Dismal Deterioration

Once more into Ice Cream day. And once more into the abyss of excessive colding. Nasty cold front pushed in by the dread Polar Vortex, the latest in not-a-such-broom and dripping temperatures this evening. And I am sitting in my study shivering. At least partly from the refrigerated V-8 juice I just finished.

So as I clip articles for my files, mostly via a wonderful note-taking app called KeepNote, [Link] which is the best such I have ever found. And still quite incapable of actually taking lecture notes with, of course, but adequate for my daily information saving needs. Anyway, as I do this I shall sally onto a bit of blogging.

First, an article [Link] entitled “Android Marshmallow on PC Falls Flat.” The title is sufficient; the article merely assures the lid of the coffin is secure. This cements what I had suspected after purchasing a ChromeBook a couple of months ago, that Chrome/Android is a sadly neutered desktop environment. And yes, I use browsers a lot, but several and simultaneously, depending on their strengths and weaknesses. But I also need other clients. And therein lies the problem. So once more the conventional Linux desktop is validated.

Second, another article [Link] entitled ““I Don’t Think We Can Stop It:” The Future of Automation and Job Loss” that addresses something I have blogged on previously, that the idea of universal (or even majority) employment is becoming increasingly specious and just flat wrong. This seems likely to be the greatest threat to capitalism since the Great War. How do we continue to only allow a model based on everyone doing something productive and payable? Even if we ignore the poor and tell them to eat cake, the death machines will not be long in coming. And it seems equally unlikely that the rise of the robot – Czech (?) for “worker” – will be reversed by self-aware capitalists. 

Another thing that makes me glad to be ORF.

And lastly, an article [Link] entitled “The Crisis in Physics Education” that expounds further the problems with STEM teaching that I blogged about yesterday. Simply put,

“Of all school subjects, Physics has the most severe teacher shortage, followed by math and chemistry.  There are large surpluses of biology and earth science teachers.

Only 1/3 of all high school physics teachers have a degree in physics or physics education.

Almost 1/3 of all high school physics teachers have taken fewer than 3 college physics classes.

90% of middle school students are taught physical science by a teacher lacking a major or certification in the physical sciences (chemistry, geology, general science or physics). 

Our local and regional school districts have had substantial difficulty finding and retaining qualified physics teachers. 52% of New York City high schools do not even offer physics.”

And, of course, this problem is primarily the doing of the education establishment. It is not that there are not a lot of college educated physicists out there. There are more physicists today than there have ever been. But the system is so tied to the idea of certification that this shortage exists. Between physicists who are unwilling (unable) to spend the time being certified and the unwillingness of schule systems to hire anyone lacking a certificate, the children have been hung out to dry. 

This problem could be solved simply. The schule system could hire a non-certified teacher but only for a specific time, about five years. So hire graduate students to teach half time while they finish their coursework and give them the option of leaving after a couple of years or working on a certificate. But I somehow doubt the schule systems are smart enough to even try this, much less pull it off. So one more example of Amerika becoming Third World State.

I have to be direct. I enjoy teaching but I never wanted to make it a career. The instrumentality of schule, especially K-12, are mind killers. Teaching outside a university takes too much time, destroys research opportunities, and generally turns one into a blob. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who can thrive in that environment, but not me. I suspect this is becoming more common as universities become more factory-like and as dismal and oppressive as K-12 systems. But there may still be something to Amerika worth saving. If the educationalists will save themselves?

Breakfast Discovery

I am going through two weeks worth of comics because of too much distraction last weekend. Saw this [Link]

and was a bit bemused by the idea of marshmallows in oatmeal. Is that salted or unsalted? Haggis or regular? I can perhaps see in haggis but not in regular.

I do know people put strange things in oatmeal. One relative pours honey in which is all right because its grocery store honey which is gibble anyway. But would be a serious waste of local honey. That should be reserved for English Muffins and/or scratch biscuits anointed first with actual butter. But I put Maple syrup on my oatmeal. Except the haggis, of course.


What’s Hallowed?

I am not a fan of Halloween. I have no good memories of it as a child. What memories I have are largely of EXTRO abuse and harassment. Even my parents  – at least my mother – harassed me. I HAD to go out to other people’s houses and collect inedible candy – if you think it’s bad today, it was horrible in the ’50’s – with other kids and parents. Talk about painful territory.

The only good part was my mother wouldn’t let me eat the candy. She rationed it and after a day I was able to avoid the ration and eventually it got to the rubbish can.

Even when I was an adolescent I had to participate in Halloween social activities. I especially recall a skating party where I was mugged by the jocks. I told my parents I fell. 

And as an adult I am expected to perpetuate this terrorism by being a distributor of candy to other people. Who call at my house. More EXTRO abuse.

Happily I am now a grouchy ORF and can ignore the doorbell and leave the lights off and not have to deal with terrorists on my doorstep.

And yesterday was actually a pleasant surprise. I was watching cable – DSL is TOO SLOW for streaming courtesy of living in the hinterland amid EXTRO bandwidth hawgs – and discovered that TCM was airing a series of ’40’s and ’50’s RED MENACE BOMB DENIAL movies. (Who says denial is a new thing? Repulsians have been doing it for decades and that’s just to my observation.)

How the people who schedule movies figure post-bellum SF movies are Halloween material is a matter of extreme puzzlement. Horror and Fantasy, yes; but SF? NEIN. 

But something I could enjoy. 

The series was: The Blob; The Thing; and Earth versus the Flying Saucers. Inserted in this was The Village of the Damned but it is such a boring bit of Quatermass imitation that it’s not really good enough to include. Of course, the rhetoric from the talking head around the showing indicated all they cared about was boxoffice gross and awards. And the VoD did appeal to the BOGs.

None of these are Science Fiction even though they are based on good science fiction writing. But Hollywood prides itself on making stercus out of aurum. Occasionally it is bonus stercus as in these three, but stercus nonetheless. Occasionally they come close to Science Fiction in their SF movies – Forbidden Planet is probably the closest – and the Germans and French do better than the English speaking peoples, and the English make it sound wonderful and good with those accents but it’s still cardboard crap. 

But when they get close it’s good. Not as good as real Science Fiction, but definitely worth the time and attention span. So I sat through all four, but wandered away a lot during VoD.

The Blob is the epitome of the adolescent SF movie. A tour de force of teenager being right and the establishment being WRONG! Made us feel validated when we saw this as endocrine wracked teens. It was movies like this that made us be successful inspite of our parents’ depression/world war mores. And easily the best of Steve McQueen’s movies. I know there is a cult of Bullit, but that was derivative of TB. Established him as the owner of the angry brooding teen as savior of civilization. Happily he never got to play Batman.

The Thing is the epitome of great SF. It’s based on a John Campbell short story. That short story illuminates why Campbell was the Dean of the American (covert) College of Science Fiction. A GREAT Science Fiction Author and Editor of ANALOG. The mentor of Asimov and Heinlein and many of the other greats. And got no mention by the talking head other than as author of the short story. But lots of stercus tauri about the praise and profit of the movie. And also Janes Arness’ greatest role. No speaking, which many consider his greatest accomplishment. And the electrocution scene! The epitome of pre-CGI effects. After TT, it was downhill for Arness. Except for THEM! But after the Bomb Denial movies all he had left was Oaters. 

Earth Versus is a bit of a let down after the other two. Except it is so seriously camp that it hurts. Amazing how humorously the military is portrayed in movies when Amerika likes them. Very different post-Vietnam. This movie is a study in mediocre excellence. The effects are superb, better than the CGI stuff in the Star * movies. But what makes it is the robotic mechanicalness of the whole movie. It never really crescendos. It just staggers along without major bumps. And that dullness lulls one into the visuals, which are superb. This was a showpiece for Harryhousen and it is a more fitting memorial than any of the classical soap operas he worked on. If anything, this movie is tinged with a wonderful message about human arrogance, mirrored in the pridefulness of the aliens.

So overall, a worthwhile afternoon of diversion and digression. Good result despite poor planning by TCM. Evidently Ms. Fonda couldn’t rescue them from their own greed. Which is why SF of this era is so wonderful today. It talks to what is wrong with our society. Still. Ever?

Dried Mudville

Five day. Last day of gym. Bit of a departure this morning. The shift to five days/week has resulted in a bit of difficulty finding something to listen to on Five day. So this morning I listened to an episode of “Infinite Monkey Cage” which is sort of a whacked panel discussion about some aspect of science.

This morning’s episode was a special edition from New Yawk. The only person on the panel that I recognized (by name) was Bill Nye who I am usually disappointed in. He ain’t no George Tofffel. Much too Geeky. But he did better this morning. Almost acceptable. Except for his inimitable nattering to excess. But that was OK because others on the panel nattered more. 

But the mumblage put me to considering other things. 

Despite all this mumblage from disreputable celebrities I am convinced that humanity – and probably all life on Tellus – is doomed. Except maybe the life in the undersea volcanic vents. Where humans can’t vertically copulate its existence.  Doing anything about climate change is fruitless and impossible given the political climate so let’s just settle down to an “On The Beach” scenario and take our “Black Pill”. 

Which is probably a better idea given the current election for POTUS. It struck me that none of the candidates is going to improve things and we are going to wind up with the worst administration since Ulysses Simpson Grant.

Otherwise it will likely be a beautiful day.

Water rationing any day now. Firing parties for watering lawns or having swimming pools. To be televised on local access. Thirst and dehydration make for lousy dying.


50: Declined!

Last week was the fiftieth reunion of my high schule year group. We – FD SCP and I – didn’t go.

Let me say that we had good intentions. Her year group was planning on having a fiftieth which would also be their first. But her class was only twenty-five initially and about half that now, which indicates why Alibam is number two in abysmalness of health care and Mi(ssi)^nppi is number one. 

I/we have been to several of my reunions. Initially, just myself since we hadn’t mt. This was in the early years. Every five years. I attended the first three and found them all abysmal. So I quit going.

FD SCP and I went to one about fifteen years ago. We stayed a half-hour. Horrible noise as an excuse for music and inedible food. Since we had paid for a room at the night we retired to the hotel restaurant, which was deserted except for staff, and enjoyed a quiet, edible meal before retiring and running away expeditiously the next morning. 

So no positive experiences. Including seeing old classmates.

But this was different somehow. Not sure just how but decided needed to go.

But on the day I began to reflect on my experiences in high schule. The bullying and harassment by the jocks and bouncers (cheer leaders.) And especially the coaches. The information deprivation and the regimentation – NO! You MUST stay ignorant! – that was only depressing and dismal until I got to college and found out its existence. 

And the people. Yes, a few I sorta wanted to see but why? Yes, there were a couple who were good friends but friendship decays with distance. And the teachers? Most dead and the others I wasn’t sure I wanted to tell they failed. The good ones had moved on in the main and the well meaning ones didn’t deserve the disillusionment.

And FD SCP doesn’t like crowds she doesn’t know.

So we caved. And now it’s out of my system.