Academic Integrity

Yesterday I happened to run across this cartoon, [Link]

and as such things tend to do, after the first crunch of humor reaction, I went on to consider the matter. The other, more common reaction, especially if the humor is lacking in intensity, is to continue with whatever I was doing before I was distracted.

I do not, as a rule, visit college web sites very much, but when I do the things I am interested in are indeed primarily in the right hand circle of the Venn diagram above. I may on occasion be interested in what the organizational prevarication is in terms of some recent news impacting the shul, such as the recent biologist pogrom on the campus of the Tennessee. That’s the individual pogrom that was short lived and treated as criminality rather than the long duration staff pogrom being practiced by the current administration and hence immoral and unethical but not, courtesy of owning the attorneys, necessarily illegal. The value of consulting such is to sample the unique organizational variance on blame passing and butter unmelting (as in orally) that one gets from academia. Otherwise it is in little wise different from the derrière concealing propaganda emitted by any organization. And equally inaccurate.

But what struck from this cartoon was how little things have changed since I was a college student, which indicates the general level of apathy, distaste likely, that college administration has for its customers. Recently while FD SCP and I were on holiday wandering through pre-Yankee-occupation houses and Amerind mound sites, both artifacts of societies gone but not without continuing influence, we had occasion in our continual search for information to visit a ‘used book’ emporium in lower Mississippi where I procured a copy of Simon Bronner’s Piled Higher and Deeper, which is a folklorist ‘history’ of college folkways.

One of the things that struck me about Bronner’s book was how little he described of the college campuses of the ’60’s and ’70’s had I experienced or observed in my twelve years of attending three different campuses. I could only ascribe this to the differences between bog students and nerd students and the individual campus differences between the shuls of the old Confederacy and the rest of the Yankee republic. I was however impressed by his epitaph of the demise of college administrative paternalism in the early ’60’s, casting the students adrift from the fascist care that had gone before. Surely the administration, deeply offended at this disruption of its fundamental responsibility, had little reaction to entertain other than righteous apathy of the resulting depravity rampant on campuses. Clearly, if the students could not be regimented and mind controlled, they had to be ignored.

Thus, I was prepared upon viewing the cartoon above to understand why this dichotomy exists although not why the right hand side is even present. After all, if, as we well know by intellectual, academic exercise as well as common sense interpretation of patent observation, the administration of any and all colleges are apathetic to their customers, why is any useful information available at all? The answer requires but a few moments of consideration and may quickly be attributed to pain avoidance. Because of the apathy, and in the interest of maintaining this long standing whited sepulcher of righteous indignation, the administration earnestly desires, and makes minimal effort, to have minimal contact with its customers beyond the transfer of currency. So, in the interest of having as little actual contact with students, and their parents, as possible, the college administration is moved to actually make available the information necessary for them to avoid said customers. Happily for the latter, that information, by accident more than intent, is what they need to achieve their goal, which is a diploma.

Neither group, apparently, has very much interest in education any more. Not that we can be assured that requiring all students to  wear uniforms and take identical classes, nor permit parents access to campus only on sanctioned occasions, usually for the purpose of transferring funds was conducive to education either. It sometimes appears that education in America, these days as much as in the past, is more a matter of individual student striving and determination than any active effort by academia or organization.

Boundary Turbulence

Freya’s day again, the leading boundary of the weekend. The day of change from weekly activities to weekendly activities. One of the least enjoyable of these is downloading podcast episodes for my somewhat (decidedly!) aged Creative Zen MP3 player.

Used to I had this task easy. I could do it on any of my Linux boxes. Then the MP3 player decided it didn’t like gNomad any more and I had to fall back on the transfer utility that came with the player.

Now that sounds simple enough but it precipitated a host of derivatives. First of all, I couldn’t find the CD of the transfer utility or find it anywhere on the Creative website. So I had to live with machine that the utility is installed on. Normally I use that machine, a laptop, as a Ubuntu box using a separate HD. So I have to physically swap the drives before I can do anything. Then I have to boot. And wait. Try as I may to clean out the Windows boot sequence it takes a good quarter hour for the OS to get to the point where I can load gPodder (commonality across boxes) and start downloading podcast episodes.

gPodder is no bed of roses. It works quite well on my Linux boxes but somehow the Windows version won’t handle any of the device add-ins, so after I download the podcast episodes I switch to a metadata tag editor to get the tags consistent with my taxonomy. This is another constructive comparison between Linux and Windows. The Windows tag editors have much more capability than the Linux tag editor I use. They also require a lot more time, about a factor of three to five, to alter the tags on a single episode. Some of this is write time being longer under Windows but most of it is mouse overhead. Changing a tag in the Linux editor takes three mouse efforts; the Windows editor takes seven.

Having revised the tags so that I can navigate on the player, I have to start the transfer utility and once its running, plug in the MP3 player. The MP3 player synch takes the same time – approximately – under both OS, as we should expect, but again, the Windows transfers seem to take a lot more time because of the mouse overhead.

I know I should just switch to a new MP3 player. This one is well used and deserves retirement if not interment. Sadly however this type of MP3 player is no longer made and quite frankly I don’t like, as in vehemently hate, the iPod type of player. So I did some research on alternatives and I broke down and bought a new MP3 player that is basically a file management device. It isn’t quite as easy to use and I am still learning how to live with it, which means that in the interim I have to carry along two MP3 players.

The good news is that the new player works well with Linux, and gPodder talks to it under Ubuntu so at some point I can shit this task away from Windows. In the interim however, it gives me a nice comparison between the two OS because I repeat everything (sorta) on Saturday on the same box running Ubuntu. Yes, I do another drive swap. But the telling thing is that the work, downloading the same podcasts, editing tags, and transferring to an MP3 player takes about 0.35 as much time on Ubuntu as on Windows. Even the podcast download is a bit faster.

So I get to reinforce my empathy for all those MegaHard serfs (slaves?) out there.

Meanwhile, back at the feeds – plenty of time to read articles while Windows does its bumpy grindy downloading podcast episodes – I find out from the American Cancer Society [Link] that there is a correlation between degree of sedentaryness and discorporation risk.  While that sounds sorta reasonable it is a masterpiece of dyscalcula. Of course that could be sour grapes at MegaHard for all the time I have to spend sedentarily waiting for its OS to perform?

And I note the Los Angeles Times asks, “Are America’s fattest states starved for fine restaurants?” [Link] The issue being that Alibam, among other states, have high obesity rates. Having had to spend entirely too much time in the land of Golden Earthquakes I can honestly answer that if Alibam lacks ‘fine restaurants” then so too does California. From my perspective the vast majority of restaurants in both states are fast food purveyors of unhealthy stercus. The biggest difference in the two is that the name Jack in California is Jack-in-the-Box while in Alibam it’s Jack’s. And from a quality of food standpoint both a terrible but the California variety more so.

I am not sure what fine restaurant means. In advertising parlance it means a chain restaurant, indistinguishable from a fast food restaurant in terms of quality of foodstuffs offered, that lacks a drive-through and requires people, in the main, to sit at table and eat off of real ceramic plates. Most of the representatives of this genre originated in California or are as common there as here. So if we devolve to not-a-chain restaurants I would have to observe that the nature of these are different in Los Angeles than they are in Huntsville. The biggest part of this difference is that the chefs in California are more pretentious and thus serve smaller portions of badder food to satiate their egos.

But I will posit that the real difference between the two in obesity rates has to do with the nature of local motherhood.

On which note I have to go kick the downloading laptop.

Zen of Driving

Yesterday I made my weekly pilgrimage from Greater Metropolitan Arab to Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill, Huntsville, to procure foodstuffs. This is necessitated by the rather abysmal, depraved even, foodstuffs landscape of Greater Metropolitan Arab. The landscape is dominated by MalWart, which used to be all about energy drinks and highly salted junk foods; now it is all about beer, junk wine, and highly salted junk foods. The other two – struggling – grocery stores are orders of magnitude better – they actually have real foodstuffs and not just overgrown children orgasm foodstuffs – but sadly less than half of what I need. So I have to go into Huntsville to buy things like bagels (Alibam bagels but better than their total absence in Arab – and I am too lazy to do my own every three days) and English muffins that don’t have a gram of salt each and textured vegetable protein and lettuce that isn’t iceberg with minced carrots and salad dressing made by someone other than a megacorporation and loaded with sodium, and the list goes on…..

If you say ‘organic’ in Greater Metropolitan Arab neither meaning of the term is within the majority’s comprehension, especially the folks who run the grocery stores. GMA may have been a nice place to live when we first moved here but it has degenerated into a desert: intellectually; dietary; governmentally; …. Not that I would move to Huntsville; it’s entirely too much of an ant hill with too many queens; but something in between is pretty attractive.

You folks thinking of moving Sowth as part of BRAC take note that Arab is not that good a place to live; beware the prevarications of real estate agents masquerading as conscript parents of the community.

Anyway in the process of motoring to, about, and from Huntsville, I made notes – at stop lights emitting red photons – of several points. First, my route on US 231 took me down off Sand Mountain via Whitesburg Mountain and I had occasion once more – this was just shy of the crest of commuter rush – that the incompetence level of automobile drivers has seriously increased in recent years. Seems very few, about the same fraction as of nerds in the general population although I have no observations to indicate that determination, are unable to drive down the mountain without applying brakes in a disruptive and noxious fashion.

In my experience of some forty years of motoring this downgrade, it may be entirely traversed, with satisfaction of the state of Alibam’s ‘speed’ laws, if one uses the proper – IUPAP – definition of speed without use of either accelerator or brakes. Inasmuch as most of these incompetent drivers are doing well over that limit, by at least ten mph and are demonstrably unable to control heir vehicles, for various reasons, the need for braking is not surprising but the overall inadequacy of their competence almost makes me welcome the disappearance of petrol. Except that then I will really have foodstuff problems.

But I can reflect on how driving an automobile is not an earned privilege any more but rather some metabolic entitlement.

Once at the bottom of the mountain, I had to avert my trajectory to accommodate a shul bus repainted, but still belching odoriferous black smoke, to proclaim its role as the official conveyance of a day camp. This provoked my reflection on that particular thing – I had to attend day camp several summers as a bairn – and from there generally on things that our parents do for us, as children, that we come to hate them for.

As with all children, there were several things my parents compelled me to do ‘for my own good’.  This is over and above daily ablutions and cleaning of dental surfaces. Some were endurable nuisances, such as the two periods, both in spring before shul session cessation, when I had to take extracurricular classes in ballroom dancing. Not only was I an inept klutzy failure at both instances, but my interest in dancing was forever poisoned. FD SCP and I have danced but the instances can be enumerated using a single hand’s worth of phalanges with unassigned elements. Happily this drunge never got about the discomfort level.

The same cannot be said for day camp. This is an algorithm for catastrophe. Take a kid whose chief goal of summer is to read as much as he can of what he can find and pack him off into a nasty, hot, overlit, humid, outdoors where he is expected to participate in sports (implicitly inane and pointless,) inane crafts, and the interminable bonhomie of high shul jocks who have absolutely no clue of how to handle nerds. Hell hath no teeth after a week of that. The only good that derived from this was a firm conviction not to inflict anything like on my children – they had to ask first to unleash the floodgates – and an awakening skepticism towards anything official or claimed to be beneficial. In effect, my philosophy of proper disrespect for false authority was germinated in that environment.

Lastly, I had occasion to observe the perversity of modern civilized nature. The foodstuff stores in Huntsville open at different times, but that timing does not jibe well with their geographical locations. Hence I found myself leaving the first store on the north side of Huntsville, which opened at a middling time, to drive half across town to the second which opens rather late. Hence, even with the grid-resistance (not quite grid-lock but no free flow either) that is Huntsville traffic – any more roads and there would be no buildings – I found myself with the prospect of wait of a sixth hour. Accordingly I moderated my attitude and tension of driving with the idea of eroding some of that time in motion and thereby less heat soaked.

I shortly had occasion to contemplate the perversity of nature. If one is in no particular hurry to traverse from A to B, then one encounters stop lights that are stochastically disproportionately emitting green photons. IOW, if you;re not in a hurry you get the lights. So I arrived at my destination with several minutes to await portal opening. Happily a breeze was blowing so I exited my vehicle to stand in the shade near the portal and observe the eccentricities (this is Sowth Huntsville after all and such behaviors are not pathological, genetic, or the result of incompetent parenting) of the rest of the people awaiting the opening.

As it was, all the rest were female and in great disquietude that the store had not opened earlier than its proclaimed hours of operation. I was particularly taken with a women how was fingering her car keys something in the manner of a nun her beads when she wasn’t combing her tresses with her fingers. Others were asking why this store had to open so late, which led me to reflect on lemmings and hubris.

Happily I have since managed to adjust my foodstuff plan so that I now only need visit this process controlling store once a month. I just have to wonder how much longer such a foolishly arrogant place can stay in business, especially with the clientèle it obviously has.

Out of Lane

I finally got a chance to review the visitation by the deputy chief executive of the Yankee government to Alibam last week. We seem to owe him a great debt; his visit has substantially raised the relative level of perceived intelligence of our native politicians.

On which note I observed this morning in the student newspaper of the campus of the Boneyard an article on the wikileaks thing. [Link] My first thought is that there will now be a pogrom in the military departments to find someone to punish for the event. Such, after all, is how organizations disperse blame, not by correcting the flaws but by flaying a scape goat, or ten. Sadly, the aftermath of this will be to reduce the efficiency of the organizations and thereby, not related to the information spill, get troopies hurt or killed. Such, after all, is how organizations behave and the military departments are paradigms of this phenomena.

It seems somehow fitting that I get to read this article since I was a graduate student at the campus when ‘The Pentagon Papers’ were leaked and my advisor basically packed up his professorial duties to go play indignant idealist in the faculty senate. Talk about hydrophobia of the mind! The only good aspect of this was that I got a lot of work done that semester while he was busy chasing his coccyx.

Now, it appears that the current administration – the one who sent its deputy chief executive to Alibam – is leaking bodily fluids from the ruptures of leaks, first the BP debacle, sanctioned by that same administration, in the gulf, and now this on-going debacle in the world’s highest glue trap. It is getting increasingly hard to say anything neutral, much less positive, about a situation where the senior commander is alienated to desperation and the failure of the policy wonks is demonstrated to be something amazing akin to abysmal acompetence. Said abysmality fitting with the environment; if you’re in a no-win inextricable situation no amount of anything right is likely to be sufficient.

I have, however, discovered a new diversion, trying to think of a previous administration that is worse than the current one. Obvious candidates include those of the peanut farmer, and the Arkansan, but the saving example seems to be emerging as the administration of Ulysses Simpson (nee Hiram Ulysses) Grant. Happily this does somewhat indicate that William Tecumseh Sherman was really the brains of the pair?

Simple does not mean fast

Usually Sundae is a rather slow day for articles in the RSS feeds, but this one [Link] snuck in. The subject is that middle and high shul students have difficulties with nerd words and their teachers are ill able to assist them.

What is surprising first of all is that this journalist article is based on a real – as in refereed – article in SCIENCE and I try to read (skim, at least) SCIENCE every week. But the abiding surprise is an absence of novelty. This, rather fundamentally, is not news. Back when I was a high shul student we had difficulties with the terms introduced in the textbook, and their usage, which was considerably different from the froo-froo of the literature we had to read in English (as in language, American version) class. The big difference, between then and now, is that we were fortunate enough to have science class teachers who actually had degrees in that science and not education degrees with (half) a major in a science of some sort, probably biology. And they were pretty forthright about two things:

  1. science writing is precise and not fuzzy like literature, hence hard in a different way so if you were sorta good at the froo-froo stuff you were rally going to have trouble reading science; and
  2. the definitions of words would not be obvious from previous experience, understanding would take time and further experience, guided by learning the definition, before the words made sense.

Happily I was not very good at reading froo-froo writing and I had a good memory. Besides I was an introvert and one thing introverts learn living in a world dominated by extroverts is patience.

We can contrast this with today when the science teacher with an actual degree in science is a rarity vanishing into extinction, so there is no one who can tell the students those two things (above.) And students these days are short on patience since they have grown up in an environment of video, television, computers, and generally, pretty close to instant gratification. And most of them aren’t very good at reading in general, much less froo-froo stuff, because of that environment. So it takes academics from that other shul on the Charles to announce to us what we already knew; it is thus now official and sanctified.

What makes this amusing, in a sort of macabre fashion, is that there is probably not a solution even though the educationalists will probably come up with a proposed one. Fundamentally, nothing will resolve this shortcoming except diligence and effort over a protracted period of time, both of which are antithetical to the modern society of instantaneousness.

Degrees of Connection

  • Your family is given to you, there is no choice;
  • Your in-laws are an overhead associated with a choice;
  • Your neighbors are given to you, no real estate agent represents them to you;
  • Your co-workers are an overhead associated with a choice;
  • Only your friends are an unfettered matter of choice, use the freedom wisely.

Post Dum

It’s also Sundae again and I have to do something to clean out the tabs in my primary browser. First, I note that astronomers at U Western Ontario have discovered that something out among the stars is producing ‘Bucky Balls’. [Link] Evidently this is being taken as evidence of a terminating Markov state rather than any indication of a galactic cosmetics industry.

Next, the PEW folks have done some surveys about the future. Evidently a significant fraction of the sample hold the opinions that by 2050, newspapers, paper mail of a personal nature, and portraits of dead Caucasian politicians will no longer be in use.[Link] OK, my general experience in dealing with predictions of the future has been that egregious inaccuracy predominates – hey! where’s my flying automobile? – so I really discount what anyone tells me is going to be the situation in 2050 except hot and unpleasant. But then ORFs are supposed to be cynical and negative. Also, while I have some middling trust in the Delphi technique I know that these future prediction surveys are almost entirely bogus because, simply put, bog don’t know and nerds don;t think the surveys are worth answering. So sewage in, sewage out.

The newspaper thing seems innocuous enough. After all, the newspapers have been eroding for years because of young folks not wanting to get their information via dead trees. The economy hasn’t helped. And there is some evidence that the whole mess is stirred smellier by organizational delusion. I found another article [Link] that thinks the whole tablet thing ala iPad will provide a new model for the news industry. OK, I will admit that the pre-Pulitzer news industry was based on providing businessmen information of relevance. But the idea that tablet computers and smart cellular telephones are going to provide a broad basis for the news industry? I am a bit unsure.

The newspaper folks tell me that when they go away all of my RSS feeds will dry up. So I sat down and counted and found out that the busiest ones, the ones I took the most articles from aren’t newspaper feeds. In fact, I have been steadily pruning the newspaper feeds as they erect paywalls and become less relevant. Now I will admit that I am not a modal individual. After all, I am SCP and that is almost unique.

But on reflection I am willing to admit that I might be willing to pay for information – I paid for a newspaper for years until the delivery service became random – but it will have to be what I want. IOW, I am not going to pay for a cable TV model of you-pay-we-give-you-what-we-want-to. Ignorance is preferable to being mind trashed with the stercus that comprises 0.95+ of the contents of newspapers.

And insofar as personal snail mail? Is there such today? I get maybe one or two letters a year from friends. Most of what I get is advertising stercus, and bills and the like. Almost all of my personal stuff comes via email and SCPdatter tells me in future that will be replaced by tweets and Facebook posts. Good thing I’m an introvert and don’t need that much socialization. But physical money? Somebody tell the vending industry its going away. And what do you do when you go to some store, not a chain mind you, that won’t take your check or credit card, only cash? Hopefully I will be discorporated before all of those places go away.

On which note the PEW folks tell us that these conditions won’t hold for the christianist fanatics who seem to hold opinion that the messiah will return before all this. [Link] Which could be OK if I get the choice of Oblivion. Somehow one of the most depressing things about these folks is that their visions of reward and punishment are both torment to nerds. I can handle going to gym at 0400 when everyone wants to be left alone to get their effort in, but not any of those frilly fuzzy wuzzy social classes that have more heat from conversation than perspiration. Can’t tell them easily from religious meetings except that there’s less thumping of tomes.

And on the subject of torment, it seems that the Toyota folks, who seem to have problems admitting their mistakes – like BP – now want folks to drive around with a glass of dihydrogen oxide on their dashes.[Link] Sorry guys. Even if I trusted you – which I don’t – I wouldn’t drive around with a glass of water on my dash. Not in Alibam, at least. I read recently that lots of counties aren’t able to resurface worn roads due to lack of tax revenue. Not that they used much of that for resurfacing before. Mostly they spent the money on perks for elected officials. But Alibam roads are  notorious for their bumpiness. So thirty seconds after you get out of your garage, maybe driveway if its paved, that glass of water is in your lap. Which I suspect was Toyota’s intent anyway.

Speaking of wetness, researchers in England and Sweden tell me that [Link] “Good News: Light and moderate physical activity reduces the risk of early death.” What prithee is ‘early death’? Suicide? Because how else can you determine in a meaningful, substantive fashion that death is early. I know that bogs talk about the deaths of wastrels as being premature, but that is emotionalist trash. Something of an argument can be made that failure to obtain medical treatment for an obvious and patently treatable ailment can result in ‘early death’, but even that strikes as specious if the failure is a matter of conscious decision. If this is the type of tripe that will be promulgated on tablet computers I will stick to my laptop.

This is followed immediately by a polemic that the economy will be revitalized, at least in England, by ‘real’ ale drinkers frequenting microbreweries and providing a burgeoning environment for small business. [Link] Something about this strikes me as rather medievalist. Now I admit that I prefer microbrewery beer; the beer produced by large breweries is unfit even to use as shampoo but apparently is suitable for inebriating bogs. But before I will agree that such is a valid theory I need something more than journalistic insubstance. In effect, as it stands, this is equivalent to saying that the economy of Greater Metropolitan Arab will be revitalized by a proliferation of tax-avoidance shops selling hand made craft kitsch.

And lastly, [Link] we have the question of whether we can add Dell to the list including BP and Toyota of prevaricative, self-serving corporations. The issue here is whether Dell will sell computers with Linux installed or not. A subset of this may be how much is Dell the slave of MegaHard, but we leave that for another rant blot. The only thing positive here is that this does seem to be one more datum for a general hypothesis that commercial organizations are detrimental to human survival.