Forsaken is Better

Into week out and nastiness of the weather (climate?) has been visited upon us. All sorts of fallings and blowings last night into this morning. My constitutional was decidedly unpleasant due to the wind’s speed and its less than enjoyable cooling. Coupled with a less than effectively distracting podcast episode and my mind had occasion to wander back to a couple of articles.

First. a bit [Link] from the New Yawk Times entitled “The Problem With Math Problems: We’re Solving Them Wrong”. I have to admit to being a bit put off by the title. I learned a long time ago that when solution is a necessity however you solve the problem is acceptable. But since I have had to relearn some things on stochastic differential equations this week to review a manuscript, I have to admit that thoughts – and mode of thinking – can be rather critical in maths. 

That’s the thesis of the article in a nutshell, that the schule systems are failing to teach the students how to think. In particular, for this article, about and of and in maths, but my observation is more general. The schules are failing to teach the students to think. 

Part of this can be blamed on the “teachers” but that blame would not be new. I am not at all sure that thinking was encouraged when I attended public schule. Definitely not prior to high schule and I often doubt there as well. So such absence is not a new thing, just a thing that is beyond the reach of the system. Whether that is due to an inability of the system to do so curricularly or because teachers have no idea how to teach thinking is unclear but my personal hypothesis is both. If you go back and read Clausewitz’s writings on education from the eighteenth century the same absence was gaping. We may even postulate that the schule system is incapable of teaching thinking and the students are on their own. In which case Tyson’s tweet is profoundly relevant. Only the students who can transcend this will learn to think and we had better get used to the idea of a thinking elite.

This is supported by another article [Link] entitled “How much math, science homework is too much?” The answer is about an hour;s worth, which is an answer that strikes me as nonsensical absent context – which is absent. How long it takes to do an assignment varies from student to student depending on several factors. So is this a mean or mode, a statistical quantity, or does it mean the student is to work and hour and cease? Neither makes an enormous amount of sense although the former more than the latter.

What is useful ism again unsupported, assertion that too much is bad. This is good sense and smacks of academic officialness. You don’t learn nor want to learn when the work is tiring and drudgery. But what is telling is that the study repeated that learning alone is more effective than in a group. So, abandon study groups as parasite pools. If you want to do well, you gotta do it on your own.

Thank you Neil DeGrasse Tyson for pronouncing the obvious. That’s what science is about, after all.

Do But Question

Freya’s day. Survived a (too long) annual exercise with my ophthalmologist yesterday. Had to be supervised by FD SCP since despite engaging an early (for them) appointment it takes all day for my ability to focus to reboot after the pupils are dilated, to  say nothing of the stress and bashing of some of the tests. Especially the depth of field test. Makes me shudder every time I think of the subject. 

But in the closing segments, mostly dealing with the practitioner himself and not just his scurrying myrmidons, albeit they are very well mannered and knowledgeable myrmidons, I came to realize a weak distinction among bogs, geeks, and nerds. The testing functional is “follow directions but question.” The functional follows from medicalists giving instructions to clients. Other disciplines do this as well but in lesser frequency.

I also mentioned that this was a weak distinction. Weak in this case indicates that the distinction is statistically modal rather than universal. I suspect this results from the mixing of behaviors/temperaments. That is, the categories of bog, geek, nerd are approximate divisions of a spectrum. So some bogs exhibit geekish behavior under certain conditions, e.g.

With these caveats and qualifications, we may begin:

Bogs (modally) follow directions but do not question. That is, they may or may not follow directions. Usually they initially follow directions but may cease and do so without questioning the directions. 

Geeks ask questions but usually do not follow directions initially. They may follow directions subsequently if frightened into doing so.

Nerds follow directions but continually question them and may modify the directions based on what they learn. 

It is noteworthy that all of these are frustrating to the person who issued the directions.

Cow Flops are Apathetic

Woden’s day. Calm. Maybe. Not having to motor to Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill. Too many medicalist engagements. Gym crowded but not harassing. Subdued. Podcast, an episode of the CBC’s “Quirks and Quarks” was a review of three books on nerdery and was not a total waste of time. Not that I plan to read any of them. Convinced of that. Bog books about science are nasty. They have no learning substance and they propagate “wrong” things. 

On which azimuth, one of my clipping services sent me a link [Link] to an article entitled “Social studies education facing ‘crisis’ as class time is slashed, departments closed”. Before we get too worried I should comment that this is about public secondary schules. It seems that social studies and science and such aren’t being taught in secondary schules because, surprise! surprise!, they aren’t covered on the standardized tests. And the world is coming to an end because of this.

What isn’t discussed is that this is fiscally motivated. The money the schule gets is directly proportional to the student scores on the tests so why teach something that isn’t going to pay? Good business thinking, isn’t it. Which indicates that the world isn’t coming to an end. It has already ended and the schules are zombies.

The implication is that the kids aren’t getting good education. IMHO this is a specious implication. When have the public schules ever provided good education. I refer again to Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s quote about good student learning in spite of bad teachers. An appendix to that is bad information. 

I have to ask myself what I learned in public schule:

  • Composition D-
  • Maths C– (exception rule applies)
  • Syntax D-
  • Spelling C-
  • Science C– (exception rule applies)
  • Social Studies F

so I am not all that upset at this teapot tempest. Now I did learn composition but not until I got to college and in practice, not until after. Maths and science I largely learned on my own. The only positive thing I can attribute to public schule is arithmetic drills – multiplication and addition memorization – that are anathema these days and indicative of how we have set ourselves up for failure as individuals and a nation. Spelling is called out because it is like arithmetic; it has to be memorized and at an early age. The mis-spellings I learnt then are still with me and I will carry unto death. It’s wired in us. 

I give social studies a failing grade because all it bothered to teach – in the main – was names (which I am terrible at,) dates (which are unanchored and thereby irrelevant,) and the propaganda ideas pushed by politics. What social studies I learned of value was either acquired in college or on my own. 

So if I got it in spite of the schule system, why should I worry? (Thank you Alfred!) Because those who are successful and learn in spite of the incompetency of the system are the minority. Sturgeon’s rule at least approximately applies, so 0.9 of all student cannot learn in spite of bad teachers and inaccurate, inadequate information. That’s why as a nation we are ignorant and deluded about birth control, evolution, climate, and almost any other aspect of reality. So we are doing ourselves in as individuals and a nation by feeding our kids mind stercus.

The only good thing is that it’s sparse. Which is the other damnation. So education is a farce and a prevarication. So it doesn’t matter what we do until we get fed up with failure and ignorance and stupidity and start all over. Which we won’t do.


For now.

The Evil that Men Do

Once more into week in. Back to gym through the falling of liquid – thankfully! – dihydrogen oxide. As is usual with “foul” weather, more nuisance in this instance than foul, the density of gym occupation is diminished from the mundane day mode but I shall not complain except about weight bouncers trying their best to obstruct the walking path.

The podcast this morning was an episode of the CBC’s “Best of Ideas” dealing with the Holocaust in Denmark. Or perhaps I should say the absence of the Holocaust. This national solidarity however gave me occasion to consider the solidarity of the nation at that time. And to then consider the farce of Indiana’s latest political flatulence.

Not that I can complain very loudly. Alibam, after all, also has one of these laws protecting “Religionist Freedom”. But since I am at best an occasional nuisance for the evil that is politician in Alibam, I cannot deny some culpability.

It occurred to me however, that these laws are nothing more than government sanctioned racism. I quote from the Macmillan Dictionary of Anthropology:

“race: the common use of the word is to refer to a group of persons who share common physical characteristics and form a discrete and separable population unit has NO scientific validity”


“racism: doctrines of or beliefs in racial superiority, including the belief that race determines intelligence, cultural characteristics and moral attributes.”

One way of looking at this is that race and racism are “Us – Them” manifestations. The “moral attributes” seems most applicable here. I should also comment on the “physical characteristics”. I take physical to be synonymous with observable. So any form of differentiation of humans based on observables is racism. Which means it is inescapable. What matters is whether hurt is done.

If differentiation occurs to provide better medical attention, then I hold that differentiation to be good. If differentiation occurs, on a subjective and arbitrary basis such as social or religionist tenets, then that may be bad shading into evil. And when it is condoned by government, whose sole purpose is the betterment of the state of its members – humans – then that shading into evil is strong.

I heard this morning from a babbling head on the electromagnetic audio-visual receiver that the religionists feel beset and besieged. The question ignored was what has their arrogance and evangelism been if not attacks on our privacy and rationality and the sanctity of our own, differing, beliefs that we should be permitted to hold so long as we harm no one else. What permits, nay, empowers these people to inflict themselves and their beliefs on the rest of us? Nothing except their own arrogance and bloodthirstiness. 

So these laws are actually doubly evil. The laws not only hurt humans that the government is supposed to protect but also enable other humans to do their evil without let or fear of punishment. 


One of my colleagues, Velocity Spin, sent me this cartoon: [Link]

and I was a bit befuddled. Back when television was monochrome and dinosaurs roamed the earth (they still do, for that matter,) the responsibility of the lecturer was to make announcements in class; the responsibility of the student was to be there. If you weren’t in class you had three choices: ask someone else in the class, if you knew anyone and they would talk to you; ask the lecturer and hope for a mild tongue lashing and extra work; or suck it up. So I went to class. That’s avoiding the decision space.

Actually it was a survival activity. If you went to class you were more likely to get a better grade in the course. At least in the STEM courses. I’m not sure about the bog courses. I had some semi-geek friends who majored in bog disciplines and they seemed to not go to class very often but still got fair grades. As in fair-to-middling, not in the maths sense or the young woman sense. 

If any of us had asked the lecturer to put announcements in a bulletin board the answer would have been an absolute zero (Kelvin” “NO!” Maybe with several !. 

So how have things gotten in this sorry state. I am befuddled. Is this part of university as factory, diploma as education? But it’s one more instance of me being glad I am NOT young.

Ice but no Cream

Ice Cream Day. Again the air temperature is below the solidification of dihydrogen oxide. So no constitutional in the park. But I did assay a spin (?) on the stationary recumbent while listening to much of the rest of that episode of “The Pen Addict”. Not a particularly useful episode but at least they didn’t blather on ala “fan boy” about small notebooks.

This is not to say that I do not have my preferences about notebooks but small notebooks are more for short memoranda (memory aides), rather akin to Tweets but of value and purpose, rather than real notes. To me a real notebook is basically 8.5 x 11 in^2 where I can actually develop maths and problems of interest. Alas, one cannot carry such in trouser or shirt pocket so there is a place in life for small notebooks, especially when FD SCP proclaims that I can’t drag a real notebook along since that means I will be more interested in doing work than attending to her.

Speaking of notes, it seems time to clean up a few tabs. First, I note an article [Link] entitled “Who Cares If Antivirus Works, As Long As It’s Low-Key”. Yes, this is an anti-virus article and hence one is moved to ask why a Linuxite cares about AV? Answer (simple) is that I don’t want to be a disease vector. So I have AV on my boxes. But I do have them scheduled to scan while I am somnolent. So I suppose I do care about loss of performance. 

The author’s natter is this. That people seem to care more about unintrusiveness than effectiveness. I have to question this. They have AV do they not. And presumably they use it? And so what if it is only two nines effective? Arguing effectiveness on almost all AV programs is like arguing effectiveness on children’s sanitary wipes. The microbes are gonna be back in an hour or so even if the kids are shut up in a clean room, which they aren’t. What counts is getting to herd immunity. It’s the same argument that vaccines don’t have to be 1.0 but everyone needs to vaccinate to keep everyone secure. It’s a social thing and a good one, possibly unlike social media.

So why my natter? Well I admit I don’t expect journalists to comprehend basic maths – differential equations and stability theory – but I do expect them to not be too superstitious either. Which this polemic is dangerously close to. Save that stercus for whatever day your sect observes as shabbat. And spare me the nonsense. 

On a related azimuth, I also noted an article [Link] for a surficant that reduces adhesion. It’s billed as a way to coat the inside of squeeze bottles so you can get all the contents out. Nice try. May work ok for Newtonian liquids but how about non-Newtonians and semi-liquids? Also no mention of health effects? But it did occur that one could  use this to make fleece linings of jackets more friendly. I have a raincoat I purchased from the Maine Guide Store. Impossible to easily and conveniently get one’s arms in or out of the fleece lines sleeves. In fact, this coat is an archetype of poor design. Which may be indicative of dementia among the management of the corporation. No wrinkle pants is another. Perhaps if they ingested this surficant it would improve the blood flow to their brains and reverse some of their madness?

Freya’s day. And I snuck one past the weather beavers. They foretold that the air temperature in Greater Metropolitan Arab would be 38 degF, which it may be but at 0500 this morning my heat pump external sensor said 41 degF and so I assayed a constitutional. This was a mixed bag. The parka I had to bundle in was heavy and so my back hurts a bit. But the snow – unforetold, mind you! – was very pretty and entertaining. The podcast was the first few minutes of an episode of “The Pen Addict” that mainly talked about how vertically copulated the Yankee republic is. 

Cannot argue with this. If anything, the states of the old Confederacy are a prime causation. As one of my colleagues, who asked to be unattributed, said

“Alabama and Mississippi are in a struggle to the death to be last.”

I can’t argue with this although I am envious of the statement. It’s one of those that’s obvious once it’s pronounced. I will probably be asked what last means so I will elaborate. In any of those lists of good/bad things about the states of the Yankee republic, they always list the fifty states in descending order. If it is a good metric (sorta?) then the first state listed is the most good and the fiftieth state listed is the least good; if it is a bad metric (again, sorta?) then the first state listed is the least bad and the fiftieth state listed is the most bad. And Alabama, along with Mississippi is trying to always be number fifty.

Why? I am not sure. Evidently it is something that the council of thieves and the guvmint think is necessary and desirable, like not having adequate medical care or schules. Those who subscribe to the Yankee guvmint’s race taxonomy claim it’s a racism thing. I personally think it’s more about greed and stupidity, but since I don’t pretend to understand I can’t claim my theory to be any better, But it ain’t fiftieth.

I also get asked why I continue to live here. That’s an easy one. Because I don’t have to work very hard to avoid things. I like to do things most of the population doesn’t, like think. So I don’t have to waste a lot of time dealing with thinking people. Of course, a lot – most – of the people aren’t very rational but that’s not all bad. Sort of like being stuck in permanent cosplay. And it’s relatively cheap to live here because there isn’t much to spend money on. Not that the guvmint and its masters aren’t trying to get your money but they do it in such putzish ways. 

Which is not to say it’s a bad place to live. There are still a few trees that haven’t been chopped down for export. And if Harry Harrison tried to write a DeathWorld novel about Alabama no one would believe it. 

So I’m going to enjoy the day. And do some experiements to help me find a working replacement for Ubernote. Film at Eleven.