Torchbearer Down

A good part of this week has been spent in a walking blank state: the result, I suppose, of the discorporation of Steven Hawking.

I have to admit that I missed the discorporation of Richard Feynman. I was busy and the media was much less in-your-face than today. Feynman was the court sage only of physicists and a few science nerds and geeks, not of bogs and debutantes. His work was also closer to me; I have always been a matterist, going afield in optics a bit, but mostly I care about the local. Probably comes of initially being brain washed by Chemists. Thanks George Toffel!

I have been aware of Hawking for years, but have never read any of his work. Some of that comes of reading outreach tomes only grudgingly. The last one I enjoyed was Weinberg’s “To Explain the World.” I actually finished that one; most I get five pages in and either ruin the volume with regurgitant or I douse it with petrol and set it to fire. 

While I wasn’t much interested in Hawking’s work, mostly I read bits to answer questions posed by friends who are incapable of reading (and comprehending) for themselves, I did respect him for his work and doubly the handicap he persevered. I identified with his problems: communication; near-nasty intruding people; finding a persisting life partner; getting work done. And his ability to transcend much greater difficulties than mine made my life easier and seem less futile. When you are submerged in an ocean of sharks it is hard to catch fish.

So when I saw an article [Link] this morning entitled “Stephen Hawking dies: Scientist’s most memorable quotes” I could not resist paying homage to him in my inimitable pseudo-snarky fashion.

“On why the universe exists…

❝If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we would know the mind of God❞ – A Brief History Of Time, published 1988

It seems to me that the obvious conjecture here is the universe is a petri dish and the deity is a scientist. It’s an experiment and the deity is hyper-objective.

On humanity…

❝We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special❞ – Interview, Der Spiegel, October 1988

The problem is that while we as a species can (maybe) understand the universe, the fraction of humans who can do so is vanishingly small. Sir Arthur Eddington once asked who was the third person who could understand Einstein’s Relativity Theory. I suspect Sir Arthur was being a bit arrogant – the British do that quite as well as a Congressional staffer – but the fraction seems rather low. As an estimate, the number of physicists in Amerika is about 35K while the total population of 350M. That gives a fraction of 0.0001 (1E-4). So since four nines of humanity can’t understand reality, they will swamp those who can and generally be assured of vertically copulating everything including the continuation of the species.

On life…

❝One, remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. Three, if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don’t throw it away❞ – Interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, June 2010 

My first thought when I read this is that Hawking hasn’t had to worry about going down stairs since he was in his twenties. My second thought is that the stars may engender all sorts of feelings but they don’t necessarily inspire everyone. So I would alter the advice to make sure you seek out things that inspire you and control what you look at that is uninspiring.

On living with a disability…

❝My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit, as well as physically❞ – Interview, New York Times, May 2011

IOW, Illigetimi non carborundum. Or as I paraphrase it, don’t let the bogs get you down. Everyone has a disability or two. Some folks, notably bogs, are often unaware they have one until someone sentient tells them. Of course bogs generally have no idea of what Hawking considered work; their idea is what they get paid for and they hate it.

On an imperfect world…

❝Without imperfection, you or I would not exist❞ – On Into The Universe With Stephen Hawking, Discovery Channel, 2010

The only thing that may be perfect is a proton. We have never seen one decay. That doesn’t mean that it can’t or that it is perfect. Imprefection is how the universe is, so ignore that at your risk.

On staying cheerful…

❝Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny❞ – Interview, New York Times, December 2004

We have to remember that Hawking was British and the British have a better capability for seeing humor than Amerikans (and some others.) We also tend to harass and murder people who find humor. So caveat emptor. And never laugh in front of a politician; they have neither scruples nor integrity.

This is getting a bit tedious and I am not a journalist, who would have no sense of being tedious nor propriety. So Selah.

I will not invoke the after life because it seems boggish. But you will be missed, Steven Hawking, at least for a while.


14 March is the Actual Dating


  1. we morn the passing of Stephen Hawking;
  2. observe the birthday anniversary of Albert Einstein; and
  3. reject the bogs who still use an archaic dating format and declare today to be Pi Day when all knowledgable people know it to be 22 July.

Two sads and a happy.

I should be nattering about tonight’s time change, but that can wait. Instead, I want to bemoan as article [Link] I found earlier entitled “There Is No Case for the Humanities.” The journal cited is suspect for the Amerikan high “education” instrumentality has been steadily selling out to corporate oligarchs since the end of the Great Patriotic War. The author, however, is Oxfordian and thus enjoys the suspension of disbelief that attaches to anyone with an upper class English accent. He begins his article with:

“The humanities are not just dying — they are almost dead. In Scotland, the ancient Chairs in Humanity (which is to say, Latin) have almost disappeared in the past few decades: abolished, left vacant, or merged into chairs of classics. The University of Oxford has revised its famed Literae Humaniores course, “Greats,” into something resembling a technical classics degree. Both of those were throwbacks to an era in which Latin played the central, organizing role in the humanities.”

And as a matter of clarification, I also cite:

“The seven liberal arts had a wide mandate covering most of what we consider the humanities, as well as mathematics in all its branches and the physical and natural sciences.”

So much of my personal problem is the unity, not the components. 

When I was an undergraduate in the 1960’s, the largest “college” of the university, the campus of the Black Warrior was Liberal Arts and Sciences, already a progression (digression?) from the “liberal arts.” While departments had considerable leeway to define what comprised a major/minor in that discipline, the college mandated a broadening that basically consisted of four terms of “arts” coursework and a similar amount of “sciences and maths” coursework. In many instances these collegiate requirements doomed many women to early marriages and men to early deaths. (The Vietnam “Conflict” was engulfing every male student who lagged in his grades;” the women were victims of parents who saw little reason for female children to be educated.) I have lost count (as well as memory of names) of all the students that I tried to tutor in basic chemistry and algebra to the level they should have attained in high schule.

I will admit that I did well in the sciences and maths but hated the “liberal arts” and barely squeaked through the minimal requirements with gentlemanly (sic) grades (in the mean) of B. Frankly, I found the material uninteresting, the lecturers, non professors and mostly graduate students, unengaging. Staying awake was the first, oft failed, challenge, at least to me. But then I was the guy who fell asleep in one of Fred Brown’s solid state physics lectures and got festively dumped in the semi-frozen Boneyard Creek. That however was the result of chemical tranquilizers and not verbal ones. Newton save us from the crackling tones of self-anointed thespians reading Shakespeare aloud in lieu of a substantive lecture. 

But the strongest condemnation goes to the “English” department which failed in the combination of high schule and undergraduate schule to teach me composition. So I attained middling grades and no useful skills. I had to learn composition in laboratory science courses and by simple mistakes in writing nerd manuscripts for publication. 

So as far as I am concerned “liberal arts” education in the 1960s was already an abysmal failure. And I will argue that is exactly what it is because that is the critical part of what syntax and literature is supposed to educate. 

Some of this can be forgiven. Education in Amerika has been failing since before the Revolution. The great land grant universities were founded to teach useful skills, like agriculture and civil engineering and accounting, which are not liberal arts nor sciences. The death knell of American colleges arrived after the Great Patriotic War with the GI Bill. In the last couple of decades, the factory diploma mill has become the cancer of all but the original endowed colleges. Today education is irrelevant; career channeling is the only metric.

Even this is not all bad. A scant few, who I still admire regardless, enjoy reading “literature” in whichever language. If they chose a classical education that avails them naught in the workplace but enriches their otherwise lifespan, then so be it. If one cannot have fun in life, no amount of money makes happiness. But for most of us, we want to study what interests us, not what interests ancient academics, and have an existence productive and enjoyable enough to continue that interest and enjoyment. 

Does that justify a liberal arts curriculum? Yes. Should it be imposed on all? No. But in an environment where STEM departments are at once richly employable and remunerative and simultaneously so close to being too small to be fiscally viable and under dire threat of erasure, nothing makes sense any more. A factory school will, like most organizations, specialize itself into oblivion,

And probably take the nation and civilization along with it. 

Once more, glad to be ORF. And not in college.


Sic Transit Hilaris

I noted this morning the discorporation of David Ogden Stiers who played the character of Charles Winchester 3 on MASH the TV series. This gave me pause to consider the matter of MASH.

I can admit to not only reading the original Hooker novel but many of the follow-ons as well. He was a masterful author although I suspect not well respected by his peers for actually writing a GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL. Many try, and most fail by trying to write literature. As I learned my senior year in high schule, literature is generally a shibboleth, at least none of it was either enjoyable or edifying. Some authors are good story tellers in their lifetimes but get trapped later in the crystal of literature where everything rots away except their writings and the boredom of those it is inflicted upon. 

So I have sympathy for all the authors my high schule and college literature teachers inflicted on me. I like to think they hated themselves a bit for being such punishment to those who came after them. 

Getting back to Stiers, I also have some respect. He did a good job of playing a moderately difficult role in the shadow of Alan Alda who rather botched Hawkeye Piece, especially after the first season. I suspect he choked on his consistent failure to come anywhere near equal to Donald Sutherland who was the only actor who came close to doing Hawkeye adequately.

On which note, the novel was excellent, the movie was very good, the first season of the TV series was good, and thereafter merely diverting. Despite the injection of Harry Morgan and his genius. 

The damnation of the whole thing was a vision that dumped “Dago Red” but kept “Hot Lips.” Such was the Amerikan misconception of humor. And probably still is but I haven’t seen any decent humor on television since. What we can’t observe we can’t measure and what we can’t measure we don’t know. 

Still, mediocre as it was as a whole it is still better than almost anything else done on television. We may have invented it – that isn’t clear – but we perfected it and like we do everything else, we made a desert of it.


Bog Rings

I ran across an article [Link] this morning on “fan costumes” at the Asian Olympics. I was particularly taken by one,

which is a photography of a woman, (note the use of the proper noun form!) presumably Candanian, wearing a hat emulating a Curling Lith

There is something engaging about the sport of Curling. It seems to inherently be disrespectful of other sports, especially the pornographic ones like football (both types) and basketball and baseball (which is boring as well.) The idea of using a ice field, usually avoided vigorously by other sports, except hockey (violence porn) and figure skating (just plain porn,) coupled with rocks and brooms is definitely disrespectful of megapaid pseudo-celebrities outfitted at the cost in excess of my motorcar when new.

I should mention that I, and a couple of my associates, Magnetic Inductance Force and Dispersion Current Magnetic Field, are members of the Greater Metropolitan Arab Curling Club. As soon as a pond freezes we will have our first practice session. We have been waiting for over ten years. Although one member, Magnetic Inductance Force, has developed a robotic practice device that uses ice cubes for the playing arena. I have trouble with this because I get eye strain rather quickly squinting though the microscope.

And I generally like Candanians. They seem much more like Amerikans were when I was growing up than Amerikans are today. And they seem to still have politicians with integrity.

But I am not a fan of the Olympics. Being that way was probably easier three thousand years ago, when only the competing athletes and a few officials attended. At least the porn quantity was lower. Nowadays it is almost a national pastime. Evidently for a nation to not participate is to not be EXTRO.

The whole thing seems the ultimate in useless competition. One pays great sums to participate and accruces no advantage from winning. Although I have been told that some of the more totalitarian nations have executed athletes who did poorly. I suspect what this illustrates is that organizations can be psychotically insecure. Which is not really surprising but they do try so hard to hide this weakness, even from their members.

I will admit that some of the events are superior in some sense to some Amerikan sports, especially the ones that involve motorcars and chewable tobacco. I also have sympathy for the athletes who are basically devoid of any existence other than the Olympics. I suspect they envy people in comas and with mental deficiency. I have even known a couple such and must note that they seem relatively healthy, at least physically. Mentally is another matter.

It occurred to me that we could improve the quality of our politicians if we made Olympic competition a requirement to hold office, at least at the national level.

It also occurs that the periodicity of the Olympics is beneficial in helping us forget its uselessness in the intervals.


Race to the Dump

Six Day emerges! A restful night’s slumber, largely because the need to arise every couple of hours and make an inspection round of the drip posts was absent. That was a duty I did not have last night. And if the foretellings of the weather beavers is accurate this morning, not for a whole week. 

So absent expressing the discontent of the season, I shall have to dig about to express alternate discontent.

First, I note [Link] that there has been joy and excitement on the campus of the Black Warrior. It seems one of the women Greeks has gone off on a “racial” tirade of great magnitude – made possible by the wonders of technology and the cancer of social media – that has resulted in her expulsion not just from the U but from the bosom of her comrades in Greekdom. 

There are several intriguing aspects to this. The first is the instance of “racism”. Race, of course, is a bankrupt concept that has been scientifically dismissed as odoriferous rubbish numerous times. It does, however, serve a useful purpose for organizations, especially government, to impose a taxonomy on their memberships. And use that taxonomy to control said memberships.

Scientifically, what exists seems to be Us/Them-ism. We identify an in group (sometimes groups) and out groups. The in group is inherently, adamantinely good while the out groups occupy a non-stationary spectrum ranging from tolerable to hated. This distinction is not without some merit but it also has a dark side, and that dark side is an avoidance of mental health. 

When the Us/Them relationship is accessed rationally in the light of valid data, then it is a healthy thing, protecting us from stupidity. When we blindly accept an Us/Them relationship without rational validation, then we become serfs of our imaginations and irrationality. We may even accept the prejudices and insanities of society unquestioningly. In a sense, we become EXTRO Bog, since so many EXTRO Bogs are not mentally functional nor healthy. 

This appears to be the situation at the campus. It is not surprising. Greek organizations are hotbeds of fascist irrationality, at least on that campus, and have never done anything to correct the problem. They have become very good at hiding the problem, which is why the young woman in question became bus motorway. What is conspicuously absent is any effort by either organization, sorority or university, to help the young woman with her mental sickness. 

Of course, no effort has ever been made by either in this direction except for scholarship jocks who add measurably to the brand revenues of the organizations. Sadly, this indicates the fundamentally mercantilist mind set in those campus organizations. 

Perhaps we should be happy that no direct harm was done the young woman. She could, I suppose, have been sold to sex slavers or looted for her organs? 

There is little humor to be found in this matter. If there is, it is likely galgenhumor although as one of the nation’s major purveyors of college athletic pornography, the galgen may be far off. 

I should like to say I am happy to be ORF, but that would ring hollow since I attended this schule and did nothing to change it. “Against Stupidity the Gods themselves contend in vain.” I am not sure that I would not do the same again. Survival dictates other states that fight or flight. 

But we don’t have to like it. That’s what happens when we find our In Group is evil and nasty. 


New Year, Same Ills

1/1/2018. And no joy to be seen. Or, at least, felt. 

The air temperature here in Greater Metropolitan Arab is reported by the local weather station as 11 degF and that agrees with my own air thermometer. 

The situation is degraded by the local news programming on the electro-magnetic audio-visual receiver. FD SCP is watching WAFF [Link] and their presentation wins an award for being banal, nauseating, and self-serving. 

First, they covered some shooting incident at some dive in Nawth Huntsville last evening. Lots of dire pronouncements but no real content.

Second, they spoke to motorcar care and usage in these low temperatures. This actually began last evening. And is hideously self-serving since it is too late for people to implement almost all of their guidance and there are likely few stores open that could provide goods and services. 

Third, the weather beaver has been prattling on about other effects of the weather. Sadly, almost all of this has to do with wind chill and rapid on-set hypothermia. Nothing on first aid thereof. Little on preservation of property and humans, Nothing on cabin fever and allied ailments.

And all of this is presented with the usual unctuous tomes and the occasional, totally inappropriate, grin. I can’t say smile, although that is clearly the attempt, because the presentation is so overdone and inappropriate.

At least they haven’t yet announced someone’s discorporation with a smile like they do on national programming. But I suspect they will have the opportunity before the week is out.

And no attempts to allay the politicians denials of climate change by declarations of it’s colding today and hence no global warming. Except, of course, neither knows what colding means and its difference from cold. 

Somehow, life was better with meteorologists in two-tone wing tips like H. D. Bagley, news writers who knew syntax – and used it – and news readers who knew to look unhappy when they were reading bad news. 

Meantime, I have to tend the Lars and Penates, which today, and most of the week, means dripping taps.