Change: Pro and Con

OK, yesterday was a lost cause, which is fitting since I spent it in Huntsville, Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill. By the time I returned castellum SCP, I was rather too depleted to blog. Not that I had much of anything to blog about other than the miserable state of driving in Huntsville as a result of too many motorcars on too little road and too much egoism on the part of the drivers of those motorcars.

It amazes me how many vehicles don’t have working turn signals. And the utter absence of the constabulary. The only cruisers I saw while in Huntsville were those parked in front of the Jones Valley precinct hall.

Anyway the length of the day was a result of adding medicalist matters to my usual Wednesday schedule and such is a portent of next week’s demands, so blogging may be sparse for a while.

In meantime I shall try to catch up a bit. The podcasts today and yesterday were interesting but not riveting, so I am reduced to muttering about journalists again. The first is about a survey by the Pew folks [Link] on the demographics of use of various electronic devices. The summary is

The grrr brrr from the publicist was about the GEN Ys preferring laptops over desktops which I suspect is less than credible since there is no analysis presented, which implies none done. I was rather more taken by the social distinction of who uses and doesn’t. It seems my age cohort is at the forefront on using electronics since the densities of those older than mine, the so-called silent generation, starts the fall-off of usage. This isn’t news, of course. We’ve known about this for some time but it is always nice to see numbers, even if the journalists don’t want us to.

Next, I see [Link] that the Oxford English Dictionary folks have added some half acronyms to their latest edition. This is evidently a bit of a new thing because usually the OED wonks don;t permit acronyms. An acronym is a phrase expressed by one or two letters from each of the words in the phrase. A pure acronym is one where only first letters of words are used. A full acronym is one that can be pronounced meaningfully, and a half acronym is one that cannot. The acronyms cited in the journalism are OMG (half), LOL (full), IMHO (full), and BFF (half). Obviously LOL is pronounceable as ‘loll’ while OMG either has to be spelled out to pronouce ‘Oh Em Gee’ or mangles as ‘om-guh’ with a bit of a choke on the second syllable.

Other than the change in policy, this will make very little difference, mostly because you only find OEDs in libraries and they tend to buy new editions only every half century or so. And then very few people use them because of the sheer size of the volumes and the micro-font.

And lastly, we see [Link] that girl scouts re still selling cookies the old fashioned way, by having their parents guilt trip their co-workers in the workplace but are now accepting payment via credit card. No wonder the boy scouts are in retreat these days if the lassies are this much brighter. Not that I have seen either flavor of scout lately. I used to get boxes of those excellent girl scout cookies back when I was working for the Yankee ary from some of my co-workers who wanted to put a guilt trip on me but were afraid to and forced me to put a guilt trip on them for not asking. Nothing takes the sting out of a mind-dead staff call than a cup of coffee and three Tagalongs.

But the neighborhood I live in doesn’t seem to have any girl scouts and the lack of cookies undoubtedly explians why everyone is so surly.

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Catch 23

If you think you are, then you become that way; if you think you aren’t, then you become that way. The way is free will and according to recent experiments,[Link] if you think you have free will then you act as if you do and if you think you don’t have free will, then you act as if you don’t.

I have to admit that the distinctions here are less than clear and I don’t think it is just the journalism. In fact, the argument here seems to be contrary to fee will in that if you’re told something you act that way and that seems to imply something other than the freedom to determine yourself.

On the other hand, you can argue that being told you’re something and adopting that behavior is an indication of freedom to change, but it certainly doesn’t cast a very good light on whether your will is involved.

This is worse than an onion. Every layer you peel off leads to a new level of ambiguity. So do I drop the matter because I have decided it’s not a profitable approach to the question or because I am frustrated? AGain arguments for free will and determinism.

This begins to look like some sort of anti-observer phenomenon. If you don;t observe it then it is there but if you do observe it, it goes away upon being observed.

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Information Theft

We live in a period of information excess. Even those of us who are in information denial get too much. Most of this information, something on the order of the Ivory soap purity factor (~0.994) or the pan troglodyte DNA commonality factor (~0.995) is irrelevant, compromisingly inaccurate, or deliberately malevolent

But having declaimed that the fire hose stream is polluted, a counter is that being under stress we oft unwise humans have begun to adapt to the change in our environments from information poverty to information poverty with extremely high noise. Admittedly this is not without spectacular failures. The incidence of misapprehensions and conspiracy theories is greatly multiplied and that multiplication further enhanced by the deterioration o common sense and respect for the value of human presence. We are increasingly a society of egocentric shmendricks who are more at home crying “wolf!” or “LOLcat!” rather than maintaining a taciturnicity that would better befit our ignorance and ineptness.

Yet in this malmstrom of information diversion and egoism we are still able to discern when we are being robbed of information and respond in a fashion consistent with our heritage of ejecting tyrants and their overseers at the points of bayonets.

This morning was occasion to witness persistent thefts of information by the humans who are given stewardship of the plumbing of information.

This being Monday, and a quite rainy one, I motored off to Scant City from castellum SCP to perform my meagre exercises and be distracted by an episode of the CBC’s “Best of Ideas”. The robbery started there.

The episode was a speech by an Amerikan foreign affairs pundit on the deterioration of Amerika into a third world nation. I should interject that I have little respect for foreign affairs wonks. They are in effect a ‘Good Ole Boys’ (GOB) club whose entry is more exacting than any of those of the secret societies that are found at the shuls they must have attended as prerequisite to consideration. This fellow happened to have been educated at Oxford which is a hallmark of the high priests of the GOB, to be a quisling of the British tyranny. But what struck me as particularly typical of the breed is that this fellow spoke for about three-quarters of an hour and uttered no more than five minutes of information, and that quantity may be charitable. As is usual with such people they speak well but vacantly.

Still, I was at gym where my primary purpose was exercise, so any diversion from listening for irregularities in my body is a boon and I could not be too upset at this minor theft of my attention span because, after all, any non-painful diversion is beneficial.

But since the information density of this chap’s utterances were so small, and punctuated with telegraphic warning, I could practice attention switching and try, in between the nuggets of actual information and during the valueless blather, to seek information elsewhere. I came therefore to observe the audio-visual electromagnetic receivers on the wall and was quickly rewarded with further instances of information theft.

The Reynard news network, probably to camouflage their actual agenda, was memorializing the discorporation of Ms. Ferraro. I should inject here that I have considerable respect for Ms. Ferraro. She as the only bright spot in the (modern) democrat ticket in 1984 but even her sterling qualities could not make up for the rotted tin of the presidential candidate. The loss of election was more a matter of votes against her running mate than not for her. Nonetheless, I did not know the woman except by her public reputation, I respected her for that, but I feel no need to mourn her passage in any extended fashion.

By my sampling, punctuated by the occasional bits of actual content in the speech of the foreign affairs wonk, and scanning the other visible programming, of the hour plus that I could watch, over 0.75 of the time was taken up with Ms. Ferraro, and not a wet eye in the bunch. So I have to consider this another form and incident of information theft.

My last example comes from the receiver displaying the CNN programming. I heard – read on the ticker actually – one of their reporters, covering the situation in Nippon, declaim that reporters should not burden their reports with numbers since the public would only be troubled by them. The implication was that the public could neither cope with numbers nor assess their import.

I consider this blatant admission of an attitude that the audience, including myself, is incompetent and does not need nor want any useful information to be the third example of information theft.

So how much information do these mediaists have to steal before they are brought to account?

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Bottoming Out

We come to the dragging derrière of the week, sundae. The night was full of storms and the portent of whirlwinds but somehow castellum SCP survived once more. The new portent is of a wasteland of a day stretching before me replete with lack of will and absence of distraction. What no one bothered to tell me about becoming a senior was that your concentration went too.

So once more I turn to cleaning up the tabs that have sunk to the bottom of the queue unremarked and see one last time if they are remarkable. The task seems easier on sundae, as if the absence of intensity permits some communing that is desperate and grasping.

The first thing I note is more evidence of the earlier settling of the Americas. [Link][Link] A settlement of pre-Clovis humans has been found near Austin in the former Republic of Texas by researchers from Texas A&M U.. Or I should say, the remains of a settlement. This site dates back 15 KYA which puts it about 2KY prior to Clovis. As scientists do, there will be many discussions and arguments among archaeologists for years to come over whether the site is pre-Clovis or early Clovis.

The first question is why are there archaeologists at an ‘ag and mech’ (agriculture and mechanics) shul? Is archaeology a new trade? (“Yeah, dude, I got a minor in HIVAC and a major in southwestern archaeology!“) The second question has to do with how this fits into the data about when homo sapiens actually colonized the Americas and how did they get here? The sea rote is looking increasingly more attractive as the entry date moves back putting more years before the opening of the gap between the Cordillerian and Laurentide ice sheets about 12 KYA. Of course that dating of the gap may be off too, since there wasn’t anyone to observe and document it there.

I am not knowledgeable of knapwork (projectile points, choppers, hand axes, ……) but these really do look less developed than a lot of Clovis knapwork I have seen.

Next, the Russians who got the Nobel for graphene can sober up. Seems that the silicon analog has been discovered and offers yet more potential for purposeless consumer electronics. [Link] The strongest comment that bubbles up first is ‘ain’t surprised’. Unlike the way science journalism implies these days, most physics and chemistry nerds do actually study the periodic table and learn of its quantum mechanics. This is not the expectoration from the vacuum of creativity that public affairs bogs portray. We all, the nerds at least who paid attention starting in high shul to the chemistry lectures know the silicon lies immediately under carbon in the periodic table and hence has similar outer shell electronic (read chemical, read quantum mechanical) behavior. If anything we would expect the two-dimensionality to be more pronounced in silicene since the pair of l = 1 (angular momentum quantum number = 1, which indicates a “p” for principal spatial distribution of charge probability) is less tightly bound due to the inner shell shielding.

But I have to admit I ain’t taken with the name. After all, Silicene alludes over into ‘Silly Scene’ all too easily and offers all those jocks taking remedial freshman chemistry a butt to whack.

Finally, another piece of indication that the human sense of smell is quantum mechanical in operation. [Link] The noteworthy thing about this article was the poor literature review; the vibrational mode theory of smell was around back when I was a graduate student, which was a LONG time before 1996. But then, we expect that sort of behavior from the folks at the shuls on the Charles. They have a long history of declaring themselves first and ignoring all those who came before. Its how you get big bucks from rich bogs.

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Invigorating Uplift

The other day I ran across this cartoon [Link]

and was taken by how well it captures the idea of scientists.

This stands at the difference between a calling and an avocation. True, to the extent that the term may be used, scientists are those who obtain uplift and invigoration from their profession, again, insofar as that term may be misused.

This tends to explain much of the alienation between nerds and bogs. Too many, most even, bogs work so they may do other things and find neither satisfying, much less invigorating. And knowing no better exists they mistrust scientists who do get more from their work than just pictures of dead politicians to exchange for consumer stuff. But those who do recognize that there is more are saddened and perhaps enraged.

Of course there are folks who get science degrees and do scientist work who are not uplifted and invigorated, who do not take satisfaction. They can perhaps be thought of as bog scientists, not to be confused with scientists who study bogs, either the mucky ground kind or the mucky (?) human kind, but scientists who are bogs.

And there may be bogs who are uplifted and invigorated by their work, and when I find one I shall report.

Measure Once

Saturn’s Day and the weather is decidedly damp. Already had one power interruption – as one of my colleagues, Young’s Modulus Gravity, noted, “undoubtedly the suicide of yet another Arab Electron Cooperative squirrel – and had to contend with the joys of getting computers back up, and no, I haven’t dared look in FD SCP’s study. We’ll annoy that bear later.

This may be the most noteworthy aspect of Greater Metropolitan Arab’s Electron Cooperative, the enormous size of their squirrel farm. Given that they sustain an average of three outages a week that’s a consumption of 156 squirrels (estimated mean) per annum, which is too large a fraction of the overall native squirrel population of Greater Metropolitan Arab for them to not have an assured source. So somewhere in the wilds around Greater Metropolitan Arab is a squirrel factory of considerable size and capacity.

In and around all the bother I had to contemplate how odious is the Yankee government’s refusal to change from the British engineering units system to metric. I find myself constantly having to do mental calculations in both systems and try to remember the conversions. And being an ORF, the conversions are harder to remember most days than doing the maths.

All of the stuff sold in stores is in units of British engineering, which is confusing at best. Especially ounces since there is a tendency not to distinguish the two. FD SCP, who actually got to take a home economics course in high shul, has a simple solution: she ignores the difference. This results in a cup measure, which is different from any coffee cup ever manufactured, always having a weight of eight ounces which results in a lot of startling results in recipes where an instruction to measure out a cup volume of something is translated into eight ounces (~227 g mass). The level of the startle may be illustrated by considering that a cup of flour typically masses 140-145g.

A similar problem admits with government dietary guidelines. Whether these are the minimums of different food types per diem, or the maximums of things like sodium and fat that one is supposed to ingest per diem, all are given in mass (grams) and must be wrangled through conversions into units like volume or mass of the foodstuff.

So would the Yankee government get off its obese derrière, for once look to the needs of the citizenry and not their corporate oligarch and social enfineering aristocracy overlords, and convert to metric? No is not an acceptable answer.

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REMCO Replay

Freya’s day, and once more to be drug about town by FD SCP. Back in the days when we both worked for the Yankee army five days a week, more at no pay when they wanted it, this happened on Saturn’s day (Ayeh, mythology shift here!)

The process is that I wait around most of the morning, at least to what is the mid point of the day for me, and then we decamp into a motorcar to dash about Greater Metropolitan Arab buying stuffs. So while I am waiting – this is also a day that FD SCP sleeps in – I have opportunity to cogitate and consider.

One of the tabs in my browser is for REMCO Science KIts. [Link] To properly make this connection, I need to be a bit garrulous, which is to be expected of an Old Retired Flatulence. I mentioned a few weeks ago that FD SCP and I had motored up to Oakville to see mounds. I should correct myself to say that we motored up to Oakville for me to see mounds and then to motor to Hartselle for FD SCP to see antiques. So I had to trade my scant minutes walking ground for an interminable number of hours spent going through antique shops.

This is not as bad as it seems since I get to look for stuff I am interested in such as old books and magazines, old fountain pens and pencils, and what not in and around FD SCP looking for the stuff she looks for. I lack the diligence and perseverence she has so a store that takes me ten minutes to scan takes her at least thirty. So I have learned to take my fold up camping stool with me. It serves two functions: it gives me somewhere to sit in the interval between when I get through looking and FD SCP gets through looking; and it really torques obnoxious storekeepers.

Anyway, in one of these stores I ran across a couple of REMCO science kits. Both were used and missing vital parts and the price was way out of range (yes, it was one of those antique shops where the proprietor wants to make sure he/she never has to worry about restocking,) but a flood of memories was unleashed that were quite strong since they had been buried since the event.

I have blogged a couple of times on the American Basic Science Club, and will inflict nothing further on that subject now except to say that the REMCO kits immediately preceded the ABSC experience. The REMCO kits were widely available and were put on the shelves just before Christmas so that parents of nerd children could be enticed to fix their difficulty of what do bog parents get nerd children for Christmas. My parents had already learned that bicycles and BB guns were acceptable but not suitable gifts for an occasion as serious as the gift holy day.

Anyway, I recall getting three (maybe four) of the kits as Christmas presents; I think they were from Saint Nick but I had reached the age where I knew better but kept my mind deluded so as not to screw things up for my younger brother, one of the great unknown and hence unappreciated things that olders do for youngers in complete oblivion.

The kits came in cardboard cans,

with aluminimum end pieces. The upper one was removable; the lower not. Of the three kits one was a dud, the one depicted in the picture which is of a simple balloon impelled projectile project. It may have been science but it was trivial stuff to a kid raised in Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill where everyone knew how rockets worked. Well, every kid except the terminal bogs who were destined to be jocks or cheerleaders in high shul.  Only the nerd and geek adults understood, which in retrospect is why I think my parents chose this kit. It was a mystery (in the mystical sense) to them.

I don;t recall what the third kit was right now, but the second was an electric motor and it was a delight. It came with a few metal or plastic parts and a whole lot of varnished copper wire. I spent two days winding armatures before I could assemble the motor – a half hour – and test it with a filched flashlight battery. (In those days, people evidently only bought batteries on demand. When you needed one for a new device or to replace an exhausted one, you put it on grocery list and got it on errands day. No wonder all the propaganda about checking batteries in flashlights and air warning devices.) The thrill when the motor actually worked, with a bit of rotational coaxing to get past the starting resistance, was one of the greatest thrills of my life, much stronger than my first reproductive encounter. (Which may also be a distinction between bog and not bog?)

Anyway, since the shul desessioning at christmas was two weeks and approximately evenly divided, the REMCO kits kept me distracted in full during that last week. And probably taught me a lot more than I learned in shul that year.

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