THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
Monday, December 12, 2005
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February 7, 2005
This is the day we file the column. On the other hand there was some decent mail and other traffic over the weekend. I'll be back shortly...
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|This week:||Tuesday, February
The column is done, filed, corrected, circulated, signed, sealed, and delivered. Part of the story in the column is what happened to the mailing list and what I am doing now. There's other interesting stuff in there.
The papers this morning show a weeping godmother, upset because the police shot dead her 14 year old nephew. The boy was in the act of stealing a car, fled in it from the police, then backed it into a police cruiser. There is no evidence that the police officer knew the age of the culprit. The rest of the circumstances are under investigation, but we have had a couple of LAPD seriously injured by fugitives using a stolen car as a weapon to try to batter their way out of an apprehension situation.
If the godmother has any sense of failing in her responsibilities, which surely must include teaching the kid that stealing cars is wrong, and trying to escape the police by using a stolen car as a weapon is stupid as well as wrong, the interviewer didn't record that. Instead the case is being played in the papers for sympathy for this child gunned down by the police.
I hold no brief for trigger happy cops, some of whom have acted in the stupidest possible way -- we had a case of a deranged street woman (with a Ph.D.; she was well known to neighbors who were trying to intervene but were unsuccessful) shot dead for "threatening" an officer 8 feet away from her with a screwdriver; the cop's partner shot her for reasons no one has yet been able to fathom; the incident began when they stopped her on suspicion of having a stolen Ralph's shopping cart, but the cart had in fact been bought for her by a neighborhood association since she kept leaving home to live in the streets) -- but one can have considerable sympathy for an officer being threatened by a moving automobile. Of course 10 rounds fired may be wretched excess. I have mixed feelings about having the police trade their service revolvers for automatic pistols: it seems to me that a revolver is a good tradeoff between being unarmed and being fully armed; but I freely admit that it has been 40 years since I was in the Mayor's office in LA and had both the access and the time to find out what it was like on LA streets. It has all changed, and by a lot.
When you have areas of a city in which it is not considered unusual for 14 year old boys to steal cars and try to evade the police, you will have situations like this; people who cannot govern themselves will be governed, and those assigned the task have a fairly high regard for their lives and an even higher one for their partners. This is inevitable.
But if the US cannot impose self government on large parts of our own cities and populations, are we not over reaching a bit when we think we can impose liberal democracy and self government on the shards and wreckage of the Turkish Empire that have been gathered into chunks we are pleased to call "nations"? I ask seriously.
We were so sure it was mercury, but -- See mail on autism.
The office, Mac station, and Great Hall the morning after a column is filed.
February 9, 2005
Niven came over and we hiked to the top of the hill. Sable then went to the groomers, and I have to go pick her up. I had shopping errands, and Roberta is making disks for her Reading program. I need to write up the notes we made on the hill about Inferno, the purpose of Hell and the true purpose of the Universe and the other small and trivial themes we are working on...
Mail is piling up. I'll get to some shortly. And I have some thoughts on education and reading and how LA wasted $50 million on a reading program that didn't work while paying no attention to ones that do work. Credentialism run riot.
February 10, 2005
Get over to mail and check security warning if you use Symantec products.
And the stock went up. Considering that the printer division of HP is worth more than the entire HP-Compaq empire is valued by Wall Street, and that she managed to reduce the stock value of two technically excellent companies to about 1/3 of their value before she took over, perhaps it is time to end this particular experiment in shattering the glass ceiling.
Oh, don't get me wrong, it's not that women can't be heads of large empires whether commercial or military or political; but it is the case that most of the traits required for heading a big enterprise tend to be "manly" rather than "feminine" (and if you don't know what those mean, go read a bunch of western literature and history and come back because your education is deficient). Manly virtues tend to be more common in men than in women. So it goes.
There used to be a conventional wisdom among military people that officers could be differentiated by two variables, brilliant and stupid, and by active and lazy. The active and stupid (these are relative terms, and it's assumed that all of them are smart enough to be officers, but some aren't as bright as others) are to be eliminated. Active and stupid is dangerous. Stupid and lazy are the heart of the army, the usual officers who work their way up from platoon to batallion command, who often lead by example. Brilliant and active make good staff officers, but they want to DO things, and drive the men crazy and are never to be given supreme command, but should be promoted: the perfect General Staff Officer to be sent out as Chief of Staff to important units. Brilliant and lazy are the commanding officers.
In business you can't quite make these distinctions, because brilliant and lazy is often not good enough in a highly competitive environment. On the other hand, if it ain't broke don't fix it is good advice in business as elsewhere.
But brilliant and active is still dangerous, and near brilliant and active is even more so.
The Compaq acquisition was at best ill advised. The companies had entirely different corporate cultures. Compaq had marketing strategies based on getting their products out to the press, getting people to think Compaq first. They tried to compete in the consumer market and were not all that good at it; there was this residual of engineering skill and integrity that hesitated to pump out stuff at low prices by cost reduction. The Compaq professional line was very good, and I always thought well worth it. Servers not quite up there with the really top line, but plenty good enough for nearly all small and middle businesses. I used them for years. I have a Dual Pentium Plus Professional Desktop Workstation that has been in continuous use for a decade; it was the best thing out there when it was installed, and it has never been out of service, although now it's used mostly to collect web site information: but still in use. Memory and disk drives have been added, and Princess gets dusted out once in a while, but otherwise she just works.
HP also had a reputation for engineering excellence and a market strategy that roughly went "If you don't know how good our stuff is, you don't deserve to have any of it."
The merger produced a system that didn't know how to market yet was told to compromise excellence and get out there and sell. The result was predictable and predicted.
There is no evidence from her speeches that Carly Fiorina understood any of this.
February 11, 2005
I am told that Jack
Chalker has died. He was an old although not a close friend, and he will be
missed. This rates a larger announcement but I'll wait for his family.
February 12, 2005
This makes it seem likely Jim Hogan was wrong about this one.
NYC Health Officials Find New, Virulent HIV Strain (Update7)
I am apparently not smart enough to find James Hogan's explication on his web site: it isn't organized in a way that lets me do that. Probably my fault. I did have some small discussion of this here at one time.
Do understand: I have always thought that Duesberg is probably wrong in his views about the causes of AIDS; my concern has always been that HIV doesn't fit with the Koch Criteria for determining causation of diseases, and the vehemence with which the orthodox research establishment resisted any kind of crucial experiment to settle the matter once and for all. Given the huge amounts of money AIDS gets -- far more per death than does, say, breast cancer which may or may not be a significant comment on the power of different pressure groups -- it certainly would not cost a lot to do some definitive tests on the HIV == AIDS hypothesis and get it over with. There are some significant questions remaining even after this development, but it certainly looks as if the old Duesberg thesis that HIV is more likely a marker than a cause is probably in correct. On the other hand, quite orthodox researchers have wondered about correlations between viral loads and severity of immune system collapse, and the ability of HIV to hide; and of course Duesberg was a discoverer of retroviruses, and seems to have been treated rather oddly by the research community given his former standing among virologists.
I don't pretend to be an expert on the politics of AIDS research money allocations, but you don't have to be an expert to realize that there is a lot of money here, and an orthodoxy has formed to guard against any of that money going to anything but research efforts the orthodox establishment approves of; and, of course, to lobby for increasingly larger funding. Under those circumstances I would always advocate that the public step in to insure that some small amount of public money be spent as insurance against the possibility that the major scientific community is just plain wrong. Big Science is often -- usually -- right, but not always, and if science is to take public funding it is in politics whether it likes it or not -- allocation of tax money is by definition politics -- and ought to accept some public oversight.
This is especially true when highly expensive cures are developed. There's just a lot of profit in selling AIDS drugs.
Duesberg is probably off his head; but given his prior standing in the virology community -- one does not become the Chief Virologist of the University of California Medical School by being a complete nut -- it would seem prudent to test his adamantly held hypothesis, particularly since it wouldn't cost that much as a percentage of what is being spent. I have always wondered why, but when I ask those in charge they say it would be silly to waste any money at all testing what we already know. That seems a curious attitude for science; after all, they still run the Michelson-Morley experiment once in a while.
My conclusion the last time I did a serious look at AIDS research was that a Bayesian analysis would show this would be a good time to spend a little money confirming hypotheses. I have not followed developments very closely since then, so I have no idea whether such an analysis would give the same results. I am entirely sure that spending $100,000 on a Bayesian analysis of AIDS research fund allocation would be very much worth while, and I could recommend some statisticians or operations research specialists who could do the work. I'll also bet that no such study will be done.
Jimmy Hogan is right to kick sacred cows. He ought not be surprised to discover that some sacred cows have very loyal and very fierce bulls to defend them -- or that sometimes the sacred cow is sacred for good reasons.
I see by the LA Times that there's more to be said about the money wasted on a badly conducted program to use computers to teach English.
Roberta's experience back when they were looking into funding that program was that she had to pay to play, and we didn't want to get into that. Her program was already highly successful and in use in several LA schools, but the people deciding what to buy weren't interested in looking at the results of programs in use in some of their own schools. They had some elaborate and rather expensive procedures for being considered, and they were enough that only major publishers were likely to be able to pay to play.
The fact remains that every place her reading program has been tried it has worked far better than anyone expected, and that includes specifically with English as a Second Language schools. She's got the results. No one much cares, of course. The experts know how reading ought to be taught. It's just that they can't do it. But people who can do it aren't important.
This may be relevant to the discussion of sacred cows, see above.
February 13, 2005
http://www.jamesphogan.com/bb/aidsarticle.pdf. This is worth reading, as it is a pretty well written summary of Duesberg's position. It was a more defensible position prior to the recent discovery of super-HIV, but it's not entirely unreasonable now. HIV is an odd kind of infectious disease, and it would be well to know that. And to the best of my knowledge there is still no crucial experiment determining the truth or falsity of the HIV == AIDS hypothesis.
Duesberg once offered to have himself injected with HIV as a demonstration that it doesn't cause AIDS. I don't know if he still holds that position. If so, he will be lonely even among skeptics of the HIV == AIDS hypothesis. And I still wonder why, given that there has been no demonstration that HIV == AIDS conforms to the Koch criterion of disease confirmation, there hasn't been more testing of the hypothesis that everyone seems to just know is true. I suppose it is true, but that's a very heavy bet, and given the money spent on all this, wouldn't Bayesian analysis indicate spending a little on assuring us that the key hypothesis in all this is true?
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