The whichness of code

Five Day and a bit of an adventure already. In keeping with my want of challenging my earlier analyses and assumptions, I took myself off to gym this morning. Previously I had ceased on Four Day because of feeling burned out rather than a lack of hours of availability as on the Bog “weekend”. So I went off this morning and aside from needing a bit more preparation for what podcast to listen to, it went well.

The podcast was more of that “Chips on Everything” series on the internet. Decidedly bottom drawer. Not obscene or anything, just rather low quality. 

Which gave me occasion to reflect on a rather surprising television advertisement I saw recently. While I try to ignore advertisement because of their inherent vacuity of trustworthiness, this one actually provoked some thought. It was an insurance advertisement touting the “technology of its app”. In actuality, its app is actually less capable than some of its competitors, but what good it did was to raise the question of whether code is technology?

To start with, I feel inclined to semi-cite the historian James Burke who did some marvelous television programming about information networks. That isn’t how it was portrayed but that’s what it was and it was only saved by Burke’s historyisms. One of which is that we humans tend to mistake engineering for science, technology for engineering, manufacturing for technology, and so forth.

But this is a bit of a different problem. Is coding technology? Technology is almost always a material thing like an electronic circuit (e.g., a CPU) and not a social activity. Thus social media is an interaction network facilitated by technology. But it isn’t a technology itself despite the statements of Bog Journalists. (Is that redundant? Probably.)

So what about coding? Is a steering wheel technology? No. It’s merely a means of controlling the operation of a technology. A tiller would work similarly and did in the early days of motorcars. So in the sense of controlling, code is not a technology. But what about embedded code? I have a microwave over – an appliance – that can be “programmed” with a simple heating/not-heating pattern. That pattern is empowered by the technology. I could stand about and do it myself, manually as it were, one step at a time, and I have done that in times past with simpler devices, but is it technology? Is complication technology? I think not. Embedded code does not have a separate existence from the actual material technology.

Code has a literature aspect, It is written, composed. Perhaps even in a functional sense, semantic. But is it technology. Clearly paper and pen and ink are technologies. And in my opinion, much more intriguing and worthwhile than most electronics. I can create many thing that are independent of what paper and pen and ink I use but that is not so of code. Code has no meaning outside of its material interaction. (I am excluding NERD coding here. Crunching science numbers is independent of its material but it is still not technology.)

I am not done with this but as of now I am of the conjecture that code is not technology but it is related. It is functional. But I suspect it is nothing more than a special kind of manufacturing process.

Ourside the Book

One of the mixed states of being ORF is ceasing to care about/understand certain popular things. I am told by psychologist colleagues that this is part of the decay of adaptability with age. I am a bit skeptical of this because there are many popular things I ignored – or was oblivious of – in earlier times, especially when I was in graduate school and had attention span only for school work and job work. Much to the detriment of my health. If I had waited two more years to matriculate I would likely have received the diploma post humously. 

Regardless, there are things that are popular today that I am less than interested in and unwilling to expend the effort and skull sweat to understand. The current thing with Pokemon is one example. I paid some attention to Pokemon when my daughter was young but once her attention to it waned, so did mine. 

I keep waiting to hear how these players wondered into a Klan rally or a terrorist cell meeting or a military base and were either killed or sent to Cuba. This one runs a bit deeper since I primarily see my cellular phonelet as a phone with the rest of it being accessories. And since I live in a house with a metal roof, which is a good electromagnetic shield and I get zero cellular reception there, I turn off my phonelet as soon as I enter the house. 

And I am constantly looking for apps that are half as useful as the ones I get in my desktop’s repositories. This brings up the question, Why is Android so crappy compared to real Linux? The trial answer is that it’s a mixture of Gooey mismanagement and greed and the crappy use most people put their phonelets to. Which is part of why I don’t pay attention to stuff that they do.

In another direction, what is it with coloring books? I had coloring books as a small child. Once I learned how to read – about four or five years of age – my interest died. Hard. Like a poorly made motorcar battery. Actually, not poorly made, just a lousy technology. That hasn’t improved with cosmetic “improvements”.

But why are adults interested in coloring books? Is there some unrequited aspect of their childhoods? Did they never learn to read? Or were they wrenched away from coloring books for some parent mandated activity and left unrequited? Is it reproductive in nature?

Why is Dover, the planet’s best purveyor of nerd books, now a major (?) purveyor of coloring books? Are they that close to fiscal failure? Or has their management become too legume enumerator?

I won’t even get into television programming. Too orthogonal.

Grits sans Anything Helpful

Seventh Day. Low air temperature than yesterday morn. So I donned a slightly heavier jacket as I departed for constitutional in the park. The air was refreshing. And I finished the podcast episode , which sadly was a review of the new LTS release of the Ubuntu clan as “grits”, at least in southron wordage.

What was unsaid in the review was the true (?) weakness/flaw of the ubuntu clan, which is its long term fragility. The LTS may be five year releases but they seldom last two without catastrophic failure requiring reinstall or replacement.

Also, I had already looked at the new version of Kubuntu and the live execution left me thinking “grits” as well. So I passed and am still looking for something – KDE NEON? – to replace my 14,04 AIO install. Which basically turned to broken toy six months ago and I am not depending on LMDE – another grits distro – on that box.

But I did reflect on the “full” moon this morning, which was a great help given that my key chain flashlamp seems to be failing as well. Scant wonder, I have been using it for ten years or so. Marvelous piece of manufacturing, a product of the Gerber people who used to produce rather good stuff but have lapsed in recent years into mediocrity and irrelevance. Evidently the market is selling “sabers” to wannabe Stuarts instead of multi-tools to actual Mittys.

Last evening FD SCP and I tried to engage in our evening social ritual of joint viewing of the local news on the electromagnetic audio-visual receiver. This is complicated during week out because the local “news” program is delayed by programming of great Bog interest – like spectator sports pornography – but irrelevant to us. So if our wonted channel is deferred we try others and such was the case last evening.

Anyway, that channel/station’s weather beaver of the ‘cast talked about the “blue moon” and said it was a “rare” occurrence. That struck me as inaccurate. So I considered the matter.

First, a “blue moon” is, according to Wikipedia,

an additional full moon that appears in a subdivision of a year: either the third of four full moons in a season, or a second full moon in a month of the common calendar.

and a Lunar month is ~ 29.5 days. So 365.25/29.5 =~12.4 which indicates that we will have a thirteen full moon expressions in a year no less frequently than every three years.

Is once every three years a rarity? 

Rarity: That which is rare; an uncommon thing; a thing valued for its scarcity.      [1913 Webster]

Clearly the “blue” moon was valued by the weather beaver since it gave her something to say during an otherwise grits presentation, but is it uncommon? Is once every three years uncommon? Or if we count days? 

I am of the mind that this rarity is a Bog thing that, like most Bog drivel, does not stand up to observation.

It’s just another full moon. Enjoy – or not – it for what it is. 

Word Wrangling

Wowsers. Nasty day yesterday. Had to go off and run a slew of errands complicated by them being timed for one reason or another and thus in the annoying situation of run errand, return to Castellum SCP, wait a while, iterate.

But this morning has a pleasing air temperature and I had a good walk in park. Only a mild rain was downing.

On which note I have some attention this morning for words. Why do some words pop up and other wither away? I find myself going to the OED often to see what words really mean. For example, this winter I got off on the deanthropozation of the word “cold”. In particular, I found the statement “it’s cold out there” to be grating and hurtful. The reason is simple: cold is a sensation, not a physical measurable. It may be observable, but it cannot be meaningfully related – even as a correlate – to real thermodynamic measurables. The OED informed me that the proper word was “colding” which means causing cold. That is a reasonable word. It makes the sample construction sensible. And so I went around gently suggesting to people that they mend their ways.

And as is normal when you tell people they are aberrant and depraved, they try to put you over a roasting fire.

So I just tell them they are schmucklet and run away.

Anyway, the word for today is “insertive”. And yes, it is in the OED. And yes, I did bend the meaning a bit to use it as a active thing instead of a passive. But it tends to fit better that way with self-gratifying altruism plus a touch of busy-body.

Kuke when you send a vaguely relevant article, which may advance one of your outlooks, to a friend you only see occasionally.

Not to be confused with an intervention which is full out busy-body with a theoretical but almost always missing component of altruism.

We’ll take up downing some other time.

STEM Porn

Fifth Day. No gym. Air temperature 31 degF. So no constitutional, just a bit of a pedal on the stationary unicycle. (Only one wheel.)

One of few positives of pedaling is that I get to read. And think quite a bit differently than during constitutional. So this morning I thought about the matter of science books. This was fostered by an article [Link] about how good this year’s crop of science books are.

February and already bragging on the year? Seems a bit hubraic.

First of all, I want to distinguish between books of science and books about science. The former are mostly textbooks or collections of papers or lectures. The latter are popularizations written for the “public,” often by non-STEMs, such as journalists. That right there makes them suspect.

Reading a book of science is hard. It’s a learning effort. If it’s about a new method or discipline – at least to you – then you’re learning the basics or even advanced stuff. Reading a book about science is hard because you have to figure out what’s accurate and what is meaning-spoiling-simplification. But it’s not a source of learning, at least is you are a STEM.

The wonderment here is that these books about science sell at all. They are generally unsatisfactory to STEMs and discussions with my colleagues indicate that the probability a STEM will buy a popularization scales approximately as the distance of the topic from their own field and endeavors. IOW, physicists don’t read popularizations of physics. 

But the questions is, do the non-STEMs? Obviously there is a great difference in expectation between the number of copies of a trashy novel sold and the number of copies of a serious (?) non-fiction book sold. Lowered expectations. So a best selling science popularization has several orders of magnitude sold than a book of socially acceptable pornography.

Which brings us to another distinction: porn. Books of science are not pornographic, even medical textbooks. Books about science are porn because they offer readers vicarious inclusion in the lives and deeds of STEMs. This is probably why so many academics write popularizations. They are thereby porn stars of a sort; they offers readers opportunity to emulate the authors’ lives.

But I don’t think STEM porn is really very popular, and not because of iys lack of veracity. More a matter that STEMs just aren’t sexually engaging. Even with other STEMs.

Roineck Rubbish

Mundane Day. Fair start. Still under weather but enough stationarity has evidenced that I am in a withstanding mode. 

The weather beavers are foretelling horror and pain for the next few days. certainly it will be painful with FD SCP and dripping. But this morning is passable, if not comfortable. 

Off to gym. Passable podcast. The usual, a CBC “Best of Ideas” episode interviewing a journalist who was willing to indict others. Impressive. I had not considered it before but contemporary journalism can definitely be characterized as Red Neck Journalism. All the news is catch phrases, the shorter the better. No substance, no accuracy, just blather with a punch.

Speaking of which I was informed last night was the Amerikan Pro (but hardly professional) Soccer Championship. One of the animal totems won. That’s my level of interest in the activity. Adding to the wasteland that weekend television has become. I retired before the fighting began and missed all.

That at least was not painful. 

I have read that less than 0.25 of the population likes pro soccer and less than 0.5 likes pro sports in any aspect. So why all the grrr brrr? Seems to fit in with the Red Neck Journalism.

Winter Wonderings 1

Musings on a winter morning:

“I am cold.”

Meaningful communication. You have a sensation called “cold”. This sensation is thermodynamically meaningless but the words do convey that you are sentient, intelligent enough to learn speech, and are at least minutely uncomfortable.

“This room is cold.”

Amusing or frustrating communication. You are uncomfortable with the sensation “cold” and you attribute this to the room having inadequate heat rather than your body not producing enough heat to allay your sensation. Contraindicates the previous indication of intelligence. 

“Is it too cold to go outside?”

Another amusing/frustrating communication. Your intelligence now seriously in doubt, presumed non-existent. Since you are the only one who can sense you are cold, the only way to determine if the outside is too colding – the proper thermodynamically pseudo-meaningful term – is for you to go outside and find out for yourself.

“This heater isn’t warming up the room.”

More amusing than frustrating. Indicates a serious absence of any idea how a thermostat works and based on previous communication, probably incapable of learning. Warm is the complement of cold. It’s a sensation. Compound the previous statements in the complement. 

At this point we depart in search of either quiet, or, at least, a person who is sentient and intelligent.