Thursday, August 31, 2006

It is the bike, stupid!

Milage wise, I have done a couple of non-descript day rides over my extended lunch hour.

On Tuesday, I used my hybrid for a ride and included 8 laps in lower Bradley Park. Those loops took me 43:20 to do (1.2 miles to 2000 meters per loop; a few pot holes, sharp turns, speed bumps, minor traffic and the like). Today, I used my road bike to do 10 loops and the first 8 loops took me 36:17; this is with the same effort (or less).

Moral: the bike makes a huge difference, even for slower riders.

One observation: the riding is actually better when it is cloudy and/or overcast, as the yuckky weather means fewer people in the park, fewer cars, fewer dogs, etc.

Yoga Note
Another note is that yoga has gotten better over the past week; my guess is that my tight piriformis had been holding me back, especially on one legged balances on the left side (e. g., Warrior III, Half-Moon), and I am getting more comfortable with the hand balances.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Variety of Topics

  1. Athletics: I am still among the "walking wounded" though the tingles in my leg have gone away; mostly what I get are muscle aches in my left glueteals.

They are at their worst when I teach back to back classes; between classes I need to sneak to a hallway to stretch.

Cycling is ok so long as I keep it in low gear and spin.

Mathematics

I'll have to post his link on my math blog: this is a good introduction to floating point arthimetic:
http://docs.sun.com/source/806-3568/ncg_goldberg.html
I've included the abstract:

Abstract

Floating-point arithmetic is considered an esoteric subject by many people. This is rather surprising because floating-point is ubiquitous in computer systems. Almost every language has a floating-point datatype; computers from PCs to supercomputers have floating-point accelerators; most compilers will be called upon to compile floating-point algorithms from time to time; and virtually every operating system must respond to floating-point exceptions such as overflow. This paper presents a tutorial on those aspects of floating-point that have a direct impact on designers of computer systems. It begins with background on floating-point representation and rounding error, continues with a discussion of the IEEE floating-point standard, and concludes with numerous examples of how computer builders can better support floating-point.

[...]



Politics/Humor/Social
First, here are some funny videos.

This links you to a Monty Python video of them doing "silly walks" on two rows of treadmills.

http://www.miniego.com/weblog/page/rache?entry=treadmill_dancing_awesome_video

Next, here is a video that a friend fowarded to me. I got a huge laugh...
(click the phrase "Reason for Condoms" to see the video)


Reason for condoms! Use condoms! Kids are annoying!




Next, here are some good cartoons:





There are some good articles floating around. I'll link you to a few of them.

First, we turn to an article written by an ex-Army officer (and West Point graduate, Doug30044) about the problems in Iraq. Basically, these problems stem from our attempting to turn a country (or really, a collection of very different people) into one that has our style of government. The whole article is worth reading; I've included the introduction as well as a sample of what the article has to offer:

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2006/8/27/14532/7143

A solidier's View of Iraq and American Adventurism. Hotlist

Sat Aug 26, 2006 at 10:45:32 PM PDT

I have something to say. I, like Condi Rice, am a student of history. But unlike Condi, the history I study is not "grand." I graduated from the United States Military Academy
many, many years ago. When I was there, I was permitted to take a few electives and I choose mostly history electives--history electives that had something to do with war, warfare, military history, and the causes and military execution of conflict. If this subject happens to interest you, West Point is a great place to study,
Warfare has changed in the last 30 years. No longer can a "non-superpower" nation cozy up to the U.S. or USSR just to piss the other one off. But warfare today is not without precedent. Lessons can be learned and more importantly, mistakes can be studied--and if you are not stupid--not repeated.

[...]

The most important point to start with for any discussion of Iraq is simply this: The
people who live in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East are not like you and me! They
have a different culture and set of beliefs and that culture and belief set is not going to
change anytime soon.

The second most important point from which to start the discussion can be expressed as a question: What idiot told you that Iraq was a nation?? When the Prophet Mohammed died, the followers of Islam split into two parts. The main body decided that one of the members of Mohammed's tribe/extended family group was to become the Islamic leader. These people became the Sunnis. A smaller part of the Islamic community decided that leadership passed to one of Mohammed's close relatives and that leadership would remain with the Prophet's family. These followers became the Shi'ites. While this is certainly a simplification of about a hundred years worth of wrangling and battles, it holds the gist of the situation. Further, you have to remember that all of this took place about 1200 years ago. Regardless of the fact that it happened 1200 years ago, the Sunnis still regard the Shi'ites as infidels and the Shi'ites still regard the Sunnis as bloodthirsty oppressors.
The first Islamic followers were Arabic. Arabic is an ethnicity. Arabs are organized into
tribes. A single, individual Arab simply cannot survive in the harsh climate of the middle
east. Tribes are often heavy with members of one family but the leader of the tribe is most often "the biggest and the badest" without regard to parentage. When Mohammed died, the Sunnis followed the biggest and baddest. The Shi'ites opted for the family member. Even this religious division started primarily over tribal politics. Interestingly, while this was the situation in the middle east 1200 years ago, it is still the situation in the middle east today with only minor exceptions. If you visit Iraq, visit the countryside first. Tribes still run the show. Each community is a loose grouping of families that have been grouped together for centuries. If you visit a big city like Bagdad, you will find Sunni
neighborhoods where relationships have existed for centuries and which do not allow the
infidel Shi'ite household to live. Likewise, you will find Shi'ite neighborhoods with no
Sunni residents.
This last week I had to laugh at the tragedy of the "evil Sunnis" from rooftops gunning
down the worshipful "Shi'ite pilgrams" making their pilgrimage to the Shi'ite mosque to
quietly worship. At least, that is the way the American press reported the story. Give me a break!! First of all, Sunni and Shi'ite neighborhoods are very well defined and
everyone knows where Sunni turf begins and Shi'ite turf ends. These "Shi'ite Pilgrims" were making a deliberate incursion onto Sunni turf and knew that they would draw a response. Proof, you ask? If they were peaceful pilgrims, where did the return gunfire come from? The young Sunni Bravos were on their rooftops boasting to each other that they were "protecting their neighborhood and families from the infidel Shi'ites." The Shi'ite pilgrims were making the same tribal border incursion that they have been making for the last 1200 years. [...]




Next, I include an article that supplies some of the common misconceptions about Iraq:

http://www.smirkingchimp.com/article.php?sid=27387

I've included each of his 7 points, but only a bit of the supporting arguments for each point and none of his conclusions. I highly recommend reading the whole article.

Michael Schwartz: '7 facts you might not know about the Iraq War'
Posted on Monday, August 21 @ 09:40:24 EDT
This article has been read 2421 times.



With a tenuous cease-fire between Israel and Lebanon holding, the ever-hotter war in Iraq is once again creeping back onto newspaper front pages and towards the top of the evening news. Before being fully immersed in daily reports of bomb blasts, sectarian violence, and casualties, however, it might be worth considering some of the just-under-the-radar-screen realities of the situation in that country. Here, then, is a little guide to understanding what is likely to be a flood of new Iraqi developments -- a few enduring, but seldom commented upon, patterns central to the dynamics of the Iraq war, as well as to the fate of the American occupation and Iraqi society.

1. The Iraqi Government Is Little More Than a Group of "Talking Heads"

A minimally viable central government is built on at least three foundations: the coercive capacity to maintain order, an administrative apparatus that can deliver government services and directives to society, and the resources to manage these functions. The Iraqi government has none of these attributes -- and no prospect of developing them. It has no coercive capacity. The national army we hear so much about is actually trained and commanded by the Americans, while the police forces are largely controlled by local governments and have few, if any, viable links to the central government in Baghdad. (Only the Special Forces, whose death-squad activities in the capital have lately been in the news, have any formal relationship with the elected government; and they have more enduring ties to the U.S. military that created them and the Shia militias who staffed them.) [...]

2. There Is No Iraqi Army

The "Iraqi Army" is a misnomer. The government's military consists of Iraqi units integrated into the U.S.-commanded occupation army. These units rely on the Americans for intelligence, logistics, and -- lacking almost all heavy weaponry themselves -- artillery, tanks, and any kind of airpower. (The Iraqi "Air Force" typically consists of fewer then 10 planes with no combat capability.) The government has no real control over either personnel or strategy. [...]

3. The Recent Decline in American Casualties Is Not a Result of Less Fighting (and Anyway, It's Probably Ending)

At the beginning of August, the press carried reports of a significant decline in U.S. casualties, punctuated with announcements from American officials that the military situation was improving. The figures (compiled by the Brookings Institute) do show a decline in U.S. military deaths (76 in April, 69 in May, 63 in June, and then only 48 in July). But these were offset by dramatic increases in Iraqi military fatalities, which almost doubled in July as the U.S. sent larger numbers of Iraqi units into battle, and as undermanned American units were redeployed from al-Anbar province, the heartland of the Sunni insurgency, to civil-war-torn Baghdad in preparation for a big push to recapture various out-of-control neighborhoods in the capital. [...]

4. Most Iraqi Cities Have Active and Often Viable Local Governments

Neither the Iraqi government, nor the American-led occupation has a significant presence in most parts of Iraq. This is well-publicized in the three Kurdish provinces, which are ruled by a stable Kurdish government without any outside presence; less so in Shia urban areas where various religio-political groups -- notably the Sadrists, the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), Da'wa , and Fadhila -- vie for local control, and then organize cities and towns around their own political and religious platforms. While there is often violent friction among these groups -- particularly when the contest for control of an area is undecided -- most cities and towns are largely peaceful as local governments and local populations struggle to provide city services without a viable national economy. [...]

5. Outside Baghdad, Violence Arrives with the Occupation Army

The portrait of chaos across Iraq that our news generally offers us is a genuine half-truth. Certainly, Baghdad has been plunged into massive and worsening disarray as both the war against the Americans and the civil war have come to be concentrated there, and as the terrifying process of ethnic cleansing has hit neighborhood after neighborhood, and is now beginning to seep into the environs of the capital.

However, outside Baghdad (with the exception of the northern cities of Kirkuk and Mosul, where historic friction among Kurd, Sunni, and Turkman has created a different version of sectarian violence), Iraqi cities tend to be reasonably ethnically homogeneous and to have at least quasi-stable governments. The real violence often only arrives when the occupation military makes its periodic sweeps aimed at recapturing cities where it has lost all authority and even presence. [...]


6. There Is a Growing Resistance Movement in the Shia Areas of Iraq

Lately, the pattern of violence established in largely Sunni areas of Iraq has begun to spread to largely Shia cities, which had previously been insulated from the periodic devastation of American pacification attempts. This ended with growing Bush administration anxiety about economic, religious, and militia connections between local Shia governments and Iran, and with the growing power of the anti-American Sadrist movement, which had already fought two fierce battles with the U.S. in Najaf in 2004 and a number of times since then in Sadr City.

Symptomatic of this change is the increasing violence in Basra, the urban oil hub at the southern tip of the country, whose local government has long been dominated by various fundamentalist Shia political groups with strong ties to Iran. When the British military began a campaign to undermine the fundamentalists' control of the police force there, two British military operatives were arrested, triggering a battle between British soldiers (supported by the Shia leadership of the Iraqi central government) and the local police (supported by local Shia leaders). This confrontation initiated a series of armed confrontations among the various contenders for power in Basra. [...]

7. There Are Three Distinct Types of Terrorism in Iraq, All Directly or Indirectly Connected to the Occupation

Terrorism involves attacking civilians to force them to abandon their support for your enemy, or to drive them away from a coveted territory.

The original terrorists in Iraq were the military and civilian officials of the Bush administration -- starting with their "shock and awe" bombing campaign that destroyed Iraqi infrastructure in order to "undermine civilian morale." The American form of terrorism continued with the wholesale destruction of most of Falluja and parts of other Sunni cities, designed to pacify the "hot beds" of insurgency, while teaching the residents of those areas that, if they "harbor the insurgents," they will surely "suffer the consequences."

At the individual level, this program of terror was continued through the invasions of, and demolishing of, homes (or, in some cases, parts of neighborhoods) where insurgents were believed to be hidden among a larger civilian population, thus spreading the "lesson" about "harboring terrorists" to everyone in the Sunni sections of the country. Generating a violent death rate of at least 18,000 per year, the American drumbeat of terror has contributed more than its share to the recently escalating civilian death toll, which reached a record 3,149 in the official count during July. It is unfortunately accurate to characterize the American occupation of Sunni Iraq as a reign of terror.

The Sunni terrorists like those led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi have utilized the suicide car bomb to generate the most widely publicized violence in Iraq -- hundreds of civilian casualties each month resulting from attacks on restaurants, markets, and mosques where large number of Shia congregate. At the beginning of the U.S. occupation, car bombs were nonexistent; they only became common when a tiny proportion of the Sunni resistance movement became convinced that the Shia were the main domestic support for the American occupation. (As far as we can tell, the vast majority of those fighting the Americans oppose such terrorists and have sometimes fought with them.) As al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri wrote, these attacks were justified by "the treason of the Shia and their collusion with the Americans." As if to prove him correct, the number of such attacks tripled to current levels of about 70 per month after the Shia-dominated Iraqi government supported the American devastation of Falluja in November 2004.

The Sunni terrorists work with the same terrorist logic that the Americans have applied in Iraq: Attacks on civilians are meant to terrify them into not supporting the enemy. There is a belief, of course, among the leadership of the Sunni terrorists that, ultimately, only the violent suppression or expulsion of the Shia is acceptable. But as Zawahiri himself stated, the "majority of Muslims don't comprehend this and possibly could not even imagine it." So the practical justification for such terrorism lies in the more immediate association of the Shia with the hated occupation.

The final link in the terrorist chain can also be traced back to the occupation. In January of 2005, Newsweek broke the story that the U.S. was establishing (Shiite) "death squads" within the Iraqi Ministry of Interior, modeled after the assassination teams that the CIA had helped organize in El Salvador during the 1980s. These death squads were intended to assassinate activists and supporters of the Sunni resistance. Particularly after the bombing of the Golden Dome, an important Shia shrine in Samarra, in March 2006, they became a fixture in Baghdad, where thousands of corpses -- virtually all Sunni men -- have been found with signs of torture, including electric-drill holes, in their bodies and bullet holes in their heads. Here, again, the logic is the same: to use terror to stop the Sunni community from nurturing and harboring both the terrorist car bombers and the anti-American resistance fighters.

While there is disagreement about whether the Americans, the Shia-controlled Iraqi Ministry of Defense, or the Shia political parties should shoulder the most responsibility for loosing these death squads on Baghdad, one conclusion is indisputable: They have earned their place in the ignominious triumvirate of Iraqi terrorism.

One might say that the war has converted one of President Bush's biggest lies into an unimaginably horrible truth: Iraq is now the epicenter of worldwide terrorism. [...]

Sunday, August 27, 2006

First Spin on the new Bike

I took my Treck 7200 for its maiden spin. The day was overcast but the roads were relatively dry.

I went from my house to the Jubilee College State Historic Site via Glenwood (near Bradley University), Columbia Terrace, Broadway, Gale, Resevoir, Highway 8, County Route 47, D-32 (Granger Hall). I missed the turn that takes you from the College Site to the Park, so I did a loop in the College site and then went down via the Jubilee-Princeville blacktop (R-40) to 150 and back.

The total was about 40 miles. The cool thing is that one can measure, map and store their routes by using a GPS map: http://www.usatf.org/routes/map/

The GPS map measures slightly short as it doesn't pick up the finer curves (the mileage it gives you is slightly shorter than what an odometer will give you), but it is close enough. My out segment was 19.36 miles (or 38.72 miles round trip) plus the mile or two I spent putzing around the college site.

I found out a couple of things. First, the bike salesman tried to direct me to ordering a higher end fitness model; he told me that this bike would feel heavy and slow compared to the one that I was used to (Schwinn Le Tour-Lux). He was right; nevertheless I like the bike that I bought as it is still plenty rugged enough to give me a good workout.
The above is the kind of road bike that I have; currently it is getting some spokes replaced.

Second, there are more hills on this route that I realized; ok, not really hills but long inclines. Third: 40 miles is still hard for me; you wouldn't think so but I have to remember that most of my cycling this summer has been very slow, short joyrides with my daughter or longer, leisurely rides with my yoga teacher.

Oh well, like anything else, getting better takes work.

Getting Ready to Ride and Dark Matter




It has rained off and on this weekend and this morning is no exception. When it clears up a bit (it is still 6:10 am, dark and foggy as I write this) I'll get out there.

In the meantime, I'll post a link to an interesting article.

Cosmologists have had a hard time making things work using only the currently known laws of physics. Something called dark matter was postulated.

It turns out that there is now visible proof that dark matter exists; this proof came from observing the collision of two clusters of galaxies.

Here is the press release from Harvard's Chandra X-ray Observatory. And here is a nice, relatively easy to understand popular article on the subject.

The popular article shows the above photo (the one I have posted here is the photo taken with ordiary visible light) as well as one photo which uses "weak gravitational lensing" (that is, uses the distortion on the images of the far away background galaxies)and the x-ray photo which shows the hot gases.


I'll let the article explain things to you; just note that in the x-ray photo, the gasses of the galaxy to the left has a bullet shaped region. That is important.




From the article:
It’s about what you would expect: the dark matter is concentrated in the same regions as the galaxies themselves. But we can separately make X-ray observations to map out the hot gas, which constitutes most of the ordinary (baryonic) matter in the cluster. Here’s what we see (when we look at the gravitational lensed photo)



This is why it’s the “Bullet” cluster — the bullet-shaped region on the right is a shock front. These two clusters have passed right through each other, creating an incredibly energetic collision between the gas in each of them. The fact that the “bullet” is so sharply defined indicates that the clusters are moving essentially perpendicular to our line of sight.(You see this when you see the x-ray photo)






This collision has done exactly what we want — it’s swept out the ordinary matter from the clusters, displacing it with respect to the dark matter (and the galaxies, which act as collisionless particles for these purposes). You can see it directly by superimposing the weak-lensing map and the Chandra X-ray image.

Clicking on each of these images leads to a higher-resolution version.
Here are the images superimposed.

If you have a tabbed browser, the real fun is opening each of the images in a separate tab and clicking back and forth. The gravitational field, as reconstructed from lensing observations, is not pointing toward the ordinary matter. That’s exactly what you’d expect if you believed in dark matter, but makes no sense from the perspective of modified gravity. If these pictures don’t convince you that dark matter exists, I don’t know what will.



Anyway, read the whole article. Hat tip to DarkSyde from the Daily Kos who writes the science column there.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Bicycle: starting to spend money phase


Today saw some rain showers in the morning; therefore I stayed close to home on my bike ride. I managed to get 22 miles outside; I stayed in lower gear and avoided steep hills due to the periods of heavy rain (and subsequent slick streets).

I would have finished my planned 30 miles outside, but I broke a spoke while 6 miles away from home. So, I took it in and then did 45 minutes on an indoor bike, which included 10 x {3 minutes hard, 1 easy} at 90-100 RPM; the harder segments were at 3-3.5 on the Schwin Biodyne resistance scale. So I gave myself "credit" for 10 miles for the 45 minutes.

I then decided that I should get a second bike; one for around town and for trails such as the Rock Island (which is fine crushed limestone; an old "rails to trails" deal.) I ended up getting the Trek 7200. Of course, I added a kickstand, an extra 4 year warrenty, a CO2-cartrige/pump, lube stuff and of course tax; let's just say that the $379.00 base price went up some. I've included a photo of the bike that I just bought.

God bless Barbara (my wife); she decided to kick in some money towards this as a birthday present; in fact, she's kicked in a substantial amount of it (well over half).



But I have something to ride tomorrow (if the weather isn't absolutely terrible) and something for the Rock Island trail as well as commuting around town. I'll still use my road bike for country road riding.

Politics

Of course I am a die-hard Democrat (who is still torn on as to who to vote for in the Illinois Governor's race, by the way). But there are many kinds of Democrats; the best description of my politics would be your basic "north-eastern liberal".

But many Democrats aren't like that; in fact, many Democrats have beliefs and values that I just don't share.

Here is a good example of this: a dear friend of mine sent me the following by electronic mail; she thought that I would "like it":

(of course, this plan probably had nothing to do with Robin Williams, see also http://www.snopes.com/politics/soapbox/williams.asp, but never mind that; )


Robin Williams, wearing a shirt that says "I love New York" in Arabic.

T
he Plan!

You gotta love Robin Williams......
Even if he's nuts! Leave it to Robin Williams to come up with the perfect plan.

What we need now is for our UN Ambassador to stand up and repeat this message.

Robin Williams' plan...(Hard to argue with this logic!)

"I see a lot of people yelling for peace but I have not heard of a plan for peace.

So, here's one plan."

1) "The US will apologize to the world for our "interference" in their affairs, past & present. You know, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Tojo, Noriega, Milosevic, Hussein, and the rest of those "good ole boys", we will never "interfere" again..

2) We will withdraw our troops from all over the world, starting with Germany, South Korea, the Middle East, and the Philippines. They don't want us there. We would station troops at our borders. No one allowed sneaking through holes in the fence.

3) All illegal aliens have 90 days to get their affairs together and leave. We'll give them a free trip home. After 90 days the remainder will be gathered up and deported immediately, regardless of whom or where they are. They're illegal!!!

France will welcome them.

4) All future visitors will be thoroughly checked and limited to 90 days unless given a special permit!!!! No one from a terrorist nation will be allowed in. If you don't like it there, change it yourself and don't hide here... Asylum would never be available to anyone. We don't need any more cab drivers or 7-11 cashiers.

5) No foreign "students" over age 21. The older ones are the bombers. If they don't attend classes, they get a "D" and it's back home baby.

6) The US will make a strong effort to become self-sufficient energy wise. This will include developing non polluting sources of energy but will require a temporary drilling of oil in the Alaskan wilderness. The caribou will have to cope for a while.

7) Offer Saudi Arabia and other oil producing countries $10 a barrel for their oil. If they don't like it, we go someplace else(like Canada ! or Oklahoma!). They can go somewhere else to sell their production. (About a week of the wells filling up the storage sites would be enough.)

8) If there is a famine or other natural catastrophe in the world, we will not "interfere." They can pray to Allah or whomever, for seeds, rain, cement or whatever they need. Besides most of what we give them is stolen or given
to the army. The people who need it most get very little, if anything.

9) Ship the UN Headquarters to an isolated island someplace. We don't need the spies and fair weather friends here. Besides, the building would make a good homeless shelter or lockup for illegal aliens.

10) All Americans must go to charm and beauty school. That way, no one can call us "Ugly Americans" any longer. The Language we speak is ENGLISH...learn it...or LEAVE...Now, isn't that a winner of a plan?

"The Statue of Liberty is no longer saying

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses."

She's got a baseball bat and she's yelling, 'you want a piece of me?' "


(my note: the last quote (Statue of Liberty) is a genuine Robin Williams quote)

You know, my first reaction was to want to send this message back and to argue "line by line" with things like:

"The US will apologize to the world for our "interference" in their affairs, past & present. You know, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Tojo, Noriega, Milosevic, Hussein, and the rest of those "good ole boys", we will never "interfere" again..

Well, gee, you know that we actually back Hussein until he invaded Kuwait and we didn't take on Hitler and Tojo until we were attacked. Stalin? Well, he died of natural causes; and in fact we were allies at one time, and he had more to do with taking out Hitler than we did.

4) All future visitors will be thoroughly checked and limited to 90 days unless given a special permit!!!! No one from a terrorist nation will be allowed in. If you don't like it there, change it yourself and don't hide here... Asylum would never be available to anyone. We don't need any more cab drivers or 7-11 cashiers.


Uh, actually, companies like Microsoft are also upset over the difficulties of getting foreigners work permits. Evidently we don't have enough doctors and engineers. Maybe if our students weren't so lazy we wouldn't need so many from abroad.

7) Offer Saudi Arabia and other oil producing countries $10 a barrel for their oil. If they don't like it, we go someplace else(like Canada ! or Oklahoma!). They can go somewhere else to sell their production. (About a week of the wells filling up the storage sites would be enough.)

Well, why are gas prices so high? Well here are a couple of factors: our oil companies are cleaning up at the refineries, and India and China have driven up demand. This last point seems to imply that the United States determines everything; it does not.

6) The US will make a strong effort to become self-sufficient energy wise. This will include developing non polluting sources of energy but will require a temporary drilling of oil in the Alaskan wilderness. The caribou will have to cope for a while.

This is my response: http://www.nrdc.org/land/wilderness/arctic.asp
And this is what I'll do if oil companies drill there:
http://ga4.org/campaign/boycott

----
But my doing that (responding to her in this way) would be a waste of time. People who would be open to such arguments wouldn't be attracted to rants like this to begin with.

The friend who sent this happens to be a very accepting person. She teaches for a living and willingly spends much extra time and effort on preparing her classes, and she goes the extra mile for those who put in the effort.

And she has done reasonably well for herself and she gives back to the community. And, I enjoy talking to her; she follows the news and can hold up her end of a conversation. She is not a dummy.

And here lies the problem: many people who see the world as I do tend to react like this:

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2006/7/21/20839/7655

Americans Are Stupid Hotlist

Fri Jul 21, 2006 at 05:08:39 PM PDT

Many diaries here have pointed out that the current administration is full of incompetent morons. However, it all goes back to those that elected this administration - the majority (51%) of Americans. It reflects on them how incompetent they are as citizens. Let's face it people, the vast majority of Americans are idiots, not just idiots, but fuckin' idiots.

There are many things that have caused this and I admit it freely that I am guilty of some of this. But maybe if we can start to address these problems, we can limit the idiots and maybe start to convert some of them into the world of the semi-thinking.

Here is my list of what has caused Americans to become idiots.

Television - This is probably an overstatement, because it is not all Television. There are some very good programs that are on TV ever night. I think that there are some excellent shows on PBS, Discovery, Science, TLC, LinkTV, etc. I guess the part of Television is the intellecual dishonest shows like Reality shows and FOX News.

These shows don't stimulant thought, but go to the most common elements - Fear and Sex. Two primal feelings that make the brain not even a secondary player, but a tertiary. Most of Americans use their televisions as the boob tube that it is. Something to watch and turn off all brain activity.

This leads to the second problem with television, too much of it. Most Americans now watch so much television that they no longer read....anything. Most Americans do not read a newspaper, a magazine, or even a book. The boob tube is their only way of getting information. There is no drive in many Americans to get information from anywhere else, especially if they have to read it. Sorry, that is why the internet is not the be-all-save-all - they still have to read it. Why do you think porn is the top thing on the net - no reading and no talking.

This leads to the third problem - kids and TVs. Let's face it, the television is now the automatic babysitter. There is now a channel that is dedicated to children under the age of two. What the hell are we teaching kids? We have a generation of non-readers.

Education - American schools, in many cases, are becoming childcare centers, a place to put kids. Some do get educated, but it what? Most schools are "Teaching to the Test". Some subjects like history, geography, and literature are being pushed aside. This is sad, because most of what these topics "teach" is Critical Thinking ideas. The ability for you to think for yourself. That is what an education is suppose to be about to learn to think for yourself and how to gain more knowledge.

I am not going to blame the schools by themselves, because there are some great teachers out there that are trying to make a difference and are. There is a lot of blame to go around and the parents have a big dose of it. You know the ones that I talked about that are putting the kids in front of the TVs, they are not helping on education.

Many parents do not take their children to such places as museums, zoos, or libraries (why should they, they don't read anyway). Most children go to these places on school field trips. Which is sad, because remember your school field trips, they are normally rush rush and there is more concern over lunch time that actually seeing anything.

Most family trips now a days are on going to the beach to swim and sunbath or to the mountains to ski. Or to go to the amusement park with the killer rollar coaster. How many family trips today focus on teaching a child something about the world or even the country they live in.

Parents are no longer preparing their children for a lifetime of learning which starts the moment that children are born. It is odd, in a society that prides itself on doing everything for its children, it isn't doing much of anything for them as a whole.

America Is Everything - Most Americans do not travel outside of the country and most do not leave there own state or geographical region. This coupled with an entertainment industry that focuses on America-central movies, television programs, and music.

Now there have been improvements on what Hollywood has put out, but think about the big movies and tv shows. How many of them are set in the US? (Pirates is US, it is based on a ride in Orlando.) Music has started to change, but the most Americans don't hear the top hits in Brazil or China or most of Europe.

To most Americans, everything in American culture is the best, there is no need to look anywhere else. Which I find ironic, when you think how Japanese cars are the fastest growing or how European cell phone technology is years ahead of America's.

Well I guess that is all I have to rant about today. But I would like to close with this to make my point -...

and like this:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/7/31/214349/179

Further Proof Americans Are Stupid Hotlist

Mon Jul 31, 2006 at 06:43:49 PM PDT

A couple of days, I wrote a diary called Americans are Stupid. It received a warm response from the community. In it, I discussed how Americans were pretty much dumb as dirty - many of you agreed. Well to my surprise, The Pew Research Center did a wonderful study that proved me right. They asked three questions to determine which respondents were "knowledgable".

    1) Which Party Has The Majority in the House Of Representatives?
    2) Who is the current Secretary of State?
    3) Who is the current President of Russia?

So how did you do? Hopefully better than most.

From the study -

A solid majority of Americans know a key fact about the current political environment: 64% can correctly identify the Republicans as the party that has a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. That is up from 56% in April 2004, but is not as high as in the months after the GOP regained the majority in November 1994.

But fewer people are able to recall the names of two important political figures on the international scene. Just over four-in-ten (43%) can name Condoleezza Rice as the current secretary of state, the same number who could name her when she was appointed to the position following the 2004 election. Slightly more could name her predecessor, Colin Powell, in April 2002 (48%).

Even fewer could name Vladimir Putin as the current president of Russia; 32% accurately recalled his name, down from 37% in late October 2005. His predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, was somewhat better known to the American public, with 44%-50% of individuals surveyed able to name Yeltsin as the president of Russia in polls conducted between 1994 and 1997.

Overall, about one-fourth of the public (24%) knew all three facts, while 28% knew none of them.

A whopping 28% of the American Public could not answer any of the three questions correctly! How Fucked are we?!?!

I encourage everyone to read through the whole study. It really will open up your eyes of how the American public may not be stupid, but simply misinformed. Naw! They're stupid!!!

I hope to see some interesting comments. How stupid are we?




Now, one of my friends (who held a state congressional office) told me: "Americans aren't stupid; they merely don't pay attention to politics." I'd like to believe him. In fact, often he is right. But in my heart, well, let's just say that this Daily Kos diarist and I have some common ground.

But displaying such attitudes will get us nowhere politcally, and the Republicans know this much better than we do.

So, what was my friend thinking when she saw this and thought that I might like it?

One needs to read between the lines.

When someone points out that our country is on the wrong path, it is very easy for those who love this country (as I do) to feel attacked. For example, I've had to grit my teeth when foreign graduate students, who are in my country to study, start trashing our country.

When Americans do that (go to another country and put it down), they are correctly viewed as being rude and arrogant. So, why do others do it to us?

Therefore, this conservative/Republican political technique of labeling people like me as "America Haters" or "blame America firsters" has some traction. Never mind that many of the jerks making this argument have done nothing for this country, save raiding our treasury for their own personal gain.

I see it the way that Al Franken sees it: I love the country the way that I love a family member. Sure, sometimes I am deeply disappointed in a family member; sometimes to the point of dispair. Sometimes, I wish things were different. Nevertheless, the love is there, and I don't need to pretend that my family member is perfect in order to love her (or him).

But, it might be a good idea for us liberals to make it clear that we are working to make our country live up to its potential and to do that, we need to honestly address and correct its faults.




Friday, August 25, 2006

What is up with me

Athletically: I saw the doctor two days ago and the physical therapist yesterday. The conclusion: no hip injury, and it is probably not my back. Rather it appears that I have a piriformis strain along with weak/tight gluteus medius muscles.

I've talked about these things in my previous posts: pain in the butt, june injury report, tight butt, late May, yoga's role in injury recovery.

I've been given a physical therapy routine to follow twice a day, and each routine takes about 20 minutes. Some are basic stretches, some are hip hikes, and some are basic exercise moves.

(these photos show the hip hike move)

The odd thing is that these exercises look very easy, but are hard for me at this time! I've also recieved some yoga pose suggestions.

Symptoms: pain in the hip/butt area, especially when standing too long in one place. Short (3-5 mile) walks on flat ground at a gentle but non-strolling pace (13-14 minutes per mile) were usually painless. Slower walking, uphill walking both hurt, and too much faster walking eventually hurt.

Besides the exercises, I was told to stay on anti-inflamatories for several weeks, even if I started to feel good.

I should blog this weekend; but this therapy is taking over my blogging time!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Topinka and Bush similar in at least one area!

the semester is to start; we have our first department meeting in about an hour.

Athletics: I see the doctor tomorrow; it should be interesting. Today saw yoga and a 16 mile bike ride; I did ten 1.3 mile loops in Bradley Park going up and down Cornstalk hill. These laps took 1:06:20 to do, but then again I deliberatley slowed down going down hill; I wanted to really work the ups.

I broke down and got some shorts; I have a Cannondale bike short liner which I wore under regular running shorts. I also got Canari baggy bike shorts with a gel pad.

The liner worked really well; but it was a short ride.

Political Humor





It is no secret that Judy Baar-Topinka wishes to distance herself from President Bush; I've talked about that a while ago. Well, it turns out that Topinka and Bush have something interesting in common: both seem to like flatulence jokes:

Topinka:
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000103&sid=azBmEMEdqM80&refer=us

[...]Topinka supports abortion rights and gay civil unions. Like the last two Republican governors, Ryan and Jim Edgar, she is a fiscal conservative and social moderate, though similarities to her buttoned-down predecessors mostly end there, Jackson said.

Topinka called her Republican challengers ``morons'' during a March 9 dinner event. She later apologized.

In her 1995 inaugural speech for the first of three terms as treasurer, Topinka joked about flatulence, alluding to the effects of ham-and-bean campaign dinners in the confines of a small van, according to an account of her remarks by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

She plays the accordion for audiences and smokes Marlboros in public, bemoaning failed attempts to quit. She pokes fun at her ``chemically dependent'' bright red hair. [...]

Bush:
http://www.usnews.com/usnews/politics/whispers/articles/060820/28whisplead.htm

Animal House in the West Wing

He loves to cuss, gets a jolly when a mountain biker wipes out trying to keep up with him, and now we're learning that the first frat boy loves flatulence jokes. A top insider let that slip when explaining why President Bush is paranoid around women, always worried about his behavior. But he's still a funny, earthy guy who, for example, can't get enough of fart jokes. He's also known to cut a few for laughs, especially when greeting new young aides, but forget about getting people to gas about that.

Hmmm, it must be a Republican thing; I wouldn't understand.

Seriously, ok, I admit that I've chuckled at these from time to time, and well, anyone who runs, walks or rides long distances understands flatulence; in fact one of my friends calls himself "Stinky Pants Malone."

But I still ain't voting for either of them.






Monday, August 21, 2006

Some cartoons...

I've got lesson plans ready, so I can take a break. On the Kos, Team Slacker brought up the subject of political cartoons; in particular this one:

by John deRosier. Of course, this says something about our media and how it tends to dumb down the country even further.

http://www.smirkingchimp.com/article.php?sid=27398&mode=&order=0

Bob Geiger: 'All JonBenet, all the time'
Posted on Monday, August 21 @ 09:53:51 EDT
This article has been read 1261 times.



In the news this morning we have yet another bloodbath in Iraq, as gunmen shoot up a Shiite religious procession in Baghdad, killing at least 16 people and injuring 230. More American troops have been killed in Afghanistan by Taliban insurgents -- guess we didn't really get rid of the Taliban before George W. Bush's Iraq disaster was started -- and there's renewed trouble in the tenuous Middle East cease-fire.

And what's the top story on all the cable news channels this Sunday morning?

The JonBenet Ramsey case and the gripping fact that newly-discovered suspect John Mark Karr is on a plane and coming back to the United States.

Are you kidding me? Really. Are you freaking kidding me?

Don't get me wrong: I'm the father of a nine-year-old boy and I can appreciate the horror of any child being murdered. But this case is one child, it's over a decade old and, at this point, there are serious questions over whether Karr will even turn out to be a viable suspect in the killings.


This may be an important regional story in Colorado, where the killing occurred and, perhaps, the seventh or eighth story told to a national audience. But considering everything else of real importance, that truly affects the stability of our planet and real peoples' lives, this is nowhere near the top story on our national news.

Adding to what will continue to be an ongoing media obsession with this case -- in which our single-threaded Corporate Media finds this to be the only story they can cover -- is the fact that it's now been revealed that Karr was a patient at a Bangkok clinic that specializes in... sex-change operations! And it looks like Karr went there for treatments.

Oh, boy. The only way this gets knocked out of the news now is if some winsome blonde chick goes missing in the Caribbean.

So here's a chicken-and-egg question: Have the American people become so dumbed-down because this is the kind of non-story that the Corporate Media beats into the ground for hours on end and for days at a time? Or does the media do it because we have become so vacant and disinterested in real news that this kind of stuff is all we really care about? [...]

Other cartoons of interest are:

By Markstein. When our local paper published this right after Thanksgiving of 2004, the editors caught grief, though I wrote a letter supporting their decision to publish it. You know, it really doesn't hurt to remember that many of our citizens are suffering and dying, and probably for no good reason!

http://thinkprogress.org/2006/08/21/bush-on-911/

Bush Now Says What He Wouldn’t Say Before War: Iraq Had ‘Nothing’ To Do With 9/11

President Bush was in the midst of explaining how the attacks of 9/11 inspired his “freedom agenda” and the attacks on Iraq until a reporter, Ken Herman of Cox News, interrupted to ask what Iraq had to do with 9/11. “Nothing,” Bush defiantly answered. [...]

As ThinkProgress has repeatedly documented, Vice President Cheney cited “evidence” cooked up by Douglas Feith and others to claim it was “pretty well confirmed” that Iraq had contacts with 9/11 hijackers.

More generally, in the lead-up to the war in Iraq, the administration encouraged the false impression that Saddam had a role in 9/11. Bush never stated then, as he does now, that Iraq had “nothing” to do with 9/11. Only after the Iraq war began did Bush candidly acknowledge that Iraq was not operationally linked to 9/11.

Digg It!

Full transcript:

BUSH: The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East.

QUESTION: What did Iraq have to do with it?

BUSH: What did Iraq have to do with what?

QUESTION: The attack on the World Trade Center.

BUSH: Nothing. Except it’s part of — and nobody has suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack. Iraq was a — Iraq — the lesson of September 11th is take threats before they fully materialize, Ken. Nobody’s ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq.

They have a video of the press conference; Bush does go on to say that 9-11 means that we had to "attack the threat before it fully materializes". See, if you think a country might be a threat, we can attack it.

And, speaking of threats, this last cartoon speaks to a very real, current threat to the health and life of our citizens: