Quest for Books

Off to gym. Clear roads. Low density, zero weight bouncers and educationalists. Why does this correlate strongly with schule being desessioned? Podcast, an episode of CBC’s “Quirks and Quarks” was a hash of over-records so I had attention span to give to other things.

Observed on electromagnetic audio-visual receiver: Texas is still using prisons as asylums so if you are going to be mentally ill and/or a veteran, don’t do it there. 

One of my colleagues sent me a link to this picture

on the FaceScroll. This is a picture of the sowth side of the courthouse square of Huntsville. That was in the ’50’s or so when Huntsville wasn’t sure whether its future was continuing to do cotton or to embrace rockets and missiles and technology. 

The focus thing here is the building labeled T T Terry’s. I am not sure what all they sold here but I do know they sold public schule textbooks. Every year, I think in August, my mother and I and later, my brother, would go to the store to purchase out schule texts for the session. I am not sure of the economics of the matter; I think the state set the prices of the books. What I remember most clearly is a great unruly mob  of parents and bewildered, often evil, children rioting in place in a hot – horribly hot – building. I do not recall any rational system to the queuing except crowd dynamics. I do recall people, usually women, fainting and occasionally being trod upon. I remember a cacophony of unhappy, often violent talking, seldom paired in conversation. 

The people would inch their way to a long counter, attract the attention of a sales clerk, and state their requirements in terms of schule grade. Then the clerk would scurry off into the stacks and return with a stack of books. I do not recall the payment process but I think it was a separate queue and cash only; I do recall the difficulty of carrying the stack back out through a squirming, unhappy press of those not yet served. People movement was totally outside the care of the merchant. As were any injuries of customers. And, I think, any injuries of employees. I believe one of the clerks died of heat stroke one year.

By the time I was in high schule this system was long gone, replaced by a schule based system. But once I got to college I got to reacquaint myself with the process albeit at the Alabama Book Store at the campus of the Black Warrior. 

I also recall a more leisurely process in the summer of buy back. This was a less subscribed system since the fall exercise was so onerous, parents bent considerable effort to identify some acquaintance who had a child a year advanced so that a private deal could be struck for books. 

I also recall this was long before highlighters, those fiber pens with slightly glowing (?) inks for accentuating segments of text. In those days all we could do was write in margin or underline. I never did this. I think I was admonished by my mother not to as it diminished the value for buy back and was unfair to the next user of the book. At any rate, to this day I only use highlighters on photocopies that I will not pass on to others. Mostly I use sticky notes these days although I find that their glue deteriorates in a couple of years and my books, especially the ones that I disagree with, get rather fat.

I was asked once which was worse, highlighting or underlining. They are both horrible, in my opinion. Underlining is horribly distracting and highlighting is overwhelming visually. Both are anti-productive since I almost always find that what others think important isn’t. 

But I do still have a great affection for good book stores and libraries and I suspect some of that comes from T T Terry’s.

Wrath and Air

Morning of joy! FIrst the Huntsville weather beavers fail miserably. Their direst minimum 23 degF and the actual, at Castellum SCP, is 19 degF at 0400 and 20 degF at 0600. And then my main deskbox craps out. 

This goes beyond hating winter.

Film when the anger and frustration ebb.

Slime Mold Stercus

Having to make mods to FD SCP’s Winders box. Had forgotten what a proctoscopy it is. Where’s the five pound sledge?

Can’t do anything without having to reboot after.

I now have considerable insight into why some humans want to hurt themselves. Winders gives you that perspective.

And how slow Winders downloads. Like paint drying. In a rainstorm

Linux and Stupidity

Back to week in. Air temperature not too low but the air motion is brutal. Not as bad as the coastal yankees are going to have to endure but that’s what they get for being yankees and living up Nawth.

The gym was passable and the podcast moderately diverting if a bit too correct and indecisive. At least the weight bouncers were a bit subdued this morning and not quite menacing. So I had a bit of opportunity for reflection, which was interrupted by a statement by the state attorney general, which prompted the previous blot. Sometimes I think the state would be better off if still occupied by the Yankee Army. Of course, that wouldn’t eliminate the religionist nonsense and bigotry and harassment.

On which azimuth, I ran across two articles of interest yesterday. The first, [Link] argues that Winders X is the death knell of the Linux desktop, and the second, [Link] identifies the "ideal" Linux user. Both are annoying and laughable but thought provoking.

The argument for Winders X is that MegaHard is giving it away. And it’s supposed to be an all device OS. Gee, wonder where they got that idea? Sounds like blatant imitation of Canonical. And, of by the way, how popular is Canonical? Way down the last couple of years, just like MegaHard.

Let me break at this juncture to make a statement. I have ceased to care about the "year of the Linux desktop". Not that I ever cared much. But I have come to the realization that Linux is a lot better than Winders and FruitOS and part of that is because of the current community. I will not forbid any users of other OS from changing to Linux but I am not going to evangelize them either. Call it intellectual elitism if you want but I like a community of technically competent folks. I think of it as a form of Bose condensation.

If someone asks me about Linux I will be happy to answer questions, and if they want to try it I will help them get started but I ain’t gonna be a Winders level IT support guy. If you can’t do for yourself – most of the time – then I don’t want to waste lifespan on you. Others can be evangelists if they like but for me the Linux desktop is here and good and better than Winders or FruitOS and those who can’t recognize this are not worth the trouble. You can’t make an Alpha out of a Gamma.

That’s why I am not worried about MegaHard giving away WX. It’s only for a year. And they are clearly trying to kill off WXP and W8 so they don’t have to support them any more and can close down their litigation fears. I doubt that many of the folks who download a free copy will install anyway.

Because they can’t. They’re the folks who need IT support. They don’t install OS. They buy computers with the OS already installed. New OS version?, New computer. Partly because they are technically incapable of installing and partly because their hardware won’t work right with the new version. And MegaHard engineered both of those situations.

So anyone who abandons Linux for WX is welcome to leave the building. We probably didn’t want you anyway and assuredly will be better off without.

The second article is just as bad. It says,

"The average user is ideal for Linux, because this user:

Doesn’t want to upgrade to the latest-greatest

Doesn’t game

Spends the majority of their time within a browser

Is prone to installing toolbars, screensavers, and apps to "speed up their PCs"

Complains every time they have to "spend money to remove junk"

which is, that the ideal Linux user is a Bog.

If anything, Linux is a lot safer to leave unupdated than Winders or FruitOS. And if Bogs want to install Linux, fine. Go ahead. Don’t ask me to do it. I only do things like that for my mother.

You may have noticed, but there is no community of Winders users. No little groups that meet. There may be for FruitOS, but I know there are for Linux OS. And the standards are pretty high. No bogs present for long, like maybe one meeting. No sympathy if you can’t do command line.

So if browser bogs and other Winders serfs want to migrate to Linux there’s plenty of how-to information on the web and in the book stores. Go and learn and do. Or not. As you choose. But my ‘tear of the Linux desktop’ was several years ago.

5081 days

Out to the edge of week out. If I had known the air temperature is high enough I could have had constitutional. But I missed it and so I am the less. But I did run across another cartoon: [Link]

that brought back memories. One is that it was no problem to sleep in the computer center if one didn’t mind doing so on a linoleum or outdoor carpet (yuck!) floor. That was part of the society of mainframe computer centers in the punch card days, at least among the researchers. The ones I encountered working for Yankee government didn’t permit sleeping. In fact, they didn’t let you hang about. You just submitted your jobs at a window and came back later and checked if the runs were done. Come back too often pestering the clerk and your runs got “lost”.

The hard part was protecting the cards from the weather. Summer was worst. The humidity made them stick. Some folks powdered their cards but I just riffled them.

There was a special society that emerged after midnight: the truly serious. Some were just code fanatics but most were STEM nerds working on projects. Not the solitary stuff of desktops. Sleep was what you did while waiting for runs.


Into week out and "typical" weather persists. Minorly below the dihydrogen oxide phase shift temperature this morning. And no further insights from podcasts except don’t try Trisquel (sp?)

I ran across this cartoon: [Link]

and was rather bemused by it.

I keep getting encouraged to learn a new programming language. The most common mentioned is PYTHON since there is a scientific version of it. Complete with all sorts of libraries of maths routines that are singularly opaque and thus from my standpoint, not very trustable. I have even gone so far as to get a couple of texts on the language but so far not much progress.

I have to admit that I don’t do much coding. Maybe a couple of programs a month. They tend to be fairly simple but more complicated than I can crunch in a spreadsheet. That’s the only merit of MegaHard’s EXCEL. You could code in it. That took care of 0.9 of my needs. But when I switched to Linux after I retired, I found that the FOSS spreadsheets were singularly deficient and the PASCAL compiler environments decidedly unBorland. So I went back to FORTRAN. Took me a day to get back to coding after a twenty-something year lapse. That’s a strong selling point of the language.

I have decided that one of the reasons I am almost uninterested in learning a new language is because the types of coding that most people do these days are of negative appeal. I have no desire to code web pages, or GUI interfaces. My interests lie exclusively – almost – in crunching numbers. Of course I need to analyze those numbers but there are lots of quite useful and adequate plotting and analysis clients available in Linux repositories.

Clearly, being retired removes the motivation of employment. Not that I would make an employable coder. I am too much a product of my times. I am a nerd first and a coder second. I went through college when you couldn’t be a STEM nerd and not code. Maybe not as well as a coding geek but well enough to do research. And that I still do. And I pretty well know that anything I need in the way of maths routines in FORTRAN, I can code. And probably better than the geeks.

FORTRAN Forever! (Cue the pipes!)