Pet Peeve Now!

Ran across an article [Link] entitled “Skulls reveal Neanderthals, humans had similarly harsh lives” this morning. Spiked my composition hemorrhoids. 

Basically, Neandertals – Homo Neandertalensis – are Human! That’s what the “Homo” means. And I get tired of journalists and bogs, in general, saying our ancestors of genus Homo weren’t human.

Ex Oram ab Bog, Stercus!

Tome Tomb?

Having sat shiva for Sears, I am beginning to wonder if I need to do the same for books?

When I was a bairn, books were easy to find. My parents bought me all sorts of Golden books and several sets of encyclopedias. And I plowed my way through them, often to the annoyance of my parents at seeing these expensive books read so rapidly and engendering such uncomfortable questions.

When I finished those, I moved on to my parents’ books, which engendered more annoyance. School was no tonic as my school books rarely lasted past the first week of school. Which led to annoyance with the teachers.

So then I started visiting the public library three times a week. And at the age of eleven or so kicked upstairs to the adult section, having depleted the children’s section amidst complaints on the lack of new books.

The elevation caused great annoyance among the librarians since they were concerned I would discover the city’s collection of smut.

High schule was a mixed blessing. I could not drive myself but the teachers were annoyed over the questions not covered by the texts.

College was a mitzvah. The Amelia Gayle Gorgas library was wonderful and I discovered science fiction. Good books were everywhere, well composed with good story lines.

Sadly that seems to be gone. Science fiction has become formulaic and composed at the fifth grade level with numerous third grade fallacies. And the technical books are worse. It used to be that technical books were as well composed as novels with exceptional examples such as Halliday and Resnick’s physics books and Ruel Churchill’s books on maths. Nowadays the technical books are as poorly composed as the novels. And with about as much information conveyed.

Has STEM become a sewer?

Sears Shiva

“Let us sit about and tell sad tales of the deaths of kings.” Billy Rattlelance. I forget which play. But the meaning seems clear. And quite appropriate to Sears.

I have had a Freudian association with Sears for years. When I was a bairn, Sears, along with Belk, Hudson, was a place my family went to equip ourselves. For many years my father bought his tools exclusively at Sears. That was back when they had very good quality tools and they had a lifetime guarantee. Which cost them a lot of money the way my father abused his tools – he was one of those “git er dun’ types – and was always taking them back for replacement. 

I recall in my adolescence that Sears was one of two store in Huntsville that sold slide rules. Of course, they were Pickett slide rules, made of aluminium. That was the beginning of the hate side of the Freudian association.

When I went off to college, I continued to shop at Sears. The only difference was that it was the one in the city of the Black Warrior. I recall that even in the ’60’s that the parking was abysmal. And the clerks treated the college students worse than the African-Americans. Which is saying something given the Alibam racism in those days. 

And yes, Virginia, the racism has abated a bit since then, except for people who used to be Chief Justicar of Alibam. 

The love side reached its peak when I moved Nawth to the campus of the Boneyard. My very existence depended on the Urbana Sears. That was where I could go to get winter gear that was necessary whenever I left a schule building. I quickly discovered that what was sold in a Sears store was geographic. And the Yankee stores had better stuff than the Southron stores.

When I left the campus of the Boneyard for the campus of the Tennessee, I managed to find a way to continue getting Yankee Sears catalogs for several years. This was important since when I got to the campus of the Tennessee, the Huntsville store had gone way down hill. While I was off in the MidWest, the Sears body had begun to rot.

In the following years, the rot intensified. First they closed the old Sears on the edge of downtown and moved it out to the wasteland between Huntsville and Athens. And the tools became stercus. And people quit shopping there. Not at once, but over thirty years.

Now I live in Greater Metropolitan Arab. The Sears store is locally owned. I am sorry for the owners and their employees. But we haven’t bought much there. It’s too small and what they sell is too orthogonal to our lives. 

When I was in grad schule, one of my few diversions was reading ANALOG science fiction magazine. It had a fact article or two each month and I recall one that helped me greater with being a manager. This article talked about the life cycle of organizations. It seems that most organizations go through three phases. The first phase is initiation, which is done by people who have technical competence in whatever the organization does. The second phase is growth, which is done by people who are “professional” managers. The third phase is demise, which is done by people who are accountants. 

A parallel with human dementia is appropriate. 

In effect, Sears rotted to death. It lost sight of what it needed to do and be and just worried about money. And so it died. From lack of money.

There’s a moral there and I am sure that Shakespeare said something about that. But all I know is that you can’t buy slide rules any more.

In Media Res

I am a Linuxian. That doesn’t mean I consider myself a citizen of some imaginary country but in a sense, Linux is a nation. The people who use Linux are generally of different stuff than those who use Winders or AppleOS (whatever it is called.) For many, the difference is between that of a free human and that of a bound human, either serf or slave.

Recently, there has been a great deal of attention spent on the retreat (in a spiritual sense) of the founding father of Linux, Linux Torvalds, from his role are First Coder. The association considered here should be more that of Asimov’s “Foundation” series than the dictatorial idea of “First Citizen.”

Now I need to strike a metaphor: FaceScroll is a battle ground. The battle is “fought” between those who believe good syntax usage is an obligation of being human and intelligent and those who believe syntax is discretionary and situational. The metaphor I want to strike is that almost all of these people are adequately human to be considered good. Only the extremes: those who think syntax irrelevant and that anyone should be able to understand them if they shout loudly enough; and those who consider others who do not meet their standards of syntax to be subhuman; are evil and of questionable humanity.

Of all human languages, computer languages are the most exacting when it comes to syntax. In a sense, this is good because if something doesn’t work, its syntax is a failure; it it works then the syntax is good.

The problem with this is that even with this razor’s edge of functionality, the variation of good enough is subject to the subjectivity of not-good-enough-for-me and over-exacting-as-error.

Each human being is a battle ground. What is good and bad is a constant conflict being redefined. Some of us are diligent  in this pursuit; others over and under do it. Some of us remain forever frozen in our conceits and some of us are able to renormalize ourselves and our world views and actions.

None of this establishes what is good and what bad, but it does give us a model of human behavior. And often it is best if we stay in the middle of the distribution.

Learning Land Lacks

Week out. The day has dawned with a brief trip to gym – because the sassenach will be absent on OneDay just because they can – where I was inundated with television coverage of McCain’s rituals in the District. 

The only member of the current administration visible was SecDef. 

Rather says something about the extinction of cooperation in government, doesn’t it?

Which brings me to an article [Link] entitled “Apple, Google, et al. Strike a Blow against the College Cartel” which is basically a love story about big corporations discontinuing requirements of a college degree for certain levels of positions. 

The reason given for this is that people with college degrees have expectations that are too high. In effect, college graduates are too temperamental and demanding. And not grateful enough.

Most of these positions are barely minimum wage +. 

Ain’t surprising. 

In my day, anyone who got a real degree had a leg up on getting a job. That was back when the fraction of the age cohort who got degrees was less than 0.2.

The exception was people who got degrees in liberal arts. The only thing a degree in art history was good for was selling art book in an art museum. Maybe.

It’s still that way. Get a degree in business or STEM and you know something and probably know how to learn. And maybe can learn to compete. 

Art history or similar? Still stercus. 

Even in my day, most entry jobs didn’t need someone with a degree. But they were gatekeeper positions, to determine if the person was worth keeping and growing.

Companies don’t care much about growing any more, just making more money from a person than they have to pay them. 

So the mismatch is two sided. On the corporate side, they want a monkey who can type. And the monkeys want gold because they have a “degree.” (n.b. “Monkey” here is metaphorical and has nothing to do with skin hue or facial features.) 

What does this have to do with the political situation? Well, a bit. That’s because what the corporations really want is the renewal of chattel slavery: people who work for nothing. 

It’s not a good time, is it?