The route to excellence AND fun isn’t always fun

Yes, SOME people do get it:

The article itself (by Barbara Oakley)

All learning isn’t — and shouldn’t be — “fun.” Mastering the fundamentals is why we have children practice scales and chords when they’re learning to play a musical instrument, instead of just playing air guitar. It’s why we have them practice moves in dance and soccer, memorize vocabulary while learning a new language and internalize the multiplication tables. In fact, the more we try to make all learning fun, the more we do a disservice to children’s abilities to grapple with and learn difficult topics. As Robert Bjork, a leading psychologist, has shown, deep learning involves “desirable difficulties.” Some learning just plain requires effortful practice, especially in the initial stages. Practice and, yes, even some memorization are what allow the neural patterns of learning to take form.

Here is the way I see it: one can’t really understand math concepts unless one has some examples that they can experiment on. And learning the tools and objects isn’t 100 percent fun, 100 percent of the time. There IS going to be at least a little bit of drudgery.

But once you have mastered the tools, you can begin to build.

Workout notes: 5K run in 29:51, 1 mile walk cool down. I started out at 5.1 mph and increased the pace gradually until 10 minutes, then 6.7 to mile 2.1, then 6.8 for .5, then 6.9-7.0 to the end. It was not a long workout but a sharp one.

August 10, 2018 Posted by | education, mathematics, running | Leave a comment

Running gear store ambivalence

I started running regularly back in 1975 (to get ready for football) and have been at it, with an interruption for knee issues and, yes, morbid obesity, here and there. Yes, I ran a 5:58 mile as a 220 lb. offensive tackle and a 23:00 5K as a 230 lb. graduate student (1985) But the point is that I’ve been buying running shoes for a very long time.

I restarted running back in 1996 and because my feet are hard to fit, I mostly used running shoe stores, especially Running Central. The store used to be a small “hole in the wall” at Sheridan and Main street; it employed a few people (often very young) and had almost an off-beat, cult feel to it. People were personable and friendly; at times it appeared that the profit motive was secondary; it was about running first and foremost.

But eventually that store was sold and now it is a large, open, almost upscale “a bit of everything” store…offers not only the essentials but extras extras. And they employ many more people and they are trained to SELL. And they are good at it; after my last purchase I got a nice postcard from the person who sold me the shoes. (several pair). They work with you, fit you, etc. And they have a system to ensure that you get served in a timely manner..but “the sell” is always on.

So: more items, but definitely the profit motive is first and foremost with a lot more selling pressure.

To me, the new atmosphere is almost alienating; there is no “I want to see what the guys are up to” feeling about it. But at the same time, I get what I need and they do have buyer’s club discounts. And they appear to be good “public citizens”, sponsoring races and events.

So…I really wonder if my ambivalence is about change ..and perhaps the older, cozier store might well have gone under by now? I do get the feeling that the running community is much more diverse now..not just the hard core road runners who are hell bent on PR’s, trophies, etc.

And yes, though I have a model of shoe that works for me, I’ll probably get fitted for a new the store. And I did like it that an older lady worked with me the last time.

August 9, 2018 Posted by | Peoria, running | Leave a comment

Random thoughts (all over the map)

I am nearing the end of summer break and am going over the diagrams for a paper that I’ll be submitting in 3 week’s time. This means: finishing research, starting on my next project, preparing for class, taking a look at search committee stuff, etc.

Though I have been paying attention to politics, I find much of the discussion to be depressing.

On one hand, the Republicans have gotten their people, including those conservatives that do not like Trump, to trust only conservative media sources (e. g., Fox News). So many really believe, say, that Trump is doing better than any past POTUS over the past 40 years (in terms of GDP growth) ..and this is based on, well, one strong quarter of growth being extrapolated. Of course, the growth might well have been due to businesses preparing for the trade wars and a one-time bump.

But try getting them to even read a graph, much less accept that it is a true one.

But being “sure” is not limited to “their team.” I know that issues are complicated and have many facets to them. Nevertheless, so many, including those who vote the way that I do, are just so “SURE” of things.
When one wants to “speak the truth” one has to actually KNOW “the truth” and few are experts on ANYTHING much less experts on everything.

I just find it astonishing that I have so many doubts about things that I’ve thought hard about, and so many others appear to have no doubts at all.

Sports: I still am in “baseball” mode but I just made my annual purchase of football magazines. I’ll be coming up with predictions soon and, of course, I plan to make a few games. I have season tickets for Illinois but hope to make a few Illinois State games, and perhaps a couple of Bears and 3-4 Colts games.

I did read about Texas football getting ready to make a 175 million dollar renovation to their football stadium. Yes, no tuition funds or tax payer funds will be used..and yes, the University of Texas has that kind of fund raising power. This means that, well…the kind of win/loss records we have seen over the past 5 years is unacceptable: 8-5, 6-7, 5-7, 5-7, 7-6 = 31-32. Contrast that with, say, Iowa: 8-5, 7-6, 12-2, 8-5, 8-5 = 43-23.

But doesn’t Texas have more money, a bigger stadium, bigger following and bigger drawing power than Iowa? Well, it might just be that the money might actually be counter productive at times. After all, big donors EXPECT to have some say in the program right? But said donors don’t necessarily know all that much about football. Big money can be a two edged sword.

Well, more on football later.

And there is still quite a bit of baseball to play and, who knows..perhaps some Cornbelter playoff ball too?

Workout notes: weights then 5 miles of walking.

weights: 15-15-10-10 pull ups, incline: 10 x 135, 6 x 150, decline: 6 x 170, military (standing dumbbell) 10 x 50, 10 x 45, Hammer machine: 10 x 140, rows: dumbbell: 2 sets of 10 x 50, 10 x 110 machine. Then the walk: 5K on the track 1 easy (13:36, 13:01, 12:15 (38:52), 40:41 for 25 laps.The faster miles were 1 on, 1 off, but the last 2 laps of mile 3 were done hard. Then 2 more outside.

Later: yoga, got 2:15 of plank before class. Did abs; this was one of Vickie’s harder routines.

August 9, 2018 Posted by | baseball, college football, economy, NFL, political/social, politics, social/political, walking, weight training | , | Leave a comment

Running weirdness: time to warm up

Today: my legs felt heavy and yes, I ate nachos last night at the game (for my dinner) so my 5.1/5.2 warm up (10 minutes) did not get me ready to crank in to 6.7, so I dropped back and continued 5.3-5.4-5.5-5.6-5.7-5.8 to 40 minutes. Then 6.1 to 4 miles (43:28) then 6.7-6.8-6.9 (6.7 to 4.5, then every .25) and finished in 52:17..then 1 mile cool down walk.

Funny how I could not sustain 6.7 after 10 minutes of running but could after 40 minutes of running.

Oh, running is rougher than it once was..mostly because my body has changed.

But hey, even Frank Shorter (1972 gold medalist, 1976 silver medalist in the Olympic marathon) is doing 11 minute miles these days. We all get old.

Last night, I went to yoga and then a Chiefs game. I picked it up after the 3’rd inning where the Chiefs were down 2-0. They managed 1 run (single, then later a sacrifice fly) but still trailed 2-1 going into the bottom of the 9’th. But 3 singles got the job done.

3-2 to win this 3 game series vs. Quad Cities, the first half champions.

Pretty night at Dozer. Rubber match in the series vs. Quad Cities.

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Evening game between playoff bound teams.

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Rally time! Chiefs down 2-1 in the 9'th.

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Walk off win! 3-2 Chiefs!

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August 7, 2018 Posted by | baseball, running | , | Leave a comment

Controversial thoughts (to some)

I think that I do better when I stick to talking to individuals about events. Sure, there are some that I just never discuss current events with.

I was thinking about civility (and other topics) and someone mentioned my speaking against “deplatforming” a public speaker at a university.

I should be clear as to what I meant:

1. Of course, not all ideas have intellectual merit.
2. And of course, a university should take pains that material taught in a course is valid. For example, a biology professor who taught creationism *as a valid intellectual idea* should be fired for incompetence.
3. And I am NOT talking about some open free speech area on campus, where one person has just as much right to be there as anyone else. No one is entitled to a friendly audience.

What I am talking about is, say, some controversial speaker at an approved campus speaker being shouted down or rudely interrupted and prevented from speaking, such as this:

Note: holding signs at the back or sides of the room is doesn’t prevent attendees from being able to listen. Nor is it wrong to ask tough questions during the question and answer period.

My beefs are these:

1. If an idea is bad or immoral, I am fully capable of coming to that conclusion without the help of “activists”. They have no right to censor what *I* am there to hear.

2. These “activists” aren’t changing anyone’s mind; they are making themselves look like jerks and perhaps gaining some sympathy for the speaker.

I’ll give an example of a case that had a happy ending: many years ago I went to a talk at a Unitarian church about the book The Bell Curve. The speaker was a psychology professor; he was explaining the arguments in the book (and yes, there are things in the book that its detractors do not realize is there..for example, affirmative action is DEFENDED in the book…to a point)

Now, some “activist” showed up and tried to stop the speaker..claiming he was like the “KKK”. Fortunately other church members shut the activist up and the talk continued.

Afterward, there were some tough questions and remarks that came from some very capable people, including from a professor of genetics. Those really exposed the genuine weaknesses in the book’s arguments (and they were there).

And that leads to 3

3. “Activists” disrupting one of these talks effectively shuts down more competent competing ideas/dissent from far more competent people.

I find it ironic that I was thinking about this when I read this article about …well, perpetually angry people not being as smart as they think that they are. If the shoe fits…

Workout notes: gentle 2 mile run (21:57) on the treadmill after weights; usual PT, usual miserable planks, headstands, back stuff.

pull ups (15-15-10-10), bench: 10 x 135, 4 x 185, 8 x 170, incline: 10 x 135, military: standing 10 x 50, 10 x 45, Hammer machine: 10 x 140, rows: 2 sets of 10 x 50 single arm, 10 x 120 machine.

Now back to my diagrams.

August 6, 2018 Posted by | running, social/political, weight training | Leave a comment

A remarkable Chiefs win: overcome 5 errors.

You are playing the first half division champions (you are the wild card). You make 5 errors in the first 5 innings and fall behind 5-1. You probably aren’t going to win…emphasis on “probably”.

Because..well, here are the highlights:

The Chiefs trailed 5-1 after the top of the 4’th and were making errors all over the place (misplayed ground balls, wild throws) But in the bottom of the fifth, a HUGE solo home run (409 feet) seemed to steady things, and it stayed at 5-2 until the bottom of the 7’th, which saw the Chiefs draw to within 1, and then BOOM, a monster shot that went over the second white fence in the berm put the Chiefs up 8-5!

The Bandits weren’t done though. Their burly third basemen, who was twice hit by pitches, crushed a shot into left field and almost put it completely out of the park. That made it 8-7 with 1 out…but a fly and a strike out ended the game.


Most of the fans stayed in the shade..the seats were so hot that they actually burned the back of my legs (where the shorts didn’t cover).

August 6, 2018 Posted by | baseball | | Leave a comment

Working through the rough patches

I got up early for this walk and was on the road by 6:10 am. Upshot: 5:07 for 20.3, 4:42 for the 18.6, with 57:24 for the final 4 of Boredom, 1:11:40 for the final 5 of Boredom (3:30:39 for 13.6 (15:55) , 1:36:46 for the final 6.7 miles. (14:27 pace).

It was warm toward the end (80 F, 74 percent humidity), 72 F, 87 percent at the start (sticky)

I struggled from the entrance to Glenn Oak (lower) to the entrance of the bike trail at Harvard, and again on that out and back stretch to and from the Tower. It was ok after that though.

August 5, 2018 Posted by | walking | Leave a comment

Hiding Facts in Books…

This was one of the funniest things I’ve read in a while:

But mark my words: in 1-2 decades time, we will have academic deans saying this.

Think about it: twitter. Facebook. Youtube. Sometimes, magazine articles or newspaper articles are considered “long reads”. Oh boy…what happens when we have to grasp some nuanced concept that requires quite a bit of background to be understood?

August 4, 2018 Posted by | books, education, social/political | Leave a comment

Yes, many on the left wing deserve contempt. But that is not a reason to support Trump.

Let me make this clear: this is not one of those “white men are victims” posts. I honestly believe that racism’s primary effect is against “people of color”; in particular, black people. As Chris Rock says “none of you (white men) would trade places with me, and I am rich!”

Yes, issues of race, class and sex/gender in society should be discussed and honestly debated..and honesty does NOT mean “immediately accept what comes out of the mouth of a liberal”. Yes, some who think that they are arguing against racism or sexism or religious prejudice make stupid statements, get facts wrong, get on high horses and..some are walking, talking examples of the Dunning-Kruger effect. Having a moral or ethical goal does not make you neither informed, smart nor does it make your arguments correct.

I remember something that happened in a faculty gathering many years ago. One of our women’s studies professors was talking about moving and made a somewhat anti-male joke (something about an activity elevating their testosterone thereby giving them negative male traits) and I joked “oh, so you became more logical and accountable too?” That did not sit well with her..she tried to explain to me that, as a woman, her “invoking male stereotype joke” was, well..strength..sort of a truth to power thing. I responded something to the effect “save that bullshit for your impressionable undergraduates”.

I noticed later that the department sponsored some, well, I think, very ill conceived posters. I even complained about one of them to her. She was skeptical. So, to her credit she asked some students for their opinions..and she was shocked that the students saw them the way that they did. All her posters did was to alienate potential allies.

But she ASKED.

And yes, I’ve been wrong about how things would be taken; I do NOT claim a perfect track record. In fact, I’ve had my own bad ideas challenged and ..yes, changed by intellectual honest colleagues.

IMHO, we ALL have bad ideas from time to time.

But, as I said, that was years ago. These days, all too often, dumb and sometimes prejudicial behavior is tolerated if it comes from someone from a “victim class”. Here is an example of that.

And I think that this is on point:

In my opinion, this issue really reared its ugly head in 2016. The Republicans elected someone who ran, in part, on a platform to “oppose political correctness”..this was from the FIRST political debate of the 2016 election season (from August 2015)

Of course, this blew up in our faces (ok, one of many, many, many factors)

All too often I’ve heard those who voted the same way that I did respond with a cry of “that is racist”, “that is sexist”, “that is misogynistic”, “that is islamophobic”, etc. as if it were some sort of trump card that would end the argument in their favor. And surprise, surprise, the USA is not a liberal arts department; the voters are not humanities professors.

And so the Trump voters decided to give us the finger.

And hey, I get it. My “blocked list” consists mostly of stupid, sanctimonious liberals; I don’t like them any better than you do. And I get it: some safety net programs benefit at least a (statistically) few horribly irresponsible people, and yes, many of my friends (include some that I haven’t blocked) will go through hilarious gymnastics to avoid criticizing.

So to you who are disgusted by Trump’s arrogance and incompetence but loathe us liberals: yes, many of us are unpleasant people. I don’t want to associate with them either. But reelecting an incompetent is NOT the solution. By all means: make fun of me and my Prius. Avoid socializing with me. But please…if you want to back a conservative, back a competent one. But the current POTUS is doing damage to our country.

August 4, 2018 Posted by | Personal Issues, politics, politics/social, social/political | Leave a comment

Climate change, walking and nuclear reactors

We are having a run of hot (for us) days. Today’s 9 mile walk was done in 80 F, 70 percent humidity conditions; it was a decent clip though. I didn’t bother to time; I did West Peoria plus a couple of loops of lower Bradley Plus a mini loop plus the stretch home.

Warmth can play havoc with power plants. Here is the idea: (very roughly): typically water is heated to become steam. The steam blows over the turbine blades and exits and then, ideally, is condensed when it flows over pipes with cool water in them. IF the water in the condensing pipes is too warm, the steam doesn’t condense as easily and the pressure in the condenser is higher; that hurts the efficiency. One wants a greater pressure difference between the steam inlet to the turbine and the exhaust. Warmer condensing water makes for a lesser drop in pressure across the turbine.

So, warmer water to use for condensing purposes causes problems (this is true for ships in tropical water).

We are now seeing this in some nuclear power plants including those in Nordic regions.

The warm weather also made for a warm baseball game last night. The Chiefs played very well and won 5-1. The game started with some spectacular defensive plays.

The crew at the Chiefs game.

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Underway! Go Chiefs!

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August 4, 2018 Posted by | baseball, walking | , , | Leave a comment