Sand Mountain Macho

From time to time I am asked to serve on graduate exit committees, the ones that determine whether graduate students should matriculate or not. I almost always accept, mostly out of vanity – I find the responsibility a flattery – but I didn’t appreciate why I got asked for quite a while.

I should mention I am almost never asked to be on a physics student’s committee. And, yes, this is relevant.

I have found over the years that I need to ask wizardly difficult questions rather than easy questions. I have found, with some embarrassment, that the easy questions are invariably dropped and nastily. I like to think it’s because the students are so psyched for their defenses that they can’t relax enough to answer the easy questions. I’ve also found the other members of the committee, mostly academics, usually don;t get the questions either. So it is safer, for everyone’s sake, including my own, if I ask those hideously difficult questions. 

I should mention that the other members of the committee (and myself) can’t answer these questions either, but the students just couple in and do surprisingly well at them. Which tends to support the idea that new things are done by new people.

Anyway, one of the other advantages is that I get to see all sorts of research and sometimes I get asked for pre-defense opinions as an outside thinker. Sometimes a graduate student can’t ask adviser or other faculty these questions for fear of being considered slow or worse but an outsider is safer.

Anyway yesterday a student – not physics obviously – showed me some data on human characteristics in North Alibam society. The research was being funded to help find how to get the right – desirable? – workers to apply for certain types of jobs. I can’t say much more except this is clearly on the management side of my interests.

Anyway, this GS had collected some data and was showing me an interesting social niche that we might call Nawth Alibam Macho:

  • male (obviously)
  • adult (chronologically)
  • drives pickup truck
  • hunts, fishes, and/or camps
  • uses Winders.

I have to admit to being floored by this. Here we have a characteristics list that runs: macho; macho; macho; and suddenly, wimp.

Evidently, working on motorcars and trucks and building shelters is ok, but working on computers is sissy stuff? Or a sign of being easy to brainwash? Anyway, I think this will turn out to be a good project.

Recognize, Exterminate

Two Day. Even sparser at gym. Only one weight bouncer – the polite one! – and one educationalist – the demure one! – so good environment. Podcast was a combination of the Guardian Science episode, dealing with Autism Spectrum, and a melange of NPR bits.

The Autism podcast was a mixed bag. It was an interview of some journalist who had written a book about autism. Normally this is a bad thing since journalists are not good sources of accurate information. Since the tenor was primarily social rather than technical, and what technical there was cast all sorts of disillusion on the medicalist community for lack of ethics, the ‘cast wasn’t all bad. I have to admit that the detail spent on considering Autism as natural rather than evil was a mixed bag. On the one hand it means that parents don’t have to hide their autistic children or pack them off to Bedlam, although I have my doubts that many parents will be forthright about such and them geeks and nerds. Somehow I see bogs as trying to hide the shame of deficient children, which is what is wrong with society and the whole autism situation. The cure is preventing them from reproducing, I fear.

There is also some hope that by opening up the situation some assistance for adult Autistics may arise but given the tenor of contemporary politics, especially among Repulsians, I rather more expect death camps. It is all too easy to picture any of the current Repulsian candidates for POTUS nomination announcing that they will solve the Autism problem if elected much as Adolph Hitler solved the Jewish problem. 

On a milder level, do you see the Congress doing anything positive for people? I don’t. They seem to want to roll things back to before Magna Carta, at least. And probably re-institute slavery. And I find it hard to consider non-cooperation and thereby non-governance as a virtue. 

On a lighter side, I did note that the quality of NPR reportage was deteriorate strongly lately. I was particularly taken by one interview, dealing with infrastructure, where the journalist was obviously not listening nor hearing what the interviewee said. Her questions were so orthogonal it whole thing sounded rather like Faux News. 

Atonal Discorporation

Mundane day. Didn’t seem as low today as yesterday morning but then I didn’t have to spend a protracted period walking in park this morning. 

The gym was nicely sparse and the weight bouncers were quite demure and away. The educationalists were in fewness so overall the atmosphere of harassment, intimidation, and cacophony was almost absent. The listening was an episode of the CBC’s “Best of Ideas” podcast from their recent series on The Great War. This one was about the music.

Sadly it was not the music I wanted to hear talked about. In fact, the episode wasn’t really about music; it was about angst.

It started out talking about the difference in classical music across the war. The theme was an increasing flavor of depression and hopelessness. What it actually was they didn’t talk about and that was that classical music died during the war. Not sure of all the details but there is a strong correlation between the demise of classical music and the demise of aristocracy. All I know is that the classical music pre-war was bearable – Elgar had his moments of brilliance – but after the war had become trash noise. Much of it is worse than automobile trash music of today. Both are horrible but the latter is less horrible than the former, like the difference between curable and incurable cancer, I suppose.

Anyway, what the war did was to knock the foundation out from under classical music. Financially and emotionally. And it stayed that way until about the time of John Williams when it was too late to restart a dead engine.

They also talked about popular music. It also suffered. Started out bearable, especially the anti-war songs, but quickly turned to rotten slime mold. Not as bad as the classical but plenty bad in itself. And it mostly sounded like it was being played on instruments made of tin. Of course my attitude towards popular music is at odds with the boggerate. Other than the folk music of the ’50’s and ’60’s, I consider almost all of Amerikan popular music to be compost bin. Maybe some of the swing of the ’40’s was catchy but its equivalent  during and after The Great war was tinny and clunky. 

But this did put me in mind of steampunk. Perhaps the period of TR was the best? We still were learning new things and had a hold-over of Whewellian science that things new and absolute were yet to be discovered. And the planet was our oyster, and the universe by extension. And the terrorism of religion was either endurable or settle-able with chemical explosives. We were much better at enduring nuisances in those days, probably due to the absence of central heating (and cooling) and indoor plumbing. If one has to trudge to the privy middle of night the annoyance of evangelism is either easy to take or easy to dispose of. 

Somehow all that ended by The Great War. The question is why and how?

More Sensation and Measurement

Ice Cream Day. And it feels that way outside. When I left Castellum SCP for the park my thermometer read 41 degF. When I returned it read 39 degF. I am probably not going to tell my cardiologist I violated his guidance. And it wasn’t intentional or overt or even covert. I don’t have control of the temperature. FD SCP does, at least inside Castellum SCP, when the warmerizer is functioning properly, but I am not supposed to touch the thermostat. Or, evidently, since yesterday, watch her touch the thermostat. Evidently some observer effect there?

I was cold in park but thanks to a brisk pace – I think; for me – I was actually warm by the time I finished. Except my face. I think about wearing a face mask but when I do I get the itches. Regardless of material. 

Speaking of temperature, does light have a temperature. I can calculate one easily enough from the wavelength and a couple of fudgy factors aka constants of Nature. But does it actually have a temperature. My conjecture right now is NO, but I haven’t thought that out. Not in fullness, that is. Part of the consideration is whether light is an ensemble unto itself or is it part of a greater ensemble? Clearly I can see stuff so the light is interacting with me, so it has to be part of the ensemble I am in so then I can ask if it is in equilibrium with me?

For that matter, am I in equilibrium? Clearly that seems to be NO. So do I have a temperature? 

It may be time to study stat mech again.

On which azimuth, I ran across an article [Link] that the El Nino (non-equilibrium) will make this winter particularly miserable. There are two aspects to this: First,

and second,

It’s hard to pick out Greater Metropolitan Arab on these maps. The state boundaries are there but pretty much contrasted out of observability. But I think we’re in the >33% band on temperature and on the edge of that band on precipitation. Which means a miserable winter.

Incidentally, cooler and warmer are perfectly good thermodynamic terms since they are comparatives. Cool and warm aren’t since they are sensations. Cool also has other meanings, often associated with leather biker jackets, I believe. Drier and wetter are similar except that we need to qualify that wet refers to amound of dihydrogen oxide and not the phenomenon of wetting. 

Anyway, we can loom forward to low temperatures and lots more snow and ice. And probably electric potential failures and all the pipe problems that entails. May be time to move to Venus?

On the positive side, I see [Link] that the Yankee government justicer system has ruled that Gooey’s copying of books is not a violation of copyright. This makes the book guild rather unhappy although I can’t quite see why. In most cases the book in question isn’t available for purchase so the service is not denying the greedy capitalist book oligarchs any pictures of discorporate euro-american politicians. And it is, much as I hate to say anything nice about Gooey, a public service. In fact, in some instances it improves the oligarch’s cash flow since some people do POD for a material copy of the out-of-print book.

It seems rather strange to live in an information age and have people demanding to control information unto denial of access. Is that the new treason? How should it be handled? How about being locked away in a sensory deprivation chamber until they relent? Or discorporate, whichever comes first.

Not that I can read any of those books when the electric potential difference is zero. But it is nice when society gets to strike back at the forces of evil. 

Importance of Sensation as Opposed to Measurement

FD SCP consented to switching the thermostat from -deltaH to +deltaH! In celebration of the warmth, if not the agony and angst of acknowledged winter, I have a couple of cartoons to mumble:

First, [Link]

I have to admit to identifying with this. My reason is that I used to wear a sport/suit coat every day and carry a briefcase – a real one, not one of those boxes called an attache case – and I got used to having pockets for stuff. Now I don’t but I do wear a vest in the warm period. Haven’t found a cold period vest with enough or large enough pockets. And it does no good to wear a warm period vest underneath a cold period jacket. Can’t get to the pockets. Although that does give a wonderful reason to ignore phone calls/

Second, [Link]

I also have to admit to identifying with this as well. I have never cared much for giving any attention span to horoscopes. I have worked with several who do, mostly engineers who are bog and some clerical, but they had other, redeeming qualities. I did date a woman once who was a serf of horoscope but that interaction was joyously brief and more joyously ended. 

The warmerizer has run sufficiently long now that the aroma of toasted dust is dissipated, hopefully for a year’s duration. 

Face Staring

Saturn’s day. Temperature barely in the 40’s degF. I went off to the park, relatively well bundled, and executed my constitutional with the feeling that I was staring into the death mask of park walking until the spring. By the time I finished I was rather chilled and achy.

And tomorrow is supposed to be lower in air temperature.

While we’re staring at death masks, I noted an article [Link] yesterday about some work at U Exeter that indicates that sitting for prolonged periods is no worse for one than standing for long periods. I invoke this quote:

“Our study overturns current thinking on the health risks of sitting and indicates that the problem lies in the absence of movement rather than the time spent sitting itself,”

so evidently the key to good health is fidgeting? I find these results compelling. They are congruent with my own observations and like most humans I am skeptical of findings that are orthogonal to my own. So it must be right.

And I am an Old Retired Flatulence who is still alive, as demonstrated by my monkey brain attitudes.

Next, a multinational research group has found that brain size isn’t the metric of smarts, it’s brain structure. So if we think differently from others does that indicate differences in brain structure? The World Wonders. I just try to avoid people whose thinking is different from mine. And, of course, those who think not. Of which there are many. Especially in Alibam.

And lastly, a remodeling at U Virginia has uncovered the remains of a chemistry laboratory designed by Thomas Jefferson – didn’t he design the whole campus? – in the Rotunda.[Link]

Two thoughts here. First, this rather reminds me of some of the chemistry labs I had courses in when I was in college. Says something about investments in chemistry labs? And second, who puts a chemistry lab in a rotunda? Makes enormous sense given their importance but usually rotundae (sp?) are consumed with the statues of dead politicians whose names get put on the buildings even though the politicians stole the money and have no relevance to the subject matter.

Of course if it helps me get a better education I am all for preying on the insecurity and vanity of politicians. After all, they prey upon us and turn about is fair play.

Schule Stercus

Thor’s day. Gym concluded for the week. Sparse population. No weight bouncers, nor educationalists with only outdoor voices. Which is enjoyable after the presence of two educationalist weight bouncers yesterday who were particularly arrogant, noisy, and nasty. I have to wonder if its balancing from being around students so much?

Survived the expedition to Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill. Which was chancy given the increased incidence of der schmucken drivers. And there was one fender (?) bender that I didn;t see but one of my colleagues, Normal Angular Momentum,related about a microcar trying to nestle under a cargo lorry. Not at all good for the progression of the innocent.

On which azimuth I note a survey [Link] on faculty attitudes towards technology. I was pleased and bemused by the results. First of all, the latter. Seems there is a growing divide between administrators and faculty about online courses. The administrators like the reduced overhead, demonstrating the corporate factory mentality that is destroying Amerikan higher education. The faculty have finally figured out the online courses are something between Hobbesian and a boondoggle.

Can we guess which will prevail? And that the decision will be on the side of further damaging education. More race to become a third world nation.

There is also considerable concern with student plagiarism which doesn’t surprise me. If anything it is now more democratic since it isn’t just limited to Greeks any more. It’s also amusing to me. I never did such mostly because I never needed to. Hunkering down and doing a bit of reading and library research and churning out a stilted pompous paper was a lot easier than finding someone else’s paper and rekeying it. In fact the keying – on an electric typewriter machine at that – was the worst part for me.

Makes you wonder if the kids who feel they have to plagiarize really belong in college, doesn’t it?

With college attendance reduced to obtaining a certificate, and actual education being irrelevant, I don;t quite see how we can consider plagiarism as anything other than canny.

Is baksheesh next? Might be even easier to bribe underpaid part-timers than to buy a used paper?

Lastly, everyone seems to be bitching about the cost of textbooks. And no one is doing anything about it, that I can see. All the faculty seem to be fully committed to this new edition every year so they can get their freebie (?) lecture notes and slides and syllabus. Whatever happened to Dover and doing your own lecture.

I feel like the last dinosaur. Good thing I’m not lecturing these days. Would probably get sacked for not penalizing the students enough.

Race for the bottom.