Unmanageable Software?

Not as nice this morning. First of all the temperature on the Brindlee mountain shul eBoard was almost 10 degF higher than yesterday, and no wind. And then the gym was crawling with educationalists, all seemingly oblivious to being rendered bankrupt by the revelation that learning styles are bunk. And then the podcast episodes were highly unmemorable today. And the only thing that resonated from the electromagnetic receivers was that the repubgnants could do better running Theodore Roosevelt (or Abraham Lincoln) for chief executive than any of the current gaggle of candidate wannabes. 

So lacking any inspiration to yammer this morning I am going to turn to the literature. The latest issue (V13, #5) of Computing in Science and Engineering has a rather nice article entitled “Software Engineering for Scientists” by Kelly, Smith, and Meng. This journal is a joint IEEE and AIP publication and is available freebie on the internet one issue late. So wait a couple of weeks if you don;t subscribe and then you can read online.

The article tries to bridge the gap between scientist software and software engineering, which really isn’t about engineering but about management. The basic problem is that software is a relatively new thing, maybe a half-century od, and we still don;t have a good empirical basis for knowing how to manage it. So we have lots of brain flatulence and mind whack about how to do so. Happily with the speed of today the bad ideas get identifie pretty quickly and get weeded out of the small organizations quite quickly. The big organizations are something else entirely.

The difficulty is that the best way to build and maintain software is to have one programmer do it. (And probably nothing else.) Sadly, this approach is not deemed economically viable so the basic data are ignored and all sorts of wasteful and counter-productive approaches are tried to managing software.

These approaches, the better ones, at least, can be made to work poorly in the cases of software no one really cares about, like operating systems (Windows is the classic example here) and organization process software. It basically doesn’t work at all on software that anyone cares about like games and science software.

Since software engineering is all about management it is big on plans and schedules and instrumentality of operation. So what it ends up doing is managing the folks who work on software more than it manages the software itself. And it assumes that the software is some sort of all pervasive goop that has neither beginning nor end.

The problem with science software is that too often it has no such good behavior. Back when I was an undergraduate student, I would come across some need for a program, such as analyzing some laboratory data, write the program, use it, and then put the program away until I got distanced enough from the effort and discarded it. In graduate shul things were a bit more structured in that I had long term research plans and more stability. But the programs were not stable as I kept rewriting them to reflect the direction the research was going. After graduation most of the programs I have written have been for my research and they very much fitted into the paradigm of write and rewrite programs along the lines of the work but dispose of them once their usefulness has demonstrably (?) been established.

This is not how software engineering doctrine sees software. It is a product, an appliance, perhaps a foundry tool. Something that is not put to work until it is finished. After that it may be refined but there is still a distancing between development and production. My experience with science software is rather the opposite. Development and use are one with the research. Coding is not some independent activity, it is part of the mechanics of research just like tuning equipment or arguing with colleagues over interpretation. 

Miscegenation and Misconception

Back to gym after a week+ off to recover from injury. The temperature according to the Brindlee Shul blat-board was below 70 degF for the first time in what seem a LONG time. And the density in gym quite endurable, especially of educationalists.

On which nite there are several intriguing things indicated in the tabs. There is an indication that human resistance to disease is the direct result of sapiens interbreeding with neandertals and denisovians (denisovans?) [Link] I suspect this comes as less than welcome news to mystical repubgnants who sometimes seem to think that the only acceptable form of human intercourse is incestual. It comes, I am sure, as quite a blow to be told that miscegenation is beneficial.

One has to suspect that the problem is that politicians use up all of their adaptability to miscegenation in the social context of policy negotiation internal to the in-group and have no capacity left to accommodate any further variation in any dimension.

Still, they are left with the courage of their convictions as evidenced by the recent publication of the deputy chief executive’s memoirs. It is rare to find a politician who has such a fundamental understanding of time travel.

Next, boffins at U Virginia have come out with a study that indicates that ‘learning styles’ are bunk. [Link] Learning styles is an educational theory that different people learn best by different modes: visual (reading); aural (listening); participatory; or experiential. Well the psychologists say this is all rot and that what counts is engagement rather than presentation.

I have to admit that superficially this sounds like a bit of flim flam. Yes, i agree that engagement is key. If you don; get the student’s attention span then you can’t teach, and repeated whacks to the skull with a cricket bat may be satisfying to the teacher but it doesn’t get the right channel of attention.

The thing is that what gathers the attention span of some people evinces the opposite in others. So should we now talk about engagement channels? That may not be as redundant as it sounds.

I have some broad experience with engagement. Frankly, a lot of what got broadcast in high shul, didn’t, and when it did, it was episodic. College was better. The fluff courses like English literature and such were so much static but the nerd courses had a lot of attraction. In fact, they had enough to go to the other extreme where some idea was so well planted as to become a diversion and cut off engagement. But overall, in college I found the traditional lecture method to be a lot more effective for me than blue serge suit techniques and mumbling discussions of what some boring author meant in his literary opus.

Back then, they use to say that the purpose of graduate education was to become self-educating, so you didn’t need a lecture. And for some things I can educate myself. In general all those army courses that I had to take were much easier to master if I went to the men’s room and red the text in a stall. The lecture was too information sparse to be engaging. To say nothing else about the competence and enthusiasm of the instructor. But there are some things I just can’t self-engage on.

What awaits is just what impact this will have on the educationalist apparat. At first glance this is pretty close to bankruptcy since this learning style is fairly fundamental to educationalist dogma. It even bankrupts the basis of Every Child Left Behind. But we should not downplay the vitality of totalitarian bureaucracy. However much it may be wrong, however much it may be harmful, regulation wins out over almost everything except barbarians. So don’t be surprised if the educationalists and the bureaucrats maintain this learning style merde. You can always tell them it’s such and be labeled a problem parent. Which is sorta like being Roger Ramjet?

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English Taxonomy

Apparently the English equivalent of ‘bog’ is ‘luvvey’. [Link]

And the head of Gooey seems to think that this taxonomic identification is indicative of deep degeneration.

Does anyone write poetry anymore, in college or elsewhere? When I was an undergraduate I wrote (bad) poetry all the time. It was a means of dealing with the irrational emotionalism that had its roots in young adulthood. But by the time I got to graduate shul the need/urge had gone away.

The World Wonders.

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Missing Digits

Strange day yester. Had to go eat strange foodstuffs for social reasons and my metabolism is still in an uncollapsed state. So the prospect of blogging this morning is both enticing and offputting.

First off, my attention was drawn to an article [Link] about the Wonk Shul’s Collective Intelligence Center, which contrary to first inclination is neither about hive minds nor borg. The article is one of those insipid puff pieces put out by academic publicity offices that is intended to totally camouflage any reality such as the slow disintegration of the academic environment or whether any actual work is being done. It is the highest example of academic autarky.

Near as I can tell, collective intelligence is the ‘intelligence’ of a group of humans. But it has very little to do with actual intelligence so the use of the term is highly ambiguous and probably deliberately misleading so that grant monies can be obtained. The thesis of the article is one that is politically/socially correct and dripping of social engineering dogma, that collective intelligence is directly proportional to the number of women in the group.

I am the last one to debate the merits of women in working groups, or any other organization not requiring some uniquely male solidarity, such as a football scrum or a sperm donors’  organization. But that does not mean that I have surrendered my criticality. What is conspicuously missing in this article is any form of quantization. And if ever there was something that Kelvin’s advice applied to it is group composition mechanics.

For example, one of the questions I would like answered is how does collective intelligence change as the woman fraction changes from zero to one? I have no intention of waiting. The wonks do not respond to the rest of the Yankee republic.

Meanwhile, physicists at U Pennsylvania have published some work [Link] on the formation of coffee ‘rings’ that has plenty of quantification. Sadly, there is no mention of the effect of coffee on collective intelligence, which we all know is considerable and cries out for quantification as well as study. There is a bit of surprise to this work inasmuch as the same group has done nothing with chocolate.

And lastly, an article about a Yankee republic legal ruling that computer code cannot be patented unless it has a minimum level of complication. [Link] I have to admit the article is not very clear which is at least partly the result of trying to decipher the ruling and translate it into human language.

No wonder the wonk shul is putting out such nonsense, since they can’t patent it, it isn’t worth anything but publicity.

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Food and Frolic

OK, having offered our coins of cognition on the matter of government, let us turn to the serious business of paring down the tabs that have accumulated this week.

First, the cooking cabal at fair Hahvahd have been at it again. [Link] They now peg the dawn of cooking to 2 MYA and homo erectus. What is chilling to consider in this is that cooking may have propelled us along the road to intelligence but has it left us with all manner of nasty residue? One has only to sample the programming on the Travel channel and the Food network to view some of the most depraved eating behavior. Is this the the price we have to pay for intelligence, and not very good intelligence at that? I am particularly appalled by that chap who attempts to make overeating a competitive affair. Somehow it offends to reduce species survival to overindulgence.

And with such abysmally bad food at that. Nothing these folks ever gorge on is much more than burnt roadkill. But perhaps that is quintessentially human? Perhaps we started with the combustive equivalent of roadkill? Who better than the sots at fair Hahvahd to tell us?

Next, the folks at U Florida tell us that fingernails (toenails) came about something like 55 MYA during a period of global warming. [Link] Somehow we have to harbor the suspicion that some coevolutionary leap of lice occurred at the same time.

The folks at CERN seem to not be satisfied with not finding gravity, but now have delved into the climate change thing. [Link] Seems that they have published some work on the mechanics of gamma rays on ionizing atmospheric molecules which in turn serve as nucleation seeds for clouds, which moderate temperature. It occurs that this effort should meet with bitter disagreement by the (modern) repubgnants who screechingly deny any human interaction with climate.

No word on their political position on hurricanes taking out the Eastern seaboard.

Next, in a bit of an elevation for English ancestry, boffins at U Oxford and Edinburgh have determined that the settlers of antediluvian England did not arise from neo-agriculturists but from hunters of Mammoth. [Link] This seems much more politic and soothing to English sensibilities. Being tagged as a nation of Turkish farmers is rather degrading. After all, such would have been industrious, constructive, and practical whereas Mammoth hunters are coarse, brutish, and destructive. Some might detract from this by noting that such fits admirably with the historical English temperament. I suppose one might conceive of Henry Tudor returning home after a day’s hunt to brag about a bag of two Mammoth and a saber toothed wife.

Lastly, we have a potpourri of surveys, some of them actually academic and hence of merit, that indicate that religion, or at least affiliation with a religionist organization, is the cause of criminal incarceration. [Link] The surveys indicate that among the populations of prisons throughout the Yankee republic, people who are not affiliated with a religionist organization are strikingly underrepresented compared to the general population. The article stops short of concluding that such religionist organizations, and their propaganda, could be the cause of crime.

I however, from experience, can attest that having to interact with some of the members of these organizations is indeed criminal. Their respect for the rights and ideas of others is absent to the point of tyranny, at least in the main.

I shall refrain from hypothesizing that such arrogance of righteousness translates into antisocial criminal behavior.

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Man on Horseback

I ran across this [Link]

and it caused me to think about what characteristics we need now for a chief executive. We need someone who combines intelligence and integrity, who is fundamentally concerned with protecting the nation, and who is masterful at eradicating animosities in a constructive fashion.

Sadly, I am unaware of any of the current candidates who have more than one of these characteristics. So the question is whether our current system will not admit such to the candidacy, or that men such as Joshua are extinct. Either is a tragedy.

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