Location: Round Rock, Texas, United States

I maintain: a good sense of humor; a belief in hard work; and eclectic tastes in food, art, and politics.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Musings on Life's Events

The variety of phrases used to describe the human condition is quite remarkable. They range from earthy ("life's a bitch") to ephemeral ("life is fleeting") . Many colorful expressions abound to express the frailty or shortness of life in galactic time, e. g., "too soon old, too late smart." Of course, the one eternal problem of aging is to elevate one's understanding of life and events that occur based on one's experiences and studying, while avoiding the tendency to becoming a cynic.
Apropos of nothing in particular, the Ken Burns special on Jack Johnson was pretty much what might have been expected, with one glaring difference. By including quotations from Jack Johnson himself, one could see a man who was facing the world that was mostly arrayed against him, but Johnson seemed determined to resist the attempts to completely characterize him as any other person. In one part of the program, Johnson is responding to either a question or a comment about his lifestyle and wild ways of behaving. His justification was quite touching in noting that life is not certain and playing it safe might not be safe. He says (more or less): " may is shot in the leg and dies, while another man is shot in the head and survives!" What an amazing perspective from a man who was soon to become a nonperson as soon as he lost the title of heavyweight champion.
Golf is something like the above comment. Some golfers can have great shots and end up missing putts and losing either holes or strikes. Other golfers can have bad drives or second shots, but with a lucky putt or two can win the hole or save strikes and win tournaments. Golf is said to teach humility--if it does not teach it, it clearly will illustrate the effects of fate or luck in life and golf. Last weekend, Charles Howell III hit a shot at the last hole that hit the cup and could have stayed in for an eagle, possibly winning or tying for the lead. The golf fates saw that the ball flicked back out and went into the water, giving a penalty stroke. Howell made a nice recovery, but was only a gracious loser in the process (he was very humble and gracious!). Perhaps that is why the French (if I may quote them here) have the saying, "c'est la vie." Or in Spanish, there is a similar saying, viz, "asi es la vida."

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Seasonal variability and mean temperatures

It seems that a change in the weather is coming tonight, and apparently none too soon for those who love cold weather. Even those who do not like cold weather are ready for colder temperatures because they believe that the winter will be worse unless the early winter is cold enough, whatever that might be. Even meteorologists fall into this way of thinking about some facets of the weather that might be "normal seasonal variability." Also, today's news on one of the networks originated from Minnesota, and of course the story included the obligatory view of those residing in Minnesota that it needs to be cold to give us a change to suffer appropriately. While colder (and adverse) weather means money for some people and businesses, the usual result of colder weather is that it becomes the topic of conversations. Which then reduces its importance in inverse relationship to the number of times a particular aspect of the weather is discussed in groups of two or more people. Probably most of us have our own preferences and pet peeves about the weather, but mine is somewhat easier to pinpoint. For me, as for those in Minnesota (I suspect), enduring the harshest weather is bearable as long as I can receive credit for having survived something. What causes the weather to seem unbearable is when someone, usually a local weather person who seems to be especially untrained in statistics, starts off by use of the term "the high for today should be," as if there is some kind of imperative involved. What seems to happen is that these people can never understand the simple difference between averages (means) for a day, means for the high, and means for the low temperatures. For example, if the temperature is 50 degrees F., and the average mean is 40 degrees F. For the day, you can count on the fact that some weather person will say that the high should only be 40 but at 50 we are above what we "should be." Actually, if the high mean is 50, and low mean is 30, and the daily mean is 40, we might be at the exact mean temperature that could be expected. But expected in statistical terms is not the same as "should be," because expected can fail to occur because of the daily variability that is always associated with the means that are computed and maintained by the weather service firms, government or private. While this may seem to be picking on a straw man, it actually reflects a general belief that something called "reversion to the mean" will always take place. While it frequently does happen that over time the averages seems to be achieved many times, there is only the theory that says the averages will revert to the mean by either having lower minimums or higher maximums, or whatever type of variability is required to reclaim the mean. So the next time you hear the local weather person, who seems to have some simple comments to explain a common phenomena called the weather, remember you are probably listening to some minor facts laced with numerous theories regarding those facts. Why weather persons might as well be academics with their heads in the clouds, or was that the ivory tower? That's 30.

Monday, January 10, 2005



Saturday, January 08, 2005

madisoncreek: January 2005

madisoncreek: January 2005




What kind of playoff games could have been expected in the NOVEL? Both visiting teams won as the Jets and Rams won on plays at the end of the game (OT for Jets). Instead of watching football, one could have been visiting an art gallery, a museum, or going for a walk. In this instance, however, the games were so late (EST) that none of the other activity options was quite so attractive. Of course, besides the theaters, some basketball games were on tap for some areas. One is tempted to ask, "What would Plato or Aristotle do?" While watching TV hardly rises to the level of intellectual activity required to participate in visiting an art exhibit, attending a live performance of a good play, or participating in a game, some nervous energy is expended. Reading an interesting mystery novel would clearly involve the senses more than TV watching. Yet, historical programs covering the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses are quite interesting in their own way. If you have seen the excellent program (series of 3 I think) covering the career of the first physician, Galen, who was important in Greece and important to the Romans until he was killed by a roman soldier, could not help being impressed by the knowledge he gained, the writings he left (many lost unfortunately), and even the tools he developed (or used and promoted through his use). While we need a modern physician to enlighten us, the program demonstrated the early use of a sophisticated tool for eye operations that was essentially a hollowed out pointed tube. The program narrator noted that many of the early tools would be usable my modern doctors, given that new materials are now available to manufacture more precision instruments. Of course, all of the medical tools and medical practices are being quickly enhanced by new technology. New technology is expensive, but with new imaging techniques to preclude the need for invasive surgery in some cases, who would want to return to most previous eras in medical science. Notice that nothing has been said about pharmaceutical products, since it appears that they need of more DNA research and development before we can crow about the advances in modern medicine. Antibiotics may be undergoing a dramatic reduction in their effectiveness, as microbes develop resistance to existing drugs. In fact, using penicillin and its derivatives as examples, we may be regressing to a period when antibiotics are so ineffective for many people that they might as well be nonexistent. Whether this trend is ultimately reversed with more optimistic developments from biotech and nanotechnologies, the future seems cloudy indeed.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Starting Up Today

This is the start of the first posting of this new blog. It is my first blog and my first effort of this magnitude. With any luck, something interesting will appear in these spaces within the next few days. I must thank the creator of "unfreezing" for urging me to take this step. He will be linked as soon as I figure out how to do it. For now, it is the start that needed to be made.