Today is rather unusual. It is a dual holiday, at least here in Alibam. The state holiday is the birthday anniversary of Robert E. Lee; the Yankee government holiday is the birthday anniversary of Martin L. King. And somehow I find this not only not conflicting but also comforting.

I should offer at this point that this blot will not be very nice, offering, in the words of the Kingston Trio, something to offend almost everyone. So if you like to use either of the “R” words you may want to go on at this point and do something less harmful to your metabolism.

In my way of thinking, there are substantial similarities between Lee and King. Both were leaders in conflict, and the conflict was not without its righteousness. And both, so far as I can tell amidst all the serving rhetoric were men of integrity and principle. Also, both clearly were born and hence had a birthday. That latter is a poor attempt at humor.

I would also offer the opinion that both of these men aided the cause of liberty in Amerika. If anything, King was enabled by Lee, a consequence of history and the arrow of time, not any genetic superiority. Had Lee not refused Scott’s offer to command the Union armies, the war would likely not have lasted long enough for manumission to become a political necessity. Did Lee know this? Almost certainly not. But we can estimate it now.

So I shall take time today to reflect on how much both of these men contributed to the well being of Amerika.


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Heady Stuff

Forget the Grinch, this year it is the Weather Beavers who are spoiling the holiday week. The last thing I want to do around Newtonmas is drip faucets. And the Target breech. How’s that for a snapshot of how we have corporate slavery?

My browser tells me 42 degF in Greater Metropolitan Arab and that may be about as good as the day gets. And this is supposed to be a good day in the week. At least the gym was sparse this morning. It was abundantly clear that schule was desessioned. No educationalists that I could find. The weight bouncers seemed to be bemused by this with their numbers reduced and all of their vocalizations limited to grunting, which was actually an intellectual improvement over the blather emitted by the educationalists. No wonder they lay claim to so many communities’ intellectual leadership – classic insecurity.

On a more joyous side, the Yankee congress has told the DoD that the country needs a “cyber militia”, which evidently is some sort of boondoggle for the air corps guard.[Link] I keep thinking of all those rich kids who hid in the air corps guard during Vietnam and all the poor kids who got sent to be infantrymen and airmen on site. There is probably a sort of sense of putting these cyber militia in the air corps since the army would have no idea how to recruit nor staff nor train. Which is the ideal place for rich kids avoiding some responsibility. But I have to give some thought to how the various state governors can use these militia during national disasters. Does the governor shopping at Target early in December qualify as grounds to deploy the state’s cyber militia?

I also see that academics at U Pennsylvania – somehow that makes sense – have suggested that the actual reason hunter-gatherers adopted stationary agriculture was to make beer.[Link] And here I thought it was because they got tired of wandering and never having nice things and wanted to be Burnsians and collect gear. Why is it to have great camping gear you can’t be year-round campers? The World Wonders.

Anyway, it seems a reasonable conjecture – maybe hypothesis? – that certainly upholds the food shortage idea. Or at least in this case, ethanol shortage. After all, only a few fruit actually ferment naturally and they tend to be ground droppers and hard to come by. So giving up nomadism to drink beer seems eminently good. I think the founding grandfather would approve since he claimed beer was proof the the deity’s love, probably the only “proof” of the deity’s existence that has ever been credible and not required pre-agreement.

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Ball but no Chain

Here we are at the back edge of week in, looking into an abyss of holiday yuck and stress. For once the weather is waiting. My browser tells me it is 53 degF in Greater Metropolitan Arab and I was able to go to park and use the walking path instead of having to be placated by my stationary bicycle. But portents of nastiness are looming for the week out period.

That seems to sum up the situation I recently noticed [Link][Link] in articles having to do with some Neandertal DNA from the Denisova region. This DNA dates back about 50 KYA and is of such richness that it indicates some rather intriguing things. Based on the analysis, it seems that this DNA provides us a pre-date for incest taboo and marriage customs. This follows from both a close genetic correlation of the DNA individual’s parents (indicating some degree of incest) and a wide spectrum of outbreeding (which indicates some degree of sexual liberalism.)

In a sense, this is not surprising. Social structure was supposedly simple, the 25-50 people hunter-gatherer band although that labor structure is uncertain for Neandertals based on previous work that has indicated female might be hunters. Given a small social community with only sporadic outside contacts, interbreeding would be expected as a necessity to assure cohesion of the group and the production of offspring. Given the supposed egalitarian nature of such groups, fidelity may be a secondary consideration, which could indicate the genetic outbreeding was a natural extension during rare interband socialization, possibly as an alternative to fighting.

If so, this could also indicate a vector for the development of stronger socialization among bands and the evolution of marriage customs in response to the time bomb of incest. Regardless, this work would seem to not only give us a time datum for that period before incest was taboo and marriage had been adopted.

And it puts rather another counter to mystical religionist claims on the board.

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Worm Hole

Woden’s day and I have to admit it was a bit nasty. The gym had rather too many, or at least, too obnoxious, weight bouncers, and the podcast, an episode of the CBC’s “Quirks and Quarks” was a Q&A program and hence mostly flat. And full of grating simplifications.

Which puts me in mind of how does one “dumb down” the right amount to talk to bogs and children, recognizing that the two are at least partly distinct. After all, some of the children will become nerds and geeks, but they still have an abysmal lack of experience – uncorrected for bogs – and thus lack reference points for many things. I also have to admit to an emotionalist, in-the-moment effect of having to respond rapidly without the time to do a proper job. But then, why are so many written popularizations so frigging bad?

In such a frame of mind, I was happily greeted by an article [Link] in Smithsonian’s RSS feed about the recovery of twelfth century Plantagenet poo from the ruins of the castle Saranda Kolones on the island of Cyprus.

Cyprus is the opposite of a swimming pool. It is still an attractive nuisance, that’s why everyone wants to control it and why the poo is there, but instead of being a body of water in a back yard, it’s a backyard in a body of water. As such it has enormous value in control of the Mediterranean. That’s why Richard Plantagenet built a castle there in 1191 CE as part of his holy quest to secure Jerusalem from the evil, heathen Mohammedans. And having done that, promptly sold the island – how’s that for ROI? – to the new King of Jerusalem.

But in that brief interim, Richard, and his noble minions, too time to place their nether regions upon the castle’s latrine and leave something of value for science.

The first thing one notices is that the facility is based on an intriguing model of human anatomy. Nonetheless, what was found in the poo was indeed a pony of value to various disciplines. They particularly indicated the presence of intestinal worms in at lest some of the folks who contributed to the sample. So we can add intestinal and rectal disease to the list of things that the crusaders had to enjoy in addition to the crusade itself and heavy armor in the desert.

One can also contemplate that this may be the most important thing done by this particular Plantagenet?

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Business Acumen

It’s ice cream day and once agin time to get ruthless in purging tabs. And me without any Black Drink.

First, a survey of Winders Ate users [Link] not only indicates that the majority of users ignore the Tile GUI (nee Metro) and just pretend its a debased form of W7. In fact,

the only folks who predominantly use the tile gui are the slabists. And while this is, or is rapidly becoming, the new majority, it still seems rather foolish on MegaHard’s part to micturate their established customer base.

I have to reflect on this a moment. The wisdom that one doesn’t run off existing customers in seeking new ones is well established. It follows that only in times of great change will ignoring this wisdom be wise. So do we have such a time of great change? The answer is a resounding maybe, and the scope of that maybe reveals the magnitude of the risk being taken by MegaHard and Canonical.

If they are right then they have the advantage of maybe establishing a common computer interaction across box sizes and forms. Note critically here that this assumes desk and lap boxes will still be around. The disadvantage is that in leaping they find the mist concealing the chasm and doing a Wile Coyote. And the whole gamble is on the margin since they are having to bet the bog boxes will still be there. But they have alienated the big box users in the process. Sic Transit Gloria Mundae?

Next, on a related matter, a study [Link] from U York proposes that humans evolved upright stance and motion because of the terrain of Africa. Previous theories proposed the development was due to climate change and the reduction in available trees for us to cower in. Or is that cavort? If so that cavorting may give some insight into typical christianist behavior during sundae services.

If the picture of terrain in the article is representative I would have to support the hypothesis. This is not terrain for four legged locomotion. But how representative is it? As usual, even for the Brits, the journalism sags woefully.

And lastly, the old bit about sapiens eating neandertals has been surfaced again by researchers at a Spanish U. [Link] This is not a new thing. It’s one of two major theories of how neandertals went away, the other being reproductive. That theory has enormous weight these days as a result of mapping of sapiens and neandertal genomes that demonstrated that except for the purest of African human lineages, all modern sapiens are about 0.15 neandertal.

I shall not offer the rather obvious and hideous sexual innuendo. But the cannibalism theory is claimed to be strengthened by finding gnaw marks on neandertal bones that match sapiens dentition.

Given what I have seen of human behavior – sapiens’ – I would not be greatly surprised if both theories are accurate.

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Ancient Histories

Survived another ‘week’ of gym. Got to sleep in this morning. Almost feel rested. And just in time to celebrate.

Today is the birthday anniversary of William Whewell, the daddy rabbit of modern science. Admittedly, he was a bit of an anal retentive. His view of science was that the scientist had to be widely and deeply educated and trained, quite at odds from he and his contemporaries who made it up as they went. I always suspected it was more that he was an information junkie and wanted everyone else to be the same before he would grant them respectable notice. He was also down on accidental discovery. And he had the thought, firmly held that science and religion were easily reconciled and that the state of science was stationary.

But at least he got past the arrogance of the Restoration crowd, Newton and Boyle and Young and the like. In fact we can argue that Whewell was the first historically attended nerd, given his problems with women. No, nothing out of the ordinary. In fact totally ordinary and archetypical, at least from the nerdish standpoint.

I also read, in a rather poorly supported article, [Link] that the Gates of Tartarus, or Plutonion, has been found. Just another cave with psychoactive gas seepage, evidently.

Intriguingly, the original shrine was destroyed by Christianists in the sixth century CE – with some aid from an earthquake. Of course by then the ruler of the “underworld” had become the villain.

And lastly, we have a lovely rant [Link] about the evils of fast food restaurants, in particular, McDougal’s. Sadly the rant is one pony, whipping only on the calorie overages and totally ignoring more subtle things like fats and sodium. Ah well, what do we expect from modern journalists? Accuracy? Depth? Completeness? Probably as little as we expect from modern corporations in general.

Of course there’s nothing actually new here, just a rehash to fill page space and sell papers. Of course given the numbers of folks who eat at fast food restaurants we have to questions what difference any honesty and integrity make and whether the species isn’t already doomed to extinction?

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Memories of Days Past

OK. There is a heavy haze out there. I can’t get a line-of-sight at least a kilometer long to be able to guesstimate the optical density and thereby determine whether this is really a fog or not.

The SCIENCE podcast this morning was the yearly review podcast, which is almost as useless as not having one, which, as I mentioned earlier, is the foretelling for the next two weeks. May have to listen to a few backed-up In Our Time podcasts instead. And the number one of the year was the “discovery” of the Higgs (Higgses? number uncertain.) That’s sad, that something telling to bogs had to be the big one. Makes me wonder if the paywall is rotting the editors’ minds?

And FD SCP arose early so we vacated the whole package thing quickly and moved on to meaningful things like contemplating naps or projects.

I reverted to scanning tabs emergent from folders, an information thing that is sometimes emergent. And came up with a few cartoons that evoke memories of earlier holidays.

First, [Link]

a righteous parable. I do not recall when I discovered that Santa brings unwanted stuff, but my first clear memory is of football pads and helmet. And the repeated denial of a chemistry set, almost until puberty set in. I am unsure of the unopenable thing, packaging was still cardboard when I was a bairn.

I recall that summer after I got the helmet and pads being enticed by my father to go try out for the neighborhood childish team. Happily, I was rejected and never looked back. But I still missed the chemistry set.

Second, [Link]

the adult curse. I think I was in college when I learned the techoid’s christmas secret – the best presents are the ones you build yourself.

But the best christmas present I ever got [Link] was

I got the whole set of kits at one time. That chistmas lasted six months and got me in lots of trouble. I haven’t been the same since and have been trying to recapture even to now.

Of course, organic chemistry is good too.

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Progression of Stupid

Evidently Canonical realized the depths of its sin and has managed to fix some of the problem. Anyway, my RSS accumulator, RSSOWL, is once more talking to browser so I am moving back to modality in terms of accumulating tabs. Sadly that also means I have to move back to modality on how I hawg tabs.

Starting off this morning, a study [Link] out of Hebrew U on how humans can unconsciously solve maths problems. I have to admit that this is no surprise to me. I have been solving maths problems in my sleep and during other activities, especially recreational activities such as reproductive interactions and beer drinking, for years now. I have to admit that my memories of early years are fuzzy, at least partly because until college I didn’t encounter that many maths problems that didn’t succumb quickly. I attribute this mostly to the rather incompetent nature of maths education in public shules. But doing maths unconsciously is natural and common, but at least now we have an academic validation of what I suspect has been common knowledge among nerds for centuries.

Similarly, [Link] but perhaps more originally, the wonks are saying that projectile weapons may have been developed/invented by early sapiens much earlier than previously thought. The technology of hafting, mounting a projectile point on a stick, has been pushed back from 0.3 MYA to 0.5 MYA. Somewhat intriguingly, the researchers actually cobbled together a weapons test rig that the Greeks might have been only slightly derogatory of to test their theories. [Link] Sadly, now they are asking rather strained questions about whether this gave sapiens a superiority over neandertalensis that resulted in extinction.[Link] Sadly because it starts with pushing genius back a period of 0.2 MY and then intimating that sapiens was so inept to take 0.5 MY to kill off neandertalensis. Technically brilliant but militarily klutzy. Which may be interpreted as indicating that sapiens was much nerdier in times past.

On which note, a Stanford U academic has announced that sapiens is indeed steadily getting stupider.[Link] Now all we have to do is figure out what critical mutation occurred 0.5 MYA to kick in right after we invented the spear to make us so boggish as to take until 30 KYA to dispose of neandertals. Rather begs for a dose of Lysenko-ism, doesn’t it?

But it is rather intriguing to think about a time when all of the species were nerds. I suspect the bog mutation was all that kept us from going extinct long ago if that be the case.