Holiday Hope

Almost over. All that is left is the New Year’s holiday which will sadly rot another week out. Not that I stay awake for the eve and I find the whole thing somewhere between bemusing and delusional. In effect, what we celebrate on the last day of December is almost meaningless. 

A year can be defined several ways but the most meaningful to me is to designate one of the turning points of Tellus’ orbit, either a solstice or an equinox, as the renewal date of the “year”. So if we cling to our primitive roots and end the year on the day of renewal, we should have used the Twenty-First of December as the New Year’s Eve. So in my visualization, we are a week+ of the actual, meaningful New Year’s Eve.

Besides, I see no reason to mess up my slumber. Even for whisky. 

Yesterday was about as difficult as I expected. Enough said. It’s past. And we are as far from the next Mass of Joshua as we can get. And I can always hope that children will get less obnoxious and provocative of raising the question of how the human species continues. Especially after the first child.

Sadly we are also now coming back to the usual horrors of daily existence in the Yankee Republic. And perhaps envying those who have discorporated. Of which we have had too many this season. But not yet our surfeit of horribly colding weather. And the denials of the ravages of climate change. 

I also miss things that went away this year. Like IceDove. And the Linux version of Scientific Word. And my hopes of actually doing something worthwhile, at least in my own estimation.

Sometimes being ORF is hard. 

Holiday Horror 5

Yesterday was the pause for terror day expected. FD SCP and I had things pretty much to ourselves. Aside from a few moments exchanging gifts that we largely knew in advance, the day was one of greatly appreciated peace and calm.

We shall pay for that today.

Yesterday was the (mistaken) birthday anniversary of Isaac Newton. I forget which calendar was in place in England when he was birthed but it ain’t the current one. But it still gets observed as such by folks too acalculate to understand the error or by folks who want a meaningful counterpoint to Joshua ben Joseph. 

Today is the legal observation of Joshua’s mass so lots of folks are off from work. When I first started work sundae Christmas was a suck-it-up-and-go-to-work-on-Monday holiday. I liked it better. Mostly because I didn’t like the whole Christmas season. For one thing, you have to work a lot harder during periods when classes are out than when they are in. So instead of putting in four or five hours of research on top of eight-plus of paid work, I got to do a bit more. And I still had to attend all sorts of mandatory social obligations of the season. Also go to my parents’ house and eat my mother’s cooking and suffer for days after with all sort of digestive unhappiness. 

That latter part hasn’t changed, nor I fear, my dislike of the holidays. I liked it better when I was at schule in Illinois and had a meaningful excuse not to come back for the holidays. Despite the work and the social nonsense life was a LOT better in those days. And hasn’t been the same since. 

So today off to SCPdatter’s for gifting and terror. The day has already started poorly. 

I went to gym this morning. That was good. Especially since it was VERY sparse there. But strangely quiet. And I came home and got a splurge of disappointment.

First, I got on the FaceScroll. And was amazed at the extravaganza of compositional illiteracy. Nauseating. And many silly superstitious sentiments that make even less sense than observing yesterday as Sir Isaac birthday anniversary. 

Then I learned that the podcast “Linux Luddites”, one of my mainstays, had shut down. I suppose I shall have to wait to hear the episode to learn why. But this will leave a day and a half gap in my podcast week. They offered a new podcast that I will have to try but given the excellence ratings on podcasts, even Linux ones, I am sanguine.

Then I ran across a Lifehacker article [Link] entitled “How to Set Up and Get to Know Your New PC, Mac, Android, or iPhone.” My immediate reaction was the absence of Linux. (I don’t count Android since it is too commercial codey these days. Oh, I still use an Android cellular telephone but that’s because it is the least evil when I can’t buy a real Linux phone. Or slablet.) After all Linux is not used by 0.02. But then I entertained the thought that this was not just a statement of arrogance from Bogs masquerading as Geeks, but a matter of pride and counter-arrogance. Linux users, after all, don’t need to be told how to buff their boxes like MegaHard serfs and Apple slaves do. Besides, the Linux community pioneered the “what to do after you install distribution X” articles. Articles that Apple and Winders people (?) don’t seem able to write. So this one is sorta evened out.

But the day is still not yet at middle age – four hours in – and bad things have plenty of time to occur.

Holiday Horrors 4

The Mass of Joshua. The day that is supposed to be the node, the turning point of the season of stress portends to be only a hiatus. 

Yesterday I endured the extended family gathering, the collection of my nuclear, birth family and the descendants. At least the ones surviving. Who, at times, I envied. Too much EXTRO, as expected. No refuge from the incessant intrusion of drivia (drivel + trivia) whether in the form of alien relatives or just the physical and sonic engulfment by bairns. None of whom come close to speaking the language.

I once rode in a New York City taxi driven by a recent emigrant from the subcontinent. He had no command of any form of English. When I got in the cab he handed me the radio microphone and pantomimed speaking my destination. The radio then warbled a translation to him. When we arrived, after several course conversations over the radio, he spoke into the microphone and the radio told me the dunnage. 

Yesterday was like that except without the radio.

I was reminded of why friends are so important: one cannot pick one’s family nor neighbors but can pick friends. And walk away from them. So there was a positive aspect to yesterday. 

Today is a – hopefully – slow and silent day. FD SCP and I are essentially on our own. Tomorrow, the legal observation by the Yankee government of the religionist day – so much for freedom of religion – we have to motor to Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill to family gather with our nuclear family. And at least one of the self-same rug rodents. 

I understand why people abuse themselves, even discorporate, this season of year. For many it is the only channel of relief. 

And we have yet to face the insanity associated with the arbitrary imcrementing of year number and the actuality of winter which promises to be one tartarus of a doozie. 

One of the times I am not happy to be ORF. If I were younger I could take employment far away, perhaps in a country that is too remote to permit holiday travel?

Holiday Horror 3

The node nears. Today is the eve of the Mass of Joshua ben Joseph bar David. Or so I am told. Not that very many of the folks in Greater Metropolitan Arab will attend or even approve of mass. The religious kind, not the real kind. But the tantrum throwers will be pushing their own variety of the myth.

And family will gather. And therein lies the actual horror. People you only see twice a year who pretend to be close to you and impose their EXTRO behavior on you because they refuse to admit any inkling of the EXTRO/INTRO divide intrude on their underused neurons.

In some cases, unused except the autonomous ones. Certainly not the thinking ones.

So we must prepare elaborate foodstuffs that poison us and taste bad in the bargain. Because it is expected and anyone who fails to comply is inhuman and evil. Not the ones who impose the tyranny, only those who try to rise above it.

And array ourselves in noxious garments that we would not wear by choice and must keep to only wear in this season. Veblen would laugh!

And go off to someone else’s domicile to gather and be uncomfortable and in pain.

Overall, the reason the season is wished to be joyous is evidently a bit of galgenhumor? Or denial?

Holiday Horrors 2

While we’re on the joy of the season – and the solstice is past us so as far as I am concerned the good has left too – I have another thing to natter about.

The selection of gifts.

I have a viewpoint about gifts. I only give gifts for two reasons: because I want to express my gratitude to someone for our association, or, in contemporary terms, it’s a mandatory social obligation. Most of what follows is relevant to the former.

If I am going to express my gratitude for our association then I have to select a gift that conveys that. If I fail to do this, I have failed as an associate.

Giving money, either in the form of portraits of discorporate euro-american politicians or as plastic data tokens, is a major failure. It conveys that I am a mindless bit of slime mold and you are an odious bit of skunk cabbage. This is one of those things that are actually worse than doing nothing.

When I receive money, either in the form of portraits or plastic, I head for the nearest Salvation Army kettle or storefront to try and redeem some social worth from the failure.

It it’s a cheque the evil in me is stirred and I destroy the thing. Unless it’s a cheque with an expiration date and then I cash it and head for the Salvation Army. 

Why the Salvation Army? They are a relgionist jihad after all? Because they don’t charge the sojers for coffee and donuts since the Great War. Which is more than I can say for either the Red Cross or the YMCA.

Next worst is giving me something that indicates rather loudly that you not only have no idea of who I am but have no interest in learning. If it’s particularly nasty I will find a way to secrete it in your domicile or office or motorcar so that you can worry that you are developing dementia. If not, off to the Salvation Army storefront. Or the GoodWill. Or the AER shop. 

I expect the same behavior from those I associate with, or at least similar in terms of standards and idealism. After all, we are associates.

People you went to schule with or share a workplace with do not necessarily qualify as associates.

Nor do family. Necessarily. 

Of course, mandatory social obligations are mandatory and as such may be satisfied in the least noxious or nauseating fashion possible shy of quarter dollars in a jar of rotted molasses (or sorghum – this is the Sowth after all.)

But don’t expect anything hand made. I am a theoretician for a good reason. Terminal Klutzism.

Holiday Horrors

Not all holidays are bad. Those where you don’t have to go to work and put up with the office EXTROs and don’t have to family and put up with all the kinfolk EXTROs are acceptable.

But this time of year is the season of torturing INTROs.

It starts with Halloween. You have to dress up in a nasty costume whose only good aspect is hiding you from close interaction with EXTROs. And you have to go to EXTRO houses with people you don’t know (or like?) and put up with their EXTRO verbal bullying and take their horrible candy because your parents require you to experience this torture. And if you are a parent you have to subject your children to this and go with them because they have to go out and learn about EXTRO pedophiles (is that redundant?) and such. And how to smile when they get something they don’t want.

This, however, is good training for the really evil part of the season. It starts with Thanksgiving and goes through whichever Solstice period pseudo-religious torture your family indulges in. This is the period when you get reminded – painfully – that family is all about EXTROs who are mentally incapable of comprehending what an INTRO is and how you can give them irreparable harm while thinking how nice they are to dirty, nasty, impolite children. Good religionist folk, these. So smug in their EXTRO Superstition that no harm to a child is too large nor too small to be inflicted with glee and joy.

The only saving grace of this is that you will not see these evil people again until this time next year (except maybe in the summer) and the food will sicken you so much that you may regurgitate all over some of them. Which will earn you corporal punishment. Which is an improvement over the mental punishment that is otherwise continuous.

New Year’s Eve is a quiet footnote to all this. If you are a child you can quickly crawl off in a corner and pretend (or actually) fall asleep and only be poked occasionally by  drunken EXTROs. If you are an adult you just stay at home and do something worth while.

The only other horror is – possibly – a summer holiday such as Independence Day – which is sort of farcical since none of the EXTROs have any idea what it is all about except the ones who sojered who are either actual or honorary INTROs anyway. And those same relatives may show up and renew their horrible torture except now with noxious body odor. And more upchucking of nasty, nauseating foodstuffs. Like under-cooked but burnt dead bovine flesh. 

And, of course, the season also has a tradition of gift giving. So you have to make yourself thank the EXTRO giver – who will nonetheless consider you ungrateful of the five minutes they spent getting the gift, which they consider a rigorous duty and boon – for some piece of stercus that you won’t be able to get rid of until you deliberately destroy it in pretense of play or go off to college and can either trust the parents to dispose of it – a chancy trust – or dump it in a landfill on your way to campus. This is where that nasty candy ritual comes in.

This is why I dislike some holidays: the ones where I have to pretend to be an EXTRO while the real EXTROs pretend to be human.

Dismal Deterioration

Once more into Ice Cream day. And once more into the abyss of excessive colding. Nasty cold front pushed in by the dread Polar Vortex, the latest in not-a-such-broom and dripping temperatures this evening. And I am sitting in my study shivering. At least partly from the refrigerated V-8 juice I just finished.

So as I clip articles for my files, mostly via a wonderful note-taking app called KeepNote, [Link] which is the best such I have ever found. And still quite incapable of actually taking lecture notes with, of course, but adequate for my daily information saving needs. Anyway, as I do this I shall sally onto a bit of blogging.

First, an article [Link] entitled “Android Marshmallow on PC Falls Flat.” The title is sufficient; the article merely assures the lid of the coffin is secure. This cements what I had suspected after purchasing a ChromeBook a couple of months ago, that Chrome/Android is a sadly neutered desktop environment. And yes, I use browsers a lot, but several and simultaneously, depending on their strengths and weaknesses. But I also need other clients. And therein lies the problem. So once more the conventional Linux desktop is validated.

Second, another article [Link] entitled ““I Don’t Think We Can Stop It:” The Future of Automation and Job Loss” that addresses something I have blogged on previously, that the idea of universal (or even majority) employment is becoming increasingly specious and just flat wrong. This seems likely to be the greatest threat to capitalism since the Great War. How do we continue to only allow a model based on everyone doing something productive and payable? Even if we ignore the poor and tell them to eat cake, the death machines will not be long in coming. And it seems equally unlikely that the rise of the robot – Czech (?) for “worker” – will be reversed by self-aware capitalists. 

Another thing that makes me glad to be ORF.

And lastly, an article [Link] entitled “The Crisis in Physics Education” that expounds further the problems with STEM teaching that I blogged about yesterday. Simply put,

“Of all school subjects, Physics has the most severe teacher shortage, followed by math and chemistry.  There are large surpluses of biology and earth science teachers.

Only 1/3 of all high school physics teachers have a degree in physics or physics education.

Almost 1/3 of all high school physics teachers have taken fewer than 3 college physics classes.

90% of middle school students are taught physical science by a teacher lacking a major or certification in the physical sciences (chemistry, geology, general science or physics). 

Our local and regional school districts have had substantial difficulty finding and retaining qualified physics teachers. 52% of New York City high schools do not even offer physics.”

And, of course, this problem is primarily the doing of the education establishment. It is not that there are not a lot of college educated physicists out there. There are more physicists today than there have ever been. But the system is so tied to the idea of certification that this shortage exists. Between physicists who are unwilling (unable) to spend the time being certified and the unwillingness of schule systems to hire anyone lacking a certificate, the children have been hung out to dry. 

This problem could be solved simply. The schule system could hire a non-certified teacher but only for a specific time, about five years. So hire graduate students to teach half time while they finish their coursework and give them the option of leaving after a couple of years or working on a certificate. But I somehow doubt the schule systems are smart enough to even try this, much less pull it off. So one more example of Amerika becoming Third World State.

I have to be direct. I enjoy teaching but I never wanted to make it a career. The instrumentality of schule, especially K-12, are mind killers. Teaching outside a university takes too much time, destroys research opportunities, and generally turns one into a blob. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who can thrive in that environment, but not me. I suspect this is becoming more common as universities become more factory-like and as dismal and oppressive as K-12 systems. But there may still be something to Amerika worth saving. If the educationalists will save themselves?

STEM vs. Art?

This has been the December from Tartarus. Too many medicalist appointments – and some yet to come. Too much not-December weather – as in, too d**n colding. And then a couple of days ago while cooling my heels waiting on FD SCP’s medicalist appointment – and trying to ignore the abuses of the staff wrecked on the consumers – which is another subject – I ran across an article [Link] entitled “The focus on maths and science doesn’t add up. The arts must be in the equation.” 

My initial thought was “Stercus! Another irrelevant arts teacher moaning again.” I wasn’t quite wrong.

The article was out of the Guardian, and like so many British newspaper articles and so few Amerikan, it was worth reading. The thesis was a bit mixed: a melange of too much STEM for too little gain; too little arts; and too much oppression of the teaching staff.

Which seems to indicate that the situation in England is similar to that in the Yankee republic.

Before continuing, I reflected on my own experiences. All of the STEM teachers I had, save one, were at best mediocre and the mean was abysmal. My chemistry teacher was one of those people who had a real chemistry degree and no certification and shortly after I graduated left for a real chemistry career since he got booted for no certification. This was a common situation when I was in public schule. The good teachers weren’t certified teachers and the bad ones were. Probably why I identify so strongly with Chicken Man’s statement that “good student learn in spite of bad teachers.”

So I have a bit of a disinterest in the bleatings of certified teachers; if they can’t teach worth a hoot what does it matter if they are put upon? Other than basic human decency, of course. Oh, there may be an occasional good teacher in the bunch but when the place is a toxic waste dump what can you do?

I also noted while I was in undergraduate college that the teachers most likely to flock to summer schule for advanced education were the bad ones who were only in it for the money.

I recall I had to take some arts courses in schule. I started out with lots of wannabe and little canbe. And I ended up pretty well hating the whole thing. Got very painful. The only good thing was it taught me lessons about disappointment and inability. Hard lessons, in several meanings of the word.

I need to qualify some of that. I have met some good students and a few good teachers in recent years, largely courtesy of American Physical Society outreach programs. But they are rare. And many are parochial – RC – the protestant schules don’t even try at least inferring from their absence. Which is a mixed bag of expectation affirmed and reversed. 

I stop short of thinking that humans who can do STEM are born that way and don’t need anything other than some access to information and opportunity. The ability of the schule system to deter and destroy even the best student is undeniable. But one keeps hoping they have some positive quality. 

And I have to ask the question: if you can’t teach STEM passably, what makes you think you can teach arts successfully? That’s not rhetorical or associative. Since I am soiled goods with respect to arts education I would like some meaningful – not low hanging irrelevant fruit – data. 

Nor do I expect any improvement in the public education (or private for that matter) system. Those who are living in fear of their lives are seldom open to anything other than Hobbesian survival. 

On a more positive note, real education in Amerika has always been rare to vanishing. We are the triumph (??????????) of capitalism and the self-made human. Education, on the other hand, is all about being happy and competent in one’s life. And the two are diametrically opposed and always have been. 

So why should it change now?

Phog Phool

Just returned from Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the hill and the quarterly maintenance of gums. Nice fog on the mountain. As in actually fog – as opposed to the exaggerated stuff reported by the Weather Beavers – and quite clean. If anything worse returning than going because of the higher angle of Sol.

I was reminded that fog also brings out the stupidity in Alibam drivers. Saw too many motoring along (or not) with their lamps disengaged and twice someone who had stopped on US231 – 65 MPH limit mostly exceeded – and turned on their flashing lamps. AS if that would provide adequate distance of warning in this soup.

Happily no fatalities that I could observe and so home to hide from the haggis-brains.

Messiah Munch 4

Went to gym this morning. Nothing unusual about that but the NPR podclips were a bit thin so I ended up watching a bit on the electro-magnetic video-but-no-audio monitor. They were showing a list of what NOT to buy as gifts for men. I found a similar list on line [Link] and had to do my thing of commenting:

1. Gym membership – This is a gift? In what universe? 

2. Silly gadgets – First of all, never give electronics; you can’t pick what is desired, if anything is desired. But simply put it’s a hunter-gatherer thing.

3. Cologne – Ditto. Unless you are sending a message that I need to alter my body odor. And then be prepared for divorce discussion.

4. Tools (for a certain project) – Again, a hunter-gatherer thing.

5. Ties – This one is marginal. If it’s a serious, wear-to-work tie, then don’t because hunters don’t do complementary coloration. It it’s a gag tie be prepared for it falling completely flat.

6. Shoes and clothes – This is another instance of men don’t do complementary coloration. If it’s a solid colored sweater of the stay warm variety and not some fashion statement, then OK.

7. Nose hair trimmer – unless I have an acknowledged problem with nose hair and am too cheap to buy a decent trimmer, NYET.

8. Personalized stuff – unless I’m totally consumed with being my own brand, and I have to wonder why you’re staying around if I am, don’t.

9. Bath products – See stinky water above.

10. Jewelry – Unless it’s a watch like the one I already have, which just died, don’t. It will end up causing friction because I will hide it in a drawer until you bury me.

11. Anything “As Seen on TV” – See Silly Gadgets above.

12. Framed pictures – this one is a no-no because it makes no sense. What kind of picture would you be giving? Unless it’s a Mort Kunstler print I have been drooling over for years and you’re willing to endure the money argument.

13. Gag gifts – Again, a hunter-gatherer thing. 

14. Artwork – see Framed Pictures above.

15. Coupons for favors – Coupons are like money, so does this mean we have a strictly capitalist marketplace relationship now? Do either of us want to go there?

The surprising thing is how good the list turned out to be. But its best feature is conditioning men on how to behave on Solstice morning when they get given a pile of stercus and have to pretend its aurium.