Is Three Stable?

The PEW folks this morning issued an article [Link] that 0.56 of the sample population is in favor of a third political party. What is not surprising is that 0.72 of the independents have this opinion, and 0.47 of the democrat party adherents, after all, they have a charismatic, some even say messianic, maybe candidate apparent. But that 0.53 of the republican party adherents have this view is a bit notable.

The difficulty with all this is that the article does not go into any details of what that third party would embody. There is plenty of dissatisfaction with the two currently duopolistic political parties but it is not at all clear that the dissatisfaction is consistent or unified.

I have mentioned in previous blots of the absence of platform differences between the two parties in Alibam. For example, no one running for office in Alibam can be in favor of either gun control or women’s reproductive choice. This is in sharp contrast to the anti-control and anti women’s choice by the republican party and the opposite by the democrat party.

The point here is that the political parties have evolved, although they would both tend to avoid using that term in their courting of the superstitious and mystical, towards a set of planks that collectively they hold in opposition to each other. In maths terms each party possesses a set A of planks that they are for or against, and the other party possesses a set Not-A that is the reverse of A (since each member may only occupy two states.)

Now if we conside that each of these sets possesses n planks, then the number of possible combinations of stance on the collection of planks is 2^n. In effect, this is the number of possible sets of planks, but only 2^1 are presented by the two political parties. Hence there are 2^n – 2 plank sets that are not offered.

I have previous blogged on the question of how many planks one finds difference with before one ceases to be an adherent of a political party. I shall not belabor that point. But I shall labor a bit on the idea that the demographics of that population who have ceased adherence to either of the political parties is approximately smoothly distributed among the 2^n – 2 other plank sets.

Assuming this to be approximately the situation, then something on the order of half of the people who are adherents of any particular subset of planks are balanced by those who are opposed to that subset. Hence, there is little to indicate that all of those people who favor a third political party are unified in agreement as to what that party should have as a platform.

The implication of this is significant. It potentially is little less than the balkanization of the political instrumentality of the Yankee republic. As a minimum we might find the number of political parties being four at a minimum. Suddenly American politics would cease to be which party is in power but which coalition can be formed. It is not at all clear that this would not be worse than an abolition of all political parties and the institution of popular elections.


The good news starts with a live broadcast of Friday’s solar eclipse from Novo Sibirsk. You have to register but that’s a freebie. [Link] Definitely cheaper than going up to Canada.

You can also see it from China, but do you really want to go there? The PEW folks did a multinational survey of whether having the Olympics in China is good/bad. Seems that the bad opinion is pretty high in Europe, Japan, and the Yankee republic. Personally I think it’s a good thing that it isn’t here.

But speaking of good things, I note that Illinois has made it a misdemeanor to cross a street while using a cellular phone or texting. [Link] I think they should generalize the law to make it a crime to use a cellular phone or text while you are moving! And our council of thieves legislature in Muntgum should emulate the Land of Lincoln.

On the bad side, the Gartner folks have come out that the $100 laptop – ala the Black Bridge project – is at least three years away. [Link] Based on what I have seen as Gartner’s track record this is either common knowledge or they are highly inaccurate. My corporate experience with Gartner was that they were masters of repackaging what everyone already knew and of distracting from their egregious and frequent mistakes. It’s a shame P. T. Barnam is dead because he would have been right at home with them.

It has also been shown by researchers at U Adelaide that Peruvian chickens are genetically indistinguishable from other chickens. [Link] This puts rather a bit of a damper on the theory that the Peruvians got chickens from Easter Island rather than from the Conquistadores. The interesting question is what did other meats taste like before Columbus?

And for mixed news. it appears that the former Vice President from Tennessee has stepped on himself again by claiming the Moore’s Law applies to colar cells. [Link] Perhaps he should change his name to “Goring Error”.

Also on the down side, is research from Federal U of Pernambuco that one cannot create ball lightening in one’s microwave. [Link] One can however make a nasty mess of trying, so in the interest of avoiding pain from FD SCP I shall restrict my recreational microwaving to CDs.

I also read that the Australians are instituting a customs program of searching travelers’ MPs players and laptops for copyright material. [Link] So much for the assumption of fair use. Maybe this is the contemporary equivalent of the Riot Act? Shall we hypothesize that appropriate beatings for searchees is eminent?

Needful Clients

One of my distinguished colleagues, Enthalpy Energy, passed me a link this morning to a SlashDot discussion on LaTeX. [Link] In the wake of a night spent arguing unsuccessfully with nasal constriction that no amount of meditation would alleviate, such a diversion this morning is most welcome. Indeed, it would be welcome even without the sinus difficuties but it definitely puts me in a better mood so that I can recall that the gym this morning was not at a temperature normally used to hang meat with some degree of pleasure.

This is rather a difficult time to go to the gym. Temperatures have been fluctuating – highs – between high eighties and low one hundreds, which gives us some cause for pause at the claim that global warming slope should be zero for the next five years or so. Also, shul – the public type – is about to commence and so all of the territorial teachers are seeping back in to monopolize the equipment and try to intimidate those who aren’t of their particular fraternity. But my chief bother is that this is the null time of several of the podcasts I listen to, notably Melvyn, Lord Bragg’s “In Our Time” and Garrison Keeler’s “News from Lake Woebegone”, both in cessation for vacation. On the other hand this does give me occasion to catch up on some of those podcasts I subscribe to but can’t quite get around to listening to.

This of course adds somewhat to my reputation as a bit of a something else. Most of the seniors have no interest in podcasts or MP3 players; indeed, I believe even the young folks who have MP3 players – young means forty and under these days – just listen to music, which given the diversity of music types makes me glad for the privacy of MP3 players so that I am only inflicted with what I want to listen to, and, of course, whatever is being watched on the television. It is rather amazing just how much crap is on television at 0400 in the morning, and I don’t mean exclusively infomercials for exercise videos, scrap booking kits, or absurd claimed diet preparations. No, even the news programs are crap. So from my perspective, especially since I can’t read a book when I am using the ergometer, podcasts and an MP3 player are what keeps me from plotting evil scientist plans.

All of which puts me in mind of how I have said several times – and will continue to do so as long as I adhere to the theory – that computer requirements are increasingly defined by what clients we use. This theory has come home to me as I search for equivalents to my “necessary” clients in Ubuntu, and a LaTeX processor is central to that problem.

First of all, LaTeX is of the class of social things that may be referred to as Listerine. To use the old advertising slogan, “it’s the taste you hate twice a day.” The price one pays with Listerine was a hideously bad taste (now much abated by modern flavor chemistry) and a righteous burning action in the mouth for the benefit of deferment and deterrence of tooth decay and gum disease. Hence the rather classical manifestation of a Freudian Love-Hate relationship.

LaTeX is much the same. It leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth and getting it to compile is often a burning sensation, down time at best when everything moves smoothly. The result is the best formatting and presentation of nerd information – equations, tables, and figures – that one can find. The beast also has the singular advantage of completely decoupling the composition aspect from the formatting aspect. Having said that, it has a learning curve that is characterized by a series of Dirac delta functions on a stochastic basis of distribution. The only good thing about learning how to use LaTeX is that it is significantly easier than learning how to build a LaTeX theme or style. It is gain through pain intellectualized.

The fundamental problem is that one may significantly short circuit this if one only wishes to be a fairly simple parasitic user – you only make use of canned styles and never have to depart from them – is that you can use Scientific Word or WorkPlace. This entails swapping several pictures of dead presidents for a pseudo-WYSIWYG front end to a LaTeX processor. It has the singular effect of permitting other than LaTeX nerds be LaTeX geeks and write productively.

There is however, no Linux version. So one must either: (1) make do with what Linux offers as a LaTeX processor; (2) run Windows in a Virtual Machine; or (3) keep a Windows box just to run Scientific Whatever and other irreplaceable clients. This is what makes the theory more than talk and gets into walk.

But Is It Good?

The news feeds are picking up again but I was struck while reviewing them that there seems to be an absence of proportionate good news. Now I will concede without any question that what is good, as opposed to either bad or ho-hmmmm, is to some unspecified degree a matter of personal outlook, but one would think that the fraction of good news would stay approximately constant with increase and decrease in volume consistent with sampling variation?

It seems [Link] that one of the man made causes of global climate change is human efforts to staunch forest fires. Research at U California indicates that combating and preventing forest fires actually reduces the amount of carbon that a forest may entail.

Let’s see now. We let people build houses near and in forests, and we let corporate oligarchs engineer forests to maximize their wood production. And both cause us to try to reduce or minimize forest fires. But by doing so we reduce the carbon entailment and increase greenhouse gasses. But if we let the fires burn the idiots who build in the middle of forests get killed so there is less demand for processed wood and global climate change is abated?

And then I read [Link] that the current developing generation is not reading paper, they are reading screens. But no where does the reportage address the question of whether this is actually literacy or just an aberration of rebellion. I have to admit to not liking reading much of what I was supposed to read, especially the things prescribed by the mushy side of academia. But I can read – somewhat – physics books which is more than something like 0.99 of humanity, so if that is the criterion for literacy then there is no significant statistical difference between my generation and my daughter’s generation.

But I can proceed with this with the clear assurance, courtesy of researchers at U Wisconsin, that there is no gender difference in math performance. [Link] The thing that is a bit concerning here is that this is the generation that can’t make change, has benefited, if that is the term, by Every Child Left Behind, and is avoiding technical careers like the plague. Is this other than an assurance of gender unbiased failure?

No matter. It seems that because of the evaporation of the strength of the American dollar we are now in a position where menial labor jobs are returning to the American homeland. [Link] We are thus assured that our children, who cannot make change and cannot read books, will be able to do sweatshop labor to support themselves while high paying technical positions are filled by immigrants from nations with a more fundamental education ethic.

The quality of that technical talent is demonstrated this morning by a bunch of mavericks from Gooey who have started their own search engine Cuil. [Link] One of the things I have had to do over the years is to define a set of search engine testing searches to use in evaluating search engines. This is fairly exacting. The best rating I ever found for a search engine was the Copernic lash-up with a grade of “B”. Gooey has consistently gotten a grade of “D” with a rising “C” in commercial searches that rises to a “C+” is you blow away all the right hand margin stuff and the first page of results. I can only hope the new engine is going to improve fast as it got a solid “F” in every area except social gossip and mumblage, which is defintely a product crying shrilly from exposure on the mountainside for the need of a wolf.

And finally we have a coverage of a debate on what is the best way to protect Tellus from meteorite hits, especially the ones that tend to cause “nuclear winter” and extinction events. [Link] This looks to be bnecessary because NASA, aka the Yankee government, issued a report last years saying that nukes were the answer. Apparently this was intended to reassure those who cannot make change nor read books, as they are perhaps the only audience who would swallow such a patent story.

But it is Monday and we have another week to destroy.

THe Search for Intelligent Life Continues

I am not sure whether children are not learning what they should be, or adults are perceiving that children are learning the wrong things. The question arose while reading my daily aggregation of comics. The one in question is “Non Sequitur” [Link] which is better than most and has something approaching proper disrespect for false authority.

The problem arose with this panel of the cartoon:

I was immediately apalled at the failure of the investigation.

Now I should comment that the character Jeffery is a righteous nerd – which one would not expect with a name like Jeffery – and should have done the requisite research to determine the correct resolution of his problem. That’s even with the anticipated abolishment of his community library and a well meaning but ill-equipped-to-handle-nerds librarian – after all, there is the internet even with its high fraction (0.99+?) of baldertripe.

And it would not at all have changed the gag-like humor of the cartoon.

So maybe society is bankrupt. After all, any self respecting nerd, which discounts those who are only geeks and computer geeks at that, knows that gunpowder includes its own oxidizer so that if the cartridge is properly sealed, combustion will occur …..


The silly season is definitely in remission at least on the basis of what I found in my RSS feeds this morning. Since they number ~ 100 this gives us a confidence of at least one 9 and close to two 9’s.

But having muttered that, I take some note of an article “The Online Legacy of Professor Pausch[Link] in the New Yawk Times. What was notable about the article was not so much the article itself, which is a list of links to other informations of the man and hence a rather outstanding piece of traditional journalism, but that the tag line shown in the accumulator referred to the man as “an accidental celebrity”. This description immediately riveted thought and consideration.

Early into this I found myself needing reassurance of the meaning of celebrity and hence I consulted by OS’ dictionary, giving me,

“3. A person of distinction or renown; — usually in the plural; as, he is one of the celebrities of the place.” [1913 Webster]

from which I could proceed with my consideration. This consideration almost immediately took the direction that “an accidental celebrity” would be the only worthwhile kind.

By this I mean that most celebrities these days are celebrities not for who they are or what they have accomplished but what they have done to become celebrities. In effect, the norm is an unaccidental or, perhaps, deliberate, celebrity. Most celebrities today can be categorized as politicians, entertainers, or those we used to categorizze as “members of society” but which now is simply those who are rich and desire to be celebrities. One of the singular commonalities of all of these is that they have become celebrities by means of publicity and the attention of the media.

This is not to say that some of these people do not espouse “good causes”, but that attention is given to the good causes not because they are inherently good but because these people are celebrities. Hence we have people who have become celebrities not because of what they have done but becuase of the publicity they have engineered. And what they do then becomes of note in a rather vapid paroxism of adulation.

Randy Pausch is the exception. He became a celebrity for what he did, because publicity attached itself to his accomplishments. And this is what makes his departure so bitter sweet, so much an indictment of the bankruptcy of contemporary society that his celebrity had to occur because attention only came to his actions when he was dying.

Perhaps we should say Kaddish for him and society together.

Silly and Random?

It is rather uncertain this morning whether the feeds are dominated by silly season or just the usual weekend randomness that has a strange coherent attraction.

The Huntsville Times announces that the Yankee army has finished its assessment of the May 30 debacle. [Link] The assessment is that the city of Huntsville vertically copulated. Now this may sound like the usual “Army finding any scapegoat handy”, but it was apparent from the morass of reportage that this was an activity of unresolvable time lines. As such, until the city gets its act together in communicating with the Army there is scant way of determining whether the Army could have had their act together. Slightly paraphrased, one cannot assess the efficiency of the fire department if the alarm is not sounded till after the barn has burned down.

That such an event occurred is not only not surprising but a matter of assurance given the nature of relations between the Army and its civilian neighbors. Were it not for the availability of work force the Army would be very happy for the city government, and probably the county government to disappear. Similarly were it not for the economics, the city would be more than happy for the Army to disappear. Both suffer from the fundamental characteristic of organizations that each must be in change and the other subservient.

On a more nonsensical basis, which somehow seems fitting given the absolute futility of the forecoming discussion, Live Science has an almost charming list of their picks for the Top 10 Mad Scientists. [Link] Needless to say, physicists have the lion’s share among the listed although I am not at all sure of the nature of the ordering other than editorial mischief. The pleasing thing that may safely be concluded from inspection is that mad and scientist are redundant in their assessment, which is probably pretty accurate.