Fourth of You Lie

Today is “we have worked up our courage and now we’re going to tell the poor, the women, and the not-us what we have gotten them into” day. It’s the anniversary of the day the founders got their courage screwed up, probably by use of ethanol mixtures, and announced to the general populace, or at least the minuscule bit of the populace within ear shot and with slack time to attend, what trouble was descending on their heads.

Of course that independence didn’t apply to the poor, women, and people-property. None of these folks could vote. Not that voting was that common in those days. So that is one thing that we can celebrate as tradition: the ineffectiveness of elections.

It somehow seems appropriate that today is when one of my colleagues, Magnetic Inductance Force, shared an article with me. [Link] The article claims that if one reads the periodical “Linux Journal” then one is identified by the Yankee government’s National Security Agency as an “extremist” and accorded extra surveillance attention. I also read the journal but do not subscribe. Somehow I doubt that distinction is significant in differentiating the amount of attention applied by the NSA.

Apparently, people who use Linux and/or support FOSS, and perhaps open access and actual democracy are considered by the Yankee government to be extremists, which is apparently an intermediary state between traitor and terrorist? I am unsure of whether to be proud or amused.

Obviously anyone who expects some privacy and takes effort to preserve it – as in using TOR – is immediately suspect, if not guilty.

Now tell me again what we have to celebrate today?

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Rejecting Good Sense Day

Today is the anniversary of “aw stercus! what have we done” day. Having signed the declaration of independence yesterday, the congress took today off to reflect on having told George#3 to cease and vacate the premises and whether they actually wanted to broadcast this to the public (and George!) or burn the document and slink off to being subjects (serfs/slaves) of tyranny. We might even call it “screw up your courage to the sticking point” day since the steeling oneself to do the tyrant an injury theme is apt.

Not that we have much to be thankful for today since their government has evolved to the point where it is more of a tyranny than George’s.

Nonetheless, I also reflected on the morning’s podcast, an episode of the English Ubuntu podcast, perhaps a fitting activity for contemplation on this day. Why does a country that gave us such oppression also do so much better at podcasts?

Anyway they interviewed some developer (coder) fellow who was bitchin’ about the Ubuntu SW store. I was amused to consider, after he listed a long set of complaints about how the SW store was NOT developer friendly how every developer I know of, who throws his SW out for general use to a wide public, has complained about how the system is not developer friendly. I have to admit to something of the sort myself. Most of my SW is nerd SW and it is very cruncherish. My favorite user interface is a text input file that you point the SW at and it read it, crunches numbers, and outputs a file of results.

And I only share SW with people who come to me and say that they have need of my methodology and may they have a copy? And if they come back and complain about the methodology in a constructive sense then I will discuss with them, but if they say either (a) it doesn’t work or (b) can I add something, I reply that they are free to make changes as they wish so long as I get cited properly.

Obviously, when someone puts a SW out on a storefront and you use it, you are not going to be able to modify it. You have to have source code for that and most of these chaps program in other languages than the few I know. (And they usually don’t know those.) So if the SW works I will use it and if it doesn’t work I will pitch it, unless I paid for it, and then I ask for reimbursement, and if it sorta works I will probably complain, but don’t expect me to answer why it doesn’t work questions if I don’t have source code.

Not that I really want to read your source code.

But when you give the SW away to folks who don’t pay or code, the man-in-the-street, Windows or Apple mindscrubbed, user, why would you expect anything constructive when the SW doesn’t work for them. Next you’ll be expecting your food to talk to you about how delicious it will be.

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More Summer of Discontent

I am coming to dislike mundane days. That is rather discouraging. Most of my adult life I liked the first day of the week (Yes, I do operate on ice cream day being the last day of the week.) Yes, there were exceptions when I knew in advance that mundane day held some nastiness like a business trip or a medicalist visit or some such. But by and large I liked the promise of mundane day, of a week ahead to do something and not just be a vegetative member of society.

But now I am coming to dislike all days. Even the ones that offer an upcoming good, or perceived good. I am sure it is age, and being retired. ORFs are tolerated speed bumps of society that will shortly be hustled off to a burial park or a mason jar. The best that we can hope for is a studied indifference on the part of society. The worst is active harassment and pain.

But the worst is not doing anything constructive. I don’t count volunteering or being a greeter at MalWart. Those are definitely not creative. Except maybe for those people who not only didn’t create in younger life, but were destructive.

INTERMISSION: courtesy of Arab Electron Uncooperative. Another thing to dislike. They used to only go out unannounced on ice cream day mornings. When all the mystics were in services. Not now. It’s stochastic and diabolical.

Enough negativity. Go kill a giant or invent happiness or overdo exuberance. For me.

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Money Morals

Back to week in and not a well portended one. Rain returns just when FD SCP has arranged to get Castellum SCP repainted. Or so the weather beavers foretell. Of course they showed that visibility chart – the one prominently labeled “FOG” – this morning with none of the visibilities less than a mile. So much for any hope of weather beavers – and bogs? – understanding basic atmospheric optics.

The gym was pleasantly sparse this morning and the obnoxious weight bouncers were late arriving so I was able to depart before they went into their territorial troglyditism. The podcast, an episode of the CBC’s “Best of Ideas”, was about a debate among politicians/economists, none Canadian, on the topic of whether the rich should be taxed. This was educational, if not informative, in a negative sort of way. First of all, I am now entertaining the hypothesis that all politicians and economists are sacci sterci – pokes of poo – especially the economists. The idea of testability of theory is entirely wasted – except as a perversion – on economists and economic theory. I fear the latter has to be lumped in with religionist doctrine as stationary photons.

Second, the whole thing was another of those nonsense farces conducted because of percentages. Third, it ignored the whole question of cheating in any substantive fashion. And lastly, it was an utter waste of time which was beneficial since it distracted me from my pain and perspiration. I suspect this was the only benefit extracted from this debate.

Debates are another farce. They settle nothing and are based on total artificiality and absence of test. As such they are highly appropriate to both politics and economics because both of those are the same. But they are not appropriate to reality and real human problems. Which both politicians and economists actually have no interest in and avoid as much as possible and sabotage when they cannot.

Hence into the day.

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Physicist Failure

Horrible day yesterday. FD SCP had me out cleaning the aft proch and my sinuses are agonizing. The walk in the park was an actual relief this morning. And the weather beavers have mentioned precipitation in the afternoon, or so I may hope.

But I did have opportunity to continue cogitation on the matter of lectures and learning, so I suppose I shall have to take up a recent grrr brrr about lectures. [Link]The contention is that learning is not effective in the lecture format and things have to be made more interactive. My immediate, and enduring, response to this is that it is an extro conspiracy promulgated on the idea that students have to be placated for professors to get paid. Rather like the teach to the test thing in the public schules.

First of all, only the extros participate in these “voting” things. Intros do not. They come to class, they listen, maybe take notes, they go home, read the book, work the problems, and think. But the thinking takes time. There are some things that I got told in freshman physics class I still think about today. And occasionally they give me insights. So the idea that learning occurs only in class is an olla sterci – a crock of feces. Yes, some learning occurs in class, but most of it, including almost all of the insight, occurs later, often much later, out of class.

I have mentioned previously a math methods class on Green functions that took me over thirty years to “fully” realize.

Extros don’t do this way. They don’t go home and read the book nor do problems. They think doing problems is for intros and geeks and nerds. Which they are afraid of becoming. And they don’t think about stuff once the course is over. And they don’t want anything but a good grade so they can get a diploma and have a wonderful career. Working for a nerd.

At least in the mode. There are exceptions. But most of these people are not going to become STEMs. They don’t think enough. And socialization is too important to them to spend time understanding.

I have mentioned Chad Orzel’s taxonomy before. It applies here, in resounding fanfare! The purpose of the lecture, in STEM at least, is to tell the student what is important so they can read the text, do the problems, and think. And learn. Notice that distinction? The learning is out-of-class. And afterwards. So yes, the lecture is ineffective if the metric is in-the-class learning.

But the metric is orthogonal to the reality.

Do the physics. Drop the ball!

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Cuneiform over Computers

I am beginning to hate summer already and it is barely here. I am entertaining the conjecture that I dislike temperature (and sinus) extremes. And this is not at all helped by FD SCP going off on a home improvement campaign. I now identify with both William Tecumseh Sherman’s troopies and the residents of Gawjah.

As promised, I now return to the matter of computers in lectures. A recent study at Michigan State U indicates that the mere presence of computers in a lecture hall is a major distraction and prevents learning. So it’s not just if you are using a smart (sic) cellular telephone or lapbox or slab but if the guy on the other side of the hall is.

But before I advocate that the students be permitted to police themselves – academics have to at least give the impression of being in a situation of permitting disobedience – we need to consider how we respond to this. Some objections have been made that since the cellular network is now used by most colleges to warn students of shootings and other common events like pep rallies and anti-war protests, some liability may incur if cellular telephones are banned. What is most often missed here is that only one such device need be activated since a lecture (or seminar or whatever) is a gathering and there are all sorts of schemes for providing that linkage. So all cellular connection save one designee is feasible and possible.

If we take this with the mounting evidence that learning does not occur when notes are taken electronically but are learned when they are written down. IOW, digital – NYET!; analog – DA! Feel free to change that last to whatever language you want to. This now takes on a bit of an ethical complexion. Given that colleges are accepting payment for lectures in anticipation of some learning, or, at least, a diploma, it becomes necessary that some effort be expended to encourage learning and perhaps even actual thinking, although the latter is problematic at party schules such as the campus of the Black Warrior.

It thus becomes insufficient to just ban electronic devices (in the main) from the classroom. It is also necessary to lead the students back to the paradigm of pen + ink + paper. Notebooks are preferred, at least for the mechanically inept who seem unlikely to master the intricacies of the three ring binder. And given the abandonment of teaching cursive on the part of the public schules, it would seem that some remedial instruction in penmanship – suitable de-genderist – be instituted.

This should not be difficult. Most colleges have been around long enough that they have had instructions for students on notetaking and if they don’t some sort of mutual support can likely be arranged. If nothing else we might find this a useful activity for the Ivy League schules, who, as we all know, invented writing back in the Pre-Cambrian era.

Stercus Brick

I have long wondered why almost all GEN Ys spend so much of their time staring at their cellular telephones. I now understand. My IBM PC circa 1984 CE worked better, faster than my Motorola DROID. And connected to the internet better, which is not at all instead of seldom and randomly.

No wonder we are turning into a third world country: our manufactured devices are crap. No, crap squared!

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Feces and FORTRAN

Two days now without precipitation. A statement like that wouldn’t normally be joyous, except around Noah time, perhaps, but it is. And the walk in the park this morning was passable. Even the podcast episode had relatively few grammar obnoxities. So I can do a bit of wandering about this morning.

Given the general tenor it seems appropriate to note that Drum Castle in Scotland is the seat of an investigation into fourteenth century micturation and defecation. [Link] Nothing says real archaeology like mucking about in cess pits and the like. Not an activity we can easily picture the hatted one performing.

On a similar azimuth, a U Virginia study [Link] indicates that the kids who are “cool” in high schule are more likely to have social and emotional problems – like being criminals – than the uncool kids. Nerds score again! Bogs get sucked down!

Further, the founding ancestor of Linux has defecated upon the idea that everyone should learn how to code.[Link]  The quote is worth presenting

“I actually don’t believe that everybody should necessarily try to learn to code,” Torvalds said. “I think it’s reasonably specialized, and nobody really expects most people to have to do it. It’s not like knowing how to read and write and do basic math.”

since the majority of folks can’t do basic maths. The article also contrasted to the English government coding mandate

‘the idea that “getting to know code is really important” and that “not just rocket scientists” should learn programming.’

The problem is that coding isn’t rocket science. One of the advantages of being a rocket scientist is that one has a fairly good idea of what rocket science is and basically coding, in and of itself, isn’t. It’s a tool, like a Craftsman adjustable spanner, or an integral table, but that’s about it. You do need coding to get to Mars but coding, in and of itself, won’t get you there.

In fact, scientists don’t do the kind of coding that is associated with the program. We do problem solving, number crunching coding, not people caring coding. Perhaps the best illustration of this difference is that we code in FORTRAN (and maybe a couple of other languages but FORTRAN is the intense one.) It’s not the same thing.

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