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 Probably superseded or broken but the loss was emotionally decoupled so it could not have been traumatic.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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Feces and FORTRAN

Two days now without precipitation. A statement like that wouldn’t normally be joyous, except around Noah time, perhaps, but it is. And the walk in the park this morning was passable. Even the podcast episode had relatively few grammar obnoxities. So I can do a bit of wandering about this morning.

Given the general tenor it seems appropriate to note that Drum Castle in Scotland is the seat of an investigation into fourteenth century micturation and defecation. [Link] Nothing says real archaeology like mucking about in cess pits and the like. Not an activity we can easily picture the hatted one performing.

On a similar azimuth, a U Virginia study [Link] indicates that the kids who are “cool” in high schule are more likely to have social and emotional problems – like being criminals – than the uncool kids. Nerds score again! Bogs get sucked down!

Further, the founding ancestor of Linux has defecated upon the idea that everyone should learn how to code.[Link]  The quote is worth presenting

“I actually don’t believe that everybody should necessarily try to learn to code,” Torvalds said. “I think it’s reasonably specialized, and nobody really expects most people to have to do it. It’s not like knowing how to read and write and do basic math.”

since the majority of folks can’t do basic maths. The article also contrasted to the English government coding mandate

‘the idea that “getting to know code is really important” and that “not just rocket scientists” should learn programming.’

The problem is that coding isn’t rocket science. One of the advantages of being a rocket scientist is that one has a fairly good idea of what rocket science is and basically coding, in and of itself, isn’t. It’s a tool, like a Craftsman adjustable spanner, or an integral table, but that’s about it. You do need coding to get to Mars but coding, in and of itself, won’t get you there.

In fact, scientists don’t do the kind of coding that is associated with the program. We do problem solving, number crunching coding, not people caring coding. Perhaps the best illustration of this difference is that we code in FORTRAN (and maybe a couple of other languages but FORTRAN is the intense one.) It’s not the same thing.

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Why We don’t do outreach

End of gym week, and happily there. With the departure of the educationalists for the summer the annoyances of seniors becomes more apparent. And we have a new early person who is downright nasty. I shan’t mention any further characteristics but this person is enough to make me want to go elsewhere. Queue breaker. Self-server. Arrogant. Haughty. Nekulturny in the fullest meaning of the term.

On a happier note, I ran across a rather tawdry article [Link] n a tee shirt web site entitled “10 Questions Still Baffling Scientists”. The questions are:

  1. Why Do People Spontaneously Combust?
  2. Why Do We Yawn?
  3. Why Do Placebos Work?
  4. What Was Life’s Last Universal Common Ancestor?
  5. How Does Memory Work?
  6. Can Animals Really Predict Earthquakes?
  7. How Do Organs Know When to Stop Growing?
  8. Are There Human Pheromones?
  9. What’s the Deal With Gravity?
  10. How Many Species Are There?

which is a mixed bag. And as usual with lists, I can’t avoid some comments.

  1. Who cares? Except bogs and some sort of really bored geek? This isn’t common and the discussions I have seen in the nerd literature are good enough for working purposes given we can’t do experiments.
  2. This is a moderately good one. The best I have heard on this are (a) quick burst of oxygen, and (b) a prelude to sleep reflex akin to leg jerk. But again, primarily a bog thing.
  3. This one comes down to lack of maths and lack of experimentation, IMHO.
  4. This one is a step above what-color-are-the-deity’s-eyes? level of question. It is probably one of those questions that can’t be answered so why waste time?
  5. Another lack of experimentation one.
  6. Not worth dignifying.
  7. This is a DNA question. Give it time.
  8. Not sure this one is worthy of any list.
  9. Lack of experimentation again, this time due to the magnitude of the effort.
  10. This one is so silly it isn’t worth dignifying.

Obviously, this is a I-hate-summer day. Selah.

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Air Bogs

Once more into week out. Foul mood. Spent yesterday with floorers redoing the spare bedroom and arguing with Scant City Memorial. At least the floorers were competent. And the constitutional was passable this morning.

Speaking of competent, I read that Eric Shinseki has resigned. I admit to great respect for this man. He has steadily taken on jobs with unsolvable problems and he has often solved them, or at least found work arounds. But it is not clear the VA has any solution nor work around other than it is just too big a problem. So there is no shame in failure; failure was assured. But the criticism is unjust and ill deserved. But he takes it because that is part of the job: try as hard as you can, perform well if not brilliantly, and be subjected to the indignation of the bogs who want more but can’t do an iota as well.

Gee, that puts him in company with Sokrates.

I also ran across this cartoon: [Link]

yesterday that seems pretty well apt. I don’t know that balloons are the most fun but they are quite intriguing, in company with bubbles and foams. And any balloon that told me about physics would be intriguing in that aspect doubly. So the first two boxes are quite good, but the third is the clunker. The reaction of the protagonist seems to be one of boredom or apathy. How can one be bored by such great stuff with so many azimuths ranging from human vision through quantum mechanics?

So what this cartoon is all about is boggery. Superficial interest so long as things are aintellectually entertaining – porn is good I should suspect? – but once real content appears the interest evaporates (sublimes?) with near infinite speed.

“Nothing is faster than the departure of bog interest.”

This may quite be why we shouldn’t try to do science outreach to bogs. It’s rather a waste and runs the risk of the same sort of vicious, gratuitous violence that Shinski has experienced.

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Ghetto or Cloister?

End of gym week. Not bad. Density low, especially of obnoxious weight bouncers and educationalists. Only a few over-haughty senior women with entitlement issues. And the podcast, as episode of “The Linux Action Show” was passable, mostly because of the absence of red neck talk about NASCAR and gym flick actors. So I had time and attention span to think about other matters.

I was a bit surprised last evening to hear on the evening news program – the network one, not one of the “local” stations – as if Huntsville is local – that Maya Angelou had discorporated.[Link] My first reaction on hearing this was “Who?” I admit this is not an unusual or rare reaction to such announcements. About half of the people (probably more) so announced I am unfamiliar with, but they are usually journalists of some pelt, so I can blithely dismiss them. Some are sports people and even easier to dismiss, but occasionally the news writers actually acknowledge someone of actual importance and so I had to go do a search on this woman since I had never heard of her before but the coverage – as it always does – makes them sound as if they are founders of civilization.

I am still not certain of this woman. She was evidently one of those people who suffer great indifference by society in youth and then succeed because of that. The former is more occasion to respect than the latter, in my estimation. But whether the woman is worthy of notice or not is not what is pertinent here. I was quickly reminded of Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s address to the American Physical Society meeting. [Link] I was not there but I read the transcript and the journalism and found myself in rather sincere disagreement with Dr. Tyson. Contrary to his claims, science is not in the public awareness. The television comedy “Big Bang Theory” is about stereotypical nerds, not about science. What science is in the program is Potemkin facade.

From what I see here in Alibam, science is only part of bog consciousness as dislike, either as costing too much for too little (no) gain, or taking money away from welfare programs. Evidently the attitude is ‘millions for asprin but zero for a cure’, or the continuation of the species. And scientists are the butt of jokes and hatred by climate change denialists which is definitely policy here in Alibam.

But what I did agree with Dr. Tyson about is that scientists are ghettoized by their disciplines. Not only from bogs, but from each other. And that means we are not cognizant nor knowledgeable of boggery. But I am not at all convinced that we should be. The argument for education of the public on science is altruistic and weak. The strongest bit seems to a rather fragile construction that if the public is educated and in support of science then the congress critters will follow. I find this specious. The congress critters want what they want and are actively engaged in brain washing the electorate to their ends. And they have money and means far beyond those of scientists. So the effort is handicapped, if not doomed, from the get go.

I am not convinced the boggerate is educable. My observations indicate they operate at a catch phrase, personal gratification level and science does not do those well. I am not adverse to measured attempts. IMHO COSMOS is a great success but measured on the stage of political mindmelding, it is a distant echo in an unpopulated desert. Yes, we need to do it because science is worthwhile and we need to attract a few children to study but overall it is a waste of effort and time. Rather like teaching a pig to sing.

And I conjecture that it is good that scientists are largely orthogonal to social “reality” lest they become depressed and cease to strive and humans become extinct.

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Fruit Fall

Gad, I already dislike summer. And it isn’t really here yet but its scouts are already annoying and irritating. That’s summer in Alibam: an itching of the nether regions. And that has nothing to do with the political environment.  Which is reminiscent of those medieval era setting vampire-werewolf oppressions. And yes, Alibam politicians are definitely parasites of the worst sort.

The constitutional was moderate mostly because I had the park to myself- except for critters – but the wind was almost non-existent. Still that is better than those bitterly hot winds that characterize so much of Alibam summer.

On the bright side, today is the birthday anniversary of William Whewell, who is the Victorian scientist who coined the term. I read on a book on him some time ago that made much of him and his colleagues but all I can recall was his coining of the term and some sort of difficulty with marriage. No, not repressed sexuality, but some organizational rule that was prohibitive. I also recall he was a big wind in the British national science organization which evidently was not as much of an indication of scientific incompetence as it is today. Anyway, there is a middling article on him at Wikipedia that I am too lazy to reproduce the URL.

Along which azimuth, I noted a cartoon [Link]

that I ran across yesterday and was rather bemused by. First of all, I have to wonder if the youthful, plague avoiding, Newton would have been wearing a wig to sit under a tree on a farm. Social conventions are seldom logical and rational from without.

It should also be mentioned that Newton did not “invent” gravity. There were already theories of gravity in place at that time. What Newton did was to come up with a consistent mechanics that included gravity in something more than a descriptive fashion. But it didn’t come to fruition under that tree. The falling apple planted the idea seed that grew into the tree of Newtonian mechanics.

How’s that for a really horrible metaphor?

And I have no idea what a “fruit hug” is. I am not even sure it is worthy of  mentation.

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Larval Form?

Almost to week out. Had a good constitutional this morning other than having to avoid runners. And noting that the phenomena I noted as an undergraduate on the campus of the Black Warrior in the latter ’60’s for women’s derrieres apparently applies these days to mammaries and sports bras. Insofar as I could tell in the uncertain light, fractal harmonic oscillation seemed exhibited. Ditto for pony tail,although I have observed that phenomenon previously at gym and so noted. I think?

Anyway, I ran across this cartoon: [Link]

yesterday and being a only slightly used grandparent was brought to some consideration of thee presented idea.

My immediate thought was that this was a bog cave, and not in the Platonic sense. Why is the grandfather evading the question. The presented conjecture is that he is a bog who cannot discuss any basic reality picture. Ergo, he is a poor role model and less than a paradigm of humor.

Clearly the lad has been exposed to some bits of biology and while I am not a biologist – although I did enjoy much of my two semesters of undergraduate biology courses; the labs were rather lame and seemingly pointless and uneducating – I feel fairly confident that I could make a reasonable stab at the question without running screamingly to either my study or the consultation of biologist colleagues.

And that answer would be along the lines that finger puppets are not larval forms but rather dwarfed descendant offshoots of hand puppets who have evolved to lesser magnitude due to a constrained environment. I am unsure of whether I would introduce Homo Florensis into the discussion. Probably let that one take care of itself.

And I would sit back and await any grrr brrr from the daughter or the lad’s teacher.

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