Saving Value

I have been rather displeased with Hewlett-Packard this week. What with FD SCP’s HP deskbox going dead, on top of my displeasure at its stercus physical construction – I have seen paper coffee filters better constructed than that piece of dark matter – there was the failure by self-destruction of the mother board. What do they make mother boards out of these days? Some supposedly sustainment friendly material like crystalized high fructose corn syrup? And layers? The thing looks like it maybe has three layers?

But on the off hand, it was cheap and given that cheapness and the cheapness of its construction it was a pretty good value for how long it lasted. And it did save me the angst of having to tell FD SCP that I was going to have to reload WXP because the current install had soiled itself so badly that the gut worms were doing damage faster than all the healthware could correct. And, of course, the unalloyed joy of having to reinstall WXP and have to get it to where she can install all her clients.

Anyway, I happened to run across this cartoon [Link]

today, And I remembered what HP was like in the Good Ole Days, back when we made the transition from slide rules to HP calculators. Ayeh, there were other technical calculators out there – Texas Instruments, Casio, Sharp, … but they almost all only used algebraic entry notation and hence were spurned for those of inadequate mental ability to use Reverse Polish Notation. And as a result, I can recover enough balance to cease looking for curse words in long unused languages to rain upon HP’s existence with.

This is not to say that I am not also unhappy with HP about how stercusly they make calculators these days. I can remember the glory days when HP calculators were more survivable than main battle tanks, but then main battle tanks aren’t all that good any more either. One little missile and scrap metal. Usually highly oxidized scrap metal.

But despite the best efforts of HP mismanagers, like Carly Fiorina, HP still makes RPN calculators. I bought a new one less than six months ago. A quick check indicates that they still manufacture four such that can be purchased here. [Link]

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American Screwdrivers

Today is supposed to be the first frost for Nawth Alibam, at least insofar as the weather beavers consider the adjacent parts of the Volunteer state to be in their viewing area and hence suburbs of Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill, which is in turn the pristine sepulcher of their television station which, also in turn, exists only for the news programming, which, in turn, is only observed because of the weather blather. OK, maybe we also watch to see what egregious errors the news readers will make, and perhaps even make fun of the sports commentators who seem to suffer from some speech defect coupled with one of those brain impairments that randomly do noun substitutions?

I am not sure whether the media is sagging or I am behind in offering up articles. Certainly I have nothing piquant enough for my Greater Metropolitan Arab sensibilities to offer up from the news. Yesterday was a bit of a run about day, so I had not quite as much attention to devote to extraneous stuff. I did have occasion to note, as I was trying to depart the Greater Metropolitan Arab postal office, that said parking lot is apparently one of those places where people making left turns always have right of way.

As I was trying to drive out a chap made a right turn into the parking lot and then an immediate left turn in front of me. I slammed on my brakes and engaged my horn at which point the fellow stuck his head out and rather profanely told me he had right-of-way. I was so bemused that I laughed in his face and advised him to get some penicillin from his physicians before the syphilis not only rotted his brain but killed him. And then I motored home.

This led to a bit of cogitation on my disquietude with the direction of Ubuntu. Linux has never been quite happy being the computer absinthe of the techies. It seems to want popular celebrancy, possibly from a misplaced feeling of envy of MegaHard Winders. In a sense this is rather like artisan Pain Ordinaire having an envy of Wonder bread, or Merita, or any of the other white, sliced Amerikan loaf breads.

A rather nasty aspect of this is that some of the less secure distributions, notably Ubuntu, imitate the Marching Moron. I was reminded of this when I installed Ubuntu 10.10 with the dumbed down install process and the scrambling of administrative utilities, all in the interest of pandering to asentient bogs. Now I read that the Ubuntu secret masters have decided to abandon Gnome in Ubuntu 11.04 for their own mutation. This is not in itself frightening but everything I have seen demonstrating this new GUI is repulsive and antagonistic. It rather reminds me of being occupied putting slip covers on the deck chairs on Titanic. If anything, I fear that the effect of this new system will be the opposite of its name.

So the question that pops up is whether, just as Kubuntu is Ubuntu using KDE, will there be a Gubuntu? And if so do we pronounce it Goo-bun-to or Gub-untu?

In interim I shall have to look more closely at other distributions. When the plumbing gets bad it is time to replace or relocate.

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Humanity Mellifulant

OK, gym is past tense, at least for the week. Regardless of whether your week ends today at sundown, or sometime over the ‘weekend’. Some progress has been made on the front of FD SCP’s deskbox. Seems that her previous machine ruptured a maternalboard. No indication whether the failure mechanism was electrical or mechanical but that’s just as well because I don’t want to pay the price of that information. This can be fixed by transplant of another maternalboard but quite frankly given the vertically copulated design and box implementation I would rather just buy a bare bones system for maybe 2 times more.

This also gives FD SCP a bit of closure. I gave her the news that while we can get her a box running WXP without big problems, it will be a lot easier to do a fresh install than to try to get her current hard drive contents into master shape. I think she is a bit taken with W7; it has nice eye candy, almost, maybe within 8 dB or so, as nice as Gnome with Compiz. Of course it is slow, but W is slow and gets slower as it ages, regardless of flavor. So she hunkered down and got her necessaries installed in W7 last night, except for some of her sewing programs and I got to worry about other things.

On which note, I see that the Yankee government center of atmospheric research has released a study [Link] that indicates that within about 30 years we are going to be starving, what with drought and increased wetness. What this apparently tells us is that humans are incapable, in the main, in crediting any major change in their lives. Not that I am very worried either; after all the probability that I am alive is less than 0.95 already and slipping every day.

On a related matter, I see that wonks at Syracuse U have confirmed that young people in love are high. [Link] This is one of those instances of academic officialness of something most humans already ‘know’. I learned it when I was an undergraduate watching the lemming rush of seniors to get engaged, and by extrapolation, married. Now the brain chemistry has been tracked down – maybe – and the appropriate euphoric biochemicals manufactured by the body identified. The question I have that is unanswered is whether this euphoria improves or degrades academic performance? I tend to the former based on personal experience. During the early periods of the flush of ‘love’, my maths skills were considerably improved. This phenomena could also explain why parents tell their children that algebra is useless after high shul; after all, nothing stifles romance like children.

Next, we have the somewhat unlikely seeming information that Starbucks, the purveyors of Tellus’ worst brewed/roasted coffee beverages, has warned cities that they need to mind their recycling programs.[Link] Happly we find, after a bit more reading, that this is nothing more than Starbucks usual self-aggrandizement in a novel form. If cities have crapware recycling programs, which almost all do, and all definitely do if you get serious about sustainability, then Starbucks looks bad. And obviously, given their corporate paranoia and such, Starbucks cannot look bad. They can sell bad tasting coffee brew but as with most organizations they cannot be perceived as bad.

And lastly, from boffins at U Edinburgh we have word [Link] of research that indicates, for sheep at least, that the stronger the immune system, the less fertile the animal. The obverse is rather more impressive: the more ineffective the immune system, the more likely the animal is to reproduce. No wonder we are ‘marching’ along towards “The Marching Morons”. Now if they will just determine the relationship between intelligence and rationality and either fertility or immunity. Then we can determine whether the smart are increasing or decreasing in numbers. Officially. The acadmic way.

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Glad the Kids are Raised

In addition to all the loveliness with weather this week, and having to dash off yesterday to Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill to procure foodstuffs and exchange information with colleagues, we had the marvelousness Monday of FD SCP’s deskbox not booting.

Now problems with FD SCP’s boxes is nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, if anything, her boxes having problems is a given, ordinary in fact as well as deed. Usually it is some diabolical evil sprung on the OS – Windows XP – by her sewing software – Pfaff – that is slightly less well crafted than some freshman code I have seen at the campus of the Tennessee that can be exited only by pulling the plug out of the wall (or Isobar (R) box, to use another Xeroxification.) This does not appear to be the case; rather, insofar as I can tell, her computer, an HP Pavilion a1606n, is just not getting electron flow.

And yes, I have popped the top and discovered that this box is less well constructed than an Origami jetliner. I have seen better construction in those nickel toys you buy in bags of twenty at the dollar store to hand out at kid’s birthday parties as favors. I bought the thing refurbed and it has done pretty well up to now but I ain’t gonna touch it again if I can help it – it looks like it was manufactured by a Motie (with apologies to Jerry Pournelle) toy manufacturer and would self-destruct if I tried to check continuity and resistance across any circuit.

So I yanked the hard drive – not, note this!, made by HP – and drug out her next desk box. No, it is not that FD SCP is one of those computer jinxes that you have to have several back up boxes to have one in working order and n-1 in shop. It’s that she is chained at the operational level of life to Pfaff software who in turn are chained at the pocketbook to MegaHard Windows and then on at certain versions of the OS. Right now their software runs on XP, maybe Vista – I ain’t sure and that information definitely falls into the don’t ask the question if you can’t handle the answer bin – so I transplanted the old hard drive, with Windows XP, into her new machine and tried to boot in safe mode. That worked but when I tried to engage with the network I got a MegaHard nasty gram that the OS wasn’t registered, reboot and do so – in normal mode – and shuts down. Now since the drivers are wrong I can’t boot in normal mode and besides the OS is registered. Sterucus MegaHardi!

Anyway, long story and much Strum und Drang later, (with apologies to Schiller but not Goethe,) FD SCP and I are both trying to grok enough W7 to get by. And neither of us is happy. I though XP was slow; W7 is glacial – and I can hear the rocks bouncing between it and the ground. It’s like being a bird and then waking up one morning under water. And by some miracle you can sorta breathe but moving is almost impossible. All of a sudden my U 10.10 box looks awfully sleek and toolish.

I have asked her to check with the Pfaff people to see if their SW will run either in XP mode or in a virtual box. If the latter, I may actually be able to get her off Windows except for a copy of XP in a virtual box to run her sewing SW. Of course, at some point the Pfaff folks will shift from XP to W7 and then Eden will be collapsed again. And she’s hidden the axe and all of the hammers and has reminded me that this weekend is All Hallows Eve and to watch my language around the sugar sucking bairns.

Most of this is unnecessary. I have no intention of doing anything drastic to the hardware. After all, it is innocent. But I do hope Carly Fiorina loses her bid for elected office because she is not innocent. Besides, I wouldn’t take a hammer to a computer; since the last spate of Nobels I would just make myself some graphene and strew it around the mother board and turn on the power. Then I definitely wouldn’t lack for electron flow.

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Doing Oneself an Organizational Damage

They keep pushing back the date for appearance of “modern humans”. Yesterday, amidst all the other fun things, I noticed an article [Link] about a dig in China that had uncovered evidence of “modern human” presence there 100 KYA, which is about 60 KY  more than previously found.

My first thought on this was the question wags used to ask in high shul, “What is the height of ignorance?” In this instance the particular variant was musing that if our version of genus homo has been around for 100 KY then intelligence is a whole lot less than meets the eye since we can’t be all that smart if we have only gotten this far in that period of time.[1]

Then my thoughts wandered around on that rabbit trail for a while, first as we went through a spate of confusion in Nawth Alibam as the various county emergency management agencies tried to cope with the spate of storms and tornadoes yesterday afternoon and evening, further damaging their credibility in the process. I never can quite comprehend why the emergency management folks can’t understand how they are being demolished by their own arrogance and inattention to how the citizenry listens more to the local weather beavers than to government. Duhhh!, it’s an American thing. Fudg, it may even be a human thing.

In midst of this FD SCP and I discussed foodstuff procurement and this wandered off into remarks about MalWart’s apparent phobia that eliminates the best and worst selling items from their shelves, the former because it siphons too much money out of MalWart’s coffers so they replace the popular item with their MalWart clone and seem oblivious to that ersatz item’s abject failure, the latter because it adds too little money to MalWart’s coffers.

By now I was solidly on the trail of organizational foibles of the negative aspect. That got cemented in gym this morning. First by catching a supposed interview on Reynard News Network, which was actually pretty much three disjoint and tiered monologues (three folks talking), that once more demonstrated the inability of some organizations, this one in particular, to apprehend that there are all sorts of variance in human behavior, folkways, world view, and lifestyle. On the good side however, the vignette was a sterling vindication of Margaret Meade.

Then I got to see a commercial that had been mentioned in a management seminar I spoke at recently. This was a commercial by a pizza company – I refrain from mentioning which one – where they display a skit where the register clerk flashed open the take home box of a fresh pizza. This is all well centered in the psychological idea of ‘showing the product’.  The problem is that it makes the company look foolish or venial, depending on your viewpoint. One of the hallmarks of the pizza industry is that pizza be purveyed hot and opening the box to display the pizza blatantly screams ‘cold pizza here!’

Brings a whole new dimension to organizational self-abuse.

Back when I was a bairn and television was monochrome, pizza places advertised their boxes as product, not their pies. Purely over this concern. Apparently this is part of the evolution of organization from being run by actual pizza chefs to trained managers, or worse, bookkeepers.

And then when I walked out of the gym, I observed the lawn sprinklers were going full blast – in the midst of a rainstorm.

This may not be ‘belly tearing’ but it may be wrangling a phalanges with automobile pliers?

[1]  There is, of course, the outlook that we are quite smart since it has taken us that long to totally corrupt Tellus.

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Risk Factor

Courtesy of my colleague Magnetic Inductance Force,

“Risk is an analytical concept foreign to the average American who proceeds blithely along unconsciously until something terrible befalls them at which point they either blame the misfortune on the other guy, and sue, or on God and would sue if they could.”

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Incredible Emergency Irrelevance

Ah! Monday again! No gym this morning – it was thunder-storming when I was supposed to get up and FD SCP forbade me to motor with the threat of tornadoes about. An occasional absence is not that detrimental and I really didn’t want to sit about long enough waiting for chaos to collapse along with twice or more many people than usual, so I acquiesced to her direction. Or at least that is the excuse I will give.

During the extra time I had to sit about I reflected upon the nature of the situation, in particular the local emergency management instrumentality. I was drawn to this by a combination of the local noise level and FD SCP’s behavior. The foremost evidence of the former are, visually, great concrete poles festooned in Christmas tree fashion with great ugly sirens and loud speakers. These embellished poles, part of the emergency management warning and communication system, are also the primary auditory source of the noise.

I should add that these embellished poles are an abomination of eye and ear, an ugliness that destroys the comforting naturalness of any vista they pollute. There can be no question that these have to be some Yankee industrial invention; no Southron has so whacked a personality to design one.  And when some emergency portends, the emergency management instumentality first fires off these sirens, which can penetrate even the skulls of the autistic deaf, and then mumble incomprehensibly over the loud speakers. They are the epitome of Bill Cosby’s monologue bus station announcements raised to at least the second, if not third, power.

This morning was no exception. I was awakened an hour before my norm by the sounds of sirens in the distance. If they had been in my immediate area they would have been 10 dB louder, at least, but as is they were shrill enough, wherever they were, to be heard above the noise of the rain and thunder, their persistence punching through the susurration of the storm. Shortly before I normally arose, FD SCP arose and activated the audio-visual electromagnetic receiver and began watching radar maps and listening to weather beavers. I shortly followed and she directed me to settle in as I was not about to risk my ORFness to the streets. All the while the sirens could be heard in the distance., punctuated by barbarian mumbles from the speakers.

This struck me as the norm and hence the root of that absence of trust in the local emergency management instrumentality. Simply put, they have no credibility. Their warning are not timely, nor accurate; their communication is as incoherent as they are incompetent. Now I will admit to the short comings of the technology, no loudspeaker will do what is claimed of these but I do fault their gullibility and stupidity in falling for the claims. This is merely added to the indictment.

The scale of the network is too great, encompassing too many unaffected with a small fraction at peril. The timing of the warnings is insensibly, inhumanely delayed, and bureaucratically delayed. Almost everyone ignores them except as a trigger to watch radar maps, listen to weather beavers, and make their own assessments. Clearly the instrumentality is almost irrelevant, hideously expensive, ineffective, and continued. In a word, it is political and thus irrepresentative of the citizenry, a paradigm of contemporary democracy, or its degeneration, in the Yankee republic.

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Sundae Vacuum Sorrow

It is Sundae again and I am informed this morning of the discorporation of Alex Anderson. [Link] Who prithee is Alex Anderson,you may ask. Did he sell insurance in Greater Metropolitan Arab or build some crucial part of some missile in Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill that kept democracy solvent? Rather a bit of both, it would seem.

Alex Anderson is one of, if not THE, brain/mind behind Rocket J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose aka Rocky and Bullwinkle aka Moose and Squirrel. Back when I was growing up there were two cartoons series that held first place in my attention span. One of these were coyote cartoons, those of Wiley Coyote who was perpetually chasing The Roadrunner in a perpetually frustrated fashion. The other was Moose and Squirrel.

Both of these cartoon series were multi-layered, having content that included the usually cartoon mayhem that delights the dinosaur part of children’s brain, but also deeper content of appeal as one aged and ossified mentally into adulthood. Of the two, Coyote cartoons, or as they were erroneously called by their manufacturers, Road Runner cartoons, were the more intellectual of the two. The basis of this was a studied, systematic negation of the laws of nature. Coyote cartoon are about physics and by the violation of various laws of physics serve as a learning ground of basic mechanical physics that transcends any other know source. If Renaissance Italy had had cartoons, Galileo would have stolen Newton’s thunder.

Several years ago I was called upon to teach a course of sophomore mechanics, the first part that is almost entirely Newtonian. This was at the time when the Vietnam war was wound down and the student body was again warped by the presence of veterans. The class I had had a few unshaven not-yet-enfranchised members but the bulk were veterans with all the attitude towards authority that the recent conflict implied.

My approach was to make use of Coyote cartoons. Yes the boards of equations and their derivations were still there, but the key concepts were illustrated by Coyote cartoons and the exam was an exercise in identifying ten things unphysical in a cartoon and explaining why.

The experiment, viewed dimly by the regular faculty, was a resounding success. The medium of Coyote cartoons bridged the age precipice in the class and brought the veterans down from their sullen pedestals. The only difficulty I experienced was one fellow who was married with children and whose wife refused to believe that a college course in physics would require him to watch cartoons on Saturday when he should be doing Ward Cleaver stuff.

Moose and Squirrel were not so much about science as about humans and society. If Coyote cartoons taught us about physics by demonstrating violations, Moose and Squirrel taught us about the adult world by demonstrating violations. To this day I attribute – blame – my lack of business sense to watching the parodies of society in Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. And if the intellectuality was greater in Coyote cartoons, the depth of attraction and relevance was greater in Rocky and Bullwinkle. Even today, as a drooling, doddering ORF, I take pleasure in watching Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. The only thing I regret is that there is no contemporary equivalent for the current age cohort to be taught by. Surely an indication of the irredentist impending collapse of civilization and the extinction of humans.

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