Now, This?

Sunday once more, the heavens have been open all morning in the delivery of dihydrogen oxide droplets, spiced occasionally with a bit of electron flow and accompanying acoustic fireworks, and it seems a day, or at least, a morning, to keep one’s corpus warm and dry and one’s mind occupied.

In reviewing the lees of the week’s feeds I first note a bit in AL.com that the Alibam council of thieves legislature has made mandatory physical exercise for children enrolled in grades K-8. [Link] The reportage indicates that such has been mandatory for some time but this particular piece of legislation shuts off loopholes of exemption. Given my recent blot on the mental scarring caused by most coaches and teachers of physical education, [Link] I cannot help but take note of this example of legislative stupidity. At least I presume it is simple stupidity rather than the usual personal greed that motivates our elected representatives here in Alibam as I have been as yet unable to perceive how in particular they may increase their wealth by this enactment.

I understand the facade of obesity but fear, as is so often the situation with congress critters, that the end state will be the opposite of what is publicized. Given the negativity of physical educationists and its long term negative impact on the citizenry, we must consider whether such is the actual intent of this legislation? Is it the intent of these legislators to alienate the present generation further away from exercise? if so, the avaricial aspect is easily seen since the producers of junk food are the ones to profit and thus the legislators may be reaping bribes and grants and donatives from the producers of energy drinks and pork rinds.

I also forsee a further degradation of our already decrepit educational system, ravaged and consumed more by the Yankee government’s Every Child Left Behind than it could have been by the tender ministrations of William Tecumseh Sherman. If those who have difficulty with the gladiatorial games of public shul physical education, either mental or physical, are not permitted exemption from such tortures then the only recourse is either special classes or parental litigation under the terms of the Yankee government’s laws dealing with discrimination and disability. And both of these will add further economic burden to the educational system.

How deep these additional taxes will cut is impossible for the observer to estimate. While educational establishments since Sokrates have decried inadequate funding, the volume and stridency of these cries have reached such a volume as to completely drown out any perception that education is ongoing. Instead, it seems that our shuls have become fund raising charities exceeded in annoyance only by oriental religionists who used to frequent western airports. I expect any day to see members of the educationalist apparat with shaved head and orange attire – and not a jumpsuit although that might be more appropriate given the crime of how children are educated these days – stopping automobiles and demanding money or else entries on children’s permanent records.

It is scant wonder that Alibam is a third world entity if this is what we inflict upon ourselves.

Painting Rocks

I fear it is time to paint rocks and generally police the browser. Several articles of note have accumulated that have not quite crystallized into maturity of thought but the load time each morning has gotten too burdensome especially as we approach the weekend – with rain – and must suffer the slings and arrows of the ISP’s weather bandwidth inadequacies. Or whatever it is that shuts down service on weekends, especially Sunday mornings.

The first article is one in National Geographic [Link] – no mammaries in sight and hence possibly suitable for work unless you work in one of those organizations that is mystically fanatic and doesn’t condone associates thinking about evolution. The gist is that a recent (?) discovery at Gesher Benot Ya’aqov indicates that the spatial and social ordering implicit in sedentaryness, which up till now we though invented near the end of the last cold phase, was actually invented by Homo Erectus 0.75 MYA. That means that what we thought of as a recent (~15-10 KYA) human social invention has actually been around for much longer and likely as not its emergence then was more a factor of circumstances permitting it than any actual invention.

More crucially it would seem that civilization is part of our make up as humans. So much for the back-to-Nature bunch. Not that I do not enjoy an occasional hike through the woods – but not in summer when the sticker bushes and vines are in full sting, which puts the lie to the 15th Alibam’s march on Little Round Top – or the like, but going back to being a hunter-gatherer. No thank you. I have enough excretory problems as is.

On a related (?) note the folks at the Yankee government’s DARPA are warning of the extinction of the American nerd (another case of the media not understanding the difference between geeks and nerds.) [Link] I would take this a bit more seriously if the pronouncement of doom were not coming from an organization who has an absolutely consistent track record of failure. Their current propagandized success story is more a matter of the Yankee government’s imitation of Soviet era centralism – a somewhat natural characteristic of war aftermath – and elimination of the labs that actually did stuff. Of course the good side of this is that it makes NASA look good. After all NASA only spend 0.5 of its budget on publicity; DARPA seems to spend more and accomplishes less accordingly. But they do brag and arrogant well.

I have come to suspect that the reason so few are studying nerd subjects is because they require so much individual hard work. Being a scientist is not social – unless you are a social scientist – and I will not get into the morass of whether social science is science or not – and therefore interferes with texting and tweeting and what like. It also involves maths which are fundamentally individual and not a group incompetence thing. Which is were the evolution thing comes in.

With the news that the New Yawk Times is going to start charging for on-line access next year, I note an article from Columbia Journalism Review [Link] dealing with how many people will pay for news on-line. As is known to those rare few who actually frequent this blog, this is a matter of interest here, mostly because, as is appropriate for blogging, I am unsure of what my own opinions are. If I were it would not be recurring except to denigrate fools and idiots – people who disagree with me, in the main.

I am cogitating whether I would pay for NYT access. It is already a pain to have to log on those few times, a couple a week, that I visit their WS. And most of those are pointers from eNewsletter, usually the one from American Scientist, which VERY definitely ain’t of the depravity and degradation of Scientific American. But this places me in the situation that if Sigma Xi, the parent of AS, continues to cite NYT articles after they institute paywall, of deciding to discontinue paying attention to Sigma Xi. Not that they don’t have a very low pony to pile ratio as is, but what pony they do have is very good pony.

Somewhat more toothsome, is an indication of the ingestion of Omega 3 fatty acids and the conservation/preservation of telomeres. [Link] Like most folks who have cardiac infirmities I have to swallow acetylsalicitic acid and omega 3 pills every day, and the latter are more the size of suppositories than pills. Not that I mind that, I actually have more problems with the little pills getting lost in my mouth rather than going down the esophagus than getting big pills down. And while the old saw about correlation not being causation is accurate, we have to recall that physicians and biologists are the least maths aware nerds there are. In fact, they usually have to hire mathematicians to do things they should have learned as sophomores but somehow lack, for whatever reason. Hence we can expect that a lot of physicians may tell us another ‘reason’ for taking these fish pills.

And lastly, from the campus of the Boneyard, comes some research that indicates driving compromises the ability the process language. [Link] This is not quite in the oh-yeah class of academic research that merely confirms what rational observant folks have known but didn’t have a handout from the Yankee government to write up. Anyway, it confirms why we don;t drive well when the automobile is full of yakking folks – especially shul bus drivers! – and why any use of cellular phones should be forbidden by some method other than the irresolute whim of the constabulary. IOW, let us muzzle the kids on the buses and put cellular suppressors in all automobiles!

Ain’t it nice when science supports you individual convictions! ALmost like the warm and fuzzy satisfaction of superstition.

Message to Muntgum

This is not 1861. Do not entertain deluded visions of frock coats, tall hats, and standing foolishly arrogant on that bronze marker on the front porch of the capitol building, of decking out the Alibam Defense Force in butternut BDUs.

The days when first loyalty of the citizen was to state have been dust for years now.

Given the necessity of choosing between the bureaucratic cancer of political insanity that is the Yankee government and the corporate cancer of political greed that is the Alibam government, the latter shall not prevail.

Do not display you incompetence in such a blatant and sadistic fashion. Threats are no way to accomplish improvement in any but the more simian of humans.

Leon’s Bridge

I spent yesterday renewing a romance. Back in 1967 I took my first (of rather few) course on programming, a FORTRAN course taught in the engineering shul at the campus of the Black Warrior. Had to have special blessing from the dean of the science and arty shul to do so, and then it was only an audit. But it was the beginning of a long romance of writing code.

The romance was writing program verbiage and having it return numbers. I got to write FORTRAN code all through college, undergraduate and graduate, and some on the job as well, crescendoing with my dissertation. A few pieces after that fact were anticlimactic except for some very creative nested DO loops for collapsing spherical harmonic products. And the stuff I had to do on the job was trivial next to what was needed for physics nerdery.

In the mid ’80′s I bought in to the PC thing long before the Yankee army did, buying my own from IBM and making up at home for what I could not get to do at work, one of the downturns of a terminal degree in a hierarchical organization. I flirted for a while with FORTH, Russian Roulette of coding, after all, FORTRAN on a PC in those days was like wearing Saran Wrap underwear before settling on the integrated environment afforded by Turbo Pascal. To this day Philipe Kahn would be offered bread and salt if he turned up on my doorstep.

And write TP code I did, for all the projects I needed it for of cranking out numbers. But when I went off to the Yankee army Woe college, I had to give it up. Part of this was because of not having time to write code any more because of first course load – all BS warm and fuzzy essay writing courses that were very hard on a nerd, although I did find a way to get equations in my dissertation, a first for the shul – and then management load, but the big part was the shift to WINDOWS. Simply put programming on a WINDOWS box ain’t about honest number crunching, it’s all about doing decoration stercus. So thereafter I futzed around with Visual Basic in EXCEL or in those rare instances when I actually had, really had, to crunch numbers, I got a student to wrap GUI stuff around my lines of number code.

Until yesterday, that is. I backed myself into a corner. Really needed to do a specific renewal and the integrals were just too nasty to be done analytically, at least by an ORF like me, which is still better than 0.99 of humans, but inadequate to the task. But fairly easy to do in code since all it required was some numerical approximations.

So I installed a FORTRAN compiler and dug out a book on FORTRAN 90/95 I bought from Alibris a year or so ago, and when I put the beast down for the night last evening I was 0.9 of the way to having the program do what I needed to do.

And it feels like it did when I was 18. Again! And its better, because I don’t have to baby sit those be-damned 5081 cards. Of course Linux has the terminal so it’s all command line stuff which gets rid of all that GUI stercus, and the editor from the repository actually speaks FORTRAN syntax so life is doubly good this morning!

If I could just figure out how this compiler casts. Can’t find out on line. Maybe the term is obsolete?

Der Tag

Occasionally accidental juxtaposition of ether waves in the void (not saying of what but some – Qadgop – would argue intelligence) is constructive, making for a mentally if not physiologically enjoyable experience. Such an occasion is today, at least here in Greater Metropolitan Arab and the rest of the domain of the Alibam (in the maths sense although governance also enters in, obviously.)

  • Courtesy of the Yankee government, the thieves in the district, today is observed as a holy day – the birthday anniversary of the religionist Martin Luther King.
  • Courtesy of the Alibam government, the thieves in Muntgum, today is observed as a holy day – the birthday anniversary of the militarist Robert Edward Lee.

Overall, two humans who have made existence and society what it is today, at least in some uncertain but likely small part. Both are worthy of our respect and abidance.

Also, and this is the cherry on the top of the confection, today, as I am alerted by the folks at Britannica, [Link] is the anniversary of the day back in 1942 CE when the Yankee government banned the sale of sliced bread.

What makes it sweet is consideration of how much labor this saved. Have you ever tried to actually slice that stercus commercial bakery corporations call loaf bread? If you don;t do it while its fresh baked (and hard,) you have to put it in the freezer to make it so you can slice it with a hand knife later.

Directed Reading

The other day I came across a blot about ‘reading courses’,[Link] and obtained a rush of memory and consideration. These courses go by different names – ‘independent reading’, ‘guided reading’, ‘independent research’, … – not all of which are uniform. The blot meant a ‘reading course’ to be a course of study outside the established curriculum (i.e., no formal course offered on the topic) by one student and overseen occasionally by one faculty. The text implies that it is also a subterfuge for students who who completed coursework but not research or writing and have to have course hours to be in ‘good standing’ with the legume enumerators. Hence some such enrollments are a cover for hours in lab or writing.

This latter is familiar to me. When I had completed my coursework, passed exams, and had research topic accepted I still had to be enrolled for a minimum number of hours to officially be a student even though I was putting in all my not-working, not-asleep hours on the research/dissertation. The trick was to sign up for some imaginary course, pay a considerably less than imaginary tuition bill, and the administriviaists were placated. Aside from the cash, the only real difficulty was that occasionally some zealot faculty would actually expect the signed up students to do something measurable in the context.

I also recall taking a ‘special seminar’ course that was an utter disaster. The course was essentially a ‘reading course’ except extended to several students. The professor did not lecture but did facilitate. He handed out weekly reading assignments and we met once a week to discuss the assignments. The class was small – four or five – and about evenly divided between theory and experiment folks. So the discussions tended to be critiques of either the experiment procedure in the readings or the theoretical developments in the readings. Not very much constructive occurred.

But since I got out of the academic environment I have come to like ‘reading courses’. The problem is finding ways to do them. In theory, at least according to academic mythology, anyone with a doctorate (a ‘terminal’ degree) is supposed to be self-educating. That is supposed to mean that if I get interested in a topic, I am supposed to be able to read my way to competency in it. In practice, the absence of someone to recommend (and warn about other) books and answer questions is often crippling. This is reflected in one of the chief problems of self-education, which I refer to as the “wheat-chaff problem’. This deals with how in reading a textbook on a subject, one distinguishes the wheat, the nourishment, from the chaff, the socially necessary packaging foam. Of course the other problem is getting into the Four T’s of the topic. I won;t revisit that here since I have beaten it jellyish elsewhere.

So confronted with a desire to learn a topic one searches for some guidance on what to read. In general, ‘dummy’ books are nonexistent on interesting topics – they are economically motivated to prey on bogs after all – and would be well nigh useless anyway because of their shallow information sparse format. Sometimes you can find lists of books on a topic but seldom and they are often dated.

Back when I worked for the Yankee army they were big on ‘reading programs’, which were similar. And they published lists of books that people should read. The problem with this is that about three-fourths of the books on any list were blatant and banal propaganda, low in information density and largely comprised of some pseudo-mystical social message totally irrelevant to the topic but dear to the organization. This seems to be typical of organizational reading lists. They serve the organization first and anything and anyone else only coincidentally, despite the advertising and moral claims.

That reading programs do not work outside the academic environment – and given the subterfuges it is not clear they function even there – after all less than one-quarter of the population actually reads regularly and best sellers and bosom rippers are not generally educational, would seem to be self evident. But given the overall decrepitude of the educational apparat, including colleges, basic human competency has to be coming from somewhere.

But that doesn’t keep me from continuing to read. And I do rather appreciate the old saw about the blind leading the blind. Although self-leading at least has pretty good hindsight.

Purity of Essence?

In reviewing my usual hit list of blogs this morning I ran across a blot by Chad Orzel, “Uncertain Principles”, about his cellular phone. [Link] Discounting the absent mindedness aspect that clearly qualifies Chad for ‘perfesser’ (as opposed to professor) status, the thing that surfaced from the foam of the cognition sea was whether this is an indication, a characteristic as it were, of nerdiness?

My observation has been that the most elaborate cellular telephones are carried by geeks – those who talk but do not do, followed by bogs – those who neither talk nor do, and the simplest devices are carried by nerds. Such observations are largely anecdotal and obviously localized to Greater Metropolitan Arab and Huntsville, Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill.

Of course, if nerds do indeed, as a component of the consumer population, use the simplest and most functionally concentrated of cellular telephones, why is this the situation? The World Wonders!

Death by Tube

OK, it is now maybe/sorta official that watching television reduces your life span expectancy. [Link] Yes, this is one of those things we have all sorta/maybe ‘known’ for a long period of time, like ever since we were old enough to grasp the idea of television channels, that this should be the case, after all, television is sorta/maybe the intellectual analog of transfat, which we all know really strongly reduces one’s life span expectancy if you ingest it and if you eat at chain restaurants you absolutely, confidence level 1,0 to more decimal places than you have fat cells, you know you are ingesting such.

So now we know that all those reality shows and the like are not only wasting our time and productivity, but are taking more than one-for-one. At least that is what the Yankee republic heart association tells us courtesy of research done in the former penal colony on the derrière side of Tellus. And these people should know, after all they ended up living there because they stole something of great value – like a loaf of bread or a handkerchief. But we now that humans are humans, even those of us who have a bit more neandertal DNA than others, regardless of petty things like national boundaries and superficial body features.

So are we going to decrease our television time? And does watching television trash – even if that term is redundant as well Agnewist – on a computer or cellular telephone screen? Is just sitting and reading a book, for the few millions on the planet who actually still read books, better in a life span statistics sense? I somehow doubt it since that would mean the intelligent are going to live longer than television slime mold humans. And that would violate all sorts of trends and processes, especially religious.

Anyway, I think no decrease in sight, nor any improvement in the quality of what is disseminated on the audio-visual receiver. After all, if no one stays away from the commercials there is no reason to improve the so-called entertainment. Besides, if we did something about television we might have to do something about the stercus served by chain restaurants. And that would be unAmerikan. Or something.

Not Winnie

Why do we humans have such a fascination with feces? Our profanity is divided – fairly much – into two categories: reproductive epithets; and fecal expressions. If anyone knows five words of any foreign language then at least one of those is a fecal word. Children are forever trying to play with it as if it is the ultimate toy, and adults seem incapable of even using the word without brain lock and have to resort to all sorts of euphemisms. Why is it that we glorify food, one end of the alimentary canal if you will, and are unable to openly discuss the other end?

As readers of this blog are aware, Wednesday is the day at gym to listen to a CBC “Quirks and Quarks” podcast. Today was no exception. The episode was from the end of November last year – I tell y’all I am conservative in accumulating a cushion for Josephian conditions, especially with podcasts whose producers seem incapable of taking short vacations. Rather makes me think of what civilization would be like if all the gas stations closed down for the months of August and December.

Anyway, the podcast included a vignette interview with a doctoral candidate – I forget from where – who has determined that the extinction of the megafauna – which includes the fuzzy elephantines – occurred prior to climate change and the rise of the Clovis technoculture.[Link] This substantially reduces the probability that they were hunted to extinction by humans, a comforting turn since we humans are often not so much wise as just bloodily violent. This particularly applies to our hunting practices. Although I will acknowledge that fine control is not usually possible when hunting megafauna. Or in warfare. Or in politics.

But the neat thing here that appeals to the child in we humans is that the researcher who pulled this off did so by looking at mammoth feces. Seems that there is a fungus that grows in/on mammoth feces and its spores are a reliable biological marker. So by doing a time history of spore density the researcher was able to figure out when the die off of the fuzzy ones occurred. And it was prior to the development of the Clovis technology so all that humans are likely to have done was hammer more nails in the coffin lid. And the climate changes were related to the extinction, at least in terms of the environment.

And all thanks to understaning – playing with – feces.

I also listened to a “Future Tense” episode that discussed how children do internet searches.[Link] Seems that have all sorts of fixations that they impose on themselves, boundary conditions on thinking it seems like. And these rather strongly resonate with the idea of kids having a natural inclination to play with feces.

I shall refrain from making any derogatory comparisons with search engines, either Gooey or MegaHard. And I am happy that I have reached an age where my principle fascination with feces is wanting it to actually exit my alimentary canal with some degree of temporal periodicity.

I do find it intriguing that it took a Canadian podcast to discuss the matter though. Perhaps it is we denizens of the Yankee republic who suffer from verbal constipation on the subject?