THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 290 December 29, 2003 - January 4, 2004
Highlights this week:
This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying. See also the monthly COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 4,000 - 7,000 words, depending. (Older columns here.) For more on what this page is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE. If you have never read the explanatory material on that page, please do so. If you got here through a link that didn't take you to the front page of this site, click here for a better explanation of what we're trying to do here.
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December 29, 2003
If you missed Dr. Jennifer Pournelle's recent (December 23) pictures of Baghdad, be sure to have a look. There was some other good stuff over the weekend in mail.
I am working on getting Burning Tower out the door: two scenes remain to be done and polished. After that, I'll try to do a year end assessment of computers and the economy.
I will also have some thoughts on a recent article in the Weekly Standard by a USAF Academy professor of political science who thinks his computer models of football are significant in interpreting Tocqueville's observations about America. It looks to me as if McNamara has more influence at ASAFA than Possony and me; if so, 'tis a pity. Of course this is one article by one professor of political science who devised a computer model to determine who ought to play in the BCS championships; perhaps I read far too much.
McNamara used "systems analysis" to justify conclusions he had already reached. Herman Kahn taught me that systems analysis was a way to make decision factors explicit so you understood why you reached the conclusions you reached, as well as a way to determine how to get somewhere you wanted to go. Possony eagerly embraced that latter point; but neither of us thought that computer models were more "just" or more authoritative or more valuable than the considered judgments of commanders with long experience. The USAFA professor seems to think that a poll of AP sports reporters represents "populism" while his computer model represents both "expertise" and "justice" -- and this without any clue whatever as to the content of these "expert" models or why they are more "just" than the views of sports reporters.
Carried too far, this man's views are dangerous. Incidentally he argues for "representative democracy" rather than direct democracy, a view I agree with as did the Framers; but how a poll of AP sports reporters is "direct" rather than "representative" isn't so clear to me. And I'd sure like to know more about those "just" models.
December 30, 2003
Subject: A Girl and Her Fish
This is a terrible story. Humor, perhaps: but it is still a story of tyranny by a petty bureaucrat.
for Proverbs, and Kipling, on hireling masters. Who would be a TSA bureaucrat supervisor? Ask yourself what kind of person would want the job, and the story above may not shock you.
But we were born free.
needs no explanation I think.
Nor does http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,106890,00.html which, alas, is not a joke. Thanks to Francis Hamit and Harry Payne for finding that one. Harry Payne thinks Ben Franklin must be spinning by now... Poor Richard.
There are other costs of empire. Among those costs:
Army's suicide rate has outside experts alarmed Most died serving in Iraq after major combat phase
---- By Michael Martinez Chicago Tribune
Also known as le cafard...
Another is the return to conscription:
Many Soldiers From Quitting
But sometimes we forget:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed --
Empires are costly, and the costs are paid in many coins.
Incompetent empire is even more expensive.
Marine General Anthony Zinni is no dove:
"Iraq is in serious danger of coming apart because of lack of planning, underestimating the task and buying into a flawed strategy," he says. "The longer we stubbornly resist admitting the mistakes and not altering our approach, the harder it will be to pull this chestnut out of the fire."
I don't mean to be all gloom and doom. We are accomplishing some good things in Iraq, and we have good people there. We are spending enough money -- although little of it seems to have got to the competent people on the ground in Iraq yet -- to build new nations and make flowers bloom in the deserts. The resources are committed. We have sent forth the best we breed.
Fletcher Pratt (The Battles That Changed History) said "When the Romans got generals who were anywhere near as good as the troops they commanded, their superiority was crushing." So it is here. And we have good generals. Our superiority is crushing.
And Rome lasted far longer as an Empire than as a Republic. (But see mail on that one.)
My point is that McNamara seems to be making the decisions: at least I see a good bit of that flavor. Now there was a winner. At Ford he did the Edsel. As Kennedy's Secretary of Defense he botched the Viet Nam War and gave us the F-11 instead of what we needed. Then he moved to the World Bank ...
For McNamara and the Edsel see mail; I had that part wrong.
December 31, 2003
The war will cost $300 billion total, tie down most of the army for a year and more; is this the way to be safer?
Progress is being made. Things are going better in Iraq. But are we $300 billion safer?
I don't know. We're there, and we have to make something out of the mess; but it's hard to see a path to a really good ending to this. We can hope.
The Afghan operation was well done. Afghan stability may demand that we commit some more resources there: we can hope we have some to commit.
When this is over will we have permanent bases in Iraq? Do we want them?
At least things didn't get to this point:
Does anyone have real evidence that the following is true (or false)?
Before we all go order that turkey burger, we
should consider a few facts. First, there is no direct evidence that
Creutzfeldt-Jakob comes from the ingestion of contaminated beef, or that the
syndrome deserves its reputation as the "human form" of bovine spongiform
Here is what is generally believed on the subject:
On another topic, has the world gone mad?
I probably ought to start a "world gone mad" record...
I am off to Larry Niven's New Year Party.
Happy New Year all.
I see we have made ourselves prisoners in New York. I suppose there is nothing for it. I wish everyone well.
January 1, 2004
Happy New Year
Getting ready for CES, and it's Column Time again. I need to do a year end/beginning essay, but it will probably have to be for the column as far as technology is concerned.
As to the war, and the intelligence services, and space, and such matters, that will be here when I get it done properly. It may take a while.
Does anyone know where this guy lives?
[Apparently EVERYONE knows where he lives, the slashdot crowd in particular: see mail]
Charles Murray on his new book:
January 2, 2003
It's raining in Los Angeles. It never rains on the First though.
Column and finishing Burning Tower. More work...
Can someone explain to me just why anyone accepts a computer model that uses 3 decimal place accuracy on single place data as the arbiter of who gets to be the Number 1 ranked football team in the country? I have searched and all I find is a bunch of mumbo-jumbo about how the computer systems are more "just" and "accurate" and sometimes an interminable list of variables they different computer systems use, but nothing about what weights are given to each of the variables, or even how some of the variables are calculated.
Clearly some iterative process is going on since it is said that these things take an hour or more to run, but once again I find nothing on how it is done. Surely if we are to believe in these things they ought not be secret?
When I took Systems Analysis from Herman Kahn (Boeing paid for him to
come teach a seminar for a couple of weeks back in about 1960; stiincidentally,
does anyone know where I can find a copy of Kahn, Herman. Techniques
of Systems Analysis. Report, Rand Corp,
Now I don't know if the BCS systems are linear regression models or some kind of iterative process (I would guess the later simply because of the reported times they take to run), or how they were validated. I presume they were validated? But against what? Since one of the BCS computer model system inventors has taken the trouble to write denouncing the AP and Coaches polls as "too democratic" while the computer systems are "more just", it's a matter of curiosity: what did he use to validate his computations? If his system had consistently spit out a terrible team of losers as Number One, it would be simple enough to reject it: but how do you validate a 3rd decimal point calculation ranking one team second and one team third? What determines if the computer got it right or not?
I would like to see those computer models. I'd like to know how they were and are validated. And why the New York Times has one that seems way off compared to the others -- what does it do? Wrong variables? Different weights? So far I have been unable to find out any of this, which may be a comment on my Google skills, or may be a comment on just how gullible people are. But real money rests on these ratings: and to make them in secret, straining like a gear box to produce a result without showing how the result was obtained, seems odd, and accepting these things on the grounds that they are "computer models" puts more faith in these machines than I have.
I could come up with a "computer model" of this stuff, if I had any kind of validation criterion. The method is relatively simple. List all the quantifiable variables you think might have a bearing on how to rank order teams from best to worst; put them into a big matrix of predictors; do matrix manipulations to get the correlation of each of those variables with the vector of validation scores; and build a multiple regression equation from as many of those variables as you need to account for as much of the variance as you can account for. This isn't very difficult given small computers, and the model could be written in BASIC or PASCAL or MODULA so that it would be more or less readable.
But without a vector of valid ratings -- without some validation method -- the model will do no more than predict things according to the opinion of the model maker on the relative importance of the variables. Sure, I can make a model that will get closer and closer to the rank orderings produced by any other non-random method based on those variables; and so what?
One account of one of the models said it was better because it made use of the "standard deviation". Standard deviation of what about which mean was not specified, but apparently using the standard deviation makes that a better model, at least according to one enthusiast.
Anyone have a source on how to find out more about what is in those models?
Incidentally, apologies for spending time on this rather than a year end analysis of technology; I made the mistake of reading the sports page at lunch, and it was filled with discussions of the worth or lack of worth of these computer models -- and very little on how the models are constructed. Here and there were vague lists of variables including "the standing of the teams played" (another reason for supposed these are iterative models) but nothing on the weights given the different variables. Ah well. More substance another time.
And if one of you knows how I can find a copy of
Kahn, Herman. Techniques of Systems Analysis. Report, Rand
Quade, Edward S. Analysis for Military Decisions,
Quade, Edward S. Military Systems Analysis RAND Corp report RAND-RM-3452-PR
I would greatly appreciate the information, and I'll pay to have copies made if there is no other way to get a copy of each. Those are old studies but they are still among the best on both how to make models and the limits of modeling.
And shortly after
Subject: RAND reports
---- Roland Dobbins
Thanks. I have ordered the ones I need
RAND accepted an order but another mail says that Herman's reports are no longer available. We will see. Quade's lectures are more commonly available, but Kahn's was a good disquisition on why you do this kind of analysis as well as some techniques for doing it.
Don't we feel safer now?
I must use the wrong techniques. I tried all kinds of entries in hopes of finding a way to buy old RAND documents, and got nothing useful; minutes after I posted the above I get five emails telling me where to go.
Of course it can be said I use the right technique which is to ask someone who knows. Pournelle's law, if you don't know what you are doing, work with someone who does...
Our Haiti Intervention:
Dan scrubbed the Mac and reinstalled OS X 10.3 with all traces of Thursby AdmitMac gone.
We found that Apple sold me a "Mac with the new operating system" with 10.2 installed, and an UPGRADE version of 10.3 in the box. This made it harder to do than it ought to have been. They did generously include an installation version of 10.2 on my brand new system for which I paid full price at the Apple Store at the Glendale Galleria. Buyer beware.
But with the new version, with the downloaded patch, it was simple enough to connect to the Active Directory net. There are minor glitches, but nothing that stops the show. See the column for details, but Active Directory and Mac with the patched version of 10.3 (10.3.2) work together quite well. The glitch is that from the Windows side I can see Ariadne by name, but I have to connect to her by IP address \\192.168.1.129; if I do that it works splendidly.
January 3, 2003
I have the column to do, Burning Tower to finish, and CES to get ready for. Time's a little short...
January 4, 2003
Too much to do. Some mail.
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