Sunday, April 29, 2007

Stratifying Stupidity—A Proposed Taxonomy

Well, watched 60 Minutes tonight, and the Tenet piece really didn’t have anything that surprised me. I might have to read his book this summer. What came next did provoke a reaction when Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America spoke up that he saw nothing wrong with the mentally ill buying guns.

I kid you not. Directly from the show,

"We think this is simply another way of eliminating another large group of people from gun ownership in this country," Pratt argues.

"That large group, two million-plus...are people who have been involuntarily committed," Kroft remarks.

"We think those are two million people who you can't say that, you know anything about what their future behavior is going to be," Pratt says.

Uh, yes. I believe that is the point.

This led to reflection on human stupidity, and I cannot avoid the conclusion that stupidity is indeed stratified from basic stupidity which can afflict almost all of us from time to time, your humble blogger included, to more significant and extensive functionality of the concept, to incredibly profound immersion into a place of distilled, concentrated stupid on levels difficult for a normal person to comprehend.

I propose the following classifications:

Stupid. This refers to what can inflict any of us at a particular time, and we use the term to refer to someone who predictably behaves this way.

Certified Stupid. This requires enhanced cluelessness and a degree of oblivion. This is a prerequisite for thinking the earth was created a few thousand years ago and that God created the light traveling from stars in transit so it would reach us in time to see them.

Secret Certified Stupid. Now we are talking about a true idiot. This is the kind of person that reads the crazy magazines at the grocery store checkout line and believes the headlines. He is also the kind of person that tries to fire a CEO without the approval of the Chair of the Board.

Double Secret Certified Stupid. This is the guy that purchases said magazines and discusses the stories with like minded individuals. He is also the kind of moron that does not resign after his attempt to fire said CEO fails miserably in front of God and everybody.

Double Secret Probation Certified Stupid. We are now past all concepts of normal human behavior into a psychological spectrum that adheres to the conviction that using discarded tissue about to be destroyed before it is destroyed is destroying it. If we use it before we destroy it, we are destroying life. If we destroy it without using it, we are not destroying life. Yes, embryonic stem cells. We are also talking about board members who state they have no conflict of interest when in fact they clearly do in front of God and everybody.

Mondo Double Secret Probation Certified Stupid. Larry Pratt, who regards those professionally diagnosed with mental illness as a population that should be permitted to purchase handguns, assault rifles, and semi-automatic shotguns. We are also talking about people who lie to elected officials in writing over their signatures and invade nations without having the slightest idea what they are doing.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Flesch-Kincaid Readability Score

Not sure how many of you know about the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Score that measures the relative accessibility of a written document to an audience based on a formula. Well, the highest score possible is like 120 or so, for a document that reads, "Go. Come. Eat."

After that the score drops quickly. Children learning to read pass down into the 90's by third grade or so, with most successful children's books staying above 80. Reader's Digest makes sure it stays at 65 or a little higher, while Newsweek and Time Magazine have figured out that for maximum readership, stay between 50 to 55. Da Vinci Code was an easily devoured 70.

As you drop below 50, you start losing the general population. The slope is steep. By 40, you have a document that most people will not read. Below 30, and forget it. Only weird people will read something that difficult.

Well, I am delighted to report that Something Else came in at 52.3, meaning that it is quite accessible yet clearly intended for adults.

To give you a better sense, here are some figures. Remember, the lower the score, the more sophisticated and taxing on the intellect of the reader. If you're curious, try reading some of the stuff at 27.8. Now, of course this is an oversimplification, because the subject matter plays a critical role on whether the material is difficult. One could manipulate words and sentence structure to make something easy have a low score or vice versa. In general though, more complex material requires more complex words and sentence structures.

See Dick Run: 115
Goodnight Moon: 110
Green Eggs and Ham: 100
The Giving Tree: 95
The National Enquirer: 90
Charlotte's Web: 90
Harry Potter: 85
Readers's Digest: 65
Arizona Daily Star: 60
Newsweek / Time Magazine: 55
"Something Else": 52.3
Sustainability, Equity, Development Blog: 46.4
Sirocco's Blog (so far): 45.1
An essay on Schopenhauer: 33.8
Some Ken Wilber Material: 32.2
Some Consciousness material (they use frames, so click on "philosophy"): 27.8
Algebraic Topology Guy (ATG): 5
Language spoken by Supreme Being when Bush took office: 0

Yes, the daughter is now officially dating ATG.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Culture of Corruption and Lies

You know what a hosser is, Frank? It's a pig that don't fly straight, and neither do you.
Tony Montana Scarface 1983

Well, the news is uncovering the lying and intentional falsehoods around Pat Tillman's death by friendly fire.

Quoting his brother, Kevin Tillman, "It’s a little disingenuous to think the administration didn’t know."

This is nothing. Consider our Attorney General's take on Habeas Corpus and his testimony last week, where he ingeniously states that although he doesn't recall a damned thing, he is completely certain that everything was done right. We are living in unprecedented times, and I think the container is beginning to show cracks, and of course the Abramoff ball keeps rolling, while Tom Delay, beacon of patriotism and serving the public good, has written a book where he alleges liberals have treated him the way that Hitler and the Nazis treated the world.

Oh really? Now we have Delay, shining example of ethical fortitude, firing off additional allegations that Reid and Pelosi are very close to TREASON.

The spiraling expenditures of the Iraq and Afghanistan fiasco and the vast sums of money funneled to selected insiders (oil & pharma gods, for a start) will fuel extraordinary pressure to understand what has happened and what is happening, and when this president is no longer in office, the fear of him will dramatically decline, especially if a democrat prevails. Even if a republican prevails, I think the current tide is shifting blue, and blue will muster what it takes to uncover the rocks, and there is a lot under those rocks.

A man who's not his word is a cockroach.
Tony Montana, Scarface 1983

The White House, and perhaps even our entire federal government, has never been more infested.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Eccentric Imagery, Ugly Water, and Orthography

Tucson, Arizona. Well, your humble blogger had a mathematician visit for the weekend, a real mathematician. There's like 20 people on the planet that understand what she's talking about, and I am not one of them. Well, gave her a copy of "Something Else" to review, and she could barely read the document, "If you are going to write something, you should at least show some respect for your readers by having the orthography befitting a high school graduate."

I confess that while she used the restroom I rushed to my dictionary, a prominent feature of my living room, to look up the word orthography. Well, I am now officially glad she left me for the epistemologist during her days at Chapel Hill.

Could you imagine having a significant other that gets on your case about orthography? Actually, I am kidding. Her input was very valuable and appreciated, and it was great to see her again. Not that anyone cares, but a bunch of math people came to Tucson this weekend to deliver results and share insights.

I won't even link to the latest events in Iraq or mention them.

You heard it here first (as far as I know): Tim Bee will fail against Gabrielle Giffords. What does Tim have to give up to go after her in earnest?

Well, to meet the standards of this differential geometer, I must submit my work to a professional editor that can note my orthographical transgressions and raise my writing to standards befitting a high school graduate. I believe the going rate is something like $5 for every 250 words.

We're talking about a couple grand to clean the thing up. Well, clean or not, it's here on 07/07. There is blood in the water, but unlike earlier times, this time the blood is darker. This is not easy to describe and I probably violate orthography rules of some kind, but the blood is like coffee left on the burner for a long time. It gets that darker quality.

The blood of a single human being is bright red, and I know the smell of that iron. This is different. We are not talking about a person. We are talking about an entire organization. It just feels different.

The time is short, but the hours are long.

I am glad, because I have much to do in these few remaining hours. The boat is low in the water and sinking. The conversations of the intelligent correspond to this truth. The smart are doing what they must. I'm past trying to guess what the others are thinking.

There are different kinds of astronauts. Some leave the grip of earth's gravity to explore realities beyond its reach. Some leave the grip of something else and explore different frontiers.

On a lighter note, at least we're not talking about Anne Nichol anymore.

Oh, there's Blackwater, headed by Erik Prince. Seriously read about this guy. Then there's Blackwater, and then there's Blackwater.

And you think my images are creepy, and why the images? Well, they capture something about the current state of the situation on many levels, and I do not just refer to myself. Perhaps some sense of realism and normalcy will return, but at the moment, this whole planet occurs as positively surreal.

Are we really doing what we are doing in Iraq? Has our government become as corrupt as it really looks? Are we financially bleeding the way I think we are? Is my little company really going to close for the stupidest of all possible reasons? Did pharmaceutical companies write our Medicare legislation and force it through the way I heard? Is this reality, or am I in the middle of some very long nightmare and can't seem to wake up?

Can I click my heels together and chant, "There's no place like home"?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Encouraging Insanity

All of the media attention including the NBC airing of video and the widespread publication of provocative photos clearly designed as such regarding the Virginia Tech massacre has really disturbed me. I find it more than a little disconcerting that this nut case could so effectively pull the strings of our media. He didn't live to see it, but he sure got what he wanted.

This week is a bad precedent. It tells others of his ilk how it's done. The message delivered this week by mainstream media is not a healthy one. The images of the pistols and the knife at the throat and the actual playing of the video is borderline glorification of lunacy. Now of course I exaggerate with the use of the word glorification, but by how much? Seriously, look at the photos. Look at the exposure.

This is not right. The taste, feel, and smell of the response is flat out pathological. In a perfect world, larger headlines about mental illness, recognizing the warning signs, sympathy for the losses, and prevention measures would prevail over photos of a gun in your face. I believe in freedom of the press, but there are lines which when crossed cause damage. That happened this week.

Those videos should not have been posted, and neither should have those two disgusting plays he wrote or the inflammatory photos, at least not this week. Maybe in a few months in the context of analysis, not this week in the context of breaking news. This is not about hiding something. This is about the balance between freedom of expression and fueling toxic content.

This nut, thanks to our "glorification" is now probably an inspiration to a sick set of furious folks.


We have just told the next set of nuts how to get what they want.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Jeremy Spoke In Class Again

10 key findings of the

Safe School Initiative:

1. Incidents of targeted violence at school rarely were sudden, impulsive acts.
2. Prior to most incidents, other people knew about the attacker’s idea and/or
plan to attack.
3. Most attackers did not threaten their targets directly prior to advancing the
4. There is no accurate or useful "profile" of students who engaged in targeted
school violence.
5. Most attackers engaged in some behavior prior to the incident that caused
others concern or indicated a need for help.
6. Most attackers had difficulty coping with significant losses or personal
failures. Moreover, many had considered or attempted suicide.
7. Many attackers felt bullied, persecuted or injured by others prior to the
8. Most attackers had access to and had used weapons prior to the attack.
9. In many cases, other students were involved in some capacity.
10. Despite prompt law enforcement responses, most shooting incidents were
stopped by means other than law enforcement intervention.

I won’t link to the video. You’ve all seen it.

Meanwhile, Bush must be right about all that progress we are making in Baghdad. We reached the highest death toll for a day since the Associated Press started recording the data. Things just keep getting better every day. Bush says we are making progress, John McCain said it was safe, and Mitt Romney is a lifetime stalker of bunnies and rats.

On a more pleasant note, I’ve received word that the daughter has successfully started seeing algebraic topology guy. I am sure they abstain from everything and spend their private moments discussing Sheaf cohomology. I am sure she thinks Grey Goose is something hunted by guys up to hunting fancier game than Mitt Romney, and that Black Velvet is good for purses and certain dresses.

Well, maybe they don’t abstain from everything. I am afraid it’s possible she’s letting algebraic topology guy hold her hand. I once dated a differential geometer. Be careful, sweetie. If you catch him sneaking into the philosophy building, trouble is afoot.

Finally, Congratulations to Sirocco, who has taken the plunge and started his own blog. I have already included a link to the right on my blog list, A Bunch of Hot Air, which pretty much captures what the human race is up to these days.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Campus Terror--Massacre in Virginia

Tucson, Arizona. Today is a dark, dark day for those of us in higher education. I am sure everyone reading this already knows what happened, or at least the summary of what happened at Virginia Tech today. As of this writing, the death toll is at 32, 33 including the mad man who did it, but some additional folks are pretty bad off in some hospitals and may not make it. This is just terrible.

The thought of what happened in that classroom makes me nauseas. Some folks are going to be highly critical of the school, and this criticism will be 95% inappropriate unless something really negligent shows up, which is unlikely. Universities do not think like Corrections Institutes, nor should they. Students are not inmates, and the academic environment is the one place where intelligence is supposed to prevail and the environment is supposed to be safe, which is why this is such a tragedy that freaks people out. I am not saying campuses are safe. I am saying we like to think that they are.

The only place worse for violence like this is obtained by turning the age down, as an Amish community learned recently. I just don't understand it.

What could have possibly been going on in the mind of this guy this morning?

Should anyone think it doesn't happen here in Tucson, turn the clock back to October 28, 2002, when Nursing student Robert Flores lost it. He entered the College of Nursing and shot three clinical associate professors to death. He shot Robin Rogers in her office and then entered a fourth floor lecture room where students were taking a midterm exam. Before the horrified students he shot Barbara Monroe at the front of the class and Cheryl McGaffic at the back of the class. Then he told the students to leave, and after they’d left, he shot himself.

That was right here at the University of Arizona. The very next day, as I discuss in Something Else a person in my building made the statement as he was leaving for lunch that he was going to shoot up the place when he got back. I had folks in uniform waiting for him. As odds predicted, he had just been mouthing off.

He didn't do that again.

If instead of mouthing about it, he had just done it, I probably wouldn't be here.

Well, on this terrible, horrible day, at least we can take comfort in the progress we continue to make in Iraq.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Good Luck and God Bless

Hopefully the safety nets will protect her from a tough road. I did what I could and sent her to the places that exist for help with this sort of thing.

There is a particular emotional state that occurs on days like today, a chest sensation that actually does fit the expression "heavy heart" rather well. I don't recommend it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Tucson Town Hall

Tucson, Arizona. Well, former UA President Peter Likins and many of the fine pillars in our community are hosting a Town Hall in early May. I received an invitation personally signed by Peter Likins leaving me with the impression that they had chosen 75 specific invitees (click on the "Who Should Attend?" link), and we needed to rsvp almost at once, which I did.

Well, now word is on the street that they opened the event up to another 75 from the "general public", and something like 500 responded. OK, fine. The disturbing piece, perhaps, is that I am hearing that some of the 75 specifically designated folks originally invited with the nice letter directly from Likens are now being told they have been rejected.

Well, I didn't ask to be invited to this thing, and neither did certain people I know. But we were, and the letter made no bones about how we were part of the 75 specifically selected, and that we were "carefully selected" and could not designate alternates in our place.

My situation remains unknown, but I know of another who got the same fancy invitation, responded, and then got told she was "wait listed." I haven't tried to contact Ron Shoopman yet, but I am thinking about it.

Here's my request. If they had a core 75, publish the names. I don't care whether I am on it or not, seriously. What my associate, and myself, are reacting to is being told one thing when the truth is something else. This is also known as lying.

Who did they invite as the original 75? Was it really 75 letters, or was it 200? Of this group, who accepted? Of this group, who were then declined after being pumped up to attend?

Even if admitted, depending on what happens to some others, I may blow this thing off.

Should by chance any town hall proponents read this, they have some cleaning up to do about setting people up to attend and then rejecting their rsvp's.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Suspected Darkness Grows Darker

Well, your humble blogger discovered some solid documentation involving contracts and signatures that says nothing good. There is nastiness afoot, nastiness that will be fully presented in a few months.

This is not fiction. These words involve blood and bone, real lives and livelihoods, and suffering that is not fake. This week a woman with a one month old baby is going to learn that she has no job, and very soon, no health insurance for herself or her first born son.

An innocent person through no fault of her own is going to be thrown into the street this week. I am the lucky one that gets to do it, while the jerks responsible sit comfortably in their fancy offices and think they are helping this community.

I have a thing about betrayal.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Sweet, Succulent, Stanford

Well, your humble blogger just spent a few days in x4mr heaven. Imagine a world where everything great about humanity prevails and everything horrible about humanity, well, just isn't around.

Visited the daughter at Flo-Mo. Just for fun, sat in on her math class, and was jaw dropped shocked to see that they still use CHALK. I haven't seen a chalkboard in 10 years. We're talking the famous white stick that forwarded intellectual discourse for, well, a long time.

What a spectacular place. On the streets of Palo Alto, outside an exquisite Thai restaurant, we ran into a daughter interested but not yet attained fellow of solid build holding 140 black binder clipped pages on algebraic topology for reading material while riding the bus. OK.

Well, to fruitfully engage a discussion on algebraic topology requires considerable maturity regarding the concepts of point set topology as well as a fair command of group theory and real algebra (not the parabola graphing stuff in high school) in general.

For a graduate student to enter this discussion is pedestrian.

This kid was 18, a freshman. Do you know of any high schools that teach point set topology? Group theory?

(Your humble blogger with the daughter) I wanted to buy the kid a cup of coffee and inquire. The daughter shot a look clearly indicating that our interests had reached a crossroads, and that it was in my best interest for her best interests to prevail. They did.

The closest I have come to true mathematics is falling madly in love with a mathematician and regarding her as my soul mate. She spent a year at RTP and dumped me for a martini drinking philosopher specializing in phenomenalogical epistemology or something like that. I have had a sour relationship with epistemology ever since, and I know that I have this sour relationship.

Just don't ask me how I know that I know this.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Stanford, Stupidity, Wildcat, and McCain

Well, your humble blogger catches a plane to California tomorrow to spend a few days at Stanford University. I will be interacting with some rather intelligent folks on a wide variety of subjects, some near and dear to my heart.

Not at Stanford this weekend will be our idiot in chief, who has declared that what we face in Iraq is not a civil war, but pure evil.

Bush and this evil thing is just stupid. It has nothing to do with economic depravity. It has nothing to do with ethnic tensions dating back centuries. It has nothing to do with tribal allegiances and certain organizational dynamics and relationships. No, it's just pure evil, and humanity's track record of kicking pure evil's butt is just stellar.

Now, I won't link to the thing, but at Wordpress, some guy named Wildcat has decided to devote a blog to our new Congresswoman, a running faucet of venom as events unfold. He appears to come from red turf, linking to right wing sights like Espresso Pundit, Sonoran Alliance, and Watchtower (which reminds me of Jehovah's Witnesses).

I surprise no one by stating I cannot stand Bush or Cheney, but I am not going to devote a blog to them, even if it's to bitch. I'm up to way lots more than griping about a single individual.

However, am compelled to comment on one person, John McCain. I got into a conversation earlier this week with some fairly astute folks, and we reached the consensus that Senator McCain, well, had his shot in 2000 and missed, and now it is too late. He is losing it. This last Iraq trip and accompanying remarks show an individual slipping, an individual who is starting to move into the later chapters of hanging out on earth.

A good friend should pull him aside, suggest a great place with good food, a nice pool and golf course, and nudge John to move on and keep that Melanoma under close watch. I actually mean no disrespect per se. His age and health have crossed the line. I think the GOP will figure this out and soon. Someone else is going to face Hillary or (or is it AND?) Obama.