Since I got distracted yesterday – admittedly, happily – contemplating my time, and thereafter, at Lincoln elementary, I had scant opportunity to clear up the lees of the week’s accumulations of articles actually transferred from the RSS accumulator to the browser. But  absent the opportunity to go to gym this morning to perspire and ponder from the sparks of the morning’s podcast episodes, I have a chance to clean out the backlog in preparation for another week.

The theme this morning seems to be human behavior and mental foibles. First, there is a news release from the campus of the Boneyard about a faculty book, a popularization, about the implicit and constant fallibility of human intuition. [Link] The thought that springs from this, after the obvious question of just how much cut does the U get from this contentiously useless addition to the popular press, is how long are we going to continue the nonsense that is our legal system’s infatuation with human observation and intuition, both of which are so flawed as to be near worthless. Of course having raised that question, how long can unrepeatable events of mysticism abide, or even solitary scientist efforts. Scant wonder Boyle thought that matters-of-fact could only be established if simultaneously observed by many people. Although it is hard to imagine people being more rational during the Restoration than today? But perhaps renewing a tyrannical monarchy was less bad than what we are on the path to?

Next, according to a survey conducted by folks at U Michigan, [Link] college students are at the lowest level of empathy on record. I have to admit to being a bit surprised with this. First of all I had no idea that student empathy was recorded. When I was an undergraduate the only reason I had any idea of what empathy was came from reading science fiction. It certainly wasn’t mentioned in any of my classes, even the fuzzy wuzzy ones, of which there were a few, which I endured quickly and by my junior year had gotten past. But the closest I came to a psychology class was anthropology track, which made a lot more sense to me than psychology with its then aura of auras and other hippie irrationality. And the closest we came to empathy in anthropology class was trying our hand at flint knapping and sympathizing with hunter-gatherers.

But I cannot recall feeling much empathy during my college days. The Vietnam thing was ongoing and one was more concerned about how that was going to make life uncontrolled. And of course, there was always the learning and grades thing. So empathy was not a big thing, conscious or unconscious, in those days. But we didn’t do dog fights either, or at least I didn’t know of any. So is there some aspect of collapsing the wave function distorting reality here? After all, indeterminacy is not the same as knowing which of several states reality has collapsed into, at least locally.

Next, again from the campus of the Boneyard, but moderated by some external journalism, is a report about human self-motivation. [Link]  Contrary to what the mystical management books, as opposed to the mystical religion books that vie with the former for the most floorspace in bookstores, I have always held that all motivation has to come from within. As an external influence I can do just that – influence – but that is all. But I also admit that there is a thin line between influence and harassment, between motivation and pain avoidance.

Anyway, this research suggests that self-motivation works better if it is couched in terms of asking if something can/will be done rather than directing that the thing be done. The challenge aspect is certainly appealing but it does raise some questions. Since self-motivation occurs as a result of an internal conversation with self, does the question need to be asked by self #1 of self #2 or visa versa?

Lastly, we note an excellent article memorializing Martin Gardner, [Link] who spent a good part of his life as a soldier in defense of the rationality that underpins all of our human organizations that make up civilization. The article reminds us that humans are continually not only traipsing off into nut-fudge land, but spreading their illness broadly and that “the tree of liberty must, from time to time, be watered with the blood of patriots.” That humans are imperfect should be recognized, not enhanced is a responsibility of all, and neglected, often overtly and deliberately, by all too many.

But I did like the closing line,

In 60 years nothing has changed. The best we can hope for is the simple, enduring pleasure of baiting morons.

In Memory

Today is Decoration Day, now more commonly called Memorial Day. The intent was originally to memorialize the sacrifice of Yankee soldiers in the Recent Unpleasantness, and was observed on 1 May. The practice was subsequently adopted by the Grand Army of the Republic veterans’ political organization but on 31 May to segregate it. When the Yankee government adopted the practice and made it a holiday that day was used and the practice was extended to all American soldiers of whenever service.

The gym at Scant City is closed today. How this memorializes the service of soldiers I fail to understand since many of those who are not permitted to maintain their health today are veterans or NGR. Logic is not strong among organizations and seldom offered lest it result in embarrassment.

The Yankee government also decrees that the national flag be flown at half mast until noon and then raised to peak for the remainder of the day. This symbolizes memory of the dead in the morning and the living in the afternoon. I have my doubts that those who raise flags here in Greater Metropolitan Arab will know or even understand this complicatedness.

Such formalization is irrelevant. There is sufficient formality and organization in military service without carrying it over to the remembrance of the dead and living. Besides, such formalizations almost always result in mediocrity and banality as evidence by the numerous attempts by the Yankee government to commission music for the day, all poor unto failure. It is of the nature of things that individuals make music although governments may make orchestras.

Regardless, the point of the day is clear. We, the living, owe much of our lives to those who have upheld human organization since it was adopted. Reflect on that today.

Lincoln’s Memory

Friday was a bit of a noteworthy day in Huntsville. Lincoln shul was closed. [Link]

I shan’t spend a lot of space on its history except to note that it was dirty and nasty. It is rare for a Southron shul to be named for Yankee republic chief executive number sixteen, the man given the blame for the Recent Unpleasantness. But then that wasn’t much of an honor.

The Lincoln elementary district of Huntsville was one for the days before the Yankee army came in and brought the Nazi rocket meisters. In those days, Huntsville was a cotton town. Cotton was grown there, and more significantly, milled there. And Lincoln district was a district of mills. Dirty, dark mills with dirty gray people worn down by hard living and scant reward. And the children who attended Lincoln elementary were all too often dirty and gray as well, of body and mind.

The heyday of Lincoln came after the Peenemunde group arrived, and for a while buildings were in short supply to meet the demands of a burgeoning population. Suddenly the demographic of Lincoln changed from the children of mill workers already under the hanging sword of mill closure to include the children of engineers and scientists and accountants and a whole host of new disciplines for the area. This transfusion of brightness transformed Lincoln briefly into a shining example of Alibam education until infrastructure caught up and Lincoln district once more became a slum in development.

Lots of those children went on to do considerable things, and most have some sort of good feelings about Lincoln elementary. Yes, there were social frictions between the children of civil servants and rocket contractors and the children of mill workers, but these often resolved themselves as such playground conflicts can if guided properly. Somehow that properly has gotten lost by the educationist apparat since.

The building was old and failing even then, and the staff seemed all too old to adapt to the brightness injected by those rocket children. But somehow they coped and built and bridged the gap between mill and arsenal and for that we shall ever be in their debt. I sense that some of that debt has been retired by the connections from that initial diversity coming back to renew Lincoln elementary after its relapse into grayness. Somehow it seems unfortunate that this renewal has to be abandoned all in the name of economy.

But for those who were part of that suddenly diverse student body, Lincoln provides a host of sentiments and emotions that are beyond the scope of the more traditionally named Lee shul raised almost within sight of Lincoln where many also attended. Certainly that bastion of Southron nomenclature did not weather nor educate half so well.

Thieves, Liars, and Mad

The nature of politics in Alibam has reached new depths, a situation directly analogous to the oil leak in the Gulf, the connections are part and parcel of the situation. The sadness of the phenomena is that if one lives in Alibam, one cannot not be immersed in the moral, ethical, and intellectual equivalent of the oil mess, with its subsurface plumes of oil and dispersant, the nastiness in the tidal estuaries and the land-water boundary, the tyranny and torture visited upon environment biological and social. The direct analogs of these are automated phone calls that fail to recognize they are talking to an answering machine, lethal toadstools of political signage in private yards and the public verge, and visual advertisements of candidates that epitomize the concept of Ying and Yang.

The regard of this has departed the boundaries of Alibam, prompting the friends and colleagues of SCP, especially the Yankee who are used to a different form of dirty politics (redundant?) I have grown tired of explaining that ‘liberal’ is a term more negative than ‘pedophile’ in Alibam, and that any question of gun control or women’s rights so besmirched by social and mystical fanaticism that it cannot be uttered even in the dark of one’s thoughts. That Alibam is a state where democrats are republicans who are not rich, smart, or evil enough to obtain nomination and hence will appear to be a member of another political party as an opportunity for election. That republicans are the same as democrats were prior to the administration of Abraham Lincoln and the ‘recent unpleasantness.’

They have difficulty understanding a state and its society where education is at best suspect at at worst evil, that ignorance, superstition, and agriculture are at worst good and at best transcendent. And that this molds the nature of Alibam society and culture; that farmers and the superstitious and the ignorant are by nature negative in outlook, adverse to any change except the deepening of their own personal fates, leading commonly to asentiently conviction of their own rightness and superiority. Democracy in Alibam is not about democracy, but theft and prevarication.

The most amusing aspect to me, while being also the most fatiguing both intellectually and from responding to the questions of colleagues has been the corrosion commercials aimed at Mr. Byrne for allegedly being historically aware about religion and having some awareness of the validity of science, smears on his being educated which is the most dire and venial of holy Alibam political sins. But horribly dark beyond blackness in its evil, although the mere aspersion may be adequate to assure Mr. Byrne the nerd and geek votes.

Then, this morning I was offered up a link to this article, [Link] 

Imagine for a moment that a large proportion of Americans–let’s say half–rejected the “germ theory” of infectious disease. Maladies like swine flu, malaria and AIDS aren’t caused by micro-organisms, they claim, but by the displeasure of gods, whom they propitiate by praying, consulting shamans and sacrificing goats. Now, you’d surely find this a national disgrace, for those people would be utterly, unequivocally wrong. Although it’s called germ theory, the idea that infections are spread by small creatures is also a fact, supported by mountains of evidence. You don’t get malaria unless you carry a specific protozoan parasite. We know how it causes the disease, and we see that when you kill it with drugs, the disease goes away. How, we’d ask, could people ignore all this evidence in favor of baseless superstition?

Now substitute ‘evolution’ for ‘germ’ and you have the gist of the article.

The thesis is much more brilliant than the remainder of the article, mostly because it is written by an educated person for other educated persons, all of whom respect the value of education. Such will not work well in Alibam, where those who have education and hide it successfully become elected officials but must reject their education for gain, and those who have education and do not hide it are the untouchables, the unclean of the majority.

Even in a third world, almost failed state in the midst of the Yankee republic, one may find humor in watching those the gods destroy by driving mad in their adulation of ignorance and superstition. At least that seems the most probably explanation other than raw stochastic chaos.

Arc that Can!

On to Freyya’s day and a chance to sleep in. And since it is almost the weekend I can address the massiveness of articles accumulated in the accumulator – that is, after all, what it is supposed to do, act like a capacitor even if I am a bit leery of seeing it arc over. [1]

Front page news – I am told – in England is that if you do not brush your teeth twice a day you will likely develop heart disease. [Link] This has been building for some time. I read articles last year saying there was a link between gum and tooth disease and heart disease, but I could never tell whether it was a cause and effect or just effects of a joint cause. Still can’t but the English wonks have come out in definiteness. Of course now we shall have to endure all manner of advertisements by dentifrice manufacturers of how their products promote cardiac health. And perhaps even a grrr brrr between the Amerikan Heart Association and the Amerikan Dental Association.

On the disease front, I note [Link] that StarBucks will be exporting their pollution to Burger Monarch and SubRue fast poison chains. Not that I frequent either, but I have in past. This is supposedly in response to the success of McDougals in purveying coffee beverages. I have to admit that I have not visited a McDougal’s recently since they have begun their coffee assault on StarBucks. This is largely because SCPdatter outgrew Happy Boxes and FD SCP and I could indulge more adult tastes for food that was actually prepared rather than subjected to Frabkensteinesque manipulations. 

I did visit the local McDougals a couple of years ago when the local coffee emporium, Rooster’s, was closed for vacation. I had a cup of their regular (not in the New Yawk sense) coffee and deemed it to be a barely acceptable mediocrity. That it, it totally lacked flavor but, on the bright side, it was not over-roasted – burned, if you will – and over-brewed like StarBucks’. But definitely not worth the price I had to pay for it. To say nothing for the lack of decent whitener – why does McDougal’s perpetrate the myth that all Amerikan adults can secrete lactase? – nor sweetener. Since then I have reviewed the nutritional information on McDougal’s coffee beverages and found that they are a bigger health danger than abstaining from tooth brushing for a year. Which is probably how long it will take to get the odious taste from one’s mouth?

Anyway, I can still jubilate that we have Rooster’s Coffee and Cafe here in Greater Metropolitan Arab where really good coffee is purveyed and do not have a StarBucks where really BAD coffee is purveyed. And I can ignore McDougal’s.

And lastly, courtesy of the PEW folks, [Link] we find out that it is good these days to be a Libertarian. The term evidently, is less negative than ‘socialist’, ‘capitalist’, or ‘progressive’, is reasonably negative among asentient members of the Republican party, and ambiguously positive-negative-clueless among the equally asentient of the Democrat party. So being disliked by a majority of those who are still adherents of the evil stupidity that is partisanship, and not as negative as perceived enemies of Civilization, at least here in the Yankee republic is good.

Not that I label myself a Libertarian. In Alibam, calling yourself anything is fraught with peril. Almost no one who has any political leaning calls himself a democrat, unless that is the only way they can get money or a space on a ballot. And regardless of whether republican or democrat, everyone is a conservative, a protestant, against gun control and women’s self-determination, and not a trial lawyer nor associated with Big Oil, Big Theft (Muntgum insiders), or the Yankee government. Anyone who is not the union of all these things, at least in propaganda terms, is not running for office. And no one is permitted to exercise their franchise unless they publicly identify themselves as a democrat or republican. Which is why being a Libertarian is meaningless in Alibam.

[1]  Back in my undergraduate days I got sent off one summer to a research laboratory to assist in magnetic resonance spectroscopy endeavors. One of the tasks I was given – too junior to actually have a say in what was done – was to help a technician, baccalaureate electronics engineer repair a power supply for the RF signal transmitter. One of the items involved was replacing a one Farad capacitor, which in those days was a rather large cylinder about the size of a can of fruit juice – the large size! Nowadays larger capacitors are available but in those days this was a BIG one. Anyway, when we went to test the power supply the capacitor charged and blew! Not sure which was worse, the arc or getting the burnt oil off. I seem to recall that those clothes I was wearing never did come clean.

Brain Food

OK, it is now academically official. Eating dirt makes you smarter.

Researchers at The Sages C have tested feeding microbes commonly found in soil to mice and found as much as a decrease of 0.5 in time to completion of tasks requiring mentation. Such as transnavigating mazes.

And since there is considerable commonality of brain chemistry – after all, we are both mammals – this same improvement is expected to some degree in humans.

I think I shall wait for the microbes to be packaged in something more appetizing, like intestinal flora yogurt. Or bran muffins. Besides, too much iron (Fe) in the soil up here in Nawth Alibam. And FD SCP would look askance if I ate from her flower beds. She has enough trouble with the squirrels using them as a nut repository. And my neighbors already are of the opinion that I am strange and FD SCP is a candidate for sainthood.