College Attention Span

Ah! Freya’s day. The boundary unbump between week in and out, and my day to sleep in. Till 0530 this morning. So I am not only a bit slow yet but also behind.

It struck me that this should have been the journalism silly season although the only things demonstrating such have been: the olympics; the partisan conventions; and this somewhat silly graphic posted by the HowToGeek folks [Link]

I was a bit surprised when I saw this, mostly because I had not, so far as memory would assure, seen it before. Then I realized that the reason I had not seen was because I was off at college.

That may seem a bit strange, given the propensity of college students to get all torqued over social stuff, especially things that most folks put in the “I can’t do anything about except curse or cry” pile. Happily some of those can be influenced by large numbers of college students doing stupid things, burning building, and getting shot by the militia. What is not mentioned is that those students are the fuzzy middle who major in things like journalism or syntax or literature or some form of ethno-geographic studies. The folks in the wings of the distribution, on the one (lower) end, the Greeks, the jocks, and the party animals, and on the other (upper) end, the STEMS, the pre-Meds, and the pre-Laws (who may also map into the other end since they are often Greeks) do not participate in such demonstrations for somewhat differing reasons, but mostly, generally, orthogonality.

The good academics at the U Maryland have managed to rediscover this [Link] with respect to politics. Glad that the phenomena is now “official” from an academic standpoint. I just hope they don’t tell anyone in the Yankee government lest the students be plagued with some tax money waste program to make them politically conscious. Shades of Chinese politics!

I went to college through several elections. Not sure if I voted in any of them. Didn’t seem worth the effort or the sacrifice at the time. The only politics we were interested in in undergraduate shule was the ‘Nam. The campus of the Black Warrior was too conservative to have much anti-war activity and what there was was limited pretty much to the hippy arts majors and faculty. In fact, when the anti-war hippies did demonstrate, the Greek-ROTC guys counter-demonstrated with truncheons and cudgels. I suspect that’s why the guvnuh declared martial law and sent in the militia. My only perspective was it got me out of final exams since they were trying to empty the campus.

I have been told since that the whole thing was a sham by the FBI, and a response to the Kent State affair. From my perspective neither of these is accurate. The artsy-fartsy staged a march because Dow came to campus recruiting STEMS, and the Greek Elitists raised the ante. But in an effort to make the whole thing seem otherwise, almost all of actuality has been lost.

Not that the students, then or now, really cared for long.

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Chronic in Stupidity

Yesterday was gallop to Huntsville day. Staff call and foodstuff acquisition. Survived but there were mental challenges.

I got reminded that the chronically stupid seem to obey Bose-Einstein statistics. That is, they clump. This is less evident here in Greater Metropolitan Arab, not because we haven’t chronic stupids, but because their density in population seems to be approximately constant. (Although there are deviations since chronic stupids tend to mate with each other and raise chronic stupid offspring.) Hence the lower the total population the less likely the chronic stupids are to meet and congregate.

One may even think of a Bose-Einstein Condensate of Chronic Stupids. It is quite upsetting but being physicist the nature of reality must be observed sans emotion.

This is not the case in Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill. They are evident driving down the motorway. And in stores. Especially the latter where chronically stupid managers are not only more likely to hire other chronic stupids but those not chronic stupid will not work.

I found a couple of those places yesterday. Will look for alternatives before I need their products again.

Yesterday was also when we got word on elections. This is relevant because Greater Metropolitan Arab has a chronic stupid councilperson. And we shall have that person for several more years since the electorate chose to return him to office. I can only hope that this was an instance of the theory that politicians should be selected based on the depths of heir stupidity, a form of damage control.

The prevalence of this theory is being demonstrated resoundingly this week in Tampa. The only worse stupid are the television executives who decided the swarming is entertainment and should be broadcast in preference to reruns of any 1950’s situation comedy, no matter how bad. I suppose other aspects will be evident when the other party convenes.

It rather reminds me of the recent Jubilee nonsense in England. How did we manage to get a political system based on two organizations that do not represent the citizenry?

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Off to Campus Advice

This week out I ran across an article [Link] entitled “What College Freshmen Should and Should Not Pack” and being that I am unable to avoid snarking about such things, especially from journalists, here is the snark.

I do have to agree with the article that freshmen often bring the wrong stuff to college. But more so, they fail to bring the right stuff. At least in my day, and while I acknowledge that college has changed since, that doesn’t prevent me from making noise. To start with, they have a list of “Tips” that strike me as fair but poorly posed:

Tip No.1: Pare down the packing list

This one is almost impossible to get right, mostly because of parents.

Tip No.2: Choose Your Wardrobe Wisely

My advice on this one is don’t. Don’t, that is, buy new clothes. Yes, bring a minimum with you but college is not high shule and if you wear high shule clothes in college you’re going to broadcast “hick” and “dweeb” at 40 MW. This goes even to underwear, especially, I am told, for the female gendered. Save your coins and buy clothes after you get to college so you can look like a native and not an auslander.

Incidentally, that pretty well solves number one, except that you still have parents to deal with and frankly they ain’t gonna trust you to buy clothes.

Tip No. 3: Know the rules

The college is going to tell you the rules. Now the real stuff. If you want to take something that is verboten, and it’s small, go ahead. If it’s big, hold off. At least until you can learn (a) which rules aren’t enforced; (b) which rules are only enforced on special occasions; and (c) which rules can be ignored. This is why you don’t want to look like an auslander. If you do, you can’t gather intelligence.

Tip No. 4 Limit valuables and extras

Dorms are made for borrowing, often forever. There’s always a mooch and part of learning the society is learning how you can safely deal with such people. There are also bullies, and quite frankly the college isn’t going to help you. SO keep the costly stuff to a minimum. I’m not sure what “extras” are.

Then they have lists of brings and leaves:

  • Bring:
    Bed risers if allowed or if bed isn’t raised already – bring them anyway. They’re small and likely the rule against them will be enforced seldom if at all.
  • Dishpan to wash dishes – Lots of colleges don’t allow cooking in room. And communal kitchens are to be avoided like the plague. But a dishpan can be useful for washing clothes too.
  • Dish detergent, dish cloth/sponge, dish towel – See above
  • Batteries – Scope out the battery situation when you do the campus visit. If the nearest source of batteries is five miles away and you have to walk, then bring, but otherwise, bringing batteries is stupid. Besides, if you have a bunch, they’ll get mooched. Try to never have any more on hand than one extra for every device with consumable batteries.
  • Removable tape and hooks for hanging things on walls – Depends on rules. It’s hard to hide these.
  • Earplugs – they;re small why not.
  • Rain coat and umbrella – one, not both. depends on the custom. If it’s an umbrella campus and you bring a rain coat, you’re an auslander. Also, think about how you’ll handle book pack or bag or whatever.
  • Sleeping bag in case a friend or sibling visits – Are you kidding?
  • Tool kit – Make sure it has a lock and is small; otherwise mooched or stolen.

Leave at Home:

  • Stereo systems – why bother? Bring an MP3 and earphones. Don’t add to the noise pollution. Besides, why waste good space on such?
  • Candles (fire hazard) – LED flashlamps – keep secure lest stolen or mooched.
  • Halogen lamps/light bulbs – I don’t get this one.
  • Space heaters – Almost surely verboten. And enforced.
  • Hotplates, toasters, toaster ovens _ Trick, bring an iron, and make a frame to hold it inverted. You can cook on the iron and it won;t be verboten. If permitted, bring a small combination convection/toaster/microwave – and a coffee pot.
  • Duct tape, nails or thumbtacks that can damage the walls – Bring the duct tape anyway. 

As a rule, the more your parents tell you you need to take something, and you distrust/disagree, the less likely you’ll need it. Don’t bring anything that is easy to get on campus. Don’t bring anything that marks you as an auslander. And be prepared to learn how to break rules.

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Human Hockey

Ah! Back to week in and gym. And the educationalists were actually restrained this morning so no harassment. Sadly however, the podcast was an episode of CBC’s “Best of Ideas” and the second episode on hockey in Canadia. Mostly centering on the violence.

This put me to mind of some discussion with a colleague, Momentum Spring Constant who used to be a public shule teacher and was admonishing me for openly using the term “nerd”. She stopped short of calling it the second “N: word, but she did dwell on never using it with her students lest they use it to harass one of their nerd classmates.

This brought me to contemplate some of the aspects of the interactions between nerds and bogs. And yes, this is a most unpleasant topic but it has to be considered because the bogs are always with us, to paraphrase.

One of the commonalities with hockey is purely “us-them”, which is “hard wired” into homo sapiens. In hockey this takes the form of violence in the competition. Of particular note is that anyone who gets sent to penalty box for excessive violence is often a folk hero. The same holds for bogs.

The relationship between bogs and nerds is often “us-them” with the complication that there are lots of bogs and relatively few nerds. So the “competition” is very asymmetric. Not that there ought to be competition because the bogs are not going to be done in and the nerds mostly just want to be left alone.

The problem arises because the bogs can’t do much of anything except exist and consume; if they could create then they would be nerds. So there is not only an “us-them” factor but another of envy and jealousy. And being human that shows up in mirror image form as derision and harassment for being “different”. And you can’t get any more different than creative versus non-creative.

Yes, this harassment is painful, but as we noted in our discussion of an article yesterday, the aware nerd knows that this is a fulfillment of their role and takes satisfaction in the affirmation. Sadly, there are two additional pieces. First, there are unaware nerds, nerds who have not embraced their nerdness and often want to be bogs. These folks get hurt. And the aware nerds have to make a show of being hurt, lest the bogs get violent. If harassment has no effect, hanging, or some such, follows. “Us-them” is not to be denied, especially among the irrational.

The problem arises in that being nerds we have to keep in mind that bogs have a right to existence too. And so we have to put up with a bit of abuse and harassment so they can do all of nasty things that we nerds don’t want to do.

So we have a hate-hate symbiosis. Or perhaps, more accurately, a “don’t trust a bog but don’t poke them either” way of life.

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Cognitive Burdens

It’s ice cream day and we now set to do out ablutions by disposing of the excess tabs. I shall refrain from making more of the comparison to the drinking of the waste wine.

Our first bit [Link] deals with flaws in the Winder Ate tile GUI known variously as “Metro” or “Modern”, although how it is modern rather escapes me. Winders VII and Gnome 2 and KDE and XFCE strike me as modern, not the arrangement of rectangles to be poked and prodded. Nonetheless, according to some pundit never heard from before,

“some design decisions are confusing at best and, at worst, a cognitive burden that slows down the user.”

referring to the GUI. Much as it pains me to kowtow to an unknown unentity, they can still be accurate and this does indeed characterize the nature of tile GUI. I cannot speak for W8, of course, then I would need more than wine to cleanse my fingers – fuming nitric acid seems more appropriate – but it does amply describe the nature of Unity. It is a maddeningly slow gui and reminds me of a rather awful editorial (?) by John Dvorak who referred to non-Winders gui as “muddy” the other day. Obviously, Mr. Dvorak has a different understanding of muddy than I.

But I can think herefrom of an excellent and accurate comparison, Unity is like Russian mud. Sometimes it slows you to a crawl and sometimes it just swallows up everything.

Next, we have a nice piece from Johns Hopkins that the revenge of the nerds is creativity. [Link] I was particularly taken by the statement that

“Rejection confirms for independent people what they already feel about themselves, that they’re not like others. For such people, that distinction is a positive one leading them to greater creativity.”

The attraction is that this is something all mature, sentient nerds already know. In fact, learning this is one of the passage rites of maturity for nerds.

Nerds learn early on that they will be rejected – and tortured – by bogs. But as they get older they come to realize, the sentient ones at least, the true nerds, that numbers are not important except for branding and serfdom and that creativity is what keeps the species going. Besides, it is easier to do work when the bogs don’t come near. Their very presence is a distraction and diversion. A mentally stinky one at that.

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Racist Soap

Once more into week out and all sorts of juicy tabs to crunch upon. And a right riled temperament given some local ass hat started calling at 0630 and rooted out FD SCP with her repeated inability to get a phone number right.

On a more pleasant note, the not-wonks at fair Hahvahd have posited a date for the miscegenation of sapiens and neandertals. [Link] Seems the dirty deeds were performed somewhere between 47-65 KYA. Of course this only applies to those who departed Africa no later than that time period so we find ourselves in a rather intriguing situation with respect to racism.

I have commented on racism previously and have not retreated from a view that it is governmental oppression and a hiding place for those who cannot compete and achieve. Its basically an instantiation of the Chinese observation that the first man to sling mud loses ground. I will not dissemble that for most of the history of this nation the caucasians viewed the negroids as inferior, largely for economic reasons but partly because of insecurity. Happily we fought a nasty war to put an end to the economic piece but the social componenet seems to still be with us, again because of incompetence.

During much of that period, whoever was not caucasian (and wealthy) was considered to be genetically inferior, and religionally cursed. Sadly the religion nonsense is still with us and now courtesy of science the genetic thing has returned. The intriguing  part however is that those who left Africa after 47 KYA are pure homo sapiens while everyone else is a mutt, a mixed genetic conglomeration of sapiens and neandertal. This, of course, raises the not necessarily relevant question of whether mutts are better than pure breeds? Perhaps we should consult with a kennel club?

In a similar article [Link] it has been shown that Triclosan, an antibacterial commonly used in liquid hand soaps, causes muscle deterioration. I have been hunkering for the upswell of indigation among parents of shule children demanding that their children not be crippled by educationalists’ mania over hand sanitation. This will not be easy. I did a survey at MalWart and determined that about 0.9+ of all hand soap they sell contains the poison and that which does not costs twice (at least) as much.

So since the issue is economic, is triclosan racist?

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Mental Wonderland Excursion

We once again find ourselves in the negative bump – I hate to use the term “rut” because of its connotations with bogs and geeks – between the exercise (gym) component of the week and the wasteland that is the weekend. Yesterday I continued to struggle with updates for my somewhat antiquated Dell Inspiron 8600. I managed to get it to update all the way from Ubuntu 10.04 to 12.04 but in the process rendered it useless. Its boot time is now in excess of Winders. This spawned several thought azimuths.

First, I started the quest to find some distribution to install that would provide a modicum of utility balanced with contemporary, for security sake if nothing else. That quest does not now seem immediate nor easy. The obvious candidates are rather too spayed especially given the desire to realize all of the graphic resolution.

This of course, put me in mind of the problems of caring for aging parents. The aspect that this thought hike centered on was how does one look after one’s aging parents when one is broke a significant fraction of the time? I increasingly have to tell my aging maternal parent that I cannot do things for her and she will either have to get sibling to do them or something else. I have twinges of guilt, unadmitted and undisplayed, I hope, given her predilection for exercising guilt trips, of not finding someone to do the task but being an introvert she has better social networking extent than I.

But I can foresee the day approaching when she will have to be entrusted to some facility of care with all the dissatisfaction that embodies. I am already sensitized to the whines of “you never come to visit me” from previous exposures with others and recognize that the duration of visits is likely longer but the poverty of daily sensation is so extreme that they seem woefully inadequate. Sometimes we can only hope for a rapid, catastrophic event.

Which leads me back to the rather sorry article yesterday of life duration correlating positively with education. I spent some time comparing it to the graceful degradation of updating OS on a computer. It struck me immediately that this is much more of a Linux and Apple metaphor than a Winders one. With Winders the paradigm is to not even try, just to go buy a new computer. No wonder MegaHard is the champion of corporate obesity. But with a short update cycle of six months to a year, the calculation is much more uncertain. Besides, Linux has a reputation of working best on older equipment, a reputation that seems to be eroding rapidly in the ambitious graspings of Canonical.

I ran across a tag yesterday that I didn’t get to follow that indicated that computer obsolescence might be changing. This indicates that rapid technological change in boxes may be stuttering. It certainly however, seems obliviated to too many Linux masters. One of the nasty side effects of using Linux is waking up to discover that you do have to buy a new box every 3-5 years and that the old ones are so old that even the poor will not have them. And the recyclage being as warped as only government by real estate agent can make it, there is no prospect of getting the metals and such in the boxes reclaimed by anything other than land fill.

This, of course, struck me with the new face of politics in Amerika, why the two political parties are slowly melting and flaking, because they daily represent less and less o the population, but are enthroned as the de facto proctors of the republic. IT is no longer a matter of those who fall athwart the platforms of the two parties, such as those who are both pro-choice and pro-defense, but of those whose chief concern is a non-issue in the gestalt. The factors of jobs and economy and medical entitlement seem dominating when they are the shuttlecocks of such things as climate change and resource depletion.

Then I wandered off on the difference between a garden hose and a sewer pipe. The former obtains our intense involvement and interest, at least to the extent of accomplishing something whereas the latter is studiously ignored. This brought me back to the life span-education thing. The more education you have, and here I do mean education and not degree or courses endured or training, the more you are like a garden hose at least in terms of activity and cogitation. This perhaps is a better metric of education than diplomas or number of tailgate parties. How do you engage with the passage of time? If your mind is a sewer pipe, something to be avoided, then you are uneducated; if your mind is a garden hose, something in purposeful use, then you are educated. And because of that engagement, life seems longer and somehow is longer.

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