Training to be Stupid

Smashing day. I made it to park for constitutional but the rain was so nasty that I caved halfway through its wanted length. And I am still shivering a bit as I key. Of course part of that is FD SCP insisting, rightly!, that we not flip the thermostat from lowering to highing since the warmth is supposed to return today for at least the week.

I have to admit to disliking this period of the year. It mostly has to do with the master bathroom. This uncertainty period is a foretelling of winter conditions. One awakens and goes to bathroom to perform ablutions and lavations. It is cold. Yes, I know cold is a sensation but I can assure you that to SCP the bathroom is uniformly cold starting now and stretching into late spring. Cold and damp unto moldy feeling. I am reminded of my paternal grandparents’ basement where they kept home “canned” foods and grew, undesiringly, mold in great abundance. Rather the feeling of an effective but poorly done horror movie of the ’50’s. Of course much of that latter is redundant.

I try to abate the cold by using an electric “heater”. Why do all such convert electric potential to waste heat with an acoustic component? There has been an argument in STEM circles for years about whether this process is completely efficient or completely inefficient. Is the conversion to ordered electron potential different to disordered heat the ultimate in efficiency or inefficiency/ That depends on whether you are interested in conserving order or being warm. I, on the other hand, muse on the matter of the noise. Why is it? This tends to put me in a no-man’s land because I consider the process purely efficient – since efficiency depends on the desired result, which is warmth – except for the inefficiency (?) of the noise. 

Speaking of which, one of my colleagues, Magnetic Inductance Force, sent me a link [Link] to a TIME article written by a basketball player of Mohammedan persuasion. Given the density of religionist terrorism these days, I was pleased that the article was pro-rationality, at least from my perspective. The thesis is well expressed by a quote:

“Yet there seems to be a growing belief among college students, and some fearful parents, that being exposed to anything that challenges the comfort zone of beliefs might infringe on their rights.”

I quite understand this, living in the old Confederacy/ Insecurity is a mental cancer of Kudzuian proportion. It is well known that one of the primary causes of the fervor of evangelism (a form of religionist terrorism widely practiced in the Sowth by Protestants, so called because if you protest against their ranting they will try to discorporate you. It’s the Southron Christianist version of beheading,) is that the adherents of the particular denominations/heresies/delusions are insanely fearful of being exposed to any rationality or contrary information. In their minds the “word of deity” is unchallengable and any challenge must be negated. At whatever cost. Mostly to its source. Trying to have a rational discussion about religion with any of these people puts one at grave personal risk. Which is why such discussions are avoided. 

The problem is that these folks have to educate (so to speak) their children or themselves. The evil government (redundant in their view) makes them send children to schule or home schule and the Yankee government demands some standards that are in direct and dire conflict with their religionist dogmas. Further, if they and their children are ever to work as anything other than rubbish collectors then they have to have some education beyond high schule.

Pray note that I use the term education here aliterally. There is scant education any more. It happens in spite of the schules and increasingly, the colleges and universities. What they are really receiving is, in the main, training. In the public schules that training is uniformly and exclusively directed towards the questions that will be asked on the YG’s standardized examinations that cannily determine the pay of the “teachers” in these schules. And much of it violates these people’s “beliefs”, like the chattel nature of women and the evil of fluoridation and abortion and contraception. 

But rather than examining that information they are exposed to in a rational fashion, they respond by denial (yes, just like politicians who are often their role models,) and violence, either physical or social, if not both. 

And that’s why we are becoming a third world nation-state. 

The basketball player decries this and well. A good read. Better than this blot. Kudos to him.

Education is what occurs in spite of the teachers.

Weirding Way

2 Day. The electromagnetic audio-visual receiver projected that today is “National Coffee Day”. Blatant corporate arrogance? Does this mean that we can now recognize all holy days as propaganda and maskarovka? I shall nonetheless journey to Walker’s for a bit of brew. 

The gym was quite sparse. I enjoyed an episode of the Guardian’s science podcast that presented an interview with a fellow named David Wootten (sp?) who has written a new book about the Scientific Revolution. Not at all sure I like that term.

But he did raise the question of whether science can survive the internet? This seems a good question. My current hypothesis is NO! Too much propagation of boggery. But waiting is. 

In the interim I shall be continuing to do science. I suspect that I shall even when it is criminal or at least nekulturny.

Is science a form of talking nerdy?

Weird day I suspect.

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.