Weighty Thoughts While evading suicidal motorists

Three day. Off to Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill for staff call and provisioning. Survived but not without wonder and a touch of amazement. 

Along the way, I had two particular thoughts about all the recent grrr brrr over monuments commemorating (or reminding?) The Recent Unpleasantness:

Why is the Alibam Council of Thieves Legislature so fearful of Alibam cities that they have to pass legislation forbidding the removal of such monuments? This seems to be part of a trend and one has to question what irrational insecurity this reflects?

And if we are in such a rush, as a nation, to remove these monuments, why have we retained Memorial (Decoration) Day? After all, it is the ultimate memorial to the Old Confederacy. Or is it untouched because most of the electorate has no idea of its origin nor meaning? After all, they seem incapable, in the mode, of distinguishing Memorial Day from Veteran’s Day.

I am tempted to play a Bobby Horton CD while I consume my morning coffee distillation and reflect on the nature of policy.

Dilution to Dissolution

Two Day, and back to gym. As mentioned, the gym was closed yesterday as part of its on-going program of denial of service. So yesterday was a hard day.

The exercise was welcomed this morning, as was the scant population. But the podcast, an episode of The Guardian’s Science podcast, was dismal. The podcast was an interview with three “award winning” writers of science books. 

If these are the best of who is writing these days I can well understand the dismality of contemporary science books.

To clarify, I want to distinguish between books about science and books of science. The latter are textbook and collections of papers from conferences and such intended for nerds or the science education of the young in a classroom environment. The former fall primarily into two categories: outreach books written by academics or academia employed journalists; and books written for profit by journalists.

I am probably doing a bit of disservice to some of these authors but inasmuch as the composition and style of most of them is indistinguishable from that of contemporary journalists the aggregation seems accurate.

I should also comment that I do not read a lot of books about science. By that I mean that I start reading a lot of such books but seldom get beyond the first, or occasionally, second chapter. And yes, the books are that bad. Revolting in fact. As in almost nauseating.

The reason for this is the, at best, poor, most often, blatantly inaccurate descriptions of science matters. Descriptions that are so bad that they revolt me even in the fields where I am not a practitioner and am only peripherally and superficially informed.

Sadly, the outreach books are almost as bad, which leads me to conjecture an overall process by which a scientist explains something to an author, diluting and distorting, who in turn writes their own explanation, further diluting and distorting. What is said and what is bear less connection than a doughnut and a coffee cup mathematically.

In addition, the outreach books seem to be written with the same heavy hand of grammar and an absence of story telling rather like a turn crank journal article.

I should be tempted to say that books about science were better in my youth but since I was less knowledgeable and more adaptable then I am sufficiently uncertain to do so. But my emotional response is exactly that.

For these reasons, I will attempt in future to redirect my efforts to blog more about the successes and failure of contemporary science books. But don’t expect much. After all, I am ORF.

Solemn Torture

I have been subjected to entirely too much graduation grrrrrr brrrrrr this week. None of this is from the graduates themselves; all of it is from their friends (so claimed) or family (also so claimed.) 

I have been subjected to several graduations in my life, about equally divided between being a participant and a spectator. One thing in particular is common to all of them: their conclusion was the only good part of the affair. All were painful, boring, and torturous.

I find it instructive that the only conversations I have ever had about graduations experienced were all horror stories. All were too long, void of any positive emotion, wracked with negative emotions such as pain, agony, suffering, fear, and boredom. 

To put this in context, the only graduation I HAD to attend was the one for a doctoral degree. In effect, no attendance, no degree. That university took the hooding ritual rather seriously. And treated my playing Paper-Scissors-Rock with the tail end guy from the medical school (seated next me) with humor. Hence I conclude that graduations are rather a Listerine affair for students and faculty.

The only good graduation I had was for a master’s degree. I had to relocate before the ceremony to a different graduate school and was excused. After all, a master’s degree is not very important. Cracker Jack prize, I suppose.

I have also had to attend numerous graduations of relatives. All of these were “mandatory social obligations”. Aside from the two for SCPdatter, which were partly pain avoidance, I was able to rechannel courtesy of a book. And she accused me of bringing such with me. 

Except for the one in August in an unconditioned gym where a relative suffered heat stroke. 

Over the years I have formed the hypothesis that graduations are “mother things”. The only people who seem to ever want to go to a graduation are mothers. 

This does not engender strong confidence in adulthood being accorded the child. 

I have never heard a graduation speech that was worth my time. Nor that said anything memorable. 

The good thing I can say about such I discovered this morning while perusing LifeHacker.[Link] A memorial concert – held separately and of voluntary attendance – would have been fine. I like John Williams’ music but not enough to endure any more graduation for it. So I have something to be thankful for about graduations. 

I shall also remember not to accept an honorary degree from Fair Hahvahd. Not that I have any expectation of such. 

Perhaps we can start a new ceremony? Perhaps one where we offer graduates mothers a spa visit if we can skip the ceremony? 

Nasal Drip

Today is “Red Schnozola” day. Or some such. Evidently rather a big thing in the Mother country. Has something to do with feeding starving children. Given I live in Alibam and the average elector believes in starving children – they are fanatically and insanely “pro-life”, which is anything but – so I contributed yesterday when I was in Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on theHill purchasing OTC medications at a Walgreen’s.

I should perhaps comment that this is a matter of necessity. We have no Walgreen’s in Greater Metropolitan Arab because the city conscript parents are only interested in attracting new residents and unhealthy businesses – like fast food/fast death franchises – to town. Their efforts have been highly successful: the mean number of obituaries in the Arab “news” rag have been steadily increasing and the mean age has been steadily decreasing. The effort seems to have hit a snag however, since some of the fast food emporia are themselves in danger of starving. 

I suspect their next act will be to contract out the school meal service to a fast food place, especially now that the fascists have a majority in the Yankee Congress. Or perhaps I should say the militant, capitalist fascists to differentiate them from the rabid, people’s paradise fascists. 

I also note that today is the fortieth anniversary of the “Star Wars” thingie.[Link] I call it a thingie not because it is a thing in the sense of matter but because I am never sure just what it is. Anyway, I know I do not like it because it is rather an outrageous lie. The story is supposedly about a peoples’ fight against government tyranny but is made ridiculous for the absolute acceptance of slavery. So inherently and destructively contradictory. But it persists because of the Bogs. Or at least that sounds good although there are more than a few Geeks who recycle their micturations and are advocates of the idiocy. 

Meanwhile, I also noted that one of those militant, capitalist fascists has physically assaulted a reporter.[Link] Now I acknowledge that too many reporters are too aggressive and irritating but not to the point of beating them. Of course, given the flavor of politician in question it is probably noteworthy that the reporter in question was neither discorporated, permanently crippled, or cast into prison awaiting execution for lese majeste.

And Monday is a day of memory for those who served in the military. All this rather makes you wonder why?

On the Imprisonment of Electrons

One of my colleagues, an academic Velocity Spin Angular Momentum, has a tag line in her signature “No electrons were killed in the production of this email, but several were inconvenienced”. We have to expect humor like this from a feminist computer geek trapped teaching computers in a business college. 

I am reminded by it, however, that when we do things electronic, including saving emails, we are usually imprisoning electrons. Which led me to consider two matters in this regard.

The first, [Link] has to do with the relationship between updates and the recent WannaCry pogrom. I call it that because it was an organized execution of a social group. In this case, not Jews, or other religionists but, in a sense, atheists. 

Many of the aspects of computer geeks and nerds is that their attitude towards computers and matters computing has strong parallels to stupidstition and mythtrapping. They are a people set apart, exalted above the majority, and often disliked by that majority. As I have mentioned several times the difference seems to be that between a tool and a appliance.

The study bemoaned in the article talks about the faithful majority. It turns out what they are faithful to is not installing updates. IOW, their commitment to believing, no matter what, that their computer is an appliance and needs no maintenance, only replacement when it craps out.

All sorts of statistics are presented but they are not very convincing beyond some skillful artistic presentation. Apparently that minor difference is significant. Survival is once more razor thin. 

What bemused me about the survey is its bias. It is pro-appliance user. The attitude is that freedom from updates is something decreed by the deity. So their answer is the make updates unsensible. IOW, just sit back and let the deity take care of you. 

Very anti-vaccination, anti-soap, anti-knowledge, anti-freedom.

The bias extends to only including Winders users in their sample. This one is a bit smelly. The sample population is large enough that the probability of being comprised only of Winders users – no Apple, no Linux,,, – is vanishing small. Maybe not suddenly asphixiate when all the air in your room crowds into one corner but still so small as to prompt a special counsel.

And they all hate updating, to some degree. I understand that. I am almost always not thrilled by updates. The exception is when the previous update trashed something I need to use.  But I check for updates daily. Usually I let the update client in the OS do the checking but I don’t let it do automatic updating. Why? Because I have learned from experience that if X is updated and not Y at the same time, Z doesn’t work. So if X is in the update list and Y isn’t, the X update waits.

This is the situation in spades fro MegaHard. In the last twelve months they have released three (that I know of) system killing updates. They got fixed in a day or two (surprise! surprise!) but that didn’t help the pious who updated automatically and had to hire someone to bring their box back. 

Abandoning responsibility is a short road to loss of freedom. And maybe to gain of death. Think of updates as Listerine. Hate it, use it when it makes sense, and keep your teeth.

The second, [Link] is entitled “Ode to the Graphing Calculator.” It’s written by some tweener journalist who had to buy a “graphing” calculator in public schule. With lots of tears fro the pain and suffering of having to carry the thing and have to use it. Evidently finger enumeration is preferred.

I have scant sympathy except for knowing that what little chance this fellow had of learning any maths (and enjoying them) were vertically copulated (with mentally deteriorating STD) by the public schule system. Education by mandate is ineffective. And the public schules will never abandon it. 

So Tyson (“Chicken Man”) is right: “Good students learn in spite of bad teachers.” Or bad schule systems. 

I went through public schule in a different era. Parents held students and teachers responsible. And they were part of the process – regardless of whether the schule system wanted them to be or not. Fastest way to retire as a superintendent in those days was to get a dozen parents micturated. And the teachers were judged on how much the kids learned that the parents didn’t. None of this no science because we’re Conservative Reformed Shrub Druids. Kids were supposed to learn to analyze stuff for themselves. And make enlightened decisions. And standardized tests were a distraction, not a holy ritual. 

And we had no calculators. That’s an overstatement. The admin office had a tape adding machine. That was it. And from fifth grade on (ninth or tenth for most who did,) I had a slide rule. I got it as a Christmas holiday present from pushy parents (it was a fad that year) and I was precocious enough to learn how to use it on my own. Because my parents were at the taped adding machine level and wanted be to be more advanced. 

So I used a slide rule all through public schule. And all the way through college. And I drew graphs with graph paper and pencil and straight edge and French curve. I still do except I use a spreadsheet program. 

When I was a first year grad student the first battery powered portable (not fit in a pocket) calculators (four arithmetic operations) came into the marketplace. Only the rich kids had them; grad students didn’t have the coins. Food and rent and heat were higher priority. But we did have access to the schule’s Freiden calculators. No tape but you could crunch numbers and write them down preparatory to hand graphing,

About the same time, HP brought out their first portable nerd calculator, the HP-35. $375. That’s two months gross salary for a teaching assistant. So we still used slide rules.

When I was about to take my qualifying exams, HP brought out a third iteration, the HP-55. The Yankee Army of Occupation saw fit to issue me one for my work duties and allowed me to use it for other things not involving damage to the calculator like smashing nutmeats or loosening frozen machinery. I never used it in an exam. Why? Because it was too slow. Slide rule was faster. Risk avoidance. 

Years later I got a graphing calculator. Not a TI, which the author extols. Mostly because TI bought the standardize testing people. Not directly – baksheesh. That’s why the public schules adopted them instead of HP. That and the inability of the proletariat to learn how to use Reverse Polish Notation. That slowness of HP I mentioned? Still twice as fast as a TI because of RPN!

So no great love for TI. Lots of colleagues like. That’s fine. TI is like Unity to me. (See previous blot.) 

I never really learned to do graphs on a graphing calculator. Resolution too low. Only worked with nice functions. So when Lotus 1-2-3 came out I signed on immediately for “Instant Graphification.” I could mumble up numbers AND plot them. Pretty goodly. Especially if I had a laser printer. HP again. 

So I have no dog flesh in the graphing calculator thing. I prefer the number display. Got lots of calculators. One is a TI. Bought it to be able to converse with a colleague. 

HP isn’t as good as it used to be. My HP-35 (bought at a salvage sale) still works but the battery is goop and I have to stay withing reach of a wall. If it wasn’t an antique for my daughter to sell when I discorporate iot would be all I need except for vanity and whim. So I mostly use an HP-35S. And a couple of others. And despair of the demise of the calculator. The crap on my cellular telephone is not 90%, it’s 100%.

And I still think schule kids should have to learn to think and analyze and reason and decide. Not get tested on key pressing.

Another time I am glad to be ORF. And have a good calculator. And several good slide rules. And integral tables. 

So I may find the authors’ comments misplaced but not unattended. And bemoaned. 

Existence is Trying

Six Day. Week Out. No excursion to gym this morning because the capitalist poltroons are too money hungry to open at a reasonable hour. The only good is that it confirms the hospital proper is just as foul and incompetent.

As I was downloading Podcast Episodes this morning and moving onto my gym player, I came to reflect on things that are going away maybe, inspired by all the rot being emitted about the demise of the MP3. Presumably these are the same people who try to sell luxury paper plates. You know, the ones made of hand pressed paper with hand painted designs? Great market for such in Alibam. Or am I thinking about college athletic pornography souvenir plates?

My first thought was the supposed demise of Unity. As the one or three loyal readers of this blog know, and everyone else runs away from screaming in pain and horror, I am not a fan of Tile GUIs. In my mind, it is rather a toss-up whether Unity or the Winders X GUI is the worser. Certainly Gnome 3 has some redeeming value. And it is a bit offputting to me that Canonical has abandoned Unity for the latter. Is there actual rationality in the MegaHard of Linux? 

Of course, the actual MegaHard is not absent of rationality, at least the kind that is welded to greed and mental pathology. It’s the primary reason I keep rooting for ReactOS. 

I do not expect Unity to go into the night, quietly or otherwise. In a community that can support so many GUIs, including things like Budgie, Unity will continue. So when I found an article [Link] this morning about life after Unity I kept thinking that some group of dedicated independents would continue the GUI. That’s the nature of the Linux community; it turns stupidity and insanity into something constructive: the hope for humanity as it were. 

I personally do not like Unity. But I have other choices and I want to keep having choices. Which is why I detest MegaHard and their no choice dictatorship. Which is, in some sense, a mirror of Amerikan politics. Two parties, no choices.

Anyway, because I like choices I cannot (and do not) deny them to others. So I am in favor of Unity staying about so long as anyone wants to use it. (And yes, I am still micturated about Gnome 2 and about to be micturated about KDE 4.) 

Something perhaps similar is the current matter of public displays of Confederate veneration. I noted that New Orleans, the home of freedom of sin, is removing its Confederate memorialization statuary. I also noted [Link] that Alibam has gone the opposite direction and posted militia units and ambulance chasers around all such. The matter is deeply divisive and at the root of contemporary political differences.

As a matter of illustration, It takes me about twenty minutes to drive from my domicile Castellum SCP here in Greater Metropolitan Arab to the southronmost point of Huntsville just past the Whitesburg bridge across the Tennessee river and I will observe at least a dozen flagpoles flying the battle flag of the Confederate States Army. About half of these are private (?) residences but the other half are businesses. Apparently, in Alibam, displaying a battle flag improves cash flow. Clausewitz would marvel and write a chapter were he alive today?

I do not object to this so long as it does not restrict my freedom. It does. The people who do this tend to be insecure and express their insecurity with violence. And the constabulary, especially the politically elected kind, are loathe to even consider being in the area much less enforcing law. 

But it is basically amusing. Indicative, I fear, of the general distribution of rationality and intelligence in Alibam that the flag displayed would be a battle flag. Reason and a brief knowledge of history such as is supposed to be conveyed by the third grade in Alibam public schules would seem to show that the proper flag to be displayed would be the Confederate national flag. But for some reason that flag holds no attraction to these people.

In sum, The World Wonders.

Similarly, another thing going away is medical insurance. The politicians seem to now be back on their outlook that nothing is to be denied them but everything to their constituencies. Except those who are richer than the politicians. What doesn’t seem to occur to them is that taking away well being and life is a form of tyranny in the sense of disposing of freedom. The freedom to die is, happily?, not being infringed, and given the nature of the actions of government perhaps a good thing. 

On the positive side, we read [Link] of the first imprisoned birth of a Humboldt penguin chick  in a decade. The beast has been named Fluffy McFluffyface which not only displays some sort of strange naming custom in England but also the sad nature of many things including the rather nauseating and hemorrhoidal names being foisted on infants these days. It used to be that the offspring of the so-called “dirt poor” were blessed with names like “Smut” or “Phrobizher”. Now it seems universal, perhaps reflecting that everyone – except politicians – think they are “dirt poor.”

It is also saddening that a significant fraction of the population of several (too many) endangered species are inmates of zoos and torture corporations. So perhaps that discontinuance of medical insurance will be good for the planet?

 Perhaps the only reason humanity survives is for the humor value?