Short Polling

Gone and returned from exercising my franchise. Left Castellum SCP at 0659. Back at 0709. Took longer to color in the selected ovals than anything else.

Not that expect any better performance from those elected here in Greater Metropolitan Arab as conscript parents than I do of the POTUS candidates.

Internet Survival

Two Day. Off to gym and with this being holiday season for the rest of the English Speaking nations of the planet, I tried a new podcast, the Guardian’s “Chips with Everything.”[Link] Since this is British I feel I need to remind the locals that these have nothing to do with Lay’s, Golden Flake, or Paul Bryant. It is supposed to be the Guardian’s take on society and technology. I downloaded a four part series on the internet as a sample.

After listening to two, of four, episodes I have to admit to being underwhelmed. The disenchantment started when one of the journalists claimed to be expert on the internet. Not that such don’t exist, but not journalists. Journalists, even British ones, are like teachers. They know a lot about journalism (teaching) but have very little content knowledge. This is particularly the situation with STEM stuff. A good article has maybe 0.5 of its information accurate and trustable. The rest is stercus. And that’s a good journalist. The bad ones satisfy Sturgeon’s Rule.

So I early got into distrust mode since the – later demonstrated – talker claimed the highly improbable. Which was fulfilled by some of the crap uttered.

I was particularly nauseated by the statement that the slablet in the pocket gave one access to all the information they would ever need. 

Stercus! First of all there are lots of things that aren’t on the internet, or can’t be accessed well with a slablet. More importantly, what is missing here is knowledge. Just because you own an encyclopedia doesn’t mean you know and understand it.

The series was motivated by the recent UN declaration that internet access is a basic human right. This raised the question of whether the internet is really a survival thing. The obvious answer is a resounding NO! So the edict is a bit specious.

And if it weren’t I could happily relate as to how the Yankee Republic is a totalitarian state for denying access to something like a third of the population.

Bue we already knew it was such, didn’t we?

Racewalking the Tabs

Seven Day. Brief constitutional and then a motor to the Postal Orifice to retrieve mailings. Now engaged in the weekly chore of clippin’ and hawgin’ tabs. So I will kibbitz and goof a bit on a few.

First, an article [Link] entitled “You can’t buy kids’ books in some neighborhoods”. Not surprising. Reading is not on anyone official’s list of desired skills for churls and plebs. What they are interested in is slavery, it seems. Wage and mind, if not actually chattel since the latter would bear some burden of actual support. Like food and medical care and such. And it’s not just Repulsians. The Democruds are also that way in their own denial and evil.

You can’t buy children’s books in Greater Metropolitan Arab. The conscript parents are too busy trying to get chain fast food restaurants into town that they have no interest in the mental health of any of the citizens. 

Actually, you can buy children’s books at the library salvage store but only for short hours on Wednesday and Saturday. But no real book stores. Nor much of anything except corporate crud.

The Face of Amerika.

Next, an article [Link] entitled “Don’t run (and don’t laugh): The little-known history of racewalking “.  I had never heard the term until this article hit my accumulator. And it stuck out. Because when I was an undergrad, I racewalked. (The spell checker doesn’t know the word so my ignorance may be valid.) One of the reasons I did this was because I have “chicken knees” and racewalking style is natural to me. More natural than the assumption of modality that I adopt to avoid the social criticism. 

It wasn’t an actually sanctioned sport. After all, it didn’t bring in big money like (American) football. So we never got much above a club. And we could only compete OFF CAMPUS. So we wouldn’t embarrass the “good” people. You know, the Administration and the Greeks and the Donors.

But I’m still proud of it. Just wish I still could. It’s crap to be old sometimes.

Third, an article [Link] entitled “Algorithms can be more fair than humans”. To this I ask one question “Can algorithms extrapolate?” The point is that fairness isn’t always a relevant concept when we are in uncharted territory. The idea that this will never occur – social correctness – is a fallacy of modern society and our social hubris.

Enjoy services. If you go. Most don’t which is a sign for hope.

Digital Direction

Six Day. Running a bit behind, mostly due to slow cognition. Anyway, ran across this article [Link] entitled “This Guy Made a Replica of The Computer That Helped the Robinson Family 50 Years Ago” yesterday and my thinking was led to the picture more than the effort of the individual.

Seems the fellow made a replica of an 1950 Burroughs box (mainframe?) that was used in numerous television programs as the computer character. This led me to consider what we should be doing with computers.

(The above is not, I believe, the replica because the article has an embedded video and I don’t need the overhead that goes with.) This is what we used to call a “Geblinkenen Kluge”. 

By the time I got to university, these Rube Goldbergs were pretty much replaced by metal pastel hued boxes on isolation flooring in frigid glass walled rooms. Some of them had as much as 64Kb of RAM. Hard drives were the size of refrigerators and cost as much as a college education. And you coded in FORTRAN (nerds) or COBOL (bog-geeks.) What we did was number crunching. The nerds were doing science and engineering stuff and we spent more time studying numerical methods than languages. The bog-geeks were doing accounting or inventory stuff and I have no idea what they studied since it was taught in the Business schule which was on a side of campus I only visited in summer term to watch old movies. The only things controlled by computers in those days were terminals and plotters.

In 1984, I bought my first box, an IBM PC with an 8086 CPU, 64Kb RAM (16 Kb on the MB) and two floppy disk drives. In 1986, after two years of budget whining, I got funded to buy a (generic) PC for half the folks in our organization. I had to have a blessing from the IT Tsar of the post, which took over a year, and I can recall him asking me “What can you do with one of these toys that a terminal off my mainframe can’t do better?” I answered “Are you going to let me run a word-processing program on your mainframe?” At which point he turned to his deputy and asked “What the H**l is a word-processing program?”

Once told the answer he cursed bluely for five minutes while trying frantically to approve my purchase.

Nothing, in my opinion, symbolizes the PC so much as word processing. Even more than spread-sheeting, word processing – not coding – is the epitome of the PC stage of computing. 

In those days, most STEM graduates learned to code in college. Their bosses either on-the-job or not-at-all. That was the peak of computer literacy. Since MegaHard took over the cardiovascular system of the corporate organization, it has been downhill to planned illiteracy.

So today, in the slablet age, computers have gone from tools to appliances, providing either entertainment or controlling our machines. Number crunching is arcana. Coding is a blue collar craft, if that.

So where did we go wrong?

Podcast Poo

One day. Back to gym. A bit atypical. I listened to the last half of “Linux Luddites” episode # 82 [Link] instead of an episode of “Best of Ideas”. I rationalize this based on the absurd Canadian imitation of British holiday durations. 

Anyway, one of the speakers made the announcement that he sometimes did not use a box on a given day because he could do what was needed on his cellular telephone.

I mentally upchucked at that point.

The model of the cellular telephone is the Star Trek communicator, not the Mote In God’s Eye handputer. 

Handputers do not work. I know. I have owned a couple going back to the late ’70’s. They are nice toys with limited, but more than a calculator, functionality. But they aren’t boxes.

Nor is a slablet. In fact, it’s a mediocre communicator.

If I think what I do on both box and slablet, it comes down to email. And none of the email apps available – that I have tried – are more than 10 dB less than Thunderbird. I can maybe read email on my slablet. In practice, what I can do is ‘hawg’ the inbox so that when I get back to the box I don’t have to get rid of the trash as much. 

But that’s about it. I can’t do spreadsheets or write code or compose articles or any of the other things I do on a box. Because the screen is too small, the I/O is too poor, and keying is one atom up from impossible. And it’s slow. Horribly slow. And no floating point math processor. And I can’t imagine trying to graph stuff on the slablet. Heck, it will barely work as a conventional phone.

So please quit telling me that I can do box work with a slablet. It’s a social lie. Quit or I shall dose your coffee with Phenolthalein. And be done with you for a while. Not that I expect you are capable of learning. From the experience or otherwise.

Diversity Dictatorship

I do not like diversity programs. I do like diversity. But almost always programs do not accomplish their desired end and cause more damage than construction. It’s the same as organized religion. No evil is too large to not be perpetrated in the name of good.

I get hit frequently with some pronouncement that some aspect of my existence and environment is not diverse. First of all, it isn’t supposed to be more than a certain amount diverse. I am not going to try to breathe vacuum, for instance. 

But I am continually told that there are not enough women, religionist, political, ethnic nerds in the group. The unsupported and unanalyzed assumption is that the demographics of the group should be a perfect replication of the demographics of the national or planetary population of homo sapiens.

I much preferred the ‘system’ when I was a young nerd, starting back when I began undergraduate schule. That was based almost entirely on individuality. An aspirant to inner nerdery failed or succeeded purely on their own abilities. There were prejudices, yes, but such can only be negated if recognized, not by some organized program. And yes the demographics were rather local and heavily slanted to nerds but since when do we want to waste STEM resources on Bogs?

Yes, there were some older members of the group, senior faculty primarily, who harbored deep views about women and other characteristics that they considered, from long experience, to be compromising. And yes, they did act prematurely on their prejudices sometimes but that was inherent in homo sapiens, something that was not fixable by fiat of organization. 

That’s part of modern denial. The denial that organization can do anything and we should quietly comply while society is destroyed.

But that’s another thing that people adopt when they get old: seeing the end of civilization and the species in the actions of the young.

But I did like things better when we were successful or failures on our own abilities and not the machinations of organization.

Schule Renewal

Survived another medicalist excursion to Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill. Get a couple months off now unless some component fails. The joys of reliability methodology applied to oneself!

It is also time for the return to schule. The wee bairns have mostly returned and the college debtors are in process. I have been enjoying raiding the Back-To-Schule offerings that are only available this time of year and are useful to my activities. So I have noticed that there is a marked increase in how-to-ace-courses books for wee bairns. This has prompted me to offer some advice.

Why Science courses in public schule are so difficult:

The people teaching are incompetent. If it’s not a high schule, all the education the teacher has is what they had to take, maybe two college courses probably NOT in what they are teaching, and that is likely outdated and they have forgotten most of it. Also, a trade-off between experience in teaching and degree of remembering what they learned. Moral: go for middle aged teachers who have high integrity. Warning: such are VERY RARE because if they had integrity…

The textbooks are inaccurate propaganda. The further south you live, the more so this is. Science textbooks in public schules are mostly about religionist and political denial and propaganda.

They only want you to learn things testable using multiple-guess tests. That’s how the teachers keep their jobs.

Because the whole environment is incompetent and toxic, you won’t learn much but that’s all right since what they offer has the same relationship to science that rust has to coinage. The bad thing is you’ll decide science is too hard for you and give up which will curse you to being a Bog until you discorporate.

My colleague, Magnetic Inductance Force, sent me a link [Link] to this graphic

which illustrates a rational fundraising method. Schules are big on fundraising because they are black holes for money. Every year they get more and more from the government and every year what they do decreases. Actual education ceased sometime after the Second Great War. So everything that has some appeal to students and/or parents has a fund raiser. The problem is that it is dependent on the parents doing more unpaid work than they bring in money, it makes the students cynical, and the people who don;t have children in schule ignore the whole enterprise.

The latter is the real limitation. I don’t have a child in schule here so I WILL NOT buy whatever unhealthy trash you are selling.

And if I did, I sure wouldn’t give you that magnitude of money. A child’s tee shirt that costs more than $10 Yankee is a non-starter. So go parasite on other people who still place some trust in the public schule system.


Despite what my colleague Normal Angular Momentum claims, sometimes our mistakes surprise us. They fall into a category I label as wait-long-enough-and-you’ll-do-it-again. One such is being a chair – general, program, … – of a conference. There was a period in my life that I got mousetrapped into doing such. I found the long-enough was about five years. That was how long it took me to forget the pain and suffering enough to get talked into being a chair again. 

Anyway, the one that is the subject of this blot is Canonical and their tribe of ‘buntu. Canonical, with the help of competent volunteers that they are perpetually micturating, maintains a group of Linux distros/versions differing primarily in their GUI-Desktop. They all share at least some of the bedrock of a somewhat mutilated version of Debian.

The thing that bites is their over-the-internet updates. These occur every six months for most versions releases but every two years for the corporate long-term-support versions. Years ago they offered two ways to update: a downloadable ISO that one burned to a DVD/CD; and an over-the-web stream. Over a period of years I learned that the probability of failure in upgrading via the first method was very low, o(0.01) while the probability of failure using the over-the-web method was almost exactly 0.5. 

The level of my deep OS surgery skills is so low that when an upgrade fails I have to reinstall from scratch. That’s what comes of my priorities and I accept the burden. But I still rebel at Canonical’s negligence in this matter. I have run lots of other distro and none of them have failure probabilities greater than o(0.03). So when it comes to upgrade failure Canonical is the Linux equivalent of Alibam.

But I have this OLD Dell Latitude D420 lapbox that I like because it has a goon volume and mass and keyboard – unlike all more recent lapboxes except maybe the Lenovo just mentioned, I it had version 12.04 of a ‘buntu variant on it and I was a bit concerned of replacing.

So I did an update to 14.04 yesterday. Slow but successful.

Did an upgrade to 16.04 this morning. Slow and catastrophic.

Absolutely modal sampling, isn’t it?

Anyway, so I loaded the 32b version of LMDE on a stick, which is one of the few existing contemporary distros supporting 32b and non-PAE – that is, OLD boxes – and had it up and going in thirty minutes. It’s a bit slow but so was 14.04 and I can live with. And enjoy another five years of repulsion and horror for Canonical.