THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 395 January 2 - 8, 2006
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January 2, 2005
See Urgent Worm Warning in yesterday's view.
There was a posting in another conference that got my blood roused. I doubt anything I say is new to any of you, but it is worth repeating. First the article that roused my ire:
Literacy experts and educators say they are stunned by the results of a recent adult literacy assessment, which shows that the reading proficiency of college graduates has declined in the past decade, with no obvious explanation.
"It's appalling -- it's really astounding," said Michael Gorman, president of the American Library Association and a librarian at California State University at Fresno. "Only 31 percent of college graduates can read a complex book and extrapolate from it. That's not saying much for the remainder.". . .
The test measures how well adults comprehend basic instructions and tasks through reading -- such as computing costs per ounce of food items, comparing viewpoints on two editorials and reading prescription labels. Only 41 percent of graduate students tested in 2003 could be classified as "proficient" in prose -- reading and understanding information in short texts -- down 10 percentage points since 1992. Of college graduates, only 31 percent were classified as proficient -- compared with 40 percent in 1992. Schneider said the results do not separate recent graduates from those who have been out of school several years or more.
Roberta Pournelle's reading program will teach ANYONE above the intellectual level of a chimpanzee to read English. By READ I mean be able to see a word and pronounce it, so that "reading vocabulary" is the same as "speaking vocabulary". I have said this before, but it bears repeating: if you can read, you can read anything. There is no such thing as "reading at grade level." Children can read or they can't read, and all this prattle about grade level is merely a way for teachers to feel good about having failed to teach the children to read.
Most illiterates have a perfectly useful speaking vocabulary. They just haven't learned to read. If you observe 4th and 5th graders stumbling through science and history and civics classes (assuming there are such classes; many schools have abolished them) you will quickly discover that the problem is that they can't read. They know the words, or many of them, but they don't recognize them because they haven't encountered them before and the words are ideograms.
Learning to read ideograms takes far longer than learning phonetics. English is at least 90% phonetic (that's pretty generally agreed even among that anti=phonics "experts") and of the 10% not phonetic there are still a number of phonic cues. "Though the rough cough plough me through" is a typical scare sentence used by the anti-phonics people, but in fact it's pretty easy to learn to read it; if you know how to pronounce any of the words and you have heard the others -- except for plough most are fairly common words -- you can glean the sense of the sentence even if you are down at the IQ 85 level.
In rural Florida in the 1920's my mother taught first grade. Her pupils were farm laborer kids. (It was a segregated school, so she did not get any blacks, but she did get immigrant laborer children). She used to tell me that every one of them learned to read by the end of first grade. When I questioned her more closely, she said, "Well there were one or two over the eight years I taught who didn't learn to read in first grade, but they didn't learn anything else, either."
Precisely. For any kids of dull normal intelligence and up, they can and should learn to read in first grade, and by read, I mean be able to pronounce any word they encounter including diethyldimethyltoluene. They won't know what that means (nor do I expect anyone here to know); but they can read it just as everyone here can read it.
Reading is not an activity confined to high IQ, and being able to read allows far more "late bloomers" to catch up. It allows real subject matter from 3rd grade on. In Memphis and Capleville schools (Tennessee schools in general) economic geography was mandated in 4th grade during the 1930's. We learned the capitals of all the states, something of their economy, and such things as "Name the principal products of Ecuador" as well as being able to locate the Latin American countries and the US states on a blank map. So far as I know, every student in 4th Grade in Capleville consolidated (3 & 4th grades in one room, with one teacher, about 30 students per grade, I think 34 in 4th and twentysomething in third) learned all that content, something of Tennessee government, etc. Somewhere in there we got Tennessee history one year and US history another year. I won't say our education was splendid, but it was good enough to prepare me for the rigorous education I got at the hands of the Christian Brothers (no lay teachers at all) in high school.
The reason college students have trouble abstracting complex texts is that they can't read the texts very well. By the time of college they have learned enough to be able to get through the words, but in their formative years -- 4th through 9th grades -- they got no practice in reading for comprehension because they were spending their time learning the ideograms. It is very hard to comprehend complex ideas if you are guessing at words. The authors (assuming there was an author; modern school texts are not so much written as compiled by a committee) have chosen words with care, or at least some do, expecting the reader to know what word was chosen, but without systematic phonics instruction the student is still guessing all the way into college.
Yet all children can be taught to read English by the end of First Grade.
WHAT MAN HAS DONE MAN CAN ASPIRE TO, and what our education system once accomplished it could accomplish again.
It requires two things: immediate return of discipline and control to principals who can delegate to teachers; and demanding that all the children learn to read in first grade.
That can be done. It won't be, but it can be done.
January 3, 2006
In a few minutes I will be driving to Las Vegas. Alone, alas, so I won't be writing anything or using roadside hot spots to post. I should be there in time to register and be ready for tomorrow.
January 4, 2006
I have this message:
Subject: Microsoft Windows Vulnerability
Well, there always has to be one, doesn't there? I trusted you and ISC. I downloaded and installed ISC's Windows patch, and now when I try to open WordPerfect 10.0 word processor, I get the message: "Error loading followng files required to start the application: wpwin10.dll Do you want to fix the problem right now?" When I press the "Yes" box, nothing happens. I've repeatedly tried reinstalling the program, and the each time computer assures me it has successfully installed it, but I still get the same error message. It's been two days and I hope I'll get it figured out soon. Nothing else on my computer seems to have been affected. Have any other of your subscribers reported problems with this patch?
All inanimate objects are scientifically divided into three categories: Those that break down, those that don't work, and those that can't be repaired. --Russel Baker
Regarding above: I have NO OTHER reports of ill effects from the ISC patch. My security expertg advisors assure me the potential threat of this exploit can be grave; one actually sent me a mesage with the subject THE SKY IS FALLING and he wasn't teasing.
It is 2 AM, I have filed my daily CES show report (look for it at www.byte.com ) and I'm for bed. Show floor tomorrow.
January 5, 2006
CES Opened officially today. The show floor is huge, and it's unlikely that I will get through much of it. It's a good way to collect "enough" product information to keep going for a few months, and some of it's interesting. It's also an exhausting way to spend time.
Realistically, what with doing show reports and getting the column out, there's not going to be a lot here this week. Apologies, but there it is. I am also way behind reading my mail, much less getting the more interesting part posted. I'll try to catch up with some of it.
I can find no news of the world coming to an end. Apparently the Microsoft vulnerability isn't as bad as everyone feared it would be. This is a Good Thing, but it is not time to relax. The vulnerability is still there, still armed, still dangerous.
Regarding the ISC patch, and my inquiry on people with problems:
Yep. I had one, and it's a doozy. The patch killed my HAL.DLL on an otherwise well-behaved white boxen (AMD Sempron 2800+ / Asus A7N8X- VM/400 <http://hardware.gamespot.com/Asus-A7N8X-VM/400-3176-O-35-35> / 512MB RAM, following Robert Bruce Thompson's Budget PC design <http://www.windowsdevcenter.com/pub/a/windows/2005/02/15/Perfect_BudgetPC.html> ) with XP/Spack2; dead, dead, dead. Not a corrupted BOOT.INI ; tried a NTLDR floppy disk with a new BOOT.INI and that still failed.
Looks like it's time to Reinstall It All. Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy.
Therefore, I would suggest caution when considering the ISC patch, and instead suggest waiting for the Microsoft Patch <http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/advance.mspx> , due any minute now...
I can only say that I installed the patch on three machines including this Tablet and so far I have had no problems or indeed any effects.
Subject: [RBT] Official Microsoft WMF patch to be released today
Microsoft announced today that it will release the official WMF patch at 2:00 p.m. PST. Until then, you can read about it here:
-- Robert Bruce Thompson email@example.com http://www.ttgnet.com/thisweek.html http://forums.ttgnet.com/ikonboard.cgi
Looks like we made the fix public…
(a Microsoft employee subscriber)
January 6, 2005
Still at CES. Appointments with Microsoft and others today to see what's new in computing. No more peep shows, so all should be a bit easier. I hope.
On the WFS patch:
Hellewell on the WMF patch
>>Starting to see additional reports about problems with the unofficial WMF patch, relating to printing problems. Printing problems occur with the patch, and with the de-registering of the SHIMGWV.DLL .
I had no trouble at all with the unofficial patch, but then I did not de-register SHIMGWV.DLL. I wonder if the latter was more problem than the former. Today I un-installed the unofficial patch in my Win2000 system (it showed up nicely in Add-Remove) and installed the Microsoft one. Still no trouble.
The hotfix patch shows up in my add/remove programs also. Since I am in Las Vegas I have not applied the removal or its replacement. I have noticed NOTHING amiss with my TabletPC while I was here, and it's been getting heavy use.
I will catch up on this site and mail and such next week. CES is hectic. See the reports at BYTE.
More on the WMF diisaster:
Subject: WMF "disaster"
Dear Dr. Pournelle, just a personal note on the extent of damage that the WMF exploit has been able to cause: in Italy a major ISP (BT's Italian arm) was bit on the 4th, and had some if not all (all that I know of and was able to verify) of their windows shared hosting (thousands of "up-and-up, absolutely above board" sites of business, institutional and government entities) infected and infective for the better part of a day, and off-line for the better part of another. Luckily it is a week in Italy where most people, or at least those who are able, go on vacation, what with the Epiphany on a Friday, but still, you have to kind of wonder how they caught it, and how it got to the Windows hosted machines of the IIS Cluster within their firewalls (some bored employee surfing on a server between a smoke and a piece of Christmas Cake?). They also claimed through their customer assistance that the same problem also caused a blackout of their ADSL clients through some DB snafu, creating a customer assistance nightmare for the call center, which was on reduced personelle for the holidays, which doesn't make much sense, but who knows (at least they haven't out-sourced to India!)?
I was warned of/discovered the problem because I generally use Mozilla, and I wasn't worried anyway, as I had already applied both the unofficial patch as well as the unregister workaround, but can only imagine the impact of the thousands of infected "traditional" sites on unsuspecting normal IE visitors. So it isn't only through visiting "grey-market" sites that the risk of infection presents itself, it would seem clearly a mainstream problem at this point. Hopefully with the "official" patch released yesterday, all the upstanding sysadmins across the globe will have resolved the problem, but I kind of doubt it as most sysadmins in Italy (and Europe) were already out of the office, to return Monday...
Best regards, James Siddall jr
Putting together the show reports. CES is big, and much of it is not too useful. Some is very useful. Winnowing out the kernels from the shells is never easy. Appointments all afternoon with different people.
January 7, 2005
Walked the show floor all day. Family dinner with Frank who lives in Las Vegas Saturday night.
January 8, 2005
Home. Alex remains in Las Vegas and will finish show room floor coverage. See the show reports at www.byte.com for primary information.
I will have a different kind of report here when I get to it, but for the moment I am cleaning up.
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