about raising the retirement age, remember that there is a big spread in “years lived after 65″ between wealthier white collar workers and poorer blue collar ones.

See here:

I was pleased to see this article by Annie Lowrey documenting the growing disparity in life expectancy between the haves and the have-nots. It’s kind of frustrating, however, that this is apparently coming as news not just to many readers but to many policymakers and pundits. Many of us have been trying for years to get this point across — to point out that when people call for raising the Social Security and Medicare ages, they’re basically saying that janitors must keep working because corporate lawyers are living longer. Yet it never seems to sink in.

Maybe this article will change that. But my guess is that in a week or two we will once again hear a supposed wise man saying that we need to raise the retirement age to 67 because of higher life expectancy, unaware that (a) life expectancy hasn’t risen much for half of workers (b) we’ve already raised the retirement age to 67.

Ms. Lowrey’s article is here.

Here is one of my pet peeves: all too often, a non-specialist will attempt to claim that the mainstream view/theory in a different profession is wrong because it doesn’t make sense to them. Here Larry Moran takes on a chemistry professor’s (at Rice University, no less) claim that evolutionary theory is flawed. Professor Moran concludes:

I suppose I’m going to be labeled as one of those evil “Darwinists” who won’t tolerate anyone who disagrees with me about evolution.1

I’m actually not. I just don’t like stupid people who think they are experts in evolution when they have never bothered to learn about it. Here’s my advice to graduate students in organic chemistry: if you want to know about evolution then take a course or read a textbook. And remember, there’s nothing wrong with admitting that you don’t understand a subject. Just don’t assume your own ignorance means that all the experts in the subject are wrong too.

It isn’t just “experts at a different field” though. Right now, we are hearing more and more from people who think that vaccines are bad and contain lots of harmful chemicals. One scientist had enough and made an epic drunken rant:


No, this is not a partisan issue; there are plenty of liberal anti-vaccination types out there, and they are a disgrace.

March 16, 2014 Posted by | creationism, economy, evolution, ranting, religion, science, social/political, Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Memes and massive online open courses and education for the masses

A description of the massive online open courses movement can be seen here. I’ve read where some have said that somehow this was supposed to be a threat to conventional higher education.


Yes, I think that the MOOC is a good thing; it makes a ton of good, valuable resources available to those who want supplemental work or to those who are, say geographically isolated.
But there are some factors that I don’t see discussed that often.

1. Learning some types of material is hard. I’ve taught college mathematics for upwards of 20 years. The students almost always THINK that they know the material better than they actually know it; I find this out when I grade their examinations. How are they going to learn the stuff if they don’t have the “pass the test” incentive? Yes, I know that some of these MOOCs have a online exam at the end (multiple choice) that is machine graded, but only a tiny percentage of people get to them.

Learning is hard and time consuming.

2. Prerequisites: many might find, say, some of the counter intuitive conclusions of quantum mechanics interesting. But how many are going to be disciplined enough to learn the math to learn this area properly? How many are even capable of learning the mathematics properly?

Here is a hint:


Yes, I know that this is nonsense; there is nothing to “solve” here; this is the Fourier function representation formula. And yes, given a function f you need to know how to solve for a_n, b_n to even begin a proper undergraduate quantum mechanics course.

So if you don’t know this already, are you going to spend the years necessary learning enough mathematics?

So. I think that this massive open online stuff is good, it isn’t going to benefit a high percentage of the population. It IS a boon to a tiny percentage of outliers though.


Yep, when you see some internet arguments about subjects such as the constitutionality of a given law, whether a given GMO is safe, climate change, evolution, fracking, etc., well, people think that providing a link to an “activist” website or their having half-digested a couple of pop-books on the subject (IF that) qualifies them as an expert, or at least gives them an opinion that is worth taking seriously.

Psst: it doesn’t.

And, of course, it is ALWAYS someone else who is “stoopid”


Yes, I’ve seen the unmodified version of this meme (modification is in red) posted on many people’s walls, including the walls of woo-woos and those who really haven’t accomplished all that much. I know that the National Academy of Science isn’t in my future, and I don’t have any members on my friends list.

I have lots of blind spots and, if I have an advantage on most, it is that I know that there is a huge gap between me and the truly genius level people AND I understand that what “makes sense to me” might well be false, or at best, incomplete. But the Dunning-Kruger effect is strong in many.

January 19, 2014 Posted by | education, ranting, social/political | , | Leave a comment



January 18, 2014 Posted by | ranting | , | Leave a comment


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