Luck evens out (light hearted)

Today’s workout: swimming and running/walking.

Swimming: 500 easy, 10 x 100 on the 2:10; first few were 1:50-1:53, then they migrated to 1:54-1:55.
then 100 back, 100 side, 50 back, 50 side, then 200 yards worth of 25’s: fly drills, kicks and perhaps 3 reps of fly.

Then running: treadmill and I got to 30 minutes via the 5.5 mph then increase 0.1 mph every 5 minutes (0.5 grade incline). Then at 30 minutes, I increased the pace every 2 minutes to hit 4 miles in 40:45; walked another mile in 13:45 to get 54:30 for 5 miles.

Luck: good: I got to the pool just as a lane opened up and finished my workout just 5 minutes before I would have had to have vacated the side lane for a swim lesson. 🙂
Luck: bad: when I was running, Mardi (a frequent “opponent” at road races) came by to say hi…she made it a point to look at my treadmill display when I was still averaging less than 10 mpm. She caught me dogging it.
Luck: good: as I get ready to head down the stairs, a well rounded (but still fit) MILF in workout tights goes down the stairs first and stops to read the bulletin board midway down on the landing.
Luck: good: as I walk down the hall, I look in the window at the gym where there is an exercise class just as they were bending over…dozens of feminine spandex butts in the air.

ready-set-go-600x872 (1)
(click for larger at the source)

Luck: bad: as I try to drive out of the parking lot, a train comes by and blocks the lot…it was one of those longish trains moving at perhaps 8-10 miles per hour.

It all evens out. 🙂

January 17, 2015 Posted by | big butts, Friends, running, spandex, trains, walking | Leave a comment

I grow pessimistic about Obama’s reelection chances

Paul Krugman talks about why people are down on the economy: basically, jobs are growing at a rate which is sufficient to keep up with population growth but not at a rate to accommodate those who had been laid off:

But I don’t think we need to look for deep reasons for our current malaise; it’s still a lousy economy, which has not created enough jobs to do more than keep up with population growth:

And of course, there is gas prices:

Notice that both Obama disapproval and gas prices have the same series of peaks and valleys, and keep in mind that Obama’s approval ratings, like Bush’s, appear to lag a couple of months behind gas prices – suggesting that the last surge in gasoline prices hasn’t yet found its way into Obama’s approval ratings.

There’s no rocket science here. Presidential approval ratings tend to track the economy, and gas prices, especially as they reach the thresholds we discussed yesterday, take a few months to feed through into the economy as a whole.

Barack Obama should be thanking his lucky stars that it is 2011 and not 2012. And he’d better hope that Oil’s choke hold on the economy loosens by then.

To see how this worked for President Bush:

So why have I NOT given up? Well, he is running against Republicans and the Republican primary voters might give us Michelle Bachmann, Donald Trump or Mike Huckabee. I think that Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney and Mitch Daniels would be their best candidates, but can they get through the Republican primary?

On another note
Paul Krugman points out that longevity is causing a problem with Social Security and Medicare. Though people on the whole are living longer, this longevity is NOT evenly spread among the economic classes:

In general, the fervor with which Washington types call for raising eligibility ages is a “tell”: it shows how disconnected they are from the way the other half lives (and dies). For in our increasingly polarized society, life expectancy is more and more a class-related issue. As the Social Security Administration has shown, the gap between life expectancy in the top and bottom halves of the wage distribution has risen sharply:

In short, it makes sense to raise MY retirement age but it doesn’t make sense to raise the retirement age of a poorer blue-collar person whose job is more physically demanding than mine.

The spread is getting worse.

Other stuff
High Speed Rail Dr. Andy pointed me to this article about high speed rail in China:

Yesterday, we rode the high speed rail from Hangzhou to Shanghai. It took 45 minutes to go about 110 miles, and the ride was smoother than any US form of transportation. At dinner last night, the Chinese, justifiably proud, asked what we had thought.

“I want it!” said one of my companions.

Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going to get it.

Megan McArdle (the author of the article) went on to point out the reasons why she thinks it wont work in the US. One of the reasons is the spacing between the major cities of the United States (more spread out). She also pointed out that the differences in government between the US and China. In China, they can say “we are doing this” and that is that. In the US, we need: environmental impact studies, economic impact studies, cooperation between many layers of government (Federal, State, county and city), etc. There would also be eminent domain issues.

And yes, even liberals get outraged with a higher branch of government imposes its will on a lower, more local one (witness the outcry over the Republican governor’s power grab in Michigan).

So, even if we were to try, we’d face a host of challenges that the Chinese and the more socialist governments don’t have.
Still, this isn’t an issue I’ve studied deeply; mostly I see it as “gee, this is neat” and if we had it, I could tell the hated airlines to “kiss off” (I HATE them!). But alas, “Ollie thinks it is a neat idea” isn’t a good enough reason to undertake a multi-billion dollar project. 🙂

Richard Dawkins

This is a fun video:

April 26, 2011 Posted by | 2012 election, economics, economy, evolution, High Speed Rail, Mitt Romney, political/social, politics, politics/social, republican party, republicans, republicans political/social, republicans politics, science, technology, Tim Pawlenty, trains, Transportation, travel | Leave a comment

23 April 2011 posts

Social: why the hostility toward trains?

“Stop the Train” was, literally, a rallying cry for post-Tea Party Republicans this past November.

Newly elected GOP governors in Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida have canceled already-funded high speed rail projects.

Much of the opposition to rail projects appears to stem not from economic arguments, but from fundamental cultural values on what “American” transportation should be.

A perusal of online commentaries about passenger rail stories reveals a curious linkage by writers between passenger rail and “European socialism.”

The author of this article, Dr. Steven Harrod, goes on to make some conjectures as to why conservatives are so hostile. One might be a fear that a rail system is inherently centrally controlled, another is that rail systems is seen as an urban thing. This article goes on to make the “train versus automobile” comparison.

I think that is the wrong comparison! i see trains as competing with airlines; if we had reliable high speed rail I’d much rather take long trips that way than by flying.

This sounds simple: bicycles are much more stable when they are moving than when they aren’t. But the question is: why? This article explores this question:

Be kind to your bicycle, for you may need it more than it needs you.

Once rolling, bicycles can cover ground just fine on their own—no rider required—thanks to a property known as self-stability. If a bicycle starts to tip over, its front wheel turns into the fall, bringing the bike back into balance, just as a rider would do if he or she were behind the handlebars. Of course, that stability is missing when the bicycle is stationary—bicycles have a limited range of self-stable velocities within which they are able to regain their balance even if knocked sideways…[…]
The question of how bicycles work—and what causes self-stability—has been around since the 19th century. Over the years, two main factors have emerged to explain a riderless bicycle’s balancing act. One is the gyroscopic motion of the spinning front wheel; the other, a design feature known as trail, is the placement of the bicycle’s steering axis so that the axis intersects the ground ahead of the point where the front wheel meets the ground. Both features act to couple the bicycle’s steering to its leaning—if the bicycle tips rightward, it will steer to the right—allowing it to turn into a fall and remain upright.

But those two factors are not needed for a self-stable bicycle, as it turns out. In the April 15 issue of Science a team of researchers from the Netherlands and the U.S. describe an experimental bicycle that exhibits self-stability despite having neither trail nor a gyroscopic wheel. “Even though those two effects are important, they’re not necessary,” says study co-author Andy Ruina, a professor of mechanical engineering at Cornell University. “Just like chocolate cake is important to a nice birthday dinner, it isn’t necessary.”

Surf to the Scientific American article to read more.

This is an important development:

Research at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California’s (USC) Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute shows for the first time that the human placenta plays an active role in synthesizing serotonin, paving the way to new treatment strategies that could mitigate health impacts such as cardiovascular disease and mental illness.

The groundbreaking findings, conducted with researchers from Vanderbilt University as part of a Silvio Conte Center of Excellence grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, offer conclusive evidence that the placenta provides serotonin to the fetal forebrain, not through the mother’s blood supply, as theorized for the past 60 years. The research, “A transient placental source of serotonin for the fetal forebrain,” will be published in the journal Nature on April 21, 2011.

“Our research indicates that the placenta actually synthesizes serotonin, and the serotonin is released from the placenta into the fetal bloodstream where it can reach the fetal brain,” said lead author Alexandre Bonnin, Ph.D. “The placenta was seen as a passive organ, but we now know that it has significant synthetic capabilities and has a much more critical role in developmental programming of the fetus than previously thought.”

Bonnin’s work with Pat Levitt, Ph.D., director of the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute and corresponding author on the paper, included the invention of a unique technology known as a “placentometer” that monitors substances that pass through the mouse placenta from mother to fetus. This technology can incorporate genetic models of human disease, and could lead to targeted therapies that treat the mother without affecting the fetus, or vice versa.

Also, this reminds us that “it isn’t all just genes”; much of it is how genes get expressed and there are many factors that can hinder gene expression.

April 23, 2011 Posted by | Barack Obama, biology, economics, economy, physics, political/social, politics, politics/social, science, technology, trains, Transportation | 4 Comments

8 April 2011 (am)

Workout notes
Simple today: Just three miles of running on the treadmill in just under 30 minutes (I used my home sport-tech, which is manual and only works at a rather steep incline, so my run times are ALWAYS slower on this than on the road). I got to 5K in 30:50 and called it a day.

Weekend plans: longer run tomorrow morning; work the 5 pm to 6 am shift at McNaughton (50 and 100 mile runs) and perhaps get a 10 mile loop on that course.

Health: I added a “pulling” rotator cuff exercise to my routine; it appears to be helping. Why? Some of my rotator cuff irritation is caused by my arm motion when I run or walk fast. This is helping.
Vertigo: much, much reduced, but still there when I get out of bed too quickly, or when I change from supine (even on the incline bench press) to upright and visa-versa. But I can do yoga head-stand again.
Anemia: my blood hemoglobin is back to the mid 14’s; the blood chemistry looks good again.
Weight: in the 192-194 range. That is too heavy for ultras, but I’ve been lifting so…

Note: I’ve been doing squats; and no, I don’t look anything like this:

Forget how heavy the weight is; I don’t look this good with an unloaded bar! 🙂
And it was only recently that I could even squat to this depth at all; the knee flexibility is returning but oh-so-slowly.

Does Bible study promote peace? 🙂
epic fail photos - Probably Bad News: Bible Study FAIL
see more funny videos, and check out our Yo Dawg lols!

Computers and security: It is possible to deduce your location from your IP…to within an astonishing degree of accuracy. This is both impressive….and…pause for thought.

Economy and Politics

Where are the Republican priorities?

The Ryan plan calls for cutting the top marginal rate to 25 percent — lower than it has been at any time in the past 80 years. That in itself should tell you that this is a deeply unserious proposal: anyone who tells you that we have to face hard truths, that everyone must sacrifice, and by the way, rich people will pay lower taxes than they have at any time since the 1930s, is just engaged in a power grab.

Beyond that, has anybody besides Bruce Bartlett noticed that Ryan still hasn’t gotten an independent estimate of the revenue losses from his tax plan? Last summer I pointed out that he was getting a free pass on tax cuts that appeared likely to lose a lot of revenue; his defenders came up with all sorts of excuses about how he couldn’t get anyone to do a proper estimate.

You got it. And no, we will never get out of this mountain of debt without taxing the rich.

My Two Cents on the Government Shutdown
I don’t know if the shutdown will be averted or not. But I am hearing a ton of negativity toward Congress about this (here and here)

But, to be brutally honest, I really don’t blame Congress. Basically the Representatives are doing what they were elected to do, and we have two very different visions for our country. One vision is that the government has a role to play in our collective welfare (well articulated here) and those who want to see the New Deal programs and dismantled and governmental regulations all but eliminated. Now in the 1950’s and the 1960’s, this divide wasn’t so great; Republicans saw a need for such things. Remember it was President Nixon who started the EPA and who fought for affirmative action! How times have changed…

So the squabble really isn’t about money. The Republicans want to dismantle much of our government and the Democrats want to keep it.

Anyway we have these two visions (I can recommend Paul Krugman’s book The Conscience of a Liberal; this is well explained there).

It would be simplistic to say: “ok, let’s split into two countries” because, at its core, it is not really a dispute between the North and South. It is more about “city” vs. “rural”. Just check out these election maps: Illinois is regarded as a “blue” state and Texas a “red state”:

This is Texas from the 2008 election; note that Obama carried Dallas, Houston, Austin, El Paso and San Antonio (but lost Ft. Worth). Obama got obliterated in the countryside; there were some counties where he didn’t even get 10 percent!

This is Illinois from the 2010 governor’s election:

The margin came from Chicago.

The bottom line: we have two very different groups of people electing very different representatives and any “compromise” will be seen as capitulation. And frankly, I don’t see any possible compromise. We are at a point in our history where we are headed toward a new Gilded Age with out economy barely out of the 1929 levels.

I don’t blame Congress. I blame the American people; collectively we deserve bad government.

Update Dr. Andy directed me toward what I consider a reasonable Republican response. And yes, if my taxes go up, so be it. Of course, Mr. Brooks does talk about Medicare costs and there should be cost control measures but:

Jonathan Chait gets angry at the way Republicans, who claim to care about the deficit, propose saving money by cutting back on expenditures that are needed to control health costs. Indeed. But there’s a larger dynamic at work here than mere stupidity.

Let’s focus, in particular, on the ridicule some of the quoted Republicans heap on “comparative effectiveness research.”

Ask yourself, what do we have to do to control Medicare costs? We can save some money, maybe a lot, by reforming payment systems so that providers are paid for overall treatment rather than on a fee-for-service basis. But over the long term, the fundamental issue is going to be to decide what Medicare will and won’t pay for. We need, as Henry Aaron has often said, to learn how to say no. […]

So how are you going to make decisions about what not to do? Um, you need good information about which medical interventions work, and how well they work: comparative effectiveness research. And no, that information isn’t already out there: doctors know surprisingly little about how effective procedures are relative to one another.

Why, then, are Republicans opposed to this kind of research? Some of it is sheer stupidity and/or anti-intellectualism — hey, those researchers are probably atheistic Democrats, you know.

But you should always remember that the GOP comes to bury Medicare, not to save it. The favored “solution” on the right is to replace Medicare with vouchers whose value will systematically lag behind medical costs; so it will be up to insurance companies and patients to say no. There is absolutely no reason to believe that such a system would work; in practice, it would mean denying adequate coverage to all but the affluent. But that’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

This is from Fareed Zakaria:

The President has talked passionately and consistently about the need to tackle the country’s problems, act like grownups, do the hard things and win the future. But he has also skipped every opportunity to say how he’d tackle the gigantic problem of entitlements. Ryan’s plan is deeply flawed, but it is courageous. It should prompt the President to say, in effect, “You’re right about the problem. You’re wrong about the solution. And here’s how I would accomplish the same goal by more humane and responsible means.” That would be the beginning of a great national conversation.


Over the past two years, Ryan has used the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of Obama’s health care plan to criticize it relentlessly. Now the CBO has scored Ryancare, and it is a devastating critique. The main mechanism by which Ryan would cut costs on health care is to limit payments for Medicare and Medicaid. This would save money for the federal government, but it’s not clear at all that it would lower health care prices for seniors or the poor. In fact, last year the CBO studied Ryan’s voucher plan and concluded that it would raise costs because “future beneficiaries would probably face higher premiums in the private market for a package of benefits similar to that currently provided by Medicare.” In other words, Medicare — the Walmart of American health care — can bargain for lower prices than an individual can.

The theory behind Ryan’s health plan is that if individuals have to pay for their health care, they will shop carefully and drive down costs. But health is an unusual economic good and is unlikely to follow the usual market pattern.

So why do I applaud the Ryan plan? Because it is a serious effort to tackle entitlement programs, even though any discussion of cuts in these programs — which are inevitable and unavoidable — could be political suicide. If Democrats don’t like his budget ideas, they should propose their own — presumably without tax cuts and with stronger protections for Medicare and Medicaid and deeper reductions in defense spending. But they, too, must face up to the fiscal reality. The Government Accountability Office concludes that America faces a “fiscal gap” of $99.4 trillion over the next 75 years, which would mean we would have to increase taxes by 50% or reduce spending by 35% simply to stop accumulating more debt. Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will together make up 50% of the federal budget by 2021.

(emphasis mine)

I disagree with the Ryan plan being courageous; raising taxes on the rich OR subjecting CURRENT senior citizens to this Medicare plan would be courageous. But yes, something is going to have to give. Yes, this means RATIONING; note that the sickest 25 percent of the Medicare crowd runs up 85 percent of the cost, and we should see if we are getting the best “bang for the buck” there. For example: is it worth 100,000 dollars of tax payer money to give an 80 year old an extra month in the hospital?

But, as Zakaria says, an honest discussion of these issues by a politician will probably lead to that politician not getting reelected. And THAT is the fault of the American people.

April 8, 2011 Posted by | 2008 Election, 2010 election, 2012 election, Barack Obama, business & economy, economics, economy, Illinois, political/social, politics, politics/social, recession, republican party, republicans, republicans political/social, republicans politics, shoulder rehabilitation, sickness, social/political, trains, yoga | 3 Comments

Chicago Half Marathon 5K

A bit unbelievable; walking a 5K places me in the upper third of the field, of my age group and the upper half among all males.

I took the metro train from our hotel to the Chicago Half Marathon 5K. The Half started at 7 and the 5K at 7:50.
There were 20,000 in the half, 1500 in the 5K. It took about 20 minutes for the field to leave the chute for the half and about 1 minute for the 5K.

I walked with a “quick, slightly bent kneed” gait as I wasn’t ready to run (knee felt the pavement) nor was I ready for legal race walking.
Total mileage from the train, warm up, race and cool down was about 6 miles.

My splits: 11:05 (1.1), 9:45, 9:36 for 30:27. Note: to make up for the extra, we started .1 miles behind the start of the half marathon so the first mile split was about 1.1.

I have to admit that I had missed these sort of events.

My knee felt ok, but my legs were stiff before and afterward. My shoulder hurt a little last night but not enough to blast me out of bed.

Note: on the train back, some Chicago Bear fans were already getting ready; they were on beer 2 or 3 by 8:50 am (game was at noon). They looked like they were from the cast of a Saturday Night Live spoof on “Da Bears”.

September 12, 2010 Posted by | big butts, racewalking, spandex, time trial/ race, training, trains, travel, walking | 2 Comments

Back in Town From Chicago

We got back in town after spending a few days in Chicago.
Workout notes Three 5-mile walks along the Lakeshore Path. I’ll post a few photos below.
Injury notes The knee (behind the knee) got sore from too much standing around. The shoulder is feeling better with rest.
NBA notes Celtics win 4-2! Tough series; the Magic didn’t fold while down 3-0.

Trip notes (photos to follow)

We took the Lincoln Service Amtrak from Bloomington-Normal to Union Station.
The good: no driving! No Parking! (expensive in Chicago; 30-40 dollars per day!)
The bad: you can be next to a noisy cell phone user. Also, you have to learn to use the transportation or take taxis everywhere that isn’t within walking distance.

Where we stayed: Affinia Inn, on Superior Street (Near Michigan Ave. )

Day One: arrived around lunch time, shopped at the Water Tower Place, took the Architecture tour by boat.

Did some serious damage at the Borders bookstore.

Day Two 5 mile walk on the Lake Shore, (north),

Saw the Field Museum, took in a play: Billy Elliot at the Ford Center for the Performing arts.
The Field Museum: The had the mammoth exhibit; I also spent well over an hour at the “evolution of the earth” display.

Billy Elliot: we saw this by accident. We were confused on which day our tickets were for the play at the Goodman Theater were for. So we walked past the Ford Center and I noticed that Billy Elliot was going to start; someone had extra tickets and sold them to us for 25 dollars apiece. So we lucked out. 🙂

This was about a boy from a coal mining town in England during the big coal miner strike in 1984-1985 (Margaret Thatcher versus the Union).

Yes, Elton John did the music. 🙂

Day Three 5 mile walk, this time going south to the Field Museum/Shed Aquarium. Then we went to the Shed Aquarium for a while. Then we went to the Goodman Theater for the play The Good Negro.

Shed Aquarium The good: excellent exhibits (I liked the frogs, bigger fish and the underwater views). The bad: waiting to go in, and the Fantasia show was lame; the poor penguins looked scared to death and used the bathroom on the floor. The mixed: this was the “free kids day” so every public school kid from Chicago was there (ok, a mild exaggeration). But if kids bother you, don’t go on this day or wear earplugs.
The play: I enjoyed it, but in the first act, some elderly person’s hearing aide whined loudly. 🙂

Day Four 5 mile walk, then went to Hancock, then shopped. I loved the view from the top! (1000 feet up). Then we returned; long line to get on the train but they got us on quickly.

Hancock from the Lakeshore path.

Barbara Looking North from Hancock

Old Water Tower from the Hancock

Looking North from the Hancock; you can see Lakeshore drive and the Lake shore path where I walked.

Big Shoulders Course from the Hancock
The train trip home was fine, though the sorority girl behind us jabbered on and on and on and on and on…on her cell phone.

More photos here.

May 29, 2010 Posted by | family, Illinois, injury, trains, travel, walking | Leave a comment

Riding the rails in Japan, China – Welcome to the FastLane: The Official Blog of the U.S. Secretary of Transportation

Are Japanese bullet trains coming to the US? This is a question I’ve seen being asked more than once in the media this week. Now, to be fair, I may have started this buzz by riding a couple of Japan’s…

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May 15, 2010 Posted by | High Speed Rail, hsr, lahood, obama, science, shinkansen, trains | Leave a comment