Wet walk, climate change and women’s basketball

Today: I walked; I figured that I need to walk more. I did the hilly Cornstalk 5.1 course in 1:11:54 (14:05 mpm pace); it was overcast, dark and a bit slippery.

Climate change Last night I went to hear Harold Brooks speak: he is a NOAA scientist. He spoke about thunderstorms and climate change.

Of interest:

1. When it comes to rain, the total volume hasn’t changed much. BUT the way we get it has; we get a higher percentage of it from strong storms.
2. When it comes to thunderstorms, wind shear and available energy are the two big factors. Climate change has reduced the former and increase the latter; these are competing effects.
3. The models are pretty much in agreement as to what will happen (over time) during the winter, spring and fall. What is open is what will happen during the summer: more storms? Fewer? Wet? Drought? No one knows and the models can’t reach even a tentative conclusion.

Women’s basketball

Yes, there is a huge difference between the great powers and those lower seeds in the NCAA tournament. Attendance at the games isn’t so great either, but part of the reason might be the unusual start times.

March 25, 2015 Posted by | basketball, science, walking | , | Leave a comment

Finally, something to write about: p-values, venting about college students

First my workout: This was my first weight workout in about 2 weeks and I felt it.

Pull ups: 4 sets of 10, 2 sets of 5. Quality: ok, not stellar. Rotator cuff
bench press: 10 x 135, 1 x 180, 5 x 160 (pathetic) (rotator cuff)
incline press: 7 x 135 (bad)
standing military: 3 sets of 10 x 40 dumbbells (weak)

It was a start, but it was rather bad.

Running went marginally better: treadmill, 0.5 incline, started at 5.3 mph and increased by 0.1 every 1/4 mile
2 miles in 21:18, 3 in 30:55, 4 in 39:47 (last 5 minutes at 7 mph)
Yes, I coughed afterward, but this time only for 2-3 minutes or so, instead of 10. It IS getting better, albeit more slowly than I’d like.
After the workout weight (dr. scale): 176.0

Basically, I was weaker with the weights than with the run. The swim is going to be UGLY tomorrow.


There is some chatter among professors about the appropriateness of calling out certain types of student behavior. The old model is that this is somewhat untoward as “professors had more power than the students”. But things have changed; often the professors are adjunct professors with little real power and these-a-days there is a tendency for administration to use student evaluations to evaluate the professors (at least at the more teaching oriented places).

I see something else going on here:


The above refers to grade school. But in the college setting, replace the parents with deans, administrators or even professors from departments that are desperate to retain their students.

There is where the tension comes from. Most professors expect 18-20 year old students to…well, behave like 18-20 year old students. Getting undermined from other parts of the same campus is very irritating and it happens too many times (though not all of the least right now).

You may have read things like “most of the newly reported science results are wrong” and this is because, well, one is more likely to report a positive finding, and many positive findings are honestly done false positives. So, one psychology journal has decided to prohibit the reporting of p-values in its articles. That makes no sense to me, and evidently it makes no sense to some scientists and statisticians either.

March 5, 2015 Posted by | education, running, science, statistics, weight training | , , , | Leave a comment

Submarines: cost effective?

Big data is making is possible for navies to approach anti-submarine warfare differently; will it soon become non-cost-effective to use submarines, or should they be used differently? Here is an interesting article on this subject:

In a piece for TNI, the report’s author, Bryan Clark, lays out the problem in more layman’s terms:

Since the Cold War submarines, particularly quiet American ones, have been considered largely immune to adversary A2/AD capabilities. But the ability of submarines to hide through quieting alone will decrease as each successive decibel of noise reduction becomes more expensive and as new detection methods mature that rely on phenomena other than sounds emanating from a submarine. These techniques include lower frequency active sonar and non-acoustic methods that detect submarine wakes or (at short ranges) bounce laser or light-emitting diode (LED) light off a submarine hull. The physics behind most of these alternative techniques has been known for decades, but was not exploited because computer processors were too slow to run the detailed models needed to see small changes in the environment caused by a quiet submarine. Today, “big data” processing enables advanced navies to run sophisticated oceanographic models in real time to exploit these detection techniques. As they become more prevalent, they could make some coastal areas too hazardous for manned submarines.

Could modern attack subs soon face the same problem as surface combatants around the world, where some areas are simply too dangerous to enter, thanks to pressing A2/AD challenges?

One possible future use of submarines is interesting: use them as underwater drone carriers!

February 20, 2015 Posted by | science, technology | | Leave a comment

Professors, blog posts and anti-intellectualism

First things first: Today, the swimming pool was crowded; glad that I got there early. I enjoyed the swim, but it wasn’t anything special:

500 warm up, 5 x 100 where I did 100 drill with fins, 100 swim, (3 drill reps, 2 swims)

5 x 200 on the 4:00: 3:38, 3:37, 3:34, 3:34, 3:35 (not as good as last week, which wasn’t that good.

100 back (fins), 100 fly/fly drill (fins)

No, this was not an AMAZING for was it an AWESOME workout. I think that these-a-days, “awesome” (pronounced “AWEsome” means what the old “cool” or “groovy” meant.

Posts The Republicans in Wisconsin seem intent on reducing their excellent university system to something resembling a community college system. Classic quote by a state lawmaker who is disdainful of academic research:

He thought this would be fine, as Wisconsin Assembly Speaker (and probable candidate for Governor) Robin Vos declared back in November, nobody really gives a shit about the “ancient mating habits of whatever.” Just prior to dropping the budget bomb, Walker was on right-wing talk radio telling the host that professors need to “work more.”

The cuts are an existential threat. The University of Wisconsin System will cease to exist as a world-class institution. The Chancellor of UW-Madison has said that should the cuts to Madison remain, they are the equivalent to laying off 1/3 of Madison’s faculty, or 1,000 support staff. Imagine that.

Okkkkkaaaayyyy……”Fruit Flies” anyone?

Speaking of science: at times it seems almost, well, fashionable to admit that one doesn’t like science (and especially mathematics) but…well…one needs to read literature in order to be educated! Ha, ha, ha, ha: I am so illiterate I can’t even write a complete sentence!!!

And as far as speaking one’s mind: a professor had his tenure revoked because of a blog post. Now other sources said that the professor had been warned not to mention students by name….

and no, I do NOT do that. Ever.

February 10, 2015 Posted by | education, science, swimming | , , | Leave a comment

On knowing what you are talking about (part 100)

Swim: I woke up 30 minutes later than planned but I still got my 2200 yards in: 500, 6 x 100 fist/free on 2:10 (2 each), 4 x side/free on 2:30. 5 x 100 on 2:10 (1:43, 1:44, 1:44, 1:45, 1:43), 100 back, 100 of fly/fly drill.

I finished the swim feeling better than when I started.

Paul Krugman on knowing what you are talking about: (he is lamenting a public fight he had with Michael Kinsley)

Part of what made this so sad was that I owe Mike Kinsley a lot. His invitation to write for Slate got me established as a professor who could do a fairly decent job moonlighting as a journalist, which eventually led to the Times. So it was really sad to see him pick a fight with me over stuff where I really knew what I was talking about, and he didn’t.

And what made it sadder was that Kinsley clearly didn’t understand what was going on – that there are issues on which there’s a big difference between just being clever in general and being a guy who really knows what he’s talking about. He thought that a gut feeling – he himself put it that way – plus slick writing entitled him to weigh in on macroeconomics. It didn’t.

I’m not talking about being a paid-up, card-carrying member of the guild. There are quite a few people with all the professional credentials who are nonetheless useless or worse on actual policy issues, and a significant number of self-taught people without formal credentials who do a fantastic job. No, what matters is a large investment of time and hard thinking – and also a lot of reading of what other smart people have said, not to mention economic history. Sorry, but just being a clever, facile writer doesn’t cut it – and imagining that you can just brazen it out in this arena is a recipe for serious embarrassment.

Yes! One can be reasonably clever and have a skilled pen…and still NOT KNOW WHAT ONE IS TALKING ABOUT.

You see lower levels of this in the anti-vaccine movement too. You have people who consider themselves “informed” because they happen to be able to read an “ingredient list” in a vaccine. And, they see passing along such a list as “educating others”. And, no, this is not a “left vs. right” issue either.

Interestingly enough, this is one case where a little bit of “knowledge” is dangerous.

This leads me to a dilemma: on one hand, *I* enjoy pop-science articles and books. But, because I have expert knowledge in one field (mathematics), I am very aware that what I am reading is oversimplified and watered down; there are tons of nuances that I am completely unaware of.

On the other hand, some (many?) who read and perhaps even partially digest such articles suddenly think that THEY are informed when, well, they are really not. I’ve brought up the fact that it is impossible to gleam expert level knowledge from a pop work and people have gotten very angry with me. :-)

Well, here is a famous drunken rant from a scientist who had enough with the morons:


February 6, 2015 Posted by | economics, science, swimming | , | Leave a comment

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.

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?

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

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.

hot globe cold illinois

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 Posted by | Mitt Romney, political/social, politics, religion, science, 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

Good cartoon day: Tuesday 13 January 2015

Our local paper carried some good cartoons yesterday.


Yes, I’d love to scream “cheap shot”, but remember the shills that the tobacco industry hired? And, of course, a single study rarely means much. Now established scientific consensus is usually right, much to chagrin to climate change deniers, creationists, advocates of “alternative medicine”, rabid anti-GMO crackpots and other assorted woo-woos.


Yes, distinguishing between adjectives and verbs matters. :-)


See point one. :-)

January 15, 2015 Posted by | creationism, humor, science, social/political | , , | Leave a comment

Evolution and complexity

First my workout: 5 mile run (varied the intensity every 4 minutes) 50:26. Then 3 mile walk (42:40); some on an incline. Frozen snow outside.

Evolution: this is a very interesting article. The gist: yes, natural selection acts to select for mutations that give some reproductive advantage. But there have to be possible advantageous mutations available to begin with, and that only works if things are sufficiently complex to begin with. And there have to be several possible advantageous mutations to being with.

I sure wish I had time to train to study this from a mathematical point of view. But I have enough to work on as it is..and that includes things that I am in better position to publish.

January 14, 2015 Posted by | evolution, running, science | , , , | Leave a comment


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