Friday Frumblings

Riches this morning in the RSS feeds. Seems like mainstream news dried up early this week. Probably means the local news will be crammed with kittens in trouble and the like but for me it means a virtual cornucopia of infotrivia.

I note, for example, that research by folks at Wheaton College have associated the Mayan use of the color blue with human sacrifice. [Link] And then there was the Saxon use of blue – woad – for people who would go into battle and enter a killing frenzy. Is there some particular necrology associated with blue? Does this say something about (modern) democrats?  And what about the color orange when it is paired with blue, and thereby the U Illinois and Alibam Polytechnic Institute?  And was it the Maya or the Aztecs who had the charming  ball game (foot?) custom of executing the losing team? No mention of what happened to the losing team’s coach. And if this is all relevant, what does crimson and white signify? Other than greed and prevarication?

 On a more practical and perhaps interesting (yes, I know I hate to use the word but after all my brain has been mudded up by having to think about football) level some researcher at Arizona State U has found a predominance of laevorotatory amino acids in a meteorite. [Link] But are we going to stop short of renewing that old theory that life came to Tellus from somewhere OUT THERE? I can’t recall who first came up with that idea but I do recall it was considered more a matter of science fiction than science. But it may be entertaining what the Intelligent Design/Creationist cabal makes with this.

Incidentally, the TED conference is on-going this week. [Link] Lots of good stuff already has been posted, but probably not the impromptu monologue of Robin Williams. Which probably tells us more about the nature of good and evil among humans than any of the scheduled presentations. [Link] But I especially like the idea that humans aren’t just propagators of human genes any more – the idea that our only purpose is to make humans and that’s why women live approximately eight years longer than men regardless of what medical practice can do – we are now also propagators of memes. [Link] It is really refreshing to learn that we have some purpose that transcends Darwinian stochastic pseudo-chaos and religious slavery.

Next I notice a fellow who went back to take the SAT at the age of 38. [Link] Professional (traditional media) journalist. Bombed maths. Got taken down on writing ability – pride before a fall sort of thing. Not surprising. If I had to do this I should probably do poorly all around. Tests have consistently proven that the more educated and experienced one is the less well one does on multiple guess tests. I can recall in graduate shul taking a test that had a problem on it about a pulley, a rope, and two climbing monkeys. I had just finished a maths course on functional theory and I settled in and approached the problem from the standpoint of the individual climbing events being punctuated; the professor who wrote the problem had no where near that level of accuracy in mind so I got called into office to be told I had really missed the “shul solution”, the “official” answer, but they – the test administrators – were going to pass me anyway because what I did I did correctly. This was my introduction to the fact of life that doing well on a test may entail not just the right amount of knowledge but also the right amount of ignorance. Which is why I would not dare take an SAT test at my age with way more than high shul maths and lots of published works and an antiquated, disciplined knowledge of grammar rules that are likely highly at odds with what is taught in high shul these days.

But happily I note that the Dutch have developed a sleeping suit that is supposed to enhance one’s sleep. [Link] Supposedly increasing skin temperature induces deep sleep. And here I thought I liked my electric mattress pad because of my low body heat capacity resulting from all the blood thinners my physicians prescribe for me. No, its because it heats my skin. Then why come do we sleep better in winter than in summer? The world wonders.

I am pleased to note that the Swedes have done us a service by figuring out how to fix our deep educational problems with programs like Every Child Left Behind. [Link] The answer is to do away with government owned shuls and make a marketplace. The government issues parents a voucher and the parents pick the shul. Talk about product/performance based. Talk about the moral indignation of the teacher unions. Or is that just economic indignation? Talk about children learning something. Gee, maybe socialists have some good ideas after all.

The dive for the bottom that Sony feared seems to be accelerating, indicating that there is no fundamental push for technology advancement but there is a fundamental customer pull. (Yes, Qadgop, that is a logistics metaphor although many Tellurian humans have some problems with such categorizations.) The Elonex people have now announced their Eee competitor, the One – a much more understandable but possibly disturbing name – that is supposed to retail for Pounds 99 is due in June. [Link] Questions now abound. How late with June be? Just how expensive will this box be then given the continued erosion of the strength of the Yankee governments dollar? Is the box top heavy – the screen side is noticeably thicker than the keyboard side?

And lastly we have a new Pew Poll. [Link] (Yes, Qadgop, that does alliterate. And also sounds like something out of Little Abner or the Beverly Hillbillies, or even Nawth Alibam.) Seems that they have begun to ask questions about evolution a little better although they still can’t seem to get past misusing the idea of belief. Nonetheless, the responses indicate that the older the respondent was, the less likely they were to be attuned to reality, which leads us to wonder if that means Generation Y has more good sense than Generation X after all, or is it just that the incidence of dementia increases with age? Not that the variance is very strong, only about 0.16 between teenagers and the edge between middle age and senior citizenry. Which still leaves us with the question of why there is so much dementia in the Yankee republic?

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Why OR is not just Physics

I note that a postdoc at FermiLabs has come up with a more efficient way to load people onto airplanes. [Link] The idea is very simple, let people board by alternating half rows. Claimed to be much more efficient than current methods.

Sadly, such efficiency is highly irrelevant.

Airplane travel is largely about two factors: having an assigned seat and getting to stow your carry on luggage in the overhead bins. A big secondary factor in boarding is that rows fill from bulkhead out; nobody likes being crawled over and nobody likes to crawl over – except the perverts.

I think it was Southron airlines, a real bunch of cheap fatherless trash, who had open seating on their no class flights. No one wanted to fly them. The only business they got was necessity and travel managers who inflicted the pain on their employees as an economy. The company did not last long.

Now everyone gets an assigned seat so the major factors are one getting to stow luggage followed by no crawling over. The problem with the luggage thing is that the airline clutters the overhead bins with space consuming irrelevancies like medical equipment, fire extinguishers, magazines, and pillows. So the bins where one is supposed to sit are likely to be crammed with crap and you have no place to stow your luggage. Major bummer!

Periodically airlines experiment with new boarding schemes. These experiments take about six months for management to note falling ticketage on routes with competition – obviously for routes with no competition they can do whatever they want, but since the competition routes are the most lucrative – that’s why they have competition – and they need to have a consistent policy for the whole airline, maybe with some differences between regular and commuter service, the loading procedure has to be acceptable to the passengers regardless of how inefficient it is and how much money they lose, because they lose more money with passengers going to airlines who don’t use unpopular loading schemes.

Bottom line: loading schemes work well with inanimate packages and military service personnel but not with paying human customers.

Eee-k!

I note that the Sony statement of absolute fear of what the Eee represents has been getting deeper play by the traditional media than I expected. [Link] I also sense the foul aroma of religious dogma here.

Folks, the information technology industry is not an instrument of the deity. It has no fundamental righteousness. As recently proven – once again! – by the competition between HD DVD and BluRay, it does not matter what you develop and produce if it does not have customers.

And if you do not produce something the customers want, then someone will. At worse, the customers will figure out how to make it for themselves. After all, that is how HP came about – for those who have any interest in history.

It is becoming increasingly evident that a balkanization of the IT customer/consumer base is occurring. Already customer interest on the Pacific Rim is shifting from classical boxes to what can be crammed into a cellular phone package. The problems that MegaHard is having with the widespread rejection of Vista and the equally widespread adoption of open source are further evidence.

The days of the Model T computer are fast going. The day when users will expect SUVs, pickup trucks, subcompacts, motor homes, ….. is dawning.

I shall not further elaborate the parallels between ’60’s Ford Motor Company and Sony. You can do that for yourself.

Air Power Dive

We have become used to the Yankee army doing all manner of self-mutilation, especially in terms of information access. But now the Yankee air corps has stepped up to show the marvelous effectiveness of modern aviation technology in inflicting massive wounds on oneself. [Link] Yes, the Yankee air corps is blocking blogs. Evidently they have decided that their air volunteers, having made the decision to enter the service of the nation, are incompetent to make decisions about what they read and see on the internet.

One sort of expects this from the Yankee army. After all they have clear prehistoric ties to the slavery like conditions of the first armies, of executing prisoners to reduce the logistics burden, of dispatching wounded companions to reduce the logistics burden, of exacting supplies from a now starving civilian populace, and burning anything that might be of value to the opponent when they depart an area. After all, the Duke of Wellington referred to soldiers as “the scum of the earth” and that attitude is embedded in the attitude of army organizations to this day.

But air corps are different. They are twentieth century constructs; they are comprised not of corpselike obedient animal automata but uniformed geeks and nerds. Surely they appreciate that these folks have sufficient skill to circumvent these blockages? Does the air corps know the old saw about “never give an order you know will be ignored.”?

We can only hope that this is the brain flatulence of some REMF brass hat or political appointee and not further sign of the degeneration of the nation’s military organizations.

Folly and Folly

Yesterday late I received the weekly Sigma Xi email summary of the science news of the week. Sigma Xi is the national scientific research “society”. Membership is by nomination and it is supposed to be limited to folks who do research. As such it tends to be predominantly academic. Its “chapters” are primarily located in academic environments, on campuses.

Like many professional societies today, Sigma Xi has problems. The primary symptoms of those problems are cash flow and low membership. Part of these symptoms arise from Generation X, whose members tend to be disinterested in professional organizations that don’t do anything for the members. Sigma Xi is one of those liberal social engineering organizations that want slavish member support of the causes espoused by the inner circle. Hence not the sort of organization that appeals to Generation X. It is not yet clear if things will get better with Generation Y or not.

Another thing that is hurting them is that endowing professional organizations is not a popular philanthropic activity these days. Doing something misguided in a third world country is more popular today. But I suspect that the real reason they are suffering from scant endowment is based on the theory that folks tend to endow organizations to legitimize whatever that organization represents. Thus, once being a scientist is legitimized the need to endow societies for professional scientists goes away and the endowment cease.

If endowments shut down then there are really only two ways to increase cash flow. One is to increase sales of journals to libraries. This method unfortunately is already in trouble with the growing support for open access and sagging library budgets. Besides Sigma Xi doesn’t do journals.

The second way is to increase membership. This is very feasible since the current membership is largely academic. For years Sigma Xi has ignored, shunned even, government and corporate researchers. After all, they don’t publish their research in top rank journals, if at all, and are therefore research trash people. Now there has been a lot of grrr brrr about corporations getting rid of their research organizations and contracting the work out to universities. This would appear to increase the number of academics. That appearance is wrong.

The key word here is “contracted”. These corporations are not giving money to academics. They are paying university staff to do research for them and these staff are not all that different from regular corporate researchers. And the results are not being published in top rated journals because the corporations don’t want the results published in the first place and won’t pay for the time to do the article in the second. So even though the research is being done on a campus it isn’t academic research. And those corporations also don’t see any good reason for those folks to get paid to go to society meetings either.

Oh, and despite this trend, we still have a situation where something like 0.75-0.8 of all researchers are not academics. So if Sigma Xi wants to increase membership, which is about the only real way of increasing their cash flow, they are going to have to appeal to non-academic researchers.

Their news summary reflects part of their problems. The articles summarized and linked in the email are all newspaper articles. The whole thing is not only very not Web 2.0 but exudes a slight aura of decomposition as if they are completely oblivious to the degeneration of newspapers and  the changes in the information channelage of America. Despite this however, they do sometimes point to good articles.

One such deals with the emerging view of humans as a symbiotic system with their microbes. [Link] I was particularly struck with one statement:

In this emerging view, humans and their microbes – or, as some
biologists playfully put it, microbes and their attached humans – have
evolved together to form an extraordinarily complex ecosystem.

I was cogitating about this while I was at gym this morning – in and around my usual Thursday podcasts.

I noted this morning that the representatives of the local education mafia, which comprises something around two-thirds of the occupancy at that hour of the morning, are in a particular antiseptic frenzy with the burgeoning flu epidemic. There was even one overweight – a sign of a superbly healthy collection of intestinal track microbes? – zealot spraying herself and her exercise machine with a can of Lysol, and half the gym in the process.

Sometimes it doesn’t seem the question is whether we shall survive what we do to Tellus, but whether we shall survive what we do to ourselves.

Low Crimes and Maldemeanors

It seems that one of the television stations in Huntsville, Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill, has been caught being less than shiny. In fact, they made the splash in the New Yawk Times. [Link] [Link] Seems that they have conveniently turned off their transmission whenever the news from their parent network doesn’t meet their approval. The most egregious of these was when there was coverage of new data on the allegations of falsification of the charges against the previous (modern democrat) governor. The station has, of course, denied the allegations but since there is a consistent chain of behavior highly correlated with anti-(modern) republican news, all the denial does is solidify the appearance of blatant dishonesty and self-service on the part of the station. One more sad indication of how corrupt the traditional media has become.

Which is not to say that the untraditional media is pristine. I was listening to a podcast this week in gym where a Russian pundit talked about how the Russian administration subsidizes – indirectly – bloggers who promote the administration. This was lauded in a rather left handed way since the government had not just set up its own blogging instrumentality or done anything directly to persecute opposition bloggers. The questions arising from this are many. I think I have heard that the old practice of psychiatric persecution of opponents is still practiced in the former Soviet Union. Also, how does the coterie of subsidized establishmentarian bloggers bot constitute an instrumentality? And how different are they from American bloggers who only blog for advertising revenue?

While we’re on psychiatric matters, it seems that a Singapore native who is a professor in China recently got busted for stealing underwear from women’s college dorms. [Link] The matter was excused in the traditional media on the grounds that the professor has an established mental condition. In Amerika this guy would undoubtedly have been beaten half to death by the police for his blatant sexual deviance, required to register as a sex deviant, and forbidden to come within 200 m of an shul. Of course his professorship would have been terminated for embarrassing the shul.

Maybe the folks at WHNT can try with this? Claiming mental defect that is, not stealing women’s underwear.

In a similar vein, I note that the ancient Maya had a social temple race. [Link] Social in the sense that everyone participated from pooh bahs to peasants. Think this may be something common to the whole human species? Or just in America? I know there are at least two such races going on here in the Sowth. One to see who can build the biggest church building without actually going bankrupt – financially that is, not morally, and one to see how often Baptists can decide they were predestined to divide congregations again. In some ways it reminds one of a really bad case of acne – a proliferation of ugly red bumps with an occasional pustule. Makes me wonder how much of the city’s financial woes are due to all that untaxed property.

I also got the treat this morning of not one but two articles on reactions to the Eee. The first is from Sony who is wringing its hands over how the Eee will destroy the marketplace if it is successful. [Link] My immediate response here is “if it is successful”? I should think the volume of Eee sales last year would have demonstrated the viability of the itty bitty laptop. And most of those people were not buying Eee for their children, but as a luggable for themselves. I do recall however several years ago I bought a Sony laptop, one of what they then made as an itty bitty laptop. It weighed in at close to four pounds, has a morass of subsized nonstandard connectors, ran Windows ME, and cost about two and a half times what a regular laptop did. This has always been Sony’s model, high priced hardware with no compunctions to make it compatible. In this view the Sony reaction may be simple denialism or actual horror that their market niche is shaky.

Meanwhile there is a report [Link] is so confident in their Eee clone, priced 0.5 more, that they have ordered an initial run of 2M of the box. Boo Yah! I really like it when corporate oligarchs help me test my models. In my estimation a sizable component of the attractiveness of the Eee is low price and there are a substantial number of middle adopters out there biding their time for the Eee to fall in price by about 0.25. If that is so, then the folks buying this HP fat box should be down by a factor of about four from what we should expect of an HP head-to-head offering. Who knows, I may be wrong and get new insight and data. Or I may be right and have the opportunity to pick up an HP box at a discount.

Lastly, on a positive light, the projections of when Sol will swallow Tellus have been updated to 7.6 BY from today. [Link]  Which tells us for sure that if we plan on staying around as a species that long we had better not wait too long on figuring out how to do the interstellar travel thing with mass transportation.

Are we Defending What we should?

“We are not teaching them about their lives or their communities because it is not in the curriculum. Instruction is driven by standardized testing. We are teaching testing, not knowledge. No one hears these kids, nor do we try. There is absolutely no respect for these students.” [Link]

The above is a quote from a real professional teacher.

There is no joy in this confirmation of how broken our educational system is in the Yankee republic. There is only horror, the kind of horror one obtains when one rides a roller coaster and tops the highest point to discover that the track has ended and the people in the car are going to fall to their deaths.

One of the objections I continually hear to people of a different religious preference, especially atheists, is that they are deficient in moral character. What kind of morals do people have who permitted this to develop?

Is this the face of consumerism, of the corporate oligarch – pseudo-intellectual liberal social engineer dielectric? The waste of people but as individuals and as species?