Utterance Ubuquities

If you observe a person inserting “literally’ needlessly in a sentence, then you may entertain the conjecture that person is inarticulate and ignorant;

whereas, if you observe a person inserting “you know” more than once in a sentence, then you may entertain the conjecture that person is insecure and alienated.

It would be nice to opine that these are characteristics of bog but I have observed that people of actual, if un or misused intelligence, also use them as bad habits acquired by association with bogs.

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Color Abuse

Lovely morning. Complete weather disagreement. My browser tells me it is 40 degF here in Greater Metropolitan Arab. My new KDE widget tells me it is 40 degF and my aft porch wireless thermometer proclaims 46 degF. I decided to assay a walk in the park and it was bitter, mostly due to a fine, blowing rain that didn’t quite wet but did conduct. I am still waiting for sensation to creep in under my beard.

The podcast this morning was an episode of “The Pen Addict”, [Link] which primarily has two positive attributes: it is usually long enough to cover my week out sessions – Freya, Saturn, and Sol days; and it makes some other egregiously obnoxious podcasts endurable, primarily Linux podcasts that are sort of Yankee redneck geeky in a computer fashion. TPA is a mixture of British and Gawjah cracker geeky in a paper and pen fashion. Both are flavored with egregiously horrible grammar. Except the Brit. Most of the time. In both cases the useful information is not usually in the main stream but in the side bands. With the Linux podcasts it’s usually some bit of code or a client app that is mentioned in conversation; with TPA it’s usually some notebook, occasionally pen, mentioned in conversation or only present in the notes. But both have the sovereign value of diverting attention, often violently in disgust and/or disagreement, from the unjoy of exercise.

But what struck me as I huddled upon myself along the walking trail at park this morning was color abuse. It is a terrible thing. We humans, especially bogs, tend to try to give names to colors that aren’t. Or, we call things colors that aren’t. Being a good nerd and mediocre physicist (I rather suspect even the best aren’t much better than good?) the only colors are ROYGBIV. In particular, White and Black are NOT colors, the first being a collection of all colors and the second the absence of color. It is particularly tempting to inflict unpleasantness on bogs who misuse these two terms and I have been known to reduce stately but hideously inaccurate, matrons to lachrymation via counseling.

Orange is problematic in that it may also be the name of a fruit. Directionality need be noted here. It is what makes this proper in that the fruit is named for the color, which is indeed a color, of its rind. It is also a rather sad happening since the fruit is not properly exalted due to the absence of useful words that rhyme. But other instances such as Teal (a duck,) Ebony (mineral,) and Khaki (dust) are examples of the mental nastiness of humans misusing language. Sadly such people cannot be identified prior to puberty and “fixed” prior to reproduction, mostly because of inadequate social fiber and testing efforts but mostly because it would eliminate homo sapiens in two generations. It is unclear that his would not be beneficial but since the effort is irreversible, general insecurity and boggishness prevails.

The micturant in the pudding is grey, spelled here in the Yankee republic too often as “gray”. It is clearly not a color and its dictionary definition , an admixture of white and black, is gibberish of the most odious form. It is however, hideously useful. Almost everything ends up grey eventually. It is a somewhat apt description of both my hair and eyes. The term brown is similar. So the slope is not only gradual but lubricated. Even one as whacked as I am is forced by necessity to admit that the purity of real color is polluted by humanity as well as nature – d*** those acomputate biologists! – and more vocabulary than that is needful.

But I can still be obnoxious about it. We humans must suffer for our liberties. Just be happy it’s not a raptor gnawing on your liver.

Which brings us to the subject of liver gravy. But that’s for another blot.

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How High is Up?

I ran across this XKCD [Link] cartoon the other day:

and it put me in mind of surgery last week.

I had two encounters with nurses and the matter of pain scale. Once in the pre-surgery testing and registration, and once in the post-surgery maundering.

Both were unsatisfactory on both sides. I would get asked, (~) ‘ on a scale from zero to ten, zero being no pain, how much pain do you feel right now?’

First response was a question of whether the scale was linear or logarithmic. And yes, I realize that those are not the only choices but those are the most common. The response in both cases was a stare that I could not decipher and a reply that the scale was linear.

My second questions was ‘how do you measure the intensity of pain?’ In once case I got the answer that the scale was subjective, which is as close to good as I could expect.

So I answered ‘five’. I was in a small amount of pain, everyone is who stops to think about it, added to by the problem I was suffering. Both times I was asked if I wanted anything for the pain and I responded in the negative.

Incidentally, the answer was based not on how I felt but on Order Statistics. And I had more sense than to tell the nurses this.

I am a strong advocate of Lord Kelvin’s admonition about measurement, but I am coming to be even more vehement that we not quantize what we cannot measure.

It strikes me that one of the implicit weaknesses of this methodology is that it creates an unnecessary distrust between patient and medicalist since the latter will always suspect the difficulty of endurance is being exaggerated.

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Klingon Kognition

Tuesday is usually a nice day at gym. Low density of educationalists and weight bouncers, science podcast episodes to listen to, and now the heat has abated a bit so my glasses don’t steam up when I walk out of the gym after my Yankee government ‘mandated’ 76 minutes of ‘moderate’ exercise. Although the glasses steaming up does give me a nice model of the “Every Child Left Behind’ program, at least in effect.

One of the things I really dislike about science, or any form of, but especially science, journalism is that journalists tend to interview each other rather than primary sources – scientists. I usually only grumble about this and mutter at the podcast episode when the journalist doing the interviewing or the journalist being interviewed make some egregious fumble of the subject matter under discussion, but this morning I got to thinking about an article I read yesterday in New Yawk Times.

This article [Link] resurrects Whorf’s theory that language shapes what we can think about and how we think about things. I emphasize the shapes here since this is an influence and not a determiner. The article goes off on a ramble discussing research on how directions are given in either body fixed or locality fixed coordinates, the sort of stuff that one gets immersed, or used to, in Freshman physics, and piled on from there but evidently its hot stuff to linguists and psychologists and ripe for mangling by journalists.

I was especially taken by one of their statements,

“Eventually, Whorf’s theory crash-landed on hard facts and solid common sense, when it transpired that there had never actually been any evidence to support his fantastic claims.”

that raised the question of who came to this conclusion – social engineering politicians? Back when I first ran into this theory, as an undergraduate, I could never find anyone, and I heard it from everyone from furrin language professors to anthropologists, who claimed it was bunk or whacked. Quite the opposite, and the more I learned about furrin language, the more valid it seemed to me.

The idea is pretty simple, language develops in an environment that is a mixture of social and natural, and the language reflects what people do in that environment and what the environment does to people. It may ignore taboo topics of the latter but that is as characteristic as inclusion. And people who grow up in the language or learn it well, think in that language and that ‘shapes’ how and what they think. The classic example of this, which I was presented in Freshman survey of anthropology, are Eskimos who have umpteen words for snow while European settlers have to make do with three or four adjectives modifying one noun. The manipulations that you can do in head are obvious, as are the differences between the two.

But what gets ignored often is variants on language. If you study a science, as in a college major or a practitioner of the discipline, you acquire language components that other people who speak (and think) the same base language don’t have, and those components make your thoughts different from their’s. So it’s not just a matter of having different languages, it’s also a matter of having different variants. And if you think different thought from other people, you are going to communicate differently as well because you have different words to use in forming information.

What struck me is that this is at the root of scientists having problems communicating with bogs (and bogs understanding scientists, assuming they even try, which is a BIG assumption these days!) It is popular these days for the social engineering progressives and other fuzzy thinkers to bash scientists for not working hard enough at communicating with bogs. Most scientists either ignore this or try harder, but the more cognate ones tend to respond that communication is a two way process and the bogs have to do their part of the process or THEY are at fault.

And Whorf’s theory substantiates that view. The fact is that when two folks who think in different languages try to communicate, both have to work hard to make the communication work. And if the languages are French and German nothing untoward is thought of this. But if the languages are (e.g.,) chemistry American English and bog American English, the burden is all on the chemist.

Unless the chemist English is being spoken – inaccurately – by a journalist and then the listener is irrelevant. Why is that?

So the next time you have to speak jargon to a bog, demand some mutual effort. Communication is not consumerist.

In Search of the Feral Gibble

A delightful morning so far, despite a rather rough arising. The educationalists seem to continue to use a MWF schedule so the gym was adorned this morning with the absence of them and their stridency. And for once the Science podcast episodes flowed rather well if not particularly mind sticking. Not that they were not informative but none were attention riveting.

I was however, on the way home, searching for keys in pocket when I came to consider the term “gibble.” My experience with the term, which is not, per se, in the OED, seems to follow from “gibble gabble”, which is in the OED, and means ‘senseless chatter’, in that gabble means chatter so gibble must mean senseless. Whether that means senseless in the sense of absence of sense or absence of sensation is unclear.

The focus I was considering was what is known as pocket gibble, which is the stuff one accumulates in one’s pockets, not necessarily with any remembered purpose other than forgotten expediency. In similar sense one has desk gibble, drawer gibble, and automobile gibble, even house gibble. In this particular case I suppose one may even refer to podcast gibble although that may be so transient as to be meaningless since gibble implies some unwanted permanence rather than some undesired transience.

There is also, as I have commented frequently, browser gibble (and software gibble and computer gibble, obviously) that is frequently the source of the mastications that turn into blots. For example, I noted yesterday, on Lifehacker, [Link] an article about how to make one’s Linux desktop have the appearance of MegaHard’s Windows 7. These things seem to abound as people are offered ways of making their desktop look like some one of the other OS. At one level it is nothing more that the tenor of eye candy, which itself is as old as graphical displays (as opposed to teletype displays.) Certainly back in the DOS days there were all sorts of things to change background and foreground color, display a wallpaper or some frivolous screen-saver and these things continue today.

I have heard it argued, mostly by OS fanatics, that such Ovidian metamorphoses are an expression of OS envy. I also consider these arguments to have some basis but mostly in the reverse of what the pundit intended. Half of all instances of desktop are organizational and making self-woo with eye is nothing more than safe rebellion against tyranny. But in the other half of the cases I suspect it is nothing more than being happy with one’s OS but also liking the eye candy of another OS, after all, the philosophy of each of the big three is different in this arena.

The other piece I noticed was an article in the student newspaper of the campus of the Boneyard [Link] considering whether students should imbibe spirits in drinking establishments near campus – students pubs – or in establishments away from campus that catered to permanent residents, a clear instance of the old town or gown division. What was compelling about the piece was not the argument but my own memories of student days.

Yes, there was student drinking on the campus of the Black Warrior when I was an undergraduate. This could hardly be argued given its notoriety even then as a party shul. And I drank on occasion, even when I was underage. But my consumption was in moderation compared to that of the bogs. Indeed, I usually had the role of designated driver. But the thing that sticks out was that in my undergraduate days I never once consumed spirits in a drinking establishment. And I am in a bit of wonder that any undergraduate does, since I never did. And that advice on such would be dispensed in student newspapers. Why in my day they didn’t even talk about contraception or pledge hazing, even when the kid was crippled for life.

So there has to be mind gibble as well, doesn’t there? Which brings us to the rather more complicated question of what does one do when one encounters gibble? Is it to be left alone, rather like sport fishing where one releases one’s catch? Or is it the focus of some episode of Puritan rage against disorder, implying religious disease, necessitating eradication that is probably not only folly but harmful and/or negative? Which gives rise to the nerdish question of whether gibble is an accumulating state or can it be transformed into a state of value?

If it were not for nerdery humanity would have exploded from self-satisfaction millennia ago.

Observation Occasion

Today, I am informed by my trusty FireFox reminder add-in, is the birthday anniversary of William Whewell. Whewell was a polymath who managed to combine science and religion successfully, but then his period was one when that was easier because the religion fanatics were less dense.

The reason we recall his anniversary is that Whewell is the fellow who invented the word ‘scientist’, which is sufficient for that purpose. Happily there are no plans to re-inter him in Poland.

Creationism

In the run up to Earth Day I fear I have suffered a crystallization. The focus of the event is the use of the term “organic”. This term has become widely used in recent years to designate foodstuffs and a few other products as being special in some sense. I believe one of those senses is that the foodstuffs are raised/produced/packaged without – ostensibly, how much can we actually trust anything told us by a large organization whose care is its survival and not our own? – the use of ‘artificial’ additions, augmentations, …..

I have a lot of difficulty with this usage. Back when I was an undergraduate, one of my majors was chemistry and I had to take a two semester, ten credit hour course of organic chemistry. In that usage of the term it meant the chemistry of molecules of carbon plus other elements, the focus being on carbon. Many of the molecules we studied were ‘natural’ in that they are found in the environment of Tellus produced by animals or plants or things in between. But it also included molecules produced in reaction vessels that were original products of human endeavor. which may accurately, at least according to my Concise Oxford Dictionary edition ten, be called artificial. Less obvious were molecules produced in reaction vessels that were also produced by ‘Nature’. What are these molecules? Knock offs, perhaps?

As I progressed and discovered that organic chemistry was all about quantum mechanics and statistical mechanics, I also discovered a sort of ordering of the maths abilities, in the mean, of nerdish discipline practitioners. In order of descending maths ability, this (channel) is:

mathematicians (aggregate); physicists (aggregate); chemical physicists; physical chemists; inorganic and analytical chemists; organic chemists; biochemists; and biologists (aggregate)

Sadly, most organic chemists don’t really have the maths to handle the basic mechanics – quantum and statistical – that describe their discipline.

I also evolved another use of the term: organic means the quantum and statistical mechanics of molecules whose core atoms of interest have four – and only four – highest principal quantum number electrons. In the case of carbon, the value of the highest principal quantum number is one, which indicates that the value of angular momentum quantum number can be zero or one, hence, respectively, a maximum of two or six electrons. Carbon is thus the simplest, smallest (in an atomic number sense) of the elements that satisfy the criterion to be organic.

This is the root of my difficulty and, so it seems, a difference between nerds and bogs.To the technically inclined nerd – there are other types, of course – organic refers to molecules made of carbon, silicon, … from that column of the periodic table of elements. Apparently organic means something different to bogs as indicated previously. They seem to be distinguishing between certain structures of organic molecules being raised/produced/packaged without the use of other organic molecules which they deem to not be organic despite congruence of the quantum mechanics of the molecules.

To paraphrase Kant, the thing is not itself?