THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 480 August 20 - 26, 2007
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August 20, 2007
.We spent the morning out at Kaiser. I seem to be in reasonable shape. I am now trying to find the Eppley Maneuver and try that. So far I find plenty of references to it, but I haven't found the actual procedure. That's just a matter of chasing down leads.
I will finish Inferno II this week. I know precisely what scene is needed, but it is going to take both of us to pull it off. I may be able to add a few more colorful scenes as well, with people telling their stories. I'll get there. This is going to be a much better book when we are done.
The Wall Street Journal is full of stories about the market bubble, but there doesn't seem to be one word of reproach to the government for injecting enormous sums into the housing market. The intent was to make it easier for people to own homes. The actual result was to drive prices out of sight. Of course this was popular with local governments (except in California where we have Proposition 13) because it meant automatic rises in property taxes. Even in California the huge inflationary housing prices produce revenue for the state and the federal government.
The government injected large sums into the college tuition market; the result was enormous inflation of college costs, so that a good part of the middle class now graduates with a crushing burden of debt. This gives government control over their lives forever.
The intentions were good. They wanted more people to own houses, and to go to college. But the result was a huge part of the capital of the US is now secured by commercial paper that includes a large percentage of risky loans and a medium percentage of insanely bad loans. No one knows just how many pension funds and mutual funds are tied into this bad paper. The only remedy the government knows to stave off collapse is to make loans available to those who made bad loans.
Has anyone noticed the incentives here? Just as in the old Savings and Loan bubble and collapse, the government is saying, "use unsound practices and made bad loans; borrow money to make bad loans. When things go sour, we'll bail you out." Clearly this is an oversimplification, but it's still an accurate picture.
If you want more people to have a certain good, and you make it easy to borrow money to buy that good, two things will happen: prices of that good will rise, and more of that good will be made. If enough of the good is made prices will fall again. However, it takes a long time for that to happen: and meanwhile, the price bubble has been floated up by the easy access to loans.
Interestingly, learned economists don't seem to see this until it's very clear and plain. Which makes one wonder why anyone pays attention to learned economists. And the hedge fund managers, smartest people in the world, programmed their computers to borrow money and pour it into the market, but hedge by quickly selling in response to certain market downtrends -- and a whole bunch of them used what amounts to the same program -- and no one paid much heed to the consequences of a bunch of the smartest people in the world all doing this at once.
But it worked so well! For so long! We had confirmation that our programs were right! We made money! Wasn't our fault if all of a sudden something happened and all our data were irrelevant.
A young turkey daily receives the message that the family loves him. They feed him, clean his cage, possibly groom him, and come September and October they feed him more and more. Every day is a better day.
The turkey is predicting from the wrong model of the universe. So are the learned economists.
|This week:||Tuesday, August
There is a good letter on economics, Ricardo, out sourcing, and what we can expect in the future over in mail. Do read it.
Roland calls attention to this:
It is worth reading as familiarization with a subject of growing importance. We need to think about procedures. One needs rules; but Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy is unforgiving and implacable.
Does anyone have a recommendation for a good zero-residue solvent? I presume they'll have some at Fry's, but is there likely to be anything at a neighborhood hardware store? I need to clean a whole bunch of electrical stuff.
August 22, 2007
.Isopropyl Alcohol seems to be the solvent I need. Thanks. Not drug store rubbing alcohol, the industrial stuff.
I have done the week's column, and it's in Brian's hands now, so it will get posted fairly soon. Niven is coming for lunch and we'll go talk Inferno.
I have lots of good mail for you, but it will have to wait for evening. Thanks.
Back from lunch. Time to work.
Tonight is the Writers of the Future judges dinner out in Pasadena. Galaxy Press brings a lot of my old friends to LA (or wherever they're having the event; sometimes they send Niven and me) for the awards. One part of the event is dinner with the judges and this year's participants, and that's tonight.
Usually I spend an hour or so talking to the workshop participants https://wotfblog.galaxypress.com/ but this year what with Inferno and a speeded up workshop schedule I'll just be out for the dinner tonight and the awards ceremony tomorrow at the Athenaeum. There's also a book signing. Alas, I'm not sure when the book signing thing is.
I may or may not go -- I don't have any new books to sign, and work on Inferno II is at that stage where a good day's work is a hundred words and five paragraphs improved. I have two more scenes, one of which is a moral climax to make something explicit that was only implied in our first draft, and I've been several days trying to fit them in; I always find something else that needs doing first.
Niven tells me the book reads better every time he goes over it, and last night he did a lot of work on the scene I did yesterday, so there's real progress; it's just slow, considering that I thought we were through with this thing in June.
Anyway, today will mostly be devoured by locusts followed by the Judges' Dinner which is purely fun, meaning I have to work even harder tomorrow.
There's a bunch of mail. I'll try to comment, but much of it is both interesting and self explanatory.
National Talk Like A Pirate Day is coming. SEPTEMBER 19.
Here's a preview:
.I spent yesterday evening at the Writers of the Future dinner, where I got to meet and pontificate to a bunch of new writers, some of them darned good. Tonight is the awards dinner and presentation at the Athenaeum at Cal Tech. I go over there in an hour or so to put on my tuxedo.
I have to say this is not the optimum time for this, since I am slowly making progress on finishing INFERNO II. Niven is off to Japan next Tuesday, and it will be up to me to finish things and send it off to our agent and our editor. I still have two critical scenes to write, and I suspect Niven will improve them when he gets back from Japan. I'd like to have them done before he goes, but every time I sneak up on those scenes I find new places for other new scenes... It's worth all this effort, but this stage of a book is sheer Hell (pun intended).
I'll get the mailbag done for the weekend, but the column may be delayed a couple of days. The book reviews are done, but I may add a couple of them.
Mail today includes a discussion of science and rationality. Science is best of playing by its own rules.
The issue of the day is the terrible things we are doing to our bright children, particularly those who aren't born to rich families.
Rich families can send their kids to good schools. That means that even bright normal kids from wealthy families have a chance to learn more than the basic minimums.
Really bright kids from less wealthy families have to go to public schools so they get to pay a horrible tax: they are put into classrooms where the teacher is far more concerned with getting the very dull, dull, and dull normal kids to pass a test than in teaching bright kids anything at all. The bright ones won't be left behind.
So the bright kids put up with discipline problems, disruptions, special ed kids who have been mainstreamed, and a general lack of teacher time; in exchange they get all the benefits of diversity. Odd, but most of those who can escape diversity choose to do so.
But I am sure that this is a dangerous way to talk. It will not be all that long before there is a movement to jail Diversity Deniers.
In 1983 Glenn T. Seaborg as Chair of the National Commission on Education concluded that if a foreign government had imposed our system of public education on the United States we would rightly consider it an act of war.
It has not become better since then; and No Child Left Behind has made it even worse. Diversity and Mainstreaming are disastrous. Yes, yes: it's probably better for at least some of the very dull, dull, and handicapped kids to be mainstreamed. But the cost of that is to neglect the bright ones.
Wealth and private schools have given us some reprieves here. Teachers understand the situation and send their kids to private schools when possible. But any bright normal kid born to a poor family is pretty well doomed to learn diversity without learning a lot more.
Whether we can sustain a First World economy with an education system indistinguishable from an act of war against the people of the United States is a very interesting experiment; but haven't we run it long enough?
Even education officials should be smarter than this! And we pay property taxes for this nonsense. And it is in Arizona. Must be the extreme heat.
Joys of diversity:
August 25, 2007
I got back late last night, from Cal Tech Athenaeum where we did the Writers of the Future Awards. Those affairs are non-alcoholic, which suits me fine, but I came home feeling awful.
The day has been devoured by locusts.
|This week:||Sunday, August
Woke up with what appears to be a summer cold. Sore throat, feeling awful. Got the mail column for Chaos Manor Reviews done. Niven goes off to Japan next week, and it's my job to get INFERNO II finished. I still have two scenes in mind that I know have to be done, but every time I start on the book I find other improvements I can make. The book is much better now than when we turned it in, and it was darned good even then.
Thanks to all who have recommended various zero-residue solvents. The consensus is that absolute alcohol (99% isopropyl) is both available and effective. I found 95% at my local drug store, and it seems to be good enough. That's in bottles. I will still have to find something in pressure bottle: I have a Vortex electric fan that has got gunked up -- I find that fans do that often -- and spraying WD-40 improved things but not a lot. It needs a spray to get it into the bearings, but it also needs to be zero residue since there's electrical wiring in there. After the WD-40 I poured a bit of the isopropyl on the shaft and let it run into the bearings, and the fan now turns well enough that it will start up easily, but I'd like to finish that job.
Usually I tend to throw stuff out and replace with new since I'm pretty short of time, and there's not a big return on time invested in fixing household stuff. Still, it's a good fan, probably 10 years old so the annualized cost is quite low, but it works, and it's a bit of a bother to go find another as good.
If I seem to be rambling blame it on the cold.
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 weekly COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 8,000 - 12,000 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. This site is run on the "public radio" model; see below.
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