College Curmudgeon 3bis

Is democracy consumerism, at least in the former’s modern form? Or is consumerism democracy? And what is their relation to celebrityism?

There is undoubtedly an academic somewhere who set all of this straight by proper definition and dialectic, but, of course, if there are two then resolution is impossible.

My parents used to tell me that they – their generation by extension – invented consumerism. That the poverty of the “Great Depression” instilled an urge to provide children with all the things they could not have. I never raised the argument that unless they knew they were missing something this urge would not occur.

But we may confidently observe that all of these came out of the “Great Depression” and the second “Great War.” And thus we also have to acknowledge that the argument presented previously that democratization of college led to its current bankruptcy is simplistic and incomplete.

As the Gomer character would say on the Andy Griffith television program, “Surprise, surprise!”

Just as we can argue that there is some strong coupling between consumerism and celebrityism, that as we have more goods we want more titillation and as we see more elite consumers, which is basically what celebrities are, we declaim that we should be able to consume as they do, so too may we argue that these have their impact on college, despite the fact that there are no college celebrities.

Celebrities do not do mundane things. Despite efforts in the last election campaign for chief executive and organized religion, plumbers and carpenters are not celebrities. Nor are philosophers and literarists, but the perception is that people with college degrees lead more glamorous, admired, and cunsumptive lives. And hence part of the demand for the democratization of college.

It is also attractive to consider that consumerism and celebrityism are self licking ice cream cones. Which may have some relation to the growing perception that college is not really a road to consumption and notoriety but to sameness and drudgery.

Complex Matters

This has been a busy week for dihydrogen oxide (HOH.) I use that chemical name for the compound since water is ambiguous, designating, depending on context, compound, phase of compound, and state of compound.  First there was some research from U Pisa (where Galileo made the leaning tower famous, at least to physics nerds) of a new form of HOH that is liquid at temperatures below 273 deg K, but at high pressure. [Link] The other, out of England – which shul or lab got lost in the reportage – is about a new form of solid HOH at higher pressure and lower temperatures.[Link]

I have to admit to not being really surprised. Back when I was a junior in undergraduate shul at the campus of the Black Warrior under doubles tennis playing (allegedly state doubles champion somewhere along the way,) cigarette burning Professor Smith, a righteous thermochemist who proclaimed a fundamental disbelief in quantum mechanics while teaching us a course whose syllabus included such, [1] I got exposed to the phase diagram of HOH, as it then stood, and it was plenty complicated then. It has surely gotten more so since.

Nonetheless, the complexity did set a tone for viewing a few other articles that had mounded up, all dealing with topics and matters more complex than journalists and perhaps even humans can handle.

First, there is research out of U Massachusetts [Link] that women hammer better than men, at least weh the lights are on. Men are demonstrably better than women when it is dark.  I have to admit that my first though on this was what kind of human would use a hammer in the dark voluntarily? But then when I read on I became convinced that what these folks were measuring was not hammering; they were measuring people hitting some sort of mark on a plate.

My father spend years of my youth teaching me to use a hammer and that hammer, a finishing hammer, is only one of several different types, all of which have different characteristics and are used slightly differently depending on what one is doing and what kind of nail one is using. My father’s interest was in household repairs and hobby woodworking so that is what I first learned. And I subsequently taught myself how to do basic woodcarving, which is again different in many aspects. Oh! And I am not very good at either. Way not good enough to earn a living using a hammer.

So what these guys ere measuring can be called hammering only by irresponsible journalists.[2]

Next, from Northwestern U we find that people who are saintly in some way are almost surely to be sinful in some other aspects of their lives. [Link] In fact, quoting the article,

“The study suggests that people with ample moral self-worth in one aspect of their lives can slip into immorality or opposite behavior in other areas — their abundant self-esteem somehow pushing them to balance out all that goodness.”

This brings the immediate question of who decides which aspects are meritorious and which not? Obviously, if one lives in Nawth Alibam, the answer is a formal religious organization. And it being sunday the next obvious question is whether attending sunday services is more meritorious than observing the moral/ethical tenets of the organization?

Next, a report from England that waiters [3] are being pressured to get their customers to put tips on their credit card rather than paying cash tips.[Link] Apparently the restaurants are not paying the waiters the charged tips. Hmmm. Much as I berate the English for their only occasional bouts of sanity, I have to hypothesize that if English restaurants are doing this so are restaurants in the Yankee republic. Lesson Learned: never pay for food with a credit card. The card can get pirated and the waiter doesn’t get the tip. Besides if you separate bill paying and tipping you communicate with the waiter.

But the question is whether the tip keeping is sin or saintliness?

[1]  I have to admit to recalling little of those lectures. By that time I had seen a lot of chemical quantum mechanics starting with basic stick and ball stuff in freshman chemistry and basic molecular orbital hybridization and aromaticity in two semester of organic, and a modern physics course where we actually did solution stuff beyond what was in the physical chemistry textbook. Also, it was summer shul and I had lecture five days a week, lab three days a week, and was working on my bachelor’s research dealing with the hypothetical molecular structure of rare gas halides. As it turned out I would see a lot more quantum mechanics before I finished my dissertation.

[2]  Yes, I do know that is redundant. But journalists have to earn a living too. And it’s better than selling children into slavery.

[3]  I think the popular term these days is ‘server’. Since the average server does a mediocre to horrible job of serving compared to what I remember in my youth, I feel less hypocritical using the old term.

Sunday Service

Sunday is a bit of a slow day. My analysis is that this results from two things: a decrease in email; and a decrease in articles in my RSS feeds. As a result I schedule things on Sundays that would tend to get crowded out of my schedule on weekdays. One of those things is checking out a few sites for new Ubuntu clients and eye candy.

I have to advance the opinion that when it comes to eye candy Linux seems to have Windows beaten resoundingly. I cannot speak to Apples as I only had one once, when a rather juvenile major general, who I suspect had no knowledge of any calculus other than those of ambition and arrogance, mandated that all of his subordinates above a certain level have such so he could communicate with them expeditiously. Another example of executive imperceptibility of the idea of latency.

Anyway, my experience with W and U OS leads me to the analytical opinion that U has much better, richer, more diverse eye candy than W. (I am excluding Firefox from this discussion since it is common.) One measure of this is that I seldom change themes on my W boxes, largely because of the paucity of interesting ones. The notion of this paucity is reinforced by the infrequency of when I check for such, maybe twice per annum. And to cement this, the theme on my main working W lapbox is a science theme for W98 off a SONY lapbox of years ago. This is the progress of MegaHard.

Anyway, themes aside, as I was checking one of the U related artwork (eye candy) sites, I spied this (partial screen shot)

Ayeh. A MegaHard advertisement right in the banner space of an open software web site.

I have to admit to being unsure of whether this is canny or I should just roll about on the floor playing circular, convulsing in laughter, dust mop.

Or perhaps it is just Orwellian?

Saturday Saichel

Saturday is update day at SCP seat, where among the crenelations and bastions I have to mumble about trying to get the SW on the boxes updated. After years of gentle begging, interspersed with the occasional burst of bogish groveling I have finally gotten FD SCP to do some of this on her two boxes. Admittedly much of this is automated but in recent months I have finally gotten her to not categorically eradicate any message about installing updates. This after she complained about her internet access being rather pot holed and I discovered she was two releases behind on Firefox.

This will not, I fear, fundamentally change her view that computers should be appliances, fixed and narrowly responsive to her demands, but at least it will reduce my workload on her machines to the excruciating minimum of dealing with her sewing clients that frequently demand to be the only SW on the box, including the OS. If ever I encounter one of the coders who wrote this abomination – I understand they are all cowering in Sweden, which explains the recent events there exhibiting an absence of ethics and integrity in their Justicer system – I should like to smear them with a mixture of bonding agent and bovine circulatory fluid and cast them into waters teeming with these beasts, [Link]
a meter long megapiranha paranensis, who based on scaling from the modern variety, and allowing for volumetric slowing, could dispose of a coder in significantly less than the time for the skeleton to reach the bottom of the river.

On the good side, the existence of these people does provide a least lower bound of the capabilities of coders; in effect a manifestation of how bad a coder can be, something akin to the Planck granularity of space in terms of smallness of scale.

That infliction is the summer version, made nasty by the general thermality of the environment. The winter version involves a time travel device whereby we may visit all four of the coder’s grandfathers prior to the conception of any children and subjecting them to irreversible vasectomies. They say winter revenge is stronger, but begs the question of why Hamlet wasn’t micturated at having the throne swiped by his uncle, never mind the murder of daddy and the diddling of momma – the latter raising even more questions. Those, of course, were Danes, not Swedes, so any comparisons are as appropriate as comparing Sowth Alibamians to Nawth Alibamians.

But returning to summer, I see that folks at U Kansas [Link] have figured out that Sol system moving through the Milky Way’s spiral arms is not responsible for global climate change. Despite this refreshing news that strengthens the (modern) democrat social engineering oligarch elitist argument that global climate change is caused by anti-socialist (modern) republican capitalist corporate oligarchs, and a cancerous majority in the parliament of the Yankee republic, a emergent Steve McQueen type blob of a climate bill seems fractured in dissent among the party successful. [Link] Hmmmm, wasn’t something like this what happened in 1860 with the election to select the sixteenth [1] president of the Yankee republic? And we all recall what happened because of that, at least those of us who went to shul before the mindless lemmings of political correctness eradicated history from the curriculum of the public shuls.

I am not quite sure what all this demonstrates. Part of it is the bankruptcy of American politics, especially in terms of our duopoly of party rule. Part of it is that home district pork – and votes – is more important than national – or planetary – existence. And part of it is that the most intense source of global climate change causation is gathering of politicians. Such gatherings don’t overwhelm the impact of proletarian consumerism, but they do put us in mind of Billy Rattlelance’s suggestion that perhaps it is time to put the justicers out of our misery.

On the heels of which we have a survey from the Pew folks [Link] that 0.17 of the respondents to their survey, assumed representative of the population of the Yankee republic, are Baptists.
Baptists are quite common here in the old Confederacy. I sometimes think the two go together rather like Bear Bryant’s soda pop and fried potato crisps, basically a bunch of people united in resistance to being subjugated by someone else who will tell them what they are. Doctrine in Baptist churches is more about peaceful co-existence than anything actually mystical or organizational. Of course they do get a bit riled when one uses them as a case study in a management course on organizational pathologies, and they are almost as bad as gnats, black bugs, and mosquitoes in terms of swarming and being a general nuisance in their proselyting and heavy handed conversion pestering.

And while we are on the subject of mysticism, I note that the folks at One Laptop Per Child have made their software suite – SUGAR – available to the general consumerate to use on old decrepit boxes. [Link] I’m not going to rush and dedicate a 1 Gb memory stick to this, even to resurrect an archaic paleo-laptop of SCPdatter running W98 that I have been unable to get even the most spayed version of Linux to run on (well), but this news should be cheering to all those who have computers with VISTA installed. One more indication of the eminent discorporation of MegaHard? Or just the boys at the wonk shul doing their thing?

On a positive side of the subject of nerd digital mysticism, I note [Link] that HP is introducing iPhone applications that emulate respectively 12C and 15C calculators. While the 15C part is positive, the 12C part is too closely associated with business bogs, I fear this is not that great a calculator. The 15C had two major positives: it was RPN, as any good calculator should be; and it would fit in a shirt pocket; but aside from that it was medicore at best in comparison to either the 35 or the 35S. Definitely not a reason to go buy an iPhone at all unless one is a really terminal geek in bog’s clothing and especially not here in Nawth Alibam (or even I suspect in Sowth Alibam) where network denisty is flat line zero. But HP does get the manna points for the idea and getting the value of an iPhone up above zero.

And to conclude on a very positive note, we have an exposition [Link] that the vacuum is only empty of regular matter but still full of virtuals and fields. So much for fear of monsters under the bed and in the closet. Silly human, those are just errant unseen bosons. So while things may seem empty there is still spin.

Now, dizzy from low sugar level as much as thinking about integer spins, I go to break my fast.

[1]  That is sixteen as counting George Washington as number one. No inclusion of the presidents before him. Upsets the establishmentarian mythology, you know to even mention that. Very unAmeriKan.

Binding Civilization

It’s still Friday, and Holly is still in the dog house for doing in Baldur, which is supposedly why we have wreaths at Christmas? Anyway, the LIFEHACKER folks had an article today on necktie tying. [Link] This leads me to consideration of all matters necktieish.

Back when I was a kid first having to wear a necktie to shabbat services, I asked my father how to tie a necktie. He was unable to teach me, which in retrospect is hardly surprising since we perform the operation in front of a mirror. It took me years of tieing neckties to be able to not look in a mirror and then I always seemed to get the ends off, at least, more than usual.

In those days we didn’t have internet and I didn’t know there were books on the subject until I went off to college and had a roomate who was a scion of a wealthy family and had been trained since childhood in being upper class, which included how to dress. Sadly he was a business major, so he could hang onto his family’s money and position but by definition not a nerd. Not a bad fellow but absent of any intelligent discussion.

Anyway, after my father gave up he told me to just get a tie and work at tieing in, while looking in a mirror, until I got it right. So I did as I was told and after a couple of days of experimentation and frustration I got where I could tie a tie in a righteous knot. Righteous in the sense of being good, not hard to untie, because part of being a righeously tied necktie is that it unties properly, that is, both easily and without too much wrinkling. The latter is important because ties cannot be cleaned nor ironed without ruining them. Some books advise using old ties as shoe shine cloths but that idea is akin to turning one’s deceased pet dog into slippers, or stew, for that matter.

Anyway, years later I discovered that the way I knotted a tie was not any of the ‘standard’ knots. In effect, I had discovered a new knot and did not realize it. Nor did I do much with it except tie my ties that way from about age six until now, although since I have retired from the service of the Yankee republic my tie wearing requirements has dropped by a couple of orders of magnitude. But I can still tie a tie in the dark and the know is mine own. I invented or discovered – I am not quite sure which since it depends on whether it is a material thing or a maths thing – something all my own on my own.

This brings me to some research published in NATURE [Link] that indicates that one of the reasons civilizations fail is because of excessive prevalence of conformity. This of course relates to Sturgeon’s Law, that 0.9 of everything is crap, and the related Sturgeon’s (sometimes the Sturgeon-da Vinci) criterion that 0.9 of humanity are producers only of crap. However, even for those who fail the criterion, the 0.1 of humanity who do produce something of actual value, a certain amount of conformity is necessary. Obviously if one is too obviously different from the majority they do thing to convert one to crap, such as buring at the stake or lynching or stoning or some such expression of humanity. It also makes sense because one cannot come up with everything and others who fail the criterion are, in some areas at least, trustworthy.

But it is nice to know that nonconformity is necessary for the continuation of civilization, and, thereby, humanity. And since nerds predominantly fail the criterion, it follows thatnerds are the bulwark against collapse of civilization.

Still waiting to hear from Jared Diamond on this. Be interesting to see if mysticism, microbes, and metals transcend nonconformity?

And is a new tie knot really constructive in this sense?

I could also comment about how close we seem to be to collapse these days, what with consumerism and celebrityism, if those two are actually separate, but I shall not, simply because that might involve some other kind of knot.

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Wet and Wild

OK, it’s Friday – Frigg’s [1] day, but no sniggering comments by the english literature matriculates out there. And with FD SCP in the AO, the boundary conditions alter, so my think and doing patterns alter.

Just thinking about that statement leads me to want to consider a maths matter, why is it that differential equations have boundary conditions, initial and even final conditions, but no during conditions? Mumblings to come someday.

My previous blot on the commercialization of college has had a penetrating comment or two but I am going to defer much of any response until later. For right now I just want to treat of the piece that crystallized in recent cogitation. That piece has to do with one of the cornerstones of this blog, namely context of experience. So I am going to review some of the articles that have piled up in the tab queue this week.

First, I note some work by folks at U New Mexico [Link] that indicates that the pace of evolution is faster in the topics. Now this is one of those ‘so what’ pieces of research. Back when I was a Freshman at the campus of the Black Warrior my chemistry professor – actually a graduate student who had passed his defense but had not yet matriculated and had to find a real job, or, at least, a post-doc – told us that “for many chemical reactions, the rate doubles for every ten degree centigrade (now Celsius, more properly Kelvin) increase in temperature.”

So if a biologist tells someone who studied freshman chemistry that evolution is faster nearer the equator – and happens to remember it – and is both sentient and intelligent and awake – the chemistry student is in a shoulder shrug situation. Maybe.

Before proceeding on the maybe I should comment that what is compelling about the above dictum is not so much what it tells you about simple wet chemistry but what it tells you about quantum mechanics and thereby reality. Since we know Arrhenius’ equation is pretty good, basically just equilibrium spinless (Maxwell-Boltzmann statistics) kinetic theory, we can draw a conditional inference that most chemical reactions have activation energies of order 5E+03 times Boltzmann’s constant.

So we proceed with the question of why that is, and find that because evolution is a complex activity going on in an interactive environment, why should simple chemistry determine its rate? And what does rate mean in the context of evolution? How do we measure events? Such is not too hard when we are looking at fossils and seldom have many cases when we have to decide whether two are differentm or at least paleontologists don’t, so far as I can tell. But we expect that given the rareness of fossilization. So perhaps it is a good thing the guys in New Mexico, who obviously have better things to do than work at the space port, haven’t figured it out yet. Gives us something to think about.

[1]  Odin’s significant other.

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