Open Government

I have been cogitating lately on the matter of literacy. Part of this arises from working with APS to mentor high shul physics students and answering their questions, an amazing number of which run to “maths! Yuck!” and I have to get off on the three basic literacies:

  • reading and writing (actual literacy);
  • maths (numeracy or calculicity); and
  • coding (computericity?).

Most adults in the Yankee republic, and I include high shul students in this population sample, are to some degree literate, say 0.6-0.8 or thereabouts. Most can read, at least enough to puzzle out commercial signs and correspondence ,like email, tweets, IMs, and the like. About 0.5 actually read and perhaps half of that fraction actually can write. And as dismal as those numbers seem in modern, enlightened, college attended Amerikan society, the fractions for the math and code literate are even smaller.

If we define maths literacy, calculicity, as being able to do calculus, the 0.9 of the population is acalculate even based on granting them qualification by merely taking (and passing) an introductory calculus course. Most who have that certification forget industriously on the wish that maths are unnecessary after high shul. Coding literacy, computericity, may be defined as being able to write a program, in any language, that will input n numbers, add them up, and divide by n, and output that average. Likewise, the fraction of the population that is computericity is about 0.1. Interestingly, the fraction of overlap of those who are calculate and computerate is about 0.5, and almost all of these people are also able to read and (sorta) write.

I am not going to go down the path that those who are not multiply literate are disadvantaged or handicapped in some fashion, but I am going to link to the second aspect of why I have been thinking on this. Yesterday I read an (as usual) excellent blot by Matt Asay on how DoD (the Yankee military apparat) is ‘fostering’ open source usage. [Link] Despite the protestations, I have my serious, perhaps cynical doubts. After all, I did work for the Yankee army, and occasionally DoD, for a third of a century.

One of the ways that organizations control their members is by restricting their literacy. The most common is reading and writing restrictions. Members of organizations are expected, taught, to write in ‘proper’ forms, read only permitted material, and not waste time on material that is deemed by the organization to be detrimental to the organization. The DoD is a rats warren of this type of restriction.

But the restrictions that are less visible are those on calculicity and computericity. A few examples seem most appropriate. Back when the Y2K scare was rampant, the software gestapo visited me and told me that I could not use any of my software that wasn’t on the official approved Y2K compliant list until I had demonstrated to a review board that the software was Y2K compliant and the board had officially approved it. Long story made short, all of my demonstrations were ignored, nothing was approved, and I went for a year without any nerd software as I weathered the storm and won through to after the ‘singularity’ and could buy new software.

Second example. One of the pieces of nerd software I needed was a symbolic algebra engine. The one I liked best as did the folks I worked with was MAPLE. This program suffered two bureaucratic stigmata: it was not on the ‘approved’ – read MegaHard produced – software and it was sold by a company outside the Yankee republic. To pay the annual maintenance fee I had to have approval from the software gestapo to but a pariah client and approval from the purchasing polezei to buy outside the Yankee republic. When I first got the software it took a year to get these two approvals so as soon as I paid for this year’s license I started getting approval for next year’s. By the time I retired the time had increased to two years.

The same software gestapo also certifies who can write code. If you are not certified by attending a couple of years of official military shuls, you are not allowed to write so much as a macro in EXCEL, much less real code. This combination of code restriction and nerd software restriction results in a turn over every year of 0.05 of the nerds who work in DoD. No wonder the Yankee government is fast becoming brain dead.

So when someone tells me the DoD is fostering open source I have to find galgenhumor in the statement. One of the aspects of open software is that you have free access to software you need and can write or modify freely to do what needs be done. That is the antithesis of contemporary government policy. My cynical suspicion is that the government, DoD at least, is embracing ‘open source’ so that they can mandate their own repositories are the only ones accessible to their members and thereby restrict what clients may be used. Oh, and only ‘certified’ folks get to be root and superuser.

Dictatorship by Synaptic, a perversion as evil as I can imagine.

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Human = African

Once more, we – homo sapiens – are reminded that we are all from Africa and that all this race stuff is government and organizational adminirubbish!

Researchers from U Goethe have uncovered strong indication that hominids originated in what is now Malawi. [Link]

So the next time you have some officious bureaucrat, or their proxy, a form, ask what race you are, answer proudly ‘human’!

Flatulence, in the manner and declaration of Benjamin Franklin, is also good. After all, it also seems that it is our digestive systems that made us intelligent. Although from the way we sometimes eat intelligence is not evident. And wisdom? Seldom.

But Africans we all are.

It Works Both Ways?

As I was skimming the internet this morning, I ran across a link to this site [Link] on one of the blogs I read regularly. [1] The site is an attempt to correlate what candy one dispenses on All Hallows Eve and ones nature or temperament or some such.

I think the site is supposed to be humorous but since I seem to have a rather different idea of what is humorous compared to some bogs, I shall dispense with any acclamations of whether I consider the site to actually be humorous or not.

What I wanted to comment on anyway was taking a bit of surprise that anyone actually dispenses candy from their residence any more? Oh, I know there are all those hideous MalWart commercials on the audiovisual viewer, but then that is MalWart and the hideous is redundant. But I had thought that between the paranoiacs of razor blades and the fanatics of organized religion that the old custom, at least in the Yankee republic, of traipsing house to house to emptily demand a candy donative in lieu of some act of sabotage (terrorism?) had been replaced by healthy-social-activity-supervised-by-responsible-and-trustworthy-adults.

You know, good wholesome religious fun-and-games with a dollop of X-Rayed and sanctified candy, preferably sugarless. To alleviate the threat of Satan and Sadist, if that is not also redundant.

I know I have not had candy seekers in about a decade, although that may have been a result of several factors, such as my being on business travel over Halloween for much of the early segment of that period – there was this one conference that seemed to always want to meet over Halloween, which I am not sure says something about the mental aberrations of the organizers or the members of the organization – and the squirrel protect laser grid I installed a few years ago that does a wonderful job on large birds and cats but does get a bit confused by clumps of people.

Although FD SCP does claim that it was the candy we handed out. I would go out the day after Halloween and buy up remnant candy and save it for a year to hand out. And after all, the way candy is made today that year, less a day, of moldering has no effect on the candy.

[1] Yes, I know I usually cite the originating site but that has gotten a bit sticky the last few times and in the interest of not sharing the wrath of bogs with good folk, I am going to be a bit less catholic in my citations.

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The other Evolution

As if confirming the stochasticity of the media, my next series of inspections deflated my opinion of the species. First, I see that the recent (modern) republican candidate for chief executive has introduced a bill to throttle the Yankee government communication apparat from actually assuring network neutrality. [Link] I fear the kindest thing that I can comment on this is that it has the effect of making the current incumbent of the office look good, at least in comparison to this cerebrum sterci.

The matter, sir, is simply one that the Yankee government is supposed to protect its citizens from enemies foreign and domestic, and the ISPs who would deny network neutrality are definitely both domestic and enemies of the citizenry! And so, it seems, is the Yankee congress.

Next, in an unsurprise, the Yankee government National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, the other other uniform service, has released a report about the direness of global climate change. [Link] Almost simultaneously, a whelming group of the nerd societies has advised the Yankee congress that climate change is REAL! [Link]

Two pieces to this. First, the Yankee congress continues to waste probability the species will survive harranging on trivial matters. The question arises that what matters it if 0.25 of the population lacks health insurance if climate change will kill 0.999+ of the population through their inaction? And stifling scientific communication with suppression of network neutrality will make this worse. Can you congress critters spell “dodo bird”? One more example of how the political party system is one of the sternest enemies of the nation.

And while all this ‘fiddling among the combustion’ is occuring, we have word that MalWart will be entering the technical support marketplace. [Link] Right! Have you ever tried to find someone to ask a question of at a MalWart? It’s at least 10dB easier at a Lowe’s. And now they going to do hand holding for bogs on techie matters? Of course they will probably only support the drek they sell in their stores so this may actually be the best thing to happen to the Mom-and-Pop small town IT businesses since John Bardeen and company came up with the transistor. Especially when we consider that not only does MalWart sell real trash electronics in its stores, but they sell it at higher prices than internet.