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.

Selah.

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.

Rot, Rotter, Rottest

A most enjoyable session at gym. I managed to sneak in and out before the roads iced up, and the constabulary went all Gestapo but not before the sunshine patriots, the educationalists and almost all of the weight bouncers decided to bunker in. So the gym was quite sparsely populated.

Sadly the podcast, an episode of the CBC’s "Best of Ideas" was blah and vapid. The subject was 3-D printers and done for a boggish audience who pays scant attention to nerdery. So it presented nothing new except a bit of history of science fiction coming real. And that is questionable. I have been around 3-D printing for 20+ years now and the technology and organizational aspects of them are old underwear, the kind that can be trotted out as new to the mentally impoverished.

But this vapidity gave me occasion to expend cognitive cycles on a commercial I viewed last evening on the electromagnetic audio-visual receiver. The commercial was a Tarzan piece by some corporation, whose identity is lost in irrelevance, about helping schules. Helping schules means selectively giving a few schules a token of money (compared to the cost of the commercial and air time) so the corporation can brag about giving back. Pennies on the Pound sort of thing, of course.

But what stuck with me was a throw away line:

"Fifty percent of all students are alienated to maths and science by the eighth grade"

That’s not exact but close enough.

My first thought at this was that money will have scant effect on this since it depends on adequate funding (obviously not met) to all schules (also obviously not met) with questing maths and science teachers ( patently not met but independent) who will use the money creatively to engage the students (almost an impossibility.) So the whole commercial was a grand prevarication. Goebbels would be proud!

The more I reflected on this, the more I recalled my own days in primary and secondary schule. Basically the same thing occurred, if not more so. In those days the teachers were willing – unlike today? – but woefully ignorant and hence ineffective bordering on incompetent, and the textbooks were horrible, insipid and inadequate, instilled with too little science and too much social nonsense. And the maths books were horribly simplistic and repetitive. Boringly, grindingly repetitive. So yes, by eighth grade most of use were completely alienated to public school maths and science.

That doesn’t mean we were alienated to maths and science in general. We grew up in a nerd town. Many of us had nerds for parents, and both human and textual sources of real information on science and maths. My parents were bogs with sparks of geekness but they provided me with lots of reading material (most not very good except my father’s navy correspondence courses’ textbooks.)

I am reminded again of that tweet of Neil DeGrasse Tyson,

Students who earn straight A’s in school do so not because of good Teachers but in spite of bad Teachers.

We probably have to add bad texts and bad parents to that list. Bad in this case means ineffective or weak or ignorant but not necessarily evil. Some teachers are evil these days since their pay is glued to not teaching well. But I think these are still the exception. The problem is that (1) teachers don’t know enough science and maths; (2) parents don’t know enough science and maths and they aren’t supportive meaningfully; and (3) the textbooks are terrible in so many dimensions. The worst of the latter is religionist politics and social moralizing, neither of which belong in science and/or maths texts.

So no wonder the kids are turned off. The problem is that this time it’s also at home. And from that there is no recovery except another dark age of misery and violence.

Buck up kids, you probably won’t have to endure being ignorant long.

Soda Rot

It is hard to write that gym week is over, since I only made it to gym twice this week. Temperature deficit syndrome, I fear. And the weather beavers are already crowing about the depredations we shall experience next week. Perhaps it is time to invest in a cave?

Of course on the bright side I did miss all the nastiness of the educationalists and weight bouncers at the gym.

Speaking of nastiness, Marshall county’s champion of tent erection, Mr. Ain’t Worthy, wrote a positively evil letter to the probate judge denouncing him for following the law. And the editor of the local rag saw fit to publish this piece of filth. On the positive side, I now have a greater understanding of the saying:

“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not themselves.”

Mr. Ain’t Worthy certainly seems to be a paragon of the idea that the primary threat to the nation is Christian Terrorism and political parties. 

On the other positive side, at least young impressionable people don’t read newspapers any more.

On the azimuth of evil, I noted an article [Link] about work at Johns Hopkins U that indicates that sodas with cola in them are linked to cancer. We have to wonder given, obesity, stupidity, and now cancer why the soda industry is allowed to poison the electorate. The answer is probably politicians and religionists?

I have to admit that while I did not drink much soda in my youth, I now enjoy it in my seniority. Maybe one bottle of artisanal soda every month or so. And no Fructose. It goes immediately to fat. And I only drink it late in the day when my mental capacity has been about used up. And since cancer is also caused by defects, it seems a reasonable risk. 

On the other hand, we have no good data that indicates that politicians or religionists cause cancer. But we can suspect it.