Fifth Horseman

End of gym week. And the place was even less populated than is usual for a Thor’s day. Of course it is the end of summer. By the only metric that counts in Greater Metropolitan Arab. Not seasonal or meteorological or scientific. Bureaucratic. The resumption of schule

This is a mirror of human existence today. Nature is a nuisance, not an environment. What counts is society and organizations. And for all of us, a bit more so for parents, fall is when schule resumes. Vacations end. Traffic clots. The internet is actually accessible in the daytime. And screams and nuisance take on a less fiendish face. 

And illness returns. [Link] This is how the world ends, not with a bang but schules providing the vector. Kids spreading disease among themselves and then  sharing with parents. Positively makes boarding schules seem an excellent idea.

And the educationalists go overboard so if it isn’t disease, it’s auto-immune disorders resulting from too much use of hand sanitizer. And the Triclosan gets into the water supply and poisons the water cleaning bacteria in the treatment plants.

So much for wisdom. More like homo stupidus.

Chernobyl looks Green and Healthy

Not a good day so far. When I got to gym I discovered that the management – if I may use that term so inaccurately – had once more performed one of their favorite stunts of removing machines preferred by the membership. Gaping emptiness greeted us. And replacement by hated machines is the next step. One has to wonder how long this place would survive if it were not the only game in town. And how it can pretend to be part of a hospital. Except hospitals are once more factories of death and pain.

I did however, run across this cartoon: [Link]

over the weekend and I was taken by its accuracy. As I have commented on previously there seems to be a conservation law of television that the total quality of what is broadcast (?) on television is a constant. It may be a slowly changing constant, but we can safely take it as close to a constant for our discussion.

This means that the product of number of programs/channels and their individual qualities is equal to a constant. Hence, the more channels/programs the lower the quality of each in the mode. 

FD SCP and I are in the midst of a transition from our old, analog, clear cable connection to a new, digital, encrypted cable connection. The number of channels will increase largely because the television provider has been steadily reducing its analog channels over the last few years. We currently have 40-50 channels, the exact number is uncounted, but only watch maybe 8 channels regularly. Vast swatches of channels – spectator sports for example – are unwatched but must be endured because there is no cafeteria option.

The new system, assuming it can be installed and works as claimed, will have many more channels but I rather suspect that the number of channels we watch will actually diminish since sometimes it is better to turn off the television than to put up with stercus.

I think I may be looking forward to the day when the number of channels is effectively infinite so that I may get rid of television entirely. 

Bad Writing

Strange morning. First of all the gym was strangely populated. I suspect this reflects this being the lass week before schule resessions. And the podcast, an episode of the CBC’s “Best of Ideas” was decidedly strange. First, I had to cycle through three episodes because the first two were repeats. Not sure how they got into the folder but they did. And the third was a lecture on journalism. All I can say about it is that I came to the realizations that:

Journalists act like they create stories; they don’t; all they do is ‘write” them.

And I ran across an article [Link] that is rather poor journalism. It doesn’t even tell me where the work was done although there is a link to the journal. 

Anyway, the article advances that children raised in religionist homes have difficulty telling real from imaginary. And when challenged they use their religionist beliefs to justify their delusions. 

What makes this such a neat article is that while we all – except maybe the deluded religionists? – that this is the situation and a common one at that, the academic officializing actually makes this something that can be discussed. Usually we accept that most religionists are deluded and going to do and say whackadoodle things but we never say anything about them because they usually resort to some form of violence when we do.

But now there is some hope of having a rational, perhaps even peaceful, discussion when this occurs and get these people to quit persecuting everyone else.

And if we can make that happen then there is hope we can persuade the journalists to do better as well,

STEM NERD Writing 2

Higher temperature. But somehow more clement in the park for constitutional. Nagged by wondering where the “Pen Addict” podcast is going now that it has dropped out of sight.

When I went through high school in the Sixties, there wasn’t much writing in ink. We, or, at least, I, used a ring notebook with punched paper. I wrote mostly with a mechanical pencil that used large leads, about 2 mm or so. I am sure there were some inked essays and such but my memory of them is fuzzy, probably due to a fundamental dislike of essays. I dislike to read them – in the mode – and hate to write them. Probably because no one ever got across to me what they were supposed to do.

So all complacent in this, I went off to college. In reptrospect the whole thing of paper and writing was a vacuum. My parents didn’t think of it, and I didn’t think of it. And somehow the pundits who intruded with off-to-college advice missed it. Or maybe they told my parents that it would wait for classes to start and they didn’t tell me. Or I was oblivious.

Anyway, I got to college a few days before classes started. Part of freshman “orientation”. I was put in the nerd dorm. To this day I am unsure of whether that was to protect us from the bogs and extros, or them from us. Not that all of us were intros. I discovered early on that there were nerd extros and even nerd jocks. But they were few.

My roommate was a modal intro nerd. He was one of those transparent people who majored in pre-something in those days. Sometimes it seemed like half the male student body was majoring in pre-medicine or pre-law or both. And almost none of them were much more than nebbishes worried more about grades than learning. I honestly do not know what happened to this guy. He was a passing blip – thankfully. If he made a physician, which I doubt, I feel sorry for the profession and patients.

But he did perform one mitzvah. He lectured me on note taking. I did not take many notes in high schule. Mostly just assignment notes: lists of problem numbers, dates, that sort of thing. My memory and the text book were more than adequate. So I came to college as a notes neub.

Anyway, this fellow rather lecturing to a neub told me to go to the college book store and purchase a notebook for each subject and a BIC pen. I was told to buy textbooks at a private bookstore but evidently the notebooks were better at the college bookstore. My education had already begun; I was learning how to be a discerning consumer.

The notebooks were quite nice. They were spiral bound, heavy cardboard covers, and real 8.5×11 inch^2 heavy paper with real “college” ruling – lines so close together I often skipped. And I went off to class so equipped.

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STEM NERD Writing 1

A fair start to the day. Lower temperatures. Almost pleasant. And I listened to part of an episode of the “Pen Addict” [Link] podcast during my constitutional. One of my colleagues, Total Angular Momentum Magnetic Inductance, put me on this, which I share with another common colleague, Magentic Inductance Force, because we are all rather interested in pens and/or pencils and paper. The podcast started out as an attention diversion but after I commented a couple of times on the hosts’ grammar, it improved considerably and the podcast is – part of the time – enjoyable and informative.

I listen with some latency so the recent announcement of the podcast shifting (?) has caused some stress. And it has provoked me to reflect a bit on my own history with pens and writing and such.

So while this is not becoming a penphenalia blog, I am going to be doing some blots on the subject. Somewhere between reminiscence and history.

When I grew up, basically in the ’50’s and early ’60’s, I lived a pencil existence. We didn’t use pens much in schule. Even in high schule. But I do recall that I greatly disliked “wooden” pencils. They had to be sharpened. That meant you had to get up and walk over to the sharpener – a manual device in those days – and use it. I am not very mechanical. I have struggled all my life to learn to use tools, almost always unsuccessfully. In the Sowth this type of handicap is seen as gender incompetence. No male is tool incompetent.

Also, when you go to the pencil sharpener, people look at you. Not agood thing for an introvert in schule. Extro handle it naturally; intros get nightmares and contemplate suicide, or planetary destruction.

I recall getting my first mechanical pencil at about age seven. About the same time I got my first slide rule. It was a gift from my paternal grandfather. He was an insurance executive and got lots of pens and pencils given him and since this was an advertising pen I suspect it was a birthday gift of convenience. But successful and exciting and pleasing all the same.

It took the large – 2 mm? – leads of the day and had a clutch mechanism similar to those used in drafting pencils. The body was green plastic, a very warm feeling pen and not uncomfortable in my juvenile hand. I can’t recall what happened to it. Probably superseded or broken but the loss was emotionally decoupled so it could not have been traumatic. But that pen strated me on a road of NOT using wooden pens. The only time I used wooden pens after that was when I took those horrible standardized tests with the optical scoring forms for the selected answers. The ones where one had to use a “Number 2″ (what hardness is that?) “lead” (not graphite-clay mixture) pencil. The teachers were always pedantic about reminding of that I would have to go buy pencils specially for the exam. And abandon them as soon as the exam was over.

But I didn’t use a pocket protector. Never associated with anyone who used one until I went to work for the Yankee Army.

And there were pens along the way, but I don’t recall them. Pencils were the thing until I got to college. Film at Eleven.

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Non-Euclidian

Is it what it is? Is that a palindrome? The answer is a resounding no! Even if one considers it a word palindrome instead of a (correct) letter palindrome, the question mark breaks the symmetry. And I shan’t even comment on the catch phraseness.

The answer to the question is also No! No thing is what it is. There is always higher and lower significance. But don’t tell that to the bogs. They likely won’t comprehend any of that and they will either low like cattle or be irritrated and show their swinish component. And if they do comprehend any of it, they will gore you like a bull. So just leave the bogs in their own pathetic little existences.

On which azimuth, I noted [Link] this weekend that a restart is being attempted with Dungeons and Dragons. Part of the come-on is a freebie volume zero. Back when I was a game player and a member of a game club, there were two major threads or streams: miniatures; and role-playing. The miniatures were then almost exclusively Great Patriotic War and Moderns, both ground combat, and Great War naval. The role playing was about 0.9 D&D and 0.1(-) Treveler. I was mostly a miniatures member. I tried playing a role-playing game once and was quickly disillusioned, bored, and thankfully, killed out; the gamemaster, a psychology graduate student, confided that I was too happy with my reality to want to escape, which also explained why I made a better gamemaster than a player.

I don’t think miniatures gaming is much any more. I can’t find any miniatures gaming in Nawth Alibam except fantasy stuff and not much of that. Not that I really want to get into it again. Crawling about on the floor, strewn with dyed lichens and sculpted, painted styrofoam with toy vehicles and a steel tape is rather a young man’s thing. Besides, I do enough now that FD SCP finds silly and weird without such an addition.

And on the azimuth of weird, I ran across [Link] a bit on a Pew survey on how religious groups are viewed. As far as I can tell the whole thing is rather subjective and perhaps visceral. The results are summarized in the table:

Since they don’t give population numbers we have to guess what the relative densities of these folks are and so the corrected – same excluded – stats seem more revealing. I am not sure whether to be bemused or amused. Probably both. It is amazing that Jews are most esteemed. Perhaps because they are perceived to be the most honorable without being fanatical. And I was surprised that intrusive, antagonistic evangelicals were in the middle of the pack. Are the unseen ones actually kulturny?

And atheists tied with muslims as being cold? Seems a bit of a sweet-sour mix. One thinks of atheists as being rather rational and muslims as berserkers, so maybe the whole thing is a folded distribution and these are the wings? And where are the freethinkers, the people that the evangelicals think are atheists but aren’t? Is this another case of whacked instrument? The probability is non-zero.

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Chosen for Inability

 Back into week in. Temperatures back to almost seasonal modal. Sparse at gym this morning and the weight bouncers were quite restrained. Or late. I am not sure which. The podcast, an episode of the CBC’s “Best of Ideas” dealt with the relgionist idea of being “chosen”. I won’t dignify this with much discussion since it is derivative from the question of the degree of interaction of the deity and peripherally with “free will”, but I did find the whole thing to be rather tiringly extro. 

Along that azimuth, I note [Link] that James Garner is discorporate. I am saddened. But the opportunity presents for me to discuss actors and acting a bit. In my taxonomy, evolved from personal observations, there are three types of actors: bad; good; and excellent (or great.) Bad actors’ acting is actually painful. But the difference between good and excellent actors is rather extreme. An excellent actor is absorbed by one, perhaps two roles. A truly excellent actor will only have one role and be unemployed (or bad) the rest of his existence. Carrie Fisher is a sterling example. She owned Pricess Leia and never did anything after worthy of attention.

Garner is either excellent or near excellent. His role as Charley the dog-robber was his great role. It carried the film and made the goodness of the other actors believable – most of the time. His role as the principal Maverick in the television series is near-excellent. Certainly the other actors are unmemorable. But the rest of his roles are poor things that are little better than cheap Halloween costumes. And, yes, I know that is at odds with the awards committees but it just illustrates that awards are stercus.

And while we’re on this rejection of delusion and false authority, I note [Link] that work at U Nevada Gambling indicates that students who do not do maths coursework from the get-go in college have a reduced probability of matriculation. My first reaction to this was to consider if this is another datum indicating the natural superiority of geeks and nerds over bogs? (Keeping with the initial theme. B])

But on reflection I recall how most of the people I ended up tutoring in maths were upperclasspeople. They were people who were majoring in “blue serge” stuff like journalism or education or home economics, among others, and had postponed passing college algebra until the end of their attendance. And that trivial course that I placed far beyond was indeed very hard for those people. Even with my tutelage, about half of them failed and left college sans degree. Which seems appropriate, for they were truly acalculate, not even at the maths level of signing an “X” for their name. 

That seems harsh, and would be considered socially unjust or racist or some such today, but these were not deprived people. They were not furriners or minorities or such, they were the chosen people of Amerika – Euro-American, Christianist, and at least middle class. And they couldn’t do sophomore high schule maths. So they didn’t deserve to matriculate, at least from a university that said they had to pass college algebra. You also have to be corporate to graduate and this was about as similar a circumstance as conceivable. 

But part of their problem was that they waited. And by waiting they became less adaptable, less able to learn. At least I hope that was the situation. They also suffered from a lot of arrogance, some so much that I refused to tutor them. Which got me in hot dihydrogen oxide with the tutoring people because they didn’t like being told the cream of the Greek community were asshats. 

Simple Models

Gad! Rather a hectic day yesterday but today seems to be starting better. No precipitation but a mediumness of fog. At least, I think the extinction coefficient through the clumps was one per kilometer or more.

I find I have a bit of catching up to do so I shall start with a cartoon: [Link]

that struck me as rather strangely relevant. FD SCP and I still subscribe to a "paper" newspaper, the Arab Tribune, [Link] which is delivered by the Yankee government postal service on Wednesdays and Saturdays. It is not really a newspaper, more of a gossip sheet. But we gave up on the Huntsville Times back when they couldn’t maintain reliable delivery.

And yes, I do get all sorts of information on the internet via a couple of different services and RSS feeds. But the primary reason I purchase the paper is that I won’t pay for an electronic newspaper. Not sure why, but I won’t. Perhaps it violates my mind model of the internet. The internet is supposed to be egalitarian; information is supposed to be free, whatever that means. But for me it means you provide me with material product or no pictures of dead Yankee politicians (and Andrew Jackson, of course.)

I suspect there is another reason. I doubt I would read the Tribune on-line. I read it now to get that task done. It takes me about ten minutes for ten (at most) pages. The reductionist would say one minute per page but I don’t read it all. Maybe a few news articles and advertisements but no sports and gossip. Unless FD SCP tells me to on the latter. But no sports. Which gets to why I won’t read it on-line. Once on line the gibble is going to increase and I won’t want to mostly pay for such. Maybe with a cafeteria system where I can pay for what I want which isn’t the gossip and the sports.

But what makes this strange is the question the kid asks. Not the asking part but the telling part. What kind of bairn is interested in news? I certainly wasn’t at that age and I don’t think my friends were. Nor was my daughter interested in news. I’m not sure she is not. Happily we haven’t ever suffered from that social activist mind rot thing.

The other cartoon: [Link]

that came to my attention did so because it is so deliciously mixed. It conveys the primary problem of communications between bogs and nerds. Bogs don’t so much use language as abuse it. And we nerds usually are slow replying because we have to compute the probable meaning and intent of the gibble the bogs emit. One example of this is the erroneous use of geeky when nerdy is the proper word.

The sad part is that the bogs are rather too dim to understand how they are "wrong" and hence will never correct their behavior. And, of course, we nerds know that we are "right" and have no need to alter ours.

Film at Eleven.