Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Oklahoma Road Trip Nov 2015

Road Trip

Since our last Tuziblog posting from Houston in July, we have been at home in Cedar Crest in recovery mode.  In November Susie started post-surgery bi-weekly chemo treatments here in Albuquerque.  It happened that daughter-in-law Suzy Hinkle, who helped us so much in Houston, was coming here to visit her two sons -- helping to plan another wedding, too, just after the NY wedding of her daughter, Kaci, that we attended in September.  Suzy could stay with Susie, provide aid and comfort, and accompany her to an infusion session (fluids, not chemo).  This relief provided me an opportunity to take a weeklong trip to Oklahoma (Nov 6-13) to see family and friends and Susie said, "Go for it."  With an opportunity also to see the OSU-TCU battle of unbeaten football teams, I went.

Friday, Nov. 6

I loaded our little red pick-up with snacks, soft drinks, CDs, recorded books, and a suitcase and left at 5 am.  Right away, Willie's Roadhouse, channel 59 on SiriusXM, hit the right notes with Making Believe, by Emmylou Harris, He Stopped Loving Her Today, George Jones, and Faded Love, Willie Nelson and Ray Price.  What a start!  So much sadness in just three songs! That's what country music is all about.

I stopped for breakfast at a Love's in Santa Rosa, NM (son Jeff Hinkle is now in training in Albuquerque to become a manager of a TBD Love's, so that will be our preferred travel stop from now on), and then picked right up with Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, and Hank Williams.  Tried a recorded book, but soon switched back to satellite radio and CDs, played loudly. Any time I didn't particularly like Willie's selection, I switched to channel 61, Bluegrass: Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs, Seldom Scene, etc.

I made a stop west of Amarillo to inspect the Cadillac Ranch work of art.  Have driven by here often in the 48 years I've lived in Albuquerque, but only stopped once or twice.  Initially the cars were handsome tail-finned Cadillacs, but they evolved, via vandalism, as planned (according to the link), to spray-painted, mostly de-finned hulks.  Cool, huh.

I texted this picture with the caption, Amarillo!!, to family members and got back "by morning" from Jeff Easterling.  Gave me new respect for his music tastes.

Had lunch in Erick, OK, home of Roger Miller AND Sheb Wooley.  (Don't worry.  I'm not going to give a mile by mile, meal by meal report.  My early start gave me a chance for some side trips on this day.)

At Clinton, OK, I branched off of I-40 to the north in order to take some state highways to Guthrie, my destination.  Decided to stop at the Route 66 Museum in Clinton.  Some pictures:

Several nice exhibits and movies here, so if you're ever through Clinton, OK, stop at the Route 66 Museum.

The plan in Guthrie was to meet my sister, Verla, in downtown where we would take a guided ghost walk.  Guthrie was the first state capital of OK and is loaded with historic buildings - see the link to Guthrie for some examples.  Here's one and strange things still happen over there.

The tales of our ghost walk guide were interesting, so I won't reveal any of what I heard.  But, if you're ever in Guthrie on a Friday evening, ... .

Saturday, Nov. 7

Game Day.  OSU.  Verla and I walked around the campus some, checked out the Student Union, then went to Eskimo Joe's, the renowned campus hangout, for lunch.  It was standing room only, noise at uproar level.  We never did snag a table, but did manage to place an order with a waitress.  When it came, we took it out front to eat it.  Was a perfect day - clear and just a little cool.  Then we followed ritual - watched and listened to the drum corps, then the band, then paraded to the stadium, that's T. Boone Pickens Stadium, thank you very much Mr. Pickens.

The school color of orange is called "a brighter orange."  Several years ago OSU had a display in the Love Field airport in Dallas.  The invitation was to attend school at OSU,  for a brighter orange.  That's as opposed to the burnt orange of a certain Texas university.  I always got a chuckle about that, wondered if many Texans got the point.

But, I digress.  All this was topped off by a big (yuge) win, 49-29, over TCU (a purple horned frog, of all things).  AWESOME!  Almost made up for the last game I saw there - two years ago when we lost to OU on a last-minute score, on a day when the temperature was in single digits, Fahrenheit.  My toes are still numb.

After the game we drove home by way of the small town of Perkins, where we stopped at a pizza place.  Via the magic of iPhones, Verla found that some friends were nearby and they stopped in to visit.  (Verla is very involved in the country and bluegrass music scene in and around Guthrie - she jams with Byron Berline, who is a nationally-known fiddle player.  Here's a sample of him and his band. )  The couple who stopped in (Jim and Doris Garling; cowboyjimgarling.com) are part of that community.  At any rate, Jim invited us to come to a Cowboy Church in Perkins Sunday morning, so we did.

Sunday, Nov 8

As we entered the Rockin' M Cowboy Church (M for Mission) Jim asked Verla if she'd sing a song.  She said she would, borrowed his guitar, and did: the song being Where I'm Going by Marijohn Wilkin.  Click on the link to hear a great song with lots of meaning.  Click on Show More to read the lyrics.  A feature of Cowboy Churches: lots of good ole' gospel singing, led at the Rockin' M by Cowboy Jim.

Sunday afternoon we drove down to Edmond to my sister, Connie's, house.  Here are we three siblings:

Still wearin' my brighter orange.  Sibling # 4 is our brother, Lael, about whom more below.

Connie and husband, Tom, raised and home-schooled six boys.  The youngest is a sophomore in college and the only one still living at home - nothing wrong with that.  The other five are married and busy generating grandchildren.  Here's Peter and Aunt Verla.

Monday, Nov 9

I stayed Sunday and Monday nights at Connie's.  Monday noon I had arranged to meet four classmates, that's Tonkawa HS, class of 1960, for lunch: Tana, Marilyn, Karen, and Mary Lynn.  They've lived most of their post-Tonkawa lives in Edmond and, even though I've been in Edmond many times in the intervening 55 years, I had only seen them at occasional class reunions in Tonkawa.  We had a nice lunch and visit and resolved to do this again some time.  Oops, no pictures.  None of us has changed a bit.

Tuesday, Nov 10
Back to Stillwater.  I dedicated my recently published book, Fundamentals of Statistical Experimental Design and Analysis (you may have heard about it -- available at Wiley.com and Amazon.com) to two of my OSU professors and to my boss for most of my Sandia career.  One professor has died and I knew from my visit a year ago that the other was sliding into dementia, but I wanted to take him a copy of my book so that he and his family could know how much I valued his teaching.  Just a few days before I left home I learned that he was now in an assisted living facility in another town, but I still planned to visit his wife, Shirley, and leave the book for her and their family.  Then, I learned that over the weekend Dave had had some complications so Shirley would be with him on Tuesday.  She said, Just leave the book inside the back door, which I did.  Here's my note.

To: Dave Weeks and Family

As my thesis advisor, teacher, and friend, you taught me to think about data and how statistics can help us understand and learn about life – and to have fun along the way.  I think this book reflects that approach – e.g., pp. 92-94, 104-105. 

One small thing that stuck with me: One day in class you told us how you knew that you had “made it,” financially, when you could buy a pair of binoculars and not have to think about how much it cost.  So, after starting work at Sandia, and having a few paychecks in the bank, I bought a pair of binoculars. 

 Thanks for your teaching and the example you set for so many students,

Bob Easterling 

A second reason for going to Stillwater was to meet with the Statistics Dept. Chairman.  We had a good visit and lunch with a couple of other department members.  Several years ago I had told the previous chairman that I would be interested in teaching a semester at OSU.  The present chairman asked if I was interested in doing that now.  I said maybe, but not likely.

From Stillwater I drove north to Tonkawa.  I had an appointment on Wednesday at Northern Oklahoma College.  Spent the night with classmate, Joe Brining, at his combination house and insurance agency.  Went to dinner with Joe and two other classmates (Lloyd and Deana) at an Italian restaurant in nearby Ponca City.  Next morning went with Joe, his brother, Bill, and another classmate (Lee) to nearby Blackwell for breakfast.  Good visits all around - sort of a slow motion, low turnout 55th reunion.

Wednesday, Nov 11 

NOC is a two-year college.  Back in the 50s and 60s my Dad was its president.  A few years ago I set up a scholarship in honor of my parents.  It's given to a sophomore majoring in social studies who has shown a strong interest and ability in this area as a freshman.  Its model is my Dad, from rural Oklahoma, who majored in history, taught and coached in small-town high schools (which is how he met my Mom, but that's another story - he coached the girls' basketball team in Selman, OK), served in the Navy in WWII, then returned to earn graduate degrees, was on the History Dept. faculty at Kansas State U, then back to Oklahoma -- Tonkawa to be specific.

Anyhow, each year I try to go to Tonkawa to meet the scholarship recipient (selected by the social studies department).  This year the recipient was a nice young lady from Ponca City - a 26-year-old single mother with two children.  She had been in an abusive relationship.  When she managed to get out of that she decided she needed to go to college and pursue a career - to support her family and to help people avoid what she had been through.  So, she's taking psychology and behavioral science courses and planning to continue her studies in a four-year college and maybe beyond.  She hopes to become a marriage and family counselor.  She talked movingly about how she identifies with what she's now learning about dysfunctional relationships in her present classes because she experienced it first-hand.  I'm glad to be able to help her pursue her goals and wish her all the best.

After visiting with the recipient and Social Studies chairman, the NOC Foundation Director, Sheri Snyder, and another member of that staff gave me a tour of the campus and took me to lunch.  The college has just built a new dorm and is in the process of renovating various buildings, including Easterling Hall, a girl's dorm - it looks to be doing well.  In addition to Tonkawa, NOC now has campuses in Enid and Stillwater.

The subject of Tonkawa HS came up.  Sheri said, Have you seen the high school's new special events center?  We'll show you that.  It's a large metal building suitable for basketball, music programs, graduation ceremonies, ... .  Very nice.

In the lobby of the building I saw a display of THS graduates who had served in Vietnam.  I knew that at last fall's Homecoming (2014) they had honored this group, including my brother, Lael, Class of 1964, who served in the Navy over there.  I saw his caption, name and Class, but then realized that it wasn't his picture; it was my senior picture!  The Principal, who had let us in the building, said he'd get that fixed right away.  Don't know how that happened.  I emailed Lael, who is in Australia now, and he replied that the mixup was pretty "hilarious."  We Easterlings don't really all look alike.  I'll check the display next year and let you know if it's been fixed.

After Tonkawa, I headed back to Edmond (about 80 miles).  This was a change of plans because I had just found out Tuesday that there would be a joint concert featuring two of Oklahoma's finest musicians, Kyle Dillingham, fiddle player, and Edgar Cruz, guitarist.  Kyle leads a folk/ country/bluegrass group called Horseshoe Road.  Verla has been a big fan for several years.  Here's his bio from the Oklahoma Arts Council:

Kyle Dillingham, of Oklahoma City, started playing the violin when he was nine and received his bachelor's degree in instrumental music performance from Oklahoma City University. He is an Oklahoma Creativity Ambassador and was a 2009 recipient of the OK Governor's Art's Award. Kyle also works as the "Ambassador in Residence" at the University of Central Oklahoma, using his "musical diplomacy" to help develop and strengthen new overseas relationships for the university.

While still in high school, Kyle was featured twice on Nashville's Grand Ole Opry. He has performed for the King of Malaysia, the Princess of Thailand, Singapore's National Day Celebration, and his performance at the Beijing Central Conservatory was broadcast on Chinese national television. A frequent visitor to Washington D.C, he has performed for the Japanese, Thai and Saudi Arabian Ambassadors, to name a few. He has also performed several times with Roy Clarke and Hank Thompson. He has been soloist with the Amici New York Orchestra, the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, the Enid Symphony Orchestra, the UCO Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra and the Oklahoma Community Orchestra. Kyle has taken his music to over 30 countries earning him the title of "Oklahoma's Musical Ambassador."

Here's Kyle's rendition of The Orange Blossom Special

Edgar Cruz is also an OCU graduate in music.  The two didn't overlap, but had some of the same instructors.  I think an instructor is the person who suggested they do a joint concert.  Cruz, it happened, had just played three sold-out performances in Albuquerque, so he's obviously a big-time musician, too.  Here he plays the William Tell Overture.

This promo for their Veteran's Day concert says that OK music fans have been requesting a joint concert for years, so this promised to be a special night.  And it was.  Two hours of incredible duets and solos.  They both have lots of music on youtube, if you're inclined to check it out.

Thursday, Nov 12

Next day I headed west, to see my cousin, Ross, and wife, Marsha, in Laverne, OK, which is in the last county before you get to the panhandle.  Some scenes along the way:

Got to Laverne (home of Miss America 1967, Jane Ann Jayroe) in time for lunch at the local soda shop.  The special of the day by the Japanese-American cook was "peppered" beef, rice, and an egg roll!  Only in America!  After nearly a week in OK I had maxed out on the state meal, chicken-fried steak with french fries and cream gravy, so I went for the special, we all did - a very good choice.

Just over a year ago, October, 2014, Ross and Marsha had come to NM to see us.  We did the Balloon Fiesta and a day in Santa Fe and had a great time.  You can see more pictures and stories by going back to Tuzigoot postings of that period.

Ross hates to leave his cattle, so I had asked him, as I planned this trip, to see his cattle.  I got the full tour.  As I told Marsha afterwards, I saw every piece of land settled by every member of the Pile clan.  Also saw what's left of the little nearby town of May.  E.g., saw the vacant lot where the post office once stood.  Or, was it the general store?  Saw the home place where Ross grew up and where I loved to visit.  Ross's dad was a pilot, so I may have gotten a plane ride there back in the day, or at least got to see him take off.

The cattle were generally off in distant corners, but unfortunately I didn't get a picture when I could have.  

Finished the day with a slice of Marsha's freshly home-made coconut cream pie.  Yum yum.

Friday, Nov. 13.

Homeward bound.  Friday the 13th, but all went well.

Down the road, in Shattuck, OK, is a nice collection of windmills I've visited before. 

Got to Amarillo and stopped to visit our long-time friends, Roy and Sue Sooter, and had lunch with them.

Just to get a break from I-40, I got off and drove through Santa Rosa, NM on Historic Route 66.  I've done this many times, but this time I caught a glimpse, a block away, of this historic county courthouse that I had never seen.  Live and learn.  Or, drive and learn

Made one more pit stop at the new and expanded Clines Corners emporium.  Got home to Susie and Suzy about 4 pm.  They had had a good week, too.

That's all, folks.


As this report is finished, Tuesday morning, we have 4-6 inches of snow on the ground and a howling wind.  We had been scheduled to have some of our old, drafty windows replaced this morning, but that obviously got postponed.  Our next travel planned is to Highlands Ranch, CO, for Thanksgiving with Jeff, Valerie, Malia, Macy, and Buddy.  

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Houston - 6

We have been fully focused on Susie's July 6 surgery and then her recovery since we returned to Houston at the first of July, so there has not been much tourist activity.  The surgery was quite successful and she is recovering nicely and we have had visitors the last week.  That provided an opportunity for some extracurricular activity.

Mike, his wife, Karen, and son, Jason, came to see us last weekend and daughter-in-law, Suzy Hinkle, came to help do Susie-care and to provide me some time off to be with Mike and family.

Friday morning (7/24) 'the kids' came to the apartment.  We had a good visit, then they and I spent most of at the rest of the day at the Johnson Space Center, NASA.  Here is an exhibit that is in development: one of the retired space shuttles atop its carrier plane.  When the exhibit is completed, visitors will be able to enter both aircraft.

We took two tram tours.  One stop was the rocket park including the rocket used to launch shuttles into space.  It's HUGE, as I'm sure you know. 

Even though the US has turned over Space Station flights to private enterprise and other countries, space research and exploration is still very much a part of the Center.  Main focus now is the Orion Project, for flights to Deep Space, including Mars.  Sign up your so-inclined grandchildren now.  Another stop we made was the building in which the Orion and other space vehicles are being developed and where Space Station modules are developed and used for training.

Here's one shuttle crew photo I came across on our tour. The lower right astronaut is friend, Susan Helms, daughter of friends, Dori and Pat Helms, formerly from Albuquerque, now living in Colorado.  Susan's Wikipedia page says she spent 211 days in space, over five missions, including a lengthy stay at the International Space Station.  More details about her NASA and AF careers at the Wikipedia link. 

Here's a model of a shuttle and launch vehicle.

In case you were wondering, it was a very hot day -- 'feels like' 100+ degrees, they say, every day. The Center's headquarters had some nice exhibits and videos plus food, water, and air conditioning.

Saturday we toured the Houston Museum of Natural Science.  Lots of interesting things there, from dinosaurs to Egyptian mummies -- and much more.  If you're ever in Houston, ...

Here's the family and the museum.

Speaking of museums, earlier in the month I visited the Houston Fire Museum.  It's a small, sort of funky museum, located in an old fire station, and has some vintage fire engines on display. 

Here's a poster honoring firemen who died in the line of duty - a sobering reminder of what first responders do for us.

Mike and family flew home early Sunday.  Later Sunday morning, my sister, Connie, and husband, Tom, from Edmond, OK, used their annual anniversary trip to come by for a visit.  Coming to Houston had two purposes - to visit Tom's sister who lives here, and to visit us. 

We had a very nice visit, plus lunch, and that capped our busy weekend.  For some reason, I thought it might be interesting to take their picture in our parking garage.  The garage's speed bumps, like the one behind Tom, are horrors for Susie  - even though I creep over them.  Not good for one healing from major abdominal surgery.  You can't creep on Houston streets, so they are a real pain.

Suzy (Hinkle, not to be confused with Susie Easterling) was a real blessing.  She fixed meals, prepared food for future meals, organized and recorded Susie's pill-taking, wrote up menus for me (Ha, how about Panera Bread? Schlotzky's? Subway? ...), took Susie on walks, entertained her, did the laundry, and in general filled all the gaps.  And she did things that I didn't even know were gaps while I was running around with Mike, Karen, and Jason. Here's a picture of Suzy taken at the family dinner we had down here before Susie's surgery:

I'll close with this picture that Suzy took of us awaiting the return of our car by the MDA valet service.

One more thing.  A copy of my book was delivered here last week.  Here's the publisher's link.  Available there or at Amazon.  Tell all your friends.

I came across an online article today concerning the claim, "Studies show ...." that are used to justify various programs and actions.  Problem is, some of those studies are poorly designed and the data misleadingly analyzed and not very supportive of the claims made.  My book will fix that, humbly I claim.  Send one to your congressperson.

Until next time,

Susie and Rob

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

What We Did On Our Vacation

Dear Family and Friends:

We're Ba-a-ck!

After Susie finished her series of 10 radiation/chemo treatments the second week of May, she was given a "vacation" of about seven weeks to get prepared for Whipple surgery on her pancreas and other nearby organs, the surgery scheduled for July 6.  That break got a rough start just after we got back to Cedar Crest when the continued treatment side effects of nausea and general discomfort prevented us from driving to Alamosa, CO, for grandson Andrew's college graduation the first weekend home.  The next several weekends, though, we got in a lot of time with family and friends.

Andrew is engaged to Amy, who, coincidentally, went to the same HS and graduated from the same college as Andrew.  Her parents threw a combination graduation/engagement party for the happy couple the weekend after graduation.  His parents, Matt and Suzy Hinkle, and siblings, Tony and Kaci, were all there for the festivities.  Some scenes:

Susie and the three grandchildren.

Uncle Jeff and Aunt Valerie, left, came from Clovis, NM for the party.

The next weekend we made a quick trip to Las Vegas to see the grand-twins and their parents.  Flew over Friday, home Sunday.  Thank you Southwest Airlines (bags and parents still fly free).  Thank you, Mandi Sue!

It's hard to get the twins' pictures - they are always in motion - but here are a couple.  Landon and Julian, not necessarily in that order.

Julian has a thing for me.  For weeks after our visit, whenever someone rang the doorbell, the boys would run to the door, but Julian would be heartbroken when I wasn't there.  "Where's Grandpa?" he would cry.  Aaaaaahh!.

The next weekend son Jeff Easterling, drove down from Highlands Ranch, CO, with daughters Malia and Macy.  Some scenes:

We took the tramway to Sandia Crest, hiked in our subdivision, went to Cliff's Amusement Park where we rode one of the roller coasters over and over and over and ...., and ate in one of Jeff's favorite Mexican restaurants.

We also visited Tinkertown, on our side of the mountain.  Tinkertown features an amazing, eclectic collection of animated circus scenes, a boat that the Tinkertown creator sailed around the world, and lots of other stuff, including walls built of bottles and cement.  A sign says, "This is what Ross was doing while you watched TV."  Guilty, as charged.  For the young'uns they have a treasure hunt to find various items and the girls enjoyed that.

In the midst of all this, Susie spent some quality time with Gay Blech, one of her school-teaching best buddies.

Gay, and husband Dusty, have been spending their retirement years tandem and solo bicycling all over North America - in Canada, I believe, as this is written.

I should also add that on our second Sunday at home we attended both of our "home" churches - very important foundations of our support team - to thank them for all their support.

It was certainly good to be home in the mountains.  As part of Susie's fitness program we often did the one-mile round-trip walk to the mail and newspaper boxes. 

It's been a good spring in Cedar Crest for flowers and grass, too.

Returning to Houston, we traveled via the Oklahoma City area where my sisters, Connie and Verla, and assorted nephews and nieces and their offspring reside.  Got to the area about noon on Saturday, June 27.   I drove to Verla's, to help her clean her swimming pool, but she had a better idea.  Byron Berline, world-renowned fiddle player, was having a jam session in his music store in Guthrie.  Verla has been and is a volunteer worker on Berline's annual bluegrass festival, and has become a good friend of his.   Here's the scene, from Verla's facebook page.

That's Byron, in the blue shirt, facing me.  They wrapped up the session with my request, Faded Love

Sunday afternoon Connie and Tom had a family gathering at their house.  Five of their six sons were there, with spouses and grandchildren.  One of Verla's two sons was there.  A fine time was had by all.

In case you're wondering, I haven't done any cropping or editing of these pictures.  It's all I can do to get most of them from iPhone to PC laptop.

I'll single out one couple: nephew Marcus and his wife, LeeAnn.  They were in NM a couple of weeks before and spent a pleasant day with us.

We left OKC on Monday and timed it so that we could have lunch with Kay and Jim Collins, Albuquerque friends now living in Frisco, TX. Got to Houston late Tuesday morning and have been busily settling in since then. 

We'll be in touch.

Susie and Rob

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Houston - 5

I think several of our postings have started with a Sunday experience.  This one does, too. 

Last Sunday (4-26-15), we attended the Bellaire United Methodist Church.  Our first time there, and it turned out to be a serendipitous choice.  As we entered the sanctuary we saw a large group of nicely dressed young people milling around in the choir loft.  It was the Texas A and M (Blogger doesn't like an ampersand) Century Singers, a choral group of about 80 students, on tour.  Great voices, great harmony, great selection of songs: Deep River, Down to the River to Pray, Amazing Grace (with congregation participation), and an Old Irish Blessing. This link is to a previous choir edition's rendition of Amazing Grace.  The closing congregational hymn was Because He Lives, I Can Face Tomorrow.  One tomorrow at a time, with faith, is the way Susie and I face tomorrow's treatments and upcoming surgery.

Friendly church members, too.  We were early and a lady came over and visited with us.  She had NM connections -- a ranch, I believe, near Silver City, in SW NM, and family in Lovington (SE NM).  She pointed out that the next evening there would be a clogging group at church putting on a show and she invited us - this event is done at the church periodically and is very popular.  That got my attention; I went and I believe it was the highlight, so far, of my extra-curricular activity (Susie, many of you know, is a dedicated FAN of Dancing With The Stars, so that's #1 on her Monday evening agenda.)  (Actually, upon further reflection, the cloggers are my number 2 so far; number 1 is still the Nolan Ryan Center in Alvin.) 

At the meet and greet part of the service Susie talked to a lady two rows in front of us and soon learned that she had a son who lives in Albuquerque.  Mentioning Albuquerque is always a good conversation starter.

Before I get into the clogging, one comment on the sermon.  The preacher mentioned that Thomas Edison tried more than 6000 filaments before he found the one he ultimately used in his patented light bulb.  This was 1880.  My takeaway from that fact was that it was too bad Edison didn't have the benefit of having a statistician on his staff who understood statistical design of experiments (which got its boost in the 1920s and 1930s from the research of Sir Ronald Fisher.)

(The Wikipedia author on experimental design cites a controlled experiment in 1747 by James Lind that found that scurvy could be cured by citrus fruit.  Sad to say, but I was not aware of that important fact, and here I am the author of a soon to be published book on Statistical Experimental Design - more on this later, so you can see why my mind wondered in this direction during the sermon.)

Back to clogging.  The group that performed is the Texas Lovin' Cloggers.  They've been a group for 28 years, have won many competitions, and traveled internationally.  Here's a  youtube link. 

One of the best things about clogging is the music.  This group danced to a variety of recorded music, including bluegrass, country, Dixieland, pop, ... .  The you tube link is to their performance to the bluegrass song, Shady Grove.  They did that number at this show and also a dance to The Foggy Mountain Breakdown.  One interesting number was all percussion - stomping and clapping, no music.  They said that at competitions the judges sit with their backs to the dancers so they're judging the precision of the choreography by what they hear, not what the stompers looked like.

Here's one picture I got.

It's the music, I tell you.  And the choreography.  Not the leg show.  This is a family blog.

I'd guess there were 250 or so in attendance.  Before I cropped this photo there was a much larger sea of white between me and the stage.

The group took a couple of breaks to change costumes and had a local vocalist perform in those periods.  She was good - did a little bit of Patsy Cline and other music - a very good rendition of Harper Valley PTA.  Ditto for Unchained Melody.

After the second break the cloggers, men and women, came out for their final number all dressed as seasoned women, with gray bun hairdos and walkers.  I think the song was If You Could See Me Now, ... .  Hilarious, really brought the house down.  As I said, a very fun evening.  And I got home in time to see some undeserving couple get booted off of Dancing With The Stars.  Now, if someone would only create Clogging With The Stars.

Sunday, after church, we made our near-weekly pilgrimage to Cracker Barrel.  Susie had been having phone trouble the previous few days - the people she was talking to couldn't hear her.  ("I hear you.  Do you hear me?  Huh?  I'll try again. ... ")  That's not good, so after lunch we found a Verizon store to have the phone checked out.  They found out that the only solution was to upgrade to a newer model, which we did.  Think we should have gotten a second opinion?  Actually, the lady seemed sincere and helpful and we were due for an upgrade. 

Our most adventurous meal out was to a Vietnamese restaurant.  Susie once lived in Bellaire, a suburb on the SW side of Houston, and we had previously driven west on Bellaire Ave. until we ran out of town.  This is now a heavily Asian area, Chinatown in effect.  Also a big area for jewelry.  We went out there shopping for a couple of rings that would hold Susie's wedding ring on (perilously loose now because of her weight-loss).  There were too many Chinese restaurants to choose from, so we picked a Vietnamese one because it had a lot of cars around it. The spices are different, but we had a good lunch...(Susie says, "Well, an interesting lunch!")

One other adventure.  For several days I had been getting a lot of feedback from my left hearing aid - feedback as in a screech, not feedback as in, "That's a nice looking hearing aid, sir.  Do you like it?"  I called my audiologist and the suggested source of the problem was wax buildup. I tried some drops to try to break up the blockage, but no help there.  Simultaneously, I was having trouble keeping the thing in my ear - the little rubber dome that's supposed to hold it in my ear canal, wasn't.  My ear was getting sore from my efforts to jam the dome in there.  So, at Susie's insistence, I googled up an audiologist who handles my brand and we went to his shop (disguised as a house tightly surrounded by trees and apartment buildings, with a sign out front that wasn't very noticeable; after two fruitless drive-bys I had to call for directions and the receptionist stood out in front and waved us in). 

What the audiologist found was that I had a rubber dome stuck in my ear canal!  How I managed not to notice that at some point when I removed my hearing aid there was no dome on it, I don't know.  Probably happened when I was doing my monthly dome and filter replacement.  My guess is that while doing this I must have thought the old dome had fallen on the floor, so I put a new one on, not realizing that the missing dome was in my ear!  Efforts to get the new dome to seat properly were just jamming the wayward dome deeper.  Sorry, it's taking me so long to tell this story, but at least I left out the ear hair part.  All is well now.  The Houston audiologist easily extracted the misplaced dome.

Back to Statistics.  Many of you know that I've been working on a statistical textbook for quite a while, particularly the last year.  I sent the completed manuscript to my publisher late last year and the copy editor(s) went to work transferring it to book format.  Soon after we got here they sent me a list of Author Queries: questions to me about references and various textual issues.  Mostly cosmetic issues, not content.  I had been worried that the copy editors might try to convert my intentionally conversational prose to standard, dry textbookese, but they didn't.  So, it reads like this blog.  At any rate, there were no major issues and I sent my responses back in mid-March. Then, a couple of weeks ago I got page proofs to review.  I did a fair amount of wordsmithing (every time I read something I've written, like this blog, I tend to make changes) and corrections, and also found a couple of places where a figure or a table needed to be moved.  I sent the amended proofs back the week before last (incidentally, I'm working with copy editors in Singapore, which is 13 hours ahead of us, so we don't have instantaneous correspondence back and forth).  I also created an Index, much aided by being able to use the Find function to find all uses of selected terms in a document.  Some time soon I will get the final page proofs and a final chance to make minor changes - can't disturb the pagination. 

You can now go to Amazon and search on Easterling and find the publisher's blurb - and pre-order a copy.  The blurb says the book will be published in August.  (Added: I'll make it easier: you can click here.)  Funny thing: first time I went to the Amazon site, the cost of the book was $76.  Now it's $91.  Sorry about that.  Shop soon before the price goes up again.

The cover cartoon, shown below, is my depiction of statistical analysis.  Its meaning, explained on the back cover, is that indistinct, disorganized INFORMATION is dripping from a data cloud.  The purpose of statistical analysis is to capture and distill that precipitation and pour out clear, crisp, INFORMATION.  The process works best with some cloud-seeding aforehand, as indicated.  The distillation requires statistical methods and subject-matter smarts to get the most out the INFORMATION.  Whaddayathink?  Now, do you like statistics?

The background text is selected quotes that I think are pertinent - and entertaining.

Here's an excerpt from my Preface that tries to describe my goal.  For your bedtime reading:

I have a dream: that professionals in all areas – business; government; the physical, life, and social sciences; engineering; medicine, and others – will increasingly use statistical experimental design to better understand their worlds and to use that understanding to improve the products, processes, and programs they are responsible for.  To this end these professionals need to be inspired and taught, early, to conduct well-conceived and well-executed experiments and then properly extract, communicate, and act on information generated by the experiment.  This learning can and should happen at the undergraduate level – in a way that carries over into a student’s eventual career.  This text is aimed at fulfilling that goal. 


Successful experiments require subject-matter knowledge and passion, and the statistical tools to translate that knowledge and passion into useful information.  Archie Bunker, in the TV series, All in the Family, once told his son-in-law (approximately, and with typical inadvertent profundity), “Dont give me no stastistics (sic), Meathead.  I want facts!”  Statistical texts naturally focus on “stastistics:” heres how to calculate a regression line, a confidence interval, an analysis of variance table, etc.  For the professional in fields other than statistics, those methods are only a means to an end: revealing and understanding new facts pertinent to his or her area of interest.  This text strives to make the connection between facts and statistics.  Students should see from the beginning the connection between the statistics and the wider business or scientific context served by those statistics. 

To achieve this goal I tell stories, about experiments, and bring in appropriate analyses, graphical and mathematical, as needed to move the stories along.  I try to describe the situation that led to the experiment, what was learned, and what might happen after the experiment: “Fire the Quality Manager!  Give the worthy statistician a bonus!” Experimental results need to be communicated in clear and convincing ways so I emphasize graphical displays more than is often done in experimental design texts.


I am convinced that personal and organizational progress, and even national and global progress, depend on how well we the people, individually and collectively, deal with data.  The statistical design of experiments and analysis of the resulting data can greatly enhance our ability to learn from data.  In George Boxs engagingly-illustrated formulation (Box and Friends 2006), scientific progress occurs when intelligent, interested people intervene, experimentally, in processes to bring about potentially interesting events and then use their intelligence and the experimental results to better understand and improve those processes.  My sincere hope is that this text will advance that cause.

So, I've been thinking more than usual about how we the people, and our representatives, deal with data.  Here are some ruminations.

"Correlation is not Causation."

This is a common Stat101 lesson, sometimes illustrated by data on stork sightings and human birth rates.

Here's a government example.

Statistics show, in various respects, that homeowners, overall, have a better quality of life than those who aren't.  E.g., income, health, crime, education, unemployment, marriage and divorce rates, .... .  There are various quality-of-life 'markers'  that show this correlation, or association, of life-quality with home-ownership.

Politicians of both parties interpreted that correlation as causation and decided that they could improve the population's overall quality of life by creating more homeowners.  Thus, began sub-prime lending.  Requirements were relaxed and lots of people got loans to buy houses and then couldn't make the payments, and more problems ensued.  The housing bubble burst.  I think we're approaching our seventh Recovery Summer from that fiasco. 

Lots of government and private actions have unintended consequences, many, I suspect, due to treating correlation as causation.  Glenn Reynolds, a U Tennessee law faculty member and blogger (his blog is called Instapundit and I often check it during the course of a day) has a Reynolds' Law that expresses this situation as:

“Subsidizing the markers of status doesn’t produce the character traits that result in that status; it undermines them.”

I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to name other examples.

"Abolish numerical goals."

This statement is one of 14 rules for management, promulgated by the late W. E. Deming, a statistician and quality guru who became famous by helping Japan greatly improve the quality of their commercial products, after WWII. 

You might think this dictum is anti-statistical, since statisticians like to measure things, to collect data.  And if you measure something, surely you need a goal against which to measure your progress.  ("Don't call me Shirley," Airplane 1980.)  But Deming's point is more about management methods.  He wants data to be used to better understand and improve processes.  Management may not take time for that and may even think that by setting numerical goals they are empowering employees to bring their knowledge to bear on how the process works and thus meet the goal.  Moreover, some may think, setting "stretch goals" will really get the workers' attention and enthusiastic efforts and miracles of ingenuity will happen.

Deming's point was that, in the absence of what he called "profound knowledge" of how a system or process works, the connection between process inputs and their outputs, numerical goals tend to lead to either distorting the system or distorting the data.  Which can make things worse.

Case in point: VA hospitals.  Long waiting times for veterans to get appointments has been long recognized as a serious problem.  A new Secretary for Veterans' Affairs came in and said to his hospital administrators: Your goal is to reduce the average waiting time to 20 days, say.  Oh, and your year-end bonuses depend on how well you do.  Upper management, in its own view, had taken bold steps.  Hope and Change, to borrow a phrase.  Now, it was up to the administrators and workers to make the dream come true.

Well, the result was distortions of systems and data.  Phony numbers were created; the actual data were hidden.  Bonuses were paid.   Veterans were not better served.

Another case: Educational testing.  When schools and teachers are scored based on student test scores, distortions happen.  Some Atlanta teachers and administrators recently received jail sentences for falsifying test scores.   A few years ago I read the book, Freakonomics.  One of the authors is an economist/statistician very proficient in analyzing large amounts of data and finding interesting patterns (thereby embodying my book cover).  One chapter was on Sumo wrestlers and Chicago teachers.  Noodling through the data he found evidence of cheating in both situations.

To lay the blame for cheating as "numerical goals" is not to condone cheating.  It should be a lesson for higher-ups that their methods can have unintended consequences (a la the Reynolds' Law) and they need to understand how systems and processes work before they even think about desired outcomes (or can recognize the difference between correlation and causation).  You may need a lot of (good) data to gain that understanding.  For example, what are the personal traits and practices that enable a person or family to buy a house.  Is it just privilege - e.g., inherited money - or is it something, or many things, else?  And can those characteristics, once identified, be more widely attained?  I don't think free college tuition will do it.

To tie both of these semi-statistical topics together, I'll note that government regulators told mortgage lenders that if you don't make enough of these high-risk loans (meet numerical goals), we'll punish you.

Enough on statistics and government.  Time for some family pictures:

Macy dressed to celebrate Chinese New Year.

Malia ready to compete.

Susie's Striders, NYC

The grand-twins on the train.

What I need here is a picture of grandson, Jason, in NC, age 15+, behind the wheel of a car.  Use your imagination.

Continuing my trek through Houston sports, I went to a soccer game last night (Friday): Houston Dynamo vs. FC Dallas.  The home team got waxed, 4-1. 

Given the Houston-Dallas rivalry in many contexts (the Houston Rockets had just beaten the Dallas Mavericks in a first-round NBA series) I expected a larger and rowdier crowd and a more emotional game than what transpired, but it was still fun.  A columnist in the paper a few days ago wrote about how Houston is better than Dallas in many ways, which I've mostly forgotten.  The stinging rebuke, though, was that Dallas can't stand on its own; it needs its hyphenated little buddy to help it be a real city, as in Dallas-Fort Worth.  Or, DFW airport, etc.  Hope my Texas readers see this.

I did the whole trip by Metrorail and walking.  Glad I did.  Noticed that close-in parking was $40.  I had about 15 min. walks on each end. 

One more item about the Astrodome.  A couple of weeks ago I ran across this nostalgic article:


It's a good one.

Susie will finish her combined chemo and radiation treatments a week from Monday (May 11).  Then we drive home for some R&R.  We spent quite a bit of time this week checking out various furnished apartments to rent when we return in about two months.  Found one that's as nice as the one we're in and not as pricey.  Now, we're busy deciding what to take home and what to store here (at a storage locker in the area) that we'll need when we get back.  On Friday we'll meet with surgeon to find out the schedule for surgery. 

We'll be in touch.

Susie and Rob