When the World Rots

The air moveth not. So the constitutional was less than enjoyable. Natta, natta, natta. Even being low is getting unsatisfactory. 

I ran across this cartoon: [Link]

yesterday. Now I never drew cartoons, except in my schule notebooks to while away the time while I was information deprived. And the cartoons were typical boy stuff of the Containment ’50’s, and the teachers didn’t like but they learned that ignoring them was better than handling the questions the information deprived kids asked that they couldn’t answer, didn’t want to answer, and the bog kids didn’t want asked. In later years I felt sorry for them – a bit – and hated the schule authorities who catered the curriculum to the bogs majority. Of course if they had catered to the geeks and nerds the bogs would have been rioting in orthogonality. You can lead bogs to books but you can’t make them learn.

Sometimes Brave New World sounds good.

Anyway, this cartoon captures a situation that in my family. My younger brother is EXTRO. 

Enough said.

I also noted [Link] that there is a new BBC computer.

which is a far cry from the BBC computer I had (well, actually a clone but close enough) 


The original BBC computer was all about programming in BASIC. And the bits and pieces of storing and retrieving programs. On/off tape cassettes. I don’t quite fathom what the new one is for. Evidently it’s about registers and machine instructions and such? Seems a strange thing to have to distribute to kids en mass

As far as I can figure this is an artifact of the consumerist/appliance aspect of computing that has become such a pervasive cancer. Back when I was a kid we got the basics of computer functionality thrown at us. Not in schule mind you. Definitely not in schule. Maybe a couple of the STEM teachers had some idea but usually less than we so trying to teach would have been a debacle and a humiliation. For the schule system.

But we got it from SF magazines and Popular * magazines and the like. I read YA books on the subject when I was in the equivalent of junior high schule. But what was missing was the using the computer. It was a holy relic in those days. Adore but don’t touch. Programming was in assembly language or machine code. Programming transcended even nerdery.

By the time I was in college we could program using COBOL (yuck) or FORTRAN (yea!) And I did for years. My first STEM job was more about writing FORTRAN code than doing real STEM. And there were still real programmers around in those days but it was quicker to write your own rather than try to explain the algorithms. Real programmers didn’t do differential equations – then or now. The only difference is that then the STEMS had to write out the algorithms in FORTRAN; now the programmers grab a library routine. Unless there is no library routine. Then they have to go back to the STEMs.

So it appears that the knowledge level today is less than it was in the fifties. Not really surprising. Have you tried to have a discussion with a GEN Y lately? Not easy. Or enjoyable. In the main.

Horrible when the world rotted while you were working.

Heat Capacity

Saturn’s day. And no constitutional in the park. Dihydrogen oxide falleth from the sky. I had to make do with a spin on the stationary bicycle in my study 

Thought: if a velocipede is (among other things) a bicycle, is a stationary bicycle a restipede? Or what?

It is not per se that I dislike walking in rain. At least so long as it is not driving and upsetting. But I do rather dislike the soakage of the lower extremities, necessitating an exchange of garments and a period of unwetting. Dewetting? 

I have commented previously that there are times when I am glad to be senior, mostly along two azimuth: that I won’t survive long enough for some emerging (?) threat to discorporate me; or that I have no desire to adapt to some emerging (? again) social condition. The former fits a case I observed earlier this week in an article [Link] about the Yankee government’s NASA prediction of climate conditions end of century. I especially liked a couple of graphics:


It seem where I reside, Greater Metropolitan Arab, will have maximum temperatures of 35-45 degC in 2100 CE. Let’s see, F = 9/5 C + 32 = 95-113 degF. All we’re doing now is upper 90’s degF and we get almost to 10 degF in winter. Big change.

Hopefully the politicofacsist denialists will enjoy. No wonder they keep cutting the science budget. They want the nerds to shut up and let them stew in their bribes.

Literature and Stupidity

Mundane day and so far not so. Managed to whelm the indisposition enough this morning to motor to Scant City to gym for a truncated session. Mixed bag. Different set of aches and pains. Didn’t try to contend with the weight bouncers. The podcast, an episode of the CBC’s “Best of Ideas” about coping with aging via literature was both boring and alienating. Simply put, it was boring because it lacked any substance, being at best superficial and unrevealing.

The alienating part was more personal. All of the literature mentioned is uninteresting to me. My tastes in literature are fairly constant, if not stationary. Have been since I was an undergraduate. Naturally I read a lot of nerd books, that is, books on nerdish topics rather than books written by nerds (or journalists) about nerdery. The former are usually called technical, the latter I call stercus. More on that later. 

When I was traveling a lot for the Yankee army of occupation I read a lot of what I call ‘airplane trash”, mostly bad science fiction (which is usually too short on the former and too long on the latter.) As the quality of SF deteriorated I added selected mystery novels, notably those by English and ethnic authors. About half of my reading still falls into these genres.

Since retirement my attention span has been freed up from worrying about the bureaucracy of preserving the nation so I have added a great deal of non-fiction to my reading, mostly history and analysis. Also a wider range of periodicals. More “news” magazines. 

But nothing of the sort of thing described in the podcast. No popular literature. No self-help polemics. Poorly written, worse cited, and reeking of untrustworthiness. So far from the general trend of the diminishing population of readers.

Which brings me to a discussion on the FaceScroll yesterday by one of my colleagues Magnetic Inductance Force. The question, a very good one, was why do the bogs not want to know about science? The general thesis was that they are unable to handle the transiency, the aspect of continual change in the search of understanding. Never mind that denying the change is discarding any hope of understanding; that seems irrelevant to the bogs. Rather it seems they are unable to handle anything more than facts, even when those facts are imaginary, illusory, or transitory. 

In a sense, this is the very essence of being biologic. All animals “pin” themselves in the now. We root ourselves in the moment. But we humans are supposed to have the capacity to recall the past and imagine the future. Doesn’t that require an embodiment of change? Is there something about the majority of humans, perhaps an increasing fraction, that cannot do so? Are we evolving away from intelligence? In the now there seems a reasonable case supporting that conjecture.

I hope that this is an artifact of contemporaneity, that we are not really becoming asentient and aintelligent. But if so, I am glad I am senior and won’t see it destroy us.

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.

Canoniacal Impropriety

Survived the expedition to Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill. The most accurate comment I can make is that nothing screams robotic motorcar necessity as loudly as pickup truck drivers. 

But I survived. Despite these pickup truck drivers and the other crazy motorcar drivers in Huntsville, and returned to Greater Metropolitan Arab with only mental wounding.

And I went to gym this morning, last of the week, which is daunting since the weather beavers are foretelling No Constitutional this week out due to low air temperatures. Anyway the gym was delightfully sparse and the podcast, an episode of “The Linux Action Show” was provocative. This latter largely followed from an interview with Mark Shuttleworth. 

I am NOT a fan of Shuttleworth and the interview reminded me quite quickly of why. The fellow is singularly paternalistic. Too much of the interview was “the developers know what the user needs and I command the developers”. And “if you ain’t a developer, you’re slime mold”. So I thought it worthwhile to review why I don’t use Ubuntu any more.

I will mention, only in passing that my disillusion with Ubuntu came early on when the community – not Canonical nor Shuttleworth – abandoned Gnome 2. This led to considerable experimentation until I finally settled on KDE as my GUI/desktop of choice. 

But, and this is a Shuttleworth thing, in process I had to confront the Unity thing. I should mention that several years ago, when I first became a manager, I went to one of our mechanical shops and deliberate did a bit of work exclusively for people who are left-handed. I am right-handed but I wanted to experience the difference so I could better manage. 

Now, let me offer that, for me, using Unity (or trying to) is akin to working with those left-handed tools. I can use it but it is neither comfortable nor facile nor efficient nor effective. I recognize that it is more useful on the small screen but as for me, it is negative on the large screen.

That is not a show stopper. There are other desktops/GUIs, which come in their own sub-distros or can be installed in parallel. But I began to have a problem with a desktop organization who abandons its members for the sake of potential future members. 

But I also had a problem with the version updates. Here in the hinterland, internet connection is not always good. In fact, it is almost always mediocre to poor with the statistics strongly on the lower end. When I started using Ubuntu I could download a disk image of a version update disk. It might take a couple of tries but I could download (eventually), burn a DVD, and do the version upgrade. And only once was it a smashing (as in nuke-and-pave) failure.

Then the practice moved to internet preferred and then internet only version upgrades. And I have three failed version upgrades in a row. Three successive nuke-and-paves in eighteen months. So I gave up on Ubuntu. 

I run two desk boxes. One has Debian, the other SolydK. Both handle updates better than Ubuntu. I recognize that both are unsure from a futures standpoint but I do know that Ubuntu is going to have to get a whole lot MORE stable in its update process to bring me back.


Ice Lessons 1

Not a bad day so far. Despite the forebodings of the weather beavers, the ice giants have not yet laid their hand on Greater Metropolitan Arab. Although I can see their approach on the radar. But I did get to go to gym and courtesy of the weather panic – they also closed the city schules and Redstone again – I had the gym almost to myself. Actually I feared the opening clerk would bail but she actually arrived a couple of minutes early.

This closing thing has become mundane. And wimpish. I can recall driving across Redstone on ice to the aerodrome and then retracing my path when the flight was canceled. But then we were rugged and nerdy in my day. Nowadays it is boggish to be dainty and delicate.

Which brings me to the guts of my visit. I listened to the podcast and marveled that the local weather broadcasting station didn’t have their closed captioning engaged. Evidently the deaf are irrelevant on icy days? Or is this some religio-political crusade to purify the species? By the time I left I dropped the gym population from five to four. And that’s when the wonder struck.

As I checked out, I overheard a conversation from an obese bogette and the clerk about the weather. Ignorance gushed out of the former’s mouth. In seconds I was whelmed with this person’s lack of knowledge of the states of dihydrogen oxide, the mechanics of phase change, and the nature of friction. as she went about her unhappy business – I carefully held my comments – I was struck by a thought:

(an act of) Stupidity is to wager one’s life on one’s ignorance not killing one.

I don’t mean that as any indictment of this individual. I am sure she knows many things I do not, and they are probably more useful to her than the things I was struck she didn’t know. Rather, what this statement is, is a fundamental of life. One cannot know everything, so one must always make this wager. All of us. Even the nerds.

The trick, of course, is to make a rational choice of what one is ignorant of. Preferably also an informed one except that rather contradicts the ignorance part. Maybe?

It is rather a safe wager, at least in Marshall County, Alibam, that the person in question is an analgebraist. That is, she is one of those people who think that anything they are taught in high schule is useless and to be forgotten immediately upon matriculation. And no further education is beneficial. This is the natural extension state of those people who tell their children they’ll never use algebra after high schule, hence the name.

I mention this because that is why I held my comment. With probability of about 0.9 (hear that Sturgeon?) any comment about the states of dihydrogen oxide, phase mechanics, and/or friction would not only be wasted but incur wrath and possibly violence. So in this case leaving ignorance lie was an exercise in pain avoidance. Which somehow seems appropriate in a gym?

Selah. Wait for the slippery.