Reading Tyranny

This afternoon, I ran across an article [Link] entitled “13 books from high school worth rereading as an adult.” Having survived the stress of navigating Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill, in and around the recent resessioning of the public (and private?) schules, I was strung tight and skimmed through the article.

The list of the 13 books is:

  1. THE JUNGLE – UPTON SINCLAIR
  2. THINGS FALL APART — CHINUA ACHEBE
  3. THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK
  4. LORD OF THE FLIES — WILLIAM GOLDING
  5. THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD — ZORA NEALE HURSTON
  6. 1984 — GEORGE ORWELL
  7. BELOVED — TONI MORRISON
  8. GIOVANNI’S ROOM — JAMES BALDWIN
  9. FRANKENSTEIN — MARY SHELLEY
  10. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD — HARPER LEE
  11. FAHRENHEIT 451 — RAY BRADBURY
  12. ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE — GABRIEL GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ
  13. THE HANDMAID’S TALE — MARGARET ATWOOD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have to admit that it was the high schule teaser more than anything that cemented my attention. I have written previously about the nature of public education in Huntsville in the early ’60’s and how the better teachers were the ones without educational credentials. Some of the teachers, notably the teachers of grammar and literature did have educational credential because they were (almost) universally women and they were realists (at least in this regard) who knew the scant (vanishingly so) chances of making a living doing literature or syntax other than as a school teacher. 

At the wrong end of over a half-century of Newtonian time, I have to admit to remembering few books assigned to be read in high school. One was “Moll Flanders” and it was assigned in a literature class. I can admit that I missed almost everything in the book because it was too orthogonal to my reality and too unengaging for my memory. I did learn some bits from the movie, and I have to also admit that I was too uninterested to even bother with the available cram books on this book. Quite frankly, if it wasn’t a science book or a science fiction book, my head wasn’t present in those days. In matter of fact, in retrospect, I likely was part of the majority since almost all the book reading assignments were student’s choice. In this azimuth, I remember Philip Jose Farmer’s “Dare” and struggling to ignore the parts that were too racy for Containment Amerika and the relief that the teacher either hadn’t read the book (probability of order 0.99) or at least didn’t call me out.

In terms of majority, many of my friends in high schule and college were of similar mind; we wanted even our fiction to be substantiated in reasonableness, if not fact. And too much of the literature offered by our literature teachers and non-NERD fellows just plain wasn’t. If anything, we practiced a depth of skepticism well beyond our years. 

I don’t know how many of these books (above) were written after my high schule years. I can admit to reading a few:

  • The Jungle – wasn’t assigned but I was intrigued by a reference to it in our high schule American history textbook;
  • 1984 – I don’t recall when I read it, I think in college and then because it was recommended by a fellow student. Anyway, I have a distrust for IOT to this day;
  • Fahrenheit 451 – I tried to read this. I failed. Totally orthogonal.

I have to admit to having heard of about half of the others, and trying to read them years later but failing. The universal seemed to be struggling to read the first chapter, putting the book down, and some time later disposing of it by returning to the library or giving it away or trading it at a used book store.

I also don’t blame the authors. My attention is quite narrow and definitely not biddable under many circumstances. I still marvel that I survived public schule. Between information throttling and dilution I still feel like a piece of Damascus steel. 

This is one of the things that makes me glad I am ORF. I know the curriculum in public schools is much more totalitarian and less tolerant than in my day. And I weep for people who are INTRO and NERD. 

And no, I still don’t expect to get anything out of re-reading those schule books. I’ll stick to simple stuff like physics and maths. In my mind, no one today can match the compositions of McCracken or Ruel Churchill, but I keep looking. 

 

Tardigrades in Space

The Repulsians are going to take away their own firearms?

Is this a massive maskarovka project on the part of the Repulsians or have they discovered that it is only a short step for the whackadoodles to go from brown skinned (possibly) illegals to suited thieves? 

I’m not going to comment further on this since I have already agreed with Chicken Man (aka Neil deGrasse Tyson) who rightly identifies the problem as something other than discorporation. In my mind it somehow equates to the British practice of occupying towns with troops – and occasionally having a one-sided brawl with some of the inhabitants thereof. Like the recent (?) incident in Boston. 

I could go on to mimic Chicken Man and talk about how minuscule the effects of abortion are since the probability of any child being critical to society is less than 10EXP-6. Not that I am advocating killing pre-humans, but I think that is a decision for the primary parent-to-be and negating that decision making is helping to assure the extinction of the species. By reducing our moral fiber. I know the religionists will cry it’s a sin but isn’t the negation of free will a larger one? Not that I have any idea how to measure either and transcend linguistic badinage.

I have said before that the best argument – to my INTRO STEM brain, at least – for the free and open purchase of firearms is their inefficiency and ineffectiveness. (And I won’t dwell on the latter in detail) Lest the whackadoodles with actual cognitive and learning capacity brew up their own weapons of wider destruction. (I hate the social and governmental misuse of “weapons of mass destruction” since none of what they include other than nuclear devices actually ‘destroy’ mass.) But do we really want incidents where all the folks in the MalWart are killed?  And have to Chernobyl the ground for a millennium? Or is that question too hard for the brain deteriorated mystics? 

On which azimuth, I was asked by a colleague – Displacement Current Magnetic Field – whether it was possible to deprecate decry anyone without being “racist?” I have been considering this and have noticed several factors. One is that there is a bifurcation: simply put, “race” is a false – as demonstrated by scientific validation – concept and hence any “racist” comment is inherent void; but many BOGs (and a few GEEKs and NERDs) still subscribe to the idea of race and hence give it a social “reality” which is for that population more “real” than actual reality. Which they will experience as climate change exterminates the human species.

Because of that social reality, racism is pseudo-real but nonetheless potent. And in that regard, since race is a totally false concept, any distinction between the self and others – the ultimate reduction of Us-And-Them to Me-And-Thee – is racist and thus any criticism of anyone other than an identical (as in genetically) sibling is inherent racist. But because of that universality, also completely meaningless and impotent.

Which is probably an accurate description of both this blot and humanity. 

Atomic Ink Wells

Back in the late ’50’s and early ’60’s, I grew up reading Popular Mechanics and Popular Science. (In the next decade, I read Scientific American, ANALOG, and various refereed journals.) In those days that had a higher tone than they do now, which is surprising considering the fraction of the American population with college degrees then and now.

Anyway, I ran across an article [Link] this morning entitled “Tech-enabled notebooks that are actually better than pen and paper” that I couldn’t help finding biased and just plain whacked.

The basic thesis of the article was that these “high-tech” notebooks and their accompanying writing instrument are superior to conventional dead trees and pens (or pencils) actually engineered for human beings and writing. What is amazing is that this charade seems to be debunk immune.

I;ve written about the pens before. Those pens were designed with an electromagnetic system embedded so that the motion of writing was transmitted to a box that decoded them into letters and stored same. Those pens were hideously uncomfortable to write with, thus compromising both the cursive and the composition, the decoder was erratic and inaccurate, and the actual pen part was the worst possible – a ball point that assured uneven inking and erratic writing obstruction.

The new combination are – for the most part – a bit better. Now the technology is transferred to the notebook: the pages are designed to be copied (in a scanner) and then – usually – heated in a microwave to decompose the ink. The problem with this is that the ink is not very good and the notebooks are hideously expensive, usually of the order of a year’s (or more) worth of conventional paper notebooks. And if one inadvertently leaves the notebook in full sunlight……

This seems to me to be a technology akin to the jet pack. Everyone wants a jet-pack until they learn it will either burn their nether regions or have an adverse effect the wearer’s reproductive vitality. And carrying anything along larger than a pants pocket will hold is problematic. But we all – a lot, at least – want a jet-pack to commute to work. Quite ignoring thunderstorms and how the flights will be safe in any fashion, especially traffic control. We have wanted a jet-pack since I was a kid and we are still waiting. 

The same for a new note-taking system. Voice recognition is still hideously inaccurate. Keyboard note-taking is a disaster, even for just words. Add in equations and figures and the keyboard becomes a noose or quicksand. This combination of magic paper and enchanted ink is much the same. It is still dependent on what technology struggles with – coping with humans. And fails thereby.

So stick to a good pen with smooth feed and smoothly flowing ink that dries rapidly on long lifetime paper in a well bound notebook. And develop a secondary note-taking habit to catalog. It’s old, dating back as long as the agricultural revolution, but it works as nothing else does.

IMHO. 

Words to live by

Yesterday, Mr. Muller testified to two Congressional committees. I have read several articles. e.g. [Link] and ALL of them have completely missed the mark. In fact, I have to wonder just what the journalists were doing other than attending the testimony.

I have to admit that I only watched a couple of hours of the testimony. I had existence things to take care of, but I got to see enough of each committee’s interaction to note an absolute consistency. IOW, the standard deviation is zero. Delta function.

Simply put, Mr. Muller owned the room, to use the contemporary vernacular. What was going on was always under his control and the agenda being implemented was his.

What was displayed was a man of utter integrity with deep principles and unswerving dedication. For once in a TOO long time, I was proud yesterday to be an American.

What was also displayed was the callous, dishonest, ineptness, even incompetence, of our elected officials. Of both parties. Admittendly there were a few, occasional glimmers of eptness and competence, but always fleeting. Regardless of whether Republican myrmidon or Democratic dilettante.

Put in more succinct terms, what we saw yesterday was a mensch in a sea of ferds. 

Now we can watch the upcoming bumbler scrum.

False Frame

I came across an article [Link] entitled “Richard Feynman was wrong about beauty and truth in science” written by an academic philosopher (is that redundant? are there industrial or governmental philosophers?) named Massimo Pigliucci. He argues that Feynman was wrong that we can recognize truth by its beauty and simplicity. The author quotes this but offers no primary source so I am going to be unacademical since that is basically the thing to be advanced.

Professor Pigliucci’s argument is good except for one thing, at least to me. He and Feynman are using different meanings for “truth.”

Back when I was an undergraduate at the Campus of the Black Warrior, I took a philosophy track. The courses were a two semester survey of philosophy, sort of a historical thing that started with the atomists and continued into the Twentieth Century. As is common with such courses, we ran out of term in the middle of the Nineteenth Century. The professor was a defrocked Baptist minister who had a great relish for science, in my estimation from testability envy since philosophy has no real way of establishing accuracy.

This is the crux of the “truth” problem. Philosophers are rather keen on truth although with rather more depth than either religionists or justicers, both of whom seem to think truth being some self-evident quality of Nature. The problem is that science isn’t about truth; it’s about accuracy and understanding. 

These days, scientists, especially physicists, are dropping the use of the term “truth.” At least the ones who aren’t overly occupied with what is contemporarily called “outreach,” which is trying to teach science to the “general public.” Example in case is Neil deGrasse Tyson who says “truth” a lot and elicits lots of groans and cringes from scientists who don’t like to use the word. 

This is a relatively new thing. Back when I went through school, scientists were talking about “truth” while meaning accuracy and understanding. But religiosity was rather more tolerated in those days despite widespread persecution. But in those days, there were no beheadings. 

In my mind, the argument offered by Professor Pigliucci, while a good one, is essentially void since what he means by “truth” and what Feynman meant by “truth” are two different things. I hate that Pigluicci wasted his time on this because he has good ideas. But just as philosophers think scientists are horrible at philosophy, it may also be that philosophers are horrible at science? 

 

Trophy

A completely useless piece of kitsch presented to you for being the best at something absolutely meaningless.

As opposed to a medal which is a cheap token presented to you for doing something absolutely magnificent.

Makes you wonder about our priorities as a society, doesn’t it?

In Search of Stercus Tauri

One of the great scams of today is “Gene Modification,” or rather, the absence thereof.

For example, I received an e-mail from a food vendor [Link] that proclaimed:

The cruel fact is that EVERY chicken that exists on Tellus these days is Gene Modified. There are no, to my knowledge, original, unbred (and hence, unmodified) chickens. 

So when a grocer or butcher tells you something hasn’t been Genetically Modified, you can rest assured that they are prevaricating.

It isn’t just Pols, it’s also Capitalists.