Preachy Science 1

More direness this week. Down hill in temperature according to the prophecies of the weather beavers. Why don’t they wear regalia? You know, miters and such? I won’t even breach the idea of cardioectomies.

The gym was dense this morning and the grunting weight bouncers were in a fully bullying mood. Happily I could exit expeditiously.

I was in mind of a cartoon:[Link]

I saw some time ago. I was rather taken by the idea of "preachy science junk". Rather definitive of a bog, eh, what? This cartoon lass should make an excellent (in context) politician when she reaches majority – chronological, that is.

Sadly, this seems to be the mode these days as society, especially Amerikan, is in a lemming rush to collapse and extinction.

Have a nice mundane day,

Composing Above Onself

Nice so far. The air temperature was above 40 degF so I was able to comply with the guidance of my cardiologist and go to the park for constitutional. As is usual my head got chilled ("cold") despite ear coverings and a hat, and my back ached, the latter from long absence. I got to listen to the conclusion of a "Pen Addict" podcast which was again rather concerned about notebooks, although this time less noxiously than last, and more constructively, and thus led me to consider a matter suggested me by my colleague, Magnetic Inductance Force, sharing this cartoon: [Link]

with me. Of course the cartoonist portrayed this from his standpoint as an artist but those of us who compose have a similar problem.

Basically, that problem is deciding to use a "good" notebook for notes that one rather suspects – fears – are unworthy of the notebook. An unused notebook is a thing of majesty and presence, empty it seems nothing is worthy of altering that majesty and presence. This translates into an insecurity that anything we may have to compose is unworthy of the notebook and hence we tend to use crappy notebooks when we have many excellent notebooks that we treat as religionist virgins, as holy coprolites.

I used to think of this as a cost thing but now that class notebooks cost several dollars, even at the student store, I have come to question why this speed bump exists.

I have questioned other colleagues who compose; most of us do; and they all have this situation in some form. There is variation but less than the commonality. There is some indication that this is an INTRO thing; the EXTROs seem to suffer this less, which seems to go with their delusions of excellence. Which are often unfounded and always warped. They also participate in the perversion of spectator sports.

I have experimented with the idea that this is partly hubris, that if one uses an impressive notebook that is the same as assuming its contents will be impressive as well. This is clearly irrational but then we humans are cancerous with such.

The World Wonders.


Into week out and "typical" weather persists. Minorly below the dihydrogen oxide phase shift temperature this morning. And no further insights from podcasts except don’t try Trisquel (sp?)

I ran across this cartoon: [Link]

and was rather bemused by it.

I keep getting encouraged to learn a new programming language. The most common mentioned is PYTHON since there is a scientific version of it. Complete with all sorts of libraries of maths routines that are singularly opaque and thus from my standpoint, not very trustable. I have even gone so far as to get a couple of texts on the language but so far not much progress.

I have to admit that I don’t do much coding. Maybe a couple of programs a month. They tend to be fairly simple but more complicated than I can crunch in a spreadsheet. That’s the only merit of MegaHard’s EXCEL. You could code in it. That took care of 0.9 of my needs. But when I switched to Linux after I retired, I found that the FOSS spreadsheets were singularly deficient and the PASCAL compiler environments decidedly unBorland. So I went back to FORTRAN. Took me a day to get back to coding after a twenty-something year lapse. That’s a strong selling point of the language.

I have decided that one of the reasons I am almost uninterested in learning a new language is because the types of coding that most people do these days are of negative appeal. I have no desire to code web pages, or GUI interfaces. My interests lie exclusively – almost – in crunching numbers. Of course I need to analyze those numbers but there are lots of quite useful and adequate plotting and analysis clients available in Linux repositories.

Clearly, being retired removes the motivation of employment. Not that I would make an employable coder. I am too much a product of my times. I am a nerd first and a coder second. I went through college when you couldn’t be a STEM nerd and not code. Maybe not as well as a coding geek but well enough to do research. And that I still do. And I pretty well know that anything I need in the way of maths routines in FORTRAN, I can code. And probably better than the geeks.

FORTRAN Forever! (Cue the pipes!)

Teacher Taxonomy

I have been following a series of blots by Chad Orzel, “Uncertain Principles” this week. The starting point is here, [Link] where he takes exception to a tweet by Neil DeGrasse Tyson,

Students who earn straight “A”s in school do so not because of good Teachers but in spite of bad Teachers.

— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) January 10, 2015

which is the basis of his (Chad’s) discourse.

I want to commence here by noting that Tyson admits to a taxonomy of good and bad teachers. I also have to admit that I am more in agreement with Tyson’s (terse) argument than Chad’s voluminous one. Not that it’s wrong but that it’s missing some things.

Needless to say this is something that a lot of folks have weighed in on and Chad has striven mightily to maintain his position, which I will only criticize as being a bit too much EXTRO and Academic. I’m not going to reproduce Chad’s argument because I can’t do it justice and you can read it on his blog.

But I will offer my (a different) slant based on my experience. As I was listening to an episode of “Linux Luddites” [Link] this morning on stationary bicycle (Greater Metropolitan Arab air temperature 27 degF so no constitutional in the park,) they got into one of their love-hate discourses on Unity. And this gave me the insight into the nature of the teacher taxonomy, at least for me.

I should comment that Unity, the standard Ubuntu (Tile) desktop/GUI is very polarizing. Those who have been exposed to it either love or hate it. No like/dislike here. No ambiguity except among the ignorant. IMHO the evaluation is almost purely functional (with a bit of eyecandy bias?) on whether the individual finds Unity a comfortable way to use the OS. I find it resistive and impedimential and use KDE. It’s not unique. My way of using OS doesn’t fit with a Tile GUI. But the experience does give me insights into the “Death to Infidels” mentality.

In my usage, the teacher taxonomy is functional, along the lines that a “good” teacher assists me in learning and a “bad” teacher impedes or denies me learning. And yes, I was pretty close to a ‘straight-A’ student. Not all the time. Bad grades marked when both teacher and I failed. And no, that assessment isn’t just sour grapes.

Most of the bad teachers I experienced were in primary and secondary schule. Their mode was pedantic and rationing. Only learning on schedule was permitted. And things had to proceed at the boundary of the bottom 0.1. Most of the good teachers I experienced were in college. I take well to lectures and have no difficulty being challenged as long as the information is interesting. That excludes Literature and some other subjects. I find things that can’t be tested – in the TEM sense – to be undesirable and off-putting. 

As previously stated I am pretty well self-learning. That’s why I do well in a STEM environment. Lectures are like sparking plugs in a petrol motor. But self-learnrs are difficult for any teacher and impossible for overly structured ones. Simply put, self-learners in college never go to lecture (except STEM courses) but always go to office hours. Even after they complete the course. That’s because they trust the professor and the teacher help they need is with the nuggets of information they are having trouble with. They don’t need the teacher for the easy bits and that is what alienates the structured teacher. 

I have a conjecture that teachers tend to prefer non-learners over self-learners. That’s because teaching those who can’t learn on their own is a big boost to the ego and if you are insecure – and who isn’t? except the deniers? – you need some reinforcement of value. But a student who only comes around to cherry pick hard stuff is a real challenge that only another self-learner can appreciate.

That doesn’t keep those bogs who think a bad teacher (in my estimation) to be good from being right. Of that teacher helps them learn then they are right. But so am I. That’s the nature of this beast. What is good and bad depends on the individual and that is not something organization can handle with any grace at all. 


Pen or Pencil Exam

Improvement. This skirmish of drips may be over. But that doesn’t keep me from being older than I should be. But at least the stress level will be lower for a few days. Too few!

I have been riding my stationary bicycle and listening to an episode of the "Pen Addict" podcast this period. The entire podcast consisted of the protagonist enunciating his rankings of different issues of a collectible (?) pocket notebook. From prior listenings to this podcast I have become aware of an essentially cult following of this brand of notebooks but I find it quite alien and somewhere between alarming and amusing.

I use these notebooks, or, more properly, I use this format of notebook, but I consider a notebook to be valued for its contents. Hence an empty notebook has a potential value and a cost but is not something for abject veneration or sacrifice. In fact, there are other brands of this format notebook that I consider somewhat superior.

While I use these notebooks, I use them for practical matters, primarily as purchase logs and as memo books. This use arises from their size. In my usage they are unsuited for serious composition. This latter follows from how I take notes and compose. This format notebook is just flat too small for such. Because of how I learned note taking, I am most comfortable with an 11×8.5 in^2 notebook.

But this did lead me to consider the matter of test taking. Of course this is test taking in my day; I don’t know how people give/take tests today although some of my colleagues who teach courses tell me it is all multiple guess these days. In my day, test taking – except the few standardized tests like the SAT and the GED – were done in blue/green books that have been discussed previously.

The difference also had to do with how we put information in those test booklets. In nerd (STEM) classes we took tests with pencil because we were doing maths and perhaps sketching figures. In bog classes, we wrote with BIC pens because the questions required structured ASCII – English language – answers. And syntax was often graded.

It struck me this corresponds closely to Chad Orzel’s taxonomy of college courses, the read before/after taxonomy. Read before courses you take exams in ink, read after courses you take exams in pencil.

This may require some further cogitation.

Finding the Foe

The contest looms. The one for the plumbing between weather and man. And no matter how much we prepare and how much intelligence we gather, it somehow never seems enough. It is the worse sort of contest, not war, but a struggle of man against the rules and forces of nature. In a way it almost seems blasphemous; it makes the idea of predestination seem to hold some validity, for the opponent is aloof, unresponsive, adamantine. But somehow such a model of deity seems inadequate and insulting.

FD SCP says I obsess over much on this. But I have tasted failure too often on this field and am averse to its consequences. That is what is obsessed over, the consequences and their amelioration.

We have weathered similar conditions before. Last year. I don’t recall any earlier but my attention was more on getting to work than damage to home and hearth and heart. Is that change itself the entrance to the path of failure and disaster. Is this something better ignored and endured when it does occur than contended?

The question is largely unanswerable, at least potentially irrelevant. The change is irreversible, a thermodynamic phenomena like the shattered pipe. A better one is whether the mind will endure? Sometimes we have to relieve our mental pressures and stresses with physical action. The action does not have to be great, just plausibly relevant. And that is the challenge. Weather cannot really be contended with until we contend with ourselves.