Which Kind of Electrons?

The great stressor looms. Today is the last day of week out and then we enter the week of the worst stress of the year. Not good. And then winter sets in for real.

I feel old.

On which azimuth, my colleague Mass Momentum, posted this article [Link] on the FaceScroll. It is a fairly balanced (?) discussion of the grrr brrr about electronics versus pen/paper/books for note taking and learning. Its chief advantage to me was to offer some new perspectives on the problem. Happily these perspectives tend to support the hypothesis I have been developing for some months.

My concern is a bit larger than what is portrayed in these articles. My concern is about learning and composition. To me learning means not only what I get out of "books" – information sources – but also research, and composition includes note-taking but also report writing and the like.

We humans are visual folks. Comes of being hunter-gatherers for mega-years. We are not ASCII people. When we dream we don’t see written pages. All right, sometimes when I dream I do see written pages, or printed pages, but they are memories not mind constructed things. When we dream we mostly see images, maybe with sound and smell but definitely with images. This is the rationalization for video instruction.

The problem is that the computer/slab screen has too low resolution. That’s why the race to what is called a retina display. One to one mapping of screen pixel to eye sensor.

My hypothesis is that composition is all about mindfulness. That is, awareness. The opposite of this is called mindlessness – unawareness, if you will. I picked the names because I read a bunch of article about the benefits of mindfulness that screamed "STERCUS!" because it wasn’t balanced in terms of the down side of mindfulness and the benefits of mindlessness. There are some things that we cannot do if we are mindful of them but perform easily if we are mindless of them. This is patently obvious to most people so if you don’t get it, get assistance.

Anyway, the hypothesis is that for composition to work we have to be mindful of what we are writing (thinking) but mindless of the writing. Note that writing has two components here, one is the expression of the information of our thinking in ASCII (or diagrams or symbols…) and the other is the generation of a physical representation of the information – characters on paper, e.g. So we have to be mindful of the first but mindless of the second. Yes, I know that is simple but it’s still an hypothesis.

This reduces learning/note taking to two considerations:

  1. You can’t draw diagrams or maths with a keyboard; and
  2. You can’t be mindless of key presses.

Both of these are conditionals. The first is admittedly false but only for drawing programs unsuited for the ASCII component of note-taking. The second may be true for everyone but professional typists and/or GEN Ys. More work is needed on this. Film at Eleven.

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Cinema of Nonsense

Lots of grrr brrr over the Sony hack and the movie theater chains punching out.

First, the hack may be news but it’s more-of-the-same. Computer security in the Yankee republic is a joke. If we’re going to get upset about a hack, get upset about Target, not Sony.

Second, I hear that we have lost this cyberwar. Good! We lost a war over a movie? And not a very good one from what I have seen. So don’t cry over bombs in the sand. But do learn and improve so we can win the next. Russel Weigley told us all about it. It’s an American thing. Let’s make sure we keep it.

Good Addiction

Fawg! Real fawg! Not that stercus uttered by Weather Beavers when there is enough aerosol to see but the visibility is several miles. Real can’t see five point something football fields (American, that is) fer the white goop, not the red. Driving to the edge of Scant City, where it went away, was a lovely exercise in last-man-on-Tellus emotions. 

And the podcast! An episode of the CBC’s “Best of Ideas” consisting of a lecture by A. C. Grayling on liberties.And incidentally, how the relgionists will always cheat and enslave us. But excellent mundane day fare. Which gave me cause to contemplate whence I go with with the new book.

Which led me once more to think about maths and bogs. In keeping with the old saying that “there is no royal road to learning”, there is no special maths escalator for bogs. Or anyone else. But I am entertaining the conjecture that the problem is that bogs are unable to embrace maths because that would make them not-bog and they are unwilling to abandon their current pathetic lives. I ran across an article [Link] entitled “Are we all really THAT BAD at math?” and immediately found a lovely case study of bog and maths. I was particularly taken with some of the article:

“Oddly enough, I got my best grades in math and science. It was mostly because I was a quick formula memorizer. I could plug and chug with the best of them. But there was very little practical application for what I “learned.”

Ask me how to calculate the cosine of a right triangle or, well, to do pretty much anything I learned in calculus, and I’ll give you a blank stare. Heck, just ask me why I would need to do those things, and I’ll give you a blank stare.”

Yes, there is no practical application because you haven’t learned enough. The memorization is inescapable. Until you can learn enough to actually work real problems all you are going to get is memorization and fake problems. That hopefully reinforce the memorization. Expecting to do anything with high schule maths is about like seeing a picture of a screwdriver and expecting to assemble a motorcar. Or a plasma cannon. 

So blame part of it on the constricted hose of high schule – public education in general – education. You aren’t going to learn much maths in high schule. Maybe the equivalent of one semester in college. And then, if you’re a bog, you’re going to avoid that. I forget how many bog seniors had deferred college algebra – a course most nerds place far beyond in college – and suddenly found themselves mousetrapped into a no-graduate situation. Several even offer pittances to take the tests for them.

The only way you learn maths is the way you learn anything. You have to go beyond. If you stick with what they teach in public schule then you are doomed to be an ignernt bog. And yes, that is maybe redundant. I find it amusing that bogs embrace athletics and practice (learn) for a lot more hours than they are in class. But ask them to put in extra hours on maths or science and they act like you want to neuter them. As if learning athletics is somehow exalting? Other than endorphins, of course.

So don’t cry to us when you fail, bogs. You did it to yourself. With help from your parents, who are just you a bit older and not wanting you to be better than they. And teachers who don’t know any more than they present – if that – and don’t want you to know more than they. And a schule system that is more interested in good order than good people. The only road to STEM is doing more than the system provides. Mediocre schules produce mediocre people. Bogs, in other words. And all schules – public at least – are mediocre. So it’s up to you. 

Cursive Comedy?

Evil looms! The weather beavers are foretelling all matter of dire circumstances today and into tomorrow. I can only hope to be here then and with electron potential difference to Castellum SCP. If not, then perhaps some blogging today may be in order.

First, I ran across this cartoon: [Link]

yesterday. It has a modicum of humor in its one-sided intensity, something we find in angst and endocrine dominated teenagers (and some adult bogs) whenever their space is invaded. Or undesired work is demanded.

The history is not inaccurate, insofar as it goes. Which is not very far. Which is, I have learned, how far we can expect our schule systems to go. On a good day.

The actuality is more complicated. Let us start with the instrumentality and proceed to the reality. Yes, dip pens are difficult to print with. And cursive was invented partly to minimize the shortcomings of the dip pen and vegetable inks. That is not why cursive persisted.

By the time of the American rebellion against the British over-tyrants, the dip pen was on its way out. Thomas Jefferson, among his many other acquisitions, had a fountain pen, admittedly primitive, but nonetheless superior to a dip pen. He has, I believe, commented on how  long he could write with it. Modern pens. largely because of improvements in ink technology more than pen design. are almost blotless, so there is, on that basis no advantage of cursive.

There are plenty of others, especially in education.

Simply put, cursive is faster than either hand printing or keying. It is not as fast as any of the methods of “shorthand” but it is faster than any other full text method of human putting information on paper.

And writing has other advantages.

Keying is not only slow but it is hideously limited. Copying an diagram or sketch or equation with a keyboard device is somewhere between impossible and hideously difficult. And usually SLOW. Not so for hand on pen on paper.

In the context of note-taking, cursive is superior to hand printing. It is faster and less mentally intensive than hand printing, thus permitting both more comprehensive and more analytical note-taking. But both are superior to keying.

Also, it is known [Link] both practically and analytically that writing something down – not keying – is a good way to learn that thing. In effect it not only moves the information into multiple areas of memory but it is also, in effect, explaining that thing to ourselves. But somehow we keep forgetting this as technology advances and then we have to refind it.

And yes, cursive is adult, at least in the sense that one has to learn how to write in cursive, and practice it, and acquire some adult motor and mental skills to use it. That;s part of why it is quick. And effective.

And discarded by the irrelevant?

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Eschewing Evangelism

Three degrees. That’s what kept me from walking in the park this morning. Three degF. Sometimes I think I am entirely too much of a rule follower, especially with respect to my cardiologist.

On which note, I recently ran across an article [Link] entitled “When Friends Tell Friends to Use Linux”, which we may primarily translate as when we try to tell Winders users to get freedom. I have learned not to have the discussion with Apple users because its a waste of time. And frustrating. I have also learned not to expect anything from the Winders users except rejection, whining, and abject terror. At least 0.9 of the instances. So Sturgeon’s Rule applies.

I read an article a few weeks ago – don’t have the citation – written by an European who lamented how Amerikans were cognitively lazy when it came to computers. Again, I think Sturgeon’s Rule applies, as does Bose-Einstein condensation. Something like 0.1 of Amerikans use Linux and/or putter with Raspberry Pi or Ardunio or even real electronics and/or make stuff and/or ….. and 0.9 are MegaHard serfs or Apple mind slaves. And they tend to clump together. So the serfs and slaves are out-group of the Linux/rPi/Ardunio/Maker/… folks and visa versa.

Some of it is corporation servitude. They use Winders or Apple OS at work and have to cling to it at home. And the ones who do stuff: want to write Python code; or play with rPi; work ten times as hard to do so with Winders or Apple OS. One of my colleagues, otherwise a quite rational and striving nerd, spoke at great length about how hard and long he had to work to get where he he write Python code on his Winders box. From experience I didn’t tell the short tale of open Synaptic and install Python (if not already) and an editor and go at it. Five minutes with coffee in the loop. His fox hunt took days and lots a baying and fence jumping.

Some of the obstacle is learning. For some reason bogs quit learning sometime between puberty and children. And the ones who do still learn don’t learn useful stuff, creative stuff. Just social stuff. Mostly. And for the geeks and nerds, new and mildly complicated are orthogonal in this respect. When I try to tell serfs (or slaves) how to install a Linux distro it’s no more complicated than a recipe for Sunday dinner but they look at the list, all of it alien to the modal Winders/Apple OS users, and bolt for the coffle closet.

So I have pretty well quit trying. In a way its like explaining physics. It’s about as simple and fundamental and basic as you can get but almost everyone, including other discipline nerds, think it too complicated and HARD and act like they’ve seen the attack rabbit. Even if I’ve offered them the holy nuclear hand grenade. So I let them be bumpkins. It’s an old Southron tradition and it took me a while to accommodate it. Still haven’t completely but I’m working at it.

Which is more than most are doing.

Incidentally, that accommodation is also orthogonal to most christianists.  For them I have found that a spray bottle of skunk essence is an effective antidote.

Absence of Teaching

“Where there has been no learning, there has been no teaching.”

I was reminded yesterday, courtesy of C. Northcutte Parkinson, is that teaching is conditional on learning. IOW, teaching fails when there is no learning.

I have commented several times previously on how the schules, even the colleges, are failing, and failing miserably. But yesterday I asked myself whether there was some problem beyond the easily observable. And this led me to ask about learning. I immediately recalled how rare learning is among the GEN Y. They lack even basics, like grammar and basic things that previous generations have known. Why?

There are two types of learning: curiosity learning and compulsion learning. The former is motivated from within and needs only be facilitated, channeled, and, above all, NOT stifled. The latter is pain avoidance learning; learning occurs because its pain is less than the alternative. This learning is motivated from outside and must be forced. Schules are supposed to embody both. Optimally.

The problem, at least the first problem, is to recognize the difference between the two because the tactics used for the second can and will destroy the first. And the tactics used for the first totally miss the second. So the first job of teaching is to distinguish between individuals and situations of curiosity and compulsion learning. The second job is to act appropriately to effect the learning.

This seems to be where the schules are failing. On both counts. Most seriously, they are failing to identify individuals who want to learn and will learn on their own and only need facilitation from individuals who do not want to learn and must be coerced. They are treating everyone the same and failing all.

That seems to be one reason they are educationalists and not teachers. They can’t teach, and their pupils aren’t; they can’t learn. If they want to learn they are prevented and if they don’t want to learn they aren’t forced.

Ideally, at some point an individual learns enough, if not already a curiosity learner, to become one. This does not happen to everyone. Some people cannot become curiosity learners. They just stay bogs. But the folks who are geek and nerds are curiosity learners. And the older one gets the less likely it is to become a curiosity learner. So if one graduates from high schule without becoming a curiosity learner in at least some area, then the odds are one won’t and college is a waste on that person. They can’t become educated.

And too many of the folks I meet today, GEN Ys, who have graduated from college are not curiosity learners. They aren’t educated. They have failed and the educational system has failed them because it failed to teach.

And that seems to be why and how the schules are failing.

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Ain’t no I in TEAM

Actually into week out and things are not too bad. My browser tells me that it is 46 degF in Greater Metropolitan Arab, which is a nice change from twenties most of the week in. It is precipitating which will make for a bit of nasty emission this morning from castellum SCP but it is preferable to cold and solid dihydrogen oxide. At least I can do a bit of unhunker.

On which note, I observed an article [Link] earlier of work from Cornell and Michigan State Us that asserts that being in class with smarter students doesn’t improve one’s grades. I suppose the theory, I think I heard this years ago but can’t quite recall, was that by being around smarter students one would be motivated to learn more (and hence get better grades.) It is unclear whether the idea is that smarter colleagues would bridge the gap between teacher and student or that there would be some competition. I don’t recall paying much attention to the theory.

First of all, this is rather blatantly an extro theory. It presumes deep socialization. So right away it doesn’t consider the extro/intro immiscibility.  Think extroverts as bosons and introverts as fermions. And it all flops from there.

The competition thing isn’t completely specious. I have known lots of people who were smarter than I am. Not hard. And there were times I felt competitive. But it doesn’t work. Think football player competing with a basketball player. How are they going to compete meaningfully? On the golf course? Duhhhhhhhh.

I had a college (undergraduate) roommate. We were both majoring in physics (and yes, I was also majoring in chemistry and maths and he was also majoring in military studies.) And he did better than I. Not just in grades but in understanding and learning. But outside of grades there was no basis for competition. And grades didn’t matter because when they got reduced to letters they were equivalent.

Why was there no basis? Different study processes is the short answer. I always worked the homework problems as soon as they were assigned. Handed them in on schedule, and studied for exams by reviewing textbook and notes. I had enough sense to realize that one learned from problems by doing. My roommate, on the other hand, waited until the night before the exam to work all the assigned homework problems in one fell swoop, handing them in as we entered the exam session.

This is why I am unsurprised how the Cornell/MSU study went. Despite the grrr brrr from educationalists nattering students on how to study, good students have their own individualized version and the better the student the more individual it is. And the less possible for someone else to assimilate. Yes, there is a core of activities, but how and when and where they are done differs for every person. Despite what the educationalist will claim. They are wrong. And they can’t admit it. And that is a major advantage we had in my day as a college student. We didn’t pay much attention to that crap. Results were more important than “expert” pontifications.

There is an old saying: “there is no royal road to learning.” The generalization is: there is no paved road to learning. At best, there is a  path and the path is hard to travel and it must be traveled alone. Yes, study groups have some benefits but only for discipline, not for cross-enlightenment. Learning has to happen in your own head. It can’t be seeded nor transplanted.

The sooner you accept this, the better off you will be to know what can be attained and how to attain it. And not trust in some serpent petroleum purveyor with a teaching certificate.

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