Cleaning out tabs. Ran across one [Link] entitled “Coding is not ‘fun’, it’s technically and ethically complex” and was a bit offput by it. I noticed the author is located in Italy so this may be an Italian/European thing.

The guy is railing against the fun/easy thing being propagandized by a lot of Geek Leaders. Notably Fruit Folk. The article states that

“Unfortunately, this rosy portrait bears no relation to reality. For starters, the profile of a programmer’s mind is pretty uncommon. As well as being highly analytical and creative, software developers need almost superhuman focus to manage the complexity of their tasks. Manic attention to detail is a must; slovenliness is verboten. Attaining this level of concentration requires a state of mind called being ‘in the flow’, a quasi-symbiotic relationship between human and machine that improves performance and motivation.”

which is largely Stercus Tauri. (To use an Italian language.)

Yes, programming is rather strictly grammatical. In fact it is the strictest in a grammar sense but there is still plenty of wiggle room to abuse the grammar. The reason for this is fairly simple. Compilers aren’t very smart. The strictness has to do with the conversion of conversation – code – into executable.

Second, the mind set isn’t that uncommon. When I was an undergrad, almost all STEMs learned how to code. (The notable exceptions were biologists and boundary people like anthropologists and psychologists.) So unless the author thinks STEM skills ate rare, coding mindset isn’t uncommon. Disciplined, maybe, but not uncommon.

Is it fun? It is for me. Yes, it is frustrating but when the code runs there is an adrenalin rush that is indistinguishable from fun. It’s also soothing and enveloping. A sort of womb thing.

Ethically challenging? Is this one of those science fiction “Is there a God?” things? If you’re a back-to-nature kill off the human rave to hunter-gatherer levels arealist than maybe, but not otherwise. At least based on the author’s arguments. Which are sparse and vapid.


Maker Mumble

One day. Back to gym. Sparse but with a couple of educationalists. The stalwarts. So school is resessioned. 

I find the behavior of educationalists a bit confusing, at least as much as engaging. Some years ago there were a half-dozen who came regularly at opening but now that number is halved and two, at least, of them are administrators.

One always wonders if educationalists are promoted administrator because of how good they are or how bad?

The podcast was an episode of the CBC’s “Best of Ideas” on creativity. The primary thing I gained from listening was that the academics trying to differentiate and measure creativity were severely limited in what they could observe and measure. The examples given were all word games played quickly. 

I have to admit that I found the basic ideas of these games unengaging and even repellant. Language is less than fully consistent, much less than maths, so these games fail to pass my so-what testing for creativity. Maybe like artists, but not like STEM nerds. Not that artists aren’t creative, but I don’t value their creativity very much. Mostly because it is so different from mine.

And yes, I am terrible at drawing, much worse at paining or sculpting. About all I can relate to artists’ creativity is when we share emotional experiences. The creativity and its experiences are VERY different, but there are some commonalities among the emotions. And some of the thinking. Not the subjects, of course, but some of the processes.

I tend to be slow. Some of my creative cycles have run more than forty years. Not constant, mind you, But the thread or theme or whatever has been that long. 

My first independent creation after I got kicked out of grad school took three years. 

So I am not a fast creator. Which probably has something to do with my disinterest in the games.

And why I mistrust the investigators.

Tunnel Light?

Seven day. The weather beavers foretell it to be less miserable than the last two but this morning’s constitutional was less than satisfying.

It did however, give me some mind space to reflect on the human propensity for applying Ising models based on irrational grounds. That is, our great addiction to characterizing some aspect of life/society/… in terms of a two-state model. I suspect this is a manifestation of constantly seeking nonexistent simplicity.

The intermediary step leading to this cogitation was a reflection on how “life” is seen as either an “adventure” or a “burden”. Both seem strongly to reflect deep delusion on the parts of those who embrace either fantasy. Contrary to religionists and epicureans, life does have meaning and it is horribly degrading to a supposedly intelligent species, namely, that our purpose is propagation. Anything else is entrained debris. 

The initial phase was reading an article [Link] entitled “Do students lose depth in digital reading?” There have been a lot of articles dealing with this and related subjects but this one has the merit of actually coming close to saying something of value. I offer a few quotes from the article:

“One study let students choose how much time to spend when reading on each platform. The researchers found that participants devoted less time to reading the passage onscreen – and performed less well on the subsequent comprehension test.”


“Print stood out as the medium for doing serious work.”

This is as close as we seem to have gotten to something actually useful in these media studies. The practical formula offered is that for time wasting reading – what I have labeled as airplane trash intended to consume the time spent traveling in an intellectually vacuous environment punctuated at each end by significant probability of death or dismemberment – electronics are better, but for real effort, paper is better.

I still suspect there is a wonderful middle ground for things like integral tables and handbooks where we are serious but impulsive. These should, I think, still be better served by electronics where we are freed from the burden of toting massive tomes that are > 0.9999 irrelevant to our immediate needs.

Now if someone could do something equivalent for note taking. 

Four Day. Very Sparse Gym. And part of a podcast episode of “Linux Luddites.” The only negative was the stand-in clerk who is still inflicting her pornography television on the membership. But I had good podcast to divert.

Speaking of diversion, I ran across an article [Link] entitled “10 Things You Should Know About Work by the Time You’re 30” the other day and in my inimitable way, I had to comment. I should start by saying that I knew some of these already but probably didn;t learn them by the time I was thirty mostly because of graduate schule. I comment further in the usual way.

How to talk to people much more senior than you. This one is actually easy. You talk to them like you would to out-of-group people. Communication is two-way so if they don;t understand something, they have the obligation to tell you. So don’t go overboard. And keep your cool. And if they’re insufferably arrogant, stop talking. Walking away is good but often impossible.


How to respond to critical feedback. Two ways to handle this. Quit your job right there and then. If that isn’t possible then change your ways.

How to negotiate salary when you get a job offer. Ha ha! Not even minimally possible when you work for a government, especially the Yankee government. They’ll tell you the grade and you decide to live with or walk.

How to figure out the market rate for your work. Also a ha ha! Ain’t no market rate for YG service. It’s what OPM dictates.

How to run a meeting. Huh? This is a trivial. Read a couple of articles and you’ve got it. What is hard is attending meetings. The thing you need to learn is which meetings to attend (or rather, not attend.) and how to behave in those meetings. As my first boss told be”Never bother with a meeting where you aren’t given more responsibility or money.” When I got to be supervisor I learned there were also meetings that were socially obligatory.

How to have a difficult conversation. How to stand up for yourself politely and professionally. What you’re good at and what you’re not so good at. This depends on your temperament. If you’re an introvert, don;t bother to try. You’ll never learn. What’s important here is the last bit. Learn what you can’t do. That is, the things you always fail spectacularly at. And be frank about telling your boss up front when you are assigned one of those things. (See below on vertical copulation.)

What to do when you make a mistake. Own up to it. This one is simple. If it’s a real doozie blame is going to come down the chain and you want to make sure you own it if it’s yours. Partly so that when it isn’t you can be indignant convincingly, but mostly so your boss doesn’t want to hang you with your intestines. Besides, if you own up to vertical copulation you get at least as many mana points as if you did wonderful. (Except from bosses that you don;t want to keep working for.)

Your reputation matters. Agreed. But you need to figure out what kind of reputation you want and how to get to it. The best reputation to have is one of doing super on hard tasks and poorly on easy or dull ones. That way you get to be n’kosi instead of rat catcher.

The textbook answers are on the WS.

Clerk’s Porn and Thoughting

One day again. Back to gym. The usual clerk is on vacation and the fill-in is more than a bit inadequate. For example, all of the television monitors were tuned to different forms of pornography, mostly sports, exercise, and political. I had to hunker down to avoid the nausea and listen to a mediocre podcast episode of the CBC’s “Best of Ideas” showcasing some bible-thumping journalist decrying the evils of war. The whole bit rather came across as self-serving because I could plumb nothing the fellow did as actually having any effect.

On a more positive note the situation was not quite inimical to thought so I did and came up with a couple of gens:

“Bogs usually confuse reasoning with laziness.”


“Science has an aspect of compulsion. It is not enough for experimental data to be statistically sound, they must also be compelling.”

The first flowed from an earlier (yesterday?) blot on the difference between nerd and geek and the continuing difficulty of describing the excluded third state. The second came from a continued reading of Steve Weinberg’s history of science book.

On which note, I ran across some time ago a transcript [Link] of a James Gleick “Big Think” presentations entitled “The Common Character Traits of Geniuses.” If the transcript:

“How Isaac Newton and Richard Feynman were different?

Posted on Jan 16, 2016


Transcript — I’m tempted to say smart, creative people have no particularly different set of character traits than the rest of us except for being smart and creative, and those being character traits. Then, on the other hand, I wrote a biography of Richard Feynman and a biography of Isaac Newton. Now, there are two great scientific geniuses whose characters were in some superficial ways completely different. Isaac Newton was solitary, antisocial, I think unpleasant, bitter, fought with his friends as much as with his enemies. Richard Feynman was gregarious, funny, a great dancer, loved women. Isaac Newton, I believe, never had sex. Richard Feynman, I believe, had plenty. So you can’t generalize there.

On the other hand, they were both, as I tried to get in their heads, understand their minds, the nature of their genius, I sort of felt I was seeing things that they had in common, and they were things that had to do with aloneness. Newton was much more obviously alone than Feynman, but Feynman didn’t particularly work well with others. He was known as a great teacher, but he wasn’t a great teacher, I don’t think, one on one. I think he was a great lecturer. I think he was a great communicator. But when it came time to make the great discoveries of science, he was alone in his head. Now, when I say he, I mean both Feynman and Newton, and this applies, also, I think, to the geniuses that I write about in The Information, Charles Babbage, Alan Turing, Ada Byron. They all had the ability to concentrate with a sort of intensity that is hard for mortals like me to grasp, a kind of passion for abstraction that doesn’t lend itself to easy communication, I don’t think.”

is indicative of what he said then he must talk VERY slowly for that to be two and a half minutes of spoken.

I wasn’t surprised by the “aloneness” except that he found it noteworthy. It’s common to most nerds and many geeks. It’s rare among bogs since they are either real EXTROs or fake EXTROs. In the main. It’s not just an introvert thing. It’s also a thing about understanding. You don’t understand stuff by always being in a people din. The intelligence of a group usually scales as the square root of the number of people. If you have two people in a group then it has the collected intelligence of (about ) 1.4 individuals. So the mean intelligence in a group of two is 0.7 of a solitary. And that’s the best you can do in a group. 

Aloneness, in my experience, isn’t a characteristic of genius but of people who think and try to understand. But maybe Gleick thinks these people are geniuses? Maybe they are?


Constructive Survival

Sixth Day. Rained in the night. Moderately better this morning than yesterday. More conducive to cogitation. 

I forget what kicked it off but I ended up mostly thinking about constructive contribution to the continuance of the species. Occurred to me that almost all of humanity doesn’t. Or hasn’t, at least. Can’t remember any of my relatives who I can honestly adjudge to have done so. Few friends and colleagues. Of course those who help those who contribute are also contributing in a weaker sense.

I feel guilty to have not done more. Which raises the question of how do those who have contributed nothing, especially by participating in negative organizations, stand themselves. Evidently part of being human is not caring about humanity.

One aspect of this is whether religionist organizations are constructive? I am not sure. In fact, I lean to the view that most are not. Especially the ones who are only worried about their organization exclusively. Which gets almost all in the old Confederacy.

Anyway, on the semi-positive (unsure) side I came up with

“Social Reality is made up of two sets of components: the basic, unchanging bits that we seem to understand pretty well; and the evolving, emergent bits that we seem incapable of understanding.”

And then I dropped it because it wasn’t obvious that considering this was itself constructive.

If I can stay away. Unsolved problems are addictive.