The weather has been a bit strange this week. Rather nasty midday thunder storms. The sort of thing one would expect with excess thermal energy in the atmosphere! But, of course, this cannot be the result of global climate change.

Anyway, the rains started early yesterday and this morning and today is electronics recycling day in Greater Metropolitan Arab. Evidently the nerds of the community, assisted I am sure by the heroic mediasts of the Arab Tribune, have managed to force a token compromise from the growth and real estate graspers who comprise the government of GMA. This token, to be performed once and then transformed into a dismal failure for future effort but a shining example of the good governance of the community – a prevarication so important for enticing more suckers here as part of the BRAC relocation – is a community electronic turn-in downtown in a location where traffic is assured to be knotty and congested, at least as much as such gets in GMA other than at the high shul football stadium on game night. Also conveniently timed to permit folks whose analog televisions no longer give them titilation after last night to turn them in, for a disposal fee, and proceed to MalWart to purchase a digital replacement.

Accordingly, I have the back end of a SUV packed with old electronics, mostly computer stuff that I have been unable to entice the capitalist recyclage contractor to take and I am unwilling to consign to the land fill and hence the water table, to turn in and I suspect pay the television fee on my old CRT monitors.

So happy trails for now and blogging may be a bit slight untiul I can get back and vent my spleen at the ineptitude of our city conscript parents.

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Don’t Like

I am a fan of the Kingston Trio, among other folk groups of that era. They perform a song, whose name escapes me, that is about the natural human condition of organizational rivalry. The clincher line is “And I don’t like anyone very much!”

One of the reasons I like folk music is because it is all about human matters and can point scientists to matters as yet unresearched. And, of course, I can understand most folk music, which is more than I can say for most other music of the era and later. Which, incidentally, is why FD SCP and I seldom listen to wireless music when we are sharing an automobile.

So on the matter of humans and their dislikes, I was rather taken by an article in the BBC feed this morning. [Link] It seems that the English have conducted a survey and have determined that 0.3 of the population of the British Isles are not connected to the internet. More crucially a fraction given as 0.42 (presumably of that 0.3? the reportage is unclear which is strange for the Brits; they may abide tyrant-monarchs almost always but they are equally seldom unclear in their journalism) is given as having neither desire nor interest in/for the internet.

Now a large component of this group, 0.61 (or the 0.42?, this article is a maths communication nightmare!) are of advanced years and hence may be considered to reject the internet as a matter of change control, but nonetheless there is the very happy remainder who put the lie to the idea that the internet is the next stage in human societal evolution.

So as much as I may make use of the beast of an uncountable, approximately infinite, number of horns [1] I may rest assured that it is not as fundamental as too may bogs would want us to believe in our consumer-lemming existence.

[1]  It is after all, Friday, and hence Punday.

Information Irony

Today has been a morning of irony. Thursdays are in many ways the best day of the week: the gym is as empty as it gets when I am there as those of decaying resolution roll over for a few minutes more sleep, or something; it is my last exercise day of the week, Fridays and Saturdays are overcrowded with those frantic that another week not get by without them doing something ‘good’, and Sunday the gym is closed in persecution of those who are not observers of the local religious mysticism customs; and I get to listen to the best – usually – podcasts of the week.

This morning the podcasts were the BBC’s “In Our Time” and a Canadian podcast named “Search Engine”. The latter used to be a CBC podcast but since it has the subject of IT and society and this obviously appeals to a rather specialized demographic of geeks and nerds, its price to listener ratio evidently got too high and CBC canned it. Its announcer/protagonist, in the best tradition of modern journalist as Greek hero, did not take firing as an end to his adventures and found another paymaster whose identity is a bit unclear to me, evidently a regional television organization or some such.

The irony enters in the subjects of the two episodes. In the IOT episode, the subject was the trial of Charles One of England; in the SE episode the podcaster was continuing on his crusade about copyright oppression in “the land of frogs and dogs”. [1]  I could make some conspiracy comment about the latter’s cancellation being a matter of the IP oligarchs suppressing him, but I shan’t.

Anyway, the irony comes about in the subjects. Here, on the one hand facilitated by a life peer, Melvyn, Lord Bragg, is a tale of a monarch who has royally micturated the populace of his organization domain and they have placed him on trial for demanding they adere to certain practice they find unreasonable. On the other hand, there is an on-going story of organizational oligarchs demanding that the citizens of their domains refrain from certain practices the citizens consider unreasonable. Both are, in a sense, about information; the one over the form of religious services and the other over the form of publication usage. [2]

Neither the tyrant nor the information oligarchs were/are interested in the desires of the general populace, only their own desires. In the historical case, the tyrant denied the court’s power to try him and as a result he was discorporated rather than just set down. In the current case, an civil war is now ensueing where the general populace find ways of subverting the protective, suppressive means of the oligarchs, a situation ominously similar to the civil wars that preceeded the trial.

I shall defer any further comparisons. Selah.

[1]  That’s a quote and while it does satsify the Kingston Trio’s criterion of “offending almost everyone”, it is rather too good not to use.
[2]  I use publication rather loosely here as any form of information – text, sound, audio – that is sold and/or broadcast in some means.

Electric Shock

One of the joys of living in Greater Metropolitan Arab is the Arab Electric Cooperative. Whereas most electron providers are just that, AEC is an incarnation of coyote. The organization exists primarily for the purpose of providing random pleasure to someone, not the subscribers, by interrupting electron flow in a pseudo-random but optimally inconvenient time, like when you have to get dinner cooked for a large gathering. (This incidentally is why burning foodstuffs on bottled gas grills is so common in GMA.)

This morning the mischief was perpetrated at 0544. FD SCP had just applied shampoo (lacking realpoo or even Winnie-the-Poo) and I was applying dentifrice to my teeth with a battery powered – induction recharged – application wand. The result was a mixed bag. FD SCP, being in shower, which room has a window, was aware of the change in lighting, and the loss of heated water. The adjacent room where the basins are is windowless so while I could continue applying blue gel foamy goop to my teeth I could not see what I was doing, a matter of conern only when I had completed the task. More immediate was FD SCP’s kind compliments of the AEC which were restrained only in comparison to my own as I cycled through the various languages that I know well enough to curse in.

Anyway, somewhere around describing how the management of the utility was undoubtedly the illigitimate and incestuous offspring of a tertiary syphillitic hetaria in Latin – the rhyming is so easy even if it is so different from Greek – the power resumed and after a few minutes of waiting for the other favorite trick of cycling the flow on and off with a period of about a minute or so, we returned to our ablutions with only our bright and cheery outlooks collapsed as if by a gravitational singularity – a charged but non-rotating Kerr-Newman I suspect, although I have not checked to assure myself of the accuracy of my memory. Some questions are better not asked if one knows the answer will be unpleasant.

Anyway, the day is bright, hot, and christened, albeit tardily, by the AEC in their perpetual role as incarnation of Amerind perversity.

Be of Good Cheer

I am in need of some cheer, and not the bottled kind. Yesterday was one of those days when I regret living in the Yankee republic. In particular, I refer to the irrational way that we have cellular telephone service in this country. It is bad enough that the service is so bad here in Greater Metropolitan Arab, even less than the internet service in some ways, but to have to purchase a new phone periodically because the cellular provider decides it doesn’t like your old phone, which satisfies your needs nicely thank you, and is not broken, but to all intents and purposes the cellular provider wants nothing more than to make some more money today.

I must confess to rather envying my European colleagues for whom phone and service are separate matters. And, yes, they do consider this whole thing to be one more American insanity that will yet topple us from our arrogant perch. And for once I have to agree with them.

So on the cheering azimuth, I discover research from Northwestern U that indicates women are no smarter than men in picking mates. [Link] Despite being somewhat disillusioned after thinking all this time that FD SCP was being kind, I am cheered to find that that half of the human species is not inherently smarter than the other half – on this one thing! And it is an important thing since the selection of mates is one of the keystone pieces of what the biologists and anthropologists prate about. So if human females are not all that discerning in selecting genes for reproduction maybe selfdestruction is indeed built into us?

One of the nasty bits of being a scientist is that after you get through with an experiment you have to clean up after yourself. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I became a theoretician so that all the cleaning up I would have to do is disposing of crumpled paper and erasing the blackboard – those new whiteboards are just not very conducive to cogitation. Anyway, this work by the Borthwestern U folks may be viewed as supporting the mystical view of intelligent design or creationism, if the diety is a scientist, which is an azimuth the mystics studiously ignore since that would play merry ned with all their profits.

The point being however, that an ideal experiment is one that cleans up for itself after it has run its course, and that is what might be inferred from human females being willy nilly in selecting mates. If the human species is all part of some experiment of the diety then making them so they cleaned themselves up would be just good intelligent design.  And since we have now discovered this and are, at least in the most vacuous theory, capable of doing something about, that must indicate that the experiment has run its course and all that is left is clean up.

On an even more cheering matter, archaeologists in Peru have unearthed rather convincing indication that the Incas did indeed practice human sacrifice, presumably as part of their superstitious mystic fanaticism. [Link] This is a clear indication that the conquistadores were correct and despite their ulterior motives may actually have installed a slightly more benign mysticism in the form of the church of Rome. On the other hand, any totalitarianism that stifles a society capable of developing a cuisine based on guinea pigs is definitely superior to inquisition Spain.

And lastly, and most cheerily, is news from Scotland that the first ever countenance to adorn a bottle of Atlanta carbonated beverage is none other than the world’s greatest poet. [Link] Aye, bobbie himself! Why that is enough to make the gagging spew almost drinkable even with that fake corn sugar they use to make it instead of good honest cane sugar that rots the teeth and the mind simultaneously. Now if it were that Pepsi Throwback (R) it would be perfection, an indication that even those weirdings who make the rotting stuff had not only acknowledged the fundamental preeminence of Scots among the peoples of Tellus but had made the contents almost as potable as whisky.

Monday Thankfulness

Monday is a relief in the sense that the gym is open again. One of the penalties of living in the hinterland is that the superstitious mystic fanatics coerce the politicians into making it illegal for all sorts of services and conveniences to be available on the christian sabbath. It’s that sort of chauvinistic majority (sorta) discrimination that is permitted by both law and tradition, the one of whoever is in charge gets to beat up on whoever isn’t and get away with claiming it is fair and legal.

I say sorta because even the majority fanatics are turning against themselves. Seems that Greater Metropolitan Arab, abetted by the guvment of Alibam considers any religious organization that has service other than on Sunday morning and evening to not be christian. This includes not only seventh day observers and Friends, but also the church of Rome, which celebrates mass on Saturday evening, which should technically be on sabbath but apparently isn’t from a legal standpoint.

So I can’t get much exercise on Sunday, even if shabat ended on Saturday evening, because the gym is closed, the roads are clogged with mystic fanatics doing work and pretending to be holy, and expressing such by trying to run down joggers and walkers for evidently not sitting through one hour of service, with a jingoistic sermon, followed by an overcaloric, unhealthy midday meal and an afternoon of sitting somnolent while watching mindless competitions on the audio-imag0 receiver. Yes, there is definitely something sacred about NASCAR.

I don’t miss the opportunity to purchase beer and poison disguised as snack foods on sunday, but I do miss the opportunity to work on the sound body thing. It is hard to do the sound mind thing when that body complains and all the aintellegent folderol is going on. And, of course, the gym is depleted of the teacher taliban with shul being out of session; the only members of the AEA present are those who are administrators and have year-round employment.

Mondays are normally occupied with listening to episodes of the podcast of the CBCs “Best of Ideas” but my attention was a bit unengaged this morning. The episode was the first in a series on how poor health at birth leads to all sorts of problems through life. While the numbers were dire and enthralling, the whimpers of blathering social engineers and moralists was wearying. I am quite capable of arriving at my own conclusions of what matters should be remedied and how and I resent your sanctified pronouncements as if I were h. erectus rather than h. sapiens.

But I did note one thing as my attention divided between new programs and the podcast. This gives rise to a question:

Do they perform the brainectomy on news commentators and readers before, after, or during the cosmetic surgery?

I shall not comment on the pathos of listening to sermonizing on infant health fascism and news commentation simultaneously.

Pooper Scooper

Earlier this week I ran across an article [Link] discussing a master’s degree for science akin to the MBA. At first I thought this was some type of sick joke but as I continued it became obvious that the sickness was not humorous but actual.

My problem with this starts with the MBA. I have had to deal with a large number of people who have this degree. Almost all are thucks. That is, they have incompetence in equal measure with ambition and expectation of achievement and asentient adoration. As such they have an absence of both skills and knowledge to do anything with but an excess of ego and arrogance. I have yet to see any MBA do anything constructive except by accident. That is, I have seen them make such a mess of things that we were forced to reengineer and reorganize to correct the mess that a better organization resulted, albeit after much suffering and loss of productivity and morale.

Part of my problem with them arises from a fundamental observation that the Sloan philosophy that good managers may be trained without any knowledge of what they are supposed to manage is void and destructive. Yes, mediocre managers can be trained, and they can indeed make profit if that is the metric. If the metric is a strong, vibrant organization, I have yet to see one who is so developed who is more than mediocre and abided. A far better path is to take a competent member of the organization who has the necessary technical skills of whatever discipline the organization practices and educate and train that individual as a manager in a craft fashion – apprentice-journeyman-master. Not only do you get a bigger crop of mediocre managers, you actually get some who are good to excellent.

In the environment I have worked in, MBAs have never done better than mediocre because they not only have the shul arrogance of divine anointment, but a total lack of technical skills. So my question is how does a master’s degree in being a professional scientist make sense? First of all, the master’s degree in science has only made sense for almost a century only in an industrial context. In a real research environment, all it does is qualify one to be a super technician in the same way that a bachelor’s degree qualifies one to be a junior techhnician. [1]

No, the only value I can see in such a degree is in some peripheral job that no real scientist wants to do and which is a waste of his time and capabilities. And definitely somewhere where humanity, especially scientists who have real work to do, can be sheltered from their arrogance and uselessness.

[1] This is not the case with engineering. In that environment a master’s has great meaning whereas a doctorate is almost always a limitation or a call to exceptionality.

Dinner Dudgeons

Yesterday, I ran across this cartoon, [Link]

that struck a resonance with several memory chains.

Back when dinosaurs were monochrome and television roamed the planet, and SCP was a brand new graduate student at the campus of the Boneyard life was rapidly slipping from the rosy glow of baccalaureate matriculation to graduate student ignorance and servitude. The teaching assistantship had me teaching class/laboratory twenty hours a week for the princely sum of 300$ American per month and rebate of tuition on the 12 hours of graduate coursework I had classes of each week. Multiply that by preparation time for TA work, homework and studying for courses, add in the research for adviser that I was supposed to be doing and going to seminars and library to prepare for the monthly qualifying exams, heap on top the lovely weather that covered that part of Illinois with a blanket of grey snow six months of the year, and you have to subtract out lots of things like recreation and hygiene and haircuts and the like.

As it was, I did my shopping and other necessaries on the weekend in and around studying and haunting the computer center – this was back when computer was a synonym for mainframe – and the laboratory. Expeditions to grocery store happened on the graveyard shift on Sunday mornings when the store – wonder of wonders open 24/7 in those days, a marvel for a country boy from nawth Alibam – was uncrowded. Also, some of my past students from TA duties (a source of both difficulty and great joy) were working there and could steer me to bargains and specials that I would have otherwise missed with a mind enwrapped with physics and maths and laboratory practicalities. The only time this latter really relaxed was when driving in the winter where attention to conditions was a survival necessity as acute as that of homo dinnerus on the plains of predatory Africa.

The grocery store provided peripheral bits and part of one of the three core components of my diet – peanut butter. The other two-and-a-half were gathered on Saturday mornings: almost green bread from the used bread store; cosmetically damaged packages of ‘instant’ oatmeal from the instant oatmeal factory just outside town; and cases of cosmetically damaged television dinners from the television dinner factory just outside on the other side. The frantic drive from one factory to the other was often the height of my week’s non-academic excitement – or perhaps, terror?

The difficulty was that one had to buy the cosmetically damaged television dinners – 0.25$ each as compared to 1$ at the grocery store – was that one had to buy them by the case and the freezer compartment on top of my anchored (im)mobile home residence refrigerator would be 0.9 full with that case. So for a week I ate the same cosmetically damaged television dinner, sometimes for two weeks. There were ten dinners in a case so I had the choice of eating that dinner every evening M-F for two weeks and finding something else to eat on weekends, or eat one week of television dinners in the evening M-S and for lunch S&S and a tenth to be consumed at option.

My other meals were cosmetically damaged ‘instant’ oatmeal and toast, or peanut butter on toast sandwiches. Note the toast part. That was a necessity with the used bread to keep the ‘green’ at bay. I had to boil water to make the oatmeal which was a boon because it also provided me with shaving water. Shaving was often the only sensual luxury I had in a day.

Where does the cartoon come in? Well, there were only a few choices of television dinners available. The least desirable was Salisbury steak. To this day I am convinced the steak, a ground meat patty, was made from the remains of biological laboratory experiments. This was, after all, a very large university. The best was the beans and franks, which came with a triangle of corn bread and a triangle of baked apples. One was supposed to peel the aluminium foil cover of the tray off the corn bread, while leaving the rest of the dinner tray covered. Hence the association with the cartoon. And what made it the best? If one mixed the apples with the cornbread before cooking, one had a ration of apple cobbler, at least to the same level of ersatzness as the dinner itself was to real food.

I should perhaps comment that since those days ended with an unattended matriculation of a master’s degree I have consumed no television dinners although I do occasionally partake of peanut butter – it has to be the real stuff and not the stercus sold by national foodstuffs corporate oligarchs – and oatmeal – the kind one has to cook overnight in a crock pot, thank you. So despite what Wellington said at Waterloo, time can also be the greatest luxury of all.

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I have to agree with this one: [Link]

  • Bachelor’s ceremony, Campus of the Black Warrior – no idea, 1E4 people – graduates, friends, parents crammed into a underdesigned field house with adequate air conditioning for maybe half that number. Many regrets filtering through my head: wearing suit under robes; attending ceremony at all (empty since Mother would have discorporated me on the spot if I had suggested); not staying at campus to go to graduate shul; having to drive home in ’64 Corvair with no A/C;
  • Master’s ceremony, Campus of the Boneyard – didn’t attend. Many happinesses: not attending ceremony; getting away from Tartarus in Illinois; getting a job in middle of nerd job slump; getting away from autark/tyrant advisor;
  • Doctorate ceremnoy, Campus of the Tennessee – attendance mandatory. Held in Vob Braun Civic Center; bar open, all PhD recipients incarcerated in ballet practice room down hall from bar; scant pain except the Registrar, a lovely caring woman with strong mystic beliefs having a petit mal seizure on finding all the PhD recipients shnockered. Mixed bag; regret over having to endure the ceremony; joy at having to get down on knees (almost) for very short graduate dean to ‘stole me'; embarassment at geting sleve caught on rail trying to get off stage; fighting with totally inadequate parking; overembibing with fater at officer’s club.
  • MEL-1 ceremony, campus of the Carlisle – attendance mandatory. None of the graduates sober. All cut terrain walk previous day. Long drive back to Alibam. End of killer homework assignments. Slipping away from people with whacked shul solutions who expel you for disagreeing. Horrible academic environment.

So no, I don’t remember any. I remember the ones my daugher had. All were trite, clueless, irrelevant, and boring. I think that may be a requirement. It also seems that not remembering them may be a survival mechanism.

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Realism in Reality?

One of the things that sometimes portends the collapse of civilization is some realization that not only are things not going to get better, but they are going to get worse.  For example, Lee Smolin, the guy who has tried to take up the bad-boy-of-physics tights and cape left vacant by the discorporation of Richard Feynman has advanced a pin prick in the expanding helium balloon of the folks pushing the multi-universe ideas. [Link]

“there is only one universe; all that is real is real in a moment, as part of a succession of moments; and everything that is real in a moment is a process of change leading to the next or future moments.”

IOW, we only have one universe and it isn’t stationary.

Sorry, but I keep coming back to the testability thing. Despite folks finding a few applications for string theory, none having to do with cosmology, it is still unproven and we still have only quantum mechanics and relativity as proven (recent) theory. And yes, I know that ‘recent’ is the beginning of the last century but until there is some compelling verification I am going to consider what the string theorists do as serious, but still, science fiction.

That is not to say that I don’t consider the multiverse thing to be invalid – or valid, for that matter. We still don’t know which interpretation to put to quantum mechanics: Copenhagen (Bohr); Popper; or interaction (Cramer). I personally don’t like the Copenhagen interpretation because it reeks of mysticism. The Popper interpretation posits an infinity of universes based on one of the definitions of probability but has problems in not specifying how big a probability event has to be to split one universe into two. And finally, the interaction interpretation has some hard thinking about time involved that humans may just not be capable of being embedded in it; IOW, it may actually need the observer thing from the Copenhgen interpretation.

I should comment that the Popper multiverse is quite different from the multiverse Smolin is referring to. I think. Maybe.

Nor do I throw out the idea that the universe (reality) is non-stationary. Stationarity is a stochastic (probabilistic ) concept that says that the stochastic processes of a system (the universe may be a system, that’s another head banger) do not change over time. Not that the state of the universe is fixed, but only that the processes that determine the instantaneous state of the universe are. There is also the strong implication that the state of the universe is recurrent but not necessarily periodic. (That means the same state may occur more than once but the behavior displayed does not have to be regular like a sine wave or a pendulum.)  The big leap here is that the ‘rules of physics’, as we see them at any time, are the (assumed) stochastic processes of the universe.

So to quote Robert Heinlein, “waiting is.”

Speaking of which, we have sort of given up waiting for all those extraterrestrial out there to communicate with us. This is related to the Fermi paradox, named after the guy who is half blamed for Fermi-Dirac statistics, which apply to what are called fermions and are characterized by having half integer imherent spin. [1] But one of Fermi’s flights of fantasy had to do with why we had not seen any evidence of intelligtent life in the universe (he excluded humanity from this.) Now, some researchers at Pennsylvania State U have offered up that the reason for this may be because of environmental restrictions. Simply put, if you are as stupid as humanity then you quickly use up your natural resources and don’t have any surplus to communiate with. [Link]

Now, while this is a compelling theory, I am not yet ready to abandon the idea that no one has communicated with us for the simple reason that we are not good neighbors. But then, that may be the same as the chaps at Penn State advanced?

Anyway, the fun part is that not only is the universe smaller than we would like it to be, it’s also much harsher.

[1]  The other type of particles are called Bosons, have integer valued inherent spin, and obey Bose-Einstein statistics. Fermi, as one would surmise, was Italian, and Bose Indian. Some folks, humorists and maniacs in general, offer that the difference between half and whole integer spin properties is descriptive of the differences between occidental and oriental socieies.