Incredible Emergency Irrelevance

Ah! Monday again! No gym this morning – it was thunder-storming when I was supposed to get up and FD SCP forbade me to motor with the threat of tornadoes about. An occasional absence is not that detrimental and I really didn’t want to sit about long enough waiting for chaos to collapse along with twice or more many people than usual, so I acquiesced to her direction. Or at least that is the excuse I will give.

During the extra time I had to sit about I reflected upon the nature of the situation, in particular the local emergency management instrumentality. I was drawn to this by a combination of the local noise level and FD SCP’s behavior. The foremost evidence of the former are, visually, great concrete poles festooned in Christmas tree fashion with great ugly sirens and loud speakers. These embellished poles, part of the emergency management warning and communication system, are also the primary auditory source of the noise.

I should add that these embellished poles are an abomination of eye and ear, an ugliness that destroys the comforting naturalness of any vista they pollute. There can be no question that these have to be some Yankee industrial invention; no Southron has so whacked a personality to design one.  And when some emergency portends, the emergency management instumentality first fires off these sirens, which can penetrate even the skulls of the autistic deaf, and then mumble incomprehensibly over the loud speakers. They are the epitome of Bill Cosby’s monologue bus station announcements raised to at least the second, if not third, power.

This morning was no exception. I was awakened an hour before my norm by the sounds of sirens in the distance. If they had been in my immediate area they would have been 10 dB louder, at least, but as is they were shrill enough, wherever they were, to be heard above the noise of the rain and thunder, their persistence punching through the susurration of the storm. Shortly before I normally arose, FD SCP arose and activated the audio-visual electromagnetic receiver and began watching radar maps and listening to weather beavers. I shortly followed and she directed me to settle in as I was not about to risk my ORFness to the streets. All the while the sirens could be heard in the distance., punctuated by barbarian mumbles from the speakers.

This struck me as the norm and hence the root of that absence of trust in the local emergency management instrumentality. Simply put, they have no credibility. Their warning are not timely, nor accurate; their communication is as incoherent as they are incompetent. Now I will admit to the short comings of the technology, no loudspeaker will do what is claimed of these but I do fault their gullibility and stupidity in falling for the claims. This is merely added to the indictment.

The scale of the network is too great, encompassing too many unaffected with a small fraction at peril. The timing of the warnings is insensibly, inhumanely delayed, and bureaucratically delayed. Almost everyone ignores them except as a trigger to watch radar maps, listen to weather beavers, and make their own assessments. Clearly the instrumentality is almost irrelevant, hideously expensive, ineffective, and continued. In a word, it is political and thus irrepresentative of the citizenry, a paradigm of contemporary democracy, or its degeneration, in the Yankee republic.

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Sundae Vacuum Sorrow

It is Sundae again and I am informed this morning of the discorporation of Alex Anderson. [Link] Who prithee is Alex Anderson,you may ask. Did he sell insurance in Greater Metropolitan Arab or build some crucial part of some missile in Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill that kept democracy solvent? Rather a bit of both, it would seem.

Alex Anderson is one of, if not THE, brain/mind behind Rocket J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose aka Rocky and Bullwinkle aka Moose and Squirrel. Back when I was growing up there were two cartoons series that held first place in my attention span. One of these were coyote cartoons, those of Wiley Coyote who was perpetually chasing The Roadrunner in a perpetually frustrated fashion. The other was Moose and Squirrel.

Both of these cartoon series were multi-layered, having content that included the usually cartoon mayhem that delights the dinosaur part of children’s brain, but also deeper content of appeal as one aged and ossified mentally into adulthood. Of the two, Coyote cartoons, or as they were erroneously called by their manufacturers, Road Runner cartoons, were the more intellectual of the two. The basis of this was a studied, systematic negation of the laws of nature. Coyote cartoon are about physics and by the violation of various laws of physics serve as a learning ground of basic mechanical physics that transcends any other know source. If Renaissance Italy had had cartoons, Galileo would have stolen Newton’s thunder.

Several years ago I was called upon to teach a course of sophomore mechanics, the first part that is almost entirely Newtonian. This was at the time when the Vietnam war was wound down and the student body was again warped by the presence of veterans. The class I had had a few unshaven not-yet-enfranchised members but the bulk were veterans with all the attitude towards authority that the recent conflict implied.

My approach was to make use of Coyote cartoons. Yes the boards of equations and their derivations were still there, but the key concepts were illustrated by Coyote cartoons and the exam was an exercise in identifying ten things unphysical in a cartoon and explaining why.

The experiment, viewed dimly by the regular faculty, was a resounding success. The medium of Coyote cartoons bridged the age precipice in the class and brought the veterans down from their sullen pedestals. The only difficulty I experienced was one fellow who was married with children and whose wife refused to believe that a college course in physics would require him to watch cartoons on Saturday when he should be doing Ward Cleaver stuff.

Moose and Squirrel were not so much about science as about humans and society. If Coyote cartoons taught us about physics by demonstrating violations, Moose and Squirrel taught us about the adult world by demonstrating violations. To this day I attribute – blame – my lack of business sense to watching the parodies of society in Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. And if the intellectuality was greater in Coyote cartoons, the depth of attraction and relevance was greater in Rocky and Bullwinkle. Even today, as a drooling, doddering ORF, I take pleasure in watching Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. The only thing I regret is that there is no contemporary equivalent for the current age cohort to be taught by. Surely an indication of the irredentist impending collapse of civilization and the extinction of humans.

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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.