Failure by Monday

Monday has dawned, possibly broken in the vernacular. And the traditional media has to strive vainfully to present content of a Monday calibre for their feeds. Happily, it being Monday, their efforts are abysmal failures and there is substance.

I start off by being reminded that the expected period of existence left to humanity is a mere 5.1 KY. [Link] This is an ambiguous number, in several aspects. One such is that it has meaning only in a statistic sense, neglecting any new perturbations. Another aspect of ambiguity is that it so far exceeds the life expectancy of any of us currently alive as to dim into insignificance. But by the same token it has impact on the goals of biological researchers and the technomystics like Kurzweil. Regardless, there is an aroma of failure emanating from all of these ambiguities, perhaps from all possible ones?

Then, courtesy of the Yankee government’s department of agriculture I observe that one of the fixes to global climate change is weeds. [Link] This is a satisfying report in that I have always hated the actual activity of grass mowing – only the opportunity to do maths during makes it even partly palatable and endurable. But then I contemplate the wonders of bureaucracy. First there is the matter of credibility of both the Yankee government in general and the agriculture apparat in particular. But second, and most appalling, is the fact that Greater Metropolitan Arab, like most urbs and wanna-be-urbs in the Yankke republic, has a law requiring that lawns be mowed. So can we count on the Yankke congress to enact legislation that allowing weeds to grow and not be mowed is in the best interest of the nation, thus negating all these rules of petty despotisms? I suspect nay. Indeed, one might expect that led by the modern equivalent of plantation owners, namely those with manicured lawns who patronize country clubs, the old Confederacy may arise over the matter of states’ rights in mandating the demise of the planet by grass cutting. Quid Romae faciem? Mentiri nescio.

But then I am enlivened by a tale of an engineer who reproduces pre-Cokumbian death flutes. [Link] The question that naturally arises is whether they can be directed against bureaucrats? History, at least as presented by Eropean conquerors leads us to expect not. Although their persecution of the practice offers some hope for the opposite.

And then in reading of how California’s hands-free cellular phoning while driving law has spawned all manner of headset retailing, [Link] I am reminded of just how useless this law is. It is not per se the manipulation of the instrument that matters, but ratherthe distracted attention. So in this regard the bureaucracy of California, in the form of its legislature, has provided us with a double, perhaps a triple, failure. They have not onlt visited a new commercial burden upon their citizenry, but have failed to protect them. Indeed, they may have added to their risk.

But we can end on a positive note by bragging on the Yankee government. The brag is that the anniversary of the day the founding fathers got their courage together, acted like mensch, and presented the Declaration of Independence to the citizenry is still observed on the date and not on the nearest Monday as has become the meaningless and degrading custom of most other holidays.

Doom and Glee

Lots of this abounding. In fact it is rather hard to avoid as I sit listening to my gums complaining about the rather rough treatment they were given given last week and the unpleasantness of the dental play-dough slathered over them that protects them “Against the envy of less happier lands,(? This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.” -King Richard II. Act ii. Sc. 1.) Hence the rather paradoxical but eminently natural combination.

Such seems mirrored in the paucity and relative lowness of the feeds this weekend. Apparently we are commencing the dog days (canis dies) early this year. If this is an indication that the silly season will also commence early there may be hope for some relief from the continuing joys of global climate change. Of course, the rather distressing part is the report that we should be entering a five year period of temperature stasis. But at least silly season medianess would provide a respite from the summer oven that is Alibam with its concomitant electric bills that surpass those of deepest winter, and the mindless, artificial cheerfulness of local television’s weather beavers.

I assayed expedition yesterday, motoring FD SCP, the matriarch, and myself to the Greater Metropolitan Arab Farmers’ Market in search of agriculture. Fittingly the market is held in the parking lot next one of GMA’s two studios for the dance, in effect one of our few nodes of culture if culture is prepubescent females in slippers and leotards accompanied by frazzled maternal parental units who one suspects are reliving their actual or wannabe youths in their daughters.

I was keen to see this pavilion as the parking lot it resides upon is seldom used. Indeed, outside the scant weekly use for those aforementioned students of tap, ballet, and jazz (dancing, not music), the only time the parking lot is used is for street parades of which there are two “major” ones in Greater Metropolitan Arab: high shul homecoming; and christmas. The former is by far the more civil as the latter is perpetually marred by both debates over whether horses will be permitted in the parade, and the activities of removing the feces of said horses.

Sadly the farmers’ market proved to be actually a farmer’s market and that one gentleman had been reduced to a selection of cucumbers that would swoon a English country mistress. All else had been depleted in the scant hour between commencement and arrival. I excuse the tardiness by the necessity of motivating two who are neither early risers. Apparently the competition with the longer established farmers’ market in Guntersville was crushing. At any rate, I passed on the cucumbers being mindful of their indigestibility.

This, with other errands of female directiveness, distracted me Saturday from the paucity of the feeds. Sadly however, the exhaustion of same leaves me unsupervised and free to peruse the paucity.

I note that the WIRED folk [Link] have finally caught up with the claims that the Large Hadron Collider will not destroy the planet. Bittersweet news, or perhaps, bittersweet non-news. Is WIRED actually slipping as much as their behavior would suggest? Or is this just a measure of how irrelevant any but information technology is to their readerate, either actual or in their journalistic perception?

One is however rather moved to consider if the European Union has agents of their secret security forces moving purposefully about and detaining science fiction writers much in the mode that the United States practiced during the Second Great War? And do the folks at CERN replicate the nagging uncertainties and paranoias of Oppenheimer and his merry band of physicists?

On a more local and personal level, we discover [Link] that Gooey mail has limits. Admittedly these limits seem more to discourage spammers than oppress plebes, but somehow it is appalling and comforting simultaneously to observe that Gooey does have limits and is not therefore likely to be some supernatural embodiment of evil. Natural embodiment of evil perhaps, but not supernatural, nor mystical except perhaps in the minds of the organization’s management.

And courtesy of the Pew people [Link] there is a weak indication (statistically) that Baby Boomers – which includes SCP – are more pessimistic that either their elders or Gen Y. And here I was attribituing those folks’ unrealism to senility and intellectual vacuity, respectively. Of course there is nothing in the Pew report that precludes those situations, but there is one that we boomers may be just a bit dark in our outlook on social reality.

Someone will probably offer up a theory it was all the movies we had to watch in our childhoods, in the waning days of monochrome when so many of the movies were dramas of hopelessness and stark cruelty; then ointing out that the brightness of GEN Y is the direct result of Barney, Teletubbies, and what passes for cinematic entertainment these days. Oh for the grand days of DoBee, George Toffel, and Jim Hutton. Oh for when we thought life was hard but not bad. Back when electroshock had supplanted marijuana as the cure of choice for female depression and male career burnout.

Blind Poets’ Club

I have to admit to being a lukewarm fan of Robin Williams’ humor. To me it is either very good or very bad, rather like the movie reviews used to be in TIME magazine. The difference of course, is that with TIME magazine movie reviews if they rate a movie to be very good or very bad, one should go see it as it will be very entertaining, but if they rate it moderately bad to moderately good, the movie is to be avoided as more boring than white wash with mold growing on it.

On the other hand, if Robin WIlliams’ humor is very good, it is so entertaining as to almost shatter one’s consciousness, but if it is very bad, it makes one want one’s consciousness to disappear as a relief from the agony.

For example, to me, the verbal caricature Williams did of John Wayne as Shakespeare in some movie whose name escapes me was very good. It was good enough to make one sit through a film that otherwise seldom escaped the banal ground state. But the central theme of a Poet’s Club struck me this morning when I was reading a review of the astronomy in Homer’s Odysseus. [Link]

The problem is that the astronomy information is just too fudging accurate. Especially if the poem was composed sometime about 1200 BCE when the suspect ecclipse occurred but was not written down until about 800 BCE. That period is judged to be entirely too long for such details, which include planetary positions, to have survived with such accuracy.

I have a bit of skepticism about the skepticism. First, we have learned that trade and other echanges were fairly comon in those days, more than we had though peviously. And the Egyptians invented Star Clocks back around 1300 BCE (see H. W. F. Saggs Civilization Before Greece And Rome). And since the time of Schlieman we have repeatedly found that the Illiad and the Odysseus are more accurate than previously credited. So this may just be one more instance of an accuracy that has survived.

Indeed, given the better track record of artsy stuff to survive and more practical information not to (see Saggs again for the diffusion of mysticism in Egyptian medical texts,) I am not at all sure this is even surprising.

We also have to recall that the period of the Illian War was one of heroes. If you read the Illiad, it has a hierarchical structure. There are about a dozen central figures, all heroic in some aspect or characteristic, each of these has about a dozen minons each whose primary role is to demonstrate the heroicness of the central figures, and the thousands of amorphous others who populate the poem are just cannon fodder and stage dressing. but the question appertains if they could have heroes of warriorness (soldiers are aplenty but all background characters), kingness (ditto for subjects), and beautyness (any ugly here?) so why not poetness?

But one does wonder how a blind guy knows where the planets are.

Chicken Little

I was just observing FD SCP preparing her breakfast and to make a longish story short, she mentioned that she had more steps to go through this morning because the toaster needed to be cleaned, the cream cheese contained refilled, …..; all to be accomplished before she could heat soak her bagel, add a shmear, and consume.

In reflection I was moved to consider these little things that need to be done tend to accumulate until a pack of them must be performed before some needful accomplishment can be realized.

Now I have been familiar with the old human activity of deferrment – “never do today what can be postponed beyond the immediate” – but I had never considered that these deferrment might obey Bose-Einstein statistics. And that if they do, it is clearly due to human nature that they do so.

That humans have statistical behaviors akin to elementary particle is not new. For example, we have known for years that extroverts obey Bose-Einstein statistics while Introverts obey Fermi-Dirac statistics. You will not find this stated in any psychology or medical reference text, mostly because the folks who write these texts have no idea what BE and FD stats are. But when I have told colleagues who are psychologists about this, and have laborously explained BE and FD stats to them, they either nod vigorously or run away houling with their ears covered. For which the obvious question is whether psychologists have intrinsic half integer angular momentum?

But back to our original consideration. If these deferrments are indeed described by BE stats, and they do indeed condense when they each some critical density (number), then may we postulate some “Law of Nuisance Accumulation”?

Short Circuit

I may seem to be picking on WIRED this week but it’s more what they are covering than their specific medianess. They have an article this morning entitled “Poll: Should McCain Learn to Use a Computer?”. [Link] At issue is whether the (modern) republican party candidate for chief executive need to know how to use a computer?

My immediate question is what does “use” mean in this context.

  1. Does this mean that he needs to know how to do email and a browser?
  2. Does this mean he needs to know how to use an “Office” suite superficially/nominally/expertly?
  3. Does this mean he needs to know how to install clients and drivers?
  4. Does this mean he needs to know how to hack?
  5. Does this mean he needs to know how to write code?

I ask this because with an established base of something over a billion PCs out there almost all of the people who use computers cannot affirmatively get past the first part of question 2.

So almost all of the people who are part of the community of computer users are sheep insentient to the nature, composition, and mechanics of their environment and its instrumentality. This is not out of the ordinary incidentally. How many people on the planet or in the Yankee republic actually know and understand science, engineering, medicine, law, or other disciplines of the instrumentality and nature of our social environment? And how many have a working understanding of the union of these? The answer is a resounding “Vanishingly Damn Few.”

The day when we could actually have philosopher-kings who had studied everything and knew something about everything is long past. Given that executives of governance have to have other skills than just knowing stuff, this date was probably not long after when the basic idea of philosopher-king was elucidated. Certainly it was not possible even as late as the Common Era (CE). So for at least the last two millenia we have had to cope with governance executives who were unqualified for their jobs in some areas of knowledge, expertise, and skill.

So should the chief executive of the Yankee republic write code or hack? Doesn’t seem like a useful application of his/her personal resources to me. How about sending email or surfing? Nope. Do I want the chief executive to have some understanding of how the ‘net and computers impacts society? Yep. Does that require him/her to write code or send email? I don’t think so.

So let’s get our outlook straight. Chief executives don’t drive their own automobiles or make their own phone calls. So they don’t need to use computers expect for the modern equivalent of baby kissing. And we need something more than that in these trying times.


I had to motor into Huntsville, Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill, this morning to under a particularly unpleasant ritual – the removal of “barnacles” from the roots of some of my teeth. Technically the “barnacles” are called calculi which means solid accretions in the body. I refer to the process of barnacle removal because it seems akin to the processes by which barnacles were removed from sailing ships. I believe the technical term for the activity is root planing or scaling.

This is rather a different form of calculus than I am used to  and the process itself is not all that unpleasant, although the week of so following is nagging discomfort. Hence my attitude may be rather somber and dark for the next few.

In that vein, I note that the folks who make Old Spice products have committed a vertical copulation. Courtesy of the Huntsville Times [Link] I note that Huntsville came out number eleven on the list of most sweaty cities. The list is obviously whacked because it fails to include the nation’s capital. Anyone who has spent any summertime in the District knows that the capital is situated on the heat exhaust from Tartarus. Also, many southwestern cities made the list. What is evidently missed here is that one does sweat out there but the humidity is so low the sweat evaporates as fast as it forms. So, in summary, a craplist from what are now proven to be crapminds. Pity, I liked their original scent deodorant.

On the more positive side, I note that the lord high justicers of the Yankee government have pronounced that citizens do have the right of self defense using firearms. [Link] Now if those thieves in Montgum can be persuaded to make being armed in public a requirement we can start putting shut to a lot of crime, terrorism, and a general lack of manners. To say nothing of crapminds driving and talking on the cellular telephone.

In which vein I have to hold up the legislators of the Spanish government as an example of integrity, intellect, and concern for their citizenry. [Link] Seems that this august body has extended civil rights to other primates than just humans.

And our last matter is what does one call something bigger than the former planet Pluto that goes around whacking planets? Apparently this is exactly what happened to Mars 3.9 BYA. [Link] We obviously can’t call it a wanderer since that is what planet means. Following the finest scientific tradition, and the recent vertical copulations of the International Astronomical Union, perhaps we should call the beat a Thudoid?

But at least this explains what happened to the Barsoomians? So in their honor perhaps we should call the beast a Burroughs instead? After all, it did make a dent – a burrough – in the planet.

Death of Theory?

I have been wrestling much of this week with a WIRED article by Chris Anderson entitled “The End of Theory: The Data Deluge Makes the Scientific Method Obsolete”. [Link] The wrestling is probably more a matter that I do a lot of analysis and modeling (as in the construction of informational models, not the other kind that has to do with clothing and other goods) which makes me more of a theoretician than an experimentalist. Otherwise I would probably have shrugged the piece off as the typical superficial puff piece that characterizes traditional media.

What the article has at its roots is the shift from information poverty to information abundance that the internet represents and embodies. Then, based on the success of Gooey using correlative analysis, or some such – they are not really forthcoming about this, the obvious conclusion is that theory is antiquated, archaic, and useless. And from that the Scientific Method is extinct.

Sorry. Not obvious at all. The argument is so seriously flawed that it is obvious why people whose universe is the ‘net and information stuff can’t see it, because this world isn’t about science, it’s about information.

Science is fundamentally about understanding how the universe works. The internet is only secondarily connected to that reality. The internet is a technologically enabled social construct. As such it has to do with reality only through the operations of the technology that enables it and through the humans whose efforts populate it with information. And what Gooey is doing is not being successful at understanding things but being successful at a particular way of making money. They are, or at least have been, very good at that but even if they actually do understand what that reality is, it is not the reality of the universe.

Theory is the codification of our understanding of reality. As such it is inseperable from experiment. Experiment affirms or destroys theory; theory provides direction for experiment. That is direction as in azimuth, not mandate.

The problem has always been what experiments are important, and how can predictions of theory be tested. The internet can enhance this only as a medium of transportation of the information. It does not analyze the data, it does not understand the data, it only manipulated the data at best.

Understanding is human, not mechanical.