Right Back on Campus

One of my colleagues, Normal Angular Momentum, posted this on FaceScroll:

“Your All-Access Pass to the SEC is on Ch. 611

August 7, 2014

Beginning August 14, get all the Southeastern Conference coverage you can handle with the SEC Network. Available with the CHOICE™ package or above, it’s just what you need to feel right back on campus. You’ll get the best in SEC football, men and women’s basketball, baseball, softball, and so much more. Plus, you’ll get studio shows and original programming that you can’t find anywhere else.

Get all this starting August 14:

• The top football rivalries. With 45 live, exclusive SEC games all season long, you’ll see all 14 SEC teams play on the SEC Network.

• SEC hardwood action. Watch your favorite schools battle it out as they fight towards the tourney in March.

• Live in-studio programming. Catch historic games from yesteryear on SEC Rewind or get the SEC news of the day on SEC Now.”

The part that screamed into my consciousness was “it’s just what you need to feel right back on campus.” 

I am not a fanatic of spectator sports. I am not opposed to those who are so long as they are not evangelistic. If you lecture me on not watching televised athletics or tell me I am evil for not doing so, then be prepared to have your coffee sweetened with phenolpthalein. As Mr. Jefferson said (approximately) ‘If you don’t burden me with your beliefs I won’t trouble you with mine.’ But I have very good evidence that sports fanatics and christianists believe that the golden rule doesn’t apply to them harassing those who believe differently than they.

I have nothing against engaging in sports and athletics. I go to gym four days a week and walk the other three. I did a bit of sports as an undergraduate, but nothing that drew a crowd. Like fencing and target shooting and walking. But I find watching sports and athletics, even what I participate in, more boring than sitting in a medicalist waiting area. 

This goes back to my undergraduate days. I attended home, American football games because all but the most dedicated of loner does. My memories of games are: interminable wait for game to begin; abysmally dull progress of game mixed with distracting hollaring and an atmosphere almost saturated with ethanol; the hideous difficulty of herding drunks back to dorm before they get collected by the campus constabulary and sent home in disgrace; infantile celebrations/wakes in memory of the day’s game characterized by much noise, endangerment, and ritual regurgitation. 

Of all that happened on campus, football Saturdays were the ultimate in bad. 

The ultimate in good was: knowledgeable, engaging professors; thrilling lectures; learning; reading; successfully doing problems; reading new textbooks. Learning new stuff. Campus in summer term, less so in spring term; not so in fall term. 

There were parts of fall term that were good. Professor George Toffel lecturing in his Monday morning nursing organic course to a class of hungover, dehydrated, possibly pregnant coeds and using horrible jokes to try to rouse any reaction. Calculus class at 0800 every morning. The brief savoring of what was new in the dorm cafeteria but rapidly got bad. Learning the trajectories between classrooms and dorm. Rain. Leaves. 

But I doubt that’s going to be on that channel. And the part about being back on campus is corporate prevarication. But that’s OK. Because that campus isn’t there any more. 

 

Piled Up

Week out is begun. Just finished my constitutional at the park. The air was unmoving so my heat dragged. Or more properly, I dragged it with me. No convective heat transfer. And the podcast was especially terrible, some acalculate mysticism about 1E2. But I downloaded episodes of two new – to me – podcasts yesterday and they may offer some relief. Although the ‘cast does serve its intended purpose of making all the others I listen to better by comparison. And better grammar. Mostly.

I noted in passing yesterday [Link] that the Moundville facility will begin observing its seventy-fifth anniversary today.

That’s the Douglas Jones Museum at the left in the picture. You can’t see the David DeJarnette Laboratory off to the right.

I have to admit to good feelings/memories about those two and the park itself. As an undergraduate I took and Anthropology track – two courses – of diversification study and one of those courses was New World Archaeology taught by Mr. DeJarnette. He was one of the greats to me, a capable teacher and an open mentor. He had high standards and openly shared his views. And being unable to convince me to abandon a frivolous existence majoring in the physical sciences and maths, put me to work on the physics aspects of various archaeological problems. Like dating some limestone caves in the Yucatan.

Doug Jones was a geologist and dean of the fartsy, nerdy schule at the campus of the Black Warrior. When two of my colleagues and I wanted to wander over to the mechanics schule and take FORTRAN, instead of the moneychangers schule’s COBOL, he was the fellow who “shouted havoc” for us. So both of these chaps molded my education and future.

I mention that because I ran across an article [Link] that indicates that students are much more likely to be successful in their endeavors if they have professors who mentor them. So while the mentoring was peripheral, I do attribute some components of my success – if I can call it that – to these two professors.

It is not easy to mentor an introvert. I was reminded this morning that one definition of an introvert is ” a person who would rather pay for something than get it free if social contact  can be avoided thereby.” Social contact in anthropology is hard to avoid. In a sense, it’s all about social stuff. And the average anthropological theory is overwhelming extro. So anthropology is no home for an intro.

I first went to Moundville as part of DeJarnette’s course. One of his duties was to be poohbah of the facility and he sent us off to see it. And I can say that it had a deep impression on me, one so deep I tried to impart it to my daughter – and failed.

It was wonderful then, with the museum, not yet named for Doug Jones, musty and dark, and the fascinating mounds. And it’s better today, not because of the museum being renewed but by the enrichment of the Yankee government returning the Duck Bowl

to its home.

But no, I am not going to the festivities. They’re for extro bogs. I’ll wait and go when there aren’t crowds and I can enjoy what is there.

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Why We Age

Saw this [Link]

this morning and realized that this is why we get old.

My psychologist colleagues tell me that whatever we learn first about something sticks with us even when we learn it’s inaccurate. This is particularly hard on physicists since our curriculum tends to be historical in sequence so we are constantly battling with approximations and half-accuracies we learned in early courses. And probably why we tend to like our professors more the sooner we had them?

Anyway, since the longer we live the more stuff we know that is inaccurate, getting forgetful and near unto discorporation is a mitzvah. Which is a better “proof” of the deity than anything Aquinas came up with.

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Against Stupidity

“Andy” Griffith is discorporate.

Normally I do not pay a great deal of attention to entertainment “celebrities”, mostly because they are imbued with activities that they have no credibility for. Acting, yes, political and/or social causes, no. They are only exercising their opinons which IMHO are inherently no better than mine. In fact, in many instances, less than mine since most entertainment celebrities are more bog than geek or nerd. But they do this and because of their connectivity to the Rich And Powerful, and money they receive vastly disproportionate attention and unconscionable influence.

I fondly remember Andy Griffith not for his acting but for his humor. One of the first LP records I received, as a gift, while an early teenager, was Griffith’s “What it Was, Was Football” album. I was oblivious to all but a few entertainment celebrities in those days, limited to the aged ones my mother yammered about and the ones I saw in Saturday morning children’s specials. Mostly western and science fiction (misnomer) actors. And a few television actors. But not Andy Griffith.

I rather suspect my parents gave me the album because they were concerned that I begin to assert my individuality now that I was a teenager. Looking back, I am not sure this goal was not adding flame to a fuse. But Griffith’s album certainly enhanced my individuality, and awakening proper disrespect for false authority. I recall four pieces on his album. One, the monologue commenting on a popular (?) song of the day about silhouettes on a shade was wasted on me. In later years I would comprehend the metaphor but at that time it was wasted. Being a typical nerd my only concepts of sexuality were based on what I had read in teenager guidance manuals and a couple of psychology books. Nothing in the way of locker room banter or peer group gossip since I had never been in a locker room nor did my minuscule peer group discuss such. We were all equally orthogonal to teenage sexual storming.

The second, and most telling, was Griffith’s monologue on a football game. I attended football games, mostly at the behest of my parents and a bit of a push from shule. I did not enjoy them. They were wasted times often with great and unnecessary stress. But Griffith’s monologue confirmed for me that they were, in fact, utter nonsense, a manifestation of the boggish, mindless wastefulness that humanity is prone to and will eventually seal our extinction. But I also realized that attendance was a mandatory (in a sense) social activity and so I attended some football games through high shule and into undergraduate shule. But I attended not because of the competition or any shule “spirit” – neither being either relevant or important – but because of the interest of friends that I gained benefit from the association.

The other two bits are closely related, monologues about ballet and opera. At the time I had only heard records of operas and seen bits of ballet on television. Neither was interesting and neither appealed to my sense of art. No dancing is appealing to me, I have since found, probably because I cannot dance myself, despite the efforts of numerous dance instructors, girlfriends, and FD SCP. I am a dance klutz and cannot see any beauty or grace in the activity because I have none myself. SCPdatter studeid ballet and I attended her recitals, but that is rather different. It was a learning activity for her, and I took pride in her accomplishment. I also got into trouble for violating some unwritten parent rule that I was not suppose to leave the recital once SCPdatter had done her bit. Evidently I was supposed to pretend to enjoy the bits of other children as well. If someone had told me this I should likely have complied but being bogs those parents could only punish, not communicate.

I have never attended an opera. I have attended symphony concerts that featured an opera singer as guest artiste. Horrible. To me the singing is technically admirable but lacking any attraction. I fear I am blood and bones attracted only to band music, pipes, and folk, and mostly only folk of the ’50’s and ’60’s. The modern folk of today is mostly rubbish and noise. But opera is just poor communication begging to be excused by excellent singing of rather sadly inadequate verses. The voice is wonderful, but the content is abysmal. The exact opposite of folk where the voices are often pedestrian but the content is all. To me opera, and ballet, are just as wasteful and irrelevant as football, and lack the ingredient of interaction with friends.

So this I owe to Andy Griffith, this accurate and true (if I may abuse the word) perception of the social environment that is fitting to my overall social philosophy of Proper Disrespect for False Authority. I do not know how much I owe to Mr. Griffith. I cannot know. experimentation is and was impossible. I may only reason and rationalize. So I recognize a debt to Mr. Griffith of magnitude unknown. And I acknowledge it, with a bit of shame that I had to wait for his discorporation. In that I am indeed human and a part boggish.

I did not care for Mr. Griffith’s acting. His political movie was unintelligible to me, and No Time for Sargents was too unbelievable – at the time. Later working for the Yankee army I recognized its accuracy but never really enjoyed it. I did not greatly enjoy the Andy Taylor role until I became old enough to appreciate what it lauded, a man who knew what was meaningful in life and had to contend continually and constantly with those who did not. It now ranks with MASH in my enjoyment. His later portrayals were not to my liking even though they tried to continue that model. IN my opinion  they were only limited successes. But no matter. The Taylor role was enough and more.

I also did not object to many of Mr. Griffith’s activisms because they were apparently honest. His commercial endorsements I dismissed as I do all such, celebrity prevarication for hire. But I do not dismiss him for such cravenness. Everyone has to have money in this capitalist society to live.

What he did wrong and mediocre I ignore. What he did right I treasure and celebrate. Thank you, Andy. You shaped my life more than most and for that I am indebted and appreciative. You will be missed.

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It’s in there somewhere?

Back when I was an entering freshman in college I must have projected naivety since a kind upper classman delivered some advice to me about note taking. Among the bits was an admonition to take notes because the act of writing would help me remember and I would have the notes for later reference. I took this so much to heart that I had almost all of my notes with me, unread in years, when they burned in the great fire of ’01.

What I did not learn until later was that you have to look at what you are writing. I have since learned that we may visualize what we are writing but more so we speak it and thus looking at what we have written adds a stronger visual sensory component to the memory.

I had occasion yesterday while visiting my periodontist to make use of this, interrupting the hygienist in the midst of film removal to write down an instruction so that I could remember it after I left the facility.

But I also came by a bit of a question. The current generation, the so-called GEN Ys, do not write. They lack both training and developed ability. Only those who have had calligraphy as a hobby know any cursive. But they do key, and so the question arose in my mind as to whether keying is as effective as writing for remembering?

I can think of arguments both ways, but I tend towards keying being less effective simply because almost all of the GEN Y can key without looking at what they are keying. So no strong visual sensation to enhance the memory.

I also suspect that no font, no matter how striking, can be as effective in provoking memory as writing. All writing, despite the best efforts of first and second grade teachers, is individual. So all writing is different, and at the same time, because it is ours, clearly ours. We recognize its shape even if we have problems deciphering it. At least I do, supposedly the result of too much education and not enough precision in forming letters, but actually, in my Id, I know it is a lack of discipline on my part.

So while I know not, and would like to know, I suspect that one of the penalties of abandoning writing is reduced memory. That seems a strange thing to say given the same complaints were raised as occurring when writing was adopted.

Lost Spectrum

Here we are at twos-day and things have been entirely too much fun. Yesterday I managed to do a bit of self-damage that resulted in a frantic drive to Huntsville to visit my ocular surgeon to undo my mischief. Rather stressful. And this morning I have to go visit my general physician for physical. This is going to be a week of medicalist activity and I am already at the point where my emotional Young’s modulus is going non-linear.

This is what comes of living too sheltered a life. If I can call it that. It’s more like a metabolism most of the time.

This morning at gym was disappointing. Too frigging hot for March. Even the podcasts – this is science day so I listened to several short ones. Why is it that the blue serge podcasts are good if they are long, the geek podcasts are good if they are long and not profane, but the nerd ones are good if they are short. Is it because it minimizes the risk of whackadoodle?

The SCIENCE podcast was frustrating. It mostly dealt with the recommendations that we humans need to establish a planetary government (overgovernment?) to cope with global climate change. All I could think of was how poorly, violently even, that was going to go over in the Yankee republic.  I expect nationalism to take a sharp rise and the repulsians to be saved despite themselves. And the democruds are probably going to either be sent to prison camps or lined up against a wall and given a blindfold.

Back when Jim Dunnigan was running SPI, he did a pair of board games: one about the rest of the planet invading the Soviet Union; and its counterpart, the rest of the planet invading the Yankee republic. Not well received then. Eerily prophetic now. I fear that Amerikan consumerism, extrovertism, … have ossified to the point where sharing and sacrifice on any substantive level have withered. This may be Ragnarök but we Amerikans want to drive our SUVs to it while eating Whompers and guzzling Bud Urine. 

On a somewhat less dark level, the Guardian’s podcast episode was enlightening. The bad part was they interviewed some journalist as expert, which shows that the decomposition of journalism is apace in England, not just in the Yankee republic. The subject was memorization techniques. What was uplifting was being reminded that one of the key tricks is to associate the things we want to remember with some spatial arrangement, like rooms of furniture in a house. This is supposed to let us also use the spatial centers of our brains in remembering.

What is key about this however, is that it explains why the internet is making us stupid. The ancients thought reading/writing would make us stupid, and it did relatively, but there was a way around. Back when I was in college the way I would remember something was to associate it with the geography of a book, usually one of my textbooks. That way when I wanted to remember it all I had to do was find that location in the book. And I had almost all of my textbooks until the house fire of ’01. The ones I didn’t keep were from courses I didn’t want to remember.

But contemporary students don’t do this. They don;t keep their books. Because they can always ‘google’ it. But the internet is dynamic and ever time you search (a few days apart,) even with the same engine and terms, you get a different presentation. So memorizing the geography of searches and web pages is horribly uncertain compared to the frozen pages of a book. So we can’t remember what we find on the internet because it has no spatiality.

Which is probably a good thing since it means we can’t remember why we are doing evil to each other in the coming wars of climate change.

Oil Drop Anniversary?

Strange morning. Cooler just now dispersing seed for the tree mammals and dinosaur descendants than it was when I motored to/from Scant City. This put me in mind of an article [Link] cited in an email yesterday.  The article is about Robert Millikan’s oil drop experiment.

The experiment has very little to do with oil, or automobiles, or anything obvious from the name. It is all about the charge on an electron. And I need to mention that this is all happening back at the turn of the last century, back in Tom Swift time, which is appropriate because this effort is almost a classic Greek hero story.

The basic postulate was that the electron has a fixed charge and this experiment was intended to measure that charge. What Millikan set up was a can with a simple capacitor – two plates – and a perfume sprayer full of light oil and a charged screen to put charge on the drops. There was a hole in the can to which a telescope was attached (although we might as well call it a rich field microscope) that could see the space between the capacitor plates.

The prescription was to find a drop that had the right size and a charge on it, then watch it fall a measured distance (angle) with the capacitor grounded, then charge the capacitor and watch the drop rise throgh the same distance, note the times, and then repeat until the drop got lost. And you repeat this a whole lot of times.

The basic idea is that the drop has some number of electrons on its surface and therefore its rise time would be determined by that number of charges. So you can do a combinatorics analysis to figure out the charge on a single electron.

The work is very tedious, and needs be done in a cold environment to minimize the giggling of the droplets. I had to do this experiment as a sophomore in undergraduate schule about this time of year. I recall the room the apparatus was in had its heat turned off and the window open. It was very straining to use the equipment and about twenty hours of observation were expended after a couple of hours of learning procedure. Getting droplets to take charge and finding them is a strange skill that I am not sure I want to claim. Anyway, that was basically all the slack time I had that week which was all we had to do the experiment in since the next week we had another experiment to do. I did have a lab partner and we took turns looking and recording, about a half hour per shift. Recording was boring while observing hurt – eye and muscle strain.

I suppose today a video camera would be attacked to the telescope and the muscle strain eliminated and the recording could be automated so that the experiment could be done by an individual. Since no real teamwork was involved this would not be a bad thing.

But I still have a great deal of respect for Robert Millikan doing this experiment.

I’m not sure how this is an anniversary thing but it is the right time of year for me to have a memory storm.

I ran across this cartoon recently [Link]

and was reminded of my own ‘talk’ with my father. I do not know of being the only one in history but I know I was the only one among the fellows I associated with who got his ‘talk’ in writing.

This was during the early days of the Vietnam conflict. I had just arrived on the campus of the Black Warrior to begin my freshman year. My father was off on an extended TDY doing some logistic preparatory (? CYA?) work for the Yankee army. In retrospect I surmise he had been so busy getting ready for this expedition that he had forgotten my mother’s instructions until after he was gone. Anyway, the first piece of mail I received in my newly rented mailbox in the campus post office in the basement of the student union was a letter from my father. It was his ‘talk’ to me on matter dealing with reproduction and socialization.

And the contents, once distilled own, were pretty close to what is in the comic above, allowing for differences in conditions back then.

Sadly over the years that letter somehow got misplaced and lost. I regret that for some reason.  Not just because my story is only anecdotal without the letter, but mostly because in its own way it was timeless and a milestone of sorts. Strange the things that bubble up out of the tar pits of our minds in the heat of summer.

In Memory

Today is Decoration Day, now more commonly called Memorial Day. The intent was originally to memorialize the sacrifice of Yankee soldiers in the Recent Unpleasantness, and was observed on 1 May. The practice was subsequently adopted by the Grand Army of the Republic veterans’ political organization but on 31 May to segregate it. When the Yankee government adopted the practice and made it a holiday that day was used and the practice was extended to all American soldiers of whenever service.

The gym at Scant City is closed today. How this memorializes the service of soldiers I fail to understand since many of those who are not permitted to maintain their health today are veterans or NGR. Logic is not strong among organizations and seldom offered lest it result in embarrassment.

The Yankee government also decrees that the national flag be flown at half mast until noon and then raised to peak for the remainder of the day. This symbolizes memory of the dead in the morning and the living in the afternoon. I have my doubts that those who raise flags here in Greater Metropolitan Arab will know or even understand this complicatedness.

Such formalization is irrelevant. There is sufficient formality and organization in military service without carrying it over to the remembrance of the dead and living. Besides, such formalizations almost always result in mediocrity and banality as evidence by the numerous attempts by the Yankee government to commission music for the day, all poor unto failure. It is of the nature of things that individuals make music although governments may make orchestras.

Regardless, the point of the day is clear. We, the living, owe much of our lives to those who have upheld human organization since it was adopted. Reflect on that today.

Brain + Mind = Bad Measure?

OK, this one is a bit strange, or at least the sort of thing we know exists but the traditional media only displays it on the weekend when they are hard up for what they consider to be “real” news and have to find anything to fill print space/program time.

I read via Reuters [Link] that a German woman has been granted a divorcement on the grounds that her husband is excessively neat and tidy. Part of what makes this unusual is that it rather contradicts our stereotypes of the gender relationship of tidiness. After all, hunters are naturally messy, bringing back whatever they first find that meets nutritional needs, while gatherers have to neatly bring back what is optimal in terms for freshness and ripeness. Of course, that sort of changed with the adoption of sedentaryness and agriculture, it has only been in the last century or so that rows are not plowed in a strict rectangular raster pattern. But, that adoption has only been for a decamillenium or so which is almost lost compared to a goodly fraction of a megayear.

Still, we have this social concept that women are the ones frantic about cleaning of homeplaces and men are somehow slobs who clean only when forced to. So tthe news that a woman finds some sanitomaniac unlivable seems extreme. Having been an undergraduate in the ’60’s when men were just beginning to get peeks of women’s dorm rooms I know better. My dorm room was a mess but not the chaos that so many of the coeds’ rooms were that I saw. Not that some were not as neat as Martha Stewart’s pretensions, but the mean was decidedly less tidy than the mean of men.

On a similar note, having to do with stress, I read that poor kids have less working memory than rich (?) kids. [Link] Getting past the mediaese, it seems that working memory in children is positively correlated with family income. The hypothesis then is that being poor creates stress and that stress must be the reason for the memory reduction.

I have no problem with the correlation. After all, family income and (some estimation of) working memory are quantifiable and observable. But stress? No psychologist I ever had dealings with indicated that there was a quantitative measure of stress. So unless this is some sort of whacked, almost meaningless scale, like the one rehabilitation therapists use for pain, which is highly individual, subjective, and untestable quantitatively, the stress hypothesis is shaky to specious. And I shan’t belabor the correlation equals causality leap.

What is attractive about this theory is that it helps explain why humans have taken so long to get what little we have done today, and why we seem to be continually burdened with mental parasites like mysticism and tyranny. But to go into liberal social engineering terminal hand wringing because the recession is damning children to stupidity? Better blame poor parenting as the root cause of permitting the recession to occur in the first place.

Lastly, I see that scientists have pinpointed regions in the brain that they associate with wisdom. [Link] Aside from the obvious question of how you quantify, even qualify, wisdom, I was taken with the statement

“Modern neuroscience is shifting towards a view of voluntary action being based on specific brain processes, rather than being a transcendental feature of human nature.”

Does that mean that science is replacing mysticism and superstition in medical research? How amazing. Someone go inform all those mystic ‘research’ facilities that they have to mend their ways or go out of business, not that their business is actually understanding.