An awful night! Sinus drainage/blockage rather disrupted my rest. I didn’t succumb to slumber until about the time FD SCP retired. And then the educationalists were back this morning, albeit a bit restrained for some unobvious reason. Perhaps hung over or exhausted. One always wonders if there is some secret beach somewhere where educationalists go on spring break to pretend to be young.

The podcast was also a bit blah, one of those culturally correct Canadian things talking about the customs and superstitions of their descendants of Clovisites. It was basically a series of recitations of “stories” that were both mystical and logically inconsistent and contradictory. So I had plenty of attention span to divert to considering an article [Link] sent me by my colleague Magnetic Inductance Force.

The article is an actual real article, that is, a refereed article out of a real refereed periodical and not some poo mind defecated by a “journalist”. It’s a physics article about some research on how to improve test grades in freshman physics courses. The course in particular is what we used to call Freshman Physics with Calculus – I think. It’s basically freshman physics for science majors and a service course for engineering majors. The motivation for improving test scores is, I suspect, primarily the latter. Test grades are a survival thing for science majors so pimping tests would be counter-Darwinian.

Three test groups were formed: practice tests; practice tests plus homework; and practice tests plus homework and tutoring. The bottom line is that tutoring doesn’t help. That’s not surprising to me since we have known for a long time that tutoring is primarily useful in learning the subject matter, and, with a good tutor, improving confidence. Those two then make for better test grades. And, of course, practice is important which is a thing usually lost to students who spend too little time doing problems.

This latter applies regardless of major. Nerd majors have too many problems to work to work them in a thoughtful fashion, and Bog majors tend to mostly take type one courses where there are no problems, only memorization. So they have no idea problems need to be worked nor how to work them.

The nastiness of this effort is resounding. First and foremost, the article is published in a physics journal. Not many other disciplines read physics journals, especially educationalists. Unless they are physics educationalists, which is a horrible thing to even contemplate. But the authors obviously saw no reason that these results needed to be shared outside the physics community. That’s the first nasty. It’s hubris of the rankest sort.

And the second thing is that not only is it redundant, it’s redundant of work done at the same U. Back when I was a student at the campus of the Boneyard, we did an experiment with the Keller course format that essentially found the same results. And the experiment was documented. Does no one do a literature search any more? Or go to the library?

This is Eddingtonian physics at its purest.

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Grad Coding

The day looks fair to middling. It is a sundae after all, and being an ORF that is usually the worst day of the week what with mystics and superstitionists running about and abrogating the Constitution. It is also a bit on the low temperature side, somewhere at or in the thirties degF. But I assayed a constitutional in the park and had it not been for a too brisk wind, the constitutional would have been delightful. The podcast was the last part of an episode of “The Pen Addict”, which I listen to mostly to make other horrible podcasts endurable. I was upheld this morning with such a collection of grammar abuses as to make my head tingle. And not just from the sensation of cold.

I also have occasion to celebrate since this is an anniversary date of having my gall bladder extracted. I suppose this is the ORF version of a piercing?

I ran across an excellent cartoon: [Link]

yesterday, and it immediately took me back to my days as a doctoral candidate at the campus of the Tennessee.  Since I was doing a theoretical research, a lot of coding was involved. As I have mentioned previously I was working full time for the Yankee army and doing graduate schule in and around. Part of that in and around was to do dissertation coding and work coding in parallel, at least during duty hours. My schedule was to get up early – for those days – and go to the computer center at the U – this was in the days when all the computers were mainframes – and pick up runs, drive onto post, stop at the lab computer center, pick up runs, and then drive to the building where my office was where I immediately went to cafeteria for breakfast. Then I could get an hour or so of work in before the bogs and married-with-bairns arrived. I made a couple of trips to the post computer center during the day but a bit after the bogs and marrieds left, a half hour or so to clear traffic, I would head for campus. Earlier it had been to attend classes but at this stage classes, except mandatory seminar attendance, were past and I went instead to the campus computer center where I worked until shy of midnight. Thence home for a bit of sleep and hygiene before repeating.

The coding was not textbook ideal. After all, this was research code, not organizational operation code. In all likelihood, no one else but me would use it. In fact, that was almost certain since the attitude of my adviser was that coding was irrelevant – he was a horrible coder and our strongest words were about him staying away from my punch cards – so the code was mine and no one else was involved. That was how it was in those days. No group coding hugs, no library of old code. A grad student wrote his own code or dropped out.

And because of that, the commenting was non-existent, or nearly so. I made the natural assumption that what the code did was obvious and all I commented was sections, and then with terse labels. Only things that took lots of mind molting got lots of comments and those usually referred to a notebook location that meant nothing to anyone but me. I never counted the lines of code. Instead we counted pages of code. That was easier and counting was a bit of whimpery. Excellence was fewer pages, not more.

Those were wonderful days. All the code was in FORTRAN; no useless and intrusive GUI garbage to worry about. All you cared about was getting numbers out. Of course plotting was a pain and the body ached from long hours on computer center furniture, all of which was cast off from anywhere and everywhere. Even the Salvation Army and the Good Will wouldn’t have taken that furniture. They’d have burned it. Food was something one ate after submitting a BIG run. Always fast food because there were fast food places five minutes drive – maximum – from campus. And the campus cops, the night shift anyway, all knew and were known by the coding grad students so STOP signs were more suggestions than constraints.

Going to work was good. It was about the only break I got and the primary reason for sleep and hygiene. Going to see adviser was painful, mostly because the rhythm would get broken with new directions, or even writing a paper. But that’s a story for another blot.

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Font Flatulence

Rain again. But less so. So I went walking in the park. And no trotting jocks. Just a couple of cats and maybe the park wolf. All those high schule hormones and pheromones – and noise – surely scared him/her off yesterday. Solitary wolves are either bonkers or very insecure. And I had forgotten how noisy even silent, exercising high schule students could be. So the volume of the educationalists is natural but indicates how asentient they are.

I had occasion, in between raindrops and foggy exhalation, to consider an article [Link] I saw yesterday about some high schule kid who analyzed the type faces used by the Yankee government and how much ink – relatively – each uses. It’s a pretty good analysis, comparable with what Gartner would do, maybe a little better, but still superficial to the actuality, which is understandable in his circumstances but not in Gartner’s.

He went past the paper and such to how much ink gets used, and assumed equal density of type faces. Not a bad assumption but probably off a bit. And he concluded that if the YG would exclusively use a skinny type face they would save a bunch of money. Nice idea. Very appealing. But probably wrong.

First of all, it doesn’t apply to things printed using presses and not computer printers. Whole different dynamic and economics. Also, as noted, thing that are printed on presses tend to go to people who want to hold and read. And they need a visually conducive type face. Which probably isn’t a skinny type face. In fact, it’s probably a pretty heavy serif font. Because that works best with human reading. And that’s the basic problem with this, and most such, analyses. They over look the human aspects.

First of all, the best way to cut costs is to cut paper use. Ink and paper costs are deterministically connected. But a lot of paper use is dictated by regulation (e.g., record keeping) and human comfort. Lots of folks in government, especially those over thirty, want to read off paper and not a screen. And lots under thirty have found that you can’t take a screen to a meeting and make notes on the image. Easily, nor well. And a lot of meetings are spent editing and critiquing documents.

The best way to cur paper and ink costs, on computers at least, is to go to work group printers. That way people don’t print out pictures of cats and they don’t print stuff that isn’t important enough to walk down the hall. But many of these aren’t color printers and people don’t like walking down the hall to get print-out or they like to print out cat pictures and they convince their boss that they really need a printer on their desk for productivity reasons. And once one in the cubical farm has one, every other person needs one. It’s a social thing.

Also, while computers and printers are often controlled a bit, ink supplies aren’t. So economy of using ink means convincing managers to economize and they won’t. Because their ink costs aren’t that much of budget and hence not worth the attention.

An unadressed factor is font size. While correspondence  usually has a designated font size – thanks in large part to the Yankee Government Printing Office who got unfairly slurred in this analysis – working documents don’t. And a lot of them get done in oversized characters with extra line spacing. So editing and comments can be penned in.

I’ll stop here. It’s not that the kid didn’t do a good piece of work. It’s just that what he did is more a political bashing truncheon than actual organizational reality. A thing you usually have to be in the organization to know.

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Nice day so far. The temperature was definitely warm enough to assay a constitutional at the park and that was followed by a lusty defecation. So I am not well placed to do a blot.

It seems de rigeur these days that I shall have to do a review of the first episode of Tyson’s revisitation of Sagan’s COSMOS. I have to admit to a bit of prompting and even spoiling by reading Chad Orzel’s “Uncertain Principles” blot-review, [Link] particularly the animated vignette on Giardano Bruno.

The vignettes are in keeping with the original series although they have swapped live for cartoon, presumably for money reasons, possibly to appeal to a younger audience. The treatment of Bruno is new and signals visually that Tyson is going to follow in Sagan’s footsteps but with improvements. Nonetheless, the initial cartoon on Bruno was a bit startling.

I rather quickly rationalized this by recalling E. A. Burtt’s  “The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science”, Dover 2003. He states, in the Preface, that

“The prevailing world-view of the period was marked by a deep and persistent assurance that man, with his hopes and ideals, was the all-important, even controlling fact in the universe.”

In other words, man was unique because of being the creation of the diety, and the planet of man was unique and central in the cosmos. And religious organizations, such as the church of Rome, were the self-appointed arbiters of that uniqueness.

And since Bruno came along and said Tellus was one planet among many, and Sol one sun/star among many, and thence that man was one intelligent species among many, the entire philosophical basis of society, and the validity of the church of Rome, was threatened. And so when he would not shut up or recant, they killed him. In the most horrendous fashion possible, by burning.

If ever there was a means of execution that justifies humane concerns it is burning. If ever there was an illustration that Greek society was superior to Italian, it is the difference in execution means between hemlock sipping and either burning (or crucifixion.) This inhumanity was deliberate and illustrates that organizations have neither morals nor ethics nor sentiment and must constantly be disciplined and restrained to their purpose of serving humans rather than the other way about.

More importantly perhaps, the vignette of Bruno demonstrates that in a society where thought and speech are not free and open, then there can be neither humanity nor science. Despite the new “freedom” of protestant religion in addition to the church of Rome, the society of Europe (and much of Tellus) was one where thought and speech were controlled by religionist organizations. Several organizations for a change, but tyrannical and totalitarian none the less. And they all executed people who thought and spoke for themselves.

Beyond that, the episode is a mixed bag. On the good side, Tyson is much less pedantic and directive than Sagan. When COSMOS first came out I gave up on watching it, so repellant was Sagan’s speech and tone. I managscience, television, entertainment, scientisted to watch a lot of it last weekend with only minor nausea and desire to rebel. But I didn’t get to view the new version until yesterday. And it was much more thought provoking and lighter handed than the original. I find it amazing that Sagan, a scientist, came across as an autarch and tyrant while Tyson, a scientist-pitchman, comes across as mentor and philosopher. The student seems to have surpassed the teacher even though the establishment of lineage is clumsy and sob sisterly.

On the bad side, too much of the program time is wasted on credits and commercials. I suppose the former is an indication of how much more insecure our society is today but the latter are just annoying. They made me glad I was watching a recording and could fast forward through the organizational stercus tauri, the modern burning at the stake of the mind. I also found the music to be entirely too star warsish but I suspect that is my nature. I always thought folk was the music genre of science, not the symphony. I suppose that is also one of the perversions of our age.

But the high point of the episode was Tyson saying,

Test ideas by experiment and observation,build on those ideas that pass the test, reject the ones that fail. Follow the evidence wherever it leads and question everything.”

Proper Disrespect for False Authority

Pole Too Short

Off again on a day of life. The night was fair, a bit too low of temperature but at least the weather beavers erred in the direction I like. The gym was happily sparse on annoyances this morning, both troglodytic weight bouncers and dissonant educationalists. The podcast, an episode of “The Linux Action Show”, was unfortunately rating and unpleasant. Even the grammar mistakes were especially annoying. But the chiefest goes to a discussion of Ubuntu “Touch” and the Ubuntu cellular telephone.

The basic idea of the Ubuntu cellular telephone isn’t immediately BAD, that you use your phone to serve as a processing unit that can scale up to a larger screen and a keyboard. It’s not original, but then what does Canonical do these days that is and isn’t broken out of the box?

Up to this point I have disliked the Ubuntu cellular telephone mostly for causing pain on the desktop. Unity, which is supposed to be a common GUI for all screen sizes is a GUI that works less well than DOS. And is several times more annoying. And unfunctional. It’s the primary reason I abandoned Ubuntu. (Sorta, I still use KUBUNTU and XUBUNTU but the why should be obvious – a functional GUI.)

Anyway, I got to thinking about this from the cellular telephone standpoint and I discovered another reason to reject the Canonical fifth reich thing. Let me start by noting that in addition to desktops and laptops I have a “smart” (????) cellular telephone, and there are, from a functional aspect, apps in common between the two. And this, in a resounding epiphany, is where my rejection of the Ubuntu cellular telephone crystallizes.

Simply put, I don’t want my big screen apps on the small screen and I don’t want my small screen apps on the big screen. And I don’t want the overhead of two sets of apps.

What I want is two devices, two sets of apps, and a data exchange between the two that works. And on that note, I should comment that the Firefox cellular telephone looks quite possible. But not the Ubuntu cellular telephone.

Stercus rotundus est

Pi Day is crap.

And yes, I know I am a day early, but I have some small hope of preventing Gross Human Stupidity.

I got an email yesterday from the physics honorary society about Pi Day and it got me to thinking. And I came to the conclusion that the basis of Pi Day is garbage.

It’s not that I don’t like Pi. Usually more than I like pie. Mostly because of flaky crust. That’s why I prefer cobbler to pie. And hence live in the old Confederacy.

It’s that the dating convention is whacked. Bogggish. Demented. Anti-maths.

Consider: the day number changes once a day; the month number changes (in the mean) every 30 and 5/12 days; and the year number changes every 365 and 1/4 days. So what sense does a M/D/Y dating make? Only whacked and depraved and anti-maths.

What makes sense is either Y/M/D, which is in modal numerical order – least significant digit changing fastest, or D/M/Y which is anti-modal but makes some sense for that very reason. We pay more attention to the second hand on the clock face, don’t we?

Now if we use Y/M/D then we only have Pi days in years beginning in 314(1), so we have had two Pi days so far: 314 BCE, and 314 CE. When I consult my “The Timetables of History”, I find that nothing happened in either of those years considered important enough for recognition in that work. Not that nothing happened then, just that the historian-editors of that reference didn’t think there was anything worth including. So recognizing those a Pi days may make some sense.

But to have another Pi day we have to wait around until the year 3141 CE and quite frankly that’s too long. So we fall back on the other rational dating convention: D/M/Y. And in that system Pi day becomes D= 31, M = 4 or 31 May.

So let’s cut out this crap worship and celebrate Pi day on a date that makes maths sense.

Eschewing Evangelism

Three degrees. That’s what kept me from walking in the park this morning. Three degF. Sometimes I think I am entirely too much of a rule follower, especially with respect to my cardiologist.

On which note, I recently ran across an article [Link] entitled “When Friends Tell Friends to Use Linux”, which we may primarily translate as when we try to tell Winders users to get freedom. I have learned not to have the discussion with Apple users because its a waste of time. And frustrating. I have also learned not to expect anything from the Winders users except rejection, whining, and abject terror. At least 0.9 of the instances. So Sturgeon’s Rule applies.

I read an article a few weeks ago – don’t have the citation – written by an European who lamented how Amerikans were cognitively lazy when it came to computers. Again, I think Sturgeon’s Rule applies, as does Bose-Einstein condensation. Something like 0.1 of Amerikans use Linux and/or putter with Raspberry Pi or Ardunio or even real electronics and/or make stuff and/or ….. and 0.9 are MegaHard serfs or Apple mind slaves. And they tend to clump together. So the serfs and slaves are out-group of the Linux/rPi/Ardunio/Maker/… folks and visa versa.

Some of it is corporation servitude. They use Winders or Apple OS at work and have to cling to it at home. And the ones who do stuff: want to write Python code; or play with rPi; work ten times as hard to do so with Winders or Apple OS. One of my colleagues, otherwise a quite rational and striving nerd, spoke at great length about how hard and long he had to work to get where he he write Python code on his Winders box. From experience I didn’t tell the short tale of open Synaptic and install Python (if not already) and an editor and go at it. Five minutes with coffee in the loop. His fox hunt took days and lots a baying and fence jumping.

Some of the obstacle is learning. For some reason bogs quit learning sometime between puberty and children. And the ones who do still learn don’t learn useful stuff, creative stuff. Just social stuff. Mostly. And for the geeks and nerds, new and mildly complicated are orthogonal in this respect. When I try to tell serfs (or slaves) how to install a Linux distro it’s no more complicated than a recipe for Sunday dinner but they look at the list, all of it alien to the modal Winders/Apple OS users, and bolt for the coffle closet.

So I have pretty well quit trying. In a way its like explaining physics. It’s about as simple and fundamental and basic as you can get but almost everyone, including other discipline nerds, think it too complicated and HARD and act like they’ve seen the attack rabbit. Even if I’ve offered them the holy nuclear hand grenade. So I let them be bumpkins. It’s an old Southron tradition and it took me a while to accommodate it. Still haven’t completely but I’m working at it.

Which is more than most are doing.

Incidentally, that accommodation is also orthogonal to most christianists.  For them I have found that a spray bottle of skunk essence is an effective antidote.

XP Continuance

A lovely morning. Finally high enough temperature for me to go awalking in the park. And thereby an opportunity for outdoor thought, which, at least in the old Confederacy, is different from indoor thought, which we have altogether TOO much of these days.

I had occasion to consider all  the grrr brrrr about Winders XP end-of-support. I chose that metaphor instead of end-of-service because one can still get good service out of WXP. Well, more than out of WV/W7/Wate.

All you have to do is unplug the wireless adapter and the CAT5 cable. Yes, disconnect from the network. If you do that the only way malware can get to your box is via physical media and the only way it can get out is via physical media. So in effect, you can use WXP in this mode with better security than ever before.

Being disconnected from MegaHard doesn’t hurt, of course.

You probably want to make a mirror image backup of the hard drive.

And you’ll still need a way to talk to the internet. Do that using a box running Linux or Chrome or even Android. And move stuff from one to the other using physical media. And yes, this is very DOSish, but we didn’t have much worry in those days about security.

And you can keep using your WXP clients to be productive, much more productive than before, and laugh at MegaHard for their colossal rectal painatude and vertical copulations.