In the Land of the Blind

I ran across his [Link]

and gave pause. Actually, the response is absolutely inaccurate since only oneself may know that one is special. You may understand someone else is special but you can only know you are.

The initial thesis is accurate, but not carried through properly.

AND I shall refrain fom commenting on the educationalist perversion.

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What does the lemming see?

Yesterday, in addition to my foodstuff foray, I had to undertake a period of gum maintenance, a which I was advised of the need to submit (endure?) a bit of more invasive care in the near future. This put me in mind of what my psychologist colleagues refer to as love-hate relationships but I think of as either attractor-repulsor relationships (as a physicist) or pony-poo situations (as a manager.)

This morning at gym I listened to the latest episode of the Full Circle Magazine podcast, which is one of those rather strange English podcasts that seems to have very little information but is somehow still worth listening to.

The discussion focused largely on the cloud/browser OS, such as Chrome or Android, and where Ubuntu was going. I have commented in recent blots on my personal dissatisfaction with the profanity/perversion that is Unity. But what made this different today was an epiphany, that the way the computer interface is going is away from the desktop to something that I now think of as a filing cabinet.

The adopted metaphor for the MAC/PC/FC interface is desktop and in the sense that a desktop is the boundary on which you do work and spread around useful gear and relevant sets of information this is not a bad metaphor. But it seems to be largely a GEN X metaphor that is relevant if you grew up using a desk and that is your mind model of a tool space. If you have a different mind model then the metaphor may not be apt, and what is becoming apparent is that this is indeed what is ongoing.

I did not become a desk person until I started work. There was a transition period in college but I still preferred to do real work elsewhere. To this day when I have serious (as I think of it) writing or maths or such to do I do not do it sitting at desk; I do it sitting in a chair with stuff in lap and strewn about.

It now occurs to me that this view is more common with GEN Y than it was for GEN X. Having grown up with laptops more ‘work’ can be done away from desk than has in past and so the present generation does not have the desktop mind model. I suspect their mind model is more closely that of a filing cabinet. Although how this relates to any holism is something that requires more consideration.

But it does make the new interfaces like browser-cloud and unity make a bit more sense. Not necessarily more amenable, but more understandable.

As always though, there has to be some degree of compromise between tool and worker. That’s why axes have handles.

I also commented the other day on my disastrous experience with FireFox 5 and how I found relief with IceCat. Sadly, version 5 of ThunderBird snuck out the other day and while it has not failed it has been surly and venomous. And IceDove seems to have evaporated.

So I would definitely say that Mozilla has entered a situation of pony-poo. Much as I like their products, I depend on their functionality and these modernizations are failing me and my needs. This is one definition of tyranny.

But the second epiphany of the day is that I can begin to ignore some of this modernization. If the cloud as file cabinet metaphor will not work for me and I am going to make a decision to possibly become a stodgy reactionary retaining the desktop metaphor, then other modernizations become skeptical by association.

Pass the Iridium please.

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Passed Glory

Tuesday once more and not too badly begun. One of my mature hypotheses is that humans are more influenced by the week than commonly thought or claimed. For example, the gym I frequent displays two behavior patterns: first, the level of attendance (density of members) decreases over the course of the week – with sundae excluded and monday being the first day of week; and the pattern of attendance has a cyclic component. Simply put, given the number of people attending on monday, wednesday, friday, there are fewer people than expected on tuesday, thursday, saturday.

The first is fairly well understandable. People get tireder as the week progresses and are less able to rouse themselves to gym. The second seems to indicate that most people think they need to go to gym two or three times a week and hence do the monday, wednesday, friday thing. What is not clear is whether there are people who recognize this and deliberately do the tuesday, thursday, saturday thing?

Anyway, the gym was relatively sparse this morning and I was able to do my thing without too much interaction. For some reason I have observe no positive interactions in gym; all are negative or neutral. This is a subject of observation and perhaps enough data andinsight will emerge to report on sometime.

The podcasts were science topic today and the more memorable piece came from SCIENCE, some mention that large dinosaurs had average body temperatures approximating those of mammals. What was intriguing was how the isotopic distribution of the chemical compounds in dinosaur teeth were used to estimate body temperature.The other was an interview by the Guardian of some author, quite glib, who decried the practice of using neandertal as an epithet – rightful! – and described occasions when he was mauled by Amerikan religionists for being an evolutionist – horrible! Sometimes I ponder that if the meek are going to inherit the earth then perhaps the obnoxious are going to destroy it?

On a more poignant note, I observed an article [Link] bemoaning the proposed passing of one of Huntsville’s high shuls. The context was a recent reunion of the class of 1961 CE and I was moved to consider my own experience with reunions. FD SCP attended a small high shul in the delta country of Mississippi – graduating class size of 25 – who has never attended a reunion. Her shul was closed for economy of scale reasons before her tenth graduation anniversary and so many had moved from the town, including herself, that there was not enough of a core group to even plan a reunion.

Not so for my graduating class. We have reunions every five years. I attended to first two and was bored into despair and depression. Skipped the third, and tried the next. Same story. I attended one about ten years ago and left after thirty minutes.

It is not that I did not have friends in high shul, or even not enjoy the experience. That experience was pale and vacuous compared to college, but not totally without substance. But of those who were my friends then, I either see them often or they do not come to reunion. The expected emotional ROI of reunion is negative.

If my high shul were to be ended, I might be more likely to attend a reunion. The argument against is that they are erecting a new building for the shul, hence the brick-and-mortar emotional memories are broken. Such things are important. When I visit the college campuses I have attended part of my visit is a sight and smell tour. And the smells of that old high shul are not as endearing as the aromas of chemistry and physics labs.

Besides, I expect the reunion of a class of a disintegrated high shul would have a rather strained, pathetic, waiting-to-die aspect of On The Beach. The need to make merry would extinguish any vestige of joy.

But somehow all this seems one of those riches of being human.

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Salary Sadistics

While I’m blathering about overcoming statistics, I may as well heap some praise on a blot [Link] by Alexa Harrington who blogs rather brilliantly at “Educated Nation.” The root of the attraction may be found in this quote:

“The top 10 majors with the highest median earnings are: Petroleum Engineer ($120,000); Pharmacy/pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration ($105,000); Mathematics and Computer Sciences ($98,000); Aerospace Engineering ($87,000); Chemical Engineering ($86,000); Electrical Engineering ($85,000); Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering ($82,000); Mechanical Engineering, Metallurgical Engineering and Mining and Mineral Engineering (each with median earnings of $80,000). “

What makes this riveting is not per se the correlation (oh, the horror!) of college discipline (degree) with earnings. This type of presentation has been around of a very long time, at least since I was in high shul and was surveying what I wanted to major in. Not that I paid very much attention beyond rejecting some of the things I wasn’t interested in – syntax and literature, e.g. – because of low pay, but it was the excuse, not the reason.

Rather, what makes this a big deal to me is that the statistical metric cited is the median [1] Too often when these statements of attribute and salary are presented, the salary is the maximum. The problem with this, even with the modern system of telling all children they are exceptional is that it gives an absolutely inaccurate depiction of the job.

I started thinking about this earlier this past week out when FD SCP was watching one of those ‘talent’ contest programs on the audiovisual electromagnetic receiver (before I stomped out in disgust looking for a Simethicone capsule.) I got to thinking and came up with this (hopefully representative) gedanken statistics. For every person that is successful as an entertainer, there are ten thousand wannabes who aren’t. In a given year the wannabes spend $5K on their efforts to be an entertainer and the successful one earns $10M. In terms of the statistics of this data set:

  • The maximum is $10M;
  • The mean is -$4899.51;
  • and the median is -$5000.

Whence we see that trying to be an entertainer is obviously a good endeavor. If you’re a masochist.

The equivalent computation for a professional athlete is similar and left as an exercise for the reader.

The other nag I have about these presentations, including this one, sadly, is that that they don’t tell me the standard deviation. If they did, then I could calculate the probability of earning less than enough to live on, which might make a reasonable definition of failure.

I had a colleague in college. He had a golf scholarship the first three years. Played very well, seated in the top 500 golfers in the country. Then he sat down and looked at what he could do with that. If he worked 80 hours a week he could about make poverty income. So he gave up golf, buckled down and got a useful degree and lives a nice life now. And he gets to golf on weekends. Same handicap but makes a lot more than the club professional.

[1]  For the bogs among us, the median is the data value least different from the mean (expected value) of the data set. It has the merit of having real instance which the mean may not have, especially in a small data set.

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