Book War

Yesterday, one of my colleagues, Force Spring Constant, connected me to a New Yawk Times article [Link] about the ‘war’ between Barnes and Ignoble and Amazing. The article actually red like some twisted conspiracy where BandN is the front for book publishers.

I have to admit to some ambivalence here. Not over books – I am a solid advocate and defender of books – but over BandN versus Amazing. It’s rather like the situation with the current political nonsense – the devil can take both political parties. I long ago found I could be neither because they tend to define themselves in totally opposite sets. The Democruds, for example, have a set of policies {A,B,C,….} and the Repulsians have a set of policies that are {A,B,C,….}^-1.

So what happens when I think the proper thing is A and B^-1? Neither is going to give, so I find myself alienated from both. At first I found this disturbing and tried to do some maximum agreement thing, but lately I have realized this is nonsense and I should just make a decision at the last moment based on what is important at the time.

My attitude towards BandN and Amazing are similar. I buy from both. I own neither’s eReader nor tablet.

I preferentially buy books from BandN. I preferentially buy other stuff from Amazing. BandN does a terrible job of suggestions, which suggests that my privacy is a bit less compromised on their web site. Amazing does a good job of suggesting trash reading but is totally vapid on nerd books. BandN cares about books; Amazing only cares about selling stuff.

BandN has an fulfillment fraction of O(1); Amazing has a fulfillment fraction of o(0.5). Just yesterday I got a shipment of three things from Amazing and all three were wrong in some fashion. I cannot recall when last I got a shipment from BandN with any variance.

BandN has brick and mortar; Amazing doesn’t. This is a side issue. I have to drive to Huntsville to visit a BandN store and it is a relative wasteland. Occasionally, two weeks ago is an example, I can walk in and get a book I want off the shelves. This happens positively maybe once a year; negatively maybe 3. But I do like to walk into BandN and walk out with stuff I didn’t know I wanted until I saw it.

I don’t really like eBooks. There are no good eReaders out there. If the eReader is lousy then it doesn’t matter how good the eBoook is. The prices of eBooks are way out of line, and there are no used eBooks. FD SCP and I read more used books than new books, especially for trash reading. If either think I am going to prefer a $10 eBook over a $0.5 used paperback that I will recycle to the used book store again, both are in need of mental health assistance.

I would like a good eReader for nerd books. But not unless it is a GOOD eReader and the price of nerd eBooks is half that of nerd pBooks.

I asked myself which of the two I can live without. I realized the question is ill posed. If Amazing goes away someone will build an equivalent. If BandN goes away, the second dark age is struck.

Work Playing

I have been finding a lot of cartoons, called comics by some but which does not fit the dictionary definition of same, lately that strike some resonance in my cognitive soup. The latest [Link] is

and the accumulating point is frame four.

Simply put, work does validate our existence, at least for many of us. We see this even in some of the so-called “lesser” animals, but the urge to do something we can rationalize as productive is almost a definitive component of humanity.

Over the weekend I was engaged in a conversation with some colleagues and we got to discussing how society is essentially a giant role playing game that we all engage in to keep from confronting the actual reality of nature and science. The common speculation is that the work validation is largely due to the insecurity of engaging in this charade. Bogs, for example, who can do little to nothing about actual reality except be its asentient toy seem to epitomize the craze. But why then does it also extend to nerds and geeks?

The most pleasing hypothesis is that almost none of us are so pure as nerds as not to harbor some amount of bogishness and hence be susceptible to this infirmity of the mind.

Of course, there is a minority view that we have some sort of view that if we do work long enough, we may cease and society will see to our needs as we wait for the dire wolves to eat us. The argument against is that the idea of work antedates the  idea of retirement significantly.

Incidentally, one of the amusing, macabre things about the role playing game is that if you refuse to play, the players are free to kill you.

Freedom Fight

While we’re on the subject of arbitraries, I have a couple of tabs to dispose of. First is an article [Link] from Scientific American about introvert aversion in modern society. It is not too bad, despite the source, because the article is an interview and evidently suffered from not too excessive censorship.

I was rather surprised by this, portraying the nature and fate of introverts in our modern society as something novel and unknown. I suppose that comes of working for a third-century for a Yankee army obsessed with Meyers-Briggs temperament taxonomy. Since the early ’90’s, every class I attended longer than four hours started with the taking of a Meyers-Briggs test of some form and then completely ignoring the results.

For those familiar with the taxonomy (others can go do a Gooey search) the bulk of its permanent leadership/management is ESFJ, which means that the organization is overwhelmingly extrovert, existential, emotional, and judgmental. Any of the opposites are somewhere between tolerated and persecuted. SO being told that introverts are harassed and punished by modern society is no news to me, especially because, like so many scientists, physicists especially, I am an introvert.

Parties, any social gathering, tires us out. So every meeting, class, or religionist service is at best taxing and at worse torture. And in contemporary Amerika, society, shules, churches, and government ignore this completely. Or sometimes, it seems, deliberately try to break us of our temperament like some sad delusional archaism of beating homosexuality into heterosexuality.

Too often, the view of introverts is that extroverts are the curse of humanity, morlocks to our eloi, devils to our angels, Nazis to our Freedom.

And while we’re on lonerism, I also note an article [Link] out of Washington U that people with Autism Spectrum Disorder tend to spend more time doing solitary ‘screen’ (computer and television) activities than group activities. Now not all introverts are autistic, however much we get treated as such by the extroverts, but clearly very few with autism are extroverts.

I could also reiterate that a lot of physicists have Asperger’s or Asperger’s envy, which is at the low end of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Which brings us back to the arbitrariness that the extroverts get to define modern society and fundamentally what society classes as ‘the good’, to borrow the term from Sokrates. This is at once the perversion and the persecution, that those who think they are the epitome of human are defining that those who are not as they are not human.

One of the joys of being an ORF is that I do not have to attend group activities, including in the workplace, that are contrary to my well being and being condemned as bad because of my temperament. I was reminded just this week that most of my social contacts, outside of mandatory things like dealing with medicalists – the blessing of being old – and merchants, are with nerds who are predominantly introverts and if not, smart enough not to impose extrovertism on me.

Since it is sundae it seems meet to ask the question of which is the worse form of persecution and harassment, religionists who demand that I adopt their dogmatic beliefs or extroverts who demand I adopt their temperamental behaviors?

Hostess Hysteria

I ran across this cartoon [Link]

yesterday, and was struck by how the second frame captured our natural disposaphobia. Or in this case, consumaphobia.

Ignoring for a moment the implications for the causation of survivalists, a somewhat larger idea advanced is that most forms of mental whackedness are matters of quantity and not quality. That is, taking this example as an archetype, we are all hoarders to some extent, tucking away food (e.g.,) for those days when the roads are closed due to weather, natural disaster, or government stupidity and incompetence. In moderation, this is considered normal and even prudent; in absence, foolish, stupid, or risky; in excess, madness.

Further, it becomes rather clear that the distinction between moderation and excess is almost entirely arbitrary, so what becomes intriguing and cognitive is the means by which they are distinguished. Two methods seem self-obvious: mob decision – democracy; and expert decision – autarky. Both have equally evil dark faces, the one witch burnings and expulsions, the other torture and perversion. Mental whackedness has come to be more the latter than the former in the years since Sigmund Freud except possibly in the realm of justicers. This ambiguity is undoubtedly the result of innate competition between ‘those who would direct all’ and ‘those who would rule all’. While this grinding uncertainty may be temporarily good for society, it is clearly not for the individual who will always suffer at the hands of either group.

Accustomed States

I ran across this cartoon [Link]

yesterday and it gave me pause to think about the whole expound/explain-science-to-the-public thing. The word “appreciate” in the last frame set this off.

I recall when I was studying General Relativity and the story was related about some journalist asking Sir Arthur Eddington, Knight about the “three people who understood the theory” and he mused on who the third could be beside he and Einstein. Of course, in this case even Einstein wrote a general consumption/popularization of his relativity work. I seem to also recall something similar with quantum mechanics. And I have seen a “Dummy” book on string theory.

One of the problems with these efforts is that they end up whacking, if not breaking, the science. I have tried a couple of times to read the “Dummy” book on string theory and keep breaking down in the first couple of chapters over things in them that are just not accurate. Of course, the public, a synonym for the not-scientist or even not-this-discipline folk, do not know that they are being feed swill although we have to know that the intelligent among them, at least, know they are being fed pablum and the substance is in the missing structure.

Part of it is the limitation of human capacity. The day when the brightest of the bright could learn everything is centuries in the past. Now we do good to learn a subset of just one discipline and maybe enough to get through life – or enough to get through life and almost nothing else substantive. We look down from our cloistered towers and bemoan how the public wastes its time and brains on the transient, non-stationary information that lets one lead a common life, quite forgetting, too often, that that is what survival is about at its root.

We need to accommodate ourselves to the idea that the more we get to know as a group the less any individual can know. [Link]

A 1929 cartoon (New Yorker): “People slowly accustomed themselves to the idea that the physical states of space itself were the final physical reality.” –Professor Albert Einstein

Auschwitz – the lunch room

There are time when I am glad to be an ORF. Getting up time is one of them, knowing that the only reasons I have to get up and scurry about to go someplace are not due to the servitude of employment. Meal time is a mixed bag but this week it has been largely positive, largely because of the ponderous inertia of the Yankee government and the predation of social engineers.

The primary cause of this joy was the announcement by the Yankee government, via the news media in my instance, of changes to the shule lunch regime. I came to reflect on the government’s, and social engineer’s, perversion of resistance is met with greater punishment rather than any type of kritik. The new regime is supposed to be healthier with more whole grains, vegetables (including catchup?) and less fat and sodium.

This despite test data from pilot shules that indicates the students will just not eat what they don’t like and thus instead of eating “healthy”, eat less, presumably making matters worse at home but on the ledger of government – good, parents – bad, a profit. (I regret I can’t find this reference. Mea Culpa.) There is even counter information on the obesity war front, a study [Link] indicating that shule junk food is NOT a substantive factor in causing obesity. Unfortunately, like the War on Drugs and the Global War on Terror, (and Vietnam,) any body is that of the enemy.

Sadly, the shule lunch program has always been a playground of social engineers and religionists. If the Yankee government can receive any credit for its heavy handed ways it is for relieving shule children of the confusion and stress of being subjected to one religionist doctrine at shule and (probably) another at home. This was not without some benefit, at least for the nerds. I recall in elementary shule being subjected to prayers at both the start of class and at lunch time. The former were standardized with variations but the latter were often delivered by one of the do-gooders and their deviations from our parents’ formulae gave the attentive, perceptive, and cognitive – nerds, in short – something to muse on over lunch.

The food at lunch was also a matter of social engineering. The elementary shule I attended was an old mill shule and had a long tradition of educating (training?) of grubby children fated to follow their grubby parents into wage servitude in the cotton mills. They were generally unprepared and under-responsive to the influx of children parented by ‘rocket scientists’. The best tried and did their best in the face of chronically inadequate budgets and college educated parents demanding what they considered minimum standards 10 dB above the shule’s previous best. The lunch room was not part of the best.

Children and parents alike uttered complaints about food that was unpalatable and unhealthy to thirty and forty years veterans of ladle and steam table. The requirement to clean one’s adult sized tray was confronted as criminal, making enforcement all the more strict. Criticize a bigot and you create a martinet. The lunch room prayers were abandoned after a Yankee army Judge Advocate General type descended on a faculty meeting and talked about criminal sanctions and what it was like to run a shule under martial law. Disgruntled, the do-gooders abandoned the practice entirely rather than dilute their rants.

The effect on the food was nil, largely due to the juju of the great god Budget. As a result, a class split occurred. The mill kids pretty much continued to eat the prepared food, but the rocket kids began to mostly eat brought lunches. There was a great contrast between green institutional plastic trays and colorful lunch boxes, with a few brown paper bags offering contrast. The ‘eat it all’ rule still held but brought lunches tended to have everything wrapped and even the girls had pockets in those days. And all in obedience to parental guidance that some of the food was to be saved for afternoon recess, or while waiting for bus after shule.

So I am glad now that all I have to do when I eat lunch is contend with the instructions form physicians, and FD SCP, and the battle to find foodstuffs across several grocery stores. Preparation is a joy compared to those days of childhood because now, at least, the only do-gooder that bothers me is my own conscience. But I know, deep down, that the kids are still stressed and strained at lunch in shule, and no wonder they eat too much or too little.

One of the strengths of homo sapiens is that we always teach our children the wrong things by intent and the right things by error.

Canonical’s Reich

One of my colleagues, Magnetic Inductance Force, made a statement on Countenance-Scroll the other day about “the social trajectory moving into a region where all advertisements are false and predatory.” I asked him yesterday why he used the word “false” and he basically answered that he had hoped the bogs would comprehend if he used ‘false’ instead of ‘inaccurate’. I then asked if his hopes were upheld and he sadly admitted that they had not.

I personally find the idea encouraging, probably being at least as naive and set for disappointment as my colleague, that an era when all advertisements, regardless of source, will be viewed as their opposite will signal a new ear of human kritik. But I doubt it.

Yesterday I ran into a very good example of the basis of this cynicism. I got pointed to an article [Link] about Ubuntu advertisements. I viewed two of the four, my gorge was rising too high to go further, and seldom have I seen such a collection of misdirection and outright overt inaccuracy. Canonical, it seems, is no different from Megahard when it comes to misdirecting, entrapping propaganda.

I started off chuckling at the claim that Ubuntu is the largest subscribed of the Linux distributions. Since the introduction of Unity, Ubuntu is solidly on the road to middle of the pack. Last release it got whalloped by MINT, which is rather like saying Megahard got whalloped by BASIC.

But then other inaccurate claims were made, all apparently intended to alienate the nerd basis and attract bog neubs. What kind of business model is this? The only thing that makes sense is that Canonical thinks the neubs will pay for hand holding whule the nerd basis is moderately costly to maintain. Of course something in excess of half the production comes from the basis so one still has the impression of Canonical slicing off extremities with a dull piece of paper.

I also liked the claim that Ubuntu works with all the user’s devices. Really? I had to buy specific MP3 players to work with Ubuntu; my phones do not work with Ubuntu, nor does half the hardware in the house, including FD SCP’s sewing machines.

And yes, I am still using Ubuntu, but not Unity. This box is running Gnome 2 and I am in no hurry to blow that GUI away.

But I now have an anecdote of confirmation that no organization can be trusted. Period. And any of their advertisements.

And, no, I am not going to quit brushing my teeth – I trust my dentists if not their professional organization’s advertisements – or going to gym – the Yankee government was already suspect – because the refereed research papers support it.

Distrust and verify.