I recently added a Smithsonian (the public periodical of the Institution) RSS feed to my accumulator. Yesterday I caught sight of an article on whether gadgets were coming to market too fast. [Link] The article is a bit of a pot pourri which is somewhat unusual for this periodical. Their articles lack both technical depth and detail, in general, but they are not frivolous. This one was rather a bit shabby, like the lint on a dust mop.

The good news is that there is competition in the marketplace. Apple has not yet destroyed everyone else in the corporate world. But the bad news is that there is competition in the marketplace. And as a result there are lots of products coming to (and going out of) the marketplace and too many of these gadgets are either trivially derivative, but have the advantage that they work, or are still in a transition state that we used to call shop queens when I was working for the Yankee army. Lately, when I buy a new gadget over the internet, it takes me longer to get it minimally functional than it did to ship to me. And I tend to select the cheapest, and thereby usually slowest, mode of shipping.

I have commented earlier that there is a large body of data, so much that it counts as common knowledge, at lest among geeks and nerds, and hence needs no citation, that the older we get the less likely we are to adopt new things. I have learned that this is not due to any decrease in adaptability but rather that adaptability seems to be a conserved quantity and as we age the medicalists consume an increasing fraction of our adaptability. So we have less available to accommodate toys.

This goes beyond that reassignment, however. Too many of these gadgets are not properly documented. Even the on-line pdf of the unincluded manual is inaccurate and too often inadequate. But beyond that, too many do not function as either described or advertised. So one has to set off on a voyage of discovery that is frustrating and often seems to end in gadgets being reboxed and hidden away since one gets past the warranty period before one gives up on getting them to do what was claimed of them.

The other thing that concerned me was how were people paying for all these gadgets? I know a few people, almost all SMUGs, who always have to have the latest that grabs their attention. These folks have a new phone every quarter or so and never seem to use anything for more than the minimal function. And they are forever losing phone numbers because of SIM death.

But it occurred to me that this is almost a religionist strategy. No gadget will be on the market long so there is really no point in using it for very long because once it malfunctions it cannot be repaired. Spare parts are as common as dinosaurs. So one buys a gadget, trusting in the propaganda promises and once one’s patience with its infidelity is exhausted, once more express unquestioning faith in the dogma of technology and replace it with a newer gadget that also will not work.

Another aspect of conspicuous consumption.

Market Service

That almost ideal of days, a rainy winter sundae, seems to be upon us. We shall see. And in the province of shall see, it is time to peer into old tabs and eradicate them either immediately or after snide commentary.

On which note, this article [Link] indicates that Apple continues to lose market share in the tablet azimuth. The article claims “Apple’s market share in the tablet arena dropped from 64 percent in Q3 to 57 percent in Q4, with Amazon nabbing a 14 percent share.” Since we don’t know Amazing previous take, the comparison is incomplete which implies that the survey firm is being less than objective and altruistic. And I am sitting here amazed that I actually used the words “firm”, “objective”, and “altruistic” in connection. Must be due to the soothing effect of the precipitation?

I feel rather conflicted on this. After all, it is a matter of which master the possessors – given the nonsense of modern licensing it is less than clear that one can own a tablet, especially an Apple one – serve? As is so often the case with modern society and corporations, terminology is inverted. Vendors used to offer service; now they claim that to assure they are serviced with cash flow. Modern licensing and contracts are one form of the current slavery. And that neither political party in the Yankee republic will even acknowledge it is an indication they are as much slaves of corporations as the citizenry. 

Next, via NASA through the Scientific American, [Link] indications that we may not be able to blame soccer moms (and their mommy vans) for global climate change. It seems that the cause may track back to the end of the last cold phase when we humans began to seriously experiment with sedentarism. And, of course, agriculture, which was necessary when we killed off all the animals for a day or so walk around. 

I cannot help but be reminded of that quote of the first Lord Wellington, “if there is something of which I know nothing, it is agriculture.” Not necessarily believable given the period and his profession, but it seems that we are again presented with some new information about an old subject. And we shall get to observe how wildly the politicians deny that farming is part of the reason the species may be doomed.

On a more enjoyable branch, the same disreputable rag offers us a guest blog [Link] speculating on the role of beer in that sedentary process. Sitting still started so we could have more possessions, stuff, Burns’ ‘gear’, and that leads us down a path where beer could occur accidentally and then drive us to the cultivation of wheat. Not completely digestible but definitely palatable. The story, that is.

Regretfully, it is still a bit early for me to do beer. Never has been one of my morning libations.

And lastly, a lovely article [Link] on why the Gnome folks have wondered off into some sort of la-la land and have ceased to pay attention to what users want? Is this some sort of corporate greed or merely artistic fascism? It is often hard to tell, especially in our modern world. The good news is that it is recognized and numerous contraries efforts are under way. But it seems strange that we can unify over how out GU Is work and not over our own freedoms?

The Magnificance that is Grundy

Sometimes time seems to burn the mind, as if the mind can actually perceive the ratcheting of time. Quantum Mechanics seems to tell us that time, like space and momentum and energy, is discrete. We usually think of those chunks as being Planck units (go look it up on Wikipedia,) but these are expectation values at best. Or at least so my inaccurate view of QM has to be.

Along that line I was rather engaged by an article [Link] about the blob that ate Grundy. As related by the journalist, and hence to be taken with a large vial of NaCl tablets close at hand, Grundy was a small town in the Old Dominion. A coal town. Dirty and dingy and poor as only the towns of miners can be. Mine owners live elsewhere where they cannot see the dirt and dinge and poverty and rot.

Then the Yankee government intervened and the law of unintended consequences took over. The YG spread around a lot of money to fix the flooding and the sickness that goes with, and to rebuild the infrastructure. But most of the private businesses just took the cash and ran, and the town collapsed.

In physics there are some systems that are Markovian and have only one state they can transition into, the not-there state. A balloon is such a thing. Look at it too hard and it ceases to be a balloon, becoming just a wet ruptured pseudo-condom.

All that is left of Grundy is a MalWart. I shan’t belabor the cmparison of MalWart to a condom or a ruptured balloon. I will note that its track record is to destroy three jobs for every two it creates. Mathematically this is wonderful. It is a convergent geometric progression. It converges to zero.

I cannot help recalling a science fiction short story I read once about a future archaeological dig at a motel. As is common with archaeologists a great deal of effort was spent explaining why this large edifice had to be for  religious purposes. But what really stuck in mind, captured in one of those Planck phase volumes no doubt, was the significance of the pointing of the toilet paper. That, and a frank admission that the purpose of the roll of paper was unknown and would likely remain so.

I find it helps to adopt that outlook when I think about MalWart.

Rut Maintenance

Ah! Freya’s  day. And after a hectic week it actually feels halfway soothing for a change. But I still have the nagging agony of tab disposaphobia. Take for example a report from the “Economic and Social Research Council” [Link] that Occidentals and Orientals see their environments differently. Evidently Occidentals tend to look at key features, the eye region of faces, e.g., while Orientals tend to take a more holistic view, the whole face, e.g., so that both are uncomfortable mentally around the other. And this behavior is cemented by entry into puberty.

Sadly, this pronouncement, which tends to explain a great deal about the oft noted differences between East and West, is not supported well on the causitive level. Is this purely environmental or does it have a genetic component? Why is it? And are these questions beyond the grasp of ‘social scientists’?

I cannot help but think that I had an Oriental as an adviser in graduate shule. This probably explains why he abided me.

Next, an article from the Economist [Link] about research at U Texas on how exercise is cannibalistic. Vision of the “worm who ate his own tail” emerge. The technical term is autophagy, which

“name is derived from the Greek for “self-eating”, is a mechanism by which surplus, worn-out or malformed proteins and other cellular components are broken up for scrap and recycled.”

Obviously the process is controlled in some fashion otherwise it would have run itself into complete destruction on myself and quite a few other people I see at gym. In which instance the image that may be more appropriate is the folks in a lifeboat after a sinking. Breadfruit anyone?

This seems to be a common theme in biology of organisms needing to prune themselves of badness and this capability deteriorating in old age and eventually resulting in discorporation.

I have to wonder if the same is true of social organisms as well? And is it time for us to prune the political parties?

And lastly, just when you think that the SOPAites are going to reduce the internet to a mindless pile of capitalist stercus, I read that the wonk shule on the Charles is going to offer free versions of their courses on the internet and certify the studious! In a sense this is not surprising because the cost is minimal and certainly provides them a leg up on becoming the internet college overlord but it also offers something else. The blatant, neon signage, arc illuminated searchlights across a cloudy sky, impact is an assault on the costs of second class education. This threatens everything from the internet diploma mills through land grant state colleges. If you’re too poor and/or dull to get into one of the ‘GOOD’ shules then why settle for second best? Admittedly, one will then miss out on all the official partying, tail-gating I believe it is now called, associated with not watching a meaningless collegiate athletic game, but one can always substitute a home brewed version and avoid the wasteful expenditures of tuition, books, and subsistence.

That is the second thing. The second, perhaps even third rank, of Amerikan colleges have degenerated into training factories run for the flow of Yankee currency rather than actual education since the Great Patriotic War. The internet colleges are blatantly about collegiate mercantilism. And now this is threatened at its rotten foundation. By offering second class access to its actual educational efforts, MIT is offering a choice between a second class, unvalidated education and a second class training program whose validation is increasingly irrelevant while socially intransigent.

Who knows, this may actually be where the next Einstein comes from. Tightly managed colleges have never been good at developing genius and colleges today are so tight they can get sweat out of a dime.

Never forget: education is about diversity of knowledge and integration; training is about depth and differentiation.

Heart Movie

Yesterday was my pilgrimage to Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill for an examination by cardiologist. At this stage in my existence the mean time between encounters with cardiologist is approximately one year. It has been as short as one week in times past. But what I was impressed with was the experience itself.

The examination was conducted in a facility dedicated to such and despite the tacky failure of efforts to humanize the environment I was struck by a comparison with Fritz Lang’s movie “Metropolis”

First there is a large sitting area next an administrative station. One arrives and registers, then sits, carefully seperated from anyone else even though none of the diseases are contagious but because conversation is alien to this place. Then one of the clerks is supposed to call one’s name so one may advance to the station and assume a servile stance. There innumerable forms absolving the organization of any action it may take including ripping your heart out as part of some Mayan ritual and paying them for the privilege. The sums are small, the increment of personal involvement beyond what the insurance company will pay. Hopefully. No one who is here lacks insurance. The atmosphere is such that no one asks about that subject.

After signing away everything except your thoughts, which are rather dim and cloudy at this point, one resumes sitting until your name is again announced, this time by a technician. They escort you through a rat’s maze to a cell only slightly less grim than those beneath the Vatican for the education of auslanders, heretics, – and physicists? The time of appointment is largely immaterial. There the technician reviews medical history while maintaining strict eye contact with the computer monitor. A brief electrocardiogram follows and then the technician beats a thankful retreat. The atmosphere of waiting is consistent with the atmosphere of a dungeon except the scurrying of rats is replaced by the often coherent mutterings of examinations in other cells. 

Yesterday I was ushered into my cell thirty minutes prior to my appointment time and the cardiologist did not arrive until thirty minutes after the appointed time. The technician was present less than five minutes of that period. Thereafter I was left to amuse myself with listening to the examinations going on around me. I was struck by the uniformity of the examinations, the cardiologists tone, and the false camaraderie and good cheer. Here the association with “Metropolis” was at its strongest.

Finally the presence swept in with an entourage of a data entry technician who clicked at the keyboard industriously and a student of the art who tried hard to not look bored. The progression was almost identical to the several I had overheard through the acoustically nonexistent walls. Scant moments were spent, I was told everything looked good but I needed to indulge in the unloved stress test (infinitely preferable to a colonoscopy) that involves a bit of running on a treadmill followed by hours of sitting and eating artery clogging fatty snacks so one may lie motionless on a board for thirty minutes while your body is illuminated by X-rays. And then one returns the next day for another illumination sans the rest of the drill.

After being escorted back out the maze – the escort being more to assure I didn’t wander off into forbidden territory than any real need of direction – I got to resit and resign more paperwork that had been forgotten earlier. At this moment I was struck with remembrance of the clock wrestling scene.

Once dismissed, until such time as I schedule and return for the stress test, I wended my way, unescorted but not unobserved, out the facility to my motorcar, exhausted from doing little but sitting and signing my name, so I drove straightforward home to nap. And muse on how much better life was when the dire wolves ate us. Maybe?

Fugitive Slave Taking

I have to admit that I find the whole grrr brrr with chemical contraception a bit confusing.[Link][Link] So far as I know, the use of chemical, or physical, contraception, like abortion, is a matter of human choice and not organizational dictate. That has not always been the situation but we are not yet mired in such a level of overpopulation that contraception and abortion may be necessary for the survival of species and civilization.

Having acknowledged that the freedom does, at least in principle, still exist, at least in those states that do not categorically forbid abortion as a crime, a matter that raises the question of how do we punish governments when they commit crimes against their citizenry, the question of deciding to use contraception or abortion is ultimately one of the individual woman. She may permit others to participate in the decision but ultimately the decision must be hers.

From this it descends immediately that anyone or anything that abridges or collapses that decision authority and responsibility is criminal, at the least using coercion or brainwashing and at the worst outright slavery. I should comment that this nation-state engaged in its lossiest war over just this matter of human slavery and the outcome was its full and complete abolition.

Apparently no one has bothered to tell the religionists or even the Yankee government of this in a substantive, meaningful manner. The former may indeed state that their doctrine and/or dogma is contrary to contraception and/or abortion. That is acceptable. But they may not use coercion or enslave their members. Similarly, the Yankee government has a responsibility to prevent and punish such coercion and slavery.

If the Yankee government sees fit to mandate that all subordinate organizations have to provide some support for their members, then this support must be provided. I commented previously that I consider the whole religionist hullabaloo to be an expression of deepest insecurity. That they provide the support does not mean that their loyal members will avail themselves of it. In effect, the protest from the religionist organizations is nothing more than a scream that their slavery ox has been gored. Or at least muzzled.

But the Yankee government, insofar as I can see, have caved to this barbarism. Instead of bringing its laws against coercion and slavery into play they have instead mandated that all insurance plans include contraception and that all organizations offer them. This is a shell game that embarrasses the citizenry and leaves tyranny afoot.

Which is why I am confused.

Monday Microbursts

First thing, let us wish a happy birthday anniversary to Galileo Galelei. In observation thereof, climb up on the roof of a building and drop a heavy things and a light thing (of approximately the same size) simultaneously. And be thankful that you can worry about your own interpretation of religionist doctrine, unless you are an adherent of the church of Rome. Being unthankful for that is at your discretion.

Speaking of size, what is it? The dictionary sez:

” 3. Extent of superficies or volume; bulk; bigness; magnitude;  as, the size of a tree or of a mast; the size of a ship or of a rock. [1913 Webster]“

which notably is the third definition and itself rather distant from the first two. My point in asking this is that someone may say something is the size of a base/basket/soft/golf ball and we are unsure of whether the ‘size’ is a volume or an outline area. The nature of this uncertainty arises if we consider the statement that something is the size of a quarter. By this they always mean a circular area and not a cross section.

Is this an inherently human thing or an Amerikan perversion? We have this irrationality of measuring kitchen solids by volume rather than mass (weight.) So I can see how this degeneracy about size could be a national thing, an uglyism, if you will. But it might also be human since we are programmed by Nature to estimate size in terms of solid angle that we try to normalize. Indeed, we even use this to make estimate of distance if the image is of something we know the dimensions of. On which note, why is it that tall, skinny things have a smaller size than do short, wide things? Even when they have the same area? Is this a recent thing that has crept in with the proliferation of motorcars or is it genetic?

And when did hero become a positive, the opposite of villain? In the Greek literature, hero is not necessarily always good, just righteous in some sense.

For that matter, is blogging an outreach? Inherently? Yes, it is a public exhibition which implies at least a willingness to be seen by the public, but what happens if no one reads? In this day when it is socially correct for nerds to explain nerdery to the bogs, are we only deluding ourselves that if we blog of our nerdery that the bogs will read? Rather, why should they? Bogs by their nature are largely uninterested in nerdery and consider it unclean but not pornographic. At best it would seem that we might attract a few geeks. And what about the self-determination aspect of blogging? Is it not embarrassing?

And lastly, a few comments about the SMUGs in Muntgum. [Link] They keep chaning the motto on the motorcar license plates. And they seemingly do so without asking anyone about except possibly cronies and obese felines. I grew up with “Heart of Dixie” and enjoyed its obvious nonsensical nature. I accepted “Stars Feel on Alabama” because it was a nice tune. But the new mottoes they keep coming up with and changing are lacking in appeal. So can I just paint over them? It’s not like I was hiding the numbers, just the sentiment that is absent of such. To say nothing of the politicians who are evidently unaccountable to anyone except their money masters.

Oh well, at least we can complain. That’s more than Galileo could. Without getting whacked by the religionists.

Cold Morning

Once more into that period of the week when we have to trim tabs. Hopefully this will produce a bit of heat since the weather beavers are in full frost giant, at least for Nawth Alibam standards, mode.

It seems somewhat straightforward to start with an article [Link] about some work at U Exeter and Oxford that indicates that when plants arose 470 MYA they so disrupted the carbon cycle then in place so as to cause a series of cold phases. In boggish terms, ‘ice ages’. By removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the plants decreased its entropy and hence heat capacity.

On which note, we see that NASA has published a study [Link] that indicates that the current climate change that is being industriously denied and ignored in Amerika is definitely caused by there being too many humans and not because of too much solar activity. And this morning is caused by the increased variance in temperature conditions caused by the increased heat? Or something more complicated? Anyway, despite today this has been way too mild a winter so we can look forward to way too nasty ho a summer.

And while we’re on this topic of corporations deluding citizens to maximize their short term profits, there is an excellent article [Link] on this money grubbing in the nerd publication arena. Simply put, too many journals are owned by commercial publishers and are charging exorbitant prices for access, even trying to reverse the Yankee government’s rare bit of rationality in demanding that government funded research be freely available to the citizenry.

This is a summation of the publishing industry in general: sick and greedy. The combination seems likely to result in a nasty demise that will harm all of us.

Observational Taxonomy Addition

As I was exiting Greater Metropolitan Arab’s premiere confectionery establishment this morning I had occasion to realize a new taxonomic catagory:

SMUG = Stupid, Massively Ugly Geeklessness

being a person who is one of the most extreme forms of bog, namely the kind that not only do themselves damage regularly by their absence of geekness and intelligence, but also place those around them in danger by their behavior.

As a starting diagnostic characteristic – these people invariably park in fire lanes and are never firemen.

Apostatic Annoyances

Through the boundary layer and fully into week out with all sorts of misery lain upon us by the weather beavers. All right, I know they aren’t responsible for the weather but in the age old tradition of punishing the messenger, and because they have such nasty shiny teeth that detract from the real information, why not blame it on them? They are after all, almost as numerous as lawyers, and in many ways just as despicable?

Actually, my chiefest dislike is how they stand in  front of the ‘green screen’ just in front of where they are going to project the geographic/informational region I am interested in.

Anyway, we have some Alibam winter this weekend into next week that entails me doing the pipe dripping routine as a preventative.

While we’re on unpleasantness, I note a study [Link] at U California that indicates that electrical stimulation can improve memory. Yep, as in electroshock therapy that they give folks with mental ‘problems’. That seems to be a bit of a controversy given that in times past it was a rather popular ‘therapy’ that seems to have have more success brainwashing patients into catonia and vegetativeness than in curing.

Back when I was an undergraduate, one of our nastier practices was to take our first two fingers, lick the tips, and stick them in an electrical outlet until we got a jolt. Not a horribly bad jolt but the tips of fingers could get quite burnt and the student health center was inured to treating them. Supposedly the practice was good for a half letter grade on the exam, in the mean.  I also recall being asked to assemble a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer for a student lab – a baby NMR if you will – and shorting the power supply into me. The arc blew all the fuses, threw me across the room, and left me brilliant (in my own mind) but headachy for two days after.

In another article, [Link] this one from the English media, I read that Master-wanna-be Shuttleworth’s Canonical has light sabred KUBUNTU. For the sake of any bogs, KUBUNTU is the KDE (GUI) version of UBUNTU. (There! Having been exposed to the revealed ‘truth’ you bogs are no longer heathen and therfore potentially innocent but now apostate and actually evil! Get rid of your Winders sinfulness or suffer damnation for an infinity of clock cycles.) The articles states that

“Canonical has pulled the plug because Kubuntu has failed to take off commercially after seven years plugging away.”

which is suspiciously selfserving.

As we have mentioned previously, Canonical (read padwan over inflated Shuttleworth) has gotten a fixation on Unity to the point of doing themselves and their associates a grave injury that is festering. They have made the desktop of Gnome 2 anathema and since KDE is very similar to Gnome 2 in appearance and operation, at least compared to a tile GUI like Unity, this smells suspiciously like the beginning of a pogrom. Since Unity was vectored early in 2011, there has been a steady migration to other distributions and efforts to regenerate the look-and-feel of Gnome 2.

So regardless of whether this is an actual blood letting or just a bloody awful conspiracy theory, the Chinese curse appertains.

And lastly, for this morning at least, is an amusing (?) little article about the four types of annoying (irritating?) email authors. [Link] The types are: “The doctoral candidate; The stream-of-consciousness emailer; The out-of-context puzzler; and
The emotive emailer”. The link came courtesy of one of my colleagues, Magnetic Inductance Force, who confided that he was “unsure whether this is just abysmal humor or a poorly posed attempt at taxonomic modeling.” I find myself in agreement. It is humor of the sort that feels like someone scraping a spoon across the bottom of a copper bottom pot and a rather poorly posed taxonomy that is clearly non-spanning.

As one who has been bestowed doctoral degrees by accredited universities (which casts grave doubts thereby on the accrediting authorities,) I feel qualified to take umbrage at the implication that clarity in email is not only offensive but boggish. But then, bogs with doctorates are like chicken with teeth – mutant carnivores with lots of enemies. And I have problems understanding why email cannot be stream of consciousness when tweets are purely such? And if we are exchanging emails and you can’t keep up with the thread, please let me know, don’t suffer in silence because I can alleviate your suffering by finding someone with intelligence and memory to correspond with. And emotion in an email? Clearly only a highly talented artist can do such so why are we abusing fragile brilliance?

Isn’t apostasy rewarding?