Monday Miscellany #3

Signs of the Times

While lots of my posts are filled with miscellany, it’s been a while (six years!) since I did a Monday Miscellany post. It was a brief idea for a regular series that didn’t turn into anything. (Ah, well, it happens.) The really cool stuff ends up in the Wednesday Wow posts now.

Sometimes I do a “Friday news dump” of stuff that’s caught my eye but which probably isn’t that interesting to most (especially geeky stuff or social commentary stuff). Today is more stuff of middling medium Monday interest.

Or something like that. Mostly trying to keep notes from accumulating.

To be honest, I’m in a bit of a funk. This virus business on top of four years of trump and trumpettes. On top of a general global social inflection point these past two decades of the new millennium.

I never thought the 1990s were that great, but in retrospect they seem like the sweetest caramel sauce on the tastiest ice cream. The word that keeps running through my head these days is Koyaanisqatsi. (Some few of you will know exactly what I mean by that.)


In fact, I think I’ve figured out the problem. It’s our technology.

More specifically, it’s our electronic technology. See, the thing is, that stuff is all run with electrons. And electrons have a negative charge.

So our whole technological electronic world is being run by negativity.

No wonder everything sucks all the balls.

(Yes, I’m totally kidding. But it is kinda funny. In point of fact, humanity’s harnessing of the electron is up there with our harnessing fire when it comes to complete game changers.)


I saw a headline insisting that there was a vitally important science fiction movie I absolutely had to see before it left Netflix.

Headlines like that tend to annoy me. Everyone’s idea of what’s must see differs. (And, being an intentional outlier, rarely applies to me or my tastes.)

This time the miss was breathtaking. The movie in question? Cloverfield!

The article’s point, in part, is that the movie did go on to spawn a franchise and is well regarded by many. But it’s regarded among some science fiction fans as a total turkey. (The article’s author clearly is among its fans.)

For me it seems to highlight the divide between popular science fiction and that which is more for us  life-long gourmands and cognoscenti. What’s true of food, is true of art.

Suffice to say I won’t be making an effort to catch it before it leaves Netflix.

Speaking of franchises, I have, on Netflix, been watching the new Ghost in the Shell spin-off, SAC_2045. It’s okay, but without the stunning artistry of the original film, and even without the charm of the earlier spin-offs.

Something is missing here, but it’s okay (so far I give it a decent Eh! rating).

It might be the 3D animation style I find a bit off-putting. It’s that crude blocky style used in the Star Wars Clone Wars film and TV series. Also all those ultra-cheesy news re-enactment videos that were popular for a while.

I don’t care for the style at all, and would rather see 2D animation than that.


Anyway, to lift our heads about the confusion, it helps to have a guide.

An article in ars technica digs into the proper official way to pronounce some of the technexotica that permeates our lives: You’re saying it wrong: How to say oft-mispronounced tech terms.

You’ll learn, for instance, that the Apple operating system (iOS) is properly pronounced “eye-oh-ess” and not “eye-oss” — per every Apple speech given or document written. As the article points out, with Apple terms, you can always use Apple’s own text-to-speech to get the official pronunciation.

The one that made me think is how those of us who work with computers pronounce the common Unix system directories /bin and /lib. The former is where the binaries are kept, the later is where “library” files are kept.

Most computer geeks I know say “bin” and “libe” (long I). Which raises the really interesting question, then why not “bine” (also long I)? If “libe” is short for “library” why isn’t “bine” short for “binary”?

One wag pointed out that /lib is for library files, but /bin is a bin for all the binaries.

I’m definitely in the “bin” and “libe” class with no intention of changing, but it is interesting to think about.

Another one they covered of personal interest was SQL. Back in the day, pretty much everyone used “ess-cue-el” but when Microsoft became a major player with their SQL Server, they pushed the pronunciation “sequel” — as in Sequel Server.

The irony is that the original name for SQL was SEQUEL, but that had to be changed due to copyright issues. Structured Query Language was once intended to be Structured English QUEry Language.

(The article also points out they are known as ars technica, a Latin term for “art of technology.” In particular, it is not pronounced “arse” technica. I have a friend who is careful to point out he suffers from Asperger’s, not “ass-burgers.”)

((And how do we pronounce the seventh planet in the Solar System?))


More as a bookmark for a possible future post, this article in Salon about the myth of the lizard brain: No, you don’t have a “lizard brain”: Why the Psychology 101 model of the brain is all wrong

The title rather says it all, the article just elaborates.

What’s called the triune-brain theory promotes the idea of the human brain as a kind of onion with more primitive layers inside. The idea being that evolution bolted on increasing capabilities.

But it’s just not a true picture. Our human brains are holistic evolved machines. Many of our psychological difficulties come, not from having inner lizard brains, but from how messy evolution is at engineering.

It isn’t that we have lizard brains we can’t escape but that Mother Nature turns out to be something of a hack (in the old-fashioned good sense of the word).


Also worth of a look (and another item I may return to), this article in Vox about an Atlantic article by George Packer. Writer Sean Illing interviews Packer in The coronavirus revealed what was already broken in America

Packer essentially says that he was speaking metaphorically in his Atlantic article. American isn’t a failed state quite yet, but he sees us headed in that direction. (So do I.)

An important point he makes is that P45 isn’t the cause, but a symptom. More importantly, he’s brought to light the failures already in the system.

The truth is, the “system” has fallen on its arse. It’s so corrupt it can’t deal with someone like trump. Even the news media has massively failed in the face of what has grown, fungus-like, on the body politic.

I’ve been saying for decades that we’re in trouble as a culture. No one wants to believe it (they all say: “It was ever thus.”). But the chickens have pretty clearly come home to roost.


Let’s get back to some lighter stuff. Speaking of the right way to say technical terms, here’s a video from Don Lincoln (of Fermi Labs) about where the particle names come from:

It was helpful for me, since I can never remember if hadrons or baryons are the inclusive term for all composites made of quarks. Pointing out what the names “baryon” and “meson” actually mean clears that up.


I’ll leave you with a couple more Conway Life videos I made.

I wanted to implement it in 3D, not as a 3D set of rules for evolution, but in keeping a history of board configurations. (I got the idea from some cool 3D cellular automaton videos I saw.)

It turned out okay, although I’d like to make the history change color more as it ages. It looks pretty cool, but I think it would look better with more differentiation in the history. It all sort of merges into a beige mass now.

Here’s the first one that more demonstrates some simple figures (including a broken “Glider Gun”):

Fun stuff!

Stay sane, my friends!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

14 responses to “Monday Miscellany #3

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    I’m surprised the pronunciation of iOS is an issue for anyone given all those online presentations over the years. I’ve personally never watched one all the way through, but they often show up in news snippets.

    Strangely enough, when I first learned SQL, the book I read about it said that you pronounced it sequel. When I transferred into central IT, I discovered I was the only one who called it that. ess-cue-el dominated. But as you note, MS SQL gradually shifted it back.

    I’ve found that the triune brain thing shows up, mostly unnamed, in a lot of folk neuroscience. People assume that lots of animals only have the lower layers. (I have to admit I once thought that myself.) But all vertebrates have the forebrain-midbrain-hindbrain structure, including the pallium (cortex). It goes back to the Cambrian. It is true that the forebrain grows in size and sophistication, but the basic structure is ancient.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I’ve certainly never watched one of those presentations, but I must have seen some clips over time, so, it is a little surprising people aren’t aware. Might be a former habit carried over? Or maybe whatever you think it is at first has some sticking power. (I’ve found it hard to unlearn a few things I got the first time I encountered them. I think I told you about how I thought “paradigm” was pronounced at first.)

      I learned SQL as ess-cue-el, and when I started interacting with people who supported SQL Server (and using it myself) it took me a moment to realize “sequel” meant SQL. At first I didn’t know what they were referring to. Then I though it was just one guy who’d figured out a weird pronunciation. But then I heard everyone using it and made the connection.

      (Heh. I just had a friend text me: “What did you think of WW III?” It took me a minute to realize he wasn’t asking about World War 3.)

      Yeah, no more lizard brain excuse for people. (I just blame all my bad behavior on my alter ego, Guido.)

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        World War 3 is where I would have gone too.

        There’s still a lot of old evolutionary impulses in there, just not in any cleanly layered fashion. Maybe we can blame our chimpanzee brain. Chimpanzees are mean.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        They sure are. I do not get people who keep them as pets. (The bonobo are a little better I understand, but wild animals are animals. And wild.)

        Isn’t there a game called WW III? Or very similar? My friend is a gamer, so it’s always possible he meant to text a fellow gamer or, for who knows what reason, actually asking me about a game. (We used to game together many years ago, but I was never grabbed by games like so many friends were. I haven’t played any since the early 1990s.)

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Ha. I did think about World of Warcraft, but that’s usually abbreviated “WoW”, and I think version 3 is ancient. When I googled “WW III” all I got was World War 3 stuff. That said, it’s very possible it’s some other game. It could be the most popular game in existence right now and I’d be clueless.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Ha! Yeah, me too. It might be WoW that I was thinking of. It was popular, I know. I think they even made a movie (that didn’t do very well).

        Maybe it’s just me, but it seems weird (to me) so many popular movies are based on toys, video games, or amusement park rides. Movies based on toys, especially: all the Toy Story movies, all the Transformers, the GI Joe movies, and the LEGO movies. We seem such an infantile culture to me sometimes.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I think it’s the same reason we see so many sequels, prequels, spin offs, etc. Anything that can provide name recognition is seen as a marketing advantage. Of course, usually that name recognition comes with constraints. People expect a certain type of movie with “GI Joe” or “Transformers” in the name. If you violate it, the market usually punishes you. So they tend to be artistically vapid.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Yeah, the fast food of storytelling. Great as long as that’s not all you eat.

        I think what gets me is how much of our cultural name recognition comes from comic books, toys, video games, and amusement park rides. (As we’ve all said, many movies amount to little else than amusement park rides.)

        It’s not that people ever had a major thirst for deeper material, but I really do wonder about the content level of popular media sometimes. An experiment I’ve always wanted to try is a vocabulary analysis of popular reading material throughout the ages. (I wish I could figure out a better way to judge content. Train a DLNN? See if it can create distinct areas of its configuration space, “deep” and “shallow”? Hmmm…)

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        A few years ago, I read something that indicated that bestselling novels are typically written to lower grade levels. I don’t remember the specifics, but it seemed like bestsellers were calibrated for grades 6-7. Hemmingway was 5th grade or something. (He was a newspaper reporter, so his style was probably formed from that.)

        Non-fiction is a little different. The average creeps up into high school ranges. But only something like half the country can read at that level.

        Sobering stuff. But there’s a lot to be said for reading ease.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        True, although:

        Locally, IIRC, the Minneapolis paper is said to be written at a sixth grade level whereas the St. Paul paper is said to be written at a third grade level. The general local consensus seems to be that Minneapolis is the more urban sophisticated Twin City.

        (I bought all three of Monroe’s books for a friend’s birthday, but after looking at Thing Explainer I kept that one because, for all its deliberately limited vocabulary, it’s actually fairly technical, and I didn’t think she would get much out of it. (What If? and How To are a hoot, if you haven’t seen them. I was able to read through Amazon Prime and the other through Cloud Library.))

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I like the approach Munroe takes, but I’m not wild about the idea of learning about things without any of the customary terminology. It means if you subsequently see discussion about it by people who understand it, it will likely still be greek.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Yeah, I don’t care if one makes dresses, bowling balls, or quantum computers; there’s a lingo associated with it. We need those specific technical terms to communicate complex ideas. (Monroe’s genius there, to me, is illustrating just how difficult technical communication is with “ordinary” language.)

        I’ve got a Draft post I’ve been working on for quite some time about terminology, the (false) idea of (deliberate) exclusion through terminology, and the tendency of some — like Humpty Dumpty in Alice — to feel they can bend words to their own personal purposes. Might even publish it one of these days. 😀

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Don’t know if you’ve seen this article. If not, you might find it interesting.
        …Of course, they’re far from the only ones.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Good article (I hadn’t seen it); I agree completely.

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