Necessary Waiting

Gad! Another nasty day at the gym. Seems the trainer, Vector Potential, who opens the place early decided she didn’t want to do so this morning so she locked everyone else out while she did her exercises and then left with a host of folks standing about waiting to be let in. And since she isn’t technically an employee she can’t be disciplined for this. And did I mention the temperature was temperature was right at freezing?

I suppose I should not be greatly surprised by this since the gym is part of the hospital complex at Scant City and it does have a reputation for a considerable degree of poor administration and dismal management. But then, it’s the only game in town so it doesn’t matter how crooked it is?

Anyway I had a very enjoyable thirty-eight minutes waiting around for an actual gym employee to show up and huffily open the gym. Yes, life is good out here in the boonies of Sand Mountain Alibam.

The good part was that no one bothered to turn on the televisions for about fifteen minutes after the gym opened so we were at least relieved of what is broadcast at that time of day. The lesson from this is that the old saw about the inverse proportionality between attractiveness and intelligence certainly seems to hold for early morning news readers. Oh!, for some ugly!

The podcast this morning was an episode of CBC’s “Quirks and Quarks” and it too was rather missing. The high points dealt with some carnivorous Peruvian tadpoles and how birth control drugs are inducing women to pick genetically inferior mates. The latter was made rather entertaining by the perky narrating journalist’s stutter every time she used a synonym for “sex”, which given the subject was not infrequent. But still not really enough to prompt much thought other than reflecting on what this implied about all the women I dated over years past. Do I, as my insecurity demands, really smell like a bad mating choice camouflaged by the then ubiquitous birth control pills? Are nerds really genetically predisposed by nature to be selfextincting?

On the lighter side I did notice another PEW survey in the feed accumulator. This one dealt with things people have – cars and electric devices primarily – and what fraction have them and what fraction of that fraction consider them to be necessities. [Link] Part of this was rather unsurprising, namely that the longer something had been around the more people considered it a necessity, or in reverse, the newer the fewer.

But what intrigued me was that there seemed to be a strange relationship:the more widely adopted the device, the more it was viewed as a necessity. The intrigue was sufficiently strong that I keyed numbers into a spreadsheet and did the “instant graphification” thing. The result is here:

The horizontal axis is the fraction of the sample population that has a thing and the vertical is the fraction of that fraction that considers the thing to be a necessity. Now note that if I blindly do a (polynomial) linear regression on this I will get something very close to a straight line of approximately slope one. So the question we now get is why is it that the more folks have a thing the more think the thing is a necessity?

I could hypothesize that the longer we have something the more we think of it as a necessity and that adoption follows some sort of diffusion process so what is going on is that there are two independent processes here that are both time dependent. But I could also hypothesize that the more folks have something then the greater liklihood we have to have it for social reasons.

Waiting is.

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Hautboys and Drums!

Today has taken a decided turn for the better. Our esteemed colleague and righteous friend, Total Angular Momentum Coupling, has resumed blogging as Eye of the Tyger. [Link]

His absence has been too long and a desert for all of us how visit his blogsite regularly in search of thoughts other than our own.

Propagandanet

This is a difficult week for finding distraction at the gym. Since the shuls are out of session the teachers do not need the invigoration of a morning workout to sustain themselves in their daily roles of baby sitting and test cramming and hence are not at gym dominating the environment with their arrogance and taliban-like suppressive righteousness. Similarly the weight lifters seem to have found more fertile ground for their sport of weight dropping and profanity flexing. So the halls of perspiration and pain are limited in the mornings to the occasional trainer, constable, and a host of retirees who want to get some amount of exercise time in with a minimum of  pointless conversation, a considerable consideration the the old Confederacy given our poverty enhanced sociability – when you don’t have the actuality or the potentiality of money all that is left is manners and sociability, and waiting on a particular machine of effort.

The same applies to podcasts. Because it is the double holy day season – misplaced observed birthday anniversary and highly arbitrary change of year number – several of the podcasts I normally listen to are discontinued for the period. This is somewhat ameliorated by both holy day observances being on thursday and my unwillingness to extend my exercise regime to friday. So these two weeks have three exercise days instead of four and hence my podcast listening is reduced to 0.75 of usual, with an equal reduction in podcast requirement.

Tuesday is supposed to be science podcast day but because two of the three science podcasts I listen to normally on tuesdays were not posted last week I had to make do with a two podcasts from SCIENCE (the journal), a CBC SEARCH ENGINE podcast, and a portion of a CD I received as a christmas present. The two SCIENCE podcasts were end of the year episodes that offered nothing new, recapping the good, bad, and ugly of the year. As is usual with SCIENCE the coverage was biased almost totally and exclusively to matters biological so that the primary image emerging in my conscious mental visualization during both podcasts was primarily the first scene of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”. Except in this case the theme was not making MacBeth king of Scotland but instead how stem cells would be the salvation of humanity.

The SEARCH ENGINE podcast episode [Link] was a bit less frightening but more riveting. It seems, so far as I can ascertain, that Canada has laws mandating that some fraction of the time they actually broadcast information must be information about canada that was composed by canadians. Or it may be number of programs instead. But what is grabbing is that they have a quota of domestic information required or the service, either television or wireless, is stripped of its license and presumably ritually beaten with maple branches or some such.

Back when I had to make monthly (one week out of every three or four) journeys to Warren, Michigan one of my few rewards was getting to listen to the canadian news readings on the Windsor television stations. Part of what made these programs rewarding was the aspect of the defiant mouse taunting the diving eagle to the south. A goodly part of this attitude arose from a concern that canada was being socially swamped by the brash colossus of Nawth Amerika.

What is horrific here is that a government would actually mandate how much air time had to be reserved for domestically produced programming. Part of this is pure nationalism, part of it is micturating up a rope in that first, protecting an ethnic heritage is tantamount to freezing it and once it becomes static it must disintegrate, and second, what does that do to the nature of life in the country? I well recognize that censorship of the media, in a variety of forms, is as old as government and is practiced today with various degrees of blatancy. But this is a rather different type of censorship in that instead of saying what cannot be transmitted it mandates what can. That begins to be propaganda with all of the nasty Third Reich implications implicit therein.

But what fully riveted me was that the canadian government was considering applying this same requirement to the internet. And I began to wonder how one goes about doing this. And the only practical way to do so is to count up all of the web sites made by and of canada and add to that four times as many sites from the general internet, picked at random or by whatever means, and that small subset of all web sites is all that canadians would be permitted to surf.

Is there some internet paranoia in countries whose name begins with “C”?  I recognize this is all ridiculous but then that is the singularly most accurate and appropriate word to use in conjunction with the word “government”.

Somehow this all make stem cells seem frivolous and corporate oligarch republicans and social engineering elitist democrats seem actually progressive and productive.

Sorry Binding

The christmas holy day season is now officially over. The basis of that statement is that yesterday FD SCP gave me guidance to take down all the special ornamentation of the house. This was not a major undertaking. The day was relatively clement, not too cold or windy and surprisingly bright and mild. And of course we have the new year’s day holy day this thursday but that requires no exceptional efforts except to try to stay awake long enough the night previous, say till 2000 or so. This is, after all, Greater Metropolitan Arab and despite the electoral decision to legalize the retail of ethanol of consumption the city conscript fathers, aided and abetted by the state conscript fathers, have achieved nothing substantive in the way of enabling the desires and direction of the electorate. Yes, verily, a righteous democracy we have here in Alibam.

I note in the New Yawk Times that the eReader business is heating up. The marketplace has been controlled by Amazon with their Kindle and Sony with their Reader, neither of which was doing at all well until the afternoon talk television acted in restraint of trade and plugged the Kindle. Its almost immediate exhaustion of stocks spilled over to enrich Sony. Such is the power of shibbolith celebrity icons, such is the thralldom of the mystical and superstitious who follow them.

The New Yawk Times article details several competitors forthcoming. [Link] I do not find any acceleration of my pulse over this. AFter all, it has been less than five years since the eBook educational project collapsed from general apathy. The only positive thing that has occurred is the on-going collapse of the new yawk book publishing apparat. Apparently neither (modern) republicans nor (modern) democrats are inclined to bail out an industry that has increasingly lost relevance to the consumer. (Yes, Qadgop, that could equally well describe the American automobile industry as well.) Could it be that neither corporate oligarchs nor sodial engineering aristorcrats want their peasants literate?

But there seems little to recommend any of these devices. None have screens that are large enough, all in the six inch range except the iPhone which plots out on all cost metrics so far away as to skew the results. None have adequate resolution, all about 160 pixels per inch which is far short of the 600 needed for adequate sustained persistent reading. There is one positive thing about most; unlike the Kindle they are not locked to a provider but have at least a partial open architecture with espect to information sources.

Bright idea: wait and but a One Laptop Per Child Model 2 when it comes out. Its cheaper and has significantly better screen resolution, to say nothing of being a much more open and thereby useful box. That is, unless you are a fashion parasited bog who has to have one of these things as a statement of your inability to contribute to anything except your own ego.

Desecration Commerce

MalWart is again doing wonderful things for us. I note in the Washington Times [Link] that they are trying to build one of their drekmarkt near the Wilderness national battle memorial park.

This rather confirms what I have long suspected of MalWart, that they have no respect for sacred ground.

I am not going to inflate this with spleen any further, it is detrimental to my health. But I may have to rethink my thoughts on just how beneficial to humanity organizations are. This is a new low.

Media Mis-Survey

Although I subscribe to the PEW RSS feed, the filter of my consciousness is rather noisy and prone to error – both kinds. So I was attracted by a blot of Matt Assay’s on the demise of the traditional media. [Link] I shall endeavor not to compromise what Matt has to say, which is much better said than I could paraphrase or plagiarize.

The root of all this is a PEW survey [Link]Internet Overtakes Newspapers As News Source” that found that people now get their news more from the ‘net than from newspapers. As is usual however, the PEW reportage is misleading and is probably also misread by many.

The most misleading part of this is that the PEW report presents the percentage of people who state a given source: television; newspapers; ‘net;  as their major source of news. A moment’s consideration of their presentation indicates that this is misleading and hence untrustworthy. Once more maths are misunderstood and misused.

To express this, consider the following percentages for year 2008: television -70%; Internet – 40%; and Newspaper 35%. Primary shul arithmetic is adequate to infer that 145% of the sample population have one of these three as their major source of news. The obvious problem here is that the entire population is capped at 100% so the PEW folks are being inaccurate.

What rather seems most likely is that the question asked by the PEW folks on their survey instrument (questionnaire) is “what are your major sources of news?” or some such. Then there was probably a check list that included at least these three sources.. Then we may read the chart as 70% of the sample population reported that television was a major source of news information for them, or something similar. The other two may be altered accordingly.

Note that this is not the same as the PEW reportage claimed by a rather great difference. The greatest difference, of course, is exclusivity. The original presentation gives, and may be planned to give, the implication that the three categories are exclusive, that those who get news from television do not get news from newspapers (e.g.) The most likely way that the data make sense is quite different. The exclusivity is absent as the numbers demonstrate.

The hypothesis that may be offered is that the ranking of news sources is: television; ‘net; newspapers. The difference between the latter two is small, and may be within the margin of error of consideration. If one only considers the subset of samples for young people, then the numbers are a bit clearer: television – 0.59; ‘net – 0.59; newspapers – 0.28; magazines – 0.18.

What may we extrapolate from this? While newspapers are deteriorating, a common subject of discussion –  Matt has a neat take on this and I have commented on myself previously – I think the blogger-journalist war is not quite portrayed as Gotterdammerung accurately. Yes, bloggers and second and higher (lower?) order journalists do indeed make use of what is done by the first order journalists who actually generate the information. And yes, the cash model has links broken but it has always been weak in that sense. But to portend the collapse of a global system of information gathering, transportation, and emission? Well, perhaps a large part of the emission instrumentality.

What is happening is a response to changing social conditions. That change is the result of how society itself changes, in this case in how it uses the technologies that comprise the ‘net. A significant part of the print media has been engaged in wrangling first order gathered information into second or third order wrangled information that has been given a social context. This activity incidentally has a lesser extent in television news emission simply because it does not do well. There is a very good reason that reporters like Andy Rooney are exiled to a brief spot on Sunday mornings that is only observed by his few (dwindling) fans. On television this type of moralizing is the province of advertisements and any use of it by the news readers dilutes the message of their lords and masters and hence is minimized to sound bites and Sunday mornings when nothing sells and only drek is advertised.

So the interesting question is not whether newspapers will go away. Assuredly those whose only contribution is such moralizing and social ranting will. Those who report information straight and augment it by unique information will survive if considerably diminished. Gossip has been a popular product from the advent of language, long before newspapers. And the cash model will still be broken. People will not pay adequately for such information but they will give their attention to it and therein still lies the source of the cash. If anything that is what needs to be kept in focus here.

Tethered Cloud

This has been a scant week for news. I am not at all sure whether this is the result of everyone on Tellus wanting to avoid doing anything with the clumped holy days of whatever or some insidious conspiracy of media editors intent on lulling Tellus into thinking the previous, but the feeds have been shy of really intriguing information lately.

The week has also been hectic and stressful. At times like this it seems obvious that most organizations are dominated by extroverts and introverts who masquerade as extroverts to survive. The idea that the church instituted holy days as rest and recuperation seems difficult to grok given how traumatic they are. Reflection is more insidious however, indicating that holy days had the purpose of making the laity want to hasten back to work to get away from the ritual and stress and such like. Sometimes it seems the same today. At least no one can accuse the imperial church of not being paternalistic.

It was a short week at the gym as well, the place closed mid afternoon on christmas eve, which had scant effect on me since I did my deed there at 0400, and was closed on the day itself. The immediate thought is how discriminatory that is since they ignored all of the other holy days. This is obviously an artifact of christian guilt over two millennia of blaming their religion on the adherents of judaism.  One more datum of evidence that mystic superstition and rationality are orthogonal.

On which azimuth I am am ead to recall a podcast, I am not sure whether it was part of a “Search Engine” or a “Future Tense” podcast, but defintiely one of the information technology ones blathering a bit about cloud computing. Cloud computing is the latest fashionable term for the diea that John Brunner originated in one of his novels, Shockwave Rider, I believe. And this led me to consider that there are two aspects of cloud computing.

One of the aspects is that there is this amorphous but ubiquitous environment of network out there that provides all of the information resources that I need save one. These resources include everything from software to storage. It is the epitome of the idea of service, having everything information available for me to use, for a small fee, of course.

The problem with this aspect of the cloud is that in reality it has to degenerate into that subset of the services that are economically viable which to first order means those that are in common, continuous, and widespread demand. If we view computer users in terms of the cleints they use, then the vast majority need little more than a browser, an email/calendar client, an IM client, and an office suite. So all the cloud does is move these people from using clients installed on their hard drives to using web clients on a stealthed network.

At the risk of sounding sour grapes, a significant fraction of these people are social maintainers. They may do fairly useful things to keep society and civilization operating but they do not directly contribute to advancement. They do indirectly contribute by relieving those who do advance society and civilization and the species from the tawdry administrivia that these folks do. How can this be determined? The answer is simple. What people do is to a certain extent defined by the tools and processes they use. That translates into which software they use and thereby there is a relationship between software and advancement of society……

So the wart of the first aspect of cloud computing is that it may very well lack the very tools that those who further our existence need. The wart of the second aspect is similar. The second aspect of cloud computing is accessing the cloud and this is a problem that I have advanced previously as well.

In the cities, network access is well nigh ubiquitous, largely because there is population density enough to make sure cash flow is adequate. This is not the hinterland. In the city one may wander about and connect to the network always because coverages are continuous. Out in the hinterland, the 0.99 of the area of the Yankee republic, coverage is discrete and even conspicuously absent over much of the land. The model of network connectivity is not nomadic or unfettered but tethered. In effect, one accesses the network by staying localized and this gives one a very different view of the utility of the cloud.

In effect, the cloud becomes like television rather than like satellite radio. To watch television I have to be within line of sight of one side of it; to listen to satellite radio I only have to have line of sight to the satellite. The range scope is entirely different and the use is different. Satellite radio is an accessory to activity; watching television is the dedicated activity and ceases when other activity is indicated.

So for the incognizent consumers of the cities, the cloud is an all prevasive medium that provides all they can think to buy but for others, it is too little. Those who build new will find it offers less than they need and for those who live outside the ant hill, it is too small.