Joy of Water

hydrogen oxide;
dihydrogen oxide;
hydrogen hydroxide;
oxygen hydride;
oxygen dihydride;
The many names for that most wonderful of simple chemical compounds, H2O, common called water although this is also the name of the compound’s liquid state. An indication of how critical this compound, in particularly that state, is to humans, for it is only because of such that we are what we are.

Water, in the general sense, is also wonderful in that its core atom, oxygen in this case, has an electronic geometry characterized by the designation sp^3, which indicates the hybridization of one angular momentum zero “orbital” wave function and three angular momentum one wave functions. The result is a tetrahedral arrangement, in the case of water an asymmetric one with two lobes capped with hydrogens and two with electron pairs waiving in space, the whole a bit like the collision of two hot air balloons. Other examples of such are methane, CH4, with a hydrogen on each lobe, and ammonia, NH3, with only one waving electron pair.

I note courtesy of ArabWX, [Link] the solitary weather site of Greater Metropolitan Arab that the Yankee government’s weather service has issued a prognostication of the arrival of snow this evening or tomorrow here in Nawth Alibam.

Snow is another solid form of water, differing from ice in that ice is generally disordered, almost amorphous, while snow is highly ordered, mostly crystalinewith all the optical and electromagnetic specialness that indicates. And like ice, it is less dense than its liquid phase, which is part of its anomaly.

The portent of snow also holds special place with humans. Among those given to superstitious mysticism, grateful prayers will be offered today that the deity stayed snow until after the most high ritual of football yesterday. Those of a hedonistic bent will immediately motor to the MalWart to strip its shelves of jerky and energy drinks, the recentlly enacted wetness of Greater Metropolitan Arab not yet being effected to permit the MalWart to purvey carbonated spirits. But so provisioned with dietary necessities of the modern American citizen-consumer, they can withstand the rigors of the snow fall.

And those with digital cameras not attached to a cellular phone, who place some weight on resolution and composition, will brave the elements to capture the abundance of whiteness on electronic film for the boredom of generations to come, in the manner that camera users have practiced since Brady.

Gnostic Nostalgia

Yesterday was a bit of a blah. I was entrusted with motoring FD SCP about on a shopping expedition intended to recover the opportunity lost on Friday when we had to look for a solution to our refrigerator demise. It may not have been Black Friday but it was definitely Gray Saturday with rain popping through every hour or so for a few moments, just enough to maintain a high level of uncertainty of when to engage the windshield wipers.

It was also gray in that all we brought back was a couple of small bags of stuff. I am not sure if it was a matter of the stores’ inventories having been depleted on Friday, scant inventory to begin with in anticipation of scant purchasing, depressed outlook, or a combination of the three – or even some fourth cause unconsidered. It is somewhat suspicious that out of six stores visited, only three yielded adequate temptations. I perceive here some of that pernicious apathy I indicated previously: storekeepers anticipating scant sales and minimizing their stockage; customers leery of spending money but avid for “bargains”. The combination is one of those cooperative things that turns into a spiral of interaction, in this case one of negative form.

So with such dismal result, I was intrigued this morning to read the weekly eNewspaper of my high shul class. I reproduce here a set of rules published in the shul (paper) newspaper back in ’62:

  1. Students are expected to be on time.
  2. All absences must be excused by a note from a parent and approved by Mr. ****
  3. Students are not allowed in front of the school after eight AM.
  4. Students are not allowed in the auditorium at any time unless instructed otherwise .
  5. Smoking for boys is not allowed except at the specified time and place.
  6. Smoking for girls is not allowed.. Girls who violate this rule will be suspended.

As has been my wont when presented with such lists, I cannot resist a few comments.

I am a bit mystified by number one, but being an introvert and suffering a touch of Asperger’s, well I should. Lackadaisical punctuality is a bit of a Southron shul tradition, perhaps ending with my generation who lived through the cessation of the shul break in the fall for cotton picking. In those days, the ’40’s and ’50’s, cotton was still picked by hand, and the shuls would recess for a week (or so) each fall to permit children to assist their parents in wresting the white fiber balls from their leathery leaf husks. Some of my cohort still possess scars from this activity, the husks were sharp and abrasive and it was not kulturny to run weeping over every little gash and blood flow.

This recess had disappeared by the ’60’s with the diffusion of agricultural mechanization, a matter that prompted us to argue with the syllabus for Alibam history that the cotton picker was more important, at least to us, than the cotton gin, a cessation that we did not weep over. Still, there were still some small farms in the city limits and the children still had chores to be done before shul could be attended. To those stout yeoman parents any education beyond the basic “R”‘s was superfluous and they had scant patience for the frivolities of the curriculum. Such attitudes were passed on to their children, if not for absorption, at least for tardiness.

Number two had its roots in this as well, plus the natural laziness of humans.  It never afflicted me as I was a rather unimaginative rule follower – when the rules were properly published; I had a lot of problems with rules that were supposed to be known but were never presented until one violated them. Luckily this was a period when nerds were tolerated, if not revered, well, by the administrivium, not by the jocks and cheerleaders. We were trash to them and they poor bogs to us. But I did have pangs of sympathy for the kids whose parents thought the note thing irrelevant and condemned their children to an Oreo existence.

I have to admit to being a bit mystified about number three. My time at shul was pretty well scheduled. I suppose there were those who did want to sneak off but I have to wonder why the specificity. Of course management had as bad a track record in those days of explaining as they do today. Who says Taylor is dead? But I can well understand number four. The auditorium had a very high ceiling, and it had a separate, if inadequate, air conditioning system. The rest of the shul also had an inadequate air conditioning system, and the allure of sneaking off to the auditorium was that it was cool and dark. And if one had a companion of the opposite gender, so much the better.

We thought we were in good shape. When my cohort started shul, none of the buildings were air conditioned. This made the first two and last two months of classes hideous and ineffective. I well recall in sixth grade selling candy door to door to raise money to buy a window unit for my class room. And then the next year I went in to junior high with class changes and it was all for naught.

Numbers five and six are the interesting ones. First, note how where and when is not specified. This was typical. Clarity in what was forbidden, ambiguity in what was permitted. The key indicators of a tyranny. The double standard between the genders was not only common in those days, but blatant. In fact, it was so blatant that I did not recognize it until I was in college.

In those days, women had all sorts of rules men did not. When I was at the campus of the Black Warrior the coeds were not permitted to wear pants to class or indeed in public during the class week. They could wear them on the weekend if they wore a long raincoat over. They could wear shorts if they were participating in an athletic activity.

Women had a curfew, and could be expelled for violating it. They were also not permitted the use of the front steps of the student union and this restriction was severly enforced by the fraternity jocks who would mug alumni wives on football weekends for their hubris. I believe women were not permitted to smoke in public, but no one paid much attention to that in the nerd circle I frequented. We were so seldom exposed to coeds that we had no idea what proper behavior on either side was.

I also recall when I went off to graduate shul at the campus of the Boneyard that my parents found out some of the dorms on campus were coed – men and women. They were only placated to permit my attendance when they were assured that the men and women were kept locked in on separate floors. But I always wondered about the fire escapes.

As much as these rules now take on a sort of macabre humor they do serve a purpose in helping us look for what our unsensed prejudices today are.

Information Giblets

Giblets  The inmeats, or edible viscera (heart, gizzard, liver, etc.), of poultry. [1913 Webster]

One of the correlations I have noted is a relationship between Thanksgiving and the content of RSS feeds during holidays. As such this serves to confirm the preeminence of Thanksgiving among the holy days that define the nature of our Yankee republic.

That correlation is giblets, a matter deserving some elaboration. The definition is a bit off, lacking any insight into connotations. While giblets are the edible innards of a feather dinosaur descendant, and perhaps (?) those of dinosaurs as well, what one finds inside one’s turkey is not strictly giblets. It is a subset, those components of the giblets that the turkey processor saw fit to include. Why this censorship? The answer seems to be simple coastal big city liberalism, an instance of social engineering and political correctness, a delightful example of the perfidy of too many who profess such philosophy.

I was reminded of such yesterday while awaiting FD SCP’s preparation for our quest for the holy ladder of foodstuffs. I was somewhat desultorily watching the etheric image receiver, which was atoned to a station promulgating modern household wisdom (sic) , in this case cooking. With typical entertainment media logic the subject was how to prepare a turkey. The logic of this, on the day after Thanksgiving, was inescapable, establishing an irrefutable link between the television apparat and the military services’ organizations. But what was deeply telling in this was an admonition from the talking head, blond and boufant in some hideous stereotype validation, to remove the bag of giblets from the interior of the turkey and “throw them away” with a tone normally reserved for the nondiscussion of bodily functions.

Out here in the hinterland, we know what giblets are, and they are much more than what the turkey (in both uses of the word that come to mind) processors include. We do wonderful things with them, ranging from simple gravies to pate to fried appetizers. Yes, we know that heart is chewy and liver strong in taste, but that is part of what living in the heartland is all about. No, we do not eat them as much as we used to. Most of us do not raise and slaughter our own turkeys, the consideration of which reveals why politicians really pardon their birds, not for any humanitarian goodness but avoidance of the task at hand. As such, we must make do with what comes in that sad bag. Further, as is my case, our physicians have cast bans on the consumption of some organ meats, notably liver, which in my youth was a delicacy favored over steak and even hamburgers. And strangely, the food programs of those same coastal liberal cities dote on talking about auslander societies that still consume giblets of various tripes (yes, that is a pun!) while studiously ignoring how it is still done in the real part of their own country. Or is it still their own?

On which note, we observe a further commentary on the matter of the Little Bitty Lap Top, now called the “netbook” in place of UMPC. [Link] Increasingly, this device, whatever we may call it, seems indicative of the economic disconnect in our Yankee republic. The article is a punditry of Intel in the wake of AMD’s decision to avoid the niche. What is startling here is the apparent inability, or, possibly unwillingless, to acknowledge that this perversion of their financial plans for the consumer herds is actually a statement of determination.

This article decries the autility of the LBLT, its miniscule footprint and screen inadequate for more than an hour’s usage (approximately). Why do people not just carry one of those monsters with an eighteen inch screen around with them? Does no one in those organizations run from meeting to meeting every hour or so? Has any of them tried to do anything with a cellular phone and a screen the size of a duck stamp? [1] And have any of them tried running from meeting to meeting and actually balancing on their laps one of those eighteen inch screen behemoths? And find a seat next an electrical outlet since the moster sucks power like a bathroom heater? Or tried to afford those overpriced UMPCs?

In light of such questions is the popularity of the LBLT so elusive of comprehension?  Which returns us to our question of whether this is one more example of financial wrongthink or of organization prevarication? Regardless, a model of Wall Street emerges by analogy.

On a more useful level, reports of recovery of fragments of the Edmonton Flash are appearing. [Link] This is good. It is very hard for politicians to argue that pieces of actual matter are imaginary. (Unlike quantum mechanicians who argue that they are almost entirely illusory, being almost entirely manifestations of electromagnetic force fields. So remember that as your chir keeps your bodily force feilds off the force fields of the floor.)

Lastly, I note an article on the mismanagement cliche “can’t measure, can’t manage”. [Link] This is a phrase that provokes a love-hate response from real managers everywhere. I should comment that the idea of a relationship between measurement and management, attributed to Demming most recently, is not new. If anything it is at best a modern rehash of Taylorism, the fellow who figured out things like how to shovel and is why the utility company never sends less than three people out to fix something broken of their service that should take one man an hour at most to resolve.

Before launching off on this, I need to do a bit of background. The first thing is that there are a couple of presumptions embedded in this. In this case I am using the term presumption as a union of proposition and assumption. The reaons I mention these is that except for maths teachers, most teachers (and pundits) don’t pay much attention to presumptions and thus the things they teach get misused, abused, and forgotten as irrelevant. In most cases it’s not that the teachers are bad teachers, just ignorant. That’s why you really want your children, once they get beyond primary shul level, to be taught by people with degrees in their subjects and not in education.

Anyway, the first presumption is that the measurement has to be relevant to whatever it is that you are managing. The second, taking a bit of a leaf from Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, is that taking the measurement can’t mess up what it is you are managing. If you know these, then you can maybe use measurement to manage better – if you can manage at all, which is perhaps the third presumption.

If you are managing a car factory, you do not measure the number of earthworms per cubic meter of soil in your flower beds. You do measure how well the pieces that go into your car work and how well they are installed, but only when the measurement doesn’t run up the cost of making a car to the point of being noncompetitive. And no measurement will make any difference if your workers hate you enough to not work.

What goes unsaid in the modern fashion of measurement as a facade for mismanagement, is the exclusions here. If you are managing something that can’t be measured, can’t be measured affordably, or can’t be measured constructively, then don’t bother. Years ago, some crapmind got the idea that typists should have their mistakes measured so they could be managed into a better product. These guys just about killed their workers because they ran up against an error barrier. Then the psychologists got involved and showed that the barrier was built into humans and no amount of management would remove it.

So bear in mind, management is like giblets. It’s chewy and strong tasting and takes work, but make sure it is the right kind of work and don’t try to do things that don’t work.

[1] For you folks who reside in coastal, liberal cities, a duck stamp is a large stamp like a postage stamp with a picture of a duck on it, usually done by an excellent wildlife artist, and purchased to signify that the owner has a license to hunt duck in some locale. Despite great demand, the Yankee government and its unruly minion governances have declined to issue coastal liberal stamps.

Turkey Hash

Turkey: a bog with pretensions of geekness

Hash: 2. A new mixture of old matter; a second preparation or exhibition. [1913 Webster]

I returned yesterday from a rather stressful, and occasionally strainful, day of refrigerator seeking. I have to admit to feeling a bit of a mixture of Diogenes and Sokrates, except that the day was a bit too cool for a himation – and yes, I know the Greeks wore them in worse weather but I am not so inured to only receiving warmth from braziers and bonfires. The task was Diogenesian in that I was wandering about looking for the right refrigerator. The task was Sokratesian in that I was “assisted” (?) by my Xanthippe whose requirements consistently exceed what is manufactured. So, not being the alter ego of Batman, I cannot direct my manufacturies to produce to her requirements and I must suffer the pain of frustrated spouse and sales people – it often seems the only time they are actually human – until she decides that some approximation to her adamantine list is rigid enough and hence acceptable in the dire interest of our having foodstuffs.

It is at times like this that I am reminded of our Hunter-Gatherer heritage where women as gatherers of fruits and vegetables  must survey all to select those best for picking, while men as hunters search until they find an animal that meets the requirements adequately. This difference in environmental programming, which obviously has become genetic to survive across the wasteland of sedentaryness for the enrichment of modern homo consumeris, equally obvious in our modern shopping behavior, albeit absent the why, equally illustrates the relative impatience of men and the relative patience of women. And indicates why we read nothing of Job’s wife in the tales of his plagues from the deity.

On which direction, I take note of what is labeled “Buy Nothing Day”, [Link] a day of protest of consumerism. Much as I applaud both the propriety of this, a wonderful display of disrespect for false authority, I also must adore it with the human passion slavered on an underdog and lost cause like condiments on public shul cafeteria food. (Actually, it is probably cafeteria food in general, but I have only consumed private shul cafeteria food on occasions and a run of a couple of weeks is usually the minimum needed to properly appreciate the banality of institutional food, hospitals excepted. There a run of two meals is a plenitude.) Even I was unable to live up to their sterling goal and I cannot lay the blame on FD SCP. In accuracy, I was joyous to write that check and know that our quest of the graal was ended, leaving only the minor irritation of delivery, installation, removal of the remains of the previous incumbent, and wait till later today to restock the shelves. And we avoided the joy of an inaugural address in district weather that has killed more than one office holder.

Still, I must laud myself for one success that comes close to fulfilling the goal of this esteemable organization. One of our stops was at a Sears, and I resisted, largely by being dragged from the premises by FD SCP after being told she could wait a week for delivery. What did I resist? That which is at the core of the existence of Sears, that which makes it the temple of male obesience, its tool department. With good garce I exited the premises and bought not from their selection of things that strike resonantly into the very mystical core of that which is the male component of humanity. So in this fashion, I fulfilled my ability to rise above that which is animalistic and irrational. And all with the help of the female half of the species. Verily, a lesson of great import.

But yet another sign of our ancient roots emerges in the form of a report of online shopping so dense as to clog the halls of servers. Not just physically did trampling occur yesterday. Numerous online provisioners were overload in what can only be characterized as a capitalist/consumer denial of service onslaught. [Link] I have to speculate on the gender distribution here. Traditionally, the Black Friday shopping has been dominated by the female of the species. One has to wonder if this is a matter of males instinctively knowing that the hunting will be poor as women clog the hunting ground with their presence, hiding or even scaring off the best game? Or is it just that despite inroads to feminize the ‘net, it still remains largely a male domain, possibly because find the best is still harder than finding the first acceptable?

I also have to wonder if all those invisible legume enumerators who tell us whether the great American retial experience will endure or not, make or break on yesterday’s receipts, include the sales of those invisible and possibly imaginary merchants behind the web browser? Does it really count if servers instead of clerks are trampled in our frenzy of sustaining our civilization and nation by being good consumers? We are all told that the economy is global but the part that counts is defined by where we go and somehow the internet never quite makes it as a sensation, the addictions of our children and grandchildren ringing hollowly in our ears.

Cold Discomfort

FD SCP arose yesterday to discover that our kitchen refrigerator had passed. She is not a morning person, and I had left the house to attend a breakfast meeting, so the matter was somewhat less tense than the last time such an event inflicted our household. Now that the passion and perspiration of eliminating irreversibly defrosted frozen foods and marginal containers of merely cooled stuffs, and relocating what could be relocated to the garage machines,  I have some leisure to contemplate the many fold aspects of this matter.

The last time this occurred was soon after we moved to Greater Metropolitan Arab, and I had again been absent the house to attend a breakfast, this one as part of a Saturday morning club that was member of. On this occasion I returned home to be tearfully greeted that her refrigerator had died and her food, especially the frozen meats were dying. On that occasion there were still choices of appliance vendor in Greater Metropolitan Arab and we were able to procure and receive a new box, the old one carted off, by mid afternoon and thus rescue most of the foodstuffs.

The obvious first question that arises is why the major appliances of the house are “her’s” and not “our”? My psychologist colleagues have told me this is part of the “nesting” behavior. Personally I do not care who claims them, and I am surely willing to concede that to FD SCP since she administers the cleaning and culling of the beast, so long as I am privileged to store and reclaim foodstuffs from the interior of the beast. I do have a traditional role of paying for new appliances, largely as a result of the differences between our practices of finance. FD SCP basically uses a bedgeting system based on “just in time”, while I watch cash flow and try to make sure that the time averaged inflow exceeds the outflow. But in lieu of plate armor and a Percheron to slay post extinction dinosaurs, I readily wear the mantle of large appliance provider.

But what truly consumes my attention are the social aspects of the refrigerator. More than almost everything else in our homes, this appliance is what epitomizes civilization, the advance of humanity. Back in the days of Hunting and Gathering, a goodly portion of each day was spent in the acquisition and preparation of foodstuffs. This activity was central to survival. All other activities were secondary to this except for brief periods of dire necessity or clever planning. The latter may be a central, fundamental part of what defines us as human.

The advent of civilization several thousand years ago, first the formation of the first mini-cities before the end of the last cold phase (~13 KYA) and then the formation of (semi) permanent cities (~7KYA) were possible only because some of the people could be distanced from the acquisition and preparation of foodstuffs. Today, the thing that makes our lifestyle possible is the extremes that this distancing has been carried to. For many of our number, the necessity of foodstuffs has become so distant that it has become a luxury of those who can afford the money and time for restaurant eating. (Obviously, I exclude from this category all the fast food emporia of various forms and brands.)

This divorcement is made possible by a slew of technologies, not the least of which is modern refrigeration. Agricultural technology may make it possible for 0.01 (less actually) of the population to feed 1.00 of the population, at least for now, but availability is only one part of the process. Preparation is also key, and that is largely abbreviated by this modern appliance, largely the product of the last century.

It may be argued that even those who live in the hinterland have many of the characteristics of city dwellers. One key difference however is still the acquisition and preparation of foodstuffs. This difference is irretrievably wedded to distances. In the cities, restaurants abound, as do small markets. Indeed, it is instructive that the large chain restaurants and grocery stores, even box stores, do not do well. This can in part be associated with a preservation of the Hunter-Gatherer way of life, with food being something done daily, but with little concern beyond the mercantile.

In the hinterland, things are different. Restaurants are fewer and wider separated. Grocery stores have tended to become larger and fewer. Weekly, even monthly in our lesser settled areas, shopping expeditions are necessities. More food is consumed in the home, and effort put into its preparation. Both cheap transportation and cheap preservation are central to this.

And both are threatened, the former by the demise of petroleum, the latter by a dead box on a holy day. Truly life is good in what it offers our minds to grind upon.

Turkey Porn

Feathered Dinosaur Consumption day is arrived! Although I am not at all sure I will consume any feathered dinosaur descendant today. Due to changes in family structure, our FDC day organizational entropy went from ~3.3 to ~8.0. As a result instead of observing THE AMERICAN HOLY DAY today we had to observe it last Saturday. And I have to rather shamefully admit that that a major cause of the earliness was the demands to be able to observe the U Alibam versus Alibam Polytechnic Institut (American) football game. 

I am also unsure because although we have some flesh remaining from the carcass FD SCP and I prepared, an unbrined breast anointed with olive oil and suitable baked, my diet does not strictly permit me to prey upon the remains again this quickly. But I am diverted by the thought of the closeness of that statement to the descriptions of how kings are anointed on being crowned. The common aspect of becoming a thing for consumption is striking. And since it is supposed to be associated with religious practice, the confluence of food and mysticism is also present. Hmmmm. If I cannot partake of a turkey sandwich, organic mayonaise on ciabata bread I baked myself, I can at least contemplate these enthralling aspects of humanity. And reflect on the image gained in my youth when visiting the local Coca Cola bottling plant and observing the capping of the bottles, and how that related to religion as well.

And while upon the matter of humanity, my email this morning was largely a matter of pornography. The first message in the unread queue was a comment left on this blog blatantly promoting a web site for “hentai porn”. Following the published rules and policies established in our organization form, this comment has been consigned to the bit bucket with appropriate electronic carbolic acid. Defending the right of the owners of that site to exist does not extend to pandering their products.

Sadly, the really nasty stuff was yet to come. For some reason my inbox was full of all manner of advertisement emails from vendors apparently especially concerned about my expending privy wealth today and tomorrow. Not that I object to them being in business, but I should think that they would have some dim perception that their harassment might induce me to either forgoe any expenditure, or, more likely, trade with someone a bit more civil? But then, I have sensed scant intelligence, and little sentience, in the business community of recent months. But I will have to contemplate just how incapable of budget formulation and self control our American conumer-citizen may have become?

On which note, I should comment that one of the rss feeds I subscribe to is NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day. I shall refrain from bashing them for the shoddy way the feed is administered, and only note that yesterday’s picture was the dasboard camera video of the meteorite that immolated itself over Edmonton the night of 20 November. [Link] Truly, this is an impressive event. I can well see how such light shows might have inspired awe (in the correct meaning of the word and not that misapplied today,) in primitive man and given rise to all sorts of mystical grrr brrr. The lesson that should be learned from this is that Mother Nature is not about cuddly, fuzzy things and will quite emotionlessly discorporate us if we don’t get our act together and look out for our own survival.

That may be the greatest pornography of them all, that we humans cannot come to grips with the fact that we need to look out for our own survival and quit being complacent nebishes waiting for the end. And that may also be the thing we can be the most thankful for, being able to know that difference.

Carbon Duties

Today is Wednesday, effective last exercise day of the week because of the holy day of Feathered Dinosaur Consumption. In observing the norm, the podcast today was an episode of CBC’s “Quirks and Quarks“, which had to do with global warming. The focus, as expected, was on Canada, so all of the horror stories there were diluted by being there and not here, where they are probably twice worse. In fact the noteworthy datum I obtained from all this is that England excluded, the English (language) speaking nations lead in carbon dioxide emission.

One should be tempted to blame much of this on politicians and their rhetoric, but since Poland has had the only parliament that can only enact legislation by unanimity, such a claim would be superficially and substantively specious. It is possible of course to make the association chain:

  • Sir Winston Churchill
  • History of the English Speaking Peoples
  • Silent Spring
  • Rachel Carson

which is rather one of those degrees of separation thing that makes neither sense nor sensibility.

It does seem however that the bulk of that carbon dioxide emission, over three-fourths, may be laid directly to industrialization. From this we may project that amelioration of that aspect of global climate change may be effected by abandoning or destroying our industrial base. The something on order of 0.01 to 0.0001 of the present population amount that subsequently survive the resulting unintended consequences can then return to what humans are good at.

I also heard that the Yankee government, which has done bupkus about the problem is now talking about placing carbon fees on flatulent and burpulent (?) bovines whose methane and carbon dioxide production is especially egregious. Naturally, here in the enlightened sate of Alibam this is a matter of the direst negativity, seen as a torment on suffering commercial oligarchs in the guise of family dairy farmers. The only good thing about this that I can see is it will divert our attention to something other than the national economic collapse.

Not Science, Greed

I notice in Discovery an article [Link] laying partial blame for the Wall Street debacle to the “quants”, people educated as nerds – mathematics and science – who build models and crunch numbers for money people. The title of the article is “Are Scientists to Blame for the Financial Crisis?”

The answer to that question is, rather embarrassingly for this instrument of the traditional media, a resounding NO! That is not to say that the “quants” do not necessarily warrant some of the blame, but rather that the “quants” are patently not scientists.

The key factor here is that making and manipulating models is not in and of itself science. I run into people with business degrees every day who build and manipulate models. In almost all instances they do this abysmally poorly but a good portion of the blame for this depravity is the result of their general apathy and ignorance of maths. To most of these people model making is nothing more than collecting some data, with little consideration of how it is collected or what it represents, and subjecting it to some canned linear regression. The resulting set of coefficients is a “model” in modern business usage, poorly posed, inadequately composed, and absent comprehension. Scant wonder then that the pinnacle of the business apparat would turn to people with some maths and modeling capabilities.

One of the reasons that this is not science is that science has as its purpose to increase understanding for the good of the species. This effort failed in that its purpose was to enrich the financial tsars and their serfs. And unlike mathematicians, people trained in the sciences who do not do science are not scientists. Restated somewhat, scientists are not what they are, but what they do. What they are is physicists or chemists or biologists by education and training but unless they are doing science they are NOT scientists. These people were business modelers at best.

This does not eradicate the question of responsibility, but this is a question as old as humanity and society and civilization. Does the person who manufactures, sells, gives, transports, thinks up, …. a thing or idea that is used in the perpetration of a subjectively bad act responsible in some degree for that act? If this sounds like the argument over firearms, then you are perceptive. Are the people who manufacture firearms for defense, hunting, public safety, …. responsible when someone misuses such and kills another human? I have my opinion, and you may have yours; they may not be the same.

But what is obvious is that the argument here is neither new nor resolvable. The misuse of guns is bad, but forbidding humans to be able to own guns to protect themselves is also bad. The same, as we now recognize in this age of information, goes also for ideas and models and simulations and even data.

But we are still the same humans unable to resolve the question, or even determine if the question is actually irresolvable. And the matter is not helped by traditional mediasts using demagoguery to enhance their failing industry.

Cellular Holeness

Ah! Monday. Back to the gym to contemplate whether Monday or Sunday is actually the first day of the week. The selection is absolutely arbitrary, like deciding the sign of the charge on the electron. I tend to see Monday as the first day but that comes from working a M-F routine for so many years. Alternately, I definitely do not see Sunday as the first day of the week. If anything, and I suspect like most of the Yankee republic, I see the weekend as just that and Sunday, as the second and final day of the weekend as the last day of the week. Thus, ipso facto, Monday defaults to the first day of the week.

As is my wont on Mondays, the listening was a “Best of Ideas” podcast from the CBC. This one was a point-counterpoint, both from the Jewish perspective, of Israel. At least that is what was promised. What was delivered was less a consideration of Israel than a consideration of Palestine, and in particular the Palestinians. All I gathered from this is that both Israelis and Palestinians are human and thus incompetent, inept, and inefficient almost always.

So it was with scant surprise that I found myself attracted to an article from WIRED [Link] on techno-gadgets killed off by the cellular phone. As is usual, I found both the list and its elaboration specious and in places vacuous, even dangerously wrong. So being the quintessential Asperger’s afflictee, I cannot resist a bit of disputation in the cause of higher values.

First on the list of executed devices is the PDA. I have to admit to this with great sorrow. The admission is economic. It is exceedingly difficult to find a PDA these days except junk sold at discount houses. It may be that HP/Compaq still makes some but not overtly. I also sorrow becuase back when HP first brought out their Journada I had one and it was good – in the biblical sense of being cultutrally significant. It improved my survival. Sadly, it was taken away from me because of its technological obselesence of not talking to “the network” and what came after was not good enough to occupy pocket real estate.

The camera is second, and is perhaps the most humorous of the items on the list. Yes, I know lots of people who use the cameras on their phones. None of them are not bogs. Now this is annecdotal, but it cuts to the heart of the absurdity of the matter. The cameras on phones are humanlike; they are ineffective, incapable, and low resolution. I will stick to my aging but adequately resolved digital SLR. You bogs can go take all the phone camera blurry images of your BFF you want, just not around me, nor speak of such around me.

The UMPC is third on the list and is definitely alimentary in location. What demised the UMPC was the cellular phone only in the sense that the cellular phone dumbed down bogs to the point that they can’t understand UMPCs. Indeed, this is why there are those waves of fashionable change in cellular phones. The only way the bogs can understand how to use them is if enough of them buy them and do trial and error. Meanwhile the real reason the UMPC passed was economics. Who wants to pay big bucks for small stuff? Oh, except Apple addicts?

Note that I am not talking about the Little Bitty Lap Top (LBLT) here. They are cheap, although getting less so, and functional. And they do something you can’t do on a phone – work. Unless what you do is make noise, which is a professional activity pretty well in bad smell these days after the debacle of wall street. Do we need a cleansing program for people who sell financial instruments?

Number four on the list is the land line phone. As said previously, all this shows is that WIRED gets written in the coastal liberal metropolises. Out in the hinterland where cellular coverage isn’t 300%, land lines are still useful and if you buy your internet service from a telephone company, preconditional. Alternately you can buy it from a cable company. Where, one has to ask, do the  metropolitan consumers think all the money to pay for their dense capabilities’ infrastructure comes from?

Number five is the MP3 player. I beg your pardon? If my phone had the capabilities of my MP3 player then I would be carrying around a brick the size of an old Motorola flip phone and I would be charging abtteries twice a day. The cellular phone -MP3 player is for leight weight fashionable bogs who only listen to whats hot this nanosecond. A gigabite is a hundred times what they need. But try carrying around twenty-five gigs of classical, folk, band, and podcast files and your phone will glow white hot and scar your pear shell ear.

The lesson incidentally is pure McGyver. If the only thing you need in the way of tools is a leatherman or a wenger swiss arly knife, great, but what this says is you don;t do much and none of it is tool demanding. Real tool demands are single purpose tools, the kind made by craftsman. The same goes for cellular phones. If your demands are callous and shallow, never demanding, then a swiss army cellular phone is good. But for the geek and nerd, those who add to the survival of humanity, a cellular phone is a cellular phone, a computer is a computer, and an mp3 player is an mp3 player. Selah.

Photonic Dilithium

Back when I was in undergraduate shul, television was a rare occurrence. I lived in a dorm the first two years and a succession of apartments the last two. In the first instance, the dorm I lived in had a television room but it was dominated by the pre-law students who had little to do other than to go to class – when they did not skip – and write papers, and the latter could be done about as well – by them – in the television room as elsewhere. The latter is a statement of just how noisy and stressful dormitories were (are?) and why I moved out. Also, the television room was small, holding a television, a couch and two chairs. Seating for at most five in those days, four when the former high shul football types descended.

After I moved out, I still did not have a television. The reasons for this were basically two. First, televisions were deadly expensive in those days. Several hundred dollars for a monochrome monster. I had a graduate student friend whose assistantship was to keep the electronic equipment in the chemistry department working – the Yankee air corps trained him in the real electronics of the day – and since he was with family he augmented his income by getting death bed televisions abandoned by frugal owners and rehabilitated them to sell to students. But even with this discounted avenue I refrained because of the volume, mass, and fragility that a television represented. College students in those days knew they were housing nomads and tended to have a bit of an extended Hunter-Gatherer view of possessions. I was much more inclined to use my “stuff” allowance on books.

Nonetheless, despite the lack of a television and the frat house exclusivity of dorm television rooms, I did watch some television. I had a couple of friends who shared an apartment in an older house that actually came with a television. So twice a week, coursework premitting, I was welcomed to trek to their domicile to watch “Laugh In” and (the original) “Star Trek.” I have to admit that the former was the more entertaining, especially the antics of Arte Johnson and Goldie Hawn, but the latter was the most intriguing, despite the cardboard acting of William Shattner. Still, the skills learned in monochrome Westerns by Leonard Nimoy and Deforrest Kelley more than compensated for Shattner’s trying hubris.

The intrigue was how things were done. For science majors in those days, the basic ideas of machine teleportation and translight velocities were accumulation points for discussion outside the ears of professors who scoffed at the program’s fanatasy aspect. Lasers were new toys in those days so the marvels of phasers were peripheral.

Now, insight is expanded by the news [Link] that the (paranoid) metal bashers at Lawrence Livermore have found out how to produce a LOTTA (~1E8) positrons – antielectrons- by zapping a gold (conductor?) target with a high power, short pulse length laser. Boo Yah!

But I would like to know the details of the energy balance.