Oram Sans Mens

Three Day. A bit strange, even for a Wodensday. Schule is obviously counting down to desessioning for the torrid term, loosening all manner of carpet cruds to suck up my share of bandwidth from the so-called Oneonta Telephone Company, a corporation who thinks that landline voice service is their core competency even though they lose 0.1 of subscribers each year. 

The scary part after attending aboard meeting some years ago was to discover that this is indeed the core competency of their directors and management. Shade of the Containment Era!

Anyway, the podcast, an episode of CBC’s “Quirks and Quarks” was entitled (What Scientists did on their Summer Vacation.” The title is the humorous part. First of all, all the scientists interviewed were women. Not that I have anything against women; my life depends on them, but they are hideously underrepresented in the sciences and to have only women on a podcast like this smacks a bit of genderism?

I also have to wonder if geographers are actually scientists? Even scuba diving geographers. 

Anyway, I motored to Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill in search of provisions and wisdom, obtaining both, the former from various stores and the latter from a colleague, Mass Magnetic Field. 

While I motored I listened to a CD I had recently purchased of pipe musics and highland throat mumbling. A good collection and I found myself cursing traffic idiots in a brogue. And reflecting that the greatness of the Scots is amply demonstrated by the bagpipes, a musical instrument that is easier played while walking than standing still. 

Then I reflected in whether that thought was racist of not? 

I shall not belabor my thoughts on “race” as a matter of rubbish, but the stereotyping denigration (which is NOT a racist word) is rubbish only in the sense of not having any merit or benefit. I realize that humans are programmed to delineate “Us” versus “Them”, but not outside our skulls and definitely not in action. 

For some reason, I was reminded of a family July 4th reunion the summer after I had finished being a Freshman. Flip flops were enjoying (?) their first (?) popularity and all of my girl (is that genderist?) cousins were wearing such. My grandmother commented something along the lines of “nothing says trailer trash like flip flops.” I recall their parents, at least half of which were the children of the woman speaking, looked horribly uncomfortable, apparently unsure of whether they should defend their offspring or defer to their parent. I was bemused, looking at my own feet, shod in Hush Puppy loafers horribly pitted over the toes almost to a hole on both shoes where acid had dropped in lab that year. The air tingled with that horrible agony just before super-cooled steam turns to crystaline ice with a wild crash as everyone froze and pretended to be deaf. Then the moment passed and a frustrated lemming urge to flee was suppressed until food was consumed. 

That was the last time I went to a summer reunion. 

And when I got back to Castellum SCP, I came into contact with an article [Link] entitled “RIP MP3 – the sound file that changed the world is declared dead.” Somehow this abomination of techno-journalistic babble put the whole matter into perspective. 

The thesis is that the organization who owns the patents on MP3 encoding announced that they would no longer license the use of the encoding. Lots of journalist who know how to write but not what to write have been announcing the demise of the MP3 file. 

(Sniggering laughter from the Nerd and Geek contingent. Blank ignorance from the Bog majority.)

What the Fraunhofer Institute meant was that they could no longer license MP3 encoding because their authority to do so had expired. Patents have a lifetime, unlike – apparently – copyright which seems to have been conscripted by greedy people wearing flip flops. 

In words of a different flavor, licensing of MP3 encoding is no longer necessary. It is now a resource of the species.

I suspect that part of this Bronson Beta grrrr brrrr was pandering to the people who make high end music players (those that do OGG or AAC but not MP3) and the makers of RAM. After all, journalists have to make money to survive because no one will willingly pay to read what they have written these days. (So they have difficulty purchasing new flip flops.)

The MP3 is not dead. It still has utility. For one thing something like five thousand new podcasts are generated every day on Tellus and almost all of them are available as MP3s. And a lot of music is still available as MP3s and will. Because there are lots of audio files – podcasts and not-classical music – that people don’t want the enormous, audio accurate files. If I’m listening to a podcast at the gym, surrounded by weight bouncers shouting visceral groans and crunching cement when they drop their weights and educationalists whose indoor voices are more suitable for a football game in a hurricane, I want enough quality to understand (maybe) what is said but not pay the RAM price I would pay for Beethoven from the Berliner. 

And it will likely stay that way. Despite what some knowledgeable journalists ominously foretell. 

But the intriguing question is what kind of Themism is discrimination against a file format? Fileism. Formism. Digitism? Noiseism?

Crocodile Tears

Seven Day. Week Out almost over. And I had to hawg’ tabs this morning.

Several of those tabs had to do with the WannaCry [Link] extortion that has preempted Nawth Korea from its implication of Nuclear War one (and last? Well, at least it would set back global climate change and make the deaths quicker.)

I have been reflecting on this and have come up with a few questions. 

How many annoyances equal a crime, that is, something that can be punished by the justicers? The related question is how many people have to be annoyed before the annoyance becomes a crime?

Why do things like this happen? Why do people let them happen?

The latter are simpler, maybe. Things like this happen because they can. There is a rule of Nature that if something can happen, it will. Human society is a bit more difficult in this regard. For example, we haven’t been hit with a movement for siblings to wed, mostly because of something called an incest aversion, but it can happen. Probably wouldn’t be any worse than the anti-vaxers. What difference is it if parents break their children by medical negligence or genetic negligence? The end result is much the same.

Similarly, WannaCry happened because the bits and pieces were available and for some reason greed is a survival asset. Not sure how that jibes with altruism, but since greed is so widespread I can’t imagine it not being biological in origin.

But why were the bits and pieces available? A bit of blame is being put on the NSA. That clearly is a waste of time and effort. Yes, some scapegoat may be retired early (and be rewarded with a greased job at some contractor,) but organizations have no scruples nor ethics. They talk about them a lot but that’s mostly to sell their product or otherwise help the organization. Simply put organizations don’t care about people beyond their own self-interest.

Over and above that, the NSA is under no obligation to share findings of its work that could be harmful to American citizens. Like this particular computer weakness. That warning isn’t part of its charter. So NSA isn’t going to tell people about the weakness.

Besides, MegaHard figured this one out on their own. My suspicion is that they likely figured it out before the NSA did. And then they kept mum about it. Why? Because that’s how big organizations operate. Do big food organizations tell you their product uses toxic chemicals as preservatives? Do cosmetic companies tell you their products have ingredients that cause cancer?

Organizations are different from people. People have to have some morals or they end up in jail. Why we have to treat organizations as pseudo-humans and don’t jail them for lack of morals is another example of how whacked out legal system is. And perhaps how biased against people?

One thing they have in common is stupidity. Organizations are stupid because they are fundamentally dependent on people. They are staffed with people, they are managed by people, and they generally depend on people for continued existence. Of course, this will be less obvious when AI comes to reasonable maturity. Then the organizations will be the real robot overlords. 

Of course, MegaHard released a security update two months ago to fix this weakness. (Well, maybe. After all, we have to take MegaHard’s word for it, don’t we?) And lots of people didn’t install the update. Heck, lots of folks are still running Winders XP, which is only supported with updates if its in an ATM machine. And the whole of the British National Health Service still runs XP. But that’s a case of organizational stupidity. And probably greed?

But when it comes to updates, MegaHard is its own enemy. The way it does updates, by trying to pre-empt the machine, is seriously nasty. It makes Winders the equivalent of Listerine – the taste and sting you hate twice a day – but without any inkling of benefit. And given MegaHard’s recent history of smoking boxes with updates, alienation and second thoughts are natural.

But a lot of problem with malware like this is simple not thinking. People get emails from strangers and they click links. Without doing any checking for authenticity. Or consideration of likely outcomes. It would be easy to say these are bogs and they refuse to think but that’s too simple. Geeks and nerds do stupid things too. They’re just more likely to learn from their mistakes. Not assured, just more likely. 

And there’s no reason those people have to use Winders. Other than stupidity and probably, laziness. And greed. They know about Apple and how expensive its computers are. And they have to use Winders at work because organizations are stupid too. And they don’t know about Linux but they’ve heard stories about it’s HARD and they are too insecure to try it. Despite the community making trying relatively easy. 

Incidentally, the guy who shut this whole thing down almost certainly speaks Linux. 

So the reason this sort of thing works is because of our consumerist love affair with stupidity as a life style.

Inhumanity

Five Day. End of gym for the week, mostly because here in the Third World nation of Alibam, the gym isn’t available on week out. Part of that is religionist prejudice but part is simple capitalist greed. And the union of the two is Republicanist extermination of rights and lives. So very much the new “Natural” in modern Amerika.

But that’s not what I set out to blog. I ran across an article [Link] this morning entitled “Humanities teach students to think. Where would we be without them?” and it being fifty years since I was a Freshman I took some time and attention span to consider this.

The thesis is that (a) humanities are the “real” meat of college and (b) the modern factory college is eliminating humanites as useless and worthless.

I found the article a bit ineffective. It never quite engaged, nor made any compelling or convincing arguments. The best I could find was this paragraph:

“Eloquent defenses of the humanities have appeared, essays explaining why we need these subjects, what their loss would mean. Those of us who teach and study are aware of what these areas of learning provide: the ability to think critically and independently; to tolerate ambiguity; to see both sides of an issue; to look beneath the surface of what we are being told; to appreciate the ways in which language can help us understand one another more clearly and profoundly – or, alternately, how language can conceal and misrepresent. They help us learn how to think, and they equip us to live in – to sustain – a democracy.”

I freely admit that I am a nerd. I studied nerd stuff in college: majors in sciences and maths. But I still had to take humanities courses. And I have to admit that I didn’t learn much of what is listed above in those courses.

Thinking critically and independently: can’t say I learned this in any humanities courses. Definitely in the science and maths courses, but not so much in the humanities. If anything it seemed that what the humanities pushed was group-think and that was so EXTRO that it would never stick.

Tolerate ambiguity: missing as well. Again, the science and maths courses taught it as inherent and implicit.

Both sides of an issue: same again. The two sides thing came home in Freshman Calculus course with Newton and Leibnitz. 

Look beneath the surface: this one is a maybe. One of the humanities I took was philosophy. So that sorta got at this one. But it got big coverage in the science courses.

Language: Are we talking about grammar and syntax and composition? Because I learned that writing lab reports and journal articles. Not literature. Literature did teach the hiding and misleading part, of course. 

Democracy: this one is a puzzler. I have heard it all my life but observation indicates that it is inaccurate. And the people who led up to the present were the ones who had the advantage of a humanities education.

Not saying humanities aren’t beneficial. For people who like studying them, it’s great. That’s why colleges have majors, so you can learn a lot about the stuff you like. And I enjoyed my humanities courses. Except the grammar and literature ones. They were crap. Obstacle courses. People who want to write nerd articles (as a necessary evil) don’t want to spend time and effort learning how to write essays and poems. So poor (or no) connection. 

But I learned a lot from my anthropology and philosophy courses. I learned that humans are a lot less smart than they think they are (anthropology,) have self-damaging beliefs (anthropology,) and kill people who are smart (philosophy.) 

But not everybody can be a nerd and study science and maths. 

Other Kind of Hack

One Day. Back to gym. Dragging a bit. And the podcast didn’t help, an episode of CBC’s “Best of Ideas” rehashing their fifty years of existence.

Horribly boring, nauseating in places. Excruciatingly maudlin. Too much Ideas-cleaned-up-my-life sort of homilies. I suppose it’s very Canadian but it’s not good fare before breakfast.

On which note, I ran across an article [Link] this morning entitled “France’s Macron Hack Likely By Same Russian Group That Hit DNC, Sources Say.” I should probably mention I got the link out of a military eNewsletter.

What this brings to mind is three possibilities:

Courtesy of the electronics revolution, we have reached a point where any new tactic has a novelty period of one (observed) use and then it’s old hat. This is a far cry from the days of Napoleon Bonaparte who could usually count on a new tactic lasting for at least a couple of years. Of course this was back when hereditary tyrants ran the world.

The French are smarter (?) than Amerikans. The French may be terrible at some things, like fountain pens and (smoking) pipes and motorcars, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be smart as well as inept.

The French are so opposite to the behavior of most nations that the hack had the reverse effect intended. The French, after all, are the only people who detest anyone furrin who tries to speak French. All other nationalities take it as an indication of adaptation and cooperation but the French take it as a deadly insult.

As with most such things, there is no way of objectively determining which, if any, of these possibilities is relevant. What is sure however, is that the French will have a situation where it will be unclear how much they can distrust the pronouncements of their government.

Make Religion Evil Again?

Today is Nation Religion Day here in Amerika. I am never quite sure if this means the nation’s recognition of religion in Amerika or a day advocating a national religion. I have to wonder in the latter case how long it will be before the nut brains figure out their particular sect isn’t it and start shooting.

Along which lines, I have always appreciated Lester Sprague DeCamp’s description of religious freedom as “the freedom to persecute people of a different sect than you.”

But now, courtesy of both the Yankee government and the Scalawag Alibam Guvment in Muntgum, this has been expanded to “the freedom to persecute anyone who is different from you.”

Evidently “love thy neighbor” only applies if the neighbor is an exact copy of yourself or the love is strictly carnal (and hetero?) 

 

Human Failure

One Day. Back to gym. A rather dismal session overlain with a podcast about the rot of American (including Canadian) society.

This got reinforced as I tried to get out of the motorcar park at the gym onto the highway.

We seem to have given democracy away for consumerism capitalism.

Driving skills and abilities are almost non-existent. People cannot stay in lane, signal turns or lane changes, or even turn without occupying two or more lanes. And not just the people driving (?) pickup trucks. All manner of motorcars. They can’t even stop at a STOP sign properly.

Ignorance has replaced knowledge as the desired state of humankind. People are proud of their ignorance and insecurity and resist thought and knowledge like some sort of plague worse than Bubonic. 

Money is the only measure of esteem. 

Accomplishment has become meaningless, if not actually criminalized.

We no longer have a society, a civilization, or a nation-state. I am not sure what it is but it makes a noyau look good.