Porst Scriptum Today

While we’re on the trail of rather stupidish things, I noticed this [Link] in one of the eNewsletters I subscribe to. Seems that Apple has trespassed on Canonical’s intellectual property and litigation is possible. Canonical, for the bogs, is the founding father organization of Ubuntu, which is ostensibly open course. Apple, equally of course, is the opposite, the paradigm of informational autarky.

Hopefully Booth will be right, without the broken leg or the shot in the head. Sic Semper Tyrannis (I can’t find the Latin for Autark in my Cassell)

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Rampant Foolishness

Saturday, and quite a few good articles have crept into tabs. First, courtesy of the PEW folks, [Link] texting, under any circumstances, apparently, not just while driving, is up from 0.65 to 0.72 of sample population in one year. The question is did the bairns get something right and teach it to the adults, or just corrupt them? For there the stats show lots of difference. Seems that a median adult gets ten messages per day to the median child’s fifty. Not sure we can blame this on working or driving motorcars? Could it be that adults have said all the cutesy things already and only message useful stuff like stop and buy lactose on the way home? Or are they just too exhausted by the pace of modern life? I hold out for the Kingston Trio’s lyric “And I don’t like anyone very much”, but I am, after all, an introvert and a nerd.

Next, and this one is particularly juicy, coming, again, for the PEW folks, is a study [Link] that indicates that not including cellular telephones in telephone surveys undersamples partisan republicans by about 0.03, which is often the magnitude of the confidence of difference on a lot of these political polls. Strange as it is to believe this seems to be a case where the Amerikan fascists are less technologically inclined than either the socialists or the mugwumps. Go figure! Maybe they do have some merits after all. Plus we get another semi-rational excuse to reject any poll whose findings conflict with our beliefs. Of, we’re going to reject it anyway, that’s part of human irrationality, but now we have a way to pretend to be ration while we’re being irrational.

Next, what is the current value of betraying your convictions? Apparently thirty pieces of silver have the present (wholesale) value of a 2011 Hyundai Accent. [Link] Seems that walloper of book down in the Floridas who was proselyting the incineration of another flavor of book and backed off did so on the promise of a new motorcar. This information is certainly a boost in the confidence we may place in the ministers of organized religion.

And lastly, some insight into the way folks use iPads and perhaps by that, tablet computers in general.[Link] The English Electromagnetic Transmission Monopoly informs us that 0.32 of all iPad users have never purchased anything from the app(lication) store. This is rather astounding because it implies something that we have hypothesized for quite some time, that a sizible fraction of people who have use for tablet computers do not need any connectivity other than wireless networking (wifi, 802.11*). This, of course, is another indication to AT&T, and to a lesser extent other cellular telephonage providers that Apple has indeed used them roughly in a gratuitous reproductive fashion.

There are also some other intriguing statistics. For example, of those who did purchase from the app store, the majority bought either games or eBooks. This indicates that the devices may not be suitable for actual productive activity, and that the primary use of tablets may be as entertainment for metropolitan commuters who have elaborate public transportation networks to rely upon. Once more the potential irrelevance of information fashion to the hinterland arises as a distinct possibility. If using a cellular telephone is eminent risk while driving a motorcar, how much more if a risk is using a tablet?

And while the statistics indicate that

“iPad owners tend to be younger, with 63% of them under 35 years old, and nearly two-thirds male, (while) owners of Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader are 52% male and 47% under 35.”

I want a tablet but I am going to wait for a nice Linux (but not Android, I think) distribution tablet with just wifi. I have no desire to give any CTP a monthly donative to download eProperty that I don’t own.

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Learning?

I sometimes get asked by colleagues why I didn’t go the academic route. Part of the reason was the sour taste that one of my graduate advisors left me with his obsession with campus politics and total ignorance of his teaching responsibilities. The other is here. [Link] Remember this when you send your children off to college. In particular, don;t let them study non-nerd stuff or attend an on-line shul.

Cell Phone Justice

One of my colleagues, Current Density Magnetic Induction, sent me the link to this.[Link]

And I have to admit that it is a much more socially responsible reward for the crime that I would apportion. My thought is that when someone answers cellular telephone while we are having discussion or breaking bread, I should either stiff them with the check by a prompt departure or insert the telephone as a suppository, possibly lubricated with a dollop of super glue.

Social Graces

Freitag! At least, frei is how I have come to think of Fridays since it is the first day of the week – commencing in my scheme on Mondays – that I do not have to rise and trundle off to gym. It is usually the day I sleep the latest since the stress of knowing I have to wake up to go to gym results in a bit of sleep deprivation. Perhaps a hold over of certain predators hunting at dawn? That would certainly tend to explain why the early riser mutation exists.

For some reason this morning as I was half slumbering I came to consider my shul days. I suspect this is triggered by this being Adopt-A-Physicist season and I was somewhat engaged yesterday with two separate bunches of high shul students. My thoughts this morning however, were not on high shul, which in retrospect was rather an educational wasteland, but on my entrance into graduate shul at the campus of the Boneyard.

In those days they had a faculty-graduate student drinking party – called a ‘mixer’, I believe – for the graduate students. I was officially attached to the shul of chemistry although I would spend most of my classroom time in the department of physics so I had to attend the chemistry shul binge. Not that there was much staggering and regurgitation going on, the new graduate students were nervous being this socially close to faculty – for most of us it would be the closest we ever got to any except perhaps our research advisors – and the faculty, I realized later, were leery of appearing too relaxed and sociable. So both sides were intent on maintaining social proprieties; I sometimes think that punch and cookies would have been cheaper and served as well?

One of the things we were under the gun to do rather quickly was to select, and be confirmed by, a research advisor. No nonsense in those days of taking courses for a couple of years and then after degree exams start in on research; on was supposed to start in on research right away. The factory aspect of this was oblivious to me at the time. But since we had been warned of this, I had done some homework and tentatively identified three facuty who did research in one of my secondary areas of interest; no one did research in the primary area except an untenured fellow who was dismissed that year.

One of these was in the physics department, and I had already scoped him out with rather negative results, mostly because of my Southron prejudice. He was one of those wiry, nervous types who I had observed in youth carried a straight razor as a pocket knife and was a fervent member of the Klan. This fellow subsequently proved this not to be the case, Midwestern Yankee perversions are different from Southron ones it seems.

The second one was the poobah of the chemistry shul and so I stayed close to him, observing his behavior as a potential research advisor. He noticed my attention and inquired what I was studying. When I told him he thought for a minute and then asked

"Do you know the difference between a chemical physicist and a physical chemist?"

I answered in the negative.

"If you are attending a bout such as this one and a rain comes up, the physical chemist will lead the chemical physicist indoors before he drowns from standing gape-mouthed at the marvel of the rain."

At the time this seemed horribly parochial and prejudiced so I ended up transferring my allegiance to the third candidate, which turned out to be rather educational in the root canal fashion. In later years I rather appreciated the conceit, that some people need to be practical and some not and both have obligations to the other.

But why I thought of this today? That is less clear. Waiting is.

Can Evil be Natural?

Hammer day again and mercifully the week’s episodes of gym are over. Happily the gym was almost bereft of educationalists and weight bounces today and I was able to actually hear the podcast episodes playing on my MP3 player and my thoughts about them. Let’s see now, when overcrowded do mice quit eating first or start attacking each other?

The podcasts were acceptable, but that was about all. In lieu of listening to the latest and greatest from Melvyn, Lord Bragg, I opted instead for the latest episode of the Ubuntu podcast which is basically gossip mongering and English hale-fellow-well-met stuff. No new ideas but I was satisfied to learn of the warts and sleekness of Ubuntu 10.10, which I installed clean on my new deskbox (well, it was new several months ago) but have not yet ramped into full use largely because of latency. Some of these browser articles just keep hanging around waiting for a good reading. And then, of course, I polished off last week’s edition of Search Engine where the protagonist/reader based the cinema about Facebook. Happily I had not seen the movie and now have plans not to. But I did get some insight into why daring-do video – movies and television both – are so popular these days. If you spend you days chained to a monitor and keyboard – the new NEW slavery – then hormone secretion by proxy is a balancer.

On which notes, I went yesterday to Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill for to purchase foodstuffs – I needed more than the beer and pork rinds offered here in Greater Metropolitan Arab by marketplace autarch MalWart – and exchange information with colleagues. One of my colleagues brought in one of his colleagues to one of these gathering – this chain is already so convoluted I am not going to attribute any of this – who is a biopsychologist. I had heard of such but this was the first such I had actually met.

Anyway, mush low signal to noise later, a thesis advanced by this colleague^2 was that racism is really genetic. That is, the discriminants that characterize what we call racism – if we can talk about it as other than fundamentally irreconcilable evil ala social engineering and modern journalism – even when they are social, are genetic. The surface features of humans lie at the bedrock of racism, such as skin color or eyelid shape or nose shape or lips shape or hair shape, and from these we leap to associate social characteristics such as lack of independence, or integrity, or laziness, and these surface features are almost entirely genetic. That is, all of these things are coded in our genetic program.

In addition, this fellow also advances that the competition that is racism, the discrimination, is genetic in that it is a form of competition – pure Darwinism as rewritten repeatedly up to the present day, if we may borrow an idiom from human memory. Darwin might not recognize what we call Darwinism these days but supposedly he would recognize what we call racism as a form of competition for survival.

The thesis of all this, in my misunderstood interpretation, is that racism isn’t really evil since it is basic to human nature. And knowing that allows us to transcend it.

I have to admit that I find the hypothesis attractive since it puts things on a firmer footing but I have a lot of cogitation to do before I grok in fullness. It is occasions like this when I have problem understanding why FD SCP considers foodstuff acquisition banal. If adequately mixed with nerd discussionry, it is not unpalatable.

Full of Sound and Fury

Gad! The gym was overwhelmed with educationalists and weight bouncers this morning, all engaged in some sort of contest to see who could talk the loudest. Was anyone listening? Or does everyone of these two taxonomics suffer from hearing loss? The podcasts were again science episodes – I have not yet made the transition back to CBC’s “Quirks and Quarks”, perhaps the addiction waned during the interminable holiday of the reader, perhaps a bit of sour grapes or some other negative behavior.  It may rather be more a matter of me having about four point something hours of gym time a week and my subscriptions run easily 0.5 over that. Anyway, not much to brag about in these episodes other than some seemingly misplaced effort to regenerate HMS Beagle; must be a British thing and happy I didn’t hear about it the other day when observing the anniversary of the English being ejected.

But the educationalist and weight bouncer noise pollution, which made it rather hard for me to hear the softer parts of the episodes, did put me in mind of a blot I got pointed to by Chad Orzel, “Uncertain Principles”. This blot, [Link] written by a journalism academic – which raises th question of whether multiplicative or additive rules apply since in the former instance two negatives, journalist and academic, cancel out, but in the latter they add and the magnitude of negativity is increased. The subject of the blot incidentally has to do with scientists talking to journalists and has the defining statement

“‘real’ scientists share(d) their work only with each other and did not attempt to become ‘popularizers’ because that would lead to ‘dumbing down’ the research.”

I am unsure of whether this is an academic attitude or, as posited, one that has historical validity. In my experience, unless they are close and trusting, scientists don’t like to share their work with each other, except via journal publications and seminars lest their work get appropriated.

There are two currents here, one the sharing and the other popularization. I draw this distinction because discussing one’s work with a journalist is somewhat different from trying to communicate it directly, even via writing, to bogs or even geeks. In my experience trying to explain one’s nerdery to journalists is always going to result in negative consequences. One is supposed to communicate with journalists about one’s work so that the journalist may act as agent in communicating with the ignorant but perhaps inquisitive. The real reason that one does this, in practice, is either stupidity, a condition that is usually corrected after the first interaction with a journalist, or because the organization one works in directs one to talk to a journalist for the benefit of the organization. There are however, a few nincompoops who go out of their way to solicit journalists because they want publicity. Whether these people are actually nerds and scientists is a matter of some debate.

The plight here is deep and broad. If one is directed by one’s organization the best one can do is damage control since when the journalists article fails, they are not blamed, you are. And the article will fail. In some cases it is the journalist who does not listen although this is rare. It usually happens when the society reporter fills in for the science reporter. More common is that the journalist gets several points completely inaccurately and leaves out crucial pieces for the benefit of human interest or humor or something journalistic. And then, in all likelihood the article will not be read, and if it is read it cannot be understood because it is flawed by the basic practices of journalism. But most often, not read because the bogs just aren’t interested. Any society that is addicted to ‘reality’ television cannot comprehend actual reality.

The situation is similar when one tries to ‘popularize’ one’s own work. In many cases the organization gives you no credit for even trying this so it is often self-abuse from the get go. Then you have to find someone to publish the thing and this requires an inordinate amount of effort over result. And then, in all likelihood, the popularization is read by no one but critics, who are also journalists.

So simply put, the reason I don’t talk to journalists about my work is because it will do no good.

One of the differences between nerds/scientists and bogs is that the former repeat actions to affirm that they are repeatable and then walk away, the latter repeat actions because they cannot ‘believe’ they are repeatable and keep expecting some difference in outcome. I have statistically significant experience that talking to journalists does not achieve desired effect and hence I walk away.

Real Independence Day

Courtesy of the Britannica folks, [Link] I am reminded that today is the anniversary of ‘Kick the Sorry Sods Out’ day. On this date in 1781, the Army of the United States ended the siege of Yorktown and effectively ended English tyrannical occupation of the colonies.

In effect this makes today our real independence day. We may observe the day the founding parents told the public, at least in Philadelphia, of the declaration, but the day that really counts is when the matter is confirmed. So do something to celebrate today. Something uniquely American and anti-tyranny. And be thankful for what little liberty we have left.

Fat Tuesday, with Cursive

Well, I am back to fighting with MP3 players! Sometimes I really wish there were laws that forced manufacturers to really explain in manuals how their products work. Anyway, I got to spend the first half of my period at gym this morning listening to a podcast I not only listened to last week but I though I had erased. Sometimes I think this is why people get to where they want to die, just so they can get away from incomprehensible, threatening, frustrating change.

Well, enough about the current administration, I read [Link] about a study at U Basel that indicates the longer a couple stay together the less they know about their preferences and desires. In a way this seems to be nothing more than an academic confirmation of folk wisdumb. After all, we we first become enamored of someone we try to grok them in fullness but as the relationship begins to gel so does of knowledge of each other. So years later, both have changed but the knowledge set has not kept up. Or at least that was the thesis of a monologue by a comedian on Blue Collar Comedy the other day. Hey, the folk channel has gotten so bad, not folk that is, that I need something halfway entertaining and what passes for big city comedy isn’t funny. At least I get some of the punch lines this way.

Meanwhile, I also read [Link] that being exposed to too much light at night leads to obesity. Or at least so say the academics at Ohio State U. Evidently the problem only arises if they then go on and eat something.  Let’s see now, you stay up late reading, or, highly more probable, watching the acousto-optical electromagnetic receiver and a commercial comes on – no need to qualify that the commercial is really bad and boring, that would be redundant – so you go to kitchen and get food. And you eat it, and then go to bed and the food turns to fat. Duhh!  Of course we do have to wonder if they ran an experiment where they trained humans to find food in the dark and see if they got fat too?

Next, and perhaps most distressing, an article [Link] in Wall Street Journal gives us another account of how we have raised a generation of putzes. Yes, I know this is amazing, after all we hardly expect a rag as arrogant and self-serving as the WSJ to do anything positive, unless it’s increasing cash flow to their coffers. What can you expect from a periodical that refers to every person as “Mr.” regardless of gender or degree or rank. Normally reading WSJ is like driving down a railroad track with all four tires flat on your automobile; you really have to set your jaw firmly to keep from breaking your own teeth on the jolts and jerks. So when I read this article I had to go back and double check to make sure it wasn’t reprinted from a newspaper with some actual emotion and sensibility. Having said that I also have to admit to fearing for the future of the journalist who wrote the piece; surely management will discharge her in the immediate future for ‘not being one of us’.

Oh!, yes, back to a generation of putzes. The article examines the intellectual and mental burden of not learning how to write. And yes, I know this is a tired subject here given SCP’s track record on children who can neither cursive nor make change nor even syntax. But this article points out that by not learning to write with pen on paper, children are deficient in cognitive and analytical faculties. And given the absence of such in bogs of my own generation who did learn how to write, this is particularly frightening. But on the other hand, if my age peers – the bogs at least – lack these capacities then maybe the current age cohort lacking them as well is not just due to a lack of writing skills?

But at least now I can explain to their parents that the reason their children are worthless fools is because the parents didn’t teach them how to write, and of course, the parents can shift the blame to the educationalists. Now, what ink shall I refill my everyday fountain pen with?