Super Bowl Sunday Silliness ….

I started out by going to the gym to lift very gingerly for a few minutes, then I got a nice 8 mile run/walk with the lovely Mamma T. That was a lot of fun.

Back: a bit sore, but I did quite a few back stretches during the lifting portion.

weight: 196.8 prior to lifting.

rotator cuff
pull ups: 4 sets of 10 (not that bad), 2 sets of 5. I kept my upper body more rigid than normal due to back issues and that made pull ups harder.
bench press: barbell: 10 x 135, 2 x 170 (didn’t feel good so I quit), dumbbells: 2 sets of 10 x 60, 2 sets of 10 x 70 (ok)
rows: 3 sets of 10 with the machine.

Lots of back stuff.

Then I met T and we went from the Riverplex to the place where the bike path hits the road on Bishop hill; it was about 8.3 miles total. We ran and walked and it was just right for me. I hope that T got the workout she needed.


So, for some silliness: Tracy is coming over for our Super Bowl Party and I am looking forward to it.



February 5, 2017 Posted by | injury, running, weight training | , , , | Leave a comment

My attempt at “touchy-feely” memes..

I’ve seen so many “please understand me because I have condition X” memes on the social media. I’ve seen only a few that exhort the reader to treat others better. here is one:


Am I there? Uh…no; I have a ways to go. But it is a worthy goal.

Here are a couple of my attempts; they need work.



March 8, 2016 Posted by | Personal Issues | , | Leave a comment

The opposite of the Dunning-Kruger Effect? (whiny)


Same old, same old. I wrote about this 10 years ago, and not much has changed.


One of my joys this summer was to have time off to visit with my 10 year old daughter, Olivia. Olivia enjoyed the movie “Amadeus” and wanted to see it again.

The Salieri character is one that I can relate to, sort of. I say “sort of” because, in this film, Salieri rises from a common beginning to become the court composer of the King of Vienna. So, to be brutally honest, the “mediocre” Salieri achieved a level of success in his lifetime that I will never come close to seeing. Yet, his own success doesn’t bring him happiness, as he has the “gift” (curse?) of seeing how uncommonly brilliant Mozart is.

So, why am I so hopelessly mediocre at everything that I do; let me rephrase that; why are my strongest areas merely mediocre?

Of course, there is an easy answer, but for some reason, that answer is the hardest of all to swallow. So bear with me as I do some exploration.

Athletic Failures

First, I’ll start with my first shattered dream: football. Since I was a young boy listening to Notre Dame and Green Bay Packer football broadcast on AFRTS (my Dad was in the Air Force) I just knew I was going to be a football star some day.

So, from the time I was in junior high school, I lifted weights on my own. I did hours of “bridge” exercises to toughen up my neck so I could block the way that Vince Lombardi taught his Green Bay Packers to block. I ran wind sprints, ran stairs, ran with ankle weights and drank extra milk.

So I had shot up to 6 feet, 190 lbs. by the time I was in 9’th grade; my goal was to make the varsity. I didn’t that year ( but was to make it the following year). But, alas, I was still mostly dead last in windsprints (until everyone else got tired) and was frequently “out quicked” by the better players.

I was to finish my senior season mostly on the bench, though I did get to play some and had the honor of getting run over by those who ended up playing for Rice, University of Texas, Georgia Tech, and later for the Seattle Seahawks, Pittsburg Steelers and the Washington Redskins.

Ah-ha! It was that I had too much slow-twitch muscle fiber, right?

So I turned to distance running. Ok, at my best marathons (26.2 mile footraces), the winner would finish when I was at mile 16. Well, if only I trained more (ok, I frequently injured myself by overtraining) or if only I showed a bit more courage and races and really gave it my all.

Well… why do my photos always show me looking almost comatose?

Academic Failures

So, now to my job. I am a math professor at a small Midwestern university. I publish from time to time; nothing I’ve done especially distinguishes me at the national level.
Well, why is that? It just seems to me that, whatever level I was in during my academic career, I was always slightly underprepared for that level. For example, I really was ready to learn calculus after I had taken my advanced analysis course, and so on. Dang; if I knew then what I know now, I’d be so much better off!
So my fantasy is to fake my death, escape and establish a new identity, and start college all over again, as an undergraduate. Yes, I’d tear right though the ranks, win those awards I didn’t win the first time, go to grad school, kick some butt in the classroom and this time write that hot-shot thesis that gets me a postgraduate appointment at Berkeley. Then a big time academic post would follow, along with that yoga instructor or triathlon babe caliber wife who wouldn’t get fat, right?

Of course, by the time I got to thesis writing, all of my advantages would be gone, and the smarter students would still write the good thesis and my new wife would still gain weight after I married her.
Ahhh, for the serenity to admit that I just don’t have it and to be grateful for what I do have! And besides, I am not researching as I am typing this, am I???

December 9, 2015 Posted by | Personal Issues, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Political Correctness and Hate Speech…

First, a bit of fun. These are some interesting “have you ever thought about it this way” memes. I especially like 6, 12, 15 and 20. Here are a couple:



Ok, birth and deaths don’t happen in an instant but over a very brief time period, so overlaps are permitted. Ergo this meme is actually false. But I get its point.

Free speech and Muslim anger
I talked about this a long time ago and it has come up again. Basically: many European countries do NOT have U. S. style freedom of speech laws; certain kinds of “hate speech” are prohibited. So, if you are one group who isn’t (or your religion isn’t) protected by hate speech laws and another one is, you might well ask “why are they protected and why aren’t we?”

That is one my my conjectures to why we see Muslim unrest in Europe that we don’t see in the United States.

So, as Jerry Coyne puts so well on his website: The French free speech laws ARE hypocritical:

I am a hard-liner when it comes to free speech: I think that no speech should be banned or criminalized save speech meant to incite imminent violence. And I think Europe needs to truly embrace its democratic aspirations by decriminalizing “hate speech.” Yes, I’m aware that those laws come from a traumatic past and a sensitivity to newly-arriving cultural minorities. But it’s time to deep-six the hypocrisy that pervades the speech laws of Europe.

I am saying this because, though I thought my views were obvious, I’ve received several snarky emails this week from people who tell me that I’m a hypocrite because, as a secular Jew, I must surely agree with the French laws against anti-Semitic speech and yet defend the right to criticize Islam. One person, for example, sent me this cartoon:


(I posted this cartoon in an earlier post, in which I discussed this Vox article).

When you criminalize speech (especially speech which critiques ideas), you really set yourself up for problems.

Political Correctness gone awry: I have to admit that I kind of roll my eyes at the Vagina Monologues, though I’ve been to a few productions of them. My wife played the “Down There Lady”. (here and here)

I figured this was as PC of a play as there is, right? Well, via Randazza: not for some:

Mount Holyoke College cancels “The Vagina Monologues” because women who don’t have vaginas got their feels hurt. (source)

No. Fucking seriously.

“At its core, the show offers an extremely narrow perspective on what it means to be a woman…Gender is a wide and varied experience, one that cannot simply be reduced to biological or anatomical distinctions, and many of us who have participated in the show have grown increasingly uncomfortable presenting material that is inherently reductionist and exclusive,” the email, obtained by Campus Reform, said. (source)

This is the same All-women’s Mount Holyoke College that recently decided to admit men who “identify as women.” (source) That sorta makes sense to me, but it helps put the issue in context.

You can read more here.

A note for the clueless (like me): you are cisgender if you identify with your biological sex (e. g. are a biological male and claim to be a male).

I keep thinking of this:

January 17, 2015 Posted by | civil liberties, political/social, religion, social/political | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our lives: our decisions plus circumstances

Of course, it would be ridiculous to discount the role that external circumstances play in how things go for us. After all, some get horrible diseases, die in accidents that they had no control over, and some people’s successes are made possible by the circumstances that they were born into (e. g. President G. W. Bush, Senator Ted Kennedy).

And no: unless you were born with extreme talent, you’ll never be an Olympic athlete, Nobel Laureate caliber physicist, etc.

But all too often, people discount the role that their own decisions played in where they ended up.


Though there are NEVER guarantees, you can significantly lower the probability of ended up in a bad way simply by not doing stupid stuff.

August 19, 2014 Posted by | social/political | , | Leave a comment

About your stick family…..



Now about “my kid is an honor student at XXX” stickers:

I want a sticker that says: “your “honor student” thinks that ” \frac{d}{dx}10xe^{-\frac{x}{5}}= ” is a REALLY HARD problem!”


April 11, 2014 Posted by | social/political | , , | Leave a comment

Evolutionary bullying and other topics

Science and society
Nature in full fury: this is a photo of the tornado that hit central Illinois:


Via: Cami Avis.


Does the Theory of Evolution promote….bullying?


Uh…no. 🙂 Ah, for the good old days when people were held as a captive audience to religion:


Seriously, evolution is a theory about how our world works, and it is as well established as the other great scientific theories (e. g. gravity). You can’t understand biology without it, and it has nothing to do with morals and the like.

And for a western religion take on bullying, I refer you to:

2 Kings 2:23-24:

23 From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. “Get out of here, baldy!” they said. “Get out of here, baldy!” 24 He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.

And from the “loving” New Testament:

Luke 19:27 (from a parable that Jesus told)

But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’”


Now back to evolution
Evolutionary science is different from mathematics in a fundamental way. We might have differing terminology for the same thing (e. g. a vector space is sometimes called a linear space; real analytic is sometimes called holomorphic ) but the concepts themselves are well defined.

That isn’t the case for biological concepts (e. g. “natural selection”).

Consider this (from Larry Moran’s blog Sandwalk) :

There are excerpts online. The first chapter is “What Is Evolution?” by Jonathan Losos. I’m not very impressed with his answer but I was shocked to read the following passage.

The logic behind natural selection is unassailable. If some trait variant is causally related to greater reproductive success, then more members of the population will have that variant in the next generation; continued over many generations, such selection can greatly change the constitution of a population.

But there is a catch. Natural selection can occur without leading to evolution if differences among individuals are not genetically based. For natural selection to cause evolutionary change, trait variants must be transmitted from parent to offspring; if that is the case, then offspring will resemble their parents and the trait variants possessed by the parents that produce the most offspring will increase in frequency in the next generation.

However, offspring do not always resemble their parents. In some cases, individuals vary phenotypically not because they are different genetically, but because they experienced different environments during growth (this is the “nurture” part of the nature versus nurture debate; see chapters III.10 and VII.1). If, in fact, variation in a population is not genetically based, then selection will have no evolutionary consequence; individuals surviving and producing many offspring will not differ genetically from those that fail to prosper, and as a result, the gene pool of the population will not change. Nonetheless, much of the phenotypic variation within a population is, in fact, genetically based; consequently, natural selection often does lead to evolutionary change.

I never heard to this idea before (that natural selection may not lead to evolution). I thought that natural selection was DEFINED as a change in the frequency of alleles in a population due to selection. Doesn’t it have to have a genetic component?

In other words, some experts do NOT consider “natural selection” as a subset of evolution but rather the phenomena of a difference of reproductive success based on characteristics, which may not be genetic (e. g. epigenetic effects or environmental effects).

I suppose the closest thing we might have to this is that some mathematicians might not accept, say, the Axiom of Choice or the Continuum Hypothesis, though most mathematicians accept the Axiom of Choice and if a proof assumes the Continuum Hypothesis, that is clearly stated.

Social Sciences
Ok, where is the fallacy here: “I studied the habits of wealthy people and I studied the habits of poor people and I found the following differences: (blah blah blah blah). Hence the poor are poor because of their behaviors and if they did (blah blah blah blah) they’d stand a better chance of being wealthy (or no longer being poor).

I am not talking about the alleged “snob factor” that is alluded to in the article I linked to; I am talking about the logical fallacy.

Here is a hint: “I see wealthy people driving luxury cars and poor people driving beat up old cars. Hence driving luxury cars might help poor people become wealthier.” 🙂

Or: “If you are short and want to be taller: I see lots of tall basketball players. So if you want to get taller, play basketball.” 🙂

Social media and hoaxes
I saw the “tip denied because you are gay” story. It turns out: it was false.

Right after a receipt and credit card statement suggested a NJ server’s tale about bigoted customers was a hoax, a local newspaper from her hometown started digging into her past. And now the Journal News reports that Dayna Morales, “has a reputation for lying,” according to former colleagues and friends.

People were rallying around Morales and sending her tips after she shared a photograph of a receipt she got back at her work, NJ restaurant Asian Gallop Bistro. The receipt showed no tip, with the note, “I’m sorry but I cannot tip because I do not agree with your lifestyle and how you live your life.” But then the family came forward saying that they actually did leave a tip, showing their copy of the receipt and a credit card statement that suggested they were truthful.
According to the Journal News, Morales lied about having cancer, her military service and damage to her home during Hurricane Sandy:
[She told] co-workers she shaved her head because she had brain cancer and later telling them it was her friend who had brain cancer, her colleagues and friends said.
They said she also told co-workers at a day care center where she once worked that Superstorm Sandy severely damaged her home in Stony Point, and sent a boat into her living room. Concerned co-workers dropped by her home and found only minor damage to the carpet by her front door and no sign of a boat, they said…
Morales told people she was a former Marine who was sent to Afghanistan and that everyone in her platoon died in an explosion except her, [a co-worker and a friend] said. The explosion left her with back injuries that required surgery and a couple of months to recover, Larkin said Morales told her employer. But during her time off, Morales posted photos of herself on Facebook enjoying a trip to Florida with a girlfriend, they said.

Though a military spokesman confirmed Morales did serve in the Marines, he added, “There is no indication of combat service in Iraq or Afghanistan” and she didn’t fulfill her reserve obligation.

Moral: the more I WANT to believe an outrageous story, the MORE skeptical I should be. That is a tough thing to do, but I’ll make fewer mistakes by doing that.

Here is one such example: I used to believe that conservatives were less likely to accept science than liberals. My mind changed when I started reading the anti-vaccination people, the rabid anti-GMO “activists” and the “alternative medicine” woo-woos.

Believe me, I’d love to think of conservatives as being mostly stupid people (Dr. Andy, Ms. Ann and many of my Naval Academy classmates excepted 🙂 ) but the facts say otherwise: stupid people can’t be successful military officers, CEO’s, economists, nuclear engineers, successful jurists, business owners, etc. I think that these folks might have blind spots, but we all do!

Speaking of “jumping the gun”: You might have heard of the “fit mom” who used herself as an example of someone who could have kids and still be very physically fit.


Yes, I know: genetics have a lot to do with looking this athletic and buff; most of us don’t have the genetics to look like this. But many of us could do better than we are doing now, and that was the point.

And yes, the “fat acceptance” people jumped on this and she shot back and….ended up getting reported and banned by Facebook! (temporarily; Facebook admitted their error of just relying on “reports of hate speech”):

At the time, Kang defended her tough love stance, telling the “Today” show, “However your body physically manifests in the process of exercising and eating healthy is beautiful. And it doesn’t have to look like mine.”

But Kang seemed to contradict her own statement that it’s not about looks recently when she took to Facebook to criticize another viral sensation — Curvy Girl Lingerie’s Facebook campaign encouraging customers to submit photos of “regular” women in their underwear. As Curvy Girl’s Chrystal Bougon explained of the idea, “For most of us Curvies, we will have rolls, bumps, lumps, scars, stretch marks, surgery scars, breasts that are natural and that have breast fed our babies. And we can still be STUNNING and BEAUTIFUL.” Kang had a different point of view. Writing on Facebook, she declared, “I was a little peeved because while I feel like it’s ok to love and accept your body, I think that we’re normalizing obesity in our society.”

Ridiculously, after a user complained, Kang was temporarily booted from Facebook and her post was removed as “hate speech.” Kang told Yahoo! Shine Monday, “I felt like I’d been sent to the principal’s office and been expelled. We’ve become so sensitive to this weight issue that people who speak out against it are vilified. It’s so backwards to me.”

Ok, one issue is Facebook having the habit of taking “reports of hate speech” seriously; many bozos merely report what they don’t like as “hate speech”.

The other issue is this: “we can still be STUNNING and BEAUTIFUL”

This is such bull-sh*t. This is like me saying: “ok, I teach at a 12 hour load university and I was not one of the research stars of my Ph.D. class, but I can still BE A GENIUS or “hey, I ran 8:19 a mile for my last 3 mile race, but I AM STILL STUNNINGLY FAST. 🙂

Seriously, not everyone can be “stunningly beautiful” unless that phrase is stripped from its meaning; the blunt fact that most of us (yours truly included) are, well, rather ordinary. “Stunning” implies something well beyond the average, and most people simply don’t have the genes to be “stunningly beautiful”.

But MOST people can be reasonably fit and healthy and I think that most women can be “reasonably attractive” to a reasonably large population of heterosexual males if they put some effort into taking care of themselves.

Example: I wouldn’t call any of the women in this photo “stunningly beautiful” but they are all plenty attractive enough for me! They all look reasonably fit.

That is the level of fitness I think the “fitness lady” is talking about.

November 28, 2013 Posted by | biology, evolution, internet issues, mathematics, nature, religion, science, social/political | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bubbles….life in them.

I admit that I chuckled when I saw this:


Ha ha ha! That isn’t a liberal nightmare; that is a liberal DREAM. Such a ticket would be a large scale disaster for the GOP and help Democrats not only at the top of the ticket, but down the ticket as well.

But some conservatives will never see that in 1,000,000 years.

But liberals are just as guilty of living in a bubble.
I sometimes joked about it. Back in the 1988 general election, I saw the polls and Governor Dukakis was losing badly to then Vice President Bush. But when I got to work (I was in graduate school) I loudly proclaimed that Dukakis was going to win and win EASILY. My friends looked at me as if I had lost my mind. They asked me how I “knew” this and I told them on my walking route to school (2 miles), I had counted 21 Dukakis signs and only 3 Bush signs.

We all had a belly laugh; this was a very liberal neighborhood next to a sort-of liberal university in a liberal town. Yes, Dukakis carried Travis county that year (no shock) but of course, lost Texas and got creamed nationwide. No one was surprised.

I knew that I was in a bubble; of course, in my case, this mitigated by the fact that previously I was in the Navy which has a very conservative atmosphere. The nuclear engineers I worked with were smart, capable people, as were the mathematics graduate students and professors. But the social outlook could not have been more different.

Sadly, some liberals haven’t caught on to the fact that the rest of the nation is not like them. For example, I sometimes see this:


Yeah, that ticket *might* carry *most* of the Kerry states; maybe…probably not. For those who cry “foul; these people are not comparable” I’d say “sure; you are right.” For example: Elizabeth Warren is smarter than either Sarah Palin or Alan West. But Senator Warren is not a politician; not a national caliber one anyway. In fact, I might argue that Gov. Palin actually might have more political skill than she does. Not intellect; no the intellects aren’t even close; not on the same planet. But politics is not an intellectual contest.

Then you have this:

Screen shot 2013-08-26 at 7.38.31 PM

Oh great. Liberals are going to tell Alaskans what they should do. Talk about adding ammunition to the Palin campaign (if there is one)! There is nothing wrong with, say, giving money to the Democratic candidate but come on; the last thing that we need is for some clueless outsiders to butt in and attempt to “educate” them.

Then there is another kind of bubble: it is the old “who you hang out with”.

Sometimes, when someone wants to support an agenda or cause, people make signs, buttons, or take photos of themselves holding up “I support X” or “This is what a supporter of X” looks like.

I admit that I tend not to do that; no one wants public support from a nerd who is an outspoken atheist.
So no, I did NOT wear this shirt:


When I did wear an Obama shirt, it was more to give comfort to others in “hey the whole nation does NOT watch Fox News”. But it sure wasn’t a case of “look at how cool Obama supporters are.” 🙂

Now you see this:


The meme was snarky but wasn’t among the meanest ones I’ve seen.
But hey, in your bubble of friends, well, many are likely to tell you how AWESOME you are or how cool/good you look. But, hey that is just friends “being supportive” and not much more than that.

But when you believe your friends and you see that, well, your message…say “fell flat” with much of the population; some feelings get hurt (here, here)

Cue the calls about “fat shaming” (no, her weight was not mentioned; see the meme below), “bullying” (no, push back is not bullying; if you put something out there you should expect responses), etc.


This meme in one form or another has been around a lot longer and, well, I would wager that most heterosexual males would find her attractive.

Here is another permutation:


Anyway, I invite the interested reader to click the links I provided. One might read the comments to the Cosmo article.

Note: I certainly don’t approve of the meme in question; I would not have made it up. But I’d cringe if one of my friends was going to post such a photo of themselves on line, unless they did so now (as a show of support) or if this really were a “oh my, I didn’t expect that” type of photo:



(Yeah, I know; I picked two black guys, but the non-black guys I found were all sort of “hippie-ish” or, well, visually wimpy looking. Sorry. And for me: bearded nerdy professor. Big shock.)

August 27, 2013 Posted by | internet issues, political/social, politics, social/political | , | Leave a comment