Wonderful Quote

This article [Link] on an Everex PC being offered by MalWart for $199 has a classical, they-drink-wine-from-lead-tumblers quality:

“Research indicates that Wal-Mart shoppers equate the size of the system to its capability.”

What goes unsaid except by inference is that the box is about $25 of componentry, maybe another $25 of labor and shipping, and hence indicative of much of the stuff offered by MalWart.

Perhaps the strongest indictment however is what this says for the computer literacy level of our citizen-consumers?

Hollow Hallow

Well we come to all hallows eve, and after surviving what little remains of the evolutionary process of tricking and treating, may look forward to the banishment of the inflatable jack-o-lantern, ghost, whatever lawn uglinesses for thanksgiving or christmas inflatable lawn uglinesses. While FD SCP and I do not indulge in this quintessential American pastime extensively, I shall replace the nonexistent halloween ornamentation – none since the halloween when I placed a pressure sensitive door mat in front of our house, said doormat connected to a audio system stocked with appropriate haunted house noises, and we became what appears to be a permanent non-stop on the candy circuit  – with our now aging cast iron wire frame toy soldiers, ~ 1.5 meter tall, hand wired with lights before the practice became a custom and a market, on the front porch and program the computer to turn the lights on during the appropriate hours.

Nonetheless, the traditional media seems to be unwilling to give up the nonsense prematurely and presents us this morning with all manner of haunted and haunting articles.

The first to my attention is an article that physicists at U Waterloo have challenged the existence of dark matter with a modified form of gravity based on generalization and elaboration of Einstein’s original relativity theory. [Link] The scary part of this is that lacking dark matter there is again no bulwark from the idea that the universe will just keep expanding until all order is dissipated.

Perhaps in recognition of this ultimate futility of any political, nay, human, system, the Pew people [Link] report that 0.45 of the population of the Yankee republic think that the government serves the public interest. A fraction of 0.52 says that the Yankee government does not serve the public interest. It is not stated what the other 0.03 are, perhaps those who want to abolish the Yankee government and establish a democracy?

One may ask what is scary about this? Obviously, the answer is the upcoming presidential elections. Given the rigidity of the connection between government and political organization, this disquietude seems almost certain to deepen regardless of the outcome of the elections.

And on the matter of disquietude, the recording fascists are at it again, this time portraying the controversial dixie chickens as black shirts. [Link] The scary thing about this? It’s the revelation that in most of these litigations the accused are not present. Is this some new form of Star Chamber where trials and verdicts are determined with the accused in absentia, unaware of the business until the executioner shows up on the door step? Wasn’t this one of the reasons for the English coming to one of their rare periods of sanity and executing a king?

On a lighter note, the WIRED folks have an article on what you can do with lasers, [Link] including burning your own toast icon, at least if you’re a techno evangelical. Happily here is that there are few such for obvious contradictory conditions. Most of this is pretty much the same, tame, dated stuff but we always worry when the (responsible) traditional media tells folks how to convert a DVD burner into an eye searing weapon. That sort of irresponsibility should be reserved for the Web 2.0 media.

Next, we note that the folks at Florida Institut of Technology have determined the best way for a crowd to form to maximize or minimize the effect of a suicide bomber. [Link] While we have to acknowledge that we are trying to decipher content from the reportage of the (traditional) media, the research appears to reduce to the following:

In case of bomb, hide behind someone between you and the bomb.

Of course, we’ll have to read the refereed paper to see how accurate the reportage was.

Still, the results seem a good advice for how to deal with this evening

Hallowed Fools

All Hallows Eve. All Fools Day. Hard for some people to tell apart in our modern world.

I am reminded [Link] that today is the anniversary of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater wireless broadcast of his adaptation of Herbert George Wells’ War of the World. Makes us history sick for the good old days when creativity in entertainment was something other than the latest GUI.

The promise of the $100 laptop is now apparently officially over. The One Laptop Per Child web site is now offering their laptop for sale at a price of $200 Yankee, but only in lots of 10K or more. [Link] For those less/more adventurous, ASUS has officially announced Eee sales in the Yankee republic. [Link] The greater/lesser adventure arises from this latter box being more conventional, although both will come equipped with variants of Linux, and about twice the price. Neat as I think the OLPC laptop is, and probably dearly needed in the Yankee republic as much as in the third world, I will probably stay with an Eee.

Speaking of which, has anyone bothered to compare the goals, objectives, and practices of the OLPC project with the Yankee government’s Every Child Left Behind? Even a cursory comparison will find some fundamentally opposed components. Now we have to note that OLPC is located in the Yankee republic, and ask which program one thinks will result in a better educated child? Sic Transit Gloria Mundi.

Sadly, the law of the land will have to be repealed for us to make use of the clearly better strategy and tactics offered by the fellows up on the Charles. Of course, we may speculate that what makes them successful is less their location than the absence of politicians?

But can the blame not be spread a bit further? I note that approximately 0.12 of the high shuls in this nation where the exit fraction is less than 0.6. For the mathematically deficient, that translates to about one in eight of our top public shuls graduating only three of every five entering freshmen. [Link] The blame for this has to be spread over much of society as a whole, not just educators, parents, and students.

These three groups however, do deserve some special attention: the educators for one of the worse cases of “Not Invented Here” and “Money Conquers All” that has been witnessed since we abandoned sedentaryness near the end of the last cold phase; the parents for having less involvement with the education process than they have with almost anything else in their lives including visits to their dentist; and students for not being such – shul is not a form of incarceration, it should be an opportunity and your demanding such is the first step.

The only good thing about this is that the Yankee government has clearly not been involved. Otherwise, the graduation fraction would be 1.0 with the fraction entering college unable to do do college work falling from 0.33 to 0.66. But give them a chance, and out favorite politicians will find a way to further standardize education into extinction.

And finally, on a positive note, I am reminded of why both scientists and soldiers dislike dealing with the traditional media. [Link] Now let me see, is there anything else they have in common?

Math and Irreligion

One of the RSS feeds I subscribe to is from the Pew Research Center. This morning their article [Link] is on the fraction of American political adherences that report themselves religiously to be either atheist, agnostic, or unaffiliated.

The first thought that emerges is what are the differences between that combination and what are becoming known as “nontheists”, a political necessity term to lump together all those who do not subscribe to the common theistic belief of the organized religious organizations. This group is commonly thought of as including agnostics and atheists, but also freethinkers, theists, and others not readily categorized.

The Pew article reports that for Americans as a whole the change in the fraction reporting to be secular, in the article’s terms, is 0.03. That is, in 1997, 0.09 of the population reported that they were (in effect?) nontheists, was 0.09 of the total population; in 2007, it was 0.12. Pray note that this is a bit misleading since the population of the Yankee republic increased in this period, so not only did the fraction acknowledging nontheistic affiliation increase, but the total number did as well and somewhat greater.

Now here’s what jumps out in examining at the next level down. The article also reports by partisan affiliation:

  • (modern) republican – 0.00 change
  • (modern) democrat – 0.03 increase
  • independent – 0.03 increase

Now, given that the average of these numbers has to be 0.03, it would first appear that there are an insignificant number of (modern) republicans in the population. This is another example of how misleading percentages and fractions can be.

A second thinking on this indicates something almost as ailing. It would appear that this indicates that the (modern) republicans are not growing as rapidly as the (modern) democrats and independents.

Now the question that we have to ask is whether this is because there are aspects of the (modern) republicans that are antithetical to nontheists? Or are the republican nontheists not reporting their affiliations accurately?

Hmmmmm.

Bumping Things

The Associated Press has conducted a Halloween poll. The results clearly indicate just how superstitious our species continues to be: [Link]

  • 0.23 report sensing a ghost – yet efforts to measure ghosts in a reproducable fashion have consistently been negative – but then I worried about monsters in the closet when I was a tyke, especially after some of my Mother’s cooking;
  • 0.19 have belief in witchcraft – again, there is an absence of reproducible evidence – perhaps these folks have been watching too much television?;
  • 0.48 have belief in extrasensory perception – Rhine experiments?;
  • Statistically it seems that single people, Catholics, and the irreligious are most likely to sense ghosts – what? no evangelicals? does their stridency scare off the spirits?; and
  • liberals are more likely than conservatives to sense ghosts, 0.31 to 0.18 – this is low lying fruit, too many liberals are unrealistic and sprout cloud cuckoo land impossibilities and impracticalities. Not that conservatives are much better, being more like the moss than the favored metaphor of stones the moss grows on.

The reflective thought that this engenders is how well this fits in with our need to explore to what extent religion, and mystical superstition in general, are products of biological versus social or organizational evolution.

Happily for the rational it’s all an excuse to act silly and not be embarrassed. So we have to ask just how reliable this poll is anyway?

Not a Contradiction

The administration of U Illinois taken action that goes a long way towards renewing my faith in their ineptitude as an organization. [Link]

The U has been engaged in a comedic  conflict with the  politically all too correct national college athletic association and various, apparently irrelevant, native American representations. The subject of the conflict, as we have commented on previously, was the shul‘s mascot, Chief Illiniwek, loosely and highly inaccurately modeled on the previously indigenous Illini tribe, which was affiliated with the defunct Algonquin confederation, and cartoon/cinematic representations of native Americans. The conflict took a serious hair removal recently when the U agreed to discontinue the mascot as an official component of athletic support hoopla.

The move has supposedly increased the U’s iconic revenue of memorabilia and clothing by almost an order of magnitude, apparently as a result of panic buying of Chief items that have little indication of disappearing.

I have to admit to having little use for these mascots. I also have to admit to little exposure to the Chief when I was a student at the U. Only the most dedicated of fanatics would attend U Illinois football games in those days, what with the near, occasionally below, freezing temperatures and the team’s abysmal performance, especially to a southron boy who dons a jacket when the thermometer hits seventy Fahrenheit and had gone though an undergraduate period with two national football championships. I had neither the time nor the cash to attend the more interesting and temperate basketball games, enhanced by a deep Sowth attitude that basketball was a game fit for small children on winter days as a sink of nervous energy.

Still, however inane the antics of the Chief, from his highly inaccurate costume, more woodlands than plains or Mississippian, and his gymnastic routine whose relationship to ceremonial dancing was too tenuous for my undergraduate anthropology electives to establish, there is something satisfying about such a mascot. At least this mascot has some relationship to humanity and its often idiotic endeavors. The other mascots of my experience, the giant stuffed animals/sock puppets of the U Alibam, the elephant of the Black Warrior branch and the horse of the Tennessee branch, are ridiculous as well as irrelevant, their physical activity embarrassingly limited to occasional obscene jokes and pathetic waving. Their greatest interest is their existence, products of some depraved arms race of collegiate athletics.

Nonetheless, they are only insidiously other than harmless, the equivalent of the Saturday morning cartoons festooning a double feature of violence and suspense, like marshmallows adorning fire engine chili. The actions of the NCAA and the various native American organizations seemed more the “petty jealousies of lesser nations” than anything substantive. Does the NCAA not have enough useful to do with all the subornation of amateur athletics? And if any native Americans have any basis of complaint it would be the Illini, a tribe now extinct. Or are both afraid of being caught in the act of foolery and hence sucked into greater acts of it?

Now, however, I see that the U has agreed to permit the Chief to adorn floats in the homecoming parades. The banal excuse for this liberality is that the ban restricted free speech. The real answer is that the U agreed to officially ban the Chief as a survival action, putting the organization first. Allowing students free, and unofficial, use of the Chief image also furthers the survival of the organization. Hence my renewed confidence in the U. They really are the same old organization, self serving and selfish, doing anything they have to to survive.

Information Mumblings

Evidently MegaHard is sorely frightened. Reports now surface that they are developing a spayed (neutered?) version of XP that will operate on the One Laptop Per Child machines. [Link]

My first reaction is a resounding ho-hmmmmmm! Does anyone really care? Especially anyone who has tried the latest release of UBUNTU?

My second reaction is that this may be the salvation of MegaHard. Given their debacle that is called VISTA, a streamlined XP may well be the second best thing for Joe User in the home and organizational work environments. My third reaction is that if this be the case then what is the future of MegaHard? Do they join the ranks of Corel (Wordperfect) and that ilk?

Meanwhile, ComCast has finally micturated too many. [Link] Their on going harassment, occasionally verging on discrimination of legal scope, of those they consider to be bandwidth hogs has expanded to the extent of bolloxing BitTorrent streams. Seems that they have not only incited the wrath of Congress critters but users who have lined up some high priced Tudor robed types to drag ComCast into the local hall of antediluvian proceduralism. This is equivalent to being graced with two wite elephants, one of litigation and the other of a Yankee congressional investigation. Not good for an ostensibly low overhead corporation!

Of course its not at all clear that the Yankee congress is really ept. It now emerges that their extension of the ban on internet taxation may have been so butchered in the rewording that taxation of emails may have fallen through the verbage. [Link] If this were not typical of the self serving behavior of politicians it would be criminal. Of course, since these self same politicians define what is criminal, the activity is self evidently self serving?

Anyway, even the promise of abating spam with a per email-addressee tax is cloud lining. Can we expect the Yankee congress to get its stercus coagulated enough to head off this debacle?