View 746 Tuesday, October 16, 2012
The debate went about as I expected. Mr. Obama was more engaged, and thus made his supporters happier, but he cannot run on his record, and when he was asked by a man who had voted for him last time why he deserved to be reelected, he had no real answer other than personal. He can’t say hope and change.
Mr. Romney tried to stay on the script, he’s a nice guy and plays by the rules.
If it were a prize fight I’d give four rounds to Obama, four to Romney, and seven even on points. Not an outstanding performance by either. No knockdowns. Romney had an opportunity: he might have asked why, if Obama knew that the attack on the consulate was a planned act of terror and said so in his Rose Garden speech before he took a trip to Las Vegas for a fundraiser, did the US UN Ambassador bring up the movie and demonstrations two days later? It would almost certainly have left the President nonplussed. Not a knockdown, perhaps, but — Anyway that didn’t happen.
We’ll see what happens next time. Romney hasn’t lost anything and has every reason to feel confident. There’s no big incentive to change tactics.
There is breaking news about an earth-sized planet around Alpha Centauri B. http://newyork.newsday.com/news/world/earth-sized-planet-discovered-circling-alpha-centauri-b-1.4122901 It is apparently closer to its sun than Mercury is to ours, but its existence does not bar a planet of similar size at biospheric distances. More when we know more. Now if there is a Terran sized planet discovered at the proper distance, is it inhabited by Fithp?
See also http://www.businessinsider.com/earth-sized-planet-circling-alpha-centauri-2012-10
to sum up: Obama cannot run on his record, and had no reply to the man who had voted for him in 2008 and asked why he should vote for him again. Romney’s message was: “You know what you’ll get if you vote for Obama. Four more years. Of this.” Obama’s answer is that Romney will ruin the middle class in favor of his rich friends and bring back disaster.
Romney’s answer to that is to remain presidential and demonstrate that he has the dignitas and gravitas to succeed in the toughest job in the world. He made his point. So while Obama can ‘win’ a debate on technical points, the overall effect is the same: How’s that Hope and Change working out for you? Well, but, Romney’s going to ruin you and bring back the cronies, and …
And so it goes.
View 746 Monday, October 15, 2012
In today’s Wall Street Journal, L. Gordon Crovitz tells us “In 1902, Jules Verne predicted novels ‘will be supplanted altogether by the daily newspaper,’ which would ‘color everyday events’ so that readers wouldn’t need well-crafted fiction to fire their imaginations.” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443294904578052991841553024.html Actually, the novel seems to have a better future than the newspapers; Crovitz also tells us that “A record more than 100,000 novels are now published in the U.S. and Britain each year.” He doesn’t say how many are print and how many are electronic.
The revolution in the publishing industry continues. And small computers continue to be the great equalizers…
The political strategy of the two major parties continues and will likely govern what happens in the debates. The Democrats can’t run on their record, and indeed would prefer that you didn’t look at the economic picture. They do not seem to have a program for the future that they want to sell. The attractiveness of Hope and Change carried the last presidential election, but apparently they don’t want to try that one again, nor is “We’re the ones you’ve been waiting for.”
That leaves scaring the voters away from Romney and Ryan. Don’t elect them, they’re horrible.
This pretty well dictates the Republican strategy: make no mistakes, and show that our candidates are worthy and display dignitas. We’re not scary people. We know what we are doing. We’ve given you a broad picture of what we’ll do. We’ve shown you that we care. We’re the good guys.
Given those strategies the rest of the campaign is pretty predictable. The Democrats win if the Republicans do something really frightening. Democrat strategists say they already did, with Romney’s remarks about the 47% who don’t pay income taxes, and they’ll continue to emphasize that remark as showing that Romney is not worthy to be President.
Of course the frightening thing is that we have come close to the point where more people get entitlements than pay taxes. That’s only frightening to old fashioned freedom advocates, of course. It has long been the goal of a large part of the political public, who don’t worry much about dependences and who do not believe that the Iron Law of bureaucracy dooms the best intentioned welfare state. But we’ve been through all that before. Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free. Liberty has its costs. This is a Republic, not a Democracy. And other such dull truisms, which just happen to be true, and alas are now treated as platitudes.
I can recommend the review of the Chester Finn and Jessica Hockett book Dazed and Gifted in today’s Wall Street Journal. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444032404578010662785531602.html?mod=googlenews_wsj
I haven’t read the book but I will order it. Finn is often worth reading.
The debate will be tonight. I expect there will be talk about “Who is the REAL Mitt Romney.” Here is one view:
Mail 746 Sunday, October 14, 2012
Joe Kittinger’s record held for 51 years . . .
I was minorly involved in Manhigh back in the early days. Major Dave Simons taught me the habit of installing seat belts and insisting that everyone used them when I visited one of the balloon launches – I was then in human factors at Boeing and we had contracts on space survival equipment. We didn’t know much about anything in those days.
Subj: Colonel Kittinger’s Heir?
China and the west.
Hope your nose is on the mend. Here is a short but interesting article on China and the west from the BBC news site:
Very basic of course. Imagine Greek times when there were Greeks, almost-Greeks and those who might become Greeks in a vague concept of the homonoia. America had some of that concept in its formation before we became enthralled by diversity. Early concepts of homonoia had elements of race in them, as did early concepts of Americanism. Over time Americans came to accept various nationalities and linguistic groups as candidates for the melting pot. It took time to include Asians and Africans in that mix, but it was happening. As Bill Buckley used to say, you could study to become an American. It took work but you could do it, and we were opening that to everyone. That, of course was back before we became enthralled to diversity.
China has always had its concept of civilization vs. barbarians. China was often conquered by barbarians, but managed to survive and civilize her conquerors. Of course one can question whether their current treatment of Tibetans and Uighers fits any model of civilization, but that is for another discussion.
Space Out: NASA Faces More Budget Cuts in 2013 | Observations, Scientific American Blog Network
Not sure if either is really saying anything but at least space is being discussed.
The question, of course, is what role government ought to play in space development.
I covered much of that in The Strategy of Technology and various other papers and books I have done since. Roughly it is that government ought to put out prizes for technological developments, and fund X-projects, but it should not try to control technological developments through arsenals and centers.
The old NACA helped the development of the aviation industry. NASA strangled the space industry. Given what was spent on space development after Apollo we ought to be halfway to Alpha Centaiuri by now; instead NASA drained off valuable projects to pay its standing army.
We may be on a better path now. The key is not the size of the NASA budget but its structure. Some parts of NASA do some things very well indeed. And the Shuttle Main Engine was a marvel in its time, efficient and reusable if run at below 95% of it’s maximum thrust, which it should have been. NASA came up with some wonders. It also came up with turkeys, such as segmented solid rocket boosters. But that is a matter for another essay.
Space-X is a real step toward commercial space development. And the Commercial Space Act was well drafted and has helped a lot.
We’ll get there…
Why big companies can’t innovate
I thought you might find this <http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/09/why_big_companies_cant_innovate.html> interesting. I think it applies to all large organizations; for instance, NASA.
Live long and prosper
h lynn keith
Well, sometimes they can, but in general there are optimum sizes. I have long been a big fan of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, and I think it ought to be more vigorously applied. There are banks that are too big to fail and thus too large to allow to exist. It is true of other industries. Buying up one’s competition is not necessarily something we ought to allow when they get above 10% of the market share. Huge trusts do not act in the public interest. Competition ought to be encouraged.
David McCord Wright is no longer as highly regarded as he once was in the field of economics, but in my judgment his analysis of what was wrong with Marx has never been bettered. Marx noted the tendency of capitalism to concentrate more and more power in fewer and fewer hands. Wright pointed out that in the United States we had – for a long time – the trust busters, the anti-trust act to insure that there were competitors in vital industries, and that no one firm controlled too much of the market share. I see very little work on this in modern economics and I think that is regrettable.
AMD Laying Off Up To 30 Percent Of Workforce: Reports
AMD Laying Off Up To 30 Percent Of Workforce: Reports <http://app.info.ubmchannel.com/e/er?s=1922782676&lid=4896&elq=8ff61fb4afca4a7b9d785e94c3e5c6c3>
AMD next week is expected to announce the layoffs of 20 percent to 30 percent of its staff in the wake of a disappointing preliminary third quarter fiscal report.
And the beat goes on
“Our thinking was: how do we make use of the essential essence of Einstein’s theory for velocities above c?”
Now that is truly interesting. So if we ever have the fact we already have an approach to the theory…
Nice people, these Taliban
And they have recently said their only regret is that they didn’t kill her, a mistake they will remedy in due time. This is war on civilization. But we don’t have a concept of homonoia.
Top Brain surgeon atheist changes mind
The Emerging Doctrine of the United States | Stratfor
An emerging doctrine of the United States – “the United States does not take primary responsibility for events, but which allows regional crises to play out until a new regional balance is reached:”
You have been arguing for this for decades. I guess the guys in suits finally figured out that it is a good idea.
The piece is from Stratfor. It’s a good read.
The United States should not become involved in the territorial disputes of Europe. On the other hand, we sent the Marines to deal with the Barbary Pirates… We do have interests.
‘As we discussed, there will be consequences for refusal to wear an ID card as we begin to move forward with full implementation.’
The Music Industry
The way to make money from popular music, surprisingly, is not to own shares in a record company. Record companies are so profligate and inefficient that in spite of very low input costs and very high product prices they show little or no overall profit.
The actual artists who write and play popular music have found an answer to the record companies historical monopoly. The equipment needed to record, mix, and then press a recording, used to cost as much as a decent sized house. Now, with the rapid improvement in electronics the equipment to do the same job costs about as much as a second hand car, and mum permitting, will fit in the musician’s bedroom. This is half the battle. The record companies still have an incestuous relationship with broadcasters which until recently preserved their monopoly control of exposure. No longer, thanks to YouTube and Facebook. Hurrah. The previously scorned artists now freely post their work for all to download and enjoy. Albeit in necessarily degraded form due to bandwidth limits. Fans who want a full fidelity version email the artist and get a DVD at half the traditional price. The fans are also told of live performances where the artist can hire a venue in a competitive market and keep the profit. Publicity, the other service offered by the record companies has also been bypassed because of the ease with which fans can post on the band’s FaceBook page. I predict that the traditional monopolistic record companies will soon die and that few will attend the funeral.
There have been similar developments in book publishing although it is regrettable that the author faces many more difficulties than the musician.
The world changes. But as I said when I built my first Ezekial way back in CP/M days, small computers are potentially great equalizers…
I rarely – though sometimes – recommend books to my friends. So it must be unbridled hubris to recommend a book to a successful author. Nevertheless, I will rise (stoop?) to the occasion. The Sovereign Individual, written in 1997 by James Dale Davidson and William Rees-Mogg, has much to say about the impact and likely effects of the Information Age on the state, economies, the ‘returns to violence’ – by which they mean the payoff of employing violence – and much else. Given that you and Niven have written considerably about a future that bears more resemblance to a past than it does to our present, what Davidson and Rees-Mogg have to say may provide you with a wealth of ideas for additional books, though of a very different kind of future.
Or not. Oath of Fealty is not far from what the authors predict.
Oath of Fealty was the second novel Niven and I planned. Paer way through it Larry realized that between us we could do Inferno and he had wanted to do a book guided by Dante since he encountered it in school. OATH did in fact become a best seller, and part of it remain prophetic. If we wrote it today it would be very different, of course, but I do not think it’s main theme is impossible. I find Oath surprisingly readable even now.
“Don’t Shoot!—I’m Che!” (A Glorious Anniversary)
""When you saw the beaming look on Che’s face as his victims were tied to the stake and blasted apart by the firing squad," said a former Cuban political prisoner to this writer, "you saw there was something seriously, seriously wrong with Che Guevara." "
He executed thousands without trial, and yet is still a chic image to wear on shirts to prove you are hip and with it. If we had learning in our halls of learning, this would be laughed off of the campus.
Approaching the Eye (sort of)
Environmentalist Air Pollution
Hi Dr. Pournelle,
I’m glad to hear that the MOHS procedures are going to take care of your latest brush with cancer. I doesn’t surprise me that you felt more scared this time. I think that’s only natural. I’ve never been diagnosed with cancer, but I’ve lost dear friends and family to it and the thought that I could get it scares the bejeebers out of me. I’m very glad that your little corner of sense and rationality is going to be with us for a while yet.
I found what I consider a very nice article over at the "Watt’s Up With That" website that looks at 6 tenets (if you will) of the catastrophic anthropogenic global warming cause and (I think) debunks them all. This is a guest post from Dr. Ira Glickstein (bio at the end of his post). The lede:
What’s the difference between a whimsical fable and an environmental fallacy?
* On the outside, fables are light-hearted fibs. But oh so true on the inside.
* Environmental fallacies are just the opposite, plausible on the outside but hiding ugly realities on the inside.
Environmentalists have promoted the theory that human civilization is the main cause of global warming. They argue that Governments worldwide must take immediate drastic action to prevent a catastrophe. The chain of proof in their human-caused climate catastrophe theory is broken in at least six places. (All formatting above is from the post.)
Here’s the link: Environmentalist Air Pollution <http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/10/11/environmentalist-air-pollution/>
The evidence piles up that we don’t know enough to have a good theory of climate. We do know that in historical times the Earth has been both colder and warmer than it is now. We don’t even know which way it is going: it warmed from the Little Ice Age until sometime in the Twentieth Century, but the trend isn’
View 745 Friday, October 12, 2012
The Wall Street Journal had an editorial entitled “The Bully vs. the Wonk”, which about summed up what happened last night. Nothing unexpected. And Benghazi was all the fault of the Intelligence Community, which appears to be an entity completely independent of the Office of the President of the United States. Does this mean we still don’t have Intelligence consolidated and we need another superagency?
Within minutes last night I got a dozen notes on how to update the iPad – I had to go to a computer that has iTunes on it, connect to that, and let it happen that way. I suppose that is obvious to Mac users but it wasn’t to me.
I still can’t get my mail. Attempts get a demand for a password for smtp.me.com for username, and I have that in my log book, but it won’t accept that, and does not offer me any alternatives than endlessly trying to retype a password that it rejects. It looks as if I’ll have to go to an Apple store anyway. This whole shift to ‘cloud’ has been handled badly. For those who use only Macs I suppose it all went smoothly enough, but during the critical period I was distracted and Apple apparently never thought there would be anyone who didn’t live and breathe with Apple only.
Anyway there has to be a procedure for forgetting a password, but I have no idea what it is, and Apple isn’t offering me anything. I don’t use or need Apple mail much, but I can’t think it was smart of them to put us through the mobile.me mess and then drop us on our heads when they decided to get out of it.
I’d appreciate advice from people who know what’s going on.
It’s time for our morning walk. Outside it’s gloomy but it’s not raining. Sable has decided that whatever was wrong with her, it’s cruel and unusual punishment not to take a Husky for at least a mile walk, and if we don’t do it we’ll regret it… Back later.
Incidentally, the iPad still won’t access Safari. It brings up a big red sign telling me that mobile.me is dead, please go away. Very user friendly, these Apple people. I suppose I’ll have to do something through the iMac but I have no clue as to what that should be. I suspect I need something new to replace mobile.me which went away – I can’t say without warning, but I didn’t realize that if I didn’t act fast I’d be stranded without recourse. Simplest thing to do is wait until Tuesday or so when things would be slow and go to the Apple Store. I’m hoping to revive Chaos Manor Reviews and that’s a good place to start.
I still haven’t looked under the bandages; that happens tomorrow. It’s pretty clear that it won’t look like much. I still have my nose, and it looks as if what was skin which will grow back. It’s a little painful, but nothing to worry about. Now to catch up.
Eris was over just after lunch and we set up Swan, the newest machine at Chaos Manor. I intend to revive Chaos Manor Reviews – it has been long enough – and the two new machines, Alien Artifact and Swan will be featured. Both use Thermaltake cases and power supplies. Thermaltake is expensive compared to Anrec and some other rivals, but they are also elegant; and I am coming to the conclusion that if you’re going to go to the trouble of building your own computer, you should have elegance. Our newest has a ‘toaster’ type external drive port on top – take any old hard drive and push it in, and lo! you are connected and can see what’s on it. It’s also quiet and runs cool. Swan and Alien Artifact will replace a couple of the older machines here. And Swan runs Windows 8. I like it. Much more coming up. I really am trying to catch up. But that of course means working on fiction too. But there’s nothing like finding that you’ve got cancer beat to get you moving again.
View 745 Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Back from my second MOHS job with some other errands like getting a blood and urine sample taken and stopping on the way home for the ingredients of a chicken salad dinner tonight. As usual, my experience with Kaiser was about as pleasant as something like that could be. They seem well organized and competent and the staff is almost invariably cheerful. I wish I could say the same for their pharmacy paperwork: when that works it works fine, but this was the month for the rollover of my credit card, and I have three times informed them on-line to use the “new” credit card – same old one, but different expiration date – and they have three times on line accepted that, only to then generate an automated telephone message, delivered in a soft voice that cannot be heard by people my age, which makes me jump through hoops to prove who I am before the inaudible voice tells me that there is a problem with my credit card. So I go back on line and it is as if I had never told them to roll over the credit card, and we go through all this again; meanwhile, the pharmacy at Kaiser won’t fill the prescription because the system says it was already mailed. One presumes that when it “accepts” the new credit card it also marks the subscription as filled – then when the system loses the credit card update it stops the shipment, but meanwhile it is shown as already shipped. And since it’s sleeping pills they are extremely cautious about it all. Thank God this didn’t happen when I was getting the radiation therapy and needed Vikodin. I’d probably still be ordering that.
Attempting to telephone them gets a round robin of automated systems each one imploring you to listen carefully as the options have changed, each one demanding numbers and other information to be sure that it’s you before putting you through to another layer that wants the same thing.
At some point I’m going to call and keep insisting on a human being who speaks loud enough that someone my age can understand. I figure that will take a couple of hours. Once I get to explain the problem to someone who can fix things I suspect it won’t take five minutes.
Kaiser is wonderful if you can get to a human, but they work pretty hard at protecting the human employees from the patients. I can understand why, I suppose, but it’s still maddening.
Or, I could take up one of the starving attorneys who bombard me with offers to sue people for me. Do I have Bubonic Plague? There’s a suit for that. Or food poisoning? Which kind? There are suits for salmonella, e coli, and at least three other forms of food poisoning, and one firm offers to sue for my dog in case she got sick from some kind of dog food. One firm of attorneys has sent me 28 offers in the last two days. I have no idea whether they are real live attorneys of course, because I am not about to visit their web site or answer their lawyerspam, but barring a couple of grammatical errors these are the works of, well, if not educated people, then at least people with some exposure to higher education. They might be lawyers. And my computer bombards me with advertisements from more lawyers who want to sue someone – nearly anyone – in my name. And there are radio advertisements for law firms. And California has some new propositions making it easier for the plaintiff bar to sue farmers and farmer markets that don’t properly label what they’re selling. I presume the big produce markets are financing the initiative, since it’s clearly designed to put any small competition out of business and confine the food service industry to those who can afford to keep lawyers on retainer.
I wonder if the people of California are stupid enough to fall for this one? They fell for a proposition putting up $6 Billion in bonds to build a high speed rail from Los Angeles up the San Andreas Fault and over the Temblor mountains and through other mountains to the San Joaquin Valley and on to San Francisco. So far the studies have cost a billion or so, the price is now above $100 Billion, and not a foot of track has been laid; and the first track to be constructed will be out in the San Joaquin from someplace no one want to be to another place no one can find. High speed rail from Bakersfield to Corcoran comes after that. And nothing can kill it. So long as there is a dime left of the bond money, there will be engineers and architects and cubicle workers to spend it until they retire. And there are other propositions for California to raise taxes so that we can pay the pensions, since pension funding commitments now amount to about half the unfunded debt for the state – and soon enough pensions will account for something like 40% of the annual budget. Since that can’t actually be sustained, it does look like interesting times ahead, what with California having top bracket sales and income taxes already, and even with our ‘stabilized’ property taxes we’re in the top half on that too. Next will be the pressure to raise property taxes.
And they never catch wise.
And Greece hates Germany because Germany won’t give Greece more money for pensions and holidays and insists that if the Germans are going to bail out Greece, Greece has to cut its profligate spending. Austerity programs, the Greeks shout, as they dress up in Nazi uniforms to denounce the Germans for not giving them more without making them spend less.
We do live in interesting times. But of course it’s a rank calumny to note that there is this tendency for democracies to vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. The Tytler Calumny, one prominent science fiction writer has called it. Since the notion comes from the time of Aristotle and almost no one has heard of Tytler this is rather odd. If you care at all about this, http://www.lorencollins.net/tytler.html has just about everything known about the subject. I warn you, it’s long and fairly dull, and I for one don’t understand why it’s important to know who said what on the subject: it was clear to the Framers of the US Constitution that a national democracy would literally vote itself everything it could get, which is why so much was left to the states; the notion of a federal republic seemed one way to allow competition in the size of taxes. Then the Feds discovered Federal Taxation with Block Grants and we got things like “Federal aid to education” with all the great benefits from that including rising illiteracy rates and high school dropout rates and the other obvious improvements brought about by federal education policies, and I think I’d better stop. That’s probably the anesthetics wearing off.
Anyway my MOHS Nose is done for the day and they’ll call tomorrow to tell me is they have to scrape off any more. But they think they got it all this time.
I understand that the President is mocking Mr. Romney for wanting to shoot Big Bird or something of the sort. Instead we should continue to borrow money so that we can spend it to keep Big Bird. Of course Big Bird doesn’t need the money: his outfit gets less than 10% of its income from public subsidies, and it’s a $200 million dollar outfit, flush with cash. Big Bird is doing just fine. So are the bankers who are loaning money to the US to spend on Big Bird.
But it hardly matters. The point is that nothing ever gets actually cut. The Bunny Inspectors got raises this year (and increases their pensions, too). All that will have to be paid with borrowed money. Of course the costs of Bunny Inspectors – paid adult civil service inspectors who go to magic acts to see if the magician uses a rabbit in the act, and if so, if the magician has a federal license for that rabbit. (If the magician feeds the rabbit to a snake as part of the act, then he doesn’t need a license; it’s only if he keeps the rabbit as a pet that puts him in license jeopardy. Or if you have rabbit hutches in your back yard and you sell pet rabbits: then you need a federal license. If you raise rabbits as pet food you may not, but the inspector needs to know about it so that –
I wish I were making all that up, but I am not, and we borrow money to pay people to do this. And yes it’s a trivial part of the budget, but we can’t stop doing it.
I seem to recall a man named Obama promising to take a laser like view of federal spending and eliminate everything that we don’t really need to be doing. I suppose that will happen during his second term?
Today’s Wall Street Journal has a review of Flynn’s new book Are We Getting Smarter http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444180004578018480061824600.html about the Flynn Effect. The Flynn Effect is the name given to the phenomenon that average IQ scores seem to be rising, although it’s not at all clear that populations are necessarily smarter. Of course in the US the courts have prevented the use of intelligence tests for any practical purpose like hiring – I exaggerate but not by much – and the hatred express toward The Bell Curve has made it difficult to get funding for IQ studies as well as professionally dangerous to get into that field, so we know less than you might think about all this.
I’ve ordered Flynn’s book and I’ll do a review of it in due time. It’s actually a matter of importance. But I do not think we are getting smarter, exactly.
Bill Powers, President of the University of Texas at Austin, presents hie defense of using race as an admissions factor. An Admissions Policy That Prizes Diversity” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444004704578032164147209262.html It’s about as good a defense of the policy as I have seen. Mind you, I am still of the opinion that the law ought to be color blind, but at least he presents his reasons for his view.
The Congress is the Grand inquest of the Nation, and it is fitting that it hold an inquiry on just what went wrong at Benghazi. I look forward to the results. I can think of a dozen simple answers, but I doubt any of them is sufficient.
Mail 745 Monday, October 08, 2012
Now THIS is how to do it right: SpaceX confirms Falcon rocket suffered engine flame-out
SpaceX confirms Falcon rocket suffered engine flame-out:
And still made it to orbit. THIS is how to do it right.
The objectives of the SSX (a scale model of which became the DC/X) were: Savable. Reusable. Then fly higher and faster. Savable was the first criterion. Clearly SpaceX took such matters seriously. As you say, do it right.
I recall this discussion in about 1988 when the Citizens Advisory Council discussed what the next major X Project in space should be. Max Hunter was a big advocate of SAVABILITY. Plan for something going wrong and be able to continue.
Best of luck with the Mohs procedure. I have had it done twice: once on my right ear about 30 years ago (I was considered rather young to have a basil cell carcinoma at that time), and once on my right upper lip back in 2003.
Both times were followed by reconstructive surgery; so, if they haven’t scheduled you for that, you’re probably going to be OK. No problem with any recurrence; they cut until they get it all! I had some difficulty getting the surgeon back in the ’80s to tell me on average how many times he had to cut during the procedure. He was suspicious that I was asking for a guarantee of the number. I had to prove to him that I understood what an average was before he answered "twice". When he came back to cut for the fourth time, I knew I was in trouble!
My right ear is flattened as a result, but not unlike Steven Colbert’s, so I can’t blame my lack of media fame on that aspect of my looks. But, even in the worst case, you could adopt a noble lineage by emulating Tycho Brahe!
Let’s hope mine is average… Thanks. I have to say that knowing they’re going to chop cancer out of your nose is distracting, and makes it hard to concentrate. I think I got more work done back when they were using xrays on my head to get the Lump out than I have in the last week. Of course I had less reason to believe that the brain cancer would end with a good outcome; I have every reason to believe that the Mohs Job will be successful and I’ll still have a nose when it’s done. Thanks.
Our schools in action
I am certainly relieved public education is focusing on how much candy and energy drinks the students consume instead of trying to actually teach them stuff.
The best thing that could happen to American education would be the abolition of the Department of Education and repeal of all Federal Aid to Education grants and laws and the rest of it; with the single exception that the Congress can do as it will with the District of Columbia school system. But it cannot order, bribe, or compel the states. Let the states compete. It worked for a long time: the Russians destroyed the American school system with Sputnik. They didn’t even mean to do it…
Steyn: Sesame Street Nation
Or as J. Scott Gration, the president’s special envoy to Sudan, said in 2009, in the most explicit Sesamization of American foreign policy: “We’ve got to think about giving out cookies. Kids, countries — they react to gold stars, smiley faces, handshakes . . . ” The butchers of Darfur aren’t blood-drenched machete-wielding genocidal killers but just Cookie Monsters whom we haven’t given enough cookies. I’m not saying there’s a direct line between Bert & Ernie and Barack & Hillary . . . well, actually I am.
And Big Bird?
A New Kind of Novel.
This is precisely the sort of thing you’ve been talking about with regards to the new possibilities e-books open up:
Luck is the residue of opportunity and design.
– John Milton
I expect that ‘enhanced’ digital works, a term I used thirty years ago, will be common one day. That doesn’t mean that the old words on screen or paper won’t continue to be popular, but at some point most eBooks will include a lot more maps, charts, virtual walkthroughs… It all seems inevitable to me.
Humans in space
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
I thought you would appreciate this little short story.
I don’t see much SF like that any more. Hard science, sweet, to the point, a zinger at the end. I’ll have to see if there isn’t more of it around.
Not ‘The Cold Equations’ but logical…
Thank you for your service, jerk:
Johnny Ramsey, the 79-year-old Korean War veteran who collected and sold junk to pay for medications for his ailing wife, said just minutes before court Thursday evening: “If I have to go to jail, I guess I am ready.”
An hour later, Ramsey left a Clover courtroom in shackles – sentenced to 30 days in the York County jail for not cleaning up his yard eight months after a judge ordered him to get rid of the junk.
Clover Town Judge Melvin Howell ruled after a contempt of court hearing Thursday that Ramsey had refused to comply with court orders to both clean up his property and pay a fine for contempt.
The sentence will be served on weekends, but it started immediately after court was finished Thursday night.
Clover Police officers handcuffed Ramsey – whose nephew is a sheriff’s deputy, whose son is in Afghanistan on his fourth deployment to war – and walked him outside the court building and put him in a police car.
I’m sick of seeing veterans get treated like crap by a system that would not exist without our service. Takes that whole "god and country" nonsense out of serving, doesn’t it? My recruiter told me "god and country" are the wrong reasons to serve and if you sign up for those reasons you will be severely disappointed. He had a more pragmatic approach to national service; I will pass that approach on to my son.
Joshua Jordan, KSC
No comment required. Or rather a great deal more than I have time or room for. Machiavelli has appropriate commentary.
The whole thing about the entitlement discussion that bothers me is that if you look at it in the “big” picture, the amount of money spent on pure entitlements is fairly small compared to the amount of money spent elsewhere. I know you know this, but I’d suggest that the focus on bunny inspectors diffuses your message. I’ve been reading you for 20+ years now (I think its been 20+ years…I think we first corresponded pre-Compuserve).
Compare military budget and Medicare/Medicaid vs the various “entitlement” programs. When the US is spending more than the next 20 nations spend on the military there is something amiss. We refuse to do something meaningful about Medicare/Medicaid spending and I watch Romney and Obama “debate” and I say “This is the best we can do?”, holy shit.
I do understand that one gets spending creep with bunny inspectors leading to and then leading to and then leading to….and I get that you’d like to make this a “state” responsibility (I shudder at California, btw).
But why not push to have 12% cut from military spending and 9% from health programs and so on down the line.
Did you see this clip making the rounds:
Apparently, it is from some TV show or another. Some truth there….my God, we are better than this….
Actually the focus on bunny inspectors is intended to point out the futility of trying to do a piecemeal job on entitlements. They need to be returned entirely to the states and taken out of the Federal pork picture. If we can’t eliminate bunny inspectors, we can’t eliminate anything – and we can’t eliminate the bunny inspectors.
The size of the military budget is entirely dependent on the missions we expect the military to accomplish. If the job is to assure energy at a reasonable price is available to the people of the United States, then we need only protect our energy sources – and it’s often cheaper to develop them here and defend them here rather than become involved in territorial disputes in the Arabian peninsula or Southeast Asia. Or Europe.
If we limit the Federal government to Federal matters, the States can compete on entitlements, and we may have a chance to limit government.
Declassified at Last — Air Force’s Supersonic Flying Saucer Schematics:
One wonders about the prototypes.
Actually I saw something like that – perhaps those very pictures – when I was editing Project 75. They were included in the Project Forecast report on the future of air systems. Like flying wings, saucers do not seem to have a predictable future in aerospace technology without real breakthroughs in propulsion technology…
First it was the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, not it’s the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field!
Another picture to relieve us of the silly season.
The Hubble team that did the Ultra Deep Field has added another 2 million seconds to the field picture and they have imaged an additional 5,500 galaxies.
Press Release: <http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2012/37/image/a/>
"….The youngest galaxy found in the XDF existed just 450 million years after the universe’s birth in the big bang.
Before Hubble was launched in 1990, astronomers could barely see normal galaxies to 7 billion light-years away, about halfway across the universe…."
Regards, Charles Adams, Bellevue, NE
‘As I’m fond of saying, Edwin Land was both Steve Jobs *and* Steve Wozniak.’
Ancient Rome on Google Maps.
Tell me again…why are K-12 teachers no longer respected?
"[During an approved uniform free dress-down day] Samantha Pawlucy, a sophomore at Carroll High, said her geometry teacher publicly humiliated her by asking why she was wearing a Romney/Ryan T-shirt and going into the hallway to urge other teachers and students to mock her."
"During the incident, Samantha Pawlucy said the teacher told her that Carroll High is a “Democratic school” and wearing a Republican shirt is akin to the teacher, who is black, wearing a KKK shirt."
"The teacher then allegedly called a non-teaching assistant into the room who tried to write on the t-shirt with a marker. She allegedly told to remove her shirt and she would be given another one."
Directing a non-teacher (or anyone for that matter) to write on a person’s shirt sounds remarkably like assault to me.
Yet one suspects that there will be no real consequences.
Ice cores in Greenland indicate an increase in greenhouse gases (methane) corresponding with the heyday of the Roman Empire and the Han Dynasty.
Of course, one also thinks of the social conditions which resulted in a return to normal…
I have not seen enough evidence to quantify the human contributions here: what is cause and what is effect? Warming is generally economically desirable, or at least that’s an acceptable argument. Perhaps not, but perhaps a warmer Earth is more productive, meaning surplus food, disposable income, investments…
‘Despite that, Congress is unlikely to pull the plug. That’s because, whether or not it stops terrorists, the program means politically important money for state and local governments.’
View 745 Monday, October 8, 2012
Things have been a bit hectic here, and I’ve fallen well behind. Today was eaten by locusts, including taking Sable to the vet: she went Thursday last week. She’s been favoring her right front leg. We start out for a walk and she begins limping. Wednesday, the first day, this was alarming but we thought perhaps she had picked up a splinter or something, although we couldn’t find anything. Then last Thursday after a half block we brought her back home and fortunately the vet could see her later that morning.
He couldn’t find anything, and said, as you’d expect, that it was either a sprain or developing arthritis, and the only real way to find out was to wait and see. Of course being a Husky she has been driving us mad with her insistence that we go for walks. Today we did two blocks and it doesn’t look as if she’s limping, and probably not favoring that leg although that’s a bit hard to tell. So today after her show walk she got another examination, and as expected, we found nothing. But clearly things aren’t getting worse, and the decision was to wait two weeks and see if there is any reason to do xrays and other such stuff; by then it will have gone away or it won’t. For those who wonder why we’re paying so much attention to this, a couple of years ago she had a hind leg problem that started with favoring the leg end ended with the kind of operation that basketball players get. That is completely fixed, and she has no problems with that leg, and except for this latest thing she’s in very good shape for a ten year old dog, and at 55 pounds she’s just about her optimum weight. And like most Huskies she’s – well, active. Very.
And of course last Thursday I got my nose chopped on with the Mohs procedure. Today they tell me that everything is fine but they need to chop some more next Wednesday. They didn’t get it all. Apparently this is fairly common, and I can see why, since they don’t want to slice out too much. Not to worry, everyone says.
All of which has been distracting, and I haven’t got much done, and fell behind with administrivia leaving even less time for reflection on current events.
CBS 60 Minutes last night had the disturbing story of a singer named Sixto “Sugar Man” Rodriguez whose career began about the same time as that of Bob Dylan. Rodrigues was from Detroit and was ‘discovered’ by a Motown official, who arranged for the release of two albums by Rodriguez. Neither was a success and he disappeared from view for forty years. In South Africa, though, he became a huge favorite, selling more than half a million records, and becoming ‘the conscience of a generation’ among a certain segment of the population (young whites of British origin, mostly).
The disturbing thing is that Rodriguez didn’t know this. The rumor went around in South Africa that he was dead. He wasn’t. He lived in obscurity in Detroit as the city deteriorated, making a living as a handyman and sometimes performer in local venues.
There’s considerably more to the story, but the appalling fact is that Motown must have collected money from the sales in South Africa – but Rodriguez didn’t get a dime of it. If he’d got even a penny a sale from half a million records that would have been $5,000, not much, but something; but in fact he never even knew he was selling in South Africa.
If you ever wonder why recording artists tend to hate their publishers, think on that.
Authors have justified concerns about book publishers, but I don’t think of many publishing stories like that one. There was a time when publishers pretended that there was little profit in paperback sales, and the hardbound publisher insisted on taking half of the paperback royalties if a book got a paperback sale; and for a long time paperback royalties were tiny, and to this day royalty statements can be very creative; but I don’t know of any cases in which an author was a breakaway best-seller and not only got nothing for it but wasn’t even told he was selling.
There are authors of the ‘information wants to be free” school who say that there shouldn’t be intellectual property rights, and authors ought to look at the performing arts and the record industry as their model for publishing. Fortunately things haven’t worked that way in print rights, and t he electronics rights market has developed in a different way – Amazon has made backlists valuable again. Perhaps they can be so for song writers as well.
I have a new Kindle Fire HD but I haven’t had a chance to get it set up yet; the day keeps being devoured by other stuff. And I sure have a pile of interesting mail. I’m dancing as fast as I can…
View 744 Friday, October 05, 2012
I’m taking a fond look at my nose and hoping it will still be here at dinner time.
Back in August the dermatologists took two biopsies from my face. One was from a sore spot on my right cheek that I have had for years, and which they’ve sliced away at several times, and which is still a big red mark. The other was from the end of my nose, which looks just fine, but every now and then has a small problem seemingly fixed by freezing.
When the results came in they decided to do nothing about the cheek spot, but they found cancer cells on my nose. There is an expert at Kaiser who fixes such things by slicing open the nose, peeling out the bad cells, and putting the whole thing back when he’s done. He is also, I am told, also in demand for cosmetic plastic surgery, which is why it took a month to get an appointment.
That was for yesterday, but he had some kind of emergency yesterday, and it was rescheduled for just after lunch today. And I have to say that I’ve been sort of down and out all week thinking about this.
So if you’ve got any reservoir of well wishing, you can send some of it my way.
Now no one is worried about all this except me. Everyone seems to think it’s routine and preventive and no further treatment will be needed, and that’s the way to bet it, but it seems I don’t have as much control over my emotional makeup as I like to think I have.
Comment on entitlements:
Of course every entitlement for anyone is an obligation placed on someone else. Few seem to think about that when they argue about the importance of entitlements. And after all, if we want Big Bird, and Bunny Inspectors, and armed Department of Education enforcers, and free lunches, and expanded food stamp programs, we don’t really have to raise taxes: we can borrow the money and laet another generation worry about it. As I get older I realize that the obligations won’t apply to me longer than the rest of my life, which is likely less than on yours.
The notion that democracies tend to vote themselves largess from the public treasury – that is, to vote for entitlements for themselves – is called by some critics “the Tytler Calumny” because there is some question as to who first said this or put it in a particular way. Since the concept has been around since Aristotle, whether or not a particular person said it in a particular way seems irrelevant: the question is, is it true? Is this one way that democracies perish, by spending themselves into situations they can’t get out of without disastrous remedies that may be worse than the disease?
At some point I will publish a definitive study on who said what, but the question is, is spending for largesse to the people – food stamps, free lunches in schools, medical care, etc. – something to worry about? When the economy is good, it often is not. For a man to love his country his country ought to be lovely, and public generosity is sometimes – not always – a good sign of opulence which makes everyone feel better.
But sometimes entitlements tend to corrupt.
More another time. Time for a walk, and after that, The Nose.
1350: Well, I still have a nose, along with a moderate sized bandage that I can see with my right eye but not my left, which worried me until I saw in the mirror that it was put on sort of asymmetrically. Everything was close to the surface and Dr. Adams thinks he got it all. It’s called a MOHS procedure, and that’s well enough known that there’s a small clinic suite with that name in the Kaiser building that houses dermatology and pediatrics. They also had a flu shot suite so we got that out of the way while we were there. So it’s over, my nose hurts like crazy and it’s likely to get worse, but I can stop worrying that I’ll end up like Freud with his iron jaw.
No big parade for Los Angeles. They decided to move Endeavor from LAX to the Science Center by towing it along surface streets, and to do that on the 12-mile route they chose they had to cut down about 400 trees. The local inhabitants of the route didn’t like that, but our mayor assured them they’d get “the mother of all parades.” That turns out not to be the case. No one will be allowed on the sidewalks, and much of the event will happen late at night. Or that’s the plan; some have said they’ll have a party and a parade whether the city fathers like it or not. “But it’s a safety issue,” say the anonymous bureaucratic authorities who have told the mayor he can’t have his party.
Perhaps there will be an Occupy Endeavor movement, and an LA Science Party movement, and who knows what else. Los Angeles has some of the highest taxes and worst government in the nation – our streets are in utter disrepair, we charge fees for emergency responses which are generally late, and you can talk to the School Board by appointment 6 months in advance at which point you get 2 minutes – so we’re all used to this sort of thing, but this is a bit more amusing than the usual clutter we get from our political masters. Perhaps there will be a flash crowd.
Mail 744 Wednesday, October 03, 2012
Dear Dr. Pournelle:
A small terminological point about Chinese script: My copy of Oxford University Press’s The World’s Writing Systems (an amazingly comprehensive book—it even has Tolkien’s two invented scripts!) calls Chinese writing "logographic," meaning that characters represent words, as contrasted with syllabic and alphabetic scripts. The authors maintain that "pictographic" is obviously wrong, as there are Chinese characters for abstractions that can’t be pictured; and "ideographic" is more subtly wrong in several ways: "idea" is somewhat vague if the idea isn’t linked to a specific word, and there are grammatical function words such as "of" or "the" that don’t really express an idea. (We can count how many English words are in an unabridged dictionary, but how would you count how many ideas English-speaking people have?)
This is not to deny that having to learn hundreds or thousands of distinct characters that represent different words is a hindrance! I’m just in favor of going with more current scholarship and terminology on how written Chinese works. The term "logographic" actually strikes me as improving the precision of the discussion.
William H. Stoddard
I suspect my use of ‘ideographic’ betrays the age of my education: that’s how Chinese was described when I was in high school, or at least at my high school. I won’t quarrel with a more precise terminology, although I will point out that some Chinese seems to be ideographic: at least I am told that the character for ‘trouble’ is a stylized pictograph of two women under one roof. I won’t insist on that being correct, since I can’t recall where I first read it, but I would think that almost the very definition of ‘ideographic.’ But I don’t claim to know much about Chinese.
I do think it important that we understand Chinese culture., and I suspect that much of what I have always known is in need of amplification…
Subject: pictographs and phonetic writing
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
Your column for 1Oct2012 included a long letter about pictographs and phonemes. You were once exposed to a practical example. Korea once used classical Chinese for all written communication, even though the Chinese writing was a horrible fit for the Korean language. A king of Korea realized he could not communicate directly with the people, and fixed this. He directed a group of scholars to invent a phonetic alphabet that could be taught quickly to anyone. His scholars worked hard, made several voyages to China, and succeeded. The current Korean phonetic alphabet is little changed from the original effort. Those who point out that Korea still uses some Chinese characters are advised that they are used mostly in proper names and to avoid ambiguity, especially in legal documents. In all cases, there is a Korean spelling available for those unfamiliar with Hanja, the Korean name for the Chinese characters.
William L. Jones
Thank you. I should have added that story earlier.
October 3, 2012: The U.S. has angered the French Air Force by reneging on a 2010 contract to upgrade the four French E-3F AWACS (Air Warning And Control System) aircraft. The agreed on price is $466 million and now the U.S. wants to tack on another $5 million so the promised technology can be degraded. This is all because some American bureaucrat decided that some of the upgrade technology was too sensitive for the French and had to be taken out of the upgrade. The French are being asked to pay for this change. The French are not happy. The U.S. insists such changes are allowed for these deals but are having a hard time convincing the French……..
Words fail me.
I think it’s time for an update to the Iron Law:
The Department of Homeland Security has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on a network of 77 so-called “fusion” intelligence centers that have collected personal information on some U.S. citizens — including detailing the “reading habits” of American Muslims — while producing “shoddy” reports and making no contribution to thwarting any terrorist plots, a new Senate report states. </>
Reading this did not cause the concept to dawn on me as we all know bureaucracies compete for funding and personnel. The pie they draw from is finite; for one bureaucracy to expand taxes must rise or another bureaucracy must shrink. In these times, bureaucracy is close to a zero-sum game. One wasteful bureaucracy points at another; why? Would it be to get resources? Pros, cons; fixes or problem, reaction; solution or, thesis, antithesis; synthesis may be at work here? I think you might update the Iron Law to reflect how these bureaucracies fight — and infight — for resources. This update would — ideally — include the words "intelligence failure", "parochial interests", and "mismanagement of funds" inter alia.
Joshua Jordan, KSC
And yet some things cannot be accomplished without bureaucracy. The art of good government requires understanding how to prune and control bureaucracy; you can’t really live without it, nor would you want to. Government like fire is a dangerous friend and a fearful master – but it is required for civilization.
In your August 31, 2012 Mail at
<http://www.jerrypournelle.com/chaosmanor/?p=9400> you posted my question
"What fraction of the scientific literature is fabricated in the service of agendas?"
You introduced my question with a question of your own: "How real is science?"
I had hoped that responses from your readers would help clarify my thinking about this issue. So far I’ve seen only one reply at
<http://www.jerrypournelle.com/chaosmanor/?p=9533> That response did not seem to address my question. Instead it discussed other topics, including religion, which has nothing at all to do with my question.
In my original e-mail, I gave reasons for asking my question, listing my own experience plus statements by three internationally known speakers and writers who have made comments questioning the integrity of the scientific literature.
Today I am reading articles in "The Chronicle of Higher Education" and in "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" that address the very issue I raised when I first asked my question. It appears that the situation is worse than I ever imagined. There are serious questions arising about the integrity of peer-reviewed journals and questions about the fraction of the scientific literature that is fabricated.
An article in a blog published by "The Chronicle of Higher Education" dated October 1, 2012, by Paul Basken has the headline "Misconduct, Not Error, Found Behind Most Journal Retractions"
<http://chronicle.com/blogs/percolator/misconduct-not-error-found-behind-most-journal-retractions> Mr. Basken describes an article from "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences"
<http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/09/27/1212247109> in which it was determined that 2/3 of journal retractions are due to fraud. To quote from the Basken summary:
Research misconduct, rather than error, is the leading cause of retractions in scientific journals, with the problem especially pronounced in more prestigious publications, a comprehensive analysis has concluded.
Not surprisingly, the reasons provided for retraction of fraudulent articles are themselves fraudulent. To quote from the abstract of the PNAS paper (subscription required for full text):
Incomplete, uninformative or misleading retraction announcements have led to a previous underestimation of the role of fraud in the ongoing retraction epidemic.
It appears that the journals do not consider themselves to be gatekeepers for scientific integrity, despite all the lip service paid to peer-review. Quoting again from the Basken article:
Dr. Casadevall was more critical, saying that the misconduct discovered through their study was “the tip of the iceberg” and that journals needed to develop better standards. As an example, he cited the Journal of Biological Chemistry, which accounted for 27 of the 158 examples where a retraction attributed to an error was discovered by Dr. Casadevall and his team to actually involve misconduct. Part of the problem, he said, is that the journal has a policy of allowing retractions without giving any public explanation of the reason.
In such a setting, Dr. Casadevall said, “the misconduct is going through the roof because the rewards are disproportionate.”
Indeed, it is now known that the journals do not even bother to document the existence of the so-called peers who do the peer-reviewing, as described in another article in "The Chronicle" under the headline:
"Fake Peer Reviews, the Latest Form of Scientific Fraud, Fool Journals"
<http://chronicle.com/article/Fake-Peer-Reviews-the-Latest/134784/> That there is a "retraction epidemic" in the most prestigious peer-reviewed journals makes me wonder again what percentage of the scientific literature is fabricated in the service of an agenda. Basken quotes one of the authors of the PNAS article:
“Right now we’re incentivizing a lot of behavior that’s not actually constructive to science,” Dr. Fang said.
This seems consistent with the statement by Dr. John Patrick, president of Augustine College in Ottawa that I quoted in my previous e-mail about this issue. Dr. Patrick said:
We have no idea now, do we, how much of the scientific literature is fabricated. And, of course, it’s very hard to imagine why it wouldn’t be fabricated. We’re merely reaping the rewards of what we have taught."
43:37 minutes into the talk at
The PNAS article studied only the medical literature, which might be getting special scrutiny because life and death are at stake. Quoting again the Basken article in "The Chronicle":
The risks to public health were illustrated this year by a report in Nature in which the pharmaceutical company Amgen described its attempts to independently verify a collection of 53 published studies concerning cancer drugs. The Amgen scientists found they could confirm the scientific findings in only 11 percent of the articles.
(Nature article at
In other research areas, where only relatively inconsequential things such as academic promotions and grant money are at stake, we can surmise that there is much less incentive to investigate fraud.
It appears that distrust of the scientific literature is rooted not in the conspiratorial imaginings of the general public but in the documented behavior of the scientific community.
I would like to see more comments about these issues from your well-informed readers. The decline in trust, the decline in the belief that your fellow Americans will try to do the right thing, plays a significant role in Charles Murray’s book "Coming Apart." Loss of trust threatens the existence of civil society and the continuation of the American project. At one time scientific journals were assumed trustworthy. Today when reading an article one is less apt to think "Isn’t that interesting" and is more apt to ask "What are they up to?"
The problem is that I don’t have time to give the matter the attention that it deserves. Academia has become bureaucratic in extreme ways, and the Iron Law prevails there as elsewhere. On the other hand, the Internet has made it possible to make almost anything available to nearly everyone. We have not gone through the intellectual revolutions that will entail. In the early days science fiction was more imaginative than it often is now; on the other hand, some have simply thrown up their hands and say ‘Singularity!’
‘Now deputies are investigating how Garner ended up in a position where the hogs were able to eat him.’
Hogs can be dangerous, and boar hunting was a royal sport at one time…
Subj: Polls: refusal rates?
What fraction of those who will vote refuse to respond to telephone pollsters?
"At Pew Research, the response rate of a typical telephone survey was 36% in 1997 and is just 9% today."
"53% of Americans actively refuse to answer poll questions."
Are the refusers systematically different from the responders? We won’t know until Election Day.
A long time ago a magazine went out of business after falsely predicting an election: it used a telephone poll when only those with higher incomes could afford a telephone. Now polls that use landlines have a problem. Getting a true random sample is increasingly difficult, and as they get more desperate there will be more people unwilling to answer. Stay tuned…
Generous letter from Heinlein to Sturgeon
Scanning Instapundit, I chanced upon this:
A peek into a highly creative and generous mind–
As it happens I spent the Saturday night of that Chicago Convention in Mr. Heinlein’s suite in a party that lasted until dawn and we watched the sun rise over the lake. A memorable night, and the real beginning of myh long friendship with Mr. Heinlein. Ted was at the convention but not a t that party.
"grade level" and literacy
Many parents, frustrated by the government schools, have pulled their children out. Home schoolers – who almost always uses phonics, not look-say – now educate about 4% of American children. Private-school enrollment is rising. Some government schools are losing 8% of their enrollment annually.
What shocks me is the degree of economic illiteracy in "the land of the free." Given what economists know about the Economic Calculation Problem and Incentive Problems, why do we still rely upon government provision of education?
Regarding China — they appear to be more and more scientifically adept as time goes by – and in part, this seems to be due to their willingness to learn other languages, especially English. It takes decades to educate an entire nation, but the right education for their best and brightest can cause a great transformation.
I do point out that with the Internet it is possible to have real education without government schools. Credentials are another matter.
And on that score:
The WWW and government…
It is getting close to impossible for any establishment group to get its version of the past accepted. There are rival sites that provide links to evidence that undermines the establishment’s view.
"The Internet has overcome the establishments’ distribution systems. Information delivery systems present numerous outlets to anyone with an Internet connection. Very skilled communicators can now overcome what would have been nearly impenetrable barriers to entry in 1995.
"The quality of the broad mass of digits is low, but the quality at the top is very high. Open entry has produced outlets for people with very great skills in both research and expression."
Subj: Perot fears economic takeover, refuses to endorse
Did a Computer Bug Help Deep Blue Beat Kasparov? |
A computer bug seems to have helped Deep Blue Beat Kasparov:
It was a mistake, but it messed with Kasparov’s head.
Roberta and I met and had dinner with Gary Kasparov when we were in Moscow in 1989. I can hardly call him an old friend, but we did exchange some letters afterwards. Interesting story. I can see how it might have affected his play.
Of course Big Blue is not conscious – yet. And I do think it was unfair to let them reprogram the computer during the game series.
Subject: Spherical Drive Motorcycle
It looks like something right out of a Sci-Fi film, but as a Harley rider for 40+ years, it’s a little much for me
View 744 Wednesday, October 03, 2012
Romney was presidential. He won the debate: if it were a boxing match I’d give Romney 13 of 15 rounds. No knockdowns, nothing spectacular, but Romney showed that he can be President.
He was respectful of the office, and he showed that he knows the issues. He was motivated, and he looked at his opponent. President Obama almost never looked at Mr. Romney.
The polls won’t show much change, and this election shows the limits of election polls; but I would guess that Romney’s numbers will go up just a little.
My guess is that Obama’s advisors will try to make the next debate a bit less polite, but it will be difficult to do. Romney is good at keeping his cool.
The election goes on.
This is worth thinking about:
OSLO (Reuters) – A 200-year period covering the heyday of both the Roman Empire and China’s Han dynasty saw a big rise in greenhouse gases, according to a study that challenges the U.N. view that man-made climate change only began around 1800.
A record of the atmosphere trapped in Greenland’s ice found the level of heat-trapping methane rose about 2,000 years ago and stayed at that higher level for about two centuries.
Methane was probably released during deforestation to clear land for farming and from the use of charcoal as fuel, for instance to smelt metal to make weapons, lead author Celia Sapart of Utrecht University in the Netherlands told Reuters.
"Per capita they were already emitting quite a lot in the Roman Empire and Han Dynasty," she said of the findings by an international team of scientists in Thursday’s edition of the journal Nature.
Rates of deforestation "show a decrease around AD 200, which is related to drastic population declines in China and Europe following the fall of the Han Dynasty and the decline of the Roman Empire," the scientists wrote.
And something else worth following:
Iran police, demonstrators clash in Tehran protests
Hundreds of merchants join in a rally outside a bazaar in Tehran to decry rising prices and the plunging value of Iran’s currency, the rial.