Bonsai Gardening

Once more into week in. Gym was survivable, the population was sparse and the podcast, an episode of the CBC’s “Best of Ideas” dealt with (human) parasites. There is a certain thrill to knowledge of yucky things that are maybe good for one. Rather like obligatory reproductive activity?

I ran across an article [Link] this weekend out of Michigan State U that debunks the idea that one can devote 10 K man-hours (MH) to learning something and become a master at that thing. This work establishes that one has to have talent for this thing or those 5 MY are wasted. I now feel much better that I abandoned juvenile athletics as quickly as possible, much to the disappointment of my parents. I have always contrasted the original assertion, now proven conditional, with the idea that one needs to change “jobs” every five years.

I was fortunate in that my parents did not “force” me to do many learned activities. My father wanted me to do sports but I was so abysmal that he quickly subsided. My mother was more determined with ballroom dancing. I still cannot dance to this day despite three summers of lessons as an adolescent. Nonetheless, I have always viewed this as a form of child abuse and was always careful with SCPdatter to help her do things she wanted to do, that I considered worthwhile, and not force her to do things I thought she should do. Other than schule work, of course. Now that I am a grandparent I fear she is morphing into a helicopter. With bumpers. Revenge of the species?

I am not sure it matters much. Children must find their own paths in life. They will be alienated from parents regardless of our acts. But I still fell more comfortable letting children make up their own way. And that’s probably as best as it can be?



Basic Human Factoid

Ran across this cartoon: [Link]

and realized it is ubiquitous. That is, all fathers have a moment when we first realize our child is a Yahoo! After some cognition I am entertaining the opinion that the sooner, the better. It minimizes the disappointment. 

Larval Form?

Almost to week out. Had a good constitutional this morning other than having to avoid runners. And noting that the phenomena I noted as an undergraduate on the campus of the Black Warrior in the latter ’60’s for women’s derrieres apparently applies these days to mammaries and sports bras. Insofar as I could tell in the uncertain light, fractal harmonic oscillation seemed exhibited. Ditto for pony tail,although I have observed that phenomenon previously at gym and so noted. I think?

Anyway, I ran across this cartoon: [Link]

yesterday and being a only slightly used grandparent was brought to some consideration of thee presented idea.

My immediate thought was that this was a bog cave, and not in the Platonic sense. Why is the grandfather evading the question. The presented conjecture is that he is a bog who cannot discuss any basic reality picture. Ergo, he is a poor role model and less than a paradigm of humor.

Clearly the lad has been exposed to some bits of biology and while I am not a biologist – although I did enjoy much of my two semesters of undergraduate biology courses; the labs were rather lame and seemingly pointless and uneducating – I feel fairly confident that I could make a reasonable stab at the question without running screamingly to either my study or the consultation of biologist colleagues.

And that answer would be along the lines that finger puppets are not larval forms but rather dwarfed descendant offshoots of hand puppets who have evolved to lesser magnitude due to a constrained environment. I am unsure of whether I would introduce Homo Florensis into the discussion. Probably let that one take care of itself.

And I would sit back and await any grrr brrr from the daughter or the lad’s teacher.

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Reddy Snowatt

From one stress to another. Now I am having to contend (?) with house repairs and the weather is worsening. I ran across this cartoon: [Link]

yesterday and was first amazed at the wisdom of the brother. This kid is destined for greatness either positively or negatively and the result is stochastic given our ignore-it-and-it-will-go-away Amerikan attitude towards parenting. The biological production of a child is a biological process; it’s built into our DNA and bodies. Parenting is a matter of intelligence and social responsibility and we totally ignore that.

And no, I am not talking about Nazi-era imposed sterilization. But I am talking about licensing parents. With examinations. And if they have a child without a license, they go to jail. After all, you can’t drive a motorcar without a license. And the rationale is public safety. So why do we let people have children and raise them without a license? Isn’t that a bigger risk to public safety?

And then I noticed the matter of the “electric snowman”. The whole Beetles avant garde aspect aside, electric snowman? Is this a matter of laziness or child development? Somehow the picture of a white plastic (?) snowman figure on a browning lawn strikes me as somewhere between absurd and mournful, perhaps all at once. I realize that, despite the joyful bleats of Repulsian climate change denialists, that snow is becoming less common, but a fake snowman? Somehow it seems horribly Veblenesque and pathetic. I suppose I can accept, if I don;t have to see too long, those clearly plastic inflatable holiday figures, but a fake snowman.

Yes, I made snowmen as a child. It was not fun. And perhaps because of that they were not very good although I thought it because we had no coal living in Nawth Alibam with the Tennessee Valley Authority. Is that why we now have electric snowmen? So that the children are relieved of a punishment exacted by nostalgic and insecure parents? Makes sense in a way.

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Outreach Goodness

My opinions on science outreach are fairly obvious to the (few) readers of this blog. I consider it a perverse frenzy of current popularity that is characterized by Sturgeon’s Rule, that 0.9 of everything is crap.

crap n 1: obscene terms for feces [syn: crap, dirt, shit, shite, poop, turd]; 2: obscene words for unacceptable behavior; “I put up with a lot of bullshit from that jerk”; “what he said was mostly bull”

Happily that also implies that 0.1 is not.

I have to advance that I do not find much of the 0.1 that is written by actual academics; they seem unable these days of composing. But I did run across an excellent bit of outreach this weekend in the form of this cartoon, [Link]

And I still contend that the best children’s science book I know of is John Lewellen’s The Boy Scientist, Simon and Schuster, 1955. That date in itself is a condemnation of the current madness.

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Cloud William

One of my colleagues, Current Density Magnetic Inductance, and I have been carrying on a discussion on nerd eBooks for some time. My colleague, who is much more comfortable with the evil-that-is-Apple is happy with his iPud but he is quick to declaim that this is the only Apple box he owns – now. He has used Apple desk box in past in the office – i.e., use or quit – environment. He is also frank enough to admit that the iPud is too expensive for general use as a collegiate eReader and indeed has capabilities that are difficult to control from the podium. To say nothing of its total failure, along with other computer devices (maybe) as note taking instruments.

Anyway, I ran across a raft of articles yesterday on the educationalists’ indictment of the states’ science education (?) programs. Simply put, the triangle of grade density was awfully squatted and NOT inverted as one would like. Nonetheless, the result was expected and so I picked on one article, this one [Link] from Scientific American, which is actually one of the better although it is somewhat chest tightening to admit that. Scientific American, which is still rather slumish compared to its glory days in my youth has had a few singular instances of improvement lately and I have to admit to actually considering a subscription. At least I let them send me a trial issue – not yet arrived – to permit a scathing kritik.

Recognizing that any grading system other than ‘my state continues, yours becomes non-existent’ is arbitrary and subjective, [1] the grading damnation is summarized by one of those graphics that we seem to do so well while being miserably inept at effectiveness,

I have a somewhat conflicted position of noting that Alibam received a “D” that puts it far above dead last or dead last but one, the usual position of our state in such lists.

I also found this statement

“The study identified four main factors: an undermining of evolution, vague goals, not enough guidance for teachers on how to integrate the history of science and the concept of scientific inquiry into their lessons, and not enough math instruction.”

as worthwhile and almost telling.

The first factor is clearly the result of boggish mysticism that has been resurgent in recent years. Short of simply shipping off the children of the asurvival deluded to separate classes on creationist mysticism and pseudo-science, I see no way to do anything substantive about this lemming rush until the nation collapses into true third world status and the children of these children will once more see education and science as avenues to longer, better life.

The vagueness is a direct result of the current climate of political and social correctness and excessive governmental direction. Why should one risk one’s life, liberty, and health when the Yankee government and every splinter educationalist terror cell shouts one down as racist, genderist, or even mediocre, the latter being accurate but basically nor dismissable.

Guidance on history and inquiry may be fixable in the doctrine but not in the implementation. By extension this is the root problem: today’s educationalists who ‘teach’ science, in the mean, have inadequate knowledge of science to be anything more than a Kindle on ‘verbalize’ mode. You cannot be effective teaching what you do not know and understand.

The last has been a problem with our educationalist system almost since the founding of the republic. If anything, our maths education has not progressed since then. We still spend ten years or so teaching arithmetic and then try to cram some higher maths into the maelstrom that is high shule.

Much of this cannot be fixed but some attempts can be made:

  1. Certification of teachers must follow degree. All high shule teachers must have degrees in the discipline they teach.
  2. Algebra needs to be introduced in third grade; Calculus taught in grade five before adolescence has its endocrine holocaust.
  3. No religion permitted in shules. (Yes, this one is moonbeams but it follows logically.)
  4. Definition of curriculum must occur at the local level. (Yes, this results in a lot of failure but we see from history it is better than what we have now under the Soviet system.)

Rotted fruit on sale in the lobby for a reasonable price plus a janitorial surcharge.

[1]  The one cited is, admittedly, subjective, but it is not arbitrary!

Auschwitz – the lunch room

There are time when I am glad to be an ORF. Getting up time is one of them, knowing that the only reasons I have to get up and scurry about to go someplace are not due to the servitude of employment. Meal time is a mixed bag but this week it has been largely positive, largely because of the ponderous inertia of the Yankee government and the predation of social engineers.

The primary cause of this joy was the announcement by the Yankee government, via the news media in my instance, of changes to the shule lunch regime. I came to reflect on the government’s, and social engineer’s, perversion of resistance is met with greater punishment rather than any type of kritik. The new regime is supposed to be healthier with more whole grains, vegetables (including catchup?) and less fat and sodium.

This despite test data from pilot shules that indicates the students will just not eat what they don’t like and thus instead of eating “healthy”, eat less, presumably making matters worse at home but on the ledger of government – good, parents – bad, a profit. (I regret I can’t find this reference. Mea Culpa.) There is even counter information on the obesity war front, a study [Link] indicating that shule junk food is NOT a substantive factor in causing obesity. Unfortunately, like the War on Drugs and the Global War on Terror, (and Vietnam,) any body is that of the enemy.

Sadly, the shule lunch program has always been a playground of social engineers and religionists. If the Yankee government can receive any credit for its heavy handed ways it is for relieving shule children of the confusion and stress of being subjected to one religionist doctrine at shule and (probably) another at home. This was not without some benefit, at least for the nerds. I recall in elementary shule being subjected to prayers at both the start of class and at lunch time. The former were standardized with variations but the latter were often delivered by one of the do-gooders and their deviations from our parents’ formulae gave the attentive, perceptive, and cognitive – nerds, in short – something to muse on over lunch.

The food at lunch was also a matter of social engineering. The elementary shule I attended was an old mill shule and had a long tradition of educating (training?) of grubby children fated to follow their grubby parents into wage servitude in the cotton mills. They were generally unprepared and under-responsive to the influx of children parented by ‘rocket scientists’. The best tried and did their best in the face of chronically inadequate budgets and college educated parents demanding what they considered minimum standards 10 dB above the shule’s previous best. The lunch room was not part of the best.

Children and parents alike uttered complaints about food that was unpalatable and unhealthy to thirty and forty years veterans of ladle and steam table. The requirement to clean one’s adult sized tray was confronted as criminal, making enforcement all the more strict. Criticize a bigot and you create a martinet. The lunch room prayers were abandoned after a Yankee army Judge Advocate General type descended on a faculty meeting and talked about criminal sanctions and what it was like to run a shule under martial law. Disgruntled, the do-gooders abandoned the practice entirely rather than dilute their rants.

The effect on the food was nil, largely due to the juju of the great god Budget. As a result, a class split occurred. The mill kids pretty much continued to eat the prepared food, but the rocket kids began to mostly eat brought lunches. There was a great contrast between green institutional plastic trays and colorful lunch boxes, with a few brown paper bags offering contrast. The ‘eat it all’ rule still held but brought lunches tended to have everything wrapped and even the girls had pockets in those days. And all in obedience to parental guidance that some of the food was to be saved for afternoon recess, or while waiting for bus after shule.

So I am glad now that all I have to do when I eat lunch is contend with the instructions form physicians, and FD SCP, and the battle to find foodstuffs across several grocery stores. Preparation is a joy compared to those days of childhood because now, at least, the only do-gooder that bothers me is my own conscience. But I know, deep down, that the kids are still stressed and strained at lunch in shule, and no wonder they eat too much or too little.

One of the strengths of homo sapiens is that we always teach our children the wrong things by intent and the right things by error.